Even though I will be working just a few miles outside Boston, I don’t think I will spend much time in the city itself. That is a shame, because it is a beautiful city. I think it would be nice to get to know it a little at a time, exploring it on foot, seeing it in its various moods and seasons. When you work in the central city, you get that opportunity. That is how I got to know Washington and Krakow and that is why I still like those cities so much. Unfortunately, I will remain a tourist in Boston. Well, we made our first visit.
We did not have time to do too much, and the kids were unenthusiastic about lingering at historical monuments. We mostly followed the “Freedom Trail” where so much of America’s history took place. Below are some photos.
The boys always like fountains. This is on top of a parking garage. According to the display inside, this was once an ugly above ground parking garage, until the locals got together to make put it underground and landscape the top. It is an excellent example of how things should be done.
The monument to the starving Irish. Much of Boston’s population came from Ireland during the great potato famine in the 1840s. Plagues around the statues tell the story. On the right are the starving Irish on the old sod. In back of CJ are the upstanding citizens they became after coming to America.
Amazing street acrobats. They play rap music and jump up and down. They are great athletes – like Jackie Chan, but they have to make it on the first take or hit the pavement.
I caught this guy in mid flight. He flipped over five people without a net. Before the big stunt, they came around for money. I gave a couple of dollars. It was worth it.
Daniel Webster, the great orator. I read “The Devil & Daniel Webster in HS. It was the shortest book on the reading list. Webster is actually a New Hampshire man. I bought my commuter car at a dealership on the highway is Nashua, NH is named for
Massachusetts state house. It stands in front of Boston Common, which is a very lively and pleasant park.
The cemetery in the center contains the graves of famous people such as Paul Revere and John Hancock. It is a small graveyard, but full of the dear departed and tourists.
I went to the big orientation, although most of it does not apply to me. My status is different. Officially, I am faculty. I have a shabby office and can park in the faculty lot. I can audit classes, but not take them for credit unless I pay the big money tuition. This is fine with me. I perceive that some of the classes would be very hard for me. My fellow students look like a high achieving bunch. The average age is 27 and I think I am the oldest person in the group. Fletcher treated us to a picnic lunch. Everything was fine, except there was no Coca-Cola.
I am looking forward to the year ahead.
This is a replica of “Jumbo”. The famous circus promoted PT Barnum was a benefactor of Tufts (who knew?) He donated money to university and donated his famous elephant, Jumbo, to the university. Actually he donated the hide and bones after an oncoming train hit the mighty beast in 1885. The keeper was leading jumbo and Tom Thumb, a dwarf elephant, across the train. According to the story, Jumbo heroically pushed Tom Thumb out of harms way. A stuffed Jumbo remained in the school’s museum until it was destroyed by fire in 1975. Only Jumbo’s tail remains. It is kept in a jar.
The Fletcher School is located in the middle of the Tufts campus. My office is in the building. Tufts looked a lot like Mariza’s Mary Washington. It is the one blueprint for all those types of colleges. Below are more pictures. I like the big beech tree featured below.
We went to Mount Washington today. It is the highest point in New Hampshire and boasts the most variable weather in the U.S. The highest wind speed ever recorded in the world was recorded on the peak in 1934. For us, however, it was a beautiful day, just a little chilly.
Once again, I was impressed with the beauty of New Hampshire. The northern part of the state is mountainous and almost completely forest covered. What is not covered by trees features neat towns. I could live here for a long time. It is clean and peaceful. Beyond that, there is the intellectual power here of great universities.
This is the Bretton Woods resort at the base of Mount Washington. The allies met here in July 1944 and created the monetary system that helped ensure world growth for a generation after World War II. Most important aspects were exchanged rates fixed to the dollar and the dollar fixed to gold at $35 an ounce. The dollar replaced gold as the world standard. They also created the IMF, GATT (which evolved into the WTO) and the World Bank. It was a momentous meeting. Anti Globalists should hate this place. It was the start of our modern global economy. The dollar remained the “gold standard” until 1973. I don’t remember who caused it to fall. Probably the French or Richard Nixon. The institutions created at Bretton Woods are still with us.
The kids finally got to do something they wanted. Six Flags, New England is not as nice as Busch Gardens or Universal Studios. It has a much more industrial feel to it, more the carnival, less the garden.
