Monday, November 27, 2006

A Native’s Guide to Boston, Part 2: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, by G. Adams

If Boston is the Hub of the Universe --if the universe is in fact a wheel -- then the skyscraper at the World Headquarters of the First Church of Christ Scientist is the air stem of the inner tube, where the religious pressures of the world are measured.

There are many secrets here, at the world headquarters-- things you'd enevr guess just by enjoying the reflecting pool and pefectly maintained grounds. Oh, you can visit the lobby, tour the cathedral, visit the map room where you can take a guided tour through a giant stained-glass model of the world, but no one will explain it all to you, what the globe is for, and if you ask even simple questions such as ‘Why was the 100-ton, eleven-foot granite pyramid that the Freemasons dedicated to church founder Mary Baker Eddy on her 100th birthday demolished?’ or ‘Is it true that the Church tried to assassinate Mark Twain for his highly critical, 1907 essays debunking Christian Science?’ or even ‘Is it true that Eddy was interred with a working telephone in her crypt, so that if (say ‘when’ instead of ‘if’ and maybe they’ll be nicer to you then they were to me) she rises from the dead, she can call to have her tomb unsealed?,' they’ll kick your ass out in a most unchristian manner.

The skyscraper, as I mentioned, is one big secret. If you could have been there when they were slapping that building together, you would have seen some strange shit going down as the concrete went up. For example: The girders are all cold-riveted, with match-grained metal being used in all of it, from the I-beams to the smallest bolt.

Most of the grain is aligned north, but a good deal of it struck out in line with the largest lay line in the city (the one that runs down from the church in Mission Hill through to the Prudential tower, down just outside of Sonsie, that fancy bistro on Newbury Street, which explains the bad karma at that place, why so many of the help there has gone batty, but that's a story for another time), which makes it a proper cross, and crosses have meant something long before that Nazarene carpenter was spiked up to one, that's something a good many 'modern pagans' lose sight of.

See, there's a good deal more going on at the World Headquarters of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, than just another twist Catholicism, just like there's a lot more behind the Mormons than Osmonds (There was a lot more to Donny playing Joseph in ‘The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ a few years back, as well, and that should be evident in the fact that Andrew Lloyd Webber is a dyed-in-the-wool Scientologist. The only reason it's not "L. Ron Hubbard, Superstar", is because of the money thing), and you can see this if you look around: there are ten pillars along the south face of the main building, one for each arm of Kali, and the weather vane up top of the old church is --if you ever get a close look at it, you'd recognize this -- an ancient Freemason symbol. This, then, is where the pyramid meets the eye.

You need a look at the Church from the above --find a nice satellite photo, or get yourself up into the Hancock tower (the Pru's view is too skewed, and this is the REAL reason why they closed the observation deck on the Hancock tower) and look at the lay of the place, to see the truth of the design. But what's most evident, even from the ground, is the tall building, the skyscraper, is supposed to look like a bible, but is doesn't, it looks like something else, namely an enormous erect phallus, and you'd be right to say that this is an odd thing to build a church to resemble, but this isn't only about church, it's about power, it's about science. Hence the name.

If you could get into the basement, in the secret underground bunkers hidden beneath the reflecting pool, if you could see these football-field sized rooms full of mainframes, ouija boards, and stacks and stacks of back issues on the Christian Science Monitor, you’d know there's more going on here than simple worship. This is Mary Baker Eddy's dream, down here, and you should see it, while it lasts, because the marriage of Christ and Scientists is a wave that's about to break.

It's money, that's breaking the back of this fine tradition: seems that there's not as much as there used to be in either Christ or science, so of late, the World Headquarters has been somewhat strapped for cash. This poverty is evident in everything.

In these hidden underground rooms, where you can feel the rumble of traffic as it whistles past on the Massachusetts Turnpike, right above your head, the 100-year history of Ms. Baker’s faith is coming to a close. The floor tiles are that ugly, light-blue supermarket linoleum, with some white ones thrown in, to mix it up a little. Half of the lights are out, in this vast subterranean space, due to cost considerations. The place is cool in summer, positively cold in winter: you can see your breath as you navigate through the empty desks and wheezing machines. Many of the computer systems down here are antiquated, with floppy drives, or even reel-to-reel systems. The monitors all glow with that sickening green shade that dates them as circa 1986, and a good deal of the technology that is here, doesn't work, at least, it isn't turned on. The help isn't what is used to be, either.

