The story of my trip to Boston may have begun physically when I left the house at nine Tuesday morning, but it really began about eleven years ago.
Back in those days, there was this new-fangled thing we called the "Internet", and I would stumble around on it with a 28k modem (speed variable... 19k on a bad day) on my granddad's computer. I came across something called a "Star Wars Interactive Story", a sort of choose-your-own-plot deal where you followed links until you came to a blank spot, which you were to fill with your own next chapter. It seemed interesting flipping through a few chapters, but not enough to hold my attention just yet, so I surfed away, not returning until some weeks later. Then, I tried my hand at writing a chapter of my own.
The writing was so bad, the chapter wasn't accepted. It was bad, too, worthy of rejection even by the all-swallowing Internet. Pseudo-unphazed, I rewrote the chapter for a different spot, and my days as a Fan Fiction Author began. Don't laugh so hard; everybody does embarrassing things as a teenager...
Over the next few years, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I'd always been making up stories and things, but this was my real start to cutting my teeth on writing. I practiced things like dialogue, description, and, most of all, keeping a story interesting. During this time, SWIS grew around me, turning into quite a little community. We had a chat room, a forum with writer-talk, and a series of awards: Author of the Week, Month, and Year (my suggestion, actually). I never made AotY, but I did come in second twice and third once, so if we went by points, I'd be the most decorated SWIS Author (or so I like to tell myself). There was a leg-up since I was around so early, sticking with it until I headed off to OSSM, and I dominated the record for most chapters written (something like 1200).
Along in 2001, a gang of us finally got up the nerve to hang out in real life. There was Griffin, founder of SWIS; Aaron, who turned out to be just about second-in-command by helping with the editing; Aimee, who was arguably the best writer on the site since she invested so much time and effort into stories (I'd submit practically rough drafts, just like today... I suppose that's my style, or shortcoming, whichever), and me. We met up with Griffin's parents (hey, we were teenagers) at a condo in the Virginia Mountains and just hung out for a week. It was awesome.
Years slipped by, and SWIS slipped into yet another Internet memory as we grew up. There were a few attempts at bolstering it with high-pressured Tournaments of Champions and an archive system, but youthful creative prowess had either been crushed by the real world or shifted into different directions. I lost contact with most everybody, until one day I stumbled across Aaron's e-mail and dropped him a message. He passed along addresses for Griffin and Aimee (aww, internet romances blossoming into real life), who both now lived up in Boston. We swapped stories over the passed years, and G&A invited to come visit sometime. Summer rolled around, and I did just that.
I awoke Wednesday morning to my alarm and cheerfully called out, "That's me!" Sanity is not my strong suit within twenty minutes or so of waking up. Bungling through the morning routine, I journeyed up to OKC to pick up Joe, who gave me a lift to the airport and held onto my car for the week. As per airport suggestion, I arrived an hour and a half early, then made it through ticketing and security in a mere 20 minutes. It was the first of an uncannily easy traveling trip.
Planes took off almost on time, and I made it to my connection in Memphis with a few minutes to spare, only to discover it was delayed. I had to make another connection in Detroit, which would've been tight, so I went up to the guy at the desk to ask if it were possible to make. He said it should be doable, but, instead, he'd go ahead and put me on a direct flight that arrived sooner anyway. Wowzers, I'm going to have to fly Northwestern more often.
After a few more hours of chopping through TH White's The Once and Future King, we finally flew over the coast and circled the Atlantic waters to come around to Logan International. What surprised me most was the undeveloped islands and space filled with green mountains of trees. I imagined the Northeast as a gray land of concrete and glass, but it wasn't. They had loads of green spaces and parks, probably more so than here in sprawling prairie. My Southern heritage had taught me that the North was a frigid, industrial wasteland filled with vicious, cold-blooded Yankees willing to attack and burn your possessions at the drop of a hat. Instead, the weather was fantastic (though part of that was a fluke... Aimee said it turned rainy and cold the day after I had left), the commercial and industrial buildings were surrounded by trees and gardens, and the people were friendly and eager. A guy even stopped me on the subway offering help if I knew how to work the card-system. Not a hobo looking for a handout, even; just some guy passing through. Really, it didn't seem like such a bad place to live. (If I'd visited in February when it was 10 degrees outside, I might change my mind, however.)
