Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

April 23, 2014

Mark Maynard: Boston full of spirit, emotion: 04/24/14

BOSTON — It’s funny how when you get out of your comfort zone — be it where you live or what you’re doing in life — you see things so differently.

My wife and I, along with some friends in the Amy For Africa mission effort, visited Boston a few days ago. We went to watch Amy Compston run in the Boston Marathon for the second time but had our eyes open to a whole lot more.

Just watching the people was interesting and there was a lot to watch. Of course, nearly 33,000 runners and their families were in Boston and a lot more (an estimated 1 million) came to watch this racing spectacle one year after the bombings at the Boston Marathon startled us all. This was a day full of emotion for anyone there.

I’ve covered many major sporting events, including the 1990 National League Championship Series and World Series, three Final Fours, several college bowl games, and countless Cincinnati Reds’ Opening Days to name a few.

But the emotion that was present on Boylston Street on Monday morning in Boston was so thick you could almost slice it off. Boston took last year’s attack personally and it was their goal to take back the city.

They did it in marvelous fashion.

We watched the marathon from some prime seating along the finish line, pushed against the barrier next to the street by the dozens of people behind us who wanted to get a picture of “their runner.” We had to hold them off to make sure we were there for “our runner.”

We got that perch thanks to some early morning rising from Amy, Amy’s husband Chris, father Steve Wesolowski, her sister Amanda Evans and a family friend Mark Arthur. They were there at 6:30 in the morning.

The race didn’t start until 9 a.m. and Amy’s wave of runners didn’t leave until 10:30 a.m.

But the only way to be in the front row was to get there early and stake out a place. That’s what our early morning crew did when they went downtown with Amy, who had to meet a bus at 7 a.m. that takes runners to the town where the race begins. We camped at the finish line the rest of the day.

Most of our travel in Boston was done by our two feet. We put the pedometer app on our cell phones and put feet to pavement. A good estimate for the four days was 30 miles — not even kidding. When in Boston, you travel like a Bostonian. That would be mostly by rail cars or other forms of mass transportation. A cab ride from the airport to where we were staying ended up costing me and my wife $50. Obviously, that wasn’t a good option.

Our house in Jamica Plains, about three miles outside the city of Boston, was about three-fourths of a mile from the nearest subway station.

Here are a couple of things I noticed: The subway stations and the train cars themselves were remarkably clean. I mean, not a gum wrapped or anything on the floor. It wasn’t the image that I had in my mind about subway stations. Of course, sometimes Hollywood paints a rather ugly picture of dirty and greasy, unsafe, all of that.

I felt perfectly safe riding on the subway even after the game at Fenway Park on Saturday when the cars were packed. Imagine a car being completely full and then 10 more people are jammed inside. It was a tight fit.

Here’s the other thing I noticed: You really had to look to find somebody who was obese. It could be that all that walking to and from subway stations does a body good. Around here, we won’t walk down the street to the store for an item (I’m looking into the mirror as I’m writing this).

Of course, when we talk “subway” it usually includes a couple of foot-long sandwiches in a plastic bag (extra mayo, please, and can you double the cheese?).

When they talk “subway” it’s a couple of miles of walking and then hoping on a train.

We’ve been rated as the most obese area in the United States, along with being the most miserable. Those two items maybe go hand in hand.

If you drive around Ashland for very long, you’ll find some trash in the streets, too. No wonder we’re miserable. We don’t do a real good job of taking care of what we do have that’s good.

My wife and I have talked about walking more now that we’re back in Ashland. We live less than half a mile from our church, a couple of blocks from a good grocery store, less than a mile from an even bigger store. Why are we always jumping into the car?

You don’t have to go far to find a dozen obese people in Ashland. I can start with that same mirror I was talking about earlier for the first one. But in Boston I didn’t notice as many as I do around here. Of course, my barometer is a little skewed considering the amount of marathon runners in town, too. Those people are so skinny they almost disappear when they turn sideways.

But still. It looked like a much healthier town than Ashland. That’s a choice, not a culture.

We took a trolley tour ride and a guy named “Vinnie” was our entertaining guide. He spoke with a thick Boston accent — the Harrrbor  is over there! We had some fun with him and he did with us, too.

Amanda’s trip highlight may have come on the first night when she met Aerosmith band member Joey Kramer on the streets of downtown Boston. Amy spotted him first and told Amanda, who went sprinting — literally — after him with Amy on her heels. They caught up with him and he posed for a photo. Later he made Amanda, obviously a huge Aerosmith fan, the 143rd person he was following on Twitter.

Boston was alive and full of emotion and spirit. The Bruins were playing the Red Wings and the Red Sox were home for a four-game series with the Orioles. Boston was awaiting the hated Yankees arrival on Tuesday. I’m not really much of a Red Sox fan but I sure do respect that fan base. These people love their Red Sox like nothing else. It’s a true sports town and I loved that about them.

Watching a game from the centerfield seats in Fenway Park was an unimaginable treat for me, too. I will say, though, the Green Monster seems bigger on television. But it was unreal to be in that 102-year-old stadium and stand up with the faithful in the seventh inning for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and in the eighth inning for “Sweet Caroline.”

You want tradition? Come to Fenway.

All in all, a remarkable few days and that’s not even counting the connections made for the Amy For Africa mission through simply showing our Kentucky hospitality with a smile and often with a gospel tract in hand.

We’re glad to be in Boston, y’all.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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