A perfect case of the DBs - I fail to be Joy's toy-boy - CycleBlaze

May 17, 2008

A perfect case of the DBs

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BOSTON, Massachusetts - I'm in Boston. I adore the place. It's certainly better than the original Boston. That's out in the flatlands of eastern England where the land rises just high enough to stop the grey North Sea sweeping in crabs and herring twice a day. The original Boston has a church with a stump of a church tower. With grim reality, it's called the Boston Stump. It is the only thing the town is known for and that tells you a bit about the place. Unless a vague smell of fish attracts you, there isn't much to appeal.

This other Boston, on the other hand, is what British cyclists call the DBs, an expression both colloquial and too disgusting for your ear. It is a term of canine praise.

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Maybe it's because Americans, or anyway Bostonians, call it the most European of American cities. I'm European; perhaps that's why it seems normal the streets don't run in grids and why they change name every few blocks. A lot of other people must like it, too, because finding a local is as difficult as finding a Parisian near the Eiffel Tower in summer.

Well, I got here last night after a debate with both Air France and American Airlines about whether I was going to pay for my bike and after a verbal train crash with an immigration officer who saw his role as disbelief that I'd want to come to America at all.

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm cycling the width of America on my bike."


"Well, I suppose the idea appeals to me."

"How long you staying here?"

"Three months, a bit more."


"Because I'm cycling across America and..."

"Who are you staying with? What are their names?"

What made this still odder is that neither the ride nor the length were an issue. Both were on my visa form which, since the fingerprints I gave in Paris could be drawn up on his computer to be checked with a fresh set demanded in Boston, was as likely to have been on the computer as well.

It was the "Why three months?" that threw me. All I'd expected from the Paris embassy was a one-year visa. They gave me a ten-year one. I could be here for a decade, let alone 90-odd days.

Unable to fault me but still disliking me - and everyone else, to judge by his previous interviewee, a woman struggling to speak English who'd made the mistake of completing the form, the wrong form, given to us on the aircraft - he sent me for a second check in a bigger office downstairs. There the welcome was quite different and, unable to see why I'd been sent down to them, they told me a good joke about America, wished me a happy stay and sent me back out again.

Ray Hurteau: perfect host and a great guy. You can read his own cycling adventures on www.xc.rayrizzo007.com
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From then things simply got better. Ray, my host from Warm Showers, couldn't be a nicer guy. I'm his first Warm Showers waif and we became friends in moments.

Today I caught the T, Boston's metro, into the town. I walked and changed speed and direction unpredictability and

My Boston T party. I love travelling by train. Even city metros. The trick, of course, is in never having to use them as a commuter...
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sometimes stopped for no reason at all and would have got in the way of the locals had there been any locals to get in the way of. But there weren't, because everyone whose presence didn't demand selling me something was also a visitor.

To my enormous surprise, there were other tourists there as well
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I can see why there are so many. Boston has history, albeit much of it (like the Massacre and Paul Revere's ride leaning more than historians would approve on colour and romance), and it has interesting streets and wide leafy boulevards and squares and just enough interesting cafes and bars and a general feeling of well-being under the sun.

Paul "The British are coming" Revere...
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...But why would Paul Revere (who was British) shout to everyone else (also British) that the British were coming? Or could that bit have been made up for the poem?
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Yes, I like it. America has more than repaid me for Captain Grumpy at the airport who - and this is the funny thing - had on his desk a notice saying "We are the face of America" and promising a smiling or at least professionally friendly welcome.

For me, signs like this are as American as the wailing of trains and steam from gratings in the road
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Tomorrow I set off. A short day, to get out of Boston, to get over jet lag and to cope with any unforeseen snags from dismantling and reassembling a bike.

If you think I'm enjoying myself, you're dead right. It's the DBs.

Street drummer: "I teach mahself. I do' wan' nobahdy steal mah ryddms, mun, you know wha' Ah'm say'n?"
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