Boston is the quintessence of east coast to someone from the west coast. Our brief visit to this Atlantic gem (flew in Saturday and flew out Monday) was a whirlwind tour of distinct people, timeless architecture, unmistakable culture and five-hundred years of history whose influence has played a part on the world’s stage.
People from this part of the country have earned a reputation for being rude. My suspicion is that they’ve earned this rap due to their abrupt speech patterns, rapid cadence, heavy accent and liberal use of profanity. The man working behind the counter at the bakery shouts, “Hey, you! Whatta ya need? Yeah, you. Ok, fuck you. Next!”. The Lyft driver expresses gratitude to another driver on the road thusly: “Fuck you, you dirty rat bastard. You better let me in. Ok. Thank you.”
Wandering streets that saw the first acts of rebellion in what would be the start of this great nation, you are humbled by the architecture erected to commemorate them. Massive buildings made of stone and masonry chalk-full of ornate filigree, riddles hidden in the finely carved details, cornices boldly scrape the sky. This is a place where people built things to last, where their city would be a reflection of the lofty ideals that inspired its inhabitants to independence.
Everywhere you go, down every street you can find buildings that are hundreds of years old, full of character and the pride required to maintain them over the centuries. Take a trip on the robust network of tunnels and explore the downtown corridors, the old neighborhood streets or the hallowed halls of universities such as Harvard, you are overwhelmed by the vastness of this place. You could spend years living in Boston and still not see all of the interesting, quirky, artistic places and things here.
Standing on a street corner in that’s been a street corner for four centuries, we wait among the starving masses for a pie- pizza pie from the renowned Regina Pizzeria in Little Italy. It’s 8:15pm, 19 degrees and there are at least thirty people waiting in a line that wraps around the block of this tiny neighborhood restaurant. Everyone in line is chatting, sharing stories, cursing the weather and discussing the upcoming Patriots game.
This humble haunt has been feeding Boston for almost 100 years. And in that time, they’ve learned a thing or two about tradition, family- respect. As we are shown to our seat at the bar, the host scolds a man at the bar: “Put your damn phone away and properly enjoy your pie already” to which the young man promptly responds by putting his phone in his pocket and lowers his head in shame.
Sitting down, we are greeted by our host, our bartender and newest friend: Southie Steve, the pizza philosopher. He’s gotta be in his sixties. He’s classic Boston- rough but cool, fiercely protective of his neighborhood while still warm and inviting. He points out that many of the old neighborhoods are being gentrified and losing some of the charm that made Boston, Boston.
I could identify with his mixed feelings: on the one hand, you can’t stop progress. On the other, once everyone in the old neighborhood is gone, so too is the culture that took four hundred plus years to create. And if someone doesn’t say something, no one will do anything about it.
And this lesson really resonated with me: Who speaks for your neighborhood, your town, your county, your state, your region? It makes me wonder who speaks for the little town I call home in the woods? Who speaks for Seattle? Who tells the stories, knows the traditions, understands the history of this place so as to make it feel like somewhere and not just another place on the map?