Thursday, June 5, 2014

May--2014: Beantown (part 1)

Selfie at Fenway
I'm on a faculty leave this semester.  We don't call it a sabbatical, but for the sake of clarity that's what I'll call it.  I have a couple of projects I'm working on.  One is a paint chart for my scenic painting class and the other is a trip to New York to study for three weeks at Cobalt Studios, one of the best scene painting schools on the globe.  The people I learned from, learned from the people at Cobalt.  I've been filling my glass from a pitcher all these years.  I want to fill my glass from the faucet now.

Last semester an opportunity arose for a trip to Boston to attend the Teaching Professor Conference.  This wasn't technically part of my sabbatical, but I thought the purpose of being on sabbatical was to become a better teacher.  I applied and I was selected to attend.  I'm glad I did.  Since this is a travelblog, I won't talk about the sessions of the conference here.  I'll report on them elsewhere.

The university wanted one representative from each college to attend the conference.  I was selected to attend from the College of Visual and Performing Arts.  There were six of us that attended from BYU-Idaho. We had professors from Nursing, Elementary Education, English, Russian Language, Chemistry and then me. A whole bunch of brains and an artist.  While attending the conference I didn't meet any other theatre or artiste types.  A whole bunch of smart people.

Day #1:  Idaho Falls to Boston
For some reason I had a window seat on all four flights.  I don't know if I requested that several months ago or if it was the luck of the draw or if the person from the travel office thought, "Well, I'd like to sit at the window so I'll bet he would too."  Whatever the reason, I had a window seat and was thankful.  I love to fly over Hell's Half Acre lava flow in southern Idaho and for some reason I was booked on the lava flow side of the airplane.  This trip was turning out good already.

Since I got a good camera, I've been trying to take good pictures out of the windows of airplanes.  I did a bit of that on this trip.  I'll try not to post too many of them so as not to bore any of you who read that far.

Idaho Falls to SLC was uneventful.  From SLC to Boston, though it was a different story.  About an hour and a half into the flight, about when we were over South Dakota, the lady in the row ahead of me hit the threshold of being quietly drunk and noisily drunk.  At least she was a happy drunk.  Incidentally, that corresponded directly with the magnificent headache I began to have.  I'm not sure if they were related but I have my suspicions.

This happy drunk had a baker's half dozen family or friends also on the flight and since she was the most popular of them, they all decided to come to her to visit.  She held court in the middle of the airplane.  She must have been somebody important because instead of the flight attendants shooing the people away, they brought them all small bottles of Chardonnay.  Drunker and louder.  Facilitated by the airline.  Luckily, somewhere over Ohio we began to have turbulence and the pilot turned on the seatbelt sign.  It got rid of most of the noise but it didn't get rid of the headache.  By the time we reached Boston, I was sick to my stomach and immediately went to my room, drew the curtains to make it as dark as I could and passed out for a few hours.

I woke up around seven or eight and was a bit hungry and went down to the waterfront to find some food.  I found a sports grill that was okay but not memorable and had a bunless burger.  On the way out, I walked the dock and noticed a fishing trawler with the name of Iron Maiden.  I knew right then that Boston was a cool town!

Farmland above Idaho Falls, Idaho

Hell's Half Acre lava flow amidst farmland

Hell's Half Acre looks like a lunar landscape from the air

Anywhere the lava didn't go 20,000 years ago, the farmland is pretty good

Edge of the flow

Now I'm just indulging myself with all these pictures of the lava flow

and another

The Wasatch front after the change of planes at SLC.  Turns out these were some of the last real mountains I saw for four days.

Whoever called Minnesota the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" never flew over South Dakota.  As I flew over this part of the country, it's glacial past was very apparent.

Five hours with this view

Lake Superior

Possibly Beaver Island, Michigan in Lake Michigan.  

I don't recall where this is.  It's on the eastern shore of one of the great lakes.

Cloud cover.

I believe this is the Charles River in Boston

View from my hotel room


This is why Boston is cool!

