Two weeks ago I was in Boston, MA not quite by choice, but by my sister’s persuasive and persistent argument that it was time I took a break from 24/7 work. She was in the city on business. In other words, the price was right for everyone to get out of town including my mother. This was one of the few times I actually played the part of “tourist” without embarassment.
This year, I rejoined the All Souls Church, Unitarian (DC). Boston is definitely a “mecca” of sorts for Unitarianism as the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) main office is located right across from the Commons on Beacon Street, and just a few strides from the Massachusetts State House. Since my sister works for the UUA, she often travels to Boston for meetings. For this trip there were a number of farewell parties including one for the out-going UUA President Rev. William G. Sinkford elected in 2001. Sinkford is the first African American President of the UUA. A new President will be elected at the UUA’s General Assembly next week.
The Universalist Church of America was founded by 1793, and the American Unitarian Association by 1825. In 1961, these denominations consolidated to form the new religion of Unitarian Universalism.
I’m still learning and re-learning the history, principles (there are 7) and philosophies of Unitarianism, Universalism. Unitarians don’t talk about their religion too much or tele-evangelize. UUism isn’t a secret waiting for Oprah or a DVD release either. The denomination can boast an impressive roll call of American luminaries including four U.S. Presidents (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, William Howard Taft). This probably lets people know up front Unitarian Universalism isn’t a fringe element of the American spiritual landscape.
The UUA Walking Tour “Unitarian and Universalist in Boston is a start. I’m linking this post to the PDF here.
I was told, by a Unitarian minister, that the official religion of Boston is sports. I suppose the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins are the patron saints.
I’ve learned to like federalist architecture. I like the smooth red brick houses on Beacon Hill. Charles Bulfinch (a Unitarian) designed the Massachusetts State House (pictured). Paul Revere, another Unitarian, installed the first dome made of copper. Bulfinch also designed the U.S. Capitol.
Since we were staying right behind the state house, I got to see all angles of it. I also got to see the line of news crews out front as the story broke that retired state house speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi was being indicted on corruption charges stemming from kickbacks delivered through contracts with a computer software firm. What is it with local government and software firms? I understand, this behavior isn’t new to the commonwealth. But there’s no escaping the bean counters who appear to be very dedicated fiscal watch dogs waiting for a fresh opportunity to pounce on state officials. Both DiMasi and the software firm have pleaded not-guilty.
When I got home, I confirmed Absalom Boston is one of my ancestors – a brother of a direct ancestor. He was a businessman, whaling captain and mariner from Nantucket. I saw his picture in an exhibit on African American entrepreneurs of Massachusetts in the Abiel Smith School, home of the Boston Museum of African American History (historic landmark along with the adjacent African Meeting House). I couldn’t help but note the ancestor’s two gold hoop earrings in his ears. Bostons definitely dare to be different. Absalom also worked to integrate Nantucket’s public schools. He was buried in a segregated cemetery when he died in 1855. During the visit we met a wonderful Harvard MBA candidate named Antonia from Harlem (NY). She’s planning a basketball tournament night out for July 11th in Harlem, NY (uptown). Stay tuned for Antonia.
STOMPING THE HARVARD YARD AND CAMBRIDGE
On my first visit to Harvard, many, many years ago, the first thing that struck me about the campus was how old it was, older than many of the campuses back at home and of my top choice colleges at the time. [Harvard was established in 1636.] This time when I arrived university was about to start Senior Class Day with Matt Lauer of “The Today Show” as the featured speaker. My mother and I crashed the yard for a few moments to soak up some atmosphere. There were proud parents from around the world, alumni masters of the universe, and lots of others milling about. A few dorms were open for bathroom breaks.
My friend Corinna recommended that I check out Herrell’s ice cream, one of those Massachusetts companies (a lot smaller than Dunkin Donuts). They have a shop in Cambridge across from the building that houses the Harvard Information Center at 15 Dunster Street. They were out of Corinna’s favorite, lemon mousse. I had the Brown Cow, a coffee ice cream with bites of chocolate and almonds swirled in. Nice texture. Good flavor without tasting artificial.
THEY’RE NOT VERY FRIENDLY PEOPLE
My mother is a senior citizen and I refuse to drive in Boston, so we traveled by the public transportation which means encountering strangers including city workers to get around. We got lost a few times. With the exceptoin of one surly cab driver, people appeared more than happy to help us with directions and other suggestions. Hear and there we got a friendly joke. Maybe I mis-interpreted. Maybe our non-Boston advisors meant “people in Boston are not overly friendly?” Where were those unfriendlies that week?
I had no idea Boston had the nation’s first subway – built in 1895. Photo: Mural on the wall of the platform for the Park Street subway station.
Boston’s McDonalds has root beer. I know that’s no big deal, but if you love root beer and can never get it consistently in your fast food joints back home, I say this is a plus for Boston!
THE JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY
We only had 90 minutes in the museum before it closed for the day, so we got a discount on the tickets. The JFK museum/library appears to be a collection of the ideas and idealism of John F. Kennedy not just a biographical collection of material objects. This JFK quote stood out for me:
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.
To be continued….