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We’re On Fire

August 5, 2013
Worst. Alarm clock. Ever.

Worst. Alarm clock. Ever.

I don’t know which scared us the most: the hotel fire alarm, the sizzling lightning bolts, or the hot dog vending machine.

On Sunday we weren’t starting the day until the Red Sox game, which was scheduled for 1:35 p.m., which meant we could sleep a little later than usual. I scheduled a wake-up call at 9:30 but instead we were woken at 8:26 by the hotel’s fire alarm. We quickly threw on pants and shoes and left the building, joining a whole bunch of other bleary-eyed guests outside as the sirens wailed and the firemen teemed of their trucks and into the building. A few minutes later we got the “all clear” and headed back inside, learning that a smoking toaster had set off the smoke alarm, which automatically calls the fire department, and there was never any actual fire. Phew!

Unfortunately we were wide awake and had no plans until the Red Sox game, so we decided to just head to Fenway Park early and soak up the atmosphere. We were already parked more than 2.5 hours before game time and already thousands of Sox fans in their Sox gear were teeming toward the ballpark. As a Mets fan who drags himself to meaningless games in a half-empty stadium, I found the excitement refreshing, and I was more than a little jealous. We spent some time at the carnival that is Yawkey Way on game day: live music, stilt-walkers, and buskers and barkers of all kinds.

Yawkey Way

This is the best thing about having a ballpark right in the middle of a vibrant city: the whole neighborhood becomes part of the experience before and after games. Several cities have smartly placed their relatively new ballparks in such locations, and it makes a huge difference. It makes parking expensive and scarce (I paid $30 to be in a tiny lot down the block from Fenway) but it makes public transportation a better option and it’s totally worth the tradeoff. Madison Square Garden’s location in Midtown Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Downtown Brooklyn are similar, but the summer and the general lack of commuters rushing home from work makes such a difference in the general vibe.

Anyway, inside the stadium our mission was to find one of the two kosher food stands that we’d heard were there. It’s incredible how ubiquitous kosher ballpark concession stands have become over the past decade. 15 years ago there was only one such stand, in Baltimore’s Camden Yards. Now there’s kosher food at most ballparks and arenas on the East Coast, and it was nice to know that I didn’t have to worry about packing a lunch. That is, until we found the kosher stands. They are, in fact, not stands but vending machines that heat up and dispense real food.

Kosher concessions at Fenway Park

You can imagine my disappointment. The machine on the right did hot dogs only, and the other one served up knishes, onion rings, and some other disgusting looking stuff we didn’t bother with. Not having much choice, I ponied up $20 for three hot dogs and a knish for the two of us. Sam was amazed at the technology, and at the part when the hot dog vending machine said, “Your bun is warming” on its tiny LED screen. He was also very happy with his knish. As for the hot dog, we both agreed that they weren’t terrible, but I kind of wished I had packed a lunch.

When it came to the game itself, the weather was beautiful, the Red Sox won, the crowd cheered from start to finish, Sam thoroughly enjoyed the antics of the team mascot (Wally, the Green Monster). I could really get used to this home-team-winning thing; they should try it in New York. The only blemish on the whole experience was that our seats were so cramped as to be uncomfortable even for Sam, who is currently a little shy of 5 feet tall. It’s been several years since I’ve been to Fenway for a game, so I forgot to buy tickets in the newer seats and we were scrunched up into seats that were installed in 1912, when people and ballgames were both a whole lot shorter than they are today. I love Fenway, but it’s a lot like the beaches in Cape Cod: pretty to look at, but physically uncomfortable.

After the game we left Boston for Salem, home of the famous witch trials of 1692 and lots of touristy crap relating to more to Wizard-of-Oz-type witches and less to the history of the Puritan hysteria that led to the execution of 19 Americans as “witches.” I did some research and picked what appeared to be a more reliable spot, the Salem Witch Museum. I was wrong. It was less a museum and more a cheesy haunted house that happened to be based on history. Spooky narration, dark theater, devil with glowing eyes … it all added up to freak Sam the hell out. Of course, it didn’t help that, on the way to Salem, what had been a partly sunny day turned into a crazy lightning storm, and as we walked into the museum there was an ominous and massively loud lightning crackle so perfectly timed that for a second I thought we had just walked into the Halloween episode of a bad sitcom. I think it was the same lightning bolt that destroyed the Hill Valley clock tower.

Sam lasted only about three minutes into the museum’s presentation before losing it, so we left and the museum people were very nice about refunding our admission. I guess I should have known Sam would have a hard time with it; he frightens easily and we were going to a museum about witches. Still, I guess I expected more history and fewer theatrics, but we quickly moved on. Well, not before we took one final picture with the extremely creepy-looking statue in the center of town:

Roger Conant

It looks like more cheesy witch stuff, but this is actually a statue of Roger Conant, the first settler of Salem and not a witch, despite his interesting wardrobe choices.

By this time the rain and lightning had stopped, Sam was calm, and it was time to go skydiving.

Yes, skydiving. OK, not exactly skydiving. I have a thing about skydiving: I’m fascinated by it and I’ve always wanted to do it, but I have children, and even though skydiving is pretty safe things do go wrong occasionally, and recreational skydiving would be a really pathetic reason to leave my children without a father. The solution: indoor skydiving at SkyVenture in Nashua, New Hampshire. What is indoor skydiving, you ask? Basically, you get all dressed up like you’re going to jump out of a plane, but instead you hover over a massively powerful fan that makes you feel as if you’re falling through the sky at hundreds of mph when in fact you’re in a small room floating just a couple of feet above a net. I had never even heard of indoor skydiving until I started researching things to do in New Hampshire, but it seemed like a great way to get the thrill without the risk.

I figured I would love it but I was a little nervous about how Sam would do, especially after Salem. I was reassured somewhat by the sight of a 14-year old who was having his birthday party at SkyVenture when we walked in. So instead of buying the minimum two minutes of flight time for each of us, as I had planned, I got us each five, which would be done in two 2.5-minute flights. I could tell that Sam was a little nervous, so I went first.

IT WAS INCREDIBLE!

You start by standing at the edge of the flight chamber as the fans get up to speed, and then you just tuck your arms close to your body and fall forward into the chamber, letting the air lift you as you spread out your arms and legs. It took a minute to get used to it and to get consistent with the proper body position that would allow me to stay roughly in the center of the flight chamber, and then it was just crazy amounts of fun. Sam sat right outside watching me, and he had a grin wider than his safety goggles (and the goggles were pretty wide). When it was his turn he jumped right in, and that smile didn’t stop.

The Hamster floats! Fly Boy

The second time we went in, a stunt instructor went in with us and took us up to the ceiling, back down to the net, and spun us around, which was even more exciting. I don’t know which I enjoyed more: taking my turn, or watching Sam take his.

The place was pretty empty, so when we finished our flights they offered us a couple more minutes at half price. We jumped right back in. Then the instructors jumped in to show off for us, walking up and down walls and doing all kinds of cool flips and tricks. Sam gushed, “I wish I could work here, so I could do this all the time!” We spent the whole drive to our hotel raving about how fantastic it was, and comparing it to other crazy road trip experiences we’ve had, like riding a dune buggie in Oregon and riding a monster truck in North Carolina.

That one rough day we had last week was a distant memory. It may have taken a little while for things to jell, but now we’re on fire.

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