Dispatch from Beantown
I don't like Boston. I don't like this crummy pickle I got at the convenience store downstairs, and I don't like this town. It has taken me four years, but I have decided: Boston is not for me. And I want out. Being from New York City, I'm supposed to hate Boston, but I've never been one for convention. When the Red Sox took the series last year, I boogied down with the best of them, parading through the marauders and rabble rousers, fire-setters and impromptu music makers. I watched the Patriots' parade and took pictures of a smiling Tom Brady, sticking my hands in the air to cheer him. I've sunbathed in the Common, caught a free show at the Hatchshell, and picked through the dollar-a-pound mountain of clothes at the Garment District. The hockey strike was the only thing that kept me from seeing a Bruins game.
But I've never put both feet in. I've never tried to swim the Charles, as many wacky Bostonians do -- a coworker warned me of this before I left. "Don't do it," he said, "though many will try, few will succeed...at anything other than contracting hepatitis." I heeded his warning and many others, including pleas from my nearest and dearest not to pick up a Boston accent, and, thus far, I've dodged that particular bullet. I don't say "smahht" or "cahhh" or "pissahh." I have said "wicked," but we don't talk about that.
I arrived here four years ago as a starry-eyed college freshman with pigtail braids down to my butt, a misfit graduate from a high school of oddballs. I dyed the ends of my hair red and wore a hideously stupid "bone" necklace with a yin-yang symbol in the middle that I'd bought off of a Tibetan street vendor on Houston street -- it's in my ID picture -- and didn't know the city of Boston from Adam. This did not deter me, and, partially to escape my evil first-year roommate, I proceeded to get blissfully lost anywhere I could. My two fast friends, a duo of older girls named Lindsey and Esther, took me to magical, ethereal music/poetry/video events in far-flung warehouses, to punk-rock parties with grape Jell-O shots and couches for crashing on, and on adventures shopping for hats and shoes, bikes and books. I hid a lizard in my room, illegally, for half a term, and traveled an hour by bus to a roadside amphibian supply store to buy him mealworms in a little pot of bran flakes. I was, for a time, in love. In love with the idea of being in a new place, of everything being new and...clean.
But the honeymoon is over. Esther left town that year and Lindsey transferred schools the following semester. After that, I felt a distinct change. Perhaps it was me, for I'm not the same girl who first stepped off the train and into the wind tunnel that is the intersection of Boylston and Tremont Streets -- and thank god for that. I've since chopped off the braids, ditched that silly necklace, and left the dorms for good, taking up residence atop historic Beacon Hill in a four-flight walkup. Boston sits below me and, from my roof, I see not its beauty but its annoyances: the lack of public transportation after 11 p.m., the ancient law that forbids most convenience stores from selling beer, the poor quality of the deli pickles. No matter how many good bands may play here, it will never be New York City. It will never be my home.
That said, I must grudgingly admit that good things have happened to me during my time in Massachusetts, which is just four months from being over. Some things are little -- the stupid rites of passage that earn me the Brownie badges of personhood: I had my first kiss here; I had my first legal (and illegal) drink here. Others are of more consequence. Under the tutelage of my favorite Emerson professors, a wacky ex-punk intellectual, and a sharp-eyed multimedia editor, I found a love for the brain-puzzles of film and digital animation. It was on an Emerson film that I tried my hand at gaffing and was driven out to the suburbs at 11 in the evening to light a location set, rerouting wires into the wee hours of the morning. Through the Boston craigslist, I landed a magazine job and, while the feeling was short-lived, began to entertain the notion that I had potential in a real-person job. All this in a place I cannot wait to leave.
I suppose it's time to get on with it. And, as I stand on the roof in the cold, eating a pickle that, to my Jewish half, borders on blasphemy, I see the Boston skyline in the dark blue of night. It glitters in a small-city way, little buildings hunkered down in their winding rows, the glass of the massive general hospital across the way reflecting the lights from the bridge to Kenmore Square, and my harsh feelings soften. The Medevac helicopter chugs into view, landing lopsidedly on the helipad, spotlight cutting a beam through the sky to light its way; Boston is moving all around me, a smaller version of the metaphorical heartbeat I know in New York. And maybe, just maybe, it's not so bad.
But this pickle sure is.