Thursday, April 24, 2014

Looking Down

It’s amazing what stares back up at you when you peer down at a city.

Guess where I went today? I finally, finally got to the top of the Marriott Customs House. You know that clock tower by Quincy Market? Yes, that’s the one. It has an observation deck on the 29th floor that I had been wanting to visit for a long time now.

The view is quite spectacular, and well worth the $4 it costs to get to the top. Options are limited, though, if you’d like to visit. Don’t forget that the Customs Tower is a functioning hotel (yes, really), so foot traffic to its peak is limited to one daytime tour at 2pm. My best recommendation would be to take a quick trip the next time you have a day off. I would also advise giving the Marriott a call ahead of time to make sure the observation deck will be open that day. (As a general rule of thumb, if the Hancock Tower's spire is beaming blue, it's a good day to visit. Anything else, and it's worth the phone call.) If you’d prefer a twilight visit, well, they offer that too for a few dollars more ($7). If you'd like a cocktail with that evening visit, just bring an I.D. and double the price.

Once you're up there, though, the first thing you'll notice is a change in your perception of the city. Navigating Boston at street level can be confusing enough, but seeing it from above can really pull things out of perspective. Just take a look at these cross streets (below left). There are six cross walks on this street – a street that goes more or less straight - and a curvy sidewalk thrown in for good measure. These constantly changing courses, interesting sights, and sense of adventure are why I love walking in Boston… and they're also why people don’t really enjoy driving in Boston.

In fact, it is so disorienting looking from above at a city you know from foot-level that it makes me doubt whole portions of my childhood. Remember that show Lois and Clark? Remember how Dean Cain would run off into a phone booth, emerge clad as Superman, and fly off to save Metropolisites in mortal danger? I used to watch that same scene play out in different forms every Sunday night (dreaming of the day I’d grow up to marry Teri Hatcher, aka Lois Lane), eyes nearly popped out of my head at the thought of flying over the whole city.

Well, news to me – it’s a wonder Superman ever found those imperiled citizens (and I never married Teri Hatcher). From above, the city is a different animal. Whole streets are lost to the single shadow of a long city block, an easily recognizable building becomes a distortion of the architecture you thought you knew, and things that were life size at eye level become minuscule. Not to mention all of the distracting things that collect on the tops of roofs - from your comfortable sidewalk you'd never guess that there were so many fans up there.

It's all so different you'd expect that Superman would fly around this city like an out-of-towner following Apple Maps. On a Segway. In a bike lane.

Unless they have family or friends visiting, residents don’t often do these types of tourist attractions. Mostly for fear of looking like Superman on a Segway in a bike lane, I would think. Still, I would recommend it.

In all likelihood, you’ve been to the top of the Prudential, but the viewing platform atop this clock tower is a unique experience. While the views from the Pru are incredible, you’d be hard-pressed to get a good look at the activity in Government Center, the North End, and the Financial District.

And it’s only four bucks. What do you have to lose?

Til next time!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Learn from the Masters

I think for everyone there is a certain amount of acceptable bashfulness.

Last year at this time, I was taking a sketching class at the Museum of Fine Arts. It was a lot of fun and pushed the limits of my thinking and abilities. It also made me oddly comfortable with bad art. Namely, my own. You see, even if you can draw, it doesn’t mean that every piece makes for a work of art. As the inimitable Amy Winehouse once sang, “No, no, no.” To the point: I drew a lot of crap.

Hence the bashfulness. As much as I wanted to write about what I was doing, I didn’t want to expose the lesser extent of my abilities.

Good!? You're in croco-denial! Wait... that's an armadillo?

But some of it was good! Some of it showed potential!

So, finally, here I am – chin raised up and chest puffed out – ready to display one piece. The good one.

It is also the last one. The classes that the museum offers make you better, so bring your person and supplies no matter your skill level. It was a well-rounded experience – fun, challenging, and rewarding. Best of all, it gave me a real sense of accomplishment. How many other weekly activities do that?


Last week my finacee began another class at the MFA. And let me tell you. She is good. She is… So. Damn. Good. It makes me proud and envious all at once. And just maybe she’ll let me post some of her pieces, because I love them.

A bit of info for the interested: Museum course lists are available here. They cost, in general, $280 for nonmembers, $245 for members. Basic membership, by the way, is about $80, and you can share it with another person - you can split the bill! There are usually 10 participants or less, and, yes, sometimes you push the limits of social comfort ("Hey, classmates, we drew each other with our eyes closed!"), but it is so worth it ("We look like spaghetti!").

Happy arting!

Til next time!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mustaches Strike Back!

It’s time for another installment of Mustachioed Monuments! Same mustachioed time! Same mustachioed channel!

It was only a few weeks ago that I posted an illustration of the Financial District. Even as I finished that image, I was trying to imagine which mustaches would best fit this group of buildings. A quick look around Dewey Square reveals that the area is an eclectic ecosystem of edificial ethos. (If Stan Lee taught me one thing, it’s alliteration.)

Without further adieu, here are the buildings and their mustaches:

The foreground features one of the more unassuming pieces of Dewey Square: the entrance to the T. Well, it would be unassuming if it was a simple doorway with a stairwell down to the station. While that may be the service it provides, it’s all gussied up as an almost otherworldly portal to all things subterranean. For this surrealist guise, it received the mustache of Salvador Dali.

In the background on the left, the State Street building has grown the ‘stache of a certain board game mascot, though it is a bit unkempt – you’ll understand, I’m sure – given the times. State Street Corporation, though, has been around for quite a long time (ahem, 18th Century).

Finally, to the right in the background, the building at 125 Summer Street has grown the mustache of iconic game show host Alex Trebek. The building’s classical influences – pediments, pedestals, columnar appearance, etc. – ground it knowledgeably in history. And who’s more knowledgeable than Mr. Trebek?

Til next time!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Upcoming Events -- La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928)

Hey everyone! I think this is the first time I've posted an event before I attend it. Little victories.

As you may know, a few weeks ago I visited an organ performance set to the silent film The Ten Commandments (1923) by Cecil B. Demille. I raved and raved and you can read all of my raving here if you like.

So it is with much enthusiasm that I tell you that Peter Krasinski is offering another performance this weekend. He will be live-scoring La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928). It should prove to be just as exciting as the last performance and at least 5 years more modern, cinematographically-speaking, of course. Read all about it here, and if you're around Chestnut Hill on Saturday night, it could be a great time.

What: Live organ performance to La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) by Peter Krasinski
Where: Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 28 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill
When: Saturday, April 5, 2014 7:00pm (performance begins at 8:00)

Til next time!