Visual History: Field Trips & Sentimental New England Museums

Visual History: Field Trips & Sentimental New England Museums

“Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once.”

– Aubrey Hepburn

I continue to reflect on those things that brought me joy, whether toys or food. One thing I have not discussed is museums. There is no need to worry; I will not put on my historian hat today, but instead recall those places filled with artifacts, history, and have inspired, moved, and awoken me to the larger, more complex world. As an adult, I have both different and similar viewpoints about those museums or historical sites I traveled to and observed as a child and adolescent. It is interesting to remember those places I went at a young age with the lived experience and the years of museum visits I have since stockpiled.

Today, I seek to engage in nostalgia once again, but with “field trips” as my focus, as well as those museums that I cannot forget, like Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts. One foot in the past, the other in the present, I hope to respect the educational pursuits that inspired me and the various museum visits that moved me. Sure, I won’t discuss every trip or visit a historical site or museum but rather build a narrative of the moments I think of most often. As the pandemic continues, diving into my nostalgic past has brought great comfort. Like my post on food and toys, and to an extent, music, and movies, here I take on public history.

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“This is Baseball, You Gotta Stop Thinking!”: Baseball in Life & Cinema

“This is Baseball, You Gotta Stop Thinking!”: Baseball in Life & Cinema

Jimmy Dugan: Sneaking out like this, quitting, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It’s what lights you up, you can’t deny that. / Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard. / Jimmy Dugan: It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

– Tom Hanks (Dugan) & Geena Davis (Hinson) in A League of Their Own

April 1, tomorrow, marks the beginning of the MLB season in America. As an individual ready for a slight return to normalcy, baseball is the great American pastime. I am deeply nostalgic about baseball, more so than any other sport. It’s as if, once spring is sprung, the smell in the air and feel of the environment demand that players take the field to participate in the American pastime. Days like today, the eve of the start of a new MLB season, remind me of my love of baseball and my enjoyment of movies with baseball as an underlining theme. I grew up watching baseball films, and they are plausibly the first type of sports-themed films I fell in love with, thus molding my cinematic experience for the rest of my life. There are films with powerful, uplifting moments that allow them to transcend their above-average status and become legendary. So, let’s talk baseball, both on the field and the cinematic screen.

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Video Game Nostalgia & Returning to “Borderlands 3”

Video Game Nostalgia & Returning to “Borderlands 3”

“The obvious objective of video games is to entertain people by surprising them with new experiences.”

– Shigeru Miyamoto

Nostalgia has often served as a vehicle to allow me to peel back the curtain and explore topics like music, food, movies, and toys. Today, I do it again, but this time with a nod towards video games, which I briefly explored before. I discussed my fascination with Borderlands 3 on PlayStation in July. In A Newcomer Joins Borderlands 3, I elaborated on how my brother-in-law Kyle bought me the game, and we constantly played online throughout the pandemic and still today. Yes, we have bested the competition, crushed the newly released DLC, and go back to Sanctuary III with every expansion. Borderlands 3 has come to define what I look for in a video game.

I am not a gamer and do not pretend to be an expert. Seriously though, I am terrible at Borderlands 3, but it doesn’t matter. If I destroy ten cars and fall off every cliff, I will continue to enjoy the experience. As Kyle and I continue to explore Borderlands 3, it had me thinking; what are my favorite video games, and how do they compare to my newfound favorite? So, I chose to go back, briefly, to Borderlands 3 and explore those video games that left an impression on my gameplay as a child, a teenager, and a nearly forty-year-old adult who refuses to put down the controller. Maybe it’s the nonstop laughing, or perhaps it’s who the games connect me to, but no matter, let’s hit play.

