My wife and I enjoyed a sunny day in Boston this week and left the city convinced that it is looking as good as it ever has. Our destination was the waterfront, Fan Pier, where we expected to go to the Institute for Contemporary Art—but the weather was simply too good, so we opted for a day outside instead of doing the museum thing. We walked along the harbor all the way to the Aquarium, marveling at the water views and well-kept properties, walkway, and tons of construction going on, especially in the Innovation District. We used to go to the hyper-Irish Mass on Easter Sunday at the small church in the neighborhood, Our Lady of Good Voyages on Northern Avenue, which is now tucked in between rising office, commercial, and residential buildings. One of the things we noticed is that the sidewalks and streets are well-kept and litter-free. Somebody is doing something right.
At the wharf near the Aquarium we bought tickets for a 45-minute harbor tour, something we had never done. The boat was full for the 12.30 p.m. trip. A young guy from Ireland strolled the upper deck and narrated, giving us bits of heritage history and popular history, from the 1630 founding of the city to quips about Whitey spending time in the big courthouse on the right. We heard about the massive molasses explosion and “One if by land” lantern in the North End and cannon balls bouncing off the sides of the “USS Constitution,” which are made of 22-inch thick Georgia oak. We were surprised to see the many derelict wharves on the East Boston and Charlestown side of the Harbor, which suggests there is plenty of room for future waterfront development and gives a clue as to how busy the harbor was at its peak, before trains and trucks and planes. All the while the high sun lit the skyline and Zakim-Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. Back at the dock, we disembarked and walked back to our car via the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a magnificent series of small parks that map the old expressway route, each with a different theme and planting scheme. Again, the grounds were clean and not overrun with pan-handlers or police. Everything was pretty mellow. For a Wednesday afternoon, the tourist destinations like the Aquarium were busy with people but the harbor walkway was lightly trafficked. We walked in and out of a couple of hotel lobbies just to snoop around. One of them had a fancy compact second-floor meeting room with a gigantic metal horse that was really a lamp stand.
Back outside, we sat for a while and watched a group of guys doing somersaults and handstands in a park to the tune of “Call Me, Maybe.” A ten-year old boy walked by and said, “That song is over-played.” We finished our raspberry seltzer drinks from Starbucks and moved on.
What was the “take-away” for Lowelltown, as my former colleague and teacher Linda Silka used to say?
Plant more flowers and blooming trees; be a demon on the litter patrol—zero tolerance; keep people moving in public spaces so everyone feels it is his or her space to enjoy; spruce up the waterfront walkways; add more lighting; draw more commercial activity to the water edges, whether it is Vandenberg Esplanade or the Canalway downtown; use colorful banners to market and excite; encourage live arts and entertainment in public areas; maintain the flowers, bushes, and trees that have been planted.
That’s all folks.