Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Autumn in Boston

I know it's been a month. Where have I been? Working, mostly. I'm sorry I haven't posted. I'll get to some car stuff, but the bus has sat mostly idle (poor Hapy) because I haven't been able to get the rims done, so he's sitting on that old fading rubber. I have made a little headway on the rims since The Other One post. For today, the Boston trip.

The family reunion consisted of around 70 relatives all on my father's mother's side. His mother was a first generation US-born, so we had a healthy representation from her homeland: Ireland. Most of the 70 family members stayed at the Residence Inn in Chelsea. Why it is called anything about the Logan Airport, I don't know. It cost $30 by taxi from the airport, so it isn't exactly next door.

Chelsea looks really close to downtown Boston, until you need to get there by anything other than a private car (or Uber). The 112 bus runs from Haymarket Square, but it does a scenic loop before stopping at the hotel. In the end, we used the bus to get into the city a bunch, but used the cabs to get home.

Near to the hotel is one of the largest supermarkets any of us (including my Texas sister) have ever seen. We nick-named the Market Basket "Massive Market" for that reason. It was handy for grabbing go salads for lunch before heading into Boston. We were disappointed to realize that Massachusetts (MA) is effectively a blue-state for we non-natives. No beer or wine sold anywhere except a liquor store or bar. Ye-ouch that hurt... though it also meant we spent more time at the hotel bar... with many of our relatives... drinking late... and being loud. Take that MA.

The Burren
The weekend kicked off with an evening starter in the reserved back room of The Burren (in Somerville). I don't remember much of this evening except that I started my exploration of Irish Whisky here. There were lots of introductions, and then we switched venues to the hotel bar where things got a little more blurry. Since I hadn't really gotten any sleep the night before, I'll blame that. I crashed around 1:AM local time.

Harbor Tour
Having grown up in the North East, I'd been to Boston a bunch of times. I've seen the Red Sox win at Fenway. I've walked the deck of the US Constitution. I've shopped Quincy Market. I hadn't, however, ever seen the city from the water, nor had a real tour guide explain the sights. Our leader, Frank, organized a group outing on a triple-deck boat getting a full tour of the Boston harbor. Much like the Duck Boats, these boats must seem annoying to the locals. For a true tourist, it was really fantastic. I learned more about how the harbor was formed, the history of the various islands and of the landmarks than in all the trips I'd taken as a youngster. It was fantastic.

BC Football... sort of
After the tour ended, my brothers, my dad and I hit the mass transit to try to get to a college football game. As I've said before, try to fit a sporting event into your trip. At the very least, you can have that as a highlight. Well, the T is very efficient moving through the city so long as it stays below ground. The Green Line hits the surface near Fenway and then seems to stop every 30 feet as it runs along the Charles before heading south on Commonwealth Ave towards Boston College. To be fair, my dad did forewarn us that it would be a long-ish train ride. He was totally right. By the time we got to the BC stop (end of the line), we were famished and the game was deep into the 2nd quarter. We hit Crazy Dough's Pizza for grinders and slices of pizza rather than quick-foot over to the game. Delicious, and they had the game on the radio.

All full and fired up for football, we crossed Commonwealth and made our way across campus to the football stadium. We could hear the bands, so we knew it was halftime when we got to the ticket booth. "$40 each," the guy says. We point out that the game is half over, and he says "no discounts". Sorry, BC, but you gotta do better than that. We walked out, deciding that watching half a game for $160 just didn't pencil out. Instead, my dad gave us a sorta-tour of the campus. He got his Masters there many years ago, so it was really more of a tour of "there used to be a field over there" and "I think that used to be..". Regardless, it was really great to just roam with my father and brothers for a sunny afternoon.

North End Italian
No trip to Boston is complete without grabbing a meal in the North End. The Italian food there is the high mark for all Italian food, IMHO. Yes, Chicago, I've had Italian food in your fine city. Not as good. Frank arranged to a final big event upstairs at Riccardo's Ristorante in classic multi-course style. So good. I can't remember all the dishes now, but the salad, the fish and the chicken parm still resonate. My brother, sister and I had tickets to see our old friend Al perform as part of a comedy show, so we had to split before the desserts and coffee were served. Sadness. Based on the meal, I'm sure it was amazing. You can see a liquor store next door in the picture here. I didn't put that together when I first saw it, but my brother and his wife saw it, and got a couple bottles of wine for later. Smart move.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Al Park
Full of food and dressed to impress, we headed west to Cambridge (I think) to catch a backroom comedy show with our old friend Al closing the event. The line-up was hit and miss, but Al described the forum as a place where comics try very new rough material, so sometimes it zings and sometimes, well, it doesn't. Al was absolutely hilarious. He was always funny. He could always take a room full of people at a party and make them laugh. As a comic, he takes a room full of people and makes them laugh over and over again. Within 15 seconds we had tears on our cheeks and within a minute we couldn't breathe. He admitted afterwards that he used some battle tested stuff. It was really fantastic.
After his show, we closed the bar down visiting and remembering when like you do when you haven't seen someone in a long time.
If you're local and you read this in time, Al is performing in Vancouver WA Nov5 at Kiggins Theater. Otherwise, he's performing around Seattle this week and next.
We got back to the hotel in time to see the blood moon and have a few drinks with the relatives.

Quincy Market, Durgin Park and JJ O'Donovan's
After getting so little sleep for two nights in a row, you'd think I would have slept in on Sunday. Nope. Free breakfast can wake the Dead. We learned that a few folks had tickets to the New England Patriots game and others were going to catch the Red Sox later. I guess I see where I get that thing from now; family traits are funny that way. Anyway, my sister had a flight out that afternoon, and my dad, brother and sis-in-law wanted to hit Quincy market. Not a shopper, I figured I could people watch so I jumped on the bus and hit the Market. Being an absolute gorgeous day, the market was bumping. I collected a few Boston Bruin things and after Yelp searches and some aimless wandering, we all headed into Durgin Park for dinner. My dad's mom, the relative we had in common with all the family we came to meet, worked at Durgin Park during WWII. So, in a way, it was the perfect final meal before we started heading back to our respective homes. The food was okay, I got a weird tasting beer that they traded out for a whisky, but the service was good. As we were walking out, we saw the name of the bar next door: JJ O'Donovan's Bar. In a weird kismet evening, of course after we stumbled upon the restaurant my grandmother used to work in, we'd find a bar with her last name on the door. I immediately bought my dad, my brothers and myself T-shirts. hahaha. so much for that not-a-shopper thing.

That's really it for the trip. I didn't get into getting to know the relatives. It was pretty amazing, on top of all the stuff I described above. We got to really visit with Katherine, our cousin who currently owns the family farm back in Ireland. She represents the current member of a family line of land-holders stretching back hundreds of years. Wild stuff. I, like everyone else who was there, hope we do this again in two years on the family farm like they did two years ago.

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