Observations of Boston

Category: Weekly Columns

Dad and Son Baseball comic

I arrived in Boston the day after the running of the marathon, the first running after the horrible bombings of last year. I came to Boston to help my son deal with moving home after two years of attending school here. I rented a small (TINY) apartment for the 17 days I’ll be here and I’m writing this about halfway through my visit.

All photos by Bruce Sallan

                                               All photos by Bruce Sallan

Boston is an incredible city on so many levels. Having spent my entire life on the West Coast and the Los Angeles environs in particular, spending some extended time living like a regular person in Boston was refreshing, different, and illuminating.

One could say that a 17-day visit is hardly “living” in a city but since the purpose of this trip is not as a tourist and my living arrangement is typical Boston (small apartment living), I think it’s a decent indicator of life here. Also, sans automobile, and declining to use taxis, I walk most everywhere I need to go. That is providing further experience that the tourist might not get to the degree I’m getting it.

Without a doubt, Boston is the epicenter of college life in this country. I don’t think there is any other city in the United States with such a concentration of colleges and students. Certain intersections are brimming with kids and they’re all attached to their smart-phones almost robotically. Smoking cigarettes is more prevalent here than back home and the ubiquitous coffee mug is ever-present but more often than not from local coffee houses vs. the chains.


People do talk here in Boston. People walk here, as noted before, so there are always small groups coming and going and there is less isolation in the city than on the highways of Los Angeles where so many people live in the bubble of their cars.

Baked Goods at Flour Bakery in Boston

And, most people are friendly. Being the bashful guy that I am, I do endeavor to talk to as many people as I can. Frequenting Flour, a local small chain of bakery cafes, I got to know “Katie” who works there. Her bright smile greets me every time we see each other. I go there regularly as much for the comfort of her smile as their awesome sticky buns.

Interacting with Katie inspired me to ask to contact the owner, a famous local chef and I’m meeting Joanne Chang at that outlet this coming week to discuss her guesting on #DadChat to chat about how to interest our children in learning to cook. This sort of interaction is certainly possible back home, but less obvious and the individual nature of Flour is less prevalent with all the chains in The Valley, in California.

Boston Apartment

Following are other random observations from my short stay in Boston, in no particular order of importance:

~~ Boston is small. Just about everything I need or want to do is accessible by foot. Shopping and eating is literally “around the corner” for all my basic needs. That is novel to me after living in a city where my car is required for ANY need.

~~ The diversity of the population is even more demonstrable than in California, perhaps because of the prevalent student population. English almost seems like a second language on the streets here. I love seeing all the different cultures interacting, living, and co-existing in such harmony (“Ebony and ivory…”).

View from Boston temp apartment

~~ The weather stinks and the weather is awesome – in the same day. Seeing spring bloom while freezing my tush off is different, for sure. Well, it’s actually freezing cold much of the time. Going to Fenway Park on a windy day was harrowing, to say the least.

~~ Colors of every stripe “people” the city from people to hair color. Clothes seem universally drab except for running shoes!

~~ Most every waiter and waitress I encountered was a college grad that either couldn’t find a job or had been laid off – years ago.

Boston Strong

~~ Passion explodes in this city. Whether it’s the fervor over Boston Strong — the running of the Boston Marathon a year after the infamous bombings — or the incredible fervor for their major league teams, the excitement in this city is more on the surface and deeper. The recent Boston Bruins comeback win in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs was met with very spirited enthusiasm in the sports bar where I went to watch the game.

~~ There are things older than me here. Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe is down the street from my tiny studio apartment. It’s been there since 1927, in the same family. You walk in and you feel at home. Other than The Pantry, there aren’t many such institutions in Los Angeles. Plus, the architecture and brownstones (they really should be called redstones) are wonderful to view though many, like my apartment building, are pits inside.

Classic Diner in Boston

~~ Food; glorious food. Something in the air, something in the cold, something makes eating here more fun. It’s not as good a food city as New York, San Francisco, or Vancouver, but it’s a heckuva lot better than bland Los Angeles.

~~ People seem so real here. I can’t explain this except to say that every person I encounter, from the taxi driver who took me from the airport to my apartment to Katie at Flour, have been infectious and likeable. No airs, just people liking other people.

Could I ever live in Boston? Not a chance. But, it’s a great city. I’m a little like the Eddie Albert character in “Green Acres” in that city life is not for me (anymore), which is why I’m moving to Park City, Utah next year. But, in small doses, its fun!