Welcome to Downtown Journal!
An occasional column about city life by Monica Collins
Don’t get me wrong. I think tourists are indigenous to the North End/Waterfront. And like other indigenous creatures – seagulls, rabbits, rats and pigeons — I accept them as part of our environment and who we are. Kind of.
I draw the line at littering, rudeness, and illegal behavior on the part of the visitors. However, as long as they pay attention to the rules – of the road, the city, and their tour guides – I think we can all get along. Sigh.
Sometimes, I grow weary of living in a trammeled-upon quadrant of the city. In spring, summer and fall, the street outside our home rumbles with tourist trolleys and buses; the sea channel brims with an armada of sightseeing ferries. When the trolley windows and boat decks are open, I can hear shreds from the tour guide’s practiced patter. Often, the guide prattles on about the price of real estate. He throws out numbers to astound the guests. Homeowners who live in the properties along the sightseeing route must cringe when they hear their real estate values being bandied about. Or maybe they swell with glee.
Pride is a common commodity along the tourist trail. I am very proud my city. When U.S. News and World Report recently named Boston one of the top three best cities in the world to spend a summer vacation – up there with Paris, France and Florence, Italy – I had a moment of glow before the dread of the hungering horde set in. Just as the zombies invade on TV’s “The Walking Dead,” so the tourists will soon be unleashed carrying Mike’s Pastry boxes, asking to pet my dog because they miss their own woofer back home, or wondering how to get to Hanover Street/Quincy Market/the Constitution/whatever landmark.
Again, don’t get me wrong. I am polite and happy to give them guidance. My dog, unfortunately, is not so game. He’s a shy guy and skittish when strange hands reach down to stroke his fur. If the visitors ask my recommendations for good places in the neighborhood, I have my patter: I steer them toward Modern Pastry, the Boston Public Market, whatever North End eatery has captured my fancy, and Battery Wharf because the views from there are astounding and the generous historical markers are interesting.
Boston gives a property tax abatement and, sometimes, in my harebrained imagination, I envision a tourist mitigation. Anyone whose legal address is within a quarter mile of the Freedom Trail, or right along the Harborwalk, would be given a tax break in acknowledgment of how the property takes a thumping from visitors. It would also be a small payment for civic cooperation in putting on a good face even when involved in private quotidian business as well as for facing uncommon dangers. We remember last year’s festival season when the invasion became downright scary. Police had to be called and stayed vigilant when gangs of kids roamed Commercial Street and Puopolo Park after the early feasts. I remember the ominous roar of that crowd.
So far, the only benefit from a tough winter and frigid spring is the brief respite from visitor overload. Now, as the tourist season warms up, I gird myself. Still, I am pleased my home is in a place where the world wants to be. Living in this neighborhood also opens me up to unlikely, outlandish opportunities. Where else can you find fried Oreos on a summer Sunday?