I moved to the District of Columbia this summer. I originally drafted this post in August, early in the steep rise of the learning curve for navigating around Washington. Aside from the humidity, heat and the clouds of mosquitos that showed up late in the afternoon, I like my new home.
A classmate, Graham Nelson, asked me whether “I missed Boston at all” that month on Twitter.
It was easy to answer that answer simply: Yes, I do. Particularly the people, but any number of other things, too.
Since 140 characters was utterly insufficient, here’s my list of things I miss about Boston, in no particular order.
1. New England weather. If you don’t like it, wait 15 minutes. I particularly miss August on the Cape, since DC was beastly humid when I arrived. I might miss it less in February.
2. Fresh lobster, bought on the dock, from the lobsterman or the local “lobstah coop.” Steamed, grilled, boiled, baked in a clambake.
3. Late night “cold tea” in Chinatown.
4. The Esplanade. Despite the fissure of Storrow Drive snaking between Back Bay and the grassy shores next to the Charles, I spent many happy hours running, cycling, reading or walking there. I’m glad I went to July 4th at the Hatch Shell this year with the ‘rents.
5. Proximity to natural escapes. Forests, mountains and ocean are all available in less than an hour in any direction. 2 hours took you to New Hampshire, 3 to Maine or Vermont.
6. Boston Media Makers. I’ve been going to DC Media Makers but this group of bloggers, videographers, artists, writers, hackers, technologists and characters taught me something new whenever I attended. Thank you, Steve Garfield.
7. For that matter, I miss Doyle’s, where Media Makers meets. Doyle’s is a Boston institution for politicians and JP residents alike, and serves a damn good pint of stout.
8. Pizza. Sure, pies in NYC are consistently better but I used to be able to easily enjoy thin crust deliciousness from Oggi, Upper Crust, Armando’s, Cambridge 1, Emma’s, the Pleasant Cafe or Pinocchio’s Sicilian-style slice. I haven’t found a pizzeria to match any of them yet in DC.
9. Harvard’s museums. I live near world-class institutions in DC now, to be fair, and the Smithsonian’s price is right. That said, I enjoyed learning at the Peabody & Fogg.
10. Since I’m on to museums, add the Museum of Fine Arts. The special exhibition of Da Vinci recently was particularly fine.
11. The Isabella Stuart Gardner. Jazz in the courtyard in the summer? Sign me up.
12. The Science Museum. Endless geeky wonders, terrific traveling exhibitions. I saw the art of the Lord of the Rings there, BodyWorks, and many other geeky wonders.
13. The new Institute for Contemporary Art. Gorgeous architecture, on the waterfront. Live music and dancing in the summer.
14. Harvard, particularly the Berkman Center. I learned much from its fellows and professors, though happily much of their work and writing is made available online.
15. The Red Sox and Red Sox Nation. When a game is on, the entire region is full of the sound of the calls and reactions. When the season is over, the hot stoves sizzles all winter. Some people hate Boston sports fans. I found the transition from long-suffering foils to champions to be redemptive in the best possible way.
16. Fenway Park. It’s a baseball temple. I’m sure I’ll catch a few Nationals games now that I’m in DC. I don’t expect the same experience!
17. Might as well throw the Patriots and Celtics in, as well. I realize that both teams may elicit groans from around the league and country, for any number of reasons, but I’m happy to have rooted for the Pats in 2001 and the Celtics’ Big 3 when each made their championship runs, even if I grew up as a Phillies and Eagles fan.
18. Fresh Pond. Moving nearby Cambridge’s reservoir gave Shadow and I more than two years of jogging pleasure.
19. Cycling on the Minuteman Bikeway.
20. The WBOS Earthfest at the Hatch Shell. Some years were better than others. I still smile about waiting out the rain to see Sheryl Crow.
21. Swimming, reading and reveling in simplicity at Walden Pond.
22. Striper fishing at Castle Island.
23. Enjoying a cocktail from the Top of the Hub.
24. Researching and writing in the Boston Public Library‘s Reading Room.
25. Irish seisiúns at the Burren or Kitty O’Sheas.
26. The Head of the Charles (although I’ll never attend again with a bad mustache.)
27. Patriot’s Day: The Boston Marathon and a Red Sox game, all on a regional holiday? Good times.
28. Canoeing, kayaking and sailing on the Charles River
29. Tower Records on Newbury Street. Closed for years now, but I enjoyed browsing albums there.
30. Trident Booksellers. There are many terrific bookstores in Boston. Trident includes a fantastic magazine rack and tons of healthy brunch options.
31. Harvard Bookstore. My favorite bookstore in the region, bar none.
32. Burdick’s Chocolate. The best hot chocolate in Boston, bar none, right in Harvard Square.
33. Woodman’s. Sure, those sublime fried clams are up in Essex, on the North Shore, but I never minded the trip, especially combined with a visit to Crane’s Beach. I miss being proximate to both, along with Wingaershaek Beach and Singing Sand Beach, a bit further down the coast.
34. The Public Gardens. Regardless of the season, walking by the ducklings and stately trees feels quintessentially Bostonian.
35. Shakespeare in the Park. Classic plays, under the stars on Boston Common with a picnic? Loved it.
36. High tea at the Four Seasons.
37. MIT. I miss easy access to the lectures, films, speakers and geeky community of this world-class institution.
38. Lectures at the First Unitarian Church in Harvard Square.
39. The Arnold Arboretum, year-round, but particularly during the spring. Sledding down Peters Hill with the greyhound was memorable too.
40. Live music at the Middle East, the Wonder Bar, the Orpheum, the Paradise and the Somerville Theater.
41. Universal Hub. Adam Gaffin’s hyperlocal blog remains the best place to look for news that mattered around Greater Boston, from morning to late at night.
