Filed Under (my country home, rural life, rural living) by admin on 04-04-2008

Up high in a building in Boston, you see city as if it goes on forever. Up high on a hill to which my family often walks with the dog, you can see buildings in the mist: a Lewisburg neighborhood.

The last day of my visit to Boston was a little awkward. Turns out Boston Billiards doesn’t open until 11:30, so my buddy and I had to kill about an hour near the establishment before we could play (we had snagged a parking space and weren’t going to give it up).

After several hours of billiards, I dropped my friend at his apartment, and headed downtown where I had hoped to scoop several dozen photos of Downtown Crossing, Chinatown, the waterfront, the North End, and Faneuil Hall. The late start at the pool hall made me late downtown, so I barely got beyond the financial district before my scheduled visit with a childhood buddy whose career has landed him in Boston.

This friend has a windowed office on the 31st floor with an excellent view of Boston looking west. Before we headed out, we poked into a few other offices so I could shoot the views North and East as well. Whenever I’ve visited a high-rise office, I’ve been awed by the view and have imagined how easily I could squander hours simply watching the city undulate.

I chauffeured my friend north and then west through commuter traffic that quickly revived my appreciation for rural life: on the expressway, I could see more cars ahead of me at any moment than I’d be able to tally on a drive from one end of Lewisburg to the other. After a pleasant dinner, way too little catching up with my friend’s family, and a short night on an inflatable bed in the basement, I made the six-and-a-half hour drive back to Lewisburg.

Turkeys

For the last few miles of my trip, I hopped off the interstate, and drove a more leisurely two-lane road. Whenever I drive, I glance at the trees and fields, watching for anything that might make an interesting photograph. As I passed a hedgerow about five miles from Lewisburg, I glimpsed a herd of wild turkeys near the top of a rise, and I pulled over to take pictures. Wild Turkeys don’t seem all too fond of me: they left in a hurry. I managed to shoot a few, but their mothers couldn’t tell them apart in my photos.

When I rolled into Lewisburg, time slowed just a bit. My family was still in school, the dog acted very happy to see me, and I was happy to see her. The grocery shopping hasn’t been done this week, and the recyclables are escaping from their bin. Most importantly: my wife has kept the kids alive. I’m glad to return to rural living.

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Filed Under (rural living) by admin on 01-04-2008

Much of Fresh Pond golf course in Cambridge runs along a city reservoir, and trees make effective barriers between fairways and adjacent roads; the course feels impressively rural. The view down the ninth fairway offers a stunning contrast; there are no high-rises near rural golf courses in The Valley.

I got to Boston on Sunday, March 30, and I haven’t spent enough time wandering around; I won’t before I head back to Lewisburg. On Monday, my buddies and I delivered a car to a garage that restores cars damaged in accidents. On the return, we stopped at a driving range, but found it closed, and so decided to grab lunch. Then we went to shoot pool, and finished with dinner at my host’s house in Brookline.

Today, we played nine holes at Fresh Pond Memorial Golf Course in Cambridge. This was my home course when I lived in Boston—I played many rounds there with my wife (before kids), sacrificed dozens of balls to the pond fronting the eighth green (and many others to the pond along the right side of the fifth fairway), and I scored my first sub-40 rounds. The course has changed only slightly, and the quality of my game today, no doubt, offended it.

I took a few hours to tour Boston and snap photographs. Unfortunately, by the time I started, it was rush hour, and I realized I wouldn’t have time for many pictures before needing to pick up dinner and head back to my friend’s place. I spent a few minutes along the Charles River in a park where my oldest son first swam, then I headed into Cambridge.

What a rush to drive again in Boston traffic! In Lewisburg, drivers are so “polite” that they wave and smile rather than take the right-of-way when it’s theirs. In Lewisburg, drivers come to a near stop in traffic before making a turn. In Lewisburg, drivers eventually get where they’re headed, but it never seems important to them.

Boston drivers are efficient: When it’s your turn to go, you go. When you’re making a turn, you maintain your speed and get as far left or right as you can so other drivers can get past you should you need to slow down. When you’re driving, you’re going somewhere and you’re getting there as quickly as you reasonably can.

I took a well-travelled shortcut and emerged on Mass Avenue at Porter Square. It was familiar, yet I almost didn’t recognize it! A T station has grown up, along with new shops and restaurants. Out Mass Avenue, I turned toward Davis Square on Day Street, noting that the Red Hen Pantry had changed its feathers.

A bowling alley where I used to shoot pool still stands; it was ancient when I lived in Boston, and is even more ancient today. A block away, Redbone’s still draws crowds for dinner. I bought ribs and chicken for seven, and then crawled back to Brookline along back streets in hopes of dodging peak traffic.

I’m a real sap about yesterdays: I love to reminisce. Certainly, nothing then was better than it is now, but I easily get lost in places and events that have already passed. The old haunts and back-street Boston in rush hour moved me in that way: I’m in Boston, and I miss being here.

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Filed Under (rural living) by admin on 31-03-2008

In most cities you can find pool halls, as well as nightclubs with pool tables. Boston Billiards in Boston (I’ve also played at Boston Billiards in Danbury, CT… go figure) is an attractive, full-featured nightclub that could swallow from five to ten rural Pennsylvania pool halls.

I still have friends in Boston, and I don’t see them often enough. Conversations I’ve had with some of them lately led me to feel strongly that I needed to visit. So, on Sunday, I made the seven-hour drive.

These friends are people I met originally at a pool hall named Sully’s. We had gotten to know each other during long nights at the table, and our relationships had grown beyond Sully’s. It seemed appropriate, then, that when I checked in with one of them from an hour outside of Boston, he told me he’d meet me at Boston Billiards, an establishment just beyond right field of Fenway Park.

Amazingly, there is a pool hall within fifteen minutes of Lewisburg; it’s in the even smaller town of Northumberland. It houses, perhaps, five tables, and is among the most stinky one-room establishments I’ve ever visited: there is no smoke-free law in rural Pennsylvania, and for some reason, pool players who smoke need to do so when they’re playing pool. Pretty much the only reason to visit this stinky pool hall is to play pool.

In contrast, Boston Billiards is not really a pool hall—it is a night club with pool tables. I counted close to 50 tables… but along with them are dining tables, a dance floor, large (and small) televisions, a full bar, restaurant service, semi-private rooms (with pool tables), video games, and a pro shop. Best of all: Massachusetts doesn’t allow smoking in public buildings; there’s no need to shower and change clothes just because you spent an hour shooting pool.

The “nightclub with pool tables” phenomenon started about when Hollywood released the movie Color Of Money. These were a great innovation: Here was the classic nightclub scene for those who enjoyed it, and something interesting to do there for people who felt awkward and disconnected in a traditional nightclub. Management of the best of the nightclub pool halls understands pool enough to cater to shooters. But the worst nightclub pool hall I’ve visited (a place in Chicago) had not one device players could use to keep score—and they claimed no one had ever asked.

Boston Billiards understands players. I and my friends stayed from 1:00 PM until about 6:00. We’ll be back again in the next few days, but it won’t be enough.

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