Whately Diner in Whately, Massachusetts

Whately Diner, at 372 State Road (just off I-91) in Whately, Massachusetts, is a 1958 Kullman model “princess style” diner, also known as the Fillin’ Station. It originally opened in Chicopee, MA as the Princess Diner, but moved by the F.L. Roberts Company in the early 1970s to its current location and called The Maverick. A scene from In Dreams (1999), starring Annette Benning and Robert Downey, Jr., was filmed there.

Look for a new diner every Tuesday in 2019! Click to expand photos.

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Battle Road at Minuteman National Park

Walk in the footsteps of British soldiers fleeing relentless attacks by colonial militia in this carefully-preserved National Park dedicated to the opening salvo of the Revolutionary War.

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The road from Concord to Boston, Massachusetts was the scene of heavy skirmishing on April 19, 1775 between British soldiers and American Colonial militia in the opening salvos of the Revolutionary War. The day had monumental significance in American history, as the Battles of Lexington and Concord represented the spark that led to the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America.

Early that fateful morning, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and 700 British regulars departed Boston to capture and destroy Colonial militia supplies in Concord. The night before the raid, Paul Revere and Samuel Prescott departed from Boston to warn the militia of British plans. Paul Revere was captured along the Battle Road but later released. Later that morning, several hundred British soldiers arrived in Lexington and were met by approximately 70-77 militiamen. It’s unclear who fired the first shot, but when the smoke cleared, seven colonists lay dead and eight wounded.

The British continued to Concord, where they set fire to the supplies. At 9:30 am at North Bridge, 400 militiamen confronted 100 British regulars, resulting in approximately two militia killed and four wounded, and three British regulars killed and eight wounded. The engagement shocked both sides. His mission completed, Lt. Col. Smith and his men headed back to Boston. By then, the call had reverberated around Massachusetts and militiamen poured in from the countryside.

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Some Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape

Some Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape
Monument to Lt. Col. Waldo Merriam (1839-1864) in Mount Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Merriam commanded the 16th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, and then killed at the “Bloody Angle” during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, May 12, 1864. The 16th MA was in II Corps, Fourth Division, 1st Brigade of the Army of the Potomac at Spotsylvania.

Lizzie: A Lackluster Revisionist Thriller

Just four years after Lizzie Borden Took an Ax and the campy TV mini series it spawned, were audiences really clamoring for another Lizzie Borden film?

An uninspiring cast sleepwalks its way through this speculative take on an all-too-familiar story in Lizzie (2018), written by Bryce Kass and directed by Craig William Macneill. The film pits Lizzie Borden and the family’s live-in maid, Bridget Sullivan, against her tyrannical father and unsympathetic step mother in what co-producer and lead actress Chloë Sevigny described as an overtly feminist take.

The film opens in the aftermath of Andrew (Jamey Sheridan) and Abby (Fiona Shaw) Borden’s murder. An investigator asks their 32-year-old daughter, Lizzie (Chloë Sevigny), whether her father had any enemies. From there, the film rewinds to the family’s employment of a 25-year-old Irish maid named Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart). According to the filmmakers, that was the catalyst for the eventual double homicide, and the answer to the investigator’s question. There is never a question about Lizzie Borden’s involvement in her parent’s death. The obvious foil, and rival for Lizzie’s inheritance, her uncle John Morse (Denis O’Hare), serves as a flimsy red herring.

Lizzie’s central conflict is between Lizzie, Bridget, and her domineering father, who seeks to control all the women living under his roof. While Lizzie’s sister, Emma (Kim Dickens), fades into the background, Lizzie and Bridget find themselves in a compromising position, one that leads to her parents’ gruesome murder. Sevigny herself characterized this as a literal “smash the patriarchy” moment.

In real life, Andrew and Sarah Borden were found murdered in their Fall River, Massachusetts home on August 4, 1892. Their middle aged daughters, Lizzie and Emma, lived with them, along with their maid, Bridget Sullivan. There had been significant tension in the family leading up to the murders, and Lizzie gave conflicting alibis. Lizzie was arrested and put on trial. After 90 minutes of deliberation, the all-male jury acquitted her. Her trial was a national media sensation, but to this day, there are many competing theories about “whodunnit.”

