In short: Boston is known as ‘bean town. But it should be known as ‘mean town’ – because if you ask the locals a question, they’ll look at you like you laughed at them naked. Try to exchange any of the banal pleasantries that you might use in any other city and you’ll get nothing. No one is going to wish you a great day. No one wants to know where you’re from. No one wants to know if you’ve met the Queen…
It’s a harsh town. A hair-sh town, as the locals would have it. But it’s also a fun town, full of weird places to eat and sports to see in historic stadia. And what else do you want from one of the great American cities?
Boston loves two things: construction and hockey. Head to the waterfront by the North End and it’s all girders, splintered beams and closed walkways. Like Berlin, Boston is constantly being rebuilt – partly because it’s an old city and partly because they just like building shit.
TD Garden, where the Bruins and the Celtics play, is also by the North End. It’s a colossus with it’s own train station in the bowels of the stadium. Outside is this famous tribute to Bobby Orr, who scored the Stanley Cup Final ‘winning’ goal in 1970. It’s one of the most famous events in Boston’s sporting history, despite the fact the Bruins actually won the series 4-0.
I love a Pro Shop, but the Bruins/Celtics one is basically a Matalan – dark, with strip lighting; things on the floor; jerseys in those wire bins they used to have in Woolworths. If you try anything on the tattooed women behind the counter will put down their cigarettes and immediately demand a knife fight.
Bostonians are acutely aware of how silly they sound when they talk. The whole ‘wadda’ (‘water’), ‘bear’ (‘bar’), ‘wicked awesome’ (can mean ANYTHING) thing is an intrinsic part of the city’s identity. They know they sound odd and if they could find any way of sounding odder, they would.
Franklin Zoo is the city’s only real; animal park and it’s in a sketchy part of town called Jamaica Plain (it’s not dangerous, just rundown and a long way from downtown). It’s best summed up by this picture of an inbred white tiger. Although I didn’t get a photo of it there was an electric office fan plugged into an extension cable, which was cooling passers-by outside on a concrete walkway. If anything’s killing the polar bears, it’s behaviour like that….
Boston loves its seafood – clam chowder, New England lobster and fried scrod (like battered cod, but tasting more of piss). On the coast it’s cheap. Downtown – it ain’t. I got this platter for 30 bucks in Legal Sea Foods, the most famous and beloved chain in the city. It was good, but would have been better if the guy folding the napkins at the pass hadn’t spent my whole meal hawking up homemade chowder from his blocked sinuses.
Actually saw this sign in Plymouth, which is a train or bus ride from Boston and which is quiet, coastal and centred around a theme park which basically celebrates the arrival of the white man to America. Go to Sam Diego’s – a tacky Mexican eatery where the waitresses are basically the nicest people ever. Also – you can get to Cape Cod via ferry from Plymouth. The landing point is Provincetown, which is extremely, shall we say, ‘liberated’ but genuinely one of the most magical places in America.
Gillette Stadium is an odd place and probably best not experienced during a preseason game (like I did). It’s in Foxoboro, which is a long way from Boston and there’s only one train a day in each direction. Because it’s not a ‘bowl’ stadium the noise tends to drift out onto the highway. It’s very much a modern stadium in that the owners want you to arrive early and spend the whole day (and a lot of money) at Patriot Plaza, and many of the seats are so far from the field that they expect you watch the action on the MASSIVE screens.
Fenway, on the other hand, is an absolute must. Head down to the Back Bay neighbourhood during the day and hang out – it’s a student area full of decent bars, restaurants and book shops. Do the ace tour and sit on the Green Monster because God knows you’ll never get to sit there otherwise. Then catch a game in the evening – many of the non-playoff games will be available on the gate. Red Sox fans are a typically cantankerous bunch, but in an age of modern, soulless ball parks, FP is the original and the best.