What I like about you

boston-charles-river-panorama-john-burk

In no particular order:

1. The rosy hills and red-brick cityscape that were my view each time (so many times) my train approached South Station. 2. Brigham’s Peppermint Stick Ice Cream. 3. Neighborhoods I called home in college and my early twenties: 02138, 02115, 02121. 4. The fact that any story set there is a story I will read start to finish, and probably love. (This somehow isn’t true of any other place, not even my hometown.) It doesn’t matter how mundane the details are—the Citgo sign, “draining and filling with color,” in Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Nobody’s Business”; Allegra Goodman’s swan boats in “La Vita Nuova”—what matters is they bring me back to you.

5. Thrifting up and down Centre Street in JP. 6. The kind Dorchester firefighters whose ladder got me home through a fourth-floor window, on a night I’d locked myself out and none of my nine roommates were home. 7. Edith “The Bard of Brookline” Pearlman, who writes about you quite a bit and calls herself a “New Englander by birth and by preference.” 8. That T conductor on the Riverside branch of the Green Line, who used to sing Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” to passengers getting off his train, then say “Phew, I thought they’d never leave” to those who’d stayed. (I wonder if he’s still there.)

9. Andre “Townie” Dubus III, who spoke at the Hynes Convention Center this past March about the difference between writers “making shit up” and actually imagining. 10. The ridiculous and awkward dance we all outgrew—of saying we went to college in the city, then “just outside of” the city, then “actually in Cambridge,” etc., before we learned that OH MY GOD JUST SAY IT NO ONE CARES. 11. Frappes and fries at Mr. Bartley’s. 12. All the poets you produced.

13. That hair salon called Girlfriend Hooked Me Up!, around the block from where I used to live, namechecked in Dennis Lehane’s heartrending story “Until Gwen.” 14. My friend L, born and raised in Quincy, who taught me the proper pronun-zee-ation of my college house name. 15. Working behind the counter at the “special exhibitions” shop of the Museum of Fine Arts (what “the MFA” stood for before I ever thought of grad school), selling Starry Night umbrellas and silk Gauguinish flowers to tourists and elderly women wearing strong perfume. 16. Beers and belly dancers in Central Square.

17. The Book Annex (RIP) on Beacon Street and its peaceful, well-fed cats. 18. That first post-college apartment on Hemenway Street, shared with S who worked at Simmons and some bare-bones furniture; the closet-size kitchen, barely big enough to cook in but not too small for mice; the vague but constant smell of leaking gas that gave me headaches; the cheaply-framed print of “Isadora Duncan, in Green, Dancing” on the wall, purchased from the MFA on my employee discount. 19. The girls of Mother Caroline Academy (the ones I knew are women now), who’d tell each other “Next stop Ashmont” when their knees and elbows needed lotion. 20. Watching movies on Brattle Street, in Kendall Square, at Coolidge Corner.

21. Biking with friends to Darwin’s on Mount Auburn Street to pick up sandwiches and eat them on the grass by the Charles. 22. The way a pair of heavy platform boots—late ’90s; you remember—would sound (like clopping hooves) against your red brick sidewalks. 23. Moonlighting as a telemarketer for the A.R.T., where one woman could not donate because she’d just written her son’s tuition check to Andover, and another hung up on me because “your Cabinet deeply offended me.” 24. Steak tips from Charlie’s Kitchen in the years I’d fallen off the vegetarian wagon. 25. The mind-bending Escher-esque sign on Blue Hill Avenue that said “Welcome to Roxbury” on both sides. (I wonder if it still does.)

26. Getting turned away by the bouncer at Bukowski’s with J, M and D because our IDs, all real, came too suspiciously from four different states. 27. Trimming Christmas trees with K and family in her hometown. 28. Snow days with my MCA co-teachers at Doyle’s and the Dogwood.

29. That first date with G, my freshman year (nobody ever said “first” year like we were supposed to), which started in Porter Square and ended, poorly, on the steps of Weld. 30. The second date, a summer and a half-semester later, when we passed the window of WordsWorth Books (RIP) and saw Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters to Plath had just come out. 31. Seeing G again over a decade later, falling in love a few years after that and reminiscing from our current city about you, the city we’ll remember now and always as the city where we met.

32. Morning walks through the Back Bay Fens. 33. Twilight runs in Franklin Park. 34. Weekend jogs along the Esplanade. 35. Those legendary 26.2 miles almost every runner—young or old, male or female, seasoned pro to newest newbie—dreams of (or at least fantasizes about) one day finishing.

There’s more that I’m forgetting. But I’ll never forget you, dear City on a (Heartbreak) Hill. Sending so much love to Boylston Street and beyond.

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