One has to admire the hardy souls who staff historic sites and repeat, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, the same spiel about whatever famous soul once lived or set foot in the place. I myself might sorely be tempted, after the millionth recitation, to throw up my hands and tell the tourists, “Look, you already know some Very Important Dude/Dudette once dwelt here or you wouldn’t have come here. Google it on your Ipad ‘cause I’m gonna lose my religion if I have to repeat the story one more time.
I am riding the rails through Connecticut now, which is a beautiful state, as aforementioned, but apparently a lot of people want to leave it, because they are packing like pups to mama’s milk into this train right now. Some young woman politely gave up her seat and moved elsewhere to allow an older woman to sit with said older woman’s family, to which one of them said to her:
“When someone your age does something like that, it speaks for your generation.”
So much for taciturn, unfriendly New England stereotypes.
Returning to my contemplation of docents and volunteers and such. I admire you guys but do you HAVE to go on for SO long? Nobody is going to remember more than a few words you say. We sit there squirming in this place we have come so far to see, feeling that it would be terribly rude to just get up and leave you in mid-sentence.
So we endured the dedicated loquacity of our guide at Peacefield, ancestral home of the Adams family. No, not the creepy ones from that old t.v. show. The ones who produced two presidents of the United States. We opted for the hour long tour, as opposed to two hours. I deeply respect Mr. Adams but two hours?
The home stands just outside of Boston. It is beautiful, as one might expect, surrounded by trees and flowers. What impressed me is the testament this place quietly provides of the American Dream: that the son of a shoemaker could grow up to go to Harvard and become the second president of the United States.
Yours truly loved the great library, packed with great books in six languages. In fact, when a few days later I toured the massive castle of the Vanderbilts, all their gaudy glories failed to hide from my eyes the paltriness of their library compared to this, much humbler place.
N.,J. and I departed Peacefield, all of us fighting the exhaustion of an overstuffed day but determined to press on. We had Boston to see. I am a lover of field and forest far from the haunts of man but inexplicably, I also enjoy big cities, brimming with people and culture.
So, Boston was cool. Love their idea of burying the central freeway through the city and returning the land above it to green space. Loved Little Italy in all its boisterous bravado and the serene shelter of a Catholic churchyard. In addition to guys and gals who fitted my ideas of what Italians look like, I saw a couple that intrigued me. How to describe it? Almost sandy, reddish hair, thick eyebrows, big eyes. Not unattractive, I hasten to add. I wonder what region of Italy brought forth those genes.
As we walked along the streets and I savored the sights and sounds – heard some guy in a heavy accent growling about how he punched dis guy in da face – we saw a line forming outside Giacomo’s Ristorante. That was our cue, so we joined it. Had to be good, right? Oh, it was. We ordered a massive cauldron of gustatory bliss – lobsters, clams, mussels and shrimp over a bed of pasta. The very Italian waitress who served us, got impatient with Joseph for not understanding what she was trying to say to him, then with me for not paying attention to their conversation. She then turned to Nicole, who figured things out.
We tackled our massive meal and made it through, barely, then added insult to injury buying cannoli pastries at Mike’s down the street, that not one of us had the stomach to eat. No matter ... they’d be good for breakfast.
Monday dawned with downpours. We sat under a pavilion by the bay and finally gave up on our plans to go to Rose Island for the day. Perhaps we needed the rest anyway. By evening, the rain calmed enough to go out for sushi. Brother and I dared each other to sample the wasabi paste and lived to tell the tale.
Tuesday the skies cleared and we met a ruddy sea dog named Chris and his real dog, Casey, and motorboated out to a lovely hunk of sand in the middle of Narangasette (sp) Bay, where an old lighthouse stands sentinel. N,J and I spent most of the morning there hunting for shells like three little kids. Tis the perk of being a grownup that one can get away with that every now and then.
In the p.m., we toured the Touro Synagogue. It is, as noted, the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue in the United States of America. Here in 1790, Pres. George Washington addressed a letter championing religious freedom and even daring to move beyond mere “tolerance” to the point where we in all our diversity work together as one. That historic letter is cherished and preserved to this day. I even picked up a copy in Hebrew.
After visiting that sacred place, we toured a more worldly demesne, a monument to ridiculous excess, the Breakwater Mansion of the railroad magnates, the Vanderbilts. We truly had gone from Jerusalem to Babylon – the place was a dragon’s hoard of gold, platinum, marble and such. Hard to believe the Vanderbilt patriarch also doubled as a Sunday School teacher. Must have choked on, or perhaps just skipped over, all the passages damning the souls with their hearts set on riches.
We did agree that at least their greed created a lot of employment.
From that palace of pomposity we traveled to the simple beauty of a few minutes on the beach, shell-hunting again and enjoying the cool breeze that not even in their massive mansion the Vanderbilts could duplicate.
Came Wednesday and time to say goodbye – a pain that stings the same whether you are eight or 80.
I will not see Newport again – I must cherish that place in my memory. Joseph and Nicole will be traveling to Italy in a while, then, come fall, they will move back to Bremerton, Wash. They really went all out to show me a great time and I enjoyed it all. Didn't even mention that on that first day, they also took me to see the Aquarium, where we fed sting rays and observed jellyfish -- another great memory.
I think we may have crossed the border into New York by now. There won’t be much more to write. I have missed my sweet Wife and I will thrill to see Her again. I have not missed Virginia’s hellish summer heat nor the daily grind of work and chores from which a vacation is ever an all-too-brief respite.