A few weeks ago myself and Wonderwife went to Boston and New York on a research trip for a couple of my upcoming books. I did a daily blog on my facebook page documenting some of the things we did – here are days 1 to 7.
Yankageddon – Day 1 – Go Frisk yer self!
This morning at silly o’clock Wonderwife and I headed off to Dublin airport. She’d only flown in there the night before and frankly, she could’ve just stayed there and got a bit more kip but she wasn’t keen on the idea.
You know that poem about how there will always be a corner of a foreign field that will be forever England? Well, leaving aside the fact that frankly, England had more than its fair share of corners of fields over the years, there will be a part of Dublin that’ll forever be America. That’s because, due to our anointed status as America’s favourite supplier of ascendants, we get to pre-clear American border controls. What that means is, a grumpy American gets to stare at your passport IN DUBLIN because your big potatohead failed to fill the screen correctly, and then weirdly, he will grill Wonderwife about where she’s going in America, how long she’s staying, is she from Northern Ireland (?) and so on. I’m not saying this was racial profiling, people just always preferring talking to Wonderwife. She’s cursed with a friendly face. To be honest, I’m so used to it, I’m shocked when strangers ever talk to me – I just sort of look at her and pass them on. She is very much the people person end of the business. I’m good at opening jars.
On to the flight. If you’ve not seen Kingsman – The Golden Circle, tbh, you’ve not missed too much. The first film was great, the second one had good bits but had a frankly dreadful bit in Glastonbury that dragged it down. Having said that, the dubbed for air travel version is a solid gold classic. It utterly mystifies me as to why, but they’ve dubbed out all the swearing but left in all the violence. People getting fed into meat grinders is fine but no F-ing. In fact, and this is really the oddest thing, they’ve dubbed out the word ‘drugs’ – repeatedly. A large part of the plot centers around the baddy poisoning the world’s supply of drugs. Yes, that is hard to get across when you take out the word drugs. It’s like Caddyshack if you take out the word gopher or a Bond Film where you treat the women like 3-dimensional characters – it fundamentally changes the whole thing. Having said that, the bit when the main character told a baddy to ‘go frisk yourself’ – made me howl. That, and the fact that Elton John clearly refused to record a non-sweary version of all of his lines(which are 90% swearing) meant he should be up for some special Oscar nomination for mime.
Having been pre-cleared, it was weird to get off a plane in America and essentially face no security. We got a lot of extra time, a large part of that was admittedly eaten up waiting for our bags, but that was our fault – it appears my bag didn’t get on well with the other luggage and started a fight. He took a fair kicking but I’d like to think that somewhere there’s a baby seat that won’t mess with my bag again anytime soon.
Boston is sunny and frankly, small. We got a water taxi to the hotel which is cool and then we went for a walk. Wonderwife kept claiming we couldn’t be in Little Italy at one point as it was on the other side of town – I kept pointing out how every second shop was an Italian restaurant and what sealed the deal was turning the corner to meet the two most stereotypical Italian Americans that ever didn’t see nothing or say nothing to nobody. One of them had enough grease in his hair to be a serious danger near a naked flame and the other had a shirt open so low, it was more of a cummerbund, showing his deliciously hairy chest and a crucifix so large, vampires in other states were feeling highly irritable. They were outside a restaurant, I’m trying to convince Wonderwife to go back tomorrow and eat there, just so I can hear one of them say ‘for’ged about it.’ They may not even work there – they may’ve just been on a hard0earned break from their plumbing business.
I also bought a hat. In fact, two hats. I do not do hats well. I have the kind of large potatohead that baffles US Emigration technology, so hats have little chance. Still, it’s bloody sunny and I don’t want to get heat stroke, so we keep trying. I once got a hat on our honeymoon that actually worked. It is spoken of in hushed tones in our relationship. For a moment there, I was edging towards cool. It was that great a hat. Frankly, Wonderwife was possibly getting jealous that the hat was upstaging her on her own honeymoon. Mystery surrounds what happened to that hat, we may never know – but despite a nice man’s assistance, so far all attempts to recreate that piece of millenary based magic have been foiled. The search continues.
