I briefly glimpsed ‘real’ America when walking the wrong way across Massachusetts Avenue, away from Boston instead of towards it, on the television and in the Logan Airport bookshop (I never knew so much rubbish was published under the ‘popular science’ tag). Otherwise, I spent happy days in awe.
Boston is beautiful. Sitting last Saturday on the Boston Common and watching the crowds in deckchairs and on blankets watching the free production of Hamlet while munching on bread and cheese and hotdogs and sipping on white wine, I knew Boston was a city I would love to live in. Only in Prague have I seen so many, so good and so cheap books in sale. Books everywhere, I spent $450 on them and I was modest modest modest. Far from being ‘snotty’ and ‘highbrowed’ (as Californians and Southerners hold), Bostonians are relaxed, friendly and courteous, free from what characterises all Europeans, from the Urals to Galway and from Nordkap to Gavdos: reserve and bile. Civic pride was aplenty, and for good reasons too: a beautiful city, but not a ‘model’ one (there is the blasted expressway running through it, after all), colourful, liveable, diverse. The Museum of Fine Arts is wonderful, too, albeit understated.
It was Cambridge that stole my heart away. It takes feeling only slightly “intellectual” to be forever charmed by a place where an amazing mix of people goes about holding and using musical instruments, books, notebooks, laptops, where bookshops offer you the equivalent of the stendhalian experience of a cheese shop in France. I was lucky to have my own Beatrice there to guide me around, my good friend St, recently arrived from the Outpost as well, and point out the various types: the Harvard mother, the gay activist, the faculty secretary, the preacher, the genious, the reggae kids, the nerd, the failed Alanis, the Haitian cabbie, the sex goddess, the Greek diner owner, the writer, the ZZ Top-styled linguist, a future president of the United States. Unlike Cambridge, England, where ‘intellectualism’ is framed in alcohol, musty shabbiness and reclusiveness, Cambridge, Massachusetts puts on display a fascinating alternative: Peet’s coffee, hard-working casualness and bohemianism (although more than just these).
St said Boston is a bubble. It must be. But a fair sized (like everything American) bubble, and so full of wonders. Besides, as I told her, in the Outpost we also live in a bubble, of five: herself, myself, Jod, A+ and pH. How could one of millions be bad?
At the end of the day, Boston and Cambridge made me a happier person.
Waiting for questions and comments this time, I am sure I left a lot out. Pictures coming up later.