Tuesday. I’ve made it through security at Boston’s Logan Airport without hassle (It took me ’til my 50s to realize that a fresh shave is all you need to sail through security) and I’m at one of the lousy airport bookstores trying to kill the four hours before my multiple-times-delayed flight and I come across a biography of Samuel Adams by Pulitzer-winning historian Stacy Schiff.
I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know much of Samuel Adams apart from his namesake beer. And I was a history major in college.
And I really shouldn’t have picked up the book at all because I shouldn’t have been anywhere near Logan Airport. I had been scheduled to fly out of Manchester, N.H. the day before, but thunder and lightning and Biblical rains had cancelled my flight, and then I rebooked the last seat on a flight out of Logan to Vegas (through Dallas) the next day.
Stayed the night at a hotel near the Manchester Airport, and found a cab to take me to a Logan-bound bus the next morning.
The cabbie looked like he’d been wedged into the driver’s seat and I had no idea how he might escape. Bald dome. Double chin. Sox t-shirt. His Queen City Taxi was a Toyota Camry. Empty 20 oz. plastic Dr. Pepper bottle in the drink holder.
I asked him how Manchester was doing.
“Terrible,” he replied. He said the city was deteriorating due to an increase in drug activity, which had led to a corresponding increase in crime. He blamed the illegal aliens.
“Are the illegal aliens the only ones using drugs?” I asked.
“No, no,” he said. He told a representative story about picking up a fare and the fare would tell him to stop off somewhere other than the final destination because “I lost the key and I’ve got to pick up a spare at my mother’s.” Code for buying some fentanyl before returning home.
“I don’t really care what they do as long as I get paid,” he said.
I then asked him how Uber and Lyft had impacted his business.
So he told me this story about a friend of his who had asked how much it would cost to get a ride to Amherst, N.H. for a night out, because he liked to party.
He told his friend $40.
“But Uber will do it for $25,” said the friend.
“Then call Uber,” said the cabbie.
The friend calls the next day. Says he stayed out ’til closing time. Called an Uber to pick him up. The charge for the ride home?” $75.
“What would you have charged for the ride home?” I ask the cabbie.
Ah, the beauty of “dynamic pricing.”
I was in New Hampshire to drop my daughter off at summer camp, a New England ritual I can’t quite let die. I had attended the “brother” YMCA camp in the late ‘70s and ‘80s.
And I didn’t trust the airline system enough to let her travel on her own.
The weather since our arrival in New Hampshire had been universally dark and gray. With rain showers that even this New Hampshire boy, who remembers plenty of torrential downpours from his youth, found disconcerting in their intensity. But what surprised me more was the relentlessness of the clouds. Typically, the weather changes rapidly in New Hampshire. Not this visit.
And the forecast for my daughter’s first week of camp was equally dismal.
But all she really cares about is the camaraderie of being surrounded by playmates. And being stuck inside the arts and crafts building for extended periods is certainly no punishment for her.
I think back to my camp experience. The place was very sports-focused, and camp leadership was openly derisive of arts and crafts. Would refer to it as “arts and fags.” Times certainly have changed and progressed … I wonder what will happen when a Trans boy applies to attend.
My flight to Dallas finally departs. The connection to Las Vegas is delayed by thirty minutes to wait for the catering service. Apparently, the flight attendants needed their cart full of soda cans and half-stale pretzels restocked. Because the customers clearly would rather spend a half-hour on the tarmac versus forego their complimentary six ounces of orange juice and a 1 oz. bag of pretzels.
I chose to fly in and out of Vegas despite Bishop’s summer flight service connecting out of San Francisco.
Guests of mine who have visited in both May and June (the June guests overlapped with the SFO flight option) also chose Vegas as their airport of choice based upon connectivity and price – and then were awed by the scenic drive over Westgard Pass.
Both friends were from the New York City area.
My friend Gary said the connection through SFO just doesn’t work. And when I tried to explain that he could fly into LAX and then transfer to a charter flight out of Hawthorne, he stopped me mid-explanation and said, “There’s not a chance I’m doing that.”
The SFO flight really makes no sense for anyone outside of those who actually live in the Bay Area.
As the flight prepares for descent into Vegas, a flight attendant gets on the intercom and launches into (I am not exaggerating) a four-minute infomercial on why we should all apply for an American Airlines credit card. I fly a few times a year so I wouldn’t know if this [the in-flight infomercial] is a thing, but I’ve never been subject to something like this before. And truly, we passengers are a captive audience.
The flight attendant seemed super excited to spend those four minutes as a shill.
By the time I landed in Vegas, I’d finished half the book on Samuel Adams. Enough to come to the awkward realization that Samuel Adams was the true architect of the American Revolution and that I had been living my entire life in ignorance.
A lot of it stems from the traditional teaching that the Revolution is about general colonial dissatisfaction with overreaching British tax imposers/taxeaters until Paul Revere gets on his horse and Lexington and Concord kick off the armed hostilities.
Revere marks the personification of it.
But no one ever talks about whom Revere was riding out into the Boston suburbs to warn. That would be Samuel Adams and John Hancock. And Hancock was the rich guy that Adams had recruited/mentored/shepherded to the cause.
What this book does quite well is talk about the politics behind the Sugar Act of 1764, and how that really set the table for the ensuing decade.
The Sugar Act was Britain’s way of trying to get the colonists to pay for the recently concluded French and Indian War.
And as Ben Franklin had laid out a decade earlier, “It was understood to be the right of Englishmen to be taxed only by their consent. The colonies had no representative in Parliament. To compel payments under the circumstances amounted to ‘treating them as a conquered people’, and not as true British subjects.”
Adams began writing salvos against the Sugar Act as a Boston newspaper columnist, publishing under various pseudonyms. That’s where a lot of the background of this biography comes from [anonymous essays later identified by style as Adams’], as Adams, unlike the other polished and publicity-seeking Founding Fathers, was careful to destroy, rather than preserve, his various papers.
“Unlike his contemporaries, Adams did not preen for posterity. He wrote no memoir, resisting even calls to assemble his political writings … Adams escaped the golden haze that settled around his fellow founders, as if it were too extravagant for him. He hailed from the messy, anarchic, provocative years. It would not help that he would be confused with John, who collected his letters, wrote prolifically for the record, and since adolescence, had rehearsed for greatness.”
Sam Adams? He was the type whose fingerprints left no trace, but who could conjure up a protesting flash mob in a matter of minutes.
He was the guy in the back rooms hatching strategy and connecting people
By the time he found himself in the middle of the public fray, he was into his forties. And he was unique amongst the Founding Fathers in that he was the only downwardly mobile one in the entire lot – a spectacular failure in business endeavors.
Sam Adams beer can more rightly be ascribed to his father, Samuel Adams Sr., who was quite successful. It was the son who ran the company into the ground.
“He was the only member of his Harvard class to whom no profession could be ascribed.”
And also referred to by biographer Schiff as “The Patron Saint of Late Bloomers.”
And yet, he was the one guy the British monarchy knew it needed to get rid of.
So I suppose if the whole purpose of my roundabout two-day trip home (punctuated by a fatal traffic accident which closed Highway 95 and forced a detour through Pahrump at 11 p.m.) was a chance bookstore encounter with Samuel Adams, then that was certainly worth the trouble.
Taxation without representation … Sam Adams would certainly have had a field day with the concept of a Business Improvement District, where private businesses enact pass-through fees paid for by all to pay for marketing expenses designated to enhance the bottom lines of the relatively few.