A week or so ago, I spent two days with a group of fifth-graders, teaching them about the Boston Massacre. Most of this teaching involved showing them the famous engraving by Paul Revere. I had them tell me what they saw, and then had them extrapolate from there. I’m not stupid, I didn’t say “extrapolate”. I said “what do you think that means?”
I had some notes from the teacher in my hand as the kids and I analyzed this primary source. It was a fantastic exercise. The kids learned a lot, about the Boston Massacre and the use of images as propaganda. They also did real history as opposed to just being told what to think, which is a major plus.
But one of the points that the Teacher’s Notes made, which I wasn’t sure what to do with, was the fact that Crispus Attucks is depicted as white in the image. There are three dead men depicted in the engraving. All three are white. Despite its name, only five people died in the Boston Massacre (as opposed to the dozens or hundreds the name implies). Three of the dead were white men, one was a white boy, and the last was Crispus Attucks, a black man. The fact that there are no black men on the engraving at all indicates some rewrite of the facts, but to go so far as to say that Crispus Attucks was turned white for propaganda purposes seems to be going too far. After all, three white men died, back when it was thought that white men were the only people worth noting. The three white men are being shown dying. To me, the boy and the black man were completely ignored.
I didn’t mention this thinking to any of the kids. All I did was point out the lack of Crispus Attucks, and slid that right into the demographics of the crowd overall (very peaceful, diverse, and well-dressed for a mob of ropemakers and dockworkers, don’t you think?). The kids jumped right onto the fact that no one in the mob has a weapon. A lesson was learned.
It occurred to me today, two weeks later, that Crispus Attucks is the only name I know from the Boston Massacre. How often had I pointed out the Commander of the British regiment to the kids, without knowing his name? I didn’t even know the name of the white men and the boy who had died. Just Crispus Attucks. Which isn’t a bad thing, but this morning, as I stared into the bacon frying in the pan, I suddenly wondered if that was on purpose. Perhaps the Civil Rights movement had something to do with it. What was more important for American schoolchildren to know, the names of each individual person that died at the Boston Massacre, or the fact that there were only five of them? In the grand scheme of things, did we really even need to know their names? And yet, here I was, with this fact. Crispus Attucks died in the Boston Massacre. I didn’t know what his job had been beforehand. I didn’t know how old he had been. All I knew was that he died on March 5, 1770, by British hands.
Google has a tool called the Ngram, which tells you how many percentage of books, in each year, included a certain phrase. It’s therefore easy to compare mentions of the Boston Massacre to mentions of Crispus Attucks.
The mid-1850s had a sudden spike of interest in the Boston Massacre; possibly because of the impending Civil War and the surge of patriotism in the North and South towards their respective countries. Tellingly, Crispus Attucks’ name was not use proportionally. In other words, most mentions of the Boston Massacre didn’t mention Crispus Attucks. Perhaps they didn’t want to mention that black men were fighting for the American cause from the start, or perhaps, like me, the writers felt that the existence of the five victims was more important than their individual names. Or perhaps the Boston Massacre was just a name, a reference in American society, the same way we talk about the Boston Tea Party as an example of rebellion without mentioning what the participants actually did.
Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre don’t sync up until the post-WWII era, when the Civil Rights movement kicked off. Look at how neat that is. From 1940 onwards, Crispus Attucks isn’t always mentioned, but interest in him surges and plummets at the same rate that interest rises and falls in the the Boston Massacre in general. I think my theory is correct: I only know the name of Crispus Attucks because of the efforts of the Civil Rights movement.
Still, a simple Google search pulled up all of the names of the Boston Massacre victims. I wondered what the story would be. Would Crispus Attucks be excluded from the narrative? Would the four white people have been mentioned while excluding the black man? The results turned out to be an absolute mess, so I sorted them a bit.
James Caldwell was the name of a prominent Irish baronet who lived from 1722-1784. He served in the Army and wrote a book or two. In a few places, interest in his name surges at the same rate as the Boston Massacre, but not enough to make me think that the James Caldwell mentioned is the dead Bostonian.
