I live in East Boston. Eastie. Realtors might try and tell you (before the crash, anyway) this is "eabo" but that is an abomination. That's ridiculous, that's not a place people live. I've been at this address eight and a half years. It's gritty, we have too many skunks, too many feral cats and not enough (okay, arguably any) indie coffee shops.
Right after I tell people I live in East Boston, I say that I'm not on the flight path because most people know Logan Airport is in Eastie. The airport is in my backyard. Well, it would be in my backyard if I had a yard, which I don't, because this is the city. I do have a patch of asphalt to call my own -- a deeded parking spot -- which any city person will tell you is valuable, even if nothing green can grow there, even if you don't have your own car.
I live in a fourth floor walkup. The building was converted to condos in the 1980s, but it was built in the 1900s. If I'm remembering it right, the classified ad describing the unit used the words cozy (at 680 square feet for a two bedroom, it is small) and Mary Poppins view, because it looked out over rooftops. I'm fascinated with one neighbor building, and I've taken hundreds if not thousands of photographs of it. I have no idea who lives there. I've never met any of them. Living in the city can be like that.
It can also be like this: feeding the cats for your friend and neighbor across the street. Discovering people who you get along with amazingly well at a restaurant that is too unlikely and wonderful to be true, but is. It's walking around mostly well-cleared sidewalks in the winter, occasionally laughing at what the neighborhood folks have used to save their parking space after they shoveled it out.
I don't know how I developed the city living idea when I was small, but I did. I built endless skyscrapers with my wood blocks. I wanted to live in a brick building, climbing stairs, being near lights and motion and activity and the sense something new, something different, could happen any time.
I'm not always conscious of that, as I walk around my neighborhood, but I try to be. I can see into people's windows. Sometimes I see their cats, sometimes I laugh at their holiday decorations, sometimes I wonder what they are watching on what seems like huge, fiercely glowing television screens.
It isn't what I see in my neighborhood, but what I see. What I see when I travel for work, what I see when when I close my eyes, what I see when I spin stories out of the glowing lights that could be almost anything almost anywhere. That's really where I live, looking for signs of life in the darkness. Charting my own flight path.