Lots of people conflate Boston and Cambridge. On trips abroad, fellow travelers have told me they're "from Boston" when they live in Newton, Norwood, or even further away. But Cambridge is not Boston; it's not even Jamaica Plain. The two cities are like apples and oranges. Or apples and organic, fair trade, sustainable breadfruit.
My husband wouldn't mind moving to Cambridge, but I don't feel I belong there. He'd like to settle somewhere between Porter and Central Squares, so he'd have an easy commute. But it seems to me those neighborhoods belong to students, hipsters, artists, poets, old-school communists and hippies, academics (from starving lecturers to Brattle Street royalty), scientists, and entrepreneurs. I like Cambridge's diversity, which makes my own neighborhood feel staid and homogeneous. (Until I consider that drunk frat boys and buggy-wielding bottle collectors wake me at all hours via the alley. It's not all tea and scones here.)
I do like the idea of living among some (not all) of those Cambridge groups, but I doubt the feeling would be mutual. I'm not sufficiently aware, politically, socially, or environmentally. For example, I'm sure I'll get in trouble for stereotyping from the first Cambridge resident who reads this.
I believe you have to do yoga, folk-dancing, meditation, or something similar to fit in in Cambridge. It seems there's a yoga or bodywork studio on every other block. So many women of all ages appear to be heading to or from a class in their leggings, baggy pants, or flowing skirts with flat shoes. But I could be wrong. I don't understand Cambridge and I know it. And I don't like yoga; it makes me too nervous.
There are little things about Cambridge that bother me. Number 1 on my list: the interfaith/nonfaith holiday decorations, which often feature lights in the form of stick figures dancing. They are pretty, but they don't put me in a holiday mood. Instead they give me fantasies of civic meeting rooms, where countless thoughtful discussions must have gone on until city officials decided that lighted skeletons were the safest, most neutral choice, reflecting no particular holiday at all. I'll bet it took a while; consider how long it takes them to choose a mayor.
And I bet it won't be long until those colorful stick figures will all switch over to those energy-conserving, lavender-gray light strings that you see around, casting the dreariest, most minimal glow. (I hate those; I think they were originally targeted to former Soviet-bloc vampire-aesthetes who couldn't tolerate color and were severely depressed... and wanted to keep it that way. I could be wrong; maybe those lights are for people who decorate their places entirely in black, white, and gray. I see listings for such places from time to time. I can't imagine why anyone would choose to live that way. What happens when they buy bananas or tomatoes? I guess they have to hide them. And do they watch only black-and-white TV shows and movies?)
But I digress.
The other day, walking through Central Square, I noticed that the traffic signals make drumming noises instead of the bird chirps one hears elsewhere. Seriously, Cambridge? You have to have vegan traffic signals? Why? I don't think ASCAP or BMI rules cover birdsong. Are you protecting birds, who might get the wrong idea and think that one of their own is being held prisoner in the traffic light? Or is it that you don't want to give the impression that you exploit animals, employing them without their consent? Could you not reach consensus on the most politically acceptable bird?
Cambridge is just a little beyond me. I'd rather we stay on this side of the river.