Just before midnight in Lexington, Mass., a gabbing crowd is gathered expectantly around a pristine Colonial-era home.
There are klieg lights. There are microphones buzzing with feedback. There are people recording with iPhones. This time, Paul Revere ain’t surprising nobody.
We hear the clop-clop-clop of a horse galloping on pavement. As the horse emerges from the darkness, riding the beast is our hero, screaming like a banshee.
American patriot Paul Revere looks almost exactly like actor Jack Black and the earnest, pudgy dude on this horse resembles Jack Black, so I guess this re-enactment is pretty authentic.
Maybe too authentic? Because instead of yelling “The British are coming!”, Revere now booms: “The regulars are coming out!”
It may be historically accurate, but it sounds like a bad translation of a tag line for Ukrainian laxatives.
I’m in this quaint town 30 minutes from Boston on Patriots’ Day, an occasion celebrated in earnest only in New England, to watch the annual re-enactment of Revere’s famous midnight ride. Not hearing him yell the factually incorrect sentence of lore is like a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert where they don’t do “Free Bird.”
Apparently, there’s a lot about 1775’s most famous horseback escapade that I don’t know. Such as the widely forgotten existence of William Dawes who, like Revere, raced to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock of an impending invasion, arriving only a few hours later.
But just as the youth of Plymouth must know every crease and lump of that darn rock, Lexington kids have apparently had the true account of the midnight ride hammered into them since birth. When we hear another set of hooves approaching, a slouching teenager predicts the rider with sarcastically interested accuracy: “I wonder if it’s Dawes?!”
The crowd vehemently shushes him. But I feel all warm inside. American history and heckling: It doesn’t get much more Bawston than this.
Let me explain. There’s Boston, the venerable, educated and diverse metropolis with a population of about 5 million. Great Vietnamese sandwiches. Riveting poetry libraries.
And then there’s Bawston, USA, home to bank robbers in hockey masks gunning it out with cops, genius janitors scrawling equations on chalkboards, burly brewers with impressive beards, and — this one’s important — dreamy cheekbones.
Population: Casey Affleck. And almost no use of the letter R.
The purpose of this trip is to achieve maximum Bawston. That’s probably annoying to Bostonians, including my sister. But if it makes them feel better, when I traveled to Seattle, all I did was suck down that one corporation’s cappuccinos and make references to Bill Gates and Ichiro Suzuki. And when friends visit me in Miami, they in?variably unload a lifetime’s worth of jokes involving white linen outfits, Tony Montana, and a certain imported Colombian product that gave my city its skyline and reputation.
Sometimes we travel to open our horizons. Other times, we just want to revel in the stereotypes of the region we’re visiting.
So after checking the midnight ride off my list, I make the requisite pilgrimage to Legal Sea Foods, where I guzzle the beer named after the guy whose house Revere was galloping toward. I slam fist-size oysters. At a yard sale, I plunk down a quarter for a paperback copy of Gone Baby Gone (there’s a guy named Skinny Ray in it; do I need to tell you where the book is set?) to read on my sister’s porch while wearing a white tank top. Instead, I hurl it in rage at some squirrels when I suddenly remember that Derek Jeter exists.
Being this Bawston hurts. And nobody else in this city seems as devoted to it as I am. Everybody else is, like, eating ice cream and laughing. I become disillusioned. I even start to wonder if perhaps The Departed wasn’t really a documentary.
But I don’t give up. Instead, I head with my sister and her buddy to the heart of Bawston — or at least its oversaturated kidney: Fenway Park. The Dropkick Murphys blast on the PA system. David Ortiz’s ornate beard looks even more majestic in person. I half expect a shirtless Marky Mark to rappel down the Green Monster.
My sister’s friend — a thoughtful literary type with season tickets — tells me about the time some wild townies, who had won a radio contest and arrived by limo, spent an entire game brawling and spitting behind him.
I feel bad for my gentle new pal. But some darker, movie-theater-popcorn–addled inner part of me claps its buttery hands together with a greedy cheer: Yes. Wicked Awesome. More Bawston. I need more Bawston!