Alternate History

On a quick trip to the far coast in the ’60s, I met up with some age mates inclined to journey eastward as I had westward. One night we sat around a campfire and exchanged experiences others might not have had. The west coast had many things I had never experienced. But the one I found strangest was related to me by a young scuba diver. She told me about offshore kelp forests. Being only used to the typical forest of trees, I was fascinated by the idea. What she found of interest was the relative concentration of Revolutionary War sites near Boston. We exchanged addresses, and I promised to take her to see the Boston area sights as soon as she made it to the East Coast.

After returning to Boston, I spent some time walking about and realized that I had never really taken in most of the historic sites. I had passed the Boston Massacre site numerous times, but despite its proximity, I had not visited Lexington, Concord, or Bunker Hill. I polled my roommates and found that despite our ardent love for Boston and environs, they had not taken in these sights either. Despite our proximity to these sites, there was a real dearth of knowledge about what had happened there.

We decided to remedy this ignorance and, as a group, spent a few weekends visiting old battle sites and historic locations. Some of my friends had been on school trips to these places. But unfortunately, they served as a sort of terrible guide as it became apparent how little they had absorbed in high school. For example, who would have guessed the Battle of Bunker Hill had been fought during the French and Indian War? Or the Boston Tea Party had been a block party turned riot near where the Constitution was berthed. And that the revelers had tossed Marijuana ( also known locally as “tea”) into the harbor?

Many of my friends were embarrassed by how deficient their historical knowledge was. However, being the sort of mad folkie cooperative they were, they sat down one night at their favorite bar, the Harvard Gardens, to compose an alternate history of Boston based on their misinformation. After a few beers, things got wacky. The branch of history they developed had the Pilgrims landing in Boston rather than Plymouth. Their landing was successfully repulsed on the beaches by Squanto and allies pelting the invaders with rotten pumpkins and cranberries.
More was in the offing when the bar proprietors asked us to leave and banned us for a month.

The following day all that was left of the alternate history of Boston were some sodden, blurred, and illegible sheets of paper. We pondered the lost masterpiece for several hours until hunger forced us to the Tarry and Taste donut shop for brunch. Afterward, we wandered onto the Boston Common and argued about whether or not it was the Liberty Tree that had been there or the site of the Salem Witch Trials.

A group of tourists asked us for directions to the Old North Church and about Paul Revere’s Ride. We invited them on a pub crawl of tremendous and historic bar rooms in the Boston area.
It was a truly landmark occasion.

2 Replies to “Alternate History”

  1. I was in Boston for a week in 2004 and my favorite place was the North Church because I had heard some cool stories about the crypt- which five years later archeologists opened up. Still the church has a creepy vibe so I liked it.

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