Last weekend in Boston, though interrupted, was still pretty good. Pictures (a lot of them) and extended bloggings to follow.The pictures did go up, but the bloggings...yeah, not so much. I recall starting the entry, but I didn't get very far, and at some point, it vanished. Nine and a half months later, I'm finally going to record the very fun and occasionally absurd events of that weekend. Let's set the stage: this trip (or more precisely, these trips) took place March 9-11; Memphis was still in Groton, at the tail end of a short stint in drydock. I was, somehow or other, in a four-section duty rotation, and with duty on Thursday (March 8) and Monday (March 12), I was slated for my first fully duty-free weekend in five months. I considered a trip to Ithaca for the ECAC hockey quarterfinals, but it couldn't be made to work, so I elected to trek to Boston and take in the two Kristen and the Noise shows at Parris that weekend.
The story really begins on Wednesday the 7th, when rumors of the crew being called into work on Saturday began to float. Those rumors picked up steam, and early Thursday morning, it became official: everyone was coming in Saturday morning to perform a major evolution that was delayed. Having already booked two nights at the Boston Park Plaza, I was really not looking forward to working on Saturday. However, since Boston is only 105 miles from Groton, I'd be able to spend Friday night there, drive down for work Saturday, and drive back up once released. To compensate for the rather large application of the shaft on Saturday, as many people as possible were released as early as possible on Friday. But my division? Alas, it wasn't to be; we had maintenance to do. We slogged through the unpleasant chore (because there really isn't any such thing as a pleasant maintenance item), and I was free just after 2 p.m. Since most of my stuff was already packed, I grabbed a few last-minute things, and by 2:35, I was off. The first song on the radio as I drove off Submarine Base New London? "Boston," by Augustana. I figured it was a good omen.
As one might expect, given it was Friday afternoon, the traffic was horrendous. I-93 was backed up from its southern terminus almost all the way into Boston. The inbound trip took two hours and twenty-five minutes; it wasn't until 5:00 that I arrived and checked into the Park Plaza. By this time, I knew that I'd need to get a very quick dinner prior to heading to the TD Banknorth Garden for the night's Celtics game. On my way to Wendy's, I called Ryan, arousing his jealousy over the fact that I was in Boston. Once I'd eaten, I made my way to the T and took the Green Line to North Station, which is right under the Garden. I purchased a ticket, and made my way up the escalators to the upper deck. Once there, I was immediately impressed by the cleanliness of the facility. Of course, that might have been because I was comparing the Garden with Nassau Coliseum, probably the least modern arena in the National Hockey League. I found the two things I needed most at that time - an ATM, and a concession stand that sold (seriously overpriced) beer. Upon entering the arena proper, I noted the lack of fans; it wasn't surprising, given that the Celtics weren't far removed from an 18-game losing streak and had a 17-43 record entering the game. The C's played catch-up throughout most of the first quarter, and fell behind in the second by as many as 16 points, although they cut the deficit to nine at halftime. Boston staged a huge rally late in the third quarter, and pulled away in the fourth, winning the game 118-103. I had interesting characters on both sides of my seat. On my left was an older gentleman; early on in the game, he asked me many questions about how the Celtics could improve their horrendous team, both through trades and the draft. I don't recall the names Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen being mentioned. In the final minutes, this guy started dancing along with the Celtics dancers; given my somewhat inebriated state at the time, I found it hilarious, and felt myself compelled to snap a photo. On the other side was a little kid who was much more interesting than the old dude. I even gave the kid my program after the game, as I had no pocket big enough to hold it.
I boarded the Green Line and took it south to Government Center, then transferring to the Blue Line before surfacing near Quincy Market. I was four beers deep, and a single word describes my mood - euphoric. I walked the length of the Market, until I reached the entrance to Ned Devine's/Parris. After paying the cover, I quickly got myself another drink and proceeded to the back. Kristen and the Noise had not yet started their show, so I chilled. Eventually the first set began, and it kicked just as much tail as each of their previous shows I've attended. I continued imbibing and enjoying the music, until near the end of the second set, when I checked my watch...and a sudden realization hit my alcohol-clouded brain like a ton of bricks. It was about 12:35 a.m., and I had a wake up call in for 5:30 to be up in time to drive back to Groton. My last working brain cell correctly deduced that I needed to get out of there and back to the hotel - immediately. As I made my way towards the front, I was stopped by a member of the Parris staff, who must have noticed my errant walking (I had another four drinks at Parris...or maybe it was five). It was fortunate that he did, because had he not, I likely would have left my coat behind at the coat check. I asked the employee to retrieve my coat, figuring that if I tried to get it on my own, I'd either injure someone or start a fight. He brought my coat to me and helped me leave Ned Devine's under my own power. The next half hour is sketchy; I only remember certain patches. I do recall running at full speed into Quincy Market, a run which ended with me trying hard to pull open the locked doors of the Aquarium "T" station; I do remember getting into a cab; I have no memory of the cab ride back to the Park Plaza; I know the cab driver accompanied me into the hotel's lobby so I could break a twenty to pay him; I do remember being back in my room before bed, but not the transit between the lobby and my room; and I fumbled with my alarm clock, but couldn't set it. I finally passed out about 1:15.