FYI – the other posts will be shorter, I’m using this to avoid going to sleep to early! until tomorrow, go frisk yerself!
Yankageddon – Day 2 – Talking about a revolution
Pictured: Paul Revere: Revolutionary, hunk and judging by the statue, the originator of the drive-by arse slap.
Today we walked. Good God, did we walk. 28,000 steps.
We set out this morning with no particular place to go and it took bloody ages to get there as a result. Almost by accident, we did bits of the Freedom Trail which is about the American Revolution.
To be honest, while they do the good job you’d expect at Hollywooding it up, hand on heart, the American Revolution doesn’t spark my imagination that much. Don’t get me wrong, they were clearly in the right and all that but it does feel like it came down to economics. The people in charge sat down, thought it out and came up with a well-reasoned argument. The whole thing was so bloody sensible. In contrast, the Irish revolution was lead by frankly a bunch of loons who were more into their poetry than their economic theories. There have been more well organised student rag week stunts than the Easter 1916 Rising and frankly, if the British hadn’t gone nuclear in response, history might’ve been very different. The American revolution feels like it was lead by the popular kids in class, the Irish one feels like revenge of the nerds.
Having said that, the American one had its characters. Paul Revere seems to have been quite the boy. He was by all accounts a bit of a booze hound, judging by the amount of watering holes in this town that have a strong connection with him. Here’s what’s interesting about his statue though. It depicts his famous ride to warn that the brits were coming – only it doesn’t. Paulie boy was apparently a short tubby Danny DeVito looking fella and not the chiselled Liam Neeson-looking dude that the sculptor has literally chiselled here. Also, in yet another damning example of the gender bias of history – the horse he’s on is depicted as being a boy in the statue, when in reality it was a mare. So Paul Revere’s statue depicts someone who isn’t him on a horse that isn’t his and he’s riding in a direction he didn’t go in. Apparently the last bit was because there’s a catholic church at one end of the park it is in, and a protestant one at the other. The sculptor wanted the arse to face the protestants. Seeing as he made the rest of the statue up, he might as well have gone the whole hog and depicted the Pope riding the Queen.
History may be written by the victors, but it’s sculpted by people who often didn’t read the history, or maybe they just like tall handsome dudes and horse willies.
Yankageddon – Day 3: All the presidents – men
I have a confession to make – I have a problem. Pretty much nothing in this world makes me happier than terrible wax work. In Boston’s dreamland – we hit something of a mother load. Madame Tussaud’s isn’t much fun as they’re too good, for me to be having a good time, they have to be barely recognisable. This place was great, by which I mean awful. Second best by which I mean second worst one I’ve been too – while it was bad, nothing beats San Francisco where the Beyonce was clearly Angelina Jolie who’d been spray-painted badly.
When we arrived at Dreamland, the staff seemed shocked that we wanted to go in. The woman on the counter had to turn the register on. It should’ve been fifty bucks, they gave us discounts we didn’t ask for to make it only $20 – they’d clearly gotten tired of dealing with complaints. We went on a Saturday in the height of tourist season – you could tell the staff are confused as to how they’ve not been closed down yet. We saw no other customers except one other couple the whole time we were there and they seemed to have only gone in there to find somewhere quiet to argue. If you ever wanted a sign of a business that is not doing great, then the woman in the gift shop nearly having a heart attack when customers appeared is a fairly good one. She couldn’t have been more surprised if some of the statues walked out. This was sincerely the highlight of the trip so far – God, I really love a badly made waxwork.
