Don't tread on me

You have to love the directness of the First Navy Jack that hangs from the USS Constitution in the Charlestown Naval Shipyard on Boston’s Freedom Trail. “Don’t tread on me” is as clear a message of boundaries as you’d ever want; the uncoiled rattlesnake only underscores the message. When it comes to clarity, few have this flag beat.

Main deck, USS Constitution

Although for years I used to live in and around Boston, before today I’d never seen much less set foot on the Constitution, “don’t tread on them” apparently describing my (along with many Bostonians’) attitude toward the usual tourist sites. For good or ill, when you live in a tourist destination, you often put off visiting the usual must-sees.

One of the photo challenges J and I have agreed upon is to make a point of visiting (and photographing) the usual tourist sites. Just because you live in a tourist destination doesn’t mean you have to act like an indifferent local. In one of her chapters in Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg urges writers to act like “A Tourist in Your Own Town,” arguing that “Writers write about things that other people don’t pay much attention to.” I like this philosophy of being a close-to-home rubbernecker. Whether you live in Boston, Keene, or a place far-flung or in between, there are probably things in your own backyard that are worth noticing. If nothing else, you’ll never know until you go out and look for them.

USS Constitution

And so today J and I made our way via subway to and from Boston Harbor, sharing our first train with fans on their way to cheer the Red Sox and our next with fans on their way to see the Bruins. Near the World Trade Center, J & I toured an Argentinean tall ship whose Spanish-speaking cadets were toting brand-new computers and stereos aboard: the retail aftermath of a couple days’ shore leave. In Charlestown, we arrived too late for a guided tour of the Constitution, opting instead to board the ship, take some quick photos, and leave a proper tour to another day. As we boarded the Constitution, the security guards running the metal detectors were in good spirits, razzing one another (and me, because of my hat) over baseball rivalries. On the subway home, J & I encountered yet more Red Sox fans leaving the game. It was, after all, another typical Sunday in Boston: the kind of thing a tourist would travel miles to see.

UPDATE: Click here for a photo-set of images from La Libertad, the Argentinean tall ship J and I toured. Enjoy!