Saturday, June 7, 2014

May/June--2014: Beantown (part II)

This proves I was working

Day #3:  Fenway Pahk (yeah, I typed it that way on purpose)
For someone with food allergies, like me, Boston is a great town.  It doesn't mean everything is gluten free, far from it.  But every place I went to had a sign or a note on the menu that said "Please tell your server if you have food allergies."  I don't typically eat at the hotel restaurant more than one meal when I travel, but I ate at this one several times.  I ate there four times during the conference.  The restaurant was called "Sauceiety."  I kept eating there because they had very tasty gluten free bread.  I have craved bread for years, ever since I was diagnosed with my gluten allergy.  I don't get to eat bread very often and I miss it greatly.  This was an herb bread that really rivals any "real" bread I've ever eaten.  It was very good and it kept me coming back for more.  I wish I would have thought about buying a bunch and shipping it home. Maybe I still can.

We stayed at the Westin Inn at the waterfront in Boston.  Over the years I have stayed in some nice hotels. Some very nice hotels.  Hotels of the four and five star variety.  The room was nice but unremarkable. Housekeeping was fine.  The amenities, such as the pool and the spa, restaurants and gift shops were okay. The desk staff and hospitality staff though were as good as any hotel I have ever stayed in.  Outstanding staff.  The young man at the front desk when I checked in was very helpful and later in the day when I needed directions he called me by name and even left his post long enough to make sure I traveled in the right direction.  The next morning, I attended the conference's continental breakfast and found the only thing I could eat was a fruit bowl.  Everything else they served was a food allergy to me.  I resigned myself to the idea that I would have to deal with a not-eating-any-protein headache for the rest of the day.  As I was coming up the escalator after the first session, one of the hospitality staff, a young lady approached me and asked how the breakfast was.  I told her it all looked good, but because of my food issues I wasn't able to eat much.  She took that very personally and asked me to stay right there and she would take care of the problem for me.  She queried me on what I could and could not eat and then she went into the kitchen and came out with a clamshell box full of bacon and sausages.  I tried to pay for it but she would have nothing of the sort.  Her kindness saved me that day.  I could have had a terrible experience because of food issues but she really made the difference between not being able to enjoy the sessions and learning a great deal.  The Westin Inn Waterfront in Boston has great staff.

I need to say a few words about the conference, since that is why I was in Boston.  This is a travelblog, though so I will keep that part short.  I will write about the conference and digest my notes in another forum. The plenary speaker the first night was a respected educator from England.  He had been a non-traditional learner as a student and didn't excel in high school.  Because of good mentoring and teachers who recognized his potential, he became a respected teacher and one worthy of being the keynote speaker at a major teaching convention.

The plenary speaker of the next morning was a man who had taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point for many years and after retirement from the army began teaching a Brigham Young University.  One of the other speakers I listened to that day was also from BYU.  That was his main job. His other job was the voice of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I talked to both these gentlemen after their addresses.  Both nice guys.

The best session I attended though was from a guy from Waukesha, Wisconsin.  His address was on feedback.  He contrasted grading with coaching and asserted that a coach teaches with positive and negative feedback.  Teachers most often grade things and turn it back to the students and whatever the grade is it is. Coaches, on the other hand see a problem, teach the correct way and then watch the athlete until he or she gets it right.  He made the point he would rather take one or two papers in a semester and have the students write them and rewrite them until they got them right rather than a whole bunch of marginal work to fill up a slate of busy work.  For a guy like me who teaches a bunch of craft classes, this was a great session.  I will use this stuff on a daily basis for the rest of my career.

About two months ago, one of our colleagues on the trip asked if we wanted to attend a game at Fenway Park where the Red Sox play.  What is a trip to Boston without seeing the Sox?  He arranged everything and got made the reservations for us.  It was a forty dollar ticket and worth every penny.

We rode the subway from the hotel to the stadium.

Payback for all the photobombing I have done

At the subway station to Fenway Baybee!
I learned on this trip that I'm not very good at taking selfies.

Fenway Park
Fenway Park it an experience all by itself.  If you are a baseball fan then seeing a game at Fenway has got to be on your bucket list.  It was an item on mine.  Should I be alarmed that I've reached the point in my life where I'm scratching things off my bucket list?

Most stadiums I have been to are stand alone structures in the middle of an enormous parking lot.  Fenway was not like this.  It was an amalgam of buildings in the center of town.  Fenway Park appears to be a building that has been expanded and renovated many times.  All the while keeping the character of a ballpark that has been in existence for over a hundred years.  All the while paying homage to all the great history that has been created there.  Other great stadiums have been torn down to make way for newer, more modern facilities but that would be a sin at Fenway.  I hope it never happens there.


Sculpture outside the gates

The gate we entered

Boston is a proud sports town.  They had won five World Series in the first two decades of the Twentieth Century.  Somewhere around 1918-19 the owners traded away a player named George Herman Ruth.  He went on to become the great Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees. The Boston Red Sox did not win another World Series until 2004.  They have won three already this century.  That World Series drought has been called "The Curse of the Bambino."  I didn't see any signage that talked about the curse, but for those who follow baseball and appreciate it's history, the meaning of the blue and red pennants at Gate B is clear enough.

World Series Pennants of the Twentieth Century

World Series Pennants of the Twenty-First Century

Under the bleachers was a food court.  I had an Italian Sausage with grilled peppers and onions that was so good I had to have another.  There was also a gluten free brownie that I had which was unremarkable for five bucks, but hey, it was gluten free and it was a brownie.  Like bread, I've been craving brownies too.

