Masha Gessen: We moved to Boston, not the smiliest city in this country.
Tyler Cowen: Quite the contrary.
Summer brought me to Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, and Washington state, and I was once again reminded how much more pleasant people are when they’re not in the Northeast.
I was chatting [see? Even he’s nicer – ed.] with the lady at the counter of the estimable Kilgore Books in Denver when she asked me what Massachusetts was like. I said I supposed it was fine, but that I was wearied by the winters and by – how shall I put this – the sense that, generally speaking, residents of the Commonwealth are not overly preoccupied with excluding discourtesy from daily interaction.
A few days beforehand I’d been in Chicago, at (the estimable) Myopic Books. I’d asked where the Music section was, and was directed there by the clerk. A few minutes later she came over because she just wanted to make sure I knew the section started on another bookshelf. Afterwards I walked up the road to a brewpub and ordered a pilsner. The bartender said they were out, so I asked for an IPA instead. When I was paying the check, she told me that she’d been mistaken – they’d actually had pilsner – and she insisted I not pay for my beer.
Now, I’m not saying either would never have occurred in Boston. But neither is it unimaginable that in Boston such interactions would proceed to threats of injury.
It was in Port Orchard, Washington, however, that I had my most curious exchange.
I’d gone out there to put the old man next to his brother. It was my first big trip solo with the girls, and my packing job persistently revealed omissions. So I found myself in a 7-Eleven buying hair elastics. And the cashier asked:
I try to avoid any place requiring shuttle buses, but when my friend Keith came up for the day and said he wanted to go to the JFK Library, I said OK.
My favorite part? Freedom 7! Hadn’t expected to see that. It’s on loan from the Air & Space Museum. Holy moly, it’s small:
And this is neat. It’s from a state dinner for the French minister of culture. I like the “who is he” next to Allen Tate (had to look him up myself). Also, upon scrutiny it appears that Truman Capote was unmarried. And apparently for some reason J.D. Salinger couldn’t make it.
The exhibits are fine, but given the size of the building, it all felt more like a good exhibition on JFK at some other museum (one probably without shuttle buses). It seemed too brief. Which I sadly suppose is fitting.
Heading back downtown we had to get on a special commuter rail shuttle, for a Red Line train at the next stop had “basically exploded.” I’m glad President Kennedy wasn’t there for that part:
Kennedy: Why isn’t the subway running?
Pete: Uh, well, it has a lot of problems these days.
Kennedy: I had you put a man on the moon! And – wait, this stop, it’s named after me? Look at it!
Pete: Hey, look what we can do with our phones: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Before Keith got back on his train for New York we stopped at the Parker House Hotel for a drink. That’s where JFK had his bachelor party. (Our drink was almost certainly more subdued.) The thing that intrigues me about the Parker House is that both Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh worked there. I’m kind of surprised the hotel doesn’t make more of it, but then again, I guess I should be glad you don’t see a “By Any Means Necessary” or a “Tet Offensive” on the cocktail list.
It also means Djibouti now has a more modern rail system than Boston.
Those Red Line cars you saw in The Friends of Eddie Coyle? They’re still running, sometimes. Check out the Orange Line if you think rust ever sleeps. The 326 bus I rode Friday morning seemed destined for a NHTSA report.
In Boston, you hear the term “world-class city” thrown around a lot. Our public transportation infrastructure is already world-class, just not first world.
I’ve been spending a lot of time with Twins 1 & 2 on the MBTA, and they find it genuinely delightful. It’s a refreshing counterpoint to my T disposition, fossilized over decades into sullen resignation.
And I must give a shout-out to T employees, who’ve been extra helpful – and kind – as I wrangle my monkeys aboard buses, subways, and trains. Thanks for keeping us going.
Twin 2 said to Twin 1 the other day: “Hey! Be nice to me! I’m your sister!”
I found this hilarious.
I was reminded of it reading this Globe article on Boston’s sister cities. (Wikipedia informs me such municipal relationships are also known as “twin towns.”)
I grew up in Boston, and have a MA in international studies, but even if you’d threatened me with baked beans, I’d have been unable to name a single sister city. The article provides introductions. (Sekondi-Takoradi! Who knew. Don’t act like you did, either. And, Wikipedia informs me that their pro soccer team is the most excellently named Eleven Wise.)
I also found this hilarious:
Other than the fact that Kyoto and Boston have been sister cities since 1959, for example, “We do not know more than that,” a spokesperson for Kyoto’s Prefectural Government Tourism Division said. “Thank you for your understanding.”
Per the city’s website, Boston seems to know a bit more about her Japanese sister, but then again, per the article, “seems to have forgotten Beira, Mozambique.”