The last three rarely sync up with the Boston Massacre. Perhaps some books mention them, but not always? Only Crispus Attucks seems to be directly linked to the Boston Massacre, and that looks to be the result of the Boston Massacre.
Crispus Attucks was born into slavery in 1723 Massachussetts to Prince Younger, a black slave and a local Indian, Nancy Natick. In September 1750 he escaped captivity. He was 6’2, and knock-kneed, and made a living for himself in and out of Boston Harbor, first working on whaling ships and then later as a ropemaker. He was part of the mob that started a fight with a lone British soldier outside a pub. He was the first one killed.
James Caldwell was born in 1753. He was not from Boston; he had only recently arrived on a ship, the merchant ship Hawk. Very little else is known about him. He was part of the mob that started the fight, and was the third to die.
Patrick Carr was born in 1740 in Ireland. He was not part of the mob, but instead ran to help. He was shot in the abdomen crossing the street. It took him nine days to die of his wound, during which time he gave a testimony of what happened, and notably forgave the British soldiers who opened fire. Sam Adams therefore denounced him as a papist. He died on March 14, 1770, the last to die.
Samuel Gray was born in 1718 and was a professional ropemaker. He was apparently always starting fights, and had the previous week started a fight with some British soldiers. Two of those same soldiers had reappeared during the fight, as reinforcements for the British sentry the mob had happened upon. He was the first person fired upon, although he was not the first to die.
Matthew Kilroy was one of the soldiers Samuel Gray had fought with the week before. He ended up killing Gray. He was later convicted of murder.
John Maverick was born in 1753, a local apprentice to Isaac Greenwood. He was not part of the mob that started the fight, but was instead called over by the bells and hubbub. He and his friend, John Greenwood, assumed it was a fire and ran to help. The two boys got separated in the fight. Maverick may not have started the fight, but when the British soldiers raised their guns in fear, he shouted, “Fire away!”, indicating that he probably got wrapped up in the revolutionary spirit/mob mentality. He died of his wounds on March 6.
Edward Montgomery stumbled a bit, whether it was from slipping on ice, or getting his with a stick or a snowball. He was the first person to fire, although whether he fired on purpose or accidentally is left for debate. He was apparently heard shouting for the other soldiers to fire.
Captain Thomas Preston was born around 1722, and was probably Irish. He was Captain of the Guard that day. Upon hearing that a mob was looking to attack and kill a sentryman, he sent about 12 men to the sentry’s aid, and then went to the mob himself. He claimed to have stood between the mob and his soldiers himself. He was found Not Guilty, but soon after left the army and returned to the British Isles.
So Buzzfeed published a video describing the best microwave desserts. I watched the video, but I wasn’t a fan of any of the recipes. I can’t eat chocolate and I didn’t feel like going to the store and buying cake mix. Weren’t there cakes that I could make in the microwave without buying a mix? One that I could make from ingredients I already had at home? Or even better, could I make cinnamon rolls in the microwave?
My initial results weren’t strong. I found this microwave recipe that turned out to be “take a premade cinnamon roll out of the can and cook it for a minute”, boring and costs money. Blech. Finally I found this recipe of my dreams.
2 tbsp applesauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp buttermilk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tbsp cinnamon
1 dash ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 dash salt
First step: gather all of your ingredients.
In the background there you can see my mother, hard at work making a dinner that is simultaneously delicious, filling, and healthy. Meanwhile, I was making a cake in a microwave.
Next step, and this is a super complicated step: combine all of those above ingredients into a bowl and then stir until uniformly smooth.
You may have noticed that in the picture above there is some vinegar, which is not included in the recipe. I don’t actually keep buttermilk on-hand, so I had to make my own.
1 tbsp whatever milk you have on hand
1 drop of vinegar
Stir a bit if you want, let it sit for about five minutes, then add the rest of your ingredients on top of that. (I did not fill that 1/8 tsp all the way, and even then I only poured about half of that into the milk, so it was probably more than a drop. Still, it was a tiny amount of vinegar and I still managed to just use ingredients I already have)
Anyway, once your dough is consistently smooth, microwave your mug o’ delish for about a minute on full power. Keep adding fifteen-second increments until your cake is cooked. My cake took a minute and a half altogether.
