Cunard on the way

People tend not to pay attention to much along State Street. If you’re a tourist, you’re there on your way to the waterfront or Quincy Market; if you’re a resident, you’re there on your way to or from your job in the Financial District. I worked there for years, and I never noticed this.

The Cunard Building was where, at the turn of the twentieth century, you could buy transatlantic passage, and depart from the wharves just down the street. The building has been preserved, although the facade looks so sturdy that I am not sure it needed much preserving, and serves as commercial space today.

Boston still hosts many transatlantic departures, but they are at the airport now, across the water, and that is where the noise, mess and traffic have gone. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 still makes regular transatlantic crossings, but she departs from New York.


Lately, I have been quietly unable to put down the idea of making a transatlantic crossing. There’s no way to justify the cost or the time, of course, and it’s unlikely I could wring an article out of it. I could say that I want to retrace my ancestors’ experience on their crossing, but my ancestors, so far as we can determine, came over no later than the 18th century. Their transatlantic experience involved vomiting, praying, and watching people die. They probably did not sit on the fo’c’sle with a drink in the evenings.

Nonetheless, I am fond of watching things heave naturally into view, of traveling without the shield of a window and an engineered metal wall. I love to see a destination appear. Before the end of all things, I should like to see a continent appear.