Boston ... and Kansas City and "Freedom!"
(*note this is a catch-up posting. We passed through here from June 22-26)
Next up on the eastern coast we rode our way up toward Boston, stopping (of course) for state line selfies where the opportunity presented itself, including Connecticut - where we had the added bonus of stopping for brunch with Jon's friend Amy - and Rhode Island - which I think we drove through in about 20 minutes, but it still counts. We were taking the back roads and apparently Massachusetts couldn't be bothered putting a state sign on every little windy wood road, so we missed that photo (but they were pretty roads so it was worth it).
We were on a tight schedule to get to Boston because I had to catch a flight that afternoon to go to the ASHRAE conference in Kansas City. We got to Jon's friend Dustin's place, I dropped my bags, took a quick shower (for the benefit of my fellow plane passengers) and hopped on a plane to fly half way back across the country.
Kansas City was cool. In addition to conference-y stuff, I took a morning off to explore the City. I'd gotten the inside scoop of a few places to visit from and architect friend in San Diego who used to live there (Thanks Matthew!) so I hopped on a Bird-scooter and gave myself a self-guided city tour that included the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (a stunning building designed by his firm that looks a bit like the Sydney Oprah house and has a glassed in central lobby area). I also headed to Union Station which has a whole history of it's construction displayed in walkway, and includes maybe the best summary quote of a construction project that I've ever seen (see photo below). There is a World War 1 memorial park with a nice pavilion and overlook of the City. Finally, last but not least, I couldn't go to Kansas City without getting BBQ, so I grabbed my friend, Rafi, from the conference and we headed to Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-que - reported by at least two locals to be the best spot in town and listed in an Anthony Bourdain article as one of the 13 places to eat before you die. It was really good BBQ, but as I sat there eating it, I realized I couldn't think of the last time I had any other BBQ, so instead of being able to recognize it as "the best in class," I think I've just set my bar for normal BBQ at an exceedingly high level.
After Kansas City, it was back on a plane to fly back to Boston. Jon had been hanging out with his friend Dustin while I was gone. They did a walk through downtown to check out some of the sites, including this place: The Old Boston State House and site of the Boston Massacre.
For those unfamiliar with the Boston Massacre event, this is an early play at political spin before the American revolution. There was a British guard hanging out doing his thing. The Brit's were not particular popular at the time, so a mob formed around this guy and started shouting at him. He called in his British soldier buddies, and now that there was a crowd of them, the mod started throwing things at them. They unfortunately escalated the situation by shooting into the crowd and ultimately killing 5 people. Eventually, the soldiers withdrew and mod disbanded, there was a subsequent orderly trial of the 8 soldiers, two were convicted of manslaughter. The British refer to the whole thing (in the most British sounding fashion possible) as "the incident on King Street." The group of Patriots however (John Adams, John Hancock, etc.), branded it as the Boston Massacre and held annual memorial events and it became one of the defining moments toward swaying public opinion against the British, leading to the Boston Tea Party and ultimately the American Revolution. Not bad for pre-cable news spin if you ask me!
Once I was back from my conference, and knowing that Boston was steeped in history and stories like the one above, but only really having a half a day to see the city, I decided to do all of Boston and American history in about 2 hours via Boston's fabled "Freedom Trail." This is self-guided walk through the city that follows a set of red brick lines inlaid into the sidewalk past a number of the important historical landmarks. I downloaded a tour guide app on my own and set out to discover the origin of Freedom. Interesting stops of note:
1. The Boston state house with a gilded golden dome. Apparently, the golden dome inspired a clearly modest newspaper writer to think it looked like the sun and referred to it as the "hub of the solar system." Boston as a city was apparently just as modest, and so has referred to themselves as the center of the solar system or center of the universe ever since. Fun fact: the "hub" moniker as a reference to Boston stuck, which is why the Boston Bruins logo is a B on a golden hub in the center of a wheel.
2. The Oldest elm trees in the western hemisphere - supposedly planted by John Hancock himself. There are 2 of them, planted next to the Shaw memorial (added after the trees) commemorating the first African-American regiment of the Union Army.
3. The church whose steeple supposedly inspired the first multi-tiered wedding cake.
4. Next to the wedding-cake church is a graveyard with some notable inhabitants, including Paul Revere, Samuel Adams (the namesake for the famous Boston beer although he didn't actually start the brewery), and all of the Franklins except for Benjamin (who is buried in France)
5. Paul Revere is (was) a bit of a local celebrity here, what with his whole midnight ride and "the English are coming" bit that kicked of the first battle of the American Revolution. So the walk also passes by a statue of him on his horse and his old house (which is now a museum).
6. In front of the old city hall building there is a bronze statue of a donkey as a tip of the hat to the mascot for the Democratic Party. Not to be out done, directly in front of the donkey is a set of inlaid footprints with the Republican elephant mascot with a reminder to "stand in opposition." Even the public art is politically contentious in America...
7. The old state house building, the balcony of which was the platform for the first reading of the Declaration of Independence (this is the same state house that was the Boston Massacre site that Jon went to on his walk). The balcony at the time (and much of the city) was adorned with a rainbow banner for the upcoming pride festival. So still a spot for thumbing one's nose at oppression.
8. Speaking of thumbing one's nose, the tour also included the skinniest house in Boston, known as the "Skinny House" or just as appropriately, the "Spite House." The house dates back to Civil War days when two brothers inherited a piece of land from their father that they were to split. While one was off fighting in the war, the other built a large house on their shared land leaving almost no space for his brother. The returning brother, on seeing the land he had left, built a house anyway that was 4 stories tall and a bit less than 10' wide just so he could block the light and air going into his brother's place. How's that for sibling rivalry, eh?
9. Lastly, the tour crossed a bridge and headed to the other side for two more sites, but I - finding myself at Boston Harbor - decided I was done with my walking tour and in the mood for a cup of tea instead. :)
That was Boston in a nutshell, next stop: Maine!