Again a Tuesday, and this time, without books (or relevant photos).
However in the way that traveling with Arthur anywhere in his Florida world turned up people he knew and adventures he had, I had a Wednesday with Arthurian (or Panglossian) spirit, in which everything was the best it could be in this best of all possible worlds.
It was rainy when I took off for my weekly gathering with the Fine Minds of the South End, aka the Geezers, a group of seniors that meets weekly to discuss culture, politics, and sentimental journeys.
After the meeting, I planned to have lunch with friends in fancy downtown Boston at a restaurant where I had never been and that I was a little apprehensive about being able to find. Because I have trouble managing both a walking stick and an umbrella, I was protected only by a pretty good raincoat.
I stood under scaffolding waiting for a bus with my phone in my hand, checking the app that sometimes works to predict the bus trajectory. A bearded pleasant-looking man joined me under the scaffolding and assured me that he was using the same app. I commented that we were both huddling out of the rain ‘like homeless people at a library,” and he said that he was used to that situation because he volunteers at a library in Florida.
Well, after that we were off and running. His library is in Fort Lauderdale, and you know where mine is. Like me, he lives there only in the winter, and the rest of the time here in the South End. We got on the bus and of course started trading restaurant recommendations. He pushed the buzzer for the third stop, and I was the only other person getting off at that stop.
He looked at me quizzically and said, “Are you having lunch at the Bistro du Midi?” and I said “Yes but I don’t know exactly where it is,” and we both laughed because he was having lunch there too and could guide me. I told him that my lunch companions were the director of Emmanuel Music, an exceptional early music program in Boston, and the rector of Emanuel Church, a good friend.
“Oh,” he said, “I go to a synagogue that meets at Emanuel Church.” “Oh,” I said, “I am going to that synagogue on August 16th.
I asked him if he spoke Yiddish because the situation seemed to me “bashert,” a fine Yiddish word meaning “fated” that Arthur often used. He said he did not, but that the person whom he was meeting for lunch had a connection with the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. If you know me, you know that the Book Center and Yiddish culture are pretty important to my life, so we laughed at that connection too.
It would have been an even more unbelievable picture if he had been born in Springfield, Massachusetts, like me, and had belonged to my childhood synagogue. He didn’t, but, hold on here, his friend Richard, with whom I talked at the restaurant, had and did.
Who sent me that man (whose name coincidentally was Rob, the name of my late partner) to lead me to that restaurant? I’ll tally your answers later.
The lunch was awesome, as my young friends would say, and loving, as I would say, and when I left the restaurant it had stopped raining. I looked around and realized that since I had never been in that spot before, I didn’t know where the bus stop was. I could have looked it up on the app, but the weather was fine, so I decided to walk home. I had my stick and some Tylenol just in case. Why not?
As always when I walk in the city, I was delighted at every turn – unexpected pocket gardens, a chance to read the historical markers, beautiful architectural details that I miss whizzing by in a car, and the opportunity to purchase t-shirts from the firehouse.
I stopped in at Montage, a furniture store I had admired from the bus, and met the owner, Liz Bates, whose delight in showing me around seemed to equal mine in being shown. Here’s their blurb: “Originally conceived to introduce the finest in contemporary furniture from Europe to the Boston design community, Montage’s list of furniture manufacturers reads like a who’s who of the design world.” I was in design heaven, and we hugged over our mutual happiness.
I kept on keeping on, and pretty soon found myself at what I used to consider the saddest building in my neighborhood, the old YWCA, a clumsy-looking edifice that had not aged well. Wow! Spruced up it has become “The Revolution,” a relatively inexpensive hotel (some rooms have shared baths) with a quirky design vibe in its handsome lobby where several people were sitting enjoying the coffee bar. A marble plaque in its lobby says that it commemorates Boston’s revolutionary spirit. There’s a marvelous ceiling-high installation of whitewashed objects (like the coin telephone), all of which were invented or manufactured here.
When I left, I walked down Gray Street, a narrow by-way where unlike the main streets of the South End, the high-stooped four-story brick houses do not have bow-fronts, but most of which have been gentrified to the max with gorgeous window-boxes and glimpses through a couple of wrought iron-gates into handsome city gardens.
I was getting tired as I reached the last building, recognizing it as belonging to a member of the above-mentioned Geezers, a neighborhood genius, my friend Duffy.
And there he was, sitting on a bench in front of his property, smoking a cigarette. I sat down companionably beside him, and he told me lots of stuff I didn’t know about the nabe (that’s Duffy’s forte) where he’s lived forever. I was now only about five blocks away from my apartment and gathering strength for the home stretch.
And as they say in the story-books, who should come along? Beautiful Dorothy Kelley, a new good friend (new Geezer too, new Athenaeum member) who lives adjacent to me, and with whom I delightedly walked home.
Knocks and shocks. Bad news and the inevitable. But for the moment, I am blessed and I know it. This is my blog, and I approve this message.