FRIDAY 11:23 AM I have invented something that will be a boon to all travelers: The Recombobulation Bag.

Going through security is always hectic,. You’re taking out the electronics, stowing items from your pocket, whipping off your belt as though you’re going to give a youngun a lesson he’ll not soon forget, taking off your shoes because of that one sonofabitch twenty years ago, and so on. I’m a three-bin man, and since there’s usually someone behind you, and the bins are moving, and you’re shuffling down with them, you end up stuffing your phone here, your watch there, your money (yes, I carry cash) in that pocket, and so on. Well. Not me, not this time! I brought a large plastic bag (it’s sandwich size, but sized for Brobignagian proportions) and I stick everything in there. After the scan, all my things are in one place, and I can recombobulate with assurance.


Sorry. At the airport now, enjoying a cup of Dunkin’ coffee, smugly judging the people in the nearby Starbucks line who are paying more for worse. The same slo-mo video of falling crinkle-cut fries is playing by the food court, reminding me of Cancun #2 2023, where I learned about low-grade potatoes from a Canadian spud broker. Ah, what a year that was. Everything was solid and fun. I doubted I could ever reprise it.

And I was right! It’s been all downhill from there! No, kidding, but things are different now. Big “my work is done here” energy, as the kids say. I was in line to drop off my bag, and the fellow in front of me gave me a look, and then another, and I thought “prepare for Public Mode” and sure enough, he said hello, you’re you, I’ve read you since the Daily. Never get tired of that. Every writer’s dream. I ought to be grateful for all that, and I am. No need to chase it forever.

He said, lying to himself as hard as is humanly possible.

The video screen that shows the slo-mo food has a glitch, a refresh-rate problem, or something. It makes the food seem to tremble. Well-manicured fingers pulling apart a terrified pretzel.

Okay, here we go.


12:53 PM 8:45 BOSTON

As an old Boston hand by now, I knew what to do: gather bag, take the bus to the transportation hub, Blue line into the city, change at State, north on Orange to North End station. After all, that’s where my hotel was.

Except it wasn’t. Wrong Marriot. I don’t know how that happened. The confirmation emails are forwarded to my trip planner, which gives me everything in order with destinations and addresses. But indeed I had the wrong one. The helpful guy at the desk showed me where the other one was - a long hike, but maybe 20 minutes by car, considering traffic and rain. (Because of the Celtics every young male in the area is downtown and drunk, or high; the clouds of weed outside the hotel were dank and dense.)

“How about the T?” I said.

“Why of course. See those bright lights across the street -“

“I know, that’s the station. Orange line? Forest Hills or Oak Grove?”

“You do know your way around! Forest Hills, Tufts station.”

I thanked him and went back to the train station, got a ticket, boarded in 10 minutes, and was at Tufts in another ten. Getting my 42-lb bag up the stairs, in the pouring rain, was a challenge. Checked the address of the hotel, and started off up the street. The rain began to pound down in torrents. After a while I checked to see if I was heading in the right direction. I was not. I turned around. I tried to orient myself on the phone screen, but it didn’t seem to align with my location or the buildings, and my wet fingers were unable to manipulate the glass map with any precision. I headed off in the direction it told me to go, and ended up by a freeway, which was not correct in any possible world including all iterations of the multiverse, so I went back in the other direction, soaked, despairing.

The problem, as I later learned, was there are two streets with the same name, and they intersect at a right angle. You can literally be standing at the intersection of Tremont and Tremont.

I made it. Dried my pants with the iron, not finding a hair drier. After I was done I noticed a bag on the wall that said HAIR DRIER. Sigh. Went out in the rain for a slice of New York Pizza - it was pretty good. I’m coming around to the stuff. It was huge, too, a quarter of a manhole cover. Got a bad cup of coffee at 7-11 and now I’m in the room, ready to work.

History? Why sure!

The Hotel was an Elks Club when built, and hence the focus of middle-class do-good social and commercial life.

It was the Bradford, for a while.

Then and now.

The bathroom has a nice historical shot of the nearby theater:



The first picture puts it at 1959, when Tom Poston opened the show. It was well received. It was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. who’d go on to write Batman, Three Days of the Condor, and other works.



It was not destined for a long run, as the theater page of the paper notes. Soon replaced by . . .

No one remembers the Golden Fleecing now.





SATURDAY 12:50 At a Panera, where I paid too much for a half grilled-cheese sandwich. Just ridiculous. I mean, we all know what bread costs. We all know what cheese costs. We all know that overhead must be covered - staff must be paid, power and water must flow unstinted - and a profit must be realized, or the entire enterprise is for naught. But DANG.

5:4 AIRPORT 2 I had intended to say something else, but was distracted by a texting conversation. There wasn’t much more to say about Panera, anyway, aside from the absence of inordinately caffeinated juice drinks that led to wrongful death lawsuits. I’d provide a link but the airport wifi isn’t working well.

Yes, I am at the airport. Early. There’s a surprise. Hold on, you say - three weeks of Hiatus for a weak uneventful Boston jaunt? No museums? No architecture? Well okay, you want architecture, here you go. It’s our old favorite, the Interesting Contrasts!

