Boston The Ubiquitous Rider
Over all these years I’ve been in several prisons. Also in some of the most prestigious western universities: the Sorbonne, Cambridge, Berkeley. I must clarify that I have never overnight in any of them ... nor in any of the first. Once, visiting family in Boston I was even in Harvard.
Walking the long and snowy Massachusetts Avenue, a pleasant walk if the weather is fairly sunny, Somerville is reached through the old cemetery, a succession of dark slate tombstones contrasting with the brightness of the white snowed ground where squirrels roam dragging their feet among the tombs in search of something to eat. Somerville is a line of wooden single-family houses particularly beautiful, colonial style, rarely punctuated by a shopping centre and few small squares, how it’s Porter Square. My destination was one of these two-storey houses in Montrose Street where, likely, a boiling lobster soup specialty of the region, was waiting for me, to regain my 36.5 degrees usual body temperature. Once overcome Porter I crossed Elm to reach Summer Street while fantasizing when, a little further east, route passed where, almost three centuries ago, Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride from Charlestown and Lexington along the right bank of Mystic River.
Revere, a jeweller and industrial committed to the colonial cause, was, in spring of 1775, linked as a messenger to the Boston Committee of Correspondence. The situation in the Thirteen Colonies was serious. Increase of tax rates by the British Government exhausted coffers after the war with France and also affected the American colonies. Boston was particularly upset after March 1770 slaughter and the reprisals after the destruction of British tea into the harbour in 1773. The famous Tea Party. Britain blocked the port and began the quartering of troops in the city while it was already creeping over the rebellion which would drove to the independence of the colonies. On 14 April 1775, Thomas Gage, military governor of the Crown, ordered to arrest the main leaders of the Provincial Congress in the city. John Hancock and Samuel Adams, in not too distant future signers of the Declaration of Independence, had left Boston anticipating his detention. On the night of April 18, British troops began to mobilize, not only to arrest them, also to seize the arms and supplies hideouts colonial militias were distributed between Lexington and Concord, near Boston. Paul Revere was commissioned to warn. Twenty years later, in a letter to the secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Jeremy Belknap, Revere explained in detail the events happened that night: how he paddle crossed the Charles River and how, once on the other bank loaned the saddle to ride up to Lexington, warning on the way to all the neighbours he found, until reached the house where Hancock and Adams were staying. Having achieved his target, back to Boston, was arrested by a British patrol. He was released shortly afterwards been interrogated. From then on Paul Revere became a legend.
Following the Midnight Rider reverse route, leaving Somerville, Charlestown is soon reached. In case of hungry, there’s a delicious dinner in a corner in Bunker Hill square, almost from the Rider’s times - opened in 1780 - named Warren Tavern, where it’s possible to eat excellent burgers unrelated to fast food.
On the way to Boston, still in Charlestown, north of Paul Revere Park, is docked the USS Constitution, one of the first frigates built by the brand new USA fleet. Revere was not alien to its construction, as it was cast in his smelting factory all the copper needed to armour the hull of the ship.
Crossed the river, now in Boston, there are four steps to walk up to the Paul Revere Mall, a public garden dominated by a statue of the most famous Boston citizen. Following right along Garden Street not take to long to reach number 19, facing North Square, where a beautiful estate dating from 1680 was acquired ninety years later by Revere. Here he lived with his wife and five children until 1800. The house, one of the oldest in the city, is now a museum run by the Paul Revere Memorial Association.
The lifespan of Paul Revere finished not too far from here. His remains rest beside those of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin and the five victims of the Boston slaughter, in the Granary Burying Ground, one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. A stone and slate monolith recalls his night raids and his person.
Few crossings further, in Union Street, is Union Oyster House. I’m not quite sure if Revere was there, although it had been possible since the building was already erected in 1636, and in 1771, at the time of the rider, Isaiah Thomas published The Massachusetts Spy there, the oldest newspaper in the United States. Since 1826 it’s a restaurant. It also claims to be the oldest in the country, or at least in Boston. Never mind. They serve outstanding oysters.
In the city centre lays the Boston Common, a huge public park that was once a field of grass and also a military camp. In winter it’s possible to skate on the frozen pond under the watchful eye of another statue ... this time it's George Washington’s. In one of the southern slope streets, Beacon Hill, is located a good place to have a drink, the Bull and Finch Pub. Perhaps the name is not extremely well known, but once inside the scene is familiar, mainly for the eighties American TV serials fans. The serial was not filmed here. Actually the pub was reproduced in a television studio. The serial was called Cheers.
From Hancock Tower in the Back Bay neighbourhood, a land reclaimed from the sea, the whole landscape is seen, trying to figure out how it was when Shawmut Peninsula was connected to mainland only by a narrow strip of land. Revere chose cross rowing.