Last Sunday afternoon a creaky, chrome-plated, bus stood shaking in front of the Sheraton-Plaza. Inside were 20 eager tourists, a fat, jolly, swarthy tourguide who wore wrap around sun-glasses, and an ernest, young busdriver who sat hunched possessively over his steering wheel. Tour No. 2 of the Gray Lines Sightseeing Bus Company entitled "Contemporary Education & Cultural Boston & Cambridge" was about to begin.
The engine started, the bus vibrated some more, and over the loudspeaker boomed the words "I don't care how you go, anyway you want to go is fine with me but straight up Huntington looks best." The swarthy one decided he'd better explain further: "This young man I have driving is learning how to drive the coach. I am instructing him."
Up Huntington Avenue, past the Prudential Center went the bus. "We have some New York Stores on the right. The Presidential Company owns the lovely 52-story office building there. Our first stop today is the Maparium of the Christian Science Building. But not today. Today is the National Mourning Day for Bobby Kennedy. Its a tough day for this business. You don't know whats open. Watch the traffic light and squeeze left."
At the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Huntington Avenue, the Voice came back, "On the left hand side is the colored section of Boston. You might say you don't see too many colored folks in Boston but we have them. They come from all quarters of the world and they like to keep pretty much to themselves over there. They are very excellent people and have their own clubs and organizations. On the right hand side is Horti-cultural Hall where we have our flower shows. There on the right you see a typical supermarket and a donut store. Donuts are the local rage." Then the Sunglassed Voice told ancedotes about some Midwestern ladies who discovered the local rage and spent their entire vacation taking tours and eating donuts.
As the bus moved up Massachusetts Avenue towards the Charles River, the first warnings came. "We'll see a lot of weird people in Cambridge. We've got our hippies, we've got our flower children just like anywhere else. We've got a lot of traffic too, our streets were designed as cowpaths."
Crossing the Charles, the Sunglassed Voice described the different kinds of boats on the river and accurately predicted where and when one of them would collapse. "It's an expensive sport," he said. Most everyone in the bus nodded in agreement.
"M.I.T. owns much of this land. On the Right is Santa Maria Hospital, home of the Red Sox when ill. Joyce Chen, a very wonderful lady, who came here from Korea two years ago without a yen and serves very wonderful food, now owns this very fashionable restaurant. On the left is the Charles River.
More sights on the riverside were noted. Some sights in the river were also pointed out. "There is a yacht flying the flag of the Newton Yacht Club to which I belong. It's a 30 footer and sleeps four."
The bus drove by Dunster House. "We're now passing the Gold Coast where the wealthy students live." Pointing to Old Leverett, as the driver careened around the corner onto Plympton Street, the Sunglassed Voice barked "Here is where Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy used to live."
"On the right is Pennypincher Hall," the voice said as we passed Quincy House. "The man's name was Pennypincher but he really wasn't a pennypincher." (Laughter.)
"Harvard has two papers the Lampoo--Hey, Ladies and Gentlemen, will ya look at that! Is it a boy or girl? I told you we'd see a lot of weirdies. The school doesn't care what they look like or act like just so long as they go to class. I'll take bets. Is it a boy or is it a girl? The Lampoon is in the odd-shapped building we just passed on the left. The CRIMSON is on the right. Be careful of the bicycle, George, it has the right of way."
The bus passed the McKean Gate and the Voice told us to look inside and catch a glimpse of John Harvard's statue. "Until last year the statue was in Harvard Square. But every day the statue was painted a different color. So quite recently the authorities moved it into the Harvard Yard." The Sunglassed Voice seemed to be having a lot of trouble with his chronology. "I'm told you can buy anything you want in Harvard Square. Anything at all, Pot, anything. Notice the car registrations. They're from all over the world, and I do mean all over the world. Up here on the right is the gray public administration building whert John F. Kennedy went to classes at Harvard."
Eventually the bus passed by the Law School, Lesley College ("This is where you'd send your daughter if you wanted her to be a teacher."), and reached the Agassiz Museum. "Here are the world famous glass flowers. Don't back in any further than the big branch, I'd rather stick out a little bit than bust another branch. Take the center path and ride the elevator to the glass flowers, third floor."
After the glass flowers were inspected, the bus moved back down Massachusetts Avenue to the Common. A be-in was in session. "Here's an example of free speech, some guy talkin to a crowd of people about sumpthin he knows nuthin about. On the right-hand side is the Sheraton-Commander Hotel, Cambridge's oldest . . ."