A Salty Dog in Boston
by Matt DeMatteis

The purpose of this paper was to describe a journey that I had been on. I wasn't really comfortable passing in my final draft though. After reading other classmate's essays, mine seemed stupid. All of theirs talked about these personal hardships which they had to endure. My paper just seemed like the script to a B movie starring Corey Feldman.

The day got off to a bad start. I was already running late for my morning job interview in Boston. My mother's ear-piercing screeches about me always being late was the last thing I remembered as I left the house. I hopped into my trusty auto, affectionately called the Salty Dog. The fifteen year old car growled with pride as I turned the engine over. As loud as the car is when she starts, I could still here Mom cursing mefrom inside the house about how lazy I am. The infamous phrase, "You need to take the bull by the horns," would annoyingly stay with me throughout the day. Between her ranting and the noise emanating from the hole in my muffler, I knew that I had better get moving just to spare the neighbors. I peeled out of the driveway and sped toward the first juncture of what turned out to be a very interesting day.

The Dog rumbled across the small town of Stoneham, Massachusetts. Her intimidating bark scares away the bravest of motorists. Even the mightiest four-wheel drive vehicle gives way to the Dog like a mailman avoiding a pitbull on Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes day. Slowly but surely, I made it to the first leg of my journey, the local subway station. At this point, I was going to park the Dog and make my way into the city via the "T," the Boston area's subway system. It wasn't that I feared taking the Dog into the great metropolis. It's just that the Dog's bark is far worse than her bite. After fifteen years, the Dog has very few of her original teeth . . . err . . . parts. The idea of sitting on top of the roof of the Dog while she lay lifeless in the middle of the Central Artery left a bad taste in my mouth. Besides, as late as I was, and as bad the traffic is at that time in the morning, the train was my fastest way into the city.

One glaring problem remained before I could make my way to the interview. The parking lots at the train station were completely full. I needed a place to park because the great beast that carried me to this point of the adventure needed a place to rest. I couldn't go anywhere until I was sure that the Dog was safe. Even after some light-hearted haggling with the less than understanding parking lot attendant, I was unable to park. I even tried to park in a local hardware store's empty parking lot. As soon as I stepped out of the car, some wild eyed, elderly man ran up to me shouting, "If you plan to park there so you can use the 'T' you're in for a big surprise son!" The perplexed look on my face allowed General Geriatric to continue his verbal barrage with, "They'll tow this hunk of junk out of here faster than you can say rhubarb ice cream." or at least something to that effect. I stood there in utter shock. Why in God's name did Bob Dole's great grandpa care about where I parked, and where did he get off insulting my car? A voice of reason cut through my amazement. The man opening the hardware store said the owner didn't like non-patrons using his lot. Frustration really began to pierce my skin.

My encounters with the grumpy old man in the parking lot and the feelings of impending doom at the hands of Al and Patricia DeMatteis that I would experience if I didn't make the interview left me with one option. I had to drive the Dog to another subway station. I was sure that I could park there. However, I knew that the traffic would cause the normally short, fifteen minute drive to balloon up to a half an hour. Unfortunately, this was the best solution. The Dog once again sprang into action. The two of us traveled to the nearest highway which would take us to the station.

The entire ride was bumper to bumper traffic. I first tried to think of lies I could tell my parents if I didn't make the interview. It really didn't matter to me if I came back empty handed. I didn't even care about the job much. Who wanted to spend the summer telling tourists wearing Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and black socks pulled up to their knees, where the bathrooms are in a state park? My parents pretty much forced me to the interview because the job paid so much money. It wasn't that I didn't want to make a lot of money. I just had better plans to do so. My old job of lounging around a pool and flirting with life guards sounded like a much better way to spend my summer.

As the car slowly crept along I93, I started to realize the gallons of sweat that poured from my brow like the raging rapids of the Colorado river. The temperature outside was about ninety degrees. Of course the Dog has no air conditioning. In fact, the Dog sort of acts like an oven in this type of heat. I began to feel like the guys in prison movies who get locked up in sweat boxes in the prison yard when they misbehave. The intense heat really started to put things into perspective. I began to think, "Is all of this really worth keeping my parents happy? I can tell I'm only doing all of this for them." Apparently being overheated distorts our ability to know when we are thinking and when we are talking. I was surprised to hear the guy sitting next to me in traffic telling me to shut-up, only he didn't say it that nicely. That at least knocked some sense into me. I spent the rest of the ride listening to the words of Howard Stern. I figured, if I'm going to feel so miserable, I might as well enjoy hearing Howard making others feel miserable. Other than that, the rest of the trip to the station was uneventful. Once I arrived, I parked the Dog, gave her a kiss good-bye and got on the next train into Boston.

