Covered in Sweat and Looking For A Patriot
I’m standing in front of the Paul Revere House in Boston’s North End, completely drenched with sweat, surrounded by others completely drenched with sweat, waiting in line to buy tickets and wondering “Is it hotter today than it was the day before?”
Life in the anthropocene is a steamy experience.
During my fortnight in Boston twenty five years ago, I didn’t come anywhere near Paul Revere’s House. Not because I have an aversion to eighteenth century history, but rather because there was so many other things to see and do. As it turned out, the day I had planned to be out on the Freedom Trail, a family friend took me all around Salem, so I did get to see where Nathaniel Hawthorne spent time on the government’s dime writing while working in the U.S. Custom House.
I also ate a tub of salt water taffy that day which was an extraordinarily bad idea.
Here I am, twenty five years later, standing behind a group of women wearing shirts that boldly declare “Barbra’s 50th Bachelorette Bash”, waiting to enter the modest 17th century wooden home where Revere lived off and on for about thirty years. I have additional questions about the syntax on those shirts. I pause as I can’t parse out my own query due to the heat, and offer an upraised hand when one of this merry-making party declares “Up high for Barb!”
I shuffle along behind the group and we make our way into the home via the kitchen. There is a sign offering a series of bullet points with the usual prohibitions (No Smoking, No Photography, etc) and everyone in Barb’s party takes a photo of the sign. Last chance, I suppose.
The kitchen presents little of interest to the group and I continue to stay a few steps behind, remora-like, hoping for some tidbits of conversation, casual asides, and Revere-talk for my own intellectual digestion. As we step into the next room, we hear a booming voice declare:
“Nobody really cared about Paul Revere when he died.
His real fame came when Longfellow decided to memorialize him in the poem ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’”
We’ve entered in media res and it’s clear that I’ve missed some other salient details about earlier moments in the Revere saga. The booming voice belongs to Ben, a red-bearded fellow who I find out is starting his BA program this fall at UMass-Lowell. It’s clear that his oration will begin again as we get a new cadre over the transom.
A few moments pass and the room fills up with about a dozen or so new arrivals.
“Welcome to the Paul Revere House”, Ben begins. “You’re in from the heat and I’m glad that you’re here. I’d like to start by telling you a few things you might not know about Paul. He was not rich. Unlike John Hancock or Samuel Adams, Revere was a man of modest means. When he comes to live in this house, he’s your average 35 year old guy with a growing family. Actually, by the time Revere is living here in 1770, this house is a fixer-upper. After all, it’s 90 years old when he moves in with his family.”
A pause and a pause and a pause.
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This is another installment for my next book, “25 Years Gone By”.
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