August 30th, 2004


Slounging Towards Bunker Hill

So, Nilly's Somerville portion of the trip kicked off last Monday night with a gathering at noradeirdre's, where we made our plans for sightseeing the following day. I was to pick up Nilly and bruinsfan at Nora's, while helvirago and vwbug met Lilty's train from Maine at North Station. Both groups would then converge upon the Museum of Science. It was a good plan, but not a great plan, as I didn't allow for traffic into Boston at that time of morning, so I was way late to Nora's. Still, we managed, and we met up with the North Station crew late, but not extremely so.

The first order of business at the museum was to hit the Lord of the Rings exhibition. This was amazing. There are the incredibly detailed costumes of virtually everyone of importance in the movies. (Although Eowyn does not appear in any way, shape or form. Odd that, and disappointing.) The sign next to Aragorn's outfit mentions that Aragorn, being very self-sufficient, would repair and clean the outfit himself. Hel snarked that it didn't look like he cleaned it all that often. The weapons are there, too, and I can report that Anduril is not, in fact, 7' long, as it appears when Elrond first gives it to Aragorn. It's still a big sword. What else? There's an anatomically correct cave troll. (There's also one at the entrance to the exhibit, but it's wearing a loin cloth. Yes, I did say "They have a cave troll..." as we entered.) They have some faux mithril (yttrium-silver intermetallic, actually), which is completely not unlike mithril as Tolkein describes it, except that it's dark, and not very shiny at all. I hadn't heard of the alloy before, though, so I thought it was totally cool.

Beside the artifacts, they spent a lot of time showing how they did various special effects, such as forced perspective and digital size manipulation. You could get a digital photo of yourself sitting next to a friend where one person is huge and the other tiny. It's all very cool. There's a replica (I presume) of the one ring encased in acrylic off in its own little room. There are only a couple of replicas of actual characters. Lurtz for one. The only hero featured as a replica is Boromir lying in his funeral canoe.

The rest of the museum visit involved looking at exhibits on models and on risk assessment (actuaries unite!), a stop to watch a show about Nikola Tesla in the Theater of Electricity, and finally a tour through the math exhibit, where Hel and Nilly got to geek out mathily. "Math likes carrots."

We took a shuttle from the museum over to the North End, and had a late lunch at the Milk Street Cafe. From there we walked over to the Common. Hel and vw headed home for naps while the rest of us headed over to the Public Gardens to look at ducks, both bronze and living. There was further strolling through the Gardens as we discussed the edibility of muppets and the importance of hats on public statuary. We made our way to the start of the Freedom Trail, and started following it, explaining some of the history to Nilly as we wandered. This was all new to me, too. I'd never walked around the North End before. We got as far a Faneuil Hall where we decided to catch the shuttle back to the museum, as it was starting to get late.

At the museum, we all piled into the truck, and headed to Charlestown to see Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution. We didn't really know how to get there, but we could see both the Bunker Hill monument, and the masts of Old Ironsides, so we just drove in that general direction. The Constitution was closed for the day, so we waved at it, and drove up the hill towards the Monument. More history lessons. I was really surprised at how tiny the park is. I was sort of expecting something more akin to what I grew up with in Morristown. Thinking about it, it does make sense, since being in a city means that the surrounding battlefield was far too valuable not to build on before the National Parks Service had a chance to preserve it. At least some of it is there. Plus it lets me joke about how the Colonial defensive strategy was based upon using all the one-way streets on the hill to funnel the British soldiers exactly where they wanted them.

We piled back into the truck, and headed over to theodosia's house for a quick visit. After that, we drove to Brookline to meet up with the rest of the Somervillains at a kosher Chinese restaurant for dinner. All in all, it was a great time, and Nilly is one of the nicest, most charming people one could ever meet. It's a shame she couldn't visit longer.
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