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To Boston with love

July 8, 2011

The view from the Prudential Tower, taken by my ex-girlfriend Vicky with the camera I bought her and stored on my hard drive, which I'm pretty sure makes the photo mine under copyright and breakup law.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to live in Boston. That’s not as impressive as it sounds, because I have no recollection of my childhood. I’m not sure where I wanted to be as a kid. Probably in She-Ra‘s castle. Or Elton John‘s house.

I first came here during autumn 1996 on a history class trip in 10th grade. My classmates and I went whale watching off Cape Ann; dug deep into our wallets at Quincy Market; paid respects at the graves of Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau and Alcott on Author’s Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery; waded in Walden Pond as the foliage peaked; and observed what we, very imaginative teens from a well-to-do Cleveland suburb, were certain was a drug deal go down while waiting aboard our bus outside the hokey Medieval Manor. As we chowed on fried drumsticks with our bare hands and washed it down with Diet Coke, as King Arthur did in olden times, the wenches/servers heckled me more than most because it was my birthday. “Sweet 16 and never been kissed!” one teased me, accurately summing up my sex life for at least another four years. I did, however, fall in love during that trip — with a place, not a person.

Upon returning home, I pestered my parents to reunite me with my charming newfound love and send me to college in New England. It’s a riveting story, actually. I was all, “Parents, I want to go to school in Boston.” And they were like, “No.” Fin.

Despite a few detours, I eventually found my way northeast in 2005 — no thanks to those jerks — and I’ve called Boston home ever since. There’s no place I’d rather be. Or so I thought. On vacation in southern California recently, I felt surprisingly at ease knowing there were several time zones between me and reality; for more than a week, I got a reprieve from round-the-clock fretting that my love for Boston will remain unrequited.

It’s been more than a year since I’ve dated anyone locally. I resorted to importing my last girlfriend from Canada, like cheap prescription pills. Bostonians call Massachusetts Avenue, a street that stretches for miles through the city and far into the burbs, “Mass. Ave.” for short. But I’ve taken to referring to it as the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” because I’ve had so many train wrecks masquerading as first dates on that thoroughfare.

I feel as though I’m constantly searching for someone who may not be here. Is that her? I ask myself while awkwardly trying to make eye contact with passers-by, optimistically hoping Ms. Right (or Dr. Right, because I’m flexible) will simply saunter into my world by happenstance. Often, I lollygag in the wealthiest parts of town on the off-chance that a Harvard scholar might trip on some ivy and fall into my vagina.

It’s as if I’m trapped in the adult version of the children’s book “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman,  in which a precocious hatchling sets out in search of his missing mom, approaching everyone and everything — a kitten, a cow, a plane — in his path with the pressing question. Except I’m not a baby bird. And I know exactly where my mom is: usually naked in my kitchen. But I am in the market for a sugar mama. Call me. *makes phone sign with hand*

Monday marked my third consecutive Fourth of July as a singleton. I take Independence Day literally, as the Founding Fathers intended. I was scheduled to work that evening, because I stupidly pursued journalism as a career, and my shift ended just as the fireworks over the Charles River began. As I headed out the door in a foul mood, I grumbled to my colleagues about “not having a life” and “going home to my cats” and “being unable to sexually attract a U.S. citizen” while the rest of Boston reveled in the biggest holiday celebration in the nation.

Isabel roots for the home team.

Driving home on the Pike to avoid the downtown traffic nightmare of closed streets and drunken tourists, I caught glimpses of the fireworks in my rear-view mirror as they burst over the skyline, the windows of skyscrapers sparkling like “Twilight” vampires. I watched as Red Sox cap-wearing toll collectors abandoned their posts to pool in the shoulder of the highway, holding up their cell phones to capture photos of the ethereal spectacle. When I exited in Cambridge, coinciding with the finale, I saw hundreds of folks in a festive spirit lining the banks of the Charles and sitting atop bridges, legs dangling and necks straining to take in the show. Witnessing everyone come together, even looking in as a blue outsider lacking the requisite red and white, I was reminded of this city’s giant heart. Just like that, I fell for Boston all over again. And wondered whether she would ever love me back.

