Monday, January 18, 2016

Boston Travelogue by Guest Blogger Mr. Dibble

I'm pleased and delighted to welcome back to the fold the inimitable and intrepid Mr. Dibble, with whom -- along with his lovely inamorata Elizabeth  -- Mistah and I shared a surprisingly fun and startlingly delightful overnight to Boston. 

Words are Mr. Dibble's; photos came from Mistah and me.

Let's give him a big, warm M&Y&E welcome, shall we?

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January 1, 2015 found me bounding out of the ocean at Watch Hill, an annual ritual of masochistic fortitude which demands the bacchanal which follows. Having accomplished this manly feat for over 20 years without incident, I was startled by the audible parting of my gastrocnemius (calf) muscle as I exited the surf. Apparently Taylor Swift's hired goons dug trenches in the seabed near her palatial retreat to thwart ocean-going invaders. The ball of my foot contacted the lip of the hole, but my heel, backed by the full faith and credit of my 55 year old body, continued in its downward trajectory resulting in the need for a month-long recovery.

The Scene of the Crime

In a kind effort to keep me entertained during my recuperation, Bill provided me with his cherished copy of "A Confederacy of Dunces", the single funniest book I have ever read, replacing "Lonesome Dove" in my pantheon of comic literature. I laughed so hard at times I had to put the book down. When I realized I was racing through the book I placed a strict limit of 10 pages a day so as to prolong the experience for as long as possible. For those of you who have not read the book, who still have the chance to experience it for the first time, I envy you. I learned the back story of the book, the author, despondent at not getting the book published, committing suicide, the 8 year battle by his sainted mother (they seem to abound, don't they?) to get the book published and its subsequent winning of the Pulitzer Prize, the multiple failed attempts to bring the book to the big screen, featuring such luminaries as John Belushi, John Candy, Chris Farley, John Goodman and Will Farrell suggested for the starring role of Ignatius J. Reilly. I caught wind of a stage version being developed in Boston starring Nick Offerman, mentioned it to Bill and, without a moment's hesitation, he said "Let's go!". "But Bill," sez I, "Ellie hated the book. Can you imagine her disdain for a stage version necessitating an overnight in Boston replete with a train excursion, copious alcohol consumption and a sumptuous repast?" "Pish Posh," replied Bill, being made of sterner (or more delusional) stuff than I, "I'll handle Ellie." "In that case, proceed with all possible dispatch." True to his word, Bill secured theater tickets, train tickets, hotel and dinner reservations far in advance of our adventure.

Our action plan was to train into Boston Saturday afternoon, perhaps go to the Boston Museum of Fine Art, thence to rot in a number of establishments until time for dinner. E-Beth and I got off to a good start. While fueling the car prior to heading to New London to pick up Bill and Ellie, the automatic shut off failed to automatically shut off leading to said nozzle spewing gasoline all over the side of the car. Fortunately I was paying attention and was able to halt the flow of gasoline before too much environmental damage occurred. Calamity averted! Not so fast, Mr. Dibble. On arrival on Lenox Street, with plenty of time to get to the train, Mr. Hanrahan threw a spanner in the works. "Got your tickets?" he asked. A blank stare from me. "What tickets?" "The tickets to the play we gave you when they came." E-Beth chimes in. "You put them in your wallet at The Dutch." "I don't recollect that." Now I knew they were no longer in my wallet, had they ever been there in the first place but for the sake of formality I searched it three times. "Hmmm. If I did have them, I would have put them on the refrigerator." A round trip from New London to NoSto can be accomplished in 42 minutes under ideal circumstances. We had 45 minutes. I decide to call my friend Gary Annino, who resides in North Stonington. He answers in a whisper. "What do you want? I'm in a tree stand." I tell him he's of no use to me in a tree stand and hang up. He calls back immediately. "I'm kind of bored here, what do you need?" I explain my predicament and ask if he might run over to my house, inspect the fridge for the tickets and should they in fact be there, deliver them to us when the train makes its first stop in Mystic. Fortuna be praised, the tickets were there and Gary and his son Christopher, the boy genius, greeted us at the Mystic train station. The door opened, Gary and Chris were standing there in their camo gear, they handed me the tickets and the train continued on for Boston. I had advised the conductor of the situation beforehand lest some do-gooder espy the camo-clad contingent making the hand-off and raise the alarm. But no one saw something or if they did, they didn't say something. It was straight to the bar car after this triumph.

The train ride

We arrived at the Back Bay Station in good order, on time and sober. While punctuality stood us in good stead the entire weekend, I knew the sober component was destined to meet a grisly demise and, sure enough, Ellie 86'd E-Beth's cultural plan of museum going. Always the peacemaker, I suggested we might attend the museum before brunch on Sunday whilst repairing with all possible haste to an establishment forthwith. This idea was greeted with approbation, albeit with a hint of skepticism on E-Beth's part and we cast our eyes about for the welcoming glow of neon. I had written up a cheat sheet of likely candidates but left that aid at home with the tickets. Clean living once again paid off as we quickly located a bar from the list, The Pour House.

