Home Base

I’m moved around a fair share in my life. For better or worse, I’ve developed some interesting and obscure notions of what makes a person “from” a place. 

When I first moved to Boston, I sat down with a friend of mine from Florida who had moved up to New England several years before. I said to him, “Andrew, what makes a person from Boston? How will I know when I’ve become a local?” And he said, “A true Boston native knows the major bus routes."

After living here for a year (and studying the local transportation system), I turned to a friend who grew up in the Boston area. “Mike,” I said, “What makes a person truly a Bostonian?” And he said, “You need to be a terrifyingly efficient driver and know how to both take jeers and slander as well as give it.” 

The answers to this question always seem to involve transportation or geography; even if you were to ask me "Sherard, when was the moment in which you knew you were from Boston?" I would say, "The morning some total stranger approached me outside of Government Center, asked me for directions, and I knew which way to point them." For the government though, the answer pretty much boils down to time instead of geography. 

There’s a mental leap that can be made here, but I think its curious that it remains a gap--the presumption being the longer you stay in one place, the better you know it. Not always true. It could be the over-achiever in me, or this internal desire to be recognized as having put down stakes and be "settled," but this has led me to a need of local exploration. There's a homemade donut shop down the street? Let's go. Open air market? When are we going? Best ribs in Boston? Let me pull out my calendar and see if we can't work something out here--I'll shift some things around if we're talking Brown Sugar Ribs--just let me know. My driver's license says "Florida," but when I wake in the mornings and walk the streets to the T, local crosswalk light timings all but memorized, something, something in me says, "Massachusetts."