Goodbye Cambridge, I’ll Remember You Always

Posted on August 17, 2010

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As I write this, I am in the Cambridge public library.  It will be my last visit here for the summer.  I am a sad sight to see.  I dropped off no less than 20 books.  The librarian smiled at me as ey proceeded to scan and shelve them one by one.  I’ve come here at least 5 times a week every week I’ve been in this city.  The library is beautiful and majestic, but not imposing.  It is also set up to facilitate an obsession with fiction, with 7-day “speed reads” preventing bottlenecks of the newest works being checked out.  I’ve got just one more to finish up here before I leave: Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  (You should see my friend’s review of it over at a abagoffruit.wordpress.comNomad‘s got me visibly rocking back and forth as I muse about the challenges of feminism, immigration, and assimilation.)

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  I’m here to say a farewell.  During my first week here, I was completely blown away by the unfamiliarity of the place. I’ve never lived in a town like this.  The houses are traditional (every other one on my street has a “historic building” designation), but the people are not.  I’ve seen many flavors of performance here: of the queer, theater, and street varieties in particular.  Very rarely have I been let down.  The drag show-like musicals, the low budget Tom Stoppard plays, the historical reenactments outside the Longfellow house, the gifted writers reading their sweet, tragic, and comic words at the Harvard Bookstore, the jazz enchantress and her keyboard accompaniment in the Square.  This is a special place.

And maybe it’s because I’ve been reading too much Jhumpa Lahiri lately, but I really do think too many good stories take place here for avid readers to ignore it.  As I read and write here I feel I can soak up the setting and ghosts of every memoir, every short story.  I’ve become privy to some secret-but-not-so-secret club of place and time.  A couple walks with their child down to Inman Square?  Ah I understand.  The suave doctor takes a morning run on the Fresh Pond path?  Oh I’ve done that too, yawn.  Mass Ave?  Quincy Market (thanks for taking me there Jon)?  The Minuteman Bike Path?  Yes, yes, of course.

And as much as I love you Stanford, I know I’m going to feel a hole in my heart on my return to the West Coast.  Sure, I’m glad to be leaving before the chill sets in, glad that I don’t have to deal with iced-over library steps and snow up to my waist.  I’m grateful that I’ll be munching the best local produce year round while Boston has to deal with the traveled-beaten vegetables.  I’m also excited to be in the greenest, savviest wing of the country again.  Cambridge, though, has been like a fantasy-spell, the My Little Pony of cities.  Cambridge is the illicit love. Did you know Henry Longfellow disapproved of his son studying engineering and pushed him to become an artist instead?  That is what Cambridge does.  Cambridge is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I already feel a huge knot inside me as I sit in the library.  I can’t check out any more books here.  I’m staring at all the glossy speed-read jackets and wishing, just wishing I had another week.

I’m going to take something of my life here with me, though.  I’m going to keep up the numerous free yoga classes, and the book binges.  I’m going to find quiet spots to write and read.  I’m going to find quiet spots to be.  I’m going to ponder and walk alone and smile.  I’m going to traipse around my Stanford being Cambridge and being happy.

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Posted in: Musings