An outing in a top-tier vacation spot: Worcester, Mass.

I could write about interesting things going on in the world, but I and my solipsism are building a good head of steam and I wouldn’t want to get in the way now.

In the course of a wonderfully revitalizing Thursday, I broke several streaks that had no business existing in the first place. I did something social outside of family gatherings, I ran in the company of other people, I did my longest run in over six months, and I saw one of the most special people in my life for the first time in four years.

The ninety-minute trip from SE NH to Central Massachusetts offered a couple of reminders. One, the roads in Mass remain an utter disaster-in-progress. It gives motorists a glimpse of what it must have been like to drive through Bosnia in the late 1990s. Alongside I-495, one of those big orange construction-site diamond signs read:


This, in Massachusetts? It was like buying a bottle of Evian and seeing “Caution: contents may be wet” on the label.

The other reminder, once I reached my exit off I-190 in Worcester, is just how much of a Mess this city–New England’s second or third largest, depending on what Providence is up to–is to negotiate by car, at least in the vicinity of the interstate(s). Bizarre one-way loops fracturing into a combination of surface-street access points and highway on-ramps, the need to zing across multiple lanes of traffic during brief stints back onto and then off of the highway, and so on. Luckily my hostess and Google Maps conspired to keep me from circling endlessly around the 190/Gold Star Boulevard exit(s) like a gasoline-powered asteroid, and I got to where I was supposed to be.

I spent a couple of hours with the fastest runner I presently coach, a qualifier for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston. Were it not for a 12-year age gap, I would propose that we were separated at birth. Our inclinations toward running, life, and interpersonal relationships are exactly the same. I had an appointment at 4:15, after which I rejoined Kim and then headed to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to meet up with a couple of others, including a hyperkinetic masters standout I’ve known for somewhere between ten and ten-thousand years. I used to come to this town regularly thanks to a girlfriend issue, and certain stretches of this loop were recognizable and elicited a thrumming miasma of memories from a time in my life that juxtaposed triumph with tragedy. It was training on these streets that preceded the fastest marathon of my life, but also set the stage for events not quite so savory.

After the run, we stood around jawing for at least a half-hour inside the WPI gym. I, a social isolate for over a year and a half (an arbitrary and conservative estimate) had struggled to get through this run without giving away how fucking hard it had been, and afterward was, without understanding as much until later, relishing being in the presence of old and new friends and having actual conversations instead of e-mail exchanges and phone chats. As for a run of modest length at a pedestrian pace: It’s a start.

From there I headed east to another one of the Bay State’s endless supply of “W” towns–Wellesley. (Off the top of my head: Woburn, Waltham, Wrentham, Westboro, Waban…Rhode Island is even worse.) Here lives someone who was the main focus of my life for a long time, and although we’ve been in touch steadily over the years, I hadn’t seen her since May 2006. When I got to her place, there was nothing awkward or unduly intense about it. I was reminded of why I was so smitten without feeling as if there need be anything more than what there was at that moment. She’s getting back into running herself, and, not by accident, is being coached by Kim. I guess that makes me a proud grandcoach. Given the day’s excitement, all I had eaten was a couple of cereal bars and a half-keg of coffee, so she made sure I got some lasagna before I left–I could only stay for an hour–and a baggie full of homemade chocolate chip cookies before I departed. (To illustrate how cool her family is, her oldest brother and his wife named their firstborn Darwin.)

From there it was an uneventful 90-minute drive home. (Colleen lives less than a half-mile from the Boston Marathon course, and it was strange–almost surreal, even–being on that hallowed route 1) in a car, 2) at night, and 3) going in the “wrong” direction.) I really needed this in multiple ways, and it’s singularly helping me negotiate some real weirdness in my life right now.

2 thoughts on “An outing in a top-tier vacation spot: Worcester, Mass.”

  1. It’s very important to have three dimensional people in your life whom you come away from feeling good about yourself. As both misanthrope and introvert, I need to constantly remind myself of this. New people also can be fun, although they take a little more effort.

  2. To illustrate how cool her family is, her oldest brother and his wife named their firstborn Darwin.

    Well it’s a nice city, but I wouldn’t name my kid after it – if they’d gone an hour down 36, they could have named him/her Wak Wak, now that WOULD be cool.

    (As a side note, can you imagine the uproar if they tried to create a Charles Darwin National Park in the US?)

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