Sunday, June 22, 2014

Phlogging Boston: The week we got all patriotic and sh*t...

Next time you ask if I want to hear about your vacation, I'm going to show you the butt.
Photo by Aaron Hall via Flickr

This is actually a photo blog. A phlog, if you will. Trust me. Lots of pictures. Lots. I'm just a little long-winded up front. Then I got tired, see, and let the pictures do more of the talking. Vacations make me tired.

My Summer Vacation

Hubs and I took a vacation a few weeks ago to Boston, home of Dunkin' Donuts. Not really, but there's a Dunkin' Donuts on every corner; they're often across the street from each other. There must be a Dunkin' Donuts for every thousand people in the Boston area.

That's probably the coolest thing you'll learn in this post, so if you like, you can stop reading now. But I do have a picture of Plymouth Rock and of a boat that is a cow--or a cow that is a boat?--so if you want to see that sort of thing, keep reading.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn Boston-Peabody, which I pronounced Peabody until we got directions to Peabuddy from the guy at the rental car place at the airport. It's a good thing we were using hubs' phone as a GPS. Just sayin'. The hotel was great. Comfortable bed, a little sofa to sit on, free breakfast that included oatmeal every day and these paper thin pieces of bacon that you had to pretty much wad up to eat.

Salem

Since we were up there at Peabuddy, we spent our first day in Salem. Salem is not at all what I expected it to be. Have you ever been to Cherokee, North Carolina? I'm sure that there is a lot more to Cherokee than we see as tourists, but the big attraction is a main street with shops, shops, and more shops. It's a tourist mecca. Yes, you can also find the Oconaluftee Indian Village (a must-see experience), a Museum of the Cherokee Indian, that ought to be seen at least once, and at least one gallery where they sell authentic Cherokee and Native American made goods.

But the point is that when you go to Cherokee, you know you're in Cherokee.

Salem, not so much. Not at all. It's a town like any other town. You'll need a map to find the things you're looking for. There is one thing that will help you, though. They've painted a tacky red line on the sidewalk and when you find it, just follow it. It will take you to all the spots you should see.

We visited a couple of museums and decided that Salem's idea of a museum is much different from ours and passed on the rest.

The Witch Dungeon Museum started us off with an uncomfortable skit in which two women acted out a scene from one of the witch trials. In the background were several mannequins playing the non-speaking, non-moving, perhaps bewitched roles of judges or some such. Then we were led down into the "dungeon" where we got to see more mannequins set up as if they were prisoners in little rooms and big rooms and even the coffin room, which is the one where there is no room for the prisoner to sit. You know mannequins, I'm sure. They are not known for their acting abilities. They all just sat there, in chains, in the stocks, with these looks on their faces that said, "Oh, look at me, I'm a model."

There was also a scene that showed the pressing of Giles Corey, the guy who refused to enter a plea (if you entered a plea, even if it was "not guilty," you lost all of your estate, or some such). But, of course, Corey wasn't pressed in the dungeon; he was pressed in a field next to the jail house. And of course, the "dungeon" you tour is just a recreation. But they do boast an actual wood beam from the original dungeon found when they dug up the earth in 1957 to put in the New England Telephone Company building. I think it's an AT&T building now.

Then we tried the Witch History Museum and were again regaled, or not, with a little skit. This time it was one young woman acting out a long monologue, some moments more dramatic than others, moving from inside a fake building looking out a window, to outside it, and back in it again. It was moving...to say the least. A ha. A ha ha. We were once again entertained by scenes with mannequins, decked out in period clothing, I don't think so. Our guide did a little dramatic introduction to each scene, ooooh, and then pressed a button which activated a recording. So we got to hear the action while watching the non-speaking, non-moving, possibly bewitched mannequins.

It was all very interesting, if you like that sort of thing. We were so glad we didn't go for the three-in-one ticket and have to endure the Pirate Museum as well. You've seen one pirate mannequin, you've seen them all.

So, what was good about Salem? I'll tell you.


The Witch House was much more of a museum. The only remaining structure in Salem with direct ties to the trials of 1692.

