My over-enthusiastic buddy frowns at me suspiciously and wonders if I am sick. I flash an apologetic smile and wonder in amazement at the Samuel Adams statue next to me. She doesn't look too convinced.
I am on one of the fancy-schmancy tourist "trolleys" to kill 3 hours before my hotel check-in. The pictorial maps with handsomely drawn landmarks, the thick red, green and blue route lines do not look too promising after a whole night of flight, 95 deg of heat and 110% humidity. 3 days, 4 nights, 30 landmarks, 10 landmarks per day, 3 overlapping circles to conquer, X marks the coffee places as bases for attack. I start doing the math fast, as I would on exam nights. Must see historical sites, must see Harvard, must see Trinity Church, must take pictures, the voice in my head nags. Shut up! I don my shades to doze-off as the over-friendly tourist guide in his garish costume flashes his nice dentures, and drones on in heavy superlatives. Zzzz... mall, John Hancock... zzzz... hardrock cafe, Ben Franklin.... zzzz... graveyards, Beacon street... zzzz... finally a tap on my shoulder, we have reached back to the hotel.
Quick peek into the Convention Center, quick registration, Exhibitions, Animation theatres... Not one to live in guilt, I decide to assure my over-enthusiastic buddy that I am still pursuing "the cause". I flip the bird at the screen midway and walk out of the animation theatre... a rare act on my side I should admit... to my over-enthusiastic buddy's dismay. Run, run, run while there's still time... run for the sake of humanity...
X marks the spot. Starbucks. Probably the most wonderful place on earth. Arched passageway with vines. Blue port with white boats. Downtown view. And sea wind. And the gulls. Yes, indeed the most wonderful place on earth. I snug in a chair, with an iced mocha, my ciggies, and a book. No, not one to live in guilt. A boy on roller skates sneaks up, leaves a card on my table and flees. The card shows a new line of underwear... WowUnderwear, the W taking the shape of a curvy hip and thong. Aaah... found my bookmark. I look at the pesky tourists on trolleys, loud tourist guides, and snigger at their helplessness. Get out, save yourselves... I want to say to a guy in the trolley who gives back a blank stare and a confused smirk.
Convention Center, old school mates, professors, lunch engagement with school advisor. I have a stupid grin on my face, that exudes from being stupidly happy. Can happiness ever be stupid? People smile back... curious about my nonchalant, non-scurring art of living? Or at my wayward perkyness? I decide to act like a tourist for another 3 hours and visit Harvard square. I take a picture like a true tourist, touching one foot of Harvard himself... pleading my brain to erase that memory afterwards. I am ashamed to have touched someone's foot and smile gloriously. The humble courtyards calm me down. "In the presence of knowledge and greatness" I mutter to myself. My over-enthusiastic buddy, who by now has learnt to live with my idiosyncracies, looks at me with an understanding smile. She seems pleased with my placidity.
It's past noon, time to go back to my "watering hole". I sit near a deck this time, next to my coffee-place, one that I've discovered losing my way the last time. An open-air Opera starts just in time. The aria wails through the sea wind... my first live Opera! I read a book on Pirates and smell the wet sea air, and look at the gulls. I laugh to myself. The book is really funny.
A friend accompanies me to my watering hole this time. I have successfully established a ritual, marked a sense of belonging in a strange city. We talk about life in general. A dark tan on my already brown skin displays my glory days in the sun. I look like a layered chocolate cake, a punishment for wearing clothes. My plane leaves soon. I say proper goodbyes to the people, to the hustle and bustle, to the heat, the dampness of the sea breeze, and to my lazy two afternoons... time to go back home, where other rituals await.