“Good morning sir my name is Gary this is your….”
“I am already up, I was in the showe….
“….early morning alarm call to wake you and let you know that the restaurant is now open to serve you breakfast as this is a very…”
“I AM AWA…..”
“….important meal of the day as it will provide you with the necessary energy to ensure you enjoy your time in Boston”
“Finished yet, you fucking punctuation-dodging receptionbot?”
And so, my first morning on this whistle stop tour of three East Coast cities in 4 days – Boston, New York and Washington DC – begins. Having had a less than reasonable amount of sleep the night before the flight, then even less after being up for 24 hours, I was more irritable than The Singing Detective looking for his E45 cream.
My flight had been delayed getting in yesterday afternoon, due to delays at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Caused by…wait for it….a STRIKE! Yes, who would have thought that the hard working and hugely unappreciated work ethic and conditions of certain French public sector workers would be halted? I have been informed by a real life, actual hard-working Frenchman that there is a website that details when the scheduled strikes are (if it ever gets updated, etc). I suggested that it would be easier to list the days when there isn’t one. After all, the 35-hour working week and retirement age of 60 is downright scandaleux in this day and age.
I have never been to Boston before, and having been there for less than 24 hours, I appreciate that is hardly a reasonable amount of time in which to form a detailed and rational argument for or against any city the size of Boston. However, I can report that strolling through the city in the early evening, the leafy streets of the Newbury Street area was a very pleasant experience. The red-bricked fronts, the greenery everywhere, the slow strolls of the patrons gave the pace of London or New York a valium and a smile. There was no rush. Even the traffic jams were chilled. And that was at 5.30.
With no agenda and time to kill, I followed a slow chain of people in baseball gear, towards what turned out to be the route to Fenway Park: home of the Boston Red Sox, one of the most famous baseball teams in the World. A handsome old stadium, remodeled and updated internally by the new owners of Liverpool FC, it reeked of history and success. If their job here is anything to go by, I think it plausible that Anfield will undergo a similar remodeling rather than building a new, soulless, purpose built stadium, and the rebirth of that club will begin in earnest.
With it being gameday, the crowds were gathering in the bars surrounding the ground, and it struck me that unlike the male-dominated posturing and dick-measuring boastfulness of English football fans, the crowd was as much couples and families as it was groups of men out on the piss. The main street was closed to traffic, and grills smoked and filled the air along with the chatter of expectant fans and music from the bars. Fans of opposing teams mixed, drank, laughed and were committed to having a good time with no ounce of threat. It’s apparently a little different when they’re arch rivals, and the pantomime villains of baseball, the New York Yankees, are in town. There is no love lost between these two, but I still doubt it is hardly a Glaswegian Old Firm derby in it’s intensity, but is a close to hate as baseball gets. For the record, the Red Sox got hammered 6-1 by the Chicago White Sox. The Battle of the Soxes was over.
I then retreated to the hotel bar, where the music was of an unparalleled level. Not just decent bands, but the happenstance of favourite specific songs added to the warmth glow I had from the evening sun – time for bed.
Fenway Park, yesterday – handsome and historic
After this morning’s initial conversation, I had a lesson in how large this country is. My cab ride to the meeting was $100. There is no other way of getting to Foxboro. It was 45 minutes away on freeways, and is still regarded as Boston. Leeds is, thankfully, not in Manchester though in distance is actually closer than Foxboro is to Boston. Having been dropped off for my meeting, getting a cab back was slightly more problematic: there was no taxi rank, no public transport, and I was miles from anywhere. Unless in the central metropolitan districts of major cities, you need a car. And, it seems, to drive it like an ignorant bell-end. The kind people at the nearest hotel arranged one for me, and my driver started the ensuing return discussing politics. His opening statement of “You know who I really had a lot of time for…?” in that north-of-New-York drawl had me concerned: “Maggie Thatcher – she had Reagan’s balls on a necklace”. I invented a phone call and spent the next twenty minutes talking to my hand about purchase order processes.
Having made it back to the city, I am now on a train towardsNew York, winding it’s way south and hugging the coastline. It is a beautiful landscape, punctuated with some amazing houses that, short of the elusive lottery win, will be well beyond this writer’s means. However, I was reminded and assured by the wise words of @moosola – “I often think when on a train ‘that house looks gorgeous’ until I realise it’s got a fucking big train going though the garden”.
New York and Washington to follow soon.
And don’t forget to follow me on twitter @benopause – as if you lot needed telling.