Friday, July 27, 2018

Boston 2018

What's this? Not a retrospective?
[sorry for typos - trying out a new keyboard]

I traveled to Boston (June 23-26) for a few reasons. The big excuse was to attend a thank you party for moderators on reddit, though that event was only a few hours long. My more pressing reasons were trifold: to see Boston, as I'd only passed through; to give some clothing a trial run before my big trip; and to remember what traveling felt like and to acclimate myself to the sensation.

On the excuse: For a few years now I've moderated several communities on reddit, the biggest of which being /r/vexillology. For whatever reason, reddit corporate decided to start having "thank you" parties in various cities. I attended one of these in their first year (a quick in-and-out zip down to D.C.). I had a fun time and figured I'd follow that up again this year.
Foggy Boston

So, now we're back to the present (or, well, more recent past). I booked an AirBnB that was within walking distance of the airport, though I made use of the free shuttle on my way to and from my flights. I spent my first night wandering around East Boston, which was mostly residential, though it had some cool spots. I had a couple beers and a sandwich at Maverick Market and spent an unnoteworthy night wandering around.

I slept in, gave my clothes a wash in the shower (trial run, remember?), and made my way down to Boston Commons. I walked the Freedom Trail and I fear I don't have much to report that you couldn't get out of a guide book. I will say the guy handing out homemade guidebooks at the first cemetery was delightful though - he took a photo of me in my "wacky rally" tee shirt. Along the way I had a beer at the "Oldest Pub in America" (which, much like the "Oldest Pub in Philadelphia", was a disappointing touristy sports bar) and generally walked and walked.

My first truly pleasant experience of the trip came in the form of the bar at Tangerino. I was looking for a spot to go and rehydrate and had to pass over several places that looked like they would be much more up my alley. I ended up having a great conversation with the bartender and a guy in town from San Diego and even got a few free drinks / snacks out of it. Good things never last forever though and I made my way back to my AirBnB, where I decided the city was tilted or off-center or just somewhat askew. Probably just me being used to Philly, but whatever.

Monday rolled around and I wandered on up to Harvard. Figured I'd check out the grounds and be a tourist. I got into my own head about how everyone recommended I check out the food carts in the area - honestly, what a midwestern tourist recommendation. While I ate a mediocre bowl of food, I came up with some "shower argument" where I played the simpleton whose only exposure to the concept of a food truck was when his cousin Larry nearly burnt down his garage after leaving a lit grill in the back of his F-350 pretending I was eating something actually tasty. Food trucks / carts have been around forever - it's the automobile / "drive thru" culture that's new.

Anyway, after spending my time on Harvard's campus as a total curmudgeon, I went to check out the American Academy of Arts & Sciences - a sibling organization to the Amercan Philosophical Society (where I worked). They have a fucking grounds. What I would have given to have a grounds around the APS. I arrived just around closing time, so I didn't ask to take a tour around the building.
I moved toward the AirBnB through three bars:
  1. Shay's, where I got to experience a debating duo taking up four bar stools with all their baggage and a John Lovitz look-alike pester an Alan Alda look-alike about military service and grave digging. The upshot of the latter was Alda accepted a free beer just to get Lovitz to shut up. When they both left a few minutes later, the untouched beer made its way in front of me. This is also where I saw the bartender eat ice cream with a fork, the inspiration for the short story on my fiction blog.
  2. "The Cheers Bar" (Bull & Finch?) where I figured I had to go through that rite of passage. I don't have anything to write other than it was a tourist shop packed with drunks. How long ago did that sitcom end? Jeez.
  3. The Beanery is where I had a bit more fun - I met a couple in from Chicago who were great fun to talk to. The conversation was varied, but at one point we remarked upon how eclectic the music selection was. When I went to the bathroom, I discreetly put the Chicken Dance on the jukebox, much to the couple's great amusement. Also, to my surprise, several groups of people started dancing to it.

Tuesday was the day of the Thank You Road Show. I think I started by trying to acquire a New Zealand Meat Pie from a nearby bakery, but the bakery was closed (though, I might be misremembering my timeline - this may have happened before Harvard). In any case, I slowly made my way toward Fenway Park.
What a moon!
To condense several hours of fun, I'll relate one quick anecdote. During the "everybody eat, drink, and be merry" part of the event, there were a bunch of pictures taken. At one point, everyone at my table were asked to look toward the sun. Everyone other than me put their hand up to shade their eyes while the picture was lined up, so me, being a smartass wearing a hat, instead just saluted the photographer. A laugh was had, but I think a seed was planted. Later, during the "watch the Red Sox" part of the event, everyone would have to get up and down as folks made their way in and out of their seats. At some point I had to go pee or refill beer or something and, as folks started standing up, I think I said "Officer on deck!" Maybe I just did the salute again. In any case, after that, every time after that, whenever the get out of the seat shuffle happened, there was a string of "thank you for your service" - especially ironic as we were a bunch of volunteer moderators.

There's not much more to report (aside from a personal encounter), so I'll wrap things up. I checked out of the AirBnB, watched a family utterly fail at using public transit (after making a HUGE deal of getting off at Terminal B, they got off the bus at the vehicle rental terminal, then made a huge fuss of getting back on the bus a moment before it left), and came back to Philly.

I spent about $875, but that includes last-minute airfare. Had I not been an idiot (and went with a cheaper spot / couchsurfed), it could have been much, much cheaper.

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