Posts Tagged ‘Boston’

Photopost: The Snow Rabbits of Allston

A snow mound in front of my place of work has become a gathering place for at least five rabbits (there could be more but rabbits can’t count beyond four).

Book Review: Bunker Hill : a city, a siege, a revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick

Author:  Nathaniel Philbrick
TitleBunker Hill : a city, a siege, a revolution
Publication Info:  Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 30, 2013)
Other Books by Same Author: Mayflower
Summary/Review:

Another brilliant work of Massachusetts and American history by Philbrick.  Like Mayflower, which was about the first three generations of the Plymouth colony through King Phillip’s War, Bunker Hill is more than it’s title implies.  It covers the period of a little over two years from the destruction of tea in Boston Harbor to the evacuation of Boston by British troops.  While covering historical ground that I’m familiar with, Philbrick has a way of shedding light on people and events in ways I never thought of them before.  One key element of this book is how the Revolution grew not just from political and ideological differences of the Massachusetts’ colonists with the mother country, but with very personal relationships and slights.  The Battle at Breeds Hill is the centerpiece of this book, but it also provides good accounts of Lexington and Concord, the fortification of Dorchester Heights, and the political and military maneuvering before and after this events.  Not to mention the infighting among the Patriots and the Redcoats, as well.  I highly recommend this accessible account of the events and decisions that lead to the American Revolution.
Favorite Passages:

“For Gage, the patriots’ complaints about British tyranny seemed utterly absurd since British law was what allowed them to work so assiduously at preparing themselves for a revolution. Never before (and perhaps since) had the inhabitants of a city under military occupation enjoyed as much freedom as the patriots of Boston.”

“For most Americans, England was an abstraction: a mythical homeland that despite its geographic distance from America remained an almost obsessive part of their daily lives.”

“The irony is that by the time Gage received Dartmouth’s letter, the anger of the ministry, along with that of many Massachusetts patriots, had cooled. If Gage had done nothing that spring, the patriot leaders, already beset by growing discord within their own ranks, would have had even more trouble maintaining a united front. The ministry had played perfectly into the radicals’ hands when Gage finally chose to act on a letter based on information and instructions that were several months old.”

“For many months now, the regulars had endured the taunts and outright maliciousness of not just the Bostonians but also country people just like these. It was the country people who had refused to allow the barracks to be built that might have saved the lives of the soldiers’ comrades and loved ones who were now buried at the edge of Boston Common. For the regulars this was personal, not political. If any of these farmers dared to fire their muskets, a British volley was sure to follow.”

“It’s estimated that approximately half the total deaths that occurred that day (forty-nine for the provincials, sixty-eight for the British) happened in and around Menotomy.”