Actually, my real feeling of surprise was the very short landing strip at Logan. Out in Oklahoma, we've got room to spare just to drive around for a while before punching the jets. At Logan, they practically had to slam on the brakes to keep from slipping back into Boston Harbor.
One thing that did match my expectations, however, was the traffic. Cars were American-sized (not so many trucks as rural Oklahoma, but that's all right), and the roads were a tangled mess of tolls (which were everywhere), angled intersections, and no-turns. It was also the kind of place where you have to go 75 in a 55 mph zone just to keep up. Much of the traffic is supposed to clear up soon with the on-going "Big Dig" project of underground roadways. When I asked about it, Griffin told me that just a few days before part had collapsed, killing a lady. They didn't seem to appreciate tax dollars going toward non-stop projects that end up killing people, heh.
Anyway, we headed out of Boston itself to the suburbian town of Natick (pronounced "Naytick"... if it were an Okie town, it would've been "Nahddick" and would've taken two more seconds to pronounce). They lived in a refitted old Northeastern house, split by floors into three apartments. (Houses there are huge!) I had the guest room, which was usually the Cat's Bedroom. They were kicked out, and they let us know their displeasure with spilled juice cups, meowing, and general cat-like behavior. Really, Baxter and Spenser were sweet, even though I was glad I was a guest and didn't have my own kitty to worry about.
We spent the evening hanging out over a leisurely (if spontaneous) pasta dinner and plenty of Wii, with the new Mario Kart (the wheel-controller is annoying at best), Guitar Hero III, and Wario Ware. Generally, it was a nerdy night, and we were glad to have it.
I woke up much too early Thursday morning, squinted at the dawn, and groaned, "The sun comes up in the middle of the night here!" While their dawn is a tad earlier than ours this time of year and my body-clock was probably still set an hour behind to Central time, it was again a display of my brain not working too well early in the morning. Fortunately, I headed back to sleep and started the day over at a more reasonable hour.
When I did get up, Griffin had already gone to work, and Aimee was getting on her way, though took some time to get me a scone for breakfast. After some TV, I headed out myself, catching the train to Boston, which was step one of my journey to the day's destination: Cambridge.
The train was a little eerie. It, as well as South Station, the principle station in Boston, was reminiscent of Europe. They used space carefully, yet held high roofs to keep claustrophobia at bay. The faux wood and leather was nice, and things were generally clean; a remarkable feat for mass-transit. If one were lucky, he could catch a double-decker car, which was almost as awesome as a double-decker bus. The eeriness of it, though, was the quiet. Sure, things were louder on the weekends and when it was packed on rush hour, but, for the most part, nobody said much of anything. There was just a since of waiting about the whole thing.
By the way, South Station had one of those clicking time boards that change by flipping tabs rather than like the opening of The Terminal. It's a strangely satisfying sound.
Once into Boston (and adding to my funny graffiti collection the line "You hate work?), I caught the subway, or "The T", as they call it. Tokens had been replaced by the "Charlie Card", which is a add-to card with a magnetic strip you recharge at a money machine, then slide through the gate-machines. Griffin and I later looked up who "Charlie" was exactly, and it turns out it comes from an old protest song in the '40s, when Boston Transit began charging exit fares to get out of the subway. In it, Charlie gets on the subway but didn't have the money to get off and disappeared forever, which frightened and saddened his family. Strange that they'd take that as the name for their subway card. Better than the other suggestion of "Fare Cod" for it, though.
After a few stops on the Red Line, I surfaced in Cambridge, home of MIT, which I would soon be touring with my guide and fellow OSSM alumnus, Collin. I was running a little ahead of schedule, so I killed some time looking around and seeing strange things.
The picture can't do justice to the sheer grossness of this all-in-one kitchenette set in a hallway.
I met up with Collin in his chem lab, putting the finishing touches on some bateria engineered to make something or other. We caught up a bit, then headed on to MIT's union for some lunch. On the way, we passed through the "Infinite Corridor", a long stretch of hallways. Nearly all of the MIT buildings are connected, not only for efficiency and the troll-like existence of nerds, but since it gets stinkin' cold in the winter. Anyway, we grabbed some Subway sandwiches, then played some DDR in the arcade. Nerdy times, indeed.
The weather for the tour was awesome: bright skies and maybe a little too much wind. But, it made for nice shots of things like the MIT Auditorium.
