Why are Bostonians so damn mean? It’s weird. There’s so much to love about this place. Our leafy thoroughfares and Victorian embellishments. The Red Sox and the Patriots. Our world-class educational and arts institutions. Our (now) fabulous cuisine and little “ethnic” eateries. Our complicated relationship with liberalism. Our leading-edge and ever-coming new bands. And let’s not forget, we’re still a two-newspaper town — no small thing. Blessed with such bounty, you’d think we’d greet each other with a good-natured spark in the eye.
But no. We drive like homicidal sociopaths, our sports fans are renowned for their unparalleled blood lust, we glower at each other from territory we’ve staked out on the T or sit there glumly in a mood of quiet desperation. We walk with our heads bowed, we greet friendly overtures with suspicion, we’re all too ready to come to fisticuffs over the merest slight. Dealing with us blows a frosty chill down the back of the neck.
Ask any out-of-towner, and one of the first things he or she will say with an air of bewilderment is, “What’s wrong with you people?” As our own Emerson once put it, “Why so hot, little sir?”
It’s all too easy to blame the Puritans. Or, though you hear less about them, the Victorian moralists and the Irish political class that built this city in its later formative years. There’s not a whole lot we can do about the emotional logic of culture except wait for the wheel of time to grind along, softening the edges laid down by the past.
Meanwhile, there are tons of little things in this city that bring out our worst, whatever its origins, and they’re made all the more aggravating because they could be so easily addressed.
The staff of the Boston Phoenix decided to take a stab at laying it all out in one place. We’re not suggesting any total policy overhauls here — that’s for another day. But a few minor adjustments here and there might help us all crank down the hostility level a notch. If you disagree, then fuck you.
New York state of mind
Boston isn’t New York. It’s not supposed to be New York. So why embarrass ourselves trying to make it New York? East Boston isn’t E-Bo, no matter how many realtors say otherwise. On a related note, there’s no such thing as SoWa. And Barney’s decision to open a Boston store doesn’t mean we’ve arrived. For God’s sake, let’s drop this STUPID ONE-SIDED RIVALRY WITH NEW YORK. It’s pathetic.
It should be easy being green
It isn’t as bad as last year, when it was basically an open-air-dumpster and parking lot for assorted heavy machinery. But THE GREENWAY STILL LOOKS LIKE SHIT — it’s not green, for starters — and the once-grand vision for the project is slowly but surely being whittled down. C’mon, people; this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remake the heart of Boston. Please don’t screw it up.
It’s been six months since I sat with my dog in the Underground, talking skateboards, Bloc Party, and Jarrett Barrios’s run-in with Fluffernutter. Six months, and I still think about the Underground guys, their punk-kid regulars and punk-mom groupies, bringing soy chocolate milks to the indoor pipe — the only indoor pipe in Boston. I asked Underground manager Travis Leary about the Charles River skate park, which has been “in the works” for several years. But the funny thing is, the skater guy doesn’t complain. “Yeah, there’s plenty to complain about,” he says. “But too many people sit back . . . nobody gets out there and raises the money, or writes the letters.”
SKATERS NEED A PARK — some stuff that’s low and smooth, with a little curve to it. So what can we do? Visit the Underground, talk to the skater dudes about getting this park stuff done — while you’re at it, consider bringing back the roller-rink parties. This city needs more small wheels.
A taxing advantage
Every two years, a bunch of Boston City Council candidates wax indignant about the fact that the city’s colleges and universities throw paltry amounts of cash at City Hall, under the terms of THE P.I.L.O.T. PROGRAM instead of paying honest-to-goodness property taxes. Somehow, though, the problem never quite gets solved. Harvard has more money than most medium-size nations; Boston University pays people millions of dollars not to be president. Surely we can figure something out — maybe before Harvard annexes Allston?
Enough with the MANDATORY POLICE DETAILS at construction sites, already. The Beacon Hill Institute estimates that Massachusetts taxpayers and businesses could have saved up to $67 million in 2003 using civilians instead of municipal police at work sites. (Factor in State Police working on highway jobs, and that figure would be even higher.) Still, the practice continues — and as often as not, the police officer in question is just jawing with the construction workers over a Dunkies or staring off into space, instead of, you know, directing traffic. We should set an example for the rest of the state — and start bringing Massachusetts in line with the rest of the US — by changing the status quo in Boston. What say you, Mayor Menino?