“Benjamin Russell was the thirteen-year-old student at Boston’s Queen Street School who had followed Percy’s brigade out of Boston. Once in Cambridge he and his classmates had decided to spend the afternoon playing games on the town’s common, only to discover on the evening of April 19 that they were now trapped outside Boston with no way to communicate with their parents. Instead of despairing, they volunteered to serve as errand boys for the officers of the emerging army. Russell would not hear from his parents for another three months.”
“Stark, Prescott, and Putnam were part of the same army, but as far as all three of them were concerned, they were each going to fight this particular battle on their own. With Prescott confined to the redoubt, Putnam preoccupied with building a fortification atop Bunker Hill, and Stark supervising at least the eastern portion of the rail fence, there was no one to synchronize the three of them into a single cohesive unit. Adding to the difficulty of getting these three commanders to work together were preexisting personal animosities. Stark didn’t like Putnam—a feeling that was probably mutual—and as had already been made clear by the interchange about the entrenching tools, Prescott and Putnam didn’t exactly see eye to eye. It also didn’t help that the three of them were from different colonies. At this point a continental army did not yet exist, and in the absence of a unifying “generalissimo,” a quite considerable intercolonial rivalry had developed. General Ward might be the head of the provincial army, but only the soldiers from Massachusetts and New Hampshire were officially a part of that army; Connecticut had not yet formally placed its soldiers under Ward’s control. What had been true in Cambridge a few hours before was true now on the hills overlooking Charlestown: no one seemed to be in charge. But that wasn’t necessarily all bad. There might be, in essence, three different commanders on the American lines, but as far as General Howe was concerned they amounted to a single, very difficult-to-read enemy. In just the last hour he had watched as the provincial fortifications organically evolved in ways of which not even he was entirely aware. Howe wasn’t up against a leader with a plan to implement; he was watching three different leaders try to correct the mistakes of the other two. The workings of this strange amalgam of desperation and internal one-upmanship were baffling and a bit bizarre, but as Howe was about to discover, the end result was surprisingly formidable.”
“As Washington perhaps sensed, the Battle of Bunker Hill had been a watershed. What he didn’t realize was that the battle had convinced the British that they must abandon Boston as soon as possible. Now that the rebellion had turned into a war, the British knew they must mount a full-scale invasion if they had any hope of making the colonists see the error of their ways. Unfortunately, from the British perspective, Boston—hemmed in by highlands and geographically isolated from the colonies to the south—was not the place to launch a knockout punch against the enemy. Rather than become mired in an unproductive stalemate in Boston, the British army had to resume the fighting in a more strategically feasible location—either in New York or even farther to the south in the Carolinas. That was what Gage suggested in his correspondence that summer, and that was what the British ministry decided to do within days of learning of the battle on July 25. But, of course, Washington had no way of knowing what Gage and the ministers in London intended.”
“As had been proven on April 19, the militia, which could be assembled in the proverbial blink of an eye, was the perfect vehicle with which to begin a revolution. But as Joseph Warren had come to realize, an army of militiamen was not built for the long haul. Each company was loyal to its specific town; given time, an army made up of dozens of competing loyalties would tear itself apart—either that, or turn on the civil government that had created it and form a military dictatorship. An army that was to remain loyal to the Continental Congress could not be based on local affiliation.”

Recommended booksAs If an Enemy’s Country: The British Occupation of Boston and the Origins of Revolution by Richard Archer, 1776 by David McCullough, A Few Bloody Noses by Robert Harvey, Ye Cohorn Caravan by Wm. L. Bowne, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party by Alfred F. Young, and Paul Revere and the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes.
Rating: ****

2014 Year in Review: Memorable Events

I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  My definition of memorable can include both the positive and the negative, but generally it’s the good things that make the list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.  I usually try to post this list close to December 31st, but late is better than never.

My 2014 list is a typical hodge-podge of activity.  Some of the events have links to when I wrote about them at the time.  Others I wrote a little bit more about in this post.

January – Furnace – Our furnace overheated and died during our holiday travels last year, and so we had a cold New Years at home, even with new space heaters bought for the occasion.  We got a new furnace installed, and it cost lots and lots and lots of money, but it works very well.  Definitely not a good thing, but certainly memorable, and it all worked out in the end.

January – Ice Skating – Peter took an ice skating class and I went ice skating for the first time in years.  My skates don’t fit anymore – ouch.  But we had fun.  Here’s my first ever animated GIF of Peter skating:

Through the year – Education activism – This year I learned a lot about the crises affecting public education, and joined other parents, students, and teachers to advocate for positive change.  There’s a lot more I could do and should do, but I educated myself on the issues, wrote some blog posts, attended a school committee meeting, and a rally on the steps of the State House.  And there were some positive results, including the defeat of a charter school expansion bill in the Massachusetts’ Senate.

February 1st – Wayne Potash concert – As aging folkies, it was a pleasure to take the kids to our old haunt of Club Passim for this special concert.

March 22nd-24th – New England Archivists Spring Meeting - My only business trip of the year took me to the lovely town of Portsmouth, NH.  Highlights of the conference include a keynote speech by punk rocker Ian MacKaye about his Fugazi Live Series archives and participating in a NEA Jeopardy! tournament (my team won!).

