Massachusetts – Days 5-6: A Date, The Freedom Trail, and Fine Art

Brittany Swanson   October 9, 2015   Comments Off on Massachusetts – Days 5-6: A Date, The Freedom Trail, and Fine Art

Day five was a planning day, so it wasn’t terribly exciting. I did make a huge discovery though. I realized that there was a way to get free entry into a whole lot of museums across the country! (Including a few that I’d already skipped because the prices were too steep.) All I had to do was get a membership at one of the museums and then through reciprocity I’d get in free to all the others. The membership prices varied, with some costing up to $275! Of course, with all the museums I was going to go to using the pass, it’d probably still be worth it, but I looked around and finally found a cheap membership from a museum nearby. Unfortunately, Historic Newton, the place I found, which had a $100 membership, wasn’t open until 11:00 a.m. the following day. Lame.

The highlight of day five was my date that evening. Yep, I went on a date! The first date I’ve been on in a surprisingly long time. It was really fun. He took me to The Fells in Medford and we hiked up to this lookout where we could see the Boston skyline. It wasn’t something I would’ve found on my own, so I’m glad we went. We walked around for a bit longer and then went and got pizza and watched a movie. I had a great time.

Pretty stellar view for a first date... The Fells in Medford, MA.

Pretty stellar view for a first date… The Fells in Medford, MA.

I’d originally planned on getting to Boston around 10 or 11 a.m. on day six, but because the museum where I wanted to get the membership wasn’t open until eleven I had to push things back. When I got to the museum there was no one at the main desk so, like I do, I just wandered around for a bit. Then I remembered I was there for a specific reason, so I went and knocked on a door where I heard voices and asked them if I was allowed to be in there. The said yes and one of the ladies took me down to the desk to pay. I got my membership, but she didn’t know how to print it. I gathered that they didn’t get many memberships at this particular museum, hence why it was so cheap. Since I’d already sort of looked around the museum, I spent the time waiting for her to figure out how to print the membership figuring out where I needed to go in Boston and how to get there.

Finally, a little before noon I made my way to Heath St. where I was going to park and then ride the train into Boston. It was a street cleaning day and just after the parking ban so there were tons of parking spots which was convenient. I packed my bag and walked the block or so to the station and then realized that this wasn’t New York and I couldn’t just buy a pass at any station. I Googled “Where to buy a Charlie Card” and got back in the car and drove five minutes away, but the store that was supposed to be there didn’t exist… A new Google search yielded another store ten minutes away. I drove the ten minutes to it, got my Card, and drove back. Thankfully my parking spot was still there, but at this point I’d lost another hour.

My plan for the day was to walk the Freedom Trail, then go to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts after 4 p.m. when it’s free, and then head to Cape Cod to stay with my host for the next two nights.

I dozed off on the train into Boston. I really miss public transportation. I used to get lots of reading or naps in when I lived in NYC. Anyway, I made it to my stop and found the Freedom Trail without much trouble. The Freedom Trail is marked by red bricks or paint all along the way which is both convenient and kind of distracting. It’s convenient because I could always tell where I was supposed to go without having to be glued to a map, but also distracting because I was glued to the bricks instead and had to keep reminding myself to look up and look around.

Follow the red brick road... Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

Follow the red brick road… Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

I had to book it along the Freedom Trail if I was going to make it to the Museum of Fine Arts and not get to my host’s house too late, so I summoned my inner New Yorker and started bobbing and weaving around all the other tourists. A woman on a mission. I saw the placard for Charlestown, then went to Bunker Hill. The Bunker Hill Monument was huge!