There's a job crunch on in Boston, but people are stubborn, and won't work for just anybody, for anything, anymore, so the days when the First Church of Christ, Scientist could pick and choose are gone. The people you see down here these days, in their torn jeans, flannel shirts and ball caps, are all from MIT, or Northeastern, or even Berkeley, and they are simply filling time, paying no more attention to the charting and monitoring of the world's religious tendencies than they would to delivering pizza or waiting tables.

One of them sits, with his feet up on the console, beneath the Big Board, which is a Mercado Projection of the world, and demonstrates what part of what population believes what today. The monitor is old, and large parts of the world have fallen into an apathetic shade of blue.
The punk who is supposed to be watching the monitor is using the telephone. He knows that if the red line beeps, it means that Mary Baker Eddy is calling on the phone that she was buried with, and he knows to pick up, if that happens.

He doesn't, however, know who Mary Baker Eddy is.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Native’s Guide to Boston, Part 1: The Underground by G. Adams

I already have several blogs that discuss several topics, so when BBT invited me to contribute to their blog, I wasn't immediately certain about what I could bring that was new. But then it occurred to me that as BBT is published here in Boston - a town I know well-- but distributed all over, I might talk a little bit about the town I live in, to bring some of you who might not know this town very well a bit closer to the truth.

Boston's a great place, if you didn’t already know. It's a relatively small city --some call it a walking city-- but the even better news is that visitors don't have to walkwe have one of the oldest, yet most reliable, public transportation systems in America.

What I like msot to do, when I’m feeling adventurous and maybe a little off my head—you know, that mix of near-suicidal recklessness and despair that can grab you after another day has gone irretrievably sour and the faces of strangers stab at you like icepicks, where the cheap beer and the-god-knows-what you lifted from your roommate’s stash—it might have been powder, it might have been pills, it might have been smoke laced with anything from meth to drain cleaner to banana leaves—when all that settles in and it’s a lifetime between the beatings of your useless heart, that’s when you should do what I do when such a state take me, and walk the city underground, in the trolley tunnels, down there with the taggers and the homeless and the rats.
And the other things, but I’ll get to that.

You can get in by Northeastern University, over on Huntington Avenue. Just walk yourself down into the hole, there. You might think you’ll need a flashlight, but don’t bring one. Lights just cause problems.

Now, these trolley tunnels are old, they go way, way back, and the man who designed them died in them.

He was haunted by dreams of his tunnels, the way that they run beneath the city like hollow snakes, and one night, when he was sleepwalking through the underground in his cap and gown, with an old bullseye lantern, --this was 1884, remember -- whack, he met his end beneath the running metal wheels of the last car out of what was then Tremont Station.

True story, based on fact.

Part of the problem was that those old cars, they had shitty lights, and worse brakes, and another part of the problem was that these guys, the drivers, they were sort of drunk with the power of those early cars, and also, to be completely honest, they were frightened to be down there, as well.

The tunnels weren't the well lit, back then, as I have said, and when you're in an open car, chugging through the earth at thirty miles an hour, with just an oil lamp to see by, well, things get a little spooky, shit gets a little strange. Things would happen, and people would talk. You would get stories going 'round--

--like the car the went out of Park Station, at 3:15, so full of people that you could hear the rails creak beneath the weight, and that rolled into Government empty, picked clean as the stem you toss away after you have eaten all of the grapes.

--like about the stretch of track between South Station and Broadway, about by Fort Hill Channel, that is simply dead. You can't hear it too well, on the train, but if you ride the Red Line at all you have probably been through it, and maybe you thought that quick stutter of silence was your ears popping, but it's something else altogether. There simply is no sound in this spot, and the drivers know it and they run the cars through so quickly that the dead spot is no more than a ripple in the thrumming of the subway cars and the constant talk. You actually feel it more when you are asleep. It stays with you then, it clings. It’s difficult to keep a light burning in that place. In the old days, the gaslights would all gutter out. Even today, the electrics quiver, and the subway lights strobe until the car is through.

