I am standing in the Boston graveyard of John Hancock and Samuel Adams listening to the best tour guide I’ve ever heard tell me about the very first American episode of CSI, circa 1775.
.Her name is Georgia Gates and she works for the Freedom trail Foundation, she is a highly animated actress dressed in a period costume, has encyclopedic knowledge of her subject, a voice like a bullhorn, and the passion of a patriot. Tickets can be purchased ($23, plus I gave her a $10 tip) at the Information Center at the Boston Commons. She’s telling 100 of us (too many, but we can still hear her) about the Battle of Bunker Hill (actually Breed’s Hill), in which a very prominent American Revolutionary War leader, Dr Warren, had his head nearly blown off by a British musket ball. After winning the struggle, the redcoats buried the good doctor along with all of the other combatants in a mass grave. The bodies sat there decaying for 10 months before the citizens wanted to unearth the remains to give Dr. Warren a proper burial, but of course by that time all of the corpses looked worse than your worst nightmare, or Michele Obama, take your pick. So in rides Paul Revere, a man of many talents, one of which was that he was a dentist, and now you can guess that he was able to ID the cadaver from its silver bridgework, which he himself had done for his good and now departed friend. I love trivia like that, and this lady has a million of ’em.
Did you know that Paul Revere never made it to warn Concord that “the British were coming” (he was arrested), and that before Longfellow’s famous poem was written Revere was a fairly obscure American figure completely overshadowed by Samuel Adams and John Hancock, among others?
Did you know that Benjamin Franklin dropped out of the local high school to run off to Philadelphia when he was only 17? Or that the prominent Franklin tombstone erected in the center of the Granary Graveyard is actually an early tourist trap (Franklin was buried in Philadelphia and the Boston site is for his parents).
Or that Samuel Adams was more than a brewer of beer, and actually was an early propagandist trying to foment the flames of war?
These and many, many other facts are what you can learn on this one mile, two hour tour, which takes you from the Commons all the way to the 1742 Faneuil Hall, where you can enjoy a bite to eat in any one of thirty or so eateries, so a good strategy is to take the 11AM tour and stop for lunch later. I highly recommend it.
We ate at the Boston Chowda Cafe’, which advertises that they have been voted by somebody or other as the best in the city. I don’t know about that, but it was darn good, with plenty of clams and not too heavy. The lobster roll was also great. The bread was sweet and was a nice compliment to the lobster salad that filled it. Come hungry. You won’t be disappointed. $34 for two, so not cheap for an over the counter meal, but worth it.
I like Boston. The people there are proud of their heritage without being arrogant or rude. They avoid subjective superlatives while stating the facts with precision. They understand that history is important but also have a real economy that isn’t entirely devoted to the tourism industry. It’s big without seeming cold or distant, it has every major sports franchise, and a host of art museums and cultural attractions. The public areas encourage a lot of fun and interaction between kids, adults, and animals, which is a better use of local tax dollars than most.
Here are a couple of thoughts that are eternal truths. Neither is new, but I hope to remind everyone of the danger that lies within them. One, he who controls the media controls the minds and hearts of the people. The power of the pen reigns supreme, and it scary how, even in Colonial days among proudly independent people, that Sam Adams was able to distort the accidental killing of 5 people in a mob into a “Boston Massacre”, and how easy it was to stereotype the Brits as bloodthirsty and arrogant rulers who hated the Colonists. That’s how the rebellion was fomented, and without that propaganda, no war would have been possible. In this case, the war was just, yes, but remember how easily our own media sold us the Gulf War on the pretense of WMDs? It was a lie, of course, but the truth is a little too late for the 100,000 dead and a trillion dollars to be recovered.
But the truly disturbing thing is that back in 1775 there was an alternative Tory press saying the same kinds of lies against the Colonists (that they were disloyal, greedy subjects who were ungrateful of England’s protection). Where is that alternative press today? Where were the anti-war voices in the modern media in America, especially on TV? Nowhere to be seen. There is no true freedom of the press here, because all of the elites that own the press profit from war and its consequences. And they’re still out there selling new wars with gusto.
And not just wars. They sell multiculturalism like it was a religion while damning Christianity with the worst kind of Christophobic hysteria. They encourage abortion and promiscuity and promote contemptible filth in movies and TV.
While the Colonists only had to deal with paper media for the most part, we are assaulted from every angle by a barrage of TV, print, Internet, movie, and radio propaganda, 90% of which is in total agreement on most substantive issues. Where is today’s Sam Adams? Where is the opposition? Tiny chattering voices like me buried in the bowels of the ‘net.
The other lesson is that you can take a good Patriot and businessman, but rather an ordinary guy for his day, like Paul Revere, and turn him into a national hero based on a catchy poem. Likewise today the media can make heroes into villains and cast some pretty unsavory characters as Supermen just by writing in a few lines in a movie or an editorial in the newspaper. If the initial adulation (genuflection is more like it) surrounding Barack Obama can be explained any other way please tell me.
Too soon, we are heading up I-95 again, and, appropriately enough, Jonathan plays a little Boston, “More than a Feeling”. It is a gorgeous summer’s day, the sky is clear and blue, and all thoughts of politics are soon in the rear view mirror. Soon we cross through Rhode Island and New Hampshire and arrive in Saco, Maine.
We arrive at another KOA Kampground, only this time there are no ants or other bothersome critters, but we do have to provide a $10 deposit for a plastic gate key, and pay $84 for a cabin with no air, electrical receptacles, or running water. Such a deal! They also hand me a cabin key attached to a huge plastic card that can’t possibly fit into your pants pocket and every hour, they cut off your WiFi access for no apparent reason, since there is no charge and no password required, but I guess they think you need a lesson in saving your data, which they taught me pretty well when I lost a huge part of this blog for that very reason. But the grounds are park-like and there are lots of amenities, and they’re good places to go if you have a family, I guess.
I go into Portland to meet my old CELTA (Cambridge English Language Training for Adults) buddy Bonnie, who is my good friend as long as we avoid politics. She looks happy, tanned, and well rested, having been up here on vacation a while, though maybe she looked more happy because she’d been drinking since 3:30, I don’t know. We order up lobster, of course, at the Portland Lobster Company, which is located right on the water and has a decent band playing. Jonathan and I get the two lobster plate and split it for about $38. I’m a little disappointed at the price because I’d heard lobster was so cheap up here and it’s one of my favorite foods, but I guess we’re in a touristy spot, and the food certainly was fresh.
Bonnie makes a living teaching English to foreigners on Skype, so she works from home, and she seems very happy with her life. I wish her farewell when she takes the ferry over to Peaks Island. I hope I see her again.