8 – New England in the Fall

Red Roof Inn, Salem, New Hampshire (20/10/11)

My fountain pen has gone missing. Not happy about that. The rest of my train trip continued in grey gloom, and by the time I reached Boston, it was dark and wet. Finding the Milner Hotel and its tiny room wasn’t hard, and once I’d rested a little while, I headed out on the town and made my way to Bukowski’s. One peanut butter burger and three beers (Berlinerweiss, Hop Head, and Dark Lager) and I was done for the evening.

Morning brought a hectic breakfast among a crowd and then a stroll onto Boston Common and down the street to a comic store. I returned to the hotel just in time to check out, and walked in the rain over to South Station. A subterranean bus trip took me to Logan Airport, and another bus to the Enterprise car lot. Despite the hidden charges and a sizeable crowd, I lucked out on three points: speedy processing, a free upgrade, and the sun coming out.

Boston is a pain to drive to, but Salem isn’t far away, and I was soon amid the autumn foliage in the Red Roof Inn. A mall down the road allowed me to explore, have a stodgy lunch and check out the Apple Store. Beyond a little driving though, I didn’t do much beyond scout the area and head for the Red Roof again.

A restful evening was on the cards, with the only outing being to a Massachusetts cinema to see the fairly decent Moneyball. I was glad to get back though. A lot of touring to come tomorrow, with an early start required to see it all.

Motel 6, Seekonk, Rhode Island (22/10/11)

So I found my fountain pen in my jacket, where it always is. I did manage to get up relatively early yesterday too—early enough to have a glitchy Skype chat with mum and dad anyway. After that, a spin down the road to a nearby diner for breakfast, hearty and caffeine-heavy.

My initial plan was to head north to Franconia Notch Park, but I changed plans halfway through, looping through back woods and heading west, aiming for Vermont and White Falls Junction. Fall colours came and went, and the sun came out, illuminating hillsides or red, green, and gold. It was duller by the time I reached White Falls, but the option of a train ride along the Connecticut River was an appealing one. Two hours, $20, and a long rest later, I had seen a swathe of Vermont and listened to the band on board, but despite an amusing OkCupid link with a webcomic artist, it was time to go.

The long drive back lasted through sunset, and it was 6.30pm when I arrived at the Canobie Lake Park Screamfest. Wooden rollercoasters, vertical drops, corkscrews, and other loads of fun. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much on my own in years. The only bad bit was the food—fried dough and a candy apple that was more candy than apple. I had a fun three hours with the witches and zombies and then headed for bed.

Another early start followed, as I checked out of Red Roof. A supermarket provided supplies and the Apple Store some tax free goodies. The Walden Pond route south wasn’t too lengthy, but the last part of it was through some beautifully picturesque small-town, tree-lined streets. Walden Pond itself was just as nice, if a little tourist-packed. I spent an hour strolling around in the company of Kermode & Co. and then headed for Seekonk.

Again, an interstate ended in the streets of a town, and Motel 6 itself was as basic as anything, but what else is new? I was there long enough to ditch my bags, then headed east, over roads and bridges to Cape Cod and eventually Nauset Light Beach, where I saw seals, enjoyed another sunset, and wrote an email to someone special. After that, a run to the nearby Shipwreck Tavern, where I had a baked seafood platter and read about West Brom’s win over Villa.

The drive back was dark, calm, and steady. Nothing to it, and when I got back to Motel 6, I got to play with my new toys. A few movies kept me company too, but now the time has come to sleep. Back to Boston tomorrow, and New York thereafter. Rick and Marianne and their family.

Rick & Marianne’s Place, Upper East Side, New York (24/10/11)

In New York for a quiet evening, feeling like I’ve had the stuffing knocked out of me. More on that later.

Yesterday morning saw an early drive to Boston in the Kia Sportage, about two thirds of which was with the fuel indicator lit. Well, they did say to bring it back empty. The buses to the terminal and South Station, Boston, were on time, but although I got to the station in plenty of time, I didn’t venture too far away on the sunlit morning. I had my snacks and was happy, and before long I was on the train.

It was an easy enough trip. Some light snoozing, video watching, and reading as the coast of Connecticut rolled by. I arrived on time in Penn Station and hopped two subway trains to the Upper East Side, where I was greeted by Rick and Marianne and their two grandchildren, Amelia and Solomon. After chatting and resting, we headed out to Delicia, where we were joined by Tobias and Jessica and Ellen Goldberg. We had a nice meal and eventually I headed back with Rick and Marianne for an early night.

