Right sort of wind, wrong sort of weather, Wonderland

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Jane at the helm, trying to steer a straight course

What’s that about a picture being equal to a thousand words?  Much as I dreaded the return trip to Marblehead, with the possible nightmare of another 8 hours throwing up, I discovered that even though we were being tilted almost flat against the sea, it was the right sort of wind.  No churning, just simple rocking courtesy of a helpful tailwind.  Bracing my, somewhat too short, legs against the opposite bench I  was flung intermittently across the boat until I selfishly hunkered down in one corner, semi-sheltered by the awning  from the battering wind and rain, filling up on cheesy goldfish.  Nick or Jane braved it out at the wheel.

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I got to thinking what would happen if one of us were tipped out?  What if both of them were tipped out?  I didn’t have a clue how to use the radio phone, or even how to turn around and fish them out.  I’m not usually one to catastrophize  but couldn’t help remembering a Buddhist friend who was electrocuted on his boat scarcely a year ago, leaving his wife floundering about at sea. Would Jane be able to sail alone if anything happened to Nick on their journeys?  I worried even more when Jane, sans lifejacket,  wearing socks and no shoes, clambered onto the prow to release another sail.  Scanning the ocean for whales made it worryingly obvious how very, well, empty, it is.

Sickness, on the other hand, was well under control.  I’d breakfasted handsomely, toasting on the barbecue (which I was heartened to find is attached to one of the metal rails at the back of the boat, well away from combustibles).  This time I hope I was encouraging company if not any actual use.  The return was shortened by not diverting via the Stellwagen Bank, and that tail wind.  By the time we arrived back at the Boston Yacht Club in Marblehead the weather had calmed, the sun shone and we had an easy time dismantling our stay on the boat.  We hadn’t seen any whales on the return trip, but were satisfied with the sitings we’d had on the way down and from the Dolphin boat.

Jane and Nick returned to work next morning and I had the rest of the week to revisit Boston.  I wanted to take a look at the harbour.  Was I really right that the big international jets, that had thrilled me so much, fly right over the sailing boats?  I last visited Boston with my American husband back in the 1980s, staying with his cousin in a mini mansion in the suburbs.  What I remember most, however, was a lot of mention by his cousin  about what she pronounced ‘boofalow’ mozzarella.  I got the impression that this was a very special mozzarella, only available in Boston and of incomparable taste.  I discovered that like most mozzarella it is more a texture than a taste until it gets melted onto a pizza, when it tastes just like – mozzarella.  This time I wanted to see art.  (Actually I wanted to see his cousin for a coffee, but she was too busy.  I guess looking up an ex’s family is not necessarily such a great idea.)

Catching the Boston bus from Marblehead first thing in the morning I was the only passenger.

 “You from London?” shouted the lady driver to where I sat, half way down the bus.

“No, the West Country.  Nailsworth.”  Why do they always say London?    “Near Bath”.

“D’you remember that series about the hippy guys living in the flat?”

“The Young Ones?”

” That’s right.  I loved that.  Coronation Street?”

“Not my thing I’m afraid”

” Are You Being Served?”  Good grief.  What must she think about us?75c took me all the way to Wonderland.

I had great hopes of Wonderland, who wouldn’t?  But it seems it’s time has come and gone.  Built in 1906 it was believed to be the inspiration for Disney Land.  By 1911 it was bankrupt and was turned into a Greyhound park in 1935.  However it does have the Wonderland Ballroom on the North Shore road.  Sadly that doesn’t  get very good reviews.  GloR says “its the worst venue I’ve ever been too.  Ceiling falling off, security worst in history.  Only place I’ve ever been to where Security breaks up fights and lets the people stay in there…don’t go to this place unless you want to witness fights all night.  Tristan B has a helpful hint “if you’re going to see a show here IT’S NOT GOING TO SELL OUT” and suggests you skip the crappy support bands.

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The Old State House, Boston

All I did in Wonderland was buy a Charlie Card, with some difficulty (is there a Plain American campaign?), to get out, and took a train ride to Aquarium by Boston harbour. The temperature was nudging  90°.  It would have been a very good idea to go to an art gallery and take advantage of some air conditioning. Finding there were free guided tours of the Freedom Trail with a Boston National Park Ranger I ended up speeding through the Quincy Market to the meeting point.  I suppose it’s not the poor man’s fault that the ‘trail’ lasted only a couple of blocks.  It took in the Old State House where the revolution was kindled, and where the declaration of independence was read from the balcony.  After that it didn’t really go anywhere of note.  Every few minutes our ranger would stop his talk,  remove a water bottle from his bag, take a slug and say “hydrate folks, remember to hydrate. Take care folks, walk reeeeal slow and careful.”  A natural fast walker and information sponge, the slow pace drove me insane. (I am guessing Texas would not be my place.)

