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Boston: A love story
By Mike Miliard

I THINK WE need to talk, Boston. I just want to say you really piss me off sometimes. I'm sorry if that hurts. I mean, I like you a lot. But I'm repelled by certain things about you on a more-or-less-daily basis. Still, somehow, I feel this inexplicable and inextricable connection to you. It's weird. I moved down here from Maine five years ago, and I haven't left yet, so you must be doing something right. You've got more than your share of peccadilloes, but for every one of those, I can think of something else about you that I like. I take the good with the bad.

I'm torn about your smallish size. I wish you were a little bigger, a bit more exciting, a tad less parochial. But I love the intimacy that your smallness engenders. I sort of like it when I see strangers on the sidewalk and recognize them. But if you're so small, why is everything so far away from everything else? I hate that traveling from Davis Square to Brookline can take more than an hour, and that getting to Allston and Jamaica Plain can be such a pain in the ass. But I love that you can walk almost anywhere in this city. I love a slow stroll from the Fenway all the way downtown or to the waterfront, or down Mass Ave from Harvard Square, crossing the Charles, striding the Smoots of the MIT Bridge, and then on down to Back Bay.

I hate coming back from other cities and being reminded that this is still a very white town. And, notwithstanding all the strides we've made in terms of race relations over the past three decades, I hate that Boston is still very segregated. Yet I love Boston's ethnic mix. I love the St. Paddy's Day parade in Southie and the summer saints' festivals in the North End. I love Chinatown, the Dominicans in the bleachers cheering Pedro and Big Papí, the Portuguese channel on cable TV.

I hate how the MBTA stops service so @#$% early, making it all but impossible to catch a whole show at the Middle East or the Paradise or T.T. the Bear's without missing the last train and having to take an expensive taxi home. But I love speaking bad drunken French with Haitian cab drivers as Radio Nouveaute crackles under the dim light of the running meter.

I hate those arcane blue laws. That I can't buy beer at a convenience store and, until recently, couldn't anywhere on Sundays. I hate the smoking ban, and the deleterious effect it's had on some of my favorite bars. But I love the bars - lingering over brunch with a pint and a paper at Doyle's, or sharing close quarters with Irish expats at the Littlest, or spinning the wheel at Bukowski, or sitting outside the Baseball Tavern at noon on a sunny Saturday.

I hate how Red Sox tickets are so expensive and so hard to come by. But I wouldn't trade walking up the ramp and getting that first glimpse of Fenway's vibrant verdancy for anything. I hate morons who shout "Yankees suck" and the jackasses who rioted after we won the pennant. But I love spilling out onto Lansdowne Street after a dramatic extra-innings win, the warm humid air full of shouts and beery breath. And I love that the Red Sox have won the World Series. More than words can possibly describe.

I hate the subway. A lot. I hate that my commute is so long. I hate tearing down the stairs, sprinting toward open doors, only to have them close in my face, the driver staring blankly back at me as the train rolls away. I hate waiting at Park Street for an outbound Red Line train that seems never to come. I hate sitting motionless between Central and Harvard Squares for what feels like hours at a time. I hate having to wedge into one of just two sardine-tight Green Line cars when it's rush hour. But I love rolling into daylight across the Longfellow Bridge on a resplendent springtime morning, the Charles River glistening gold, the Esplanade green and rambling, the Pru and the Hancock rising tall and proud. I love looking around at the passengers all reading the same papers the Monday morning after a big Patriots win. I like that Green Line driver who talks to the riders over the intercom, telling jokes that people actually laugh at. And I like it when, at least one day out of every seven, the escalators are working.

I'm being too hard on you, Boston, really. Every time I talk you down, I should just remember that commercial. Y'know, the one they showed about eight gazillion times on NESN this summer. "What's there to do in Philly?" And the best they could come up with was the Liberty Bell, pretzels, and cheesesteak. Pathetic. And then one guy says, "It's like a baby New York." If anyone said that about you, I'd probably punch him. You're not like New York at all. You're you. And that's not such a bad thing to be. Are there cities I'd rather live in? Sure. But there aren't many. You'll do for now.

Mike Miliard can be reached at mmiliard@phx.com.

Issue Date: November 11, 2004

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