This is a story of two converts.
The first is this column, which, beginning with this installment, switches its modus operandi as well as its raison d'etre. Instead of highlighting area subway stations, it is moving above ground to be even closer to adventure and the open road: each week's column will now profile an area bus stop.
The second convert in this story is this writer, who is now forever sold on the bus as a mode of transport. The bus is cheaper, faster and much more exciting than the T. There's a bus stop right outside Quincy House, and a ride costs only sixty cents. Furthermore, passengers can see where they've been, where they are and where they're going. (The world could use more alternatives like these.)
The bus to Boston (route #1) leaves Harvard Station and lumbers through our Cambridge streets lacking agility, but not alacrity. Pick-ups at the corner of De Wolfe and Mt. Auburn occur about every fifteen minutes or so.
On a recent Saturday evening, passengers included two thirty-year-olds heading home from work and five college students heading to an M.I.T. party. Two elderly people were heading nowhere in particular.
The trip to Boston was uneventful. The bus stopped twice in Central Square, which at 7:15 was already glowing with a multitude of neon signs advertising discount liquor stores.
The college students got off at MIT in search of festivity, and bus #8725 continued onward to cross the Charles. The "CITGO" sign, looming above the Green Monster in Fenway Park, dominated the cityscape:
On the other side of the river, the misty Back Bay boasts a lovely neighborhood rivaling some of those found in the ritzier parts of Paris. #8725 crossed Commonwealth Ave., but did not stop at the corner of Commonwealth and Mass. Ave., as I had hoped. This was due in part to the three large men sitting in the two seats in front of me, blocking the bar which signals the bus driver to pull over at the next stop.
(Red Sox fans, don't let this happen to you. The stop at Commonwealth Ave. is where you, too, should disembark. Avoid taking the subway to a Red Sox game, as you'll have to pick up a special Green Line train to Kenmore Sq., which is a zoo on game days. It's better to take the bus to Commonwealth and cross the six or so blocks to Fenway by foot. You'll be rewarded with a beautiful walk.)
When the bus pulled over at the next stop, I bounded out. The night was in full swing. Five homeless men were passing a bottle in the shelter they had constructed within the bus stop overhang. Across the street, students from the Berkeley College of Music were crowding into the vast Tower Records store.
Affluent Bostonians were dining at the trendy and inexpensive ethnic restaurants which line the upper Newbury Street area. A street musician was playing the bongo drums on a stoop along Boylston Street.
The cross-streets between Boylston, Newbury and Commonwealth run in alphabetical order: Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, and so on. Several good Japanese and Middle Eastern restaurants are located within these blocks. There are hidden treasures, too, like the Chilton Club, an old high-society "ladies club" whose interior is rarely seen by anyone besides the club's mostly gray-haired women members.
One could spend days exploring old Back Bay, but Harvard students, like everyone else, eventually must return to their beds for slumber. To do so, walk past the gaslight street lamps on Commonwealth Ave. to Mass. Ave. There you can pick up the bus for Harvard Station. Ten minutes later, you'll be back in the Square. And if you must, there's T station two blocks away at the Hynes Convention Center.
But I recommend the bus.