The wake-up call came at 5:30 as scheduled - but it was three full minutes before I responded to it. I quickly shaved and left the hotel, remaining in the very same clothes I'd worn to bed, since I had a full uniform in the car. At 6:07, I pulled out of the parking garage and headed south towards Connecticut. The traffic was extremely light, and that, combined with a lot of the Elixir of Life and my anger at having to work, caused me to get back down to Groton in exactly an hour and a half. I skipped breakfast because I thought the probability of keeping food down was very low. Once onboard the boat, I changed into uniform and hid myself as best I could, since I didn't want to be around anybody. It wasn't until about 9:15 that the full brunt of the previous night hit me, when I was told by a co-worker that the alcohol could still be smelled on my breath. Lunch was earlier than normal, and as I sat down, I talked with another co-worker about the trip. He asked whether I had been to Cheers the previous night. My reply: "I expect to be there in about nine hours; that's what's keeping me going today." We slogged through the day, and about 2:30, we thought we were good to roll out. Just as we arrived at our cars, one of us received a call - as it turned out, liberty wasn't down, and we all had to go back to the boat. We did, and for the next hour, I literally did absolutely nothing but wait. Once the sweet release finally came, I made a quick pit stop in my room to drop off my uniform. During this stop, I checked the score of the Cornell hockey game; the Big Red had lost, so I wasn't mad about not making the trip there.
The trip back to Boston was smooth until I reached downtown, and by 6:00 I was back at the Park Plaza. When I got back to my room, I freaked out a little, because I couldn't find my camera. That deficiency was fixed quickly, and I proceeded up Arlington and then east on Beacon Street to Cheers. Just as I had told my friend at lunch, I was indeed enjoying a burger and a beer at 7 p.m. The beer was Samuel Adams Boston Lager, and the burger was one of the best I'd had in a long time - and I love hamburgers. In addition to the food, I bought commemorative memorabilia. After dinner I returned to the Park Plaza and rested and showered. Once it was time to go out, I elected to leave my jacket in the room, as it was forty-eight degrees. The goal of this was to make myself less recognizable at the door of Parris. Did it work? Fuck no. This is how that conversation went:
Parris door guy: Were you here last night?
Door guy: Could you do something for us?
Matt: Umm...not drink so much?
Door guy: Exactly. You're a good kid, and you didn't cause any problems, but you had a bit too much last night.
Matt: Not a problem, guys.
I went into the club, and this time, I kept much closer tabs on my rate of drinking. I consumed a lot less, and a lot slower. The show was once again of the highest quality, and unlike the night before, I was able to stay for the whole thing. I was quite well aware that this would again put me face to face with the absolute worst thing about the city of Boston - the fact that the subway stops running ninety minutes before the bars close, and it's nearly impossible to get a cab at last call. Thus it was another walking transit back to the Park Plaza. As I was about to cross Congress Street, I heard someone saying something about the relative merits of Boston and New York. Once at the corner of Congress and State, our paths crossed, and I was introducing myself to a fairly drunk young lady in a red coat. It was her 27th birthday, and she'd been out celebrating with two friends, whose presence virtually guaranteed that I'd still be making the rest of the walk back to the hotel without a partner. After one of her friends returned with their car, they took off, and I resumed my westward walk. This transit took only about half as long as the one six weeks prior, because I knew where I was going. When I arrived back at my room, it was just after 3 a.m., because while I was walking, Daylight Saving Time had gone into effect.
After packing and checking out, I spent the rest of Sunday morning walking the Freedom Trail, which covers all the major historical sites in Boston. The Trail took me past Hanover Street, which has so many Italian restaurants that one can smell the cuisine from hundreds of feet away. Did I stop off to eat an any one of them? No - I ate at a Burger King on Causeway Street a couple of hours later. Prior to lunch, I toured the USS Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat; its living and working conditions are only marginally worse than those on your average attack submarine. After lunch, I visited the Museum of Science; due to the complete and total loss of Saturday, the New England Aquarium and the Kennedy Presidential Library were out. On my way back to my car, I stopped off at Commonwealth Books, a small shop with lots of old books. The drive out of Boston was pain-free, and I arrived back in Groton shortly after 5:00.
On the whole, the weekend was fun, and certainly quite memorable. Cornell was swept out of the ECAC playoffs by Quinnipiac; in the end, it didn't matter, because working Saturday would have put the kibosh on the Ithaca trip altogether. One other note: losing the work-free weekend extended that five-month streak...a run that is still in progress. It's now been over fourteen months - since the second weekend of October 2006 - that I've had a full weekend away from the boat while in a normal duty rotation. When that streak will come to an end is anyone's guess.