Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Food, Family and Culture - Memorial Day in Boston

Visiting Boston invariably includes 3 staples - too much food, crazy weather, and family drama. It's funny, whenever anyone new asks me where I'm from, I always say "Boston". The city is in my veins. I had so much anxiety about leaving it 5 years ago, as if worried that by physically uprooting I would disrupt my very identity. Now from a distance of 5 years, quite confident that I haven't lost my sense of self, I observe how my relationship with the city - and that which ties me to it most strongly - continues to evolve.

The trip began with a most trying adventure. As travel is the phenomenon most susceptible to Murphy's law, I found myself flying on the day that Texas experienced the only major rain event to hit in the last 3 years - one that was not even forecast by any meteorologists, I hasten to add. So while any given day in Central Texas has an almost 100% chance of blinding unobstructed sunshine, this was the view that greeted me from the window of my airplane:

complete with lighting, hail, and gale force winds.
It's not worth recounting every agonizing detail of this trip from hell, other than to say it took me 13 hours to get from Austin to Boston, door to door. 7 of those hours were spent sitting on runways. 5 were spent flying. Why 5, you ask? Because my first flight to Dallas looked like this:

Usually takes 37 minutes. This one took 2 hours.
In any case, I eventually made it to my parents' house, at 3am, half-conscious and scarred for life. By then, the storm system that accompanied me along the way had made it to the east coast, just in time to wash out the weekend.

Flo and I still ventured downtown on Saturday, despite the rain. For one, we love downtown. Also, the March Against Monsanto was taking place in Government Center Plaza, and we wanted to see it. And of course, we had to get our cannoli fix in the North End.

The line at "Modern Pastry" in the North End is never less than half an hour.
On Sunday, we took a family field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts - one of the most amazing art institutions in the country, if I have anything to say about it. There is a cool exhibition on Samurai armor that is taking place there, a most extensive private collection of its kind that is on view for a limited time. If you live in the Boston area, I highly recommend it! The craftsmanship, level of detail, materials, and stories that go with these pieces are very much worth the trip.


I was also excited to go back to the MFA because I haven't been since the new Art of the Americas wing was opened in 2010. It's not only architecturally spectacular, but also doubles the number of  works on display from the 2 American continents.

Of course we also visited the makeshift memorial to Boston Marathon bombing victims, which has pretty much taken over Copley Square in the Back Bay.

And once the weather improved enough to be seasonable for late May, we hung out on the Esplanade along the banks of the Charles River, overrun with joggers, skaters, kayakers and canoers, and remembered why this city can be so beautiful and charming during the temperate months.

But really, I am mis-representing this trip, because, between these few lovely diversions, we generally got down to the business of visiting with friends and family, and stuffing ourselves with entirely too much food.

Breathing exercises before a gut-busting feast at my aunt Sveta's house.
Sveta's house looks like the Rococo gallery at an art museum.

The mens - Flo and my dad.


And yet - as much as I always look forward to these loud and boisterous family evenings, by day 4 I realized that I was looking forward to taking my leave. This was the first time in my 5 years of going back "home" that I was not sad to hop on a plane back to Austin. Perhaps it's a shift in my definition of what "home" is; after all, it was during this trip that a former "home" of mine was finally sold - something that brings me immeasurable relief and a sense of new-found freedom. Or maybe it's an ongoing evolution in my relationship with my family. Then again, maybe it's my growing aversion to suburbs. I've lived in Boston's suburbs for 13 years, and yet the only sting of homesickness I feel is when I'm prowling its chaotic and over-developed heart, walking around Boston Harbor with its glittering skyline, salty breeze, and circling seagulls - even though I called that home for only 2. That is the Boston I adore and miss, the one I sometimes daydream about when I smell ocean air on the far side of the Earth.

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