11 October 2016

Second Verse, Same as the First (aka: more pastry, more book, more chocolate.)

When I was in high school I had a shirt that I bought from Old Navy that said "Cambridge" on it.  I bought it because of England, but I had my history teacher come to me one day and say "want to go to Harvard, huh?"  I seem to remember laughing.  Yeah.  Right. I'm no moron, but I never would have gotten into Harvard.

After visiting Cambridge for real today, I don't necessarily regret that I didn't go to Harvard (the city is crazy expensive, the school is crazy expensive, everything is crowded, the school is constantly crowded with tourists. . . But man it's beautiful.  BYU has many virtues and I don't regret my education there at all, but man there are some ugly buildings on that campus.  Basically any building constructed while the school was expanding in the 70s is horrific.  More recent builds have a classic collegiate look that I like, but you really can't beat the atmosphere of Cambridge, even with all the tourists and the traffic.  I love being on college campuses just in general - I swear if college paid well then I'd never leave it.

We didn't take an official campus tour so I'm not sure that I have any great Harvard trivia to give that didn't come from what I'm sure is an inaccurate episode of Gilmore Girls, but I do know that there are 73 libraries on campus and that the Harvard collection of books is the third largest in the nation, behind the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library.  The centerpiece of the collection is the Widener Library, which holds 3.5 million books and is named for a Harvard grad who died on the Titanic in 1907 and was a book collector.  Only students are allowed to go into the school, which is understandable but ticks me off because there is little I love more in this world than beautiful libraries.

Fortunately, Harvard has plenty of bookstores and although my suitcase has no room in it for more books I will find a way because I now have two more books to add to my collection - some short novellas by Alan Bennett and a memoir where a woman wrote about what was going on in her life on the same day every year for forty years - 1960 to 2000.  She lived behind the Iron Curtain for at least half the book and I think it's going to be fascinating.  My poor "to-read" shelves are screaming at me to pace myself but a house isn't really a home if it doesn't have a fantastic library, right?

We spent most of the morning just wandering the city but eventually made our way over to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow house, which was. . .closed.  The exterior was really pretty, though?  We got to look at the gardens around the house and watch the squirrels for a bit.  Then we walked around for a bit and stopped for some more pastries (Mike's Pastry Shop has a branch near Harvard that has way less crowd issues than the one in Boston) and at a local chocolate shop.  Now that I think about it, today was basically a repeat of yesterday: book stores, chocolate, pastries, and wandering through historical sites for a while.  We're either predictable or easy to please, I guess.  Neither of us feel disappointed, so that's good.

Finding the Longfellow House closed we decided to leave Cambridge and go instead to the Gardner Museum in Boston, but that was closed as well (we found that out before we left, at least) so we went instead to visit the USS Constitution.  The USS Constitution was named by George Washington and is the oldest floating warship in the world.  She saw most of her action in the War of 1812 where it earned the nickname "Old Ironsides" against a ship that looks like it was named after cheese (seriously - the HMS Gueirrere).  Its performance in the war saved it from being scrapped dozens of times, and the Constitution went on to be a training ship during the Civil War and a museum exhibition that sailed to the Paris Exposition in 1878.  There's not all that much left of her to see at the moment (though I think that may be more because of the renovation work they were doing on her when we were there) but it was still worth the trip.  It's impressive that she's still afloat.

By this point we'd walked about seven miles, so we were hungry.  We went back to what our guidebook calls the "drenched in marinara" north end of Boston for some Italian.  The guidebook wasn't joking - the street we went to had nothing but Italian food options, all of which looked and smelled amazing.  We found one that looked good, and it was good, and all was well.

Some other random observations:

Traveling with my mom is awesome.  We're both relatively easy going travelers.  We have opinions on what we want to do, but are flexible enough to bend to what the other person wants.  It's been delightful.

Political campaigning is much more active here than it is in Utah.  I think some of this may be because we're not just seeing adds for Presidential campaigns or local propositions, but also adds for Congressmen from Massachusetts and surrounding states.  One of the local propositions is ticking me off because the locals are voting on charter school funding.  Public schools are losing money because of charter schools! The anti Prop 2 adds say.  NO THEY DON'T I yell at the TV.  Schools get money for the students they teach, so the funding they're "losing" is really only representative of students they aren't actually teaching.  Heaven FORBID we give people a choice in their education.  "But those schools might be horrible!" people argue.  "Yes," I respond.  "They could be. But a traditional public school doesn't automatically mean the school is good and. . .

I could go on about this forever, but now probably isn't the time or place given that I'm supposed to be writing about my trip, but it's my blog so what the hell: American education is still holding on with a vice grip to traditions established more than a hundred years ago that weren't founded on principles of what actually taught skills the best but what was the most efficient and logical.  The rest of the world is moving at lightning speed to adapt and change to the technologically obsessed and creative world we live in, but schools are still trying to fight against all of that like it will leave and pass like a fad.  For the love of all that is holy, LET PEOPLE INNOVATE.

I'm done.

Tomorrow I will center my chi by visiting the hallowed forests of transcendentalism.  I can't wait.

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