North America | United States of America (USA) | New England | Massachusetts | Boston – Day 5 of 6
We left the crowded Quincy Market and pan flutist crowd, following the elusive red line in the sidewalk past the popular Purple Shamrock and The Bell In Hand (the oldest operating pub in America). A short balding man asks me if I can take his picture in front of a Guinness sign. I do, getting a bit artful in the process. He asks, in a familiar Boston accent, where we are from.
‘Around here.’ I say.
‘But you’re walking the trail?’ And he points to my own camera slung around my neck.
Well, I say there is nothing wrong with being a tourist in your own town. In fact, it should be enforced, hometown tourism.
It’s funny to me how many times I’d come into the city to meet friends at pubs or parties, but never actually took the time to really wander around the North End. Or read the headstones at the Granary Burial Grounds. Or noticed the extraordinary amount of guide book carrying out of towners. Astounding!
So that’s what we did today. My college roommate came up from southeastern Mass and we joined the crowds in walking of the Freedom Trail. It starts at the northern tip of the Boston Common, at Park St. Missy and I parked at Harvard Square and after a wander around the Harvard campus jumped on the red line and cruised the few stops to Park St.
We started the trail with Dunkin Donuts iced coffees and the State House. Camera crews from local stations were prepping out front for some sort of important happenings, so we decided to avoid any tours and moved on to the Park St. Church, which so happens closed at 3pm.
Next door is the Granary Burial Ground where the victims of the 5 Mar 1770 Boston Massacre are buried, as well as Boston greats like Paul Revere and John Hancock. The crumbling flagstone headstones are all decorated with skull and crossbones and lined up in rows. Originally the graves were marked with big stones at the head and smaller ones at the feet of the deceased. But as the years went on, the foot stones were moved into neat rows. What is seen above ground is completely different than the scene below.
The trail takes us past the King’s Chapel, built in 1686, the cemetery next door closed to the public. A passenger on the Mayflower is buried there.
At this point let me take the time to congratulate Boston on placing so many retail stores around the Freedom Trail. Yet again I am grateful that I may purchase books, CDs and clothing while wandering through Boston’s historic landmarks. Did you know that H&M has found its way here?
We pass the Old Town Hall, the site of the first public school (no longer standing), and the Old Meeting House. Soon enough we arrive at Quincy Market and Fanueil Hall, once historic spots now filled with a food court and shops. Recommendation: Durgin Park, the restaurant where you expect the service to suck. This is the famed ‘rude waiter’ place where they are purposefully mean and still expect a tip! Great food though.
We pass on Durgin Park and instead I grab a slice at the offshoot of the North End’s Pizza Regina while Missy grabs NE Clam Chowder, another Boston ‘must’.
We cross busy intersections and are rerouted from the actual red line on the ground due to the Big Dig. For those who do not know, the Big Dig is a giant project to re-engineer Boston traffic. It involves underground tunnels, new roads, and bridges (there is a new suspension bridge reminiscent of some I have seen in Holland). Five years ago they said they’d probably be done in ten years. I wonder how that’s coming…
We pass through a construction site and oggle the muscular workers on a smoke break, giggling like school girls and waving. As we say our hellos, one big Bostonian points to a sign…”W.O.W”…Wip it Out Wednesday. Basically it means “show us your tits”. Classy. Those crazy WAAF Radio guys turned Boston’s meatheads into commedians when they introduced W.O.W. What was that? Almost ten years ago?
Pretty soon we are in Boston’s own Little Italy, the North End. Cobbled roads, red white and green flags hanging in windows and store fronts. Authentic Italian restaurants with authentic Italian accented Maitre D’s…and pretty soon we are standing in front of Paul Revere’s modest abode, a little wooden structure amid brick wall and narrow streets. And my feet are killing me.
One last stop at the Old North Church’s courtyard where Revere is immortilized in bronze riding his horse, looking as if he is about to warn residents that “the British are coming”. And, of course, some photographs taken at the burial ground.Morbid as my fascination may be, I cannot get enough of the beauty and visual sadness of graveyards.
The trail continues on over to Bunker Hill and onward, but we are ready to get off our feet and into a beer as our friend Jim calls inviting us over to the house in Brighton to relax before we hit Allston for drinks and dancing.
Me and four friends piled into Jim’s Honda and after a parallel parking job that had me cringing (the bumpers will never be the same on an unknown Volvo and VW…no, I was not the driver…) we walked to Our House on Comm. Ave where our friend Jamie works as a waitress. This bar/restaurant is in a basement of an apartment house and is complete with couches and comfy pillow chairs. But when it’s packed, the AC seems to shut off and the place is an oven.
It is great, I think, having guy friends who like to dance. The Common Ground Irish Pub on Harvard Ave in Allston has been a hangout of ours for going on 5 years. Every Wednesday night, ‘What A Way To Go Go’, Boston’s own Mod Night where Brit Pop to Soul is played for the drunk and sweaty too cool for school mod crowd.
After one Newcastle I’m on the dance floor with Greg and Jamie as The Jam heats up the vibe. Soon The Clash brings Jim and Missy into the circle. Before I know it The Jackson Five has lured the entire crew out, kicking it mod school on the dance floor…Maria, Amber, Steve, some nice blonde guy (sorry, blonde guy) and a cute emo-looking brown haired kid whos name I never asked. Didn’t matter, because by the end of the night everyone is the best of friends, sweat intermingling and singing ‘Common People’ by Pulp at the top of our lungs. Greg dedicated ‘Dirty Water’ by The Standells to me and it’s official: we have made the CG our own personal party tonight. And I don’t wanna go home.
Woke up this morning hoarse and with sore feet. No regrets though. A night at the Common Ground is the best way to spend my last night in town.
I am sad about leaving my friends again to go back to the out west. I am a Mass. girl at heart, the So Cal fakeness too much for me sometimes. I live for the Boston accent and listening to the guys talking Red Sox as if they helped win last night’s game. But maybe it’s a good thing that I leave. Maybe eventually it’ll get harder to go away and I may just have to stay. That wouldn’t suck.
…and I love that dirty water. Boston you’re my home…