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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Voyage to Nantucket: Whaling History, a Luxury Hotel & So Much More

Voyage to Nantucket: Whaling History, a Luxury Hotel & So Much More

“Here in New England, the character is strong and unshakable.”

– Normal Rockwell

In 2015, my wife Corinne and I finally took a weekend trip to Nantucket Island, located off the South Coast of Massachusetts. There we celebrated our anniversary but did so in a distinctive style. Although the weekend followed no primary schedule, we took in the history, scenery, and beauty of this fantastic island. When we left, we were not surprised by how wonderful the trip was, but wondered why it took so long to visit in the first place. We knew we found a place where we would travel again. If for no other reason, to feel the majesty of the island environment and be taken aback by the splendor of the ocean water as it crashed onto our feet as we walked along the lovely beach.

I am a born and raised New Englander, one who grew up able to see the local harbor from the bedroom window. I do not feel calm or at peace if I am without access to an ocean. This need to live “oceanically” is one reason I found myself living in Hawaii by 2010. If I was going to work towards a Ph.D., I thought, why not study on a gorgeous tropical island surrounded by water. After my wife and I moved back, we found ourselves living in Salem and, once again, had a window with views of the ocean and a sense of peace. The ocean is essential to me, and being as close as possible to it, is vital to who I am as an individual. Nantucket is the perfect example of a location that can instantly recharge my core emotional battery in that way. Just by setting foot on the island, feeling the ocean breeze, and observing the ocean’s vastness from the roof of the Whaling Museum or coastal road, I appear centered.

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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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Adventures in Philadelphia: Breweries, Baseball & Badassery in the City of Brotherly Love

Adventures in Philadelphia: Breweries, Baseball & Badassery in the City of Brotherly Love

“I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack… it grew by one. So there… there were two of us in the wolf pack… And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, “Wait a second, could it be?” And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack.”

– Zach Galifianakis (Alan) from The Hangover (2009)

In the long history of my life, which isn’t that long at all, I have never had a ton of friends. Sure, I have close friends from my past who I am still in contact with from time to time. I communicate with colleagues and classmates who I met along the way and positively impacted me. But friends I hang out with and talk to frequently are a much smaller group, at least in terms of number. Over the last decade, I built a small group who I consider great friends. So, it should be of no surprise that when returning from my month-long stay in Shanghai, China, in July of 2018, I was invited by a couple of those close friends for a weekend trip to Philadelphia; I responded yes. This group of friends goes on a trip once a year, usually to visit a Major League Baseball stadium, test out the local breweries, and eat fantastic food. I was thrilled to be invited. I had not been on one of their weekend excursions, but I enjoyed playing softball and exploring breweries with these four guys, so I was eager and excited to join them. Filled with history, a couple of breweries, and a visit to Citizens Bank Park, this trip became an unforgettable memory.

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“No Sleep Till Brooklyn!”: Two Brothers, a Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon & Craft Beer

“No Sleep Till Brooklyn!”: Two Brothers, a Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon & Craft Beer

“In Brooklyn on a Saturday night, Saturday night, yeah, Talkin’ bout Brooklyn on a Saturday night”

– “Brooklyn on a Saturday Night” by Neil Diamond

I have spent two fabulous Saturday nights in Brooklyn. That might not be enough, true, but I spent both with family, fun was had by all, and I loved the city, its eateries, and its beer. My first experience in Brooklyn was with my brother Jeff. Together we ate, drank, and crushed the Brooklyn Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon. It was a memorable weekend, and it was a running trip that we have modeled all our other trips after. The incredible times we had in other locations, and in subsequent years, was inspired by our “brother trip” to Brooklyn. As I have focused on and provided attention to a half marathon each month, this month, it’s time to lace up the sneakers, get some craft beer, eat delicious food and enjoy Brooklyn. Two brothers, 13.1 miles of scenic running, and the weekend that established a tradition.

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Wandering through County Clare, Ireland

Wandering through County Clare, Ireland

“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”

– Irish Saying ☘️

In August 2017, my wife and I traveled to County Clare, Ireland, with my mother, for an experience of a lifetime. My mother has become a seasoned professional at traveling throughout Ireland and invited us to stay with her at the cottage she rented for the summer. With my wife and I on summer break from teaching, it seemed the time was finally right to join my mother. This trip would be a perfect opportunity to see some of the places that have become special to her. Our trip constructed incredible memories that, as I have said often, are helping me get through this pandemic. Join me as I recollect about this fantastic journey along the Atlantic coastline of Ireland and those towns and historical sites we visited.

