Boston will be my new home- I have decreed it...issued a fatwa if you will. Me and the girl took a one day trip up there from dirty Jersey, and I have fallen in love with this city of cities. What a place.
Boston has forever seemed like it was a world away, and certainly not just four hours in a speeding Honda (the girl's, not mine). I have read about it in the history books, in all the chronicles of the American Revolution. Boston Harbor was a thing talked about in relation to the abuse of the British, the fire under the powder keg that was America in the 1700's. Recently, with my love of the Red Sox, the town has taken on a mythical status that I could not really put into words. Fenway Park was a Mecca, something so far away that I could not really even tell what direction it was in, and yet I saw it on TVs all the time, the home field of my beloved team bathed in green, the massive wall in left field towering not only the field, but the town itself. I used to just look at the history of the town itself- now, I realize that the history of the town for the last hundred years is somehow intertwined with this team of men who hit a ball on a field for amusement.
The purpose of my trip was, in actuality, to see my team on their home field with my Red Sox Nation brethern. No more Yankee hats all over, no Jeter jerseys, no fucking A-Rod, no hot girls that I can't talk to because of their trademarked "Giambi" jerseys. No, this is my town, and my people.
The history wasn't initially a concern of mine, even though I do love American history with a passion (yea yea, I'm a fag. Live with it). I hadn't thought of any of it until we got out of the parking garage and began walking along Boston Common, my girlfriend looking at a crappy map of the city. She has a habit of trying to do too many things at once, such as drive while reading a receipt, or walk while looking at something completely other than that car that's about to hit her. It drives me fucking crazy, but that's probably one of those things that I'd miss if she wasn't there, because it's always the little bullshit things that you remember so well.
Boston Common was right by the garage we parked in, and it is a beautiful park. It reminded me immediately of Good Will Hunting, as I think the scene where Robin Williams is talking to Matt Damon about how much of an ass he is was filmed here, right along these soft emerald banks of this lake. On this gorgeous day, it looked just like it does on that jagged fuzzy tape that I have seen a thousand times since an old friend gave it to me, down to the swans and other birds that frequent the waters. I was also reminded of Thoreau's Walden, where he talks about the ice breaking in Massachusetts at a certain time of the year, signifying spring's arrival. I know that was in Concord, but it seems to apply here too for some reason.
We walked for a while, along the "Freedom Trail" that winds through the city. There is an old church that is the first stop, one with white wooden pews and red upholstery that once shelved the elite of Boston. Washington went to a service here during his time in command of the Continental Army, and the tablets at the front that show the ten commandments are from sometime in the 1600s when the church was built.
From the outside, I could see the glass panes in the upper story windows, the kinds that get the wavy texture from extreme age. If those eyes could talk, the stories they could tell...three hundred years of fiery speeches, inflammation, and rage. So much to tell, and no one to tell it.
The entire city feels much like that Church; the history just rises right through the ancient bricks and floods down the streets, swarming around everywhere you look. By walking through, you can feel it- you ain't walking through a Twentieth-Century city. I am used to New York City, the city that never sleeps, the city that is always crushing and destroying and rebuilding and climbing. There is not much regard for history in New York- or at least, there might be, but property values are far too high to worry about some old graveyard or battlefield. There was quite a few battles fought in NYC during the Revolution, including a large one in Brooklyn that nearly ended it before it started. To look at it now, you'd never know, between the ghettos and bridges and overpasses. It's as if that shit never happened, as if history was erased along with the green pastures and trembling streams that once occupied the isle of Manhattan. If you want a really trippy thought, picture Indians hunting in the middle of Chelsea or the Bowery. It happened once, I swear...
Boston is far different. There are few very tall buildings, and even they don't compare with the monsters that New York has to offer. The houses are low, three or four stories, made of old brick and mortar. The nicer places have winding ironwork on the outsides, the black railings as much a part of the decor of the city as anything else. Heavy wooden doors, ivy growing on tall buildings. A strange mix of city and town that I have never really seen in Jersey.
There is an old building, I think the old state house, where the Declaration of Independence was first read to the war hardened denizens of Boston from the East Balcony. The site of the Boston Massacre was right around there, although my girlfriend failed as the navigator and we never found the exact spot (she swore up and down that it was probably just a plaque in front of a bank or something, so we weren't really missing anything. Yet another thing I would remember about her.)
