Sunday, April 30, 2006

Boston Recap, Finally

(View of Boston from the Bunker Hill Monument)

Two weeks later, but wanted to get it all down. It was a fantastic trip, one that I'll probably never forget.

Flew up early on Saturday and from Logan Int'l we took a water taxi across Boston Harbor down to Quincy, which apparently is pronounced with like 14 Zs.

There, we toured the USS Salem. The Salem is a heavy cruiser, now out of commission. My Father was on a virtually identical ship during the Vietnam War, and getting to see the ship in person and place into context many of the stories we'd heard... well, it was really spectacular.

(Salem, view from the stern)

The ship is larger than I'd thought. In fact, the three ships (Salem, Des Moines and my father's ship, the Newport News) were the largest cruisers ever launched. Also, the teak deck was something I didn't expect.

I felt pretty claustrophobic in the gun turrets, especially when hearing that 10 crewmembers were in there at the same time.

The Bridge was really cool too. Classic Dad story on how they were bringing the ship into port in Casablanca and there were pretty much a million small little boats in the way, and my Dad was on the bridge basically steering. He tells the Captain about all of the ships (normally you mark and announce each contact ship and receive orders on how to avoid them) and gets the perfect response, "Thank you, Lieutenant. Miss them."

Everything about the tour was amazing, considering how it put everything I'd heard over the last few decades into context. I really felt incredibly proud of my Dad and was really glad we saw it.

After the tour we went to our hotel (after I got us lost on the Green Line) and then headed back out. Had dinner that night at Legal Sea Food just southwest of Boston Common. Yeah, I need to eat more Clam Chowder. Just a solid meal all around. Plus we ate with one of my Dad's best friends who was running in the Marathon on Monday. Good times. After dinner we ended up in Cambridge trying to find a bar. Strangely, we must've gone the wrong way, because we walked for several blocks without finding a single bar, but passing like 9 ice cream shops. That brings up two important facts I've determined about Boston: 1) It's the most ice-creamingest city I've ever been to. The longest line I saw all weekend was outside a Cold Stone Creamery, and it was right next door to two bars and a nice restaurant right near Boston Common. 2) There's no excuse for us walking that far without finding a bar in Cambridge. No college town should have more than a single block without a source of alcohol. Just unacceptable. Also, we took the red line train up there, and that's the train that'll get you to MIT and Harvard. I feel comfortable calling that train (about 10 PM on a Saturday) the most intellectual and nerdiest train in the history of trains. A few Guinnesseseseses later, and we were heading back to the hotel to get some rest before the next day, sure to be a marathon of its own.

Sunday morning we got up a little early, caught some buses and trains and headed down toward Fenway Park in anticipation of the afternoon game against the Mariners. When I first suggested we head up early and mill around, have lunch beforehand, even I didn't think it'd be that crowded by the time we got there. Well, we arrived around the park about 10:45 AM and there were tons of people hanging out, rolling into bars, shopping in the souvenir stores, scalping, etc. It was more than 3 hours before the game, on Easter Sunday, and comparable to about 20 minutes before a big Braves' game. Crazy. Walked around a little, then headed into Boston Beer Works for lunch and a few brews. Food was pretty good, but the way the crowd filled in was unreal. By 12:30 the bar was 4 deep all the way around. Packed. And everyone had a jersey of some ilk on. Papi was probably the most common, but lots of Youkilis too.

About 1 we headed into the park. Descriptions devolve into cliches, but it's really a great place. Just feels like it was meant for baseball. Everything in its right place. But more than the history and the coolness of the park, it's just really a good place to watch a game. Every seat is close to the field. You're jammed in some, and there are obstructed views, but you feel like a part of the game too. Just awesome.

(Our View of the field, with Papi about to miss)

There are a million things about Fenway I liked, and nothing I didn't. The fans are every bit as great as everyone says. They're into the game more than they probably should be. Seriously, we're talking about a game on April 16th, and on a one strike foul ball the whole crowd is screaming for the ball to make the seats. Plus, Wily Mo Pena made two terrible plays in the field. Late in the game he makes a catch on a lazy, routine fly and the crowd gives him a boisterous standing ovation. Great sarcasm.

Other things I liked: the beer on draft came in three types, Bud, Bud Light and Guinness; they have aisle vendors selling hot dogs with a Batman-type utility belt with condiments; I bought peanuts and the vendor threw them at me about 30 rows away, was off a little and I had to make a decent stretch, over my unaware Dad and brother, who flinched nicely (and I got a few nice catches from the crowd) - I think they don't let the vendors do that at Turner Field anymore.

Basically, Fenway was the best ballpark I've been to (I'm now up to 7 I think). I think it's better than Wrigley, but I reserve the right to revisit. AT&T Park in San Fran has a lot to live up to.

After the game we stopped in a bar to let the crowd on the trains disperse, and then we ended up near Harvard again later that night, where we continued drinking and met up with Darkness. Nice evening, and I think I consumed more alcohol than should've been allowed on an Easter Sunday.

Monday was Patriots Day, and we got up and checked out relatively early. We decided to do the tourist stuff and walk the Freedom Trail, then go watch some of the Marathon. The Freedom Trail was actually really interesting, and served to give us a decent bit of exercise (and get Sunday's beer out of our systems).
(Statue of Paul Revere, Old North Church on the far left)

The walk wasn't too strenuous, and I recommend it. The older cemeteries were something you definitely don't see very often.

We crossed the bridge over to Charlestown, saw (couldn't board - not open on Patriots Day(?)) the USS Constitution. Then we hiked up the hill, and all the way to the top of the Bunker Hill monument. Great view of the harbor and the whole city, from Cambridge and Fenway, all the way to the Harbor.

Then we took the train back over to the Back Bay area to see the Marathon's finish. We kind of walked the last mile or so of the course, seeing racers at the end. Tons of respect for them, but I saw only one or two people actually happy. Everyone was just completely wiped out. Just nuts. But walking the end of the course also gave me another taste of how great Boston sports fans are. People were going nuts the whole time, drinking and having fun. And these weren't just friends and family of runners - they were locals just there for the scene. Fantastic.

(Finish Line of the Marathon)

All in all, it was a great trip. I really think, and it may not come across in this post, that we got a good feel for the city, especially riding on buses and trains and just seeing people around Fenway and the marathon. I got a real sense of history, from a national standpoint, and from a family standpoint. And we had fun. It was a great weekend.