Happy Independence Day, USians!

One of the reasons I'm inclined to trust the municipal government out here is that they make some very pragmatic decisions.

Boston takes the Fourth very seriously. Every year, there's a concert down on the Esplanade -- free to all members of the public -- that involves borrowing cannon from the US Navy. The USS Constitution, oldest commissioned vessel in said Navy (she went for a few cruises last year in memory of the War of 1812, to which she was a witness), sails out to Castle Island and gives a proper 21-gun salute.

A lot of things are open over Christmas, but half the city shuts down on Independence Day, because the Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, pagans and atheists of the world also think colorful explosives are brilliant. I can see three completely separate city fireworks displays from the roof garden at Tisch, and I could probably see the Boston/Cambridge display from there if I remember to look at the right time.

At some point, many moons before I showed up, whoever runs the MBTA sat down to work out the logistics of transport before and after one of the city's biggest annual events. They pondered the amount of manpower, security, and organization that would be required to get what is probably literally a million drunk people back to their homes in and around the Boston area, at just about midnight. They pondered the amount of time, money, and aggravation that would involve. They pictured a million drunk people trying to buy CharlieTickets and work CharlieCards the right way up, all at the same time, hurried and shouting about missing their trains.

They realized that this was obviously going to completely break the T, and not incidentally a number of their employees. So they went right for their default 'stuff is broken' plan, which is, "Fuck it. Just get on the train." The MBTA is not bothering to charge fares after 9:30 pm tonight, and is running extra commuter trains to get people back to the outlying satellite towns after the fireworks are over. They would just really rather you not worry about missing your ride home, and try to drive instead.

They do it on NYE, too. If they're extra-smart they'll also declare a moratorium on fares if Boston wins some sort of championship with a home game at Fenway Park or TD Garden, but I don't think I've been here for that to see for sure.

If you want to watch the Esplanade show, local CBS affiliate WBZ TV is airing it live starting at 7:30 EDT (23:30 UTC, adjust for your local offset). They have a live stream here, for those who aren't in their broadcast area.


  1. Hope the celebrations were good.

    I had a look at the wikipedia entry for the USS Constitution. That ship is lucky she's still alive! 216 years old and she still contains 10-15% of her original timbers. She's escaped being scrapped/decommissioned more times than I can be bothered to count and has cost an absolute fortune to repair over the centuries. If I ever make it to the States, I'm definitely going to come and see her.

    The HMS Victory is older but hasn't left dry dock since 1925.

    I've been sailing on tall ships annually for about 6 years now, and it is so much fun but also some the hardest work I've ever done, and we don't work anywhere near as hard as they used to on the naval square riggers.

    1. The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy -- technically, she's still an active part of the fleet, although due to age she is obviously considered more of a mascot than a real warship. There are free ship tours running during the day for most of the year. The thing's pretty neat inside. You know how fighter pilots name their jets? Gunners used to name their cannon. Each one has a plate on the wall next to it, telling what it is. They fire one of the things off nightly at sunset, when they reel the flag down.

      The Constitution herself is in excellent shape and goes for an annual spin around Boston Harbor, but the Charlestown Navy Yard does have a couple of drydocks used for other historic ships. What's there depends on what needs restoring at any given time. There's usually something of WWII vintage either being worked on or docked nearby for staring at.

      They also let you wander pretty freely about the Navy Yard, which is what Mog and I did while she was here. There's a bunch of cranes and equipment and a number of large boat anchors with informational signs scattered around. While you can drive down on surface streets, it's immediately adjacent to where the F4 ferry puts in, and it's far more convenient to get there by water.


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