42. Ace Wheelworks. I’ve found a few decent bike mechanics in DC but no one in the same class for service or quality. They kept me tuned up and repaired for a decade.
43. Jamaica Pond. Whether it was fishing, sailing, rowing, cycling, running, reading or enjoying an amble in the annual Lantern Parade, this kettlehole pond was always a joy to visit.
44. Charlie’s Kitchen. Great beer? Comfort food, served until late at night? A new bier garden? I miss you, Charlie’s.
45. The Diesel Cafe. Once the Someday Cafe closed and turned into a creperie, this Davis Square coffeehaus became a great option for a red eye or other high octane beverage. Crema‘s terroir cup of joe in Harvard Square made for tasty jave jive too.
46. The mixology at Drink, Green Street Grille, Noir and Craigie on Main.
47. The Freedom Trail, stretching from the gold dome of the Capitol to Bunker Hill Monument. Walkable history.
48. The North End, for pignoli, a great slice, ever-changing Italian cuisine, gelato, good cappucino and a walk down Hanover Street during summer festivals or under holiday lights.
48. Savenor’s, for when the ingredients needed to be a few cuts above what I could gather at Shaw’s, Whole Foods, Harvest Coop or the farmer’s market.
49. Dinner out. Sure, DC has no shortage of great eateries, although due to its role as a political nexus, Washington is a bit heavy on the steakhouses. I’ll miss sushi at Oishii, ribs at Blue Ribbon, chowder on the patio at Legal’s in Harvard Square, tapas at Cuchi Cuchi, paella at Oleana, skate wing at Blue Room, chicken at Hammersley’s or Clio — and anything involving meat at Craigie on Main. I could write thousands of words about Boston’s restaurants.
50. Friends. Boston truly is the Hub of the social media universe. Boston’s community is on par with much larger communities in Silicon Valley, New York or London, and its influence on the social networks of the world is far outside of the raw user numbers.
I’m thinking about digerati like Chris Brogan, Paul Gillin and Laura Fitton.
I wish I could have spent more time learning from Andrew McAfee, Doc Searls, danah boyd, David Stephenson, David Weinberger, Ethan Zuckerman, Yochai Benkler or Jonathan Zittrain. Or that I’d met @Ed in person.
I also really miss seeing friends like Shava Nerad and her companion, Tuna Oddfellow, around town too. Or Brian Del Vecchio, Mike Schneider, Laurel Ruma, Rachel Happe, Gradon Tripp, Jeff Cutler, Eric Andersen, Thomas Edwards, Ari Herzog, Doug Haslam, Todd Van Hoosear, Bob Collins, Adam Zand, Leslie Poston, Rebecca Corliss, Christina Major, Chris Penn, Mike Krigsman, Mike Langford, Al Willis, and Jim Storer.
I wish D.C. had someone as energetic as Tom “@BostonTweet” O’Keefe around to share what was happening around the city.
And I miss seeing past or current colleagues like Jack Loftus, Yuval Shavit, Dana Gillin, Dana Brundage, Andrew Burton, Bill Brenner, Barney Beal, Dennis Fisher, Rachel Lebeaux, Kristen Caretta, Michael Morisy, Linda Tucci, Eric Pierce, Elisa Gabbert and Beth Pariseau too.
I know I’ve left many friends out but don’t want to leave this “ode to Boston” feeling like the orchestra at the Academy Awards is playing me out as I frantically list people to recognize. (Too late? It was great fun seeing what each was up online pulling together these links. There are many other friends who haven’t put up virtual selves who aren’t added here.)
If we should be connected on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, I trust that we are. If not, click away.
13 responses to “Ode to Boston: Of Friends, Fried Clams and Fans”
Thanks for the fantastic reminder of how great Boston really is. We miss you too!
This is a great list of all that makes Boston wonderful; thanks for including me in it. But the city’s been lacking something over the past few months – we miss you up here, Alex.
OK, well, clearly one of the things you’re missing is a good guide to DC who will put you in the right direction and help you find substitutes for your 50+ reasons above. While I know that there are certain things Boston will have on lockdown, there are a lot of good things and good reasons to live down here as well. And I’ll do my best on getting you started on your Ode to DC shortly :)
Miss you too :) We’ll make sure our paths cross offline again as often as they cross online, I’m sure.
Love the list. Your recounting of the great stuff around here is timely (Thanksgiving) and fun to roll through.
Didn’t know the origins of Diesel. Did know that Boston has the best bike mechanics on the planet. Do know that you’re missed up here as well.
Thinking about a RoadTrip Tweetup in DC when I drive my mother’s car north in the Spring.
Otherwise I’ll stay in touch on Twitter and other places and watch for your writing all over the Web.
Stay well my friend.
What a great post. So many things on here that I either haven’t done or haven’t done in a while. Thanks for the reminders and make sure to come back to see us.
Jim | @jimstorer
Alex – we miss you too! Reading your post made me think 1) Damn I need to take more advantage of what is all around me 2) Your life seems to have odd parallels to my earlier years spent in Harvard & Davis Squares… made me nostalgic and 3) I lived in D.C. for a couple of years after college and I could write a similar post about D.C. – so many great things to explore. I loved living on Capitol Hill, exploring the Shenandoah Valley (the rafting is particularly good), and cavorting though the halls of power…. I’m actually kind of jealous :)
Hopefully we’ll get to catch up in the new year – have a wonderful holiday season!
I’ve lived in Boston a very long time and I sometimes tire of it. Your list is a great reminder of the great stuff here. Thank you!
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Aww, we miss you too! Can you believe I’ve never visited the new ICA?
Thanks for the mention. We miss you. And I’m just realizing how much of Boston I’m still missing! ;-)
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