I decided to pass on the afternoon free tour, and take a ride on a Duck boat round the harbour instead.  It sounded cool and refreshing – rather James Bond, splashing into the harbour in a vehicle that could morph into a boat.  (Little did I know that the news in the UK was that a Duck boat had got into trouble on the Thames,  caught on fire, creating a big panic and a rescue; a second one followed with a sinking a week or so later.)  A  ‘history tour’ around town first was included, so it seemed like it would fit the bill (no pun intended) nicely.

I hadn’t anticipated the woman in the seat behind me.  Here she is, caught in the moment when she’s answering the call from what I gathered was her sister. This, in a very loud voice, so we could all share:

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The woman behind in the Duck Boat

“Well I know, I know.  He’s constipated.  He’s probably impacted. Yes.  Yes.  Well go and get some glycerine suppositories.  Feel his belly.  You can probably feel it in his belly?  Give it a prod.  No, only one.  Just try one and see what happens.  No, I said GLYCERINE SUPPOSITORY.  You don’t want to give him diarrhoea.”  And as if that wasn’t enough, she had to repeat the conversation over and over.  Did her sister not get it?  Or was she trying to tell us all what a burden it was caring for her father and how much more she knew about it than her sister?  If it was sympathy she wanted it was wasted on me.  All my sympathy went to the poor man having his embarrassing symptoms shared full volume on a Duck Boat.

Duck Boat Boston Harbour

Duck Boat Boston Harbour

Provincetown, Queen of Cape Cod, with knobs on

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Oh my.  The phallic tower of the Pilgrim Monument announces Provincetown appropriately.   Arriving there is like being launched into a gay pride march, only, thrill of thrills, the day we arrived happened to coincide with the Lambda Car Club rally.  Not just any vintage car rally, a rally of the cars of my dreams.  Since I was  about eleven I have swooned over Elvis and I dreamed of owning a car with wings, preferably pink, but anything pastel would do.  The closest I got was a series of Morris Minors (which are not really a car for a soggy country; I know of a man who wrote his thesis on the flora and fauna of a Morris Traveller, the half timbered variety) but they have a particular charm, a certain smell, and an unmistakeable voice of their own.  This rally of 50s American cars made me almost weep with envy.  Pink, sky blue, orange – winged, bedecked with rainbow flags, and fabulous guys dressed to match.  If the drivers of the orange car with the blow up model in a headscarf in the backseat wish to replace her with flesh and blood, I’m your woman.

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My only beef was the beef who kept getting in the way every time I tried to photograph these gorgeous hunks of metal.

I play a ‘which would I steal’ game in galleries and museums (though in truth I could no more actually do it than steal a paperclip).  This sky blue one is a strong contender, closely followed by the pink winged.IMG_5184

These guys were having such fun.  My friend says ‘every mother should have one’ (about her gay son) the pride is all hers.  I can see why. Nowadays, since most straight people have grown up and got over themselves, gay men are having a blast.  It was not always thus (I recommend Stephen Fry’s excellent documentary on the history) and Provincetown seems to be their mecca.  The population statistics are telling:  3,562 residents in winter, 30,000 summer visitors.  Not all of them are LGBT of course.  We all want to have fun.

The accessory du jour In Procincetown is what I call ‘armpit warmers’.  Little dogs that once upon a time would have snuggled into arm pits clothed in mink, downing cocktails with ‘mummy’.  Pampered pooches  have reached new heights of indulgence in the gay community.  Cooed over, beribboned, collars a-sparkling, you wonder if some of their little paws ever reach the ground.  I saw several being wheeled around in dog carts, some even had prams,Image

see the green one in this picture?  It might contain a child, but that’s not what’s in there.  All I can say is that I wish them walks.  Mud.  Waves to splash in, and bones as big as a fist.

Talking of fists, bend your arm and take it out to your side.  Now make a fist and curve it right over.  This is the shape of Cape Cod, sticking out of the East Coast of America somewhere between Boston and New York.  Provincetown sits in the curve of the thumb where it joins the palm.  Behind it are rolling dunes; pure Edward Hopper landscapes, with lone lighthouses, and windswept clapboard houses.  (That is, Edward Hopper in his beach-time holiday mode, not his peeping-tom city mode

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Now I haven’t cycled for quite a few years, though my last bike did have gears (rather inconveniently placed somewhere low on the frame).  It rested in the shed, a promise of a fantastic arse and super-fitness, but really just a rusting guilt trip.  However I was up for a bike ride on the dunes, as long as I could walk up all the hills (but probably best not to tell the surgeon who hoovered out my knee a few months back).

