Back in October 2021, Bleachers announced a one-time-only, two-night concert that would take place in Boston towards the end of March 2022.
Bleachers is my favorite band, so I couldn’t not go – this would be my 9th & 10th times seeing them, with an 11th already scheduled for June.
I extended the trip itinerary beyond the two nights of the concerts into a week-long getaway. A couple of my friends (formerly known as the Big Brisket Boiz) flew in to meet me there while I opted to drive the 38-hour round trip, as my personal agenda included bookish spots in & around Boston.
In preparation for the trip, category this month is: New England Literary Tour.
MONTHLY FAST FACTS
Book of the Month: The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
Genre of the month: Historical Fiction
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
The Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Frost by Robert Frost
The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s by Andy Greene
The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Melville by Herman Melville – (Pierre; Israel Potter; The Piazza Tales; The Confidence Man)
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
There’s a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss
Five Little Peppers by Margaret Sidney
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Out of the gate, I want to acknowledge a few things:
1) I am tired. I pushed myself inarguably too hard to complete a lot of the reading. As the homepage of this site says, I am “an average reader with an above average goal.” This month’s reading was an overambitious goal. Today marks the end of the first week of April and I have not even started a new month of reading.
2) 100% of the books read this month were by white authors, and 81% of them were men. These are very ugly statistics.
3) This is a very photo-heavy recap; it’s more of a “supplement to the reading” recap than a straightforward reading recap.
4) I selected The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd as my Book of the Month. Because I had pulled so many books to read in preparation of my trip, I was not able to finish reading it by the time March came to a close.
Speaking of the trip, let’s take a journey around New England.
“The Office” is one of four shows I have seen in its entirety. Personally, I think the show should have ended when Michael Scott left, but that’s a rambling for another day.
My boyfriend is also a fan of the show. He’s currently been listening to the Office Ladies podcast, in which Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey (Pam and Angela) re-watch the series together and provide commentary & behind-the-scenes scoops.
While we’ve never watched an episode of “The Office” together, I have heard fragments of the podcast as he’s listened to it and it’s reinvigorated my interest in the show.
I had previously forgotten that I had a copy of The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s by Andy Greene on my bookshelf; and, with a drive out to the east coast on the docket, this seemed like the perfect time to crack it open.
Andy Greene’s book is an oral history of the show told through interviews with its cast and crew. While all of the other March books felt like (and essentially were) homework assignments, this was the only “joy read”/book read purely for fun this month.
Supplement to the reading: I stopped in Scranton for the night and did an “Office” self-guided/walking tour of the city. Sites included the Scranton Welcomes You sign and the paper mill both seen in the show’s intro, Cooper’s Seafood House – where I bought my boyfriend his very own Spicy Curry Dundie award (which I presented to him in a Chili’s* when I got back), Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe – NOT Pizza By Alfredo, and more. I got my pizza from Alfredo’s to-go and spent the night in my hotel room re-watching a couple episodes of the show, beginning with Season Four Episode Three (IYKYK).
*Fun Fact #1: there is no Chili’s in Scranton – the closest one is 40mins away;
Fun Fact #2: my boyfriend – a 30-year-old white man – had never been to a Chili’s before I took him there for his Dundie
The morning after my Scranton adventure, I checked out of the hotel and drove an hour south to check out a bookstore in Stroudsburg, PA. From there, I was off to New Jersey for lunch at the Bendix Diner (as seen in “Stop Making This Hurt” by Bleachers, because if there’s one thing I am it’s obsessive) – which was sandwiched between an excursion in the Delaware Water Gap and a pitstop at Strand in NYC.
The day’s penultimate stop was Henry Melville’s Arrowhead in Pittsfield, MA, about three hours north of New York City.
Melville lived at Arrowhead for 13 years. It was while living here that he wrote his most-well known novel, Moby Dick – a book he dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne, whom he met & befriended while living at Arrowhead.
Melville was inspired to write about the whale by the mountain views that surround the Arrowhead property.
It was also while living here that Melville wrote his other works “The Confidence-Man,” “Pierre,” “Israel Potter,” and “The Piazza Tales.” The latter is a collection of short stories named after Arrowhead’s porch.