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Chappaquiddick: A Sober but Colorless Docudrama

The tragic death of campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne is recounted in this historical drama supporters of the late Senator Ted Kennedy don’t want you to see.

Written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, and directed by John Curran, Chappaquiddick (2017) is competently handled but falls into the trap of “and then” storytelling, with only a halfhearted conflict between Ted Kennedy’s character and a funny but oddly out of place Ed Helms.

The year is 1969. Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) is still mourning the loss of his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, the second brother to fall to an assassin’s bullet. The country is preparing to fulfill his late brother President John F. Kennedy’s dream of putting a man on the moon. He plans a party on Chappaquiddick Island for Robert’s former campaign staff, including Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). He is joined by Massachusetts US Attorney Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan) and his cousin, Joe Gargan (Ed Helms).

Kennedy and Mary Jo drive off alone together, and although it’s implied there might be an affair brewing (Kennedy was married), it’s never shown. Kennedy, drunk, accidentally drives off a bridge. We see him lethargically return to the beach house where, despite protests by Markham and Gargan, he waits until morning to report the accident. Gargan, his family’s longtime “fixer,” is unable and unwilling to help Kennedy make this “problem” go away.

Kennedy returns to his family home, where he seeks help from his nightmarish and stroke-disabled father Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (Bruce Dern). Kennedy, Sr. summons a damage control team led by ruthless Robert McNamara (Clancy Brown), who attempts to gain sympathy for Kennedy in the press. Joe Gargan urges him to resign, but Kennedy ultimately chooses to run for re-election. “Even Moses had personal flaws,” he argues, but Gargan retorts, “Moses didn’t leave a girl at the bottom of the Red Sea.”

Chappaquiddick is based on the July 18, 1969 Chappaquiddick incident, in which Massachusetts-born Senator Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy drove his car off a bridge into Poucha Pond, resulting in the death of 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a two-month suspended jail sentence. Although he spent the rest of his life in the U.S. Senate, many credit this horrible incident to dooming his presidential aspirations.

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Lexington Battle Green

The fight at Lexington Green between American colonial militia and British regulars is more significant for what it represents than what actually happened there. The fight itself was brief, spontaneous, and indecisive. But it represented the opening salvo of what became the American Revolutionary War and the birth of our new nation.

On the morning of April 19, 1775, British soldiers set out from Boston to capture colonial leaders Sam Adams and John Hancock. Paul Revere famously rode out to alert local colonists of the British plan. Later that morning, several hundred British soldiers arrived in Lexington and were met by approximately 70-77 militiamen. It’s unclear who fired the first shot, but when the smoke cleared, seven colonists lay dead and eight wounded.

It was chilly when I visited Lexington Battle Green in the Spring of 2017. A recent rain wet the streets and monuments. I found a volunteer tour guide, dressed in period clothes, sitting in the park waiting to give a short tour to whoever was interested. What a cool idea! I felt sorry for her having to stand out in the cold all morning, but it was nice to have an impromptu guide to tell the site’s story.

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Minuteman National Park and Concord Battleground

Before visiting Minuteman National Park, my impression was the battles of Lexington and Concord were separate and distinct engagements. I didn’t realize they were part of a longer, running fight between British soldiers and militiamen spanning several miles. Though periodic rain dampened my trip, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm to explore this exciting piece of our country’s founding history.

The fight at Concord’s North Bridge actually took place in the middle of the whole affair. On April 19, 1775, after the confrontation at Lexington Green, the British continued on to Concord, where they set fire to some supplies. American colonial militia gathered and tried to push across the bridge. A fight erupted, touching off the Revolutionary War. It was “the shot heard ’round the world.”

At North Bridge, 400 militiamen confronted 100 British regulars, resulting in approximately two militia killed and four wounded, and three British regulars killed and eight wounded. The engagement shocked both sides. On one side of the bridge stands Daniel Chester French’s 1875 Minute Man statue, on the other, an obelisk memorializing the militia casualties. There was a group of British tourists there when I visited, and I couldn’t help wondering how they felt standing on this ground.

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