Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Beginnings and Boston

Started this blog today, hesitantly. I am generally reluctant to contribute more to the already blog-pregnant Internet, but after much rumination, I decided to attack this project with the determination that at least one blog, of the thousands, should be vaguely grammatically correct, with appropriate apostrophes, dashes, semicolons, and commas. That, and my ego knows few bounds.

Every story should have a good beginning. This is the exception. I can begin with a tale; a brief sketch, if you will, or won’t, of my recent trip to Boston. Boston is a very likeable city; it is not threatening like New York or tall like Chicago—though strikingly smaller than either. I enjoyed the trip immensely in the capable care of my friend, Q. Conspicuously absent from the Boston scenery/people are the things I’ve taken for granted in Chicago. Chicago is so very proud of being brash and vulgar and tacky and tawdry, though hides it with a Lee Press-On genteel Mid-Western attitude, bulging waist line, and anonymous clothing. This Lee Press-On gentility confuses New Yorkers and Bostonians—for that matter, most foreigners—who remain under the impression that we’re yokel hicks with desires for apple pie and for assisting any camera-carrying up-looking person we encounter. Not so; these foreigners never wander far from the Miracle Mile or the Loop. We do not polka at dance clubs.

Boston is very much more obsessed with appearances, but the stodgy staunch New Englander, while tiresomely direct, is harmless. I did find it curious that everyone over the age of 50 bore an uncanny resemblance to a weather-worn shingle or wooden shutter. Eyes in these individuals were no more striking than a 100-year old slate roof tile—and were just about as lively.

The museum I liked most was the Gardner Museum; it oddly personified the city for me. While helter-skelter in decoration and creation, it strove very hard to impress upon the visitor the amalgamation of old and new, and the expensive and the invaluable. It succeeded. Mrs. Jack Gardner’s final decree that nothing be changed OR ELSE resulted in a charmingly eccentric museum.

The Gardner Museum echoed Boston’s manifesto: don’t change a thing, but make it all new. The relentless pursuit to preserve the old wooden everythings (they had no cow to burn down the city), results in old architecture smashed against gleaming windows-only structures and cement creations of the late 60s-early 70s. The old-timers are compelled to associate with the newer generations that have come to the city during the 80s. The conservative old guard irreconcilably debates the liberal prophecies and policies of the students. The old highway is being destroyed for the Big Dig; what an incredible idea—intensely progressive and one project that will set the tone for urban redevelopment around the world. As old as Boston is, it’s as new as can be.

Of course, I missed home. Exiting the El from the airport, I inhaled its particular brand of Chicago Urine cologne. The T has no such fragrance. I respect both.

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