Tossing Pigeons, Counting Cars

Boston is a strange place. And I'm not even thinking about politics.

Boston. Easy to get lost in. Impossible to drive in. Difficult to learn your way around in. And once you learn where you're going, "Big Dig" construction moves the road and you have to look at a map again.

I remember asking Steve Pierce, when he was your Representative, about enjoying Boston, its restaurants, its Common, churches, streets, all the things I enjoyed as a tourist.

And Steve, in words I now can appreciate, said "there just isn't time to enjoy Boston. I drive in, do my job, and drive out again."

Driving in Boston. For someone who grew up in the Midwest, where roads are straight, with at least one road every mile so the landscape from the air looks like a giant checkerboard, where curves and hills are few and far between, and where there was, when I learned to drive, no speed limit, driving in Boston is difficult, to say the least. Impossible on a bad day. And incredibly time consuming. So, you quickly learn that the most expedient way to get anywhere is to walk!

Spending some time as just a tourist, or walking around the State House area, getting where you have to go and back again, and waiting for the roads to get back to normal if there is any such thing, makes you start to ponder things like...pigeons. You see a lot of them, as you do in any city.

My favorite, but stupid, news story in Boston recently was about a man on the Common who was abusing pigeons. "Passersby Pelted by Mutilated, Strangled Pigeons" was the headline.

The guy was breaking pigeons' necks and throwing the pigeons at people. He used a garbage can lid to defend himself against officers that appeared on the scene. They arrested him anyway, but not until he dropped a lit cigaret under a park ranger's belt, burning the ranger's stomach. Boston Police charged him with assault and battery with a deadly weapon. I kid you not. Can you imagine--assault and battery with a deadly weapon, a dead pigeon!

And, you think about cars. For some illogical reason I've taken to counting cars that are parked near the State House on some of the back streets. If I sold cars, American cars, I'd worry. In most blocks, foreign cars outnumber American made at least 2:1, sometimes 3:1.

Cars aren't convenient in Boston. Parking is at a premium, and expensive. Biggest perk of being a Rep is having an assigned parking place. Around the State House, area residents can park over night, but are ticketed after 8 a.m. to make way for State House staffers, who have to post permits with "L" in the windows. I'm told there are about four Beacon Hill residents for every parking place.

Walks make me think about dogs. And dog walkers. The people, who earn a living walking other people's dogs, are amazing. And, so are the dogs. They know their place among four, five, even six or seven dogs all being walked at once. They don't cross over each other's leashes, or tangle their leads. Or run ahead. Or poop in the tree pits.

Ahh, tree pits. Small areas in the sidewalk, near the curb, just big enough to hold a tree and perhaps some seasonal plants. It's illegal to let your dog poop in the pit. And, wherever doggie does, you better clean it up, because Boston has pooper scooper laws.

The problem is, people diligently pick up the residue, put it in a plastic bag, and then....well, then is the problem. Some leave the bag in the street, cars run over it, people step in it. It's just not in a pile at the curb, it's flattened all over. Walkers advice: watch where you're walking.

Which is probably in the street. The brick sidewalks on Beacon Hill, scenic as they are, are just too bumpy to walk on safely. The good news is, most roads are one way, going off of Beacon Hill, so there's not a lot of traffic on the back streets.

After five years, I can find my way to Fanuiel Hall, Filene's and Macy's, several restaurants, and, if armed with one of about eleven maps I have purchased, can usually find streets, hospitals, hotels or meeting halls unassisted, with only a few wrong turns. (Florian Hall, the firemen's union hall, still eludes me, however, after five annual trips.)

I can drive to my daughter's house, but get lost getting out of her neighborhood. I've learned to call the subway the "T" and that it's smarter to take public transportation to Logan than to drive. I can even tell the Common from the Garden. And actually help tourists in the State House find their destinations. Inside the building.

My office has free maps to get you started on your own Boston adventure. Just ask for a map of Boston and I'll put one in the mail to you. Or, a map of the State House. You have to get started sometime. Boston is a great city. And, our state capitol.

Take a duck boat ride together. Or, come spring, a swan boat. And, I'll be happy to give you a personal tour of the State House, or arrange an official one for you with the Doric Dames.

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