What July 4 Means To Me

Probably not what it means to you. July 4 has a simple meaning in my book. It marks the day our founding fathers aimed to create a more perfect union by branching away from the crown. It symbolizes the day we, as Americans sought to be better. Our founders were highly imperfect people, just like we are. Their vision for this country greatly differs from mine, but I won’t sit here and simply criticize for the sake of doing so. Women belonged in the home. Slavery was the norm. Very few men could actually vote. All counter to what I believe, but over just a couple of short centuries we’ve pushed forward through long odds. Why? Because those founders gave us the framework to do so.

We’re still aiming to be a more perfect union, though it may not always seem so. Our leaders are more black and brown and female than ever before. Our society grows more inclusive with each passing day. Sure, there are lots of issues that should have been settled long ago. But things rarely happen as we think they should.

Happy birthday, America! I know you’ll be even better next year.

73 Years Later, Still Can’t Forget

Today is the 73rd anniversary of D-Day.

I think often of this date. Why? Because the world I have come to know could be very different had D-Day not been successful. Of course success doesn’t mean it was easy. Thousands of lives lost in a single day. Some never even reached the beaches of occupied France.

People think of World War 2 in different lights. It mostly depends on which area of the world you find yourself in. But there is no denying one thing. Hitler was a dictator. A dictator with an enormous following. A dictator with enormous resources at his disposal. A dictator with allies.

All it takes is a simple Google search to realize the immense amount of land that came under Nazi control. Just take a look at continental Europe. Now imagine it being nearly all under Nazi control.

I cannot say this enough. Hitler would have never been content with controlling continental Europe. Japan was expanding in the east and the next logical target for Germany would have been further west. After the UK, which somehow managed to remain free of occupation during the war, an invasion of the US would have been inevitable. AN INVASION OF THE US. It’s a statement you can’t help but gasp at.

But guess what? The generations before us didn’t have to endure that reality. Due in large part to the efforts of the men and women who participated in the events of D-Day.

We tend to forget things rather quickly in the era of social media. But we can’t. Not this. Not ever. We’re fast approaching the time in which we’ll have no more active participants from World War 2. Every man and woman from the war deserves our deepest gratitude for standing up for so much more than a flag or a government. They stood up for freedom. They stood up for those who had been betrayed by their own countrymen. And they stood up for what is right in a world full of evil.

Today, like all days, we should remember the immense sacrifices of those who came before us. D-Day stands out among the days we tend to forget, but I refuse to.

Why My Stance on Recommending Books Has Shifted Dramatically 

Any longtime reader of this blog knows one thing has remained constant throughout my years on WordPress. My stance on recommending books. For those who may not know, I’ve always said I’d never recommend books because I really have no idea what another person will enjoy. I still believe that to be true. But any time someone asks me to recommend a book going forward, I always will. Why? I’ll tell you.

I’m 25. I don’t claim to have a pot of knowledge unavailable to others. Heck, I don’t even claim to have answers to some of the most pressing questions we face. But I know the lessons I’ve learned from books. I know firsthand the power the written word can possess. I still haven’t answered my own question.

I’m most often asked to recommend books in a general category. A book that’s sad. A book that’ll cause a laugh. A book with a strong message. Those sorts of requests. I feel like I’m able to meet those requests much more than trying to guess what someone will like.

For instance, if someone asked me to recommend a book with a strong message I could come up with dozens. Different messages. Different authors. Different topics. I’m not telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t believe in. I’m telling them what I was able to take from an individual story.

What’s changed isn’t the ability to learn from books. What’s changed is my increased desire to spread messages of positivity, inclusion, and the consequences of decisions made by generations before us.

I told someone new into my life recently that I want to help as many people as I can during my brief time on earth. And I believe books are my greatest asset in achieving that constant, lifelong goal. If I can open just one person’s eyes to an event or topic, then I’m content to do so.

A Letter to Boston

Dear Boston,

I’m leaving you today. I suppose we both knew this would be the end result. But there are so many things I’ve loved about you. I wanted to let you Know a few of them.

The history. There’s history everywhere. Which means there’s ample opportunity to learn. And that’s my sole aim. To learn as much as I possibly can during my brief time on earth. 

The museums. Boston is a city of museums. This of course is right in line with the history. Museums are about educating, and it seems that Boston is doing a wonderful job of educating.

