I drooled over Vera Wang’ gowns and Max Mara’s vibrantly printed sheath dresses as the couture along Newbury Street seduced my indulgent side. The rest of quaint, historic Boston whispered romance. Traipsing through Boston’s cobblestone streets, the intimate twists and turns of this small, accessible city revealed historic qualities similar to that of Philadelphia’s. In contrast, the sprinkles of pomp and circumstance spoke to my eternal inner New Yorker.
Not being able to desert myself on some far away island in paradise, I planned a weekend escape to New England’s home of the Red Sox – clad in a Yankees t-shirt and cap, no less. Despite the summer temperatures that were only a few degrees cooler than New York City, I was determined to cover every square inch of Boston that was worth seeing. There is a specific evocative charm to all cities that have survived from the Revolutionary War. I appreciated this as I strolled into Emack & Bolio’s Ice Cream shop, a progressive fantasy dessert shop located in a nostalgic Newbury Street brownstone, for a cooling treat.
As I wandered the tiny, affluent Back Bay area admiring the politeness and joviality of the general population, I marveled over the effects that a larger city might have on social etiquette. Sure, New Yorkers are “hardened,” but anyone would be after dealing with hundreds of faces, personalities, and attitudes by the minute every day. At the same time, the sheer number of New Yorkers magnified my world. The Empire State’s diversity offered a portal into a new culture with every individual that crossed my path. This was the world I found so hard to leave behind.
In contrast, Bostonians around every corner were friendly and welcoming and I never wanted to wish the pollution and intensity of a bustling metropolis on them. As I watched the natives effortlessly enjoying themselves, Beantown suddenly offered a taste of what my island of Manhattan lacked, and what had never appeared attractive before: intimacy. Amidst the jubilant locals, I let myself soak in the familiarity of it all, yet my need for anonymity and the desire to be a small fish in a large pond outweighed The Hub’s romance and leisurely wonders. The flocks of ducks and herds of sailboats seemed to disagree with this perspective as they all waded listlessly on the Charles River.
With hunger driving me towards my next destination, my travel companion and I settled in for a well-deserved dinner at Chef Eric Brennan’s Post 390 in Copley Square. Their Katama Bay oysters felt like pearls of wisdom as I washed them down with none other than an ice-cold bottle of Sam Adams’ limited Brick Red brew. I wondered how many cities I would visit before one of them managed to seduce me away from the Empire State. I questioned my addiction to the fast paced, ever-changing scenes I was so madly in love with and wondered what it was that fueled my devotion. Despite sudden urges to leave home with few belongings — and even fewer expectations – visits to different cities usually left me with a longing aftertaste, that craving for perpetual innovation I have yet to find outside of the island of Manhattan. Would it ever be time to leave?
Needing to digest my entrée and reflective thoughts, I smacked my lips after a tasty meal and embarked on a long evening walk towards the North End. Passing through Faneuil Hall Marketplace, I encountered all kinds of storybook characters brought to life, showing off with street performances and delighting hordes of tourists looking to bring home stories of how they participated in “local culture.” The more I studied the scene, the more I wondered what had brought these people to these streets and where else they had called home. I was not sure if these thoughts were inspired by the possibilities that lay in the depths of my mind; if taking a hiatus from New York City was something I had been suppressing or if it was the difference in environment affecting me.
My thoughts gathered and churned, as if this old city saw through a soul burning bright still, with youth and tumultuousness. Winding down dark alleyways after dusk, mysterious corners brightened our path with meats and cheeses hung ornately in storefront windows in this ethnic part of town. A sign in our path stopped us as it advertised Italian ices, gelato, and ice cream. We marched in, already tasting richness on our tongues. With homemade ice cream oozing out of what seemed like ancient contraptions, the owner of The Cheese Shop in the North End challenged us try his signature dessert cone: vanilla ice cream drenched in balsamic vinaigrette.
Not phased, but not willing to be outperformed by balsamic vinaigrette, I accepted his challenge and engulfed the cone one creamy, velvety bite at a time with its chilled sweetness and tartness. Dairy and acid, dressings and dessert — I loved the controversy of it. Here in this corner meat shop at the end of a long day down cryptic alleyways away from the city's center I found the stroke of innovation I so passionately sought.
Soaking up the concoction with what remained of my waffle cone, I swallowed the last bits of my dessert, as well as any ambiguity within my thoughts. I have always held the belief that there is a time and place where things should occur, especially in how I live my life. I tend to plan out where I should be, where I should be next, how I will get there, and what might inspire my next move. It seems there may not always be a time and a place for everything, as I had so fervently believed.
Sometimes the right times don’t exist, or the wrong people find their way to the right places, but most of the time things just happen. I learned that though I may be inclined to, I should not be so consumed with planned changes in course or dramatic actions – “landing” in the right scenes, “diving” into new adventures, or even “falling” in love. It may prove just as rewarding if I were to stumble upon these things; dip my toes in then wade around gently.
As for lack of answers or guidance, I may have to settle for whatever final thoughts came with the last bite of my waffle cone from a Beantown cheese shop.