Monday, February 9, 2009

Not Coming Home

I've decided that, for my own amusement (and possibly enlightenment), I am going to list some of the things I both love and hate about Boston.

- You don't have to own a car to live here thanks to the T
- Lots and lots of theater, and many chances to see it for free or discounted
- Sports are a big deal, even (especially) at the college level, which makes for a fun excursion
- Many opportunities for higher education in the area. I think Greater Boston has at least, what, 20 colleges within its circumference?
- Higher salaries for every job
- The Charles River. It may not be the cleanest river in the US, but it's beautiful in summer and winter. There's nothing quite like taking a weekend day to just wander aimlessly around the riverbank, stopping when you want and buying food from cart vendors.
- There are a plethora of public libraries, and two public library systems to choose from. I rarely buy books or DVD's these days since I can just borrow them, which has saved me tons of money.
- Sometimes, when the weather isn't miserable and I'm not in a hurry, walking around downtown Boston is kind of awe-inspiring.
- Related, all the twinkling skyscrapers make for what I think is one of the most beautiful skylines I've ever seen.
- People will readily offer you directions or transportation advice if you ask, no matter where you are. And they almost always know how to get you to where you want to go.
- The city is very well designed for pedestrians, and Cambridge in particular is a haven for bikers. Come summer, I plan on buying a good road bike and getting to work that way.
- There is a free, good daily newspaper: The Metro. I love it, and have had three of my letters to the editor published in it.
- The Common and the Public Garden. Beautiful when covered in snow, wonderful on a sunny day in spring or summer. One of my favorite parts about going downtown.
- Lots of opportunities for just about anything you're interested in.
- Every kind of cuisine you could possibly want can be found in a restaurant here.
- Endless activities and clubs and social organizations to choose from. Unless you're lazy.
- It's extremely easy to visit and to get to other places from. Logan Airport is a major airport without being insanely expensive. Discount airlines like AirTran go just about everywhere from here. Then there's Greyhound, Bolt Bus, and MegaBus. And Amtrak, or Acela, or the Noreaster train to Maine.

- The T majorly sucks, due at least a little to the fact that they are over $30 million in debt. However, that's no excuse for why I sometimes wait 45 minutes to an hour for a train I can squeeze onto to go home after work. Or for train cars that over 20 years old that break down at the slightest drop in temperature. Or for buses that are never, never on time.
- Boston is one of the most expensive cities in America. Second only to NYC, according to a survey done by people who do those kinds of surveys. I pay $675 a month for rent with all amenities included (which in and of itself is nothing short of a phenomenon in Boston), but my apartment in total is about equal to the square footage of 1 1/2 of my bedrooms back home. And it's far away from a lot of conveniences (like groceries). And there's only one tiny window, since it's in the basement.
- Having a BA here means a lot less than it would in, say, Cincinnati or Austin. Since there are so many colleges/universities, there are huge numbers of fresh grads every year looking to snap up all the good jobs there are. And if you want something above entry-level, you are expected to have at least a Master's.
- Higher salaries = higher living expenses. So you get to keep a lot less of your paycheck than you would elsewhere.
- Trash everywhere. It's sort of inevitable in a city, and it's nowhere near as filthy as NYC, but Boston has some serious issues with litter.
- Windier than anyplace else I've ever been. It doesn't generally get as cold here as it does in OH, but the wind. Oh my God, the wind. It makes me want to shrivel up and die in winter.
- The homeless people. I know it can be construed as an awful thing to say, but I've reached a point where I only feel pity for some of them and, for most of them, all I feel is annoyance and anger. It's one thing to sit on bench jingling an empty Wendy's cup for change (that, I will respond to positively), but it's quite another to shove yourself into my space and demand money, or expect me to give you money for opening a door that I didn't want you to open for me, or ask me to buy you fast food as I exit a McDonald's. And they are everywhere you go, until you get out into the suburbs.
- If you dont' like sports, you're an outcast. (Luckily I like sports).
- So. Noisy. Where I live it's quiet, but that's because I'm in the suburbs. When I was living in Allston, or when I'm at work, there's a constant barrage of noise from outside: fire trucks, ambulance sirens, cop cars, train whistles, train horns, bus rumblings, constant honking. For someone like me who doesn't do well with loud, sudden noises, Boston has caused an uptick in my blood pressure.
- People do not mind their business. If you're having a conversation and someone overhears you and disagrees with what you say, they will butt in completely uninvited and make it known. This applies to everything from the Red Sox to politics to the best way to get somewhere. I find it extremely impolite.
- Common courtesy is nonexistent in public places. People will scream into their cell phones while sitting right next to you, they will crowd the doorways on subway trains so no one else can get on, they will stand on the left side of the escalator as you try to walk up it, they don't give up their seats to pregant women or the elderly, and they will block a bus exit with their huge baby carriages and not see the problem.
- I-90, the major thoroughfare, is a toll highway. And it's only going to get more expensive.
- In general, owning a car in Boston can be just as expensive as renting an apartment. A shortage of parking and a plethora of aggressive drivers make sure of that.

It may look like there are more negatives than positives, but there aren't. The negatives are just more narrative and longer in nature.

Thanks for letting me get this out of my system. I've slowly been reconciling myself to Boston, even though in many respects it's the polar opposite of the kind of place I thought I'd end up.

If you live here, feel free to leave your own gripes or praises in the comments. I'm curious! ;o)


Yuval Shavit said...

Good list! Except that, as you know, I love that people butt into conversations. It makes it more exciting to talk in public!

Big said...

See, now, I always thought the higher salaries were in response to the higher living expenses, not the other way around... Either way, I NEED A RAISE!

Cassandra Mortmain said...

Actually, isn't San Fransisco the most expensive city, followed by NY? I know Boston is in the top ten-- but maybe I am thinking of real estate.