Saturday 4th October. Boston, Massachussets, USA
John's Mum- my original host- was coming to pick us up at lunchtime. In the meantime, John had a date with a boring lecturer and I had a date with the weights room and the jacuzzi....and the breakfast buffet. It's been years since I've lifted weights, and I'd really enjoyed yesterday's workout. Today I worked on different muscle groups, but still I knew I'd be in a world of pain by Monday. The jacuzzi gave me fifteen minutes of pummelling, and by then I was ready for breakfast.
What a spread! There were all the things you'd expect- cereal, scrambled eggs, sausage patties and pancakes- but I was surprised to find a complete salad bar. There was baby corn, artichoke hearts, olives and all sorts of goodies. I seemed to have forgotten how ill I made myself last time I overate at a buffet, so happily helped myself to five platefuls. The cafeteria slowly filled up while I was there, and a few familiar faces straggled in sleepily. The whole scene seemed a little too mellow. These were supposed to be university students. I've seen 'Animal House'. I know how things are supposed to be. Maybe I should start a food fight! I could peg a hard boiled egg across the hall and just duck my head as if I didn't have anything to do with it. Hmmm...
I was considering the potential consequences of such an act of agression, when 'whack!' A sudden loud cracking, splatting noise came from just behind me. I whirled instinctively. One of the young guys at the next table was holding his red plastic breakfast tray up as a shield, and fragments of hard boiled egg exploded from it's surface into the air. Six cute girls at an adjacent table dropped to the floor and crawled to safety. The missile had come from a couple of kids on the far side of the cafeteria, and the retaliation was instant. It was obvious now why the boys at the next table each had about eight eggs on their plates; it wasn't some sort of super high protein diet after all! The ensuing war was furious but brief, the two sides quickly running out of ammunition before being called to a halt by a supervisor. They were severely chastised, but managed to maintain their dignity as they cleaned up most of the shrapnel. When they were reseated, I walked over and thanked them for livening up my morning, and offered them the honour of a place on The Savage Files. They are known as the Fairfield Crew, so they say. I wonder what other duties they have around here?
Dorothy came to pick up John and me, and took us up to Southbury where she lives. I discovered why she had suggested I stay with her son instead of with her. Dorothy's house had just sold, and she's living in a barn while she waits for her new house to be completed. She figured I might have more fun on a university campus than in a barn. John set about helping the builder, and Dorothy introduced me to some of her animals. It seems she's had quite the adventurous life herself, travelling the States when she was younger and staying at people's places, something like I'm doing. The difference was that Dorothy flew from place to place in her own plane! I guess a female pilot isn't such an oddity these days, but when Dorothy first started flying, I bet the skies were really a man's world. She now flies a 747-400, and for those of you who don't know, that's the big double decker Jumbo.
Dorothy dropped me off in Hartford, Connecticut, and for the first time in three months of hitchhiking, I had to pull out my oilskin. It wasn't exactly pouring, but if the heavy drizzle continued, my clothes would've gotten slowly soaked. A short lift in the back of a pickup left me kind of in the middle of nowhere, but a young guy named Gil picked me up from there and took me all the way into Boston. As we talked about my travel project, Gil issued me his own challenge. I should come to his university's rugby game on Sunday, he said. If I posted a photo from the game on my website, there'd be twenty-five bucks in it for me. He drove me right to the door of my next host, Jose.
Jose lives on the seventh floor of a beautiful apartment building near to downtown. He came down to meet me in the lobby. Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, Jose's story was a fascinating one. When I asked him if he came from a large family, he said there were between eighteen and twenty-three brothers and sisters. What?
"There are at least eighteen that I know of; I keep finding out about more" and when he saw my puzzled look, he explained "My father's love for women wasn't bounded by geography or marriage vows."
Jose's passion was always music, but his father knew that music was not for men. It was a hobby for women and even then, only until they married, after which they would be far too busy with their family. Jose left Mexico to start an engineering degree at MIT. Unknown to his father, Jose also embarked on what he refers to as 'a clandestine mission' and enrolled in a music course at Harvard at the same time. It wasn't until his father visited for Jose's graduation, that the secret came out. He now works in computers voice recognition software, and his love is composing.
Jose insisted that I take his bedroom, and he would sleep on the loungeroom floor. That made no sense to me. I can sleep anywhere and I always try to be as little inconvenience as possible, but Jose wouldn't hear of it. "You're my guest" he said, and it seemed I'd offend him if I didn't accept. I also try not to offend my hosts, so I dumped my backpack in his room. A few of his friends were to join us soon, he said, and if I wasn't too tired to enjoy company we could go out for dinner.
The first to arrive was Ralf, a workmate of Jose's, originally from Germany. Ralph also happens to live upstairs.
"Sometimes it's a bit like living in a dorm" Jose said, smiling.
Shortly after, we were joined by Verena and Yousif. Verena is German and Yousif is a Palestinian American. We walked to a restaurant on the corner, where I had a tasty chicken dish and tried Samuel Adams beer for the first time. Verena had promised to make us some Gluhwein, a German mulled wine, so we hurried back to the warmth of Jose's apartment. Another friend Noemi joined us, and we played the board games 'Cranium' and 'Tabboo' until the early hours of the morning.