PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

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Hot Time, Camping In The City

 

My kids spent a week attending camp in town, where you can’t just abandon your car along the roadside for hours on end. The right to abandon your car and proceed on a bike is only extended to actual residents of that neighborhood. I work in Cambridge where you also can’t abandon your car without paying high fees or renting an apartment (also expensive). Go ahead and test my claim; you’ll likely get an expensive ticket for your trouble.

How, then, would I get my kids into their expensive summer day camp and proceed into the office, where I don’t have parking? The train, of course. The perfect solution!

As it turns out, the train is expensive as well. I live in “zone 1,” meaning the least distant from downtown Boston, which nevertheless costs $11.50 round trip. We embarked from the raised platform to enter the last car, where my kids had been taught during previous midday rides to get on the train. Once aboard, my six year old and I proceeded to chatter away, as a good Dad is meant to do with his young daughter, pointing out playgrounds and windblown piles of garbage as we passed through Roslindale and JP. Then came the conductor, who was less interested in seeing my expensive ticket than in alerting me that if we wanted to talk (as we were in the quiet car) we needed to leave and go into one of the loud cars. (Our meditating fellow riders thanked him wordlessly.)

The trips home were equally just so-so. 5:25 p.m. is the heart of rush hour and the crush of passengers meant we wouldn’t get a seat, especially when row after row of 3-seat benches were filled with pairs separated by an uninhabitable middle seat. We did find one car that was practically empty on our first day. “No air conditioning,” the conductor told us. Alas! We sat there anyway and sweltered.

On the up side, my kids were introduced to the concept of aging panhandlers, homeless youths, exiting only at the front and back of the train, and minding the gap.

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Summer 2014: Pre-Postmortem

 

I'm aware that there are still several weeks before summer officially ends, but let's face facts: emotionally, we have already entered fall. Time now to assess how 2014 ranks against New England summers of past memory. (I'd ask you to take a survey, but I'll bet you've taken 10 already today).

Can I tell you? It’s number one.

I’ll admit I don’t remember each one of my nearly 30 summers spent predominantly in New England, but come on, has there ever been a Boston summer with weather like this? There’s been so little humidity I’ve actually forgotten how gross it makes me feel. There were a few 90 degree days, but I spent most of them in Connecticut – still New England – where the coast was breezy and pleasant. Not quite enough rain falling regularly for the plants, but we did have a big soaking day or two of it before I went camping in New Hampshire (more New England!) in August, which helped replenished the groundwater and made the chance of starting a forest fire in the White Mountains extremely low.

Go ahead, complain: “It wasn’t hot enough.” Please! You’ll get your heat in years ahead, I’m told, enough to satisfy your craving.

I ask you now to join with me in a round of applause for The Summer of 2014! Thank you. Thank you very much.

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Honk If You Love To Park In Front Of My Driveway

 

The penchant that some people have to roust friends from their couch potato lairs by leaning on their car’s horn is something that we as a nation should study, I believe. There is much to be learned from our loud, honky neighbors, most importantly how to stop them. Who hasn’t had an otherwise pleasant morning suddenly interrupted by one of their noisy interjections? Perhaps a member of our nation’s roster of unemployed sociologists might look into why these honkers don’t expend a calorie or two by getting out of the cars and making use of doorbells. Tackling this and other pressing sociological questions would, at minimum, begin the process of rebuilding our country’s decaying sociological infrastructure.

The study might also address the tendency of some folks to park in front of other people’s driveways. By “other people’s driveways” I mean mine. The wide expanse of residential streets around my home are free and clear to park as you wish, so it’s confusing why anyone would need to make it impossible for us to quickly exit our property when, say, my wife goes in to labor.

No, my wife is not pregnant. Enough of the rumor-mongering! I was talking about when she goes in to labor at the office. (Or, how about this, “when she goes into the office, to labor at her desk?”) Anyway, you’re missing the point. What if, one day, she gets a kidney stone, or goes into anaphylactic shot from a sudden allergy to sautéed dandelion greens? How can I get her to the hospital at a moment’s notice if you’ve decided to park in front of my driveway instead just a few feet in either direction of it?

I smell a movie script about a middle-aged white guy in a suit and tie who goes off the rails because of honkers and driveway-cloggers. Check your local listings.

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Unlucky

 

A newish pair of Lucky jeans, one of the several pairs of denim trousers I own, busted its stainless steel button closure a few weeks back. There was no theatrical “boing” sound, no comical launching of the button-part across the room; instead, there was a just a sad little bounce of the object on the carpet, and a sudden feeling that I’d lost some weight.

I found pliers to “repair” the part and fearlessly worked the rest of the day in those jeans, even as I knew there was at least an outside chance that my trousers would drop to my ankles unexpectedly, causing little old ladies to hoot and holler at me like a bunch of construction workers.

Then, just a day or two ago, the same button broke again. This time, half of it dropped into a toilet in the men’s room at work – a toilet, I should add, that bore evidence of recent use. So the question was, do I reach into the commode and retrieve my button half (then fully sanitize myself), or leave it and hope the local dry cleaner might be able to help with a new, authentic-looking button.

I opted to be cheap. While getting myself emotionally prepared to reach into the chilly, unclean public waters, I must have shifted weight a bit, and suddenly the auto-flush mechanism sent my forlorn button into the sewers of Cambridge, never to be seen again.

Farewell, button friend!

 

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