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“Rocky Mountain High”: John Denver & Traveling to Denver, CO for 13.1 Miles of Running

“Rocky Mountain High”: John Denver & Traveling to Denver, CO for 13.1 Miles of Running

“But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
Rocky mountain high”

– John Denver “Rocky Mountain High”

The other day was gorgeous outside, with the sun shining and 65°F. I mean, it could have been 50°F, and, as a New Englander, I would have thrown on shorts and celebrated! The temperature was incredible, and the snow finally melted. I went for a run, and along the way, as I allowed myself to fall deep into thought, I reflected on my favorite half marathons. I have spoken of them before on this blog, but my memory kept bringing me back to Denver, CO. The Rock n’ Roll Denver Half Marathon is one of the best races I have ever run, and I mentioned it in an August 2020 post. Denver is a fantastic city, and this was an awesome trip.

As I mentioned in one of last month’s posts, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn!”, my brother Jeff promised that if we ran the Rock n’ Roll Brooklyn race in 2016, he would support me in selecting a race destination, further away, in 2017. Knowing exactly where I wanted to go and supported by a series of welcomed cosmic occurrences, the stars seemed to align. I went to Jeff with my request to run in Denver. Join me as I explore the city, the race once again, but honestly, for the first time, first observing the emotional connection that sparked my need to visit the city and see the mountains I had read about, or more importantly, heard about in songs.

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“Hold your breath, make a wish, count to three”: Recalling Sentimental 1980s Toys

“Hold your breath, make a wish, count to three”: Recalling Sentimental 1980s Toys

Woody: All right, that’s enough! Look, we’re all very impressed with Andy’s new toy. / Buzz: Toy?/ Woody: T-O-Y, Toy! / Buzz: Excuse me, I think the word you’re searching for is ‘Space Ranger’. / Woody: The word I’m searching for – I can’t say, because there’s preschool toys present.

– Tom Hanks (Woody) & Tim Allen (Buzz) from Toy Story (1995)

The other day, I watched a YouTube channel, and the two hosts visited the Funko shop on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA. Now, that might not sound like anything special, but it is for two reasons. One, I love those small Funko POP! figurines, and I wish I had more than the two I currently own. Two, the hosts made custom Funko POP! figures as part of the “POP! Yourself!” experience at the Hollywood location. That seemed incredible. Not only does Funko have an actual store, but people can make a toy/figure that looks like them. As a child of the 80s, I would have loved these custom creations, both then and, yes, now. At least I know one place I will be going when it’s safe to travel! Get ready, LA; I am coming.

The most cherished item in those early years of growing up was my toys. Sure, that might be odd to think of as an adult nearing forty, but as I have defined myself as a reflective person, someone who regularly ponders nostalgic thoughts, this adds up. For the last couple of months, I have found, one could say, somewhat of a groove with my weekly posts. One week I post about travel, one week movies/POP! Culture, one week half marathons, and another week nostalgia/memories. While it does not always turn out this way, nor are weeks confined to such a rigid structure, January and February proved the rule. To close out this cold and snowy New England month, I thought, why not dive into one of my oldest and purest enjoyments; toys. I no longer seek them out, except of course, for the occasional adult LEGO build of a Haunted Mansion or the Statue of Liberty, or the Nathan Drake Uncharted and John F. Kennedy Presidential Funko POP!. Still, I have the fondest memories of those days, nights, and Saturday afternoons when toys were the center of an imaginary world, of my invention.

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It’s a Soundtrack Way of Life with Nostalgic Movie Songs on My Mind

It’s a Soundtrack Way of Life with Nostalgic Movie Songs on My Mind

“To me, movies and music go hand in hand. When I’m writing a script, one of the first things I do is find the music I’m going to play for the opening sequence.”

– Quentin Tarantino

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my affinity for original music scores. How the music shapes and molds the images you see is unbelievable. Still, the film score is solely one component of what makes up my favorite parts of the cinematic experience. Therefore, I thought why not venture back to the world of movie music, but this time focus on my most nostalgic movie songs. Many of my posts play around in the sandbox of nostalgia. I am a historian; after all, it’s where I feel most comfortable. But, what do I mean by movie music? Well, I am referring to those songs that immediately produce an incredible nostalgic feeling when I hear them on the radio, television, or film. When I hear the song, I grow still, the world around me becomes silent, and all I picture is where I remember it.

