sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2017-08-07 04:39 am

I wish I was a ship's cat on a man-of-war

Today I saw a saint, discovered a sea-chapel, and accidentally celebrated a holiday. Religiously, I think I'm ahead of the curve.

The saint was Saint Agrippina of Mineo, whose effigy was being carried down Hanover Street as [personal profile] spatch and I came out of the Boston Public Market with cider slushies and donuts and plans to walk around the harbor in the late afternoon sun. Neither of us had realized it was a feast day—Rob thought it might have been the right time of year for Saint Anthony until we got closer and could read the ribbons on the shirts of her benefit society. There were brass bands on either side of her, playing her from door to door. The kid with the baton who must have been the majordomo of her procession looked like he was both taking his responsibilities seriously and having a lot of fun darting in and out of the crowd to carry donations to the saint and prayer cards back to her worshippers. I couldn't see much of the saint herself beyond a painted wooden face under a gilt crown; she was so festooned with garlands of dollar bills and streamers and rosettes of red ribbon that she looked like a beehive made of money, borne on the shoulders of the benefit society. (Twenty men, Rob tells me, and all Italian: the honor is sometimes passed down in families.) I believe this is the first time I have seen a saint's day procession in person. It didn't seem as formal as a parade in that the crowd was in motion around the saint whenever she was at rest, but I didn't know how close I could get as an observer rather than a devotee, what was considered respectful and what was considered rude; I watched from the sidewalk and she passed by and we walked on with our slushies. Saint Anthony is the end of the month.

The sea-chapel was Our Lady of Good Voyage, which neither Rob nor I had remembered on Seaport Boulevard: we crossed the Fort Point Channel on the Evelyn Moakley Bridge (which I did not know until tonight was the name of the rather flat concrete structure which runs beside the rusted iron sinewave of the much more historic and much more endangered Northern Avenue Bridge—more than a century old, it's one of the last surviving four-truss swing bridges in the country and its center span has been parked permanently perpendicular to discourage foot traffic since 2014; it was closed to vehicles fifteen years before that and the City of Boston seems unable to decide whether to demolish or restore it; I have obviously strong feelings on the subject) and there at the head of the glass-and-steel-shelled glitter of what really now seems to be called the Seaport District was a new brick church with a golden spire and a name like a sailor's rest. For one brief shining moment I thought their emblem was a mermaid, which would have fulfilled a piece of maritime juvenilia I wrote in college under the influence of Alan Watts and Tanith Lee, but it turned out to be a leaping fish and a gull, which is not bad, either. Their bell is a ship's bell and we heard it ring the half-hour. The iron hinges of the doors are the shape of anchors. The stained glass beside the door is Peter the fisherman, with the key to Heaven in his hand. The original chapel was built for a congregation of sailors and dockworkers in 1952, but its location on Northern Avenue became desirable to developers in the decades since; I am just glad that if a land deal had to be struck, it displaced but did not dispossess the population the chapel served. I hope they kept all that sea-themed stained glass, too. There was a mass being celebrated while we were there, so I did not feel comfortable sticking my head inside to find out, but we should have better luck on a day that's not Sunday. Their Mary holds the Christ child and also a ship in her arms.

The holiday was Tu B'Av, the full moon which marks the beginning of the grape harvest and has recently been elevated in modern Jewish, especially Israeli culture as a festival of romantic love. We may have missed out on dancing or wine, but we followed the harborwalk from the North End to the Fort Point Channel—Long Wharf, Central Wharf, India Wharf, Rowes Wharf, ducks nestling like heaps of dry seaweed at low tide and seagulls perched like weathercocks on the piers and the late-gilding light wrinkling the water smoky blue and olivine as Venetian glass—and kissed at every ghost sign we found in Fort Point, from the old warehouse advertisements on A Street to the fading stamp of the New England Confectionary Co. where GE just broke ground on their "Innovation Point," and doubled back to South Station via the Summer Street Bridge where we look for moon jellies in season, making sure to salute the cobblestone pyramid in the channel that marks (never mind what the artist says) the resting place of the gull kings of Boston. In order to get back to Mass. Ave. for dinner, we cut across the Boston Common just in time to catch Mercutio's dying curse and Romeo's fatal stabbing/pummeling of Tybalt on the last night of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's Romeo and Juliet. We saw swans, squirrels, families out late, some kind of romantic photo op which I did not realize was not just two attractive people making out on a bridge until the flashbulb went off. A brown young man in a blazer and a light-skinned young woman in a flowered headscarf and a T-shirt reading "This Is What a Zionist Looks Like" went past talking intensely about intersectional feminism and I said, "I think Tumblr just passed us." I feel I must not have walked down the greenway at the center of Comm. Ave. any time in the last fourteen years because I don't remember knowing that we have a women's memorial to Phyllis Wheatley, Abigail Adams, and Lucy Stone, but then again we were both surprised by the baseball-capped figure atop a chunk of granite that turned out to be Samuel Eliot Morison and the identity of Domingo Sarmiento was positively mystifying until we got home. Right as the greenway ran out to make room for the underpass of Route 2, I was strangely happy to see that teenagers of our species still neck on benches in public parks after dark. I appear to prefer curry pasties to lamb, but I have nothing to say against the tandoori wings at the Cornish Pasty Co., which came with the same addictive mint-lemon sort-of-raita as the tikka masala, or the banoffee pie, whose density of toffee practically required earth-moving equipment. Fortunately for our budget, by the time we got back into Central Square the bookstores were all closed.

There are no pictures of me this time, but Rob took a very good one of a seagull on Long Wharf. It was a good day with the sea.

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