The Pour House

Mr. Dibble and his Big Big Beer

Happily ensconced at the bar, Bill and Ellie commenced a selfie shootout with Ellie's I-Phone easily besting Bill's expensive digital SLR.

She loved us.

The barmaid soon tired of their antics and we found ourselves on the street, only to run into some Santa Speedo Run contestants.

This unfortunate event was apparently spawned in Boston in 2000. Participants dash about Beantown in Speedos and Santa hats to raise money for charity. Our polar plunge has no mercenary motives, charitable or otherwise and we don't even require suits....for the ladies.

After this affront to the senses we were off to the much touted Bukowski's Tavern.

 Shoehorned into a concrete parking garage, Bukowski's is famed for its beer list and the bellicosity of its bartenders. A sign at the door welcomed us, stating "Shirts and Shoes required. We don't care about your damn Speedo run". Obviously an establishment with standards. We took our places at the bar, ordered and admired the rack of mugs overhead. I noticed an amusing logo on one which stated "Kitty is mad because you suck". I called attention to it and Bill wondered aloud if he could take the mug down. A gentleman seated next to Ellie stated it was a thousand dollar investment and should not be trifled with. Intrigued, we learned the rest of the story. Members of Bukowski's mug club are awarded mugs after completing consumption of approximately 100 beers on the mug club card over the course of 6 months. Ellie and I found the 6 month time frame laughable though our interlocutor still had 40 beers to go with 2 months to accomplish the feat.

From Bukoski's it was off to Dillon's to rendevous with Bill and Ellie's college chum Matt. I also know Matt, having grown up in the same housing project (OK, development) in North Stonington. Abstemious in real life, the presence of Bill and Ellie caused Matt to fall off the wagon with a resounding thump. And why not? The balmy temperatures had us drinking on the veranda in December with only a little help from the overhead gas heaters.

There was a sticky bit of business after the arrival of a slew of Ugly Sweater Party contestants when Bill and I realized we had been cut off from the facilities but our fears proved overblown.

By this time, our dinner reservation loomed and it was decided to drop our accouterments at the hotel and proceed by cab to the North End, where Matt wanted to bring us to The Green Dragon Tavern, allegedly frequented by Paul Revere and John Hancock. We hoofed it over to The Midtown Hotel, whose drab Soviet style exterior belied a commodious and comfortable interior. Ensuring that the lock on the door to the adjoining room of Bill and Ellie was operational we then cabbed it north.

Hoofing it

Arriving in the North End of Boston was a revelation. I thought Providence had a lot of Italian restaurants! Matt spirited us off to the Green Dragon Tavern for a pre-prandial bracer. As the lads got the drinks in, some sharpie in a bad sweater swooped in to try to charm Ellie and Elizabeth but beat a hasty retreat upon our return.

The Green Dragon

Dinner at L'Osteria (thank heavens for the "O"... I wonder how many people misspell it and get a disease instead?) proved delightful. We swanned past a large contingent of hungry proles without the foresight to secure reservations in advance and seated our party of 5 with reservations for 4 at a table for 6.

Consumption of choice viands, pastas and liquors ensued, all accompanied by the witty and droll repartee of the assembled patrons of the arts. Propriety forbids disclosure of our dinnertime conversation, necessity (I can't remember it) ensures it. After a brief collision of the cash and cashless economies was sorted out (there is nothing more vexatious I find than paying for a meal a month after you've consumed it) it was off to a nearby pastry shop recommended by Matt for dessert and, you guessed it, more drinks. We rioted upon cannoli and cakes washed down with aperitifs and coffee with Sambuca. Heartily sustained, it was off for a Beacon Hill pub crawl. Matt sensibly elected to retire at this juncture citing some sort of marital entanglement but promised to meet us for brunch the next day.

After an arduous and not very scenic stroll from the North End to Beacon Hill, oddly enough, uphill all the way, we found ourselves quaffing Guinness at the Beacon Hill Pub.

A lively neighborhood joint, it was a perfect warm up for our next stop, The Sevens Ale House, 77 Charles Street, one of my favorite Boston bars.

A table miraculously opened up for us on arrival and I settled in for what I thought might be a convivial session. I quickly disposed of a delish local brew and was about to head to the bar for a refill when a scene I never thought I would ever witness occurred: Ellie shoved her untouched Guinness over to me, suggested I finish it and announced she was suspending operations for the evening! If we wanted a free ride on her newly acquired Uber account we had better drink up and hit the bricks. Yes friends, I was getting the hook from Ellie! My flabber was gasted! Elizabeth was non-plussed at this astonishing turn of events, heartened, no doubt, at finding this most unlikely of allies in the temperance movement. She demurred at my suggestion that we walk the 1.9 miles back to the hotel after a few more libations and thus, our nascent epic pub crawl was cruelly foreshortened. We were speedily Ubered back to The Midtown where, after a couple of asprins and a quart of water I retired to sleep the sleep of the just.