Obviously this recipe would not be complete without icing. The recipe the website recommended had cream cheese (which we don’t keep on-hand, oddly). However, that microwave-canned-cinnamon-rolls had a simple solution for the
lazy cheap people among us.
1/2 cup or so of powdered sugar
1 tbsp regular tap water
Combine until it looks like icing.
So I put the icing on the cake like the recipe said, but honestly? Just cut a portion with your fork and dip it into the icing. Every bite gets the right amount of icing, every time.
So it was one of the best things I had ever eaten in my entire life ever. Also it was 659 calories. But who’s counting?
Not me, my friends. Not me.
So on Thursday I headed back to the United States. I had asked the building manager/doorman/whatever he is to get a cab for me on Thursday morning at 9:00. At about 8:20 on Thursday, I walked out of the apartment building, intending to get some cash from the bank, for the taxi and the airport bag check-in. He was standing outside talking with some folks. When he saw me, he looked worried.
He asked me (in Italian) if I wanted that taxi for 9:00. I said, “Si, vado a uno banco.” (yes, I am going to the bank)
He looked confused.
I said, “É otto e venti. Vado uno banco.” (It’s 8:20. I’m going to the bank)
He turned to the couple he was talking to and said, “Parlete inglese?” (Do you guys speak English)
“No,” they said.
He turned back to me and said, “Taxi per le nove?” (Taxi for nine o’clock?)
“Si,” I said again. “Taxi per nove. É otto e venti. Vado uno banco.” (Yes, taxi for nine o’clock. It’s 8:20. I’m going to the bank.)
He turned to his friends and said something. Finally the man in the couple (in Italian) told me to be down here in half an hour. I said (in Italian) that I would be.
So I took a taxi to the airport, because it was a lot easier to deal with than hauling two suitcases and a full backpack around on public transportation during rush hour traffic. He dropped me off at Terminal Five. That was where all of the flights to the United States left from. But I had said specifically that I was going to Canada. I can only guess that since almost all of the flights to North America leave from Terminal Five, he thought Air Canada left from Terminal Five as well. But Air Canada was in Terminal Three, with all the European flights, for some reason.
So after some mild panicking and resentment on my part, I got on the airport shuttle and to Terminal Three. Everything else in the airport went without a hitch. In the airport, I sat and started The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time and sobbed several times. I sat in seat 38H in the very back of the plane, where I finished before the plane even took off. It’s not a difficult book to read. Except emotionally. I cried so many times.
Fortunately I was dry-eyed when a woman approached my seat and stared at me.
I looked up at her.
“Is this your seat?” she asked me.
“Yes,” I said.
She narrowed her eyes.
“What’s your seat number?” she asked.
“38H,” I said.
She muttered under her breath and walked away. When I saw her next, she was in seat 37G. I think she was originally supposed to sit in 38K, next to me, but for some reason didn’t want to sit next to me. I don’t know why. Maybe she wanted an aisle seat. Maybe she wanted to have two seats all to herself. When I recounted the story to my family later on, my uncle Steve pointed out that I would make a great seatmate because I’m small.
She wasn’t rude. When I remarked aloud to no one that the plane was a lot less full than I expected, she turned around and explained that the back of the plane on long flights was reserved for flight attendants, so they could have a place to nap on their breaks. So she didn’t hate me, at least.
Whatever the reason, no one ever came to sit in 38K, so I had two seats all to myself for nine hours. I stuck my backpack under 37K, so I was able to stretch my legs out as far as I want (and because I’m small, I had almost as much footroom as a tall person would have in First Class). I could use 38K as a place to set my books and my laptop, or another footrest if I wanted to sit sideways. I could use 38K’s interactive screen to show me the flight’s progress on the map, and my interactive screen to watch movies.
