Thursday, October 18, 2007

Charlestown and Cambridge: The Other Side of the Charles River

Two little tired children. Two parents tired of driving all the way from Yarmouth to get to Boston. A bag of bagels, coffee, granola bars, baby carrots, half an apple, water bottles, trips to the bathroom. And we actually had a very good day!

Here is the USS Constitution, commonly known as "Old Ironsides":

We went on the tour, so we could go below decks and see the guns and hammocks and things. Benny was an active participant, AS ALWAYS. He was called on to demonstrate how the Navy in those days enlisted 8-year-olds. During our time on the ship a lot of people asked Benny if he was going to join the Navy. His political answer: "I haven't decided yet."

We climbed the Bunker Hill Monument, which has 294 steps, and that is a lot of steps:

Benny asked that we do it again and again. Hmm. No. Very claustrophobic up there at the top.

We had dinner in Cambridge, on Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard and MIT. We decided that eating at typical Harvard hangout would involve a lot of tourists or snootiness, and eating at a typical MIT hangout would involve a vending machine. So we went for in between. Here we are walking around looking at choices:

We settled on a place called, unambiguously, "Middle East."

The falafel was good. Best I've had since Chicago. The hummous (hoomis?) was not all that great, but it was really all about the falafel anyway. Benny ate an entire 1/2 pound cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onion, and fancy mustard. Sadie ate fries. Both refused the rice pudding and baclava -- fine, more for us.

We took a picture of Benny at MIT, but not one of Sadie at Harvard. She is being so weird about getting her picture taken. Half the time she's posing and preening, half the time she's hiding in Dan's elbow. Mysterious. Here's Benny's brain posing with MIT:

Driving around MIT and Harvard I realized a few things. Dan is an MIT type, and I am not. MIT is tall, metal and glass, no trees, no bricks, no grass (I know, I know, there are trees and grass, but that's the impression I got). Dan really liked it. It made me feel uncomfortable.

Harvard was more my speed -- grass, trees, olde bricke buildingse, and grass. Something I didn't realize: the entire main part of the campus is fenced and gated. I kind of liked that. On the other hand, I wasn't crazy about the people roaming around Harvard. They struck me as too rich and too precious. We went into a coffee joint and there were like forty-three tins of green tea, and people pompously sniffing and comparing and arguing about the relative merits. I did convince an overly monied young lady to purchase a tea called "Pinhead Gunpowder" based on absolutely nothing except the fact that I raved about it disingenuously. Heh.

This is all based on very limited time spent walking around randomly, of course, but I think I like the buildings of Harvard and the people of MIT. Dan had the opposite feeling. So, we are a good match. If our lives had been different, we might have met at that falafel place halfway between on Massachusetts Ave.

I will say, here, that I was offered early acceptance at MIT when I was a junior in high school. I could have skipped senior year and gone straight to college. I was fifteen. This week I found that I love Cambridge -- better than Boston, I think. I love the universities all over the place, I love the feeling of this endless, huge, small college town, all the brains leaking out of the windows -- it is very much a great environment for a nerd like me. But I'm very glad I didn't go to school there. I have always thought, "I could have gone to MIT -- and then what?" I'm now happy to say I have no regrets. I can't put my finger on exactly what, but something about the place made me glad for the choices I made.

My job as a homeschooling mom is to keep the children's options open. I want them to be able to choose where they want to go to school, with all varieties available. Of course, I want them to go to Old Dominion, down the street, so I can still do their laundry. But if they want to go to Berkeley or Rutgers or Oxford or... wherever, I want them to be able to pick what will make them the most happy. And I'm happy to spend a whole lot of time visiting colleges, because I just love making undergraduates buy weird tea!

1 comment:

  1. Ah, Boston! Reminds me of my honeymoon...yes, we spent it in Boston LOL

    And Old Ironside by Oliver Wendell Holmes:

    Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
    Long has it waved on high,
    And many an eye has danced to see
    That banner in the sky;
    Beneath it rung the battle shout,
    And burst the cannon's roar; --
    The meteor of the ocean air
    Shall sweep the clouds no more.
    Her deck, once red with heroes' blood,
    Where knelt the vanquished foe,
    When winds were hurrying o'er the flood,
    And waves were white below,
    No more shall feel the victor's tread,
    Or know the conquered knee; --
    The harpies of the shore shall pluck
    The eagle of the sea!

    Oh, better that her shattered hulk
    Should sink beneath the wave;
    Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
    And there should be her grave;
    Nail to the mast her holy flag,
    Set every threadbare sail,
    And give her to the god of storms,
    The lightning and the gale!