I've always enjoyed going into Boston. When you're a kid it's fun because you can go to The USS Constitution or Walk the Freedom Trail. As you get older, you start to realize all of the night life there is in the city. In my town, our idea of night life is spending all night in a parking lot, playing Hackysack. You definitely start to appreciate the city when the idea of cow-tipping starts to become attractive. The one thing I've always enjoyed doing in Boston, no matter what age I am, is going to a Red Sox game. You can never get sick of going to Fenway Park. As I sat on the train, I was thinking how much I'd rather be going to a Sox game versus the Yankees, than explaining to some park ranger why I was qualified enough to sit in a booth and tell some fat guy that he couldn't bring that six pack into the park. I've also really been interested in all of the different buildings and attractions in the city. Places like Faneuil Hall and the street performers there have this character and charm to them that I've always appreciated. Even as the train traveled through the neglected rail yards of Charlestown, under the Central Artery; I still had a feeling of excitement because I knew that once I passed through this burned out, industrial wreck, the real city was nearby.

Another reason Boston is so interesting to me is because I really don't know where everything is. I've been to the city many times, but I never really knew where I was. I knew how to get to particular places from my house, but traveling from place to place within the city was a complete mystery to me. I even needed my mother's directions in order to get to the right building. I always thought it would be great if I knew Boston like it was the back of my hand. Every new time I went into the city, I would try to learn more about where everything is. As the train started to pull into my station, I realized that I better get moving. Amazingly, if I hurried, I could still make it on time to the interview.

I leapt off the train like it was on fire. Panic started to set in when I looked down at my watch and realized that I only had about five minutes left. I didn't have time to appreciate all of the buildings and happenings that I usually observe. After carefully remembering the directions my mother gave me, I started speed-walking to the MDC building. I've always gotten a big kick out of those people you see in the morning, speed-walking. They always look so goofy with their arms pumping those little weights in their hands. Now I was one of the people I usually make fun of. What makes it even worse is that the only reason I was doing it was to avoid the, "Why don't you ever take any initiative?" speech. Suddenly a loud screeching horn made my heart skip a beat. As I turned around to see what the problem was, I realized that I was the problem. In my haste to get to the interview, I didn't notice the Don't Walk sign flashing from the light post, and started to cross a busy street while cars were racing by. I stood in the middle of the street, completely in shock. Then I growled like the Salty Dog does when she starts in the morning and yelled, "Initiative my ass, Mom!" and walked to the other side of the street. My famous, "who gives a damn!" attitude that I usually get around midterm time, started to set in. At this point, just getting there in one piece was my priority. I managed to get to the right building without any other life-threatening situations occurring.

I walked in an office door and explained to the secretary what I was doing there. She politely explained to me that the interviewer, the head park ranger of Massachusetts, was running a little late and would see me shortly. I bit my lip to stop the flood of obscenities that were just dying to escape my mouth. After all I've been through, he has the nerve to be late. With my luck, the reason the guy was running late was because he almost hit some moron trying to speed-walk across the street against the lights. I calmly took a seat in the waiting room and began to twiddle my thumbs.

When the interviewer finally walked in, I could barely control myself. He was wearing exactly what the stereotypical park ranger should be wearing. His shirts and shorts were khaki brown. His socks were also the same color, and were pulled up to his knees. He wore a round, long brimmed hat. He even had a big, shiny badge that had Park Ranger engraved on it. When I was introduced to the man, I half-expected him to start interrogating me as to where Boo-Boo and I had hidden all of the picnic baskets. We shook hands, and he led me into his office.

You could tell by the walls of the man's office, that he was a definite nature lover. They were covered with pictures of every woodland creature and tree that you could think of. We began the interview with the usual pleasantries. He asked me about my interests and where I went to school. Nothing was out of the ordinary to this point. After the standard interview questions, he started talking about nature and parks. He asked me what I thought the role of a park ranger was. After my response, he gave me this dumbfounded look like I had no idea what I was talking about. I at least thought I was on the right track. He then explained to me his feelings about his job. What he said sounded exactly to me like what I said to him. He just seemed to say it with a passion that I lacked. I started to get the feeling that this wasn't the right job for me. I didn't let it affect the interview though. He continued to ask me questions about my previous work experience. Then, he told me the specifics of the job. Nothing about the job seemed difficult at all. The pay was spectacular, especially considering the work I was doing. The job really started to take a turn for the better. It really looked like a good job. I was then reminded of a lesson that I had almost forgotten: Not everything is as good as it looks. The good Ranger reminded me of this lesson when he told me that part of the job required me to wear the same uniform as his. I made a double-take that would make Bugs Bunny proud. This juicy bit of information hit me like a sledgehammer. Only this sledgehammer was wearing a goofy hat and socks pulled up to its knees. I was sent into a tailspin from which I never recovered. I didn't listen to a word the man said for the rest of the interview. I sat there thinking about if my car was safe where I parked it and when I was going to see the movie, The Rock. I came back to earth when he said that he would have made his decision by the end of the week. We shook hands, and he escorted me out of his office.

