I live in New England, where I also grew up; I have never lived anywhere else. People wonder how I stayed conservative given the reputation Massachusetts, and indeed the region, has for Left-leaning ideology (we see you, New Hampshire, and think, “some day”).
When it came time to go to college, I opted to stay local. Why leave an area with so many great college options? Looking back, I might have benefited from a warmer climate, or even just a sense of adventure in a new place, as I have a feeling not much would have changed for me personally regardless of locale, the benefits of having strong family values instilled from day one. Be that as it may, my alma mater was in Boston proper; I did not experience the typical campus life. Catching a subway car to class is not what most think of as the good ol’ college days, but that was my “campus.”
After graduation almost twenty years ago, I immediately retreated back to the suburbs. I had no designs on living in the city, partly because Boston is a disaster when it comes to public transit, as most cities are nowadays, but mainly because I knew who I was and knew what I was after, even if I was not fully confident at the time. I knew I wanted to meet a nice girl, and these were few where I went to school, or at least, not many ready to admit it at a young age. I knew I ultimately wanted a family, and if you’re talking that way at twenty-two years old, fresh off four years of college, most people in the city would give you a blank stare or simply laugh at you.
In the suburbs I stayed, and I was fortunate enough to have met the right girl only a few short months after graduation, both of us products of the Boston suburbs. As your conservative ancestors might have reminded you, it makes sense to look for a partner who is from the same background as you, not just ethnic but class, religion, general life philosophy, and goals.
I certainly made it a point to show her where I went to school at various points during our relationship, but when it came time to get married, we skipped the Boston thing for the old-school New England thing at a historical site outside of the city. We never visited Boston much because the ‘burbs had figured out that you could simply open nice restaurants and attract the suburban crowd to other suburbs, where there is plentiful parking and far less crime.
COVID-19 panic gave us even less reason to visit a city, any city. Cities mean more people and specifically, the type of people that until recently would judge you for not wearing a mask everywhere, even outside (huh?). Something about the city concentrates fears and therefore makes people defensive, controlling, and vindictive. The air is clearer not just of pollution but of neurosis when one gets outside the metropolitan perimeter.
Cities mean a mix of every ethnicity imaginable which only causes chaos and conflict, even if at one point they had tensely but agreeably coexisted. I have been on public transit too many times in uncomfortable situations to want to repeat that on a regular basis. Cities began hosting “demonstrations” that would make a family man like myself want to conceal-carry, which then prompted me to ditch the idea of visiting all those nice “museums and libraries” people kept telling me to show my children.
Since COVID19, I have been in the city only twice, both for concerts. The most recent one was with my daughter, who is now eleven years old. I took the opportunity to show her where Dad went to school. One thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of money flowing through college campuses. The place looks the same, much as Boston does considering the age of most buildings and neighborhoods, but a few nooks and crannies were tastefully updated, I noticed. Those tasteful updates probably cost millions, but who cares, when the price point is artificially subsidized by cheap debt (“tuition”), and can be raised any time, for any reason?
My daughter had a good time at the concert, and afterwards we took a few pictures of places I used to live or hang out, and made our way back to the car. I noticed the neighborhood was still young and vibrant, even on a summer Saturday with no Red Sox game taking place. This was still a college town, after all.
Of course, on the way back to the car, a guy who had more expensive clothes on than me tried to stop me and ask me if “heyyy mann you couldn’t spare a –” and I cut him off immediately while my steps didn’t miss a beat. Sorry guy, no can do. When I was attending school, the bums — the real bums, who knew there was a shelter nearby but would readily admit they weren’t out there to beg for food or to save for an apartment — at least had the pride to simply sit on the street with a hat held out.
The experience reminded me that Boston is still a relatively safe city, but not for long. The place I used to be so proud of — the place my father landed in and made his home at 7 years old almost seventy years ago; that he later sent his only son to for higher education; the city where my immigrant grandfather built a business from nothing and was able to provide for his family — prompts me to avoid it for a good reason, and it’s not just the traffic.
For now, Boston has it better than most cities like San Francisco. Eventually, however, the “woke mind virus,” as Elon calls it, will penetrate even the most stubborn, parochial neighborhoods of Boston and strip away any sensibility to which the classical liberals may have once adhered. That is a direct result of having no shared goal or common values anymore, the way we once did. I was certainly born on the tail end of that, but at least Boston attempted to hang onto some identity far longer than most cities.
Interestingly, seeing bands from the 1990s that night I once would have been more excited to see, had a similar effect. They too have changed, and for the same reason cities decay: too many stakeholders, too many tropes that fit an earlier more innocent time to uphold, too much maintenance of image at the expense of what they did well. Like the people in the city, they have averaged themselves, and with that mundanity come all of the problems of regular bands that I bypassed to hear the few without them.
I try not to get sentimental about much as it pertains to my college days, but taking my daughter to the old haunts for the first time made me think: is this her future? But I quickly swept the thought away. My hope is I’ve done a good enough job educating her on my own, that she wouldn’t be foolish enough to seek education in any major city given where the culture is taking young minds.
When the woke mind virus finally takes over even liberal but still relatively old-school and defiant Boston, I won’t bother seeing any concert that isn’t far from the city, and certainly won’t bother taking my children in, even during the daytime. What once was has changed in the way all things change, which is a net decay even if the nooks and crannies are updated, and it is no longer healthy to be there.