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Barry Pollack's "Going Places"

Boston, Mass

"Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Barry
On a tragic and fateful day
He put car keys in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to drive thru Boston today.
Did he every return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned
He may ride forever
On the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned."

Well, I've stolen and corrupted the lyrics of the Kingston Trio 60's protest song "MTA," but it does express the frustration of driving in downtown Boston - with their maze of one way streets, minimalist signage, and highway fiascos under perpetual construction.
However, sans car, the essential Boston is easily traversed on foot or by metro. In fact, shortly after our arrival there in late September - with perfect weather but before the glorious turning of New England leaves - the city's mayor began promoting the virtues of walking - and avoiding driving in his city - by inviting local artists to humorously shoe the city's great statues. Ben Franklin got roller blades as a symbol of his inventiveness. Paul Revere was given sneakers for his ride. George Washington got a pair of purple velvet boots and his horse was shod with golden high heels, perhaps as a symbol of the first President's class.
Boston is indeed an ideal walking city and we stayed at a perfectly located luxury boutique hotel in the midst of downtown Boston - NINE ZERO (866-NINEZERO). Newly built in 2002, NINE ZERO is a 190 room, 20-story hotel with all the comforts and service you'd expect from a hotel consistently rated among the best in the U.S.
NINE ZERO caters to businessmen, tourists, and celebrities. It has been the Boston redoubt for the Matthew Brodericks, the Jerry Seinfelds, and the Crows - Sheryl and The Counting. Located on "90" Tremont Street - just down the block from historic Boston Common, NINE ZERO is a five minute walk from the financial and theatre districts; ten minutes from Newbury Street, the city's premier shopping area; and right on the Freedom Trail.
Boston has am abundance of two things - pubs and history. You can begin your day sipping a pint of Guinness at the nearby Kinsale Irish Pub, with décor handcrafted in Ireland and reassembled in this Boston cum Dublin Bar; and then, either board one of the amphibious quacking Duck Tours that cruise the historic sites of the city ending with a splashdown into the Charles River for a 30-minute harbor cruise of the city; or, set off afoot as we did, following the well marked, "red bricked" Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail is an easy 3-mile walking tour that takes you past America's most historic Revolutionary War sites. You can start right across the street from NINE-ZERO Tremont at the Granary Burying Ground. There you'll find the graves of Revolutionary War heroes like John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Samuel Adams. A little further on, the trail turns down School Street. Boston's old City Hall is there and you can pose atop the brass donkey that came to represent the Democratic Party or at the foot of a statue of Benjamin Franklin. This was also the site of the nation's first public school - alma mater to John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin.
The Freedom Trail then goes downhill to Congress Street, past Boston's modern City Hall, to Quincy Market and Fanueil Hall. Although these were the sites of revolutionary rhetoric during the days of the Founding Fathers, it is now a mecca for hungry tourists and souvenir hunters.
Past Faneuil Hall, the trail becomes a little mired in the construction of Boston's "Big Dig" - a building fiasco still in the process of being undone. Across the "dig," you come upon Boston's Italian-American neighborhood with more pubs and Italian restaurants. Paul Revere's Home is here open for viewing. The route then passes the Old North Church. You remember the place - best known for the lanterns displayed in the church's belfry signaling: "One if by land; two if by sea." Every hour there's an interesting lecture about the church's history that you can listen to while sitting in unusual private pews each surrounded by its own 4-foot wall.
The trail goes past Copp's Hill Burying Ground with a good view of Boston Harbor. For the historically energetic, keep going, cross Charlestown Bridge, and follow Freedom Trail's red brick road to the U.S.S. Constitution. There's a variety of sites to see there.
The U.S.S. Constitution is an old sailing ship famous from the War of 1812 because British cannonballs just bounced off its oak hull lending it its nickname, "Old Ironsides." Today, regular navy sailors, in period garb, have the honor of standing guard over the ship and U.S. Navy officers in period costume provide guided tours. "This ship," a sailor explained proudly, "is the oldest commissioned naval warship still afloat in the world."
Next to "Old Ironsides," there's a World War II destroyer, the U.S.S. Cassin Young, also open for tours. There are also museums nearby - the Bunker Hill Museum, with a video about the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the U.S.S. Constitution Museum.
From the Constitution you can see the Bunker Hill Monument obelisk. School kids may remember this place's historic quote too - "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." It's a trek uphill to the monument and I was happy to gaze upon it from below.
Just south of our hotel was Boston Common, a sedate public park set in the midst of a busy city. Here there are swan boats for rent in a central pond, places to sit, relax, or meditate over life and history. Not far past the park is Newbury Street, Boston's premier shopping street. Although there are plenty of boutiques to entice, I found it a better place to just sit and sip and people watch.
In the evening, I made the mistake of driving across the Charles River to Cambridge and Harvard rather than taking the easier subway route. But getting there was worthwhile - to dine with friends in one of many local eateries and walk about watching the collegiate elite at play. Over dinner, I am sure I was very erudite. I don't know but somehow you just feel smarter surrounded by the historic buildings of Harvard University. They say the place has more book stores per square block than any other place in America. There are also plenty of coffee shops and pizza parlors. And wafting up from subterranean cafes there's music - folk and rock, classical and Middle Eastern - a taste for everyone. There are, of course, the pipe smoking tweedy Harvard profs mulling about and the Harvard man - although nowadays the stereotype GQ Harvard man is more likely to be a stylish Asian woman.
Our last day in Boston was spent on a short drive to the historic suburb of Concord. The town is a quaint village worthy of a brief stroll or lunch. Just at its outskirts is Minute Man National Historical Park. There's a visitor center there were you can get a quick video overview of this "birthplace of the American Revolution." You can walk from the Center across to the Old North Bridge where the "shot heard 'round the world" occurred. There's a minuteman statue at the head of the bridge and the trail begins there and extends 5 ˝ miles to Lexington, retracing the route that fleeing British troops took back to Boston.
Concord is also famous as the center of the 19th century Transcendental Movement where famous authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and National Hawthorne met to philosophize. We tossed stones into the idyllic lake outside of town called "Walden Pond," where Thoreau lived in 1845 and wrote his novel "Walden" as an ode to nature's beauty and his search for serenity.
I missed seeing a lot in Boston - its Museum of
Fine Arts, a renowned Museum of Science, the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, and the Red Sox.
"What is the pill which will keep us well, serene, contented?" asked Thoreau in his book "Walden." His answer was "a draught of (fresh) morning air." For me, it is "travel" - new places or old places made new. And to keep me contented, Boston will soon deserve another visit.