The House of the Seven Gables inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne, who stayed there for a period of time when his cousin owned it, to write a book by the same name. Caroline Emmerton, who purchased the house in 1908, had it restored, but made some changes to make the house more like the one in the book. Still, most of it is the same and it was very cool. I guess I didn't take a picture of it.



The Old Burying Point cemetery was creepy cool, if terribly situated right there in the middle of everything. But there are old dead people there so it's worth seeing.




We also visited the Howard Street Cemetery, because dead people. (below)




We ate lunch at the Village Tavern. My hamburger was a big ball of meat. But there was bacon, so...

Chandelier at the Village Tavern in Salem, MA

And then, from what somebody wrote on the Internet Tubes, we figured out that the site of the actual for real gallows hill and the ditch where they dumped the bodies of the unfortunate people they hanged was at this Walgreens.


Here you see, in the woody area at the back of the drugstore, where the evil deed most likely transpired.


That...is what you call historical research.

Boston

We spent the next two days in Boston. We drove to Salem and parked in the same lot we had the day before and then walked to the train station. (It really wasn't as easy as I make it sound, but I didn't think you'd want to hear all about how we drove to Swampscott--pronounced Swampscutt--first and found no free parking space, only to find later as we passed by on the train that there was a whole other lot available, and then followed the GPS instructions to the back of an apartment complex from which we could see the Salem Station platform but couldn't get to it, after which we drove back and forth along Bridge Street trying to figure out how to get into the station before realizing all the people were walking in. Just too much info, I figured.) They're putting in a new parking garage, so we had to walk a long way around to get to the platform where we asked a lady where to buy tickets. She had a French accent--there were a lot of French accents around. Hmm. Anyway, she said you had to get the ticket on the train. Sure enough, we got on and took a seat and once the train got going, the conductor, in a little conductor's hat, came around and asked us where we were going. He took out a piece of paper and punched a bunch of holes in it (not unlike all the keys they have to press just to rent you a car) and gave it to us.

We got up at the next stop and moved to a better seat and as the train started moving again, the conductor came around again and asked us where we were going. We showed him our receipt and told him we'd moved and he said, "Oh, we're not going to follow the rules; I see how it is."

Apparently, when you pay for the seat, or show your pass, the conductor puts a little slip of paper under these flaps on the back of the seat behind your head so that he knows he's already dealt with you. We were not traveling with tourists here. We were on an old dirty train, traveling through some pretty downtrodden areas. It was way cool. We got off at North Station, went out the door and into another building where we got on the subway. It was much more what we were used to, where there are little machines from which you get your tickets. Then we got off at State Street and were smack dab in the middle of Boston.



We ate lunch at the Beantown Pub and we got to see a parade go by on the main road. The waitress said it was something about June Day. A bunch of military reenactors and maybe veterans of actual wars marched somewhere and elected a new king, or leader, or something.

Here are some of the things we saw in Boston.



Mother Goose is buried at the Granary Burying Ground. Hers was the easiest of the famous graves to find. Funny that. She got a flag on June Day, just like the patriot types.


Paul Revere is buried there, too.



This is the exact spot of the Boston Massacre. It's in front of the Old State House, where you can get to the room and look out on the balcony on which somebody historical stood and read the Declaration of Independence (which I kept referring to as the Constitution while in the State House Museum just to throw the stupid people off, no really). But they won't let you go out on the balcony for some odd reason. I suppose I should be glad, or I'd have started shouting out, "We the people..."

Anyway, it was hard to get a picture of the spot of the massacre what with all the people walking all over it. It's hallowed ground, you know. Which means "ground to walk on."


That's the Old North Church where some guy lit a lantern, or two lanterns, or something like that. But, of course, they won't let you go up into the tower to see where the lanterns were lit, or held out the window, or, I don't know...swung.


This is what the Old North Church looks like inside. I think. There were a few churches that looked like this. But I'm pretty sure this is the Old North Church. (vacation starts getting blurry by the second day) Anyway, boxes. You probably had to pay the church for your family box. And there was a gold label there, with your name on it, which you probably paid for, too. You could be doing pretty much whatever you wanted in that box while the preacher was droning on. I like it.


