Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beantown and the Big Apple Day 3: I Walk the (Freedom) Line

            Our last day in Boston. My, how the time flies. Actually, each day seemed incredibly long, like Day 1 and Day 2. This day seemed even longer, though I’m not complaining, because today was almost exclusively walking. That’s right em effers—FREEDOM TRAIL.
            The Freedom Trail, not to be confused with the Freedom Trial (which is what Barack Hussein Obummer has turned this country into) is a five-or-six mile long path through downtown Boston highlighting important historical landmarks, most to do with the Revolutionary War. Hence the “Freedom” part. In case you’ve never ever read this blog before, let me explain something: Holy crap history you guys.
            Seriously. I’m not much of a “place” history buff as much as a slow, sweeping cultural trend history buff. Or maybe a person history buff. Or maybe a place history buff. But NOT a communist. I thought the Freedom Trail would be specially catered to the place history buffs, but I was wrong. Even though things like the site of the Boston Massacre were mostly just “Wow, I’m standing where this happened,” which, don’t get me wrong, is really cool, there were plenty of other places to be excited about other types of history.
            Like the graveyards. Seriously. Not because I was standing at the headstone of Ben Franklin’s parents, which, kinda yawn, but because you could look at the different graves and see so many things about history between the lines. For example, the number of childhood graves, or women buried with their babies because both died in labor tell you a lot about what it was like for families back in the day. In addition, the multiple spellings of everything remind you that language is a fluid thing, even if you use Fs in place of Ss and capitalize random things. The graves in Boston were old enough that you could see a progression towards modernity, starting with spelling it “lies” instead of “lyes” and dropping the English U.
            I’m not going to take you step by step, I promise, but one more thing I do want to mention about the Trail is I appreciated some sites’ frank attitudes about the ugliness of American History. King’s Church was a little bit more forgiving and positive about the whole “We totally owned people as property in this city for awhile” thing, listing how blacks could become members of churches and baptized, which certainly made them look better in the eyes of their ahem masters.
                However, Old South Church was very pleasantly honest about the whole thing. It juxtaposed the ideals of liberty and freedom that the Founders carried with the names of notable slaves. The Old South also functioned as a meeting hall long after the War of Independence, and the site had history up to World War One. So there were a lot of exhibits about how the Founders had fought for free speech and then immediately tried suppressing opinions they didn’t share.
Presented without comment
            This is all well and good, but agreeing with places isn’t interesting. Let’s see some conflict.
            I’ve developed a couple gripes with historical writing that tries to be politically correct. Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to use the same words that slaveholders used to describe their slaves because that’d be racist as all get out. But when talking about how slaves were treated, please don’t call them African-Americans. The country decided pretty awfully but firmly that slaves were anything BUT Americans. I’m not saying it’s right that they weren’t- I’m saying don’t try and fix it. Call them slaves, or Africans, or even blacks, but goodness gracious not African-Americans.
            Okay, moving past racially-charged talk, which I almost always try and avoid, let’s talk about why I hate Paul Revere. We all know he was famous for riding through the countryside exclaiming “The British are coming! The British are coming!” and what-not. That makes for a great American hero! EXCEPT HE DIDN’T DO THAT. Don’t get me wrong, he tried, but was arrested almost immediately after getting out of Boston. His two associates, Dr. Joseph Warren and William Dawes, escaped from the British and continued riding. He, on the other hand, did not, and returned to his house. Also, nobody would say “The British” were coming. They’d shout “The Royalists!” or something like it. Because, let’s remember, there’s no real country of America to belong to yet. Paul Revere and his compatriots wouldn’t consider themselves Americans, but Colonists.
            Look, I don’t hate the man Paul Revere. He gave it his all, got arrested for a cause he believed in, and continued fighting for that cause after. What I hate is the culture of worship around this dude when he was the LEAST SUCCESSFUL out of the three that did his same job.
            D’ya know why he’s revered (ha)? Because Henry Wadsworth Longfellow decided to write a poem about the event in 1860, which you might recognize as “Way The Hell After”, and decided that Revere rhymes a lot easier than Warren and Dawes.
            The first stanza reveals why it was a terrible, terrible idea to start writing history books about the poem like it was historical fact.
           
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year

            HARDLY A MAN IS NOW ALIVE. “Everyone who knows what happened is dead, so listen to me, a man whose Wikipedia page has no major scandals for Mick to harp on.” Writing about a historical event almost one hundred years after it’s happened is a recipe for disaster, and there’s no question that’s what’s happened here. But does anyone in pop history really care? Nope! Check these out:
 
Paul Revere, seen here pleading with the
British not to arrest him

Top: Guy that failed but has a easy-to-rhyme last name
Bottom: Guy who did his job.

            Ugh.
            So anyway, after a long grueling walk through history, which I might as well call this blog, we took the train back to our hotel. It was our last day in Boston, and it was well spent, even if we walked an hour to get to a restaurant that finally serves clam chowder. Not our finest moment.
            Boston, from what I’ve learned, is a pretty great city. The thing that stands out to me is how they mix history and modernity efficiently, if a little jarringly at first. The old Boston City Hall is now a steak restaurant and office building, because leasing the interior out allows the exterior to remain a historical landmark.
            I think that’s why I never really felt comfortable in the Back Bay where we stayed. Walking to the wharf or to the North End, everything felt lived in, every shop felt like a Boston institution, like it had always been there and always will be. Everything in the Back Bay felt kind of sterile and constructed. I finally get why people complain about gentrification, because while the twisting and intimate streets of Little Italy may be confusing or dirty, they actually feel like neighborhood, while the wide, clean streets of Back Bay feel like a group of apartments built next to each other.
            We’re off to New York on a train, which should be a pretty fantastic adventure. I just hope I get a chance to run; I haven’t exercised in almost a week. Training for a marathon doesn’t go very well without running, especially when you drink almost no water in place of beer, wine, and coffee. Oops. But, I hear tell that if I run around Central Park, I’ll have circumnavigated the equivalent of Vatican City, which is pretty neat.

            In closing, Paul Revere sucks, and you can quote me on that.

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