The most interesting aspect was the “Superman” roller coaster. It was the most exciting roller coaster I have ever experienced and the only one that I found a little scary. My previous favorite was Apollo’s Chariot in Busch Gardens. Superman has many of the same good attributes: you feel like you will leave the seat, it is very high and very smooth riding. In addition, it has a 221-foot vertical drop and it shoots down at 77 mph. Mariza and I waited an extra fifteen minutes so that we would get to sit in the front car. It was worth it for the thrill of looking straight down before going into the fall and seeing everything coming at you. The ride lasts more than two minutes, which is an unusually long time for one of these things. We had to wait for about an hour to enjoy these two minutes, but it was worth it.
Return of the forest
We drove down along the Massachusetts turnpike and then I –91. Once again I was amazed how much forest there is in this crowded area. According to what I have read, forest covers more of New England today than almost any time in the last millennium. 100 years ago, more than 2/3 of the land was pasture for horses and cows. Before that, Indians regularly set fire to the woods to encourage game species, such as white tailed deer, and to make it easier to move around in the woods. The forests were the heaviest when the Pilgrims landed in 1620. Smallpox and other European diseases had reached the Indian tribes before the Europeans themselves did. Indian populations along the East Coast had declined precipitously a generation before, and with fewer people to burn the forests, the trees had returned. The Pilgrims did not find a virgin land, as they thought, but they did find a land that had been widowed. Their accounts of the thick forests reflect this anomaly. You can tell what had happened by the types of trees they found. Northern hardwoods and hemlock would have replaced the pines, so famously a part of the landscape, if left undisturbed. The white pine forest peaks about a century after the forest regenerates. That is what the Pilgrims found, and that is what they thought was the natural landscape. The settlers set to chopping the trees for their own purposes and did a pretty effective job of destroying them. The forests reached their lowest point about 1920. Since then, the regeneration has been nothing short of remarkable, although the phenomenon is rarely remarked upon. It happens too slowly to be noticed and seems counter intuitive. As suburbs replace farms, it seems like there would be fewer trees, but think about what a farm looks like – not many trees are allowed to grown on a cornfield. A walk in the woods reveals the situation. You come across stone walls that used to divide farm fields and foundations that used to support houses. Now it looks like virgin forest. Once again nature returns.
It is taller than it looks in the picture. Notice the cars on the top about to go down.
We are looking for houses in New Hampshire and may have found one in a condo community called Century Village. It has most of the things we need and we think it would be easy to rent out, which is a big consideration since we plan to leave in a year. Pictures are below. Tennis and basketball courts are easy walks for the boys. There is a nice pool, but I don’t think we will get much use out of it in the winter months we will be here. The place we hope to buy overlooks a large pond and the roads nearby will probably make good running trails.
Londonderry is a very nice place. It is full of apple orchards and maple trees. Robert Frost’s house is nearby and you can see the birches, pines and stonewalls mentioned in his poems. The town has a Civil War monument that makes me think of Virginia. It looks like the same guys designed it. Of course these boys fought on the other side. The schools, both high school for Alex and middle school for Espen, are good, and New Hampshire schools are good in general. People take pride in their lack of sales and personal income tax. When I asked how the state can get by without the usual taxes, a couple people told me that they do without the socialistic policies of Massachusetts (their words, not mine). The live free or die state does not encourage welfare dependency. There seems to be some rivalry between the states. When we talked to a guy in Massachusetts about New Hampshire, he said, “sure you can live cheaper there, but you will be in New Hampshire.” He obviously did not feel further explanation was necessary. Unemployment is less than 3% in southern NH, but wages are low by regional standards. Londonderry is run by town meeting, in the old New England style. Ordinary citizens are involved in the government. I read the town meeting minutes on the Internet. People bring up whatever they want and evidently feel passionately about some pretty arcane things. The meetings must be more entertaining than television and I look forward to attending the September meeting.
I will also be very happy to be here in the run up to the New Hampshire primary. My guy will run without significant competition, but I will take pleasure in watching the dozens of Democratic dwarfs duke it out in the snow. Maybe I will get to meet them in town meetings. Among these guys, my favorite is Joe Liberman. National newspapers say that John Kerry and Howard Dean will have a leg up since they come from nearby states, but my initial impression is that coming from those states confers no particular advantage beyond a short drive. Unlike its neighbors, New Hampshire went for Bush in the last election, but is considered a swing state by strategists, so it might get some attention from the RNC.
