Saturday, March 20, 2010

Old Ironsides

There's a scene in Now, Voyager (which, if either of you have paid any attention, is clearly a major point of reference in my existence and development) where Bette Davis's mother, the Brahmin Mrs. Vale, asks her daughter, "Could we try to remember that we're hardly commercial travelers?" The implication being that they were NOT tourists and would not be partaking in anything remotely "touristy."

I certainly try to blend in wherever I am, and I endeavor above all things to never be the "ugly American tourist," but I sometimes am careless about not being a tourist in my own backyard. I'm naturally curious (downright nosey, some might say) and when I was employed in a small county historical society I used to preach (can I hear an Amen??) about the benefits of what people now have termed a "staycation." I would proselytize about the values of our little gem of a museum and Mayowood Mansion to all who would listen.

I'd venture that most of us don't go to the landmarks and special places in our own backyards as often as we could, unless we have friends or relatives to show around. I was the same way in NYC. I of course frequented the Met, the Frick and the Morgan Library, but I didn't go to the top of the Empire State Building or the observation deck of the WTC building until I had a guest. I was too busy doing other things. (As an aside, we went to the top of the WTC in mid-August of 2001...and I'm so glad we did and that I had the chance to experience that unforgettable view.)

The same is true of my life these days. I'm a frequent museum visitor at the MFA and Wadsworth Athenaeum and I've practically got a reserved spot with my name on it at a few beaches, but I've not visited as many of the historical sites around the area as I'd like to. (People would also tell you that American history isn't my passion--and it isn't, really. I'm more of a medieval, European girl, but that's for another day.)

A couple of months ago my father informed me of an exhibition of model ships on display at the USS Constitution Museum in Boston and asked if I'd take some pics, etc. sometime when I was up there. I happily agreed and finally, today, after a decade of living on the east coast, I paid my respects to Old Ironsides.

There could have been no nicer day to visit the Charlestown Navy Yard--and on a crackerjack day such as this, the water does beckon. I'm a firm believer that no time spent on the water (or on horseback) is wasted, so today was most enjoyable.


Old Ironsides herself is really something, a real beauty. But I have to say I really learned a lot at the museum that was next door. They have great stuff for kids to do and you can pretend you're a 19th century sailor (even if you're a grownup!) and get a good feel for the era. The gentlemen who were manning the model exhibition couldn't have been nicer. They let me snap many photos that will be shipped off to my father on Monday and were happy to answer/explain my silly non-model-maker questions. 

And the views from this part of Boston are beautiful. I couldn't help notice, as we looked back at the city skyline and the Zakim bridge in the background, how much the rigging and sails of the USS Constitution must have inspired the design of the bridge. I know there are several similar cable bridges around the world, but when viewed from the Charlestown Navy Yard, the bridge and ship's rigging and masts look to be shadowy and distant relatives of one another. 


If you enlarge the lower image, you can see the rigging and masts of Old Ironsides on the left hand side, and the two towers of the Zakim bridge on either side of the visitor center. 

To tie my entire little tale into a neat package, I've always sort of felt the Mrs. Vale character in Now, Voyager, was probably about as indestructible and unyielding as the USS Constitution and she could easily have been nicknamed Old Ironsides, to boot.

1 comment:

sid fernando said...

thanks for acknowledging me in the post!