Wednesday, 9 July 2008


Short day - however I wanted to see Boston. Also I’m now only a short hop to New York so I have plenty of time in hand. The East Coast is pretty crowded compared to West and The Plains. This is also the place where the history, in a British sense, starts to kick in.

Did the usual trick of heading Downtown and this time I found a hotel fairly easily although, admittedly, it’s the most expensive one I’ve stayed in so far. My car was snaffled off me by the valet parking guy who vanished round the corner with it at high speed. I wonder how Ferrari owners feel about valet parking guys?

I was in dire need. Blog fans may have noticed that I’ve not mentioned my laundry lately. There’s a very good reason for this – I haven't had the chance to do any. A couple of days ago I checked into a hotel that boasted a guest’s launderette. These are terrific as you can wash and dry a big load of clothes for around $3 including the powder. In Kennebunk the motel had a laundry. So after getting the right number of quarters from the receptionist, I scuttled with my reeking bag and duly loaded the machine. I put a dollars worth of quarters into the slide in the coin drawer and pushed. Now the idea with these machines is this. It’s a simple transaction: coins in, powder out. On this occasion coin drawer in.......stayed in. I was unable to reclaim the coins and there was no powder!

I called the front desk. They couldn't help. The machine was run by a contractor who wouldn't be around until later in the week. How about they give me a cup of detergent from their own on site laundry -the one they use to wash sheets and towels and stuff? Nope. It was a closed circuit system and all the powder was in pipes that fed directly into the machines. I reclaimed my filthy clothes and stamped out into the street.

For the past few days the weather has been fairly mild but it decided to heat up and in the most humid way. So much so Bostonians were fanning themselves and complaining about the humidity. My hotel was in the theatre district but many of the theatres appeared to be closed for the summer and/or were being refurbished. There’s a lot of building work going on to beautify the centre of this city. It has some lovely old, (honestly what we would call old), 18th century buildings. They’re certainly the oldest I’ve seen during this trip, apart from Alamo, and in many places the pavements are of brick and undulating.

I walked up to Boston Common, a park where a selection of bums shrank back from the terrible stench emanating from this red-faced sweating man. They could see I had the wild eyed look of a man on a mission.

I liked the TV show ‘Frasier’ and ‘Cheers’ even more so and I had to visit the bar which is on Beacon Street. A man in his fifties in smart shorts and a tennis shirt saw me peering at the street plan. "Need any help?" he enquired. "Cheers, original or the replica? The real one is about seven blocks that way." His name was Mike and he’d travelled. He had been to the UK and also to Australia so he made a pleasant companion for a few blocks until he veered off either to his destination or to get away from the stench which had become too much for him.

I found it and it was just as I remembered. Down the steps, opened the door and..........A totally different and packed bar greeted my eyes which also had a T shirt and souvenir shop at the back. As I left without buying a drink, much to the relief of the clientele and staff no doubt, I saw a sign which explained that only the outside was used in the TV show. The inside was a studio mock up.

By now I had a raging thirst so I stopped at a lemonade stand. Using just one lemon, the man made me possibly the most delicious drink I’ve ever tasted. No idea how he did it but it was perfect. Tasty and very refreshing. Not sure if lemonade is a local delicacy but there are stands of this kind all over the city.

I walked down to the harbour where you can go on whale-watching trips. I also did part of the Heritage Trail. This can make uncomfortable reading for a Brit - and an Englishman in particular, as it charts all the terrible things we did not only to the local population but also to the colonists who later on became ‘Americans’. Also there are a couple of bronze statues which mark the Irish potato Famine. According to the bronze plaques we don't come out of that one smelling of roses either. The Heritage Trail winds its way around town and I paused at the old State House. This was the site of the Boston Massacre of 1770 in which five people were shot by our soldiers. Not sure how many qualify as a massacre, but it if was a massacre it must have been a relatively small one as massacres go. Come on guys move on, it’s more than 200 years ago!!

Had a pizza and some more fab lemonade then headed to the hotel lounge which promised ‘Open Mic’ night. Was this stand up comedy? NO! A rather camp man appeared with his very elderly mother. While he adjusted and tuned the piano, she dusted it and also wiped a large glass tips jar very, very carefully. As he started his first show tune I headed out into the humid night air.

Found a bar round the corner and watched the Red Sox game. Although I’ve watched hours of baseball and have even been to a game, I’ve still absolutely no idea what is going on. WE chuckle about it being akin to ‘Rounder’s’. I don't really think it is. I see it more as an opportunity for guys to chew gum, possibly tobacco, and posture a lot before spitting on the ground. There is some running and sliding involved too. However the best bit is the fan discussions. They bandy on about batting averages and "inning" at one another and talk of "road trips". I even (nerd that I am), have an old LP of Chicago Cubs radio commentary from the 50s through to the 70s: "It’s a one and two pitch to Billy Williams!!!!" No idea what that means.

After returning to the hotel, I picked up some ‘complimentary detergent and fabric softener’ from reception and hurried to the 15th floor laundry to suds my duds.......A sensor in a water main was telling the water company it was about to burst. So an emergency team had rushed to the road outside the hotel and turned all the water off!

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