Tuesday, January 20, 2015

All Paths Lead to Pastry

There's a dusty artist's portfolio under my bed. Inside it are years and years' worth of poster board school projects. Off the top of my head, I can list: George Washington (we photocopied quarters and glued them around the edge), rock formations (with pictures taken at a nearby bird sanctuary), gypsum (which turns out to be a another word for alabaster, who knew?), science fair submissions, book reports, math facts, single-celled organisms, and a timeline for the ride of Paul Revere.

I treasure these things. The artist, thereof? Not so much. She's definitely moved on.

It's been a while since we pulled an all-hands-on-deck family evening around posters or shoebox dioramas (my personal favorites). Junior year means lots of papers, lots of exams, lots and lots of stress, but not very many projects, per se.

So when my daughter explained that she needed my help for an historic Boston scavenger hunt to get extra credit in AP U.S. History, I cleared my calendar. Basically she had me at "scavenger hunt" and "extra credit."

We left fairly early and after some discussion over a map, we drove through Boston to the farthest site on her list. The JFK Library and Museum. While we were rerouted around some massive U Mass Boston construction undertaking, we talked about Kennedy. I reminded her that she had visited the museum in third grade (she vaguely remembered). She told me that they had an in-class debate about whether, given the chance, they would have prevented the assassination of Lincoln or Kennedy. She had argued Kennedy and won. We took a quick picture (all right, several, she wasn't happy with the first half dozen) to prove she was there. And our hunt continued.

The next stop was Fort Independence in South Boston and the Donald McKay monument. "Who was Donald McKay?" I asked as we drove along the water and out to Castle Island. "I dunno," she shrugged. "Don't you have to know to get the extra credit?" "No, we just have to take a picture." Okay then. (Turns out, Donald McKay was the builder of the famous clipper ships Flying Cloud and Sovereign of the Seas.)

From there, we drove through "Southie" and across the Congress Street Bridge into Boston's financial district. Parking there is notoriously bad. Actually, it's impossible. So, I pulled over — illegally — and live parked — illegally — while my daughter raced out to take a couple of selfies with the Boston Tea Party museum and reproduction ships. There was no need to quiz her on this particular site. They studied the Boston Tea Party in first grade, second grade, fourth grade, seventh grade ... basically, ad nauseam.

Next, we had a number of places downtown — the Dorothea Dix Fountain and the site of the Boston Massacre. After a couple of fruitless loops through Beantown's erratic one-way streets, accompanied by lots of colorful language, I decided to h*ll with it! I parked under Post Office Square, justifying it as necessary and worthwhile (why do we have all that home equity anyway). It would be about $36 by the time we were done, but that's not such a high price to pay for sanity, is it?


We hiked up Beacon Hill and shot the State House and 54th Regiment Memorial. We went back down and into the North End to find the Pilot House and Paul Revere's house.

And Mike's Pastry.

You see, as the parent and chauffeur, I had made an executive decision. After so much scavenger hunting, we had earned some cannoli. Some cannoli and a fudge brownie and a lobster tail, to be more precise. A lobster tail is an enormous pastry shaped like a horn, filled with massive amounts of whipped cream. And no one makes them quite like Mike's.

Then again, everything at Mike's is wonderful. Many years ago, I used to stop there after work on my way home to my one-room, much-loved apartment. I'd always get a huge butterscotch chip cookie. Always. Every single day. Before you imagine me as a the love child of Blimpie the Whale and Elsie the Moo Cow, let me assure you I was quite svelte. 

Those were the days. Mike's doesn't make those cookies anymore. It's probably a good thing. 

Anyway, back to the here and now. Throughout all this hunting (and eating), I regaled my daughter with stories from her father's and my shared past. We met in this very neighborhood, I told her. We worked together at a cable television company on the North End's waterfront. "We worked there," I pointed. "See those two windows on the second floor? That was my office. We used to buy lunch over here. This used to be the coolest restaurant. That was once a candy store. There was a bar there that we used to go to after work." To my daughter's credit, she listened to my narration without sighing or rolling her eyes. Maybe she was being kind. Maybe she was grateful for my help with her hunt. Maybe she was legitimately interested in the halcyon days of her parents' relationship.

More likely? She was already deep in a sugar-induced coma.

What can I say? Like mother, like daughter.

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