The only downsides of living here are that I have to commute a fairly long way to Tufts (which means buying a second car) and we have to come up with a down payment to buy the house. It takes only about 35 minutes to drive from Londonderry to Tufts on Interstate 93 when there is no traffic (we tested it ourselves), but I can’t count on happy state of affairs every time I drive. I also understand that it snows around here. I noticed people have the habit of talking about snow in terms of feet and yards, not inches. This is probably not a good sign. Still, all things considered, life is good. I keep on looking for something bad about this assignment at Tufts, but I still can’t find anything serious. After a life spent honing the fine art of complaining, I am at a loss. Given time, however, I will come up with some appropriate sarcasm and figure out the nefarious plan State Department manifestly devised to mistreated me by making me come to a place I think is great and paying me to go to a school that – given my grades, SAT & attitude – would never let me in if I applied as a student.
Below is the pond near our house. Alex wants a little canoe so that he can paddle to a small island in the middle. I suppose he will only use it once or twice, but I think it might be a good idea to indulge him – with an old canoe of course. Mariza is doing the model pose in the picture. The woman in purple is the real estate agent Alina Tobin. She moved from Poland in the 1980s. We didn’t know that about her before we called the office. It is a small world. She was so happy to talk to someone who had been to her home country; I think we saved a couple of percentage points on the commission. She was a very nice woman, very helpful and, as an American by choice, very proud of her new home in New Hampshire.
Potential running trails steps outside the door. The scar on the road, I am told, is where they recently laid cable for high-speed Internet connections. This is good, since I hope to telecommute some days.
This is the view from outside the back door. The grass is not on our property, but we can use it. The best of all conditions – use without mowing responsibilities. You can’t see the pond on this picture. It is just on the other side of the first group of trees.
Inside. The place is not that big, but should be enough for us. It was built in the 1980s and still has that “look”, which I do not like too much. I actually like the pond and the trees. That is what draws me to this place. Most of New Hampshire is covered with trees, so I figure it can’t be too hard to get wood for the fireplace. I do enjoy making fires and I will enjoy making the boys spit wood. I really like to chop wood myself. It was always the service I provided to anyone I visited who had a wood stove. Anyway, it builds character. Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice, said Ben Franklin. CJ can fix house problems, such as the sliding doors. We will have to paint. This is the front room. Below are the potential boys’ bedroom (with loft) and the basement that CJ may make into another bedroom.
Reports have it that the boys don’t look happy in the pictures, so I asked them to smile. Espen complied with a fake smile. Alex made a special effort to look unhappy. But I caught them a couple second later looking sincerely happier. I think they will like this place.
We have been looking around in Winchester, MA. It is a very nice place, but house are expensive and a little old. It reminds me of my college days – the dumps I lived in then. One time part of the walls of our basement just fell in. I had to put up plastic sheets with duct tape to keep out the cold air. The landlord never bothered to fix the damage. By the time he got around to thinking about it, the winter of our discontent had been replaced by glorious summer and there was no immediate threat of cold air. I moved out before the next onset of cold weather. I think the word to describe most of the apartments we have visited is “funky”. I don’t like funky. Actually I like neighborhoods were everyone else lives in such houses but I no longer enjoy funky houses with “character”. I prefer sunlight and air, and the lack of musty smell.
I love the area, however. In Winchester, you can walk to all the stores. There are several lakes in town. Parks and running trails abound. There seems to be little crime, no litter and no graffiti. If I could find a non-funky house with enough room for the family – one that I could afford – I could be very happy here.
We are thinking of New Hampshire. It is a long commute, but housing is supposed to be much cheaper there and the towns are just a quaint. We are looking in Londonderry, NH. New Hampshire’s most famous natural monument was a rock formation called the old man of the mountain. I say, “was” because it collapsed. It hung from the same ancient mountainside since the last ice age and then a couple of month ago it just fell off. Nothing lasts forever. Elvis has left the building. I guess that is something I will never see, not that I planned to anyway, but there are lots of lakes and mountains I will get to enjoy. Another good thing about New Hampshire is that it has no income or sales tax. Government is small and close to the people. I also like the state slogan “live free or die”. It is on the license plates. Convicts make license plates. Imagine the cognitive dissonance when you spend your time behind bars stamping plates with the slogan “live free or die” – “live free or die” – “live free or die” – hundreds of times each day. I suppose that adds to the punishment. I don’t expect to become a convict and I would consider living in the Granite State just so I could have drive around with such a cool slogan on my plate.
