Category Archives: Travel

Mapparium

For my final experience of Major Fun on this trip, I visited the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library in the Christian Science Publishing Society building, which is part of the sprawling Christian Science Center not far from Fenway Park.

The Publishing Society building is a great example of the economic clout of publishing in the 1930s, with grand marble-floored entryways and globe lamps that function as a clock and a calendar.

The actual publishing is done elsewhere now, and the first floor of the building is given over to a presentation of the life of Mary Baker Eddy, with interactive video displays and films and inspirational quotes.

The Mapparium itself is a giant stained-glass globe, with countries and borders as of 1935. The globe is inverted, so the layout appears normal from the inside. The globe was restored and enhanced in 2002, but they kept the original 1935 layout, which is good, because how else could you see Chosen, French Indochina, and Königsberg?

There’s dramatic audio about how seeing the world unifies us or something, but it doesn’t really add anything. The globe is really very impressive on its own. Unfortunately photos weren’t allowed, due to “copyright issues,” which I’m starting to suspect is just an excuse.

I tried to take a photo on the sly, but it didn’t turn out well. You can see better photos here.

Mark Twain wrote quite a bit about Christian Science, although I didn’t see any of his writings in the Library. They must be in one of the rooms I missed.

Boston

I arrived in Boston to find out that my Airbnb room wasn’t ready. Workmen were glazing the bathtub (or something like that) and it wouldn’t be done until the next morning, but they had another room for me that night in the same building. The room was considerably smaller but no big deal for one night.

The next morning the workmen still weren’t done. After a lot of messaging back and forth, they finally left the keys for me at the pizza parlor in the same building. I dropped off the other keys in the Keycafe about a half mile away.

The new room—the one I originally rented—was perfectly positioned to be the noisiest room in the building. The pizza parlor seems to be a gathering place, and when it closes at 2:00 AM, people stand on the sidewalk in front of it for another hour or so talking as loudly as possible. The same for the two adjacent bars. Also, everyone in Boston honks their horns at all times to indicate displeasure with what everyone else is doing, or possibly just for the sheer love of honking.

My room is just above the pizza sign

The room was in a good central location, though, about a block from Boston Common. It’s a beautiful park, dating to 1634, and the only park I’ve ever seen with a cemetery in it.

The adjacent Boston Public Garden dates to 1837 and is even beautifuler.

I also followed the Freedom Trail, which starts at Boston Common. It’s a relatively short path that contains significant sites of the colonial and revolutionary periods, including the Old State House, Old South Meeting House, and Granary Burying Ground (where Sam Adams and Paul Revere are buried). Colonial and revolutionary sites are most of what I wanted to see in Boston, so it was thoughtful of Boston to locate them near my Airbnb.

Old State House
Granary Burying Ground

And Roadside America sights there were a-plenty, including a teapot from 1873, a plaque commemorating the creation of the gerrymander, an ether monument, and an Irish famine statue.

Salem

Salem was a whole lot cheesier than I expected. Lots of tarot reading and chakra balancing and stores with names like Coven’s Cottage. Even the panhandlers know how to market themselves.

The more historical spots were still attractions, and more focused on presentation. I almost went to the Salem Witch Museum, but you have to buy tickets in advance, so I wouldn’t have been able to get in right away.

But at least I got to see the Bewitched statue.

Portland, Maine

I stayed at the Inn at St. John in Portland, Maine. It’s a well-maintained Victorian building that’s been a hotel continuously since 1897. It’s so old that it still uses metal keys.

I followed my usual well-formed plan of wandering around and looking at things.

As I was wandering, I happened across the Lobsterman statue that’s mentioned in Roadside America. It’s really more notable for its history. As maritime-themed statues go, it can’t compare to the seal-gutting statue in Copenhagen.

I also saw the Berlin Wall, previously seen in Berlin.

Berlin Wall

At the top of the hill in downtown Portland is an observatory that was built in 1807 by an entrepreneurial sea captain who set up an annual subscription service to notify ship owners when their ships were arriving. That sounded interesting, so of course it was closed for the season.

The following morning was cold and rainy with high winds, but I still walked over a mile to visit the International Cryptozoology Museum. I could have driven, but I had a good parking spot and I didn’t want to lose it.

The Cryptozoology Museum takes a very broad approach to cryptozoology. There are your serious cryptids (Bigfoot, chupacabras), the “intersection of cryptozoology and popular culture” (Godzilla, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Creature from the Black Lagoon), hoaxes and fakes (jackalopes), animals thought to be extinct that later turned out not to be (coelacanths), animals that really are extinct (mastodons, dodos), animals that are extinct but that people claim to have seen anyway (thylacines), and things that are included for no readily apparent reason (Disneyland travel posters, some antique Santa Claus figurines, a rather nice collection of tiki mugs). There’s even a display case of “cryptoscatology” with artificial (I hope) poop from different animals (and humans), plus a giant pile of Bigfoot poop for comparison.

There’s a small section on lake monsters, but the only Ogopogo items are a souvenir ashtray from Kelowna and a couple similar knick-knacks.

Sadly, they prohibit photos except of the items below. Copyright issues, according to the friendly but somewhat intense owner.

The sun came out in the afternoon and I did more wandering.

Most of downtown Portland is kind of grimy, but State Street, at the top of the hill, retains a lot of its 19th century grandeur.

State Street

The grandest mansion is the Victoria Mansion, built in the 1850s. That one has tours, but it was closed for the season.

So I went down to Wharf Street and had a Bissel Kickflip at Mash Tun.

The Road to Portland

In the town of Wells, Maine, is a cheese shop shaped like a cheese. They even sell cheese, although I didn’t go inside to verify that. The shop has seen better days.

More impressive is Lenny the Chocolate Moose in nearby Scarborough. Lenny is accompanied by three chocolate bears and really looks very good for a 25-year-old piece of chocolate.

Lenny gets the coveted “Major Fun” rating, as well he should.

New Hampshire

There was snow and graupel through Vermont and into New Hampshire, but I am not one to complain about such things.

I checked in at my hotel in Concord—”Tru by Hilton”—which was nice enough, although it had cartoonish decor that looked like it was designed by Ikea, and the pillows smelled faintly of bug spray. On the plus side, there were no bugs in the pillows.

After checking in, I went downtown to Concord Craft Brewery and ordered a flight of beers before I found out that they weren’t serving food that day (Easter). So I drank the beer on an empty stomach and staggered around the block to a restaurant across from the capitol building and had a bison burger.

The next morning I checked out and drove to Portsmouth to see the massive tidal flows, which at about ten feet are second only to the Bay of Fundy. And I don’t doubt it, but shortly after low tide isn’t really the ideal time to see it. What you see is a lot of mud.

So not wanting to wait around for several hours, I drove a few miles south and toured the USS Albacore, a research submarine that was active from 1953 to 1972. As with St. Edmund’s severed arm, Roadside America rated this “Major Fun,” and I daresay it was even more fun than the arm.

Also notable is the fact that I didn’t hit my head even once.

The Tallest Thing in Vermont

Of all the things in Vermont, this thing is the tallest thing. None are taller. Outside of Vermont, there might be things that are taller, but that cannot be ascertained. All we can say at this time is that within Vermont, taller things are out of the question.

The Tallest Thing

It was closed, of course.