The New York Times
Apple's America: The Discriminating Traveler's Guide to 40 Great Citiesby R. W. Apple
Unpretentious, sophisticated, and always appetizing advice from a celebrated authority
For more than thirty years, R. W. Apple Jr. roamed the United States as an eyewitness to history. Here, in Apple's America, his robust enthusiasm for the food and culture of New England, the South and West, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and his native/i>/p>/b>… See more details below
Unpretentious, sophisticated, and always appetizing advice from a celebrated authority
For more than thirty years, R. W. Apple Jr. roamed the United States as an eyewitness to history. Here, in Apple's America, his robust enthusiasm for the food and culture of New England, the South and West, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and his native Middle West carried him to forty great cities, where he proves to be our ideal guide--amused and amusing, knowledgeable, indefatigable, and endlessly curious.
From Boston to Honolulu, from Montreal to Las Vegas, Cincinnati to Seattle, Johnny Apple explores the landmarks, architecture, business, culture, and, of course, the food and beverages of his favorite urban communities. Capturing the tone and style of American city life to perfection, he shows us the hidden treasures, the best buildings, the famous landmarks, the historical aura, and the present-day realities that make each city so memorable. And in each he recommends several places to stay, numerous places to eat, and sites or activities you shouldn't miss. No traveler in the United States will want to do without his recommendations.
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The Discriminating Traveler's Guide to 40 Great Cities in the United States and Canada
By R. W. Apple Jr.
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2005 R. W. Apple Jr.
All rights reserved.
Boston is one of the oldest American cities, a repository of our national past, yet it has shown an extraordinary capacity to look to the future and reinvent itself when needed.
In days of yore, Boston traded and manufactured. Now it manages money and capitalizes on the technology developed in its laboratories. Finance and science fueled New England's surge in the 1990s, and when they hit hard times, so did metropolitan Boston's economy. Between 2001, when employment peaked, and the spring of 2003, Massachusetts lost nearly 5 percent of its jobs, mostly in Boston and its satellite cities.
But the worm is turning again. The city has lived through this cycle a dozen times in the past; bust follows boom, and then boom follows bust. The one constant has been ideas: Boston ideas have washed across the United States and around the world for more than two centuries. Actually, there is a second constant: the accent, as distinctive as those of Brooklyn and New Orleans. Hear a man say "farm"—"fahm"—in that special nasal way, and you know where he's from. The sound of "a brick-throated bullfrog," Ford Madox Ford called it.
The Pilgrims put down roots at nearby Plymouth in the seventeenth century, followed closely by the Puritans in Boston itself, where the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, enforced a stern moral code. In the eighteenth century, Boston seethed with revolution and justly claimed for itself the resonant title Cradle of American Independence. There can be very few cities in the country with as much to offer those who are intrigued by the past.
Dockside at the Charlestown Navy Yard, you can board "Old Ironsides," the frigate Constitution, commissioned in 1797 and never decommissioned. You can visit the Old South Meeting House, a Colonial gem, built in 1729, with a sounding board hung above the pulpit, where Samuel Adams roused five thousand Bostonians against the tyrant in London and precipitated the Boston Tea Party. You can see Faneuil Hall, built in 1742 and still used occasionally for political meetings, with its grasshopper weather vane. And you can stand beside the Old State House, where five protestors, including a black man, Crispus Attucks, were killed by Redcoats in the Boston Massacre of 1770.
Boston loves its culture, with reason. The Asian collection at the Museum of Fine Arts has no peer in the Western Hemisphere. After twenty-eight years under the baton of Seiji Ozawa, born in China to Japanese parents, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, traditionally one of the top five ensembles in the United States, welcomed Cincinnati-born James Levine as its music director in 2004—the first American to hold that position. The inimitable Boston Pops flourishes as it did when Arthur Fiedler and then John Williams conducted it. And the whole glorious panoply of American architecture, from Bulfinch to Richardson to I. M. Pei, is on display here.
