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Helpful tips every Bostonian should know

Boston Marathon (Globe photo / Jim Davis) The Boston Marathon.
By Elizabeth Gehrman
Boston Globe / September 30, 2010

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How to file a bill Massachusetts has the right of free petition, which allows a citizen to file legislation. The only catch is that your petition must be sponsored by a member of the House or Senate before it can be advanced to be considered by the General Court, so talk to your state senator or representative. Bills must be filed by the third Friday in January during the first annual session of the two-year General Court – basically, any year ending in an odd number.

How to be a marathon runner Even if you’re not very fast, you can still run the Boston Marathon. The Boston Athletic Association has a program through which waivers are granted to charity teams independent of the qualifying time standards. Visit http://www.baa.org/bostonmarathon/charity.asp for more information.

How to define key local terms Boston Brahmin: The city’s elite. The term, likening the “untitled aristocracy” to Hinduism’s highest, priestly caste, first appeared in Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.’s 1861 novel Elsie Venner. Nor’easter: A storm, usually in the winter months, which often brings cold, gale-force winds coming from the northeast, coastal flooding, and rough seas.

Pesky’s Pole: The right-field foul pole at Fenway Park, named after infielder Johnny Pesky, who played for the Red Sox in 1942 and from 1946 to 1952, when it was noted that many of his homers landed near this pole.

Quahog: A hardshelled clam, pronounced KO-hog.

Smoot: A unit of measure. As a 1958 MIT fraternity initiation, 5-foot-7 Oliver Smoot, class of ’62, was laid end-to-end across the Harvard Bridge to determine its length. The bridge is 364.4 Smoots and one ear long.

How to appeal your property taxes Do you believe your home’s assessed value is higher than its fair market value? If so, you can appeal your property tax bill with your city or town’s board of assessors. If you are billed quarterly for these taxes, you generally must appeal by February 1. If you are billed twice a year, the appeal is typically due 30 days after the actual tax bill was mailed. Keep in mind that your bill is based on home values from about a year ago. Contact your local assessor’s office to begin the process, and search “real estate tax appeals” at http://www.mass.gov for a handy guidebook.

How to save on admissions The Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge is free to Massachusetts residents on Sundays year-round from 9 a.m. to noon, and on Wednesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. September through May (617-495-3045, http://www.hmnh.harvard.edu). Be prepared to show proof of state residence.

From 10 a.m. to noon on the first Saturday of every month, everyone pays the kid’s price at Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo ($8, 617-541-5466) and Stoneham’s Stone Zoo ($7, 781-438-5100, http://www.zoonewengland.org).

Wednesdays after 4 p.m., admission to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston is by voluntary contribution; usually, adult admission is $20 (617-267-9300, http://www.mfa.org).

Anyone with the first name Isabella is always admitted free to Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, as are folks who visit on their birthday (617-566-1401, http://www.gardnermuseum.org).

The Institute of Contemporary Art in the Seaport District is free after 5 p.m. every Thursday (617-478-3100, http://www.icaboston.org).

How to be a VIP You can join the Harvard Club of Boston even if you didn’t go to Harvard. Alumni from nearly a dozen New England colleges and universities are welcome at the venerable institution’s downtown Boston branch and to certain events at the Back Bay branch (617-450-8460, http://www.harvardclub.com).

For $115 a year ($230 if you’re older than 40), you can join the Boston Athenaeum, a private library. Computer terminals and a members’ lounge make working on your book or screenplay in the quiet company of other writers a little more comfortable (617-227-0270, http://www.bostonathenaeum.org).

How to be a savvy sports fan The Celtics have $10 seats available; purchase them at the TD Garden box office or by calling 800-462-2849.

Avoid game-day traffic to Gillette Stadium by taking the special Patriots train from South Station for $15 round trip. Learn more at http://www.mbta.com/riding_the_t/patriots.

Standing-room tickets for the Red Sox are just $20; you can nab a good spot for viewing, and there are usually enough available for everyone who shows up on game day.

You might get a Bruins autograph after a practice. They’re held at the Ristuccia Memorial Arena in Wilmington and are free and open to the public; check ristucciaarena.com for practice times.

There are many teams to root for other than the big four. The Boston Blazers play lacrosse (http://www.blazerslacrosse.com), the Boston Lobsters tennis (http://www.bostonlobsters.net), the Boston Breakers women’s soccer (http://www.bostonbreakers.com), and the Boston Militia women’s football (http://www.bostonmilitia.com) – and you won’t have huge crowds and high prices to contend with.

How to get a deal on culture Invest now in the works of up-and-coming artists at the sale of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston held every November (617-267-6100, http://www.smfa.edu/artsale). This year it runs from November 17 to 21.

College students can purchase a BSO College Card for $25 and attend Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts at no additional cost. Go to http://www.bso.org/collegecard.

Volunteer guides give free hourlong tours of the Boston Public Library’s McKim Building in Copley Square, a National Historic Landmark, and its artworks six days a week November through May and five days a week the rest of the year (617-536-5400, http://www.bpl.org/central/tours.htm).

The BosTix ticket booths in Copley Square and at Faneuil Hall offer half-price day-of-show seats for theater, music, and dance performances. They open at 10 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday (617-262-8632 ext. 229, http://www.bostix.org).

The Boston Landmarks Orchestra gives about a dozen free performances each summer (tickets may be required); check http://www.landmarksorchestra.org for next season’s dates.

Elizabeth Gehrman, a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine, is a freelance writer in East Boston. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

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