Friday, July 4, 2008

Ben Franklin's House is a Sir Speedy, And Other Stories

So today is the 4th of July, a day off of work in the library, since it is closed, and a day spent sightseeing, with all of the city's glorious strangeness out in full force.

On my way to the site of the Boston Tea Party, I meet a homeless guy who has apparently torn the wing off of a bird and left it in the sidewalk. He sits a few feet away from the wing, which is bloody and stiff, and when we pass it, he says, "Don't touch my wing. I set it in the sun to bake so I can eat it. You know. 'Cause I'm homeless." I'm beginning to wonder if I'm wearing a sign.

I see a woman in a group of site-seers wearing matching Detroit Red Wings shirts (complete with maps and fanny packs) get on the subway with a small McCormick bottle. It can either be almond or vanilla extract, or food coloring; either way, when no one is looking, she surreptitiously drains the whole thing, then makes sure no one has seen her and pretends it never happened.

We randomly run into Revolutionaries that people treat as everyday citizens. "Did you see the guy in the three-corner hat?" I ask. But I don't get much of a response.

We make it to where the Boston Tea Party was supposed to have taken place. I'm not sure what I'll see: perhaps a replica of the ships there, or at the least, a marker. Maybe a tourist or two. But I'm not prepared for what I find -- a gigantic old abandoned, burned building covered up by a large white sign promoting an upcoming "tea room" to be built right over the historic waterway. I don't really have a problem with commercialism, but the sign blocks all view of the site, and I have an uncontrollable urge to rip it down.

We follow the "Freedom Trail" and find that the beginning of the day is a pattern. The Old Corner Bookstore where all of the famous 19th century transcendentalists met and were published is a cheap jewelry shop. And Ben Franklin's house is a Sir Speedy (see pic below).

We give up on history for the day and head to Cambridge for dinner. On the way back, night has fallen and the subway overlooks the harbor, and what a site. Since it's the 4th, everyone is excited about the free Boston Pops concert going on, complete with fireworks show, and the harbor is stuffed with boats. Big boats and small ones, yachts, sailboats, waverunners, little fishing boats and rafts. Those who can't stuff onto the boats are lined on the highway and the piers, trying to get as close as they can to the show. We decide to opt out on the Pops.

Tomorrow is Plymouth, the Mayflower, and Mercy Otis Warren's house. If I don't come home, just know this: it's not you; it's New England.

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