Friday, August 28, 2009

Salem, Hawthorne, and Unusual Cuisine

When I took American Literature at Dominican University of California back in 1975, Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of the few American writers Sister Martin had us read that I really enjoyed. I still love his portrayal of Puritan life, almost in spite of him (he wrote largely out of contempt for what he perceived to be Puritan hypocrisy). Now that I live in New England, I'm discovering the roots of American literature all over again (though I'll respectfully pass on James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville, thank you very much), and I've renewed my interest in Hawthorne.

Therefore, I was pleased that John was willing to take me to Salem yesterday to complete our anniversary celebrations.

Two years ago, we'd seen Boston's Custom House, and I mistakenly believed it was the Custom House that dominated the opening chapter in Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter. When I learned a month later that Hawthorne wrote instead about the Custom House in Salem, he silently decided to one day get me there. So after obtaining a map of Salem at the Visitors' Center yesterday, he guided me to it.


Although we wish it hadn't been marred by scaffolding, we still delighted in seeing it. That alone was worth the two and a half hour trip! Hawthorne hadn't merely used the Custom House as a device to introduce his novel; he had actually worked there!

We'd hoped to eat at a restaurant called In A Pig's Eye, but as we approached (by that time, pretty hungry), our hopes were dashed by a substantial step at the front entrance. Some locals encouraged us that The House Of The Seven Gables, which was our destination anyway, had a snack bar. When we reached the Admissions Desk, however, we
learned that the snack bar hadn't been included this year.

Obviously, touring the houses on the grounds wasn't possible, which we'd expected. That didn't bother us, as we wouldn't really want the historic integrity of the buildings to be compromised anyway. I was excited just to see the house!


The fact that Hawthorne's actual birthplace stood just a few yards away from The House Of The Seven Gables surprised me. Personally, that was the more interesting house, perhaps because I've also seen his house on Boston's Beacon Hill and his house next to the Alcott house in Concord.


By that time, we were both very hungry, so John bought some penny candy from the gift shop. It's amazing how hunger can make something that disgusting (at least, I generally consider it disgusting) taste so good!

By then, it was time to wheel our way to the ferry, where we ate pretzels and pita chips as we cruised back to Boston. And today, my wonderful husband went to the library and checked out Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House Of The Seven Gables for me. Sister Martin would be pleased.




Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And We're Still Romantic!

I'm not sure whether Bill was a tropical storm or a hurricane, but he has literally made waves along the northeastern coast. So our plan to take the ferry to Salem for our anniversary (to see the House of Seven Gables) got postponed. Still, we feel like a seventh anniversary is significant. Well, at least I feel that way, and John supports me. So yesterday we dressed up and ventured into Boston.

John knew I wanted a bracelet as an anni
versary gift, but he wanted me to choose one. That quest took us to Macy's at Downtown Crossing, where we found a beautiful sterling silver bracelet that I won't take off!



Two weeks ago, the Freedom Trail walking tour we took came with a discount card that various restaurants in the area honor. That card enabled us to enjoy a midday dinner at the Omni-Parker Hotel. The hotel is very historic for many reasons that I hope to blog about at another time, but is particularly important to me because it was the American home of Charles Dickens.



The atmosphere of the restaurant was refined and elegant, with very welcoming staff. We savored the Bacon-Wrapped Halibut and (of course) Boston Creme Pie. I felt as excited as I did ten years ago, on my first in-person date with John. But that's no surprise; after seven years of marriage, we're still romantic!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Visiting Abigail

Sometime back in the 1980s, my mom loaned me a biographical novel about Abigal Adams. I'd never heard of Braintree Massachussetts, but I loved reading about Abigail running through its hills as the young bride of John Adams. More importantly, I admired her sacrificial devotion to him. To me, she modeled what a godly wife should be.

When I moved to Boston's South Shore area in 2002, I'd forgotten why Abigail Adams fascinated me, but I remembered loving her. And I've imagined her running through the part of Braintree that became Quincy (pronounced KWIN-zee) in 1792 as I've driven by the woods of Quincy. But this summer, through the HBO DVD series, John Adams and David McCollough's book of the same name, I've become reacquainted with her. She is, simply put, my hero. May I be even half the wife to my wonderful John as she was to hers!

Yesterday, we visited what remains of the property that John Adams' father had. Only the two houses still stand: the one in which John Adams was born, and the one where Abigail bore his son, John Quincy.

To me, the second is "Abigail's house." Yesterday I touched it, just to have a physical connection with her. But may my real connection be in learning from her how to be a wife!






Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Valuing History

For the past two months, I've been studying the book of Daniel for my personal Bible study. I'm going through it chapter-by-chapter, using a variety of commentaries that I've downloaded from e-Sword. (If you don't have e-Sword, get it! The basic program is free, as are many of its components.) Today I used Barnes Commentary to study Daniel 2:36-40:

36 “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. 37 You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38 and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold. 39 But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.

The commentary made a point about history that absolutely riveted my attention!

