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Bad Boston

27 things that drive us crazy about the city we love
By PHOENIX STAFF  |  January 17, 2007


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.

Skate away
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?

Cop plea
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?

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  next >
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Bad Boston
Re: Your suggestion that we live somewhere else to expand our world view. I would suggest that this is completely unnecessary. I have traveled, but nowhere compares to Boston. I am quite happy here and have no need to be miserable somewhere else to reinforce how perfect Boston is. Re: Fire Hydrants. Very interesting. Perhaps the City should spend some of the parking ticket revenue on that mapping/removal project.
By bostonmaggie on 01/18/2007 at 9:49:19
Bad Boston
Thanks! Reading this article makes me feel a bit better! Having lived here 14 months I have made many of the same observations. Boston only makes sense to those that are from here. The rest of us are looking at you going, "what is their problem?". Never experienced that anywhere else in the world I have lived. The people are not very accommodating to those of us not from here. And the lack of street signs is maddening!!
By KenC on 01/18/2007 at 10:14:43
Bad Boston
Fantastic point about the T. We've heard the MBTA cry poverty and logistics many times in the past w/out offering alternative solutions. The "drunk bus" as we called it when it was running was horribly publicized to its most likely users and frankly an inferior substitute to the routine choices of transport (i.e., the trains) that customers were used to running. Maybe the city makes more money off of DUI fines than from train/bus fares...
By Milhouse on 01/18/2007 at 11:03:47
Bad Boston
I'm thrilled to see that I'm not the only one! I've lived in a number of cities and, while Boston tends to be visually more appealing, its people make it one of the ugliest places I've ever found myself living. I've finally landed an opportunity to re-locate again, and it can't come too soon. To me, it just boils down to the basic rules of a civil society that my parents taught me. These rules/values seem to be unheard of here. I'm convinced that native Bostonians were raised by cold, robotic aliens. Good parents don't raise their kids to be Bostonians! This would be an awesome city if they took the natives out and replaced them with New Yorkers or even Parisians! It would be an enormous improvement! I'm so happy to be leaving....
By MBH on 01/18/2007 at 3:24:19
Bad Boston
Great article! Lousy comments though. I’m a Bostonian- thou not a townie- and I’d be the first person to admit that we have our own way of doing things; maybe it all still goes back to the Puritan rule. And one of those things we do is complain: about the weather, politics, sports, outsiders, politics, students, traffic, politics, etc. But we love all those things, too. They make us what we are. So if you’ve just moved here, feel free to complain, but don’t expect things to change. Not quickly, at least.
By hansenrp on 01/19/2007 at 6:06:10
Bad Boston
What a perfectly grumpy and conceited article. Relax max!
By anti on 01/22/2007 at 10:43:28
Bad Boston
Loved this article. In the vein of sending up unrealistic biggest dream is for there to be some way that my arriving on the platform at Sullivan square only to see the train pull out would guarantee me a spot on the next train. Not so. I stand there for 10 minutes before all the jokers around me assemble beside me ready to jockey for my rightful place. Missing the train and standing there waiting forever should mean that I get to get on the next train first. Instead I am stressed out for ten minutes, trying to elbow people out. I have even had to miss the next train too, because I had the misfortune of waiting at the wrong spot and ended up being the last to try to cram through the doors. San Francisco's train platforms have little marks where the doors of the train will open. People line up there. It's amazingly stress-free. I swear it would add years onto a Boston commuter's life!
By charp on 01/25/2007 at 12:30:01
Bad Boston
I am afunloving and looking for a friend........
By funloving on 01/29/2007 at 2:24:52

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