Boston is my favorite city on the U.S. mainland. It’s a big city that doesn’t FEEL like a big city. That’s probably because there aren’t a lot of high-rise apartment buildings. People live in comfortable four-and five-story walk-ups built a century or more ago of brick and stone.
One of those, a block off Kenmore Square at 135 Bay State Road, was once my fraternity house when I attended Boston University. Another, just down the street at number 73, is Abigayle’s Bed & Breakfast. That’s where I stay when I visit Boston after the April NARP meetings conclude in Washington. It feels like home and it’s just off Kenmore Square and a short ten minute walk to Fenway Park.
Getting around is quick and easy on the transit system — underground in the central part of the city — which Bostonians refer to simply as “The T.” From the Kenmore Square station it’s just 10-15 minutes to the stop at Haymarket Square. Come up to street level and you’re in Boston’s North End. It’s the Italian part of town and is justifiably famous for its Italian restaurants and bakeries and coffee shops. Hanover Street is the main drag, but there are wonderful places to eat and drink all over that section of town. (The original and beautifully preserved home of Paul Revere is right in the same neighborhood, too.)
Anyway, many years ago, my wife and I were in Boston for a night or two on the way back home from New Hampshire where our daughter was in college. Of course, that meant a visit to the North End and dinner at one of the restaurants. As we were paying the bill, the waiter — who was decked out in a tuxedo and bore a resemblance to the Clemenza character in The Godfather — noticed my Bank off Hawaii credit card and we struck up a brief conversation.
I told him that, coincidentally, a new pizza joint had opened several months earlier where we lived in the town of Kailua on the windward side of Oahu and had instantly become a huge hit. I said it was called Boston’s North End Pizza Bakery and that the guy running it was a fellow named Tom Ricco.
“Do you, by any chance, know the guy?” I asked.
“Clemenza” scowled and shook his head. “Nevah heard a him,” he snorted disdainfully. “He’s probably from Worcester!” (He pronounced those words Praw-blee from WUSS-tuh.)
I guess, to really appreciate that story, you have to be from New England … and able to hear those words being uttered with a thick Boston accent. I ran into a lady the other day at our little post office and spotted her Boston accent right away. She’s been here a few years but she teared up — half laughing, half crying — when I told her that story. So did I.