Sunday, October 09, 2005

Road Trip II: Nor'east

Word to the wise: if you leave Atlanta around noon and plan to stop at a hotel somewhere around New Jersey, do not expect a lot of vacancy if your trip happens to coincide with Fashion Week, UN Week, and CMJ music festival. There will be no room at the Inn, and no one will offer you a manger. You will keep on driving until you get to Providence, which will happen around 6:30 in the morning. Luckily, Providence will have real actual proper coffee shops open at this hour, which will make it all worthwhile.

Providence is adorable, and has a very different attitude than Floribama. It's hard to put into words exactly, so I'll show you some photos.

In a bar, which raised their prices from $1.50 to $2 for a pint:
How it is

On a shirt someone at said bar was wearing:
Art slut

On a wall around town:
Liberty and Justice
Which is a very poignant sentiment despite the spelling error.

There's a giant bug on the side of the road as you enter the city:
Huge bug

Even the street signs are so... New Englandy:

Some things, however, like poor marketing decisions, don't seem limited to one region or another:

From Providence we moved on to Boston. If you've never been to Boston, here it is in a nutshell:

Dunkin' Donuts:


And Brick Dunkin' Donuts:
Brick Dunkies

That's the general aesthetic.

The pastime is most definitely baseball. The city's official shirt/hat/bumper sticker/keychain/baby blanket/conversation is: Red Sox. You watch the game for hours, then talk about it for hours, then play the baseball video game, then talk about it some more.

They start the indoctrination really young:
Teensy little game

This game was really cute. The player-to-coach ratio was like 2 to 1. While watching the game I chanced to overhear this most adorable conversation :
Loose toof
Player: (with finger in front of mouth) "mmphhpmmmmppffff"
Coach: "Hey buddy, I know it's tempting don't pull that out too quick. Wait till you get home, your mom can help you put it under your pillow and maybe get some money for it."

The park is called Boston Commons, which is lovely although I don't really know what it means. It was in the commons that I discovered that, contrary to popular belief, one does not have to rely solely on San Francisco's Golden Gate park to experience really bad music in an urban park environment:

There's also a lovely pond in the middle:
What's this?

But, lo! What is this watercraft that heads our way?
It's a swan boat!
Why, it's a swan boat, of course! Tourists have the opportunity to view 360 degrees of the three foot deep aquatic algae pond. They needn't feel limited to viewing it from shore.

How is such a magical vehicle powered, you ask?
The truth
Why, it's a two-legpower engine! Also known as the buff-legs Boston summer job, also known as Boston's answer to the rickshaw, except that it doesn't actually take you anywhere but in a slow, shallow circle.

How do the actual swans that live in the pond feel about the swan boats? They must be proud to be immortalized in such grandeur.
So embarassed
Nope. They hide their heads in shame each time the boat passes by. I can't say I blame them.

Boston also has great shopping, including this store made just for me:
Tall girl shop

And this:
Inflatable lock
Nothing like a GIANT inflatable padlock to make me feel like a storage unit is safe.

I was lucky enough to take ride around Boston Harbor (pronounced Bahstahn Hahbah) in a boat. It was wicked fun.
Boston Skyline

I don't get to go in boats that often but I learned a couple of things.
Boats have gas stations, too.
Boat Gas Station

And for anyone who feels weird about gas prices and SUVs, check this:
And a boat gets around two miles to the gallon. So you have to have... let's see... like 10-15 times as much fun per hour on a boat to make it worth it. Which we did.
We saw this boat which seems so Bostoney to me:
Old Glory
Just slap a brick Dunkin' Donuts and a Red Sox sticker on there and you're set.

From a boat, you get to go right under the flight path for Logan Airport and these huge jetliners fly right over your head. There are all of these cool tiny islands to zip around and check out, and it's really beautiful.

Our Bostonian boat tour guides explained that this island has brick barracks on it that have been designated as housing for homeless Bostonians:
There's a bridge that connects it to the city and apparently it has pretty tight security- only residents are allowed in.

There was another island that used to be a landfill/dump and then was converted into a park that people could visit by boat. They had planned to put an amusement park on it, but that didn't work out. It was recently shut down because it is burping up toxic sludge and slowly sinking into the water.

There was another one that was a smallpox quarantine island a loooong time ago. It was accessible to the public until recently, when it was discovered that the shoreline was eroding and- how should I say this?- seeping diseasiness. There are big signs up now saying that it's best not to dock there for a visit.

On a lighter note, but not really, there's this:
Beware, pirates!
Which is a big thingie off of which they would hang convicted pirates as a warning to other pirates. That's a pretty direct crime deterrent system as well as a precursor to the modern billboard, I'd say. You don't even have to translate into different languages. People just get it.

Maybe this is sounding like a creepy boat trip, but it wasn't, it was really nice. We got to see the sunset over the city:
Boston sunset

And then an orange moonrise as we walked from the dock to dinner:
Red Moon

Dinner was an awesome event, with crab legs and fried clam baskets and buckets of seafood-eating tools:
Fried food bucket

I put on the bib that came with the meal, you know, just to fit in with the locals. Of which, exactly zero were wearing their bibs.
Rockin' the bib
It was a good thing I did, too, because it was covered in crab bits by the time I was done.

The restaurant also gave us these space age tools for cracking open the crab legs:
Crab rock
Yes, that's a rock. Yes, you are supposed to bonk your way to dinner. Just like our forefathers' forefathers' forefathers did.

