some people the city remembers

Something struck me last week as I was riding the bus to work and reading Colson Whitehead’s “The Colossus of New York”. In his collection of vignettes about New York City he writes, “everybody remembers the city. Some people the city remembers.” For some reason his words struck me and got me thinking – Which cities remember me? I remember all the cities I’ve lived in, but I’m guessing that only a choice few remember me.

Obviously Portland remembers me and is now getting to know me again. I mean how could it forget the girl who danced (sans a respectable amount of clothing) in its Salmon Street Fountain on her 21st birthday after consuming one too many jello shots at the Lotus.

But I know I haven’t left an impression like that everywhere I’ve lived. I know Pebble Beach doesn’t remember me. That’s where I learned the art of being present, but not seen. And I’d be surprised if Bridgeport even recognized my face. I slipped in and out of that town like I was Keyser Soze.

Boston will never forget me. I may not have had a fountainesque moment on its streets, but let’s just say I got around. No not in that way, but living without a car really forces you to get to know a city and for the city to get to know you. But if I had to choose one moment when I knew for sure that the city, in this story represented by the T conductor, took notice it would have to be one warm morning last summer. I knew I was running late, but when I heard the train rumble into the station as I was standing on the other side of a four-lane street and at the top of dozens of stairs I knew I was pushing it. After a split-second thought-process I went for it. As I rounded the bottom of the stairs (the first chance I would get to see if the train was still there) I was excited to see it was, but that it was already lurching forward. Ah, but the door was still open so I just kept on running.

Now these doors are kind of tricky. There’s a gap between the platform and the stairs that lead up to the ground floor of the train, which has this trap door kind of thing that the conductor closes when the train starts moving. So as I leapt on to the moving train (in heels no less), hoping I wouldn’t miss and fall under the train and onto the tracks, I looked up to see the conductor closing the trap door. Fortunately I startled him enough that he froze and didn’t drop the steel plate on my head. Instead he grabbed my arm and pulled me up. At that moment the city’s rhythm merged with mine and though we’d been dancing around each other for years, we truly took notice of each other.

What is it about Boston?

That gets under your skin. That makes you miss it even in winter when all you’re hearing about are bitterly cold days and snow drifts the size of large dogs. That (even 3000 miles away) can make you feel the sting of the wind that comes off the harbor and gets under every layer of clothing covering your body (so many layers that you didn’t think you’d be able to pull your pants over them or get your arms through them). That freezes every last inch of your body’s fluids so that you take an hour or more to thaw out once you get inside. That when your new hometown is experiencing some its lowest temperatures of the season you (who hates the cold like it was the devil) can walk around the block without a coat on and get funny looks from others who are bundled up like its the Arctic. That causes you to wonder (only for a split second mind you) if they’re on to something with this love of Dunkin Donuts coffee. That makes you wish it was baseball season 365 days a year.

the new architecture of new york


I remember when Italian architect Renzo Piano was awarded the commission for the new New York Times building at the beginning of the century. I was still living in Connecticut and imagined I’d be close by to watch the construction of a building that I once dreamed I’d work inside. However, more than eight years (and a few moves) have passed and the building has just opened to its reporters and photographers. The punch list is still being punched, but the quintessential public spaces are open.

The NY Times architecture critic led readers on a comprehensive online tour of the building this past fall and as I watched it I longed to be in the space in person. I had no idea then that I’d be in NY City the next month, be able to walk around the building, and visit its lobby and atrium. Piano’s use of texture and color is brilliant, the grays (both smooth and finely lined) evoke the paper’s newsprint. The bold warm colors evoke the life and energy that the words of NY Times reporters use to bring us stories of hope and heartbreak everyday.


Within two blocks of each other in midtown Manhattan are two historic buildings that have recently received modern updates. British architect Norman Foster’s addition to the Beaux Arts Hearst building has been lauded as a success (and it is), while Portland architect Brad Cloepfil’s renovation of Edward Durrell Stone’s building at Columbus Circle has received the wrath of the preservation community. Though it’s still under construction, Cloepfil’s work blends modern style and contemporary needs with the historic fabric of Stone’s building in as respectful a way as Foster’s intervention blends environmental values with the historic Hearst building.