UPDATE: Photos now courtesy of Jill, she of the toilet-diving camera. Click on any of the photos for a larger version.
The southern branch of my family, who I adopted a few years back, were up in the neighborhood last week, as Jill's husband Mak attended an oral and maxillofacial surgery convention in Boston. I had sent Jill - who previously had never been further North than a quick stop in New York City on her way to Turkey - a "things to do while you're in New England" itinerary. Among other things, it included a drive up the Coast and since she was traveling with a five- and 18-month-year-old focused heavily on kid-friendly stuff, like a visit to the Children's Museum and a Lobster Boat outing in Plymouth. Both big hits I heard in later reports. If I ever meet her in person, I owe Channel 7's Chikage Windler a beer, as I got more than one trip idea from her "Great Escapes" series.
I played hookey from responsibilities on Wednesday with a semi-true story that I was seeing an oral surgeon about my TMJ problem, since I was going to be seeing an oral surgeon, and he did give me a freebie exam later that day in the hotel lobby. I met Jill and the kids in the late morning and we took a walk up Newbury Street to the Public Garden so Jill could window shop, Johnny could feed ducks and squirrels, and Jack could suck on his blankie while surveying the scene from the comfort of his stroller.
More than a few years ago I used to work in Boston as a copywriter and eventually as a creative director in the Liberty Mutual Insurance group's advertising and public relations department. On my first day there my new boss took me on a swan boat ride in the Garden, claiming it was the traditional thing to do, and I'd eventually end up taking many visitors on the same ride. Unfortunately, the boats had closed a week earlier - I suspect because the strong-thighed young pedal-paddlers had all gone back to school, so Jill and clan were out of luck. However, we did get to see Romeo and Juliet, the Garden's infamous gay swan couple, numerous ducks, and of course the "Make Way for Ducklings" sculpture of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings. I was shocked to discover that Jill, nor Johnny or Jack, had read McCloskey's book - which is almost a New England mandatory requirement - but it's a situation that will be remedied by Uncle Fred soon.
We had lunch at the Rattlesnake Bar & Grille on the corner of Arlington and Boylston, as it was one of the few places I had eaten at previously that was still in business. Highlight of the lunch was probably the ride on the ancient 1920's-era elevator to the rooftop, chauffeured by Johnny Mak with finger on the up-'n-down buttons.
On the way back to the hotel, I took the crew to my second-most-favorite library in the world (The New York Public Library being the first). As Peggy says, if you want to find Fred on his first visit to anywhere, look in the main public library and in eclectic bookstores. I have a special fondness for the BPL, though, as quite by accident I discovered its portico garden one day and would spend a lot of quiet, pleasant afternoons there reading as I waited for my van pool to take me home. I was on flex-time - remember flex-time? - at Liberty Mutual, and would arrive so early because of the pool's schedule that I'd have filled my required hours by 3:30 p.m., with two hours free before the van would leave.
The BPL garden is a little jewel of a secret, not well-known even among Boston residents. You won't find any information about it at all on the library's site, and very little information about it on the Web at large.
It took me a good half-hour of searching before I found the image I'm using above.
But maybe that's just as well. I only have a few secret places left.