Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Boston. Oh, Boston! I lived in Boston for six years before moving to the UK. If you’ve met me in person, I’ve probably told you that I lived there for seven, which is a lie, but a well-meaning one as I’m very bad at math and didn’t realise I was lying until right now. Regardless of the actual number of years, I lived in Boston for the most transformative years of my life. They were good years.
David and I met in Boston and fell in love and married there. As individuals and as a couple, the city means a lot to us and we had been anxious to get back for quite some time. When a friend’s wedding gave us the opportunity to take a prolonged vacation in Beantown, we happily booked our tickets and found a sweet little oasis near the beach in Southie to rent. And it was in this little seaside rental that my Tuesday began.
Typically, I didn’t take any real time off whilst on holiday and woke early each morning to complete a few hours of work before the rest of the house began to stir. Jet lag made rising early easy, but the cocktails the night before sometimes made my eyelids long for more sleep.
If you’ve never been to Southie, you should go. Go before it changes too much. Walking around, you can still see the characters that have defined the neighborhood walking down Broadway and cutting through the back streets, but more and more, those quintessential characters are being replaced by 30-something corporate types with good jobs and practical shoes. The neighborhood is changing; new construction is going up on almost every block, established Boston restaurants are opening new locations in Southie and the greasy spoons and corner pubs are being squeezed out. It’ll be interesting to see what it looks like in another five years… probably a lot like the South End.
When we were in Boston, we lived in Southie for two years. “In Southie.” Technically, we lived just over the bridge from Boston in a swanky high-rise. Sometimes we’d see junkies at the bus stop or hear a crowd of sirens moving into the projects when we were walking to brunch, but for the most part we were far removed from the heart of Southie. Think The Departed, Good Will Hunting, Gone Baby Gone. We knew those streets existed, but we didn’t live on them. This trip, we were closer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Ben Affleck and Matt Damon films accurately depict the reality of Southie. No. Like any community, Southie’s made up of families who care about each other, their community, and their people. Sometimes you hear stories about shady characters going missing and bodies washing up in the ocean, but that kind of stuff goes down in any city. For the most part, people keep their heads down, work hard and look forward to the weekends. For the most part, it’s a really great place.
Whilst we were visiting, I was amazed by how quickly my life in England seemed to evaporate. My feet remembered the streets like no time had passed and we fell into familiar conversation with our friends without missing a beat. In many ways, it was good that I was working, good that I had something to tether me to my life in Tunbridge Wells. If I didn’t, I don’t know if I would have come back.
(Note: I love living in the UK and I love Tunbridge Wells. I also love Kudos, a new magazine that my friend just started. I like to joke that it’s the Tunbridge Wells magazine that you can actually read, but really, it’s true– read it! It’s all about living local and loving local, which are basically my two favourite things. Plus it’s super pretty so be sure to check it out!)
It was our pleasure, whilst away, to share our apartment and our time with my old roommate and greatest friend, Brent. He lives in Washington DC and works at NPR (so cool, I know) so as you can imagine, the two of us don’t get the chance to see each other very often. It was really nice to just hang out with him again. Drink coffee in our pajamas in the morning, play Ticket To Ride on the couch, go on long walks and remark on everything that’s changed. Simple stuff. Normal stuff.
After Brent left us to go to a museum with his girlfriend, David and I went for a walk along the ocean. The day was grey and humid and the ocean oscillated between smelling like heaven and like rotting fish. After a while, we stopped on a bench to look out over the harbor. Gulls sounded in our ears, a group of school children picking up trash laughed and flirted in the background, and my heartbeat fell in time to the lapping of the waves. In England, I really miss the ocean.
We continued our walk to the very tip of Southie where the planes fly so close you feel you can reach up and touch them. I took this picture to add to my dear friend Casey’s #aplaneaday hashtag on instagram.
The sky got dark and threatened rain so David and I returned to our apartment. The roofers across the street continued to work and we heard the slap of shingles hitting the sidewalk as we waited for the rain that did not come.
David decided to nap and relax for the afternoon so I struck out alone and walked through Southie to Boston to meet Brent and Acacia. I loved walking through the neighborhood alone and noting all the things that are different. Cupcake shops and yoga studios are opening where credit unions and sandwich shops used to be. Barber shops and liquor stores still seem to be thriving. This mural is still on the wall…
Upon meeting my friends, we decided it was high time to enjoy one of my favourite foods of all time, nachos! Here is Brent and Acacia looking nacho happy!
What’s great about Brent is he’s always forcing me to try new things or urging me to do things that I really don’t want to do in an effort to broaden my horizons. Sometimes these things are fun, and sometimes they are the worst. On this particular evening, Brent made me take the T at rush hour. I don’t like being underground to begin with and don’t even like riding the T when it’s off-peak, so you can imagine my happiness when he forced us to cram into a completely full train on a very warm day. This particular moment is one in which I made him pretend to call for help because I just couldn’t deal.
Happily, we got off the T in Brookline and explored our old stomping grounds on foot. I love the architecture in Brookline. Everything is orderly and the homes stand in confident even rows, brick on brick, sturdy and secure. The trees are tall and strong and the sidewalks are even. Brent and I used to joke that you could get pregnant drinking the water in Brookline because the summer we lived there everyone seemed pregnant. It’s a very popular part of the city to start and raise a family. Also a very popular place to eat delicious bagels!
One thing I almost never do is venture anywhere near Kenmore Square when there is a Red Sox game on. On this occasion, I made an exception and sometime during the first or second inning we all settled into Hawthorne for a drink.
The challenge with visiting a city you love in which you have a wealth of friends is that there is no possible way that you can spend quality time with everyone. Rather than picking just a few people to go out to dinner with during our stay, David and I announced ‘office hours’ at bars around the city and urged our friends to meet us there en mass. For the most part, it worked very well, though I will say that I wish I had time to sit and catch up with everyone individually. Unfortunately, as humans, time is not on our side and we were content instead to see many great friends each and every evening.
After a delicious whiskey sour and a beautiful Manhattan, we relocated to Franklin Southie, our old ‘hotel bar’, to see another group of friends and fill ourselves with beef cheek tacos and red wine.
We wiped our fingers on damp wipes like children and laughed like we didn’t have a care in the world, because when you’re on vacation, the cares melt away and you live in an alternate reality where real life doesn’t exist.
No matter how long you’re away, some things never change. Laughter, drink and food still draw people together, good friendships never die, and being welcomed home to a stand of twinkle lights will always feel like the coziest welcome ever.
As you’re well aware, dear reader, I am now home in my UK home with the cat curled at my feet and the cares of the world heavy on my shoulders. I’ll admit to being rather glum since our return– I should have taken more pictures, written more things down, seen more museums and gone out with more friends!– but I’m happy to say that I think I’ve mostly recovered from my holiday regrets and am able to move forward and focus on some exciting new projects now. The holiday blues… if that’s the worst thing going on in my life, then boy do I got it good!