I’m a city boy at heart. I always will be.
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Go to Mike’s Pastry in Boston’s North End before 7:30 and you beat the evening rush. You’ll still have to shoulder your way through a mob thirty deep – Back Bay couples with gray temples, suede and camelhair; pudgy college parents wearing their daughter’s school on their sweatshirt – but you’ll face worse at any other time. Push gently to the front: there are no lines, and the half-dozen ladies serving all orders won’t resolve your disputes of ordinality. It’s anarchy in practice: order evolving unplanned.
A spread of opulent treats tempt you under the glass counter. Experiment if you like – the Oreo cheesecake looks too good to be anything but great – but you’re best served with some cannolis. Get at least two, more if you intend to share. Specify ricotta filling and powdered sugar.
Hanover St. in the North End is narrow, centuries old, and on Saturday nights it gets packed. Cops lean casually against motorcycles. Valets crack wise and swap cigarettes. College freshmen sprint across intersections and slap each other on the arms to punctuate sentences: yo, you see that?. Anything could happen.
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U2 played a secret show at the Somerville Theatre last night. Rumor bled into the network as early as a week ago, but the band only confirmed concrete details this morning. Anyone passing through Davis Square as early as Tuesday would have seen cops blocking off the street behind the Theatre, and lighting trucks bigger than most Somerville apartments unloading.
Only a few hundred people got in – radio contest winners, mostly – but another few hundred mobbed up outside. Close enough to snap postcards from The Edge, but still penned back by a long line of cops and riot barriers. As the concert got underway, a kind soul in an apartment overlooking the Theatre cracked his window and perched a radio on the ledge, relaying the concert live from WBCN. Then some jackass brought out an amp and started busking in the Square. Nine out of ten for opportunism, buddy, but you lose a few points for class.
I didn’t see this, mind; I just make it a point to know what happens in my city. I got people.
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Come to the Asgard often enough and they know you as a regular. The staff turns over pretty regular – you never see anyone work there longer than six or nine months – but it only takes a few trips and a few big nights at karaoke to plant your face in their mind. The bouncer waves you in; the bartender catches your eye. You point, rather than speak, and he draws you a perfect pint of Guinness.
You see the same faces – friends from the real world, people you only know through this bar, strangers you’ve never spoken to but see here often enough. You form a routine. You drop the cold mask that you put on for walking through a city alone at night and put on the social face. It’s good to see you. It’s good to see anybody.
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I like the quiet introspection of being alone with nature. But I don’t need it. I spend enough time inside my own head. I need distractions.
I like walking past a building tall enough to obscure the moon, looking up and seeing lights on. Maybe it’s a cleaning crew, vacuuming out offices while Jam’n 94.5 echoes down the hallways and the best view in the city hangs outside their window. Maybe it’s a late night brainstorming session. It could be someone trapped in a dead-end job, scared to step outside. Could be a crime in progress.
There’s enough going on to keep my mind occupied. That’s why I’m a city boy at heart.