A charming walk-around city, like a miniature version of London, Boston has nevertheless succumbed to the excesses of urban planning over the last 30 years, since I rambled around there. I lost my way last weekend on streets I knew perfectly in the 70s. It’s disconcerting to pass by chain restaurants and mall stores on Newbury and Boylston, but there it is. Actually a very small city—just over 500,000—Beantown still overflows with students. The smoky shot-and-beer bars are gone, as is the stinky old bus station. The roller skating drag queens have long since departed. The elegant Ritz Carlton, now one of many overdone luxury cookie-cutters, has been renamed The Taj. But couples still walk dogs, kids play Frisbee in the Commons, and the golden dome on the old statehouse shines in the sun.
“Japonisme” has gripped the city, as I discovered on my Holy Saturday trek out to Fenway to gawk at the ballpark and buy a souvenir. (They got Josh Beckett and they’re still hungry?) I took Boylston all the way out (“You’re going to walk there?” the concierge puzzled) and after a few miles came to a swale to the left of Storrow Drive. There I discovered the entrance to a surprisingly large complex of community gardens. Fenway Park—formally the Robert Parker Garden—may not antedate the famous ballpark, but it certainly rivals it in psychological satisfaction. Each tiny plot is carefully fenced and lovingly tended. Even on an extraordinarily frigid spring weekend, about a dozen souls—all male—dug the wet soil and puttered with various tasks. In contrasting relief to Boston’s relentless bustle, the peaceful space resembled a scene of a medieval village.
Managed by The Fenway Garden Society, P.O. Box 230038, Astor Station, Boston, MA 02123, the real Fenway Park consists of over 7 acres of a diverse patchwork of about a hundred tiny gardens, each a self-portrait of “unknown craftsmen” (true Japonisme, that. Maybe Daisuke has a little plot, I thought). Fenway is as unmistakable as any great urban community garden: healthy, alive with the promise of the new season, and replete with the fussy signs of commitment. The “fen” in Fenway is there too, down at the far end where run-off and snowmelt have puddled the main road and some of the paths. I sank almost to my ankles. Won’t be swampy much longer, though, as the gardeners will soon be planting things out, and excess water will be sucked up by hungry roots.
I had a pleasant chat with the august and sturdy Arthur Rose, who was planting onions and wearing a “Milky Way Candy Bar” ball cap. “I’m alone now, so I can’t eat as much as I grow,” he confessed as he leaned on his shovel. So he gives most of his vegetables to neighbors. “I’ll never stop gardening”, he said, his eyes twinkling. Made my day.
A hundred million dollars over six years for a twenty-seven year old pitcher? Matsuzaka suits up well, does a funny little one-step, and packs an enormously effective screwball. But, hey, citizens of Boston! Set aside a few thousand dollars for some drainage tiles for the real Fenway Park. The Japanese are superb gardeners, owing to their millennia-old Shinto tradition of nature worship. Maybe someone will talk Matsuzaka into making an honorable contribution to Boston horticulture.
Step up to the plate, Dice!