And the chapel.
Weird, no? Well, it gets weirder. There's a moat all the way around it.
And on the inside (which is really nice with a good-looking organ), there's a secret passage behind the altar. Seriously.
MIT (along with the rest of Boston) has a strange conglomeration of architectural styles. I suppose that's a side-effect of building nonstop for four centuries. It is pretty cool to get several decades worth of different styles in a single glance.
They also seem to have a strange fascination with serpentine walls. There's probably some kind of method behind the madness... either that, or they just think they're cool.
Here's one of the MIT frats. From Tim's stories, MIT frats are more like Triangle than regular frats.
Back to architecture, one of the problems of having tons of different styles are having the bad ones, too. Simmons Hall, one of the dorms, looks like a giant sponge with pieces cut out.
There are different colors of paint alongside the extended frames for the windows. Maybe if they spelled out something, it would be cool. Otherwise, swing and a miss. Sorry.
Just down the street is a century-old storage building. I like brickwork.
And I'm still trying to decide whether this stairwell is cool or not. I think it is.
We got away from the residential halls and back to the twisting labyrinth of academic buildings. You'll never know what you'll find next, such as the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel.
Speaking of labyrinthine, the Stata Center was built seemingly specifically to confuse people. The floors twist about sometimes being 4, sometimes 2, windows look down three flights into labs, and pockets hold cafeterias and pool tables and conference rooms without any sense of direction. Cah-razy, but kinda fun.
Outside, they have an ampitheater.
Inside, they have monuments to pranks, such as police cars and cows lifted on top of the college dome and fake street signs.
We escaped Stata Center (seriously, it took us a while to find a reasonable way out) and headed back to the Infinite Corridor, this time on the fourth floor, where there is a string of experiments and dsiplays you can play with to learn sciency stuff. I had to stop at each one to tinker with flashing lights on spurts of water, rotation devices, Jacob's ladders, and all kinds of other stuff. Eventually, we headed up to the dizzying library (it circles the dome, making a continuous right turn) and grabbed a picture of Nikola Tesla.
From there, we headed back through the dungeon-like basement in the under-levels of the MIT maze. A little graffiti brightens up the joint, though.
For the last stop, we dropped by Collin's girlfriend's lab (aww, Collin...), and then it was time for him to get back to work and me to get on my way touring. Most people would've called it a day, but not me. I wanted to tour Harvard, and this was the only forseeable opportunity I'd have. Heck, most people would've probably taken the train, but not me. It was only a mile or so, and I got to see lots of Cambridge on the way, like the city hall.
I also got to see lots of things like possees of shoulder-striding city-folk walking around in cockeyed caps and oversized clothes. Strange costumes, these urbanites. I stopped at a charity shop looking at hats (though none stuck out) and got some more weird graffiti for my collection, such as someone having sprayed a giant "Maybe!" I even got to see a guy throwing up in a trashcan with a lady patting him on the back saying, "That's what you get for drinking $20 worth of wine." Weirded out. Of course, I also saw lots more interesting architecture.
At last I arrived on the green, sunny campus of Harvard. I came in through gates with the inscription "Enter and grow in wisdom." OU doesn't have that (not that it'd fit if it did...). Anyway, signs were up as everyone was moving toward convocation soon, and things looked spiffy by the library.
Harvard Yard was full of trees by which to sit in the shade and read for a bit (which I did).
I finally got a picture with me in it, here with John Harvard.
That was taken by a group of ladies from Claremore. They spotted my OU shirt, applauded, and offered to take my picture. Funny who you'll meet... By the way, all the other tourists around were rubbing Harvard's foot, which I did, too, just in case. Later, I read that it was for good luck. I also read that it was tradition for Harvard students as a prank to pee on it. Ick.
After lounging around for a while in Harvard Yard and sorting out just when I'd have to head out to catch the train to Natick, I headed out to see Cambridge Common, the central park of the town. Along the way, I accidentally gave a Japanese tourist wrong directions to the Science Center, getting the map she showed me upside-down. Later, I bumped into her on the right way, and she gave me a dirty look. I still feel bad about that. That should teach me to try to help people.
