Sunday, April 28, 2013

Musings About Concord, Massachusetts

I don’t believe in muses. Writing is not a matter of inspiration. It's more of a compulsion. Think about all of the famous authors that wrote until the last shovel of dirt was thrown onto their grave. Most people retire when the get enough money. Not bestselling writers. They just keep going. They write because they loved writing. 

That said, I actually have a muse of sorts. It’s Concord, Massachusetts. Some of my fondest memories are of that historic village about twenty-five miles north/west of Boston.

American Revolution
Colonial Inn
I lived in Boston for three years and consulted there for many many more. When I was consulting, I frequently spent two weeks in the city. I discovered that I could catch a commuter train Friday night and spend the weekend in Concord. I must have done this dozens of times, sometimes with my wife, but often alone.

Concord was peaceful, pleasant, and friendly. I stayed at the Colonial Inn, where in 1775, rebels had hidden guns and ammunition. The shot heard ‘round the world was only a mile or so down the road. Tourists visit Concord because of its iconic place in the American Revolution. Many are surprised by the town’s grand literary heritage. Nathanial Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Robert B. Parker have all called Concord home. No wonder Henry James dubbed the village, "the biggest little place in America."

concord massachuttes
Barrow Book Store (Used)

Concord is seemingly dedicated to books. There were no chain bookstores, but there was a great independent book store on the main street, at least three distinctive used book stores, and a fantastic public library.

Concord Massachusetts
Concord Free Public Library
To a great extent, I research and wrote Tempest at Dawn in Concord. On Saturday mornings, I would eat breakfast with locals at a neighborhood coffee shop and then stroll down to the Concord Free Public Library. One day I found a book that was over one hundred and fifty years old that would help my research. Before closing time, I ask the librarian if there was any way I could borrow the book overnight. She told me I could apply for a library card and check out the book. I explained that I was only visiting and a resident of Arizona. She said that didn't matter; Concord issued library cards to anyone and everyone. The regional card was even valid for the Boston Public Library, which had previously declined to issue me a card. I couldn't believe my good fortune. I needed nothing more than a picture ID to take an antique book back to my room. I was careful to return it in the same condition I found it.

I no longer work in Boston, so I don’t catch the commuter train to Concord anymore. I miss the biggest little place in America.

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