After The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time, I needed to lightest movie imaginable to lift my mood. I ended up settling on Hotel Transylvania. It was a fun movie, exactly what I needed, but afterwards, I needed something a bit heavier to chew on. So I watched the 1993 version of Secret Garden. Then I tried to read another book, Green Rider, but I’ve read that book so often that I got bored and started skipping parts I knew already. Like, all of the opening scene, where the bad guy ruminates on history, and the heroine gets her mission from the dying Green Rider. I just skipped all of that premise-building. Then I got skipped the next chapter because I knew that too. I decided that since I had skipped three chapters, I should probably just not bother reading the book. Instead I watched The Secret of NIMH.
Although I grew up watching The Secret of NIMH, I hadn’t seen it in several years. I found myself enthralled in a way I hadn’t been as a child. When I was a little girl, I had loved the comical scenes — Jeremy the Crow being clumsy (‘scuse me, pardon me!), Auntie Shrew shrieking in self-aggrandizement, the children tying up Jeremy. I had hardly noticed the main character, Mrs. Brisby.
But now, as an adult, I was fascinated by her. She is a strong character — truly strong, I think. Not physically. Not in a 1990s I’m-a-woman-in-a-man’s-world type of strong female character. She had strong characterization. She had a true personality. I sat back and watched her, and I realized what this woman is:
This woman is Heart. Everything she does, she does from the heart. She is constantly battling her own fear and uncertainty in order to protect those she loves. She begins the story fearful of even visiting Mr. Ages, but she does it anyway. When the tractor begins the plowing early, she immediately runs to the danger without having any idea what she is going to do (another character, Auntie Shrew, manages to stop the tractor, and finds her frozen in fear, still clinging to the tractor). She just wants to save her family.
There are arc words attached to the amulet Mrs. Brisby is holding. They are “Courage of the Heart is very rare. The stone has a power when it’s there.” The actual words on the amulet are “you can unlock any door if you only have the key,” which is also important to note, but nowhere near as important as the words Nicodemus gives us (the “courage of the heart” quote).
After a long and dramatic scene in which the rats get caught up in internal politics, Mrs. Brisby’s house and children (and Auntie Shrew, never forget Auntie Shrew) begin sinking into the mud. The rats all struggle to get the house out of the mud — setting aside their dispute to focus on the task at hand. Justin and Mrs. Brisby are on the granite block of the house. The other rats are tossing rope to them, and they desperate tie the ropes around the block, so that the rats can pull the block to safety. But all the ropes keep breaking. The granite block sinks beneath the mud. Justin only barely manages to pull out a desperate, grieving Mrs. Brisby from the mud. But she is fighting. Her heart, broken, strong, her strength, her courage — even to the last, Mrs. Brisby is fighting to save her family.
And that is why the stone amulet works. Mrs. Brisby, heart personified, is courageous, selfless, but always courageous. The stone unleashes its power and saves the house and the children (including Timmy and Auntie Shrew).
This had always confused me as a child. Why should the stone amulet work, when Mrs. Brisby had been crying and not being courageous? Because Mrs. Brisby never gave up. No, not even when her children were sinking beneath the mud. She may have been crying. But she hadn’t given up, not really. Not ever.
Last night was the super moon! I thought I would be special and go see the Super Moon over the Roman monuments.
I spent most of the day at the computer, it felt like, so it was nice to stretch my legs. But I actually didn’t really enjoy going to the Forum. The moon wasn’t any larger than it was during any other full moon I had seen.
All the amateur photographers of Rome were there, and they all snapped this picture. If you weren’t there to take a picture, you were there to make out. Seriously, you were either pointing a camera at the moon or you were burying your face into someone else’s mouth. Italians, I’ve noticed, are a lot more into PDA than Americans are. They’re a lot noisier than Americans, too, making lots of slurpy noises and sucking noises.
All things considered I left the Forum feeling rather alone and small.
It’s not all just goofing off and trying to figure out what “cernitur” means (was Lamia Cicero’s buddy? Like, super buddy?). Last night, for instance, my roommates and I all put on nice clothing and went to the German bar two blocks away. We would live there if we could, I think. Sarah would, at least.
