On Wednesday, I went to see the Red Sox play.
While it was not the home opener – that was a few weeks back: BEFORE – it was my first game of the season. More importantly, it was opening day for Boylston Street, site of the bombings, the first day that cars could pass, pedestrians could amble, and businesses could open.
To me, one of the great pleasures of urban life is walking to and from a ballgame.
Fenway Park is about a half-hour’s walk from my home: straight shot up Beacon or Comm (lovely residential blocks), hook a slight left at Kenmore Square and you’re there.
Walking to, you walk with optimism, joy, anticipation - picking up crowd energy and crowd buzz as you near the park, amplified by the scalpers, sausage vendors, tee-shirt and cap hawkers, program sellers, street musicians, open-air bar crowds, and the occasional political/religious pamphleteering crank. Walking home, depending on outcome, can be either a buoyant experience ( W ), or an exercise in the teeth-gnashing, second-guessing, and invective slinging that is familiar to all sports fans ( L ).
Walking to the park on Wednesday to meet up with my old and dear friend Marie, who was driving up from Providence, I veered off my usual path.
I wanted to reclaim Boylston Street.
It could not have been a more gorgeous spring day: mid-sixties, not a cloud in that big blue sky. In the Public Garden, which I walked through on my way to Boylston, the flowering trees were all in full bloom. The forsythia were out. The weeping willows in leaf. The Swan Boats afloat.
I wouldn’t say that Boylston Street was exactly thronged. Weekday normal would be more like it. The outdoor restaurants were full. Most of the shops were open. Lots of pedestrians, lots of cars, plenty of tourists, parents with kids, and, as I moved further up the street, folks in Red Sox gear (and, occasionally, Oakland colors, the A’s being the day’s rivals).
Boylston Street is not my immediate neighborhood, but it’s a short walk, and it’s more commercial than my neck of the woods. It’s where I meet lunch for friends at the Parish Café. Where I poke around Marshall’s, and buy the basics when Talbot’s has its sales. It’s the Lord & Taylor’s where I bought my last business suit (December), the jacket-to-wear-to-the-wedding (September), and a patterned sweater I can’t decide whether I love or hate (July). It’s the nearest Trader Joe’s, where I head when I need to bring appetizers somewhere. It’s City Table, our regular Sunday night go-out-to-eat spot. It’s the Lindt Shop where I buy the chocolate for my orange-chocolate pound cakes. It’s the CVS and ATM I use when I’m in Back Bay. It’s the library. It’s the Pour House, where I’ve had untold burgers and rum-cokes. It’s the Marathon Sports where I get my Win, the only detergent that gets the sweat out of workout clothes.
Marathon Sports, site of the first explosion – site where many victims were taken, and makeshift tourniquets applied using the stores ware: running shirts and the like - is still closed. There is a small memorial on the spot where the bomb was set off, and the passer-bys all seemed to pause for a second or two, keeping a reverent distance from the memorial, as if it were cordoned off.
Another block up Boylston, there’s a second memorial, in front of the Forum which, like Marathon Sports and a few other places is still closed.
Next door is Abe & Louie’s – where, last summer, I had dinner with a couple of clients, and spotted Carlos Santana at a table near us - which also remains closed. You could see workers inside, cleaning it up, and, parked in the front corner, a jogging stroller abandoned when a parent swooped their child up and fled.
Any way, things were almost back to normal for those of us for whom things will be able to get back to normal.
At Fenway, there were a few reminders. We were all “wanded” on the way in. And they introduced some Watertown police officers, who stood on the roof of the visitors’ dugout to a heartfelt standing O.
But mostly, the game was good old normalcy. (Other than the fact that, as penance for their sordid showing last season, which followed their late-season swoon into an unprecedented collapse in 2011, the Red Sox were doing two-fers on hot dogs for the month of April.) The game had enough drama and excitement to it. For a weekday, 4 in the afternoon game, there were precious few empty seats. People lustily sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Sweet Caroline.
The Red Sox won, 6-5, putting all – make that most – thoughts of the 13-0 drubbing they’d gotten the night before out of our minds.
Marie offered to drive me home, and while being in her company for another few minutes would have been wonderful, it was out of her way. And I wanted to walk down Boylston Street one more time.
Lots of people out walking, lots of people sitting out eating, lots of people – Bostonians and out-of-towners alike – reclaiming the city on what was, on Boylston Street, opening day.
Back to normal, pretty much, for those of us who did not lose loved ones, who did not lose limbs, who did not have friends or family members who were harmed, who did not bear witness to this grievous event.
But how long will it be before we are, any of us, able to walk this street without thinking of those for whom there will be no getting back to normal? Without seeing, in our minds’ eyes, little Martin Richard, shyly and proudly holding his sign?