There were 44 passengers on our Tauck Tours bus, a majority of them women, none of them very young. Our tour director was an energetic young woman named Jeanne Eagleson, who had been a civilian librarian with the U.S. Army in Germany.
Her librarian skills were evident as she entertained and enlightened us with bits of historical fact and legend along the way through New England. For instance, she told us that the Ivy League colleges are not so-called because they are covered with ivy, as I had thought, but because the original four--Harvard, Rutgers, Yale and Princeton--were known as the IV League.
Being a tour director is hard work. It takes energy, patience, organizational skill, responsibility, compassion and a tough readiness for any kind of snafu or emergency. We were utterly dependent on her, and we obeyed her like children; we were never tardy or recalcitrant.
My wife and I were taking the tour because we had never seen New England; and we chose October because it is supposed to be the month that the fall leaves are in their glory.
We were through Connecticut before I had finished reading the New York Times. All I remember of the state is passing through New Haven, where Eli Whitney lived and the lollipop was invented (facts courtesy of Ms. Eagleson), and Hartford, insurance capital of the nation.
In Massachusetts we stopped at Sturbridge Village, a collection of restored and reconstructed early 19th-Century buildings, and had lunch at the Tavern, a meal memorable for the Indian pudding. Employees in period costume staffed the buildings to explain what life was like in 1830. I wouldn’t have liked it.
On the road to Boston many of the leaves had turned, but it was not the full-color display I had expected. The evergreens had not cooperated. Boston was cold and wet. That evening our tour group was treated to a champagne party and dinner at the Westin, a block from the famous old Trinity Church.
The next morning we crossed the Charles River into Cambridge and tooled through Harvard, which is not so much a campus as a village of creaky old buildings. We entered one that housed a collection of minerals and biological specimens. A plaque on the wall memorialized Josiah Parsons Cooke--"43 years professor of chemistry and mineralogy; a patient investigator, an inspiring teacher, a guileless man.” Odd, I thought, that guilelessness in a Harvard professor would have been considered a memorable virtue.
Back in Boston, a 15-foot pair of “Red Sox” hung forlornly from the City Hall. (That night the Red Sox lost their third straight to the Oakland A’s in the American League playoffs.)
We had to park two blocks from the North Church; it was an uphill walk in the rain. My wife was among those who chose to make it. I stayed in the bus, so I never got to see the church made famous by Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” John Gray, our driver, had to move the bus to a pickup point; on the way he stopped at a Dunkin’ Donut and I got a doughnut and a cup of coffee. So much for history.
From there we drove to the dock of Old Ironsides--the USS Constitution. I got out of the bus to go aboard the ship, but the rain and the cold drove me back, so I just looked at it from the bus window. It looked grim.
We were on our own for lunch. The bus dropped us off at Quincy Market, an enormous shopping center mentioned often in Robert B. Parker’s “Spenser” novels. I bought a rain jacket and a cap, knowing that if I did the rain would stop.
We had lunch in an upstairs restaurant overlooking the center and caught the subway back to the hotel. I asked an American in the seat behind us if we were going the right way. He said we were. “Did you get the senior citizen discount?” he asked. I said we hadn’t. He said the subway was only a dime for seniors. I haven’t yet got used to being recognized as one.
That night at Shea Stadium in New York the Dodgers lost to the Mets to go down in the series, 2 to 1.