Anyway, I crossed the street and checked out the statues around. First up was Charles Sumner, the man infamous for having been beaten with a cane on the floor of the US Senate in 1856. He was an avid Abolitionist, which was good, but he had given a speech attacking a Douglas-Butler bill, going on to mock Andrew Butler of South Carolina for a speech impediment that a stroke had given him. A couple of days later, Butler's nephew Brooks, a representative, caught him in the Senate and started wailing on him with a cane. He probably had a beating coming (don't make fun of speech impediments... especially if they're from South Carolina), but the resulting four years of healing and therapy might've been a bit much. What a government we Americans have.
Next, I came across a memorial to aid during the Potato Famine. There're a lot of Irish in Massachusetts, many because of the famine.
Here's a Civil War memorial, starring Lincoln.
And just north of it is the spot where Washington assumed control of the Continental Army in the Revolution, complete with cannon from Fort Ticonderoga. The very spot!
Oh, and some more weird buildings.
About this time, I bumped into a girl wearing an OSU sweatshirt. We stared at each other for a second, then asked each other what was up. She was on a mission trip, handing out water bottles to raise awareness about a church nearby. I happily took a water bottle and continued my touring.
I came across a fountain that sprayed mist in the center of surprisingly comfortable sitting stones. There's a touch of rainbow in there.
Finally, I got a good look at Memorial Hall, a sprawling building at Harvard. Not to be confused with Memorial Church, just next door with a huge, white Protestant steeple. Hall was all about the brickwork.
It was time to head out, worked reasonably so that I'd get to South Station in time to catch the 6:30 train. Unfortunately, our subway car stopped time and again, due to "traffic", the lady on the intercom said. Don't subway lines... not have traffic... since there's one-way rails? I'm still not sure what that means. Anyway, I missed the first train, but caught the next, finally getting back about 8.
Griffin & Aimee had waited dinner on me, so we ate loads and settled in for a night of gaming. We played my card game "Alchemy", this time with adapted rules that made gameplay much faster and less agravating. Still a few things to tweak, but they really seemed to like it.
Friday, we headed out to Boston together mid-morning in pursuit of the Freedom Trail. It's a walk through Boston that tourists can follow to see just about every Revolutionary thing the city has to offer (which is a lot). Physically, it's a line of bricks stuck in the sidewalk or, at times, just red paint. Historically, it holds actual sites where very significant things happened, like the meeting house where a bunch of guys decided to dress up like Indians and go throw a bunch of tea in the harbor (Boston Tea Party). Or the place where some kids were throwing snowballs at some soldiers, and things got out of hand to the point the troops opened fire (Boston Massacre). Or the church where a guy hung some lanterns to alert a silversmith that British troops were marching west (Paul Revere's Ride). It's hard to imagine that these things, so mundane and simple, are what people have read about in history books for two centuries.
We started out with lunch at Sam LaGrassa's, "World's #1 Sandwiches", according to the sign. And they were indeed some good sandwiches. I had a Reuban, which a good one is good, but a bad one is Bad. Mine was amazing.
Filled up, we headed to Boston Common, again, the central park. A random guy came up to us and asked whether or not he should tell his friend that the guy she's dating is just using her, and (after a good deal of puzzled silence), we said he should. Weirded out. Still, it was interesting, and we walked on to check out the green and ponds, such as Frog Pond.
We walked and walked and walked. We saw the Granary Burying Grounds, where the Franklin family is buried. We saw Old State House. And we saw an anti-Democrat statue outside of it, which was hilarious. You're supposed to stand in front of the Donkey and resist its democrat-ness.
At Old Corner Bookstore (which is a giant Borders now), there was another Famine memorial.
Then it was up toward the market district, with Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, where the Boston Massacre happened. They're kind of like Philadelphia's Reading Market, only stretched out so that it seems like a never-ending corridor of sweet smells from confectionaries and every imaginable food stand. Sam Adams stands in front. To his left were some street performers who just wouldn't start their show; they just kept making everybody clap. Yeesh.
Griffin & Aimee got their picture with some Cigar Guy.
We walked through the markets and into another market, this one actually a neighborhood market with tons and tons of fruits. The crosswalk nearby had bronzed trash stamped into the pavement. I'm still trying to decide whether that's art or not.
It was time for a break, and Aimee took us to Mike's Pastry, where we got some amazing canollis (fried pastry dough filled with ricotta... mmm, mine had chocolate chips, too). It's in the North End, which is the neighborhood of Boston where a lot of Italian immigrants settled. There's a heavy Italian feel with loads of Catholic churches and a strange accent mixed of Italian and Bostonian. We ate in a park and watched some kids play basketball and football on the same court.
