After jets crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania woods, a stand-up comedian I know stopped performing. In the face of such an enormity, he wondered, how could we ever laugh again? The aftermath of 9/11, particularly in New York City, was a surreal world of death and wreckage, an alternate reality from which there seemed no escape. Yet it’s natural — indeed, a profound human need — to want to forget, to want to get back to the routine of everyday life: work, school, kids, sports, and the myriad other activities that regularly fill our days. And so eventually (and quite soon in fact) we did.
Almost 12 years later, we are seeing that same impulse in Boston. The Back Bay portion of Boylston Street is the city’s main street, a 1½-mile stretch running from the Common to the Fenway. It is not only the finish line of the Marathon, but an extraordinary mix of colleges, churches, offices, hotels, the Boston Public Library, Copley Square, and all kinds of restaurants, bars, and retailers packed shoulder-to-shoulder. It’s the chic and the hick (a play on words that works better if not read aloud): L’Espalier, Marshalls, the Apple Store, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lord & Taylor, Supercuts, and dozens of others.