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A sense of place

The sounds

Email|Print| Text size + By Jim Sullivan
Globe Staff / August 28, 2003

"Nomah, Hit a Homah!" Five young women stood up en masse as the Red Sox shortstop strode to the plate one night this summer at Fenway Park. "Nomah, hit a homah!" they cheered in unison. Nomar Garciaparra's name, with its abundance of Rs, presents a major challenge to the native Boston accent, in which the R is silent. The "Nomah" cheer is sometimes done in jest by people who grew up elsewhere. Red Sox NESN color man Jerry Remy remains "R" challenged after all these years, and Boston fans love him for it.

The Big Dig The nexus of construction noise right now is on the stretch of roadway near the Boston Fire Department Headquarters from 2 International Place to the Dewey Square tunnel. It's the last piece of the Interstate 93 southbound project. Big Dig spokesman Sean O'Neill says, "It's nothing but banging, clanging, ringing, jack-hammering and diesel engines. Screaming and hollering and the blowing of blast horns, warning people about things swinging overhead. On top of that area, you've got the fire engines and fire trucks. It's a great cornucopia of sound; it makes you realize you're listening to the `Zooropa' (U2's noisiest CD) of Boston right there." On the upside, O'Neill says the Big Dig is 92 percent complete and the southbound lanes should open between December and February.

Seagulls Even in heart of the city you can hear the squawk of a seagull every now and then. These city gulls tend to be loners, so they don't generate the annoyance you feel when you're at the beach and they're pleading for your Cheez Doodles. You just hear their plaintive voices and think, "My God, we really do live by the ocean."

The Hissing of Service Station Air Pumps It might cost 50 cents or might be free, but it's the one that comes right after "ker-plunk, clunk," which is the sound of a car disappearing into an impromptu meeting of the Boston Pothole Society. The society likes to change locations frequently and they are masters at the art of surprise. Really expert potholes can flatten your tire, wreck your rim, and muck up your alignment, too.

The Bells at Trinity Church The chiming of the bell choir at Copley Square on Tuesdays during rehearsal and again during the Sunday morning service is a soothing ritual. You're welcome to join the bell-ringers; no musical experience required.

As Fall Approaches Steve Sweeney, Charlestown-born stand-up comic and WZLX-FM morning man, says one of the first sounds he hears in September is his own voice on the phone saying, "Iggy, what's the spread on the Patriots?" (Iggy is Sweeney's bookie.) For three hours on Sunday, the TV stays on the Pats and if the windows are open on your block, you'll catch the game and the color commentary of your neighbors.

The Gentle Lapping of Water, the Laughter of Children A respite in the heart of the city is provided at the 24-acre Public Garden, adjacent to Boston Common. Wrought-iron fences, old-fashioned benches, curvy pathways and those famous foot-paddled Swan Boats, which can carry up to 20 people. The late Robert McCloskey wrote the famous "Make Way for Ducklings" about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, their eight hatchlings and the protection from the Boston traffic by Officer Michael. Statutes of the Mallards and their offspring, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Quack, Pack, and Ouack are nearby. Their descendents would enjoy it if you'd drop a peanut or two.

Announcements in the T stations Amid the din of one of our subway stations, you'll hear a disembodied, official-sounding voice - someone advising or admonishing riders about . . . something. Our favorite: "T'vise smogging platfumm kzzzt." We think this means you're not supposed to smoke while standing on the platform or maybe you're not supposed to stand on the platform if it's smoking. If you hear some phrase containing the word "late," it means that your train is running late, a revelation akin to someone sagely saying the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

The Lansdowne Street Culture Clash At 7 p.m. the punks in their multicolored mohawks outside the Axis club waiting for a heavy rock show are jeering the Red Sox fans awaiting entrance to Fenway Park. A few minutes later, as "The Star-Spangled Banner" wafts over, some club patrons put their hands over their hearts. The sausage vendors bark out what they're selling; there may be a guy doing a drum solo on a plastic can. The Lansdowne dance/live music clubs often feature an early band live; then the house moves over to disco, which makes for elbow-to-elbow movement, and, sometimes a few dirty looks between the rockers and dancers. When the game lets out, there can be as many as 15,000 people milling around.

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