My plane landed in Boston at four p.m. on December 5. It only took ten minute by subway (called the T) to arrive at the wrong station, which is where I got off. Boston's Charles Street is a safe place. It is not dangerous, dark or scary. However, I would take any of those over the knick-knack and gimcrack emporiums jammed side by side along the narrow historic roadway. In December, these stores specialize in perfectly meaningless Christmas gifts. Shoppers can choose from gourmet coffees, ugly Boston sweatshirts, and more woodcraft crap than a wood-shitting man could produce in a lifetime.
Not all of Charles Street is dedicated to falderal, though. I made my way south and finally reached Boston Commons, a large, pleasant park with some of the strangest statuary. It's not Central Park, but they have nice walkways, open grassy areas, and ponds with swan-shaped boats. It's also home to the fattest squirrels in the world. Charles Street divides the Commons into two sections. I have no idea what the sections are called, but I think the poor people can't go in one of them.
My hotel, the Boston Milner, was a quarter mile south of the Commons. It's an old, converted brownstone just outside the Theater District. When I booked it on the Internet, I was lured by the hotel's claims of reasonable luxury and New England Charm. When I checked in I assumed that the clerk's unpleasant demeanor and foul-mouth were part of the charm. They weren't; they were reflections of the fact that she worked in a dump. I had asked for a room for two people, but got only one bed, and didn't even have enough room for another person to sleep on the floor. In fact, the room was so small that the TV was mounted on a rack hanging over the bed. The carpet was the industrial brown stuff found in high school hallways. The desk wobbled. The window looked upon a brick wall four feet away. The walls were faded and peeling.
No sooner had I flipped through the TV channels to see if the Boston Milner provided any naked lady channels (it didn't) when there was a knock on the door. It was Stinky, fresh from a four-hour Peter Pan bus ride from New York. I showed him the room and, since it was my employer paying for it, told him I got the bed. "Where will I sleep?" he whined. I suggested, "The bums seem to like the lobby. Try that."
Stinky and I pored through his multitude of tourist guides. We realized that these books were written for fat cats. Seafood sounded expensive. For that matter, so did French, Italian, Mexican and American. We settled on a restaurant that no longer existed because it used to be within walking distance.
Near our dive was the Four Seasons Hotel, which always had Rolls Royce, Porsche and Mercedes parked in front of it. The lone exception was a Ford Taurus, but its Massachusetts plates read "SENATE 8." Maybe it was Ted Kennedy, but we doubt it because we couldn't smell him. This Four Seasons was so damn fancy, I swear, it looked like it cost them money just to stand around. In fact, the Four Seasons was so high-class that they had a bunch of burly guys standing around just to weed out folks like us, as we found out.
We continued down Boyleston Street, to our defunct restaurant of choice, only to find it had been replaced by a tall office building. By this point, we were starving and our usually low standards bottomed out. We entered the first place we found. "Whiskey's" was a barbecue house, not something Boston is famous for. However, the food was good and more than ample. For about $30 bucks total (including enough beer to get me to say, "Sometimes I wish my abdomen swelled more."), we had more barbecued meats and french fries than we could eat. My plate included a half-chicken, a mound of pulled pork and a half-slab of ribs, fries and cole slaw. Like many of our favorite restaurants in Las Vegas, Whiskeys had a "You Keep The Plate" special for customers that left quickly and quietly. Because it was so busy, they even let us keep the flatware, ketchup bottle and several glasses.
Stinky and I were the only normal people in the place. One table down, a fat college boy with hideous dreadlocks pounded his airdrums with wild abandon. Across from us, four unpretty college girls squealed and asked the waiter to take their picture. Apparently, they wanted to have a memento of the night they spent in an unremarkable restaurant. Mark fell in love with one young lass, until she leaped to her feet and belted the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days." The fatty joined in on airdrums.
Stuffed to the gills, we ventured out into the dark city. We rode the T to Harvard Square. My plan was to ding-dong ditch John Kenneth Galbraith's house, which is right beside the university. Emerging from the subway into the Square, we expected see thousands of high-minded students processing complex bits of information in their egg-shaped heads. Instead, we found a dense thicket of ne'er-do-well teenagers dressed all in black. They had stringy hair, doughy skin, and dour expressions. They stood around, pouting en masse, waiting for something. Every one of them had the horrible posture of an 80 year-old woman who had never absorbed any calcium. The gothic teens consumed Starbuck's coffee, discussed "Dungeons and Dragons," Anne Rice, comic books, and other issues of national importance. Farther away from the Square, there are two main things the students like to do. First, they buy Scandinavian furniture by the ton. Second, they put on performance art. We walked past dozens of shops featuring light-wood, modern furniture. It all looked pretty much the same, although, I'm sure the Harvard wizards with their giant brains know the differences. Through the half-window of a shop basement, we watched a young woman make all sorts of racket on an electric guitar while a multi-colored strobe light flashed in her face. I wanted to go in, but the smell of incense at the door was so overpowering it knocked me back onto the sidewalk. Elsewhere, small stages were set up in upstairs foyers and men dressed as elves or witch doctors pranced about. As we walked, Stinky kept saying aloud, "Pythagoras may not be entirely correct," in hopes of engaging some brainiacs in conversation. No such luck. Harvard is easily the most overrated university in the country.
Back at the Boston Milner, I made myself comfortable in the hovel, and then let Stinky find a space for himself. He finally fell asleep sitting against the wall, although we both would have fallen asleep much sooner if he wouldn't have spent half the night bugging me for one of my pillows.
Sunday morning, Stinky and I got out of the hotel shortly after devouring the continental breakfast, and convincing the new, and far more polite, desk clerk that our room was not suitable for two adults. Our new room was just as seedy, but it had two beds.
The remainder of this report, along with pictures, can be found here.
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