Walking around the super fancy part of the docks downtown, you can't help but see this:
The photo does it no justice, but it's stinkin huge, and really shiny and super duper fancy. It's the yacht that belongs to the owner of the Red Sox, and everybody knows it. It's no secret what's popular and makes lots of money around here. There wasn't a Dunkin' Donuts yacht, so maybe it's a franchise.

Bars in Boston are pretty cool. We found one that had my favorite beer from when I lived in Kenya:
Baada ya kazi

And I spotted this super tall guy and just had to tell him how rad his shirt/hat combo is:
Peace is patriotic
And- lo and behold!- he was part of Cindy Sheehan's traveling party. They were all on their way up to DC for the big rally. She was in the same bar, I guess I'd been so obsessed with my Tusker beer that I didn't see her walk right past me through the narrow bar. We got to meet her and say hello. If you don't believe me, here's a dark, blurry photo of the back of her head, which as anyone who has read a tabloid knows is irrefutable proof of anything:
Cindy Sheehan

As our Boston trip was coming to a close, we took a day trip out to Walden Pond, which was really cool.
Walden Pond
I think they're spoiled for bodies of water in the northeast, because in California we'd call something an eighth that size a lake, and a pond is something that forms in your driveway when it rains.

It's really lovely there, a wonderful place to go with your sweetheart.

There are rocks and leaves and and a nice path around the "pond." There are also these scary trees that look like they're eating the fence.
Nibble nibble:
Omnivorous tree


Here's a replica of Thoreau's cabin:
Thoreau's Cabin
It's 10'x15'. They put the replica there so that you can marvel at how simply he was living, but a private studio like that with a yard would be worth like $3,000 per month in New York. This Thoreau guy built it for just over 28 bucks.

There's a pretty rad sign next to the pile of rocks that marks where his actual cabin used to be:
Walden Pond sign

There was this sign pointing up the path:
Thoreau's what?
Which is clearly not in reference to his house, because all of the other signs call it a "cabin."

As we progressed along the path we figured it out. It had just been a misspelling of what was clearly Thoreau's Hat:
Thoreau's Hat

Leaving Walden Pond is kind of an adventure. We'd gotten a bit turned around on the way in and asked directions, but oddly enough the people at the gas station less than two miles away had no idea what we were talking about. Fine, we figured, even though there is not one single other world famous landmark public park in the area. On the way out, we asked for directions back to the highway back to Boston. The folks at the second gas station had absolutely no clue. They live half an hour from a major world-class metropolis and they had not one clue how to get to there. The gas station employee whipped out a map and it all started to make sense- the map was for like four square miles. It's an interesting way to think about spatial relations. Four miles. We obtained another, much larger map that included the fabled lost city called BOSTON and made our way back.

On our way out the following day, we hit up Dunkie's one last time:
Boston Kreme
Lookie! Boston is rewarded for their loyalty with their very own donut flavor. But "Kreme"? Mother nature must be cringing. What is this Kreme? Does it have any relationship whatsoever with cream? Or even any dairy in it? If it were spelled "creme" or "kream" would that signify a closer relationship with an actual food product? How far away does it have to be to be spelled "kreme"? I went ahead and didn't try it.

Next stop: New York City!
I've flown over and driven through New York a lot of times over the years, and every single time it strikes me how it just goes on... forever.

Driving through NY, we saw a few of these:
School bus
The sign says, "This vehicle has been checked for sleeping children."
No kids, no... really
Something bad must have happened, like children waking up at night alone in bus yards. But it really gives someone on a quick passing-through trip the sense that it's a scary scary place to be a kid.

We also saw this awesome BAM! sign, which about sums up how it feels to drive into New York after hours of small towns and fields:
BAM! You're in New York.

I always wonder how the graffiti artists in urban areas are so much more motivated and resourceful in big cities. How do they get up there? Why are people in Pensacola happy with scribbling on bathroom walls and New Yorkers perform acrobatic feats?
What do they do, go up on the roof and then paint the whole thing upside down? Someone should give these people a medal for bravery.

Speaking of bravery, here's a thing I only see in New York:
safety last!
What is this, safety last? That guy has no goggles and he's practically standing in traffic. At least he had an orange cone, unlike this brave fellow:
He's just dead center of the intersection, no cones, with huge saw.
Cars just speed on by like it's nothing.
Don't mind me, I'm just slicing up the street.
Slice, slice, slice. Just slicing up the street with a huge saw. No need to block either street off or even ask people to slow down.

We only stayed in the city long enough to have dinner and sleep, but it was great fun, and as always it made me wish I had lots of time and money to really appreciate it.

On our way out in the morning, we watched the skyline recede and the trees at the side of the road became thicker and greener. We hopped on the Jersey Turnpike, which must be the most expensive of the roads in this country:
Maybe the garden state uses all that money for... gardening or something.

On the road, it feels like a really quick transition from super urban to pretty rural. We started seeing things like this pretty quckly:
Leaving the city

Goodbye, New York. Next stop: The midwest!


At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 5:38 PM, Anonymous homer said...

donuts, is there anything they cant do?

At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great pictures of EAST-SIDE! of course Dunkin Donuts-excellent

At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ps. whatsup with the shipping the homeless people to a toxic island?hg

At 1:22 PM, Anonymous elyse said...

i love the picture of the red moon. nice post, muffin, i could almost hear you saying all of that.


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