So. Many. Stairs. 294 to be exact. Bunker Hill Monument, Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

So. Many. Stairs. 294 to be exact. Bunker Hill Monument, Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

When I realized you could climb to the top of the monument for free, I hesitated, wondering if it was going to be too much of a time suck, but went for it anyway. Two hundred and ninety four steps to the top later, and I can still feel it two days later… The little hole in the wall windows on the way up made me wonder if there was even going to be a view at the top or if I was just climbing to climb. Wouldn’t that be awful? Hey, climb all the way to the top of this monument, there’s no view, just climb to say you did it! Thankfully, the view turned out to be pretty spectacular:

Another sweet view of Boston, from the top of Bunker Hill Monument, Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

Another sweet view of Boston, from the top of Bunker Hill Monument, Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

The next stop was the USS Constitution, but there was a long line and it looked like you had to pay, so I just took a picture and moved on.

USS Constitution, Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

USS Constitution, Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

I skipped Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. I just did a cemetery in Salem, and didn’t really need to spend more time in one when I was in a rush. Then came the Old North Church where Paul Revere hung his lanterns to warn that the British were coming. That was pretty cool. I love when history comes alive.

Old North Church, where Paul Revere signaled that the British were coming! Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

Old North Church, where Paul Revere signaled that the British were coming! Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

Then we came to Paul Revere’s house, which was also pretty cool. And pretty random. This historic place in the midst of restaurants and modern life. Strange.

Paul Revere's House, Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

Paul Revere’s House, Freedom Trail, Boston, MA.

There was a cool green space off Hanover St. and John F. Fitzgerald Surface Rd. where lots of people were hanging out and taking it easy. It had a nice view of the city.

View of Boston from green space at Hanover St. and John F. Fitzgerald Surface Rd., Boston, MA.

View of Boston from green space at Hanover St. and John F. Fitzgerald Surface Rd., Boston, MA.

The last time I was in Boston I went to Faneuil Hall, but I went again to see if it was how I had remembered it. Yep, pretty much exactly the same. Touristy and overpriced. I hopped in and then hopped out. Though on the wall it mentioned something about the Black Heritage Trail – I think next time I’m in Boston I’d like to do that. I found the site of the Boston Massacre. I walked past the Old City Hall and overheard a tour guide saying that the Omni Parker House is one of the few places in the city to get an original Boston Creme Pie. I was in a rush, so I didn’t stop, but I made a mental note in case I’m ever back in town.

I was running out of time. It was already past four and I had to leave the Museum of Fine Arts at around 5:30 if I was going to make it to my host’s house before it was too late. I somehow got off the clearly marked Freedom Trail, or missed a turn, or something, and ended up in a Burying Ground, I’m not even sure which one. I quickly backtracked looking for the Old Corner Book Store, but couldn’t find it. My phone was about to die, so I needed to use it to figure out how to get to the train to get to the Museum.

My phone just barely made it and luckily I have a battery charger so I charged it on the train to the Museum of Fine Arts. On the train, I realized I didn’t make it to Boston Common or the site of the Boston Tea Party, oh well, I guess I’ll have to come back to Boston someday. I walked in to the Museum, checked my backpack, found a map, scoped out the things I wanted to see, and set off. I started in The Art of the Americas section because the guide highlighted Jackson Pollock, who is one of my favorites. I know a lot of people don’t like Pollock because they say anyone could do that, but no one was doing it at the time and no one would choose the same colors, or move the paint in the same way, so I love it. Check out this close-up of Number 10:

Detail of Number 10, Jackson Pollock, 1949, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Detail of Number 10, Jackson Pollock, 1949, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

I also really liked Flight of Man by Pollock, which was a painting done on a ceramic bowl. This was before he got into the style for which he is well known.

Flight of Man, Jackson Pollock, 1939, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Flight of Man, Jackson Pollock, 1939, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

They also had some Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe works in the American Art section. I really liked O’Keeffe’s Deer’s Skull with Pedernal. The brush work was so smooth and the colors so vibrant. Unfortunately, my picture was super blurry. Sorry.

