Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Prompt: Love Letter to Boston

My heart is so heavy today. Another, another tragedy has rocked our country. Innocent people dead, lives gone, families and friends torn apart. I grieve.

Peter Gabriel's elegiac "I Grieve" - I've been hearing this song in my head all evening

Towards the end of my sophomore year, I decided I wanted to spend the summer in Boston. I applied for several jobs, and I got an interview at the New England Aquarium. It was my first trip to the city. One of my high school friends was attending Boston University, and he gave me almost step-by-step directions to get from the NEAq to meet him in Copley Plaza. He described the glass walkway over the street, the “waterfall inside the lobby” of the hotel, maybe a Westin at that time, relieving my nervousness of navigating the mysterious public transportation and the crowded, rushing city streets.

I took Amtrak up to Boston, made my way to Faneuil Hall and the NEAq, absorbing every fascinating sight along the way. Afterwards, I faithfully followed Mark’s directions, and they led me right to his big smile and welcoming hug. Oh yeah, I got the job.

I spent the first two weeks of the summer camped on Mark’s couch, working at the NEAq during the day, then hanging out at the Huntington Theater as they prepared for their summer run. The play was On the Verge; or, The Geography of Yearning, by Eric Overmyer. A cast of three women and one man in several roles. They were hilarious and fractious and marvelous. I adored it all.

Meanwhile, I was learning to navigate the “T” by myself, and I loved my morning stroll through Faneuil Hall. I found a sublet in Alston, 1 block off Comm Ave, in a 2nd story apartment with a huge bay window in the living room, and two flatmates I hardly saw all summer.

I loved walking in Boston. I loved everything. The T, the Commons, the Park, Newberry Street, the Ben & Jerry’s at Kenmore Square, where they let the crazy lady sit and have water as long as she didn’t start harassing the customers. I loved walking down the Esplanade on the weekends, a three-mile hike each way. I’ve never walked as much in my life as I did in Boston.

I spent hours wandering the Isabella Gardner museum and the MFA. I went with friends to concerts on the Esplanade at the Half Shell. I plundered the used record shops and book stores. I bought over 40 albums, yes, vinyl, that summer. I had a favorite place for calzones and a favorite place for fried rice and dumplings. I felt like a local. It felt like home.

After graduation, I spent another 15 months in Boston, reliving many of these experiences, locations, walks. One of many highlights was a historic society-led walking tour of Back Bay, which I can still largely recite from memory to this day. Purple glass panes and one-story houses to protect long-hidden views. 

Years later, I came to doubt my memories, based on other city experiences. I was disappointed by other places that people assured me I would love. They were fine, no doubt, but I didn’t have that feeling of immediate connection, of real love that I felt for Boston. I thought I must be remembering that first day, those first experiences through rose-colored glasses.

Then, one day, it happened again. I was in a new city, and I felt that same instant connection, that sense of almost knowing the geography before I even looked at the map to find my way around, that indescribable feeling, almost like falling in love. 

And part of my joy was realizing that yes, I had felt that way about Boston on the very first day. No matter how rarely I visit or whether I ever live there again. No matter how it has changed. I still hold Boston dear in my heart. My first city love.

Dogs in house:

Peter Gabriel, I Grieve

Time writing:
~40 minutes

April word count:

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