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I’m originally from Boston. But after the tragic events at the Marathon this week, I feel like I am Boston. I was born at Beth Israel Hospital and spent my early days living on the Watertown-Belmont line, just a block away from the biggest ice cream cones in town at Rancatore’s. When it was time for school my parents moved to Newton, where I attended Newton North High School, wore green Doc Martens, died my hair blue with Manic Panic, and rode the T for over an hour just to hang out with the punk kids in the “Pit” center of Harvard Square.
From 2000-2004, I was a student at Emerson College and Berklee School of Music where I lived on the corner of Boylston and Tremont Street in the “Little Building” before moving to my favorite place on earth, Central Square, Cambridge. They say, “I left my heart in San Francisco,” well, I live in San Francisco and I left my heart all over Boston (and Cambridge too!).
Originally, I was calling this piece, “26 Reasons to Love Boston, Today and Everyday,” in honor of the 26 miles in the marathon. But as I was writing, someone sent me another blog that had just been posted with almost the same title. Instantly, I freaked out and did what I always do when I freak out: I got personal. So rather than reading another article about why the Freedom Trail is wonderful (which it is) and how great the Red Sox are (because they are), here’s a list of 26 of my favorite things about my hometown.
1. The local music scene.
Have you heard of Morphine and The Pixies? How about Letters to Cleo, Juliana Hatfield, Ellis Paul, Viva Viva, Mr. Lif, and Piebald? Boston, Cambridge, Allston, and it’s surrounding suburbs have always supported a flourishing local music scene through clubs like the Middle East, TT the Bears, and Club Passim, and local indie radio stations like Radio BDC, WERS, WBUR, and so many more. I was lucky enough to sit in the middle of it as the Music Director of WERS-88.9FM and intern at the late WFNX-101.7FM from 2000-2004.
2. Black raspberry ice cream.
Search all over San Francisco. There’s NO such thing as black raspberry ice cream. Local Boston hot spots like JP Licks, Toscanini’s, Christina’s, and Herrell’s make black raspberry in addition to some of the best flavors in the history of ice cream. JP Licks even features seasonal-themed flavors that always taste exquisite paired with extra hot fudge and a balmy Boston summer eve.
3. The ethnic food.
I’m pretty sure the all-you-can-eat ethnic buffet began in Boston. For less than $10, you can gorge yourself on basmati rice and curry at India Pavilion, Palace, Diva (ohhh Diva), and my favorite restaurant ever, Rangzen Tibetan Cuisine. Honorable mention to the bottomless hot tortilla chips at The Border Café.
4. The swan boats.
Playful, romantic, nostalgic, and timeless… I hope someone proposes to me on one of these Boston classics someday.
5. Central Square.
Cambridge is Boston, right? Take a walk down Mass Ave. between the Miracle of Science and Weirdo Records and you’ll find more music, food, dance, coffee, and books than you can hold on your back while you’re riding your bike. You’re totally riding your bike, because you’re in Central Square. Just be careful with those mysterious bike lanes…
6. Pasta, cannolis, and the North End.
Start at a corner restaurant off Hanover Street called La Summa. Eat everything. Then proceed to Mike’s Pastry. Buy a cannoli and eat everything again. Enjoy a sweet walk on a full stomach through the little Italy of Boston.
7. The Red Sox.
Had to put them in here. If you’re from Boston, you love the Red Sox. Even if you can’t name one player and you haven’t been to a game since you were seven (like me), you still love the Red Sox. You also hate the Yankees, except when they pay a tribute to your town and you realize we really are all connected.
8. The accents.
Paaahck the Caaah in the Haaaahvahd Yaaaahd is real. And how do you spell that? And why don’t I have one? Because my parents are from New York and I secretly wish I did have one.
9. The Charles River.
On Sundays in the summer the city closes a stretch of Memorial Drive for bikers and walkers to stroll along the water. You can sit next to the river with an iced coffee and a book and be entertained for hours. Just don’t jump in unless you want to get polluted.
10. The Middle East.
Where else in the world can you find a four-part night club with three restaurants in one building? The Middle East has always been home to an eclectic mix of local and touring bands with its hip, welcoming vibe from owners Joseph and Nabeel, who sit in the corner table and always greet you with a bottle of wine and a big hug even after years of being away. The best.
11. 1369 Coffeehouse.
In the winter, buy an Almond Joy latte and write depressing poetry all day long while the music ranges from John Coltrane to The Clash to Daft Punk. In the summer, buy a peppermint iced tea and sit outside all day long people watching.
12. The non-profits.
While I lived in Boston, I had the pleasure of volunteering at Boston Partners in Education, Bikes Not Bombs, The Charlestown Boys and Girls Club, and The East End House. Whether it was shipping bikes to Ghana or helping kids learn to read, I was always deeply inspired by the commitment, innovation, and creativity present at these organizations.