Other highlights of the day were a hop-on hop-off bus tour, where the guide kept doing an Irish accent – sorry, an “Irish accent” by screeching in a high-pitched voice. Genuinely thinks he’s confused the Irish with witches. Also found out that Paul Revere, as not depicted in the famous Paul Revere statue(see day 2) had 16 kids by two different women. Apparently, it wasn’t just the British who were coming. No – you shut up!
I have included an album of snaps from the Dreamland experience here – I strongly suggest you check it out- they are pretty friskin’ incredible.
Yankageddon – Day 4: Blow ups and grow ups
Today we headed off to do the Boston Movie Mile walking tour. We had to get an Uber down to Boston Common as frankly, all the previous days of walking have left me a broken man. We had a driver who was one of those people who found seemingly everything hilarious. Her own GPS got more laughs out of that woman in a ten-minute journey than I manage out of most people in a twenty-minute set. To be fair, the bit where she thought it’d say go left, but it said go right – ye just can’t write that kind of gold.
Waiting around for the tour, I’ll be honest, hopes were not high. Our guide seemed a quiet guy and the other tourers(that’s a word) seemed unappealing. In particular, the two parents who passively watched on as their kids with purple hair tried to stamp on pigeons. Not chase pigeons, not hug or feed pigeons – no, kill them through the medium of stamping. Those two have an exciting career ahead of them as being the first brother-sister serial killers.
Mike – our guide, gathered us up and started the tour. As a stand-up, you can sense fast when a section of an audience is going to be trouble. It’s a finely-honed survival instinct. You did not need that kind of instinct to see those kids were going to be a nightmare. As it became clear that the Klumps from Kansas were passing all parental responsibility onto a resting actor, I’m pretty sure the nearby statue of George Washington rolled its eyes. I never studied German but I’d be 95% certain that the Kraut couple were openly discussing how those two little psychos would inevitably end up making suits from their parent’s skin, safe in the knowledge that people from Kansas don’t learn foreign languages. In short, we all felt for Mike.
Sure enough, the first stop on the tour, where he was talking us through a scene from The Departed, was dominated by two preconscious pre-pubescent pricks who would one day be their own Netflix documentary series. Even as I watched them, I could imagine she would be the one to torture their victims and he’d be the one who did weird stuff with the bodies. Actual dialogue…
Mike: “Matt Damon was sitting just where that half-finished bottle of Gatorade is. Oh God, don’t pick it up – that’s almost certainly not Gatorade in it now.”
He tried to explain the difficulty Scorsese had getting the stupidly rich residents nearby to let him film from their roofs. At least I think that’s what Mike said, Ozzy was doing a bit with the Gatorade bottle and Harriot was doing a song she wanted us all to hear.
Then, we moved on and something wonderful happened. We got to the crosswalk outside the State house and the Kansas contingent weren’t with us. Wordlessly, nine people who’d mostly just met each other formed a silent agreement. If they had somehow lost track of us,
We weren’t going back. Maybe they’d got lost, maybe they’d found a dead squirrel they wanted to poke with a stick, or maybe that call from Supernanny had finally come through – regardless, we were moving on.
We did – they never came back and we never spoke of them again. That tour group became bonded, more bonded that some groups who had gone through wars together. We’d all been in the presence of pure purple-haired evil and survived. We also realised, minus the little bastard backing band, Mike was actually a wonderfully entertaining guide who had a tonne of delightful stories. He loved movies, and his two favs set in Boston were The Departed and Good Will Hunting. Same as mine. I bloody loved Mike. He told us how the regrettable Jeff Bridge’s movie Blown Away went down in Boston history because the director wanted realism for his big finale, so without telling the city beforehand he blew up an actual frigate in Boston harbour – and damaged 800 buildings in the process, tripling the film’s budget. I then explained how the realism didn’t extend to Tommy Lee Jone’s Irish accent and the scene where he’s supposedly drinking Guinness despite the fact it’s some headless monstrosity that looked like flat Coke.