We arose the next morning at the crack of 10. This feat was in itself worthy of note; the crepuscular sanctuary afforded by the nuclear blast-rated curtains over the windows of The Midtown rendered the room as dark as a tomb. It would have been easy to sleep through the museum, brunch, the play and our train ride home. But strict adherence to our punctilious schedule saved the day. After a brief effort to get Bill headed in the proper direction we set off for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
We strolled past the enormous campus of Northeastern University only to find the carrot we used to lure Bill, Punter's Pub, closed. We had to summon severe fortitude and approach the museum without the requisite bracer on board. Imagine my surprise when I learned the exhibit Elizabeth wished to see, Old Dutch Masters, had nothing to do with cigar box art and the museum felt it appropriate to charge admission to see it! I've suffered worse in the name of art so I sucked it up and paid. Bill and Ellie, after a cursory inspection of the Old Dutch Masters, sped off to view more modern works. Possibly the off-putting name of the exhibit had something to do with it. E-Beth pronounced herself satisfied with the exhibit. I felt they did the best they could with the pulchritude on hand but I thought they could have worked in a few more depictions of cats.

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[Editor's -- okay, okay, Ellie's -- note: This is some of what Mistah and I saw upstairs at the MFA:]

[And now back to Mr. Dibble:]

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We rendezvoused on schedule with Matt on the steps of the Museum, found Punter's still closed at noon on a Sunday and set off for brunch near the Fenway section. At a bright little corner place we had a restorative Bloody and commenced to devour a very nice brunch. We met Matt's wife who arrived via electric Smart Car. I have always wondered what sort of person buys a Smart Car, I now have my answer.

Wrapped around brunch (and another Bloody) it was time to take tearful leave of Matt and proceed to the reason whence we came: the stage version of "A Confederacy of Dunces".

We hoofed it over to the Huntington Theater . . . 

. . . arriving once more in plenty of time to explore our surroundings which included a basement bar.

We were advised a) that we could bring drinks into the theater, b) that we could pre-order and have our intermission drinks awaiting us at intermission. Genius! Suitably fortified, drinks in hand, with resupply reassuringly pre-arranged, we took our seats. It was with no little trepidation that we waited for the play to begin. There had been so many abortive attempts to stage or film the book that there were rumors of a curse on the project. Bill and I had studiously avoided reading any reviews though we knew the gist of them were generally positive. I really couldn't see how they would stage the story with its amazing breadth and sheer numbers of characters. My apprehensions were vanquished when Nick Offerman took the stage, was helped into a fat suit and his costume on stage and became Ignatious J. Reilly. I laughed to tears when he intoned the first "mongoloid" and never looked back. I found the minimalist staging imaginative, given the sweep of the novel, and gradually became aware that many of the actors portrayed multiple characters, all to good effect.

Intermission found us back at the bar, scooping up our pre-ordered drinks which they very thoughtfully neglected to charge us for. At one point E-Beth departed for the ladies' loo which featured a rather long line. Ellie and I were discussing the play when we looked over and thought we spied E-Beth at the back of the line. We both did double takes before realizing the woman in question was not, in fact, Elizabeth in a different costume but an uncanny dead ringer for her. We marveled at the resemblance and when Beth reappeared she asked what we were staring at. "You." was the reply. In all too short of a time the play ended to enthusiastic applause. My only quibble concerned the character of Burma Jones, I felt his role might have been bigger.

Thoroughly satisfied with the play we had only to pick up our bags at the hotel and beat feet for the South Station. Somehow a fifth of Stoli found its way into a bottle of Vitamin Water to sustain us on our march to the station.

Our magical 'hood

We arrived well in advance of Amtrak and determined, much to E-Beth's horror, to quaff another frosty at a nearby establishment. Beth is haunted by the prospect of missing a train, traumatized by a long ago incident in Utica which, despite the lasting effect on her otherwise sanguine nature, had a happy ending.


We had our libation, boarded the train and took our rightful place in the bar car to be whisked back to New London.

One hour and forty two minutes later found us ensconced at 23 Green Street, regaling the Dutch denizens with the account of our Boston adventure. I asked Bill if he would consider another excursion with us as traveling companions. After considering for what I deemed an unseemly length of time, he allowed as to how he might be persuaded to do just that. On to Broadway!


jacquie said...

What a fun telling of a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by the ol' bloggie-poo, Mr. Dibble!


Mistah said...

A pretty good ramble for a dipsomaniac. Well done Mr. Dibble. And that sure was a big beer!

Jane Novak said...

As always, brother of mine, I love reading your stuff.. of course I need to spend the next 15 min on google making sure I really understood it!

CC Coutant said...

Loved the saga! I was initially disquieted by the reference to "Mr. Dibble" though- as far as I kniw, Mr. Dibble has been nurturing and supporting from the Other side for awhile now...then I realized that the reference was to my contemporary . That was shocking and disorienting as I didn't realize we had transitioned to adults. But I felt reassured after reading of the weekend that he, in fact, was not that far removed from early adolescence after all. Thanks for the glorious retelling - and since we are now back east, let me know when you ventur to Broadway - might join the train in Stamford!

Lisa S said...

I am only going to allow myself two paragraphs per day of this Dibbly dispatch, so as to make it last longer.

mom c said...

I always thought Mr. Dibble was a man of few words --- not any more!
Great post.... Mom C.