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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston, you're my home

I love Boston.

No matter where I live, Boston will always be my "home".

"I'm from Boston." That's usually how I introduce myself to strangers, even though I was born in Fall River, MA.  Who knows about Fall River, except the association with Lizzie Borden "who had an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she she had done, she gave her father 41"?

Besides, I spent most of my young adult life somewhere in the City of Boston - well, when I wasn't somewhere on one of the beaches and towns of Cape Cod.

When I was in nursing school, I did most of my specialty rotations at one of the many fine hospitals in Boston - Pediatrics at Boston Children's. OB-GYN at Boston Floating. Oncology at Dana Farber. Neuro at Mass General.

My senior paper was titled "Mass General Hospital Neuro-Surgical Unit: 101 Reasons Why It Should Be Shut Down." Long story short: I got an A+.

My undergraduate and graduate studies were in Cambridge, MA, a 20 minute ride on The "T" into Boston. I was a seminarian for two years and a deacon for 6 months at St. John's, Bowdon St., near Government Center and down from Beacon Hill in Boston.

The first time I went to a gay bar - no, not a lesbian bar; back in the day gay men and lesbians didn't 'mingle' much - was in Boston. I went with a group of fellow nursing students because we knew we could just have a drink after our shift and wouldn't be 'hit on' by the gay men there.

Later - much, much later - I would go to my first lesbian bar. In Boston. South End. Of course.

As a child, I loved going to the Fenway with my father and uncles and cousins to watch the Boston Red Sox play. We sat in the "cheap seats". $2.50 for kids. $5 for adults. Out in the open sun. Not far from the "Green Monster".

And, when you ordered a hot dog, you had your choice of ketchup, mustard, relish, mayo AND fresh, chopped onions.  Forget the "Curse of the Bambino". I swear, since they stopped serving fresh, chopped onions on dogs, the BoSox have been cursed.

Back in the late 60s and early 70s we sang "Dirty Water" during the 7th inning stretch - a a mock paean to the city of Boston and its then-famously polluted Boston Harbor and Charles River.  Many a time, I came home from a game and didn't have a voice for the next three days from singing (and, bumping and grinding in the stands) to that song.

"Frustrated women, have to be in my 12 o'clock (Women - but not men - in certain colleges and universities like ours had a midnight curfew)....... Oh, oh, Boston you're my home."

Now that the Harbor and the River Charles have been cleaned up, folks at the Fenway sing "Sweet Caroline" at the bottom of the 8th Inning. That's an ode to the Kennedy's of Boston - especially Caroline Kennedy, who threw out the first pitch at the 100th anniversary game at Fenway Park – the oldest ballpark in major league baseball – on April 20, 2012, a hundred years after her great-grandfather, Boston mayor "Honey Fitz," threw out the ceremonial pitch of the first-ever baseball game at Fenway.

I thought it was pretty classy when the NY Yankees joined every other member of Major League Baseball parks coast to coast and sang "Sweet Caroline" during their game, Tuesday night, as an act of solidarity with their rivals, the Boston Red Sox. 

I do believe that's the nicest thing I've ever said about the NY Yankees. That's because that's the nicest thing I think the Yankees have ever said or done for my BoSox.

It may not ever happen again, but that's the thing about tragedies, isn't it? The worst in others often brings out the best in us.

Here's the thing about Boston: Take away all the students - who study everything from medicine to business to science to politics to engineering to music to theology - and all the tourists, and what you've got left is just a sleepy backwater town.

There are still neighborhoods with strong identities - The Italian North End. Chinatown. The Irish in Southie. The African Americans in Roxbury. The Afro-Caribbeans and newly upwardly mobile in Dorchester. The three-piece-pin-stripped-suit-Lacoste-shirted-Lily-Pulitzer-dressed-WASPS and Yuppies and Buppies Guppies on Beacon Hill. The melting pot of ethnicity and culture in Jamaica Plains. The LGBT people and passionately liberal in the South End.

Yes, you can still go to an Irish neighborhood bar in Southie and parts of Dorchester and watch the hat passed to collect money to support the IRA "back home". And, yes, you can still hear racist language and see evidence of institutionalized racism in the transportation structures of the "T".

Like I said, underneath the sophisticated sheen of prestigious medical schools and universities and the polish of the high-end shops on Newbury St., Boston is really just a sleepy backwater town.

But, when it comes to what happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday - Patriot's Day. Tax Day - well, I think this particular terrorist picked on the wrong town.

We're scrappy. We're tough. Solid blue collar at the core, with all the attendant values of hard work and fair play and an appreciation for differences - just in their own place.

Yes, yes. When this terrorist is caught - and, make no mistake: he/they WILL be caught (but not quickly enough for anyone's liking) - and he/they'll spout off the usual political-religious insanity in "defense" of this heinous act of cowardice, we'll all roll our eyes and then roll up our sleeves and continue planning for next year's marathon.

And, don't expect anybody from Boston to be giving up any of his or her civil liberties in the name of "protection" of its citizenry any time too soon.  We got "cops". We expect them to do their job without taking away our liberties.

Yeah, this "nut job" may have gotten away with this atrocity. This time.  We may be a sleepy backwater town, but we also have a long history of dealing with treason and terror.

We're the people who threw all the tea in the Boston Harbor, remember? We were some of the original readers to be inspired by  Thomas Paine's "The American Crisis" pamphlet series (AKA "Common Sense"), which, when I was a kid, was required reading by every 6th Grader in the MA public school system. It begins with these words:
These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.
Yup, we got that.  It's in our DNA.

So, please join me in prayer for my home town. In a way, Boston is every American's "home town". The sparks of the freedom and independence we enjoy today and protect so fervently were ignited there. The American Revolution began there. The spirit of "liberty and justice for all" still lives there.

In the fabric of the soul of this country, we're all Bostonians.

It's not going to be easy to recover from this assault and insult to our identity, but we will.

With everyone's help and prayers, we will.

Boston, you're our home.


Sextant said...

Wonderful tribute to your city, Elizabeth. I don't believe in hell, but I am willing to make an exception for the perpetrators of this terrible bombing.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Sextant. I don't want hell for the perpetrators. I want justice for the victims and survivors.

whiteycat said...

Thanks for this excellent salute to the city of Boston. One of the most memorable trips I ever took with my parents was to Boston. Also, I have dear friends there. I think it is the most unique city in he US. Love those Red Sox and also the BSO ... Boston Symphony Orchestra ... one of the best in the world.

Let's definitely join in and pray for Boston.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Whiteycat.

Mary-Cauliflower said...

I think this speaks to the unique culture of Boston:

It's been a surreal day of staying at home, checking in by phone and being checked on. The question of why becomes more and more urgent.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

As I'm watching right now, a senior law enforcement official says, "We think we've got him."

Prayers continue.

And when this is all over, let's all go to Dunkin Donuts or Friendlies to celebrate.

Madeline said...

Elisabeth, this is for you:

and for all people that need to read this...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Madeline.