Tag Archives: YSA

in which i explore haunted Boston

A large portion of my teenage years were spent traversing the dusty street of a reconstructed pioneer village in Salt Lake City called This is the Place Heritage Park, where I worked as a blacksmith, a school teacher, a gold miner, and general tour guide of old buildings. TITP and I had a good run, and I learned a lot of valuable skills1 there which are all now listed under the “special skills” section of my resume.

I owe TITP many things: my love of history, my slightly whacked psychosis that results from doing a lot of growing up in a different century, and the legend of the last prince of Latvia, for starters. I also owe TITP my enduring fascination with and steadfast belief in ghosts2.

There are many things about this world that I do not understand, and have no desire to. I, like Sherlock Holmes, subscribe to the belief that life is infinitely stranger than the mind of man can invent. The existence of ghosts is one of those things that I will never understand, never have concrete proof for or answers about, and that’s okay – I don’t need to.

Last night, I went ghost hunting in Boston with a group of friends from the YSA. I think I was the only one among them who didn’t make fun of the whole thing. They all went to hear a few scary stories that they could then dismiss as Halloween-y nonsense. I went totally on board with all the stories about the hanging tree and the Boston strangler, and I left with a solid conviction never to set foot on the Boston Common after 2 am.

Boston, as I should have known, is lousy with not just ghosts, but also ridiculously creepy things, like a book made out of human skin and the largest collection of unmarked graves in the country. It has the world’s most haunted hoteland a huge cemetery where puritans and witches are buried. And the ghost stories are fantastic. There’s a banshee in the Common, a Red Coat in the T stop, a murdered French ambassador that creeps on girls in the crypt of King’s Chapel, and the old friend of Nathaniel Hawthorne who still hangs out in their old reading room and whose ghost caused Hawthorne to make the only joke of his long-winded career. Really, it’s gloriously spooky. The perfect setting for the days leading up to Halloween4.

I believe in ghosts because I want to. It doesn’t have to do with proof, or those pictures with orbs. I just enjoy believing that there are things in this world that cannot be understood, things that are fantastic and paranormal and downright creepy. And, in the end, like most beliefs, religious or otherwise, who cares if they’re true? I think that anything that gives people some sort of happiness or comfort or thrill, even if it doesn’t end up being true, should be indulged.

  1. Among them: Stilt walking, forge welding, candle making, pumpkin growing, and old-school laundry.
  2. I should explain. Most people, after working for an extended period of time in the historic houses here, had an encounter with something otherworldly. After listening to accounts from so many incredibly intelligent people who I have a great deal of respect for recount their own ghost stories with white faces, as well as a few of my own first-hand encounters, it really becomes impossible to believe that there isn’t something going on.
  3. It’s Stephen King’s favorite place to stay, which should tell you something about it
  4. It’s also worth noting that, prior to the ghost hunt, I finally got my bowl of New England clam chowder (so good) and saw the fantastic play War Horse. Yesterday was exceptionally good.
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in which i am alarmingly social, and eat the pizza served in heaven

I have never considered myself a social person by any stretch of the imagination. Last year, I could count my friends on one hand, and spent most nights on the couch doing homework and watching assorted trashy television programs with my roommates1. I spent almost every Saturday in various bookshops alone. The two weeks before the big move to the windy city, I was basically a book-reading hermit hunkered down in my living room, rarely emerging for anything other than diet coke.

And I anticipated my life to continue like that. I thought Chicago would just be a bigger city for me to be alone in. This summer of solitude would give me a chance to write every day, and I expected to read slathers of books in my first week alone.

But since arriving here, I have not picked up a book, and my half-written novel is exactly where I left it months ago. Because I have been busy. And not just like work busy. Social busy.

Which is weird.

Last night, I went out with an eclectic group of people with only one big thing in common – we were all Mormons. It should be noted that the YSA community here is amazing. They do more stuff together than any other branch I have been in, and it is mostly stuff outside of and unrelated to church that people organize and then send out a blanket invitation to. This particular activity was organized by Iowa and me. We went to Millennium Park2 for their free concerts in the park series, meaning I spent about an hour lying in the grass at the most beautiful outdoor theater I have ever seen, with a full orchestra and choir singing to the city, and people around me drinking wine and eating cheese. It was, in all, rather blissful.

Said blissful concert was followed by my very first taste of Chicago-style deep dish pizza, at the legne3dary Giordano’s Pizzeria. The place was hopping. There were people spilling out of the doors and into the plaza waiting for a table, and since our group was kind of large, we had to wait an hour. Which was fine.

Because the pizza….oh the pizza. It was the kind of pizza that ruins all other pizzas for you. The kind of pizza that makes you never want to brush your teeth again unless it’s with a toothbrush made of that pizza. The kind of pizza that you want to take home to meet your parents, buy a nice little place in the upper east side, and then start a life with.

I cannot emphasize how much I liked this pizza4.

Afterwards, with pizza sitting like rocks in our stomachs5, we ventured out onto the streets of Chicago. As twilight fell, we walked along the river, and then out on to the harbor of the lake, looking out towards the Pier with a fleet of yachts and sailboats speckling the dark water around us.

As we passed a lakeside restaurant where a jazz ensemble was playing, I turned around to behold a skyline dipped in starlight, framed by the river and luminous against the midnight sky. The only words that came to my mind were breathtaking and happiness.

And my uncharacteristically social weekend does not end there, friends. This morning, I saw the city bathed in rosy sunlight and sweating beneath the humidity, as my friend Ms. Bennet and I took a water taxi south6 to Chinatown, where we found an eccentric collection of bookstores, herbalists, and seedy restaurants. We ended up eating some of the best Chinese food I have ever had, with fresh shrimp that set off fireworks of flavor in my mouth, and sesame chicken so delicious it was like Christmas in your mouth. Meat and teriyaki Christmas. We drank honeydew smoothies, talked about books, and I convinced myself I didn’t need another ten dollar scarf.

This city is made of awesome. I am constantly amazed by its complexity, by the layers of people that inhabit it, and the spheres in which they dwell, all at once different and the same. This is a city that moves and lives, with so much to see and do that you could live here your whole life and never do it all7.

Last night, as we walked along the lake, I thought to myself, how lovely it would be to fall in love in this city. To write novels and plays and poetry on park benches in the summer, to drink tea and watch the leaves fall from a café window. To make music on the streets of this city, songs rising above the crashing trains, to paint this city in its every incarnation, and then decorate your walls with renderings of its architecture. How wondrous to pass nights meandering along the harbor and watching sunset bow to moonbeam as night soundlessly falls.

And how lovely it is to be young in this city, to be reckless, and wild. To be able to eat pizza until you can’t move. To stay out later than the stars and fireworks, to race the moon across the sky. To be young and untethered, with a misty future before you, about which nothing is certain except that it is bright.

Chicago, how I love thee. Don’t ever change.

On an unrelated note, at the end of the night, heavy with pizza and happiness, Iowa turned to me and said, “So are you going to write about this on your blog?”

Guys….Iowa reads the blog.

 

  1. AKA the friends I could count on one hand.
  2. Home of the giant mirrored bean!
  3. Wait for it.
  4. Those of you who followed my blog when I was in England will remember I have a thing for good food. For those of you just joining us, here’s a little fun fact about me: I love food. I write about food a lot. Prepare yourself.
  5. Warm, delicious, pizza flavored rocks
  6. I think it was south. Maybe not, but I’m going to say south because it sounds better than “In a direction that was not towards the lake or my apartment.”
  7. True to form, I am already having tremendous anxiety about doing everything I want to before I go.
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