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The North End, two Italian Ice by Sea

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The ferry from Salem, MA to Boston is nothing like Codzilla. There is no ridiculous un-Cod like grimace painted on the front and no threat of losing your lunch unless you just forget it under your seat.  I was crisply burned the day before at the beach so I jumped on the ferry covered  in white cotton like a Puritan in their underwear.  It costs about $15 each way and takes about an hour but what a relaxing hour. It’s fun to see how small the human creations on the coast look from a large body of water. Only upon close approach to downtown Boston did it look impressive.

The entrance to Boston harbor – nice!

When we got real close, I could see that the buildings were not castles,  just offices where people are trapped each day. I worked there for a couple of summers but never really wanted to live in a place that was crowded and hot even if it was full of history and interesting people. You could imagine my feelings about NYC!. I do love to visit them both. Maybe a summer residency might change my mind .I certainly wouldn’t mind commuting to Boston by train or ferry. On the way back there were a bunch of commuters who segregated themselves  into the ties and the nerds. The nerd table brought their own beers and drinks in a cooler. The ties were comparing photos on their iphones.

The ferry terminal in Boston is so busy we had to wait 20 minutes to land

The best building in Boston is The Customs House. Maybe I love it so much because my mother used to take us up there to see the view. Maybe because it has a clock with a face that greets you. Here is my tribute to The Customs House.

The Customs House- Boston

Once off the ferry I had some choices to make as I had just a couple of hours before I needed to catch the boat home.  I remember when they re-opened Fanueil Hall/Quincy Market. It was full of possibilities. Now it just looks full of stuff. I never bought much there but I did like looking at the people, the tourists, the vendors, the workers picking up something to eat. It was too hot to hang out in Conspicuous Consumptionville so I decided to hike over to The North End.

It’s so much more easy to get to The North End than when I was a teen. I remember going there to see the Pope drive through but the closest I could get was under the highway overpass. Now the highway is gone but the character of the neighborhood is not.  There’s a historical timeline of quotes on a small wall in the greenway where the highway used to be. The quotes are from Native peoples, Puritans, Irish, Italians ,African Americans, Jewish folk who called the neighborhood home.  That’s what I like the most about The North End, there’s plenty of history besides the tourist attractions.  Here are a couple of photos just off the main drag.

Hail Mary, full of grace



The Lord is with thee

It’s a place where the Catholic faith was on parade but the parade passed by some time ago. That’s what history is I guess, a parade. Paul Revere was a one person parade followed by a modern day parade of tourists.

Paul Revere riding through the North End on a copper horse.

We haven’t even left Hanover Street, neither have many of the tourists who are hunting for cannoli . It’s almost ninety degrees and a heavy pastry bomb is the last thing on my mind. I think there must be an ice cream store ahead because of the long line, but I’m wrong. It’s Mike’s where very bad things have been done to the cannoli for your, and everyone else’s, pleasure. The best cannoli I ever had was in New York City. It was plain.


Oh Mike -thirty three flavors of cannoli is so American


I left Hanover Street and found the side streets much cooler and there was no line for my first Italian Ice.  There were some older folks out cooling themselves on their front steps. I thought it would be rude to take photos so I didn’t.  There was a plump older( than me) lady, much shorter too but that’s to be expected when you’re me. She was dressed in a dark dress but her legs were bare.  I saw  a thin man on the next street also dressed in black. This reminded me of the older folks I saw  in Greece. Even though it’s hot, the elders wore black. Perhaps it’s a widow/widower tradition?  I heard a young woman ask about a cobbler. The person who answered said the cobbler closed down a couple of years ago. As I kept wandering around I saw two dry cleaners who also fixed shoes. I wish I could have found her but maybe she was looking for someone or something special, something authentic, which is hard to find.

Somehow I wound up at The Old North Church. I don’t think I had been there in a long time because I had forgotten about the stolen Catholic angels. I think they came on a ship for some Catholic church and were pilfered for this one. Here they are guarding the organ so no Catholics come and steal it.

I know what you’re thinking- that would look good in my church.


Wasn’t the reformation about getting rid of all the gold and Gothic stuff in church? When you walk in, the place does look quite stark until you find out that all those pew booths that are so plain and white would have been decorated and cushioned by the families who had their names on them.  Here’s an example of an endowed booth as it would have looked back then.

This would go well with some of The Pope’s outfits

The coolest place, due to the breeze was Copp’s Hill burial ground.  I took my time here because, well, I like dead people. There are lots of dead people here. First The Algonquins lived here, many early African American freed slaves are buried here also sailors, and infamous preachers. Mr. Copp was apparently a cobbler, although probably not the one the young woman was looking for as the graveyard opened in 1659. The most controversial grave is The Mather tomb. The Mathers had important roles as ministers at the time of The Salem Witch trials. Like many of us who make horrible mistakes, they never recanted. One can’t really call them devils because it would be playing the same game. Some forgiving soul left flowers on their grave.

may we all rest in peace

Rather than end on that sad note, I managed to hunt down one more lemon Italian ice before I got on the ferry. The first vendor had none left but pointed out a stand that did. I got a giant one so as to enjoy it on the ferry home. A two Italian ice day is a good day. Had I gone by train I might have only gotten one but as it was cool on the ferry I knew it would last. As they say, two if by sea.

Here’s a parting shot of where those two lanterns were lit so long ago. Long before texting, Bostonians knew how to get a message across. If you visit Boston, don’t miss the North End. It’s easy to get to and really captures the heart of what a vibrant urban neighborhood can be.





About polarflares

My head is so big because it has so many holes and air gets in.

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