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15 May 2009 @ 09:25 am
Boston: Thursday, May 14th  
So after landing in Boston at 6 am, it took me a while to get out of Logan Airport. The combination of no sleep+ my usual obliviousness to the world around me had me bumbling about like a fool. When I finally got on the Silver Line bus and was leaving the airport I finally got to look around for the first time, and my first thought was "Dang. Massachusetts is FLAT." I mean, in California no matter where you are there are mountains on the horizon. But in Boston there was nothing but buildings and a grey sea. It was weird.

So after switching from the Silver Line to the Red Line, from the Red Line to the Green 'B' Line, I finally made it out to Harvard Street, where my brother was waiting. We went back to his house, which is a crowded old building split into two separate apartments; if I understood his explanation there are eight people living in each of the apartments? People were getting ready to go to work just as I came in, so I wasn't able to talk to anyone. That was fine, though, because I was barely coherent.

After a quick nap (maybe 1 hour?) Kenny and I went out to Boston Commons.  He had work at 12, so we only managed a lap around the park before he took off, but we did get a few pictures in:

I got a friendly greeting from a local frog.

 
I hung out with some ducks...


...and admired some swanboats...


...and stopped to smell the roses tulips.
 

Then Kendrick headed off to work and I wandered in the Massachusetts State House.  It's a great looking building with some interesting frescoes/sculptures inside.  When I came in a tour had just started so the volunteer working the front told me to join it.  Big mistake.  The tour was for a group of retarded mentally disabled [insert whatever the PC term is nowadays] people, so the docent was EXTREMELY general.  I mean, she would say stuff like "And THIS statue is of GEORGE WASHINGTON, our FIRST president.  Do you know who our CURRENT president is?"  (I swear, she asked if they knew who Obama at least three times.)  But it was still kinda neat, because you can see what the state really gloms onto for their identity.  (I've never been to CA's capital; I wonder what they have there?)  Apparently the big events in Boston are still the Tea Party and Paul Revere's ride.  But about halfway through the tour I ditched and wandered back out of the State House to begin following the Freedom Trail.  

The Freedom Trail is a red line painted on the sidewalk (or laid out with red bricks) that creates a path connecting many of Boston's most famous sites.  It starts at Boston Commons, winds its way through the city and terminates up at Bunker Hill.  My goal was to complete the entire path, since I figured movement would keep me awake and I wanted to see as much of Boston as possible.
 

Granary Burying Ground
 

It amazes me how you'll just turn a corner in Boston and BAM! there's a graveyard.  The headstones are in such neat little rows; if I am remembering my history correctly they were moved to look prettier, and no longer actually mark where their namesake is interred. 
 

I thought this was such a neat looking skull. 
 
I like cemetaries.  They're so quiet and peaceful.  I always had to rush in and out of the ones I visited in England and Scotland because my traveling companions thought it terribly, horribly morbid, so it was nice to be able to linger and really look around.
But it was cold, and I was inadequately dressed for the chill, so I started walking again to warm up.  I popped into King's Chapel to warm up for a few minutes. It's so strange to me that instead of wooden bench pews, the kind that I grew up with, New England churches often have these cubicle boxes instead.  There's a wooden wall around you and the preacher speaks from an upraised platform, which he usually gets to via a spiral staircase.  These cubicles were designed to keep listeners warm in the freezing New England winters, but the privacy they afforded was probably also treasured.  I wish I'd gotten a photo, but I thought it would be disrespectful to take pictures inside the church.

I skipped a couple of locations on the official Freedom Trail circuit, but it started to drizzle and I hadn't thought to bring an umbrella so I popped into the Old State House to look at the museum and warm up again.  It's another lovely building, with an outstanding spiral staircase and gorgeous brick exterior. (I can't get over the bricks.  We don't use them in California because they're a real hazard in earthquake country, but they're so pretty and all over Boston.)   From the upper chambers you can look out the window and see the spot where the Boston Massacre occured, marked by a circle of cobblestones. 
 

 
Faneuil Hall & Quincy Market
 
I guess this is one of Boston's favorite shopping areas?  I'm not sure.  I wandered around but none of the shops looked especially exciting.  My foot cramped up and made it difficult to move around for a few minutes.  That was awkward.  The place was crowded, so after watching a guy juggle for a few minutes I continued along the Freedom Trail.


Random performer in front of Quincy Market - they still have street performer audition signs all over the place, but the auditions were back in April.


More of the amazing Boston bricks.  I waited forever for this street to clear, but it never did, so I finally just took the photo with another tourist in the way.  Oh well.  If you look at the pavement you can see the red brick line of the Freedom Trail snaking up the street.
 
