Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

No, I’m not giving up blogging (though, for obvious reasons, it will probably become a little spotty over the next few weeks). Not dying either thankfully. But today is my last full day in Boston. I’m taking a great job in DC, which is also a homecoming for me; I’ll be living less than a mile from the hospital where I was born. Of course, I’m sad about leaving friends–I have nine years of my life here–but that’s personal, and, while fascinating for me, probably not very interesting to you.

But I will miss Boston. It’s a wonderful city. It’s one of the few places where not owning a car is actually possible. The city is so compact that you can walk through so many different neighborhoods in a couple of hours; the Fenway, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Bay Village, the North End, the South End, the Waterfront, and South Boston are all accessible by foot. The transit system, old and creaky as it is, works and can get you most everywhere you need to go. Most cities are lucky if they have a Common or the Public Garden or a Commonwealth Mall or a Greenway–most don’t have all of them.

Unlike most places, Boston has a history, and the city is steeped in it. I never get tired of walking around (as my Boston photos suggest) because the city’s classic architecture wasn’t destroyed (largely by chance as opposed to design–except in the West End). When you don’t have much to do, it’s a great place to walk for half-an-hour. Other things, like the Boston Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts, are wonderful things that too many people take for granted–don’t.

There’s also the government and governance. Sure, ‘beloved idiot nephew’ is an official job category, but, unlike many places, things actually work much, maybe even most, of the time relative to most places. I didn’t always agree with Menino (some days I think he would have knocked down Paul Revere’s house and put up a fifty story building if he could have gotten away with it), but he did try to fix and solve problems. Not always successfully, but who would you prefer as mayor: Menino or Rahm Fucking Emanuel? Hopefully, Walsh will continue to fix and improve things. It’s also the most politically involved city I’ve lived in: I once attended a meeting about repairs on the Bowker Overpass that drew 100 people. That kind of civic engagement isn’t found in a lot of places.

What I’ll miss the most though is the character. I’ve lived in many places–such is the life of a scientist–and many of them were nice. If they were to vanish off the face of the earth (let’s ignore the human costs), no one would really miss them. Boston is irreplaceable: it would break my heart were it to disappear. It’s the little things: the accent, the views, the sports fanaticism, the rampant jaywalking, the willingness to close off streets and have a parade at the drop of a hat, the tolerance, walking around and running into people you know, Fourth of July on the Esplanade, and, yes, the Boston Marathon (even, if in 2013, it almost killed me*). It might not be the ‘best’ (whatever that means), but it is unique.

Part of me will still consider Boston home. You don’t abandon friends, and you don’t abandon places you love, even if you see them less often.


*Really. If hadn’t been running late, I would have meet a friend in front of Marathon Sports and been in the bleachers a little after 2:45 pm that day.

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16 Responses to Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

  1. Bashir says:

    I feel the same way. Great city for spending an afternoon wandering around.

  2. Jay says:

    I lived in Boston for eight years and I still miss it dearly. Best of luck in your new venture – you going to be doing science or policy? Kind of hope it’s the latter – on the one hand, you might not be able to make a difference the way Washington is right now. On the other hand, we need more people like you making decisions about our country.

    Hope you continue blogging – my one must read every day. You post more useful, interesting articles than anyone on the net.

  3. realthog says:

    Good luck with the move, and with settling in to your new home.

    I’ve been to Boston only a handful of times, but have fond memories of it. It’s my second favourite city in the world, after Toronto.

  4. jw says:

    i second what Jay said above–no matter how busy and how late i will be working on a given day, i always stop at 5 and see what you’ve put together for us.

    welcome to the DC metro area!

  5. Rich S. says:

    Good luck in DC. It is tough to leave a place and the friends there. The way you describe Boston says that it is the polar opposite of Wichita, Kansas. Bland. Zero civic engagement. Unresponsive government. No history to speak of. All people talk about here is church, guns, and work.

  6. Peter says:

    This is a tragedy for me personally, as now I don’t know how I’ll know who to vote for in local elections.

  7. Good luck in DC. And congrats on the job! It’s really really hard to find a valid reason to leave Boston. It took me 30 years…

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  13. mikegraney says:

    Lovely tribute, great town, all the best on your next move, hope you can make the time to keep up this blog, its fantastic…cheers from somerville…

  14. Congratulations for not having to be surrounded by asshole Redde Socke fans and masshole driver dummefuckery any more!!

  15. Alex Palazzo says:

    Congrats, and good luck. Having lived in the Backbay for many years, I’ll miss the photos you posted on a regular basis. Boston is a special place.

  16. I didn’t own a car in DC (well, I still don’t in San Diego; I can’t drive due to vision issues, but that’s a different story) and found DC to be quite walking and pedestrian friendly. Yes, the DC Metro gets a lot of flack for slowdowns (and yes, the occasional crash), but it *still* is probably the third best mass-transit system in the US behind NYC and Boston.

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