Stuffed once again, we headed to Paul Revere's House, one of the most ancient buildings in Boston.
It was a neat little tour, and it really opened my eyes about just who this guy was. Other than his ride warning about the British, he didn't do too much other heroic Revolutionary stuff. He did, however, grow very wealthy as his silversmithing spread into a bronze-rolling mill and factory producing, among other things, church bells. That, and he had sixteen kids. Yowza.
Nearby, there's Paul Revere Mall, where they've got a statue of him on his horse, looking a little freaked out and ready to ride into the night to warn of British troop movement.
Just beyond is the steeple where the lanterns were hung ("Two if By Sea"... which was really by river, but all right) on Old North Church.
It's a really awesome, super-Protestant church. Instead of pews, there are boxes which are purchased by family and named; some of the benches even faced the wrong direction from the raised pulpit. Aimee & Griffin poked fun at the unfortunate names on the plates, such as the Widow Bedgood. History and hilarity, what more to you need? It even has a nice organ.
We continued marching to Copp's Hill Burying ground, which was as far as Griffin and Aimee had gone on their tours with other guests. Cotton Mather is buried in the corner, a surprisingly humble tomb for such a rich, powerful man in the Colonial Period.
I wasn't about to call it quits, so we headed across the bridge toward more, stopping to watch the yachts for a minute. Yachts are awesome. At least, that's what I assume, having scarcely been on one as well as living 600 miles from the coast.
Across the river, we came to the Charleston Naval Yard...
...where the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides", as she's nicknamed) is docked.
The war at sea during the Revolution didn't go so hot with British naval superiority always at hand, but we did get a few good hits with the Constitution here. While we were touring, I overheard a girl on her cellphone explaining to her friend that she was "on one of those old ironsides ships they used to fight on in the Civil War." It took a great deal to restrain myself from slapping her upside the head and telling her to go back to seventh grade history. Well, the view of Boston gave me some solace, even if she does have the same voting rights I do.
We left the ship and toured the museum nearby, learning about pirates and 18th century sailors (ugh, hardtack and beans) and playing with the mock-up of sails and cannons. It closed, so we headed out. I stopped to take a picture of an "emergency box", which is an outdoor combination of fire alarm and police phone. Pretty clever idea, really.
We topped off the afternoon with a visit to Bunker Hill. While most of the fighting was done on Breed's Hill nearby, and even though it was a defeat for America, it served as one of the most crucial battles. The British lost more troops here than anywhere else, even though the fortifications were supposed to have fallen in the first wave. Not bad for a bunch of colonial militia men low on ammunition, eh?
Having completed the Freedom Trail, we called it a day and headed back. Fairly exhausted, we had some tuna salad sandwiches for dinner, then took it easy to watch There Will Be Blood. It was supposed to be the second-best film of 2007, but we found it... not. Midway through, we paused for a break, and Griffin went to the kitchen asking if we wanted anything. I moaned, "A plot would be nice!" While the acting and sets were great, we kept waiting for something to happen, but it rarely did, and when it did, it had nothing to do with anything else. Plus, the soundtrack didn't fit. At least it had some action in the oil-pumping scenes.
Saturday, we headed to Boston again, this day's goal being the Science Museum. Our first stop, however, was dim sum in Chinatown for lunch. For those of us unfamiliar, Dim Sum is Chinese where you have lots and lots of different finger foods ala carte. It's so greasy, and so very good. We had loads of different things, none of which I can remember the name, but the best was probably the babeque pork in a steamed bun. Mm, goes well with jasmine tea.
Stuffed beyond comfort and carrying yet more with us, we headed on, stopping at an asian market to get gummy candy and something called "White Rabbits" that are like vanilla tootsie rolls, only more addictive. Finally, we arrived at the science museum, welcomed by a T-rex.
We spent the whole afternoon playing and learning. There was an indoor-playground with every piece of equipment displaying some mechanical power, whether length of a lever or rotational momentum or gravity-acceleration. I can't remember what the teeter-totter was for, but it was awesome, too. From there, we looked at everything from senses to light-bending to social communication and practices among people ("fads"), fish, or lightning bugs. Speaking of bugs, at our allotted time, we toured the Butterfly Garden, a little solarium where they had loads of enormous butterflies. Big as yer head, man!