My mom, among others, assures me everything will work out. She wouldn’t let me study out of state, sparing me thousands of dollars in student loans, so it’s pretty clear her judgment is questionable at best. But about nine years after my class trip, I got hired one short block away from the place where my sheltered Midwestern eyes were convinced they saw smack changing hands at a price set by the streets. Dreams do come true. I’ve passed that same corner almost every night after work for the past six years, and now, I realize how naive I was at 16. Drug dealers. Out of the mouths of babes! It’s mostly just hookers.

55 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2011 3:23 AM

    You visited southern California and… you didn’t look me up?!?

    I think I’m breaking up with your blog now. :-p

  2. July 8, 2011 4:35 AM

    My Dad was born in Boston. that makes us practically related doesn’t it?

  3. hawaiianryan47 permalink
    July 8, 2011 5:22 AM

    i love beans. and tea. and sox. and cats.

    i’m pretty sure that isabel picked out that shirt herself. she has great taste, and looks great in blue. but i’ll bet they both hated the fireworks. mine did. clearly they still have issues from ‘nam.

    happy birthday america.

  4. July 8, 2011 7:22 AM

    I can’t be a sugar mama, I’m pretty sure it involves having money and I too chose journalism as a career, so no dice. But maybe you could ask the workin’ gals out front for some pointers… I think hookin’ gets you laid AND gets you money, so 2 birds, 1 stone?

  5. July 8, 2011 7:38 AM

    i’d think there is a special prayer, or some sort of novena, that can be said to assure that a Harvard scholar trips and falls into your vagina. i’ll look it up…

  6. July 8, 2011 7:53 AM

    Aw man! I just moved away from Boston! Super sad face. I truly do love that city though. Everything about it. Including the drug deals, the fact that no one can drive, the bicyclists who run you over, the hipsters and the fact that bars close at 2 am. Sigh…

  7. July 8, 2011 8:21 AM

    you know what’s so ironic? (that’s the word i use when i want to sound like an adult) that i find myself increasingly envious (that’s the word i use when i don’t want to sound like a jealous bitch) of ppl that have found their forever homes & are totally in love with them. in case you haven’t noticed, i’m not what’d you call in love with smelly old baltimore. i don’t think i’ve ever been in love with any one place (not even my home state of new jersey–go figure!)dc maybe. but that’s the closest i’ve come to it.

    you’ve got what so many of us don’t: your place. now all you have to do is find the girl. or let her find you. or at least stalk her until she notices you and falls into your ladyparts.

  8. July 8, 2011 9:18 AM

    I mean, I’m not positive if there’s suppose to be a correlation made between your quest for love and the ready supply of female flesh a block away, but…. it’s an idea.

  9. July 8, 2011 10:08 AM

    1. Megan is a genius.
    2. Trust me when i tell you that your mom is right – everything will work out. I searched those same streets for love for YEARS before I found Mr. Right. All I can tell you is that instead of angstily asking, “Are you the one?” every time you bump into a hooker, just enjoy getting to know that hooker and the answer will be clear. Harry Potter would not have been anywhere near as much fun if I’d jumped to the 7th book – or worse, just read the last chapter. A HUGE portion of knowing that you’re at your destination is the roads you’ve travelled. Enjoy them.

  10. July 8, 2011 11:15 AM

    I moved back to Jersey about 3 years ago after living on the North Shore for about 7. And I still miss it. NYC is no Boston…and Jersey is no Cape Ann. And oh how i miss Don and Remy!

  11. July 8, 2011 11:29 AM

    You are the best. Truly.

    I love your writing and I love your heart and I love you. And stupid people who don’t ask you to marry them when they OBVIOUSLY should are jerks and need to open their damn eyes. And dive straight into your vagina, which is where they belong.

    I find myself envying your love of place. I really do.



  12. July 8, 2011 12:15 PM

    well you could always hook. wait, that doesn’t help you at all.

    honey, for what it’s worth, I understand.

    sending love you way.

