Sunday, 7 July 2019

Providence express

I don’t get up too late. I’m speaking at 15:15.

A train from Back Bay station at 10:30 will get me to Providence by 11:40. Sounds perfect. I should be checked into my hotel and have my bags dumped by 13:30.

I risk another taxi. The station is close enough for there to be little scope for cheating. And it’s virtually in a straight line. But you never know in Boston.

Getting to Back Bay station 45 minutes before the train leaves me time for a breakfast sandwich just down the street. At a health foody sort of snack place called B.GOOD. But they have exactly what I’m after: an egg, bacon and cheese sandwich. A suitably bacony start to the day.

Back Bay station is a bit gloomy, being underground. Which isn’t unusual in the US. Especially city stations. They do have some nice old photos of stations in the region. While I’m waiting an Amtrak train rolls in on the opposite platform. Looking exactly like all the other Amtrak trains I’ve ever seen. They must have built a shitload of those carriages.

The carriage of the MBTA train I’m taking looks 50 years old. At least. And is virtually deserted. Neither good signs for the future of public transport here. It’s not the oldest and tattiest carriage I’ve ridden in the US. That honour goes to a New Jersey Transit train I took with the family some years back. Totally fucked, that was, with big splits in the upholstery..

Unlike the New York to Philadelphia route, there is at least some stuff that passes for countryside. Not just rotting factories interspersed by the odd patch of trees.

Providence station is a modern, but dreadfully bland, concrete affair. Located reasonably centrally. Unlike Atlanta’s Amtrak station, which is two states over. It’s only a few minutes’ walk to my hotel. All downhill. I’d forgotten how hilly Providence is. Especially compared to Amsterdam. Though even Newark is hilly compared to Amsterdam.

I get checked in and stroll over to the convention centre. People start coming up to say hello before I've even registered.

As soon as I have my lanyard and glass, I head into the main hall in search of beer. It doesn’t take much effort to find some. Surprise, surprise: it’s an IPA of some description.

I’ve time for a few more beers before showtime. And to chat with various random people.

It’s one of the biggest audiences I’ve spoken to. I get some pretty good laughs. And do quite a bit of swearing. I bash it out in exactly 45 minutes. Hurrying along at breakneck speed. 58 slides is a lot to get through in under an hour.

David Lavery comes up to chat when I’m done. I met him a few years back in Colonial Williamsburg and we’ve been corresponding by email. I’ve brought along a couple of books for him.

Back in the exhibition hall Kristen England rumbles noisily up and is his usual snarky self. The personality might still be neon, but his socks toned have down 40 or 50 shades since Chile. That’s a relief. I wouldn’t want to be blinded.

Stan Hieronymus joins us. He missed my talk because he was judging. Rather him than me. Three full days of judging in Chile took the shine off it for me.

I bump into more people: Doug Piper, Brad Smith, Pablo from White Labs and many others.

I notice Horst Dornbusch seated nearby. I don't go up and say hello. What could I say? “Hi, you fucking charlatan.” That wouldn’t get me anywhere. And I prefer to avoid unnecessary conflict. Even on the internet, nowadays.

We watch the keynote speaker. The audience is ginormous.

David, Stan and I decide to climb College Hill towards Brown University to get some food. On the way we pass the Union Station brewpub, which is, unsurprisingly, totally mobbed with a queue of conference attendees queueing to get in.

Climbing the hill isn’t great fun. I’m really unused to hills. Still, it’s more pleasant than last time I came this way, when I was here with the family. That time it was freezing cold and snowy.

There are some lovely mansions on the way up. Some in typically ornate late Victorian style. Others which look considerably older.

Finally, we get to the top. Where we plump for a Mexican place, Baja's Taqueria. I order a rather nice burrito with some sort of roasted pork. Dead tasty. I don't eat it all, saving half for later.

Final event for today is for pro night. Where I meet loads of other people I know. Averie Swanson, James Czar (who hosted me in Cincinnati last year), John Mallett, Chris from Maryland Homebrew. It’s good to see Averie again. We met in Chile in 2017. I’d been expecting to see her when I was at Jester King earlier this year, but she’s moved on.

John Mallett suggests I do something at Bells in Kalamazoo. I'm up for that. Crazy name, dead cool brewery, someone I really like. That's a whole stack of wins.

I don’t stay out too late. Back in my room, I finish off my burrito. It still tastes ace.

Even the aching of my feet can’t stop me running headlong into sleep. Especially with a following wind of whisky.

131 Dartmouth St,
MA 02116.
Tel: +1 617-424-5252

Baja's Taqueria
229 Thayer St.,
RI 02906.
Tel: +1 401-808-6141

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