Susan's Blog

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Skipped Breakfast of Champions

On Sunday we asked Natty when he’d like to go back to The House and he actually chose Monday. I had given him the choice of staying here until after lunch or going back, and he interrupted me and said, “Go back after breakfast. Go back after breakfast.”

Knowing that Nat was truly happy to be going back, I felt very light when I woke up. Without that anxiety, I could do anything. It was bright and clear, and I knew right away I would have a bike ride. Holiday Monday also meant this would be fantastic, with little traffic. I told Ned and Nat I’d be back in about an hour and I also explained to Nat that I would have my breakfast after my bike ride (he still can get upset if people don’t eat breakfast before starting their day). I cannot enjoy my ride if I know that Nat is anxious and therefore things at home might be dicey. Ned says, “Why? I’m here.” But I feel that I should be there, too if Nat is getting that way. So Nat seemed not to mind that I was not having breakfast, and later on Ned told me that Nat kept delaying his own breakfast. We thought that maybe this meant that although Nat wanted to go back after breakfast, he was going to put off having breakfast as long as he could!

But yesterday was simply a blessing, a gift. I headed out into the green and blue and felt that I wanted to do something new. Many people around here bike the Riverway all the way, but I’m not sure where “all the way” leads you. Ned says it is kind of around the Fenway; that seems like not too great an area to be biking in. Besides, I wonder about the safety of the woods all through the Emerald Necklace (a series of brooks and greenery designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, a Victorian gentleman who also designed Central Park. He lived in Brookline and created many gorgeous green projects, large and small, one of which is my friend’s backyard down the street!). Until I find out definitively if Necklace and the Fens are safe, I’m going a different way.

What I did, though, was to simply ride right through Brookline, any old way I pleased. I felt like the town was mine, the world was mine. Why is riding a bike so powerful? I think because you can go so fast, just zip in and out where walkers can’t really zip; and cars can’t get in and out quickly with all of their bulk. A bike is just a pinpoint of enegy, speeding, alighting. A butterfly moving across a vast field.

There were so few cars, it was like being in a different town. I rode past many ghosts from my near and distant past. I found no cars on Tappan (birthplace of Nathaniel Isaac Batchelder); none through Coolidge Corner; and none all the way to Comm Ave in Boston. I could actually cross without using the pedestrian signal.

If you don’t live or drive in Boston, you cannot appreciate just how extraordinary that kind of automotive peace is. This is one scary place to drive or bike.

I rode over the BU Bridge and down onto the path along Memorial Drive and there I felt like the luckiest person in the world. This path stretches the length of the Charles; one side is Cambridge (where I was, Mem Drive) and the other side is Boston (Storrow Drive and the Esplanade). As you ride, you look to the right and you can see the city of Boston, which is probably one of the most charming cityscapes in the world. It is a city of old red brick and stone, from the Colonial and the Victorian eras, of new skyscrapers with shiny glass, steel, and granite or brick. The golden dome of the State House is the end point, and the Longfellow Bridge (with its salt-and-pepper shaker towers) faces that.

Riding past the Charles you get the aroma of water (not pollution), and there are people sculling the surface like skinny waterbugs. Lots of runners to dodge, but no matter. I got all the way to the Longfellow Bridge and turned around. Now I was going all the way to Harvard, and beyond. At JFK Street a strange-looking homeless man seemed to materialize from the cement and started walking right towards me. He was all muddy gray and his skin stretched over his face and made it look like a skull. I rode quickly away, thankful, as always, by my speed.

Soon I realized I was actually far beyond where I needed to cross over. I was practically at Fresh Pond. D’oh! Okay, so I had just added on more mileage. Finally I found the Harvard Bridge and crossed over, passing right by Blodgett Pool, where Nat competes for the State Games.

The whole time I’m riding I have my shuffle on and I’m whistling to my favorite songs. Every now and then I reach up and press the Forward button because it’s totally the wrong song for the moment. At this point I think the Allman’s Jessica came on, which was right for a long stretch. I was hoping to have a long stretch along Storrow all the way back to the BU Bridge, but when I got off the Harvard Bridge, I was suddenly in Back Bay and had no idea how to get back along the river; Storrow Drive (which is basically Route 93) was in full swing and there is never a time when you can bike directly onto it without taking your life into your hands.

I noodled through what seemed like a back alley in Back Bay, until suddenly, a pedestrian bridge with a ramp appeared out of nowhere. I crossed, and there I was, right next to the river banks of the Charles, now on the Boston side. I rode until I got to a boathouse, and didn’t know where I was going until I was right upon it, and there was a small, hidden, wooden footbridge that swung out right over the water. I rode that, hearing the clatter of the planks. Looking to my right there were low-hanging willows. I could have been in the countryside somewhere. It certainly did not look like downtown Boston, right next to Storrow Drive.

Unfortunately I ended up having to ride back to Brookline through Allston-Brighton, North Harvard Street, which is decidedly congested and urban. Still, at 9:45 am on a Holiday Monday, it was not too bad.

Ned plotted my route using GMaps Pedometer when I got home — ravenous because Nat had not insisted that I eat breakfast — and we saw that I had done 19.2 miles. There is probably no better way to start a day.


I remember the first time that I was really allowed to go anywhere on my bike…there is nothing quite like that freedom. Even now-driving a car just isn’t the same.
That is just wonderful about Nat-happy to be going back. How wonderful that must feel…

— added by kathleen on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 9:58 am

Sounds wonderful!

— added by Mom to JBG on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Sue, I think Nat might have been waiting to have breakfast *with* you!

Oh wait. The DSM says he’s not supposed to exhibit such affection or social awareness. Quick, call Uta. 😉

— added by Phil Schwarz on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 12:13 am

That’s funny, I ended up walking along the Riverway on Monday, having never done it before. Went from Brookline Village area to Fenway. I had the same thoughts about safety as you did, but those were quickly assuaged since there were lots of people around. Also, there’s a sort of open-air art exhibit on the Riverway now, so there was some interesting artwork to look at.

— added by Laura on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 1:31 pm