The 90 minute tour took two hours and at the end, without him even hinting at it, we all generously tipped Mike. I hope he gets that acting break he deserves. Maybe he can play the doctor in the horror film based on real events, Killer Kids from Kansas. He’d be good in it. I’m off to go watch The Departed on Netflix. Great movie. There’s a scene where Mike is an extra in the background, I’ll be looking out for him.
Yankageddon day 5: It’s raining Irishmen, hallelujah
So, Caimh – what exciting stuff did you and Wonderwife get up to today? Well, we got up very late, we looked out the window, we realised the weather looked pants, we got dressed, we went out in the weather, we realised it was indeed frankly pants, we did a sharp about turn, so much so that the concierge hadn’t finished saying goodbye before we were back in the hotel, then we had a decadent lunch and went back to our room, where we watched Fantastic Four, the really awfully version, and then had a kip. It was in short, bloody brilliant. We did go out at about 8PM and meet a German for a few pints in an Irish pub, but the day was all-in-all a decadent delight. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing stuff, but d’you know what I really love? Doing nothing. It’s an all too rare treat. A good friend of mine is a massive fan of leaving bad shows at the interval – some people may see that as a waste but I totally get it. The unexpected hour in bed is the greatest sleep you’ll ever have.
Very well, you’re thinking, why is this of interest to me? Well, luckily for you dear reader, I’d a shower this morning. Not any shower though, no – I used Irish Spring shower gel – with the slogan “shower up like a true Irishman!” Ah, to be sure, it took me back to my school days. We’d be there after PE class and one of the Christian Brothers would charge in and shout “C’mon lads, shower up like a true Irishman!” Ah the craic would be mighty, and the inappropriate touching minimal.
I’ll be honest, I’m well used to my nationality being used to sell booze. It’s pretty much 40% of the Irish identity. Don’t hold me to these figures but the Irish identity is 34% blaming the English for stuff, 40% isn’t booze great, 11% saying things in a lyrical way, 9% being charming with bad teeth, 2% liking U2, 2% hating U2, 7% being terrible at maths, 4.4% loving being the underdog, 1% thinking we’re the masters of the universe, 14% wondering whose round it is.
Up until this point, nobody has ever made a big deal of us smelling nice. In fact, after lathering myself in Irish Spring I treated Wonderwife to an extended whiff of Caimh. She said, and I quote “You smell exactly the same as normal” – in short, they’ve nailed this whole smell like an Irishman thing. This might not sound like much but the last three times I’ve gone through Irish customs at Dublin port, the entirety of the grilling was
“where are ye from?”
I assumed they were using smell as the primary security check there. I worry that now they’ve perfected the smell of the Irish, our borders aren’t as secure as they once were. All that stands between your Isis operative and free passage into Ireland is a bottle of shower gel and saying “Dublin” correctly. I probably shouldn’t say this but Dublin is pronounced exactly as you’d think, it’s not the greatest of passwords. We need additional checks, I suggest showing someone a clip of Tommy Lee Jones from the film Blown Away and seeing how angry it makes them.
In the interest of rigorous journalism, I’ve done some research into Irish Spring between naps, it has apparently existed in the US and Germany for three decades. The slogans have varied – My personal fav being “smell like you’re worth exploring” – this of course harking back to the 1980s when us Irish lads were cleaning up with the blind women, until Lionel Richie came swanning in with his “hello, is it me you’re looking for?” soulful singing and totally stole our thunder.
Tomorrow, the plan is to dowse myself in yet more Irish Spring and then we’re off to see the Boston Redsox play a game against the might Detroit Tigers – unless it rains, in which case they’re apparently all too soft to come out and play. They’d want to man up, cover themselves in some Irish Spring and get on with it.
