Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Redcoats are Coming!

Last week I made the 50-mile round-trip bike ride to see Lexington Green/Common, where the Revolutionary War basically started.  Obviously the war did not start there: Alexandra rightly pointed out to me that after the Boston Tea Party and Massacre, the war was basically inevitable.  I could have rode all the way into Boston to check out where the tea boxes were dumped, but a) I never thought about it, and b) I doubt the area is nearly as well-preserved as the Concord/Lexington area has preserved the area.  So I went to Lexington Green to see where the first shots were fired (did you know that Ralph Waldo Emerson coined the phrase, "the shot heard round the world"?) with the intention of also checking out some of the Concord Battlefield sites.  As we all know, once the British sent one volley into the Lexington militia, things broke down; the Americans then guerrilla warfared (not a word, but poetic license) the British all the way to the Concord armory.  Lots of cool stuff to see in the area.  Concord is also where Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne often set up shop--Walden Pond, which Thoreau made famous, is just a few miles south, but I've already biked there.

Admittedly, I didn't spend nearly as much time in the area as I would have liked.  I will certainly have to return.  When you're on your bike to save the environment, a great and noble cause, just like everything else I do, it certainly makes a leisurely walk around a museum a little less feasible.  Plus, I had gotten slightly lost on the way there, and then slightly lost on the way back.  Still, I was able to see the Green, where the old belfry stood to sound the alarm, where the militiamen lined up and where the British lined up, and all the statues and rocks and things commemorating the event.  Apparently the city of Lexington also pays for someone to stand there all day long dressed in colonial clothing just in case a tourist comes with questions.  I felt bad for the kid, so I made sure to ask him some questions, despite looking like far less of a genius than I am.

There are a number of reasons why trips like mine to Lexington are important for me, and for a writer in general.  Connecting with historical links further a writer's sensibilities.  This is especially true when those historical links involve writing, and anything in that area basically is: if you spend time in the area not thinking that some of the greatest American intellectuals stomped around, then you're silly.  Of course, as a New England boy, a Massachusetts one at that, I am biased toward the big four: Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Longfellow.  In fact, Longfellow's Wayside Inn in Sudbury, the subject and inspiration for one of his poetry collections, is my favorite restaurant.  A writer's imagination peaks when thinking that many years ago others have walked through at some of the greatest moments in history.  To me, Pickett's Charge is one of the most fascinating historical events to occur on American soil, and thus standing at the fence that the Confederate soldiers had to jump over while under serious cannon-fire, dropping like flies, has been particularly useful to me.  A writer like me, who generally prefers isolation rather than a heavy social life, or a social life of any kind, needs to stay connected in this way.

Riding my bike is an awesome experience for me in general, though.  Alexandra has commented to me before that it seems as if my mind shuts down if I don't ride.  I think she's quite right.  My darling Cato, my bike, whose name is appropriate given why we originally came together (my bike trip across the country last year to fight human trafficking), keeps my mind on its feet.  And while I do have four or five good routes to choose from, depending on my mood, how much time I have, and how much work I want to put into the ride, riding is always more enjoyable when I'm going somewhere.  I often get lost, but that's okay.  Feeling the wind on my face, a little pain in my legs; flying down hills, cutting corners, and seeing how fast I'm going on speed trap speedometers; all of it without a helmet, is absolutely exhilarating.

A writer needs to preserve his health.  My health, mental, spiritual, and emotional, as well as physical, depends almost solely on my riding habits, which means too that my riding can't become boring.  Lexington allowed me to check off a "to-do" life item that few think of doing, let alone get to do, to ensure that my ego and my health stay firm enough to write and write often. 

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