I’m at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire tonight, hanging out here whilst the young’un does a college visit at the University of New Hampshire in nearby Durham. The hotel labels itself “Harborview,” and when I checked in, I was glad to hear that I would have a room with a view on the third floor.

The lobby of the hotel was wonderfully clean, the staff at reception was friendly and efficient, and I was quite impressed when I walked into a large, well-decorated, clean hotel room. I set my bags down and went to open the curtains to admire my view of the harbor.

It wasn’t quite what I expected: between me and the water was a large industrial lot with a mountain of salt and sand that’s at least as tall as my third-story room. Two rumbling Caterpillar 988F’s were scooping the sandy-salt mixture out of the mountain, and then dropping it into a shaker that broke it up into smaller pieces, so that trucks could pull up to the shaker and drive away with easily-spreadable material for roadwork. Beyond the construction lot was the harbor, so it was contained in my view, sorta.

I felt a bit defrauded for a couple of moments, until I realized that I actually like watching giant trucks rumbling around more than I like watching water. My grandfather was a Cat mechanic, so the big yellow machines have always interested me. I pulled up a chair and sat in front of my window and watched the big Cats work for about half an hour. The view was like a real-world version of a pair of Tonkas in a sandbox. Only much louder.

I think the Sheraton has missed a marketing opportunity here. If they’d told me I could have the Tonkaview Room instead of the Harborview Room, I’d have paid more for it.

Before it got too frigid, I walked around the downtown area for a spell and was quite impressed at how nice it’s gotten since the last time I was up here a couple of decades ago. While it does have the obligatory annoying Banana Republic store that all east coast seaport towns are apparently required by statute to offer, there were loads and loads of neat, unique shops and galleries, and the best record store I’ve been in since the dawn of the download era, easily (except for The Music Box in Newport), called Bull Moose Records.

I picked up a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Future Games, probably my favorite of their albums, and one which I’d never seen in digital format before. Danny Kirwan was a genius guitar player and songwriter who got lost in the historical mix between the Peter Green/Jeremy Spencer and Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks eras. Future Games has what I consider to be his two finest songs: “Sands of Time” and “Woman of 1000 Years.”  The album also marks Bob Welch’s debut with the band, and he purports himself well on the lovely and uplifting title track and the ripsnorting “Lay It All Down.” Christine McVie adds all the class that she normally does, especially on “Show Me A Smile,” which really should have been a bigger hit than (yuck) “Rhiannon.”

For the record: I will not go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until they admit Welch as a member of Fleetwood Mac. It’s a travesty that they excluded him, since he’s the one who kept things going after Kirwan flamed out and before Buckingham-Nicks arrived. Stupid, unjust and arbitrary. I want no part of that.

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