Paul Revere's house was pretty cool.  Historic homes are my favorite part of these trips; I wonder why?  I guess I just like snooping through other peoples' stuff and seeing how they lived.  I should have taken a photo of the exterior, but we weren't allowed to take photos inside and I guess I forgot.  It was starting to rain pretty hard anyway, so I just wanted to get inside and out of the wet!  It's a large enough house from the exterior, but once inside it seemed pretty small.  Kitchen, a couple of bedrooms upstairs, a parlor...all restored to approximate the seventeenth century period when Paul Revere lived in the house.  In one of the closets they have a few of the silver pieces he made (he was a silversmith after all) and in another closet they emphasize the Lincoln connection, which is pretty weak - one of Revere's descendents married a Lincoln relation, or something.  But whatever.  Gotta fill those closets up with something, I guess.

As I was wandering, I saw a memorial to the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, made with dogtags.  It was pretty neat-looking, and when the wind blew through the tags it sounded like they were crying.
 
 
I wonder if they still add dogtags.

By now it was pouring so I had bought a cheap, crappy black umbrella from a tourist shop in the North End.  Old North Church, where John Newman hung the lanterns signal that the Bristish were coming.  (One if by land, two if by sea?)  There was an elementary school tour going through the church, so I kicked back and waited for them to disperse while sitting in a white pew-box.  It was another one of those wish-I'd-taken-photos-but-I-didn't moment. 

Nearby at Copp's Hill I found the headstone of John Newman.  
 

I wonder why people put coins on top of his stone?  Also...FREEMASON!
 
In the end, I didn't finish the Freedom Trail.  I crossed the Charles River, and made it into Charlestown, but I was cold and wet (my umbrella blew out in the wind so it was useless) and I wasn't sure how to get back to Kendrick's house in Allston from that side of the river, so I gave up and backtracked to the Old North station.  I didn't make it over to the USS Constitution, the oldest Navy boat still floating, or the Bunker Hill monument.  Oh well.  For a first day in town, when my brain was fuzzed out with jet lag, I don't think I did too badly.

When I got back to Kendrick's house no one was home (he had rehearsal for his play) so I bought some Chinese food at a shop near his house and went to sleep super-early.  When he got home around 11 we ended up watching an episode of Iron Chef on his computer (Pear & Chocolate dessert battle).  His neighborhood was pretty noisy, because there's a lot of college students and this week was graduation, but I was out cold before the Iron Chef battle was over.
 
 
 
 
VLelfbiter on May 22nd, 2009 06:28 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday.
Suzik00kaburra on May 22nd, 2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
Aaaw thanks :)
omlyomly on May 22nd, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)
It is really neat seeing the city through your eyes. I look forward to reading about the rest of the trip.
Suzik00kaburra on May 22nd, 2009 11:43 pm (UTC)
Dude, so why do they put coins on top of Newman's gravestone? Would you happen to know?
Danny Darkosaru_kage on May 23rd, 2009 04:26 am (UTC)
It's your birthday? Happy birthday!
Suzik00kaburra on May 23rd, 2009 04:29 am (UTC)
Thanks man! I hit the big quarter century today, oh joy!
Danny Darkosaru_kage on May 23rd, 2009 04:36 am (UTC)
Here, I found this for you, and this. The last one isn't about Newman, but if you scroll down to the "Why are coins left on the Donnelly tombstone?" part, that's the helpful bit.
fashion_piranhafashion_piranha on May 23rd, 2009 04:46 am (UTC)
I love the idea of a phantom debt collector (second link). In fact, I feel like I should try to crack a short story out of that; I've been needing a writing project to entertain myself at work!

There were little American flags on a lot of the major patriots' tombstones, like John Hancock, Samuel Adams, etc. Kinda made me wish I had something to put on Cotton Mather's tomb. Maybe a little witch hat...
Amys: Norns by Arthur Rackhamrainofthenight on May 23rd, 2009 10:31 am (UTC)
The frog picture is an extremely beautiful picture, and quite funny as well :-) I really do love it.

As for coins on graves... this intrigues me. I've always found burial cultures to be very interesting and revealing about a people. There is the idea of paying for passage, and many people seem to leave money on the graves of people they were close to to show they are with them in thought, but where the tradition originates from, I don't know. I'll look it up though. I have some very interesting books about burial culture, there must be something in there. (If this subject interests you, I'd recommend Robert Pogue Harrison's Dominion of the Dead)
Suzik00kaburra on May 23rd, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)
That book looks fascinating! I'll have to see if I can find a copy of it. saru_kage found a couple of websites that offer possible explanations for the coins-on-graves:

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_are_pennies_put_on_a_grave

http://www.donnellys.com/Questions.htm

Possible origin with Charon sure makes sense. I remember in my anthropology class last quarter we talked about a Neanderthal grave that indicated they had a burial culture waaaaaay back when. It almost drives me mad because I want to know more, but we have no real way to access Neanderthal religious/spiritual beliefs.

Edited at 2009-05-23 06:23 pm (UTC)