A Visitor and Buckets of Rain

Things have kind of heated up recently. The wedding plans are shifting into overdrive. It is a constant struggle to keep things manageable. Plus, it seems like every weekend has seen us entertaining traveling guests or being the traveling guests ourselves. One of the exciting guests of note was my friend of some twenty-eight years, Dave.

Photo: Me and Dave in the rain

Since the age of seven, Dave and I have been thick as thieves. Well a couple of weeks ago he made his first trip out East to Boston. It began in fantastic style as I dragged him around the city, showing various sites. I really wore him out walking all over the place. On a Friday, we covered the North End to the Common and nearly everything in between. It was foggy and grey, but we stayed dry. Then came the rains.

Photo: Rain on the Highway

Photo: USS Constitution in the Fog

Saturday we braved a sightseeing trip north to Salem, driving back and forth through downtown Peabody on the way. But the rains wouldn’t stop. So that trip ended quickly. It was a bit of a wash, actually. All seriousness aside, who could have predicted that the weekend would be the worst rainfall in New England in seventy years? Within twenty-four hours of our jaunt through Peabody, the whole downtown was submerged under feet of water. Dave was quite stunned when he recognized the town’s name on the news, drawing our attention to the amount of flooding. As a result of the sky’s opening, we got a bit confined to the one-bedroom apartment that Ali and I call home. Still it was fantastic to see him and spend some time with him as the pictures witness.

Photo: Granary Burying Ground

You see Dave is a very talented graphic designer that has recently decided to go it alone and become a mercenary. He started his company Malcolm Studios about a year ago and is no completely solo. As a result he has been accumulating a lot more electronic toys of late, including the snappy digital camera that he used to capture many of these images.

Photo: Tits on a Violin Photo: The Patriot

Dave is an avid board game player. So, we were able to bust out Songburst over margaritas. I am happy to report that I destroyed all competition, winning multiple platinum records (see below). Although I have to admit that we were all a bit dreadful and the game grew more tedious as our eyes became heavier and our mind’s margarita murky.

Photo: Me with Platinum Eyes

Photo: Dave with Record

All in all it was a pretty good time had by all. I only wish the weather was nicer. Well, at least he got some local flavor, including some chowdah from Ye Old Oyster House, and better still a lobster trophy!

Photo: Lobsterman

I’m Sorry I Don’t Understand…

Last night, there was an amusing report on the news related to the more idiosyncratic elements of life in New England. Most people, particularly those outside the Northeast, are aware of the “Bahston” accent. To be sure it is a dialect that, contrary to what my beloved Ali claims, exceeds Southie (South Boston) and reaches well beyond the city limits. Like most places the way people speak tends to be driven more by socio-economic class than anything. It is no different here. Although, there are a variety of subtleties; to the untuned ear a Kennedy sounds pretty much like Tommy or Norm from This Old House. The whole region does, however, have some distinct characteristics which Chicagoans got a taste of when Nomah came was traded. According to the news report the New England dialect is “wicked hard to understand.”

Verizon is the main telephone provider in New England and they have automated their information services (411). Problem is the computer on the other end can’t figure out what anybody is saying. Worse still, it can take five to six repetitions before anybody can be connected to an operator. Since the dreaded increase of telephone automation it is nearly impossible for anyone dialing the phone to talk to a human being. Now, fortunately for us humans, Verizon is having to use more operators than they thought necessary.

Apparently they did anticipate this, slightly. They preemptively programmed “Woostah” into the system. For those not from around here that is Worcester, a town about 50 miles west of Boston. Well at least they tried.

Now, everybody has heard about, “Pahkin’ the cah in Hahvahd yahd.” But I don’t think there is a machine available that can handle the myriad of pronunciations that seem foreign to the outsider. Some make sense, harkening back to Anglo roots. For example, the town of Reading is pronounced “Reding” not Reeding;” and Gloucester is the relatively familiar “Glostah.” This phenomenon, however, is not at all consistent.

You see Woburn is “Woobun,” losing all but the softest coloring of its “r.” The dropped “r” is famous, but there’s more. Waltham is “Walth-am,” with a flat “a” instead of “Walthum.” Of course, this is only the beginning odd gems. Like anywhere, these are the things that give a place great color and make it unique. Being an actor and connoisseur of dialects, I am endlessly fascinated by it all. Verizon might not share this opinion, but I think it’s great that they might have to break down and get rid of the automated system. Despite their continued efforts to program their system, it may inevitably be more work.

For a taste of the local flavor, give this site a listen. The site is a great bank of dialects from the world over, spoken by native speakers. Here is another Boston example, which I think is an Italian woman from the North End. I like these examples but they are fairly tame compared to some. I just wished that she was asking for directions like, “Wich road do Ahwy take to get to the Naw-uhth Shaw-uh, cuz Ahwy keep getting’ law-ust the minit Ahwy git ovah the rivah and pahst the Mystic Mawl?”