I stood outside the MDC building for about five minutes. My clothes were drenched with sweat from the long ride and my near death jay-walking incident. My head was full of visions of my friends beating the pulp out of me if they ever caught me wearing that uniform. It seems like a silly reason not to take a job, but then again, Milli Vanilli seemed to be a talented singing duo. I eventually began to walk back to the subway station. As I looked around at all of the people and buildings I started to think about not going home right away. I could just stay in the city. It was kind of a stupid idea. It was the middle of the day, and I was alone. There was nothing to do. Then I realized that there wouldn't be a better opportunity than this to learn my way around Boston like it was the back of my hand. This day had been a complete flop so far. I figured I might as well get something out of it. By the time I reached the subway station, I decided to stay.

The self-tour began in the Beacon Hill area of Boston. Beacon Hill is where the State House is located. It is also the home of a lot of the wealthy people in Boston who mostly have "old money." It's just one big hill covered with townhouses. The sidewalks are made of brick and the street lights are in the form of elegant old lamp posts. As I continued on, I found myself walking along the banks of the Charles River. I had never done that before, and I was amazed at how many sailboats and rowers used the waters. I decided to cross one of the Charles River Bridges. This lead me into MIT, where I began walking along the other side of the river. After re-crossing the river over another bridge, I emerged around Boston University. There I found an opportunity to learn a little more about the area by joining a tour group for incoming freshman. After following them around for a little bit, I decided I had my fill of BU. As I separated myself from the group, one of the guides asked me where I was going. She thought that I belonged with the group. I couldn't resist replying, "I've decided I really don't like this place. I'm gonna go see if I can get my tuition back." I turned around and never looked back. Soon after that I ended the tour at Kenmore Square, home of Fenway Park and the Red Sox. When I originally entered Boston, I could do nothing but think about how much I wanted to see a Sox game. I decided it would be the perfect end to the journey to leave from the home of the Sox and make this whole adventure go full circle.

After I had left the interview, the frustration I had experienced trying to get to there had turned into complete anger. Most of it was focused directly at my parents. I was angry at them for forcing me to go to this useless experience. I've found that when I'm having similar feelings of anger, I always seem to do the same thing. I go for a walk. I guess I do it to calm me down. But in this situation it was a little different. Usually when I go on these walks, I just think about anything that pops into my head. It takes my mind off of what is bothering me. This time, I focused my thoughts on one subject. I just kept thinking over and over about why I went to this interview in the first place. Did I really just do it to keep myself from hearing all the yelling and arguing from my parents?

As I walked on, "to keep from arguing with my parents" didn't seem to be the reason why I went to the interview. Normally, when I don't want to do something that my parents want me to, I can usually find a way out of it without the arguing. I couldn't this time . . . or maybe it wasn't that I couldn't. Maybe it was that I didn't want to get out of it. Once I made this realization, I tried to figure out why I do what my parents tell me. If I was younger I would say because I was afraid of being punished. At my age that excuse doesn't work either. I started to fumble through all of my alternatives. Unfortunately, I reluctantly kept coming back to the same decision. The job didn't seem that bad until I found out that I'd be dressed like a boy scout from the 1950's. Maybe, deep down inside, I did want to go to the interview. I realized that I respect my parents opinion. At any age, even the thought of admitting you respect your parents is very difficult. In some neighborhoods, if you were to admit that to somebody, you'd be hung from a tree by your underwear. Going back as far as I can remember, my parents have always been the enemy. They were the mean ones who made me go to bed when I really wanted to see something on television. They were the unreasonable ones who harassed me when I came in a mere two hours after my curfew. Now that I'm older I understand that my parents were only looking out for my best interest. You start to gain a certain respect for them for doing that. It was that respect for my parents' opinions that made me go on the interview. Fortunately, all of the hell I went through to get there allowed me to understand that.

The dog was a sight for sore eyes when I pulled into the station around 4 PM. As the car started, and I left for home, I could hear an unusual grumbling. "Great!," I thought, "The last thing I needed after this hard day was car problems." I thought it might be the carburetor or the muffler, but like a kick in the head, I figured out what it was: my stomach! I hadn't eaten anything all day.

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