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Charlie on the MTA, Boston, MA
10th Jul 2008
Cambridge (Harvard and MIT) and Boston, MA

Cambridge is a town in the greater Boston area, famous for being the home of Harvard and MIT.  I spent my morning here.


I took the MTA, Boston's pretty decent metro service, using a "Charlie ticket".  Charlie is a character in a song who gets stuck on the train because he cannot pay the fare, and the MTA named a type of ticket after him.  Listen to the song, which I actually heard on the radio as I drove towards Boston, which mentions Jamaica Plain where I sit as I write.




Harvard is the world's number one university, and sits in the middle of Cambridge in a very urban campus.  The red brick buildings mix well with the non-uni buildings, all of them surrounding greens and trees. 

The uni was empty of undergrads but there were plenty of graduate students and tourists.  However there was not very much of an academic vibe, meaning it did not feel like a university, perhaps because of the open-plan campus.  It felt more like a town.

I enjoyed their museum of scientific instruments, which ranged from old sextants to the control panel from a 1980s cyclotron experiment.

I walked all the way down Massachusetts Avenue ("Mass Ave" to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT.  This is the world's number 10 university, but feels far more like a uni than Harvard.  This is probably helped because it sits mainly in its own huge campus, and the white buildings do not blend with the houses.   I attended an introductory lecture and spent my time trying to work-out the guy's teeshirt.  It wasn't quite an equation as there was no equality symbol, but I recognised all the elements.  Upon substituting for the more well-know configurations I was pleasantly amused at the result, and at that point left the lecture satisfied  Very geeky

From MIT I crossed back into Boston and walked up the grand Commonwealth Avenue, a 240-foot wide boulevard with a long think mall (park) in the middle.  Very nice.  This brought me to Boston Common, the central park, from where I looped thought the Financial District.  This was very much like every other FD in the world, and I could have skipped it.

Finally I met Eve in town and we went to an open-air screening of Friday the 13th, a classic horror movie, in the back yard of her local video rental store.  The event was sponsored by a local brewery so the beer flowed freely.





The MTA by The Kingston Trio

Now let me tell you of the story of a man named Charlie
On that tragic and fateful day.
He put ten cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family,
And went to ride on the MTA.

Well did he ever return? No he never returned,
And his fate is still unlearned.
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston,
He's the man who never returned.

Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendell Square station,
And he changed for Jamaica Plain.
When he got there the conductor told him, "One more nickel."
Charlie couldn't get off that train.


Now all night long Charlie rides through the station
Crying, "What will become of me?
How can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea,
Or my cousin in Roxbury?"


Charlie's wife goes down to the Scolla Square station
Every day at a quarter past two.
And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich
As the train comes rumbling through.


Now you citizens of Boston, don't you think it's a scandal
How the people have to pay and pay?
Fight the fare increase, vote for Walter O'Brien,
And get Charlie off the MTA.


Next: Boston
Previous: The Maine Coast to Boston

Diary Photos

Charlie on the MTA, Boston, MA

Harvard, Cambridge, MA

Harvard, Cambridge, MA

Cyclotron control station, Harvard, MA

Electric pencil sharpener, Cambridge, MA

Washinton monument, Cambridge, MA

Cambridge, MA

Town hall, Cambridge, MA

Firestation sign, Cambridge, MA

Teeshirt, Cambridge, MA

MIT, Cambridge, MA

Boston from Cambridge, MA

Commonwealt Ave, Boston, MA

Commonwealth Mall, Boston, MA

Houses, Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA

Boston Common, MA

Financial district, Boston, MA

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