Friday, June 27, 2008

Andover Townsman article

This week's edition of the Andover Townsman (my hometown's paper of record) has a nice article on me and the release of Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands. If you go to the home page for this week's issue, you can also read about two other graduates of Andover High School--Jay Leno and Michael Chiklis. Leno was in nearby Lowell for a concert last weekend and Chiklis will be getting the key to the town today.

I didn't see the police blotter, my favorite feature in the paper, up on the web site, though. You could always count on priceless police incidents like the time a woman called the police to report her car windshield was gone only to call back to report it was just so clean she couldn't see it or the time time a resident near the high school called to report a huge snowball fight at the school, except it turned out to be the first day of softball practice. Good stuff.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Web Site

After about a decade of owning the domain, I finally got around to putting up a web site. It's a little bare bones, but I'll work on beefing it up. I've got a page with a listing of my published articles. The books page will include the latest media mentions of Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands. And I've got a page with some upcoming author events we'll be putting on in conjunction with the book. (Our first event is this Sunday at 4PM at the Constitution Marina.) Check it out:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Spectacle Island Article in Boston Globe

Today's travel section of The Boston Globe (June 22) has an article I wrote on Spectacle Island, the reborn jewel in Boston Harbor's "Sapphire Necklace" of islands. There are also some color photographs I took of Spectacle Island as well. Here's a link to the Spectacle Island article.

If anyone is interested in visiting Spectacle Islanda and learning more about the Boston Harbor Islands, I'll be giving presentations at 1 PM and 3 PM on July 20 at the Spectacle Island visitor center about some of the stories we tell in Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands. Books will be on sale at the event.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Go Celtics! Another Win for Titletown

Newsflash: Boston Celtics snap up the Larry O'Brien Trophy as NBA Champion.

Warm up the Duck Boats!

Friday, June 13, 2008


With $4 a gallon gas, airlines slashing service and raising prices, and the dollar weaker than George W. Bush's approval ratings, "staycations" are becoming all the rage this summer. I'm guessing numerous Bostonians will forgo international travel and cross-country road trips for something closer to home, so renting a vacation home in New England may be a way to still have a nice summer break without breaking the bank with travel costs.

If you're looking for a summer rental, you may want to search for a property on FlipKey, a newly launched web site. FlipKey lists over 50,000 vacation homes in all 50 states that are available for rent. What makes FlipKey unique is that it allows registered users to rate properties, so it's very similar to TripAdvisor, the popular hotel rating web site. Like TripAdvisor, FlipKey creates profiles of the properties, authenticating them for potential vacationers. And, like TripAdvisor, it enables users to rate the properties after stays. So if a "staycation" is in your future and you're not venturing far from Boston, check it out.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Spectacle Island's Pottery Barn

I headed out to Spectacle Island last week for a writing assignment I'm working on. It was the first time back on the ferry out to the islands since the many days I spent last summer and fall working on Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands. Felt good to get back on the horse...or the ferry, in this case. As I posted before, the waiting area for the ferry at Long Wharf has been improved with more tables and benches. And the ferry was running on time, and the trip out seemed to be a little quicker with faster speeds along the harbor.

It was my first time out to the island in spring, and the sea roses were full of pink and white blooms. (The beach, however, is being rebuilt and is scheduled to be open mid- to late June, so if you're going specifically for the sand and surf, you should check to see if the project is done.) On previous trips to Spectacle Island, I've seen numerous people out strolling the beach searching intently for artifacts that have washed ashore. As we talk about in Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands, the shoreline of Rainsford Island is strewn with interesting relics that have been churned up by the surf. But I had never spent much time searching the beach on Spectacle Island that runs southward from the dock.

Boy had I been missing out. The beach is filled with a full spectrum of frosted, polished sea glass. White, green, blue, brown. Even more interesting to me were the pottery shards scattered on the beach. There were pieces of china of all different colors and patterns. Looked like the bull in the china shop had just barreled through. Some of these pottery shards date back decades or even more than 100 years, back to a time when Bostonians threw their refuse right in the harbor from the wharves. You kind of feel like an archaeologist wondering the origin and the stories behind the plateware. Who had used these plates before? What were the social occasions like? Did they come from a shipwreck? Or one of the many institutions that used to exist on the islands?

I know it's tempting to pocket these little artifacts, and many people like to collect the sea glass, but the park management requests that you leave footprints and take pictures but leave the artifacts behind so the next person can get the same thrill of discovery.