Speaking of driving around, we have been noticing the strange driving habits around here. People drive slowly, but poorly. They are always cutting each other off, sometimes in spectacular fashion. It seems socially acceptable to make a left turn from the right lane or to pull out in front of oncoming traffic. Massachusetts has stronger gun control than Virginia. Do some of these things in the Old Dominion and you may get a quick and painful introduction to Smith & Wesson. You have to drive slowly around here because they mark the roads so poorly. You don’t see many signs in general and they don’t bother to mark major roads, except on major intersections. How stupid is that? If you are lost you stay lost. On the plus side, people here are tolerant of each other’s bad habits. I have not heard drivers beeping their horns as a form of protest. Of course, I have only been in the Boston suburbs so far. I have heard nothing good about traffic in Boston. Maybe conditions are different in the heart of darkness.
August 12, 2003
In 1692 twenty people were executed for witchcraft in the famous trials. Most were hanged; one man was crushed by stones. Nobody was burned. By European standards of the time, this was not a big deal, but it was the most famous persecution in America. It all started when a group of girls were playing silly games and listening to scary stories. Soon they started to accuse their neighbors of making deals with the devil. In the climate of the times, they were believed. It was a horrible example of mass hysteria. Most of the people really believed in witches. We went to the witch museum, where the whole thing was portrayed as intolerance, and gives examples of anti Commie campaigns, AIDS crisis and racism. I don’t agree with the characterization. The witch-hunts were an example of superstition, lack of due process and maybe mass hysteria. The victims were not members of minority groups and the accusers were not people in authority. Nobody could say the obvious: that there is no such thing as witchcraft. One man who tried – a William Proctor – was himself accused of witchcraft and hanged. The closest modern parallel are trials having to do with accusations of sexual abuse. Today, licensed therapists replace the 1690s witch hunters. You have those famous trials of the 1990s, where children accused various adults without physical evidence. There were some guilty individuals, but it turns out that most of the abuse was created in the minds of the poor kids by therapists with agendas. It was very similar to the witch-hunts in methods. A couple years later, we all see how society was caught up in the hysteria and many of us feel ashamed. We forget that in both these cases the people who perpetrated these terrible injustices thought they were doing good in an evil world, and they did their nefarious deed in full view of the public with the willing support of “the people”. It was democratic. The jury at the first witch-trial found the defendant NOT guilty, but changed its verdict after the little girl “victims” wailed and cried and the public demanded the self-evident finding of guilt. It is easy to point the finger of blame at these benighted people of the past and let our tolerant selves off the hook. We can feel virtuous, but that would mean we learn nothing from the past. The real lesson is that we must rely on strong institutions and rule of law, not strong personalities and rule of the politically correct majority.
Modern Salem is a very cute town. We drove on to Marblehead on the coast and Marblehead Neck. That is even nicer. It is a lot like Disneyland. Everything is nice, and perfect and newly painted. I don’t think any poor people are living there, at least not after the police have swept through. The kids at the local tennis club all had nice white uniforms. There was an order on the headland. I tried to explain to Alex the difference between old and new money. A century ago, people whose ancestors made their money through war, slavery and piracy (otherwise known as the nobility) looked down on those who made it through commerce and industry (capitalists). I am not sure how it is now. The Kennedys are a big deal around here. Their money comes from smuggling booze and manipulating the political system. I am not sure if that represents commerce or piracy, but no living Kennedy has even actually earned an honest dollar. (You know that more people have died in Ted Kennedy’s car than in all the nuclear accidents in the U.S. ) I would be a lot prouder to earn my own money than get it from my father or grandfather. My father, in his wisdom, spared me the former embarrassment, and I have not yet achieved the latter. The old money is mostly gone, or shadowed into insignificance by much larger new fortunes. College dropout Bill Gates would probably not be invited to the ever shrinking circle of old rich, but he probably wouldn’t notice the shunning, or care if he did. I suppose going to the right school still makes a difference. You can always tell a Harvard man, you just can’t tell him too much at one time. The problem with being of the elite these days is that nobody knows about it anymore except you. In America you can’t lord it over others. What a shame.