As a professor, one of my favorite traditions is to play “Back to School” at the start of the semester. Like those athletes you see getting off the team bus, headphones on, and walking into the stadium, I play this as I drive to class on day one. It’s smooth vocals and slow beat, quickly picking up tempo and ferocity in a fabulous 80s fashion. The song always has the power to pump me up, like a wrestler making their way to the ring with entrance music playing. Written by Richard Wolf and Mark Leonard and Jude Cole’s vocals, this anthem of the 1986 comedy film Back to School is heart-pumping fantastic. Sure, the movie, starring Rodney Dangerfield, is over the top, aged poorly at multiple points, but is in line with other 80s era films. The song always makes me laugh as I think back to watching it with my brother Jeff. I reflect on the film’s fun absurdity, and all the times I reenacted Sam Kinison’s cinematic moment when he yells “say it” and goes ballistic in the classroom. That is the power of a nostalgic film song.

As you can imagine the task of selecting nostalgic movie songs may sound like an impossible task. I have watched thousands of films, and most movies have several connected songs. No matter, it seemed a fun, worthwhile, and musically inclined venture. To find my most nostalgic songs, I focused on my most nostalgic movies, which I discussed in an earlier blog post, Cinematic Nostalgia: Traveling 88 mph to the 1980s. By focusing on those movies first, I could find those songs that inherently illustrate my love of cinema on a cellular level. But starting with those films does not mean it is where I will remain as I discover songs that strike the most nostalgic key. With that said, let’s dive back into cinematic music, but rather than listening to the original score, let’s put the cassette in the stereo, press play, skip over the instrumental and find the melody that brings all the memories flooding back.

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“Good Food, Good Times”: Nourishment in Nostalgia and Vice Versa

“Good Food, Good Times”: Nourishment in Nostalgia and Vice Versa

“Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: ‘Is it good? Does it give pleasure?’”

– Anthony Bourdain

Do you ever think about the things you think about? Sure, that has nothing to do with this week’s post, but it does make you ponder. Well, the other day I was thinking about food. Ok, I get it, doesn’t everyone think about food. Yes, of course, but recently I started to think about those foods that defined my past. Honestly, this topic came to me after watching a recent vlog on a YouTube channel called Dani.702. The host, Dani, was at Disney Springs and purchased a substantial glazed donut from Everglazed Donuts and a giant chocolate chip cookie from Gideon’s cookie shop. After sampling both, she selected the one she thought was best. Her decision ultimately rested on which one made her feel most nostalgic. She then mentioned a favorite memory of getting a similar donut when she was younger. Dani.702’s reaction made me ponder about the types, and flavors, of foods I enjoyed when I was younger and produced a similar response. Stuffed quahogs, linguica pizza, sour cream and onion dip, and malasadas are a few foods that always transport me back in time.

In an old post, Traveling to Familiar Surroundings, I discussed my journey back, after many years, to where I grew up, going to a few eateries, and finding comfort in familiar surroundings. My parents no longer reside in the area, and my siblings and extended family have since moved away and on for the most part. My ability to connect to the past is, well, not as easy as I wish. That was why, as I discussed in that post, my wife and I went to my home town. I was able to deal with my anxiety and depression with a nostalgic trip that included hometown food. I have since moved closer, even if slightly, to the area, but the pandemic has, of course, made revisiting eateries challenging. Today, join me as I travel to coastal Massachusetts, the area of my childhood, and explore those foods and meals, either home-cooked or takeout, that stand out to me today, and if given an opportunity, I would order right now.

