Boston – Rockport, report, mostly personal

Two years ago F. and me visited New York and Long Island for the wedding of F.’s brother M. We stayed a few days in Queens, I travelled up to Bard College on the train through the beautiful Hudson valley in early autumn, I paid a visit to Bitforms for Sonic Acts, and for the wedding we were in the Hamptons. I enjoyed it, but – possible partly due to the horrible travel (F. wasn’t allowed to fly to NYC on account of a supposedly non-valid passport, had to fly to Dublin first, arrange a new passport and fly back), I decided that was enough of ‘Merika for me. NYC is exciting, but Amsterdam is enough of a city for my taste.

So when I was presented with another visit to the States, this time to Boston, for the wedding of F.’s brother R. I wasn’t too enthusiastic. I’d rather spent my holiday in Europe, somewhere in the mountains…

We decided to stay for 3 nights in Boston, and then go for 4 days to nearby Cape Ann. Short visit, minimize the hassle. Have a holiday too.

Actually, the choice for Cape Ann was made rather late. We would’ve liked to go up to the mountains, but that turned out to be much travel without a car. Plus: camp sites were already closed during the week, and accomodation not easy to find. (Later we learned that accomodations in the White Mountains are booked-out a year in advance for the October-period). The choice for Cape Ann was basically made in account of three factors: 1. coast (F. loves the sea). 2. easy to reach by Commuter Rail. 3. Gloucester, on Cape Ann, is the town of Charles Olson.


Flight from Schiphol tot Boston. Survived by reading 200+ pages and the essays in the recently published ‘Scroll-version’ of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road – which made me all enthusiastic again for the ‘spontaneous prose’ and the energy of Kerouac, while noting this time, how well-written this book is, and also how sad actually, it celebrates the speed and the travel and ‘life’ and energy, but the heart is sad for the emptiness of it all – so I was reading that while listening to almost the complete set of the Impulse Studio Recordings of the Classic Coltrane Quartet during the 7 hour flight to Boston. Arriving, going through customs and catching the subway to South End, where we walked through a late summer evening to our room, found through, an architect’s house on Dwight Street. Simple, but with may shelves filled with books. To my amazement amongst them the complete works of Tobias Smollett, the complete set of The Spectator and Johnson’s English Dictionary. What?


We got up, and immediately found our way to the best breakfast place, with the best coffee in Boston, the South End Buttery: We would have breakfast there every morning, and returned a few times more. South End is a richer part of Boston, yet not as rich yet as Back Bay. Quiet. Streets lined with trees. Real nice for a holiday. Boston is a walking city. Everything is in walking distance, and all the districts are small. (The touristy bit is also really small and easy to pass by). The weather was great – it was summer, and it stayed like that for the next week. We visited the public library (with murals by Puvis de Chavannes), walked through the Commons and had of course to hook up with the family that was staying in a hotel in the bussiness district. In the evening we had dinner with them in a very good and far too busy Italian restaurant. Sublime gnocchi but stressy atmosphere. We ended up in the hotelroom of R. and S. – who were to be married the next day. And there we heard that the friend of R. who was supposed to say something at the ceremony had backed-out. F. then said that I wasn’t afraid to speak in public. Which is true. So wouldn’t I say a ‘blessing’? Why not?


So the next morning, after a real American breakfast-experience (waffles and apples at the same place in South End), found me browsing the bookshelves for inspiration and quotes on love, marriage, faith. Now all those books in the bed-and-breakfast came in real handy. I didn’t find anything that suited the occasion. All those literary authors seemed to espouse a rather cynical view on the subject. In the end I settled for a bit of Shakespeare that I found in Johnson’s English Dictionary, plus my own words. Shakespeare will always do the job, though afterwards you’ll wonder if he didn’t mean exactly the reverse as what you as a reader just made of it.

Marriage took place in a house in Dedham. Beautiful summer-weather.

We were transported back to the centre of Boston in a bus, that was to drop is off at a Sinatra bar on A-street. The bus was full of (half-) drunken Irish and Americans. The busdriver lost his way in the centre. Having a map on me, I had a fairly good idea of where we were and where we had to go. When everybody was shouting, yeah, we’re real close now!! I could say: “uh-uh, we’re way too far, we should’ve taken a right about a mile back.” Which put me again in the strange and awkward position of the European telling the locals the way to the place they’re heading.

(This happened too on my first visit to the States: when, the driver – a Brooklyn-man – wasn’t sure where to go on Long Island, I said, just flown in from Schiphol and picked up at Kennedy Airport, ‘keep on heading in the direction of Montauk, the place we’re going to is about 10 miles before Montauk’, ‘Whoa, you never bin here and you tellin’ me where to go. Whass this?’ I had done nothing else than look up where we were going on Google-maps.)

Now, as a regular visitor of the monday-night concerts of DNK, the first thing I should’ve done in Boston is to check out when Jorrit Dijkstra (the Dutch free-improv-saxophonist who moved to Boston years ago) was playing. There is a lively avant-garde improv-scene in Boston, and it would’ve been good if I’d played the ambassador of DNK in Boston for a night. But time was too short, too many other things to do. So I am sitting in the Sinatra-bar on A-street behind my second pint of Guinness. The bar is filled with wedding-guests and some sort of jazz-trio playing live, as the door swings open and four guys step in, one of them carrying a saxophone-case: Jorrit Dijkstra. Turned out they had been playing around the corner that very night. (I went up to them, introduced myself to a surprised and somewhat bedazzled Jorrit Dijkstra, but of course at such a moment – I am celebrating, it’s a wedding – there’s not so much to say).

