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tourist tsouris

Saturday is a day off for this project. Splendid, I thought: I will explore a couple museums, treat myself to lunch, stay out of Debbie’s way for the day.

So I took off, starting with the Fogg Art Museum. It’s free Saturday mornings, which is nice; it’s less than a mile from here. Since Saturday was a nice day, all the trees are blooming, a few tulips are still out, pansies profusing, a splendid day to walk around.

And I promised myself the “unofficial Harvard Tour,” run by students, after lunch. That’s free, though they politely suggest a $20 tip. At the Fogg, I looked at Renaissance paintings and enjoyed the many detailed explanatory notes: about a shift from episodic style (paintings with many little scenes from a story fitted into a landscape) to paintings of a single, dramatic and emotional scene from a story; about restorations and underlays, about different pigments. The paintings were mostly religious, with some portraits and some classical scenes.

A favorite, though I didn’t note the artist or date: a painting of the Last Judgment: Christ is above, in the center; angels and such with trumpets are here and there. Two large figures in the middle appear to be in monastic habits; they are looking at Christ with hands clasped in prayer and looking, to tell the truth, rather anxious about the whole thing. There are a few women, and it’s not clear whether they’re paying attention at all. One seems to be washing her hair. Most remarkable: the ground is brown dirt, and is dotted with holes with faces staring up. They too are anxious, but not as worried looking as our monastic friends. I am also reading Tom Wright on the resurrection of the body; this painting was very much full of bodies. I will add that none of the figures had a Michaelangelo-David abdomen to be envied; they all — Christ included — could have used some serious ab work by our standards.

Next, lunch before the tour. Off to an ATM to get cash. Let me summarize the next frustrating hour by saying that my ATM — which I had used without a hitch three days earlier, which I have used in many states and overseas — was not accepted by any ATM at any bank. I contemplate my options. It’s Saturday afternoon; my bank is closed. Don’t think they’ll be thrilled mailing a new card to — well, where? I don’t have access to Debbie’s mailbox. I’ve never bothered to do PIN numbers for a credit card. I still have a Charlie card (for the subway), a credit card, and an emergency $50 bill. It’s May 10. I may need to become penurious and stop getting a café au lait every morning before I hit the subway.

Sunday morning, fortified with my $50 now broken into small bills, I headed in my red shirt (it was Pentecost, I’m sure you all wore red) for Boston Common. The subway machine ate my Charlie card. Just swallowed it, no entrance, no return. For the first time, I saw a subway agent actually on-site. He rescued my card and pointed out that it had developed a kink (it’s cardboard). The machines do not like bent cards. He gave me a plastic card, suggested I go on Monday to the office at the Downtown Crossing stop where they could transfer my month pass to the more durable card. Splendid, off I went, got to the Cathedral in time for their 10 am main service despite delays because of a fire someplace else on the line.

All was well until I was ready to return. I have at this point a bent Charlie card good until 5/31 if it were good at all, and a plastic Charlie card with no fare on it. There are kiosks where you can add value at every entrance, and no subway agent, so, since I think Boston is losing money on how much I use the monthly pass, I decided to spring for $5 on the new card to last till Monday. The machine did not want to read my Mastercard at all.

I never though of myself as having a magnetic personality, but I seem to be death on cards with magnetic stripes these days.

Outcome: there is an American Express office just off Harvard Square; with my American Express card, some ID, and a check, they’ll cash a check for free, so I’m back in coffee money. The newly-enhanced plastic Charlie card works and makes me feel I know what I’m doing. The Mastercard worked just fine at another kiosk. Nonetheless I went down to South Station to buy a return Amtrack ticket while my plastic funds are still working. The Unofficial Harvard Tour? maybe next weekend. You never know.

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