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Trip to Washington, D.C.: Half Marathon Running, Delicious Food & an Inconceivable Encounter

Trip to Washington, D.C.: Half Marathon Running, Delicious Food & an Inconceivable Encounter

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

– John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address Delivered on Friday, January 20, 1961

Today is an exciting day in the United States. I have always been amazed by the American President’s inauguration. Maybe it was the countless hours I spent at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, MA. Those moments as I sat transfixed in front of the large screen, watching and listening to Kennedy’s inaugural address. As I observed this visual history in the museum exhibit, it was the first time I heard a speech that inspired me. It made me feel emotionally connected to history, the moment, the point of it all. As a historian, I continuously try to reclaim that connection to the past. That’s one of the reasons why I always wanted to visit Washington, D.C., and see the important monuments, museums and consider the nation’s collective memory of the past.

Four years ago this March, my wife and I traveled to Washington, D.C., so that I could run another Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon. As I wrote in numerous blog posts about half marathon travel, I love Rock n’ Roll organized races. The half marathon I ran in Washington, D.C., is a perfect example of why I continue to travel and run. I enjoy traveling to D.C., and, especially as a historian, there is an endless amount to do. Since today is Inauguration Day and President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris will take the oath of office, I thought I would venture back to the nation’s capital and reflect on my last time there. Make sure your sneakers are tied and have your cold weather running gear because D.C. was frigid. The only way to remedy the freezing temperatures was running fast and eating some delicious food. Just beware of the eatery you go to; you might bump into someone unexpected.

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🎃 Halloween Delights 🎃: Costumes, October in Salem, MA & Halloween’s Past, Present, and Yet to Come

🎃 Halloween Delights 🎃: Costumes, October in Salem, MA & Halloween’s Past, Present, and Yet to Come

“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.”

– Edgar Allen Poe

Remember the smell, and feel of those old-school rubber Halloween masks you wore back in the late 1980s and early 1990s? My favorite one was of a werewolf, and I must have worn that costume every single year until it started falling apart. As a child, I remember going up into the attic to retrieve the decorations and seeing the box marked “Halloween” and getting excited to break out that mask. I may have gone eight years in a row with it, but each year changed the outfit, football player werewolf, baseball player werewolf, or werewolf in a plaid shirt. Halloween has always been an entertaining holiday. I mean, you get to dress up as something scary, from POP! Culture, or anything! You get free candy, and you have a valid reason to watch several scary movies, both good ones and terrible ones. Halloween is amusing, and while it was exciting as a child, it can be and has been enjoyable as an adult.

Recently, my wife and I moved away from our home after a lengthy selling process. We wanted to move closer to work, as well as family, so we sold our house in Salem, MA, and with it our time in “Halloween-town.” With September ending and tomorrow we welcome October, I got to thinking about the holiday and what I remember about it and what it has always meant to me. It does not hurt that things are wicked weird with the pandemic, and who knows what October will look like this year. So, as I usually do and as any good historian does, I look to the past, my wicked travels, and find solace, comfort, and possibly a new narrative.

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Cinematic Nostalgia: Traveling 88 mph to the 1980s

Cinematic Nostalgia: Traveling 88 mph to the 1980s

“Goonies never say die!”

– Mikey in The Goonies

When you grow up, there are those movies you watch once and forgot about, leaving very little of a mark on your pop culture makeup. Other times there are those films that stand the test of time, maybe not in graphics, or dialogue, but in substance. These films, still to this day, are a nostalgic reminder of one of your great cinematic experiences and a sentimental part of your past.

We all have our internal or external list of “favorite movies.” Often the list is personal, ranging from a film you can’t stop thinking about, or one that proved a cinematic masterpiece, or others purely for their stupidity. The list is yours, no one else, so the films you loved are allowed to stand in place as “your” greats. My list is similar to that idea. I have my masterpiece like Shawshank Redemption, my favorites Memento, Back to the Future, Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park, Platoon, movies by Christopher Nolan, Stephan Spielberg, Quintin Tarantino, and so on. My list is my list, films that had an effect on me, one way or another.

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