The first time I laid eyes on you, I worried that I might be out of my league. The gold dome of the State House was impressive bling for a Midwestern girl like me. To be honest, I took you for a snob at first. After all, you’re a city with not one but two Harvard clubs, in addition to hosting parts of Harvard itself.
But over time, I got to see your down-to-earth side. Your longshoremen. Your stevedores. Your fierce, proud unions.
It took me years to learn your secrets: that it’s OK to save a parking space shoveled out of the snow in Southie, but not in the South End. That Mike’s Pastry is for tourists, but Modern Pastry is for Nonna.
It hasn’t always been easy to be with you, Boston. Admit it. You’ve got your stodgy side. What other major city in America has banned Happy Hour? How many other City Halls fine fortune tellers for the failure to procure special “fortune telling” permits?
But every time I’m about to write you off as too uptight, you reveal something new and quirky and unexpected. Like the carpenter-poets of Jamaica Plain, who recite poems about their trade at James’s Pub on Thursday nights. Or Awake Boston — which begins with 6 a.m. yoga and evolves into a booze-less dance party that shuts down a half an hour before everyone has to be at work.
Sometimes I’m simply blown away by your compassion. Like the time I watched a grown man cry over a paycheck in the kitchen of Haley House Bakery and Café. He’d been in prison for 28 out of the last 30 years, and it was the first paycheck he’d ever earned as a free man. “I’d probably be back in prison, if it weren’t for Jeremy,” he told me, referring to Jeremy Thompson, head of Haley House’s transitional employment program, which trains formerly incarcerated men and women to rebuild their lives by baking delicious chocolate chip cookies.
Other times I’m blown away by your beauty. Like the night I sat in Symphony Hall, listening to the Berklee School of Music’s majestic orchestra accompanying the Fisk Jubeliee singers. That magical event, narrated by Governor Deval Patrick and Harvard professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, commemorated Fisk’s humble fundraising tour for to Boston, undertaken in 1871, which carried black spirituals out of the south, changing the face of American music forever.
There’s no end to the stories I could tell about you, Boston. Like how hard the good people of East Boston fought to keep one of their great traditions — the East Boston Summer Camp — alive. And how the spirit if Marty Pino, one of Eastie’s most revered youth advocates and summer camp directors, still lives on to this day.
You’re a city that does not forget its roots. It’s not uncommon to find four generations of family living within the same four square city blocks. Yet people from all over the world come here to learn from you Boston. Students from war-torn corners of the world travel here to figure out how to fix their broken societies, thanks to a peace fellowship established by Sidney Topol, a Boston-bred telecom-visionary-turned-peace-activist.
Delegations from the Netherlands come here to study the Mission Hill K-8 pilot school, founded by Deborah Meier, who created a teacher-run school based on the principles of democratic governance. And people from as far away as Australia come to see the concept of communal land ownership in action at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, which preserves housing affordability forever.
You’re a city of ordinary people who do extraordinary things. So many that I did not have the chance to write about them all. But I’d like to pay tribute in this column — my last column for the Boston Globe before moving on to The New York Times — to all the beautiful stories of Boston that are yet to be told.
Follow Farah Stockman on on Twitter @fstockman.