There are some American cities that, for better or worse, leave an imprint on one’s DNA. New York is like that – an international metropolis that makes life elsewhere seem pale by comparison, a city that exudes the kind of confidence that might be mistaken for smug superiority. Growing up in the Bronx – diehard Yankee fan country – it was impossible not to develop a deep-seated loathing for Boston, the only other East Coast city that could credibly lay claim to a similarly brash swagger. Even now, after spending the better part of the last decade overseas, the same reflexive antipathy born of a sports rivalry that knows no bounds stirs in D every time he visits Beantown.
Bostonians’ manifest dislike of New Yorkers also runs deep. D recalls a college party at which a disgruntled Red Sox fan chucked a full beer bottle at him, narrowly missing his head, following Aaron Boone’s miraculous 2003 ALCS game 7 home run; crowds chanting, “Yankees suck!” at concerts D has attended in Boston; a hockey fan sparking several minutes of raucous booing when his “I ♥ New York” t-shirt was projected onto the jumbotron at a Bruins – Penguins game. And yet, despite the bad blood and the frustrations of navigating this poorly thought-out city, D began making frequent trips to Boston long before we gravitated towards Maine as our home away from the Foreign Service.
During his college years in New England, D would cajole friends who had cars and a similar taste in music to go to shows with him in Boston. The city’s music scene is legendary. Dropkick Murphys. Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Big D and the Kids Table. The list of bands whose Boston identity is an integral part of their music and whose punchy lyrics and catchy melodies tattooed D’s adolescent soul is rather long. Incidentally, several of Boston’s best music venues are located on Lansdowne Street, right next to Fenway Park. D always felt like he was wading into the belly of the beast when he went to a show in the shadow of the Green Monster, but it took until last weekend for him to finally see a baseball game in Boston.
D’s father-in-law procured tickets to a Yankees-Red Sox matinee game, which turned into a 16-inning marathon lasting nearly six hours – long enough to go down as the longest game at Fenway in this storied rivalry in fifty years. D was thrilled to be deep behind enemy lines when the Yankees staged a ninth inning comeback to send the game into extra innings, but he was long gone from the stadium by the time his team pushed the winning run across home plate. The Violent Femmes were headlining a concert across town, and D did not want to miss a minute of their set.
The Femmes played a 5,000-person pavilion. The previous night, D had attended a much more intimate show that was part of the RocksOff concert cruise series; there couldn’t have been much more than a hundred people on the dance floor as Boston ska legends Bim Skala Bim played on a small boat that circled Boston Harbor. All told, D spent thirty hours in Boston. S wouldn’t have let him go for much longer, but D made the most of it, also catching up with his cousin and spending some time with a longtime friend and her five-months-old daughter. Not quite a last hurrah – D still has a week left stateside – more like the opening stanza of the swan song of his R&R.