Ken came and got me at South Station in Boston and then we went for a midnight drive around Boston where he showed me a lot of the sights. His enthusiasm for Boston was contagious and I was already partially in love with the city anyway. Maybe a part of that was hero syndrome though as I really did feel that Boston had just pulled me off the worst train ride Iâ€™d yet had in the United States.
While we were driving, I noted that just about every person I saw walking on the sidewalks and streets was doing a very similar flat footed glide that I internally named â€˜the Boston Shuffleâ€™. The reason was because of the slick ice that coated just about every flat surface. I had just arrived from Portland with two feet of Snow, Ogden with more, Chicago with bitter cold, but Boston won the prize for slick icy surfaces.
After catching up over Sam Adams and Kung Pao Chicken, I crashed out hard at 2 am or so on Kenâ€™s couch and then woke up the following morning to have bagels and coffee. Iâ€™ve noticed that as I move east, the number of Dunkin Donuts stores goes up exponentially. In Hawaii, Dunkin Donuts became the place where hookers congregated before it closed down, but on the East Coast, they are an institution and I have to admit that their bagels are better than anything Iâ€™ve had in Hawaii.
Ken took the day off work to show me around his city. We visited the USS Constitution at the waterfront and then climbed up Bunker Hill. After that we stopped by The Warren Tavern and had some â€˜chowdaâ€™. It was the best clam chowder Iâ€™ve ever had. The Warren Tavern is where the initial meetings of the Revolutionary War took place and where George Washingtonâ€™s wake was held. The beams inside are the original beams. It was one of Paul Revereâ€™s favorite watering holes.
From there we went to the North End and visited the North Church where Paul Revere hung the lantern to warn that the redcoats were coming. Here are a few pictures from there:
We stopped and picked up some incredible pastries and cannolis from Mikeâ€™s Pastries for dessert that night and wandered around the narrow twisting streets of the North End for a while before heading across the bridge to go to the old custom house and look at more of historic Boston. I met Ben Franklin inside a tourist shopping area and got a picture with him.
One thing about Boston surprised me. I had always been taught that the Boston Tea Party was the point where the colonials had decided enough was enough. I asked Ken about where the Tea Party had taken place and we googled it to see if we could find it, but it turns out that no one is really sure and that there arenâ€™t really any monuments to the event anywhere. Most people think it was Grotten Wharf, but even there, there is no marker.
Site of the Boston Tea Party? Maybe.
With that, we left the city heading north and Ken took me to another meaningful place. Lowell, Massachussets. We entered Lowell and went to the graveyard in the center. It was just past dusk and the graveyard was glowing in a sort of icy halo from about three inches of snow on the ground. We drove to section 94 (I think) and looked for the footprints that would lead to Jack Kerouacâ€™s grave. Ken was certain there would be offerings and that the stone would be uncovered, but perhaps America has changed again without anyone noticing as no one had visited the grave in some time as evidenced by the lack of â€˜offeringsâ€™ and the fact that the marker was not uncovered. In fact, since no one had given him a marker that stood above the ground and instead it was a flat stone that was flush with the surface, it wasnâ€™t visible at all. Ken had been there before and knew the general area and we poked it and kicked the ice and snow off the ground for a while. We were certainly in the right area and were stomping and poking around on top of Kerouacâ€™s remains, but we never did find the marker. At one point I had to step over to the street to piss and I was highly amused to piss â€˜On the Roadâ€™ next to Kerouacâ€™s gravesite. I left a smoke behind when we finally gave up because of our wet feet and the intense cold.
We drove back to Southie and got some of the best pizza Iâ€™ve ever had in my life. It was a sausage and ricotta pie from Salvatoreâ€™s Pizza. I also had a seasonal Boston beer that tasted like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Finally, we went back to Kenâ€™s place and his friend Amy came up. We shot the shit and played guitarâ€™s while walking through USMC memories and hanging out with this cool and crazy Midwest girl. Perhaps the highlight of the memory road was the weekend that â€œLance Corporals Palmer and Damitioâ€ bought and consumed 36 bottles of champagne over a 96 (three day weekend) while constantly listening to Social Distortionâ€™s version of Ball and Chain. Not surprisingly we were able to perform a guitar duet of the song for the lovely Miss Amyâ€¦Ken being a much superior and better practiced musician than I, but me knowing most of the words and at least one of the guitar chords.
During the day, I had realized that I wasnâ€™t particularly enjoying the enforced speed of the Amtrak trip. I also realized that I wanted to see Lena, one of my oldest friends, who lives in Rhode Island. So I called Amtrak and found them to be totally flexible about me changing my tickets. I hadnâ€™t had any luck in finding couches in D.C., Philly, or New York yet so changing plans worked in my favor in that regard too.
I ditched D.C. and got a ticket from Boston to Providence, Rhode Island instead. Later I also switched my last two legs so that I leave Providence on my last day of Amtrak travel, go to Philly for about five hours and then catch the train to New York City. And thus will end my Amtrak cross country adventure, however, this is all just really a small appetizer of what is to come. The real adventure begins when I leave New York heading to an as yet unknown European destination.
The next morning, I left Boston on the train to Providence.