F. and me again traversed Boston on foot that night, half an hour from A-street to Dwight Street.

Monday – Friday

On monday we said goodbye to the family and in the afternoon travelled on the Commuter Rail to Rockport – an hour on the train from South Station, for less than 8 dollars, and a beautiful ride as well. Why Rockport? It seems like a tourist trap (“an artist colony”), but it’s on the sea, it’s easy to reach from Boston, and yes, the coast line is great. Moreover, October is more or less off-season – many of the inns still fully booked, there is no endless line of cars cueing up from Gloucester to see Bear’s Neck. It turned out te be pretty ideal for a short holiday.

We stayed three nights at the Seven South Street Inn, which provides a true American breakfast of four courses (like: fruit salad, a big muffin, a smoothie, and pie or quiche – all freshly cooked/prepared). A good place: Just five minutes from Old Garden Beach – every morning that was the first thing: go down to the beach before breakfast.

The weather was formidable. We had fish for dinner every day. We had lobster at Roy Moore’s (at Bear’s Neck, just a fish shop where you can eat the fish at the back, sitting on old crates. We tasted the best smoked mackerel ever, there).

The B&B came with bikes – ‘cheapo’s’, but good enough for going around there. On tuesday we walked to Whale’s Cove and back, and in the afternoon cycled to Halibut’s Point, a small nature park, with a stunning coastline and view.

On wednesday we walked through Dogtown Commons to Gloucester, and subsequently visited Gloucester. It is funny that when you announce you’re going to walk through Dogtown Commons, people will warn you it’s dangerous. We were asked to call in as soon as we’d be in Gloucester, as people got lost in Dogtown all the time. We’d bought a map at the nice bookstore in Rockport (, very nice bookstore). Walking through Dogtown seemed quite straightforward. Of course it turned out to be pretty clear. Yet it is true that at the Rockport side we almost lost the trail, and everything began to look the same. So it was easy to imagine that you could become lost. Trails are said to be marked, but often are not. The closer you get to Gloucester, the wider the trails are, and also around there they are marked. Looking back we spent a much longer time in Dogtown Commons, than one woudl expect from a 8 kilometer-walk that seperates Rockport from Gloucester. I think we went in at ten in the morning and came out at three in the afternoon. We spent time looking at the Babson boulders, F. made pictures, we looked around, paused at Whale’s Jaw, searched for the remains of Dogtown, still it seems too many hours for such a small distance.

In Gloucester we paid a visit to the Public Library, looked quickly into the historical museum, had a coffee, spent time in the second hand bookshop where I bought some books and talked about Olson with the owner. (Of course). And passed the Harborside cycling shop when it was closing. Changing my mind I turned around to have a look through the window. “Technically I’m closed, but you’re welcome to have a look if you want” one of the guys said. We did. Great shop: Has great rental bikes too, so if you’re planning to go to Cape Ann and want to do some good riding, go there.

And then I must’ve said the right thing – I think I made a remark about the single speed cyclo-cross bike in the shop – because we (well, that’s the owner Coley Bryan and me, with F. looking around) spent about half an hour chatting there. Chatting about cyclo-cross, Gloucester hosts the most important cyclo-cross race in the States, he was racing himself, they had their own team: Harborside cycles. If you check out and search for cyclo-cross races in New England, you’ll find their names in the results. He’d visited Gent and Amsterdam last year – for the cyclo-cross. We talked about cycling holidays – his brother had just come all the way from Oregon to Gloucester, he’d done the last six stages with him, coming over the Catskill Mountains. We talked about Jonathan Page and the future for American cyclo-cross. Just a nice, energetic chat between cycling-afficionados. So now I ride around Amsterdam wearing a Harborside Cycles cap (“Gloucester, in cod we trust”). I’m thinking about getting the team shirt…

Thursday was supposed to be the warmest day (in fact friday turned out to be even warmer). We had to move from the Seven South Street Inn (fully booked) to Sally Webster’s – equally good just a bit more expensive – for the last night. But we could still use the bikes, so we cycled on the cheapo’s to Long Beach and spent the whole day on the beach. No sun-cream – I thought, well, it’s October, so no real need to worry – and we both got sunburned. Just a day on the beach. We’d had to wait until October for it. So we felt lucky.

On friday, our last day, we went to Whale’s Cove again, found a spot on the rocks in the shade to protect our skins, and read. (Two older American ladies were there too. They saw me carrying two books, and asked: “What are you reading? We are librarians, so we’re curious”. “The biography of Charles Olson and the original scroll version of On the Road.” “Oh! You’ll be fine!”). In the afternoon back on the train to Boston, and then back to Schiphol.

I enjoyed this visit to the States. I think I enjoy New England much more than New York City.

cycling,en,free publicity,reading matter | October 16, 2007 | 11:45 | Comments Off on Boston – Rockport, report, mostly personal |


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