Antigua to New York; thirty, down to five degrees celsius, rain and thirty knots of wind. I have waved goodbye to living and breathing the salty sea air to travel the extensive landscape of North America and Canada.
The swift taxi ride from JFK to La Guardia airport at eleven at night was all I saw of the ‘Big Apple’. My first destination was Boston, Massachusetts’s capital and largest city.
Outside the terminal, Annette was waiting for me in her dark blue Impala. We met in Antigua a few months ago. She and her husband Joe had flown from America to visit a close friend. On my way back from Kite Surfing in Nonsuch Bay, I decided to stop for lunch at Half Moon Bay Cafe. I ordered a lobster salad and shared a long table with Annette and Joe. My lunch order took nearly three hours to appear, but it was time well spent. Joe, Annette and I enjoyed learning about each others dramatically different lifestyles. They asked about my sailing career and I asked about their home in Boston, America. Before I knew it, my flights were booked and I was heading their way.
My first Boston experience was a bagel at Katz's Bakery in Chelsea. Freshly baked, I chose a selection of flavours; cinnamon and raisin, garlic, onion and egg and a herb cream cheese spread. The baker was shocked to hear that this was the first time I had ever tried one of America’s favourite foods.
I was humbly welcomed into Annette and Joe’s home in west Boston, just a bus ride from the centre of town. Joe and his family have lived in the same house for over a century. It was as if I had gone back to the 1980’s. The walls were covered in black and white family photos and the cabinets and surfaces were stacked with books and antiques.
We sat in the kitchen and spoke of our time in Antigua as their beautiful, fluffy, green eyed cat weaved its way between my legs. In the background an old radio played the Beatles. Chipped coffee mugs hung from the walls and varieties of clock ticked away around each room. A giant sink sat on stilts and the wooden shelves balanced jars, tins and boxes that were filled with every assortment of spread, biscuit and chutney. Joe opened the door to the basement where the warmth of the old fashioned boiler heated the damp smelling room. He flicked on a few old lamps to reveal piles of vintage TVs, books, chairs, tools and a 1950 Schwinn bike. Joe told us; ‘My family have never thrown anything away’. It was fantastic.
Before supper we enjoyed a few bottles of Blue Moon beer in Joe’s hangout. A room on the top floor of the house. There in the middle of the room, sat three chairs to choose from, a chipped wooden rocking chair, a worn sofa chair and a fraying wicker chair. Joe grabbed a beer from his rusted Westinghouse fridge which was covered in a collection of magnets and stickers. He flicked on the TV and played Willie Nelson. Hidden behind the door was a selection of over five hundred music records, from Billy Joel to Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding and Led Zeppelin. Along the wall covered in family portraits, in the corner stood a female manikin dressed in a blue gown, pearls, silk gloves and an elegant cloche hat. In another corner, covered in dust, was the worlds greatest collection of beer cans stacked from the floor to the ceiling. Amongst them were Fosters that were the size of oil cans! On display behind the glass door cabinets stood baseballs, signed by Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice, record holding Red Socks players. Joe sat there, smoking his cigarette and dabbing it occasionally on his vintage ash tray stand, asking about life in England, my sailing adventures and my plans for travelling.
After supper I buried myself in duvets and woollen blankets, then hit my pillow and wiped out. A good nights sleep was just what I needed before Joe’s grand tour of Boston the following day.
Boston born and bread, Joe was an incredible tour guide. His knowledge of American history and the facts about his home town was extensive. He was everything you would imagine a Boston Boy to be. Tall and skinny, with a bristly grey moustache, checkered shirt and an oversized Red Sox baseball cap. We walked miles around the city, along the Freedom Trail, we climbed the Bunker Hill Monument for the panoramic skyline, looked up skyscrapers and admired the statues of those who have built and established Boston and America into what it is today. We finished the grand tour with a sixteen inch pizza at Regina’s Pizza in the North End, what Joe said to be, the best Italian Pizza place in town.
Joe was once one of the many Bicycle messengers of Boston’s offices, something we no longer imagine; before people could communicate by phones and computer, telegrams boys would cycle miles across the length and breath of the city each day to deliver messages. No wonder Joe was as fit as a fiddle! By the time we had made it home Annette had cooked up a delicious pasta meal, the smell enticed me from the cold, up the stairs. Even with a belly full of delicious pizza it would have been rude not to have tried it.
Annette’s tour of Boston included a great wonder. She took me to to visit the Christian Science Mapparium; a giant stain glass globe of the world, 30ft in diameter. I walked through the centre of the dome across a glass bridge and admired how the world has evolved since the globe was created in 1935. It certainly got my travel taste buds flourishing. I could have spent hours mapping out the places I have been and planning my next adventure.
Thank you to Joe and Annette, for welcoming me into your spectacular home and giving me such a memorable experience of life in Boston. It was a fantastic way to kick start my adventures in America.