After my sophomore year of college, my parents gave me their 1988 Plymouth Reliant. We lived in the suburbs, I needed a car to get a job, and my parents are very kind people. The car was a slate gray four-door sedan, one of the ubiquitous boxy K-cars that defined the late 80s the way softly rounded cloud cars defined the following decade. It had aged well, as K cars did, and though it was well past its warranty in both miles and years, it was in good shape. The vinyl was sun faded, the steering wheel worn pale in a couple of places by years of sweaty palms, but the car was basically intact.
Except for the ceiling. The goddamn ceiling.
The Plymouth Reliant was only one of many cars with a fabric upholstered ceiling. The trouble with this is that eventually time and weather would take their toll, and the fabric would begin to fall away from the ceiling. It started as a small bubble, near the interior dome light, but before long the whole ceiling was hanging down, sad, like the doughy belly of a retired athlete. I tried numerous things to try and reattach the fabric to the roof, but eventually it always drooped back down, growing progressively worse. It brushed my head when I drove, block my vision in the rear-view mirror, and forced friends in the back seat to duck down. But the worst was yet to come. Continue reading
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We left our hotel a little before noon to walk to Back Bay Station. Just outside the door were a Boston police officer and two men in combat fatigues, I assume National Guard. Their mood seemed easy enough, and when I took a photo and told the officer it was a “souvenir of our trip to Boston,” he urged us to come back.
“Otherwise the terrorists win,” he said. I told him we’d be back in two years. Liz’s next marathon is Philadelphia in November, which is too late to qualify for Boston 2014.
The morning had been pretty calm. We left the television off and focused our conversation on the race, not on what happened after the finish. Every marathon is a hero’s quest, and every runner has a story to tell. Liz ran with her friend Cip, and their story was about pushing through calf cramps and mental exhaustion to get to the finish. They blew kisses to the girls at Wellesley and spotted a woman runner near the foot of the Newton Hills who had pooped her pants. By mile 25 Cip swore this would be her last marathon, but when they turned the corner onto Boylston Street and the finish line came into view, they both burst into happy tears and she changed her mind.
Being outside among other humans was much harder, emotionally. To get to Back Bay we had to walk along Commonwealth Avenue, parallel to the finish area and just a block or so away. The finish area is still closed as a crime scene, and soldiers and police patrol every intersection. Media satellite trucks crowded Commonwealth Avenue. The national media had taken over the intersection of Arlington and Boylston, setting up impromptu studios with hot lights and stools for their anchors. Behind them, a mob gathered to look up Boylston street, which remains as it was yesterday afternoon, scattered with debris and damage. Nearby were piles of the mylar blankets runners receive as they finish, silver on one side and printed with blue-on-white Boston Athletic Association logos on the other. Continue reading
One of the stranger days of my life today. Liz ran her second Boston Marathon today, and as usual I was there to cheer her on. She ran her first Boston last year, but the unseasonable heat and a stomach flu forced her to drop out around mile 14. This year, she paced a friend, and they finished a little before 2:46 PM. As you may or may not know, two bombs detonated at the finish line four minutes later. Liz was there, but far enough away that she was unhurt. She and her friend concluded their four-and-a-half-hour marathon run by sprinting for their lives. Not exactly what one expects from a marathon. At least she got her medal.
I was at Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenues, about six blocks or so from the finish line, when the explosions detonated. I was talking to a friend of Liz’s who had finished about an hour earlier, and we both heard the bombs. We wondered aloud what the noise might have been, but assumed it was something benign. From that distance it might have been a truck dropping its tailgate, or a collision. Living in New York City sort of desensitizes you to loud noises.
I went and got a burrito for Liz, and while I was paying I started getting text messages about explosions and lost limbs. I didn’t know where Liz was, but I knew the timing was close. I spent about ten minutes telling myself not to freak out, and Liz called to say she was okay. Freaked out, traumatized, but okay. The first bomb went off just behind her, and as she fled she looked back and saw the second explosion. Continue reading