Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Foliage Tour - Part 2

We explored Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It had a lot more chic boutiques and eateries than I’d have expected, and a big performance venue to which the inescapable Chryssie Hynde was going to be appearing with the new man in her life. Claire, who has toyed with the idea of going on Stars in Their Eyes, a UK pop star impersonation show, as La Hynde, was much impressed. We located the restaurants the pale young woman behind the desk at the Holiday Inn had suggested, and studied dozens of menus. Claire bought herself a couple of bottles of locally brewed beer from Smuttynose Brewing Company. We agreed to dine later at the nearby Gaslight Grill, even though it seemed to have neither white linen nor candles, without which Claire finds it difficult to enjoy her dinner. We returned to the Holiday Inn and watched the highlights of the Delaware senatorial debate, Chris Coons against that witch who looks like at least one cheerleader at every high school in America.

Back at the Holiday Inn, I loved my salad, which contained dry cherries and candied, but not cloyingly, pecans. I hadn’t ever heard of fried lobster tails, and ordered them. They were pretty delicious, but Claire’s pasta dish was like something you’d get at a high school cafeteria. I manfully summoned our server and expressed our disgruntlement, and he, apparently sensing that I'm not someone with whom to mess, said without hesitation that he wouldn’t charge us for it.

On getting up the following morning, we headed once more into the city center, and there had breakfast at an apparently beloved local institution called The Rubbery Toast, though I may have swapped adjectives for my own amusement, as happens here so often. The walls were covered in kitsch, some of it (the authentic old signs) sublime, some of it (mosaics by local artists, presumably) ghastly. When we finished, the rain wasn’t vengeful, so we decided to try to get up to Portland, which turned out not to be nearly as charming, at least in the dour drizzle. We found a gift shop at which Claire could stalk a fridge magnet for her remarkable collection. Fervent vegetarian that she is, she wasn’t entirely comfortable with a likeness of a lobster, but eventually found a viable alternative, whereupon we headed willy-nilly for White Mountain National Forest, where I’d hoped to glimpse breathtaking foliage.

It appeared, remarkably, as though a lot of the trees hadn’t burst into color yet as we drove west on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, and those that had were probably considerably less breathtaking than they probably would have been if not shrouded in mist and glimpsed through drizzle.

I could see that Barbara Ehrenreich’s analysis of the founding of Christian Science was making Claire’s eyelids heavy, and suggested she eject the fourth of the six Bright-Sided CDs in favor of the first of Accidental Billionaires, on which The Social Network is based. It was dreadfully written, but diverting, and by and by, in spite of the vengeful deluge, we arrived in charmless Concord, where Priceline had found us accommodation at the local Fairfield Inn, a far cry from the Holiday Inn!

Viewing Yelp.com on my increasingly beloved iPad, we were able to review our meager local dining choices, and wound up at a place called Nonni’s. Never trust an Italian restaurant whose servers mispronounce bruschetta (broo-SKET-uh is correct). By the time Claire had finished her complimentary dessert (which our server offered so we wouldn't hate her for having delivered our pizza lukewarm) and we’d gotten back in the Forester, Concord’s Main Street was pretty nearly deserted, reinforcing our impression that the city was unlikely to be designated The Northeast’s Hottest Hotspot anytime soon.

We rued the fact that the Fairfield Inn offers Showtime, rather than HBO, as Bill Maher, of whom Claire is so fond, is on the latter. I watched a few minutes of the Yankess/Rangers playoff game, turned it off before the Yankees’ astonishing come-from-behind victory, and was in Dreamland almost before my old gray head could touch the pillow.

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