The following posts are going to be a summary of the recent trip Susie and I took to Boston for our anniversary. I would have done this in real time, but the wireless connection in the hotel was kinda slow and more importantly, I was dog tired because in typical McKenna fashion, we squeezed every ounce of the city we were visiting into our allotted time. This is not meant to be an exact description of everything that we did, but rather a reflection on what struck me most during the day. Catch up on previous posts here: Boston Day 1: Faith
Despite the fact that I don’t particularly like beer, Susie and I have a tradition of taking tours of breweries wherever we go. It started with a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery back in college and included a trip to the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto, the last trip that Susie and I took by ourselves. Because we were in Boston, it only seemed right that to take a trip to the Samuel Adams Brewery.
So we woke up at the crack of 10am (hooray for blackout curtains and a trip without children!) and set off on an adventure to find the brewery. Compared to other breweries that we have been to, Sam Adams was remarkable for being tiny. It also happened to be tucked inconspicuously into a regular neighborhood. However, with our exceptional navigational skills (and some well placed signs) we found our way to the brewery.
Seeing that the brewery was not very big, the tour did not involve a great deal of walking.
But I did learn more about the process of making beer than I had ever heard in all my other brewery tours combined. More importantly, I got my fill of corny jokes:
“This is a brewery tour, not a library tour”
“While drinking a cold Sam Adams, you are also helping maintain a cold Sam Adams” (After mentioning your donation goes to maintain Samuel Adams’ grave site)
After trying our beer samples, we headed of to get a sample of something else that Boston is known for. Universities. Back when I was a young lad checking out colleges, I had heard that Boston has the most colleges within its metropolitan area than anywhere else in the Unites States. With about 100 colleges and universities in the area, if Boston is not #1, it must be pretty darn close.
I learned about this random fact back when I imagined myself a budding Physicist and was looking to apply to the esteemed MIT. My dad and I ended up and some kind of prospective student meeting in downtown Chicago, learning all about Boston and MIT. In the end, I decided against even applying (although not before taking the SAT II in Math and Physics.) (I bet you didn’t even know that such a thing existed. Read it and weep!)
Ironically, it was not MIT that Susie and I ended up visiting on our trip, but the venerable Harvard University. Now, Harvard and I have a mildly dicey personal history. To be accurate, it is probably a one-sided affair, as I am sure Harvard never so much as wastes a second thinking about me. Whereas, I occasionally mull over the egregious error of their ways. Back in the day, Harvard University was the only college that I applied to that *gasp!* rejected me. In grand scheme of things, this is a minuscule bump in the road and there are much worse tragedies in the world. However, at the time, it was gut-wreching. I never had considered going there and applied very late in the game (past the deadline, in fact), mainly on the whim of a football coach. But, being rejected still felt horrible.
So while in Boston, I decided to take the opportunity to see what I might have missed out on. And maybe give them a peek at what they missed out on. The first thing I noticed when I got out of the subway station was how it was nothing like I expected. Cambridge was a loud, bustling and cluttered collection of rundown and upscale shops and buidlings. What was fascinating was that almost like a medieval fortress, Harvard was stationed in the middle, rising above the din of the marketplace starkly separated from the unwashed masses by a foreboding wall.
Every so often, the wall was punctuated by a gate, which I half expected to need an ID badge or a passport to get through.
It doesn’t doesn’t come across very well, but at the top of this particular gate is the phrase “Enter To Grow In Wisdom”. These gates were impressive to look at and this seemed to be a particularly appropriate gate to go through. I was amazed at what I found as we walked through the gates.
It was like we had stepped into an entirely different world. The din of activity and general hustle and bustle were gone. It was placidly quiet inside and people were leisurely strolling about. Even more amazing was despite the heat wave that had struck the Boston area, it must have been 15 degrees cooler inside the gates. There were times when I wondered if there were hidden air conditioners blowing cold air in to the small alcoves. That is how significant the initial temperature difference was.
As we conditioned to wander around and take in the sites, all of my previous bitterness towards Harvard began to dissipate. I began to see what all the hype was about. From the old brick buildings to the beautiful steeples
it certainly seemed like everything I had imagined a college to be. In fact, the more I looked around, the more I began to see it in some of the same things I loved about Purdue. The red brick buildings, green spaces tucked between buildings, students that seemed happy to be there, it seemed like a wonderful place to be. I began to realize that what initially mistook for distain was really a growing admiration and respect. When I thought about how much I didn’t like the University of Chicago because it didn’t seem like a real college campus since it was so enmeshed with the city, I had more appreciation for how the campus was part of a town and yet also set apart.
As we wound down our self-guided tour with a trip to Harvard Yard
and the statue of John Harvard
quickly rushed of to the bookstore to buy some Harvard swag for ourselves. And while we rebuffed the nice sales lady who asked us why we weren’t getting a “Future Harvard Grad” T-shirt for our girls (because they are future Boilermakers, silly!), in the back of my mind I thought that I certainly wouldn’t object if either of the girls decided to attend Harvard.
It just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover, even if that book did reject you in the past, and it is possible to bury the hatchet with an old nemesis. Except for Notre Dame. You are still on my list.