Last I left you Rich was scowling at me from atop his computer, still in the throes of matrimonial discontent. But, optimistic as we were about the chance to rekindle our kid-tainted romance, our bickering eventually faded to laughter as we sat and waited for the Salem ferry, a Southwest 737 stuffed to the hilt with winter fashion. You can see here that we’re still a bit tired, equal parts pissed at Jack for being Jack and guilty about leaving the kids.
One short plane ride later, we arrive in Bahston, and it’s fahking cold. We drop our stuff at the hotel and promptly do what any self-respecting parents will do when they’ve found themselves alone for the first time in six years: we go in search of good food. In peace.
Into the city we went, and let me tell you how cool Boston is.
Being a woman of many histories, I’ve yet to witness a city so charmingly engineered, utilizing space in the coolest ways. In Boston there is no grid to speak of, so far as I could tell. No imposing property lines or suffocating lack thereof; buildings nestle in staggered and tilted cross-sections like friendly, interloping gargoyles. It is clean and hospitable, once you get used to the double-right-turns, not easily navigated with the help of our newfound enemy, Nonexistent Street Name SIRI.
This is the Harbor Walk, or something of that nature. We’ve just parked our car and have argued over the translation of Bostonian paymeter signs, which are clearly designed to confuse tourists. In the end, neither ’24hrtowing’ nor ‘2hr maximum 8a-8p’ prevailed, leaving us to consult the machine itself, which promptly spit out our receipt for 12 minutes of parking, no matter how we bullied it with our credit cards. A shrug and a nervous laugh, and it’s off to the Barking Crab, a deceivingly hole-in-the-wall treasure box.
That, my friends, is a picture gallery of the best meal you’ll never eat, because you weren’t there that night. It’s also documentation of My Diet’s last hurrah before giving me the middle finger and hightailing it back to Boca.
You know how it takes parents exactly how long a trip is to finally calm the eff down and enjoy the trip? Not this time! We awoke refreshed and ready for Cambridge, the land of people smarter than me. First was another nebulous meter consult, then a stop at the Salt & Olive, a darling store totally different than the ones in Boca because it’s in Cambridge and a bunch of Harvard students are milling about outside, thinking.
The Salt & Olive boasts a SALT BAR, which, salt being my adult drug, is a boutique quality I find squeal-inducing. Hawaiian Salt, Indonesian Salt, Pink Salt, Blue Salt, Rainbow Salt…you name it. I bought some, and Rich bought vinegars for both of our moms as Thank You gifts for watching the kids, strangely. A good-sounding idea at the time, it feels weird when I try and articulate it like this. Thanks for watching the kids, Mom. Please accept some Peach Jalapeno 2014.
My salt high lasted for about four minutes, at which time I began shouting at Rich for hurrying me along to the Harvard Library. Rich, fearing that our parking meter would run out, did not, as is customary in the land from which husbands come, anticipate the wrath of someone who doesn’t like to be hurried along a boutique crawl. And so we clomped around in silent derision for about 30 minutes. In that time we stopped at OONA’s,
a revolution of hipster chic, according to the articles taped on the walls. Really it was just an overpriced Army Navy.
We took a picture of this building, but didn’t stop to find out what it was,
Pretended to work on the convention by taking a picture of this sign, whilst mumbling that I’d ‘give them a call when we got back to the hotel’,
Bought ice cream and took a picture of this poster, inexplicably.
And guess what? One hour ago, when we’d started this journey to Divorce By Street Wandering, Rich had parked RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE LIBRARY IN THE FIRST PLACE. Which stupid Rich would’ve realized if he’d turned his stupid head to the right or, I don’t know, maybe plugged it into his stupid map app?
So Rich, in effort to save face–and being a generally proud, save-the-day type of guy–rolled up his sleeves, marched up the steps past all those people, and went to see a man about a library pass. And that man looked Rich squarely in the eyes and said ‘Do you have Harvard ID?’ To which Rich replied somewhere in the ballpark of, ‘Come on, man. My wife really wants to see this place.’ To which the man said, ‘Do you have Harvard ID?’ and directed us to a special office for special people like us.
Rich brought his case to the officepeople, who doled their tired replies with haughty reticence. UNTIL Rich mentioned that I am an author. Eyebrows took flight, keyboards click clacked, and I was granted full access. And Rich was happy.
Until they told him he couldn’t come with me.
That’s right, friends. I, Rachel, Author Extraordinaire, am granted access to THE Harvard Library, while Rich, plainclothes Life Saver, is relegated to the snowy outside, to sulk on the ice-crusted stairway to academia.
These are the cool and secret things that I saw Inside.
I suck at taking pictures when I’m trying to look like I’m not taking pictures. That last one is The Second Booke of the Fairy Queene, by John Seamen, I think. I plucked it from a bookshelf in the Child’s library wing, a room inside of which a smattering of coeds looked just as bored as they did at Ohio State, texting and facebooking and whisper-gossiping. I signed in, parked myself in a chair facing a window beset by teetering bookstacks, overlooking a grey sky dotted with birds and turrets. Fifteen minutes in I’m pretty sure I’m reading a passage about the Fairy Queene being raped, but I’m not sure because it’s in a kind of English with a lot of apostrophes and weird spelling. So I called off the whole thing and went to find my comrade.
Angry at the library blowhards and needing some grassroots yummies, Rich drove at high speed to a chocolate factory, at which time I offered up a lifetime of indentured servitude. A chocolate factory, for heaven’s sake.
To get there we had to squeeze through this weird alley of dead and dying emergency vehicles.
We got there just as the last tour group was coming out, which bummed us out a little. But then the girl at the front desk, a vivacious, smart-looking hippie, took us on a quick walkthrough of West African farming conditions and the Fair Trade distinction, a label this particular factory wears proudly.
Turns out West African Cacao farming conditions are quite terrible, akin to Blood Diamond. This factory (you’ll notice I can’t remember the name) gets their goods from somewhere else (I’m a no-good student incapable of retaining pertinent information), through direct trade. So now we’re (I’m) boycotting Nestle and monopolizing cohorts, all of whom procure their chocolate through unsavory practices–I remember them as being ‘not direct trade.’ So I’ll only buy chocolates from places that purchase ‘direct trade’. So I’ll probably never buy chocolate again. So this was a sad but scrumptious little stop.
We tasted a buttload of cacao (never realized you didn’t want to hear those two words together, didya?), settling on Guajillo Chili cacao–one for me, one for my dad. Which meant one for me now, one for me on the plane ride home, My Diet twiddling her fingers and cackling in the corner as our final destination drew in close.
Here is where Rich thought it was snowing. It wasn’t. It was hailing. I demonstrated that by picking up the balls of ice bouncing along the carhood and presenting them to Rich as clear examples of Not Snow. But Rich is a stubborn man that will never admit to not seeing snow fall that day. That is the curse of the Florida Born And Raised.
And then we kissed, because my man took me to a chocolate factory.
That day, I’ve forgotten to mention, was St. Patrick’s Day! Remember how I said that I was turning 35, and that 35minusafewdays had to prove that she could still hang? Well. A beer and a half into hanging and I was begging for hot soup. So we ended the night well before midnight at Uno’s, a strange little family restaurant that serves a terrible clam chowder.
Tomorrow…SALEM! Here is a preview of how awesome that is: