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Classroom of adult VFW students in a hotel conference room.

October 2018 I stopped working at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Can you believe it’s been a year?! I applied for retirement, and my employer officially terminated me February 2019. The retirement was approved in June. Retirement paychecks began arriving in August.

Needless to say, before it all got worked out, I was nervous about how to survive while I waited (and supported Tara, still at college in Corvallis). A previous co-worker dropped my name to someone hoping to hire, and I got a job as a contract teacher! How exciting! I taught during one week in September, and will teach again during one week in November. The students are employees of Veterans of Foreign Wars, commonly called VFW. These people spend a lot of time assisting veterans applying for VA benefits, so the hiring manager told me that ideally they like to hire people who recently left VA, because those people are current on the VA climate.

And with me, they get an enthusiastic VA Cheerleader!

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They told me what my topic would be, and how much time I had, and how many students I would have, and the dates I would be teaching. They said they needed a powerpoint presentation, handouts, exercises, and test questions. Then I went to work. VFW bought my plane ticket and my hotel room, and paid me for my work. It’s a great opportunity. How much fun it is to be a contract worker – I had never even thought of this opportunity for myself before.

I was very, very nervous before I actually taught my first class. I had never been in the environment before, didn’t know the audience, didn’t know the format, didn’t know the area, etcetera, etcetera. But I am great in front of people. Though I only slept about 45 minutes the night before, by the end of my first hour teaching, I was fine, and completely in my element. I am good at this. The student reviews were good, the feedback from the hiring manager was good. I managed to address a problem with time right away and it worked great. The students were experienced employees who should already know the material, and they were engaged, open, willing to do the exercises, willing to share their experience and also to ask questions. They were encouraging and supportive and funny.

The view out my hotel window, of the pool closed for the season. Downstairs were the classrooms, as well as a restaurant. If I didn’t want to, I wouldn’t have to leave the building for 5 days.

Typical hotel conference room classroom.

Another conference room classroom. My point with these photos is only to elicit common memories from people who have been in these rooms before!! It’s so ugly and potentially so boring!!

VFW has annual training requirements. After talking with a lot of these experienced employees, I saw that many of them are eager to receive this training. In their level of experience, these classes are mostly updates (law changes, court cases recently decided, refresher training), and so it’s not new information, but a reinforcement of what they already know. I was grateful for their great attitudes and eagerness to hear what I had to say.

The students are also a lot of fun. I bumped into a guy who lived in Idaho near where I lived. We shared memories of tiny rural communities that most people have never heard of. He and a friend of his invited me to make the 3 1/2 mile walk into the city of Annapolis, one day after class. I had never seen the town and they insisted I would love it. Though it was autumn back home in Rainier, it was still summer and hot in Annapolis – yay!! We held a quick pace and it felt great to move after too much time inside the hotel.

What the what? Yes, that’s a cemetery in the median.

My companions explained to me that when the road was put in, graves were exhumed when necessary. All the graves in this center strip were left alone. But how to get there safely?!

I realized Annapolis must be a real New England town, and I began appreciating the buildings.

Don’t you love buildings created to fill awkward spaces?

Wall art always catches my eye..

Finally we reached a place where we could see the sea at the bottom of the hill. What a pretty town Annapolis is.

It was the end of the day and we had just worked up an appetite. One of my companions said that the last time she was here she had stumbled upon a place serving fresh crab cakes and she wanted to go there for dinner. Of course we did too! It was a no-nonsense crab cafe, and the crab cakes were enormous and reasonably priced ($17 for 1/2 pound of meat). While we sat there, other VFW people showed up, which was fun. After eating, we decided to continue to explore the town.

This was officially a “sandwich,” but I ordered mine without the bread. The plate is blackened from decades of use, I imagine.

We found a hat shop and tried on hats. I never wear hats and didn’t buy any.

If I did wear a hat, I might look like this!

We were only a few steps from the waterfront, so the three of us walked around in the lovely warm evening and watched the sun go down over the water of the Chesapeake Bay.

Annapolis waterfront.

Sunset in Annapolis Harbor.

All three of us are prior military, and the US Naval Academy was right next to us. We happened to have on us the ID that would get us through the gates, so off we went. It was getting pretty dark but we were awake and ready to explore some more. With little trouble and no questions, we were allowed onto the base where we began looking at statues and entering interesting buildings.

The Naval Academy Chapel, completed in 1908, is due some repairs. The famous patina green dome will be replaced with a new copper dome that will take 20 years to turn green again.

This one looked promising as we walked up to it.

And yes, it was enormous and gorgeous inside. Dahlgren Hall was once used as an armory, but tonight there were cadets learning to swing dance.

With a sort of mini-museum there at one end.

Ship accoutrements.

Inside Lejeune Hall.

We explored different statues on campus that my friends could tell me about (they were way more in touch with Naval Academy tradition than me). One of them knew a senior cadet and texted him, and he came out to greet us and we stood in the dark courtyard chatting for some time before he had to go. We also entered Lejeune Hall, which holds an olympic sized pool, a “diving well,” boxing and wrestling arenas, and of course, a classroom. From the hallways up above, we could look down onto the cadets in swim training.

Navy mascot is Bill the Goat

Cadets in uniform move quickly through the night, returning to Bancroft Hall after classes.

Wins lauded in Army-Navy contests.

Cadets hard at work in the pool in Lejeune Hall.

My new friends wanted to end the night with a pint, and I couldn’t think why not. I had a coupla’ Guinness as a nod to my trip to Ireland with Tara earlier this year. Rather than make the very long walk home after two pints, my new friends called us an Uber and I was soon winding down, thinking about how soon the alarm clock was going to ring…

 

Chinese lions glare at each other.

I neglected my doors post! As if fourteen billion posts from my New England trip wasn’t enough, I also took photos of doors, which I obviously can’t resist, and they have been patiently waiting in a “Doors” folder on my desktop. Finally, the time is upon us!

Please take a look at the collection of doors I liked from my trip this spring. I have forgotten where most of them came from, which is a loss. But I think they are a lot of fun even without some of the context.

My friend, Will, and I traveled from Maine, to New Hampshire, to Massachusetts, to Rhode Island. These were scattered along the way.

I do like columns at the entryway.

Columns with a pretty curved roof.

Columns are even better when surrounding a detailed metal door like this.

These columns are not as impressive, but I appreciate the sign at the gate: “Home for Aged Women.” It was built for Benjamin Crowninshield, a member of Congress and Secretary of the Navy before he died in 1851. His son, William Crowninshield, was born in this home, and grew up to be a Supreme Court Justice and the Secretary of War, who died in 1900.

The simplicity drew me to this one. I wonder if the dog sticker is to help people identify the right address?

The aging actually makes it more attractive.

Bricks are often gorgeous.

Don’t miss the bull’s head above the awning.

Churches have the most beautiful doors.

Not a “door” but a doorway.

A typical door in Boston’s financial district. But the sign over the door says, “Site of the first meeting house in Boston, built 1632.”

A residence door painstakingly aged.

And last but not least: the door of a liquor store that made me bust up laughing. The T-shirt in the window says “I got it in the Bunghole”

I have learned to time my collections of doors, when I have them, to be able to participate in Norm’s Thursday Doors community. His idea is a great one, and by the number of responses, clearly an idea that resonates with bloggers.

In life, remember to look up. You never know what you will see.

On my very last day on the East Coast in May (you thought I would never get to the end of this journey, huh?), my plane left in the afternoon so we had the morning to explore. We walked from our downtown Boston hotel to a bakery and one of us spotted a travel trailer on top of one of the high buildings in the city. Is that for the CEO when she’s worked too late and doesn’t want to make the trip home?

We looked for a store called The Fairy Shop, because I love fairies. It’s in a lovely part of town and is a beautiful place, but should be named the Harry Potter Shop.  Apparently it used to have fairies and gnomes and frogs and crystals and what one might expect with a name like that. But today, there is only Harry Potter merchandise. Luckily, I am a huge Harry Potter fan.

View inside The Fairy Shop that should be named the Harry Potter Shop. Sorting Hat right there in the center.

Next we went to Graffiti Alley in Cambridge. I am always a fan of wall art, and fascinated with the whimsy and political statements and sometimes jaw-dropping beauty I find on walls. This alley is right off Massachusetts Avenue, painted on all sides. It had been raining all morning and I appreciated the colourful awning.

Graffiti Alley off Mass Ave in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This made me smile.

A little 3D catches my attention.

We wandered all the way through and found more art in the parking lot behind the alley.

At the end of the alley, looking back the way we had come.

How dare those cars park there and ruin the view?! ha ha

Wall art packed with faces.

We still had some time to kill so we made one last stop at Castle Island. It’s really only a peninsula, despite the name. Because it was windy and raining, we had the place to ourselves. Even though it was the site of another old military fort, and built way back in 1634, and you know I love that stuff… my heart wasn’t in it. The weather was rotten and after two long weeks I really just wanted to go home.

Will dropped me off at the airport. It was a direct flight back to Portland, and six hours later I was greeted by my favourite volcano.

The weather in Portland was gorgeous that day, and our late-day arrival gave us a stunning view of Mt. Hood.

I never get enough of this mountain.

Whew! I finished that whole action-packed trip. Can you believe how much stuff we did? It was fun almost every single day and I got to see so many friends and especially got to know Will better. I might have to make a New England trip with Will an annual event or something.

In the meantime things have been happening here at Dragon Manor, and I have so many things to tell you about my summer so far. I have lots of photos of my daily delights around the place. I’ll post them because it makes me happy. I hope you like some of them too.

Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island

Some of the sign was worn off, I think. It looks like a warning that a giant pincer might grab you from the cliffs.

I have a few days left to tell you about my two-week trip to New England in May. I’ve been busy at home so it’s taking me a long time wrap up this trip. Today I’m happy to show you some great scenes I captured with my iPhone.

The morning dawned lovely so we thought it would be a good day to visit the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island, where we were staying. The Cliff Walk is a National Recreation Trail designated in 1975. It is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) with the sea on one side and beautiful old mansions on the other. Once we finally found a place to park, we joined the trail with many other people who had the same idea. There are a couple places where you can get to the water, but it’s safest to stay on the trail. The private residences typically had tall barriers to keep the public out, so views of the places were best at a distance. We only walked a portion of the trail because we had a lunch date.

Mansion on the beach

“Join me at my beach house this weekend?”

I noticed this photogenic snail shell along the way.

Next we drove up to Boston again to have lunch with my friends Romain and Madhawa. After that the day was warm, and I love the heat, so I thought the perfect activity would be a long, tough hike up a hill that overlooks Providence.

We found the trailhead of Wolf Hill Forest Preserve. I was interested in this one because one branch of the trail was named World War II Memorial Loop and I wanted to see the memorial. We started off in high spirits though it was muggy that day and Will indicated that he does not love heat as much as I do. Right away I noticed one of my favourite wild plants ever: wild orchids. These were lucious, fat, extravagant beauties and I dropped to my knees genuflecting before them as I gushed in pleasure. I do not know what kind we found, and I have not seen this type before. I was impressed by their size and showiness.

Low angle of the sun lights up a wild orchid.

Another decadent flower lit in golden sun.

As we climbed up the hillside, stopping every so often to gasp for breath, we were both feeling the effects of early summer, which tends to drop a hot day on you when you least expect it. We both drank a lot of water.

It wasn’t long before we found the memorial, and it was more than I expected to see up there on a trail in the forest.

On this location 5 August 1943, three US servicement perished in an aircraft accident. Otis Portewig, Herbert Booth, and Saul Winsten.

All too common at the time, there was an engine failure and the airplane they were flying plummeted, landing here and deposting part of the fuselage onto that big rock. The rock now holds small rocks that people have placed in honor of the servicemen. Now I understood why a memorial was in such an out of the way place that was difficult to get to. There is another memorial in town, for people who cannot make the trek.

We were grateful for the shade. I spotted this murky pond and splashed my face and arms.

Lovely bunches of flowers near the top of the hill.

Will pointed out this sight. One might call it a dead tree. We saw life.

Splendid green beetle caught my eye.

We continued climbing the hill. My hiking app on my phone told me there would be views at some point. We thought we might be close, so we kept going. The trail was not well marked, so I used GPS on my trail app to keep us on the path. A bit tricky.

And viola! We crested near a broken down chimney. Someone had built a house up here and enjoyed the spectacular view for a while. Likely the only thing remaining was the thing that got rid of the rest of the house. We sat down on a rock and looked out over the high buildings of Providence that we could see over the tops of trees. Someone doing trail maintenance had cut down all the trees in front of us so that the view was not blocked.

Will walks up to the chimney at the top of the hill.

All that’s left of someone’s dream home.

And here is the view. The white specks are the high buildings of downtown Providence.

We sat until we felt well rested, and drank more water. Then it was time to head back down. It was evening by this time but there was no respite from the heat and humidity, and we suffered. Will looked at his map and found a public beach we could visit. I reminded him that we had parked right next to a pond. He didn’t remember the pond and it sounded too good to be true. I kept talking about the pond, to keep his spirits up. I was sure I remembered it. I began feeling very badly that I had let my joy of heat and hiking get in the way of looking out for my friend. He never said an unkind thing, and barely complained, but the conditions were too much for anyone not in love with strenuous activity in the heat, the way I am. The trail seemed to get longer the more we walked.

The sun went behind the trees and light grew more dim. It wasn’t dim enough to dim my excitement when I found more orchids near the bottom of the hill.

I just couldn’t get enough of them.

Finally we reached the car and I exhaled in relief to see that my memory was correct. We had parked 60 feet from a pond and fishing area. First we drank all the warm water from the water bottles in the car, since our own bottles were long empty. Then we walked to the shore and sat on some roots and stripped boots and socks off and put our feet in the water. I splashed myself and splashed Will (which was not appreciated but I was doing it for his own good). We sat with our feet in the water a long time and finally decided that the only correct thing to end the day with was ice cream. We got our shoes back on and found Powder Mill Creamery, a darling ice cream shop that was clearly a local favourite, since there was a line stretching through the parking lot. By the time we had our ice cream it was almost completely dark outside. We made our way to picnic tables in the grass around the ice cream shop and sat with other happy and hot people and enjoyed our dessert.

Sylvanus Brown house on the left with garden and Slater Mill in the background, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

The birthplace of American manufacturing. Photo of Samuel Slater on the right.

Will and I spent a day in his hometown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. On my visits to Pawtucket before, I had noticed Slater Mill, and knew it was a historic building of some kind, and thought it was pretty and wanted to take a look. Will agreed that it was a place that should be visited. I was not prepared for what a great stop it turned out to be, with a guided tour of all the on-site buildings that are maintained by the National Park Service as a museum and part of the Blackstone River Valley National Historic Park. It was inexpensive, and the Ranger tour guide was knowledgeable and excited about the site’s history. I highly recommend this experience to anyone.

There’s a scandal to the story. Samuel Slater was apprenticed at a cotton mill as a young man in England, eventually becoming a superintendent very familiar with how the whole operation worked. Slater had a dream of creating his own mill, and memorized the water powered machines. It was against British law for textile workers to share information or to leave the country (which explains the memorization), but Slater left for America to try and build a textile industry of his own.

After failing his own attempts and bankrupting himself and other investors, Slater was put in touch with Moses Brown who was looking for someone to help him build a mill with his partner William Almy. By 1790 they had built the first water-powered cotton mill in the United States. Thank you England!

When Slater first arrived, Brown had suggested that he might board with the Wilkinson family, business associate of Brown. Slater moved in and met Hannah Wilkinson, one of the daughters of the household. They were married. Hannah disovered a way to make better thread and applied for a patent. Some people believe she is the first woman in America to be awarded a patent. It’s under the name “Mrs. Samuel Slater,” reflecting conventions of the time.

We first toured the Brown House, built in 1758.

The Brown House is set up with period furnishings, complete with a foot warmer and a bed pan.

Next we entered the Wilkinson Mill.

I was fascinated by the massive water wheel that powered the mill.

We were told the wheel is usually in operation, but stopped while we were there for repairs.

A panoramic view shows the wheel and the water course inside the mill.

We went upstairs above the water wheel and came into a huge workshop powered entirely by belts! I was in awe. I’ve never considered how machines were run before electricity, but here was one amazing example. All the machinery in the shop/museum is currently functional, and the guide powered up the belts (on electricity since the wheel is not moving) and the whole place came to life! All the belts were connected, so across the entire room, the ceiling was alive and noisy! The guide then drilled a few holes for us to demonstrate that the machines were working.

I love all that old stuff, and had a fun time just poking around, picking up iron pieces and wooden pieces and trying to work out how it was all part of  the Wilkinson family operation that built and repaired machinery in the whole region.

Looking across the floor and up at all the belts spinning. I wish I had a decent video so you could see what it was like.

Some of the equipment that our guide demonstrated for us.

There were several cabinets that stored different components of the equipment. Here, tagged belts sit on a shelf, and tools cover a bench.

The farther into the place we walked, the more delighted I was with all the treasures inside. And the tour only includes the first and second floors. I wonder what the third and fourth floors hold.

Up close it was hard to get a good photo of the yellow-painted Slater Mill. This was our last and final stop of the tour. We stood outside in the shade beside the Blackstone River while the guide told us more about the innovative history of the place. For example, he explained how Slater designed his textile mill and thread-making machines so that children could easily work them. While that is distasteful to us now, at the time, people were grateful to be able to place their children into employment for the family. Slater also created small company villages, where he built cheap housing for the workers, and a company store, all on site with the mill. Then he hired entire families and brought them to his mini-villages. This system, called the Rhode Island System, was then copied around the country. On the surface it seemed to be a help to the workers, but many of you know that it was really a way to make more money for the owners and to keep employees in debt like indentured servants.

Standing in front of Slater Mill, looking at the river.

In the foreground is the channel that powers the mills, and the Blackstone River is in the background.

Inside the Slater Mill we saw the equipment used in Slater’s textile industry.

I had heard of a cotton gin, and how it completely changed the textile industry, but until this one was demonstrated for us, I had no idea what a cotton gin did.

A mule spinner, that spun cotton into thread, was operated by two boys at once.

The museum inside Slater Mill includes more and more complex spinning machines, holding hundreds of spindles in some cases. The guide explained how the children’s small hands were the right size to reach in and replace a full spindle with an empty one while the machine was running. This often resulted in injures.

A large and complex spinning machine. In the very back you can see a weaving machine, that is weaving tubes of fabric that can be cut and used as the sleeves or torsos of clothing.

One more spinning machine.

After our tour we walked to the bridge above the river. From there we got a good look at the mill buildings from a distance.

Looking back at Slater Mill and Wilkinson Mill over Pawtucket Falls in the Blackstone River.

Cogswell Fountain topped with a heron at the end of the Main Street Bridge. An advocate of prohibition, Henry Cogswell built this and many other fountains to encourage citizens to drink water instead of booze.

We met a friend of mine for lunch after our tour, a classmate from Brandeis University. Then with the remainder of the day, we went to Roger Williams Park. It is one of several Roger Williams Parks, as the man is quite beloved in Rhode Island. This park is certainly the largest (at 435 acres) and most impressive, hosting a zoo, a botanical park, a carosel, a museum and planetarium, trails, wide lawns and barbecue areas, and a huge meandering lake that means one is almost always next to a beach. We drove for a long time so that I could see the extent of the place. Then we parked and walked in the pleasant evening.

Monument on the shore was constantly occupied with prom attendees and wedding parties, having photos taken, so I shot to the side of the building.

There were stunning views from many angles as we walked through the park.

Seven thousand military boots with flags representing each of the American service members killed since September 11, 2001.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, Will and I visited Fort Adams State Park. The timing was serendipitous and we benefitted by being able to see a Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial, put on by Operation Stand Down Rhode Island. As we walked inside the walls of the fort, we saw a memorial display of military boots, each adorned with a name placard and an American flag, honoring service members killed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

I could not walk among the flags and boots for long.

As a result of the ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan since the Trade Towers attacks, around 7,000 American soldiers have died. OSTDI is right to draw our attention in such a dramatic way to those who died. I would like to draw your attention to additional numbers, such as the estimate of around twice as many private contractors who also died while providing support to the Americans. Those private contractors don’t get the honor or the benefits that military people get, though they serve in the same theatres. And if we are kind enough to feel empathy for all of the people who died, then consider that of all nationalities involved, at least 480,000 people have died in these conflicts, more than 244,000 of them civilians. And “In addition to those killed by direct acts of violence, the number of indirect deaths — those resulting from disease, displacement, and the loss of critical infrastructure — is believed to be several times higher, running into the millions.” We could layer boots across the grounds of Fort Adams a couple feet deep, if we were able to honor everyone in this way.

I was drawn to the display immediately, and walked into the center of it, picking up cards attached to each boot, with photos and information about the service members from South Dakota and Kentucky and Ohio who gave their lives to their country and died at age 24, 27, or 19. It was suddenly too much and my chest heaved for breath as tears began streaming down my face. I marched out of the expanse of flags and over to the walls of the Fort. Will quickly followed and helped me get interested in Fort Adams history, in order to let the pain go.

Inside the walls of Fort Adams.

Is this a boiler? The remains of the Fort are very interesting and in my mind, beautiful.

Greenery takes over when the soldiers are no longer here to sweep and whitewash.

Fort Adams occupies a peninsula at the entrance to Narragansett Bay. The fortifications in the bay are the only ones in the area to have seen action against an enemy. The first earthen fort was built on this location in 1776 to protect the people who lived on and used the harbor, and also to prevent enemies from using the harbor as a base. Though there were fortifications and cannons placed all over the bay, it was not enough, and in December 1776 the bay was captured by the British. They successfully held off a major, months-long attempt by combined French and American forces to retake the bay in 1778. Then the British voluntarily evacuated in 1779 (like my cat, I guess, it just had to be their idea before they would leave), and the French took over. Put a pin in that, and I’m going to bring it up later. Major Tousard, a Frenchman who had fought there and lost an arm in 1778, was commissioned by the US Army and oversaw restoration of the defense structures. He reopened the fort in 1779 and christened it Fort Adams, after President John Adams. The current structure was completed in 1857.

Outside the Fort we walked to the tip of the peninsula and watched some college sailboat racing competitions.  It seemed too windy of a day for sailing but the water was filled with sails. The teams were 100% women and the racing was so fast it seemed reckless. After completing their loops, they hurtled their boats into the marina and practically skidded sideways up to the docks. I would have thought the speed and daring was dangerous, except that with only a little observing, I could see that these women knew exactly what they were doing. It was not reckless at all. I am impressed.

A tall ship replica.

A pet peeve of mine: when communities decide to approach the litter problem by removing trash barrels.

Will had been trying to introduce me to as much Rhode Island-ness as possible, and thus when we came across a stand selling Del’s frozen lemonade, we had to get some. Other RI traditions he ate while I was there included coffee milk, lobster rolls, and johnny cakes.

The beach at Kings Park. On a warm day with no agenda, I could have so much fun sifting through these shells for hours.

A monument to French nobleman and General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau. Now there’s a mouthful.

At the waterfront of Newport in Kings Park, we found a statue of American gratitude to General Rochambeau, who led the French force that helped the colonies to win the Revolutionary War.

Trusting in a tourist map and a nearby information sign, we hunted and hunted for the next lighthouse. If anyone at home is still playing lighthouse bingo, this is #8! We couldn’t see a lighthouse anywhere, but for the hell of it decided to follow the maps even though it was clear we were only walking out along a pier to the Ida Lewis Yacht Club. It was quaint and interesting, so we ended up wandering around and admiring the place and…guess what?! We found the light! The Lime Rock Lighthouse was renamed in 1924 for Ida Lewis, the lighthouse keeper who became famous for many rescues she managed while working at Lime Rock.

Never would have guessed it without seeing it, but the light is mounted to the back wall of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, above the dining room. I wonder how many Yacht Clubs can claim to also be lighthouses?

Since it was nearby, we also stopped at Goat Island, connected to land by a bridge. Goat Island was the first piece of land purchased for the purpose of building fortifications for defense of the bay. We did not see any remaining defense structures. Today it is a tamed location with a marina, restaurant, and condominiums.

We were after lighthouse number nine, so we went to Jamestown and visited Beavertail Lighthouse next. On the way we made a quick stop at Fort Weatherill State Park. There we got a great view of Castle Hill that we had been so recently standing upon, and a better look at Castle Hill Lighthouse, mentioned in my last post. My apologies for the blurry photos in zoom. For the entire two-week trip I relied only on my iPhone, having left my Nikon at home accidentally. I did remember to bring the Nikon battery charger, but alas, the gesture was entirely inadequate without the camera itself. 😦

Gorgeous coves at Fort Weatherill State Park.

View of Castle Hill Inn and the Castle Hill Lighthouse.

Poor resolution image of Castle Hill Lighthouse that we had spotted earlier in the day.

At the parking lot for the Beavertail Lighthouse, I examined a giant metal ball that looked a lot like a WWII mine. I’ll have to assume that someone has checked it out and it no longer carries a charge. Actually, it’s probably just a giant rusted float. Then we made our way to the lighthouse at Beavertail State Park.

Brave? Dumb? Actually, just convinced that a thousand other tourists stood here first, and if they didn’t trigger it, I wouldn’t.

Approaching Beavertail State Park and Lighthouse.

The Beavertail Lighthouse was first erected in 1749 and was the third lighthouse in the country. That wooden lighthouse burned down. Have you noticed how frequently I’ve mentioned that the first – and usually the second – lighthouses were destroyed, but then the current one has been sitting there for 150 years? I guess everybody figures out right away that to build a lasting structure on the coast, one needs to spare no expense or quality of materials. Anything less will be ruined. The sea isn’t mean, she’s serious, and you need to take her seriously. When you do, the lights are allowed to stand. Anyway, the one here was built in 1856.

Beavertail Lighthouse, built in 1856.

Remember how I said that the “British voluntarily evacuated in 1779” up above? Well, history of Beavertail Lighthouse website mentions that while the British were leaving the bay in in 1779, the lighthouse building was damaged. No further information. But doesn’t that make you wonder? Where is the rest of the story? If the British left their occupation of Fort Adams because they had made a strategic decision, then did that decision involve damaging structures on the way out? Were the Americans confused about what was happening and fire on them on their way out? Was there a battle? Was there an accident? Oh, History. There is so much you continue to hide from me.

The foundation of the original wooden lighthouse, erected in 1749, still stands.

Will and I kept noticing rocks and wished that Tara was with us so we could ask geology questions.

A fisherman stands alone and fishes off Beavertail Point, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

Then we found a classy restaurant in Newport for dinner and still the night was not over. Will had a surprise, but he wasn’t sure if I was still game. Should he tell me? No, I love surprises! Lead on! The last thing we did that night was private dance lessons, followed by an hour of group dancing with beginners. Oh gosh it was so much fun. I know nothing about dancing but I’ve always wanted to learn. Though one night of dancing is certainly not enough to know how to dance, I did discover that when put to the test, I still want to learn to dance.

Ok, seriously. Can you believe all that was in one day? My last post plus this post? Wow. Maybe I’m not old yet after all.

Statue of William Ellery Channing, Unitarian preacher of the early 1800s, born in Newport, Rhode Island.

We packed so much touring into our next day in Newport that I’m going to split it into two posts. We began at Touro Park to see the Newport Tower, the remains of a windmill built approximately 1660. The round stone structure is beautiful, and I am reminded that arches are one of the strongest structures humans have ever built.

Newport Tower remains standing after nearly 400 years. Maybe because of the strength of the arches.

Inside the tower is also interesting. You can see Perry through an arch.

After exploring the tower, we stayed in the park for some time. There are multiple monuments surrounded by examples of period architechture. We admired the statue of Matthew Calbraith Perry, who was instrumental in bringing the Japanese into commercial and diplomatic relations with the West in 1854. The bronze bas reliefs on the pedestal reflect scenes from Perry’s life.

Mounted on the cast iron fence surrounding the pedestal were two plaques. One in Japanese and one translated. The title in English is The 2012 Shimoda TOMODACHI Declaration. I recalled that name from when I was staying at a Navy base in Japan, and said to Will, “Oh hey, Tomodachi is the name of the operation in which US service members helped out the Japanese after the tsunami wiped out the nuclear plant.” I kept reading, and rather than find a different use of the word tomodachi, the plaque referred to exactly what I was thinking of. It’s a Thank You from Shimoda City, acknowledging the beginning of Japanese-US relations 150 years previous, due to Perry’s work, and the continuing good relations today. Since I’m always pointing out Indian perspectives in an attempt to shed light on the nuances of our relationships, I think it’s only fair to point out that our “good relations” with Japan today are a result of the Japanese choosing to be an extraordinarily polite and accommodating people, after being bombed and invaded (and still occupied) by Americans. I do not at all assume our countries are friendly without deeply complicated undercurrents. Anyway, it was fun for me to recognize the name Tomodachi.

Naval Officer and diplomat Perry. You can see the Tomodachi Thank You plaques.

Scenes from Perry’s career.

Interesting handles of this flower pot in the shape of fauns, sitting on the heads of goats.

From there we walked to the Touro Synagogue, down lovely streets filled with late spring colour on the trees and in flower gardens.

We stopped first at the small Colonial Jewish Burial Ground, since it was on theme. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about this cemetery, called The Jewish Cemetery at Newport. Another author, Emma Lazarus (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) wrote about the cemetery and the synagogue. It is the first Jewish cemetery in Rhode Island, acquired in 1677. Abraham Touro had the first protective wall erected, and his brother Judah Touro established a trust to care for the cemetery upon his death in 1854.

Colonial Jewish Cemetery was locked so we couldn’t go in for a better look.

We arrived at the Touro Synagogue just before a tour began, so we quickly paid and ran up the hill to listen to the tour guide tell us about the site, the oldest synagogue in the United States. We sat in the pews and listened while the older man intoned, and it was clear he was used to teaching and used to people listening. He invited questions, and I tried to re-state in my own words something he had said, to make sure I had understood his point. He was not at all pleased with my attempt, and moved on with his story. I felt like I was 9 years old in Bible School again. It was very sweet and funny.  Even though he denied my description of the story, I still think what he explained is that since Jews in the 18th century had been welcomed in the Netherlands, when Jewish emmigrants were looking for a new home, they hoped for a warm welcome from the Dutch colonists on the American east coast. It didn’t go as well as hoped, but there was enough tolerance to allow a Jewish community for some of early Rhode Island history. The Jewish community grew in Newport, and in 1763 this house of worship was dedicated. I can promise you that the guide would explain it with different words! 🙂

Interior of the Touro Synagogue.

The inside of the synagogue is gorgeous, but we were not allowed to take photos from inside. We were invited to stand outside, at the doorway, and photograph into the building, however. The architect knew nothing about synagogue construction, and it is assumed for the interior that he relied entirely on the guidance of members of the congregation, some having only recently left their Jewish communities elsewhere. The tourguide told us to notice two important things about the outside: first that its orientation is east (facing Jerusalem) rather than perpendicular with the street, and second that it is built to blend in with the colonial construction of the time, and not stand out and probably irritate the other settlers.

Facing east, and thus at an angle compared to the other buildings.

The lovely site includes the Loeb Visitor’s Center, the Touro Synagogue, and an inviting garden between them.

In 1781 a Town Meeting was held here during a visit by George Washington. Later, when he was President in 1790, Washington wrote a letter to the Newport Hebrew community that the whole nation should be proud of. I had never heard of this letter, but copies are provided free of charge at the visitor’s center. The text includes this,

…happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

How much less of a country we are today because our leadership embraces, rather than rejects, bigotry and persecution.

Our next stop was to find Castle Hill Lighthouse, the 7th lighthouse of the trip. We parked at the Castle Hill Inn parking area, and crashed the rather posh grounds, walking across manicured lawns, past white lawn chairs filled with paying guests, and up a hill to a spot where we could see the lighthouse above the bushes along the rocky beach. It was windy and cold and we didn’t stay long. We were near Fort Adams State Park, and we went there next. I’ll talk about the rest of the day in my next post.

Castle Hill Lighthouse as viewed from Castle Hill Inn.

Looking toward the Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge

One very silly idea I’ve had about visiting Rhode Island is that I wanted to drive from one state border to the other, and time the trip, to see what it felt like to drive all the way across the state in one shot. I had asked Will if it could be done in less than an hour, and he said it probably could.

He chose a diagonal route that would make sure we gave Rhode Island the benefit of the doubt. I started the stopwatch on my phone, and took screenshots of the route too.

Beginning of journey. The blue dot marks the location of my phone.

Middle of the journey. We are rapidly moving through Rhode Island.

Viola! We cross the Massachusetts border in less than an hour.

We crossed the state in less than 40 minutes! That is so funny to me, a longtime resident of the Western United States, where you can drive for hours and hours and still be inside the same state. It’s a 2 1/2 hour drive for me to go visit Tara at school, and we both live in Oregon. Last Fall I went to see the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, which is 5 1/2 hours away.

Beginning stopwatch

Ending stopwatch.

Our other explorations that day were more along the lines of what we had been doing already: finding points of interest, historical sites, lighthouses, and monuments.

I was interested in The Towers, a massive gate of sorts, over a road in Narragansett. It was completed in 1886 as a design element to complement a new casino. Since then the casino burned down, but The Towers was saved. It is now used as an event space. Will and I went for a closer look, and found all the doors open. So, naturally we walked right in and found the place being prepared for a wedding reception.

The Towers in Narragansett, Rhode Island

The seashore is to the left. The Casino was originally to the right.

This is inside the arched part over the road. A lovely setting, and views of the ocean, for a wedding reception.

This old clock is in The Towers. It makes me think of Alice In Wonderland.

We visited the Point Judith Lighthouse next. It is our sixth lighthouse on this vacation so far. Though the first lighthouse was erected at Point Judith in 1810, a storm with an 11-foot surge rushed in and wiped out the tower and the keeper’s home in 1815, although miraculously the lighthouse keeper survived. The third and current lighthouse was completed in 1857.

This active Coast Guard site keeps the lighthouse behind a fence.

View over the Atlantic from the parking area.

Point Judith lighthouse is painted brown at the top, and white at the bottom, for a daymarker. The light has a 15-second pattern which is: 5s on, 2s off, 2s on, 2s off, 2s on, 2s off.

We explored Watch Hill next, the southwesternmost point of the state of Rhode Island. In truth, after Watch Hill is when we undertook the Cross The State Journey I mentioned at the top. You can see how that makes sense by looking at the first map. In Watch Hill we found more monuments and another seafaring community taking pride in its mariner history. One monument caught my attention because it is of an Indian. It contains no explanation and no context at the monument, so I was compelled to look it up and investigate.

An Indian monument in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

On the back of the boulder is a plaque reading “In memory of Clement Acton Griscom.” And the inscription of the artist Enid Yandell can be found in the bronze. With these clues I looked it up and have some questions answered, but not all. The image is of Chief Ninigret of the Niantic tribe indigenous to the Rhode Island area (the Narragansetts), holding a blackfish in each hand. The Chief was a clever strategist and unapologetic. He is said to have given his lands to the colonists (aw, what a kind thoughtful man, to just hand over his homeland as a gift to the invaders), but under whatever circumstances that led to this “gift,” it saved his people from the same levels of decimation as other nearby tribes. The Puritans then emboldened, asked him for permission to try to convert his people to Christianity, and Ninigret told them, “Go make the English good first.” OH, snap! The monument was erected in 1916 by Mr. Griscom’s widow in memory of the shipping magnate. Originally it was part of a horse-watering trough, with water from the fishes’ mouths filling the trough.

I love so many things about this statue. It honors an Indian relevant to those exact lands, the artist was a woman, and the piece of art had a practical purpose. The one thing I could not find anywhere is why Frances Canby Biddle Griscom commissioned the piece, and what it has to do with her husband. I’m tempted to imagine that the widow was free to spend her money however she wished after her wealthy husband’s death, and she was making a statement about things she was passionate about. Maybe Mr. Griscom loved Indians and women and horses, too. But it’s more dramatic to think of Frances getting to stretch her wings as an independent woman without having to ask a man’s permission.

We then made our cross-the-state journey mentioned at the top, and returned to Providence for the evening. It was going to be the first night of WaterFire for the year. I had never heard of it, but was eager to find out what it was all about.

We first walked along the parks and walks along the Providence River.

As darkness collected, we found a comfortable place to sit and watched the crowds increase with the night.

In the center of town, floating braziers are anchored all around the Woonasquatucket River, right before it converges with the Moshassuck River. Aren’t those names great?! When we arrived, the braziers were already loaded with wood. When it got dark, mood-creating music from around the world boomed through the crowd. It grew chillier and darker and finally black boats filled with people dressed all in black came silently drifting through. People from the crowd came down to the waterfront on our right and lit torches and stood waiting. The boats passed in front of the holders of the fire, and had their own torches lit. One boat had a man twirling fire poi. He stood confidently in black and spun the fire balls around himself, with flames reflecting off his bald head. It was so dramatic.

Holders of the fire prepare to light the torches held by people in boats.

Fire poi!!

Waterfire in Providence is a very big deal. The event bills itself as an art installation under an arts promotion and awareness organization, with the ceremony I saw as its centerpiece. As the summer temperatures warm the nights, it becomes more popular and more braziers are added, lengthening the display across more of the city’s downtown rivers.  There are 100 braziers in the middle of the season. It seems that almost as many local people get excited about volunteering to help as watching it, and in that way it has been an ingenious way to rebuild the life of downtown Providence, and bring in millions of tourists.

The chill of the night lessened a bit once the fires blazed in earnest. From the shore I could actually feel their heat. The crowd was quiet; either silent or talking in low tones. We listened to the beautiful music and watched the reflections of the fire. Some small boats came through with people who had clearly purchased a ride for 20 minutes or so, and sat back in each others’ arms with glasses of wine while they were propelled between flaming braziers by Venitian gondolier-types. It was enough to sit and watch for hours.

When the braziers were really going, I could feel the heat onshore.

Reflections of lights on water is enough to mesmerize me. Here you can see the fire poi again.

The central location downtown was beautifully lit not only by the fire, but also by the lights in the buildings.

Elisia’s exit reminded me of the old days when my group of friends rode the Fitchburg train together.

Boston is so close to my old life, when I lived in Fitchburg and rode the commuter train to school in Waltham. After exploring Boston for a day, the next day Will and I spent the whole day traveling old routes, walking old paths, gaining new perspectives on old vistas.

First we took Route 2 out to Fitchburg. I pointed out the spot where I was pulled over for speeding, and Massachusetts forgot to ask me to pay the ticket for FIVE YEARS. I became disproportionately excited to see the Exit 32 sign to Leominster. When I lived out here I rode the train to school every school day for three years. I got on the same train at the same time every morning, and rode into the city with all the same people. We got to know each other. I even did my Masters Thesis on how fear and feelings of safety are managed on the commuter rail train when packed in there with strangers. My very best friend at that time was Elisia, who lived in Leominster. She has a lovely English accent and we were all delighted the day she told us the highway exit to her home was number 32. We made her say it a dozen times. We giggled with glee and found opportunities to ask about Exit 32 (prounced in Lissy’s English accent) whenever we could, from then on.

A 2005 photo of the house when I lived there.

What it looks like now. Not much change. A new fence, solar panels, a bigger tree, and neglected garden and lawn.

Our first stop was my old house. The old neighborhood looked almost exactly the same except that the trees along the street were larger. The landscaping around my old house looked ratty and unkempt, and there was a For Sale sign out front. I was sad that none of the trees or lilac bushes I had planted had survived. There was a new fence in the back yard and solar panels. I recalled shoveling snow from that driveway so many times.

We drove around the town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. It has tiny pockets of commerce scattered around the outskirts leaving the center almost desolate. No people walking, and many empty buildings. When pawn shops and consignment shops for children’s clothes are on main street, it’s a sign that people are shopping somewhere else. My two favourite sightings from my past were the library, and of course the train station. It’s a sad town and I felt validated for never liking it while I lived there.

Walden Pond, from the end where the train passes close by.

We returned to Route 2 toward Boston and stopped at Walden Pond, made famous in Henry David Thoreau’s book. While traveling to school I had looked out the train windows at the pond, twice a day, day in and day out for more than a year before I realized which pond it was. Then I read Walden again, despite not liking it the first time I read it, and realized that Thoreau even mentions the train.

Will in the pond. It was a hot day and the cool water felt good on our feet.

I splashed around, getting water on my head and back, and cooling off. {photo by Will Murray}

The pond today is a park, visited by nearly 500,000 people a year. It is open to swimming, fishing, and boating, and is surrounded by trails. Though Thoreau kept fit by jogging around the lake every day, visitors who want to emulate his experience are asked not to run on the trail that follows the shore, but to keep their running activity to the trails farther away.

Will and I explored the brand new beautiful visitor’s center, and then made our way to the pond. The pond is always more serenely beautiful than I expect, for so famous a tourist destination. Today it is protected land, and I get the sense that it is more forested and more lush than when Thoreau lived there. There are many easy trails to follow and we followed them. On the far side of the pond, Thoreau’s cabin no longer exists, but there are granite stones set to show where it used to be. Nearby is a large mound of rocks left by people in remembrance. He wasn’t living there at his death, but close friends the Alcotts (including the famous author Louisa May) laid the first stones at the site after his death. It began a tradition.

The site of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin. You can see the pile of rocks to the left.

A large pile of stones carried by admirers from around the world. Many contain messages from those who left them.

As we prepared to leave, I gave the all-day parking pass that we had purchased to the next car that pulled in to the lot. It was a small car packed with kids that looked around the age of 20, and they were so grateful for the pass. I try to do this whenever I can, handing over a parking pass when there is still time left on it. I think having to pay to park a car is annoying, so I cheat the system. I’m such a law-breaker rebel!!

Next we went to the campus of Brandeis University, where I received my BA and MA in 2007. It was 6pm and nearly empty of people. I was surprised to find every door unlocked. We wandered across the entire campus and you can bet I marched us right inside every building I wanted to explore.

First of all we went into the art building. My first two years at school I knew the Art building because of my job. I modeled for the painting classes. It was good money ($10 an hour – the highest pay available to a student on campus) for very little work. I am not shy about my body and found it interesting and challenging to find new creative poses and then to hold perfectly still. The students were amazingly kind and grateful, and always let me watch them work during breaks. Finally I had completed enough required courses that I had room for an elective, and I took a beginning oil class. The classroom was just as I remembered it, except for a new ugly ducting tube on the ceiling.

Art room Spring 2019.

Painting of art room. Fall 2006.

We walked through the Student Union building where I had talked with Anita Hill the year before she became a professor there, and where I had heard Thomas Friedman tell us why the World Is Flat. (At the University I also heard lectures by Howard Zinn, Azra Nomani, and President Jimmy Carter – it was a good place to hear people.) Up the hill we passed the library with floors that sink down instead of rise above ground level. We climbed the stairs at the Brown Social Science Center, up to the Anthropology Department. It’s still an old, outdated building, but filled with many happy memories. The halls smelled the same. Many of the professors I knew are still there, I could see, from bios posted on a bulletin board. I wrote a note on a paper towel from the bathroom and left it for Laurel, the woman in the office who keeps everything running. I said “Hi, I miss you all.”

We walked up all the steps of the Rabb Graduate Center and on up the hill to the Mandel Quad, where I took an Introduction to Judaism class once I realized I was attending a Jewish-centric school. Ha! Can you believe I had no idea until I arrived on campus? I’m so silly. Finally we went over to my other favourite building on campus: the Mandel Center where I took most of my classes for conflict resolution, mediation and peace building. It’s my favourite because that is where I met two of my best friends in all the world, Mads and Romain, who were also in the conflict resolution program.

This statue of Louis Brandeis is hard to resist. I wanted to show him more stuff, but he was focused on making the world a better place.

It began to rain as we walked back down the long hill. I told Will things like, “if you had a class at the Art building, then your next class was up here at Rabb, or the Mandel Center, you would just be late. That’s all there is to it.” I remembered having a law class at the top of the hill, then auditing a society & economy class with Robert Reich (well-known American economist and political commentator) down at the Slosberg Music Hall at the bottom of the hill. I was always late, and the packed theatre room never had seating available, so I sat on the floor with the other students who couldn’t arrive early.

Will and I were soaked through when we found our car at the bottom of the hill. I had spent a week with Will 24/7 and I am an introvert and used to living alone. Prior to the trip we had scheduled in two days away from each other. I drove him to the train station and he caught a train home to Providence. I drove to a random hotel that I had chosen because it was the cheapest in the whole Boston area, ha ha. I planned to visit with friends for two days and then go meet Will in Rhode Island for the final week.

King’s Chapel faces a whirling vortex of wind in Boston’s downtown, at the corner of Tremont St and School St. {photo by Will Murray}

We found out there is a vortex in downtown Boston, right in front of King’s Chapel. It took us all day long to realize this phenomena was specific to the intersection of Tremont ST, Beacon ST, and School ST.

King’s Chapel was originally an Anglican church attended by Royalists (supporters of the British King), but not supported by the Puritan founders of the city of Boston. In fact, when the Royal Governor demanded that land be provided for construction of the church, the Puritans refused. So, he seized some land already used as a burying ground and had a church built. Before he got a chance to worship there, the Puritans found out that King James II had been deposed, so they captured the Governor and shipped him back to England.

The original wooden church of 1686 was replaced with the current church in 1754. Rhode Island architect Peter Harrison (called America’s first architect) built it. The stone chapel does not have a steeple because the Royalists ran out of money. (The Puritans chuckled with glee, and did not buy anything at the Steeple Bake Sale.) It became Unitarian in 1785 under the ministry of James Freeman, and with that the establishment of the Unitarian Christian faith in America.

This was the site of our meeting place for the Boston By Foot Road to Revolution tour we were about to take. The weather was sketchy, but with only one day in the city, we had no choice but to show up in our rain jackets, and wait for our guide under a bank’s entryway while watching other tourists begin their Freedom Trail tours. The wind was astonishing! It whipped through the streets between tall buildings, blowing hats off heads, hurtling discarded Starbucks cups airborne into bushes, stripping tender early season leaves off the trees. Rain flew sideways, making umbrellas useless, even if they hadn’t already been yanked inside out by gusts. I watched as the wind grabbed a woman’s plastic poncho and pulled it nearly off her body. With her arms through the holes, she maintained possession of the poncho, while it flapped madly in the wind and rain above her head, a wet angry flag. When we spotted our tourguide, Linzy, she was surpised to see we hadn’t canceled. The others had.

