We feel a surge of regional chauvinism on Thanksgiving mornings when we shiver on the streets of Plymouth to bear witness to the Pilgrim Progress March. On a day dominated by football and gluttony, we’re thankful for the purity of this reenactment of the 1621 Thanksgiving service where the 51 surviving Pilgrims prayed for their dead and gave thanks for their lives. Just enough spectacle tempers the solemnity, as reenactors in costume march to Burial Hill to sing psalms and read from Governor William Bradford’s “History of Plimoth Plantation.’’
After the 10 a.m. procession, there’s a worship service at First Parish Church (Unitarian Universalist) and an open house with cookies and cider at Church of the Pilgrimage (United Church of Christ Congregational), both on Town Square and both descended from the original Pilgrim congregation. Starting at noon, United American Indians of New England holds solemn rites for the National Day of Mourning on Cole’s Hill. (www.visit-plymouth.com, 800-USA- 1620)
These gatherings of the descendants of Pilgrims and Native Americans could happen only in New England, and with Thanksgiving upon us, we’re thankful to call them our own. In fact, we have a lot to be thankful for as New England travelers. Here’s another dozen.
You can get there from here
Some wonderful examples of transportation engineering have sprung up in recent years (the Zakim bridge and the Penobscot Narrows bridge over the Penobscot River near Bucksport, Maine, to name two), but no piece of civil engineering has done more for harried drivers than the aesthetically more plebian Sagamore Flyover. It did for Cape Cod what the Big Dig did for the North End - made it accessible again. Fortunately, repairs on the Sagamore Bridge should be finished soon for the winter.
Parks and recreation
Thirty national historic sites and parks (www.nps.gov
) are spread across New England, and we’re thankful for all of them. But we’re most thankful for the National Park Service Ranger Programs that illuminate the significance of these places and tell their stories, from Lowell National Historical Park’s chronicle of American entrepreneurship and labor history to Weir Farm’s proof that Impressionism could take root in Wilton, Conn., as firmly as in Giverny, France.
My old New England home
While the National Park Service tends to take the Ken-Burns-grand- theme perspective on our region, Historic New England (www.historicnewengland.org
) preserves private homes evocative of specific New Englanders across nearly four centuries. Many of the properties echo through the ages, like Cogswell’s Grant in Essex, with its sophisticated chronicle of the lives of folk art collectors. Others, like the Nickels-Sortwell House in Wiscasset, Maine, evoke a specific time and place (the 19th-century shipbuilding heyday of the Maine coast), while still others, like architect Walter Gropius’s house in Lincoln, demonstrate that even the modern is historic.
For our money, the circa-1900 invention of the hamburger sandwich at Louis’ Lunch (261-263 Crown St., New Haven, 203-562-5507) ranks right up there with the Boston Tea Party in the annals of New England history. The original site fell to urban renewal but was immediately rebuilt in the 1950s near Yale. Seeing no need to improve on perfection, Louis’ uses its original vertical cast-iron grills to make the burgers, and still refuses to serve condiments. BYOK (bring your own ketchup).
In the days when “sports’’ drove up coastal Route 1 for opening day of Maine’s fishing or hunting season, Leon Leonwood Bean would keep his outdoors store open around the clock. In fact, company lore holds that Bean had the locks removed in 1951. The greatly expanded L.L. Bean Flagship Store (95 Main St., Freeport, Maine, 877-755-2326) is still open 24/7/365, and there’s often free coffee for late-night shoppers. It’s comforting to know that you can buy an Evergreen Eastern Green Drake (that’s a dry fly) as midnight ticks down to the opening of trout season on April 1.
In the Main
Maybe we’re becoming cockeyed optimists, but we’ve seen a heartening trend toward Main Street revitalization as dedicated small merchants and service providers win back shoppers from malls and websites. Many cities and towns are luring people to live and shop in the center, giving rise to a new generation of bakeries, restaurants, bookstores, and art galleries filling once-empty storefronts. A couple of our favorites that are becoming destinations in their own right are Rockland, Maine, and Pittsfield. There’s more reason than ever to skip the bypass route and explore the main drags.
Access to art is like access to health care: It ought to be a basic human right. While we sympathize with institutions that must charge to keep the doors open, we applaud those that somehow have the means to welcome art-lovers without a fee. Many free museums are affiliated with colleges and universities. Viewing the Assyrian reliefs at Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, N.H., or J.M.W. Turner’s luminous landscapes and seascapes at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Conn., would be a treat under any circumstances. Seeing them for free: priceless.
It took the lockout of 2004-05 to give us an appreciation for the bargain-priced skillful play of minor league hockey, and our admiration of the Providence Bruins has spread to all of New England’s minor league sports. Our region fields several minor league baseball teams, but their season is done. Winter minor league play includes the Springfield Armor and Portland’s Maine Red Claws of Development League basketball (www.nba.com/nbdl
) and the ice rink antics of our American Hockey League affiliates (www.theahl.com
): Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Hartford Wolf Pack, Lowell Devils, Manchester Monarchs, Portland Pirates, Providence Bruins, Springfield Falcons, and Worcester Sharks.
Boston Globe scribe Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) penned the immortal Victorian lines, “Let me live in a house by the side of the road / And be a friend to man,’’ decades before limited access highways. He should be the patron saint of Massachusetts Turnpike rest stops: the cleanest, best-stocked ones in New England with the broadest services and the amplest parking. We might grouse about a lot of things related to Massachusetts highways, but the rest stops aren’t among them.
The weather may be hinting winter, but this is the week when last summer’s promises are sweetly satisfied: fat pumpkins, the golden curl of butternut squash, and the plump delights of free-range turkey. We’re especially thankful for the local food movement, spearheaded in large part by visionary restaurateurs who know that the best cuisine begins in their own backyards. Singling out a handful, we’re happy to give a tip of the seed-company cap to Oleana (134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-661-0505), Fore Street (288 Fore St., Portland, Maine, 207-775-2717), and in Vermont, the Farmer’s Diner (5573 Woodstock Road, Quechee, 802-295-4600, and 99 Maple St., Suite 10, Middlebury, Vt., 802-458-0455).
One of the most overlooked heroines of American popular culture is the diner waitress who always seems to pipe up with a cheery “Can I warm that up for you, hon?’’ just when you need it. It’s hard to tell how many of the original 651 Worcester Lunch Car Company Diners built between 1906 and 1961 survive, but three beauties still operate in their native city: Miss Worcester (300 Southbridge St., 508-753-5600), Boulevard Diner (155 Shrewsbury St., 508-791-4535), and Parkway Diner (148 Shrewsbury St., 508-753-9968). Make ours over easy.
Remember drawing maps as a child and sort of fudging, say, the coastline of Greenland? Parts of the underlying database for Google Maps seem to have similar interpolations, but we’re thankful that they still help us find our way.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.