You’re not from Boston.
Come on, admit it: you’re a traitor to the West Coast, or you moved here from a dark corner of Maine or Connecticut or, like me, you’re from Minnesota or somewhere else in the Midwest. Or maybe you did grow up here, but have made friends with a bunch of misfits from far-flung places. Either way, at some point you or your comrades will start reminiscing about the Mother Country, and long for places that remind you/them of home. The following places always help me kick that longing for trans-fats, and make the Bean a bit more like the Mean-west.*
COPLEY SQUARE FARMER’S MARKET (OR ANY MARKET FOR THAT MATTER)
Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says “Minnesota?” If you said farms, I’d say, STFU, and then, You’d be totally correct. Nearly half of the land in Minnesota is used for agriculture, and damn, does that make for some sweeeeet farmers’ markets. You might say that buying fresh, locally and sustainably-produced foods is in my roots. Or that I grew up appreciating the locavore movement. Or that the Boston farmers’ markets are where I get a majority of my groceries. Wait … shit.
[Copley Square. @MAFarmMarkets. massfarmersmarkets.org]
There’s nary a place in Minnesota that isn’t within eyeshot of a thicket or grove or sprawling expanse of trees. I mean, our local mythic culture revolves around a giant lumberjack, for Jesus’s sake (and I was referring to Paul Bunyan, not the enormous billboards that profess the Righteous Carpenter’s love for you, though those do exist). Meandering through the Arboretum is almost like walking through the dense forests of my childhood … except for, you know, the whole “hills” thing. They ain’t called the Great Plains for nothin’.
[125 Arborway, Boston. @ArnoldArboretum. arboretum.harvard.edu]
This is pretty much the same explanation as the previous one, except replace “trees” with “way too much goddamn water.”
[Charles/MGH. @EsplanadeAssn. esplanadeassociation.org]
SOUTH STREET DINER
Anyone who grew up in a place where car culture is as prevalent as establishments that close at 9 p.m.—or as they’re known to science, “the suburbs”—knows that 24-hour diners are your weekend Godsend. You’re looking for somewhere that you and your badass friends who don’t give a shit that it’s past midnight can go to chill, and, thankfully for you, diners are made for loiterers and hooligans. The South Street Diner, one of the few 24-hour places in the Greater Boston Area, is much like my favorite Minnesotan shithole, The Flameburger. They have a lot of similarities: the décor that ages like Tommy Lee Jones, all grizzled and reeking of cigarettes. The greasy food that, despite its obvious contribution to your shortened life span, always seems like the best decision you could be making at that moment. The intriguing waitstaff that you swear never leaves, yet still manages to give you a smile and toss you a standard-issue joke. Yes, it’s like my nights of drunken debauchery/mornings of hungover debauchery haven’t changed when I slide into a patent-leather booth at the South Street Diner. Growing up is for quitters, anyway.
[178 Kneeland St., Boston, southstreetdiner.com]
*Which is what we natives call it.**
**We actually don’t, but we totally should.