Thursday, July 05, 2007

Oceans Ahoy

You know, you can live in a city your entire life and never see all of it. At the very least, you can still find surprises.

Case in point: I drove to South Boston ('Southie' to its locals) this evening to pick up a package at the FedEx depot, and also hit their local library to grab a book that wasn't available at my neighborhood branch. I was a little concerned. This is Southie we're talking about. They don't like outsiders, and I most certainly qualify as one. It matters not that I grew up in a Boston suburb, and currently live within the city borders. Because I'm not a born and bred Southie local, it's OK to treat me with lots of suspicion (although to be fair, I'm grossly exaggerating. The demographics of the region have changed dramatically in recent years as well, with yuppies buying up all sorts of condos and townhouses. The old guard are pissed about it, too, but one of the more delightful consequences of their anger is in their referring to these outsiders as 'DINKS', which stands for "Dual Income, No Kids.")

Anyway, screw the suspicion. I needed both the package and the book, and got both without incident. And, because it was a beautiful summer night, I decided to drive five minutes down Broadway to Castle Island where I could grab some dinner and enjoy the ocean. Castle Island is a wonderful way to while away some time. Back in '01 & '02 when I was unemployed and had nothing better to do, I used to take long brisk walks around it for exercise, and just fell in love with the place. It offers some stunning views of Boston to one side, and the harbor to the other. Logan Airport isn't far away either, and the planes often fly directly overhead offering some magnificent sights. Standing in the middle of the island, however, is Fort Independence, a pre-revolutionary military installation built originally in 1634, but which has been through seven incarnations since. It's a fairly impressive structure if you're into that sort of thing. From the outside, it looks like a very sturdy garrison, and not a whole lot else. I must have walked around the thing a thousand times and never gave it much thought. It was either never open or I never bothered to check, and kind of just always assumed it was boarded up for good.

To my slight amazement, however, it was open tonight (and apparently is open every Thursday night during the summer from 7:00 PM 'til dusk.) I sheepishly walked in and was greeted by all manner of Southie locals warmly welcoming me to the fort. I was too stunned to speak, and the cynic in me immediately thought they were only being this kind because their boss must have just yelled at them and was secretly watching. But, no! They really were that friendly and helpful, and were also chock full of information about the fort. Tidbits such as the various construction dates, the notable events that occurred there, and the odd and amusing stories were readily offered up. (Note: Edgar Allen Poe was stationed there for five months (he was known as Edgar Allen Perry then) and it is believed that his story "The Cask of Amontillado" was influenced by a duel that happened there.)

Anyway, they impose pretty strict limits on where you can actually go within the fort, but you are absolutely allowed to climb the ramparts and see Boston in all its glory. I sound like a broken record, but it really is a magnificent sight, and, there were no heroin addicts to be seen, anywhere. Shocking. On my way out they offered me a donut (a donut!) from the multiple boxes of Dunkin' Donuts purchased for visitors, and handed me a pamphlet with historical details while also telling me to come back on the weekends when they offer free guided tours (from noon until 3:30 - weather permitting), and make the previously off limits areas available to the public. I then went next door to Sullivan's (another hidden gem) and got a delightfully delicious and fatty double cheeseburger, fries and ginger ale, and ate 'em all while watching people fly kites over the harbor.

All in all, a pretty nifty way to spend a summer evening. So much so, that I thought I'd pass it along on the off chance you were looking for some time to kill. Check out the links below for more information, if you're interested. I'll catch you tomorrow.


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