… of my “trip” to Bahston!
Actually, it was more of a 9-hour layover. But I’ve always wanted to go to Bahston, home of the American Revolution, where names like Pauhl Revere and everyone of the Adams family are cahved into stone.
And so instead of camping out in the aihport all day, I hopped a cab downtown to see the sights. My seat pahtner, a Bahston native, recommended a good place to staht with the city was Faneuil Hall. So I did.
It sounds like “Fanyel”. At first I thought he kept saying “Nathaniel” Hall and couldn’t say it right. But the cab driver knew exactly what I was talking about. So ten minutes (and about $30) later, I was in front of Faneuil Hall.
Faneuil Hall, according to its website, is known as the “Crade of Liberty.” Wikipediah, on the other hand, says it is called the “Cradle of Liberty.” I’m going to go with Wikipediah on this one. Why is it known as such? Well, it’s entire second floor is a designated meeting room (which is still in use today), which wayyyyy back in the late 1700s was where oratahs like Samuel Adams (and other Sons of Libertah) gave impassioned speeches advocating independence from Great Britain. About a century later, anti-slavery debates were held there. Placed across the stage were bronze busts of famous people who’ve spoken there, including Frederick Douglass and Lucy Stone, abolitionist and suffragette. Above the stage is a massive painting featuring Daniel Webstah, noted Senatah from Massachusetts. The painting is supposed to represent Webster’s Reply To Hayne, a debate in 1830 concerning tariffs.
This building is owned(?) (controlled? administrated?) by the National Pahk Service and staffed by pahk rangahs. The rangah on the second floor gave a history of the building, from initiahl construction to expansion (it used to be about half of its current size). At its expanded size, they thought the capacity was over 2,000 people but a little modern invention called fire code limits it to about 850. If you look at that picture, imagine fitting even 1,000 people in there. Then double that. And hope everyone uses deodorant.
The other cool thing about the great hall is that they administah the Oath of Allegiance in that room to new citizens. MERICAH.
When originally built, the first floor of the building was intended to be an enclosed marketplace for the townspeople. Today, it still is, in a sense. All the booths and stahlls are filled with all the Bahston/colonial/NPS tourism gift shops you can find, as well as the Pahk Rangah stand with maps and tour guides. One of the booths, though, was slightly different. It was dedicated to Artists For Humanity, which is a program that pays teens to produce art for clients in something like an apprenticeship program. All the profits from student work go back to support the program. It looks like it gives students the opportunity for positive adult interaction as well as the chance to learn and produce art as employment. They have to work with clients and be entirely professional about the whole thing. The program looks like it was founded to keep kids off the street as well as remediate lack of art in the Bahston school system. I had a nice talk with a girl who was working there. She was painting a picture of a dog, their mascot, and telling me about the program and how she wants to study in London or Spain next semester. She’s leaning towards Spain for the full cultural immersion. Good luck.
After Faneuil Hall, I strolled across the “square” to Quincy Mahket.
Quincy Mahket was built around 1800 as a place for all the shops that didn’t fit into Faneuil Hall. And it is still used like that, but all updated to fit modern standahds. There are like 40 hundrahd food places on either side of the building, from end to end. On each side are half levels, between the main level and the basement, where vendahs sell all sorts of Bahston kitsch.
It was lunch time so I wandered the length of the building (twice) while deciding what to eat. There were too many options and too many people. If you don’t like enclosed places, or large crowds, this is not the right place for you. And then it hit me – I was in Bahston. I need to eat clam chowdah. Whether I like it or not, chowdah in Bahston is a must. So I found the nearest chowdah vendah, bought a cup, and settled in the middle of the building where there was space for both me and my faithful luggage.
While I was sitting there, a family came through who asked about the Notah Dame shirt I was wearing because their son wanted to go there in a couple of years. They all stood around me, smiling. They were very nice but it was a little .. odd. But I always try to travel with some sort of obvious Notah Dame something. It’s a good conversation stahter and I’ve had some nice chats in aihrports or on the train because of it.
