Have you ever been to Boston? My first time in the city I was 18, and roadtripping with my dad through the Northeast on a college tour. We landed at Logan and headed downtown to a pub, where Dad drank a Sam Adams and we ate clam chowder at the bar and watched the second half of a Celtics game. This was November of 2000, post-presidential elections. Florida was all over the news and we watched CNN every night in hotels across New England. It was cold. Boston was dark, old-feeling, so extremely historical and American-y for this Oregon child. But it was also lively, loud, and passionate.
I started thinking about personal impressions of Boston yesterday afternoon. I had to first ensure a runner friend was safe (and continue to follow her here). After shock wears off and facts start to surface, we tend to get reflective. We think about how we know a place, as a hometown, favorite vacation, a one-night-stand, a layover. Even NYC declares its love.
What kinds of memories and feelings come up when you put a city into the context of your experiences? Love letters to a place are as authentic and powerful as a love letter to, say, an actual lover. People have been doing this for years, giving thanks for a magical moment, waxing poetic over a wonderful meal with a wonderful new friend, confessing an infuriating challenge about public transit or an overly passionate run-in with a drunken sports fanatic, crying out a tearful goodbye when leaving (by choice or not).
- Joan Didion famously wrote “Goodbye to All That,” a sort of angry love letter to New York, when she left the city for California: I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my finger upon the moment it ended…
- In her “Open Letter to Los Angeles,” artist Stacy Dacheux writes how the empty, gutted carcass of the Capitol Records building mirrored her own distress during long years of toil in the place she is desperate to love.
- Mario Batali has the best summer meals of his life in Traverse City, Michigan, and opened his heart to the “midwest’s gem” in a love letter published by Huffington Post.
- The Beastie Boys’ post-9/11 tribute, “An Open Letter to NYC,” recalls city childhoods: buying sneakers on Fulton Street and getting kicked out of Bleecker Bob’s.
- A visual declaration of love, Doug Aitken’s “MIRROR” at the Seattle Art Museum has airplane hangars and Seattle skyscrapers melting into mountains and forests of the Pacific Northwest.
A little more effort to love our places, and our people, this week. xx