Early morning today and farewell to Marianne, off on a consulting job. I hung around a little longer, then headed out in search of the High Line, an elevated garden along an old rail line. A great way to see the city. From there I headed east to the Empire State Building, where I went all the way up to the 102nd floor, looking down at the peons on the 86th.

It seemed like a good idea to keep walking, so I did. Further east and further north, picking up camera gear and a Steve Jobs biography. Which was where I got the sucker punch—a mail from A____ saying she’d met someone. Can’t blame her, but still. Headed back to the apartment, chatted to Rick before he left, and eventually roused myself to head out around sunset.

It was an unsuccessful wander. A poor meal in Burger Heaven and a couple of beers in the Stumble Inn, then back to the apartment for some dodgy chocolate. Ah well. A longish day, and an end to the holiday I hadn’t hoped for, but there’s time yet. Two more days and a flight into the known. And unknown. Life awaits.

Virgin Atlantic A340-600, JFK (26/10/11)

The penultimate leg. Not impressed with VA so far. Cramped and worn-seeming. Yesterday began bright and sunny, and after some initial faffing around and a cookie breakfast, I headed out. First to the Metropolitan Museum near Central Park. Free in, courtesy of Rick and Marianne, and a great collection of the best in art throughout the ages. Especially the arms and armour and specially designed galleries where the sunlight flooded in.

Closer to where I began, the Whitney was closed, so I strode down Madison instead, eventually coming to rest at J. Pierpoint Morgan’s library and museum. Mixing old and new around the robber baron’s collection of art and archaeology, it was a little poorly laid out but offered up some insights into what drove a man who already had everything.

I headed a little further south in search of lunch and found it at a familiar name: the Gingerman. Cheesy hotdogs and craft and cask beer served me well. Perhaps a little too well; a Cigar City Jai Alai and a milder cask brew left me feeling lightheaded as I stepped back out into the sun. So I got out of the sun, heading downtown on the subway and emerging near Wall St.

I glanced at the Occupy Wall St protestors, avoided the WTC memorial, and dropped into J&R Electronics and Century 21 for a little (very little) retail therapy. But that was about as much as I was good for just then. I wandered a little more, took a subway train up the west side, and then sat down in Central Park for a prosaic sunset. By the time I walked out of its shadowed groves, it was dark.

But I wasn’t done. It was dark and I wanted a drink. Later on, I headed out again southwards in search of the Gingerman. I found it, a beer, and a seat, but that was it. New York is not kind to the lonely man. I wrapped up, paid up, and headed north, finally getting to sleep somewhere past midnight.

Next day I was up early, even if it was grey outside. A slightly better breakfast tan before got me going, and with the Whitney not open until 11, I headed south again. That long walk brought me to the Apple Store and a Midtown Comics outlet and eventually to Times Square, picking up bits and pieces along the way. There I hopped a subway to the World Trade Center again, checking out Century 21 without as much success as I’d hoped for. Starbucks gave me a place to rest and consider, and before long I headed back north again. The Whitney gave me a chance to consider some modern art, and I picked up wine for Rick and Marianne, but that was it. I returned home and dealt with both laundry and packing.

Laden down, I headed out around 6.20pm. It was a cheap and straightforward journey, south on the 6, east on the E, and taking the AirTrain for the last leg. Even check-in and security were straightforward, and I paused only for pizza and beer (expensive) on my way to the gate. Used the last of my pennies on sweets, wombled on board, and sat down to write this. Now we’re taxiing to takeoff and I’m sleepy. Two more flights and I’m home at last. Screwy.

The Family Home, Co. Down, Northern Ireland (28/10/11)

Rested, washed, fed, and home. That’s where I am. It’s not like it was a good deal of trouble to get here either. I spent most of the flight across the Atlantic snoozing, waking for dinner, but sleeping through breakfast. Heathrow seemed half deserted as I passed through, skipping most of the queues and security as I followed the connected channel from terminal 3 to terminal 1. Getting online was something I didn’t want to pay for, but I did pick up snacks and a magazine.

The BMI flight was just as soporific, and I did little enough reading before I saw the green shores of Ireland below. The clouds that had hung over London had broken a little as I stumbled down the steps of the Embraer, and my timing held as my bag was the third out on the conveyor. After that, a surprise: mum and dad met me at arrivals. We headed to Ashbourne to get my keys from Des, then to my apartment to leave off my luggage. North to Monasterboice for dinner (a mixed grill) and then home. An evening of dealing with the last of the holiday issues (photos, etc.) and meeting Ronan, then sleep at last.

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