Boston loves its sports, too. In fact, it has often been said that only three things count here: sports, politics, and revenge. The basketball Celtics, who have never recovered from the loss of the formidable Larry Bird when he retired in 1992, are nevertheless beloved. Having ended eighty-six years of futility by sweeping the 2004 World Series (take that, Bambino!), the baseball Red Sox stand first in the hearts of Bostonians. They play in Fenway Park, a wonderful old bandbox, as idiosyncratically shaped as the city itself. (The football Patriots, who won the Super Bowl in 2002 and then again in 2004 and 2005, astonishing and delighting a city inured to sporting tribulation, play not in Boston but in Foxboro, halfway to Providence.)
Boston is that increasing rarity in the United States, a truly superb walking town. Compact and convenient, a mosaic of distinctive neighborhoods, it is a baby London. Right at its heart lie the Boston Common and the Public Garden, twin parks that are made for strolling. Swan boats, propelled by paddles turned by pedals, cruise the garden's pond, familiar to all as the setting for Robert McCloskey's children's classic Make Way for Ducklings.
For decades, Boston's fearsome Brahmin aristocrats, members of the city's oldest families, ran everything. Cabots spoke only to Lowells, as the doggerel says, and Lowells spoke only to God. (Or is it the other way around? Authorities disagree.) Then the Irish fought their way to power. Gradually, the two worlds—the world of John P. Marquand's Late George Apley and the world of Boss Martin Lomasney, celebrated in Edwin O'Connor's Last Hurrah—came to terms with each other and learned to co-exist. Senator Edward M. Kennedy carries the flag of his brothers, of House Speaker Tip O'Neill, and of Mayor James Michael Curley—Boston Irish politicians, all—while William F. Weld, governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997, walks in the patrician footsteps of two presidential Adamses (from nearby Quincy) and two senatorial Henry Cabot Lodges. And now, mirabile dictu, the three-term mayor is an Italian American (Thomas M. Menino) and the governor (Mitt Romney) is a Mormon with Utah roots.
William Lloyd Garrison, foremost of the abolitionists, made his first anti-slavery speech in Park Street Church in 1829, and Robert Gould Shaw helped to raise a black regiment in Boston to fight in the Civil War. Memorialized in a sculpture on Beacon Hill by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment staged a heroic but suicidal charge at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, depicted in the movie Glory. But the city's tolerance was dented in the twentieth century. Opposition to the court-ordered busing of students in the interest of racial balance led to riots and controversy, with the city's intellectuals, many of whose children attended private schools, pitted against the clannish, less affluent Irish Americans of South Boston.
For decades, though no longer, Yankee hostility to other tribes was obvious, with the haughty Somerset Club a preeminent symbol of that. During the Civil War, the club was a stronghold of the Bostonians who sympathized with the Confederacy, known as Copperheads, and it is enshrined in Boston lore that they closed the club's windows whenever Robert Gould Shaw walked past. Until recently, even eminent Irish Catholics were unwelcome as members.
In the nineteenth century, Bostonians developed a reputation for blue-nosed narrow-mindedness—"Banned in Boston!" promoters used to say when they wanted to tout a naughty book or a risqué play—and for smugness in general. A guest at a White House party once told Franklin D. Roosevelt, "I'm from Boston." He replied, "You'll never get over it."
In 1857, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. wrote that Boston, or more precisely the State House atop Beacon Hill, was "the hub of the solar system." People still call their city the Hub today, but they use the term self-mockingly. They also call it Bean-town, after their beloved baked beans, which gives them something in common with the inhabitants of Florence, another historic city, who call themselves "mangiafagioli"—bean-eaters.
Boston patriots led the way to American independence, dumping chests of English tea into the waters of the colonies' most important harbor to protest royal taxes. Paul Revere, silversmith and midnight rider, and John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, were Bostonians. The history-changing battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill were fought on the periphery of the city.