The city is remarkably clean, with smooth roads and and lack of the garbage all over the place that I am used too. The taxis aren't always laying on their horns, the screams of subways underfoot are absent. Things are quiet. I mean, I was there on a Saturday, but New York never stops. Boston, however, takes a break.
We came across a graveyard that is obviously something of a tourist attraction. Fat older men dressed like Colonial magistrates strut up and down, yelling in high voices to crowds of suburban tourists, the men with the beltpacks (ay, you tools) and the fat women pushing strollers, bored kids trailing behind with frowns on their faces. I wonder many times if they even care about what's being said, or whether they are just here because they think they should be, and they can go home to wherever and impress their friends by saying they saw the stack of granite that hides Paul Revere's body. I'd honestly be surprised if most of the people who visit the grave sites could even tell me what Sam Adams or John Hancock actually did, as most Americans don't know history from a fucking hole in the wall. A recent survey proved that many of those tested could not tell the difference between Iraq and Louisiana on a map. Another survey of college kids found that most think that things printed in the media should be approved by the government first (this is why I am pro-bird flu; less traffic, weeding out idiots, etc.). Sam Adams, for one, would be horrified.
His grave holds some kind of special meaning for me lately. I just finished the Jeff Shaara book Rise To Rebellion the other day, and old Adams seemed like my kind of guy. He was a rabblerouser, a man who controlled the mobs of Boston back in the 1760s. The Boston Massacre? Probably his influence. The Boston Tea Party? Yes, he was there. This guy tried for over twenty years to make life hell for the British occupation force, and every chance he got he rose up and started a riot over something. He raged for a strange thing called "independence" back when the idea still made men in taverns laugh. When the Declaration of Independence was signed, he stood smiling, his years of fiery speeches and ballsy actions finally amounting to something.
His grave has not fallen into disrepair like so many of the others here, and even the thing itself is simple and strong; a bronze plaque bolted to a boulder. Even in death, this man's legend is solid. This was, as his gravestone says, "A Leader of Men". Any man that can manipulate propanganda like that in order to start a revolution...well, that's the reason I'm proud to an American.
After taking the above picture, we had to roll. The reason for the trip was, of course, the Red Sox game at 1:00, and I couldn't be wandering around graveyards all day when the Sox are in the playoff hunt.
The whole city entranced me, but the highlight was still Fenway Park. It is a mess of great green walls rising over the abadoned wharehouses along the Mass Pike, and yet we drove right by it coming into Boston without me even noticing it.
Walking Fenway is like walking back in time, and I mean that in the most cliched way possible. Everything is made of dry red bricks and huge steel I-beams painted, like everything else in the town, green. Everything is small and compact, and the seats look like they should be made of wood. Unlike other stadiums, there is no mezzanine level- it is one sweeping incline, and then the nosebleeds. That's it.
I took this picture of a sign, and texted it to every Yankee fan I know.
A chorus of "Fuck you's" came back, along with the occasional picture of a toilet in response and a lone, "I hope the place burns down".
I fucking hate all of them.
The fields are perfect and the Green Monster looms in the distance, so appealing to the right handed hitter who has not been to Fenway before...
Having seats in the third row don't hurt either, of course.
Of course, I found during the game why I could never live up there. The game was tied going into the ninth, and I could barely sit still. If I had been drunk, I would have been praying (as I so often have before) to the baseball gods to let my Sox pull this one out. Sure enough, Mark Loretta hit a single in the bottom of the tenth. Ortiz walks. Manny comes up, and bang! The game is over on his RBI single in the bottom of the tenth. Thank God. I couldn't handle this shit everyday.
They needed this game because the fucking Yankees won too, as evident by the collective groan from the faithful when the scores on that great green board are changed to "Final" and we all curse that the Yanks pulled out another against the Angels. By October, I'll likely have an ulcer, and I'm beginning to think that the Sox missing the playoffs might be good for my health...
David Ortiz at bat, to a chorus of "MVP" chants
The whole place is truly an experience. The Monster, Pesky's Pole, even the old sign outside that says, simply, Fenway Park, Home of the Red Sox. It is so simple that it kills me. It's not hard to picture Carlton Fisk, Johnny Pesky, or Ted Williams batting here. The crowds are just as loyal, the scenes just as amazing. When you mix that with the overwhelming weight of History that the town exudes from every pore...well, you've got a place that Steve has gotta see a little bit more of.
Be afraid, Boston. Be very afraid.