COLUMN: Getting Lost and Letting Go in the City
The Heart of the City
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 23:09
It was one of those days in July that seemed as if it could not get any hotter. I was in Boston visiting friends from BC and the air hung thick and sticky around the buildings.
Still, I could not have been happier. We indulged in the most stereotypical Boston day—eating lunch at the offbeat Trident Cafe and Bookstore and then wandering Newbury St., grabbing iced coffee and fro-yo as it pleased us. The day was topped off with a Red Sox game against the Yankees. Seriously, could we be more predictably Boston?
The moment I stepped into Kenmore Square I felt an emotion that was new to me. Up until that moment, every time I was in the city I would wistfully think of a time when I was one of the young adults lucky enough to inhabit this wonderful place. This day in mid-July was the first time I felt a different kind of longing for the city, a longing to return to it. This switch in attitude signified to me a kind of growing up—I was no longer just visiting the city from the suburbs. This was a city that I had just lived in for a year—friends and memories left in my wake while I retreated to my ocean-side suburb for a few months. In some ways, Boston had become my more permanent home.
Another less-than-pleasant realization came to me that day. My friends from school, who are used to seeing me in a work or academic environment, were probably surprised how hard it is to wander with me in the city.
When they all stopped to watch street performers play a funky version of “Get Lucky,” I was asking them if we could push on after only a few minutes. After the game when we all decided to get dinner, I’m sure they thought I was insane because I could not handle their slow ambling pace up and down Newbury St.
I was trying to categorize and calculate what kind of food the majority of the group wanted and where we would have the shortest wait on a Saturday night. Finally, one of my friends turned to me and said, “Mags, calm down. What rush are you in? We’ll find somewhere.”
Fast-forward to early September. I had wandered into Boston with another conglomerate of BC friends to attend MixFest—a free concert at the Hatch Shell. As many of my readers know, few attendees of the concert were actually lucky enough to see the stage. Most of the crowd was funneled into side areas where we could hear the music and see only the half-moon formed by the top of the stage.
Of course, the situation was not ideal. I had visions of myself dancing to “I Want It That Way” all week. When the complaints from my friends began, however, a statement came out of my mouth that was so out of character that I surprised myself:“We paid all of $2 to get here on the T. It’s a free concert. We may as well sit here and people-watch and listen to some cool live music that we wouldn’t get to otherwise.”
This passing comment was not profound in nature, but I could not help but notice the contrast from my attitude just a few weeks earlier when we were wandering Newbury St. looking for dinner.
In some ways, I think this links to my newly evolved attitude about the city. Before, Boston was always somewhere I would live—but only someday. I was always just a visitor. Returning to Boston after spending a few months in the suburbs made me long for my return to the city. I think my rush that July day was simply me acting as a visitor of the city—I wanted to cram as much of Boston into my day as physically possible.
To truly experience Boston, or any other city for that matter, let go of the agenda. Act as if you live there. Let go of the rush to experience the entire city. Rather, lose yourself in the simple pleasures that come with the city. Watch and wonder about the eclectic girl walking in front of you or listen to a street musician’s rendition of a pop song.
Just wander, and the city will rush to you.