Pondering a Jeopardy! answer.

April 21st – Patriots Day – We took back the finish line on a beautiful spring day, with my whole family cheering on the runners in the Boston Marathon.

April to September – Red Sox season – The 2014 season was not as good as the 2013 season for the Red Sox, but we had fun attending several games, including a few with tickets given by friends who have much better seats than we usually get.  Since Peter is a member of Kid Nation, we can enter the ballpark early to watch batting practice from the Green Monster, and at one game Yankees pitcher Shane Green threw a ball to Peter. We saw rookies Alex Hassan and Garin Cecchini get their first major league hits.  And we sat behind home plate at McCoy Stadium and watching future Red Sox clobber their opponents.  We rode our bikes to Fenway and used the new bike parking.  But probably the coolest thing is when Susan and Peter got to help with the banner for the 2004 World Series Champions reunion in May.  You can see them below the 4 in the photo below.


April 22nd-25th – Spring Break in Virginia – Peter & I visited my mother in Virginia and spent time exploring Colonial Williamsburg and playing at Go Karts Plus.

June 15 – Father’s Day – Tradition dictates that Father’s Day is celebrated with brunch and a nature walk.  This year we dined at Nancy’s Airfield Cafe in Stow and then explored the swamps and caves at Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.

June 12th – July 13 – World Cup – I loved getting sucked into the quadrennial event, and following the ups and downs of the US Men’s National Team.  Particularly fun was attending public viewing parties in Watertown (see the celebration of Clint Dempsey’s goal against Portugal below) and at Boston City Hall.  Then I spent the entire final making bad puns on Facebook.

June 21st – BTU School Summer Blastoff – Ostensibly a fundraiser for our son’s school, but moreso this was an opportunity to get out of the house and dance the night away with Susan.

July 20th & 27th – Cambridge Common walking tour – For the third time, I had the privilege of researching, writing, and leading a walking tour for Boston By Foot.  This time we explored the endlessly fascinating history of Cambridge Common and it’s environs.  The official tour had a good turnout despite a downpour.  If you missed it, we’ll be running it again on Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 2 pm.


August 17 – Crane Beach – All summer long my daughter Kay asked to go to the beach.  Finally, as summer was drawing to a close we made a day-long outing to Crane Beach in Ipswich.  It may have been the best day in Kay’s young life.  We’ll have to return to her happy place more often next summer.


August 30 – September 2 – Great Wolf Lodge – We met up with Susan’s parents at Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos Mountains of Pennsylvania for four days of swimming, sliding, playing, and eating.  It was cheezy fun.


September 20th – Baseball Clinic – My son loves baseball and so there was no doubt that he would enjoy a free baseball clinic for children  hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Jim Rice Field in Roxbury.  Former major league ballplayers instructed the children. They practiced throwing with Rich Rodriguez and Joe Johnson, outfield drills with Billy Sample, baserunning with Al Severinsen, and infield drills with John Tudor (seen handing a ball to my son below).


September 27th – Rockin’ With Raptors – The annual festival at the Boston Nature Center, the Mass Audubon nature center closest to our house, was a blast. There was barbecue and cake, birdhouse building, face painting, music, live animal demonstrations and many other activities.  And of course, the stars of the show were the birds of prey.  Peter was particularly devoted to asking the volunteer lots of questions about the raptors.


October 11th to 13th – Cooperstown – We went away for Columbus Day Weekend to Cooperstown, NY, staying at the lovely Lake House Hotel and visiting the Farmers Museum during the annual Tractor Fest, the Cullen Pumpkin Farm, and National Baseball Hall of Fame.


October 20th to 27th – Jury duty – I served on a challenging criminal trial with contentious deliberations.  And I was appointed foreperson.  It was a stressful week, but hopefully we made the right decision.
November 23rd – Kay leads church in dancing – One day at the beginning of church service at Hope Central in JP, my daughter went up in front and started dancing in circles.  Then the pastor joined in.  Then several people throughout the congregation started dancing in circles as well.  It was a special moment.

