26 September 2007

The People's Republic

I spent much of today in the People's Republic of Cambridge, to give it its full title. However, I felt out of respect to my father, I ought to engage in some historical activities while here (though to be fair, I probably did them all when I came in 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2005).

Firstly, I walked the length of the Freedom Trail, which was hot work in the 30 degree heat (starkly contrasting to the last time I did it on Boxing Day, 2005, when it was bloody cold). Boston is awfully pretty in parts, as well as being *less press* in others. I do like the red-brick buildings with their Christmas card-like white trim. I walked all the way across the river to Charlestown and Bunker Hill (technically, Breed's Hill, but apparently having two contiguous hills whose names both began with b was too complicated so history has confused the two) of the famous battle in the American War of Independence. I felt very treacherous sitting watching the movie in the visitors' centre but it was a long time ago and we're all friends now.

I also made the exhilarating climb 300 steps up the Bunker Hill monument. I then caught the T over to Hahvahd Yahd (Bawston is a sociolinguist's dream! It's all I can do not to ask everything where I can find items I know to be located on the fourth floor. Ah, the joys of 16th century settlement patterns...). The T itself is a funny old thing; you can tell it's the oldest subway system in the U.S. and the green line, in particular, with its big, tall cars that seem to large to fit through the tunnels, is very old fashioned. I was surprised this visit to find that the metal tokens needed to ride the T were no longer in existence (last time I was here, almost two years ago, they were very much still operational) and had been replaced by the dubiously named Charlie Card...

Anyway, I wandered around the Yard for a while and then flopped down on the lawn in front of one of the libraries to read and people watch. Harvard is lucky that it looks just as pretty on a hot September day as it does on a snowy December day.

In need of dinner, I headed for Mr Bartley's Burger Cottage, which has become somewhat of a Cambridge institution and if you want a burger and a shake, then you're all set. The accolades on the wall claiming that both the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe proclaim Mr Bartley's burgers to be the best in the country are very impressive too. One day, I will have to do a Kerouac-inspired road trip, only it would be the Burger Tour of America not the Ice Cream Tour. The burgers are all quirkily named; I had the relatively boring Yuppie Burger (bacon cheeseburger) but I also heard the servers yelling out "Viagra, medium" (rises to the occasion! Blue cheese, BLT and fries) and "John Kerry, medium well" (he voted this the best burger before he voted against it! Swiss cheese, mushrooms, tomato, lettuce, and fries) to name but two. I was also very impressed with the house special drink, a raspberry lime rickey, which consists of freshly squeezed lime juice, raspberry juice,

In an attempt to actually have a day of relaxation, I'm heading off to Concord, Mass., tomorrow to get in touch with my naturalist side. History, bookshops, independent coffee shops and the Walden Pond wherein I can, hopefully, swim. Perhaps the serenity and the history of writing in the place will actually allow me to write that short story I've been planning since San Francisco. I'm not too optimistic of that but then when the alternative is reading Gravity's Rainbow, who knows?

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