The first tme I visited Boston was on New Year's Day 2001. Gerhard the Grumpy Scaffolding Builder and I had taken the train from Manhattan out to Newark on January 31 to pick up the rental car for our trip up north. Irresponsibly, Gerhard had left arranging the rental car up to me.
I booked the car through Holiday Autos in Germany just two days before we left for New York, and I thought I had everything I needed. I didn't. When we arrived at the airport in Newark to pick up the car, we discovered that the name of the US car rental agency was nowhere on our documents. I didn't actually have the voucher, and without the voucher it was impossible to get the car we'd already paid for.
"Oh well," I said. "This is obviously the type of situation one describes as Live and Learn.".
"Shut up," said Grumpy Gerhard.
Gerhard the Grumpy Scaffolding Builder got very grumpy indeed. We ended up paying 900 dollars to rent a car on top of the 400 dollars we'd already paid. The voucher had come in the mail two days after we left Germany for the States. Live and Learn, right? I really do think this qualifies.
I forgot to tell you that on January 30, 2000 it snowed 18 inches in New York City. I think this entire situation would have been less stressful without the 18 inches of snow. Finding a parking space in Manhattan when there's 18 inches of snow on the ground is a feat. By this time Gerhard had declared that he was responsible for all feats, that he would never ever ever--like in the Taylor Swift song--leave any feat or feat-like task up to me. I sucked.
This song makes me cry every time I hear it. I'm a man from Tennessee.
So with 18 inches of snow on the groud, we headed north. It was a beautiful, white trip, through Syracuse--where I bought a winter coat for almost nothing at an outlet mall--Albany and Buffalo. Did you know that Buffalo wings are named Buffalo wings because they come from Buffalo and not because they are made of buffalo? And that buffalos don't actually have wings? And that the people in Buffalo call Buffalo wings just wings?
Did you know that Boston is 'a very European city'? Any time you mention Boston to someone over on this side of the pond, they invariably say, 'I love Boston. It's so European.' Knowing this, I kept a careful eye out for the tell-tale European stuff, like Eiffel and leaning towers. Though I didn't see very many of these, I did realize what Europeans mean. Boston--or at least the old city center--is set up like a European city. It's not a grid like Manhattan (but it actually is). The old town seems to grow from a central point, but then all old towns do this.
Tonight, the center of Boston for me will be the Hynes Convention Center and the AWP conference (Association of Writers and Writing Programs). If all goes well, I'll be arriving in Boston at 18:25--that's 6:25 for you Yanks--and reading at Dillon's at 9:15. I'm very much looking forward to being in Boston again and meeting dozens of my writing compadres. They say snow is in the forecast.
I must be off,