Thursday, May 9, 2013

Getting Boston Strong One Step at a Time

I just finished my last paper for Boston by Foot and now I have to practice my three-minute presentation for Saturday’s class.  This training course has been an amazing experience.  I used to think that I had a good grasp of Boston history because I knew more than the average bear.  Now I understand that I knew nothing. 
Boston Massacre Site
Boston Massacre Site
South of the Old State House
Granted, I never actually took an undergraduate course in Boston history and I never learned anything about architecture formally.  But I read a lot and I pick things up and I love trivia so I knew stuff about the Boston Massacre and the Freedom Trail and the Great Molasses Flood and Fenway Park.  I could walk a visitor through the city and give a passable explanation for some things.  I knew two of the three foods that were invented at the Parker House Hotel and where the Sacred Cod could be found.  But, really, I knew nothing. 

So far @bostonbyfoot we have studied the history and architecture of Colonial Boston, Federal Boston, Victorian Boston, and Contemporary Boston.  This Saturday’s lecture is about Subterranean Boston and I can’t wait to dig in, so to speak.  The lecturers are all people with an encyclopedic knowledge of their time periods and topics.  They have worked on or restored some of the city’s most iconic structures.  They know a cornice from a triglyph from a corbel—and now so do I.  Just listening to their talks and looking at their slides has been worth the investment of time and money. 

John Hancock Tower
John Hancock Tower
In addition, I have written papers about the Colonial and Federal periods as well as one that compares the John Hancock Tower with the BostonHarbor Hotel at Rowe’s Wharf.  My husband and I went on a tour of the Gibson House Museum and I wrote a tour assessment of that experience.  I have given presentations on the Ebenezer Clough House and King’s Chapel and now I’m studying to present either (1) the three buildings at the corner of State Street and Washington Street (formerly King Street and Cornhill Street) where you can see buildings from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries or (2) the Old South Church (not the New Old South Church) from which the order for the Boston Tea Party was given.
Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowe's Wharf
Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowe's Wharf
I have logged miles pounding the pavement on five demonstration tours of different parts of the city.  That’s another definition of Boston Strong.  Then both my husband and I did Sunday’s two-hour continuing-education tour of the buildings (some still extant but most demolished) designed by Charles Bulfinch, who was America’s first native architect and city planner.  Coming up is the slide review followed by a final exam. 

So far, it’s been all good—easy and fun.  Next comes the hard part. 

I have to sign up for two tours to be given before July 31.  And I have to be prepared to give them.  No auditing the tour, no playing backup to an experienced tour guide.  No sir.  And giving a 90-minute tour from start to finish is daunting.  There’s a lot of information to remember including dates, which are the most difficult thing for me to keep in mind.  Words are my friends, not numbers.  And last week when I gave the presentation about King’s Chapel, I completely forgot the part about the bell even though I knew it, even the dates.

So wish me luck.  If you hear me muttering in my car or in the dark of night, I’ll be practicing my material so the “tourees” will have a great experience and get their money’s worth.  And if you’re in Boston, don’t forget to sign up.  Boston is a great walking city and you’ll hear more and see more if you are seeing it with Boston by Foot at 1630 speed instead of rushing past in a bus. 

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations Aline! It sounds like you are embracing the BBF experience to the fullest. It is a terrific program and you will be fabulous guide. Don't get nervous about giving the tours - it may take a little while but soon it will be muscle memory. Just remember - you don't have to be perfect - being engaging while knowledgeable is important - you don't have to be a human encyclopedia!!