Hello, entire internet. I'm glad you like my comments about Boston. I'm informed, via Twitter, that there are road construction signs flashing BOSTON STRONG and WE ARE ONE BOSTON as far out as New Hampshire. I also can't believe I just typed the phrase 'as far out as New Hampshire', because New Hampshire is all of an hour away. I used to live in the Sonoran Desert, where driving for an hour will get you from Phoenix to somewhere else in Phoenix. Or, if you start from the edge of Phoenix, to a spot on the highway from which the only visible evidence of human habitation is the pavement and a sign that says NEXT SERVICES 40 MILES and sincerely means it.

I'm not really a Massachusetts native; when I was born, my parents lived in Andover and worked in Cambridge, but I grew up in Arizona, in what I am trying like hell to reframe as the longest and most ill-conceived family vacation ever. I am, however, a local, as in I live here now and I could have hiked down into the nearest T stop last Friday to ask what the fuck, had I been obstructively stupid. I moved back here a couple of years ago because, to be frank, when you are socially liberal with a lot of queer friends, and easily bored without a constant influx of reading material, Arizona blows.

I landed in Medford, which is at the northern edge of what's usually considered the Greater Boston Area. Like London, the City of Boston is considerably smaller than what most people refer to as "Boston", particularly when talking to those who live elsewhere. If you check Google Maps, there are two rings of highway bypass going around the city. Anything outside the first one is considered "inconveniently far" and anything outside the second one is considered "beyond the immediate solar system". The reason the conurbation of Boston-Cambridge-Quincy-whatever is often slopped together in a practical sense is that the "local" segment of the urban transit provides subway/streetcar service indiscriminately across formal town boundaries as far out as Newton in the west, Alewife in the north, and Braintree in the south, with an odd arm sticking out in the direction of Revere along the northeast coast. Buses cover in between and at the edges. The commuter rail goes out all the way to Worcester, which is held to be Forever-Far Away by the natives, and Providence, which the MBTA has apparently failed to notice is actually in Rhode Island.

I tell people that I moved out here to get away from my family, but what I actually mean there is my immediate family. Ye Dynasty is from New England, only slightly more recently than we are "from" the British Isles. I'm told the change of address came about when we, along with everyone else in Ireland, ran short on potatoes. I'm not actually a Flynn, but my real surname is equally blatantly Irish, and moreover is almost literally one in a million -- according to the last census, there are a few hundred people in the US who have it. A handful of late family members are buried in the Mt. Auburn cemetery, and a double handful rest down in Wollaston. There are more in Worcester County, and sprinkled around Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. We're probably listed somewhere in the immigration museum in the Pru, although I haven't been out to check. My father grew up down the Cape in one of those tiny towns where the main local pastimes were being Catholic and complaining about whichever Kennedy hadn't paid their tab recently.

I've spent quite a lot of time in Copley Square. BPL Central was my preferred place to go work if my housemates were making a racket. I wasn't there on the 15th specifically because of the Marathon, in fact. I crit-failed my Spot checks last year and missed all the signs for the Marathon, and tried to go clothes shopping downtown while it was on. Don't ever do this. Somehow, they manage to find twenty-six linear miles of road in Boston that don't branch randomly off into East Hyperspace or abruptly transform into a single-file bike path with planters in it marked Public Alley 427, and at no point in any of that are you allowed to cross the street. I think I finally managed it by cutting through the lobby of a T stop.

(You are normally allowed to cross the street at any corner down in the Back Bay, although whether you are able to do so depends entirely on what mood the driving public is in at that moment. Boston drivers would violate the laws of physics, if they thought they could get away with it. If you have ever wanted to know what it would be like to play in a Frogger LARP, feel free to take your next vacation out here. There are cheerful reflective road cones out by Tufts, reminding drivers that it is illegal to run down people in the crosswalks. I recommend using other pedestrians as meat shields  Even the kind of madmen who choose to take a car down to Harvard Square will stop for a lady with a stroller.)

I'm also a sociolinguist and a social psychologist, among many other things. I snark about people, usually in what I hope is an illuminating way. The natives do a lot of things that alternately confuse and amuse me, like gawping at me when I let on that I have to walk more than 500 feet to catch a bus, or scurrying around trying to avoid rain like it's going to melt them when they live in a building that sits on a patch of land that literally used to be in the ocean. They also do a lot of things that knock me for a loop by conforming to my idea of what civilized societies do, like provide adequate medical care and encourage the residents to read books and learn stuff, when no place else I've lived ever has. How much I've liked the other cities I've been in was directly proportional to how far it was from my parents, and inversely proportional to the percentage of the population who were proud of being chauvinistic redneck jerks. Being 2500 miles from the desert certainly doesn't hurt, but I'm very much in love with not being honked at by good ol' boys when I wear a pashmina wrapped around my head to keep the snow off my hair.

Had any of this happened in Arizona, my first reaction would have been to get the fucking fuckity fuck out of there. I would be phoning people in the Antipodes going, "Do you have a shed? Can I sleep in it?" and pawning my spleen -- or someone else's spleen, if necessary -- for airplane money. Unplanned explosions are not fun, but I would have been significantly more afraid that the unplanned explosions would result in a lot of people expressing their "patriotism" by shooting anything that moved too suddenly and looked like it might have crossed a national border at some point. I'm not really good with "my country, right or wrong". I'm much better with "my country, right or we figure out a way to fix it like the intelligent tool-using hominids we are", which is rather more in line with the attitude out here.

One of my very first reactions to all this was that this is my goddamn city and you can't do that, which startled me. It took me something over a year to start saying "we" instead of "they" when telling my friends in AZ what the world was like on the other side of the continent. I don't even know if anyone else noticed. I did.

I was back on the T on Tuesday, the 16th, because I had somewhere to go, and that was the way to get there. The car went very quiet under Arlington as the driver announced that Copley Station was closed, and that we would be running through to Hynes. Nothing in life is ever completely safe, but I and everyone else on the train trusted that the people running things would do their level best to get us out if something went wrong. I like living in a place where the law enforcement knows all the words "shoot," "on," and "sight," but doesn't like using them in exactly that order.


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