18 May 2013

Researching Away From Home

Research is fun for me. i love digging into the past. Oh, I know a lot of information can be found on the Internet and yes, sometimes I take advantage of that. But in order to transport my readers to a place, I need to be there. Walking the streets, smelling the aromas, seeing how the light plays on water and trees...you can't get the feel of a place from the Internet.

Last week, I trudged the streets of Boston. My intention was to stop in at the Massachusetts Historical Society on Boyleston Street. We passed by it on the walk back to our hotel from a Red Sox Game at Fenway Park. I was sure I could get there by opening time the next morning, which was Saturday--and our last day in the city. Our plane was scheduled to take off that afternoon.

It would have helped if I could remember left from right or orient east from west. Stepping out the front door of the Westin Hotel, I turned right, confident that if I simply strode along Boyleston I'd see the Historical Society's front door to my left in a matter of minutes.

An hour (and three miles) later, I paused at the Boston Harbor waterfront, rather confused that Boyleston had morphed into Essex Street and I hadn't seen any indication of nearing Fenway's Green Monster. D'oh. Shoulda turned left, not right. I had now lost an hour of precious time, it would take me another hour to walk back to my starting point, plus another fifteen to twenty to get where I wanted to be. Damn. I had to find the nearest "T" (Boston's subway) station and head back to Copley Square.

Unfortunately, it was the weekend and the next train was a twelve minute wait at Tufts Medical Center. By the time it arrived and I connected to the Green Line back to Copley, I'd blown my chance to peruse newspapers of the 1770s or look up little local tidbits. I was bummed.

But I still had lots of good information I'd gathered from the previous two days. Walking along the fens of Fenway, the expanse of Boston Common, and going below decks of the ships at the Tea Party Museum gave me delicious details of Boston's environs during the Revolution. 

If you have the opportunity to visit Boston, I highly, strongly, fervently recommend the Boston Tea Party Museum. It's a guided and interactive tour with actors portraying luminaries such as Samuel Adams (below) and visitors are encouraged--nay, pressed--to join in the fun by being assigned roles.

And it's quite technologically current. Portraits of King George III and Mr. Adams speak and move much like the portraits in the Harry Potter films. They even have one of the two surviving original tea chests thrown overboard by the enraged citizens that April night, found the next morning by a young man and passed down through the generations of his family with the documentation as "a box worth keeping."

If I get the chance to go back, I will in a heartbeat. And this time, I might get the directions right.


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