  13. Jessica permalink
    July 8, 2011 12:53 PM

    It’s hard when one is not a hook-up person. one hears all about those who have questionable encounters with random strangers under the influence of alcohol or potentially hazardous chemicals and thinks “why can’t I have that drama filled, angst ridden, probably sexually unsatisfying life to falsely make me feel fulfilled?” But alas, we are evolved individuals with depth of character of a discerning bent who must fill our lives with stuff of meaning and substance.
    Be who you are, babe! If you wanted fast-food relationships you’d have them. Meantime, be where the action is, amirite? Lectures, openings, poetry readings, fundraisers…you know where to find like minded lezzies. We are so predicable.

  14. July 8, 2011 1:35 PM

    And the Pulitzer Prize for Best Quip Ever goes to: “…like cheap prescription pills.”

  15. July 8, 2011 1:46 PM

    “I was scheduled to work that evening, because I stupidly pursued journalism as a career, and my shift ended just as the fireworks over the Charles River began.”

    Heard that! All of us copy editors/random newsroom folks shuffled up to the roof to watch the fireworks over the Missisippi River. The day before I threw a hissy fit, yelling at a coworker, “I don’t even see WHY we have to publish a paper on July Fourth (Fourth of July? don’t worry, we had our annual scramble for the style books over that AGAIN), this is RIDICULOUS!”

    • July 8, 2011 3:33 PM

      We usually go up on the roof to watch the fireworks, too. It’s tradition. But this year, mysteriously, the gate to the roof was locked. I was not pleased.

  16. July 8, 2011 2:22 PM

    look, jess, someone made you a video:

    you know where you should move? allentown. say, in january.

    alexandria, who is starting her campaign to import her friends… now.

  17. July 8, 2011 7:15 PM

    i feel exactly the same way about portland. and even though i’m 3,000 miles away right now, i think my heart is still stuck there.

  18. July 9, 2011 12:27 AM

    It’s good to be flexible about the doctor thing. My best advice: Marry for MONEY. Just kidding. (a little).

    But seriously, how do you make me laugh and make my heart break a little at the same time? And if you are unable to attract a U.S. citizen, who knows? You might just attract and Italian citizen or a Portuguese citizen, or a Brazilian citizen … god, the list is endless.

  19. July 9, 2011 2:31 AM

    I wish I could say I sympathize, but I’ve no idea what it’s like to ‘look’ for love. I gave up that pursuit before it ever really began (and eventually it found me).

    Maybe there is truth to old cliche of stop looking and it will find you. Well for love anyway. It never works with keys, or glasses, or phones, or left shoes.

  20. July 9, 2011 3:49 AM

    such a beautifully written piece. the relationship you have with yourself is stunning. keep doing what you’re doing because you’re amazing. marriage is overrated. and so are fireworks. things could be worse, you could be hooking on the street corner, or smoking crack in an abandoned building.

  21. July 9, 2011 6:08 AM

    Can you finish my novel for me? Please?? Your writing is really beautiful. If it’s any consolation, I wish I could feel that passionate about anything, a city, a place, a person, a cat. But I’m numb, empty and cynical. Or to put it another way; when you do find an awesome Bostonite chic to marry, know that you’re capable of having these feelings. And for that I’m truly envious. And also your writing. And where you live. And your job.

    Marry me??

  22. July 9, 2011 4:53 PM

    Yep you’re lucky to have found your place. That’s priceless. Your lady is out there, she’ll fall into your ladyparts eventualy 🙂

    As Bon Jovy said once: just keep the faith.

  23. July 9, 2011 5:04 PM

    When I worked in Beacon Hill, I would pretend I lived there. But even so, going home to Somerville and Medford was pretty cool, too.

    Boston does have a huge heart, huh?

