Signs of hope for the lost
You’ve lived in Greater Boston for a long time, maybe your whole life, and so it’s all the more galling to find yourself driving around, helplessly lost. You know everything would be fine if you could just get your bearings, but you can’t. Why? Because there are NO STREET SIGNS. Sure, some of the minor cross streets have them, and, in recent years, excessive PR fanfare greets one’s modest entry into neighborhoods hyped by the city, such as Longwood and Davis Square. But you can drive for what seems like hours on the main drags, with steam coming out of your ears, and see not street sign one. The inhospitable message is loud and clear: if you don’t know where you are, you don’t belong here. Go home. Surely, our departments of public works could do something about this?
(No) room at the top
Once upon a time there were three great places to enjoy AERIAL VIEWS OF BOSTON: the top of the old Custom House Tower in the Financial District, the top of the John Hancock, and the top of the Prudential. Now there is one. The Hancock Tower was closed in the wake of September 11 and never reopened. In February, adman Jack Connor will be moving in to the suites of the famed 60th floor to pursue his philanthropic ventures. The Custom House Tower was bought by the Marriott in 1995 and kept open on a limited basis (the hotel chain gives general-public tours Monday through Thursday at 10 am and 4 pm, as well as Fridays and Saturdays at 4 pm). If you are a big shot, or know a big shot, or do business with a big shot, you can catch a fleeting glimpse of panoramic Boston. But if you’re not, your chance of getting a good look at this city has been reduced by 66 percent. Public amenities don’t disappear wholesale over night. They tend to whimper out. Boston is in two small yet significant ways a lesser place.
Think about it: the “official” address is 465 Huntington Avenue. For years it was closed to the public, during which time we were all trained to enter the “side door” of the I.M. Pei-designed West Wing. Until someone pointed out that closing the door to the South End maybe sent the wrong message to that community. It doesn’t matter — now reopened, THE MFA’S HUNTINGTON AVENUE ENTRANCE IS COMPLETELY DISORIENTING. (Go ahead, try to find the Gund Gallery from over there.) Let’s hope the new $500 million renovation makes sense of the place.
Ever ride the subway in New York City? Flat benches. When it gets crowded, people just slide on over. But several of the MBTA lines’ SUBWAY-CAR SEATS ASSUME A UNIFORM ASS SIZE, one that fits their bucket seats. Because it’s Boston (boundaries, dude!), we think of them as “ass buckets” — and not in a good way. As the T upgrades in the years to come, maybe they could try ordering the “uncomfortable” flat-bench models again. Wouldn’t it be cheaper, in any case?