Blessings in Beantown: Bosox and Willie

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BOSTON — The Boston Public Library is across Exeter Street from the boutique hotel in which we are staying, both located on Boylston Street in the Back Bay. It is a grand building, built in 1854 and the second oldest public library in the country. We wandered around one morning, admiring the ornate inlayed pink marble walls inside, the pair of marble lions at the top of the staircase that honor Massachusetts Civil War veterans.

The finish line for the Boston Marathon is across from the library. A lone cross nearby memorializes three of the victims of the 2013 bombing. A T-shirt vendor in nearby Copley Square is selling Boston Strong shirts, the slogan adopted after that horrific attack.

Too much time has passed since our last visit to my favorite city in which not to live — nearly five years. After spending four days in New York City, Boston feels like a small town. From our base of operations at the historic Lenox Hotel, it is an easy walk to Boston Commons and the adjoining Public Garden down Boylston in one direction. Head the other way and 20 minutes later Fenway Park pops into view — always a surprise the first time since it is nearly obscured by the condos and office buildings that now circle it.

Early on the first morning there, I walk down past the Fens, the marshy area from which the baseball park gets its name. I knew I was getting close to that holy place, as an acquaintance put it. I then turned and looked past a Shell station that looked familiar. There was Fenway, one of my shrines, the oldest major league ballpark in America at 102 years. I walked over and snapped a cell phone photo of the bronze statue of Carl Yastrzemski, the Hall of Fame left fielder who was the hero of my youth. “How ya doing, Yaz?” I silently asked.

I have been coming to this ballpark as often as possible for 47 years, since the “Impossible Dream” season of 1967, when we sat in the bleachers for the next-to-last game of the season and watched the Sox beat the Twins to clinch a tie for the pennant. They won again the next day to take the American League title, back before playoffs, divisions and wild-card teams. Of course, they lost the World Series. It would be another 37 years before the Sox would overcome the Curse of the Bambino.

Since then, even after moving to Texas the following year, I have managed to catch a game in Fenway on about  15 occasions, including Game One of the 2007 World Series. I love this place, with its ubiquitous green paint, the old wooden seats under the cover, the hand-operated scoreboard in the Green Monster in Left Field, the neon John Hancock sign in centerfield. The hot dogs taste better in Fenway, the air seems a bit crisper.

Ironically, the Sox are facing the Twins on this June night. We are seated not far behind home plate. Director and actor Rob Reiner, aka Meathead from “All In The Family ” threw out the first pitch after chewing the fat with novelist Stephen King. The Sox, after winning their third World Series in a decade last year, are struggling to get above .500 this season. They eke out a 1-0 win in a pitcher’s battle. We sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch and “Sweet Caroline” after the top of the eighth. I never have figured out why Sox fans sing that Neil Diamond classic, but it sure is fun.


We gorge on seafood — clam chowder especially — and do our best to walk it off during the day. Boston is a great city to visit because you can walk to so many places and feel safe doing so. At least I did. A day after arriving, my Beautiful Mystery Companion had discovered that Willie Nelson, Allison Krauss and Kacey Musgrave — from Mineola, Texas —  were playing in an amphitheater on Boston Harbor. We managed to scrounge decent tickets. So on our final night in Beantown, we joined 5,000 raucous fans as the Texas legend cranked out song after song. At 82, Willie’s voice is not quite as strong as it used to be, but he played nonstop for going on two hours.

First the Red Sox, then Willie Nelson live. With the considerable talent of Allison Kraus and up-and-comer Kacey Musgrave opening, it was impossible not to feel blessed. And a bit broke after seven days of traveling.

But it was money well spent. Of such, memories are made.

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