And here is the Old Corner Bookstore. Formerly the home of Anne Hutchinson who was banished from Massachusetts colony for heresy in 1638. When the building was a publishing company, it was a gathering place for the likes of Emerson, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Thoreau, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. It's an American historical treasure.

Yes. I know it's a Chipotle. You don't have to tell me it's a Chipotle. I was there and I saw it was a Chipotle. One of the things I was most looking forward to seeing IS NOW A CHIPOTLE. I GET IT. CAN WE JUST STOP TALKING ABOUT IT NOW?

Another place we visited was Quincy Market. It's like a food court mall. I mean, it's a national historic landmark.


Our goal was to get clam "chowda" at the Boston Chowda Co. Their chowda is award-winning. And you have to eat it when you go to Boston. When we stepped up to order, I did my best to say "chowda," but it came out really stupid. The Indian guy working there at the Boston Chowda Co. understood me just fine. (No, not a Native American. No, no. Not a guy dressed up for a Boston Tea Party reenactment. A guy from India. They were all from India at the Boston Chowda Co.)

The food court national historic landmark was very crowded, so we went up a winding staircase to the upper level and sat on a bench to eat our chowda. It was hot. So, very, hot. There were a lot of windows up there, but they weren't open. They were just for the sunshine. And the heat. So I ate my steaming-styrofoam-cup-fulla award-winning chowda, tiny rivers of sweat rolling down my back and the sides of my face. It was pretty good, for clam chowder.


Here's Trinity Church. I'm not sure why we went inside it. It was in the book as a place you were supposed to see. And the tour bus driver told us we had to see it. But it was also in National Treasure, so we'll say that's why. Notice the tall modern glass building towering over the church. This is classic Boston. It's a city that spans time. Super old, very old, old, new, newer, and newest all chumming together like it's the most natural thing in the world. Which it ought to be. Maybe.

Across the street is the Boston Public Library. We toured that too.



I took this picture (above) inside the library and then walked upstairs to find a security guard giving my phone the evil eye. I put it away and behaved after that.


I took this picture of a manhole cover because I thought it looked cool. Hubs was embarrassed. But I had the camera.


Here is a typical Boston street scene on our way to the Bunker Hill Monument. May I take this opportunity to say that the roads in Boston are...how shall I put this?...Stupid. Stupid. Just. Stupid. There are one-way streets, roundabouts, exits and turnarounds--that are only supposed to exist on interstates, if you ask me--just crazy stuff. And traffic is awful. We crawled along I95 for three hours trying to get back from Plymouth. Look, I took a picture.


Who were all these people and where were they going at three-thirty in the afternoon on a Thursday? And why did they get on the highway when they could see we weren't moving? It was almost as if they had no choice. The only way to get from point A to point B was on this one road and everybody just had to get on it and make the best of it. Boston--a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.



Here is the Bunker Hill Monument, erected--ahem--on Breed's Hill, where the Battle of Bunker Hill took place (what is history's problem?). It's one of those phallic symbols our ancestors adore. You can walk up inside it--did I just gross you out there?--it's ninety something steps. I looked at sweaty hubs and he looked at me. This was our second day in Boston, the walking city!* I said, "Do you want to climb up to the top?" And he said, "No." And I thought maybe he said no because of the way I'd asked it. You know, tired, sweaty, whiny. So, I said. "Seriously? Because I'll walk up it if you want to." I can't tell you how relieved I was when he said he really did not want to walk up the ninety-some steps to the top.

*Boston also has a red line on the sidewalk. I'm not sure at what point I discovered it, but it was too late to do me any good, that much is certain.

We took one of those hop on and off tours and the bus driver asked if anyone had any questions and that's when I asked about all the Dunkin' Donuts. He said the man who started the shop, Mr. Dunkin, decided he wanted to be the only donut shop in town, so he went around for years buying up all the mom and pop donut shops and this is what they ended up with. Every donut shop is a Dunkin' Donuts. Don't tell, but I saw an independent donut shop somewhere in Peabuddy.

