Had to move a friend to Boston recently; burnt $80 in fuel grinding a U-Haul up I-95. I never really had that many positive things to say about Bensonhurst, but now compared to Jamaica Plain I think it can be viewed favorably. That place is a second-story man’s wet dream.
Best parts: The New York movers on Boston, “wouldn’t wanna move there, this life or the next,” the Boston movers on New York, “this was packed professionally? You got robbed.” The cabbie in Boston back to South Station hailed from the Bronx: “Love New York, mon. Always hustlin. Always everybody wan goin figure out ways ta rip you the hell off. You wouldn’t like Boston, mon. Too slow,” said he in a retrofitted yellow cab complete with bulletproof divider and non-functioning LCD. The cabbie in New York picking me up from Chinatown: “Three hours from Boston*? Musta been tearin ass to get outta there.”
Boston, to me, in the times that I’ve been there and having just gone there Sunday, is irrepressibly parochial. It is a college town in every sense of the term. All the nosiness of small communities, all the exclusion of large cities: As if you’re witnessing a whole people assiduously avoiding having to acknowledge, however implicitly, the existence of other people. They are in their world, and they have meticulously maintained it such that it bears no relation to anything around them. You get the sense that you’re being placed under the microscope at the same time as being purposefully ignored.
New York is, in comparison, provincial: It’s a big city with a big city air, but what people lack in physical privacy they make up in a long, complicated set of protocol not to get in the way of their fellow man. Bostonians, however, got right up in my face with questions that would seem bold to a New Yorker. The best way I can describe it is like the satirical view of 60s hippie communes: Professing to be all-encompassingly open but ending up being more fascist than regular society in practice, with merely the patina of polite lingo to smooth over an indirect request that you get the fuck out.
Oh, and their pizza sucks.
It is a city of New England brahmin privilege. So it came as no surprise that in the same general time frame of my being there, professor Henry Gates – director of Harvard University’s Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research (the same institute and the same university that chased off Cornel West for being too radical) – was arrested by Cambridge police after a neighbor called the cops on him for breaking into his own home.
Ostensibly the reason was because he was belligerent (in his own home) when the cops came to arrest him (in his own home), as the charge (that later got dropped) was disorderly conduct (in his own home), but if you can’t be belligerent in your own home that the cops are removing you from for breaking and entering, then pardon me, but what the fuck? That’s like arresting somebody for the sole charge of resisting arrest!
*Fung Wah, man. Live it. Love it. Buses have been stopped by state troopers. Buses have spontaneously burst into flame on the highway. Bus managers have gotten into shootouts and gang battles with competing bus companies, but no passenger’s died yet and you simply can’t beat the price or the speed.