Boston for Beginners: “Freedom Trail” or “Trail to Tyranny”

I am ashamed to admit that my knowledge of American history is pretty minimal, and as such I am always eager to delve into historical sights, which brings us to Boston. Today we only have a vague idea about where we are going and what we will be doing. Most certainly it will involve the “Freedom Trail”, but somehow in the back of my mind I ask myself… it a Freedom Trail or a Trail to Tyranny? 

If I wasn’t tired enough from my travels this summer, we are off again. You may remember I left the kids in Finland in the middle of a mosquito infested field about a month ago, and I came back to Phoenix to work. Darn work……gets in the way of life all the time…..We are flying on Icelandair this time via Boston to Iceland where we will meet the kids. Interestingly enough we flew Jet blue from Phoenix to Boston, and I was pretty surprised. They have huge seats and tons of leg room! 

We took an overnight flight to Boston and we have a 7 hour layover here. It’s a rainy day, but I think that’s perfect. This place is HOT and muggy. I can only imagine how stifling it would be if the sun was out! We are a bit groggy, needless to say, but hey, I work night shift and I am used to having my circadian rhythm all messed up…..circadian rhythm….what’s that?

Now if I had done my homework on Boston I would have a plan of action for this town, but I spent all my time and energy on planning our Iceland trip. I did read online though that the Freedom Trail is the thing to do in Boston. We ask the man in the booth at the airport subway station how to get there. He looks at us like we are pretty stupid, which I guess we admittedly are quite uninformed. He tells us to go to the State Street station. 

Now, I wish I would have taken some photos of the subway car and the stations that we are on. When the train wheezes into the station we hop aboard. The doors clatter and bang shut behind us, the train emits an obnoxious hiss and lurches forward…..Clatter….clatter….bang….shake….rattle…roll…clatter…..clatter…bang….shake….rattle….roll….repeat repeat repeat….little faster and then a lot faster…..and into the next station we go…..squeaking brakes…..slower sequence of clatter….clatter….bang….shake….rattle…..roll….tiles falling off walls…grime everywhere….

What is this? A third world country? Maybe the next station will be better…… clatter….clatter….bang…..shake….rattle….roll…..seriously, I wonder if this rig is going to jump off the tracks…..the train swings wildly from side to side…, we just made a left onto another rail…..

This definitely is not China….You may remember me telling you about how amazing the trains are in China. In China the rails are so smooth you can hardly tell you are moving unless you look out the window…..and the train is so quiet you could hear a pin drop….the train stations are all gorgeous works of art, meticulously clean…..well, let’s just shake that thought, shall we, after all they are a third world country, and we are first world…..we have freedom, and they don’t! Surely over there the people walk around with chains on their ankles. Sure…..the motion of the train going side to side is shaking me up pretty good. I can’t even think straight in my sleep deprived fog. 

When we arrive at State Street station we quickly exit the train as not to get crushed by the heavy antiquated doors, which most likely don’t have sensors to tell the door that a person is caught in between them. I can’t even describe what hits us! The air is thick and heavy with obnoxious smells. I don’t know what it is, but I can tell you it is toxic. Oil?  Asbestos? I dunno. Is this the air filtration system for all the exhaust off the cars on the freeway yonder? Nah, it’s asbestos….Smells like it. I try to hold my breath. That won’t work. I take short gulps of air. I hold my nose. There is no fresh air exchange down here at all. The lighting is dim. The humidity is oppressive and soon I am drenched with sweat at this early morning hour, and I can feel the thick dirty air caking on my skin and mixing with my perspiration. 

The subway tiles are grimy, many are cracked or completely fallen off. It looks like maybe they are thinking about doing some work around here because we see some construction pylons……no, maybe that is just to keep you away from a section where there is a big hole in the hallway…..At the bottom of a long row of dilapidated stairs there are two huge fans hissing and wheezing in a hopeless attempt to blow the putrid air from the train station up the stairs and into the space above. We walk up the steps wiping sweat off our brows, the fans thrusting obnoxious fumes at us as we make our exit. This is America? “Well, at least this is a free country,” I whisper to no one in particular. 

I am not exaggerating when I say that I feel faint when I step out into the street. I take many gulps of air, filling my lungs to capacity, and I take myself away from the doorway where the fumes are still attempting to escape the tracks below. I am confused. The Freedom  Trail….that’s what we are looking for! Yes, this is where the battles were fought for our freedom! When we look up we see the most amazing building that we just exited out of! Wow! I can’t believe I just exited out of the bowels of that building! My heart immediately forgives the awful condition of the subway station, the putrid air and all. The very essence of this building makes me proud to live in America!