Chris and John in Salem. CJ is scared of the witches of Salem. I am on the mobile phone trying to get pre-approved for a mortgage from USAA in case we buy something in New Hampshire, which is more frightening in many ways. Notice my new white beard. Last time I checked, it was reddish brown – the old keep getting older and the young must do the same. Now people mistake me for Sean Connery all the time. Notice the close resemblance. Imagine him without the toupee and me much better looking and there is no significant difference between us. Anyway, we both have white beards and that’s enough. Mine will be nicer in a month when it either grows in or I shave it off. I am growing a beard to compensate for my general lack of hair, at least that is what Mariza tells me. I just figured I should look more professorial for my new job at Tufts. By the way, I successfully resisted the urge to give myself more hair electronically with “Paint Shop Pro” or just substitute a picture of Sean. Of course I do plan to take a picture of the nicest house in Boston and claim that’s where we live – shit I should not have revealed my audacious plan.
An old Salem house. They look nice on the outside, but you know they are funky and smell funny on the inside. Also notice how narrow the place is and you can bet the bathrooms are foul. I like other people to live in such places because they are quaint. I prefer houses that look old on the outside, but have the latest of modern improvements on the inside. A good rule is to never sit on a toilet older than you are or step into a shower that remembers Ronald Reagan. Progress has been made. People who lived in these old houses would not have done so if they had a choice. Old fixtures are the true horrors of a haunted house.
We visited Mariza’s future school – Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg. It is a cute place (pictures below). Everything is neat, clean and well maintained. It looks exactly as you would expect a college in the middle Atlantic south to look. There are only about 5000 students at the school and all the courses are taught by professors, not teaching assistants as we used to get at the big Midwestern universities I attended. (I lost a lot of respect for teaching assistants when they gave me that job at U of M. I knew less than some of the students I evaluated.)
The city of Fredericksburg is also cute and historic. It reminds me of Alexandria. It is about as old as Alexandria, (founded in 1728), although not as aristocratic looking. It was more a working or commercial town. The city originally handled sea commerce that sailed up the Rappahannock River, until seagoing boats got too big for the shallow river harbor to accommodate. Fredericksburg is best known for the battle that took place there in December 1862. Wave after wave of Union troops attacked Confederates well entrenched behind a stone wall. Many of the deadliest battles of the Civil War took place within a short distance of the city, which made the mistake of being about equal distance between Richmond and Washington. According to what I read, about 100,000 men fell in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania and the Wilderness, all within a long hike from each other. The armies passed this way many times and battles were fought over the same ground. Soldiers in 1864 had the unpleasant experience of coming across the remains of comrades from the last conflicts. It is hard to envision the carnage now on the peaceful and pretty forests and fields.
Chrissy and Mariza try to decide who is taller. I think the contest was long ago decided. This is one of the buildings on campus. Most of the others look similar – red brick and white pillars. They could use some ivy on the walls. Everything is “Gone with the Wind” style. This is a pleasant campus. I think you can walk from one end to the other in about ten minutes, so it should not be too hard for her to get to classes.
These are dorms. They are much nicer than the dumps I had to live in when I was in college. There was also a lot of snow in those days and it was colder. I had to walk many miles to class – up hill both ways. Kids today have it too easy.
A street scene in Fredericksburg. This city has more antique shops per foot than any other place I have ever seen. Parking is a problem. Fortunately, Mary Washington does not allow freshmen to have cars. The town center is about a ten-minute walk from the campus.
The stone wall. It was not so peaceful in 1862. I would not want to run up that hill while people were shooting at me. The battle took place in December. Virginia is not a particularly cold place, but it is frozen in December. Some of the injured men froze to death on the field in front of the stone wall.
We have been back in Washington about a week. Actually we are staying in Virginia at Residence Inn – Merrifield. Washington has been relatively cool, but usually humid. It seems about the same as last time. The only thing I noticed was that security is more stringent. You have to be checked to go into the Smithsonian museums and you can no longer walk the path between the Whitehouse and old Treasury building.
Below are pictures.
