Yet Another Journal

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» Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Sometimes It's Just Too Silly
Since I have a PT Cruiser, I get Chrysler's magazine a couple of times a year.

These car magazines aren't new. In a box in the garage I have some pieces of nostalgia: 1960s Pontiac Safari magazines we received because we bought a car from my Uncle Ralph, who worked at Fiore Pontiac, which used to be near Warwick Shoppers World/the old Cranston Drive-In/Eclipse syrup plant and is now wayyyyy up on Bald Hill Road approaching what used to be the Rocky Hill Fairgrounds and the Warwick Musical Theatre (otherwise known as "The Tent," even after it wasn't a tent anymore). It was a combination of car promotions, photos, letters, and travel-with-the-car articles, and the Chrysler magazine is similar, just updated.

Except it struck me silly when I saw it because there in an article called "Modern History" they talk about touring Boston by car (a Chrysler Aspen SUV, to be exact).

As if anyone in his right mind who does not need to drive around Boston would actually do it. Boston is probably the perfect pedestrian city, but its streets are narrow and winding like they were in Colonial times. It adds charm to the city but it's hell on drivers. And why on God's green earth would you want to drive around a city that's so perfect to walk? Heck, the entire Freedom Trail—and this includes "Old Ironsides" over the Charles River in Charlestown—is only five miles long. If you can't walk it, the subway goes there: Prudential Center, Symphony Hall, the Boston theatre district, the Museum of Science, the airport, the Kennedy Library, Harvard Square in Cambridge, Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market, the downtown shopping district, the Common and the Public Garden, Beacon Hill.

Let's be honest: in summer Boston, like any northeast city, is a humid hellhole; walking is not a pleasure then. But no matter what time of year, a car is an obstacle, not an asset. Even Chrysler obliquely acknowledges it while plugging their car: "Although you'll undoubtedly enjoy cruising past Boston's landmarks in your Chrysler Aspen, it's also an eminently strollable city." "Enjoy cruising past..." ::snort:: You mean inching your way through narrow streets clogged with double-parked cars, street construction, and the pedestrians that were smart enough to leave their cars behind? Oh, please.

The most ridiculous photo is the last, showing the gleaming Chrysler Aspen in a quiet street in the North End (Paul Revere's house is just visible in the background). Apparently someone blocked off the street on a Sunday morning just to get this shot. The North End is one of the oldest parts of the city, with convoluted streets. It's still chiefly an Italian neighborhood and is filled with lovely bakeries, coffee shops, eateries and trattorias. It is especially a place to stroll and savor, not sit cooped up in a block of metal inching along in traffic.

Want to visit Massachusetts with the nice Chrysler Aspen? Sure: use it to go to Lexington and Concord, Battleship Cove in Fall River, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and "the Cape of Cod," to quote Radar O'Reilly. But when you go to Boston, ditch the damn car and enjoy the wonderful freedom of being in a city that's a pedestrian's dream. Cars are for sprawl like Atlanta and L.A., not Boston.