  24. July 9, 2011 10:56 PM

    Damn these mysterious lovers we don’t have/ haven’t met yet. . . can’t comment on Boston or any other town in the US coz i live in Melbourne, Oz. Probably hickster-ville in comparision. Glad you at least have your town sorted. . .
    josie x

  25. July 10, 2011 6:26 AM

    I couldn’t help but notice the crushed traffic cone to the left of the photo. Did you use this as some form of trap to purposely trip that lady up and into your vagina?

    Just sayin’.

  26. July 10, 2011 8:57 AM

    I got together with a fella who read my blog, and your blog craps on mine in the honeytrap stakes. So if this blogging business doesn’t score you some serious net romantic profits (deficits aside), I will be eyebrow-raisingly surprised. Your words on Bostonphilia read like the treatment for a “The Wire”-esque series. Brava.

  27. July 10, 2011 2:59 PM

    For what it’s worth, I can’t imagine Boston without you. It’s not my place to tell you where to live–you have to do what makes YOU happy, not me–but it breaks my heart a little to know that you’ve even considered leaving. We came here together, scared and excited, hopeful one minute, hopeless the next. I would have never come to Boston if it hadn’t been for that trip you took in tenth grade. You held onto that dream for almost ten years, and because of your dogged refusal to let it go, you inadvertently helped make my own dreams come true. Because of you, I’m home, and as selfish as it is, I have a hard time comprehending a home without you. To that end, I’m officially declaring Operation Find Jess a Girlfriend within the Greater Boston Area or Else. I’m enlisting everyone I know, and a few people I don’t know. Henceforth, I will be known as “the chick who’s like that matchmaker from “Fiddler on the Roof”–only on crack.”

  28. July 10, 2011 5:36 PM

    I can’t believe that lady didn’t ask you to marry her OR fall into your vagina. Seriously… rude.

    Doesn’t she know you have cats!?

  29. July 10, 2011 10:23 PM

    On the bright side, there are many countries other than Canada from which to import. I think you should try Nova Scotia next. I’ve always liked the sound of it. Though, honestly, I don’t know about tariffs or trade relations or even if it’s REALLY another country or just a part of Canada that’s trying to stage a getaway…

  30. July 11, 2011 4:40 AM

    I used to live in Cambridge, and I still miss it sometimes.

  31. July 11, 2011 10:31 AM

    My wife loves Boston and has always wanted to live there, but I’ve never visited. Maybe if I were still single I’d try my luck there.

  32. July 11, 2011 2:07 PM

    I’ve never visited Boston but have always wanted to move there and get away from this place! You are a lucky duck!

    I feel like so many couples that I know met in random encounters…maybe it’s true that you meet someone when you’re “not looking”, but how do you train your mind to not look? I don’t get it.

  33. July 11, 2011 5:17 PM

    Love your ode to Boston! (I’m a suburbanite 12 miles due North of the city) I have a definite feeling the city has something good in store for you… And PS, I love Isabel, she is a duplicate of the kitty I had in high school!

  34. BeneathTheSpinLight permalink
    July 12, 2011 4:02 PM

    As glad as I am that you fell in love with Boston again, I totally thought you were going to end this post with plans to move to California. We have fireworks here too!

  35. July 12, 2011 11:11 PM

    I love Boston. I was born there and visited throughout my childhood (although my family doesn’t live *in* Boston, per se, so much as the slummy-ass areas like Lawrence and Lowell).

  36. July 12, 2011 11:12 PM

    P.S. Isabel would look better in a Celtics jersey. Just sayin.

  37. July 13, 2011 1:15 PM

    I wonder who Nimbus roots for.

    Not that it matters. If I tried to get him into a jersey I’d lose an arm.

  38. July 15, 2011 12:32 PM

    Era, Boston on July 4th must be awesome.

  39. July 15, 2011 5:26 PM

    Wow, boston is beautiful!

    I love that you’ve found a place that you love, and despite your doubts, I’m pretty sure boston loves you back. 🙂 Maybe It’s just saving your vagina for the RIGHT Dr. Harvard Grad to fall into?

  40. July 17, 2011 1:40 AM

    I have always wanted to live in Boston, too! I have no idea why, I’ve never even been there before. I hate beans and cream pie, so that’s not it. Maybe it was Ally McBeal? Or Dawson’s Creek, when Joey went there for College?

