A while back, all the cool kids read The Economist, a weekly magazine that the Brits call a “newspaper,” because, well, Brits. The Economist reports on world affairs with a trademark hauteur and reserves a special, glacial disdain for goings-on in the former colonies.
“Lexington,” the magazine’s — sorry, newspaper’s — pseudonymous US correspondent recently called Portland, Maine, “a fizzy entrepot of lobster-and-scallop mousse and vegan doughnuts,” possibly because they have never visited the city in question.
That was then. Now the cool kids read the Financial Times, which has superb gardening coverage and super-fey columnists such as Janan Ganesh, who strolled past a discarded, rat-infested refrigerator in Los Angeles and proclaimed “L.A.: The Great Walking City.” Here is another example of the FT losing what passes for its mind: “The big Boston rebrand,” which blows up a laughable public relations flack’s quote — “There’s a big similarity between Boston and London” — into a full-length puff piece.
How exactly is Boston like London? Colette Phillips, the PR person behind Mayor Michelle Wu’s All-Inclusive Boston campaign, tells the FT that Boston rivals London for cultural diversity: “In Boston, one in four people is foreign born, and two in four are culturally diverse, whether that’s by ethnicity or by lifestyle (LGBTQ+).” From there, the newspaper is off and running. Boston has a fashion scene! The Boston Ballet has a “pop-up experience”! The Neil Diamond musical started in Boston and went to Broadway!
Wait, there’s more. Boston has alcoholics! During the “aperitivo hour” at the rooftop Contessa Bar overlooking the Public Garden, “the bar is four-deep with Negroni drinkers,” the FT reports. Contessa bills itself as “paying homage to the legendary grand villas of Northern Italy” — not all that far from London when you think about it. Boston has a restaurant scene with (gosh!) a pescatarian restaurant and the Spanish-Japanese fusion food emporium Pagu.
It would be churlish to compare Boston’s theater scene to London’s West End or the compact and fun Boston Ballet to the Royal Ballet, which performs in London’s Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Does Boston have grand opera? Maybe the Financial Times can find a PR flack to assure them that it does. Only a troll would point out that there are over 60 Michelin-starred restaurants in London and zero in Boston. I miss Buzzy’s Fabulous Roast Beef as much as the next non-pescatarian, but London wins the gastronomy Olympics hands-down.
Did someone mention the Olympics? Tory toffs such as former prime minister David Cameron and former mayor Boris Johnson — with a boost from Daniel Craig and the late Queen Elizabeth II — staged a perfectly creditable London Olympics a decade ago. Faced with the prospect of hosting an Olympics, Boston’s eminentoes scrambled up on the kitchen counter and panicked as if they had seen a mouse. “Eeek! The crowds! The stadium-building!” No Olympics for us.
What Boston and London have in common is a consonant and two vowels.
Samuel Johnson, perhaps the greatest literary mind of the 18th century, famously remarked to his admiring biographer James Boswell that “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” The same can’t be said for Boston. When you tire of Boston, there is always New York. Or the fizzy entrepot of Portland, Maine, barely an hour and a half away.
Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.