13. “Lunch at Your Desk” with Julie Kramer on Radio BDC (formerly Leftover Lunch).
When I grow up, I want to be Julie Kramer. She's a Boston radio icon. Known for her witty, charismatic personality, her sincere love of alternative music, and her sprinklings of good karma wherever she goes, Julie Kramer has supported local, national, and international musicians for over 20 years on the Boston radio airwaves. I had the pleasure of being her intern in 2003 and bringing her coffee and chocolate every morning.
14. Rob Crean and the Boston comedy scene.
Boston is funny. You have to develop a sense of humor when it’s that cold and that hot and that f***ing extreme all the time. One of my best friends, Rob Crean, is basically in charge of comedy in Boston. If you want to laugh, look him up, follow him around, and attend one of the multiple open mic nights he holds in and around the city. Who knows, maybe you’re funny too?
15. Legal Seafood.
This Boston restaurant staple is known for its clam chowder and random celebrity encounters. When I was in second grade, my parents returned early from an evening out, piled my brother, my babysitter, and me in the car and drove us back to Legal Seafood (where they had been eating dinner earlier) to show us Joey McIntyre of the New Kids on the Block having dinner with his mom and bodyguard. In 1989, this was a seven-year-old girl's dream come true.
16. The New Kids on the Block.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s if you didn’t have a puffy painted NKOTB T-shirt, poster, and pillow case combo, you just weren’t cool. Originally from Boston, the New Kids on the Block stole the hearts of every preteen girl in the world during their era of stardom.
17. Newbury Street.
My first job in college was folding clothes at Urban Outfitters on the corner of Newbury and Mass Ave. That summer I listened to hours of Weezer on repeat, ate countless falafels from Steve’s, spent many late nights at the Other Side Café (RIP), and sometimes walked to the other end of Newbury where the fancy people live.
18. The yoga studios.
Boston is the home of Power Yoga and the world famous Baptiste Studios. Hot, sweaty, chaturanga-heavy yoga grew out of the rich pavement of my hometown. It’s true. Before Boston, vinyasa yoga was just a little lazy. Now there’s thriving yoga of all styles being taught throughout Boston at Back Bay, South Boston, Blissful Monkey, and Samara yoga studios.
19. The Crossfit gyms.
Boston now has a booming Crossfit community. Of course Bostonians and all their aggression love to lift heavy weights, jump on boxes, and eat like the cavemen. Reebok Crossfit Back Bay even has a yoga studio built into their gym featuring classes with three of my favorite yogis in the world: Lisa Horvath, Goldie Kaufenberg, and Sarajean Shakti.
20. Newbury Comics and the record stores (yes, record stores).
Even in the age of Apple, Boston is still home to the quirky local chain of Newbury Comics, where in one stop you can buy the new Iron & Wine album, an entire hipster outfit, silly bumper stickers, and maybe spot Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore thumbing through some used vinyl in the process. For more obscure music, check out Cheapo and Weirdo Records in Cambridge.
21. The Longfellow Bridge.
Biking over the Longfellow Bridge in the summertime is like reading Shakespeare in the park: epic, wistful, and romantic. Biking over the same bridge in the wintertime, you may freeze a finger off, but it's sometimes still worth it. It’s my favorite view of the city, overlooking Boston and Cambridge.
22. Emerson College.
Boston is known for its innumerable colleges and universities, but Emerson is my favorite. Where else can you find a thriving student-run radio station, burgeoning young filmmakers, visionary hipsters, dancers, musicians, actors, and other inspired young people attempting to change the world through their innovation in communications and the arts?
23. Real summer nights.
In Boston, they have them. And, they’re hot. Not to mention muggy and magical. Shorts, tank tops, skimpy dresses, and ice cream for everyone!
24. Brunch at Centre Street Café
Way out in Jamaica Plain (still Boston) is the cutest local, organic, free range, grass fed, restaurant in the world. It’s is on the smaller side and the brunch line is long, but Mark the host will greet you with his friendly smile, shorts even in winter, and a giant cup of bottomless coffee while you’re waiting for your Huevos Rancheros (which are really, really good even though you’re in Boston).
25. The Dance Complex.
I’ve been a dancer since I could walk and the best dancing I’ve done has happened under this roof. A pure epicenter for every style of dance, music and movement, this local non-profit space offers classes in Hip Hop, Modern, African, Cuban, Indian, Tap, Jazz, and more. Not to mention performances, concerts, and workshops.
26. The people.
My mom lives in Arlington. My brother lives in the North End. My best friend lives in Medford. They are my rocks and this city is my hub. It's the town where everybody knows your name. The people, although seemingly cold and angry at first, are the most passionate, loyal, committed, and courageous on the planet. The pride we feel for our city is based on our genuine love for each other; a love that you would need more than a couple of bombs to get in the way of.