Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 22: Recap, Pt. 3 -- Saturday, Oct. 13

Salem Harbor, Oct. 13, 2012
Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 was about as beautiful a day in New England as could be hoped for anywhere. I had a full schedule of places to visit, all on the North Shore: Salem, Manchester By The Sea, Revere, and then back to Salem.

This would turn out to be a day that was fun, interesting, frustrating and worrisome. Welcome to my life.

We like staying at Best Westerns. I shouldn't say that; now the secret is out. But we've stayed at them in California and now Massachusetts, and it's always been a good experience. For one thing, they offer hot breakfasts. That's money saved right there. Some places pledge a breakfast included and that means a stale Danish. No thanks.

Anyway, this place offered a coffee called "New England Eye-Opener" by the New England Coffee Co. I am not a huge coffee fan but sometimes ya need a jolt, right? This stuff was delicious. I wound up having it four days in a row and will buy some when we move. Really tasty.

With the college activities in full swing, the hotel was crowded and so was breakfast. But I needed fuel, which turned out to be more true than I knew at the time, so I had some.

I dropped M off at Harvard Square for her full day of events, then had a 10 a.m. appointment in Salem. It was sunny, crisp, glorious.

As previously noted, I stupidly forgot my car charger for my phone, and on this day that would prove to be supremely problematic. I was using the Maps feature, which was a challenge because navigating solo means you have to kind of memorize a few steps until you have an opportunity to stop somewhere and verify/update. I was also taking a lot of pictures and shooting video walk-throughs of the apartments. After the Salem stop, I had a little time before my next appointment, so I found a Starbucks near Salem State University and plugged in a while.

The apartment in Salem was perfect. I liked the couple renting it, the place was on a nice residential street, and the apartment was almost perfect. It had lots of light and had been pretty well maintained. Drawbacks were that it was a bit on the small side, had not much yard area, and was a little bit of a hike for M's work.

But it became Numero Uno on the list because of a great combo of quality, looks and price. Also, Salem appeared to be a great little community.

I really thought this would be the winner. But it wasn't. An hour after I left, I got an e-mail from Beth, the owner, who told me that she now had doubts about our having three dogs, and upon further review, we were out.

I was pissed. I'm still pissed. EVERYONE I contacted in setting up these searches, the dog situation was at the top of the list. There was just no point in wasting anyone's time in looking for a place if the dogs weren't allowed. No hard feelings if you're not into that from the start: some people don't like dogs, some people worry about bad dogs trashing their place, yada yada yada. NBD.

UNLESS you say it's OK on the front end, then use that as an excuse on the back end. Beth is a Salem witch.

I think that what happened was she was worried about having enough action for her place, so she said yes to as many potential renters as possible. Then when she got prospects and found some good ones who DIDN'T have dogs, she opted to go for the dogless ones. Which, I guess, I'm OK with in theory. Rent to the people you want to. Just don't later use an excuse that it was about my dogs why you're not cool with me anymore. That's bullshit. I would have preferred she call me and say she is renting to someone else. Hell, it would have been better to not say anything to me at all. But to use the dogs as an excuse is lamesauce. She knew about the dogs coming in.

What a Masshole.

BTW: Apparently, "Masshole" is really a thing up there. Check out this entry from Urban Dictionary.

Now, back to the story...

After the Starbucks stint, I had the best part of the drive, eventually. Apparently, "Witch Tourism" in Salem is a major activity in the month of October/Halloween season. Where better, eh? I'm going to enjoy soaking up the regional history, which, in a lot of ways, is the nation's history. In moving through the city toward a northerly appointment in Manchester-By-The-Sea, I passed through the center of this festival-like setting, seeing people in 17th-century outfits and such. I wondered if the square I passed through might have been the site of a witch-burning? Or maybe that was back on Endicott Street at Beth's house.

Anyway, it was traffic-y. So it took a while to get through that, but then I was on my way. The drive to MBTS was beyond pleasant, with the occasional peek at the Atlantic to my right, or otherwise drives down shady lanes with the fall colors abounding. I eventually came to the rental property, which I saw with two other people.

The tour guide, Michael, noted that the house was converted from a 150-year-old bahn. You know, a BAHN -- where horses live.

I'm going to be amused for a while by those accents.

The house's front door is actually a bahn door. There was another bahn half-door that separated the kitchen from a small hall. The place was cold and dark, but hella charming. If it hadn't been so far away, it might have worked. There was a commuter rail nearby, and the rail station looked like the stereotype of every romantic, classically designed station you could imagine. But it was just too far away.


I practically had to hump it all the way back to Boston for an open house of a six-unit, three-story place in Revere. Pronounced Rev-EE-Ah. Revere is pretty close to Boston itself... pros include that, the fact that this place was a block and a half from the ocean, and what would turn out to be a pretty nice place. Cons are that Revere is apparently a bit hit-and-miss, crime-wise; the on-street parking is insane (most people apparently have no qualms about parking half on the sidewalks); the street was just down the block from a large senior center (sketchy old people, ya know); and so near Logan Airport that it's sometimes in the flight path.

I was just kidding about old people. I love old people.

