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Cambridge/Boston Trip - Day 1

Continuing yesterday:Left BeanTowne, walked onto MIT's campus. It was early in the morning, so it was fairly empty, but there were a few professors and students around, which helped de-jitter me a bit.

I have a tough time explaining how much I need a community of academes around me without sounding like a terrible snob. This may be because I am a terrible snob. I want to be immersed in an ecosystem of ideas, with some other friends maybe on the side. This is not just about science (although I need it to have a good amount of that), it can be about cultural production too. I am uncomfortable without University ties and without the feeling that I am somehow contributing to the betterment of humanity that Universities provide. That, and the idea of people who are self-improving through sustained creative/intellectual engagement. This is hard to explain to people, particularly people who don't get so excited about the sciences and the arts, without giving the impression that I don't respect them; that's not true. I may need strong intellectual/artistic ties, and I might not seek/want other ties until/unless I have that need met, but I really value my other friends too.

I walked around MIT a bit more, and found the less-showy, more academic areas deeper in the campus; some parts felt more like CMU, some more like OSU, and the size was impressive. My contacts at MIT (few as they are) never got back to me, so eventually I started the hike from East Cambridge (MIT-land, geeky feel, slightly run down) to West Cambridge (Harvard-land, snooty-academic feel, oldschool), stopping at a few teahouses/coffeeshops along the way, and wandering off into neighbourhoods a few times. Things never felt that crowded. The only thing I dislike about the area is that people throw their trash away in front of their apartment early enough in the day that the streets reeked. Harvard Square was as I remembered, but without any reason to be on Harvard campus, I didn't feel very rooted there. After resting for a bit, I walked a ways south to Cambridgeport, eventually stopping at Whole Foods (which has wine, because this is not PA) for some food. While there, I hopped online and got in touch with RL, who showed me a few nice places to eat/hang out in Somerville, reintroducing me to a chocolate store I saw ages ago when I was here last, and then showing me a petrol-station-themed huge coffeeshop (Insomnia also had some petrol-station themage).

I now have the distinct impression that Bostoners/Cambridgers don't understand lemonade. They have the "not-too-sweet" thing down, but the actual product seems, in this region, to be far too watery.

After two complicated rail trips, I reached my sister Andrea (and husband Peter)'s place for an (unneeded but pleasant) shower, sorting of my things into should-come-with-me-vs-livingstuffs halves, and catching up on things. We then left for Indian food (pretty good, not amazing), coffee (ok), bookstorage (pretty good, but I had to hold myself back from buying things that'd make the trip back unpleasant), and then a film.

The film was The Future, which was a good film, full of art and life but not the kind of film I'd choose to film because:

  • There was a voice that occasionally showed up in the film that was pretty irritating
  • The film dealt with infidelity, which for me is a angst-button topic.
Afterwards, we went back to Andrea/Peter's place (my feet were beginning to hurt by then, and I was very tired), where I spent some quality time on the internet and then went to sleep.

This morning, another sister Katie (and fiancee Sean) drove down to join us; we had Crepes for breakfast and then spent a good amount of time walking around first a shopping/snooty area (I don't remember the name of the area), then downtown (where we stopped by a restaurant that specialised in fries and then saw the ocean a bit). There was a green festival, and then we returned to Andrea's place in Brookline, where Katie/Sean went back north to Maine, and I walked to this coffeeshop called Cafe Fixe. It seems to be an ok place, but it closes at 7pm. When it closes I'll continue my Brookline exploration.

Tomorrow, unless I hear back from JB or some other MIT/Harvard folk, I'll probably just keep wandering around the area until my 11:45pm bustime comes. I am pretty tired (and somehow hurt my right ankle, which is a bit swollen and painful), but the trip is going pretty well. I think I have a better feeling for Cambridge/Boston; I'm reasonably sure I could be happy here. I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for, but spending time here would not be bad. Sean's spent some time in Eugene and describes it as also being very nice, and there's of course NYC (which would certainly be love-hate but would also be a kind of experience I've been wanting to have).

Earlier, I mentioned that I'd probably like to have a number of very tiny homes in a number of cities and travel between them as I wished, along with a university job (or set of them) that would permit that. I'd like to further revise that impossible ideal by saying that I want to have a main home somewhere that has most of my stuff (while still remaining smallish) and some smaller ones; a small bed with a few books and clothes for the other homes, and more stuff in the main one. I don't see a way to make this actually work with university jobs (the housing thing could probably work if I had enough friends in each place who had a room too tiny to rent to someone needing a full residence).

I'm still willing to let the (ideally university) job opportunities decide where I go (between Cambridge, NYC, Eugene, and staying in greater PHL). I wish there were more of a reason to be somewhere in particular, but...

I was really struck by this poem.

And now 7pm comes close, and this coffeeshop becomes closed, so I am off to seek other places to place my feet.