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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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Traveling from Antigua to Sibinal in Guatemala, or the Land of Eternal Spring

Traveling from Antigua to Sibinal in Guatemala, or the Land of Eternal Spring

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

– Maya Angelou

In the summer of 2010, my wife’s family, including me, traveled to Guatemala. We went to visit my wife’s brother Kyle. He was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sibinal, a municipality in the San Marcos department of Guatemala. It was an exciting opportunity, since none of us had been to Guatemala before, and it had been over a year since we saw Kyle. We relied on him to plan out our entire itinerary. He chose where we stayed, ate, and arranged fabulous visits with his host families, set up a couple of historical tours, and a trip to his work site in the village of Sibinal. What we didn’t expect would be the deluge of weather that greeted us along our journey from Antigua to Quetzaltenango, known locally as Xela (SHAY-la), Lake Atitlán, San Marcos, and finally Sibinal.

While the trip had rain, mudslides, a hurricane, and an earthquake, the memories we gained, stories constructed, and time spent together are seen today as genuinely incredible. I know of no other trip I have spoken about more, cared more deeply about, then that trip to Guatemala. Join me as I venture ten years to the past and reflect on this incredible journey, and marvel at the places I saw, people I met, food I ate, and the brutal weather that has since become family lore.

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My No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Travel Adventure & “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

My No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Travel Adventure & “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

“Neal: What’s the flight situation? / Del: Simple. There’s no way on earth we’re going to get out of here tonight. We’d have more luck playing pickup sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak. / Neal: I guess we’ll find out soon enough. / Del: Yeah, but by the time the airline cancels this flight, which they will sooner or later, you’d have more of a chance to find a three-legged ballerina than you would a hotel room. / Neal: Are you saying I could be stuck in Wichita? Del: I’m saying you are stuck in Wichita.”

– John Candy (Del) & Steve Martin (Neal) in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

In previous posts, I have discussed how my brother Jeff and I do a movie rewatch and chat each week. It started on ZOOM when things locked down at the start of the pandemic, and we have since continued doing it socially distanced in either his or my backyard. One week, what started as a discussion of our favorite John Hughes’ film, morphed into a conversation about bad travel experiences. As brothers do, we each told our own bad travel stories, competing to see who had the worst experience. In the end, we both agreed our worst travel experience was one we shared.

Many years ago, 16-years to be exact, my brother Jeff and I lived our version of the film Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I remember it being terrible. In our attempt to go to Florida to celebrate Christmas and the dawning of a New Year at Walt Disney World with my sister Becky and mother, we experienced what can only be described as an awful travel adventure. To circumvent lousy weather, limited plane space, and a semi-strike by our airline, we did whatever we could to make it Florida, from Providence, RI. We went through insanity, yet it is one of the funniest stories to tell because, well, sometimes bad experiences make for great stories.

The end of the story will be as strange as the beginning. But, to better understand it, I want to add in a comparison take on John Candy and Steve Martin’s incredible buddy-comedy adventure, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. A film with sharp comedic timing, uncomfortable travel commentary, and touching dramatic elements, the movie always makes me think of what my brother Jeff and I went through and the paths we took to get to Florida that Christmas in 2004. Join me as I explore that travel adventure, study an incredibly nostalgic film, and partially spoil the story’s ending. It ends pretty well.

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The Big Easy: Wicked Good Cafe Au Lait, a Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon & an Epic WWII Museum

The Big Easy: Wicked Good Cafe Au Lait, a Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon & an Epic WWII Museum

“In America, there might be better gastronomic destinations than New Orleans, but there is no place more uniquely wonderful. … With the best restaurants in New York, you’ll find something similar to it in Paris or Copenhagen or Chicago. But there is no place like New Orleans. So it’s a must-see city because there’s no explaining it, no describing it. You can’t compare it to anything. So, far and away, New Orleans.”

– Anthony Bourdain

In February 2020, just as the pandemic was publicly making its way to American shores, my wife and I traveled to New Orleans, LA. Knowing my interest in exploring the city and that a Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon was coming to town, my wife surprised me by securing my race registration as a birthday gift. She knew how hard a time I had with our home’s sale, so she thought, and I agreed that this race and trip would provide us an opportunity to relax, reset, and be ourselves. With the race purchased, plane travel booked, and hotel secured, we were ready. When February rolled around, our eagerness and excitement to explore a new city was high.

While we knew that the pandemic had been growing globally, there had only been a handful of cases reported in the US by this point, so when it came time to go, we went. We planned to explore, eat great food, visit a WWII museum, and check the city off our list. What we didn’t know at the time is that this would be our last trip of 2020, even though the year had only just begun. As 2020 finally comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on what was one of the best and brightest moments of a challenging year. Let’s head back to NOLA!

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