But, the flight path thing bugged me. I have a thing about being in flight paths. It's not that I worry so much about a plane or parts dropping on me, it's that I read a UCLA study years ago about flight paths and crime. The study indicated that neighborhoods in flight paths have higher crime rates. I've tried to find this study but have not been able to. Maybe I'm wrong, but still, I don't like flight path living. At the very least, they're noisy.

The owner was a charming old English lady who was also very organized and involved. Like... to the Nth degree. As I got to the house, a Revere policeman and his family was concluding a tour.

So I was doomed, right? If I'm a property owner, I WANT a cop living in my place. Built-in security.

The place was very well looked-after. For all this woman's eccentricities, there was no doubt she ran a tight ship. The unit was well-done, with proper construction and improvements. Quality-wise, it was probably the best place I'd seen to date. It also had many charming characteristics, such as glass over the hallway doors, an extremely modern and stylish bathroom, and a nice layout. It also had a good pricepoint.

But then it happened again: she started making comments showing reservations about the dogs.

We never meant to have three dogs, but when Penny came along, he was just too adorable and sweet, and our hearts ached because he had been abandoned. Someone had basically just ditched him, in the dead of winter. He was scrawny and skinny and scared when we began fostering him just a week after he had been found along a country roadside.

And I just grew to love him. And he wasn't going to be going anywhere. We tried to find him a good set of parents but people just didn't warm to him. He's the kind of dog you need to get to know a little bit and no one gave him that chance. So now we have three dogs. And we're not going to be the kind of people who move on and say "Sorry, can't take all these dogs" and dump them at the shelter.


So it seemed like Revere was out. Now it was getting late and I had to get to Salem. But then I got a call from the Salem guy. He seemed like a nice guy. He wanted to reschedule; his mom was sick and he didn't have time to make the appointment. Totally understandable. We let it ride.

This meant the odds were great that I'd never get to see that place. But his situation was clearly way more important. I hope your mom is OK, Larry.

So the good news was, my day was over. The bad news? My phone was down to 6 percent and I had an arduous hike across Boston to get back to the hotel.

I quickly jotted down the instructions. Then the phone died. But no worries... my innate sense of direction will get me back.

Instead, I spent the next 90 minutes wandering. I hope to find some of those paths again. One took me across a long bridge where the view to my east was the Boston skyline fronted by a sailboat-filled body of water. It was scintillating. I think I was on Massachusetts Avenue. I thought that was where I needed to be. I was driving among impressive old buildings, streets crowded with pedestrians. I passed a regal old building near another building that turned out to be the Boston Symphony Hall, where a performance featuring Mendelssohn and Shostakovich was slated for a couple of hours later. That would have been a fun evening; maybe later.

I continued on. Soon I found myself in Dorchester.

Red flags. Dorchester's interesting history includes Joseph P. and Rose Kennedy, MLK (who lived there as a student, according to wiki), the Wahlbergs, Dennis Lehane, Donna Summer and criminals Whitey Bulger and Sheldon Adelson. Today, Dorchester has gotten rougher; almost half of all Boston murders happen there. Not all of it is sketch, but the parts bordering Mattapan and Roxbury are apparently pretty salty. There seems to be a concerted effort to revitalize; when an area gets a reputation, home and rental prices drop, and some will seize that to come in and get a deal and try and clean up the mess.

But we don't know Boston well enough yet to crusade. Maybe later. For now, I want to keep my stuff, and my blood.

So now all I knew was that I had been driving for an hour, and was not where I needed to be. Reverse.

I eventually got close to Harvard, so that's when I knew I was in the ballpark.

Now, you may wonder, "Why didn't you just pull over and ask for directions?" Good idea. However, I did not find anyplace where I could actually pull over. It's just not like that up there. There are no such things as wide open spaces and parking places. I'm not kidding.

I turned on a street I thought was going to get me back where I needed to be. It didn't -- I wound up in Allston. But at last, i found a convenience store, with four parking spots. I whipped in. I walked into the store, were Luis was behind the counter. I spied an electrical outlet.

Hi, can you please help me?
I'm not from here, I'm lost, and my phone is dead. Can I please charge it up for a few minutes until I can reactivate my maps?
Sure, no problem.

Luis then told me there was a restaurant nearby if I wanted to eat, and offered to help. Nice guy. But not so nice that he was a sucker. When a woman came in claiming to know the owner and asked to borrow $20, Luis politely declined. The woman looked like a garden-variety crackhead, so now I was worried about the neighborhood again.


After about 10 minutes, my phone had a 20 percent charge. I called M and told her what was up. Mapped the route, which wasn't that far. Thanked Luis profusely, and headed home.

I was stressed. But not, perhaps, as stressed as crackhead girl. As I went out to my car, she was scrawling something on the back window of what may or may not have been a green SUV. It looked like she was using shoe polish, who knows, and I couldn't see what she was writing. Or to whom. She was playing metal on the vehicle sound system, VERY LOUDLY. I was kind of glad to be moving along.

Less than half an hour later, I was back at the hotel. After a brief decompression, we went to a Legal Sea Foods and gorged. It was delicious. And the day was soon done.

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