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On Friday night we sat on a bench outside the Hop for three hours. We saw four Dartmouth buses come and go, we watched the lettering on the front of the Hop being changed, misspelt, corrected. We listened to the band playing outside Collis, strains of songs drifting over the green. The sun set, and the trees turned from silhouettes against a pale sky to orange branches uplit by lampposts against the darkness. At ten, we gave up. The greyhound bus wasn’t lost, it wasn’t late, it just wasn’t coming. We were not going to Montreal.
Hanover is very pretty, very green, filled with clean white clapboard buildings and the pillared entrances to university buildings. But it is a tiny town, and after weeks of being cooped up here, with irregular trips into the countryside and to various local diners, I was craving the city. Defeat wasn’t an option. Another weekend in Dartmouth was impossible. So we went to Boston on Saturday morning instead.
My first feeling for Boston was that it was like a post-apocalyptic city of the future. Huge glass skyscrapers next to burnt out buildings, clean wide pavements leading past abandoned, broken lots and crumbling walls. Outside the city hall I felt it again; surrounded by stoned kids staring down at a rapper called Moufy, in a concrete valley before a huge mutation of concrete that looked like it nested Big Brother, people spilling out of four storey car parks, and the shining glass pillars of a holocaust memorial rising up between hoodies. We stumbled on the concert by accident – empty streets slowly filled with kids and I assumed we’d found a school trip until we turned a corner and were confronted by the masses. Police patrolled the edges, held their breath through clouds of pungent smoke.
That was another thing that struck me about Boston; the number of police. We saw them everywhere; sitting in their cop cars at the kerb, strolling down back streets, cruising along main roads. H-Po (Hanover Police?) are pretty busy in Hanover; their threat is mitigated for students by S&S (Safety and Security) who lead their own patrols around the campus. One night, after swimming in the river, I hid for an hour while someone with a flashlight searched the field and bushes around us – we didn’t know if it was police or S&S, so we couldn’t risk coming out. That same night eight people were arrested at a different point of the river. They’re trigger happy with their federal offences and penalisations here; drinking and getting naked (the two biggest student activities at Dartmouth) are both highly illegal and you have to hope that the long hand of the law doesn’t reach you. I guess in England we’re being observed by a different kind of presence; watched all the time by CCTV. Not much a camera can do though. This week sees police being shipped in from all over to London – maybe when I return home I won’t have too much of a reverse culture shock; police, masses of hoodies and burnt out buildings. A bit like Boston only with a North London flavour.
After the rap concert we followed a marching band into the Italian quarter where we found a festival feast fair type thing, with stalls selling deep fried sea food, pizzas, stuffed pastries, women promising to read your personality in your handwriting, toy bears to be won, and my favourite, ‘Fried Dough’. The long lines of Italian flag bunting and crowded stalls funnelled the crowd to the end of the street where four slick old men with deep tans were crooning into microphones, long hair pulled back into ponytails, white silk shirts and white silk trousers shining and stretching with the choreographed dance moves. A song called ‘Backstabber’ was dedicated to someone’s wife. We moved on. Around the corner we found a little league baseball game, and Hamish explained the rules to me as we watched little Jamie miss ball after ball, and someone’s little sister parade her toy dog up and down the dirt.
That first night we ate pizza in Cambridge.
The next day the city was swamped in torrential rain. With no car and no umbrella, we got soaked, walking along grey streets and ducking into doorways. We took shelter in a Chinese supermarket at one point and watched all the fish and lobsters and crabs in their tiny tanks, feeling about as wet and miserable. Later I sat down on the shop floor of the Museum of Fine Arts and bewailed the state of Boston and our lives. We couldn’t get into the museum because the queue stretched out of the door, across the courtyard and almost round the block. We had to walk past privileged people with tickets and umbrellas as we headed glumly back into town. Instead of seeing an exhibition of Modern photography, we went to the Church of the Christian Scientists, and walked inside the massive glass globe in their mapparium. When we emerged from the shifting colours and illuminated whispers of the globe, the rain had stopped. It became sunny enough to eat ice cream. We spent the rest of the day wandering through the streets of the ‘posh areas’, steaming as we looked in shop windows. In the evening we ate crab at The Barking Crab, then returned to South Station which is inexplicably papered in adverts for Tanqueray gin, and got on the bus back to Hanover.
Things we did that you might also like to do should you go to Boston:
Institute of Contemporary Art – incredible building that has beautiful views of Boston Harbour. The art is pretty good too.
Emack & Bolio’s Ice Cream – on Newbury street. It has incredible, marshmallow encrusted cones, and ridiculous flavours. We ate ours instead of lunch, and it cost about as much.
The Mapparium – not to try and convert anyone to Christian Science, but they built a pretty amazing globe. Only go if you don’t mind funding a religion that doesn’t believe in medical science. Hamish was outraged.
The Barking Crab – really cool seafood restaurant on the harbour front, playing good music and serving nice beer. Don’t go for the cheapest crab like certain cheapskates – it doesn’t really have any meat in it.