Next I dropped down a level to check out the Art of Europe to see Monet and Turner, whom I also have a strong affinity for. I was actually kind of disappointed. The Museum of Fine Arts’ versions of Monet’s Water Lilies weren’t as awe inspiring as I’d have hoped. Of the two pieces they had by Turner, only one was what I think of when I think of Turner, and I didn’t much like it. The colors were fairly muted and the boat was only barely visible, I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling it.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Dance at Bougival by Renoir though. I was probably mostly excited to see it because it reminded me of Gilmore Girls. In the episode where they do the live portraits of classic works of art, Dance at Bougival is one of the scenes.

I was really confused when I saw Degas’ Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer because I swear I posed with the same statue a few winters ago in NYC… Maybe it moves? Or there’s more than one?

Have I seen you before? Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, Edgar Degas, 1921, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Have I seen you before? Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, Edgar Degas, 1921, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

I think I like famous paintings/painters for the same reason I like classic literature, because I like being in the know. I like being able to have someone say, I like Monet, and being able to say, oh yeah, though his water lilies were a little underwhelming in real life. I like being well versed in both art and literature, it makes me feel smart.

Next I headed over to Contemporary Art. I didn’t use to like Contemporary Art. I thought, like much of America, that if I didn’t get it I didn’t like it. However, after a class in college where I had to go to the Des Moines Art Center I saw this one painting and I started to like Contemporary Art. I forget who the painting was by, or what it was called, but it was three lines of white paint on a white background. At first it annoyed me because I was like, really? White paint on a white canvas? What the heck?! But the more I looked at it, the more I realized how cool it was. If you looked closely you could see the pencil marks where the boundaries for the white paint lines were. And the pencil lines didn’t run all the way around the painted lines, but just showed up here and there and some extended beyoned the painted lines. Each line of white was a slightly different tint so you could see them, but only barely. I don’t know, it just really spoke to me about the artist’s process and I loved that.

Anyway, back to Boston, where Josiah McElheny’s Endless Repeating Twentieth-Century Modernism caught my attention. There were these glass vase-like sculptures surrounded by mirrors so they looked like they continued on into infinity. It was trippy, but cool.

Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism, Josiah McElheny, 2007, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism, Josiah McElheny, 2007, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Kiki Smith’s Lilith also made me pause, because how often do you see a sculpture poised like Spiderman on a wall?

Sorry its blurry....Lilith, Kiki Smith, 1994, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Sorry its blurry….Lilith, Kiki Smith, 1994, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

I loved Glenn Ligon’s Untitled (James Baldwin) because it was a unique size and I found it fascinating that so many people walked right by it, especially considering the subject matter. It used a quote by James Baldwin about how whites want black artists to speak of the African American experience, but want them to do so within the confines of white discourse, which is, of course, impossible. The writing was smudged and hard to read, but super relevant considering the piece was made twenty-five years ago but I’d say the same is true today.

Untitled (James Baldwin), Glenn Ligon, 1990, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Untitled (James Baldwin), Glenn Ligon, 1990, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

There was also a cool video exhibit where Francis Alÿs let a fox loose in London’s National Portrait Gallery. The video showed the surveillance footage from the museum as a commentary on “the omnipresence of cameras in the city.” Pretty neat. Probably my favorite of the contemporary pieces was one by Jeppe Hein. It was called PLEASE… It was a neon sign that commented on society and public behaviors. It was funny and I loved it.

PLEASE…. Jeppe Hein, 2008, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Though it was an incredibly fast-paced and busy day I saw all I wanted to see in the Museum. I breezed through the Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa before collecting my backpack and leaving twenty minutes later than I meant to. I made it to my host’s house with plenty of time to chat and hang out before bed, so it was a pretty solid day.

I liked Boston a lot more this time, than the last time I was there. It was a gorgeous day outside, and last time it had been pouring, so that probably helped. I did get a little frustrated about the whole Charlie Card thing. It’s annoying going to a new/unfamiliar city and not understanding how things work, while all around you all the locals are going about business without a care in the world, not bothered that you’re lost or confused or just don’t understand how something works. Though I learned that if I persevere and commit to do something regardless of the obstacles life is pretty awesome.