We saw some dinosaurs, human skeletons, some monkeys, a guy dissecting a sheep's eyeball, and a chart showing the shrinking of average height fitting with the invention of agriculture (it didn't do good things for humanity... neither did the early industrial revolution). We missed the electricity demonstration (but it looked mostly like Van der Graff generators and Faraday cages), though we did get to play with some magnetized aluminum and see some fulgurite (petrified lightning that hit sand and zapped it into glass... awesome). There was a weather machine that made a mist-tornado, and, perhaps most addictive of all, was the two-story ball machine kinetic sculpture. It was actually pleasurable to watch for ten minutes waiting just for a billiard ball do drop and spin.
The museum finally closed on us, and we once again headed out onto the T to get back to Natick. As we rode, I pondered the mindset of handing one's transport over to another authority. Out here, you want to go somewhere, you hop in your car and go. In big cities, you ascribe to time-tables, rushing one minute and waiting the next. What a different culture, so trusting, yet stressful.
Anyway, we came back and had some homemade Thai for dinner (I never imagined such a thing!), then played a boardgame called Carcassonne. The goal is to build up castles and fields and roads, getting more points the more completed structures you build. It's very cutthroat and mind-stretching, which left my brain pretty much done for by bedtime.
Sunday, we started off with a pretty easy morning. Aimee made us waffles, and we watched Sky High about a superhero high school, which is as silly as it is genuinely entertaining.
Then we were off for our next touring adventure. The day's goal was Minute Man National Park, which traces the Battle of Concord and the subsequent British retreat. We drove out to the first visitor's center and read up on just what was the deal. It was supposed to be a routine little excursion, just a few hundred men to go up to Concord, seize the militia weapons, and then head back. With the element of surprise on the English side, the colonists wouldn't even want to stop them. Unfortunately for them, Paul Revere woke up William Dawes with the news, and they rode through the countryside yelling warnings.
We headed off walking, mistakingly walking east back to Fiske Hill, which was the last stop first. By this time, the British were pretty beaten up in their march and fairly scattered. Hayward, A guy from Acton was coming by for a drink from the well, and a Redcoat soldier stopped him with the shout, "You're a dead man!" The American responded, "And so are you!", and they shot each other. That's America in a nutshell, right there.
It was a nice afternoon for a walk, so we didn't mind (other than the mosquitos, anyway). I personally liked all the extant little stone walls made around the fields.
After walking, we decided to drive more often than not, and we skipped up to the Paul Revere capture site. So, Revere, Dawes, and this guy Samuel Prescott (whom the others met on his way back to Lexington as he had been out courting in Concord... mmhmm!) were riding all night to warn of the British march. At about 1:30 in the morning, midway between Lexington and Concord, a Redcoat patrol tried to stop them, and they scattered. Dawes fled back to Lexington, Revere was caught, questions, and let go in Lexington, but Prescott pulled an action stunt, jumping over a wall and escaping to spread the news in Concord.
Our next stop was the Hartwell Tavern, where we watched a musket-shooting demonstration. The lady shooting told us that the only town to have its militia fully armed with bayonets was Acton. Man, what was the deal with those Acton people?
The tavern had a really big chicken coop out back.
Anyway, we headed on, and our toruing took a literary turn. We stopped at the Wayside, which was home to Longfellow, among others.
Just down the road was Orchard House, where the Alcotts lived and the book Little Women is supposed to be based. Frankly, it's a terrifying building. Little angles are off, giving it an unnerving feeling, and the dark brown paint on everything makes it look like soemthing out of Poe. Whew, creepy.
Although even creepier behind it is the shed. That place has got to be haunted.
Then, in the middle of the creepiness, there's this charming trunk-backed love seat. Weirded out.
We drove on, stopping at North Bridge, where the Battle of Concord got started. It's right on the Concord River and very majestic.
Weird to think that people with guns shot at each other across such a neat bridge.
Even weirder to think that only a few hundred yards away is Old Manse, where Rev. Emmerson (Ralph Waldo's father) lived and later would live Hawthorne.
But they did fight. And there's a Minute Man statue to memorialize it. A bunch of farmers and townsfolk got together, sick of putting up with the British to the point that they'd take on professional soldiers. Gutsy, to say the least.
