Saturday, February 6, 2010

Massachusetts - February 6, 1788

The very first time I came to Massachusetts was to move here from Texas in August 1997. James had been offered a job as a Geography professor at Bridgewater State College, where we now both work. We arrived here two days after then-President Bill Clinton named Massachusetts Governor William Weld as Ambassador to Mexico. I was a bit surprised when we crossed the State line to find that all of the " Welcome to Massachusetts" signs along the highway already had the name of the new Governor, Argeo Paul Cellucci, on them. He must have had them ready to go just in case. I was seven and a half months pregnant when we arrived, and it was only two weeks later that I delivered my very own bouncing baby Bay Stater. Paloma is 12 years old now and at 5'3" officially taller than both of her grandmothers! By the way, did you know that the official moniker for a person from Massachusetts is Bay Stater?

On my list of not-to-be missed places in Massachusetts:

Walden pond - Once when we were taking a walk around the pond a young man with a slimy, wet fish in his hands asked us if we had a bag. We looked at him quizzically and he explained that he really hadn't expected to catch anything that day, so did not have a container to put his prize in. I reached in my pocket and pulled out the plastic bag that our Boston Globe  had come in and told him he was awfully lucky that our dog hadn't taken a crap that morning! As a rule of thumb - a Boston Globe wrapper will hold one 8 -12 inch trout.

The Mapparium - A three story glass globe you can walk inside! Must be seen to be believed. Mary Baker Eddy is my hero. See also James' EarthView

Brant Point light in Nantucket - My favorite place to be, especially on a clear day. I love waving to the folks on the ferries as they enter or leave the dock.

The Bayside Restaurant - Westport, MA: The first "Green" certified restaurant in Massachusetts

Westport Winery - A great place to be at sunset. In the summer be sure to check our their free summer sunset concert music series on Friday nights.

Cape Cod - Just as with Michigan, you probably have your Cape Cod map with you right now. Bend your left arm up as if making a muscle, and point your fingers back toward your shoulder. Falmouth is at your armpit, Chatham is your elbow and Provincetown is right at your fingertips. There are art galleries, great beaches, fun shops, and good restaurants.

To find out more about the Cape look for James' cover article Cape Cod Beckons in the Spring 2000 issue of the American Geographical Society's Focus magazine. The excerpt linked here does not include the great pictures (including one of yours truly with Paloma). Look for a copy at your local library.

The "T" - I must say that there is a lot of well deserved criticism about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, but I feel so cosmopolitan when I "ride the rails". And I just love that I can pack a bag, walk to the Bridgewater Commuter rail line, take it to Boston, get on the Silver line to Logan airport, and from there, anywhere in the world! I  am also glad that the MBTA simplified its price structure a few years ago to prevent us from having to pay to get off of a train, so we wouldn't end up like poor ol' Charlie. They also showed their own sense of humor when they called the new passes "Charlie cards".

Charlie on the MBTA on you tube
"Charlie" Lyrics

I watched the movie Knowing recently without "knowing" that it was a Massachusetts movie when I selected it. So it worked out perfectly for me to blog about it. Nicholas Cage plays John Koestler, a physics professor from MIT, who comes learns about the upcoming Armageddon by way of a cryptic message found inside of a 50-year time capsule opened at his son's school. His son also receives strange messages, from a group of creepy beings he calls the "whisper people".

There are actually a lot of movies about Massachusetts - a bunch are included in this Boston Globe story which is really about movies shot "in the hub". A lot of people seem to think that Massachusetts is synonymous with Boston. When I told people I was moving to Massachusetts the first thing they would ask is "what part of Boston?" Therefore, it does not surprise me that most movies made in Massachusetts are really Boston movies. So, when I saw in the opening scene of Knowing labeled "Lexington, Massachusetts" I was optimistic that it looked like horizons were expanding. Of course Lexington turned out to be only part of where the movie took place. The story moves to a classroom at MIT, located in Cambridge, which is really just an extension Boston. I wasn't surprised either that the college they chose was MIT. Although Massachusetts has at least 140 institutions of higher education, the only ones that are ever worthy of being mentioned on film are Harvard and MIT. On the rare occasions that others are mentioned there is clear disdain. The scene from Bunker Hill Community College in Good Will Hunting shows a bunch of bored-looking, bubble-gum-blowing students, who are sharply contrasted with the excited and eager-to-learn students in the film, who, of course, attend MIT. In the movie The Departed one character mentions that he is studying law. The response is something like: "night school at Suffolk, right?" in a tone that clearly says "couldn't get into Harvard Law, huh". I've met Ivy league professors and they seem to agonize as much as the rest of us about the best ways to engage their students. Anyway, back to Knowing - what could have been a good supernatural thriller went just a bit too far. I can only suspend my disbelief so much, the spaceships at the end did me in. And, it really doesn't take a Ph.D. from MIT to teach us the same thing about the sun that we can learn from listening to "They Might be Giants" lyrics.  And clearly it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you need more than just the hours and minutes of latitude longitude coordinates to pinpoint a place down to an intersection. It takes a geographer to realize that you need the seconds, too. Thanks, James for pointing this out!

