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Polymerase chain reaction is a cornerstone of molecular biology research. Using short pieces of single-stranded DNA called primers the previously invisible becomes tangible.

Monday, April 06, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities


My guess is that the theater district has seen better days. Some show palaces present vacancy. The luckier ones have been recycled into office buildings or classroom space. The marquee on another heralded the appearance of James Carville and Karl Rove. Have they dropped the artifice? Is this the state of political discourse, vaudeville?

She nodded her head emphatically agreeing that I should carry my cell. She also asserted I should carry ID and ten dollars, just in case. It was a route on which I’ve never run in a city in which I’ve only a handful of experiences. I started my run on Tremont Street. It was a brisk Sunday morning. I was wearing a long sleeve microfiber moisture wicking shirt and similarly absurd pair of high-tech running pants. The few others on the street were wearing jackets or overcoats.

He was skinny for his height. That was what I thought when I first saw him from behind. As I passed, I recognized the soiled sweatshirt frayed and peeking out from under his now noticeably worn sports team jacket. I saw him an hour earlier as my fiancée and I stopped in at the convenience store to buy her lunch for the day. Not for nothing, but you’d think a $1300 examination fee would at least get you a boxed lunch.

I crossed the Charles River on the east side of the Longfellow Bridge. The proximal side walkway was closed to pedestrians. The Genzyme building stood out amongst the others in the skyline. They use molecular biology to try to cure disease and suffering. Also on this day, there were several hundred neurologists and psychiatrists anxiously auditioning for their certifying board. I passed private and collegiate boathouses, art deco architecture and buildings that have stood for well over three centuries.

A crew team skulled by an embankment tagged with the graffiti, “Give Me Some Credit.”

I crossed back over the Charles at the Eliot Bridge and turned towards my temporary home. Glancing at my watch, I was assured I would make it back in time to shower and check out. Every once in a while I’d recite the remainder of my route just to distract from the fact that this was an 11 mile training run with no gels or water.

“Follow the river to the band shell. Arlington to Beacon. Beacon to Charles. Cross the Commons. Boylston to Tremont and done.”

A young couple was quickly approaching from the opposite direction. The front surfaces of their legs were crimson (a touch brighter than Harvard) from the biting wind. At the very least, the homeless man from earlier had clothes to keep him warm. I should get an extra piece of fruit or a sandwich for him if he is still there. I do have ten bucks in my pocket.

Later that day I walked the Freedom Trail: Boston Common, State House … to Bunker Hill and back. What struck me was the commercial nature of Faneuil Hall. Save for the assembly hall, it could have been any suburban shopping mall in America. Here, where the ideas and words of James Otis and Samuel Adams catalyzed the experiment called America, where William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass began the end of slavery, now the largest audiences watch magicians, contortionists and troupes of street dancers moving to the beat of 80’s hip hop. I re-oriented myself realizing that this area was a marketplace then as it is now. The exchange of goods and services are as fundamental to us as sharing our ideas, words and oratory. Let’s hope, however, Carville vs. Rove is not what history remembers of us.

I’m back in New York. The daily will begin again tomorrow. Boston is an interesting city of contrasts. Neighborhoods struggle to maintain identities as they hope to re-purpose or re-invent the parts that have lost relevancy. People there struggle to expand the frontiers of our knowledge while others just struggle. I did see the homeless man at the end of my run. He was carrying a roll or sandwich wrapped in the convenience store wrapper. He may have fished it out of the trash. I like to think someone else had the same thought as I had during my run.

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