Boston, Day 3

In the grand tradition (2 whole posts) of starting posts about Boston by complaining about public transit, the 3-day Visitor’s Pass stinks. It’s by date instead of time, so when I bought my pass at 8 pm on Tuesday, it covers Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, including the 20 hours on Tuesday when I didn’t use it, as opposed to covering from Tuesday at 8 pm until Friday at 8 pm, which is what I actually wanted. Le sigh.

On to better things. My first stop was Harvard Square, although I got there before most of the shops open at 10. I got some cash with my new BoA ATM card, and wandered around for a bit before settling down at a Dunkin Donuts to read my new book about BBN’s role in the invention of the Internet.

I overheard a boisterous conversation between three construction workers trying to one-up each other with tales of “buddies” or “guys they knew” who were horribly maimed/disfigured/crippled by freak accidents. I think the winning story was about a guy who was working inside a pipe or conduit of some sort when it buckled and completely pinned his legs and torso, leading to all sorts of terrible injuries.

I had previously scoped out The Garage, a neat little mall built inside of a converted parking garage, complete with curving ramp to the upper level. I spent a significant amount of time in Pandemonium, a gaming store. They had just about every D&D book I’ve heard of, plus tons of books from 3rd-party (non-WotC) publishers, plus several other non-d20 game systems I’ve heard of, plus even more that I’d never heard of. I think I found a place where I can blow some of my spending money…

After that I scoped out where I would need to catch the 66 bus down to Comm Ave, and then spent much of the early afternoon browsing through book stores. This will be relevant again later.

I set out for Comm Ave for my meeting with an agent from NextGen Realty. I have to admit that I was attracted to the company by the name somewhat. Since I had already found a place, this appointment was basically to provide a basis for comparison to my experience with Ingram Realty. After being briefly confused by the distinction between 1234 and 1243 Comm Ave (I thought the address was the former when it was the latter), I wandered around the area to see if there was anything interesting going on.

I found an interesting neighborhood on Harvard St. south of Comm Ave: an unexpected collision between (based entirely on appearances) a middle-to-upper class Jewish neighborhood and a middle class Chinese neighborhood. There was a kosher deli next door to the Asian Vegan Delight restaurant. I noticed several of the children seemed to be native Hebrew speakers; I didn’t realize that that was that common outside of the super-traditional guys with the forelocks and the hats.

While I was wandering around this neighborhood, I got several phone calls in short succession: the first was from the relo company that BBN uses, telling me that my relo agent would be calling on Friday, or possibly Monday, to set up a move date. Then Jack, my realtor at Ingram, called to say that I had been approved for my lease of the Carriage Street unit, but that he wouldn’t be able to handle me directly because his wife was going into labor (!). Then Mr. Ingram himself called to say that he would handle my lease signing tomorrow. It’s nice to know that there are still family owned and operated small businesses out there.

As for the appointment, provide a comparison point it did. David, my agent at NextGen, only had 4 units lined up for me to see, all of them 2-bedroom units at the top end of my price range at the edge of the my target geographic area. My first impression of him was skewed towards the negative by the fact that his car stank of cigarette smoke.

While we drove to the first unit, he was trying to get in contact with two of the landlords to see if we could even get in, because he didn’t actually have any of the keys. I did get to meet two of the landlords, which was sort of different. One of the units was in the process of being moved out of, so it was kind of gross. Also, it was huge and yet inexplicably cheap. I was naturally suspicious.

I think part of the problem was that David himself had never seen any of these units, so it was basically me exploring and talking to the landlords. In the end we saw only 3 units, so it was not directly useful. However, by comparison, it proved that I am definitely getting my money’s worth from Ingram Realty. NextGen was charging a full month realtor’s fee, which would have been about $1200-$1600, whereas Ingram only wanted half. David from NextGen showed me fewer and less desirable units, whereas Jack really knew his stuff (he had even lived in one of them a few years ago!).

The point is that Thursday afternoon was not wasted even though I already knew where I was going to be. The only cost was time, which I needed to use anyway, and my feet, which do not have sufficient support walking around in my dress shoes all day. I guess I need to invest in some nice insoles.

It was not yet time for our scheduled SWIL gaming, so I camped out at a nice little coffee shop near Amy’s and Hannah’s apartment building called Caffe Rossini. A very small Italian man, who I can only assume was Mr. Rossini, and his inexplicably huge (just a big guy, not fat) son, had a fancy espresso machine and a pizza oven. It was also cool to see how everyone in the neighborhood who came in knew him, and he them. I continued to read, of course.

Gaming was great fun, although it consisted of very little actual gaming. I learned to play and won a game of Bohnanza. Most of the attendees were people I had met once or twice at SWIL alumni events, and I believe almost all of them have contributed to SWAPA in the two years that I have been a member of that amateur publishing association. In other words, it consisted of re-meeting as opposed to meeting people.

We got Thai take-out, and talked a lot. One of the huge topics was how various generations (in terms of Gen-X, Baby Boomers, etc.) are subdivided and defined. This was interesting because the birth years present varied from 1967 to 1982. I was, unsurprisingly, the young’un. We also talked about regionalisms, the various turns of phrase or vocab choices (such as pop/soda/coke or drinking fountain/water fountain/bubbler) that can often identify where someone spent most of their formative years.

We ended the evening with a game of the Name Game, which was great fun. I put in six minor prophets from the Bible, but had a complete brain fart and transposed a ‘j’ into a ‘z’ to get the non-existent Zeremiah. It was funny to hear people clue my mistake. There was also a great moment when someone was cluing to me, and said something along the lines of “This guy was the author of a book about an artist, a philospher, and a mathemeticion…”. I had seen this exact book in the bookstore today (it has Gödel and some other guys in the title), but I couldn’t for the life of me remember the author’s name. I could, however, remember what the cover of the book looked like, where the book was on the shelf, where the shelf was in the store, a0nd where the store was relative to the Harvard Square station. Stupid visual-spatial memory.

When and I got back to his play, I played Xenosaga far later than I should have. The game is about as close to an interactive movie as a console RPG can get. There are long sections of plot exposition, each about five or ten minutes, that occur about every twenty minutes of gameplay. I think it’s a symptom of the start of the game, where we need to know the personalities and motivations of all of the main and supporting characters, and their histories, plus the general setting in terms of who the good and bad guys are (or seem to be) and how they came to be opposed as they are in the present day of the game. Intriguing.

And then there was far too little sleep on ‘ excellent couch.


4 responses to “Boston, Day 3”

  1. The Garage is an awesome space – I’ve spent many a pleasant afternoon in Newbury Comics, rummaging through boxes of $4 cds. Mmmm, bargains.

  2. I lived in the Coolidge Corner area my first year in Boston (Sep 1994 – Aug 1995); it was all right, although it was a pain in the ass to commute to Cambridge from there, nearly 45 minutes by T for what was like a ten minute drive. The best example we saw of the Chinese/Jewish overlap was a restaurant called Shalom Hunan. :^) (Although I think that wasn’t actually in CC, and I’m not sure I ever ate there.)

  3. I’m sorry I missed your inagural Boston gaming thingy. I wound up hosting our regular Thursday potluck thing at our house, making it kind of hard to leave…

    I have a couple friends at BBN, but it’s a big company, so you might not meet them. I told them to keep an eye out though.

  4. I’m pretty sure, when I was visiting B in Boston a couple years ago, we went to The Garage, visiting the punk-gothic clothes store and the gaming store…as expected. ;)

Nurd Up!