Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Walk from Home to Work

This one is from August but got buried somewhere in my hard drive until I stepped on it today.

We all have our stories about life however we always miss out on the quotidian yet fascinating aspects of our daily routine. I walk to work everyday and have noticed a lot of subtle yet intriguing things happening obliviously. I made it a point to have an 'eye' for all these wonderful things. This is the account of the events transpired within the last week.

The moment I step out of my house I am greeted by the four-acre Highland Park which is a part of Roxbury's historic Fort Hill neighborhood. Atop the park is the Cochituate Standpipe, designed by architect Nathaniel J. Bradlee and built in 1869, which modernized Roxbury's water system. It is located on the site of the Revolutionary War fort in Highland Park.

Some history about the neighborhood:

Founded by English colonists in 1630, Roxbury began as an independent community, connected to Boston only by a narrow neck of land along Washington Street. Today, after massive landfill and annexation to Boston, Roxbury is at the city's geographical center. It contains buildings and landmarks that tell the story of three centuries. Even with dense urban development, Roxbury has much open, green space, a legacy of its days as a farming town and as an early suburb. now, in the 20th Century, Roxbury has become the center of the African-American community in Boston.

As I walk down on Fort Ave. can't help noticing the beautiful flowers on both sides of the road. The network supporting the default mode of the brain function kicks in every other minute when I start projecting myself into the future and past events thinking about all while missing out on everything surrounding you. Hence, I voluntary try to suppress the thought provoking while trying to enjoy the elusive nature.

If you keep walking the road everyday you start noticing little things about the houses, the sign boards, the garden and the most important you start communicating to the people in the neighborhood on a much regular basis.

While passing RCC (Roxbury Community College), I always take a moment to admire it's nicely landscaped garden. I have noticed (though have never been) in the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center on the campus of Roxbury Community College. Apparently, the Center is named after the local humanitarian and Northeastern hero, Reggie Lewis, who starred for the Huskies and then professionally for the Boston Celtics.

At the Roxbury Crossing Station, you see some (since 9 am is definitely not the busiest of times) smart (since they have had a good night's sleep and probably work efficiently besides avoiding the morning rush) people with coffee mug holders and a newspaper (mostly Metro) which serves as their faithful companion in the train. A guy hands out Boston Now papers at the Roxbury Crossing T station who needs to be mentioned.

He persistently and in fact quite sucessfully tries to distribute the paper. If you are a everyday traveler you can't help (atleast out of pity) to take a copy.

He tries to instill in your mind as you approach the station the words Boston Now by saying it a number of times. In the short span of time, while you are getting into the subway station you would hear:

"Good Morning...Get Your Boston Now!... Get Your Boston Now!... Get Your Boston Now! "

I can't help finding striking resemblance to people selling 'vada-pav' back home in the local trains in India. It would be a perfect match if his voice was a bit more nasal and if he would have singing to make a sale.

Bostonians are actually trained to see free papers for a quick read on the T. (and some have the weird misconception that they are supposed to leave the paper in the train for other passenger's to read once they are done) In fact, unless cleaned I am sure at the end of the day the train would start to look like a ransacked newspaper office. Also, when you are on the T, it's best not to make eye contact. If you do, we know you are new to the whole public transportation thing or probably a volunteer for some organization trying to enroll people for some protest.

Everything ahead from this point onwards on Tremont St. is part of the Mission Hill area. It is an architectural landmark district with a combination of freestanding houses built by early wealthy landowners, blocks of traditional brick rowhouses, and many three-story apartment buildings.

You cannot miss walking by an eponymous landmark historic building that dominates the skyline of the area everyday on Tremont Street. Yes, it is the Mission Hill Church (atleast I know it by that name) In 1870, the Redemptorist Fathers built a humble wooden mission church that was replaced by an impressive basilica in 1876 from Roxbury puddingstone. In 1910, dual-spires were added that now dominate the skyline. It is one of only 43 basilicas in the United States.

