Hello, friends! I am back from the frigid wastelands of Boston, which–though lovely–caused the lower part of my face to peel off. I am pleased to be back in my swampy, humid, grey homeland. (Besides, does Boston have a Twin Peaks-themed bar with a heated outdoor patio and funnel cake on the menu? Psh.)
The frozen tundra really was lovely, though. Boston is basically a European city, but in the US. I had a moment while I was there, where I was standing outside a CVS. Except across the street from me was the Boston Public Library, which is built as a fantastic public temple (it is so cool, you guys, I am a complete sucker for publicly funded monuments to education), and then on the remaining two corners that I could see were gigantic, cathedral esque Catholic churches. The library and the stained-glass church were in some sort of across-the-street staring contest. And I was sitting there with some hydrocortisone cream for my skin rash. And that is the kind of thing that just does not happen in Atlanta, or in any of the other places that I have lived. So that was wonderful. (Also wonderful: cannoli.)
There was a hilariously weird moment, however, that happened in the Boston Public Library. Led in to the space by my fantastic traveling companions (were it not for them, I would have missed the door), I spotted some big lion statues flanking one of the stair cases. We went up to get pictures in front of the big lions, because statuary! And then, we realized what the inscription on the lions was commemorating. (You can play along at home with this person’s vacation photos.)
The lions were a monument to the men of Massachusetts who had died or participated in Sherman’s March to the Sea. For those of you reading this from the UAE (WordPress tells me there are a few of you), Sherman’s March was a campaign during the civil war in which Sherman marched through the Southern US and–from Atlanta to Savannah–set All The Things on fire in order to capture them.
In case you’re wondering why Atlanta does not have any fantastic old buildings, this is part of why. They were razed.
And, of course, I do not think the South was in the right in the Civil War. But it is weird–even in Atlanta, where no one comes from and where there is minimal flying of Confederate flags and where everyone pretty much agrees that it is much better to live in the New South than the Old, no one is exactly excited about Sherman’s March. They destroyed Georgia’s infrastructure in ways that had an impact for a long time.
And so it was weird being in front of lions commemorating it, even though of course that would be the case. I do not often feel much one way or the other about the Civil War, as I am from Oklahoma and am somewhat bemused by the fact that Atlanta still has the Stone Mountain carvings going on. But then of course reading quotes from Sherman like:
… We rode out of Atlanta by the Decatur road, filled by the marching troops and wagons of the Fourteenth Corps; and reaching the hill, just outside of the old rebel works, we naturally paused to look back upon the scenes of our past battles. We stood upon the very ground whereon was fought the bloody battle of July 22d, and could see the copse of wood where McPherson fell. Behind us lay Atlanta, smouldering and in ruins, the black smoke rising high in air, and hanging like a pall over the ruined city. Away off in the distance, on the McDonough road, was the rear of Howard’s column, the gun-barrels glistening in the sun, the white-topped wagons stretching away to the south; and right before us the Fourteenth Corps, marching steadily and rapidly, with a cheery look and swinging pace, that made light of the thousand miles that lay between us and Richmond. Some band, by accident, struck up the anthem of “John Brown’s soul goes marching on;” the men caught up the strain, and never before or since have I heard the chorus of “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” done with more spirit, or in better harmony of time and place.
— William T. Sherman , Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman, Chapter 21
is a weird feeling, because I live in Decatur, and I live less than half a mile* from the road that he’s referencing in that comment, and that is strange.
So it seems that traveling up north put the fact that I am Not From There in strange relief. I can only imagine what it must be like to come from there and live in Atlanta for four years of school, like many of the folks that I know.
* Presuming the road has kept its name.