Yankageddon – Day 6: Take me out to da ball game
Day 6 and Wonderwife and I are just back from the regional heat of the American National Eating Championships, or as it is more commonly known, a baseball game. The Boston Red Sox are seemingly pretty good at baseball, the Detroit Tigers – not so much. To be fair to the Tigers, apparently they didn’t get there until 3AM the night before and were tired and grouchy little puddy cats. Certainly, they didn’t seem in the mood to hit the ball very much. There was also an hilarious moment when one of their fielders stood to catch the ball, raised his glove and then seemed shocked when it lander twenty feet away. I asked someone if that was unusual – the guy cheerfully informed me that he’d watched baseball for twenty years and he’d never seen some putz do that. The guy actually looked in his glove just to doublecheck the ball wasn’t there.
The game’s atmosphere was pretty muted, most of the time all you could hear around us was the sound of people chewing; Hot dogs, baseball hats full of popcorn, pizzas, fries, peanuts, an entire roast hog – you name it, people were chowing down on it. To be fair to the Red Sox, they’ve tried to minimise the possibility their fan base masticating their way to an early grave by jacking the prices sky high, thirty-dollar pizza anybody? But the Fenway faithful were not to be dissuaded. I’m a big dude, but I felt frankly dainty compared to the two men sitting beside us. Frank and other Frank wheezed through snacks, while mumbling random stats and shocking each other with defibrillators between innings. We were up in the Gods in right field – the most exciting thing that happened was a player fouled a ball that landed three rows up from us – everyone put their hands up to catch it – Frank beside me just opened his mouth to see if he could eat it. The game ended 6-0, we left early because Frank ran out of snacks and I was worried he’d ‘accidently’ start eating Wonderwife.
Eating in this country is quite the experience. Three nights ago, we went for an Italian meal in Boston’s Little Italy. The very pretty waitress took our order and as she left, I discreetly opinioned to Wonderwife that I’ve never had less faith in someone getting out order right. To quote her exactly “Oh for God’s sake, we’ve got a starter each, the same main and a bottle of wine – don’t be such a pessimist, nobody can mess that up.” Thirty minutes later, Wonderwife’s main showed up halfway through her starter at which point we cancelled the bottle of wine that wasn’t coming anyway.
Yesterday, we went to the Barking Crab down by the harbour. I can’t remember what I ordered but the waitress told me I didn’t want it, I wanted the fish tacos. I thought I didn’t but she seemed very sure that I did, so I went with her firm suggestion. When in doubt, always go with the staff. I remember being in Hong Kong with comedian Rob Deering years ago and he ordered the stinky bean curd. The waiter told him he didn’t want that, Rob assured him he did. Long story short, fifteen minutes later, Rob had to call the waiter over and apologise and ask him to take it away. Diners from other tables were giving us very dirty looks and Rob couldn’t get rid of it by eating it because it tasted almost as bad as it smelt. Anyway, the fish tacos were lovely.
Today, we went to a chain called Sweet Green which specialises in salads. It’s great, they make a big bowl of delicious salad right in front of you. It was the first verifiably healthy meal we’ve had here. The only downside? The questions. Oh my God – the questions. Do you want to substitute this for that? extra this? less or more of that? Which of the eight dressings would you like? More, less, none or fewer nuts? I’ve never been more intimidated by a salad in my life. The woman in front of me rattled off such a complicated list of instructions with substitutions, subtractions and additions – by the end of it, instead of a bowl of salad, she’d come out with a handbag full of spaghetti, six AA batteries and the audiobook of Catcher in the Rye. The servers took it all in stride, me on the other hand – they gave the stinky bean curd face. “What would you like?” “That thing there in the picture.” “What would you like in it?” “Whatever is in the picture.” “Would you like?” points at picture. “But?” Picture! It was lovely and it set me up for the day. I highly recommend it to the Detroit Tigers assuming the poor little puddy cats get themselves a good night’s sleep as tomorrow, they’ve to play the Red Soxs again and on tonight’s form, the only excitement will be in what inning one of the Frank’s loudly proclaims to the other. “Dump time!” In case you’re interested, Frank 1 is batting a solid 2.5 DPG (Dumps Per Game) and Frank 2 is leading the league in FSC (Feet of Sausage Consumed) – I just hope they’re keeping something in reserve for the playoffs.
