Yesterday I left off talking about Boston and how her history soaked streets and buildings made me feel like I was part of something bigger. I lived on a street that was a literal dividing boundary between Brookline and Brighton. My address was Brighton. The other side of the street was Brookline. Both neighborhoods were older and many of the streets were lined with cobblestones. Beautiful. Dangerous in heels and on wet days.
Brookline has a large Jewish population. This was most obvious on Saturday when the local Hasidic Jewish population took to the streets to leave machinery behind and walk everywhere. The best part about Brookline was the food. Bagels. Kosher delis. And a soul-food kind of place where I had the best mac and cheese that I have ever had with my friend Jen.
Jen is memorable for teaching me to love being a woman. And for the ridiculous laughter that we shared, the kind of laughter that causes one to go down in history as a bosom buddy. Anne would most definitely have approved of Jen. Besides laughter we also shared a love of books, crafting, cats, and going to First Parish in Cambridge. I also introduced Jen to her husband. My first, last and only successful match-making experience.
Bosom buddies are a unique experience. I haven’t seen Jen in person in a good 10 year and it has been nearly 17 years since I lived in Boston and yet I can hear her laughter and remember the twinkle in her eyes, even specific snippets of conversation that we had riding the train home after an evening out. For some reason, some people can crack us open when others don’t.
The little house I lived in on Orkney Road in Brighton, was split into three distinct apartments. I shared the second level with two roommates that I’d found through Craigslist. Penny and Adam. Both were lovely people, but I never really connected with them. I am not even certain that I would recognize them if I met them on the street. I am not sure why we didn’t connect. I am going to attribute it to my own tendency to be standoffish when I am feeling insecure. A bad habit that I have been working on resolving as I age.
Penny was a Harvard grad. Her mom was Jamaican, her dad English. She had an Italian boyfriend that she’d met studying abroad. She sounded like a superbly interesting person and yet I couldn’t tell you any more than I just did. We should have been grand friends, but we were not. Adam had gone to MIT and he was in law school at BU. He adored Bob Dylan. We actually hung out a bit. Or at the least, I tagged along to a few of his post-graduate Frat parties. Indeed the only Frat parties I have ever attended.
This was the year that Gore lost to Bush. Adam’s friends were for the most part conservative future Goldman Sach executives. But they were pretty funny and more than willing to debate up a storm with a gal from Colorado. I went on a few first dates with friends of Adams, but never a second date. Apparently, beer goggles are two directional.
The most exciting feature in our neighborhood was Steven Tyler. He was easy to spot, because the clothes he wore on stage, were not just for performing, they were also his daily grubs. The first time I saw him, he was in a fluorescent tie-dye leggings with a mismatched shirt. He was deliciously easy to recognize.
The best thing about Boston was that it was delicious in general. In the last few years, Colorado has become a foodie central, but back in the late 90s and during my childhood, you could find a good steak, a good burrito and the occasional tasty ethnic restaurant, like Ras Kassa Ethiopian, but in general our food was pretty drab.
Boston had Kosher, it had a China town, the Italian End, it had Chowder, Indian food, and pub food, coffee shops, and microbrews. My first “beer crawl” consisted of hitting seven different breweries in Cambridge. My neighborhood also had a Dunkin’donuts, which was not particularly notable, except for the fact that it was reliably occupied by a couple of cops, watching their beat with a cup of hot coffee in hand.
There was also candlepin or 10-pin bowling. Good clean fun for a Friday night with friends. Accessible by foot and train. No car needed.
Boston. I moved there site unseen. And one year later I left her, with a going away party held by a dozen dear friends. I am still in awe that in such a short time, I found it so easy to find someplace to belong. And yet, when I left, I pretty much cut all ties. I wonder why that happened…