It’s my turn to write about what particular places in Boston make me love my city so much. There are too many places to choose from, but I’ll focus on the places that I end up having memories of. For starters, of course, there’s Fenway Park. You have to turn on a surprisingly small side street to reach the entrance, and then it feels like you’re stepping into a place from fifty years ago; the people wandering this strip of small stores, Irish pubs, souvenir shops; the grand old green columned stadium to your side. Fenway is an intimate stadium, and that’s what helps it feel old. You go in, get a hot dog, find your way to a rock-hard seat, and the field is laid out before you, right there, close and friendly. Even in the worst seats in the house (and I’ve had some pretty bad seats), you can feel like the game is being played right before you, right in your own backyard. For all its hype, even the green monster looks small and cozy, like a neighbor’s fence, and you feel the joy and delight of a kid if a ball makes it over. Will that obliging neighbor throw the ball back?
Fenway is a good example of the vibe I like throughout my city. It often puffs itself up as a center of art and commerce, of being an intellectual, a technological hub. All those things are true, but mostly it’s just a small, scrappy city with a big attitude and a larger-than-average stamp on American culture. People around the world know Fenway, and yet when you get here it’s so small, so downright cozy.
Another favorite place of mine is the train station. As you’ll read in a future post, I’m a lifelong commuter. I’ve spent many sleepy gray mornings standing by the tracks of one train or another, waiting to curl up in a seat and be borne away across the city. Here you can see one of the tunnels of Back Bay station, a regular morning spot for me. At times, I hate being here, but at other times I realize this is one of my favorite times of the day. It’s a place just to think, to fuzzily turn over story ideas in my mind, to read, to wonder what the day will be like, to work out problems, make plans. It’s those sorts of waiting places that I love. And with its infrequent train schedules, Boston has those waiting places in abundance!
Sometimes I see another commuter down the platform and there’s a curious intimacy between us, both of us captives of time and place, lost in our own private thoughts. It’s a great place for peoplewatching.
Another favorite spot lately would be my local cafe, the lovely RJ Gourmet. It’s a tiny, sunny, one room coffee house with old honey-colored wood chairs and dark bitter iced tea served in mason jars. How much more artsy, hipster, and delightful can you get? The best thing about cafes is, of course, the freedom of staying awhile unmolested by waiters or pushy patrons. RJ is just small enough for me to linger by the window with my notebook, drink my tea and see small-town Cambridge walk by. Though I talk a lot about Boston, my actual residence is in Cambridge; and Cambridge is really becoming its own little Brooklyn these days, with artisanal coffee shops, poetry readings, and cheap beer. I love walking down Cambridge Street and exploring the new little restaurants, bars, and craft stores that are always opening up. For a writer, I think it’s essential to have a place to work, and that’s one of the advantages of being a city writer; while country folks have the great outdoors to write in, city writers have places of endless variety and stimulation.