You never know how something will play out until you experience it.
I learned this lesson when I was 9, when I didn’t want to go to T.O. Baum’s party. We went to SAAC together, that’s “Science And Arts Camp.” It was held at an elementary school in Westport, Connecticut that no longer exists. It’s weird, you drive around in a circle, you check Google Maps, and then you research online and find out it’s been torn down. And it wasn’t that old. Ah, progress.
This is where I first wanted to be a writer, I think I told you that. I had this small black binder my father had given me and I wrote articles for the paper and the editors laughed at me, they wouldn’t run them, the most I got was sports scores, which were meaningless, since they were in the regular paper previously. And even though T.O. was a year older, I really didn’t know him, and wanted to ignore the invitation, but my mother insisted. That’s my mother, with no social anxiety at all, she’s a goer, she’s a doer, even near ninety two. You couldn’t watch TV during the daytime and not much at night either. But if you wanted to go to a cultural event, the movies, a concert, a play, there was always money for that. Every opera, every Shakespeare play they offered in school, she and my dad coughed up the cash. My dad always said we didn’t live in a fancy house but we ate the best meals and went to the best places. So I went, and had a fantastic time, the party got out of control, we ran through the sprinklers, got all wet, and I remember it to this day. So when I was searching on Yelp for dinner…
My dad had a policy. You never ate dinner in the hotel. He would have loved Yelp!, he was always looking for the best restaurants. And I just searched, and found a place called Eventide, with fabulous reviews, an outpost of the main Maine eatery, I read the menu and decided I was gonna go for the fried oysters, even though I’m temporarily off Crestor, seeing if it’s contributing to my back pain, which I don’t think it is.
And in the seventies, the streets were unsafe. You didn’t walk far in the city. But now that seems untrue, and Google said Eventide was only nine minutes away so I started to walk.
And immediately encountered Fenway Park.
Which proves the point. I was just ragging on baseball, but confronted with the stadium I had a religious experience, akin to the old Yankeee Stadium, I mean the truly old one, the House That Ruth Built, before they redid it in the seventies and then tore the whole thing down. Now only Fenway exists. Oh, and Wrigley Field. But somehow the Chicago park is not the same, even though for a long time it had no lights. And going to Wrigley checks a mark off in your history, but going to Fenway…
It was so SMALL! It didn’t even hold thirty thousand people. There was only one deck. They’ve expanded it a bit. But still… I was walking by it and wanted to be inside, to experience that feeling, of being in a private universe where nothing else matters. And the scale… Fenway is small, and right downtown, but it still dwarfs the surroundings.
But then I got to Eventide.
The help couldn’t care less. The fried oysters were just this side of edible. I remembered the ones I had in Wellfleet, on the Cape. Toasty brown, dripping with gizzards… These seemed to be previously frozen, one step away from McNuggets. And there were so few of them I needed more, I hadn’t eaten for half a day. And the sign said fresh oysters were a dollar, but that was only for the very first one, ain’t that America. And I thought a lobster roll would do the trick, and they were priced at $15 and $23 and I asked the cashier how big the small one was and when she showed me with her hands I decided to pop for the large one which was small-sized and the roll was inedible and all the way there I’d been planning to write about fried oysters, fried clams, the east coast delicacies, but that was no longer possible. I’d have been better off having a sausage from the stand the proprietor had just set up. Seems kinda early, 9 PM the night before a game, maybe he’s saving his space.
I had it all figured out, waxing rhapsodic about Wellfleet, talking about my old roommate Lyndon’s house on a pond there, but the bad food eviscerated that possibility.
And I didn’t know whether to go to Star Market or…
Oh, that’s another thing, the hotel is ABOMINABLE! And nearly four hundred dollars a night. Stinks of disinfectant. And has no amenities, you couldn’t raid the minibar if you wanted to, because there isn’t one.
And I thought I saw a CVS and the Star Market was in the wrong direction and it was cold…
That’s one thing you can’t fathom if you’re from L.A. You start to believe it only gets cold in the mountains. But I’m wearing a fleece, and a windbreaker on top of that, and that’s enough, but I’m contemplating the winter coming, walking in the rain and the snow. And I’m thinking of the skiing, but then I remember, after it gets cold, it gets warm, ah the perils of New England.
So I went to the convenience store where New England Music City used to be, I forgot how small the store was.
But they had no inventory.
So I went to the 7-11, which stunningly had everything I wanted.
And if this is coming across as negative, you’re reading it wrong, or maybe I’m telling it with the wrong spin. You see travel is invigorating, new experiences are fulfilling, kinda like my mother said, you have to go outside, you have to take chances, you never know what you’ll encounter.
P.S. Rereading the above before hitting send, as I always do twice, I suddenly realized it was Michael Baum, not T.O. Ah, memory.
P.P.S. T.O. was my age, his real name was Steven but his older brother said T.O and it stuck, back when we all had nicknames and David was Dave, Steven was Steve and Robert was Bob, or Bobby.