Cityscape at dusk

I liked this pic

Day #2:  The Freedom Trail
Everywhere you go in Boston there are reminders of the rich history surrounding the city's role in the American Revolution.  Last year I spent a week in Washington DC and Virginia and saw the Revolutionary sites there and have come to realize that Massachusetts and Virginia were really the main colonies responsible for the revolution.  I don't want to take away anything from the other colonies, but without Samuel Addams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere, the revolution may never have taken place.  These guys were rockstars!

We opted for the self guided tour on the Freedom Trail.  We could have taken the ninety minute version with a tour-guide and we would have learned a lot of cool stuff, but ninety minutes is not nearly enough time to see the sights of Boston.  Plus we saved fourteen bucks!  Someday I will pay the fourteen bucks to hear the trivia.  I'm glad we did it this way though.

Stop #1:  The Boston Commons
The Freedom Trail begins at the Boston Common, which is now a city park.  At the time of the Revolution, the British soldiers were garrisoned there.  Beginning at the Boston Common, there is a red brick path that runs the length of the Freedom Trail.  Sometimes it is only one brick wide, other times wider.  In some places, particularly when it crosses a paved street, the bricks have been replaced with a red painted stripe.  Wherever you are in the old town though, all you have to do is find the path and you can guide yourself through the trail.  At many of the stops along the path there is a bronze medallion in the sidewalk to let you know there is something of note.

Bronze medallion

The Freedom Trail

Still the Freedom Trail
Stop #2:  The Massachusetts State House
This is a stop along the trail, but this building didn't actually see Revolutionary War time as it wasn't built until 1798.  It did see action during the War of 1812 and the Civil War but how much and how pivotal it was is unknown.  Still, it's a pretty cool building.

Massachusetts State House from the Boston Common

Monument on the Common memorializing the Black Soldiers in the Civil War whose story was told in the Movie Glory.

Another view of the memorial

I don't know about you, but I always like Heraldic Eagles

Front side of the memorial

Massachusetts State House

So, someone tried to heal this tree with brick and mortar.

This was the ground treatment at the memorial

Stops #3 and 4:  The Park Street Church and the Granary
The Park Street Church is more of a War of 1812 era structure.  The congregation was founded in 1809. The church was used as a gunpowder storage facility during that war.  Apparently the separation of church and state came later.

The Granary, though is a cemetery that houses the bones of many of our patriots including the five people killed at the Boston Massacre.  Three signers of the Declaration of Independence are interred there as well as Paul Revere.  This is hallowed ground and we spent a long time there reading stones.  Most of the stones are made of limestone and unfortunately it is not a durable material.  With acid rain and countless heating and freezing and thawing cycles, much of the information on the stones is lost.

It was a very cool old cemetery though.  Founded in 1660 and the third oldest depository of old bones in Boston.

Park Street Church

Cemetery fence at The Granary

Hmmm, carved skull on a tombstone.....

Love the look of old cemeteries 

and again

tipping tombstone

above ground crypt

John Hancock's memorial.  His signature was the largest on the Declaration
of Independence.  It was fitting that his monument was second only to the
Franklin family marker in this cemetery

We must have wandered this cemetery for an hour

Skull and bones were everywhere

cool stone

another cool stone

If John Hancock's stone was the most ostentatious, it's fitting that Paul Revere's stone was among the least assuming.
This is about the size of a gallon of milk.

Don't know who lies here, but they must have been cool because their stone is the coolest one in the cemetery


Samuel Adams Stone

Marker for the victims of the Boston Massacre, buried in a common grave

Stops #5 and 6:  King's Chapel and King's Chapel Cemetery
King's Chapel was a Unitarian Church that when the Revolution occurred, the loyalists who worshiped there fled back to England or Nova Scotia.  The church features box pews like most Anglican churches of the time.  Parishioners purchased or rented their pews.  There is a large bell shaped thing hanging over the pulpit which the tour-guide said was an acoustical device to amplify and project the preacher's voice.  Services are still held there.  The bell in the tower is the last bell Paul Revere ever cast.  His company cast bells after, but this one is the last one he personally cast.