Education. I’m from Houston. There are a number of universities located within the city. At least one is highly ranked among all universities in the country. But Houston simply doesn’t have the university presence Boston does. Which leads me to believe that the city is a hub for obtaining knowledge. Boston University. Northeastern. MIT. Harvard. I mean, wow. And yes, I realize Harvard is actually in Cambridge but SHH.

The diversity. Again, I’m from Houston. A city regularly touted as the most diverse city in the country. And heck, maybe it is. But everywhere I went in Boston I saw it on display. I heard more languages spoken than I can possibly count. In Houston I regularly hear two. English and Spanish. In eight days in Boston I probably heard 10.

But at the end of our brief time together there was certainly some negative. The roads. The roads here are terrible. And what’s with those weird three way intersections with no stop lights or anything? Are you asking for car accidents to happen?

But this isn’t about being negative. We had a spectacular eight day relationship. Maybe we can still be friends?

Sincerely,

A Wannabe World Traveler

John Guillen

Boston: Day 7

I began my day by making the short drive to Concord, MA and visiting the Concord Museum. Though relatively small, the museum had some great information and exhibits. I didn’t know so many prominent authors had ties to the small city. Louisa May Alcott. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Henry David Thoreau. And others.

I followed with a trip to Minute Man National Park about a like away. The park is rather large, but the focal point for me was the Old North Bridge. This was the site of the battle of Lexington and Concord. There’s a statue of a minute man, a statue to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle, and an English gravesite. One of the more interesting places I’ve been to on this trip.

I then made the short drive into Lexington, MA to visit Buckman Tavern. This was where members of the rebellion waited for the British to arrive just prior to that first battle. It’s very small, but on the second floor there’s a new exhibit on 18th century social media. It gives such great perspective because we think we have so many advancements in how news is spread, but in reality all we’ve done is speed up the process a bit. The exhibit compares Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and even fake news to the different methods used during the 18th century. A great exhibit. And that was my day.

I planned on visiting the Louisa May Alcott house and Ralph Waldo Emerson House, but one was closed and the other closed very early in the day. Too bad.

Boston: Day 6

Ugh. Today was not the most productive day. I began the day by picking up my rental car. But it didn’t go smoothly. At first they wouldn’t give me the car because they said Equifax declined it or denied it through their system even though the score requirement was well below what my score actually is. When I called customer service he told me he could cancel the previous reservation and start a new one. I’d pay $217 for four days instead of the $90 I originally paid. Not happening. Eventually the woman at the counter figured it out and I got the car after almost an hour.

I began my day with a 60 mile drive to Springfield to visit the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It wasn’t worth the time or the $24 admission fee. It seems like they put in the bare minimum as far as exhibits and information. There’s a basketball court that takes up most of the first floor. Seems like a giant waste of space to me.

Followed up with a trip to Springfield Museums. It’s four museums located adjacent to one another around a Dr. Seuss sculpture garden. Yes, a Dr. Seuss sculpture garden. Honestly, the sculptures were pretty great. The Dr. Seuss museum is opening here later this year.

The first museum of the four I went to was the Museum of Science. I’d hardly call it a museum. It was mostly dioramas. Which are nice, but an entire museum made of them isn’t worth the price of admission. Then moved on to the Museum of Fine Arts. A much needed pleasant surprise. They had an exhibit on loan from the Smithsonian. I think it was called Jeweled Up. It was regular everyday objects JEWELED UP. Absolutely stunning.

I planned on ending the day at Six Flags New England. I love roller coasters and it had become a nice day outside. I went to the main gate and told them I have a Go Boston card. Which grants me free admission. I was told by two workers that the people who deal with my card had left at 5:00. It was 5:19. The card is extremely simple. I pull it up on my phone. They scan. That’s it. But they said no. The alternative was I pay $63.99. Absolutely no chance of that happening. I left. And that was my day.

Boston: Day 5

I began the day with the Walk Through History tour along the Freedom Trail. The guide was in full costume and had lots information to share. It wasn’t even that bad that it started raining on us.

I followed with a brief trip to the New England Aquarium. It wasn’t high on my list so I visited for less than 90 minutes. The main attraction was the whale watch I was planning to take part in. It was going to be my first time on a boat. Of course it was canceled. So I walked across the street and watched two features at the IMAX theater. One on whales and the other on the Galapagos Islands.

I followed with another trip to Faneuil Hall. I ate and got to see three different street performers. All different acts, but all extremely entertaining. And that was my day. Today I pick up my rental car to visit some things a little outside the city.

I’m about halfway through my trip. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite photos tomorrow. Stay tuned!