Now if I had been wiser I would know exactly what to do here and where to go. We look up and marvel at the unique building, only to discover that it is the Old State House, which was built in 1713! This is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States, and the oldest surviving public building in Boston. Now, that’s some history! No wonder the air was so thick in the basement of this building. They didn’t build proper air exchangers back in the day, did they? Later I read that the train station located in this building often confuses tourists, as they don’t expect one to be located here. No kidding…..I was as confused as anybody! 

I look up at the roofline and marvel at the white statues….a lion….and a unicorn? Wow….that’s wierd….but shame on me as a British subject for not knowing that this is a symbol of……what? Do you know?

Now, you might be interested in knowing that this building is the very site at which the Boston massacre occurred in 1770. That’s when British Army soldiers killed five men and injured another six when a mob had gathered around a British sentry at this location. They say this massacre was used as propaganda by people like Paul Revere and Samuel Adams to foster animosity towards the British. The blood those men shed that day had a huge impact on the course of history, that’s for sure! 

It wasn’t much later on July 18, 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed from the balcony of this very building to an enthusiastic crowd of rebels……did I just say that? Rebels? Oh indeed, people that wanted their independence…..their freedom….freedom from tyranny and oppression and confiscatory taxation without representation….freedom of religion and speech and association…..and rights….rights to the pursuit of happiness, to fair representation….have we forgotten? 

After the historic first reading of the Declaration of Independence the rebels took the wooden lion and unicorn statues and burned them right here on King Street. Why? Because they represented the British monarchy, that’s why. And these were fighting men. They were willing to put their lives on the line to make this country great and free and powerful.

We look around for a second and find an information board. We plan a route. I guess you just follow the trail….literally… follow the Freedom Trail…..there is a row of bricks lined up to show you where to go, it’s literally that simple. Is it a Freedom Trail….or a Trail of Tyranny? Who knows….let’s see!

We run into a statue….Samuel Adams…who is he? I am a dunce when it comes to American history. I can tell you who Jacques Cousteau is. Does that count? Or Pierre Idiot Trudeau. No, Adams was not a president of the United States, that was his second cousin John Adams! Samuel was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. His spirit lives on in a sense of confusion, I think, for scholars of history have mixed feelings on his significance and reputation. That troubles me. Is it just me, or does it seem that modern historians try to paint many important figures from history as some kind of sinister perpetrators of evil with ulterior motives. 

I don’t care. If Samuel Adams used propaganda to incite ignorant mobs to revolt against the British rule as some historians claim, then so be it. Don’t get me wrong…..I love England, and the British people…..I just don’t want to send money to repair the roof of the palaces for the Queen of England. After all, we just sent 3.3 billion in hard cash money in unmarked cargo planes to Iran, for goodness sake!! That’s a far better cause, clearly! Maybe the mullahs can use it to beef up their military and nuclear program to make the Middle East a bit safer or something. They are a kind and loving nation….especially to their closest neighbor’s, no doubt!

I remember when we were in London some years ago there was a huge article in the London paper about how the poor little old Queen of England was so broke that she didn’t have any money to repair the roofs of her palaces. She was literally destitute, imagine that, with pictures of buckets strategically placed throughout the glitzy glamorous palaces to catch the raindrops! Essentially it was a propaganda piece to get the British workers to pay for roof repairs for the Queen who was down to her last rags and living off dog food. When I read that I just shook my head and wondered about this whole monarchy thing, about how some people are just by birth supposedly more superior than others. What’s that all about? Aren’t we all created equal? Aren’t we all of equal worth and value? Wait a minute….I am a British subject….I must honor the Queen….I did love Princess Diana, to be sure…..and Kate…..she seems pretty nice…..although I bet if Kate shook hands with me she would probably wash her hands as soon as possible…..commoner….

I blow a kiss to the statue of Samuel Adams…..”Thanks for your hard work, Sam my man!” I call out as my feet trudge along the trail of bricks…..

The trail of bricks leads to the Faneuil Hall and the old Quincy Market. Most of the shops are not open yet, as we are here quite early in the morning. As we are gazing up at this domed ceiling an old woman drinking coffee at a nearby table tells us about how she used to come here as a child to buy meat with her mother. Her deep blue eyes flash with delight as she relates of the days of yesteryear, and her appreciation that this building has been restored to its old glory. I sense her great pride in this city of Boston, her great pride in being a free American on this very day in this very spot so dear to her heart, right here on the Freedom Trail! Her enthusiasm is so infectious that I feel my faith in freedom loving Americans being strengthened. 