American legal tradition also owes much to Boston. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, founded in 1692 and thus predating the United States Supreme Court, has sat without interruption longer than any other court in the Western world.
In the early days, Boston lived by the sea, its trade built upon cod. That humble fish, though increasingly scarce, is still a favorite on local dinner tables, and a wooden replica, the Sacred Cod, hangs in the chamber of the House of Representatives in the State House (just as the Lord Chancellor in Britain sits on a sack of wool as a reminder of the source of England's early wealth). When the British market dried up, Boston opened trade routes to the East, bringing porcelain, spices, and silks to the young United States in its rakish clipper ships. And when steel-hulled ships made clippers obsolete, the city turned to manufacturing; Boston money and management built the mills in the smaller cities nearby, like Lowell.
The manufacturing profits funded Boston's great educational and cultural institutions. Henry Lee Higginson came home from the Civil War, established the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and gave the Boston Museum of Fine Arts a Roger van der Weyden painting to which it still accords a place of honor. Harvard University, founded in 1636, across the Charles River in Cambridge, flourished anew. Throughout the nineteenth century, Boston was the nation's intellectual locomotive.
The city and its suburbs were filled with writers whose names still resound: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller and the other Transcendentalists, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the historian Francis Parkman, the psychologist William James, the educational reformer Horace Mann, the philosopher George Santayana, and the novelist William Dean Howells, editor of The Atlantic Monthly.
They have their modern-day successors in scholars and writers like John Kenneth Galbraith and Henry Louis Gates Jr. Houghton Mifflin, the Beacon Press, and The Atlantic carry on the city's long publishing tradition. WGBH, Boston's public television station, produces much of the best fare on PBS, including The American Experience and Frontline, and it helped to change the eating habits of a nation with Julia Child's pioneering cooking programs.
Boston and its suburbs are home to countless colleges and universities: peerless Harvard, the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, whose law, medical, divinity, public health, and business schools educate many of the nation's leaders-to-be; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is one of the world's great science and engineering schools; Wellesley College, Hillary Rodham Clinton's alma mater; Tufts and Brandeis Universities; Boston College; Boston University; and Northeastern University. The Boston Latin School, founded April 23, 1635, is the nation's oldest public school. Eminent hospitals, such as Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's, draw patients from everywhere, and high-technology businesses cluster around almost every exit on Route 128, the semicircular highway that skirts the city.
For almost half a century, from the 1920s to the 1960s, Boston slumbered contentedly, subsisting largely, it seemed, on memories. But the presidency of John F. Kennedy, starting in 1961, focused national and world attention on the city once again. (Kennedy's presidential library is housed in a building designed by I. M. Pei in Dorchester, south of the city center.) Equally important, a mayor named John Collins and a redevelopment genius named Edward Logue began to reshape the place at the same time. They cleared out the malodorous neighborhood around Scollay Square, famous for the stripteases at the Old Howard, installing a new government center there. The nearby Quincy Market was turned into a chic shopping precinct by the architect Benjamin Thompson, incorporating the raucous old eating house called Durgin-Park, famous for roast rib of beef and Indian pudding. In and near Copley Square, new office towers were built for the Prudential and John Hancock insurance companies, helping to revive that neighborhood.
For a time in the 1990s, average rents exceeded those in Manhattan and San Francisco, and hotel rooms were as scarce as downtown parking meters. But real estate softened, and so did tourism. Economic frustration focused on The Big Dig, an enormous enterprise begun in the 1980s and designed to bury the city's unsightly main north-south highway deep beneath the ground. The project was supposed to cost $2.5 billion, but after fifteen years, the bill had risen to $15 billion, and the tunnels still leaked. The completion date slipped to 2006 or later.
Still, the new highway and other improvements to the transportation network prompted public and private planners to press ahead with ambitious projects around the harbor, especially in South Boston—"Southie" to generations of proud, insular Irish Americans. These include hotels; housing; retail blocks; a sinuous, $140 million, glass-clad office tower for Manulife Financial; and a vaulted, $700 million convention center.
