The Horizontal City

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I keep anecdotal track of Boston, the horizontal city.

I know this is unscientific and subjective and smacks of the imprecision that I abhor on the internet and particularly with respect to bloggers, who have a free fire zone regardless of hard facts.  But I am nonetheless guilty, and plead in my defense as follows: I have made full confession here; I have a day job and no paid fact checker.

I started tracking the horizontal way in which Boston operates from my very arrival, when I observed that Boston was palpably divided into sharp horizontal layers along racial and economic lines.  I have observed over the years the rigidity of these divisions: the absence of people of color from: the business world,  the ranks of business attorneys,  attendance at sporting events,  nicer restaurants, neighborhoods in which I have lived and now live.

I think that about half of Bostonians are members of a racial minority.  None of my best friends come from any minority community.   I deserve no credit for this, but accept no blame.  It is a derivative of the horizontal city.

On City Hall Plaza there is a large tent which, until year-end, houses a lavish production of Peter Pan, which is the story of a rich Victorian British family whose children hang out with a flying boy of little known merit.  Attendance at this production is very expensive; our seats this past Saturday were over $100 each, no discount for children.  My anecdotal report: the kids were almost all white.  I am not allowed by my wife to actually count people of color, which is politically incorrect and smacks of profiling, but suffice it to say that the fingers of one hand would cover the task; this out of many hundreds.

I do not think that what is wrong with Boston resides in the Peter Pan tent, nor indeed in the tents of Dewey Square’s Occupy population.  All of these tents are symptoms only.  But Peter Pan, you may recall, flies back to Neverland while leaving the Darling children to grow up, suffer, fight in wars, raise children and endure the indignities of what we call life.  Peter is immune to the realities around him, in the same way as is much of Boston.  There indeed are many dedicated people who work on behalf of our poorer constituents, it is not like there is a lack of caring.  But there is a lack of real community in Boston as a city; Peter Pan is live and well in the fabric of Boston.

One is reminded of the very tired joke that goes: “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the show?”   Well, Boston’s Peter Pan was a wonderful production, it reminds me of my very first theater experience, in New York in the mid-fifties, seeing Mary Martin fly as Peter.  I do not recall the audience demographics at that event, which is yet another advantage of being a child.


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