Before I can ask her any questions we find ourselves in front of Paul Revere’s house. Who is he? Well, he was a silversmith, come dentist when the economy got bad. That’s an interesting tidbit of information. I wonder if back in the good old days a dentist had to have many years of schooling and exams and certification and licenses and all that kind of stuff? Sounds to me like Revere learned dentistry from a fellow Masonic lodge member when his silver business took a hit. Oh well. I kind of like that. Can’t be anything too complicated about taking a pair of pliers and ripping out peoples’ teeth is there? And it is awesome to find creative ways to pay the bills when money is tight. 

Which reminds me of when I had a tooth pulled recently. The highly trained and super-certified surgeon had to break my tooth into three pieces, ripped each piece out one at a time while I lay on the chair with my back arched, my hands with a death grip on the arms of the chair, and sweat pouring off my entire body that was shaking like a leaf. Ended up being he broke the bone in my mouth. Not only that….the minute that the last piece of tooth was removed and I closed my mouth…..I could hear a whistling coming from inside my mouth….what the heck? Sure enough….there it is again….I breathed in deep and exhaled with my mouth closed and nose plugged….wow…..there was a huge communicating hole between my mouth and my sinus cavity and that’s where the whistling noise was coming from. Every time I tried to talk I could hear the whistling. I guess if people didn’t think I was strange before this then surely they would when they heard me whistling with my mouth closed. 

“Well, the hole is as big as the end of a q-tip,” I heard the doctor say, “It’s the biggest hole I have ever seen in my 150 years of dentistry. It’s pretty unlikely that it will close on its own by the looks of it, but no worries, I can patch it for you for an extra $10,000 later on, and I can also put in some fake bone to fix your jaw….that’s another $20,000…..On a scale of 0-10 for difficulty of extraction that was a 9 for sure. If you get a sinus infection, though, you won’t be able to have the hole closed because it won’t work out, and no, I won’t give you antibiotics because that just causes germs to become more resistant. Come back next week so I can see how this thing heals up.” 

My tongue brushed up against the giant sutures, and I leaned over the sink to spit out a mouthful of blood. No thanks. I would rather be toothless than let anyone touch my mouth ever again. Plus I could go on a pretty nice trip for $30,000…..I could even go to Mexico and get my dentistry done for next to nothing, if the drug cartel doesn’t obliterate me before I get to the dentist office. 

“Do you know who Paul Revere is,” my husband asks, drawing me back into the moment. 

“Yeah, he was a dentist,” I reply smartly. “And a patriot!”

“No, he was a silversmith!” he exclaims. 

Everybody knows who Paul Revere was.  He was a ringleader in the Boston Tea Party. Which reminds me of how pitiful my knowledge of American history is. When I was a young woman I once played a game of Trivial Pursuit. Note the word “once”. The question was, “Where was the Tea Party held?” I said, “I dunno, in London probably…..they drink a lot of tea over there!” Needless to say that was my first and last game of Trivial Pursuit. I am not going to set myself up again to make myself look dumber than I am! My new American husband really got a kick out of that one! 

But as you know, the Tea Party was a really noble cause, because no one wants to pay confiscatory tax rates to a foreign country or anything… never mind the $35 billion (with a B) of American taxpayers money that the U.S. paid in foreign aid last year to despot leaders around the world, oh and the $3.3 billion that just got sent to Iran on unmarked planes in the middle of the night on wooden pallets….in cold cash….not American cash, mind you….but what difference does that make? Thank you, Paul Revere, for putting your life in danger to save us from the evils of paying money to a foreign government!

Revere was also the man who alerted the patriots that the British were coming, although if you believe Wikipedia he never shouted the words, “The British are coming!” Rather he is supposed to have said, “The Regulars are coming out.” I guess there was a lot of British patrol out, and Revere didn’t want them to know that the patriots knew about the advancing British army. I don’t know about you, but I kind of like the phrase, “The British are coming!” I am going to stick with that one. Somehow it has an ominous ring to it….like Queen Elizabeth is going to come get your cake and eat it, or something like that. All those money grabbers…..they can just keep their hands in their own pockets…..

