Saturday, November 24, 2007

Some updates

Thanksgiving break turned out to be a mean linguistic trick: they meant "break" as a verb. Five books and assorted news articles to read, three papers to write...hey, why not, we have all week! Not that I'm complaining, really. It is what I'm here for. I'd feel ripped off if I'd paid them all that money just to tell me I should relax and keep doing what I'm doing.

Anyway, constrained by homework I didn't go to Boston as planned, to hang out with PK and friends, which is a drag, because an email message earlier had indicated that all of the friends would be tall, intelligent men. It figures.

Instead I stayed here, did some writing, some reporting and some reading: two cheery little uplifting books about the beheading of journalist Daniel Pearl; one about the government-vs-academia battle over contemporary artists like Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe; the section on libel in the AP stylebook; and my favorite, "Work and Other Sins," by my next boyfriend, Charlie LeDuff. Until becoming a stay-at-home-dad recently, Charlie wrote for the New York Times; he used to hang out in bars, talk to people and write about them. Made it look easy. Also, in one of his press photos he has this outrageous pirate mustache, and you all know how I feel about those.

Speaking of Boston, below, finally, are some photos of my trip there awhile back. I went for the weekend, to hang out with my friend Brenda (see earlier post on the cocktail tour). To get there I paid fifteen bucks at the dodgy-looking "Fung Wah" ticket window and stood in what I hoped was the right line for the bus. I had expected the legendary Chinatown bus to be a rickety old death machine spewing poisonous fumes and filled with squawking chickens in bamboo crates. But no. It was your average tour bus. Halfway up it stopped at McDonald's. Sigh.

Boston is cool! I'd never been there before. The whole thing is a museum, and Brenda is the best tour guide ever. We started in Charlestown, all red brick and twisty little cobblestone streets, gaslights and everything. It's so cute it looks fake. At the top is the Bunker Hill Monument, marking the site of the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first big fight in the Revolutionary War. Paul Revere started his midnight ride from Charlestown. It's also home to the beginning of The Freedom Trail, but we drove back to Boston proper and picked up the Trail there instead. Shorter walk. The Freedom Trail is a red stripe painted onto the sidewalk (or bricked in, sometimes) for tourists to follow from one historic site to another. Neat idea! Ironically, not everything along the Freedom Trail is free, so we didn't go into all of the historic buildings, but we did use the public restroom in Fanouiel Hall. Which is pretty free.

The most important thing I learned in Boston, however, is that cider donuts are the best food on earth. Cider donuts!!! I'd never heard of them. Brenda took me to a farm stand for breakfast. I don't think we have quite the same things on the West Coast. Some of those U-pick joints on Sauvie Island are close, but the Boston ones are more established. AND have cider donuts. Fifty cents each, and they were still warm when the guy handed 'em over. (This was also the first real Boston accent I heard. Holy crap! They are hilarious!) Then we beelined for the hot cider, which was unlike any hot cider I've ever had before. Dad would've fainted. It was that good.

Predictably, we bought apples. And some coffee. And, I admit it, I got another cider donut on the way out.

On the advice of Rob via Patrick, we checked out Bukowski's Tavern, where on the menu board we saw that you could order Deep Fried Cheese Logs. I think if it had been an hour later, there's no way you could've dragged us out of there before we'd had a cheese log each. But sadly, we had just eaten lunch, and could only appreciate it in the abstract. But we'll be back. We did stop in and have a beer at Sullivan's Tap, another Rob/Patrick recommendation. I had a pint of Sully's Light. Seemed appropriate. It's a long skinny bar, kinda sporty. On the TV they were showing news footage from out in front of the bar, taken on a different day. Weird.

The weirdest moment of the entire weekend: we'd stumbled across a war protest while crossing Boston Common. Later, on the way to the library, we ran into it again. It was a pretty huge parade, and we stood for a while watching it go by, halfheartedly checking out dudes. Then, from the little mini-stage next to us, someone with a microphone who had been sort of droning on for a while said, "And now, let me welcome Desmond Tutu!" Brenda and I simultaneously: "WHAT?!" Yep, it was him, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, in life, mere feet away. He seemed to be ten million years old, very small and by far the most adorable person among the hundreds of protesters we could see. He said a few words about Jews, which were (probably for the best) blurred by the bad microphone and the crazy wind, and then he did this little hopping dance on stage and yelled "PEEEEEEEEEEEEACE!" over and over.

We couldn't top that.

Next day we drove through Lexington and Concord, saw the homes of Louisa Mae Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson (my boyfriend), and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Brenda's boyfriend -- or is she more into Thoreau? I forget). We stopped at another farm stand and got supplies for a picnic, which we had on the banks of Walden Pond (actual Walden Pond! pretty cool). The weather was gorgeous, so we walked around the pond (more of a lake). Two different women were swimming in Walden Pond. This was October, late October. Although the weather was gorgeous, it was not swimming weather. One of the women had on a wetsuit; the other seemed to be German or Nordic, based on her accent. Tough broad.

Other things of note: all the important stuff during the revolution took place at taverns. I'm not saying that's how it should be; I'm just telling you, that's how it was. Also, Brenda pointed out this one house along the battle route - the owners had redone the siding, but they'd had to leave a diamond-shaped hole in the new yellow siding, because way back when, a stray bullet from someone's revolutionary weapon had lodged itself there in the side of their house and was now a historic item that could not be messed with. (I'm paraphrasing.) So there you are. That's what it's like, living amid history, right there where it all went down.

Anyway, it was an excellent trip and I can't wait to get back there. Boston is really pretty and seems like a fun little place to hang out. Here are some pics; I'll put more up on flickr or something and add the link later. Too tech-challenged to do it now.

Brenda took this one: it's the street John Kerry lives on!

The Freedom Trail.

Walden Pond...

Replicas of Thoreau and his Hut.

Cliche but true: the autumn leaves out here are mighty pretty. I was a little early to catch them in their full glory (or rather, they were a little late), but it was still almost ridiculously autumnal.


  1. Pardon me for copy editing, but it's actually spelled "Faneuil Hall"...


    Anyway, yeah, Boston's nice. A little too small and suburban for me to want to live there, but it's definitely a pretty place to visit. I don't miss New England in the summer or in the deeper parts of winter; the autumn there simply can't be outdone, however. Did you buy some extra cider to make into scrumpy cider?


    PS: If you want goofy Bostonian accents, watch Ben Affleck's film "Gone Baby Gone" - my inner voices were talking to me in South BAH-ston accents for two days afterwards. And, despite the presence of two Afflecks, it's actually a pretty decent film.

  2. Anonymous8:44 AM

    Let me get this straight: You had the opportunity to eat a deep-fried cheese log, and you missed that oh-so-wondrous experience 'cause you "had just had lunch"? That is so weak... When you get that opportunity, you must seize the cheese-log, embrace the cheese-log, consume the cheese-log. Or better yet, buy one and mail it to your brother... No level of "being full" (a term with which I am unfamiliar) is a valid excuse for foregoing such an experience.


  3. Ditto.

    Jeez, Becky. I wasn't worried about you out there on the east coast. UNTIL NOW.

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