When I was little, I used to think that I was missing out on something when I went to bed. That once I shut my tiny eyes and made my world dim to black, the adults opened theirs and turned on the soft serve ice cream machines that I knew they all secretly had.
Now that’s an adult!
Not much has changed. I’m still convinced that I haven’t reached adulthood yet, based solely on the fact that I haven’t been eating chocolate-vanilla swirl cones for dinner. And I still don’t sleep. In the comedy world, no one can escape becoming nocturnal - hell, I just did an improv audition at sunset* and even a slightly light evening sky seemed strange.
But my youthful defiance of sleep has evolved into an unrequited love affair. Like the classic arc of a super sexist romance novel: I’m a resistant damsel whose defences Sleep tries to strip like so many heaving bodices. Except Sleep was never a scowling brute with a secretly soft heart. Sleep has always been kind and more or less transparent. It never tried to brood its way into my heart or tear me away from my family and essentially kidnap me until I got stockholm syndrome - as you might tell, I have some issues with Beauty and The Beast.
Sleep is not sitting in its pristine, velvet-draped quarters, waiting for me to realize what he’s been using to justify his Victorian lady-bashing: that I’ve secretly wanted it all along. No, Sleep is rubbing its altruism and purity in my face all the time, reminding me of how inherently healthy it is, how much better I feel about my self when I have it, how it will never give me up, how it will never let me down, how it will never run around or desert me.**
My relationship with Sleep is caught in a bipolar cycle of pursuit and denial - and not because it is a pirate or a beast that hides in the woods and scares my kin. I have no reason to fear it because it has never given me reason. And yet I scorn Sleep, turning to Redbull*** and coffee, and hoping that tonight I’ll have the courage to embrace it at last.
Last night all of that changed. This tale as old as time is actually about 20 years old and has finally reached its denouement. Thanks, Neocitran!
*Not on a cliff overlooking a romantic landscape, but at a bar in Parkdale. Just as scenic, really.
** Do you actually need a citation for this? Get off the internet.
*** Is Redbull Gastón at this point? 1991 was a while ago and I’ve lost track of my metaphors…
Every time I come home, I expect to have this overwhelming urge to stay. I take walks past the Garment District (under construction), my high school, the Cambridge Rindge and Latin (newly renovated), The Pit in Harvard Square (dead and heavily surveyed by police), and all those new bank branches that have replaced Tello’s and Manhattan in Central Square; it’s not the same town.
But something inherently Boston is still in the air. There’s the reserved politeness that Bostonians and Torontonians share - stoically abandoning your seat on the subway for families and the elderly is an equally prevalent custom, for example - but, Boston is so much more casual. Really. Residents of Cambridge rock more khaki and ball cap combos than Best Buy employees at a baseball card convention. And the Torontonian hipster yuppy, with his skinny dark-wash jeans and vintage dress shirt isn’t a thing here, either. I never realized how baggy Bostonian men under thirty like their pants, or maybe my tolerance for bagginess has declined after decreased exposure.
I find myself getting into fewer conversations with strangers in Boston, too, but that could be because I generally see fewer people on the street here than I do in Toronto. Cambridge only holds about 100,000 residents, versus Toronto’s 2.5 million. The lack of stranger small talk in my hometown is really only funny to me because of how many people I figure I should know. My high school remains the only public gig in town. There were more than 400 kids in my graduating class, many of whom I’d known since elementary school. After living in city like Toronto, where getting hit on, yelled at, and chatted up daily is more or less an inevitability, Cambridge feels silent.*
"Outta my way! I’ve got some non-socializing to do" TTC rider
I think the most Boston thing about Boston is its sense of pride and history. People from my graduating class really feel like we’ve had a unique experience, growing up in Cambridge and going to Rindge. We will readily list our school’s famous alum and the people we know through six degrees of separation.** We tell everyone in earshot about the time that Westboro Baptist Church tried to protest our school’s Gay Straight Alliance and got an unexpected counter-protest from the whole school.And then there’s the freedom trail and historical houses of famous abolitionists, but that kind of history (however incredible and important) isn’t what Bostonians go back home to re-live. Bostonians and Cantabridgians have a huge interest in recent history and community involvement - even if that sometimes means reading the cambridge chronicle crime log like the sports pages.
I’ve come to the conclusion, though, that Torontonians really aren’t that different than Bostonians. If creating demographic shifts were as simple as conducting a Lisa Simpson-esque science experiment,*** I would put Cambridge in a Toronto-scale cup of soda and see how its population evolves; I have a hunch that Cantabridgians huddled together in the millions might actually be just as likely to make small talk with strangers. Obviously, my baseline and experimental data is anecdotal if not completely made up.
* Last week, I had a good five minute bitching sesh about the state of public transit with two people on the train, watched with a neighbor in horror as a stupid driver tried to back a huge van into a tiny parking spot, and got yelled at by a very angry man about the security at a venue I was working. The closest I’ve gotten to stranger small talk in my past few days of Boston-area wandering was when I pretty obviously listened to a conversation about the media’s portrayal of Haiti at the checkout line at Whole Foods. I don’t think they minded my eavesdropping, though.
** I may or may not have a picture of myself with Matt Damon in my kitchen…
*** See Treehouse of Horror VII