Sunday, June 12, 2011

Boston on three dollars a day

I remember watching Rachel Ray going across the country on her $40 a day campaign. I also remember that it was in theory possible if you were ok with stiffing the wait staff out of tips, as Rachel would usually leave somewhere in the area of 2% tip to keep this $40 budget alive.
That’s all well and good, but now what if you don’t have $40, and you have no option of spending the day inside, or sleeping in. Well my friends, have no fear because I am here to tell you how you can do Boston on a mere $3 a day ;)

Since I’m an early riser, and by that I mean the shelter throws us out by 7:45am, I like to start my day with a fresh cup of coffee. Now please keep in mind that we do need to leave the shelter for this because the coffee there is… well frankly words escape me, but trust me it is no way to start the day, so it’s off to McDonalds we go.
Now first stop always needs to be McDonalds, because the Newman’s Own coffee is actually a very nice and strong cup of coffee, and you can get a large coffee for $1. Some locations, such as the one I am in typing this article as we “speak”, even offer free refills for your dollar.
Now one of the things you need to keep in mind is that a simple cup of coffee is so much more than that. That One Dollar cup of coffee is also a dry warm roof over your head. It’s a seat to rest and gather yourself. It’s a bathroom, it’s wifi, it’s electric outlets to charge up your phone and /or computer. So that is a lot of life’s basic accommodations for a single dollar.
Plus there is quite the social scene and entertainment at the local McDonalds, especially if you choose the one closest to a homeless population ;)
Here I sit with Pops across the table from me working on next novel that sadly nobody will probably ever read. We have a friend who has an interesting “I was really wasted one night in……..” story for just about any town in the USA. Here we also get to mingle with the ladies of the woman’s shelter. And by mingle I mostly mean avoid eye contact out of fear of being cut. Listen, there are some very nice ladies there, but there are more than a few of these women that are louder, meaner, tougher, and straight out more violent than the hardest guy in most prisons. These woman don’t play around! Nor do they possess an internal filter, so really just best to avoid all together. But hey, if you don’t mind spending a portion of the day in the emergency room or filing police reports, by all means feel free to get into the mix, it’s still free and falls under the spirit of this article.

Next stop, time to take in some local flavor. Now there’s lots you can do around town. You can do a little window shopping down around the Downtown Crossing area, and if you go on certain days you can catch a car show, a local band, or an outdoor art exhibit. So you can easily kill a good hour or two there, and then head right up the block to Boston Common. Also a great place to catch an impromptu ralley, parade, or entertaining gathering of some sort. If not you always have the option of finding a nice shady spot and enjoying a little quiet time. Personally I carry a backpack with a sheet, small transistor radio, and a book, so I’m ready for such an opportunity at any given time or place.
If it’s a particularly nice day we can move this party right to the beach by jumping the blue line right at State st and heading over to Revere Beach.

Now another key spot for the day, is the Boston Public Library. Just on a visual level the library at Copley Sq is fantastic. Huge old majestic building with huge marble stairs and balconies. A courtyard with a fantastic fountain and a very relaxing vibe. If you don’t have a computer, this is the place to get in all your internet time using public computers, and if you do have your own laptop then you are free to find any quiet spot on the grounds, plug into one of the many electric outlets, and tap into the wifi. Once again, another place to enjoy the security of shelter and a clean bathroom ;)
Another great option here is to take in a movie. Simply find the audio/visual area of your local library, and grab yourself a DVD, pop it in the computer and you’re now relaxing and enjoying a good movie. If you don’t have headphones, fear not, just go to the desk and they will give you a pair to use.

Now at this point, we’re already well into the day and we’ve only spent a dollar. Since we have $2 left in this experiment, it’s time to once again treat ourselves. Now personally I like to grab a couple of sandwiches from the shelter and throw them in my bag so I have them for later in the day, as well an extra one or two to give to someone else on the street who might be hungry.
So I’m going to take my $2 and now go for more coffee to get that little mid day pick me up.
This time we’re going to go for a more refined experience and head to Starbucks, where I’ll grab a Grande Bold for just under 2 dollars.
Once again we now have a relaxing environment with all the accommodations needed.(bathroom, wifi, electric).
However, if you preffer to go for food over over coffee with your last two dollars, you can always grab a cheap slice of pizza somewhere, or you can always  hit Wendy’s and grab a couple of 99 cent double stacks.

Now keep in mind, I’ve been out the door early and up around dawn, so at this point, I’m ready to head back to the shelter, take my shoes off, and lay back for a bit, but if you want to continue on, there is always plenty more to do later in the day such as free outdoor movies behind the Boston Harbor Hotel, free concerts at the Esplanade, and plenty more. So don’t feel you have to stay indoors if you don’t have a lot of money, just get your ass out the door, embrace the day, and go have fun, there is always something better to do than just sit around watching life go buy. Don’t be like me and wait until you hit rock bottom to realize there is a whole world out there ;)

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