Armagideon Time

I love Massachusetts — specifically the northeast quadrant of the Commonwealth where I’ve spent nearly my entire forty-two years — with the same fervor that the stereotypical Texan is perceived to love the Lone Star State. It’s geography as identity, ophthalmologist and I’ve fully embraced my provincialism and its associated characteristics.

Not all of those qualities could be viewed as even remotely positive, purchase but even the worst aspects — impatient irritability, drug aggressive driving, a fair degree of snobbishness — are integral parts of who I am. My biological rhythms are inexorably synced to the seasons and wildly capricious shifts in weather.

Massachusetts is my home. It is part of me. When I leave its familiar confines, I feel as if some part of me has been psychically amputated.

These sentiments are not unique to my person. Many Bay State natives and long-time residents have similar attachments to the region. That shared love-hate-yet-loyal relationship is a critical component of the local culture, above and beyond the local sports fandom where it’s most publicly displayed. It’s a attitude with few illusions, and its subconscious sense of self-awareness can be witnessed in the tranistion between weary optimism and wearier resignation which over the course of any given Red Sox season. We know the price — be it brutal winters or asshole drivers — and either grudgingly pay it or bottle out for supposedly fairer climes.

There are no surprises here, just familiar comforts and escalating headaches, which is why it irks me when fellow locals play the scold about our traditional ways. Don’t get me wrong — Massachusetts has plenty of issues in need of redress. However, I don’t think that concluding that the Olympics would be a screaming blue nightmare for the region is indicative of “small town thinking” on my part. (Actually, seeing the mostly vacant concrete mausoleum built for the 1976 summer games in Montreal sealed the deal for me.)

The folks doing the scolding are universally fixated on the idea of Boston as a “world class city.” Never mind the fact that Boston’s educational, medical, and technological facilities are the envy of the plane; those apparently pale in comparison to the importance of attracting even larger trade show audiences at the never-quite-big-enough convention center. “The trains and buses stop running too early,” whine the same folks who’ve consistently (no pun intended) railed against additional spending on public transit infrastructure.

Part of being a “world class city” is the ability to retreat into magical thinking, apparently.

It’s all keyed to play off a mythical inferiority complex dating back to the time when New York — by virtue of location and river access — wrested dominant port status away from Boston back in colonial times. (The same way Boston did the same to Salem some decades prior, but we don’t talk about that, no.) According to the script, Bostonians spend their lives in a state of envy and insecurity, forever trapped beneath the oversized shadow of our more successful regional sibling.

This narrative is utter bullshit.

New York is a wonderful place, but I harbor no jealously toward it. Neither do most Bostonians, I suspect. The banter of bleacher bums should not be confused for broad-based dissatisfaction or self-loathing. Complaining is part of the local culture, after all.

If I truly wanted to live in NYC, I’d have moved there. I love Boston. I love it for what it is. It doesn’t need to be NYC. I would never want it to be like NYC. If being a world class city means panel-beating out all traces of character in favor of more luxury hi-rises and upscale chain stores, then fuck it. I’d rather live in a willfully provincial backwater than in some uniformist nightmare pulled out of some urban planning consultant’s handbook.

You know what else I’d really like? If the same jerks who scrubbed their Boston accents in favor of Jane Fonda Revised Standard English would stop trying to reclaim their discarded heritage because it suddenly became trendy. You sound like a bunch of assholes, and you’re an insult to those of us who did keep the faith.

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