VOL. 1  NO. 1  AUGUST 1999



  Click for Boston, Massachusetts Forecast   [The Boston Globe Online]   [Boston Online]
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Boston, to an outsider, is a bizarre, insidery place. I guess that most newcomers would say that of a city they had adopted. Maybe you can only truly understand a place -- its rhythms, its beauties, its heaves and sighs and groans -- if you were born there. Or maybe that measure of understanding of a birth city (mine is Miami) seems more instinctive because it's a sort of understanding of yourself, of where you came from. Or maybe this philosophizing is all just junk. Regardless, there's always a certain amount of fear when you enter a new city, because it's not part of you yet, and you're not part of it, and neither of you can yet understand the other.

I moved to Boston two years ago, one of the legions of students who descend upon the city each fall, aggravating the already brutal traffic jams and brunch lines. I came for grad school, and that grueling experience has certainly colored my impressions of this place (but that's another story). Students, especially undergrads, are everywhere, filling the coffee houses, the clubs, the subway. I read a story in the Boston Globe during my first summer here, which was written by a native (or at least long-term) Bostonian, extolling the pleasures of the summer in Boston - the students have all gone home, the lines have drastically shrunk, and the city once again belongs to its true inhabitants.

To me, however, the change in overall population is not really the most noticeable difference between seasons in this city.

Bostonians, and probably most New Englanders, just loooooove the summertime. They can't get enough. So, even though there may be fewer people about, the ones who live here year-round are a lot more visible. Who knows, maybe they feel that when the students leave, they can really let it all hang out. Or maybe the warm weather just pushes some sort of button. At any rate, gone is the mothballed, stuffy Revolutionary War image, and in its place is a seemingly nonstop fun-in-the-sun round of concerts, movies-on-the-green, and festivals.

Now, I find this odd. I mean, I come from a city where it's hot pretty much constantly, and yes, we have a party image, but truth to tell, many of those people on Miami Beach are actually northerners. So my point is, we don't really make such a big deal about it being warm back home. And my first, somewhat sour, reaction to all this Dionysian abandon was, if they like warm weather so much, why the hell are they living in Boston?!

But there it is. What can I say? I can only watch in astonishment; the more so because of the sharp contrast between the studious, somber wintertime and this strange release of pent-up energy six months later. And I say to myself, Who are these people?

But I don't mean to be unfair. The fact is, if you're up for it, there are abundant options for self-distraction here in the summer. Let me give you a small sampling of what there is to do, if you don't have problem sets to do or lab experiments to finish. You can hang out and watch free movies on Boston Common on Tuesday nights in June, or at the Hatch Shell on Fridays. Or rollerblade along Memorial Drive by Harvard U. on Sunday afternoons (where they stop traffic), head for the Esplanade (the green strip bordering the Charles River on the Boston side) and catch a concert at the Hatch Shell.

Recent gem: the Artbeat Festival at Davis Square, where Alexander the Renaissance Juggler and his puppet Louis entertained a sweaty but appreciative crowd by playing simultaneous rounds of Row Row Row Your Boat on three different recorders, all three jammed in his mouth at once. Cool. (But can he do it on pianica??)

Other, seemingly endless, options for summertime activity include: noontime classical music concerts at Copley Square, wandering through the Public Garden, trying to ignore panhandling, expensively multistudded teenagers while listening to the performers at Harvard Square, lying about (or flying kites, or picnicking) in parks everywhere, and of course touristy (but fun!) activities like Duck Tours (tours given in WWII amphibious vehicles) or whalewatching. And that's just the stuff in Greater Boston.

You see what I mean? It's like they're hitting you over the head with the fact that it's summer; you can't get away from it. And it's simply exhausting, in all this heat. As a native Miamian, I can't help but be a bit condescending about the whole thing: how endearing their childlike enthusiasm is! But it's the middle of the afternoon, and so hot. Why don't we all take a little siesta instead?

- Carolyn Gramling

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