The cemetery is notable because it's the oldest cemetery in the city of Boston.  Established in 1630.  There are several people buried there who crossed to this land on the Mayflower.  Additionally there are some revolutionary war veterans buried here as well.  There are catacombs underneath the church with burial sites as well.

King's Chapel 

The organ loft in King's Chapel

The pulpit and the weird acoustical hangy downy thingy

Corinthian columns and vaulted arches inside King's Chapel

Box pews

Iron fence around the cemetery at King's Chapel

How many ways can you carve a skull in a tombstone?


More stones

Stops # 7,8 & 9:  First Public School, Old Corner Bookstore and the Old South Meeting House
There is a statue of Benjamin Franklin at the site of the Boston Latin School, the first public school in Boston. Benjamin Franklin was a dropout of the school, but five signers of the Declaration of Independence studied there.

I neglected to get a picture of the Old Corner Bookstore.  It was not really a revolutionary site even though it was around during the revolution.  Instead, it was a meeting place for people like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Dickens, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson  and riff raff like that.

The Old South Meeting House is an historic site because it is where the colonists organized the Boston Tea Party.  This may be the beginning of America's long history of civil disobedience.  I walked down to the harbor to see if it still smelled like tea, but I think too much time has passed.  The seagulls may have been a little browner than seagulls elsewhere, but it was dark and I couldn't tell.

Statue of Franklin at the Boston Latin School site.  It should be noted that he was
a dropout which may explain a lot.

Iron at the Latin School site

Rhododendrons at the Latin School site

Then there was this plaque which explains things pretty clearly.

There was a bronze statue of a jackass but no elephant.  Apparently, Bostonians aren't interested in equal time

Here's a statue of some other guy balancing the statue of Franklin

Old South Meeting House where the Boston Tea Party was organized

Apparently, Diagon Alley is in Boston.  Who knew?

Stops #10 and 11:  The Old State House and the site of the Boston Massacre
The Old State House was built originally as the Seat of Colonial British rule for the Massachusetts Colony. There was a large wooden lion and a large wooden unicorn prominently displayed on the building.  These were the symbols of the British Monarchy.

The Boston Massacre occurred in front of the building and after the revolution was born, the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony overlooking the site of the shooting.  After the Declaration of Independence was read the lion and unicorn were taken down and ritually burned.  They have since been replaced to give the building it's original character.  Doesn't hurt that England is now our friend so we don't want to be too hard on them.

Backside of the Old State House

Brick detail on the Old State House

Site of the Boston Massacre

The balcony on the Old State House where the Declaration of Independence was read.  Note the lion and unicorn have been replaced

Apparently BYU's mascot, Cosmo was short on cash and can be seen playing
the keytar in Boston.  (in reality, we happened upon the local celebrity "Keytar
Bear".  Apparently this bear is famous.

Long shot.  Modern city built up around the historic one.  Helps to have an idea of what the place really looked like at one time.

Stop #12:  Faneuil Hall
This is a public market where many of the founders gave speeches and riled up the crowds.  When we were there, street performers were everywhere.  I might have met Lady Gaga.  I can't tell, maybe.  There is also a bronze statue of Samuel Adams there.  The National Park Service manages Faneuil Hall.  We broke for lunch and I found a place called U-Burger and it's colors were red and white.  The BYU alumni in me felt like a traitor, but the burger was good.  Real good.  I'd eat there again.  Then we headed along the red brick road past a farmers market on our way to stop 13.  The farmers' market had bronze fruit and vegetables embedded in the road.  Must have been there for a long time.

Maybe this was Lady Gaga and friend or maybe it wasn't.  Stranger things have
happened to me.

Samuel Adams sculpture.  What you can't see in this pic is the crowd of over a
hundred people watching break dancers.  They're to the left of this picture.

Faneuil Hall

I may be a Y traitor

Sights like this abound in Boston.  The old with the new

The streets were pretty cool

This dude was cool, and his drum kit was homemade.  Played really well.

