Thursday, April 18, 2013

We May Live Here, But We are Boston

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on April 18, 2013
By Bill Gouveia

            “Where do you live?”

If you were born in or have lived in this general vicinity for any great length of time, you answer that question differently depending on who asks and where you are.  For example, if I’m in Mansfield and a local resident asks, I say I live in Norton.

But when visiting family in Baltimore or traveling elsewhere, I change my reply.  Then I say “I’m from Boston”.  I usually get a knowing nod, and there’s no need to say anything else.

We who populate the suburbs here like to think we distance ourselves a little from the City of Boston itself.  After all, that’s where the crime tends to be.  That’s where those damn politicians gather and fleece us every year.  It’s where the only grass is in parks, the pickpockets are on every corner, and the homeless sleep on the sidewalk.  It’s not where we live.  It’s just a big place near us.

But in hearts we know that’s not so.  We are Boston, and Boston is in all of us.  And that would be true even if the tragic events of this past Monday had never occurred.

Boston is the engine that makes most things out here run.  It is so much more than just a city.  It is a world-class port, an opportunity, a center of learning, a gateway to the things we need and want.  We “suburban folks” could not enjoy our lives without Boston.

So many local residents earn their livings in The Hub.  Just look at the train station parking lots on any given weekday.  Or try and drive the expressway during morning rush hour.  Those homes we live in, those cars we drive – the money we use to pay for them often comes from Boston.

With all due respect to our local hospitals and doctors, Boston is where we head when our lives depend on the medical help we receive.  In my generation, the phrase “I’m going into Boston” was always an indication of just how seriously you were taking the medical condition involved.  Some of the best facilities in the world are there, and we often take that for granted until we need them.

When we want to fully appreciate the best in the arts, we travel into Boston.  The ballet, the symphony, the theater and amazing museums await us.  Some of the finest restaurants you can imagine are located there.  The city we sometimes scoff at is home to all these things we treasure.

And of course there are the sports franchises.  Nowhere in the country are professional teams supported like the ones in Boston.  The Red Sox, the Celtics, the Bruins, and the Patriots are all a part of our culture.  You become a fan of these teams through birth rather than by choice.  People from other places find it difficult to understand the role of sports in Boston, but here it isn’t even questioned.  We just accept it and wear it as a badge of honor.

Now, I have made fun of Boston over the years.  I’m a hick from Norton, and the big city makes me nervous.  I tease my friends who moved out here from Southie or Dorchester about their urban roots.

But put me out in the Midwest, or the west coast, or down south, or pretty much anywhere else in the world and ask me where I’m from, and I’ll proudly tell you Boston.  And no one from here ever calls it Beantown.

You see, Boston is more than a location.  It’s an attitude, an outlook on life, a membership in a unique club.  We don’t have an accent – you do.  You’ll never fully appreciate it all unless you’re from here.  It’s part of our charm.

Everybody is claiming Boston this week, and that’s nice.  But the folks who live within its borders and around it are all profoundly sad today.  We have lost friends, neighbors, loved ones and strangers with whom we shared an unspoken yet unshakeable bond.  We are in pain.

But make no mistake, Boston will bounce back.  We’ll grieve, we’ll remember, we’ll make those who hurt us pay.   Then we’ll go back to being who we are.

It’s what we do.  We’re from Boston.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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