It’s Who-ville in Boston

April 16, 2013

Boston - Back Bay: Boylston Street (Aerial) Boston – Back Bay: Boylston Street (Aerial) (Photo credit: wallyg)

Times like these call for some introspection and some explanation. I was born in Boston, and I can see the hospital I was born in when I go out my front door.  I look for it when I leave because it centers me.  Boston is more than my hometown, I’m part of it and it owns me. A friend came to visit from Texas and the more people he met the more surprised he got until finally he declared us all “pod people”.  I guess you can say in some ways Bostonians are all part of the same organism.  Who we are is not always apparent to the outsider.

Boston is known for long, frigid winters that will bite your face off every chance they get. That weather keeps a lot of people from moving here, or staying here for long. That’s fine by Bostonians.  We are gluttons for punishment, and we can take it. When we get a nice stretch of weather, we’re always quick to let our neighbor know we don’t expect it to last and that we are prepared for it to turn. We had an 86 year run of disappointments with the Red Sox, and there was always next year.  When my knees were younger, I’d always run during the hottest part of the day, just because. We are opinionated, and we won’t let the facts get in the way of our opinions.  We don’t candy coat it, we let you know.  If we can be sarcastic, that’s even better.  There’s a lot you can say with a joke to hit home in a way you can’t if you say it seriously.  So our friends understand us, and our acquaintances are learning. Out of staters usually just misunderstand us.  That’s probably the case with yesterday’s bombings on Boylston Street.

Patriots Day is a celebration of the founding Fathers’ triumph over insurmountable odds.  Who would even dare challenge the great British empire, much less take arms against it?  The answer had to be Bostonians. Many people don’t know that the Boston Massacre was started by kids throwing snowballs at British guards.  That’s fighting arrogance with arrogance, and that’s Boston. The NY Yankees are a storied franchise. Every time that the Yankees checkbook signed the better player, we were ready to challenge that empire. We taunt the other team to throw them off their game. We cheer Mariano Rivera to drive home a point with a laugh.  We only take pride in championships, and show it on parade day. We piss people off, and take some satisfaction in that.  We expect to take it as well as we give it, so we know if we should take you seriously. We are born underdogs, because being underestimated is a competitive advantage, and coming from behind is a sweeter win. However, we play by the rules and expect a fair fight. If the refs agree with us, it’s fair, and if not, it’s fixed – really.  We make history and value tradition.  This is the mentality in Boston’s pod, and that makes Boston the worst place for terrorists to try to change.

Patriots Day is also our reward for enduring that long, bitter winter.  It doesn’t have to cost us anything, and after the winter, we all deserve it. When the Magnolias are blooming on Comm Ave., and the daffodils conquer the brown tundra, its time for Spring. For us the first day of Spring isn’t meteorological Spring, or calendar Spring.  In Boston, Spring starts when the Colonial re-enactment happens in Lexington, when the runners leave Hopkinton, and when the first ball is pitched at Fenway on Patriots Day.  We invite the world to participate, but no one else has Patriot’s Day. We own Patriots Day, the Marathon and Fenway like Boston owns us. It’s all part of the same organism. It’s ours and no one else’s.  Spring happens on Patriots Day. This year was a prototypical Patriots Day until the first device went from a gleam in a madman’s eye to reaching its full lethal potential.  What did it matter?

It matters that it happened in Boston. If you ever were the underdog, or had a lot of pride in something or someone, it should matter to you too. It matters to us that innocent lives were taken. It matters to us that others were maimed. It matters that lives were disrupted for one afternoon. It matters to us that Boston’s nicest boulevards are populated by satellite trucks and cabling from out of town.  It matters to us that the perpetrator(s) have not been arrested and brought to justice in the first 24 hours. It matters to us that it happened on Patriots Day, and that half of our first day of Spring was ruined.

Having said all of that, we won’t forget, but Bostonians won’t change a thing going forward – and that is bad news for anyone trying to make a point with a bomb.  There are about 200 people directly affected, and you can count on maybe 4-5 people per person for whom this tragedy will never completely disappear: 1,000 people total. The thing is, there are another 600,000 people in Boston proper, and another 6 million in Massachusetts who all went to school or work today, or went about their lives no differently than any other day. I was at the Starbucks on Newbury Street this afternoon, right behind blocked off Boylston Street, and it was packed inside and in the outdoor cafe. There’s 300 Million in the US who did the same. So what did it matter for the perpetrators?

You harden steel by hitting it over and over again. So, like steel, with each new act of “terror”, the US is hardened and the perpetrators’ ability to create terror has less effect.  Bostonians may have been shocked at the moment, but they were not afraid.  They went toward the bombs, and helped the wounded.  They moved the injured, and gave blood at the hospitals. They finished the race. They’re combing every inch of Back Bay for evidence, and executing lawful investigations. These latest explosions just brought the 300 Million of us even closer together.  People who disliked Bostonians yesterday (I can’t imagine why) like us more today.  They may never be pod people, but they’ll at least understand us better. Every time this tactic is employed, criminals can expect a worse result. At this point, it’s really counterproductive for their purposes.  In fact, if the criminal(s) had some agenda, or were trying to make a point, they would have been more successful using social media.  Using bombs creates global empathy for the US, and created even more resolve among Bostonians who really did not need any more resolve.  We feel for the 1,000, but 300 Million of us were made stronger.  That matters.

What will never matter to us is any possible motivation from the person(s) who laid those bombs on Boylston Street. The Grinch did not make his point, and he did not steal Christmas.  They stopped a foot race, but there will be music in Who-ville.  So, we’ll continue to host a global sporting event where the emeritus win. The Marathon will go on next year, as it has for 117 years through world wars and hardships. We’ll all go out and cheer the runners again.  That’s who we are.

The satellite trucks and airbrushed on-air personalities will soon be gone. The fresh-faced police cadets walking around today will go back to school, and we’ll make do with the professionals. Back Bay streets will reopen and hum with reckless drivers again, and we’ll all complain about parking and the latest game or politician. So while the criminals keep looking over their shoulders, and keep on moving and hiding, Bostonians are just not wired to go anywhere else or change much at all. Bostonians will handle this like we handle any other hardship. As underdogs, underestimated, misunderstood, as the pod people we are, using our wits and always prepared to take on more.

2 responses to It’s Who-ville in Boston


    well said!!!


    We are all stronger and closer even across the miles. And – I get the ‘call don’t text’ – I called!