Of all the things I love in the word, free events that feature books are near the top of the list. (Right below random musical scenes acted out in public, which is pretty much the pinnacle of my possible happiness.)
My friends and family always call me out for noticing little details that others pass by. Like the fact that they painted all the electrical boxes at Downtown Crossing one afternoon. Or the name of the song that the bells at Macy’s peel out at 9:00 every morning. Or the extreme joy I show when I find out that the Shaw’s down the street is FINALLY making loaves of Portuguese sweet bread.
One such thing I noticed was that the Boston Book Festival was happening today. I attended the first BBF last year on a soggy October day with a smallish crowd that was mostly focused on the writing process. This year, the event organizers put a lot more energy into publicizing the event and getting all sorts of authors, publishers, and people to attend. The area was teeming with pedestrians, though I’m sure it didn’t hurt that President Obama was stumping for Deval Patrick down the street at Hynes.
Of the two sessions I attended, I was most intrigued by the one about “Home and Away,” which featured Bill Bryson and Tony Hiss, and was moderated by Robin Young. I chose to attend this lecture because Bryson’s books always make me laugh out loud and yearn to pack up my backpack and my passport, often at the same exact time. I feel like he sees the world the way I do, but he says it much much hilariously than I can.
Tony Hiss, however, affected me even more. Though his slide show was an example of a “before” in a visual aid class, I was riveted by his presentation on “deep travel.” He says that we will use our brains more and get more out of life if, in every scenario, we look around and imagine that we are not in our local coffee shop, but instead in Warsaw. If you were in another city, you would be noticing the papers people around you are reading. The astonishing variety of sweeteners one can put in one’s coffee. The speed of the cars passing by. The smells! The taste of that particular coffee, even if it’s your third one of the day.
I loved this, because it is exactly how I try to live my life. I’ve been in Boston for almost 18 months now and I still strive to learn something new about the city every day. I want to be the one seeing where that path ends, what new store is moving into that empty building, which flowers are in bloom this week. I love being the first to notice that down the street, Brian has put up bright orange lights for Halloween, or that our new curtains exactly match the picture frame in our library. Right now, I’m sitting here, wondering who is getting married or why else the church bells would be ringing at this hour.
At the same time, exploring my own city makes me long for others. I want to be back in a land of accents, of foreign money, of roads where I can’t pronounce the street names, nevermind know where they end. I want to order “the best beer on tap,” and not always have it be a Sam Adams. To forage for my breakfast, hop on the next train, and see what the people there have to say for themselves.
But in the meantime, I’m off to find dinner in my own personal “Warsaw.” Pożegnanie!
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