Stupid Guy Trip V: The Stupiding

One of the traditions I’ve enjoyed a great deal over the past six years has been the Stupid Guy Trip: an annual-ish assembling of several long-time male friends for a testosterone-fueled visit to some city or another for food, beer, and endless “your mom” jokes. Past trips have been to Las Vegas, Chicago, Santa Fe, and Seattle, and have included casino gambling, opera, architectural tours, visits to national historical sites, “Evil Dead: The Musical”, gnome theft, Blue Man Group shows, and baseball.

This year we decided that Boston would be the destination. Due to some scheduling difficulties, this turned out to be the most sparsely attended trip thus far, with only myself, [Chris->] and [Mike->] attending. We all set down in the Boston airport on Friday afternoon with 3 days the city stretching before us and absolutely no idea of how we would spend that time. Our first order of business was, predictably, to find some food, so after dropping $15 on a 7-day transit pass, we bought a guidebook, wandered up to the North End and enjoyed a really excellent meal in a tiny little restaurant with only 7 tables. We then hopped on the subway and a bus to get out to our hotel and settled in comfortably at the Sheraton Newton, which was, surprisingly, built directly over an interstate and had really helpful and friendly staff. A short trip across the street to Buff’s Pub capped our travel day nicely.

The next day we scored a hat trick of touring delights. The first was the Freedom Trail Walk with the Histrionic Academy, an hour and a half ramble through the parks, historic structures, and cemeteries of Boston led by a young woman with an surprisingly powerful voice and a penchant for bursting into song. We then enjoyed some clam and fish chowders at the famous Union Oyster Bar before proceeding on to board the Tall Ship Formidable, a square-rigged sailing vessel on which we had booked a tour around the harbor that included a mock cannon battle with her sister ship, the Poincare. While we were a bit disappointed that the cannons turned out to be miniatures, about 10 inches long, the weather was perfect and the sailing a treat.

We then enjoyed some excellent Pho at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant and headed for Fenway Park. Tickets for that night’s game with the Toronto Blue Jays had sold out months before, but we still had hopes that we’d be able to procure some. Official channels didn’t yield any results, so we resorted to the friendly folks selling tickets along the street and were, after much back and forth, able to get in to the game. The Sox thumped the Jays soundly while we goggled at the grandeur of the Park, the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the price of the beer. Particular highlights included the crowd participation when “Sweet Caroline” came over the P.A. and seeing a couple balls whacked clean over the Green Monster.

Sunday was a bit more tame: we started off the day with a jaunt up to Harvard, where we poked around the venerable campus and its surroundings for a while. We were entranced by the Carpenter Center, a building designed by Le Corbusier, and went in through an unlocked door to explore the interior. Unfortunately, the door locked behind us, and it took us 20 minutes of architectural appreciation alternating with panic to find a door that would let us out without sounding a fire alarm. Breathing a sigh of relief, we spent another hour enjoying the bookstores and an excellent lunch at Tamarind Bay before heading back in toward the center of town.

There we visited Trinity Church, an stunningly beautiful structure which has been on the Top 10 lists in architecture for the past century. The church features several windows by John La Farge, who pioneered various techniques for layering glass to create an amazingly rich dimensional look. After the church booted us out for their evening services, we headed to the Top of the Hub, a restaurant on the 54th floor of The Prudential Center, where we watched the sun drop over the city while peregrine falcons, which nest in the upper floors of the building, wheeled about us. Mike pointed out that we could actually see into Fenway Park from our stratospheric perch, and that since the beer was actually cheaper at the restaurant, we might do well to bring binoculars and a transistor radio there next time we wanted to watch the Red Sox play.

The final stop for Sunday was Paddy O’s for a show by The Gobshites, an enthusiastically profane “acousticelticore” punk-ish Irish band. They were a load of fun, super high energy, very friendly to their Texas visitors, and definitely not suitable for children.

Monday was departure day. We headed up to the Boston Commons to buy some bagels and watch people in the park while eating our al fresco breakfast. Once filled, we moved on to the Boston Public Library, home to some magnificent murals by John Singer Sargent and a miniature book exhibit. Mike and I then parted company with Chris, who had an earlier flight to catch. We headed over to MIT for a last architectural tour before leaving, highlights of which included Frank Gehry’s Stata Center, Simmons Hall, which was designed by Steven Holl, and the MIT Chapel, designed by Eero Saarinian, the same fellow who was responsible for the St. Louis Arch.

And then homeward bound! Mike and I both took advantage of the opportunity to switch flights from our original overcrowded one to another 45 minutes later, netting both a travel voucher and an upgrade to first class — only the second time in my life I’ve flown in the fancy section of the plane. This time was much better than the last, when the flight attendant spilled coffee all over me within 5 minutes of my arrival on the plane.

It was a super trip: lots of wonderful food, a chance to explore one of America’s great cities, excellent company, a delightful ballgame, and tasty beer. Thanks, Boston!