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« Blue Highways: Wellesley, Massachusetts | Main | Littourati News: Google Map of Mark Twain »

Blue Highways: Boston, Massachusetts

Unfolding the Map

I didn't feel particularly inspired by today's quote, and it probably shows in the post.  I apologize, all of you visiting Littourati.  But, don't take that to mean that the quote, and maybe the post, might not bring something to mind for you.  If something comes, feel free to share in a comment.  Oh, and if you want to see exactly how far we've come in this Blue Highways journey, check out the map.

Book Quote

"Tractor-trailer rigs (using two-thirds more fuel per cargo-ton than a locomotive) blasted me all the way to Boston."

Blue Highways: Part 9, Chapter 4

Downtown Boston. Photo by "Nelson48" and hosted at Wikimedia Commons. Click on photo to go to host site.

Boston, Massachusetts

What kid doesn't like trucks?  I don't mean the little pickup trucks, but the huge semi-tractor trailer trucks that barrel down roads and freeways.  Well, I was one kid that tended more toward the trains than the trucks.

I think it had to do with growing up in a little logging town where the only links to the outside world were over miles of twisting, curving mountain roads.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I suffered motion-sickness a lot going over these roads, and trucks were kind of an enemy.  A car could travel faster over these roads.  Trucks would slow precipitously going uphill, thus prolonging my agony when we'd get behind them.  I could only hope that they would be kind enough to use one of the "turnouts" along the side of the road to let us pass.  Some did, some didn't.  Either way, logging trucks, lumber trucks and other types of cargo trucks sometimes literally made me sick.

As I got older, I became more aware that trucks were replacing trains as the primary mover of freight.  I had noticed that our freight train, which used to go out once per night moving lumber over to the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, started making less frequent runs.  Once a night became 4 times a week, became 2-3 times per week, and then became one time per week, until it ceased operation completely.  We owned property on the railroad where we had a cabin, and where in the summer we slept outside not 50 feet from the railroad tracks.  I have some vivid memories of waking up at night to the sound of the freight train, it's light appearing around the bend and seemingly illuminating the entire valley, then after the cacophonous sound of the engine the clacking and whistling of the empty freight cars, and then lonely clack of the caboose and the voices of the watchmen as the little red caboose light disappeared slowly from sight and I was able to fall asleep to the sound of the receding train.

In high school, I worked in the lumber mill, and loaded both trucks and train cars though my primary job was to load trucks.  I worked on a team consisting of a tallyman, a forklift operator and me (the dog).  I would climb on the trucks, guide the lumber bundles into position, and then use a machine to band them together before binding them with straps to the truck itself.  It was good work in the coastal air, but I missed the trains.

I understand why trucks are used - moving freight by truck is cheaper, right now, than by train.  But they also cause a lot of wear and tear on the roads and can be threats in themselves.  I have been stranded twice indirectly because of trucks after I ran over a piece of shredded tire on the road which caused damage to my car.  I hear that as fuel prices rise, it may become more cost effective to ship more and more things by train again.  I hope so.

I am not going to write much this post about Boston.  LHM doesn't really stop there because, in Blue Highways, he does his best to avoid the cities.  And to tell you the truth, it is so long since I have been to Boston that I don't remember much about it.  The trips were always short, a weekend at the most, usually a day trip, so I really didn't get much of a chance to get a true feeling for the city.  I remember being in the area of Faneuil Hall and the market near there, I remember driving up from Connecticut after a wedding to get lobster at one of the lobster restaurants, and I remember the accents.

In fact, it's the accents that to me are the most intriguing thing about Boston.  It's rare in the United States to hear accents that are just so front and center as the accents in Boston.  Even Brooklyn accents, which can be pretty heavy, don't stand out so much to me as Boston accents do.  It's like the accent has a mind of its own and flattens vowels, eliminates the letter "r" in some words and stubbornly inserts it in others, despite the speakers intentions.  I have learned that accents that seem to hate the "r" so much are called "non-rhotic."  Wikipedia quotes Jon Stewart's America, incorrectly I might add, which states that John Adams drafted the Massachusetts Constitution but delegates refused to ratify the letter "R."

I love it.  I love accents, and I'm glad they occur because they give character to a region and by extension, our whole country.  I'm never happier than when I'm talking to someone with an accent.  I was recently watching a documentary that had an acclaimed scientist who wrote a book, and it was hard for me to concentrate because her Boston accent was just so pronounced that it hooked me.  Here is a National Public Radio piece on the Boston accent:

I also feel bad about spending time writing on Boston because, well, I've fessed up to it before, I don't know much about America's Revolution, and Boston played a big part in that struggle.  The Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre and Paul Revere, of course, were covered a little in my history classes in school.  But beyond these things, I didn't know much about Boston's history in the war.  For example, the Siege of Boston, a successful siege by George Washington that eventually drove the British out of the city after eleven months in the early part of the war, was something that I either never paid much attention to or I just didn't hear about it.

On one of my trips, however, I paid homage at what many Bostonians consider, with pride, their greatest shrine.  Yes, that would be Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox and one of the oldest stadiums in baseball.  I can say that it was a true honor to be there and I hope that one day, this baseball fan can return.

Musical Interlude

Here's a fun little song, by They Might Be Giants, that plays on the Boston accent and figures of Bostonian speech (i.e. "wicked," "scorcher," "critta," "pissah").  Enjoy Wicked Little Critta.

If you want to know more about Boston

There's a lot.  Here's a few basics:

Boston Daily
Boston Food Bloggers
Boston Globe (newspaper)
Boston Herald (newspaper)
Boston Magazine
Boston Phoenix (alternative newspaper)
City of Boston
Grub Street Boston (food blog)
Travel Blogs About Boston
Wikipedia: Boston

Next up:  Wellesley, Massachusetts

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