These works were compiled into a convenient collection, Melville, that I was able to pickup from my library.
After Arrowhead, I made a quick pitstop at bookstore called The Bookstore in Lennox, MA. Then, it was onwards to Boston.
Supplement to the reading: I toured Arrowhead and roamed around its grounds. Pictured below is the porch that gave us “The Piazza Tales.”
We walked around the cobble-stoned Beacon Hill neighborhood, home to several prominent writers.
SUPPLEMENTS TO THE READINGS
a. 20 Pinckney Street – home to Louisa May Alcott (she also spent time in #43, #81, and #10)
b. 4 Pinckney Street – home to Henry David Thoreau
c. 131 Mt. Vernon Street – home to Henry James
d. 88 Mt. Vernon Street – home to Robert Frost
e. 9 Willow Street – home to Sylvia Plath
a. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
b. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
c. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
d. Frost by Robert Frost
e. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
When walking around Boston Commons, it’s easy to unwittingly breeze right by Poe Square without even realizing – so much so that we walked in circles trying to find the square.
(Spoiler Alert: It’s right outside the P.F. Chang’s)
On the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth, area was dedicated to the author to commemorate the area where he was born. Neither the house he was born in nor the street it was on exist anymore, as they have been demolished in urban development projects. (s/o to the Chipotle on the Freedom Trail.)
Now, a statue of Poe littered with symbols of his writing stands as a reminder.
My favorite detail trails behind him on a stack of papers spilling out of his suitcase – a heart. Both a figurative symbol of Poe putting his heart into his work and also a literal symbol of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” one of my favorite works of his I revisited in The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.
Brattle Book Shop
Tucked aside in a blink-and-you-miss-it (if you’re not looking for it) alleyway along the Freedom Trail sits Brattle Book Shop, one of America’s oldest and largest used book shops.
As my friends and I were in the middle of walking the trail, there wasn’t enough time to explore all three floors – so, after waiting in the short line that had been forming outside, I poked my head in and then rejoined* my friends.
*One of them found me; I might have a tendency to just pivot/wander off without saying anything when something catches my attention.
After wandering around the Harvard campus, we went a block or two over to check out the Longfellow House. Preserved by the National Park Service – as it served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Siege of Boston – this home is where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once lived.
In addition to a collection of his work, Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings, I revisited my youth with a picture book of his poem Paul Revere’s Ride.
Supplement to the reading: We made stops along the Freedom Trail to check out both Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church, where – in Longfellow’s poem – it was instructed for the lanterns “one, if by land, and two, if by sea” be hung.
Fewer things are more difficult than trying to find a specific grave hidden somewhere in a massive cemetery at midnight. But, I was determined to see the graves of both Henry James (author of The Turn of the Screw) and William Dean Howells (who wrote The Rise of Silas Lapham).
The mission was unfruitful and I returned a couple days later after breakfast. I took me over an hour in broad daylight to find them.
The North Bridge
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.”
The opening stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn,” found in The Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, on the start of the American Revolutionary War.
The North Bridge sits just outside the backyard of The Old Manse.
The Old Manse
The Old Manse was built for Emerson’s grandfather. Emerson moved to the house in 1834; and, while there, wrote the first draft of “Nature.” Later, after getting married, Emerson moved into a new house a few minutes away.
In 1842, Nathaniel Hawthorne rented the house from the Emersons. Prior to Hawthorne & his wife’s arrival, Henry David Thoreau created a vegetable garden for the couple.
Thoreau’s garden has since been recreated.
Ralph Waldo Emerson House
After marrying and moving out of The Old Manse, Emerson & his wife moved into a house he called “Bush.” Here, he did a lot of his writing.
In 1841, Thoreau moved into the house with the Emerson family. He would then go on to build his well-known cabin on Emerson’s property at Walden Pond.
Today, Bush is simply known as the Ralph Waldo Emerson House and is still owned by the family.
Dubbed “Home of Authors” by the National Park Service, The Wayside was home to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Margaret Sidney.
The Alcotts owned the home until 1852 and Louisa May spent much of her childhood here.