So the deal with the Battle of Concord was this: The British arrived on schedule (though not surprise-filled, since there were already a couple of hundred colonists hanging out in the hills nearby, warned by Prescott) and marched into the town. They seized the armory and spent several hours sorting through the loot. They loaded up what they could, then torched the rest, which is what you do as a military commander. It was all very textbook.
Then, it went horribly wrong. The colonists, whose ranks had swelled to the thousands over the hours as more militia poured in, saw the smoke and thought the British had torched the town. They advanced to stop it, and somebody, somewhere, fired a shot "heard 'round the world", to quote Emerson. Battle ensued, and the British began to pull out because of the sheer numbers of the ticked-off colonists. They had no choice but a 14-mile hike back to Boston, under constant attack from skirmishers and snipers firing from the woods. Ugh. There are several memorials set up to the fallen British.
With the Revolution begun in our minds, we turned about and headed back toward the Literary. We began to head toward Emerson's house, but, after missing an awkward turn, we headed toward Walden Pond instead.
Not a bad place to forsake civilization, eh? Not at all, really, though now it's a state park with a swimming beach and lots of nature trails. We hiked up a few and eventually found ourselves at the site of Henry David Thoreau's cabin, a good place to sit and think.
I have a knee-jerk response distrusting anyone praising Thoreau and his "noble" experiment of living alone for so long in the woods, self-reliant, not enslaving himself to work for money, dedicating himself wholly to thought, and blah, blah, blah. They rarely know anything real of Thoreau, just remember him from being told he was great in tenth grade English and try to impress others with it. (I went through the same thing with Shakespeare late in high school.)
Here's the real deal: Thoreau wasn't hurting for money. He held several profitable patents on graphite pencils which earned him a comfortable amount of cash. And he didn't seclude himself utterly from the evils of technology, which were right next door. You can, in fact, hear the nearby train at the cabin. If you go down to the water, you can even see the tracks across the pond. And he certainly didn't refuse contact with humanity. Concord is just a mile up the road. Stories go that he went into town at least every other day. Honestly, he was a half-hour walk from his parents' house.
All that said, I really kind of like Thoreau. It would be awesome to seclude yourself from everyone and just think and write; I know, I've done it several times hosue-sitting back on the Farm. I've read only a little of Walden and the rest of Thoreau (a problem I should resolve), and, for the most part, he makes pretty good commentary on the ability of man to purify himself with hard enough work. The problem is, though, that man isn't perfect, and, to perfect himself, it would take an infinite amount of time, which just doesn't work. We're tainted, and we can't work ourselves out of it. Still, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. And hanging out in the woods in mediation is a heck of a way to work on that.
With Walden behind us, we turned around to find Emerson's house again. First, we made a bathroom stop at an "eco-friendly" restroom building. Instead of pipes, they just had air-fed holes leading down to compost heaps deep underground. Icky, but scientifically sound so long as they keep them well ventilated... and bad diseases out, anyway.
While chatting in the car again, I mentioned that my trip hadn't had a "fiasco" yet. Every trip has to have a Fiasco, which is something that goes horribly wrong. A few little things had come up stressful, such as missed trains, but nothing terrible. Of course, within minutes, we took a wrong turn just blocks from Emerson's house and it took us a half-hour to get back to it. I need to learn to keep my fiasco-cursed mouth shut. Still, it was an awesome-looking house, and worth the fiasco.
Concord looks like a very nice place to live. Huge houses, lots of green, and Walden Pond to hang out at just down the road. Of course, it was June, and I couldn't imagine it in the bitter winter. And one can only imagine the housing costs...
Anyway, it'd been a big day, and we capped it off with dinner at Yama sushi. Servings were much larger than anticipated, and we stuffed ourselves, then had to bring leftovers back with us. What really threw me was having several courses, including miso soup, a salad with ginger dressing, and even dessert. Mm, but the fried ice cream was well worth it. We returned belly-filled and settled to watch Road to Perdition, which has too-long been on my To-Watch list. It was pretty nifty seeing Tom Hanks as a hit man, and I think the movie turned out with agreement to high expectations. Better than There Will Be Blood, anyway.
Monday, I was on my own again, since Griffin and Aimee had to go to work like real people seem to do. I, meanwhile, journeyed into Boston one last time to get some Art in me. My original goal was to see the Museum of Fine Art and then hurry over to the Gardener, too, but the MFA was just too awesome. I didn't finish gawking at everything until about five minutes before it closed.