Cool ghost sign that does not date back from the revolution

Bronze sculptures in the pavement signifying the farmer's market

Stops #13, 14 and 15:  Paul Revere House, The Old North Church and Copp's Hill Burying Ground
These sites all have something to do with Paul Revere.  The Paul Revere house is obvious.  The Old North Church is where he hung the lanterns, "One if by land, Two if by sea"  I wonder what would have happened if they had come from land and sea?  How many lanterns would there have been then?  The burying ground at Copp's Hill isn't necessarily associated with Revere, he's buried at the Granary.  It is associated with the Old North Church, however.

Paul Revere's pew is marked in the Old North Church, and apparently his family still owns it.  The Revere house was a pay event so we didn't go in.  The Old North Church is run on donations.  I dunno, I didn't pay to go see Paul Revere's house but I voluntarily dropped a few bucks in the box for the Old North Church. Seems I don't like taxation without representation much either.

Copp's Hill Burying Ground isn't necessarily a major stop on the tour but Cotton Mather is buried there.  A few of the Revolutionaries are buried there, and a large contingent of African Americans from the period are buried at Copp's Hill.

I was told that if you don't stop at Mike's Pastry, you weren't in Boston.

Paul Revere's wall

Paul Revere's House

Paul Revere's window

This is an anchor chain around the oldest town square in America, right up the street from Paul's house

This was either Al's gift shop or Ralph's gift shop.  Four generations of the
same family have run this shop.  It's right by Paul's house.  We met either
Al or Ralph.  I can't remember which one.  Nice guy.  In fact just about everyone
I met in Boston was nice.

Heading up the street from Paul's house

A Grinling Gibbons style wood carving on a door

Paul Revere's equestrian statue.  According to tradition, Paul Revere must have
been wounded in battle because one of the horse's hooves is raised.  That's only
if you believe that kind of thing. debunked it.  Dang you Snopes!
That was cool before you ruined it for me!

The spire of the Old North Church

Memorial on the North End.  This is for the dead of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  Each dogtag represents a fallen soldier from those campaigns.

Box pews in the Old North Church

Original lighting fixtures in the Old North Church

They have a weird hangy downy thingy too!

Organ loft in the Old North Church

Decorated pew in the Old North Church

Original chandelier in the Old North Church

George Washington bust in the Old North Church.  People who knew him say this is the best likeness of the first POTUS

Paul Revere's box pew.

Front of the Old North Church

Sign commemorating the event

This was in the area

Copp's Hill Burying Ground

I do like old iron

More broken down tombstones at Copp's Hill
Stops #16 and 17:  The USS Constitution and Bunker Hill
By the time we got to Copp's Hill, it was getting late and we needed to be back at the hotel soon for the Plenary Speaker at the conference.  We had just enough time to walk to the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill, but we did not have enough time to stop and really see the sights.  Fact was that Bunker Hill was on the way to the subway station so we got it by default.  One day I'd like to take the whole tour of Boston.  Spend several days, pay the money for the tours.  Get the whole enchilada.  I was well fed though.  Very satisfied with my first trip to Beantown.

There was a lot of stuff in the way of the Constitution so all we could see without doing the tour was the rigging.  Of all the sights in Boston, the USS Constitution is the one I most want to go back for.  I love the War of 1812 and think it gets shortchanged in history classes.  In my opinion, the USS Constitution and her sister ships are the reason England finally decided to accept our status as an independent nation and view us as a trading partner and eventual ally.  I love that boat.

Monument at Bunker Hill from the distance

USS Constitution rigging

Shipyard where the Constitution lay

Couldn't pass up this shot

Bunker Hill
I had intended to document the entire Boston trip in one blog post.  There was just too much information and too many pictures.  I had a great time in Boston and enjoyed getting to know colleagues from across campus, colleagues that I may never have had opportunity to collaborate with otherwise.

So end's part one.  I would go back to Boston in a heartbeat.  Truly enjoyed the town, enjoyed the conference and enjoyed the collegiality of my new friends.

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