The Best and Worst of Boston

I stayed on in Fredericton a couple of days longer than intended, for I was having a pleasant time. My hosts were very generous and took me to St. John on Saturday, followed by a trip to St. Andrew on Sunday. I spent Monday sorting out my gear and repackaging it all, and on Tuesday jumped on a bus to Bangor, Maine.

Yes, bus. My knees are clearly unprepared to push the weight of me, my gear and my bike down the coast and over the mountains to New York. I seem to have no problem cycling long distances with less weight, but loaded for living on the road, the pain starts. Perhaps it’s age, or some injury from last year. The pain seemed to have started while cycling to Whistler last summer. If it doesn’t get better, I may have to consider a future of travelling with just a bike and a credit card.

At any rate, a day of bus riding landed me in Boston on Tuesday night, shortly before midnight and shortly after the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship. I checked in to my hostel and listened to screaming and honking until at least 3:00am.

I don’t really get professional sport. Actually, I don’t get it at all. Marx referred to religion as the “opium of the people”, and I’m inclined to agree with him in some respects. But at least the kind of spiritual inquiry that leads some to religion, however irrational a form it takes, may be a rational response to a natural instinct. Sport, however, seems more a legitimate opiate. W.P. Kinsella’s semi-seductive allusions to a spiritual component to baseball notwithstanding, sport seems entirely devoid of progressive humanism, liberal charity, or intellectual challenge.

Imagine, for a moment, if everyone cheered on their local Wal-Mart store. Each fiscal year would be the start of a new season. People would start pools in their offices in the hopes of correctly guessing the quarterly sales results. Children would collect Wal-Mart cards that bear photographs of store managers and sales stats. Grown men would walk about town in over sized jerseys emblazoned with the name of their favourite “cashier of the month”. Families would attach flags bearing the face of Sam Walton to the windows of their minivans. It would all come to climax when one of the empire’s many stores would be named Sales Leader of the Year, and drunken revelry in the streets would ensue.

But that’s ridiculous. The working classes allowing themselves to be sedated into cheering on a for-profit corporation that’s competing against other for-profit corporations, with the benefits of public tax subsidies, is absurd. Forget I mentioned it.

Anyway, back to Boston. Wednesday I went out to Cambridge and walked around the campus of Harvard, and while there visited the Fogg Art Museum. In the evening I went to Chinatown for dinner, but coming from Vancouver, was mildly disappointed.

Today, I ventured out in late morning to find that pretty much the whole population of the greater Boston area (about 4.5 million) were mingling downtown celebrating the victory of the “world champion” Celtics. How a team in a league that includes the word “national” can be considered champions of the world, I’m uncertain, but I’ll try to avoid devolving into another anti-sport rant. On a whim, I decided to get out of town, and I jumped on a commuter train to Concord, about an hour away.

Concord is, of course, the location of Walden Pond, the lake along which Thoreau built his little cabin (on land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson), where he resided in partial solitude over two years writing what would become one of my favourite books. As I anticipated, there is little solitude to be found at Walden Pond on a hot June day in 2008. The parking lot was jammed and the water full, but I managed to find a semi-quiet rock on the far side of the pond on which to contemplate a more objective understanding of the appeal of basketball. I fear I’ve failed.

Afterward, I took a stroll through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where I was able to gaze upon the graves of Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne and Alcott, absorbing literary spirit. Perhaps I’ll put some of it to practical use in the next few weeks at the commune in New York, toward which I will be travelling on Sunday.

Although I’m trying to do a little freelance editing while I travel, I’m enjoying the opportunity to do a little more reading along the way too. I just finished Chaim Potok’s Davita’s Harp, and am now working on Howard Jacobson’s Kalooki Nights.

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hedley bontano

1 Comment

  1. Karna on June 19, 2008 at 22:31

    Hey Bro.

    Take care of the knee, trust me I know if you don’t, you will have a lifetime of problems with it. Better off taking the bus. I will trade you my one “somewhat good” knee for your bad one…..but it would be a bad deal on your part I am sure.

    Cheers, hope you have a good time out East!!