Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Discontinuing Education II

Even though I dogged out of the lecture I'd registered for at the Museum of Fine Art last week -- a late talk with the new editor seemed more important than a talk on "the many guises of contemporary art" -- I did drag myself out of the house in Saturday's cold rain for a historical walk and talk put on by the Museum of Science.

Larry Sands, former fire chief for Medford, led about 15 people on a two-hour stroll through downtown Boston to share some stories and sites about the great Boston fire of 1872. Starting at the Old South Meeting House, which was saved from the blaze by volunteers draping wet blankets over the roof, we walked around much of the area affected by the blaze, which destroyed almost 800 buildings. Sands talked about how building design and construction aided the blaze, the insufficient water supply in the booming commercial district (the financial district used to be a wealthy residential section with tree-lined boulevards), and the role that dynamiting buildings played in fighting the fire. It was kind of unsettling that Sands adopted the persona of the city's fire chief at the time -- his first-person accounts fell a little flat -- and I was amused that he mispronounced Peshtigo, a Wisconsin city also destroyed by a rampaging fire around the same time -- but all in all, this was an awesome program. Even if it was raining. I'm reading a couple of books about the fire now -- fascinating stuff.

And tonight, a four-week class I'm taking at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education on Boston, Cambridge, and the American Revolution begins tonight. This is the first class I've been able to take at the CCAE -- the class I signed up for last September was canceled -- and I'm quite excited. As spring continues to come, I'm a bigger and bigger fan of historical walks and talks and continuing education courses. If you've never looked into them, consider doing so. They're a lot of fun, and you just might learn something.

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