“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
– A. Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”
The American Civil War has been, and will always be, my historical topic of choice, one nearest to my heart. My research resides there, and my mentor Dr. Robert McGlone lived there with his writings about Abolitionist John Brown. When I visit a monument, memorial, or battlefield, I take the opportunity to explore and understand that historical moment. It makes sense then that I have visited Gettysburg, PA, twice during my life. While exploring those two travel adventures, this post will offer insight into my fascination with Civil War history and where it all began. Join me as I get personal, but with a pointed look at my core historical topic, and the trips that illustrate that tether, tied, and fixed by people, places, and time.
“Full of crooked little streets; but I tell you Boston has opened and kept open more turnpikes that lead straight to free thought and free speech and free deeds than any other city.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
I have always dreamed of living in a major city. While my hometown wasn’t small, it wasn’t a city. The closest city to where I grew up, New Bedford, was more prominent, but it wasn’t anything like Providence or Boston. In my life, I would go on to have the pleasure of visiting several major cities in the U.S. and the world and residing in a few. Three years in Honolulu, one month in Shanghai, but Boston will always be the first. In 2008, I, along with Corinne, set sights on the city of Boston as our living location. Corinne and I had recently started living together, but we did so in her suburban apartment. So, we moved to Boston. For the next 12 months, we learned to be partners, adopted our shelter pup, Mr. Tuttles, and enjoyed city living, both its beauties and drawbacks. Today, let’s explore Boston as Corinne and I did.
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”
– Fred (Mister) Rodgers
Recently, and on a foggy but temperate Sunday morning, I, along with my brother Jeff visited the historic town of Mystic, CT, and I closed one chapter of my running book. Not only is Mystic beautiful, but it reminded me that running in New England is second to none. While reintroducing me to half marathon running, Mystic served as a milestone moment in my running journey. Today, I want to explore my New England running adventures. As an individual formally devoid of running, I used my New England upbringing to carve out a lofty but inspiring, yet sometimes spirited, running goal. Mystic served as a fitting location as my last New England state completed during my trek to run in every U.S. state, a plan I started in 2015. Each New England state offered a unique race experience, some emotional and exciting, others downright depressing and awkwardly infuriating. No matter the outcome of any race, miles of New England roads were counted, and I seek to retrace them.
“We all come from somewhere. We carry that place with us wherever we go. That never leaves our hearts. Not entirely.”
– Doug Jones (Saru) from Star Trek: Discovery
My hometown matters to me. Yet, I rarely go back to the town I called home for nearly 25 years. It’s not that I don’t want to go back; it’s more that there is little calling for me to return. My parents no longer live locally, and they sold my childhood home years ago. Each time I return, there are fewer reminders of who I once was. Many of my posts situate my hometown as a consistent backdrop. Avoiding the town, therefore, is impossible. I love my hometown. I no longer want to position it on the periphery. But returning home is emotionally challenging and brings forth pleasing and unpleasant emotions; fear, happiness, and uncertainty. It’s a conflicted feeling, but I have attempted to work through these complexities. Fairhaven, Massachusetts, is ultimately home. I may not return for some time, but home will logically always be merely a drive away. After Corinne and I purchased a 2003 Jeep Wrangler, I felt the urge to explore the town I took for granted and left behind nearly two decades ago.
“Most men, they’ll tell you a story straight through. It won’t be complicated, but it won’t be interesting either.”
– Albert Finney (Senior Ed Bloom) from Big Fish
I love to tell a story. Spinning tales about travel, personal dislike of snow, and even craft beer crusades allow me to narrate the story of my life, but hopefully, in an entertaining fashion. It reminds me of the film, Big Fish. I constantly think of the line Billy Crudup delivers, as William Bloom, “Have you ever heard a joke so many times you’ve forgotten why it’s funny? And then you hear it again, and suddenly it’s new. You remember why you loved it in the first place.” That is how writing posts on this blog makes me feel. I have forgotten the central meaning of so many stories that I see those events from a fresh perspective as I dig through photos or retread old roads. This fact became clear during a recent trip Corinne and I took to Newport, RI.
“I don’t believe in fashion. I believe in costume. Life is too short to be the same person every day.”
– Stephanie Perkins
Several years ago, my buddy Sean came to Corinne and my home in Salem for a night out on the town. One of Corinne’s friends joined, so it was a “double-date,” but amongst friends. We visited a couple of eateries and breweries while enjoying the bustling Salem nightlife in winter. That night, I rocked a fabulous tweed vest, Ralph Lauren dress shirt with a tie, slim fit jeans, and a shiny pair of boots, all of which worked perfectly together. I also wore a sleek peacoat I purchased while living in Hawaii, which was wicked cheap. It was an investment piece. I enjoy dressing up, and while this was a simple night out, I felt the need to wear tweed. Sean laughed, rightfully. A history professor living in an 1890s home in Salem, wearing tweed and a tie, was a little on the nose.
We had a wonderful time in Salem that night, and I felt confident and comfortable. I enjoy fashion and see myself as a stylish person, but this is a relatively new reality. If my thirties were a time spent experimenting in fashion, my thirty years prior were hammered by trial and error. Not all fashion fails were solely a product of lousy clothing or poor personal insight. Instead, the apparel was a symptom of a personal issue. Lack of self-esteem, anxiety about weight, body dysmorphia, and color blindness – all played a role in maintaining a clothing status-quo for one purpose; hiding my insecurities. Today, I submit myself to a deeply personal conversation. I have alluded to this topic but kept it at arm’s length; let’s discuss my body image and fashion.
“With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.”
– Dr. Seuss
One of my first albums was Bryan Adams’ smash hit, Reckless. I remember opening the Christmas gift from my Aunt Sybil and seeing a shiny new jewel case with an awesomely designed CD. After hearing “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” from his Waking Up the Neighbors album and Kevin Costner’s 1991 film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, I started listening to his music. That song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1992 Academy Awards but lost to Beauty and the Beast. No musician is more identifiable to my youth than Bryan Adams. His albums matched a moment in my childhood when I dreamed with intent. As I listen to Reckless, I think back to that younger me, wondering, was what I envisioned…this? I often measure my life against the existence I imagined when I was a kid and blasted Bryan Adams’ songs regularly from my stereo.
My life is grander and more exciting than I could have ever dreamed. Yet, there is one area where I feel my path has curved far more than I expected. Remember when you were young and inspected your reflection in a mirror, trying to picture what you might look like as an adult? That’s kind of what I mean, but instead of wondering what I will look like, which I am still asking myself, I am referring to my profession. In elementary school, maybe fifth grade, we did a play about what you want to be when you grow up. Although I secretly wanted to be a comedian, I performed as a baseball player. But all types of professions were present; even one child dressed in B.U.M. Equipment clothing represented a homeless person. Not sure how that was inspiring or compassionate.
I have been teaching for some time, but I often ask, is this it? After the odd jobs, hours of reading/writing towards my Ph.D. degree, and nearly two decades in a classroom, is more to come? If so, where does all this lead? Many people, including my wife Corinne, are asking ourselves these questions. The pandemic and the “great resignation” have shown life is too fragile and “work” is no longer going to be accepted for what it was. Instead, paths forward will demand leaps of faith and scenery changes. I love teaching, but is it what I expected, or is my position what I imagined? In the end, as long as I don’t resemble, nor act like, a core member of the Roy family from the HBO series Succession, how bad can it be! Well, maybe Greg, but I like Greenpeace, so maybe not. Join me as I explore my career and ponder what’s to come.