Saturday, July 08, 2006

Boston as a tourist, World Cup, John Grisham, and Pirates

Lots to cover today. Last weekend I took a day off to give myself a four-day weekend. I had decided a couple months ago to head up to Boston for my first ever visit as a vacationing tourist. I moved from Boston to Denver in April-May 2002, as you may know. For many reasons, largely vacation limitations, the only times I had been back to the Boston area were three weddings (one as a guest, two as a member of the wedding party) and for the Christmas holiday. I say this past weekend was my first tourist trip because, as beyond honored as I was to be at the weddings, those are not vacations. You are running around like crazy, as you are when going home for Christmas. I consider both instances to be fantastic times, but very hectic times, not vacation ones. Therefore, at 10:10 am on July 1, 2006, I landed in my native Massachusetts as a tourist for the very first time.

Being a soccer fan, I needed to watch the England-Portugal World Cup quarterfinal. I tried McGanns, a soccer-friendly bar, but it was tough to find a seat, which I wanted because I'd be on my feet for a lot of the weekend. I ended up at Boston Beerworks near North Station / TD Banknorth Garden. The beer was a good as I remember it being. Ran into a French supporter there, who I immediately told that they had no shot of beating Brazil. Good thing I had to leave to check into the hostel then take a train to Lowell, MA, or I would have had to eat my words and buy more beers.

In Lowell I met up with my two best friends from high school, Chris and Ryan. Whilw waiting for Ryan to arrive, I see Zdeno Chara highlights on New England Sports Network's Red Sox pre game show. Before I could figure out why they would do this, the Bruins actually spent some money on a quality free agent (6 foot 9 defenseman, and one of the better ones in the game to boot). That pleasant surprise was met with a better one when we were eating dinner. Ryan's wife is expecting their first child in Janauary. WOOOHOOOOO! Both my friends are doing very well.

Sunday I walked to South Station through Copley Square and Back Bay, with a nice breeze accompanying me. I mention that because it felt like a 60 degree morning, and the air does not move in DC. I took the train to my friends Sean and Theresa's house in Plymouth, which as the link will tell you, is a lot more than a few historical sites on the waterfront. It's now a city of 60,000 and growing fast. The party was great, old friends, beers, burgers, the only regret I have is being too tired to stay up past 11:30. I am really freaking old, and/or I was just so tired from the daily grind catching up with me that I would have crashed at the same time with or without beers. I vote for both.

Monday I went down to Fenway Park, I had not been to a game there since 2001, and not to the area since the winter after that. The area around the park looks a lot better, the Landmark shops down Brookline Avenue look better than ever. The famous Cask and Flagon that is right across the street from Fenway got a lot swankier than it used to me. Most of the changes are good, but you do have to take the bad with it. Right underneath the park at the corner of Landsdowne and Brookline is the Game On Sports Bar, maybe the most upscale sports bar I've ever been to. Reminded me of Avalon meets big screen TVs, especially the downstairs. Liked: Pad Thai with Scallops. Despised: The Special was $22! Now if the Sox make money off of this venture it's all cool. But while the Pad Thai was good, it was only worth half of what I paid for it. Lesson Learned, and I realized that I missed the bowling alley that used to be in the same location. The price of success I guess, but if I'm in the area anytime soon I'll eat and drink elsewhere, I can't throw down $22 on a meal too often.

Monday night was a blast, back up to Lowell to get to my hometown of Dracut, MA. My brother (Deputy Fire Chief in Dracut) had to work, but my sister-in-law and two nephews were home. Went out for ice cream at an ice cream stand I hadn't been to in ten years, then swimming in the pool. A great reminder of how much fun running around in a pool to create w "whirlpool" was; everyone was very glad I came to Dracut for the evening.

Tuesday, flew home, the US Airways shuttle terminal was EMPTY. I know it wasn't a business day but I never figured there would be so few people travelling. I got home just in time for the Germany-Italy semifinal to get entertaining and the storms to roll in. Tomorrow Italy and France play for the whole Cup. As big of a fan as I am, I realize tournament finals are rarely asthetic classics. I'm expecting 0-0 tomorrow, with Italy winning 4-3 on PKs. Of course I will be watching.

On the plane I figured out a new interest: John Grisham novels. I've only read two, The Summons and The Broker, but both held my interest to the point where I couldn't wait to pick the book back up again. His endings are a bit odd, but the books have more twists and turns than a Colorado foothills back road. I need to go to the library to get more books. Maybe today or tomorrow.

Last night I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean with some friends. I hadn't been to a movie theatre and who knows how long, theatres have changed since then. Stadium seating, semi-reclining seats, you name it. The movie was pretty good, albeit a bit long. Interesting tidbit: the trailer preview for next year's Transformers movie got the biggest reaction on the night.