The MFA had just about everything: old masters, Japanese sumo wrestling art (18th century prints look so much like modern Manga, it's uncanny!), Indian, Tibetan, a whole exhibit on Chinese furniture (they laid out each room as tradition and feng shui dictate), American, European of all eras, African, Native American, Pacific, and ancient stuff from Egypt, Assyria, Rome, Greece, and the Etruscans. The only thing I could think they didn't have was maybe some Incan weaving. They're building a whole new wing, which might just house that.
I had my lunch of leftover sushi in the Japanese garden behind the museum. Very fitting, very tasty. The guard asked if I'd meditated all my troubles away, and I replied, "Only a few."
They let you take pictures without flash, which is awesome, so here are a few of my favorites, starting with Day, of "Day & Night" by a Spanish artist who has a weird fascination with disembodied baby heads.
Inside, they have dummies hanging from the ceiling, as if flying. If that isn't art, I don't know what is.
If you look closely, this guy doesn't seem very happy to be flying.
Here's Shiva as Lord of the Dance (which is hilarious comparing it to the old Irish hymn, "Lord of the Dance").
And a vicious elephant goad from India.
In one corner, they had Young Columbus. I'm going to file that away with my Young Michelangelo.
Getting up into the European stuff, here's a Monet with his wife in a blonde wig presenting the blending of Eastern and Western cultures.
An 18th century bed with built-in dogs at the head and foot. They had style back then, eh?
This one's called "The Artist's Honeymoon." Aww.
This weird spoon was in the collection inside a mock-up of a Spanish cathedral. The lighting was bad, but you can kind of make out that the guy preaching has a dog's head and the congregation are animals. Weirded out!
In another part of the museum, they had a mock-up of a Buddhist shrine. The lighting was even creepier in there.
And down in the Greecian pottery room (with row after row of Athenian urns... wow), they had this donkey-head cup. Just goes to show that every era has its crazies.
It made for a very full day, and I wearily trudged back to the T to catch the train. The week of walking was letting me know that I'd had just about enough, which was fine since my drip had come to near its end. I arrived at Griffin & Aimee's for a chicken teryaki dinner and a long evening of Wario Ware. Madness, and good times simply hanging out.
Tuesday, Aimee and Griffin had both taken off work to hang out and give me a lift to the airport. They slept late, which is what you do on your day off. I suppose since I was used to doing nothing, I was up at nine or so. I spent the morning reading Stephen King's Cell from off their bookshelf, making it about a third through before the day got going and I put it down. It's an apocalptic book about cell phones reducing everyone to muderous, snivelling savages, which brings down society and follows the hero trying to get back to his family in Maine. The first part is him in Boston when the Pulse begins and the city being destroyed around him. Griffin said the book takes a swift turn downhill after that, so I was satisfied reading the best and letting it go.
We hung out the rest of the morning and early afternoon, watching random TV. We caught a special on the Travel Channel about this guy touring Uzbekistan (which did not look like fun in the least). Aimee and Griffin said I should have my own travel show, which would be awesome. Maybe someday.
Finally it was time to go. Aimee packed me left-over brownies for the trip, and Griffin drove us back through the Big Dig to Logan. We bid farewell and promised each other it wouldn't take another seven years to meet up again. Then I was on my own.
The uncanny travel luck continued. There were no lines at ticketing or security, and I had plenty of time to finish reading TH White. In fact, I finished completely just as we were flying over northeast Oklahoma City. Good timing.
I did have an hour's layover in Detroit, which proved to have an awesome airport. I had a burger at Fuddrucker's (an awkward name), enjoyed the laser-show underground tunnel to the proper terminal, and gawked at length at their fountain that combined the coolness of leaping water from jets at different times to make it dance with the coolness of surface tension to make the water curve down the sides to drains in the floor. Awesome.
And then I was back. The trip just about spoiled me rotten between the awesome weather (it feels so hot here now) and my hosts' hospitality. For one of the first times ever, I arrived home looking forward to taking a trip again very soon instead of just wanting to crawl into bed and not leave for several days. I guess that gives Boston a pretty encouraging thumb's up.
So long as it isn't ten degrees outside with three feet of snow, heh.
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