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Mobilizing the party
Welcome to Boston, Democrats ... now get off your butts
BY BRIAN E. OíNEILL

Note to the delegates: if all those hours standing around schmoozing, sipping wine, and scarfing down fried hors díoeuvres is your idea of mobilizing the party, weíve got news for you. A race is a hell of a lot harder to run if the wagon youíre dragginí carries a heavy load. If the political machine is to be truly lean and mean, itíll require a little good old-fashioned exercise.

Which may be a challenge for politicians, a group whose main form of physical activity is inserting foot into mouth. Luckily, in Boston choices abound for a little fresh air and a lot of physical fitness. So lace up your sneakers and hit the streets of our fair city. Your constituents (and your gut) will thank you.

Sauntering in the Public Garden

If youíre looking to take things slow, look no further than the countryís oldest botanical garden. The 24-acre Boston Public Garden is surrounded by arched wrought-iron fencing, and features winding pathways lined with rows of tulips, weeping-willow trees, and a man-made pond, home to Beantownís famous swan boats. Itís as perfect a place as youíll find in Boston for taking a leisurely stroll while taking in a bit of history, including statues of George Washington and the title characters from Make Way for Ducklings. Nearby attractions like the Ritz-Carlton hotel, the Bulfinch Pub, and Newbury Street also add to the Gardenís appeal.

Boston Public Garden, Back Bay/Beacon Hill, Boston; www.cityofboston.gov/parks/openspaces/main.asp?ID=49

Hiking on Georges Island

Just a short, cheap ferry ride from downtown Boston is Georges Island, the 28-acre official entrance to the Boston Harbor Islands State Park. Though the main attraction is Fort Warren, a onetime prison for Confederate soldiers, the island also offers ample hiking trails, plenty of sea breezes, and incredible views of the city. "Itís a beautiful site," says Department of Conservation and Recreation spokesperson Felix Browne. "Youíre a short distance from the city, but also totally in the middle of nature." Itís also the transportation center for the Harbor Islands, so you can hop a free inter-island ferry from Georges to the other surrounding islands. Which might be a good idea: legend has it that Georges Island is haunted by a ghostly "lady in black."

Georges Island, Boston Harbor; www.mass.gov/dem/parks/bhis.htm

Golfing in Franklin Park

If the scenery surrounding Franklin Parkís 18-hole golf course looks suspiciously like the scenery from the movie Mystic River, thatís because it is. Several scenes from the film were shot in Bostonís largest park (also home to the Franklin Park Zoo), the 580-acre jewel of the "Emerald Necklace" park system. The William J. Devine Golf Course, the second-oldest public course in America, is open seven days a week. "Itís a spectacular site," says Boston Parks and Recreation spokesperson Mary Hines. Availability is first come, first served, Monday through Thursday. Tee times on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday require two daysí notice.

William J. Devine Golf Course, 1 Circuit Drive, Dorchester, (617) 265-4084; www.sterlinggolf.com/franklin

Bocce in the North End

Itís been said that Boston is the most European of American cities, and that Bostonís historic North End is the most European of Boston neighborhoods. Though just a 10-minute walk from the FleetCenter, it feels like a world away. With the areaís strong Italian community, itís not uncommon to see well-dressed old men sipping cappuccino in outdoor cafés as you traverse the narrow, winding streets. (Itís also not uncommon to fall in love with every restaurant and bakery you come by ó theyíre all fantastic.) The neighborhoodís Langone Park is something of a localsí preciously guarded secret, with its newly renovated playground and spectacular views of the Charlestown Navy Yard and the Bunker Hill Monument. The park features three bocce courts where games are said to get fairly spirited. Itís a great way to pass the time and get some activity while youíre, say, waiting for a table for dinner.

