Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Pops and Old Ironsides, All In One Day

Stars and Stripes Forever

Boston.  5/23/2013:  The Pops blew 'em outta their seats with its big encore, Stars and Stripes Forever.  Keith Lockhart strode back to the podium, turned for the downbeat, and with the first booming notes, the big flag dropped from the ceiling, stars flashed onto the walls and the audience rose as one.  A woman near me was directing with great vigor; in turn, Lockhart directed the audience to clap time to the music.  There were cheers and then quiet as the piccolos trilled through their solo and then it all marched down to the finish, trumpets ablaze.  By God, it was wonderful!  No one wanted to go home.

  Truly, t's the best ticket in town.  We sat at a little table on the auditorium floor, had a beer and listened as one of the most famous orchestras in the world oozed beauty.  They played western movie themes, love songs and show tunes; they backed the Governor of Massachusetts as he narrated excerpts from John Kennedy's most important speeches, and singer Steve Lippia did great stuff from the American songbook, calling up images of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.  Just marvelous.  When can I go again, Mr. Lockhart?  Just name the day.


  Earlier, we paid our respects to another American institution, The Constitution, "Old Ironsides."

    Today, she's berthed at the Charlestown Naval Shipyard at a spot operated by the National Park Service.  The US Navy tends her and takes you on the tours.  And she is something to see.

   You know the story:  launched in 1797 as one of six new ships of the fledgling US Navy, she went to sea and never lost a battle.  At George Washington's urging to Congress, she and her sisters were commissioned to protect American shipping against the Barbary Pirates.  Later, in a battle during the war of 1812, she defeated the British frigate, HMS Guerriere, earning her famous nickname when cannonballs simply bounced off her sides.   The ship's hull is a three layer sandwich of white oak, live oak and white oak which, at some points is 24 inches thick.  "Old Ironsides."

   So, she's 216 years old, making her the oldest ship in the US Navy afloat.

  Here's a brief photo tour:

Broadside. 52 guns on two decks: 30 guns below, 20 above plus two bow chasers.  



Long gun.  Weight, 5,600 pounds, range 1200 yards.  Took 6 to 14 men to work it.

  Main deck Carronades.  Range, 400 yards; weight, 2,200 pounds.  Crew of 4 to 9.

     Rigging.  Imagine climbing to the crow's nest to stand watch for enemy ships.  Imagine being there during a battle with Marine riflemen poised to fire down on the other ship's decks.  Dizzying.

  The man in charge lived there.  Among a crew of about 500, he was the only one with room to stretch his legs.  Small perq for such heavy responsibility.

   The Constitution's Cat Head.  It handled the anchor and glared at the enemy.

   She's 204 feet long, displaces 2,200 tons, carries 42,710 square feet of sail and can do .. or has done .. more than 13 knots.  She is squared away and serious about her business, but she will welcome you aboard any day and will make you proud.

   Some day in the city, huh?  

   Let's do it again.


5/22/ - 5/23/2013