[For this entry in my Armchair Traveler series, here's my June 1, 2005 piece about visiting Boston. I still have fond memories of the trip, but not fond memories of the freak storm. Concerning the missing glove mentioned below, I found it a month later while cleaning the backseat of my car.]
Boston: Come for the history, stay for the accents
Trying to decide on a vacation spot? Consider Boston, the picturesque city from which yours truly just returned.
Hey, you could do a lot worse than Boston. But you might not do worse than I did, which was to arrive in Boston during a “nor’easter.”
This is a grammatically quaint storm that brings rain, cold and blustery winds. These winds can permeate any possible opening, whether it’s between the buttons of your coat or the apostrophe in “nor’easter.”
Umbrellas were useless in that wind. Making matters worse, while packing I could only find one of my gloves.
Despite misgivings, I brought my lone glove and was glad I did, even though I looked like a Michael Jackson sympathizer. I used my gloved hand to hold my wet cap in place so it didn’t rocket off my head.
Spring in Boston is usually much nicer, or so everyone claimed.
As a good-humored transit employee said: “This is great weather — for March.”
This was my first visit to Boston, and despite the weather, it was well worth it.
Just the accents alone are worth it.
“Bahstun” is where people “pahk” their “cah” — but not in “Hahvahd Yahd” — and eat “chowda.” At least they have a sense of humor about it. Along Hanover Street there’s a place named Connah Store, as in Corner Store. Very cute.
But accents aren’t the only draw!
Boston is a beautiful city, full of old brick buildings and distinct neighborhoods, and easily traversed on foot or by subway.
As the cradle of the American Revolution, there are plenty of historic sites to see.
This is where the revolution was fomented, where musket fire first flew, where the breath of freedom first stirred, before the whole operation moved to Philadelphia, where the weather was better.
One stop was the Old State House, the 1713 building where the British government was seated. (True fact: Boston’s “new” State House dates to 1795. This is one old city.) Protests there on March 5, 1770 sparked the Boston Massacre.
The revolutionaries were bold men, but as I learned, some were also a little nuts.
I’d never heard of James Otis Jr. (1725-1783), but after reading a display about him in the Old State House, he’s my new favorite patriot.
Otis was out of politics when a blow to his head by a customs commissioner “unhinged his reason.” This got him back into politics.
A delightful contemporary account quoted in the display tells us that during the Massacre, he “got into a mad Freak … & broke a great many windows.”
Otis retired from these statesman-like activities in 1776 and, truly going out with a bang, died seven years later when he was struck by a bolt of lightning.
Now that’s a mad Freak!
Otis, the John Bolton of his day, isn’t widely known, but lots of big (powdered) wigs lived and died in Boston. Famous insurgents — excuse me, patriots — buried there include Paul Revere, John Hancock and Samuel Adams Ale.
One must-see building is the Old North Church, of “one if by land, two if by sea” fame. This is where two lanterns were hung in the tower window on April 18, 1775 to signal Charlestown that British troops were coming by sea.
(I’m reminded of the war scene in “Duck Soup” in which three lanterns shine from a tower. Beleaguered commander Groucho Marx exclaims: “They’re coming by land AND sea!”)
Overall, Boston made for an excellent vacation destination, and I highly recommend it.
That said, it’s great to be back home. In the sou’west.
(David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, unhinging your reason.)