Lexington & Concord

Lexington & Concord is a little confusing. I will sum up for you. It started in Lexington where they had a skirmish and some people got killed. Then it went to Concord where there was an official fight at a bridge. The official fight is where the shot heard round the world was shot, because it was the first time a colonial officer ordered troops to fire on the British. So, see? Colonials firing on the British = typical American hooliganism. Some colonial dude with a title ordering colonials to fire on the British = I dare say you've started a war. Trust me. I have a degree in history.

Let's Phlog It!


There it is. That's the bridge! Old North Bridge in Concord, MA. You can walk right on it and step back into history! Okay, it's not the bridge. The bridge was made of wood, you know. Wood isn't going to last that long. This is a reproduction bridge. But at least it's at the exact spot of the old bridge. I think.


This is the Minute Man monument sculpted by Daniel Chester French. (Maybe that explains the French accents, huh. I bet it does.) The inscriptions says

By the rude bridge that arched the flood
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world

Makes you get all teary-eyed, doesn't it? Freedom! Oh, freedom! Independence! Let's govern ourselves! We can do it! We're mature individualists! Let's protect the rights of the minority! Let's not force religion on people! Let's let people voice their opinions without fear!

Makes you stand there in wonder and awe and think to yourself, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?


I thought it was really nice of us to erect a monument of sorts to the British soldiers, too.


I took this picture of a very still pond somewhere, but hubs and I can't remember where it was. It could have been located on the path after we crossed Old North Bridge. That's where it is in my pictures. Anyway, Hubs said it was Walden Pond, because he likes to see if I'm stupid enough to believe stuff he says. 





This is Louisa May Alcott's house in which she wrote Little Women. It was a really great tour but we weren't allowed to take any pictures. Or touch anything. I think more of the tour was dedicated to her sister May. You know how history people are, always trying to tell you about people they think are important.




Above is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord. Every path was uphill.



These are the Alcotts--what's left of them, I mean. Louisa is the first there, on the left. People have left rocks and pencils and pine cones and well, a lot of junk at it. So disrespectful.

Below is Nathaniel Hawthorne's grave. People left pens and pencils and stuff on it, too.




And this is Ralph Waldo Emerson's plot. Impressive. What a show off.

We found Walden Pond. It wasn't easy. You park in the parking lot and then walk around looking for the path into the woods, because you've heard about this Henry David Thoreau guy so you assume it's hidden in the woods, and maybe you end up down the way at a little bookshop/museum and then walk back and finally figure out that you have to walk across the street and up another hill, because there are a lot of hills in the Boston area.


I have to say, it's more of a lake.

Here is where Henry David Thoreau's house was. Now there's a minimalist who practiced what he preached.


I don't know if somebody left that hat there on purpose or not. I wouldn't put it past these people. See what else they did...


They've created some kind of rock tower shrine next to the site of the house. It's only a little bit creepy.

Plymouth

We decided that Thursday was the day for Plymouth, because it was raining and we knew that Plymouth was on the water and it would make for a cold, wet day and we had no umbrellas.

The first thing we did when we got to Plymouth was purchase umbrellas.




Here is the rock that the pilgrims stepped onto from the boat. What a coincidence that it has the number 1620 cut into it. Just kidding. Plymouth Rock is totally fake. Oh, it's a rock. And it was probably there on the beach. But, come on.

The rock is still sitting on the little beach but its been enclosed in a special viewing pit. Somebody gets to go down in there and rake the sand, though.

Here is its house. Pretty regal for a rock, but at least America has a Parthenon of its own.




And below is the replica of the Mayflower, aka Mayflower 2. We were on it. Very small.



I took this picture (below) because my mother's name is Cole. The pilgrims built their first houses on Leydon Street which starts at Cole's Hill and goes up to Burial Hill, where some of the pilgrims are buried. You can walk up the street and look at some really old houses with historical plaques. They're not the pilgrim's houses, of course. But they're pretty old.




According to Wikipedia, Cole's Hill was named for either the tavern owner, James Cole who came to Plymouth in 1633, or John Cole, who purchased the hill around 1697. I have John Coles in my family. So, I vote John Cole.