Langone Park, Commercial Street, Boston; www.cityofboston.gov/parks/openspaces/main.asp?ID=94

Moshing in Cambridge

When two slightly out-of-shape punk rockers noticed that thrashing about to their favorite songs by the Buzzcocks, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols also happened to provide a decent cardio workout, an idea was born. Three years later, Punk Rock Aerobics is an underground sensation, with coverage in the Boston Phoenix, Newsweek, USA Today, and the New York Times. A book, Punk Rock Aerobics: 75 Killer Moves, 50 Punk Classics, and 25 Reasons To Get Off Your Ass and Exercise (Da Capo Press), by program originators Maura Jasper and Hilken Mancini, came out earlier this year. Much in the punk spirit, classes are held just about anywhere they can find space, but PRA has taken up semi-permanent residence downstairs at the Middle East rock club. Itís safe to say that this is not your typical spandex-and-sports-bra kind of class. Bricks and cinder blocks serve as weights, and guest DJs and live punk bands often provide the soundtrack. All classes are $7.

Punk Rock Aerobics, Middle East, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge; www.punkrockaerobics.com

Sweltering in Allston

Recently named one of New Englandís top yoga studios by Channel 7, YogaDuzit, in Allston, is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Tom Strachan and Lauren Fawcett. (The couple also run a Cambridge studio of the same name.) The Allston studio conducts 90-minute classes in "Hot Yoga" and "Power Yoga." "Power" classes are taught to upbeat music, while "Hot" classes are taught in a heated room, and flow through a sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises developed (and trademarked) by Yogi Bikram Choudhury. "Itís an excellent way to recharge, rejuvenate, and revive your body and mind," says Fawcett. Drop-in classes are $12.

YogaDuzit, 1065 Comm Ave, Allston, (617) 789-3733; 32 Cottage Park Avenue, Cambridge, (617) 868-6006; www.yogaduzit.com

Cycling through the city

The Southwest Corridor Park is a favorite cycling trail, following the Orange Line T route from downtown Boston to Jamaica Plain. Stretching 4.7 miles, and with 52 acres of parkland, the Corridorís southern section includes tennis and basketball courts, fountains, and walking paths adjacent to paved biking paths. The main scenic attraction, however, is several community gardens. The area that became the Southwest Corridor was once slated for a major highway. But when plans were ditched, and the land sat unused for several years, residents decided to claim it for gardening and farming, sparking a citywide trend in urban community gardens.

Southwest Corridor Park, www.cityofboston.gov/transportation/bikeinfo.asp

Jogging on the Esplanade

Often referred to as the crown jewel of the Massachusetts state-park system, the Esplanade is the Boston joggerís route of choice. Itís not hard to see why. The Esplanade is the lush parkland along the bank of the Charles River, beginning at the Charles River Dam (right in front of the FleetCenter) and extending into Watertown, with the most famous stretch resting between Boston University and the MDC Hatch Shell, home to several summer concerts, including the Boston Popsí Fourth of July concert.

Esplanade, Boston; www.mass.gov/mdc/CHARLESR.HTM

Pumping iron at Boston Sports Clubs

The most ubiquitous health-club chain in Boston also happens to be the most Democratic. Boston Sports Clubs, with 19 locations in and around Boston, is offering a free one-week membership to delegates and the media during the convention. (BSC publicist Susan Gerson says a special election-themed group-exercise class is also in the works.) BSC has several T-accessible locations in the downtown and Back Bay areas, including Government Center, Copley Place, the Fenway, Newbury Street, and Downtown Crossing. Each club features group-exercise classes, including the popular ó and saucy ó "Latin Groove." BSC also happens to be the official gym for both the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Celtics, so you never know when you might be getting your groove on alongside the likes of Paul Pierce or David Ortiz.

Boston Sports Clubs, various locations; www.mysportsclubs.com

Foxtrotting at Fred Astaire Dance Studios

Did you know that dancing is an Olympic sport? No kidding. Given the requirements of coordination, rhythm, and endurance, itís easy to see how an hour of dancing burns about 450 calories. But hereís the problem: what if you (ahem) canít dance? Thatís where Fred Astaire Dance Studios can help. With drop-in rates from $12 to $15 (depending on the class), Fred Astaire offers the full range of ballroom faves, and even a couple of new ones: the studio runs weekly classes in beginner ballroom, hip-hop, Latin, and even belly dancing.

Fred Astaire Dance Studios, 179 South Street, Boston, (617) 247-2435; www.fadsboston.com

Brian E. OíNeill can be reached at brianeoneill@hotmail.com


Issue Date: July 23 - 29, 2004
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