Features

Sixty years later, lunch at Durgin Park

... local couple laugh at the changing times

from Don Norris



People are funny. Often odd. And definitely different.
That's the good thing about going to Boston -- the people. Yes, the scenery is spectacular, the
buildings, the bridges, the traffic, the hordes -- all that is great, but for me, it's the
people that make the scene.


One summer day Lorry and I sat on a stone bench down by the Market Place, and I shot three or
four dozen people as they came into view. They didn't know it because the camera had a flexible
screen, so it was on my knee -- not up in front of my face in the standard pose. I shot
families, I shot pretty women trying on serapes, I took pictures of lovers (and non-lovers),
and in forty minutes, I had accumulated almost a hundred faces.

All those people had on their everyday expressions -- no putting on the dog for the camera,
this was life verite. And the photos were wonderful. I ran many of them in an earlier issue of
the Mirror. No one complained. And it was a great piece.

In today's foray, the first snap was on the empty subway train -- only Lorry and an MBTA
conductor were in the scene. Later, on our return trip, the train was jammed with people, and
taking their pictures was pretty much impossible. On the other hand, I could study their take-
the-train-home faces. Later we decided there were two different groups on that train. The
people in the first manner got seats and had broken out a book to read; their expressions were
all the same: what's happening in my book.


The second group (Lorry pointed out) were those electronic people who had either a bug in their
ear or a phone clamped to the side of their head. Most conversations centered on that evening,
what was to happen, where to meet, or pick me up at the station. Some still conducted business.
Our real purpose in going to Boston -- actually we have a neat view of Boston from our home,
five miles away, from atop our hill. But going there is special. But it is expensive now. The
cheap fares for the subway are long gone, which proved embarrassing when our "Charlie Cards"
came up short at the gate. At one point, Lor was stuck with her recalcitrant Charlie Card on
one side of the turnstyle while I had made it through and was running to catch the arriving
train.


I yelled, "Go through with that lady ahead of you". And she did. She crowded up against the
woman and went through the turnstyle two-up. Like, bumper to bumper. And the alarm went off,
very loudly. Hundreds of people turned to see who the miscreant was, but Lor just kept coming,
we jumped aboard the train and got lost in the standing-room-only crowd. No cops came. No one
shook a finger at her. No one smiled nor scorned. We had cheated the system, successfully.
Actually it was the second time that day we had seen this happen. At Oak Grove (our station),
one homeless ragamuffin went through the turnstyle with Lorry. She learned that lesson from
him.

Coming home we were sure we had run out of Charlie-Card money, so we tried to fill 'em up again
at one of the pay machines. But we did something wrong, for the machine refused to accept my
credit card. We made it through the gate by my passing my card back to Lor, who pressed it
against the reader, successfully.

In Boston, we got a lesson in patience. We complained to a lady-MBTA guard that their machines
wouldn't take our credit cards, and we couldn't get home. She showed us a sourface then
motioned to follow to a nearby Charlie-Card slot machine. Carefully she explained the steps to
Lorry, who did the sequence right. Do it again for Don, and suddenly we were solvent again,
rich with Charlie-card credit.

We thanked the non-smiling lady and ran for the train. That's what you do in a subway -- run
like hell for the train, then stand there on the platform for ten more minutes while the
commuting crowd gathers. Standing room only. Very intimate, but a good place to study people.
Not the place to take photos.


As for our trip to Boston, it was primarily a fun thing, maybe do a little shopping for
Christmas, enjoy the crowd and -- the real reason -- to get lunch at Durgin Park. For me, their
specialty is fried chicken livers with bacon and onions -- and a couple bottles of beer. Oh my,
what a great lunch. Lorry had chicken pot pie, which is outstanding. Each meal was nine bucks,
plus the beer. And further, I got to take home half of my chicken livers. Oh so good. Oh yeah,
we had an appetizer of scallops with bacon. Forty-eight bucks for lunch.

I can remember, when we first moved to Melrose in 1947, having lunch with my dad at Durgin
Park. It is a tradition now, accomplished every few months.

As for our Christms shopping, we managed to buy a Patriots cap for our son-in-law --- who goes
to EVERY home game -- while in the Market Place. What really broke the bank was a nostalgic
visit to a sixth-floor jeweler where we bought Lorry's engagement ring in 1954. We dealt with
the grandson of the founder -- and found that Lor's two rings had to be cut off --- she had
never, ever, taken those rings off. To resize the rings and reinforce a worn setting, added
another $350 to our afternoon excusion. I can't remember how much I paid for those rings half a
century ago, but it was in the same neighborhood.


We walked around Boston, enjoyed the crowds, went up to the Public Garden to watch the skaters,
and then caught the subway home. It was a very fine day.


January 4, 2013


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