Saturday, November 16, 2013

Art and life in the East

I went to a conference in Boston. On the last day I bounced around the town on a self-guided bus tour (with only my phone camera--but phone cameras have improved). I owe a lot (tons, actually) to my colleague Tiffany, who took the initiative to find out how to see a historic town in a few hours. Until we went out in the sun and wind, this was my impression of Boston:

Looks expensive, doesn't it? I wasn't just afraid of spending money. I was afraid of turning into one of those people that flashes an item around. "Look! I got this at Saks Fifth Avenue!"

So here's my first bit of advice to people going to Boston: get out of the mall.

My second piece of advice: Read up. It's been a while since I read David McCullough and Ron Chernow, but I was glad I've done it. The things I saw seemed so much more alive.

The old statehouse
The Boston Massacre took place in front of the old statehouse, a building that is striking on so many levels. It's more than a historic building, it's a place that has survived the development around it. I like the blend of old and new.

Interestingly, five people died in the Boston Massacre. It is remembered as an event that ramped up tensions between the colonies and England, contributing to the Revolutionary War.

Sadly, five deaths today is considered collateral damage. I walked around feeling so proud of my heritage, but like so many other Americans I feel like we've lost some of that spirit that champions the common man--which may be why the mall made me so uncomfortable.

For me, the charm of American History is not just the deep thinkers--the Adamses and Jeffersons and Hamiltons. It's also the ragged, undisciplined men who fought in the Revolutionary War. It's the rabble-rousers like Paul Revere. It's the spirit that stops making excuses for the things that are wrong in the world, and changes them.

It's tricky. The rabble-rousers can be just as wrong-headed as the conformists. So I'll just finish with a quote that crossed my twitter feed a while ago from the late American journalist Mignon McLaughlin:

"Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers."


  1. It's a great city. I visited many times twenty years ago.
    Have they finished the underpass yet?

    1. I'm not sure about the underpass, but it seemed like my entire trip to the hotel was underground--so they probably did!

  2. It has been a while since I was in Boston, but really it is a great city!

  3. Nice shots. Interesting to see the old statehouse dwarfed by other buildings. Mixing the historical with the skyscrapers is not something that I'd expect to see.

    1. Thanks, J. We saw it and headed over for a closer look before we even knew what it was, but we figured anything that had survived that much development must have been important. We were right!


I love comments! But don't even try to leave one anonymously.

Emails from home

Most of our email is pretty mundane. Once in a while, though, the immediate flavor of country life sings amid the shopping lists and communications to the office. Here are some stored on our home computer, written by people in our house and edited for privacy.

Some of the terms are softened for a family audience, but not by much.

Your evil kitty just woke up your son by urping up a mouse on his lion blankie.

You know you live in a small town when…

...Fifty-year old people born and raised in town are ‘new comers’.

...You are more afraid of locking yourself out of your house than of being robbed.

...The library has a different schedule on every day of the week.

...You are darn proud that your town has a library. Incidentally, your library account is handled not by a card but by a number that the librarian types into her computer. You have trouble remembering it, but the librarian can always tell you what it is.

...You can honestly say, "The Mayor is in front of the house fixing his manure spreader."

Good news: We caught another mouse.

Bad news: We have at least one more.

Good news: He must be hungry and he thinks of traps as a food source, since he robbed the bait of an un-sprung trap, finished the bait of the sprung one, and ate an eye from his dead brother.

Hope you're done with breakfast.