I reach down into my jacket pocket…..yep….my money is still there….son of a gun….I already paid my 40% taxes and this is my leftovers that I get to keep all for myself!!!!  Keep your hands off, Queen Elizabeth!!!  Off limits…..all my money that I earned by the sweat of my brow and tears of frustration and aching body each day when I put myself down to sleep… know…. how I walked to and fro with my aching feet, how I worked with my hands and washed them so many times that the skin is frail and cracked and broken, and my back bent in agony, and the varicose veins in my legs bulging and aching, and my hips creaking and crackling from the severe osteoarthritis therein, while I limp along to answer call lights, and wipe sweat from patients’ brows, and hold hands of the dying and desparately ill. 

From that money  I paid an exhorbitant amount in taxes that went into lining politicians and their buddies’ pockets while they sit in their cushy ivory towers or float around in their ridiculous yachts….into bombing campaigns in Syria and Libya….into useless programs and entities that can’t account for any of the money they received….into endless social programs that create lifelong dependency….into buying off politicians around the world….into politicians’ pleasure trips and ludicrous retirement plans….and nation building after bombing the heck out of countries…. But, by golly, none of my money is going into repairing Queen Elizabeth’s multitude of roofs, that’s for darn sure! Maybe Paul Revere’s house needs a new roof…

Or maybe some tax money could be used to remove the gum splotches off this sidewalk…..or rebuilding our inner cities…..or creating useful futures for young people in our own country who grow up in poverty….that would help propel this country back into a leading position in the world! Or hey, they could fix the dilapidated infrastructure in our own country, like the rotting subways and rusting bridges and highways, creating jobs in the meantime! Maybe we could have trains and infrastructure like China has!

Well, to take my mind off the whole taxation fiasco I snap a couple of photos of my very handsome umbrella toting man. 

Which brings us to the Episcopal church…..

And when I step inside the church I am reminded again about freedom….like I wonder if I would have been allowed to plop my butt down in this church bench in 1733…..the bench that has a sign posted on it that reads “For the Use of His Excellence the Governor and other gentlemen.”

In my mind’s eye I can see myself in 1733……I walk purposefully to the front of the church, my head held high, the heels of my cheap shoes clicking loudly on the wooden floor. My cheeks are flushed with anticipation. The little church pew door creaks ominously on its hinges when I push it open. I can see the sign that warns intruders that this is for the “excellent governor and other gentlemen”, but I pay it no heed. The door resists, as though to tell me to stay away, but I lean my slight body into the door and it flings wide open. When I have entered, the door snaps shut, catching the hem of my skirt, unbeknownst to me. 

Excuse me, ma’am. You are not allowed to sit here,” exclaimed His Excellence the Governor who is suddenly towering over me.

“Oh really? Prove it! I got here before you did. Before God we are all equal!” said mousey, plain Jane me.

“Great God! She must be a witch to defy my orders! Remove her at once!” shouts His Excellence the Governor. “She has defiled the very seat upon which she sits!”

The “other gentlemen” grab me by my hair and hurl me over the high box walls, cussing and muttering under their breath hurtful words like whore, and witch, and witch with a ‘b’. My dress hem has been caught in between the little door and its jam, and it tears loudly as they hoist me up. I am livid. This is my only dress and they have ruined it!

“I am a descendant of Queen Elizabeth,” I screamed, “You cannot treat me like this!”

“Lock her up! Lock her up!”

Soon the whole church is chanting with them. I feel myself being dragged down the middle aisle of the church, but I am not going out without a fight. I kick and scream and pinch and bite. “Before God we are all equal,” I scream!

Well, maybe not in that era. Equal applied to men, not women. 

Well, we have come a long way, baby! Why, we might even have a woman president some day….one who has promised to raise taxes on hard working citizens….to pay for what? Oh yeah, because all the clowns in Washington have bankrupted our country….because we don’t give enough away to unknown and insidious leaders and organizations around the world. Because we need to spend more on government contracts for friends of the politicians. Because corruption is so rampant we don’t even recognize it for what it is anymore. 

Well, it’s a pretty church, that’s for sure, even if they don’t let ladies sit in the same box with “His Excellency the Governor”. I wouldn’t want to sit there anyway because it’s in the front of the church, and if I fell asleep everyone could see me, and if I missed a Sunday service everyone would know that I was not there….No thanks. Let His Excellency and “other gentlemen” enjoy their place in the spotlight. I will be the little church mouse in the farthest pew up on the balcony where I could cast my scornful, albeit jealous glances at the ritzy glitzy high and mighty society members down in their little boxes of piety. Shame on me for the pangs of envy and bitterness that pierce my soul.

