2018-08-16 / Opinions

California girl stayed in Boston and makes it her town

By LORAN SMITH
columnist

BOSTON – Appreciating that when we travel, we place paramount emphasis on the sights and sounds that make our day and avoid any and all seedy geography, you can find unremitting joy with a sojourn to the heartbeat of our nation’s cities, weather permitting.

Can’t think of a city lately that has left me wanting less, and I am a downhome guy. Atlanta, for example, has more to offer than locals sometime realize. A favorite for this sojourner is Denver with its 16th Avenue Mall and sensible light rail, making you want to take on the role of town crier and ask why the rest of the world can’t fall in step with that concept.

Anywhere in downtown America, you can find a Brooks Brothers suit; if you look hard enough, more than likely you will find an institutional greasy spoon which will leave you filled and fulfilled like the South Street Diner, located not far from the Tremont Courtyard Marriott in Boston. In Athens, my hometown, our downtown breakfast oasis is the Mayflower Restaurant on Broad. If eggs, bacon, grits, and toast in a congenial atmosphere doesn’t make your day, Lynn and Lisa will.

It does heighten compatibility with any city when you are connected to local flavor as in friends. Owing primarily to the University of Georgia, anywhere I go there seems always a Bulldog in the midst. Wear a cap with a “G” on it and people come up to you in the street and initiate conversation.

In Boston last weekend, perhaps, the best known voice in the city, Dave O’Brien of the Boston Red Sox and his wife, Debbie, hosted a dinner which could have been the scene of an alumni gathering. It included John Parker, Bo Rutledge, and Malcolm Mitchell, who owns a Super Bowl ring from the New England Patriots. You may know O’Briens’ connection to UGA in that he has an ongoing streak of making tuition payments to the University of Georgia. You can’t beat an afternoon at Fenway Park, followed by dinner which was apropos of, breaking into, “Hail, Hail, the Dawgs are all here.”

Breakfast Sunday morning was an extension of the night before when Anne Noland a University of Georgia alumnus by way of the Henry Grady College of Journalism, met up with a friend and a lady named Jonnet Holladay for breakfast. Jonnet’s late husband, Howard got indoctrinated with all things Southern, growing up in Augusta, a relationship later garnished by his close friend, Sonny Seiler, who never met a Bulldog he didn’t like.

When Howard passed away, Jonnet stayed put, a California girl and Stanford graduate, who remains enamored with the history, charm, and verve of Boston, where she mixes with the proper Bostonians and the ex-pats alike. It is her town now. She wants you to know she is proud of that.

Jonnet knows who to call to reserve you a seat at the John F. Kennedy booth at the Union Oyster House and point out where Daniel Webster sat when he came for lunch most days, enjoying a dozen raw oysters and a tankard of brandy. Whether you take your seat in the Old North Church, where Paul Revere organized the lanterns, or Fenway Park, Jonnet can update you on the history of each. “I love Boston and its history,” she says with a grin and twinkling eyes. “I’ve seen it grow, as it still honors its past.”

Further, she can take you over to Harvard and serve as your tour guide – crossing the Charles River and pointing out where Howard docked his boat, the “Southern Drawl.” That Bulldog dingy has found its way to the uppermost ports of Maine and even made it to Savannah for the ’96 Olympics.

You might come to Boston when the tall ships are in port. Any day you show up, you can spend time at the USS Constitution, still the oldest commissioned active vessel in the U.S. Navy.

There is overwhelming energy in Boston. Holidays, most poignantly July 4th, are especial. Whatever you choose from whatever Boston offers, do include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where a brazen robbery nearly three decades ago led to thieves cutting from its frame the “Storm, a seascape with Jesus and the Apostles,” and other works of art, a $500 million dollar haul, which reminds you that evil often triumphs in our world.

What can you and I do about it? Nothing except that if the world cries out long enough and loud enough, maybe, someday, somebody in the underworld will notice our tears. We should never vacate the notion that evil cannot prevail.

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