Skip to content ↓
alan avatar

friday afternoon in the town of beans by Alan Z. '23

i'm freeeeeeeeeeeee

Yesterday,01 By yesterday I mean Thursday. I was hoping I could finish this by midnight, but, alas. It is now 12:53 AM. after turning in my last assignment for the semester and celebrating my freedom from classes with a study break held by our GRA,02 i ate so much fruit. soooo much fruit. I thought, “oh, maybe I’ll write a blog post about all the things I made this semester.” So I got up this morning, and before I even finished a single paragraph, I went—

Forget that. There’ll be time for that later. It’s the first day after the end of classes! Time to have some fun.

Fun? How do you have fun at MIT?

Well, of course, you leave MIT!

part 1: acquiring sustenance

map of boston containing path from Next House to Central Square

there’s a reason this map is so big honey, you just haven’t thought of it yet

I recruit Alex L. ’22 and Derek Y. ’22 to join and we head up towards a ramen place we like near Central Square. Along the way, we chat about the semester that has just finished, even though Derek and I technically still have finals. It is good to finally be able to socialize with people without it feeling like there is a clock ticking down; there is no guilt in our rejoicing.

We eat lunch at a fairly new ramen place outside of Central Square. The restaurant is quite small, and so we get our orders to-go and eat in a little plaza just outside. We talk about playwriting, and Dream of the Red Chamber, and all sorts of other random content to fill the time. In particular, we talk about the phrase “write what you know”: how much can we base our stories on real-life experiences, and how does this affect our reading of “fiction”? In any other context, this chat would get far too academic far too quickly, but somehow it doesn’t seem so at this table. After all, it’s too nice out to be “in the classroom,” literally or metaphorically.

Alex departs after we finish our meal, and Derek and I head north. We swing by H-Mart along the way; Derek buys some snacks, and I get a picture of him next to these absolutely ridiculous large Ferrero Roches:

derek standing next to stand of candy

derek for scale

part 2: did i tell you i like trains?

We hop on the Red Line at Central and take it to Broadway. Just outside Broadway, the MBTA stores a good number of Red Line trains, and so I stop to take a picture. This is one of my favorite spots in Boston, ever since freshman year, and it’s just as pretty as ever.  Derek and I revel in the art, and then we continue on our way.

part 3: wandering through beantown

map of boston depicting a path from Broadway to Back Bay

no, the size of this map still doesn’t make sense.

As we get into Boston proper, Derek and my conversation takes a different timbre. We talk about family and our relationships with our parents as we walk through Chinatown. I grab a boba at a tea shop, and we stop by the Boston Public Library’s Chinatown branch just to explore the space.

We talk about growing up and the nature vs. nurture problem. I remark that I’ve noticed a lot of my values seem to come directly from my parents, and that I place a lot of value on nurture because of it. Derek talks about some of the mixed feelings he has about this question, and it is interesting to hear someone else’s perspective on an experience that is necessarily unique to each person.

We also talk about our experiences growing up in vastly different contexts; him in California, and me in South Dakota. It is interesting to see how similar some of our feelings are, despite our two vastly different contexts.

We’re not exactly sure where to go from here, and we begin on our walk back towards MIT, passing through the Boston Common and onto Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Before we can make any progress home though, we take a leftward turn back towards the city, and into Copley Square. With a little more maneuvering, we end up finding ourselves at Back Bay Station.

part 4: did i tell you i like trains? (reprise)

Back Bay Station is located at the start of Southwest Corridor Park, which is a four-mile-long greenway that runs along the Orange Line and some commuter rail track. We start along the path—

map of boston depicting a path from Back Bay to Forest Hills

ah, now it makes sense.

—and we follow it all the way down. It is a long walk along the Orange Line, and we could choose at any point to hop on the train and go back to campus, but we just keep going forwards. We stop by Northeastern for a little bit, but eventually continue our quest to reach the end of the line. Every once in a while, a train passes by, and I peer through the fence to catch a glimpse:

two trains next to each other pictured through a fence

i like trains.

The sun sets as we make our way towards Jamaica Plain.

sun setting over a shed
sunset reflected on a building reflected onto a small stream

Our conversation delves into the more personal aspect here: thoughts about gender roles, about emotions and vulnerability, and about relationships both platonic and romantic. It is the kind of frankness you can achieve only after having shared an experience, and the walk so far has certainly been one of those.

On the way back to MIT, we catch a particularly rare train, a new CRRC train recently returned to service. On the subway, we talk about what makes for good writing. With a little bit of back-and-forth, we come to the following conclusion: feeling is first, then clarity. Clarity, of course, is critical to conveying feelings well, but without a thesis, what is the point of writing?

part 5: hallelujah

We walk back across campus to Next. I consider turning in at this point, but MIT’s Music and Theater Arts department is paying for Concert Choir members to attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah by Boston Baroque, and I think, “why not?” A fellow Nextie and I take an Uber to the venue together, and we sit down for the concert, which is being held in a small recording studio. The orchestra starts in the overture—

and I am instantly enraptured. In high school, we would learn a lot of the most difficult or well-recognized pieces in orchestra every year, and so hearing the music again feels kind of like meeting an old friend. I listen to the violins, perfectly in sync, and I listen to the soloists, each with their own unique and incredible style, and I am so, so happy to be there.

Messiah is three hours long. I am not completely attentive at all times, but I am more attentive than I should be for someone who has just walked over 20,000 steps. The big numbers, of course, are great; “For Unto Us,” “Hallelujah,” “The Trumpet Shall Sound.” What impresses me most, however, is how consistent the ensemble is. They are in time at every moment, even on the most difficult sixteenth-note runs in both the choir and the orchestra.

Afterwards, the conductor comes and talks to the MIT students for a while. We ask him how the group stays so tightly together, especially since he is also playing the harpsichord for a good portion of the piece. He replies, “well, we’ve been doing this together for a very long time.”

part 6: god i am so tired

Some Nexties and I take an Uber back home after the concert. I sit in main lounge and write this post while a bunch of people from my wing play video games on our TV. It has been an extremely long day, and nothing has been accomplished, and everything is good.

Well, I suppose, time to sleep!

  1. By yesterday I mean Thursday. I was hoping I could finish this by midnight, but, alas. It is now 12:53 AM. back to text
  2. i ate so much fruit. soooo much fruit. back to text