New Bedford

New Bedford, Mass.

Carol and I left Cambridge at about 10:30 this morning. We had to take separate cars since Carol will return to Cambridge on Sunday. She has to commute to Watertown, which could be a two-hour drive from here at rush hour, and she’s still trying to work on her next book while working full time.

I arrived here in New Bedford at about twenty past noon, twenty minutes late to pick up the key from Nancy C., who has kindly loaned us her house in downtown New Bedford until we can find our own apartment. The drive down here was bad. I had a hair-raising ride through Somerville and the Central Artery, and I learned that the driving directions you get on the Internet are pretty useless in the Boston area — in greater Boston, you don’t just need to know when to take a right and when to take a left, you need to know which lane to get into well before you have to make the turn, and you have to know that to stay on Somerville Ave. you have to take what looks like a sharp left. Of course being Boston, the drivers are insane, the roads are still a mess with the Big Dig construction, and Interstate 93 was all backed up south of the city. I sat in traffic for twenty minutes on I-93, and saw two accidents, and three cars pulled over by the State Police. It was just a nasty drive from Cambridge until traffic eased out close to New Bedford.

But at last we made it to New Bedford.

And at about one o’clock, my two sisters, Abby and Jean, my father, and Jim, Abby’s husband, arrived to spend the afternoon in New Bedford. We had lunch and walked over to the National Park visitors’ center. They wanted to see the waterfront, so we crossed the pedestrian footbridge over Route 18. Dad and my sister Jean had to stop every hundred feet to take photographs. Jean took 64 photographs yesterday. I don’t know how many Dad took. Downtown New Bedford is photogenic, with most of the houses and commercial buildings from the 19th C., and a few from the late 18th C.

“Seagulls,” said Jean, as several circled and cried overhead. “I could work in a town that has seagulls.”

We walked over to the waterfront, looking at the fishing boats tied up there, going into the Wharfinger’s Office which now houses exhibits for the National Park, and wandered over to look at the Ernestina, a wood-hulled schooner built in 1894, and originally christened the Effie M. Morrissey. She was a fishing schooner on the Grand Banks, sailed to the Arctic as an exploratory vessel, and is now a national landmark, currently being restored. As we were looking her over (as Dad and Jean were taking lots of photographs), a three-masted vessel, a barkentine, came into port and tied up just down the wharf from Ernestina. Carol being who she is, she immediately struck up a conversation with the crew, and learned they sailed from Philadelphia headed for Booth Bay Harbor, to go into drydock there. “If we stayed another half hour,” said Carol, “I would have gotten us an invitation to go on board.” She would have, too, but we had to head back to the cars, so Dad and my sisters and Jim could get back to Concord.

After we ate dinner, Carol and I went to Baker Books in Dartmouth, the town just west of New Bedford. Going to a bookstore is our usual weekend date. That we went on our usual weekend date says more than anything that we are here, we are settling in.

I’ve arrived now. The journey from Illinois is over.