The kids are all right. I heard an interesting lecture at the Department yesterday by a guy who studies generational change. I think his name was Robert or Richard Strauss. His book, “Generations” was a big hit several years ago. He since has written others. He says the kids today are all right. This generation, called “millennial” is smarter, more conservative (small c conservative) and better adjusted than any in the history of the U.S. All the bad indicators are down, including murder rate for teens, pregnancy, drug use etc. He says that we baby boomers can’t actually believe how good the younger generation is. We keep on thinking of how bad we were and think that they are just hiding their bad behavior. We keep on looking for anger and alienation, but we may not find it. Our generation, the generation of that came of age in the 1960s and 1970s defined deviance down, crime rose, SATs dropped, confrontation replace dialogue. The sixties sucked from a societal point of view. Most of the audience was less than enthusiastic about this assertion. They are boomers and liberals after all. To them the sixties were heroic.
Strauss was speaking as part of an orientation program for Diplomats in Residence (DIR). One of the reasons the DIRs are around is to recruit non-white applicants. One of the guys told me right out re recruiting that the Department is not looking for people that look like me. I guess he means people who are going bald and have big noses. Our speaker ridiculed the Department’s emphasis on diversity and says that the old race categories just don’t matter anymore. Commentators on both left and right like to make the current situation sound worse, and various NGOs and bureaucracies are looking to maintain their programs designed to address yesterday’s problems. That is why activists hearken to the bad old days of the 1950s and 1960s and claim there has been little progress. That is why the papers are full of horror stories. In a country of many millions of teens it is possible to find bad news. But overall, most of the news is good. The only bad news is that the kids are not particularly independent. They are used to being driven around in safe minivans for organized activities. I will have to buy his books.
Iwo Jima Memorial just outside Arlington Cemetery. I like to walk through Arlington. It is interesting to read the inscriptions. I often walk through the World War II section. Some of the graves there are from the war itself more than fifty years ago. Now it is beginning to fill up with the wives. On the front of the stone it might say something like John Smith – Sergeant USA. More recently is inscribed on the back – Agnes, his wife. For some it has been a long wait. I wonder if they had planned to be buried with their husband for those fifty intervening years.
For our freedom and yours, that was the slogan of Poles who fought tyranny in various allied armies. Above are the statues of Kosciuszko and Pulaski, Polish heroes of the revolution. Kosciusko is in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. He designed the fortifications at West Point and was involved in the battles of Saratoga and various ones in the south. Pulaski is in Freedom Plaza across from the Ronald Reagan building. He was the father of the American cavalry. He was killed in America. Kosciuszko went back to his home country where he struggled unsuccessfully against the Russians when Poland was partitioned. The country disappeared for 123 years.
Union Station. I had an appointment at the Heritage Foundation nearby and went into the station to get out of the rain. It was built as the main train station for Washington more than 100 years ago. They built to last in those days. It still is used as a train station, but now it is also home to many upscale shops and restaurants. It was nicely restored a few years ago. The statues are Roman centurions. Outside are statues and fountains that look like those of Renaissance Rome. Not so many tourists visit. They are missing an interesting area.
As I walked from Union Station to the metro stop, I noticed this really nice view of the Capitol through blooming crape myrtle. It was raining when I took the picture, although you can’t see the drops, but it makes it look foggy. It was a nice, warm gentle rain. It really didn’t feel like rain so much as an incremental increase in the heavy humidity. You can see that they built this park just for me. I am always surprised how few people use this part of the grounds. When I worked at USIA, I used this as a segment of my lunchtime running. Outside the picture is a big hole. They are building an underground visitor center. The Capitol grounds are very nice, with many big trees. The thing I like is that the trees are labeled. I can identify many trees, but not the more exotic varieties. Near the Capitol, for example, are some very big Japanese pagoda trees. I could not have identified them.
Speaking of trees, this is a big tulip tree in the yard of the boy’s friend James. These are wonderful trees. They grow fast and very tall. There is a really big one at Mount Vernon, supposedly planted by George Washington himself. I planted several of these in Warsaw. I figure this one is only about fifty years old. I hope my Warsaw brood gets to look like this yet in my lifetime. You can see the van for size comparison. The tulip tree is the largest hardwood in North America. This particular one is big, although not the biggest I have seen. Still, I wanted to get its picture.