In 1852, it was bought by Nathaniel Hawthorne – who christened it “The Wayside.”
It was eventually bought by Margaret Sidney (author of Five Little Peppers) in 1883.
It became the first literary site to be added to the National Park Service.
Right next door to The Wayside is, arguably, Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House.
Following their residence at The Wayside, the Alcotts moved here.
It was while living here that Louisa May wrote Little Women and used the house as the setting for the book.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
With several prominent authors’ homes in the area, it wasn’t a surprise to find out they were all neighbors & friends. What I did not expect, however, was for all of them to be buried by one another.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery has a section dubbed Author’s Ridge. It is on this ridge that Thoreau, Hawthorne, Alcott, and Emerson are all buried.
“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”Henry David Thoreau
In honor of Salem, I chose to read The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent to complete this month’s Genre Challenge: Historical Fiction. It centers on the life and death of the first women hanged for witchcraft in Salem, Martha Carrier, told from the perspective of her daughter.
The House of Seven Gables
I loved our “The Scarlet Letter” unit in high school. A decade later, I still have the copy of it I used in class. I’m almost disappointed with myself for not having sought out any of Hawthorne’s other work after we finished the unit.
The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne is based on a real-life curse placed upon Hawthorne’s ancestors by an accused witch during the Salem Witch Trials for their role in the witch trials. The book follows a family and their ancestral home – the book’s namesake. The house in the book was inspired by Hawthorne’s real-life home, owned by his cousin.
Supplement to the reading: I toured the real-life house Hawthorne lived in that inspired his book.
Fun Fact: The chimney visible in the photo is not a functioning fireplace – it is, in fact, a hidden staircase.
Not-So-Fun Fact: If I were any bigger, I would be too big to fit up and down the fireplace staircase. It was a tight squeeze.
The next morning, my friends flew back to their homes and it was time for me to start the drive back to mine – but, not without a few more stops along the way.
When I arrived at the Emily Dickinson house, it was closed for renovations.
But, that didn’t deter me from sitting on the steps outside and thumbing through what I had left of The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson.
It was here that Dickinson was born & lived; and, here where her poems were discovered in her bedroom after she had passed away.
Theodor Geisel was born in Springfield, MA. Now, Springfield is home to The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum. While Geisel himself was anything but Amazing (message me – let’s talk about it), the worlds – for the most part – that he created were. Like for many children, his books were a staple of my childhood. Despite knowing what I know now as an adult, why not take a moment to transport back to that childlike mindset? I got a chance to revisit some of my favorites: The Cat in the Hat; Green Eggs & Ham; Horton Hears a Who; Oh, The Places You’ll Go; One, Fish, Two, Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; and (my #1 pick for favorite Dr. Seuss book) There’s a Wocket in My Pocket.
Supplement to the reading: For my first meal after returning home, I made a vegan take on green eggs & ham and watched “The Cat in the Hat” (2003) while I ate. (side rant: HOW does that movie only have a 10% on Rotten Tomatoes?!)
The Cat: “There is a third option.”-Mike Myers & Dakota Fanning, “The Cat in the Hat” (2003)
Sally: “There is?”
The Cat: “Yes. It involves murder.”
Mark Twain House
The final stop on my route back home was Hartford, Connecticut on a two-for-one city corner. The first house on this stop belonged to Samuel Langhorne Clemens – best known as Mark Twain.
It was in this 25-room mansion that he wrote some of his most well-known works, including both The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
The house sits across the yard from former neighbor Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, lived in this house for 23 years.
The back door opens up to yard that connects with the property of Mark Twain’s house.
After wandering around the Stowe Center, which was not open for tours at the time of my visit, I walked back to my car – parked in the Mark Twain House visitor lot – and took a moment to reflect on the trip and all the literary footsteps I followed throughout the previous few days. But, then I checked the time and had to punch it into gear and get started on the remaining 13 hours left to drive on my way back to Indiana.
Overall, 10/10 – would recommend solo road trips (also meeting up with your best friend for adventures). I’d rate it an 11/10 if didn’t involve so much damn reading – probably won’t be pushing myself that hard again anytime soon.