Yankageddon – Day 7: So good they named it twice
Today was the day we said bye bye to Beantown and hello to New York. We travelled on an express train which was essentially one massive Business Class train. The woman beside us held a conference call for almost three hours while constantly glancing across at me, quite possibly wondering when the train guard was going to kick out this hobo. Wonderwife is an executive woman and can effortlessly blend in, in contrast, I perpetually look like I’d chase food if you threw it. This is what comes from being your own boss for 15 years now. I’m like one of them horses ye can’t put a saddle on.
We eventuallygot through Manhattan, which frankly felt like a waking stress dream after Boston’s chilled vibe, and we’re now in our Art-Deco hotel in Brooklyn. Confession time: this is an appalling thing for a writer to admit but I’m rubbish at describing things. Case in point, I’ve no idea how you’d describe our hotel but it’s full of vaguely pretty things that serve no purpose. Our room has a typewriter. I’m assuming that’s Art Deco. As for where abouts we are in Brooklyn – judging by this evenings walk, we’re at the Polish/Hipster/Chinese end of town. No clue but I really like it. It’s relaxed and it really does feel like an actual community. We had a Mexican meal of ridiculously large portions and the hipsters at the next table were very impressed with how I dealt with our basket of nachos catching fire from a close encounter with a candle. Little do they know, but that wasn’t my first dinner table forest fire – you develop coping techniques if you do it often enough.
So, for today’s blog – here are some random observations of our trip so far. Warning: Some of this isn’t funny.
North is cooler: A few years ago Wonderwife and I had our honeymoon down South and had an absolute blast. The people were friendly, the weather was delightful, the portions were also insanely large. There was also frankly, some noticeable noticing. You see we are a mixed couple and you did notice the noticing a good deal more down South than we did in Boston. There seems to be a lot more mixed raced couples up in Boston and indeed New York. To be clear, I’m not suggesting most of the people noticing down South were being racist, that would be a grossly unfair assumption – I’m merely pointing out that clearly, we were somewhat of an ‘unusual’ sight. I think when people were noticing us at all in Boston, it was because I found a shop selling a T-shirt with the original Batman logo and frankly, there was some serious T-envy going on. On the other hand, the South had way more rollercoasters so it evens out.
Graffiti: I’ve seen some really cool graffiti since I’ve been here – see the above Stormtrooper taking a dump in R2D2 example. I also randomly saw a sticker with “Ewok dry humped Madonna” – nope, no idea either but I’m delighted to be anywhere with that random lunacy.
America is now an incredibly divided place: Turn on any of the news channels and it seems to be the screen divided up into six squares who are constantly shouting over each other. It’s presented as ‘debate’ but it really isn’t – it’s just baiting via soundbite. Trump presenting the Philadelphia Eagles as ‘unpatriotic’ despite actually none of their players having knelt for the anthem last year is just one tiny example of how facts seem to have been abandoned for rhetoric and it is honestly terrifying. In fact, the amount of people who have fallen for the ludicrous idea that a protest at racial injustice is somehow disrespectful to the military is mind blowing.
The ill amongst us: Speaking of the military, it is noticeable, even since my first trip to America ten years ago, that there seems to have been a large increase in people wandering the streets who are clearly mentally ill. I’d lay good money that a chunk of them our ex-military. I know Britain has to do a better job of it too, but the cruel irony of ‘support’ being bandied about like it’s the be-all and end-all while vets live homeless and vulnerable on the streets is a sickening thing to see. Having said that, in all honesty, the ubiquity of Bluetooth technology does make it honestly hard to tell sometimes as to who is hearing voices and who is just having an impassioned phone call with their mother.
Anyway, tomorrow it is time for some serious Brooklyn research and a welcome return to funny observations!