Under the bleachers is a whole different world.  It's part of the charm of this grand old stadium.

Overlooking the food court

Form follows function

Sign painted on brick

One of my colleagues getting a dog

The world under the bleachers at Fenway

More form following function

Coca Cola sign.

From the vomitorium 

$7.75 for an Italian sausage.  It was so outrageous I had to eat two

Unremarkable gluten free brownie.  Five bucks, but hey, it was gluten free!

I kept getting photobombed in Boston.  Must be payback.

All around the ballpark are signs about the history of the stadium.  This one
commemorates Ted Williams last home run and the longest ever hit at Fenway.
502 feet from home plate.  And that was 1946 in the days before steroids.  Take
that, Mark McGwire.

Another sign on brick

And another
The game was everything a ballgame in an historic ballpark should be.  There were two baseballs to faces and I assume broken noses, a home run, an inside the park home run, a bunt and a suicide squeeze and of course a Red Sox win.

During the seventh inning stretch, one of the guys in the group and I decided to go exploring.  We first walked behind home plate, then we took the elevator to the upper deck and watched the rest of the game from there.  Great ambiance in that ballpark.  36,000 people singing Neil Diamond songs at the top of their lungs.  Everything about this stadium was cool.  Several times security personnel stopped us and said we needed to keep moving.  When we told them we were from Idaho and this was our first time to Boston and Fenway they stopped what they were doing and showed us around.  Boston is a friendly city.

Fenway is a quirky stadium.  There's the Green Monster which is a hand operated scoreboard, The Triangle which is a group of seats down near the field, Pesky's Pole which is the foul ball pole on the first baseline which is in the way of everything.  Everyone who has a passing interest in baseball ought to at least take a tour of this ballpark if not see a game there.  It was a great experience and one I hope to include my family in one day.

We arrived at the stadium probably a half an hour before dusk.  The sun went down over the third baseline and the stadium lights came on.  The photos reflect that.

First view of the ballpark.  We were in section 2 and watched the game between first and second base

Sun going down over the Green Monster

Pesky's Pole

I kept time by the Coke sign.  It's just before dusk

Form follows function

The modern scoreboard but designed in a way to evoke the old time.


Dusk over the Green Monster

Play Ball!

The Green Monster.  Notice the dude sticking his head out.  That's the official scorekeeper.


This was a hit

Seventh inning from the other side.

We were sitting at the top of this set of bleachers.  Great seats for a game.  Underneath the retired numbers

Visitors' dugout

Home dugout

View from the upper deck

The pressbox

What the seats looked like where we were sitting.  They weren't the most comfortable, but I wouldn't have had it any other way.  It was the ambiance bay-bee.

Proof that I was actually at Fenway Park

One of the security guys told us that the dots and dashes on the white stripe
were Morse Code for the owner's name.

My colleague at the home dugout

Then there is the lone red seat.  In the bleachers above right field there is a lone red seat in a sea of green seats.  This marks the spot where Ted Williams 502 foot home run landed.  It hit a patron on the head and bounced up about a dozen rows.  The patron said he wasn't happy about that and he didn't even get the ball. Then he said he was just glad he hadn't been standing up!  This was officially the longest homerun ever hit at Fenway Park.  This wasn't Ted's last at bat, but he did thrill fans as he retired in 1960 with a homerun on his last at bat.  Ted is a legend in Boston as well as the rest of the sports world.  Robert Redford wore #9 in his baseball film "The Natural" because of Ted Williams.  I remember my Dad talking about Ted Williams. There may have been more flamboyant players over the years but not many who are more beloved than Ted Williams.

The Lone Red Seat

Day #4:  Home
We got up and found a church to attend near the MIT campus.  After services we headed back to the hotel to pack our things and check out.  Then it was ten hours of trains planes and automobiles.

Getting through security at the Boston airport was grueling.  I can only imagine the bombing at the Boston Marathon a year earlier had something to do with it.  The people in line were restless and upset.  I felt bad for the TSA workers.  They were doing their jobs and any decisions being made were not theirs to make. Someone at a desk somewhere was calling the shots.  They could have made it easier but they didn't.  It is what it is and it was what it was.  I did not begrudge the workers.  They were just doing their jobs.  That being said, though it was good we got to the airport a couple of hours early.

Luckily for me there wasn't a loud, obnoxious drunk lady on the plane in front of me and I didn't get a headache.  We had an enjoyable flight back to Utah but then had a three hour layover in the SLC airport. We don't know why, but our original flight had been cancelled.  So we had to hang out in the airport for a few hours.  I think it was the Benson Way.  Those who know me well got that reference.

Five hours in an airplane without an I-pod, a laptop, a tablet or a book.  All I had was a camera.  So I took a lot of pictures.

LDS church near the MIT campus

Sunday Morning.  Last view of Boston from my hotel

Don't know what building this is but I like it

Five hours of this

and this

and this

and this

The clouds were dramatic and for most of the flight it's all there was to see

Somewhere else with clouds

Look, more clouds

I think we were over Wyoming here.  Not sure though

More Wyoming?

Five hours in a plane with nothing to do but take pictures of the ground

Cool texture

cooler texture

The Wasatch Front.  Starting to look more like home

Descent into SLC

Our group of six
I spent four days with this group of people.  I only knew two of them before the excursion.  The rest were strangers.  Four days later we were friends.  Four days in Beantown.  I walked the Freedom Trail, attended a very worthwhile conference, saw a game in Fenway and made some lifelong friends.  What could be better than that?

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