Escaping Boston

I’m typing this in Schwarma Express, a Highland Park restaurant. There’s a Toshiba flatscreen here, tuned to CNN. Joe the interviewee is saying, “There’s a lot that people don’t know.” The news anchor is trying to pull more details out of Joe. And that’s really his name. Joe is bald, black, and wearing a pinstripe suit and a blue striped tie. Theres’s an FBI hotline number on the screen. There are blurry, pixellated images of men wearing baseball caps backwards, in tan and not Red Sox blue.

My experiences in Boston are limited. I caught a game in Fenway in the nineties–the Red Sox, then the underdogs, lost. And my family took a tour of historical sites when I was about 8 or 9 years old. But in 2010, I shipped my bike to Boston and rode to New York City over the next week.

I remember meeting my friends for lunch more than I remember the city itself, and my memories of Rhode Island and Massachusetts are far more vivid than those of the day I spend escaping the city. This morning, I woke up and then made the mistake of looking at the news. Boston is a mess now, closed down for a manhunt. I left my house to be around other people, and this restaurant is now empty. It’s time to pay and move along.

I’m in OQ Coffee now. (The cashier at Schwarma Express charged me $2 too little, and insisted that I not worry about it.) I’m sitting at a large, rough-hewn wooden table, enough to seat six to eight for a close dinner.

There’s a guy across the table from me, typing furiously. He has a pound of coffee beans next to his Macbook, and is concentrating on what he’s typing, earbuds shutting out the world.

But the coffee grinders are quiet, and there’s no hum of conversation. The baristas outnumber the customers now.

Despite all warnings to the contrary, the Boston drivers were considerate and friendly when I drove away from the Amtrak station. I leaned my bike, laden with camping gear, against the side of a bench in Jamaica Pond Park, and had some water and astronaut ice cream. I made my way to my host’s home, and escaped Boston the next day.

While our experiences in the USA are fairly mild compared to those in Israel or Iraq or Afghanistan, bombings are chilling no matter the body count. In a strange way, I wish I had lingered in Boston a little longer.

Typing Man is packing his laptop away. A couple more customers have arrived. A barista starts up the espresso machine. My wife and I are having company tonight; I’m going to wrap this up and go food shopping.


Thanks to Julie Goldberg for assistance with proofreading and editing.

Neil Fein is a freelance editor who specializes in novels. If you’ve written a manuscript or are getting close to finishing, you can get in touch with him here. He rides his bicycle as much as he can, and he paints when he damn well feels like it. He’s also a musician who plays in a Celtic fusion band.

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2 thoughts on “Escaping Boston

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  1. First off I would like to say excellent blog!
    I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing.
    I’ve had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Many thanks!

    1. First off I would like to say excellent blog!

      On behalf of all the writers here, thank you! Do you have a blog on the web?

      I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing.

      Taking some time to get started is typical for me as well. Generally, I just sit down and write until I'm focused. The "first draft" of whatever I write is usually disorganized notes. If I can't get past that stage, it's time for me to pick up and write somewhere else.

      But I usually work on shorter pieces. With longer works, a good trick to cut that short is to leave off at a place that it's easy to continue, possibly even in the middle of a sentence. You can sometimes shorten that prep time by the simple act of finishing something, anything at all.

      If I can't get focused at all–maybe I find myself writing and rewriting the same sentence–I'll pick a point on the wall in front of me, and stare at it for ten seconds while trying to blank my mind. That usually brings me into focus when nothing else will.

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