After I finished an hour of work at Panera - no, I did not take a table space from other people who stood and ate and regarded me with baleful looks - I dragged my bag to the T stop and descended into the dank, brown, urine-scented depths. It’s hard to think this place didn’t look depressing, dated, and lavatorial when it was build. The T is handy but the subway stations are 4th world.

Clattered my way to Haymarket, then schlepped the bag up four flights of steps. There are elevators, but A) I don’t trust them, and B) I expect they have even more eau de pissior. Found a lovely garden where I read for a while.

Walked and sat and read and observed; that was the early afternoon. Met Brother & Sister-in-law for a late lunch at a fantastic Italian seafood place; tiny. Old signage observed: big-city experience checked

I keep reading it as DAD'S or DA's, but that's my problem.


They drove me to the airport, where I was, and am, very early.

Angry man in the Delta line because he had missed his plane by one minute. They’d closed the doors right before he got there. Right before. One minute. His brother’s a damn pilot, he knows they can open up the door. The Delta agent did not even bother to adopt a conciliatory tone; he just cited facts and policies in a tone that suggested further argument would be a waste of everyone’s time, so he would not be participating, have a nice day, good luck getting to Amsterdam. Hanging in the air, unspoken: “get here a minute before next time.”

If it’s a connecting flight, I understand the aggravation, and there’s naught you can do about that, aside from running as fast you can. I have indeed been there and it is hell. In fact the conclusion of this trip involves a connecting flight and I expect it will be hell.

But that is very very far away.

Now I am reaching the sad end of the last cup of coffee of the day. How did your big tall cup of coffee get cool? Gradually, then all at once. To my horror the gate area had no coffee shop, but signs indicating that a Peet’s would be here soon. Okay great I’ll add it to the bucket list, but there has to be a coffee vendor in this terminal. Walked to the 1-12 gate section, where I saw something that surprised me: Hudson Coffee.

Makes sense, I suppose. A natural extension. Hudson runs the newsstands at the airports, but so much more. They were bought by Dufry (“Buy this huge bottle of Duty Free Liquor and get it home somehow”). I belong to the demographic cohort that knows them from jam-crammed New York train station stores. If you’d come to me as a young man walking that side concourse from Grand Central to Lex and said “In 2024 Hudson’s will provide coffee salvation before a flight,” what might I have thought?

“To the moon?”

“What? No.”

“To the space station on a TWA StarCraft 007?”

“NO. And it’s Pan Am that flies to the space station, except that was a movie.”

“So it could be TWA.”

“Yes yes of course if you must, point is, they expanded into coffee in the airports. Wise move.”

I paid for the coffee with three 2-dollar bills, which baffled the clerk. From his accent I gathered he might be 1st gen immigrant. He showed the bills to his co-workers, one of whom was indifferent, the other equally mystified. Then I took my coffee to this power-up station, and finished listening to the music I began on the plane to Boston:

TWA In-flight Music from the 60s and 70s.

It’s easy-listening, the sort of aural pablum derided by the hip and the learned. AND RIGHTLY SO, in one sense. It is simple and kitschy at its worst. It’s almost a litmus test: not whether you think it’s great art - it’s not - but whether it’s enjoyable. I think it is, and I’ve thought so for a long time, but this reaction is inseparable from a nostalgic reaction to the tunes, the orchestrations, the sense of Parents and Aunts and Uncles Grown-Up Time.

  Such rue, such deep feelings!

On the other hand . . . (Feeling’ Groovy 49:00) What ARE they saying

  What ARE they saying


8:08 PM Waiting for Natalie. She went to the wrong terminal. Can’t really blame her, as I sent her there. Mistake. Everything around me said A but it was E. I’m still not clear how this happened. And no, I wasn’t drinking. I mean, I am now, but I wasn’t then.

  It’s Jim Beam. Sometimes you just feel like a by-God American who wants the honest stuff. Jim or Jack, that’s the question. The latter has its adherents and its own penumbra of Authenticity - it’s No. 7, after all - and the former seems like its cousin, quieter, well-behaved, but with a deep buried stream of cruelty.

Having an airport scotch to usher me into the time of slumber, which is not imminent but nigh. And let me tell you, Monica’s Mercato in Terminal E - or is it A? No, E - pours with a heavy hand. None of that careful jiggery-paucity here.

Jiggery-Paucity: noun. From jiggery-pokery, meaning to use a measuring instrument to pour a draught of liquor that is precisely the minimum amount, and no more.

I’d hoped she would’ve gotten here earlier, but I suppose most of this is on me, as I cost her at least 15 minutes. And I’ll get my lobes creased when she shows up. Not in anger, but with cutting wit. Then again, she could’ve left earlier.

Allllll right, time to go wait by security and take my medicine. After
I finish this other medicine.


11:23 IN THE AIR All fine, no tsuris. Had a drink, talked to Mom, wandered to the gate. No passport needed, no boarding pass - just the face. I hate that.

Big plane. We’re fifty rows back and I’m over the wing. Waiting for dinner so I can sleep, which is the ultimate expression of indolence. If you would please move it along and deliver my poultry that I may lapse Lethe-ward for an interval.

When next we meet it will be a new day, and we will be at the start of the journey north.