A Busy Day in Boston

Monday, April 18, 2011, 07:45 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Good Monday morning, readers. Today is Patriots Day, and at this moment I’m on a train bound for Boston. Patriots Day isn’t the most obscure holiday we celebrate here in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts*; for that distinction, we have a tie between Evacuation Day (March 17) and Bunker Hill Day (June 17), which for years were observed in Boston and the other three municipalities that comprise Suffolk County. The running joke among those of us in the state’s other 13 counties was that the holidays had become an excuse for government workers in Boston to take off St. Patrick’s Day and an extra beach day. But in fact, they commemorated actual events in American revolutionary history, and it was to some controversy that the legislature abolished them as paid county holidays last year.

Lexington battle reenactment

The reenactment at Lexington Battle Green, April 21, 2008 - Click to view larger. (Photo from Boston.com)

By contrast, Patriots Day is undeniably significant not only locally but nationally, as it commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution. (For more about the history, read this post from three years ago.) Everyone who has the privilege of living in this historic area should do him/herself the favor of attending one of the annual battle reenactments or related activities, which bring to life the extraordinary things ordinary people did so long ago to stand up to what was at the time the world’s greatest armed force. The Lexington battle reenactment, which I attended once several years ago, always happens on the observance of Patriots Day (third Monday of April) rather than on the actual date of the anniversary, whereas the Concord reenactment takes place on April 19, regardless of what day of the week it happens to be. Both events have components that take place through the night and culminate shortly after dawn, the time when the confrontations actually occurred.

But history buffs aren’t the only people who can celebrate something special on this day. We have two other big events that are significant in their own ways: the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest ongoing annual marathon, and the Patriots Day Red Sox game, the only game in Major League Baseball’s entire season that starts before noon.

Patriots Day Red Sox

Patriots Day Red Sox Game, April 18, 2006 - Click to view larger (Cartoon from Boston Dirt Dogs)

In addition to my lone visit to the Lexington reenactment, I have observed Patriots Day three times by attending the ball game and, after game’s end, walking across the Mass Pike to see the runners pass through Kenmore Square. It used to be that the game started at 11:00 a.m. and the race started 25 miles away in Hopkinton at noon, so if the game wasn’t exceptionally long, you could get to Kenmore in time to see the leaders. Now the race starts between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m., depending on the division, which means that by the time the game spectators get to Kenmore, the winners are long gone. (It is possible, however, to see the wheelchair racers just before the game.)

Kenmore Square on the Boston Marathon route

Kenmore Square is mile 25 of the Boston Marathon - Click to view larger (Photo from RunnerBelle)

The first time I did the combo game-marathon thing was in 2004. The weather was perfect for baseball watching at game time, low 70s and sunny, but not so good for the runners. It got worse into the afternoon as temperatures soared into the mid 80s. Honestly, the runners looked like they were going to die. It was a different story when I went in 2007, when it was about 45°F and rainy, miserable for all involved. (That was also the day of the Virginia Tech shooting, which I learned about when I went to get a hot dog and the TVs at the third base concourse were tuned to news instead of the game.) Last year’s weather was a good compromise, low to mid 50s with partial sun. Last year was my mother’s first Patriots Day Sox game, and I managed to convince her that she couldn’t possibly be so close to the marathon and not watch at least a few minutes of it. She ended up having a great time cheering on the stragglers (“Come on, you can do it, just a mile to go!”)

My celebration this year will involve the marathon but not the game. I’ll be with some of my sorority sisters, one of whom lives about two blocks from mile 24. So far, the forecast is for decent weather for both running and watching, with a predicted high temperature of 61°F, partial sun, and a moderate westerly wind (tailwind). I already have my BlackBerry set to receive split times for my friends who are running, so I hope to spot at least a couple of them as they pass.

Sadly, most private sector workers in Massachusetts don’t get today off. I’m taking a vacation day, since my company is open. For those of you lucky enough not to be working, I hope you have as much fun as I plan on having. Be sure to party safely while celebrating our nation’s conception.

(*For the record, Patriots Day is also a state holiday in Maine, which until 1820 was part of Massachusetts.)

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