But to return to the arts. Boston has a downtown commercial theater district, where many an aspiring Broadway show has had its kinks ironed out (or not). The city's theatrical life has long centered, however, across the Charles River in Cambridge, where the gifted, turbulent Robert Brustein founded and for twenty-two years directed the American Repertory Theater (ART), an unfailing source of new dramatic ideas. Cherry Jones, one of the joys of the American stage, honed her talents playing classic roles under Brustein's aegis. The ART's artistic director as of 2004 is Robert Woodruff, who made his name in regional theater, especially in northern and southern California, at first with the plays of Sam Shepard but more recently with radical takes on Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Brecht. In 2001 Mikko Nissinen stepped into Robert Marks's shoes at the Boston Ballet, New England's first professional repertory ballet company, and won quick plaudits for what The Boston Globe called a daring, energetic season.
Opera is a less happy story. For decades, Sarah Caldwell, who founded the Opera Company of Boston in 1957, kept it going, innovative if unstable, with bailing wire and duct tape. She also championed the music of Russian modernists like Rodion Shchedrin and Alfred Schnittke. But the Caldwell era collapsed in a heap of recriminations over questionable financial practices in 1990, and the Boston Lyric Opera, now headed by Leon Major, a Canadian, is a more modest proposition, with only three productions a year, after flirting briefly with four.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) has always been Boston's performing arts favorite. In winter this superb ensemble plays in Symphony Hall—which need not take a back seat, aesthetically or acoustically, even to the Musikverein in Vienna—and in summer it plays in the Music Shed at Tanglewood, in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. Ozawa, lithe and balletic, who was praised for musicianship by many but condemned for stodgy programs by many others, led it for twenty-eight years, longer even than the Russian Serge Koussevitzky or the Frenchman Charles Munch, two of his noble predecessors. The stocky, more restrained Levine— "Jimmy" to everyone in the musical world—built a great orchestra and a shining reputation for himself at the Metropolitan Opera. Getting him was considered a great coup for Boston, and Bernard Holland, a tough critic, found his conducting style as compelling as ever in an early outing here.
If music played on original instruments has struggled elsewhere, it has scored success after success in Boston, through the Handel and Haydn Society, the Boston Baroque, and the Boston Camarata. Then there is the Boston Pops, a group made up mostly of BSO players that performs light music; it is as much admired across the country, through its recordings and its PBS broadcasts, as in Boston. And a rich musical life revolves around the New England Conservatory of Music.
The Museum of Fine Arts stands first among Boston's many museums. Its great Japanese collection, worth a visit all by itself, was greatly amplified in the 1890s by a Harvard scholar of Japanese culture, Ernest Fenollosa, the brilliant son of a Spanish musician who had settled in Salem, Massachusetts. The European and American pictures stem from many sources; in addition to Higginson's van der Weyden, St. Luke Painting the Virgin, possibly the most important Flemish painting in America, they include what may be Gauguin's masterpiece, Where Did We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, Copley's portrait of Paul Revere (much of whose silver the museum also shows) as the epitome of the republican craftsman, and Gilbert Stuart's iconic portrait of George Washington.
The MFA's director, Malcolm Rogers, has recently subjected the museum to what the critic Ada Louise Huxtable called "a seismic shake- up," which will climax in 2008 with the completion of an expansion from 531,000 to 677,000 square feet. The British architect Norman Foster conceived the plan for the new building, whose most important element is a glass-and-steel atrium similar to the one he designed to cover the Great Court at the British Museum in London.
In 2006, it is hoped, the smaller, funkier Institute of Contemporary Art will move into quarters on the revivified waterfront in South Boston. Designed by a relatively little-known New York wife-and-husband team, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, the building was hailed by Huxtable in The Wall Street Journal as "essentially a viewing box, inside and out, for art and the harbor, making a seamless experience of both."
Excerpted from Apple's America by R. W. Apple Jr.. Copyright © 2005 R. W. Apple Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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