I've been trying to figure this one out. (above) I must have taken a picture when putting my phone away. That rock on the left with the purple flower on it is actually my baggy purse. I thought it was cuter than that.



This is Burial Hill. Spooky, isn't it?


We toured the Jenney Grist Mill and this is Town Brook across the street. Back home there's a retention pond by the Home Depot and they put fake geese in it for a reason I've yet to figure out. But these in the picture are real. I know because they were moving.


Yeah. Okay. I thought this was Squanto. But it's Massasoit. Yeah. I didn't know who he was either.


And here is Plymouth Plantation (I think they spell it with an i instead of a y, to make it all historical and such) in the rain. I imagine on sunny days there are pilgrims walking around, doing stuff. But on this day, there were just a few of them hiding in their houses. You could go in and talk to them, but it was just a bit too creepy for me. Down below the plantation is Wampanoag Homesite because it's not nice to have a village celebrating the pilgrims without acknowledging the Native Americans and what they lost.

There were some Wampanoag there, too. But like the pilgrims, they stayed inside, in these long houses with fires burning and they were very smoky so we didn't stay and chat.

When you come back to the main building from the village, this is what you see:


Yes. It's the Mooflower. Why? 

Do we really want to know?

We went home the next day because we knew we would never top the Mooflower.

And thus endeth our historical tour of our nation's humble violent phallic glorious beginnings...and beholdeth our souvenir ornaments.






Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th

I'm not scared. Do I look scared? Why are you scared?
photo by LouevilBelle via Flickr


Many years ago, when I had only two children, and they were very small, I would escape some Saturdays and go to a writers group meeting in which we read and critiqued one another's work.

I say escaped only mildly teasingly. I did need to escape, as I was an at-home mother and as others can testify, we needed breaks. I never even had a babysitter. I tried a few times, but never felt comfortable leaving my children with people I barely knew. I was, and still am, an introvert with few (okay, no) friends, so I did not have anyone to leave my children with other than my husband.

That was a tangent, wasn't it? The point is, I was at this writers group meeting and I'm pretty sure I'd read something that day because this younger, nerdy girl approached me after the critique session. I can't imagine why she'd have done it if I hadn't read that day so that's the story I'm going with.

Back then, I wrote dreadful, morose, immature stories. Nowadays, as Dianna Dann anyway, I write morose mature stories. Very different, I assure you.

So, this girl said something to me about how her life was destined to be tragic. I'm totally making that up, but it must be what she said, because she told me why, and this part I remember very well.

She said, "Well, I was born on a Friday the 13th, so..."

And I laughed.

She said it almost as if it were a badge of honor. As if there weren't a million other people on the planet born on a Friday the 13th. She was special, even though it meant she was going to have to live a tragic life, at least there was a reason for it and she was special. Because special is what you want to be when you can't be like everybody else.

I had to laugh, really. It wasn't so much that I was not superstitious. I don't think I have ever in my life been superstitious. I've always known that crap happens to stupid people almost always because they're stupid and sometimes just because crap happens. And crap happens to smart people, good people, even careful people, because of that second reason: crap just happens.

But there was another reason I laughed at her. I said, "My son was born on a Friday the 13th, so for me, it's a very lucky day."

I probably tell this story every Friday the 13th, but I'm sure not everyone has heard it so I'll keep telling it.

I like to think I said some other things to her--reassuring, perhaps profound things--in an effort to give her hope, to make her see that while our lives can be tragic, we can't give in to an inevitability that, while it may make us think we're somehow special in a world where we are, in fact, ignored (I told you she was really nerdy, didn't I?)--an inevitability that might lead us to turn away from opportunities at happiness.

Because this is what superstition can do to people. It can allow them to accept the bad and turn away from the good, because it was written in the stars and there's nothing they can do about it.

Yeah, I probably tried to say something like that. Truth is, she was very young and probably grew out of it and went on to write creepy vampire fanfic and maybe she's published today. Or maybe she's on the streets strung out on heroin, prostituting herself for the next fix, and telling the junkie next to her it was bound to come to this, because Friday the 13th, you know.