I’m writing this from a Starbucks in West Roxbury, a neighborhood in the western fringes of Boston close to the more upscale suburb of Brookline but also not far from the worst of the city’s ‘hoods. (That’s the charm of this compact place: Back when the Combat Zone still existed in its full fury 25 years ago, if someone had put a blindfold on you and asked you to walk for 15 minutes from downtown in any direction, you wouldn’t have known if you would wind up in the midst of crackwhores or on the lawns of Beacon Hill mansions.) And I mention Starbucks only because she’s a bitch I can’t get away from even though I don’t respect her, a place I go to for a couple of assets I could get most anyplace else and in higher quality–in this place, wi-if and coffee–only because of habit and a craven unwillingness to explore neighborhoods.
I move around a bunch. I’m not talking just about my day-to-day hyperkinetic ways — running, overcaffeinated tours of neighborhoods with equally rambunctious working-class dogs, tapping out blissfully agitated e-mails at a Mach 19 despite using only three fingers — since 2002, I’ve been comparatively sessile in the past few trips around the sun, managing 18-month-long stints in Dover, N.H. and Boulder, Colorado between December 2008 and today. The Great Front Range Experiment is now history, and since a lot of what a place like Boulder has to offer fits seamlessly into my wants and needs, it stands to reason that moving away — even if back to the state where I’ve spent most of my life — would be a jolt.
The title of this post includes a couple of neologisms of the pithy type I despise, with syllables based on place names, e.g., SoHo. But I couldn’t resist “DoDo” (for “downtown Dover”) because it’s just do frigging witty and mimics the name of a friendly but impossibly stupid Madagascarian birds from centuries ago that asshole colonists recreationally blasted into extinction. But really, with “Dover” I’m referring to all of suburban and exurban Boston, as right now I’m actually in the city and will be settling soon enough back in N.H.
Anyway, regarding the Boulder-Greater Boston comparison, it’s impossible to state a firm conclusion without some thought, as it’s a multifaceted trade-off. SO I thought about it for five minutes and decided that these areas represent the most glaring vis-a-vis aspects:
Demographics: When I first got back here a few weeks ago, I was amazed at the preponderance of senior citizens, especially worn-out-looking older males. On reflection, that’s short-sighted. Boulder reportedly has the youngest median age of any decent-sized city in America, so there was bound to be a contrast. I’d believe that, but it’s not the one huge college there that’s to blame: MIT, Harvard, Bentley, U-Mass.-Boston, BU, BC, Emerson, Simmons, Tufts, and other schools that can’t be ignored pepper Boston and Cambridge. (And sorry, Buffs, but many of these places make your school look like a community college. Not your shortcoming, just my provincial arrogance. Carry on. CU is a state school.)
Streets and Drivers: I don’t know how else to say this. This whole grid (Boston) should be nuked. So should everyone behind the wheel. I knew this firmly a long time ago and nothing has changed, except for the fact that they sunk the Southeast Expressway in a way that streamlined everything. And you gotta love the Zakim Bridge on U.S. 1. It’s still like fucking Bosnia 15 years ago.
Every time I so much as wander out here, on foot as well as behind the wheel, I just want to launch a concussion grenade into the other autos. My friend back in BoCo jokes about drivers being shitty there for cutting people off, which is like someone from the fringes of Greenwich bitching about the neighbor’s ugly Mercedes while someone barrels a busted-up tank into downtown Sarajevo.
Charm: We don’t have it. You do. People here are assholes and proud of it. Boulder just rocks. But we’ve got our shit here. We have Boston, Aerosmith, and too many bands to count. You have…Mork And Mindy? Then again, no one cares about that shit and it reflects nothing.
Sports Fans: Yes, we’ve been spoiled. Who hasn’t done well lately? Everyone hates the Patriots for being dominant, the Sox are a mammoth recent disappointment but still decent, the Celtics can be counted on, and the Bruins just won a Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, every Denver team is an abject failure. Okay, they’re all merely mediocre. But that city has nothing to celebrate and if they’re getting behind that stupid Tebow shit, that’s a sign of desperation and is going to reverse when the Broncos tank again.
BUT: The CU Buffs are amazing at cross-country. New England sucks at most everything when it comes to distance running. And all college sports.
Weather: Sub-zeros: Kind of a wash here. Boulder sucks, but only selectively, in the “winter.” Here you get locked into that don’t-quit cold. In Boston, we can’t afford North Face clothes that work for three days at a time. We actually take showers in between. It’ll be below freezing for all of January, so piss on you.
I feel far more at peace now. I may be the only runner whose training and racing efforts actually improve by going FROM BoCo TO a sea-level metropolis at the onset of winter. But this is just an example of how changing external environment does nothing to allay internal unrest. Picture a fellow who is given an unusually sleek and powerful car to drive, if not keep, and instead of taking good care of it, drives it through the darkest, most poorly maintained streets in town, accumulating a few random passengers who alternate counseling him on the perils of picking up hitchhikers with throwing beer bottles out the window, and at each other. That’s essentially how I related to my surroundings in the Front Range, and a potentially breathtaking experience was mine to mismanage. With flying colors, that’s what I did. With my unimpeachable hindsight I recognize that coming back a year ago would have been a Wise Move, but my own quaint blend of perverse optimism and myopic lassitude more or less kept that off the table.