And speaking of Notre Dame …
One of my college roommates lives in Bahston so I met up with her for a nice chat. We got some coffee then she took me to some of the other touristy pahts of Bahston.
And then I hopped a cab back to the airport for the real adventure.
Crummy weather aside, I really liked the parts of Bahston I could see. They’ve got this thing called the Freedom Trail, which is a path with all the related historical places laid out, like Dorchester Heights and Bunker Hill. I would like to go back and explore more of the trail and catch up on Revolutionary history. The Revolutionary War/colonial era used to be my favorite period because I really liked Felicity, the American Girl. (An update to the link, I think she’s officially retired now but you can buy her on ebay for a measly $125.) I think when I was younger, there was an implicit understanding that Boston = Revolutionary war, even though Felicity herself lived in Williamsburg, so Boston has remained solidly on my bucket list of places to see.
Being there was a thrill that I think other history nerds would understand. It was the act of being there. Actually, I’m sure it’s something everyone could understand, even if they don’t get this mild preoccupation with the past. Being at the place it happened is always exciting, no matter what your chosen it is.
I think some of my fascination with the Revolutionary War/Colonial era is that it has become, essentially, America’s national mythology. The Hebrews wrote Genesis to explain their beginnings, the ancient Babylonians wrote the Epic of Gilgamesh. And Americans have the Declaration of Independence, which was precipitated by the events in Boston. I would say that America doesn’t really have national mythology like, say, Greece and the Twelve Labors of Heracles, or Ireland and Finn McCool, but I don’t know enough about the stories of Paul Bunyan, Calamity Jane, or Johnny Appleseed to say for certain.
It occurs to me that I am speaking from a very western perspective (jingo!) and I’m probably stomping all over the creation myths belonging to the many Native American tribes who were here first. So I’m going to acknowledge that I’m doing it, and then keep doing it.
I will say that the Revolutionary figures have almost certainly achieved demi-god status in our national mindset. Except for those people who must prove their superiority by pooping all over your historical parade like so:
You: “Thomas Jefferson was brilliant!”
Them: “He owned slaves; your point is invalid.”
Because owning slaves correlates to his inventions how?
(I’ve probably done this to people.) (Slavery wasn’t cool, btw.)
The Revolutionary War is also romanticized in the American mindset. Perhaps this is the way it is taught in schools. “Here’s why this guy’s face is on our money!” “He must have been great to be on a coin!” And the way they teach it indoctrinates all young little Americans to believe that the Intolerable Acts were Intolerable and Britain had it coming. (Which they totally did.) Also, there’s something about the underdog overthrowing the ruling power to make a new status quo based on Liberty, Equality and maybe even Fraternity. This whole era is represented by oil paintings of men in wigs, which is still very interpretive. It doesn’t have the photographs that show blood and guts and doesn’t leave much to the imagination, like every conflict since the Civil War. (Interesting: History of Wartime Photography.)
I enjoy reading about the Revolutionary War. Jeff Shaara’s treatment of this era (Rise to Rebellion, The Glorious Cause) are two books of his I would actually go back and read. (Except for that part where George Washington weeps at the odds stacked against him. Just-no.) I also enjoy, aesthetically at least, women’s dress, not that I would ever dress up in it. I wish I’d had more time to explore and learn about all the events in the books, but that’s just a good reason to go back.
Here are some more links on Paul Revere’s ride that I couldn’t wedge in otherwise. You’ll just have to settle for list format:
Wikipedia’s Paul Revere’s Ride, including historians who don’t appreciate literature who claim Longfellow’s classic poem has “historical inaccuracies.” Well duh, it’s poetry.
Paul Revere’s House, which is about him as a person, not just his house
And to conclude, here’s a relevant clip from one of my favorite TV shows, the West Wing, which sort of sums up my feelings towards Boston: golden light, idealistic America, sweeping hopeful yet nostalgic music, with just a little bit of attitude. The premise of the clip is finding a knife with which to carve Thanksgiving Turkey:
I should spend more time in the Revolutionary War…