What Boston Offers All of Us

January 31, 2011

Your flight has landed safely at Logan Airport.

If you are a first timer, there is that palpable feeling of wonder, and the resounding question inside your head: “What will Boston be like?”

Whether you ride into Boston in a cab or take rapid transit or limousine, or a friend has come to pick you up, you come to understand a bit about the city on the ride in.

Boston, compared with other great American cities, is a hamlet.

In population and geographic size, it is a speck compared with the giant American cities, which are a swarming sprawl.

Monumental everyday traffic jams do not exist in the city the way they do on the highway connectors servicing Boston’s enormous suburban mass.

You notice there is no traffic.

Your entry into one of the nation’s great places is smooth and calm, almost reassuring.

There may be horn blowing and some daring moves by drivers you’ve never before witnessed but you come to understand instantly that the pace of life in Boston moves along unimpeded.

In other words, even the simple act of driving into Boston from Logan Airport supports the notion that we remain a free people in this city.

Your ride from the airport into the city should take about ten minutes at most.

Boston cannot reasonably be compared with New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami and Los Angeles.

This strain of thought runs deep and plays out in real time.

If you’ve been to those cities, then you know.

In New York and Los Angeles, an almost obscene necessity to spend money begins the moment you enter the city’s limits. Traffic is thick and heavy everywhere, and the might of towering skyscraper architecture dwarfs the individual immediately.

The ride into Boston is seamless and most times of the day it is quick.

Once inside the city you have your first close-up look.

You say to yourself, “Hmm. This place looks very interesting.”

And it is.

There is statuary everywhere, reminders everywhere of what came before.

The old mixes well with the new with a cemetery here, and a skyscraper there, with a statue of George Washington here and one of America’s loveliest public parks spread neatly all around him.

If you are transiting to a hotel in the heart of the downtown, you transit through two or three neighborhoods along the way.

Passing from one neighborhood to another can take a blink of the eye, as it does when you transit from Chinatown to the theater district and from the theater district into the area of the Boston Common and from there onto Beacon Hill and then to Back Bay.

Boston is a city of vibrant, historic but thoroughly modern neighborhoods.

It is a place where the old inexorably mixes with the new.

There is the feeling of freedom here.

There are universities everywhere and hundreds of thousands of students and professors, doctors and lawyers, researchers and professionals.

Hundreds of thousands believing they are heading somewhere important, so many of the city’s men and women and young people putting their energy into achieving success in their lives.

Boston is, indeed, the Athens of America.

You can’t come to that in your first two hours.

Give it about two days, with some long walks around the city.

The promise of America began here.

It remains alive today.

Welcome to Boston.