So where did I leave off. Ah yes, day two in Boston, Massachusetts. Its hot, the sky is blue, decent people, a personal feel, easy to get around, lots of culture and a heck of a lot of history.
On this particular morning, I stopped at a little coffee shop for some coffee and a mousse – the most awesome moose ever! Then we headed to Harvard Square once more. On the ground I found a brilliant piece of art work that really touched me. Unfortunately I didn’t see the artist about.
From here we headed to Au Bon Pain, unknown to me at the time, but this was the site of one of the scenes of Good Will Hunting – but more on that a little later. As we sat eating out sandwiches, or sipping on sumptuous (yes I just used that word) soup, we were entertained by a busker who enjoyed singing off spontaneous songs about articles from free newspapers picked fresh from the various newspaper vending machines behind him. Some songs were terrible – though he knew it, more often they were so stupid that they were funny.
Just outside the seating area for Au Bon Pain are permanent chess tables and sitting either playing, or reading a newspaper, is the ‘Chessmaster.’ Murray Turnbull in a in the top 1% of chess players, as he says in his own words. A master indeed, he has been sitting here making his living since 1982 playing chess and offering lessons between seven days a week between May and October. Hear him tell his tale on YouTube.
After lunch I was excited to look around Harvard University. Walking through the yard we saw a large crowd sitting on the steps to the Memorial Church. It one of the student-led tours. We joined on. The next stop on the tour was the The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library. This is the main library of the university and was founded with the $3.5m given by Harry Elkins Widener‘s mother to commemorate the life of the Harvard graduate and book collector who died in the Titanic disaster.
The next and final, and probably most interesting, stop on the tour was the Statue of John Harvard, or the Statue of Three Lies, as it is commonly known.
The inscription on the side of the statue reads “John Harvard, Founder, 1638.”
When the statue was created, by Daniel Chester French there were no known images of John Harvard, so a student named Sherman Hoar was chosen randomly by French and dressed in the style of the seventeenth century so he could model for the statue.
The university was founded in 1636, and not by John Harvard was only contributed to it; donated half of his estate and of his library of around 400 volumes.
For some odd (or maybe its more odd that so many people do exactly what their tour guide tells them) reason visitors and tourists rub the shoe of the statue for good luck. Although it seems that, almost as a rite of passage, it is tradition to urinate on the foot before graduating, leading to speculation as to the yellowy discolouration. Often in a drunken state in the early hours of the morning. It seems, if blog comments and message forums are to be believed, that there are students out there who actually have done this, or claim to. Besides finding it totally nasty, I can’t help but be impressed that they can reach.
The statue is more subject to various hacks (The word ‘hack’ at MIT usually refers to a clever, benign, and “ethical” prank or practical joke), including the recent Halo transformation to celebrate the release of the latest game.
It was only after asking our excellent tour guide about my favourite film Good Will Hunting, did I find out that no parts of the movie were filmed on campus. In fact, much of it was filmed in Toronto, Canada! According to our tour guide, no films are allowed to be filmed on campus, after the last production decided that the actual Harvard students didn’t look enough like real Harvard students, and so they were replaced with extras. Naturally, the university was not happy and filming has been banned.
The McLaurin Building, where Will (Matt Damon) works as a janitor is at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. Also used in the movie is the Bow and Arrow Pub off Massachusetts Avenue, now gone, and Woody’s L Street Tavern, 658 E 8th St, which is still thriving and bringing further customers thanks to a sign stating its part in the film.
On our return to the great underground (harvard subway) we yet another busker. This time it was a cello. Only it was different. Not your typical classical pieces. This guy was playing Black Sabbath, and it sounded good.
This time we made our re-entry in Copley Square, in Back Bay, one of Bostons most upscale and desirable neighbourhoods. Here, we inadvertently found many more ‘attractions’ that I had originally noted. First, was the quite spectacular John Hancock Tower, or Hancock Place as it is officially named. Completed in 1976 it is the tallest building in Boston, the tallest building in New England, the 45th tallest building in the United States, and the 135th tallest building in the world.
Next was the The Boston Public Library; the first publicly supported municipal library in the United States, the first large library open to the public in the United States, and the first public library to allow people to borrow books and other materials and take them home to read and use. The library was officially established in Boston by a city ordinance in 1852. The building, however, was designed in 1888 and opened to the public in 1895.
From here we walked to The Public Garden, another location from Good Will Hunting. Although we didn’t see swans, as are spotted in the movie, we saw squirrels. Amazing, tame, squirrels. In fact, it was something I noticed all around Boston, that squirrels can be seen everywhere, even crossing the road. And so, here are the photographs. Wild, Wild SEX!
The horny critters were lovin’ it!
And so that will be all for today. I hope you have enjoyed this odd mix of history, geography, arts, culture and biology. There will of course be more at the weekend.