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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Love Letter to Boston

I first moved to Boston after graduating from the University of Colorado to attend graduate school at Harvard University. When I came to Boston I had never lived in a big city before, and it was very daunting. Oh, being brought up in LA, a huge city, should count. But it doesn't because LA is totally spread out and we lived something like 30 miles from downtown, about as far away as you could get in LA County. So Boston was the first city where I had to learn the subway and I needed to be able to find my way around.

Overlooking Quincy Market and the waterfront.

Every day after my classes I would get into my car, pick a spot on the map of Boston, and attempt to drive there. I say attempt because most of the time I got so hopelessly lost that I would end up in some godforsaken neighborhood in tears, completely unable to find my way back home.

Beacon Hill

You see, Boston has some very unusual traits and one of them is that street signs are optional. You can drive down a busy street for miles and miles and have no clue as to what street you're actually on. We don't believe in ever giving drivers a clue as to what road they're on. Some cross streets have signs, others do not. Sometimes the signs are placed so far in that you can't read them from the road. As I said, signs are seemingly optional.

Waterfront view of Rowes Wharf

I wanted to learn my new city, but it was hopeless. The more I drove, the more lost I got. I didn't yet know the names of the major roadways, nor did I understand all the "ways". Many of the roads are connected, and you might start out on the Riverway, which leads directly to the Jamaica Way, and so on. Confusing? You bet.

View from the Cambridge side of the Charles River

Oh, and the rotaries. I had seen rotaries in Europe, but had never lived in a place where I would have to learn to navigate them. To say I was clueless would be kind. There are certain rotaries that still, after 30-odd years, still confound me.

Waterfront wharf condos

The most difficult part of trying to learn the city was that I didn't know which parts of town were good and which were "bad". Nor did I know why there were parts of the city that were totally suburban and other parts that were candidates for urban renewal. The whole city was just plain confusing. And yet, day after day I would get into my old 1969 Chevelle Malibu and take off for some exotic sounding place like Roslindale or Mattapan.

Mattapan Community Center

I've lived in Boston a very long time. I know my city pretty well, and I have no fear of driving through it, from the neighborhoods that white people fear to tred, to the beautiful communities on the waterfront or on Jamaica Pond.

Jamaica Pond

I love this city. It offers me the feeling of home, something I never had until I came here. Boston is a city that makes me feel warm and fuzzy and covered in hugs. It has more to offer than just about any place else in the country. You like history? You can walk from the Paul Revere House to the US Constitution and the Old North Church.

USS Constitution

Paul Revere House

You like art? You can visit the brand new modern art museum on the waterfront, or take a day at the MFA with some of the greatest art in the world. You like food? We have some of the countries finest cooks, and we have some of the best ethnic restaurants found anywhere.

Lower Newbury Street

You like shopping? We have Newbury Street with it's high end boutiques, we have Copley Place in between two large hotels, and we have some of the great department stores like Saks, Lord & Taylor, and Macy's.

Old State House

In the 30-some years I've lived here, I have learned my city inside and out. I can now drive pretty much anywhere and I know all the main roads and neighborhoods. However I find myself often isolated into parts of the city that are 'safe', which is another word for 'white'. I have very little fear of most communities and I'm aware of the areas where it's not really a great idea for me to be after dark. But I'm not afraid here in Boston. We're essentially a safe city. A beautiful city. A city that will be my home for years to come.

View of Back Bay, an exclusive neighborhood built on landfill off the Charles River

But the weather still sucks.

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3 Comments:

OpenID derequito said...

Glad to hear that you've learned to love the city.

Is that photo of the Cooper Community Center the building on Washington St? If so, that's in Roxbury, not Mattapan.

11/12/08 9:05 AM  
Blogger Rhea said...

That was great, especially your last line. Boston has been the first place that felt like home, for me, too. I came here for college from a small town in NJ.

11/12/08 10:27 AM  
Blogger the sassy kathy said...

I can't thank you enough for this post! I keep thinking about all of the options out there in terms of places to live, and have always thought of Boston as a viable possibility. Unfortunately, have still never been. However, it seems like you get all of the perks of a big city without being overwhelmed. Thanks for shedding some light on why YOU love Boston :) Hopefully I'll get to make a trip soon and find out for myself.

11/12/08 12:24 PM  

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