All history may be contemplated under two aspects: in its secular bearing; and in its relation to the redemption of the world. In the former aspect, it has great and important uses. As furnishing lessons to statesmen; as showing the progress of society; as illustrating the effects of vice and immorality, and the evils of anarchy, ambition, and war; as recording and preserving the inventions in the arts, and as showing what are the best methods of civil government, and what conduces most to the happiness of a people, its value cannot well be overestimated.

Of course, Barnes went on to write about history helping us to see God's work in accomplishing humanity's redemption, and that's really the point of understanding Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. But I loved Barnes' explanation of history's secular bearing. Actually, it stikes me that even its secular purpose in the passage I've just quoted, fits into the Lord's agenda.

As a transplant to Boston from San Francisco (where history only goes back to 1849), I'm constantly shocked and disappointed by the indifference people in New England have toward the American Revolution. They speak an act as if the things that happened then have nothing to do with their lives. All the reminders in the city, they imply, are for tourists and geeks.

How I wish they reflected on the lives of James Otis, John Adams and Paul Revere! Last night, I finished reading David McCollough's book, John Adams, which increased my understanding of how the United States came into being, and how much our Founding Fathers wanted a moral base of Christian values. We've forgotten that moral base, in part, precisely because we neglect history.

Albert Barnes has now whet my appetite for Persian, Macedonian and Greek history, which fulfilled Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 2 and set the stage for Christ's first coming. As an added bonus, he sharpened my appreciation for the "secular" benefits of history! Who says commentaries are boring?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Captain Daniel Malcolm's Freedom Trail

According to a quiz I created about myself on Facebook earlier this week, my favorite thing to do in Boston is to take Freedom Trail Walking Tours. So as John and I wheeled up Winter Street toward Boston Common yesterday, he let me talk him into doing our third one. This time, we toured with The Freedom Trail Foundation.

Hopefully, the actor/historian portraying Captain Daniel Malcolm (and served as our tour guide) isn't typical of the entire company. He clearly wasn't
enthusiastic about having wheelchair users on his tour, and made little attempt to conceal his displeasure.

Although "Capt. Malcolm" did present history fairly well over all, his repetitious Marine salute (accompanied by the exclamation, "Hurruh! Semper Fi!") distracted from his points. I felt that he was interested more in entertaining than in educating. For that reason, I can not recommend his tour.

Having said the above, I don't regret taking the tour. I loved the view of the State House he gave us.

He told us that during the black outs of World War II, the dome was painted gray to blend in with Boston's frequent gray skies. I had previously been informed that Paul Revere had fashioned the gilding that we see today, so I'm now intrigued with the dome's history. Praise God for Google!


The highlight of the tour occurred as we looked at Old South Meeting House while "Capt. Malcolm" explained the Boston Tea Party. He passed around a brick of tea, much like the bricks that the Sons of Liberty to
ssed the tea off of the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver into Boston Harbor.When we reached The Old State House, "Capt. Malcolm" told us about the Writs Of Assistance that James Otis protested. Those Writs enabled the British soldiers to search homes at will for items that they suspected had not been taxed. Householders were expected to not only submit to the search, but to help with it!
We lost the group when they climbed steps to get to Fanueil Hall. We went around the corner, expecting to meet up with them, but never found them. Still, I'm glad we took the tour. It confirmed to us that Boston Town Crier offers the best Freedom Trail Tour!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Busy In Boston

Agreed: It's been far too long since I last posted. During my hiatus from blogging, John and I have made three trips into Boston. I can't post all the photos from those excursions, but at least let me provide a small sampling of them.

On July 20, we decided to take a tour of The State Ho
use, which was originally the home of John Hancock. I thought this view approaching it from Park Street was rather interesting.

I love green hydrangeas, so it delighted me to see them framing the courtyard that leads to the visitors' entrance. I asked John to take a photo of me with them.

We enjoyed a guided tour of the State House. If I didn't have two more excursions to narrate this afternoon, I'd tell you some of the interesting tidbits we learned. But I suggest you Google "The Sacred Cod" to understand the significance of this photo:
For the following week, daily rain forced us to stay home, but decent (though still not quite summer-like) weather eventually offered us another chance to hop on the T. We decided I needed a real cannoli, which necessitated a trip to the North End.

As we got off the elevator to exit North Station on August 3, the view of the Custom House Tower captivated me! I'm always so astounded by how compact Boston is, and I didn't expect to see such a familiar landmark from the North End.
Of course, I found a place that had my cannoli relatively quickly. We then decided to go along the Freedom Trail to Paul Revere's house. We had visited the house for my birthday a few years ago, so we didn't want to go inside. Instead, we wandered around the courtyard. A tourist offered to take our picture.

I wanted to keep going along the Freedom Trail up to Old North Church, but it was getting late. We wheeled down Atlantic Avenue to catch a Commuter Rail home from South Station.

Three days later, we returned to Boston, where we listened to street performers, wheeled through the Common, and visited the Public Garden. The highlight was seeing this family of adolescent ducklings with their Mama.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, John and I will get back on the Red Line at Ashmont Station. Who knows what adventure awaits us!

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