Settling in, except for the smell

Walden Pond at dusk

Walden Pond at dusk

The fam at Walden Pond, escaping the 93-degree Cambridge heat.

The fam at Walden Pond, escaping the 93-degree Cambridge heat.

Will and his cousin Chloe (our first visitor!) at one of the Harvard Yard gates

Will and his cousin Chloe (our first visitor!) at one of the Harvard Yard gates

Bike riding along the Charles. . . .

Bike riding along the Charles. . . .

Oh, googlemaps, how we adore ye — even when you fail us.

We’ve meandered our way across the Somerville line with the help of not one but two police escorts. (Don’t tell Skip Gates I said this, but they’re nicer than you’d think.)

We’ve been to every Target store within a 10-mile radius.

Last night — in the most oppressive heat to hit Massachusetts yet this year (boy, we miss the ubiquitous Southern air conditioning) — we drove to nearby Concord to wet our stinkin’ bodies in Walden Pond, eat homemade chicken salad and imagine Thoreau, who most certainly did not have to tango with the Cambridge parking sticker authorities.

Speaking of our favorite Kafka-esque bureaucrats: They speak so softly through the plexiglass you can barely hear them, but they carry a giant, we’ll-tow-your-ass shtick. After spending more than $1,000 on Massachusetts insurance, registration and tags, we were turned away because we neglected to bring two pieces of mail to the office as proof of address — it didn’t matter that we hadn’t yet received any mail because we’d just arrived!

“How many Nieman fellows does it take to change a lightbulb?” my newspaper pal Matt Chittum wanted to know.

“Four. One to call Tom and three to audit a course about it.”

The part about calling Tom is dead-on. He’s already proved himself indispensable, installing closet lights, setting up e-mail so I can still use my same address, and helping me figure out how to manage my new Kryptonite bike lock.

He helped a stranded friend of a neighbor jump-start her car, and backed the lady’s husband’s car out of the drive because in all her Brooklyn-born years, she’d never learned to drive.

Not driving here is pretty smart, actually, which is why we’ve walked the 25-minute walk to Harvard campus twice already and taken the bike trail along the Charles to get our Trader Joe’s fix. Thanks to Sara and Chris and Connie for the awesome gift-card going-away gifts! (And to Ian, for the super-thoughtful subway pass!)

I’m writing from my desk, which is wedged between a bedroom wall, a dresser and our bed. Will’s bed is set up in the former dining room, which is also pinch-hitting as a home office for Tom. The eat-in kitchen, while suffering from a smell that no manner of mopping seems to get rid of — alas, it ain’t garlic — also holds the washer and dryer. Of course the princely teenager gets his own unadulterated space, something I think we can all agree is a very good thing, especially since we caved and got him a moving-guilt Xbox.

But overall, we are loving the smaller digs, less than half the size of our hulking Roanoke Ugly. There’s less space to clean, less stuff to manage, and it has a lovely 1880’s-era feel, complete with a great front porch to read the Boston Globe on and beautiful window lighting. It also happens to be downstairs from the wonderful Peter and Roz, who brought us Sam Adams beers the night we moved in and a thermos full of coffee the next day.

Orientation begins next week. We’re thinking of a weekend beach outing, maybe even a trip to see the Maine relatives and celebrate Tom’s birthday on Sunday.

Thanks to all of our great Roanoke pals and relatives for the fantastic send-off. We miss you already. And come visit, seriously. I’m sure the mystery kitchen odor will be gone before too long.

Tom’s on the case, after all.

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  1. The Sox rock, don’t listen to Sylvan. Where else can you find such a lovable, scruffy bunch of athletes?

  2. Margaret

     /  August 31, 2009

    It’s fun following your blog in Boston and John’s blog as he and his band tour across Europe!

  3. fraught

     /  August 25, 2009

    I love, of course, the shot of you in your helmet by the Charles… I haven’t been to Boston for years but always remember its accessibility to the non-motorized. I’m envious of your adventure!

  4. Evelyn

     /  August 24, 2009

    What an incredible adventure. For you and your family. When do the boys start school? Are they going to Harvard, too?

    Bet there’s a great theater program for Will!

    Would love to hear what it means to be a Nieman’s fellow — you audit relevant courses and have an advisor and meet with the other fellows? Do people work on their writing and reporting at all or just content matter?

    Read an article in NYT travel about Mary Oliver and her daily hikes in the preserve/national forest in Provincetown. I’d make it a point to go.

  5. sylvan

     /  August 23, 2009

    Sounds like you guys are kind of settling in! And it seems as though Will has taken a hold of Facebook with quite the fury! Whatever happens, just don’t root for the Red Sox! And keep Maggie updated on the winter, as I think she would appreciate your southern girl attitude towards it!

  6. bethmacy

     /  August 20, 2009

    “Roanoke Ugly” is a term a friend of mine gave to the four-square houses — which is the architecture type of our house. Just kinda blah and plain and very very square, and half of Roanoke’s houses are four-squares. (I’ve always liked the Tudors better, but this is the second four-square I’ve lived in.)
    I’m glad you like it, though, and your ma too. 🙂
    Tell me about your hike when you get a minute.

  7. I’m still confused about the “ugly” part of the Roanoke house! My mom couldn’t get enough of it–she was threatening to move in with me. 🙂

    The Walden adventure sounds like so much fun & biking in Boston is so easy and practical (except in the winter I’d guess…)

  8. bethmacy

     /  August 19, 2009

    Thanks, Tonia! It’s great to hear from you. Cape Cod sounds great, too — we were thinking of heading there this weekend but the call of the free lodging in Maine has swayed us to head further north! xoxoxo miss you guys, love to Mo

  9. Tonia Moxley

     /  August 19, 2009

    God, it sounds wonderful! I’m glad somebody else has a stinky house. My basement has turned feral and is growing things. I have no idea how to cope but am feeling it must be punishment for my many character flaws.

    So happy you got this chance to get away and do some deep thinking about stories, issues and life. And so glad you’re enjoying the summer. You’ll need those memories of 90-degree weather and Walden Pond to get you through the winter. Or so I’m told.

    I spent a couple of weeks on Cape Cod in the dead of winter. It was lovely. I suggest it, although people think I’m crazy when I say winter at the beach is my favorite time of year. Only the local bars and restaurants are open, the tiny seaside villages are nearly empty and the shore is magnificently bare. It gives the mind and the spirit room to move.

    I’m jealous as heck, but happy for you too. Good idea for everyone giving the teenager his own room.


  10. Chloe

     /  August 19, 2009

    The above comment was not made by Tom but their niece Chloe

  11. I assure everyone as their first house guest that the Macy-Landons have made this a wonderful home for them for the year. The house is wonderful and the couch is very comfortable. And the mysterious smell in the kitchen isn’t that bad. They have done a great job making Boston a temporary home.

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