Downtown — which, dear out-of-town media, is not the Back Bay — was almost normal today. Fewer cops, more smiles, lots of warm sun — which isn’t normal for Boston in April, but which feels nice on your skin, the same skin you had before you started to flinch when you flipped open the mailbox in Allston because there might be a goddamned bomb in there.
At the produce stand downtown, the one with the rude service, papayas were $3 today.
Teenagers ambled about, cocky after putting another school day behind them.
The Spare Change Guy, used the same sales pitch — “GUYSSSSSSSS, anyone got any SPARE CHANGE?” — he has since 2008, if not earlier.
With all the suffering, this stuff seems meaningless. But it’s how I know this town is still my town.
That stuff is good to see, because so much has been thrown up in the air. Copley Station: dark and deserted. On the Comm Ave greenway, where bourgeois dogs romp, news trucks spew smoke as they tell the world of Boston’s blood and gore. The sense that Boston is, as the Colonists stubbornly intended, a City on a Hill: suddenly, starkly, thrown into doubt.
One more block of Boylston is open now, up to Clarendon, where there’s a Pret A Manger and a Finagle a Bagel, which makes me want to eat breakfast twice, which I would, if it counted as tribute to this wounded city.
At the edge of the Boylston crime scene, passers-by filter through dazed, bereft of purpose.
There’s no good playbook for walking past the scene. Which type of flowers do you leave? What kind of mementos? Where’s the best place to stand if you just want to cry?
There is a playbook, but I don’t want to learn it. I am not ready to accept that Boston will be lumped in with Atlanta, New York, London, Madrid, Mumbai. I want to forget that our arrogant nickname — “The Hub of the Universe” — finally fits, but for the worst possible reason. I want to go back to remembering Boylston only for my days at Emerson, for the pure joy of the 2007 World Series parade, for that Valentine’s Day atop the Pru with the woman I will spend my life with.
Still, amid all the horror, heroes abound. Police, first responders, hospital staff. Every person who was found alive at the scene is still alive — an absolutely incredible achievement borne not of luck, but of courage and skill. Any other city — even those many times our size — would struggle to meet that mark.
Folks are writing about how things will change. With due respect, they’re full of shit. They don’t know how. I don’t know how. No one knows how things will change.
But I am pretty sure — indeed, as sure as I can be right now — that we’ll be alright. We are primed to lead the human race into the future with verve, because that’s what this city is here for.
Biotech. Healthcare. Higher ed. It really doesn’t matter that we don’t have good bagels or an all-night subway.
Because you can’t beat Boston at Boston’s game.