ADV #10: How High the Hill

I’m still wasn’t certain* how I felt about Boston.  That’s to say, before I left for Japan I prepared myself to miss Boston.  I thought up all the selling points to this city so that my return trip home would be anticipated.  I was certain a 15 hour flight would leave me wanting and needing this newfound city I hadn’t quite broken in.  I guess I just really needed to want to want Boston.

Japan didn’t quite do that for me.

The trip itself left me dumbfounded.  I didn’t want to stay but I wasn’t certain where I’d sooner leave.  I thought a lot about my home city of Chicago.  I fantasized about taking an outgoing plane anywhere.  I cooked up a cute story of using an emergency only credit-card to fly anywhere I’ve never been all in the name of this year of adventure.  But, pragmatism came into play.  I had things at home.  I was enrolled in classes and had jobs.  Probably, more practically, my credit card had a limit that I near exhausted on my trip.  I was Boston-bound.

And really, that’s no reason to complain.  It’s just… I hadn’t acclimated to Boston yet.  I’d been adventuring and trying on for size different neighborhoods and trying to be really and truly optimistic, yet, the city fell short.  Something was missing.

So I thought that the moment I touched ground (which, when flying into Boston, is a terrifying experience landing well near the harbor) I’d do something iconically New England-ish.  Boston breeds prologue.  There’s the Freedom Trail, where one can galavant around venues concerned with independence from tyrannical British rule.  That seemed less adventurous than not.  But, the line items on the Freedom Trail do scream Boston so I thought to try to make the most of one, the Bunker Hill Monument.

The Bunker Hill Monument, which in fact is not stationed at the site of the battle of Bunker Hill, boasts an impressive 295 worn stone steps that coil around an ominous enclosed structure that mimics the Washington Monument in DC.  It’s dark inside and every 50 steps are labeled in red spray paint at the foot of the 50th, 100th, 150th step.  The monument is free and open to the public to scale at their leisure during standard business hours.  I enlisted Jane and Rebecca to join me in the early a.m. the Saturday following my return home for an historical adventure.

Three ladies about town does not an adventure make.  Even the scaling was a bit lack luster.  Steps are steps, and while it is a bit taxing on the body to continuously climb a tall monument, I scoffed at the height.  It was a silly monument.  I mean, I’m from Chicago.  Home of the Sears Tower, once tallest building in the world.  This little guy felt like child’s play.

Looking back I can see the error of my ways.  I wasn’t doing myself a Boston service.  I was just honing my ill-opinion of it.  But, it was what it was, and I climbed the steps quickly, bypassing throngs of foreign travelers gripping the walls and taking their time to soak up the atmosphere of the creepy cement structure.

Foolishly, I can’t recall the feel of the walls.  Or how sunken the stairs.  But I do know that once I arrived up top, I started to panic.

You see at the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, in a small, circular viewing tower is a grate.  A steel grate that runs the course of 40 percent of the viewing platform.  It’s designed to where you can see to the very bottom of the structure.  That’s to say, it’s dark and looks like a well.  And I have both an irrational fear and fascination with wells.  I attribute it to my childhood days hearing about Baby Jessica, the infamous little girl who fell in a well.  It was big news.  Enough news to permeate my thoughts and stick with me and since then wells have always made me uneasy.

So, regarding the grate, I didn’t anticipate it and I didn’t like it.

Rebecca was the first to capitalize on its placement.

“Now, now, this is an adventure.”

And perhaps, for the first time in this campaign I began to resent my position.  I didn’t want to be the quirky lady-about-town that overcome fears.  I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable.  I didn’t care to stand on that grate.  I just wanted to say I climbed the monument and let the adventure assume its own identity.

I was cheating.

Then Jane chimed in.
“It’s an adventure.”

And suddenly I realized that I had set myself up for some uncomfortable months to come.

Rebecca queued up a camera and I began to gingerly, VERY, VERY, gingerly, tip top onto the grate.

The French teenagers that climbed the staircase with us looked confused.  To be fair, the grate seemed pretty sound to the average eye and I was breathing heavy and retracting my toe at every given opportunity.

But I’m naturally competitive, so their laughter is just fuel to my fire.  With Rebecca hovering like a pageant mom and Jane coaxing me onto a VERY reinforced steel grate I eventually (see upward to four minutes later) got onto that grate.  Both feet!  And then, just as quickly, jumped off.

And yes, it was just a grate.  But here’s the difference: Boston posed an unexpected challenge.  And when I leapt off, I was afforded a wild view of Charlestown and sights beyond.  I could see glimpses of the harbor and a mass of incoming tourists.  This didn’t fundamentally change my view of Boston but it made me anxious.  And anxious beats bored or unconvinced.  Anxious warrants enough feeling to inspire Jane, Rebecca and I to continue on this Freedom Trail toward the USS Constitution, because the thought of a water adventure just seemed so opportune.

And what follows is simply a meeting of friends following a painted red line along historic Boston roads.  We boarded the USS Constitution.  We had our picture taken with sailors.  We discussed forthcoming trips and things we were wont to see.  Basically, a tryst on the grate was enough to keep me interested.  To show me that fear often yields excitement.  Or, at the very least, that this city, unassuming as I made it out to be, has marginal tricks up its sleeve and down its grate.  So, at least at present, game on.

*Note: This blog post is post-dated 03/10.  Oops!