Sunday, November 14, 2004

Come On People. Keep Your Friends Close, Your Enemies Won’t Matter In The End. 

Thursday, October 7, 2004

The owners of the Maine Diner are not backwards at coming forwards. The walls are adorned with framed letters from senators and governors thanking them for their good works in the community, and there are countless glowing newspaper articles and reviews to keep them company. They’ve got a pretty good website and there’s a gift shop next door. Marketing wise, they’ve certainly got their shit together, and good for them. I bought a T shirt and took a picture of a funny newspaper stand.

We had breakfast there because we needed to bulk up for the big day ahead. You’ll remember I was apprehensive about driving in Boston. Today we were returning, and our hotel was bang in the middle of town. Nervous? Nah.

We joined Route 95 and I faced up to my demons the way I normally do - by driving a car into them at full pelt.
New Hampshire tapers to the east to give it the tiniest slither of coastline. As we approached the border there were a number of signs updating us on how far we were from the State Liquor Store - visions of excited kids saying "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" - and enticing us to have a dabble on the lottery. How odd. It might as well have read “New Hampshire Welcomes Drunks and Gamblers.”

We scooted past queues of palpitating alcoholics with dollar signs for eyeballs, and faster than you could say it we were back in Massachusetts. Driving into the city was a scream. For all the difference it made, I may as well have just closed my eyes and hoped for the best. Everybody zips along at the same frantic speed, the assumption being that you know where you’re going. I usually get lost driving around Preston, so the omens weren’t good.

Miraculously, we nailed it on the first take. Girlfriend barked out orders - left! hard left! watch out for the… oh… it doesn’t matter, right! - I got lucky and didn’t kill anyone, and we parked up at the hotel and collapsed into laughter. I imagine you get the same kind of high from robbing a bank.
However, we weren’t quite finished with driving yet. Too early to check in, we left our bags with the concierge and headed off on foot to work out the route to the car hire place.
We walked back across the Common, which was really beautiful and had more squirrels than I would ever have thought could exist simultaneously. Then we drove across town - easy! - and dropped off the car in the world’s most labyrinthine and bewildering underground car park.
We left it with a man who said he was an employee of the car hire company and we couldn’t think of a good reason not to believe him, then wandered around for twenty minutes in shadowy uncertainty looking for the office. In turn, the man behind the desk took a further twenty minutes to find us on the computer and after a lot of “How exactly are you spelling that?” we finally handed him the car keys and staggered back to the hotel.

We flopped onto the bed, let out a huge sigh of relief, and then Girlfriend realised she didn’t have her purse. So we asked reception to phone the car hire company, and yes, thankfully, and to our considerable relief, it had been found and handed in by car hire guy #1. So we trooped across town yet again - I think we knew the route pretty well by now - and picked up the purse. So hats off to Dollar Hire in Boston, and their wonderful staff. They got a decent tip for that.

Weeks earlier, Girlfriend had ordered tickets to see raging young Brit rockers “Hope Of The States,” so that’s what we did in the evening. He hopped onto the T (that’s cool Boston speak for subway) and spent a couple of hours wandering around Cambridge, before winding up at T.T The Bear’s Place on Brookline St.
It’s a small venue and I expect it’s had busier nights - there were maybe thirty or forty of us in the audience - but the band were terrific. They make one hell of a big heavy noise, and use some frankly rather disturbing film footage for a backdrop while they’re at it. It includes archive film of what looks like 1950’s military experiments - pilots passing out, starving men struggling to stand up, and so on.
As if in sympathy, it wasn't long before the drummer had to run off to the dressing room to be sick. He made a courageous come back, only to throw up on stage minutes later - a first in my gig attending experience. The rest of the band struggled on, and someone jumped on stage and led the audience in clapping to keep the rhythm going. The singer could only shrug, smile and apologise. We thought it sounded pretty good, hearing these raucous gloomy songs being done acoustically. More power to their elbows for battling on, although it would have been a bonus if they could have done something about the smell.

The taxi driver was a complete maniac. I’ve never felt closer to death. And while it was very interesting to hear about his sister in Leicester and his brother in blah blah blah, I’d have been happier if he’d spent the journey looking at the road ahead and not behind at us. Here’s an artist’s impression.

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