Don't Even Go There—Travel Writing for the Rest of Us

Even if the world is your oyster, you can still chip a tooth on its shell. While travel magazines feature exotic locales of breathtaking beauty, we expose sites so depressing that no traveler this side of Edgar Allan Poe would venture there without a tub-load of tranquilizers. Take Las Vegas (please) and the $5.99 all-you-can-eat buffet line at Sam’s Town. That's the world we explore at Don’t Even Go There.

On this site, we tell of places we’ve visited but wish we hadn’t. We reveal vacation plans gone awry and relate horror stories from the road best abandoned. These true stories reflect where we’ve chosen to go. We only have ourselves to blame. We rarely needed to exaggerate—the truth really is stranger than a Dan Brown novel.

Don’t Even Go There: travel tips for those of us who aren’t escorted by security guards, pampered by wealthy benefactors, or provided a generous per diem. This blog is for seasoned travelers and armchair tourists who want the real world first-hand and head-on, with all its drama, horror, and humor. You’ll laugh at us, cry with us, and decide to stay home more often.

25 October 2008

Gone But Not Forgotten

Here’s a piece from our long-lost past. It was a time when we were younger, more innocent, and—dare we say it—more optimistic. There are two words that sum up our feelings of those long-ago days: good riddance. Still, maybe there’s a lesson or two to learn . . . or to relearn. —MB & JS

The Boston Garden is gone now, demolished. Part of history. You can’t go back for a visit even if you wanted to. Trust us, it’s just as well. The Garden embodied the old bait and switch—you know, when you’re promised one thing but receive something much more, ah, minimal—better than any single structure could, and it could only have survived all those years in Boston, Massachusetts, a city as crazy for its sports teams as the Kennedys are for scotch.

The city loved it and hated it . . . for good reasons. Ours: it stank.

Don’t get us wrong. People came from all over New England to catch a game, a concert, or even the circus at the Garden. Every major act played there. It became famous as the home of the basketball Celtics and hockey Bruins. Beneath all those championship banners, Celtics players learned how to avoid the dead spots on the parquet floor, where the ball would simply thud like dropped bowling ball. Bruins skaters, who always seemed a step slower than junior varsity all stars, benefited from the smaller-than-regulation ice surface.

But the Garden itself often outshone the events it staged. Its electrical system was as fragile as a light bulb filament. Its roof sometimes leaked. Rats scurried about as if the arena were a casting call for the movie Ben. When fans stomped on the cement floor to root for the home team, the whole building—floors to rafters—shook as if Mama Cass had returned from the grave for an encore. The place smelled, too, and we’re pretty sure it had nothing to do with Boston’s famous baked beans. Then there were the restrooms. Women waited days to use the facilities. Men peed into long metal troughs where you got to know your neighbor more intimately than you cared to.

Yet the Garden promised history in the making with every concert, game, or event it held. We’ve personally seen Keith Moon collapse over his drum kit in a drunken stupor to stop a Who concert before it ever started. We’ve seen Bobby Orr score an empty-net goal from the length of the ice (while the crowd complained that his shot was six inches off-center).

That’s the bait. Everyone who attended an event at the Garden hoped to see history, like when Larry Bird sank a buzzer-beater or when Orr flew through the air to win a championship. Usually, though, the only history anyone ever saw was the historically high price of the ticket.

The Garden experience always superseded whatever happened there. We remember waiting in line for a half hour to overpay for a warm beer and a cold hot dog. If we wanted popcorn, we knew to buy it early in the season, while it was still fresh. To get to our seats in the nosebleed section, we had to negotiate a near-vertical ascent up concrete steps. Sometimes we could see only with a telescope; sometimes we couldn’t see at all because we had an obstructed-view seat. As we squirmed in the hard-backed chairs, some jerk inevitably spilt beer on us. Century-old candy—or something worse—stuck to the bottom of our shoes and stayed there for weeks.

Leaving the Garden after a game, our ears rang and our stomach gurgled. With luck, the memory of the night would last longer than the dull ache in our backs. More likely, we’d tell ourselves that once again, we paid way too much to see something in person we’d have enjoyed more watching on TV at a neighborhood bar (of which there are many).

As we joined the throng of drunks and pickpockets on Causeway Street, we realized that despite attending an event at the wildly popular venue, we’d been taken. They traded on the allure of the name—The Boston Garden—and sold us a bill of goods. And maybe a month-old hot dog.

Lessons Learned: Thank God some things don’t last forever. Unfortunately, there are “Boston Gardens” in cities all over the country. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.
How We Saw It
Blight-Seeing: 4
Communication Breakdown: 2
Customer Dis-service: 4
Discomfort Level: 5
Grunge Factor: 4
Inactivity Guide: 2
Rent-Attainment: 4
Spontaneous Consumption: 4
Fun Fraction: 3/5
Vibe-Rating: 2

If You Won’t Listen to Us
Nearest Airport: Logan International Airport
Native Population: 599,000 (city only)
Normal Attractions: Fenway Park, other (older) historical sites, museums, colleges and the college nightlife, and Cambridge across the river.
Final Point of Interest: Boston has many squares connected by narrow winding streets, which reminds us: How can you tell a tourist on the roads? He uses his blinkers. Don’t drive; take the T (the MTBA: the mass transit system).


Ask Asheville North Carolina said...

The way you described it reminded me of the Flat Iron building in Downtown Asheville, especially on the upper floors. Can't wait for inspired developers to come in and revive that thing.

Mark Bloom and Jason Scholder said...

This just goes to show that there are "Boston Gardens" everywhere, and they aren't just concert venues and sports halls. Thanks, Ask Asheville, for verifying this for us.