November and December – Nana’s visits – My mother came to visit twice late in the year spending lots of quality time with the grandchildren.  Nana and Peter played chess, we visited the zoo, we saw “Peter & the Wolf” at Symphony Hall in November, and celebrated Christmas together in December.


November 29th – New England Revolution Eastern Conference Championship – Peter and I jumped on the bandwagon as the New England Revolution made their way through the MLS postseason.  We joined 10s of thousands of fans in Foxboro as the team won the Eastern Conference against the New York Red Bulls.  The next week we saw the sad MLS Cup Final loss against the LA Galaxy on tv.

 

Previously:

Beer Review: Harpoon Pilot Coconut Porter

Beer: Pilot Coconut Porter
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source: Draft
Rating: ** (6.2 of 10)
Comments:  This special Pilot beer, allegedly only available at the Harpoon Brewery, was on tap at the Granary Tavern in Boston.  It seemed like it would be a unique beer, and it certainly was.  As expected for a porter, it was a deep dark brown, although surprisingly my pint had no head and actually the beer seemed very flat (perhaps a bad pour?).  I could only smell a faint hint of coconut, but it was definitely in the flavor along with a bitter dark chocolate taste and a velvety mouthfeel.  The porter seemed to be strong in alcohol and more like a strange cocktail than a beer in many ways.  An interesting beer experience, but not one that will go down as a favorite.

Three Boston By Foot Walking Tours in October

If you love Boston, and wish to learn more about it’s history and architecture, check out the following three Boston By Foot walking tours lead by yours truly in October.

  • 2 October 2014, 6 pm at Atlantic Wharf (290 Congress St at Fort Point Channel) – The Tipsy Tour – This tour is not a pub crawl – it’s an exploration of Boston’s boozy past!
  • 4 October 2014, 2 pm at Dartmouth Street opposite Back Bay Station – South End – Explore one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Boston!
  • 16 October 2014, 6 pm at Massachusetts Avenue in front of The First Church of Christ, Scientist – Avenue of the Arts  – Along Huntington Avenue stands a dense concentration of Boston’s most venerable cultural institutions. From McKim, Mead & White’s Symphony Hall to Guy Lowell’s Museum of Fine Arts this tour will showcase the establishments dedicated to the fine arts, music, theater, education, religion, and sports.

16 Years in Massachusetts

Today marks 16 years since I first moved to Massachusetts.  This means that my personal state residency rankings have a new champion, as I’ve lived in Massachusetts longer than any other state.

Connecticut moves into second place, with 15 years, 9 months.

Virginia holds on to the third seed with 7 years, 2 months.

And New Jersey stays at the bottom with 2 years.

Hooray for Massachusetts and Me!  It’s been a good partnership, and I don’t see it ending anytime soon.

Related Posts:

Book Review: Book of Ages : the Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore

AuthorJill Lepore
TitleBook of Ages : the Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin
Publication Info: Vintage (October 1, 2013)
ISBN: 9780307958341
Books read by the same author:

Summary/Review:

Jill Lepore, one of my favorite historians, addresses the question put forth by Virginia Woolf regarding about Shakespeare’s sister being equally brilliant but lacking the opportunity due to her sex through the history of Benjamin Franklin’s sister Jane Franklin Mecom.  Jane was the youngest of the Franklin children, six years younger than Benjamin, and they were very close.  Benjamin recognized Jane’s intelligence and teaches her reading and writing until he leaves Boston at the age of 17.  From that point on the siblings would see one another very infrequently but remain close through correspondence. Jane marries young, has many children, struggles through poverty, and sees many of her children die, but she perserves.   There’s a heart-touching moment in their history when Benjamin brings Jane to Philadelphia to offer her a safe place to live during the Revolutionary Way.  Later, he would pay for a house in the North End of Boston where she would live her final year.

