Tag Archives: City

On Boston and the Red Sox

boston

I’m a Phillies fan, by heritage.  There’s a picture of two-year-old me at the old Veteran’s Stadium, nearly drowning in red paraphernalia and totally psyched.  But this summer I wore red a little differently.  I bought a blue hat with a stitched red “B” and fit it onto my head without the slightest pang of guilt.  This summer, I was a Red Sox fan.

Maybe it’s because the Phillies had a terrible season, or that the number of Boston bars playing out-of-town games on TV is about equal to the city’s ratio of Starbucks to Dunkin Donuts.  But the truth is, I know Boston better than I’ve ever known Philly.  Sure, I’ve climbed the Rocky stairs at the Art Museum.  I’ve seen the Liberty Bell and the Declaration of Independence.  I’ve tried all the famous cheesesteaks–and yeah, they’re that good.  I lived an hour outside of Philly for most of my life, but I couldn’t tell you what makes Philly tick.  Because being near a city just isn’t the same as being in one, and for the past five years, I’ve been in Boston.

Outsiders like to throw around stereotypes about Boston.  Like how the people aren’t friendly.  That our city is small and it’s lame and New York is much better.  They may have a point.

What I’ve learned from my time here is that Boston’s flaws create its culture.  Boston is a city of collective suffering, and you have to live here to understand.

You don’t know Boston until you’re trapped in a Comm. Ave. wind tunnel while icy gusts slap you in the face.  You don’t know Boston until your head has been squished into someone’s armpit on a Green Line trolley for an over an hour when your ride should have taken 20 minutes.  You don’t know Boston until you’ve gotten hopelessly lost by foolishly assuming that our roads are grids.  Until you’ve been thwarted by pedestrians with a death wish and shamed by drivers who lay on the horn as if the sound alone will propel your vehicle forward.  You don’t know Boston until you’ve waited 86 years for a curse to be lifted–or heard stories from fans who did.

Here, there’s no partying ’til the sun comes up and no cheap ride home if you try.  Here, there’s no happy hour–and let’s face it, half-priced apps just aren’t the same as dollar beers.  Sure, pot is decriminalized, but we’re no Denver.  We might have Tom Brady, but we still have to share him with the rest of New England.  As for gay marriage and healthcare–well, those are just truths we hold to be self-evident.

Bostonians commiserate.  The little inconveniences, the headaches, the upsets–we’ve all been there.  Trivial suffering peppers our daily life, and in this, we are united.

April 15 was a different kind of suffering.  We thought Boston was the underdog who had it tough already.  We were so used to being the little guy no one noticed.  We didn’t see it coming.

We did our best to get back to normal, but it’s hard to keep sweating the small stuff when your city is broken.  We were no longer connected by our complaints, but rather by our shock and our grief.

So we banded together and stood strong in our shared sadness.  The Bruins gave us a glimmer of hope in July, but in truth, a win would have been too soon for our city.  There were people still recovering in the hospital.  The infamous trial had yet to begin.

And then, all of a sudden, something magical was happening at Fenway Park.  In true Boston fashion, we took that first-place standing with a grain of salt and watched it with a wary eye.  We were all waiting for that too-good-to-be-true moment that has long defined the Boston sports fan’s experience.  It never came.

So I wore my Red Sox hat.  I rose for a standing ovation in my hat to honor David Ortiz’s 2,000th career hit.  I jumped up and down like a crazy woman in my hat after Victorino’s grand slam.  I threw back my head in dismay in my hat over Middlebrooks’ obstruction call.  And I wore it when Boston found faith again.  When the little guy, the underdog, the one no one saw coming, won the World Series.

Boston is still healing.  It’s impossible to walk down Boylston Street without an eerie feeling, lost in a moment of pause and sadness.  When a city is forever changed, it takes more than sports to mend it.

But this was bigger than baseball.  The players knew it and the city knew it.  When the fans came pouring out into the streets of Fenway last Wednesday night, Boston was reborn, our fiery spirit reignited.  When the crowds gathered Saturday along the very same marathon route, Boston was happy.  And for the first time in a long time, we were unafraid.

My history is in Philly, but my heart is in Boston.  It bleeds blue and yellow and red and blue, and I wouldn’t want it any different.  My mayor mumbles and my players rock beards.  There’s a shortage of “R’s” and a surplus of Guinness.  It’s bitterly cold and breathtakingly beautiful, and it’s my home.

Besides–as my father the die-hard Philadelphia fan was gracious enough to note–even the Phillies wear red socks.

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I Can See My House From Here!

I’ll admit it: when it comes to travel, I’m a snob. No, I don’t expect 4-star hotels, exquisite cuisine, or everyone to speak English in the foreign country I’m visiting. I do, however, scoff at the glorified reality that is the “tourist attraction.” One mention of the term, and I immediately picture myself squished between people with visors and fanny packs, waiting in a five hour line to hand over piles of money just so I can glimpse the world’s largest beer can. Although sights like the Great Wall and Machu Picchu are admittedly breathtaking, they only represent one aspect of cultures that are immensely complex. Are they important? Yes. But where’s the travel? When you’re visiting a place that most of the world could recognize and hundreds of thousands of people have seen before, where’s the excitement?

So of course it makes little sense how on a recent trip to New York City, my friends and I wound up at the Empire State Building. It gets worse. I was the one who suggested it. Yes, at 11:00 at night, we found ourselves still awake in the City that Never Sleeps, wondering what to do. Suddenly, I was struck by an idea too strong too ignore. And as much as I resist becoming a “tourist,” I am a sucker for a great view. You know New York too well for this, the Travel Girl part of me whispered. Real New Yorkers don’t go to the Empire State Building. But myself didn’t listen to me, and before I knew it, there I was at 11:30 pm striding into that famous lobby.

As we walked to get our tickets, part of me was groaning at the prospect of standing in line for hours on end so late at night. But to my surprise, there were no such lines to be found. We breezed through the ticket booths, practically galloped down the hallway past the maze of velvet ropes, and sauntered right up to the elevators. In less than five minutes, we arrived at the 86th floor.

The view was more than incredible (and well worth my $18). It was as if someone had shifted the night sky and placed it below us, thousands of lights stretching out across the distance. The dark had made all seem quiet; everyone spoke in whispers and huddled close to fight the nighttime chill. As I marveled at my surroundings, it suddenly made sense. Although we were all aware that millions of people had stood in our places before, on that night, it felt as though we were sharing something secret only to us. Was I suddenly alert to all the mysteries of New York City? No. Not even close. But looking out over the expanse of the city, I felt as though I had glimpsed its essence.

Plenty of people travel to a place, snap some photos to show their friends, and return home without ever appreciating what they have actually seen. I now realize that my aversion to the notion of tourist attractions arose from this fact alone. I didn’t want to seem ignorant. But for a lot of travelers, this just isn’t true. There’s a reason why people walk the Great Wall, why they climb the steps of Machu Picchu, why these destinations are even famous at all. They’re magical. They speak to the history of a place and its people, aging signs of the power of human accomplishment, inspiration, and influence. Nothing but experience will allow you to understand a culture, but for those who appreciate them, tourist attractions can offer a sneak-peak. I didn’t see the magic before. Now I do. To Americans, the Empire State Building may not seem as wondrous as the Parthenon. But it’s New York’s Parthenon, and I can proudly say I’ve been to the top.

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