TITLE: A Short Break in Boston AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: April 24, 2016 6:46 PM DESC: ----- BODY: This weekend has been a normal one at home, a little online and a little off, but last weekend I went offline for most of three and a half days to visit my older daughter in Boston. She been in Jamaica Plain in for eight months and had plenty of sights to show. I hadn't spent much time in Boston since AAAI 1990 and, except for the walk across the Charles River from my MIT dorm room, had forgotten most of the details of that trip. Now that I blog, I can preserve my memories for 2042 me. Offline.   Being offline for most of three and a half days was a treat. I had my laptop on for only a couple of hours in the Chicago airport when I used a long layover to grade one of my students programming assignments. Thereafter, I left it in its bag, turned off. It was great to be present to my daughter and the world for a while without feeling the need to check mail or tinker with work. Goal.   At the airport, I saw several members of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, a North American Soccer League team. I'm guessing they were passing through ORD en route to a match with the Minnesota United. From the score of the game, I think my weekend went better than theirs. Confluence.   Saturday morning, we went out for brunch at the Center Street Cafe in Jamaica Plain. We arrived a few minutes after opening. Seating is limited, so we waited outside in line. There was one party ahead of us, a young couple. The young woman kept looking at my jacket and finally said, "Did you go to UNI?" When I told her that I teach there and that my daughter is from Cedar Falls, she told us that she is from Des Moines. The older guy behind me in line heard us discussing Iowa, asked where we were from, said that he is from Council Bluffs, and recalled that a good friend of his UNI. We all marveled at the coincidence. Our new Council Bluffs friend wondered what it was that attracted Iowans to Boston; I silently wondered if Boston depended on an influx of Iowa talent to stay fresh. The food was excellent, too. Walking.   After brunch, my daughter and I spent several hours walking in the Arnold Arboretum and the Forest Hills Cemetery. The arboretum is not yet in bloom yet still had plenty of neat things to see, as well as a prodigious hill to climb. The cemetery is full of impressive monuments and interesting sculpture. For some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted that I wanted to see e.e. cummings's cemetery marker. I did not know that it is famously difficult to find. Alas, after several hours on foot at the arboretum and cemetery in the sun, my brain was not up to the task of finding it. Now I have extra motivation to return to JP. I'll have a picture next time. The Arts.   We decided to spend Sunday afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts, but I could have spent a week there. Our first stop was the special exhibit called Megacities, by artists from cities that have, in the last few decades, grown to populations in excess of 20 million people. These artists are responding to what this growth means for the people, their way of life, and the cities themselves. The old architecture student in me was drawn especially to two spaces created to evoke the cities that existed before the growth: Sarah wanted to be sure to see a painting she likes, of a big storm in a valley, and otherwise was open to explore. It turned out to be Albert Bierstadt's wonderful Storm in the Mountains. I expressed interest in the impressionists, so we made sure to swing through those galleries, too. The Pisarros took more of my attention than in the past, and the Monets lived up to my expectations. We spent several minutes examining several of his Rouen Cathedral canvases and several of his Morning on the Seine works up close, then walked to the opposite corner of the room to experience them from a distance. It was hard to leave. A New Favorite.   The MFA has an extensive collection of John Singer Sargent's work, about which I had much to learn. I left the weekend with a new painting among my favorites, Sargent's "An Artist in His Studio":
An Artist in His Studio, by John Singer Sargent, 1904
Up close, the detail in the bedding grabs the eye: "Surely, never were tumbled white sheets so painted before." The artist at work. Coincidence.   My reading for the trip was The Book of Tea, Okakura Kakuzo's short book on the Japanese tea ceremony and its intimate connection to art, culture, and philosophy. Until I reached the biographical essay at the back of this 1956 edition of the book, I did not know that Okakura had a connection to the MFA in Boston:
The wholesale destruction of a nation's cultural heritage [in the late 19th century] aroused to action a small group of Japanese artists and men of letters and a handful of foreigners who seemed more concerned about the fate of Japanese art than were many native hotheads. The nucleus of this movement emerged from the Imperial University in Tokyo, with Professors Morse and Fenollosa in the lead, and with Kano Hogai, of the ancient family of artists, to act as historic instructor. Fenollosa urged his wealthy friend, William Sturgis Bigelow, to buy up whatever of value was tossed on a careless market; this was to become the core of the great Oriental collection of the Boston Museum. Okakura Kakuzo and Baron Kuki were the most energetic Japanese workers in this group.
Iowans and Japanese intersecting with Boston. The Oriental collection is definitely on the itinerary for my next visit. Much More.   We packed the weekend from morning until night, beginning with a workout at my daughter's gym and ending each night with a film. In addition to the places I've mentioned, we visited the aquarium, the North End, Boston Common, and the public garden, another brunch at Vee Vee, and a dinner at Bella Luna. It was a weekend well-spent. A Modern Man.   I even joined the 21st century on this trip. I sent a text for no purpose other than to say 'hello'. My daughter and I streamed movies from Netflix. And I relied on my cell phone alarm to awaken to catch a cab at 5:00 AM. A weekend well-spent, indeed. PLT Rising.   One last bit of new knowledge: Northeastern University is but two short subway stops from where I got off for my visit. This means that my next visit to Jamaica Plain, should there be one, will include a visit to see the home of the PLT group there. If nothing else, I can take snapshots of the labs and offices where so much cool Racket work is done. Then maybe I could write the excursion off as a business trip. -----