There’s only a small amount of Jane’s writing that survives, her correspondence with Benjamin and some other relatives as well as her Book of Ages where she recorded the births and deaths of family members.  Building on these, Lepore uses the writings of friends and relatives as well as women in similar positions at the time to build the story of Jane Franklin.  As the title states, Lepore also relates Jane’s opinions.  She was more devoutly religious than her brother, and chided him for that, but also relates some interesting perspective on the political debates of the time.  Her descriptions of the battles raging around Boston in April 1775 and fears that the fighting will come into the town are particularly chilling.

This is a brilliant book, which offers a well-sourced history and biography of an everyday woman of 18th-century American woman as well as the contrast of a gifted woman’s lack of opportunity compared to her famed brother.  I highly recommend reading this book.
Favorite Passages:

“Benjamin Franklin fought for his learning, letter by letter, book by book, candle by candle. He valued nothing more. He loved his little sister. He taught her how to write. It was cruel, in its kindness. Because when he left, the lessons ended.”

“The Book of Ages is a book of remembrance. Write this for a memoriall in a booke. She had no portraits of her children, and no gravestones. Nothing remained of them except her memories, and four sheets of foolscap, stitched together. The remains of her remains. The Book of Ages was her archive. Kiss this paper. Behold the historian.”

“Jane’s Book of Devotions was her Book of Ages. Her devotions were prayers that her children might live. And her Book of Virtues was the Bible, indelible. She explained her creed to her brother: ‘I profess to Govern my Life & action by the Rules laid down in the scripture.’  The virtue she valued most was faith. It had no place on Franklin’s list. She placed her trust in Providence. He placed his faith in man.”

“Gage had ‘sent out a party to creep out in the night & Slauter our Dear Brethern for Endevering to defend our own Property,’ Jane reported to her brother. ‘The distress it has ocationed is Past my discription,’ she wrote. ‘The Horror the was in when the Batle Aprochd within Hearing Expecting they would Proceed quite in to town, the comotion the Town was in after the batle ceasd by the Parties coming in bringing in there wounded men causd such an Agetation of minde I beleve none had much sleep, since which we could have no quiet.’ She expected that the colonial militia would march into town and continue the battle in Boston: ‘We under stood our Bretheren without were determined to Disposes the Town of the Regelors.’Instead, the militia surrounded the city.”

“‘Perhaps few Strangers in France have had the good Fortune to be so universally popular,’ he wrote her. ‘This Popularity has occasioned so many Paintings, Busto’s, Medals & Prints to be made of me, and distributed throughout the Kingdom, that my Face is now almost as well known as that of the Moon.’ She wrote back that the likenesses she had seen of him were so many and so different that his face must be ‘as changeable as the moon.'”

“I hope with the Asistance of Such a Nmber of wise men as you are connected with in the Convention you will Gloriously Accomplish, and put a Stop to the nesesity of Dragooning, & Haltering, they are odious means; I had Rather hear of the Swords being beat into Plow-shares, & the Halters used for Cart Roops, if by that means we may be brought to live Peaceably with won a nother.”

“Brown went further, arguing that history’s grossest distortion of reality stems not from its false claims to truth but, instead, from its exclusive interest in the great. In the eighteenth century, history and fiction split. Benjamin Franklin’s life entered the annals of history; lives like his sister’s became the subject of fiction. Histories of great men, novels of little women.”

“Also in 1939: Jane’s house was demolished. In 1856, the 150th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth, the house had even been decorated for the celebration. But so little was known about Jane that the claim that Franklin’s sister had ever lived there was eventually deemed dubious. In 1939, Jane’s brick house was torn down to make room for a memorial to Paul Revere. The house wasn’t in the way of the Revere memorial; it simply blocked a line of sight.  Jane’s house, that is, was demolished to improve the public view of a statue to Paul Revere, inspired by a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Jared Sparks’s roommate.”

Recommended booksA Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson and The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution by Alfred F. Young.
Rating: ****1/2

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