At Cobb’s Hill cemetary I am reminded about the meaning of life again. I wipe away that envy and bitterness. It all ends the same for all of us. We are equal after all, if not in life then certainly in death. That’s an inescapable fact. Man, woman, child….born or unborn….regardless of religion or race or ethnicity or color or any other variations in lifestyles or traditions or customs. It all comes to pass, and we leave with nothing. Perhaps we left a legacy, like Paul Revere and good ol’ Samuel Adams who used propaganda to incite the minions into resisting taxation without representation! Most of us don’t leave a legacy. We leave memories that last maybe for a generation or two if we are lucky….and then we fade away into oblivion….never to be thought of again….never to be remembered again….never to be….

We continue our traverse upon the Freedom Trail, following the brick path wherever it may lead us. The streets are beautiful. 

We come upon an old Charlestown Bridge that crosses the Charles’ River. 

I wonder if the City of Boston would like to incorporate my version of the Freedom Trail to their poster…..I suspect not. Fighting with the Governor in a church would be frowned upon, I am sure! Maybe I could come up with some creative stories to add to their poster.

Finally we make our way over to the highlight of the day, the U.S.S. Constitution. This was a formidable fighting machine in its day.  It’s good ol’ Ironsides!! Honestly, I can’t imagine how miserable life would have been on this thing. It had to be freezing all the time, and smelly, and dirty…..and the work was no doubt endless, and the fear overpowering. 

Indeed, we have come a long way, baby! It’s a woman dressed in Navy uniform! 

What does that flag say…..”Don’t Tread On Me”.  That’s interesting! I seem to vaguely remember some controversy over those words. This is a historic flag, where the rattlesnake is a symbol of independence and freedom. Usually the snake is coiled and ready to strike, and dares anyone to defy him. 

The last place that we visit is Bunker Hill. This was the site of the Siege of Boston in the beginning phases of the Amercian Revolutionary  War. Geez. I sound like a history teacher. We make the foolhardy decision to hike up the steps of the tower. It really was a pretty dumb idea for two reasons. First of all, it makes my legs sore for days. And second of all, it is so hot in the tower. There is no air exchange in here either, and we both are sweating like pigs. I don’t know if pigs sweat, but we are sure sweating. Unfortunately we don’t have a change of clothes since we checked all our bags in Phoenix, and we are going to have to wear these stinky, sweaty clothes all the way to Iceland. 

Once we leave Bunker Hill we set off in search of a place to grab some lunch. 

And what do we find? Legal Oysteria….mmmmm…..I love seafood…..

We decide to forgo the painful experience of taking the clattering and wheezing subway back to the airport after lunch. Instead we call up Uber. I love Uber.

We didn’t get to see everything on the Freedom Trail, unfortunately, but that might be a good thing. It means that we must come back, with the kids, for a history lesson….to teach them about freedom….and the battles that were fought to make United States an independent country.  To teach them about the men who laid down their lives so that we could have this great country in future generations. And to teach them about all the work that remains to be done to protect our freedoms, to fight off tyranny, to stop the wanton and rampant exploitation of the working middle class who sacrifice their days working…..from morning till night every day, only to have their pockets raided in the very same manner that our forefathers fought off the British for. The working men and women of this country toil their lives away, diligently paying their dues to a government which no longer looks out for the rights of ordinary citizens, but rather politicians line their own pockets, enrich their friends, and seed social disorder. Where this will end, no one can tell. 

The forefathers of America would be twisting in their graves right here in their burial places in Boston if they knew what has happened to their country. If they could see the corruption, and a country so desparately in debt and in such a state of disrepair…..they would weep….for a lost America. 

So while those battles of yesteryear that gave us our beloved country have long since faded in history, the spirit of Amercians remains strong. The thirst for freedom is a powerful force. The pride of the American people, let’s hope that never gets taken away, for therein lies the strength of this great nation, and every great nation. And while the path to freedom, as evidenced on the Freedom Trail, has been fraught with human suffering and sacrifice, let us remember that the Trail to Tyranny is never far away…..just one crisis….just one desparate leader….just one critical event…..that’s all it could take to wipe away the very fabric upon which our great nation was built…..freedom! 

May God bless America.

And we are off to Iceland. Boston, we will be back!   We will be back, for another walk along the “Freedom Trail”, the place that commemorates so many who gave their lives to make this great nation. Thank you for all your sacrifices. And America, let’s keep it free. America won’t stay free on her own volition, but rather it is our duty to serve her and protect her.