Officially named Our Lady of Perpetual Help after the icon of the same name, is uniformly referred to as "Mission Church", even by its own parishioners. Due to a sloping foundation of this landmark, the west cross tops its tower at 215 feet; the other spire is two feet shorter. The length of the church is also 215 feet, presenting a perfect proportion.

The neighborhood is briskly gentrifying and diversifying in favor of a mix of new luxury condominiums and lofts, triple-deckers converted to condominiums, surviving student rental units, newly rebuilt public housing, and strong remnants of long-time residents. The community consists of a large African American and Hispanic population, a healthy collection of students from nearby colleges and young families who work in the Longwood Medical Area. Culture is a symbolic dimension of life. While walking through this part of the town you realize that cultures are more than language, dress, and food customs. The symbolic dimension is the place where we are constantly making meaning and enacting our identities.

On the right hand side you come across the Parker Hill Library which is a satellite branch of the Boston Public Library, the largest municipal public library systems in the United States. The outside of the building has the carved seal of Massachusetts on one side and the seal of the city of Boston on the other. Over the door is a carved seal of the Boston Public Library.

Huntington Ave. definitely has a student feel to it. On your right is Northeastern Univ. while straight ahead lies the Mass College of Pharmacy. You come to the crossing The Green Line is a light rail/streetcar system in the Boston, Massachusetts area The line was given the green color because it goes primarily though the area of Boston called the Emerald Necklace of Boston. The four branches are the remnants of a once large system of streetcar lines, begun in 1856 with the Cambridge Horse Railroad. The Tremont Street Subway carries cars of all branches under downtown, and is the oldest subway tunnel in North America. This is where the Longwood Medical Area starts.

Some facts:
The Longwood Medical and Academic Area (LMA), the 213-acre area formed by the Riverway, Fenway, and Huntington Avenue, constitutes one of the premier medical, research, academic and cultural communities in the world.
More than 37,000 people work within the LMA, 15,000 students attend school here, and each year more than one million patients visit the area’s hospitals for medical care. It generates over $3.4 billion in annual revenues.

The LMA’s unique concentration of 21 institutions include three major Harvard affiliated teaching hospitals, two research treatment centers, three Harvard schools, six historic colleges organized into the Colleges of the Fenway, a private secondary school, an art museum, one public high school, a State mental health center, a children’s treatment center, and a religious institution.

After walking just a few steps on Longwood Ave. is the prestigious Harvard Medical School (HMS). One can only admire the lovely view of the HMS quadrangle. On my left lies the premier medical institute reminiscent of tradition and history while on my right is technologically advanced Harvard research institutions and Merck research labs showcasing technology and aspirations.

* Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
* Brigham and Women's Hospital
* Massachusetts General Hospital

These three institutions are often referred to as the "Harvard Trinity" by students and faculty.

Here are some financial stats. related to HMS.

Budget Fiscal Year 2006 $466,427,072

June 2006: $3,256,509,589
Professorships: 267

Gifts Fiscal Year 2006
Total gifts: $43,508,000

Research and Training Dollars 2006
U.S. government direct and indirect: $197,371,390
Private funding direct and indirect: $26,182,322
Total Sponsored: $223,553,712

Yes, the number speak for themselves. Although, if you interested in reading some more of HMS achievements the link here highlights The Century of Progress at Harvard Medical School.

As I come nearer to my workplace thoughts regarding the things to do today start coming to me. I am always reminded of this quote whenever I think about my work.
“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought”
~ Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

Probably, that's why half my day goes thinking :)
After going through this entire saga I make an rejuvenated attempt to start the day's work.

Total distance traveled: 1.7132 miles
And for 'my weight' I burn about 236 calories every time I take this route. Probably, that's one of the inspiring reasons why it has become a regular thing for me now. (which also gives me a nice excuse to skip the gym)

I love being a part of my neighborhood, a part of the day; besides the automatic exercise. I think considering the whole package it's quite a good deal :)

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