Coming Soon! More Massachusetts movies to watch for :

Shutter Island - based on the book by Dennis Lehane opening February 19. The book is good, and has a surprise ending.

Knight and Day - part of this was filmed in Bridgewater, but it is really about - you guessed it - Boston! opening July 2

Frozen - I just learned about this film that recently opened. Although it was shot in Utah, Utah apparently is cleverly disguised as Massachusetts. I read two reviews of this film yesterday. It looks like something I can skip.

The movie A Small Circle of Friends has one scene (a riot) filmed at Bridgewater State College. However, BSC doesn't play itself in this film. It plays the part of some other college. What could it be...? Right again - Harvard!

There is one movie filmed entirely in Bridgewater, and about Bridgewater, a hard-to-find documentary called the Titicut Follies - a documentary filmed inside the State Mental Hospital. I was so disturbed by this one I couldn't even finish watching it.

I tried to find the movie Virtuous Wives to watch for Massachusetts day. I found out about Louis B. Mayer's first movie from Massachusetts e-moments. This Boston movie from 1918 proved to be too difficult to find.

James and I read Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo together for our Massachusetts book. Puleo's book is an in-depth view of a relatively unknown tragedy in the city's history. As Puleo points out in his introduction, the "very essence [of the flood]... molasses gives the entire event an unusual, whimsical quality" which has left is as little more than a "footnote" in history. Puleo demonstrates how lax business regulations, US involvement in World War I, prohibition, anarchy, and the anti-immigrant sentiments of the day are all tied to the flood. James and I discovered a Bridgewater connection to the notorious anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti through this story. The book is divided into three parts: "A Monster in Our Midst" which focuses on the poor construction and design of the mammoth tank, built in haste, in Boston's North End in December of 1915, which was supposed to have been designed to hold 2.3 million gallons of molasses. The second part, "Waves of Terror", describes the collapse of the tank on January 15, 1919 and the tragic deaths, injuries, and property loss that resulted. The final section, "David vs. Goliath" is about the three-year legal battle that ensued against United States Industrial Alcohol. The paperback edition contains a moving Afterword by the author in which he recounts connections he made with relatives of witnesses to and victims of the flood following the first publication of the book. Puleo's work is well researched and fascinating. More information about the Great Boston Molasses flood can be found at:

Addendum February 11 - James suggested I read the Acknowlegements of this book before I returned it to the Library. I am glad he did. Puleo gives much appreciation to the librarians who helped him with the research on this book.

We ate a very local meal for our Massachusetts fest, using food from our bountiful CSA farm box from Colchester Neighborhood Farm in Plympton, Massachusetts, and the last farm in Bridgewater, Hanson's Farm. We have been enjoying the summer and fall vegetables that I froze from our farm box all winter long. Today we had a skillet casserole of yellow squash, zuccini, onion, tomato, egg, and cheese; and pumpkin pie. The pie recipe I used called for maple syrup instead of sugar so I used locally sourced syrup from Hanson's. The onions and pumpkin came from Hanson's as well. The rest of the veggies, and the egg, came from Colchester. We also opened up a celebratory bottle of Massachusetts sparkling wine from the aforementioned Westport Winery. A fine meal indeed!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for discussing the public/private divide. It is an afflication that is unique to Massachusetts. Elsewhere, many of the well-connected attend public universities (even many in the Bush family have attended public schools in Ohio and Texas). But in Massachusetts, the privates get the attention and the money. EVERY state spends more per citizen on public higher education than does Massachusetts. Some of my thoughts are at