Saturday, October 27, 2007

Heart Of The City

Boston just sounds different after it rains. The T doesn't glide by as easily. Cars make a more deliberate sound as their tires pull down for more traction as they move in the night in either direction past my apartment's windows. It does not matter if you're in Ben's room, the living room, or directly behind me in my room, the soft torrent of cars never ceases. It is past one so the T no longer rumbles, but that bass is replaced by shrill screams of drunk college kids heading East; the reverse Manifest Destiny. They have already conquered the West on this night, and the ones who haven't already found a bed retreat to their own. And certainly not like church mice.

As graduation--and the real world which sits directly on its broad shoulders--approaches with every passing day, there is one thing that I fear more than anything else: losing the heartbeat of Boston.

There is nothing that I have fallen more in love with than Boston. I have had girlfriends, I have had friends, I have had films, songs, but nothing affected me quite like this city has. It happened immediately, even with imminent death feet ahead. After a play rehearsal one night senior year, my Dad and I packed up the Explorer and headed north via I-84 en route to Boston and our room at the Hotel Commonwealth. On the way, we both had to trade off who was in charge of the gas-powered monster since either one of us would be ready to pass out at the drop of an odometer. When we arrived, I did not know--or care--where we were in relation to Boston. All I knew was that there was a bed waiting for me in the tower above.

The next morning I had to visit Emerson College and Boston University, the two Boston schools with film programs. My dad opened the window to find the Green Monster, feeling like an arm's reach away, staring back at us. There it was. It is akin to brushing your teeth, looking in the mirror, and hey, the Mona Lisa. What's up. It was still early (at least relative to my sleeping schedule, one of the few traits that I will carry with me where ever I land) but I scrambled to get out of bed and put my glasses on to take it in. My dad and I stood there for a good thirty seconds, standing both in awe and out of respect.

I walked the same streets that my mom fell in love with god knows how long ago in that oft told story, "I was walking down Commonwealth Avenue...". The story that got me to think of BU in the first place. I remember seeing so many foolish "Cowboy Up" bumper stickers, for we ventured up after the 2003 ALCS. (I did not know then that that moment would be my happiest as a Yankee fan in Boston.) I met BU's campus and just knew, like how the guidance counselors always spout out about how you just "feel" it but you think it's bullshit, and then you find out first hand how wrong you were. Sort of like how my mom walked in to the only house I've ever known as home, took three steps inside, and realized this is where the Anton Family would reside. Where later her son would grow up.

It's been almost four years since that trip. In that time--and in Boston--I have been in love, fallen out of it, turned 21, watched my Terriers win Hockey East, stayed up talking til 4 AM on countless occasions in various locations, have been intimate, have been lonely, have been surrounded by friends, have been decidedly alone (or, as I prefer, the French "seul"). I have met friends for a lifetime; I have met enemies who I still scowl at as I walk Commonwealth Ave. I have lived in a dorm, I've showered with three other friends in separate halls, I've stolen all the furniture in Claflin Hall, I've eaten far too many meals on campus, I've seen three new eateries open up in the GSU, I've been drunk, I've been high, I've gotten an apartment that is my second home in a way that I've never imagined.

And I know that when I graduate, these aren't the things that I will miss the most.

I get Boston. I got it immediately. It's a city that is discredited; a "false" city. Paling in size to Chicago to the west, failing to meet the enormity of all that makes up New York City to the south, and not being nearly as fun and reckless as Montreal to the north, Boston is a city that cannot be easily categorized. Or easily accepted for what it is. It is racist, it is caring, it is green, it's industrial, it's beaten down, and it’s rich. It's a city in transition. You don't know what's going to become of Boston. You certainly know where it's come from and what that journey has been, but who knows what's next? The possibilities are endless, considering the right opportunities fall correctly. New bridge, new tunnel; there are lots of prospects. It's just up to Boston to use these facilities and advantages to push forward into a bigger, brighter future.

This is where I point out that the term of "college town" is not describing the amount of schools in the area, but the fact that it simply is a town in college.

I'll miss growing with Boston. I'll miss walking home half way across campus, seeing a young-ish looking kid walking hurriedly West and knowing--for certain--that he lives in West Campus, is a Freshman, got ditched at a party and is refusing to piss anywhere but on his floor. He spins his keys by Pleasant Street, seeing his home looming large above what used to be a McDonalds, and he grows satisfied while I gain the satisfaction of feeling Boston move all around me. That girl is drunk, probably off cheap Vodka (Popov) at a frat party. He's a junior and is starting to get tired of this scene and starts to long for the grown-up allure of bars. She's 25 and is jealous of both of them. And all I see and hear is Boston.

I'm going to hop into bed now, and while I sleep, I'm going to hear cars passing by at this dreary hour of 3:05 AM. Maybe it's a garbage truck, or a couple of teenagers who are coming back way late, or just a drunk kid praying he makes it back without hurting himself or others. The motives are meaningless. All I hear is Boston breathing smoothly during another restless night of sleep. Its heart beats silently, steadily, gently, right along with mine.