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Surviving the Boston Blues

Comm 310: Feature Writing
Betsy Halsey
Stand-alone, slice-of-life feature articles focus on a topic of interest to an identifiable niche audience but not tied to a specific news event or incident. Each article has a compelling "soft" lead, a clearly defined theme or "nut graph" high up in the story, sufficient background that an uninformed reader can navigate the piece without difficulty, and a vivid, well-crafted narrative that carries the reader to an ending that either kicks her back to the theme or forward to pursue other questions. Students follow Associated Press style and are asked to produce error-free copy for publication in campus or other newspapers.

BOSTON—You've been in Boston for about a month. The weather is getting cooler, and the leaves are falling rapidly. Course loads are getting heavier, and midterms are approaching.

You've exhausted the usual Boston day-trips: shopping on Newbury Street, eating lunch at Quincy Market, having dinner downtown. You want to get out and explore more of the city, but you've run out of ideas—not to mention cash. What do you do?

Boston, like many large cities, is filled with ways to keep the average college student entertained. "It's a matter of planning," says Sydney Flint, a sophomore at MassArt. "I try to keep busy, but it definitely slows down in the winter." Getting the ins on the scene is just a matter of research—pick up any one of the free newspapers and magazine guides. "I love all of the options that those magazines provide," says Flint, "but I don't often take advantage of them, and it's usually due to money issues."

While keeping yourself occupied in Boston can be pricey, there are plenty of cheap activities for under $15. Here are a few suggestions to get you started and help beat those Boston blues.

Fancy Yourself a Starving Artist? Take a break from the textbooks and visit the MFA free of charge with your Simmons ID. And if you're 21+, be sure to mark your calendars for the first Friday of the month. MFA Fridays, hosted from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Koch Gallery, are free with general admission.

For an alternative, head over to the South End to visit the SoWa (South of Washington Street) Artists Guild. During First Fridays, from 5 to 9 p.m., enjoy the art and hors d'oeuvres while mingling with friends at the open-gallery events. "It's a very accessible porthole into the Boston art scene, since we all know any art scene can seem intimidating or snobbish," says Claire Smith, a junior at Simmons.

Or take advantage of Target Free Thursday Nights at the Institute of

Contemporary Art in South Boston. Regular student admission is $10, but from 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays, admission is free. Can't seem to make it on Thursdays? Visit anyway.

The Water Café is accessible without admission and offers fresh views of Boston's waterfront.

America's Next Top Model? What better way to beat the blues than to freshen up your hairstyle? Liven up your life by livening up your look: Attend a model call at Umi Salon on Newbury Street. The stylists will evaluate your hair to determine your eligibility for a free haircut from a training stylist. Lauren Shofield, model coordinator, says they prefer to keep the student-teacher ratio low for their stylists and usually accept four to seven models per night.

If your wardrobe is looking a bit dull, give it some spice and follow the pink plastic bags to The Garment District, the self-advertised "alternative department store," and hunt for a bargain. The Garment District offers the "Dollar-A-Pound+" special, which, according to its Web site, originated in the early 1980s and continues to offer dirt- cheap prices on clothing, shoes, bags, belts, household items, and records. The Garment District also features consignment by appointment and clothing sections that include vintage, contemporary, 1980s, and costume.

Outdoor Enthusiast Trapped in the Body of a City Slicker? Take a walk and experience the historical roots this city has to offer—and no, not just the Freedom Trail. Borrow a self-guided walking tour and learn the history of the city that would stump even a true born-and-bred New Englander.

"There were many instances that I passed certain structures or buildings and thought nothing of them," says Nicholas Starno, a Maine native and Northeastern University student. "The city is very walk-able, making the tours very informative without a full day commitment."

Starno recommends the text from his History of Boston class, Boston Foot Notes: A Walking Guide by Jane Grossman and Felice Yager. "If someone is interested in where they live or visit, then the walking tours give a good amount of visuals to go along with the facts," he says.

How about a day-trip just outside of the city? Head to MetroRock, an indoor rock climbing facility easily accessible on the MBTA's Orange Line. MetroRock, in Everett, is a state-of-the-art climbing center with student rates, according to its Web site. Take the Orange Line to he Wellington T stop, call for the free MetroRock shuttle service, and wait near the "Drop Off and Pick-Up Platform." Once you've arrived, an all-day pass for students with valid ID is $14.

Get some fresh air, take a walk near the harbor, and check out where Martin Sheen plummeted to his death—in The Departed, of course. Download the free MP3 audio walking tour and go on a Boston HarborWalk. According to the Web site, the hourlong tour begins at the InterContinental Hotel near South Station and highlights several points of interests to tourists and natives alike, including the filming location of Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning movie.

Music Junkie? Warm up to Boston's Symphony Orchestra, which offers same-day rush tickets on Tuesday and Thursday nights as well as Friday mornings. Be sure to arrive at the box office by 5 p.m. to score tickets to 8 p.m. shows. The office opens at 10 a.m. for Friday's 1 p.m. show. Rush tickets cost $9, can only be paid for in cash, and are limited to one per customer.

Are you more into the rock-and-roll scene? Be sure to keep track of the local venues' schedules. Many bars and clubs offer access to live music, but don't stress if you're underage: The Paradise Rock Club offers shows for the 18+ crowd, and, depending on the show, prices can be as low as $12.

"We college students are poor, but musicians are poorer, so if we're going to spend money, might as well spend it on a night of good music," says Smith. "Everybody wins and your ears get happy."

Smith says she regularly checks The Phoenix, WERS: Emerson College's radio station, and Pitchfork Media to stay up-to-date on music listings and free events.

Need More Ideas? Check out what's going on with the Campus Activity Board (CAB). "We do movies at least once a week on the residence campus," says CAB Treasurer Erika Fields.

Or pick up one of the many magazines and newspapers that specialize in keeping students, tourists, and natives busy during those brutal winter months. It's coming.

Sidebar It's Not Just Boredom: Getting Out is Good for Your Health, Too

"Sunlight has lots to do with our mood," says Maruka Rivers, a Clinical Social Work Intern at the Simmons College School of Social Work. "It has a lot of chemicals, including vitamin D that contributes to our sense of well-being."

Rivers says that some people can get down during the winter if they are not receiving enough sunlight. To stay upbeat, get out and get sunlight everyday. "Even when the sun is not shining there are still UV rays stimulating the chemicals in your brain," she says.

Fresh air is important too. Rivers says that cold virus can be in your system without you even knowing it. "People tend to close windows and doors in the winter months which restricts air circulation and is a contributing factor to why people get sick," she says. "Even when a cold is not symptomatic it takes energy, leaving the person feeling down and sluggish."