Il Ritorno di Ulysses

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Back from Beantown (though, to be fair, no-one from Boston actually calls it "Beantown", much the same way that no-one from San Francisco calls it "Frisco"), and boy are my arms tired.

Update: You can read Ken's account here, wherein he explicates some details that I managed to have accidentally left out.

The drive up was uneventful, not counting the alien abduction.

Getting to the hotel itself wasn't that hard, even given the many wrong turns we took. For those not familiar with the streets in Boston, they were all originally cow and goat paths that eventually got paved over. More to the point, local legend claims that those self-same cows and goats were usually drunk from drinking fermented milk, so those paths don't always go in straight lines. Which can make driving in the city an interesting proposition, particularly if you don't know exactly where you're going and how to get there.

Friday night involved wandering up through Faneuil Hall, through most of the North End (sample quotes: "I didn't know that there were Italians in Boston;" "It's just like Little Italy, but smaller!" and "Do you know where Paul Revere's house is?"), eventually ending up at the world-famous Union Oyster House (America's oldest restaurant!), where a lobster met a grisly and messy end (and I uncovered a family secret that had been hidden for decades).

The next morning, we got up and wandered out to the waterfront (really the only thing to see there is a giant construction project), passed the aquarium (closer to town than I remembered it being), and meandered through the Haymarket (New York could really use something like the Haymarket, I think; in comparison, the greenmarkets of Manhattan are like boutique malls) before hopping on the T to go to the game.

As for the game, all I have to say is 4 hours, no shade, 10-inning Red Sox victory. Ken was crushed (sample quote: "Mike Fucking Cameron! Mike Fucking Cameron! Mike Fucking Cameron!" ad infinitum for the rest of the day).

It was a good ballgame (even if the Sox's imported South Korean closer blew yet another save), but as a result of a four-hour, no-shade (and, more to the point, no-hat) interval, I turned the same color as the lobster I had destroyed the night before (the doctors say that the bandages should come off in a couple of months with minimal scarring).

After walking back to the hotel (one look at all 35,000 fans trying to squeeze into the Kenmore T stop, and it seemed like walking would be the better part of valor), we ended up having dinner at Durgin-Park (motto: "Established Before You Were Born"), a restaurant that pretty much has one thing on the menu: very large pieces of meat (there actually is quite a bit on the menu, but really, the only reason to go there is for the very large pieces of meat). It also has a pretty neat open kitchen, and features communal seating.

A few heavily alcoholic beverages, and it's back to the hotel.

Sunday morning we make our way down to Chinatown, as it's only a block or two away. Boston's Chinatown hasn't really changed much from my childhood memories; it's still basically two streets that meet at a T intersection. Chinatown's companion, though, the infamous Combat Zone, is pretty much gone at this point; a couple of adult bookstores is a far cry from the fearsome red-light district of years past.

From there, we walked over to the U.S.S. Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Originally commissioned in 1797, the Constitution is still crewed and commanded by active-duty U.S. Navy personnel. After a long wait in the security checkpoint line, we finally got aboard. Our tour was interrupted by the arriving class of new Chief Petty Officers; as part of their initiation, they lined up and sang "Anchors Aweigh". Eight (or nine) times, each louder than the last.

A short (but expensive) taxi ride back to the hotel, and we bid Boston adieu (via a circuitous exit plan that involved Beacon Hill, Cambridge Memorial Drive, bits of the MIT campus, driving through Brookline, getting lost in Newton, and finally, via an amazing feat of dead-reckoning navigation (remember what I said about the drunken goats?), an arrival at the Mass Pike.

The drive back was pretty uneventful, too, not counting the gangster firefight at the Texaco.

Pictures to come.

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That cow path nonsense is really just colorful legend. Downtown Boston is arranged the way it is for the same reason that all the old European towns which came before it look the way they do: no urban planning. People largely just built houses where they wanted to, and before long those arbitrary plots multiplied and queezed each other into a god-awful, medieval street "plan". The cows grazed over on the Commons.

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