What better way to cool off after a long ride through cranberry beds (Nick: yes, they’re cranberries.  Me: are you sure?  I survived, so I suppose they were) than a dip in the ocean on the north side of the fist.

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Then Jane saw this sign.  But why would we let a silly little thing like a Great White Shark spoil a lovely dip – especially as I’d missed out on one off the boat in the middle of the atlantic.  Besides, I didn’t think a Great White would mistake me for a seal considering my neon-bright costume.  (Thank you Sandra Dee, it was a good exchange for the scrape on my new car.  She does mail order lingerie by the way, and for all those trannies among you, she can accommodate all shapes and sizes).

Funnily enough, there were very few other swimmers. Do you hear the music?
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Back in town, knees intact, butt intact, and relishing the thrill of once again defying death (Vee: I’m not coming on holiday with you, you court danger)  We loaded up on pizza and chilled beer with a slice of lemon (bet that’s making a few englishmen cringe)  and planned a fun night out.  Would it be Lip Schtick ‘One Boys Journey to Fabulous and Back’ or Electra ‘Living the Legend’ at the Post Office Cabaret? It’s obvious now, but I hadn’t realised Bette Midler was a gay icon.  Electra did a very fine job of impersonating her, though it would have been a lot more electrifying if I’d known some of Bette’s songs, been a little less straight, and the seats a little less hard for a saddle sore bum.  However we particularly liked the bit at the very end when Bette morphed into Elton John.  How clever, we thought, then remembered he was a man. Watch a drag artist long enough and you forget.

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Lip Schtick

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Electra, Living the Legend

Knowledge of the Land

IMG_5042Jay Griffiths in her intriguing book Wild tells of an Inuit man who got lost in a blizzard and died.  The Inuit elders worry that young people  don’t know the land like they used to.  They are concerned that when knowledge of how the land lies and where they stand within it is lost, it can become a frightening wasteland.  Is New York my frightening wasteland?

On Monday my grandchildren went home to Germany.  The house is deathly quiet – and sticky.  But I found my snow scene of New York under the sofa when I was clearing up.  I’ve had it for many years and it still has twin towers.  I heard the news driving back from the dentist, put on the TV and saw the second plane hit.  How often mundane events pair with the momentous.

I saw New York once in the distance, driving from Boston to Bear Lake.  An unusual view across fields as I remember it.  Tantalisingly close, and extraordinary, standing proud above the fields, and somehow weird that it too had an edge, a place where city turns into countryside.

Boston I know, and my trip begins with a stay near there with one of my nephews. Marblehead looks to be a cute little town, clapboard houses and more than a whiff of the sea.  As my American ex once said, ‘the west coast is like England but moreso’. The summer more summery, the fall – well everyone knows about the hot palette of a New England fall. The winter is a certainty with a depth of snow worth having, and spring simply explodes.  I will be arriving in the extra season the Chinese call late summer, which in England carries the hint of all the other seasons.  One day you sniff the air and think, ‘oh it’s just like spring’, another you shiver and think ‘brrr, winter’s coming’, others shimmer like full summer.

We have had an exceptional summer here with melting roads, and warnings to old people (who nevertheless insist on wearing a vest and thick stockings and closing windows against drafts).   Wasps are buzzing around me (now that conjures up a bizarre image, I suppose I must say ‘leatherjackets’ though that here would conjure up bikers…so much room for misinterpretation).  English people tend not to pack light.  Why would we?  So often local travel requires clothes for all seasons.  I like to say our weather makes us flexible, but it has burdened me with fat suitcases most of my travelling life, even when the family lived in Thailand.  Sometimes it’s been hard to imagine what hot weather feels like.  This glowing summer should prepare me for a Boston fall.

My nephew is a  yachty kind of guy, and has a boat.  I hope for a repeat of an experience I once had sailing in Boston harbour under the flight path of a jumbo jets barely lifted off the end of tarmac.  Whilst I  dread to think the toxins I breathed as I begged over and over ‘do it again’ it remains one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.  I will also enjoy conjuring up images of crates of tea bobbing about in the harbour.  Spain and the UK are at it again upping the anti over a fake reef off Gibraltar, the need humans have to puff themselves up over territory proves memories are long.  Only the other day two elderly men, both 65, came to blows over a parking space at the supermarket car park in BIggleswade. One of them died.  I wonder if there is still a little edge to relationships with British people in Boston?