I Found My Boston

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Autumn in the Fens, across the street from my apartment.

When I was twelve years old, I was accepted to Boston Conservatory for classical piano performance.  Every week, my mom and I made the trek to the Conservatory from the suburbs, riding the T until we burst onto the sidewalk at Hynes Convention Center Station.

This neighborhood — home to Boston Conservatory, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory and Symphony Hall — makes it clear that musicians are in charge.  All kinds of musicians, whether sporting black formalwear and toting cellos, or rocking pink dreadlocks and busking for change.

Stepping onto Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue became the highlight of my week.  I loved walking down the street and knowing exactly where I was going, like I belonged there.  I’d then go and have piano instruction next door to opera singers, sometimes attending seminars with college students.  I even loved the Conservatory’s creaky, old-fashioned cage elevator.

This will be my life, I thought.  I’ll go to the Conservatory or Berklee for college and live in a brownstone across the street.  I’ll go out for Korean food with my friends.  I’ll buy music from that guy who looks like Weird Al and go to Haymarket on Friday nights, just for fun.

That’s what made this neighborhood exceptional: I knew I was surrounded by my future self.

Twelve years later, I moved into that exact building across the street from Boston Conservatory.

My street in springtime.

Yesterday, I moved out of Boston and out of the wonderful neighborhood where I’ve lived for the past two years.  It’s the area where Fenway, Back Bay and Symphony intersect, and the area is dominated by Berklee College of Music.

I didn’t end up going to college for music.  Life took me on a different path — to Fairfield University, a creative writing degree, and an insatiable thirst for travel.

That said, music is still one of the defining aspects of my life, and that’s one reason why I love living among aspiring professional musicians.  We know what it’s like to live with the compelling urge to create, create, create.

This artistic energy fills the neighborhood and gives it its personality — much more than the cheaper-than-Back-Bay rents and slew of Asian restaurants.  This neighborhood is ramshackle but creative, bursting with potential.  If the neighborhood were a person, it would eat nothing but ramen noodles for a month to save for a guitar.

Best of all, while other downtown neighborhoods are rapidly gentrifying, this neighborhood feels the same as it did twelve years ago.

I have friends who have made lives for themselves in Somerville, Allston, the North End.  But this is my Boston. And as nice as it would be to have a swank South End loft, no other Boston neighborhood will ever have as much of my affection as the Berklee area.

After spending my first four post-college years in Boston — two in Davis Square, Somerville, before moving downtown — I’ve made Boston my cultural hometown.  But it means more to me that I found my own neighborhood — a little corner of Boston that fits me like a glove.

I’ll miss it.

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21 thoughts on “I Found My Boston”

  1. Looks and sounds like it was an awesome place to live. It’s always neat when you find that place that really just fits. It defines you, but you define it at the same time.

    Good luck on the new adventure!

    1. Thanks! It was a GREAT place to live, and if I ever move back to Boston, I’d love to live there again. (Preferably the Stoneholm Towers, which is new construction, has a rooftop pool and everyone who lives there is SMOKIN’ HOT.)

      I’m excited. 🙂

  2. Aw great post! It’s an awesome area! A nice mix of both cheap and expensive restaurants, both divey and classy bars. All around a great mix of people and places!

  3. I love that area myself. Whenever I’m home (which is rare but does happen on occasion) and have friends visiting, this is one of the first areas of the city that I take them. And it’s home to my favorite Indian restaurant as well, not to mention Bukowski’s, where I can find beers from around the world so that I still feel as if I’m traveling…

    1. You MUST be talking about India Quality! SUCH good food in Kenmore! Bukowski’s is great, too — though you have to be careful with spinning the wheel of beer. They could make you buy a $15 beer because the spinner landed on it!

      1. Yes, Bukowski’s can be a dangerous place! I’ve never spun the wheel, always thinking it wise to stay as far away from it as possible 🙂

  4. Kate,

    This sounds very familiar. I went to UMass Boston when it first openeing in the old Boston Gas company building in Copley Sq. ( I know I am dating myself).

    I lived on Beacon Hill (the back side) and the walk to school everyday was enchanting. To help put myself through school I tutored disadvantaged kids in Ennglish. This was my first exposure to working with children that dod not have the opportunities taht I took for granted. Then in my early 20’s I went overseas and developed a liftime commitement to trying to make a difference.

    I am sorry that you are having to move out of charming Boston, but it makes the visits back all that more poignant .


  5. I love Boston. Every time I visit there, I feel soaked in a feeling of “This is where I come from”. I have a kinship with the East Coast, even though I was raised and born in the Midwest. In short, Boston has always felt like home, even though my home is here, where my family is.

    1. I love that! It’s so nice finding a place where you just fit in naturally, even though you’re not from there. And honestly, I genuinely feel that way in Paris. I fit perfectly. Maybe because our ancestors from WAY back are from France!

  6. So cool to see this personal side of you, Kate. had no idea you were so musical! 🙂 Isn’t it great when you’ve found a neighborhood you love? Makes it hard to leave, though.

  7. Kate, a fitting tribute to the Berklee Neighborhood and Mass Ave. It is a creative space and you were always energized by it as a kid – the tuxedos, the gowns, the fashion statements of a diverse group of students/teachers, the multitude of musical instruments being carried in beaten up cases. As your Mother, I could see the excitement on your face. You are still energized through your writing – this is not an end, but a beginning to a new adventure in your life. You may pass this way again, but you will be armed with a more defined creative focus when you return. Super writing!

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