Marathon Monday Mashup

A few random, loosely connected thoughts occur to me about Boston and the things people say about it on Marathon Monday, always a big festive occasion here.

1. Boston is a racist, small, parochial city that is, at its heart, deeply illiberal.

Yes, OK, we’ve heard this often and I have no great desire to argue about it. I suppose the stereotype still fits in several neighborhoods that resist change and hang onto their ethnic enclaves like grim death. I won’t mention them by name because it always pisses people off, but you can tell by looking at a map who the usual suspects are – they’re all in Boston proper, but separated from “downtown” by bodies of water, train tracks and highways, or other natural and man-made boundaries that make it easier to retain their unique “character”.

ted landsmark

The Bad Old Days

2. Boston is a world-class city, internationally known for its culture, institutions, and history of progressive thought and action.

Yes, this one is also true and I like it a lot better. In fact, I would say the truths here greatly outweigh the truths of No. 1 above. No one can match our hospitals and universities. Our museums and symphony are as good as anyone else’s. We’re a technology and financial center, and an incubator of new businesses and ideas.

Great institutions anchor the Longfellow Bridge

I’ve heard it said that there are more books per capita in Boston/Cambridge than anywhere else. We can be counted on to be on the right side of history when it’s time to vote. True, we’re not New York, and we’re all in bed by 1:00 A.M., but that’s a good thing, if you ask me.


And if you like sports, Boston has it all – plenty of championships in the four major professional sports, and a wealth of great college programs as well, e.g. three national powerhouses in college hockey within walking distance from one another: Harvard, Boston University, and Boston College.  A fourth, Northeastern, is quickly closing in on this elite circle. And amateur sports flourish here, too, which brings me to:

3. The Boston Marathon is an international, cross-cultural magnet. It is the oldest annual marathon in the world, and arguably the most famous. Tens of thousands will run officially and unofficially, and some will be professional athletes, but the overwhelming majority are amateurs.  It will draw people from all over the world who have trained and sacrificed and traveled great distances for the honor of running “Boston”.

I’m writing this before the race, but I will go out on a limb and say that both the men’s and women’s winner will have come from a far away land and have an absolutely huge grin on their face despite the exhaustion of having gone all out for a couple of hours.


Yesterday was a hot day, not a great day for running. But out on the Charles, lots of runners were getting in their last tune-ups before the race. Smiles all around, people taking selfies, locals and visitors in happy concatenation. A great day to be a Bostonian.

4. Martin Richard Park. Since the 2013 bombings, the Marathon has taken on a new and important aspect, beyond that of just sporting glory. It has come to embody the “Boston Strong” spirit of overcoming adversity, and not surrendering to our worst impulses. A new park and playground has opened up honoring Martin Richard, the little kid who lost his life in the bombings, and his family wants everyone to enjoy it and have good and positive feelings about it, like Martin would.

I hope it is successful and doesn’t become another in the unfortunate string of misuses and privatization of public space that we like to rail about here at GOML.


5. Doing harm while doing good. Apart from the Marathon, just about every weekend there is some sort of outdoor event where you can try to help an important cause. Maybe it’s a “walk for hunger” (shouldn’t that be a walk against hunger?), or one to support cancer research. It’s hard to keep up with them all, but everyone seems to want to do good.

But sometimes, even the well-meaning can do harm while trying to do good. I was out walking yesterday and noticed some pink plastic/rubber ties on stakes in the ground by the riverbank, obviously there to help participants navigate some part of a charitable event. Having just written a few days ago about the proliferation of plastics everywhere around us, I couldn’t get the following progression out of my mind:


pink 2


And, just to go out on a high note, here’s a bonus pic of a teenage goose on the ground and some teenage trash in the trees.


Man and nature in harmony. If only.

That’s it for my Marathon Monday Mashup. Peace out, people!


2 thoughts on “Marathon Monday Mashup”

  1. One of my first introductions to Boston, several years before I moved there, was hearing about Louise Day Hicks and her activities. Not an auspicious start. For my money the area within a mile or two radius from the Back Bay is what makes Boston great (your item #2). The rest is pretty much like anyplace anywhere, a mix of things. Another good thing it shares with a few other cities is the proximity – couple hours drive – of beach, craggy shoreline, and mountains.


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