The roommates tried to eat bread with oil and vinegar without having any plates. So Nicole just drew on the placemat with balsalmic vinegar instead.
This being our last weekend in Rome, we also hit up the outdoor market that’s right outside our door every Sunday. We all found something to like! For example, these moustache scarves:
Just me? Okay, how about hats.
Hey, boys. *winkwink*
Like what you see, huh? I think I look pretty fly. In a female sense?
Yeah, you know this is hot.
Oh also I took a picture of Nicole in a pope t-shirt and her bikini, because we are all classy, classy people in Building 34 Floor 4.
Also I have the most coordinated outfit ever now the end.
Finals season for the summer session is upon us! I am now doing boring things. The downside to reading scholarly articles written in the 1950s is that all of the quotes are still in Latin, because Latin and Greek scholarship was still pretty common back then. So I have to bring the old Latin dictionary out and dust out my Latin grammar, which has been sitting in the attic for months under some old tourist maps and a pile of cobwebs.
I refuse to translate this:
Vidi enim hesterno die quendam murmurantem, quem aiebant negare ferri me posse, quia, cum ab hoc eodem impurissimo parricida rogarer cuius essem civitatis, respondi me, probantibus et vobis et equitibus Romanis, esse eius quae carere me non potuisset. Ille, ut opinor, ingemuit.
Apparently it contains some zingers, but no. I refuse to try. I’m willing to translate this:
aliqua gloria iusta et merit
I think it means “Some fair and deserved glory”, roughly.
I’m not entirely sure why I find this so funny, but I do.
Buckle up you guys, this is going to be a wild tale of crazy Romans and conquering public transit. Sadly I do not have any awesome pictures of myself to start this entry so we’re stuck with Tarzan here.
I had stopped to take this picture of a band’s poster. Some random dude, potbellied in a striped polo shirt, waited until I was done, then took out a map, pointed at it, and started speaking in Italian. I gathered enough from his pointing and a few stray words of Italian to understand that he was trying to get to the Pyramid. That was nowhere near where we were. For some reason I had assumed that all Italians, by their fluency in the language, gained fluency in public transportation as well. Apparently not. I had just figured out the bus system and the metro system, like, two hours prior. Now I had to explain how to get to Piramide with only rudimentary Italian.
The guy followed me like a lost dog all the way to the Metro station, which was a hike: a block, up two flights of stairs, and over a bridge. Finally I was able to get a Metro map.
“San Pietro,” he said.
“Oh!” I said. “No, San Paolo!” I ran my finger along the map to show him that the San Pietro stop was the wrong way, and San Paolo was the right way. “Marconi, Piramide — Ribbibia. Marconi, Laurentina — no.”
“Oh!” he said. “Grazie!”
Marconi is a Mussolini-era neighborhood, built a fair distance away from the older, more central parts of the city. It took me an hour or so to get back to the city. I got off on Nazione and looked around. It was around 1:00. I had to be at the Piazza Della Repubblica for my next class at 3:00. I had planned on going home for lunch, but I decided against it.
I bought a sandwich, water, and a cold soda at a cafe. I got it to go, but then I thought, well, where am I going to eat this? Since I was only a block away from the Capitoline Hill, I decided that I would eat there. I headed out; my hands were overladen with stuff, and my backpack was swinging in front of me. I had a difficult time balancing all of it.
I successfully crossed Via del Plebiscito. I was just walking on my merry way, looking ahead at the Hill, making plans for crossing the gigantic roundabout and trying to find shade. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw some leathery, skinny, toothless old man burst out through a crowd of tourists. He looked at me, I looked away. Too late. He walked straight over to me, in just the course of a step or two. He shouted something in Italian at me, then threw his clear soda at me; it hit my feet.
I just stared at him, absolutely terrified. My only thought was that I was about to get attacked by this toothless dude. I had absolutely no way to defend myself, unless I whacked him with my sandwich or something.
He said some final word to me — or maybe it was a dry spit — and then he walked away.