Bravely the four of us (Will, me, Linzy, and her friend) all determined to go through with it. Linzy walked with us for a 2-hour tour past the physical remains of key moments in the political history of what is today called the United States of America. It’s an awkward story for me because it includes the invasion of my indigenous ancestors, but for today I’ll just set that aside and talk about the white man’s version of the tale.

Linzy told us about King’s Chapel, one of the symbols of the newly settled country, and a place visited by men whose names, like George Washington, appear in our founding mythology. The bell that rings today is one that was repaired by Paul Revere in his own foundry. We moved along the street and only a block away, the wind died down and our umbrella could be used as designed.

Benjamin Franklin is the most famous student from the Boston Latin School.

We walked to the Boston Latin School, founded on April 23, 1635. It is the oldest public school in America, and when it opened, offered a free education to boys of the community, regardless of what resources the family had. A statue of Benjamin Franklin, once a student there, honors the site of the original school.

The Old State House in the center of Boston, and in the center of U.S. history.

My favourite Boston building is the Old State House, built in 1713. The first floor was a merchant exchange and the second floor held offices of government, including that of the Governor, appointed by the English King. Until 1775, the Governor addressed the people from a balcony overlooking King Street.

The Old State House is adorned with the lion and unicorn, royal symbols of the King.

One of the lovely Boston churches.

Eye-catching frame of the Custom House Tower.

The Old State House is the oldest surviving public building in Boston. The plaza in front of the lion and unicorn is the site of the Boston Massacre. In March 1770, some boys taunted the British sentry until the sentry hit back. This drew a crowd of laborers, sailors, and bystanders, some carrying clubs. Seven soldiers were sent to defend the sentry, and they surrounded the crowd. The mob became cacauphonous and in the melee, the sentry fired his gun. The soldiers thought an order had been given, so they fired into the crowd. Five people died as a result, and many call this the first bloodshed of the Revolution. (Though that’s in dispute, as our tour guide in Salem explained how technically the first blood was spilled in Salem.) Six years later, the Declaration of Independence was read in the very same spot.

A statue of Samuel Adams in front of Faneuil Hall, currently swathed in protective covering during rennovations. {photo by Will Murray}

Nearby is Faneuil Hall, famous today as an indoor market. Peter Faneuil was the wealthiest merchant in Boston, and had no family or heirs. He proposed in 1740 that Boston have a central marketplace, and he offered to fund the construction entirely. The vote passed and the marketplace was built. As an afterthought, he added a second floor for a meeting space. The meeting space was immediately valuable as a public hall for gatherings, meetings, and ceremonies. 277 years later, it is still used in this way: market on the first level, gathering space at the top.

In front of Faneuil Hall is a statue of founding father, Sam Adams. Adams was born in Boston, a relative of President John Adams, and very active in politics. His family owned a company that produced malt used for brewing beer, and today there is a popular beer named after him.

We walked through an older part of Boston, with cobbled streets too narrow to fit a modern car. It’s hard to believe there are still places like this in the U.S.

Looking toward the Union Oyster House, from Union Street. (The Holocaust Memorial is right behind us, but that’s history for another day.)

Linzy told us about the history of Boston.

From there we walked past a hundred authentic Italian restaurants, in Boston’s Old North End. Linzy remarked as multiple tourists passed us with boxes of pastries from Mike’s, that it is where all the tourists go for authentic Italian pastries. “The locals go to Bova,” she added. We made a mental note.

Paul Revere owned this house from 1770-1800. {photo by Will Murray}

A statue of Paul Revere, with the famous spire of the Old North Church in the background.

It turns out, Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, and the famous ‘one if by land, two if by sea’ plan, did not go down exactly as legend has it. Longfellow did the guy a solid for some reason.

During the planning stages of the revolution, there was a secret provincial council meeting in the town of Concord, Massachusetts. A spy network was organized between Concord and Boston, so the council could hear any Boston news. One enthusiastic member of the spy group was Paul Revere. People in Boston found out that British Regulars were planning to go out to Concord and confiscate an arms cache, and then arrest the council members, so the spy network was engaged.

There were two main routes to Concord from Boston, one was longer but entirely a land route. The other was shorter but required crossing the mouth of the Charles River where it emptied into the Bay. The spy group knew the British were about to move, and split up. Revere had been the one who told the sexton in the church about the lantern plan, and he may actually have been the person who went over there and told him to put up the two lanterns to send a signal across the water. THEN, Revere snuck illegally across the river in the night (because times were so tense the British had initiated a curfew and no one was allowed on the water after dark) ahead of the British Regulars and that’s when the ride began. Revere and others saddled up and tore along the road in the night, alerting everyone along the way to Lexington. As people found out, they jumped on their own horses and joined the spy group, alerting the countryside. Revere was captured by British soldiers before he made it to Concord, but he did play a key role that night.

The Old North Church, famous for holding the lantern signals.

We ended our tour at Coppy’s Burying Ground. The cemetery is the final resting place of many Boston patriots, including Robert Newman, the sexton at the Old North Church who hung a lantern. There are also unmarked slave graves here. By this time the weather was lovely. We sat on a park bench in the sun, drying out and resting after being on our feet for hours. Remembering the tip from Linzy, we bought some pastries to go at Bova, then had drinks at the very old Bell In Hand Tavern, operating since 1795 (except during prohibition).

We then went back to where we had parked, to drop off and get stuff from the car. As we left the City Hall Plaza and entered the intersection in front of King’s Chapel, we were bombarded with wind! It was a ferocious wind that nearly knocked us over. All day I had been thinking that the morning’s vortex was a product of the stormy weather, but no, apparently it’s a micro weather force, created by the arrangement of tall buildings and streets.

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. See that skinny house between brick buildings?

This home is apparently not small. It faces the brick wall, and here, we are looking at it sideways.

Bell In Hand Tavern. Lovely atmosphere, crazy expensive drinks.

We walked over to Boston Commons and ate our pastries beside the pond, then walked across the channel to the giant milk bottle. The 40-foot wooden Hood Milk Bottle has a tiny restaurant in the bottom of it, closed for the night. We walked back to the North End and chose an Italian restaurant and had a splendid dinner.

Lovely Boston views as we walked through the city. Hard to believe this weather is the same day as the weather we had in the morning.

Lights add sparkle to downtown gardens in the evening.

View of the Boston skyline across Fort Point Channel.

 

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