    *spends next fifteen minutes listing possible reasons why*

    Anyway, your mom is right. I have a feeling that your romance-filled Independence Day is coming. But until then, please don’t sacrifice your vagina to a humorless Harvard grad.

    Or a hooker.

  41. July 18, 2011 5:03 PM

    Although the quip about importing cheap drugs did make me laugh coffee through my nose (again, you will be hearing from my legal team), I feel compelled to mention that we Canadians have a lot more to offer than borderless pharmaceuticals. We also have maple syrup, apologizing, and moose.*

    (*Canada’s second most popular animal. Beavers are too obvious for this blog.)

  42. July 19, 2011 7:55 PM

    I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Boston. And think I will make it this year! Something about the city always spoke to me (even if I’ve never been there and don’t know anyone that has either).

    Here’s hoping you find your girl soon.

  43. madfishmonger permalink
    July 21, 2011 4:51 PM

    I’d love to know what that feels like, to really feel like you love a place and feel at home somewhere, I’ve never felt that way. I’ve lived in Winnipeg my whole life, and there’s a lot of great things about it, but I am feeling like I have too much history, too much past, too much old drama laying about that I need a break from. I want to go somewhere else for a while, but I have no idea about where I’d go. I loved Flagstaff, Arizona, but I can’t see myself living in the States (sorry). Other than that, no idea.

    So hey, at least there’s that. One day you’ll be going along and the perfect woman will just fall out of the sky, because she was a high-rise window cleaner who had an accident and you saved her life and she’ll love you forever. Or something. It’s so hard to believe it’ll happen, it’s so hard to believe that someday someone will really love you and want to be with you. Hasn’t happened to me either. If I knew what to tell you, I would.

  44. July 25, 2011 5:34 PM

    I love your picture of Boston! I’m so glad you have copyrights. You are so totally adorable that the women in Boston must all be blind with premature cataracts. I’m going to hunt for someone other than a 44 yr old psychiatrist who is abnormally attached to her preschooler.

  45. July 30, 2011 10:41 PM

    It was SO nice hanging out with you in NYC. Even if I was asleep for at least a quarter of your visit. Hope you think of me every time you play Bananagrams 🙂

  46. July 31, 2011 7:57 PM

    I live in Worcester and I have my monthly Sunday night gig in Somerville… maybe you could stop by some time…

    Anyway… I’m no good at offering love advice so I won’t bother, but this is a beautifully written post about a city and a region that has also become my adopted hometown and I never want to leave it.

  47. August 1, 2011 8:15 PM

    This is the absolute worst advice you will immediately hate me for typing (*sorry*) but I swear, I was the Ultimate Single Person for FOREVER, to the point where I convinced myself that I was awful and ugly and fat and stupid and dumb and uncool. (Truth. Sad time in my life.) And that I was like, NO, FUCK THAT, I am awesome and having an significant other OR NOT doesn’t change that.

    And so I stopped looking and I stopped caring and stopped searching and that’s when love was like OH HAI HOW ARE YOU, LET’S BE FRAINDS. So…as ridiculous as it is to try and turn that off…I think if you can stop looking, love finds you?

    Was this comment way too deep and stupid for just a blog post? Sorry. Blah. I suck.

    In other news, the description of your high school trip to Boston kinda made me wanna move there too. It started with EMERSON THOREOU (CAN’T SPELL, I tried 20 times) ALCOTT HAWTHORNE and then I heard drumsticks with bare hands. HOOKEd.

  48. August 2, 2011 9:16 PM

    I have FOUR cats, live in Ohio, and somehow found a boyfriend that only mildly hates getting clawed by them all in the middle of the night.

    I guess what I’m saying is my boyfriend is a weirdo but also that I’m sure Boston loves you back and a stunningly sexy doctor will propose to you in no time.

  49. August 13, 2011 10:46 AM

    Aw man! I really wanna go to Boston!

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