I hid in the shade by San Marco and tried not to look at anyone. I ran through a list of what I could possibly have done to provoke him. Was it that I looked at him? Was it because my shoulders were bare? Was it because I had stumbled a bit on the curb? The fact that I hadn’t understood his rant made the whole thing more important and more of a mystery to me. I needed closure. Intellectually, I knew he was just a crazy person and that I had done nothing wrong. But I couldn’t stop myself from wondering.
After lunch I made my way to the Piazza della Repubblica. I was not going to leave this Piazza for much, much longer than I wanted. For a while I read in the shade of a large lamppost. As it got close to 3:00, I got up and started looking for my classmates. I found one, Kelly.
“It’s almost 3:00,” I said.
“I think he said that if there’s no shade we should go inside the church,” she said.
So we did.
“He’s not here yet,” I said. The church was lovely, and there was some sort of peaceful singing going on, but I still wanted to try to make the class.
“I don’t want to leave,” Kelly said. “There’s air conditioning and I don’t want to pay that old lady again.”
“Old lady?” I said. “You mean the one at the entrance? I thought she was just a begger.”
Kelly thought for a moment.
“Shit,” she said.
Fortunately the professor showed up a few minutes after that, and we were on our way. We learned how the church used to be part of a bathhouse, and then moved on to a nearby museum. On our way over, the girls in our class got cat-called. Most of the other girls ignored the, but I made the mistake of glancing at them as I passed.
“Hey!” they shouted. “Hello! Hey! What’s your name!”
I wondered if that was the only English they knew and how they knew we spoke English.
At the museum we examined various statues and their meanings.
Pop quiz! What’s wrong with this statue?
Then we made our final goodbyes to the professor — he had decided to give us Monday and Tuesday off so we could focus on our papers instead. Then we left. Presumably the other students left quickly. On the other hand, it took me a while to leave the Piazza.
First I stopped and took pictures of the fountain in the Piazza.
I had walked past an embroidery shop or a rug shop or a fabric shop or something on the way over. I had spotted in the window a special: small tapestries for 18€. So I headed back to the store to see if I could get anything good. On the way over, I noticed a crowd gathering in the square.
I was stopped by a guy, who began talking to me in English. I stared at him, confused. Finally he said, “Do you speak English?”
“Yes,” I said.
Then I walked on to the store. I bought three for 50€, then headed to the metro to go home. On the way back to the Metro, the guy stopped me again. He asked me some questions in Italian; I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. I headed to the Metro station (with a “parlo inglese!” at a woman who tried to stop me at the entrance). But the ticket machines in the Metro didn’t work. So I had to go back out of the Metro and to the stand near the entrance, where there was a guy who could sell me a Metro ticket.
On my way back from the dude, the same Italian guy stopped me again. He put a bracelet on my wrist and said, “One euro.”
I had a sneaking suspicion he was with the crowd that was gathering. Also, I’m suspicious of street vendors, particularly if they don’t have a stand. “What is this for?”
He didn’t understand the question, merely smiled at me.
“Is this a charity? Charity?” I tried to think of a simpler way to say “charity.” “Is this with them?” I gestured at the crowd that was still gathering. It was now attracting a police presence.
He just smiled at me some more.
This is Antonio. He wanted to get a pizza with me. We tried our best to have a conversation, with my elementary Italian and his rudimentary English. Also he kept asking where I sleep. I told him “Trastevere” because it sounded safe — it’s a big neighborhood. I live off of Trastevere, but not on the street itself. So I could answer the question without actually answering the question. I told him “Ho uno ragazzo in America” — probably not good grammar, but it means roughly “I have a boy in America” and he said something like “That’s okay! You can have two!” or “That’s okay! I’m here, he doesn’t have to know!” I tried to tell him that I couldn’t get a pizza with him because I only eat with my roommates. That’s not true, but I wasn’t really interested in getting a pizza. He also managed to answer my question about why the crowd was gathering; it was something related to the protests in Turkey.
Eventually I did manage to make it home, by taking the Metro to Termini, and then the 64 to Argentina, and the tram to home. I think I earned my sleep.