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A 'GENERATION X' GUIDE TO BOSTON
OFF THE HISTORIC BYWAYS, THERE'S FREEDOM FROM THE TOURIST TRAIL

How do you remember Boston? When you were 7, did your parents buy you a tri-cornered hat and drag you around the historic Freedom Trail? Did you go to Faneuil Hall and buy "Authentic Boston Baked Beans" candy from faux pushcarts? Or perhaps you visited the beautiful Trinity Church in Copley Square and then headed into the nearby shopping mall to buy "I Love Boston" T-shirts.

The Bay State isn't just about history and churches, and now that you're twentysomething, you have the freedom to tailor your own vacation. This time, it doesn't have to involve lobstah-shaped souveneah magnets or restaurants that serve food called "Paul Reveah's Back Bay Clam Chowdah."

My companion and I spent a recent weekend in Boston and had fun 20s-style. Since twentysomethings are the hapless inheritors of author Douglas Coupland's label "Generation X," we tried to live up to our reputation and use his cultural definitions to plan our trip. To begin properly, we slept late.

After waking up and slugging down three cups of java, we faced "Option Paralysis: The tendency, when given unlimited choices, to make none."

We fought off paralysis and decided to begin our explorations on a cultural note. Naturally, the best way to be cultural is to admire fine art or very old art or very new art that might eventually be considered fine.

So we headed to Huntington Avenue, to the Museum of Fine Arts. (Good tip: Find that old college ID. It gets you in more cheaply.) Here we gawked at Renoirs, Monets, Manets, Degas, Gauguins, Van Goghs and all the other heavy hitters in the art world.

Walking through the airy, modernist West Wing designed by I.M. Pei, we found a special contemporary glass exhibit at the end. These rooms were filled with amazing sculptures. We liked a sculpture made of hundreds of sheets of glass with little sea gulls etched into them. The gulls formed a life-size, three-dimensional shape of a human lying down, reading a book. Tres chic conversation piece.

Next we headed across the street onto the Fenway to check out the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. This unassuming brown building magically became a three-story Venetian palazzo when we walked inside. Gardner was clearly a victim of "Architectural indigestion: The almost obsessive need to live in a 'cool' architectural environment."

A very rich woman, Gardner collected art, furniture, metalwork, books and other objects from different cultures, spanning 30 centuries. In 1901, she turned her house into a private museum and hosted fabulous soirees for her friends. In 1925 it was opened to the public.

We didn't even have to pay to see the courtyard, where fountains spew, exotic trees grow and where we got a taste of Gardner's handiwork. But we shelled out the admission fee and trudged upstairs to mosey through her mansion, where she arranged her collection.

This museum was neat because it's, like, her old house. Only instead of La-Z-Boy recliners and framed Ansel Adams prints, she has Emperor Nero's chair and Titian's "Rape of Europa." Very cool.

By then we were arted out, so we jumped on the "T" (Boston's subway) and headed to theCharlesbank Playground on the Charles River near the Longfellow Bridge. Grabbing some hot dogs and pop, we lazed on the banks of the river (much cleaner these days, no belly-up fish in sight), watching sailboats drift by.

The Charles is a great place for hanging out in good weather, with plenty of benches, docks to sit on and a path beside the water.

But soon thirst set in, so we decided to get a wee nip. Destination: Mr. Dooley's Boston Tavern on Broad Street. Besides having great Guinness, Dooley's combines the atmosphere of an authentic Irish pub with a hip modernity, just the right place to regain your strength with some stout.

After a pint or two, we worked off impending beer bellies with a hike to Beacon Hill to see the famous brownstone homes. At the base of the hill is the State House, which overlooks the Shaw Memorial, a monument honoring the abolitionist Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment of the Union Army (remember the film "Glory"?).

Then we headed to flatter terrain in the Public Gardens (Boston Common). In the park we reverted to our childhood, fed pigeons and saw the Swan Boats. (Sadly, we were too late to take a ride.)

Ending up on Tremont Street, we approached the theater district. Tired and hungry, we hit a hip restaurant on Stuart Street called Brew Moon, known for its microbrewed beer. Shunning the wanna-be Buffalo wings appetizer, we dug into gourmet burgers and tried the five-beer sampler.

There were tons of other interesting places to eat, such as nearby Chinatown, but Brew Moon was across the street from our evening's grand finale, a performance by Blue Man Group at the Charles Playhouse. After a long day, only men covered in gooey blue paint who play drums and wrap the audience in miles of toilet paper could excite us.

After this amazingly fun show, we felt very cultured and analyzed the deeper meaning of the performance as we pulled remnants of toilet paper out of our hair.

It was a long day. We crashed.

After another long sleep-in, we went to the "in" place in Boston, Newbury Street. We recommend "Native Aping: Pretending to be a native when visiting a foreign destination." Only young, beautiful, rich, well-dressed people with expensive cars and Armani shopping bags walk on Newbury Street. This is an exaggeration, of course, and if you can't come up with the proper Newbury Street uniform, just wear black.

We started at the chichi end of the street, near the Public Gardens, where we watched people suffering from "Armanism: After Giorgio Armani: an obsession with mimicking the seamless and (more importantly) controlled ethos of Italian couture" and actually buying things in Cartier, Rodier and other Frenchy places.

The farther we walked down the street, the more hip it became. Our first stop was the brand-new Nike Town, a high-tech shoe and clothing store with the route of the Boston Marathon traced onto a wall.

Other notable stops included Cigar Masters of Boston and Emporio Armani (the epitome of Armanism), where a clerk helped us select a dress (a bargain at $560 -- we took a rain check).

We could resist Armani, but we succumbed to sumptuous scoops at Herrell's Ice Cream & Expresso Bar (voted Best of Boston). And for live entertainment, we went to the nearby Expresso Royale Caffe and listened to musicians (who were clearly suffering their "Mid-Twenties Breakdown: A period of mental collapse occurring in one's 20s, often caused by an inability to function outside of school or structured environments, coupled with a realization of one's essential aloneness in the world") strum a guitar and honk away at a clarinet.

Gargoyles was a wonderfully kitschy shop filled with monuments and creepy gargoyles for the Goth in everyone. And a few blocks down, we stocked up on discs at the popular music store Newbury Comics. Hitting the end, we turned around and grabbed a bite at Sonsie, an open-front cafe.

For our last hurrah, we hit Boston's nightclub strip, Lansdowne Street, which abuts Fenway Park. Here the young and beautiful people don vinyl skirts and patent boots to dance the night away.

We warmed up at Jillians, an entertainment complex the size of the entire Chippewa strip. First we played high-tech video games, then headed upstairs to play pool on one of the 55 tables. After losing a few games, we made our final stop, "X Night" at Axis, a dance club with two floors. We chose to stay downstairs and groove to alternative hits, but next time we'll get upstairs to hear '80s new wave.

Our whirlwind twentysomething tour of Boston ended at 2:30 a.m. Sunday. We slept in late, hopped in a car and drove back to Buffalo to return to our "McJobs: low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future jobs in the service sector."

Travel information

To make reservations for "Blue Man Group" call the Charles Playhouse at 74 Warrenton St., (617) 931-2787.

Brew Moon is at 115 Stuart St.; call (617) 523-6467.

The Museum of Fine Arts is at 465 Huntington Ave.; call (617) 267-9300.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is at 280 The Fenway; call (617) 566-1401.

Axis is at 13 Lansdowne St.; call (617) 262-2437.