--and there's been talk among the conductors as long as there's been trains, about how they might see something that looks like a baby, or a toddler, a lost child on the tracks, and they might stop to get a closer look, but it was never children, though, or at least not your typical children, not like the kind that you'd usually see. After the few drivers who'd survived close looks at the things told their stories around, the rest knew better, and they all took to rolling their cars over anything that might wander into their way.

Especially anything that glowed.

This sort of thing happened so much on the Blue Line, so many little bundles of white dash out from the walls and onto the tracks, or they thump into the sides, or maybe they get hit, and you get this sound, like a melon being popped on the rails, that the drivers call the run between State and Aquarium the Nursery.

And one more: when they came down and found Mr. I-Designed-These-Tunnels dead in his bathrobe and slippers, sure, he'd been whacked by a three-car trolley, and sure, it was to expected that he would be in bad shape, but brother, bad don't even begin to get into the shape he was in.

Look at it this way: even if you get hit by a train--hard--even if that train sends you to bits, into gobbets-- there should be some accounting for those gobbets. There should be enough parts there, when you sling them all together, to make up one person, no more, no less.

Well, that wasn't the case, here. What they gathered together in a basket and brought up into the light, when they put it all together, so to speak, was about two-thirds our friend and neighbor, and some inestimable percentage of something else, something which had been knocked apart when the train hit it, something that got very cold when it was dead. Anything more about it-- what it was, where it came from, what it was doing down there, with our little urban transportation chief-- that was just guesswork.

You want a real treat, then someday, go down to Reservoir, or Riverside, or North Station, or any station where the lines end and the empty cars are stacked up like dead soldiers, and watch what they blast free from the underside of the trains with high pressure hoses.

It'll be worth your token, trust me on this one.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Our offices have moved...

Disclaimer: This blog is only marginally related to BBT Magazine, however, it does contain ghosts, lighthouses, ships captains, couples living on deserted islands, and Edgar Allen Poe.

In addition to being a big publishing magnate I am also a boat captain, a line of work which has opened many unusual doors for my wife and me in the past few years. After running and living in a slightly haunted lighthouse in San Francisco Bay on a tiny little island (which our dear friends now run, bless their little hearts), we packed up and moved to the Boston area, and we love it.

A few months ago I was hired as a ferry boat captain for the Thompson Island Outward Bound program, a program which has a mission statement we both heartily endorse, and shortly thereafter my wife was hired as a mate.

It’s nice really, having my mate as my Mate, and we really enjoy each others company.

We gradually learned the amazing history of the island in bits and pieces. Here’s a bit of it from the Boston Harbor Islands website:

“In 1626 (four years before the Puritans arrived in Boston) David Thompson established a trading post to trade with the Neponset Indians on the island that now bears his name… …For the next two centuries, Thompson Island was also leased to several different families for farming.”

In 1832 it was made a farm school for children who were destitute as a result of the War of 1812, and by 1834 it had acquired the rather creepy name of “The Boston Asylum for Indigent Boys” and later “The Boston Asylum and Farm School for Indigent Boys.” From that point forward it has continued to be a place where education of children has flourished.

Twice, in 1842 & 1892, the ferry boats full of boys, sank into the sea on the way to the island. The remains of all the lads are buried on the western side of the island, along with the remains of Native Americans the found on the island while they were building schoolrooms and dorms. There is a very old sign there which reads "Two tragedies of the Boston Harbor in 1842 & 1892 drowned these boys. May the water and the winds bless their souls; may their souls bless our hearts and our island."

All and all a fairly creepy, but also seemingly happy place, to judge by the old photos of the boys.

After a month or so the offer to care take the island while the program shut down for the winter was advanced to my wife and myself, and we accepted. We have had experience living on small islands before (very small – the lighthouse was on a rock ¾ of an acre), so we are aware of the romance & reality of the situation, but as a writer, and publisher of a small press magazine, I could hardly say no. We will have the whole place to ourselves (usually) and we should have time to pursue our various projects.

We’ll just have to ignore the tales of people waking up in the middle of the night to find little boys standing in their rooms by the bed, and the woman in green who shows up at the docks at night, presumably waiting for her son.

We’ll keep you posted…

Oh, and Edgar Allen Poe?
He was stationed across the water about a mile away from us at Castle Island and old army fort. It’s where he wrote "The Cask of Amontillado."

Yep. Lotsa history.