When you're an internationally beloved rock star who has literally seen it all, it's the little things in every city that you come to appreciate. For Mike Love, in the area to play a handful of shows with his legendary group, the Beach Boys, a trip to his favorite Indian restaurant in Boston was priority number one.
Love, 67, emerged in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton a bit behind schedule. Rock star attitude, right? Well, no, quite the opposite actually. His daughter Ambha had arrived early that morning after a long, delayed flight, so the group was beleaguered. Dressed in his trademark baseball cap with oversized shades and a short-sleeve black button down that read Club Koko on the back (just close enough to the title of one of his relentlessly poppy songs to make it play in your head all day), he mustered the troops, including wife Jacquelyne and their friend Andrea Menke, into action.
It was the type of idyllic August afternoon Love might have once immortalized in song. The sounds of reveling picnickers and thumping music chased us along the crooked, building-shaded streets of Downtown Crossing. Love's daughter was particularly excited about the walk toward Faneuil Hall, pointing out all her favorite clothing shops along the way.
"I'm 12," the precocious and lovely young girl answered, when asked her age.
"Twelve and a half!" said dad.
A side trip to see Paul Revere's house was deemed too far out of the way, but Jacquelyne, a native of Chicago, was delighted to share some of the more historic sights with Menke, a German visiting Boston for the first time. The university student seemed more excited by history of a more recent vintage, though. "Oh wow, they have H&M here!" she said.
"Not here more than five minutes with them and they want to stop at all the stores!" Love joked, sounding like a put-upon sitcom dad.
Love and family, who make their permanent home near Lake Tahoe, Nev., try to come to Boston every year, Love said, darting through the congested cobblestone streets like a seasoned Bostonian. "I know exactly where I want to go," he said.
A quarrelsome sidewalk encounter between an aggressive protester screaming something about religion and an angry, invective-hurling opponent, followed by a moaning sidewalk bike rider, provided a tense moment or two. Love and company took it all in stride. "Welcome to Boston," Jacquelyne said to Menke.
Love wasn't to be distracted from his purpose, however. Dosas, the South Indian-style crepes, were in order, and nothing was going to get in the way.
Cruising along the back roads, he seemed glad we'd decided not to take a cab. "Boston is a hard city to drive around," he said, segueing into a discussion about the Big Dig, our proud city's global calling card.
"This area is a bit touristy, wouldn't you say?" Love offered, crossing over into Faneuil Hall. The outdoor market was heaving with crowded window shoppers, balloon twisters, break dancers, and all manner of sidewalk-stall bric-a-brac. "That's OK though, because we are tourists."
A street drummer playing overturned buckets caught Ambha's attention. Love seemed perplexed. What did he think of the kid's chops? Sign him up for the band? "Well, I think he'd be better off trying out for Motley Crue," he joked. "As soon as Tommy Lee drops out and joins a monastery or something."
Closer now to the destination of his culinary pilgrimage, Love made a beeline through the crowd into Quincy Market, weaving through the throngs of grazing tourists with his arm around his daughter. We pushed through the sensory overload of grilled meats, fried fish, pizzas, spices, and sweets that permeated the stuffy food court. Mango drinks and dosas from the Bombay Club were procured. "I love Indian food," Ambha explained. "My name is Indian."
"It's actually an ancient goddess name," said her father as he searched for a table. He traveled to India for the first time in 1968 to take a course by the Maharishi. "It was the same time the Beatles were there. George Harrison and I had our birthday parties there the same month, thrown by the Maharishi," he said.
A lengthy discussion on the history of transcendental meditation followed as Love unpacked the bag of dosas and spicy Indian soup, placing a spoon in our bowl and making sure we had enough napkins. His hands were bejeweled in a dazzling array of rings and bracelets. Love walked us through his techniques of chanting, meditation as a means to invoke the powers of nature, spiritual safaris to the temples of Southern India, and harnessing the powers of positive energy.
A lot to take in between spoonfuls of lentils. He's been meditating daily since that first trip to India and even became a teacher of transcendental meditation.
"There is fascinating knowledge to be gained," he said.
Indeed there is. All you have to do is listen.