FYI, I'll be giving a talk out on Spectacle Island on July 20 at 1 PM and 3PM for the book, so it's a great time to come and check it out yourself.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Boston Decked Out for NBA Finals

Game 2 of the NBA Finals is tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden, and Boston (aka, Sports City USA) is showing its spirit. Assuming you aren't going to be getting tickets anytime soon to get into any of the games, you can still check out the Larry O'Brien trophy that is awarded to the winner--well, a giant, giant replica of the trophy at least. (By the way, I'm willing to bet no other sports championship trophy is named for a former Postmaster General of the United States.) It's perched atop the park at the northern end of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, next to the Garden and above the overpass from which the cars emerge from the tunnels of the Big Dig onto the Zakim Bridge. While you won't be able to grasp the trophy in your hands, it gives you a great opportunity to be creative with your photos.

City Hall Plaza has been hosting NBA Nation, a traveling road show with basketball-related games and swag. That's wrapping up today, but the giant "Beat LA" T-shirt should be standing for a while longer.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Boston Light Article in AAA Horizons

Boston Light on Little Brewster Island is the oldest light station in the United States. When its beams first shone across Boston Harbor in 1716, Boston Light became the first lighthouse in America. The original beacon was destroyed by departing British troops in the American Revolution, so the lighthouse in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, is now considered the country's oldest. Beginning June 26, tours of Boston Light for the summer season will begin. After being off-limits last year following the refurbishment of Boston Light's giant lens, visitors will once again be able to scale the tower for a great view of the Boston Harbor Islands and the city skyline. For more on Boston Light, check out the article I wrote for the Boston edition of this month's issue of AAA Horizons. For more ono Boston Light, check out the 224-page guidebook Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Boston Massacre Memorial

I posted a few months ago about the Boston Massacre Memorial on Boston Common, which I think is a great piece of art and one that may, because of its location, be overlooked by Bostonians. Following my post, I was fortunate enough to hear from Denise Sparda, the great-granddaughter of Robert Kraus, the sculptor of the monument.

Denise was nice enough to send me a fantastic restored photograph from the day the memorial was unveiled, which I've posted here. Based on newspaper accounts, the date of the unveiling and the photograph appears to have been November 14, 1888.

According to one newspaper account of the unveiling, Governor Oliver Ames and Boston Mayor Hugh O'Brien gave brief remarks at the ceremony at the monument, which is depicted in the picture. Following the ceremony, the crowd marched to the location of the site where the Boston Massacre occurred, and a brief ceremony was held there. Then the crowd proceeded to Faneuil Hall where the governor and mayor again addressed the crowd, an historical oration was given by John Fiske, and a poem by John Boyle O'Reilly was read.

It's really interesting to read newspaper accounts of the memorial's creation and dedication. It's hard to imagine today, when the Boston Massacre is held up as one of the first events in America's path to independence, but there was considerable controversy back in 1888 as to whether it was appropriate to honor the victims of the Boston Massacre, who many believed to be lawless in their actions and just a part of a drunken and angry mob. Newspaper articles in 1888 were just as apt to refer to "the affair in King Street" as they were to call it the "Boston Massacre."

And don't think that the race and class of the victims—including Crispus Attucks, he of African-American and Native American descent, and Patrick Carr, an Irish immigrant—didn't play a role in the controversy. The race of Attucks, in particular, was a hot topic in 1888, just a little more than two decades removed from the Civil War. In fact, even though all five victims are listed on the monument's pedestal, many newspaper accounts refer to the work as the "Crispus Attucks monument." According to a May 22, 1888, article in the Macon Telegraph about the memorial: "Special interest is given to it by the fact that one of the killed was a colored man named Crispus Attucks, who was glorified by the Abolitionists, for their purposes, as one of liberty's martyrs. No doubt the [Massachusetts] Historical Society and the [New England Historic] Genealogical Society are right when they say that these men were rioters, who got into a squabble with the soldiers, having no patriotic purpose, and not appreciating the historical importance of their disorderly behavior."

U.S. Senator George F. Hoar, quoted in an October 24, 1889, article in The Boston Globe, gave a passionate defense of the victims and wondered why their "lawless" activities were viewed differently than those who participated in The Boston Tea Party, with the underlying reasons being class and race: "They did no more than the members of the tea party did, or than Samuel Adams when he threatened the governor that unless the troops were removed the people would come down upon him. This threat by Sam Adams was as lawless as anything the populace did...Why is there such a hidden desire to attribute to these people in the humbler and perhaps lower walks of life base and rowdy motives? Perhaps it was justice to acquit the British soldiers tried for murder, but their acquittal did not condemn the people as a mob."

I'm not sure if the controversy that swirled about the place of the victims in American history back in the 1880s played a role in the location of the monument on Boston Common or not, but I still believe the time is right to move this monument to the site of the Boston Massacre so that more people can appreciate the powerful symbolism in this work by Robert Kraus.