We often look at Germany or England as being the capitals of the world as regards rules and regulations but over here it's almost as bad. A friend of Donal's was caught underage drinking in the university he was studying in over here despite him not only being legal to drink in Ireland (as he was/is Irish) but also only a week from his 21st birthday which would make him legal over here. Getting caught is one thing but when the book is read to you and threats of prison ensure, then things understandably get a little more tense. America has the moniker of "land of the free" but sometimes you really have to question this and ask is that true because there are so many laws that govern what you can and cannot do and looking at things, the police really don't seem to be ones to mess and joke with - they stamp the law and they stamp it good. Good like a boot sole in the face with your hands in cuffs on the, the, er, sidewalk. Why can't they just say footpath?!
My own take on the rules concept occurred Thursday night when, while exiting a subway station, there was an automatic announcement made reminding travellers that they were the subway police's "eyes and ears" and "if you see something, anything, suspicious, report it at once". They use the slogan, "if you see something, say something". While this may make sense in combating the threat of terrorism, it also gives us an insight into the American mind which seems to be in a permanently paranoid state. Not that paranoia means it ain't there but really at times it goes a little far. This Friday morning (I write this a day behind) I was talking to one of the hostel staff who insisted China had a hold over the US but then I explained it didn't really because the Chinese wouldn't loan money to the US if it did not trust Washington, which it does in this matter and anyway the main streets that line Beijings shopping districts are full of US stores and Chinese people enjoy US film and material goods too. The US is still on top, the paranoia just seems all a tad more bizarre. Actually come to think of it, in the subway stations there is almost always a guard near the entry point where you swipe your card to get into the system. I've yet to see a guard on the train itself or strolling around a platform. Maybe terrorists will show themselves by hopping the barriers so as not to pay, which would get the guards attention but I doubt it. It all seems a little topsy turvy to me.
Thursday wasn't a good day for barrier hopping anyway because of the heat. We woke to a heavy air, the sun belting down outside, no threatening clouds and an air that seemed to want to smother us if were not for the breeze that restrained it. After trekking to the JFK museum using the subway, we met up with Steve, a friend of Donal's who is studying in Maine, north of Boston. Our plan was to see the museum before meeting Steve but this was a plan and what happens to plans? That's right....don't work do they?
The museum is a fair walk from the JFK Museum/University of Massachusetts's subway stop but there were bus services that would shuttle you down there at no cost. We didn't think much of the distance though and walked from the subway, following not an Interstate, but what they call a Route, it was Morrissey Boulevard and pretty quick and busy so it was. You could probably say it's equivalent in width was the South Ring Road in Cork. The walk was long, broken only by us going in to a supermarket called Shaws to buy water and despite people telling me before that supermarkets over here are huge, I really think that this was no bigger than a 'big' supermarket in Ireland. Still, the water was cheap and Icelandic funnily enough.
The outside of the JFK Museum is a sight to behold,m simple geometric lines sculpted on clean white concrete with black glass as contrast. The beautiful Boston harbour and a pale blue sky providing the perfect backdrop for it. It's out from the city in Dorchester so from the waterside you actually end up looking over the water towards Boston so it was a stunning view whether you looked toward the city or instead towards the water and the peninsula's out West which, if one went further south, ended up being Cape Cod. There was drama as we approached though because I had received a voicemail message on my new US mobile number (I bought a sim card on Wednesday). To access it though I had to talk to a machine to set up my account and this proved very frustrating, almost as much as when I tried to enter call credit to this new sim while looking around Harvard the day before. Maybe the machine could not understand my accent but I sure as hell couldn't tell where the 'pound' key on my phone was leading to much gesticulation and language until I realised that I was actually getting angry at a machine. Now this is normal enough, people get mad at PC's all of the time but in this case I was getting angry by talking to it on the phone. Surreal. And it just talks back nice and calmly as your blood begins to bubble a bit, then pump and boil and all the while the machine says "I'm sorry, I didn't get that", doing its best to sound human. By the way, all of this anger cost money too as every call and every text costs dosh, even if you receive one! You can understand the anger then surely, even if the machine didn't.
Damn machine has now even made me take up your time and mine too by me typing so much about it. The hold they have over us...now the Americans should be paranoid about that!!! We actually got to JFK library and museum a little late as Donal discovered, quite by surprise that he had given Steve the wrong hostel to book himself into. He was convinced we were in the Prescott International but alas we were not. On top of this Steve would now have to make the extra and for him, unexpected trip to the museum to meet us. Time slipped by though as we gazed across at Boston over the harbour and we called to meet him at the subway stop rather than make him walk out to us which would have meant he could have legally had us up for torturing him. There wasn't enough time for him to get out and for us to see the museum so we went back in, met with him and decided it was dinner time. Dinner time in The Cheesecake Factory. Now this was mighty fine may I say, good value and very filling. The two lads, delighted to have seen each other after not having done so for months (Donal showed this through copious amounts of public affection displays upon seeing him), had BBQ burgers and I had the Ranch House Burger. What they basically did in the kitchen was get a chainsaw, a cow and some plates. Chunks of cow were put on the grill and a huge plate was then filled with stringy chips (not great but they did their job as side actors to the main story which was the beef) and salad. I mean my burger was a slab of beef, with steak pieces on top before onions and mushrooms were thrown in too along with the salad for it. I felt like asking if it would be possible to bring me a vice-grips so I could hold it together.
Of course Nevin had to be the man and go for dessert as well. Remember now that this dessert was for one person but no way could any one person eat it and if they did then a medal they surely deserved. This was chocolate cake with coffee ice cream ,lots of cream, choc sauce and fudge and almonds. Steve assisted in the eating, Donal didn't due to the almonds but really it would have been more appropriate for us to have erected scaffolding around it before hiring people to help us finish it.
We exited behind the Prudential Centre and had a look around the South End, taking in the park around the Christain Science Centre and the hall where the Boston Symphony play. It was all very grand and the fountain that the kids danced through looked very tempting in the early night time heat. Then again so did the long artificial pond that ran the length of the science centre. It really was something though as I walked to the end of it and the view consisted of a long and elegant science centre going the length of the rectangle pond on the left, a 20 foot office building to my left which fitted in nicely with the Prudential Tower and the smaller but much shinier apartment building beside it. We walked after having taken in this view and went down through Kenmore, Fenway Park, up Massachusetts Avenue before crossing Charles Bridge and taking some fine pictures in the meantime. They were all the nicer as they were night shots of the Boston skyline from MIT and the Cambridge area.
Steve, when we got back to the hostel ended up staying with us in the dorm, the staff failing to recognize his will to pay for the bed. To be fair to them this only consisted of a whispered question in the room wondering whether they'd notice. I suppose when you are Irish you just know that rules are there to be broken, or at least modified and twiddled with. And no, no one did report anything suspicious in the dorm.