I’m a City Girl: My Neighbourhood

Sculpture over Second Street Parking Lot Entrance, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Sculpture over Second Street Parking Lot Entrance, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Living in “the city” is a choice I made a long time ago. I grew up in a bedroom community (i.e., the suburbs) and hated it from a very young age; I felt as if I lived in a frontier town. A recurring nightmare I often had as a child and teenager, was about long concrete blocks that took forever to get to the end of on foot. To make matters worse, in these horrifying dreams, it was always a blazingly hot summer without trees – a desert of cement and asphalt where nothing could be differentiated, so I could never reach my destination. In my late teens, I vowed that I would live right in an urban area or completely outside of one, in the countryside.

In the city, one is literally surrounded by people. If you are lucky, you find community within this environment, but mostly the people around you are strangers. At the moment I am very fortunate; I live within a half hour walk of the heart of downtown Boston and know a number of people in my neighbourhood of East Cambridge – some very well – in part because of a community garden (of which I am a member) that sits right beside my home.

Working in the Costa Lopez Taylor Community Garden, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Melanie and Sophie working in the Costa Lopez Taylor Community Garden, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Boston Seen from the Cambridge Power Plant, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Boston Seen from the Cambridge Power Plant, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

I have lived in Montreal, Toronto, as well as in Calgary. Sadly, in Calgary my apartment was much more than a 30 minute walk from the centre of town, and I was forced to face both my nightmares and “the mall” which I have always abhorred. I now live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a small (approximately eight square blocks) residential neighbourhood in the midst of mostly bio-genetic laboratory space (e.g., the Broad Institute, Genzyme, and Biogen), technology companies (like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon), and M.I.T. The area is defined by M.I.T., the Charles River, and train tracks on two sides.

On the Way to the Charles River, Cambridge, MA, U.S

On the Way to the Charles River, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Originally, East Cambridge, was marshland. Once land was built and developed it became a working class area that housed the people employed by the factories that produced candy, glass, and candles. Many factory buildings still stand but have been re-purposed as offices, condominiums, restaurants, cafes, and, bars. What attracted Steve and me to this neighbourhood, when we moved in, was that it was still working class with 75% of the population renting their places and most of the house owners had lived here for decades. These “old-timers” were predominantly Portuguese and Italian. Twelve years later 60% of the neighbourhood rents, and the demographics keep changing. Until a few years ago, our neck of the woods was was completely quiet after rush-hour. So far, it is still a quiet neighbourhood unless you walk toward M.I.T. where all the hip is now happening. East Cambridge is very slowly becoming vibrant but the old feel is still strong.

Outside Club Lusitania on Fifth Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Outside Club Lusitania on Fifth Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

I am happy to sacrifice the physical space of the suburbs for access to places I enjoy – like art galleries and museums, independent shops, theatres, cafes, restaurants, and bookstores (sadly the record/CD stores are now practically extinct – with the cafe and bookstore, perhaps, not too far behind). Much of the contact I have with people in the city happens when I go to “my” local cafe, Voltage, where I meet other “regulars” and have conversations with them and the lovely people who work there. The city is a great place for people-watching, a pastime I enjoy. An urban landscape also offers the best variety of architecture, something that is not easy to find in the suburbs, where everything tends to be similar. Simply put, I much prefer and thrive in the city. It is here that I have always been able to carve out my own niche – find my place. For me, the city is home.

Voltage Coffee, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Voltage Coffee, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Abigail's Restaurant, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Abigail’s Restaurant, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Rhoda Sitting on her Third Street Stoop, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Rhoda Sitting on her Third Street Stoop, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Neena, Third Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Nina, Third Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Walter, Hanging Out in the Costa Lopez Taylor Community Garden, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Walter, Hanging Out in the Costa Lopez Taylor Community Garden, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Thorndike Street House, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Thorndike Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Second Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Second Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Typical Neighbourhood Cornice, Spring Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Typical Neighbourhood Cornice, Spring Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Sullivan Courthouse, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Sullivan Courthouse, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Cambridge Power Plant, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Cambridge Power Plant, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Outside Club Lusitania on Fifth Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Outside Club Lusitania on Fifth Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Off to the Mall, Lechemere Subway Station, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Off to the Mall, Lechmere Subway Station, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Waiting for the Bus, Lechemere Subway Station, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Waiting for the Bus, Lechmere Subway Station, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Live Poultry Fresh Killed, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Mayflower Poultry Co., Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Woman Taking Advantage of a Lovely Summer Day - Walking Along the Esplanade, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Woman Taking Advantage of a Lovely Summer Day – Walking Along the Esplanade, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Resting - Sixth and Cambridge Streets, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Resting – Sixth and Cambridge Streets, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Live Here Now, Next to Genzyme, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Live Here Now, Next to Genzyme, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Fulkerson Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Fulkerson Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

AT&T and Old Foundry, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

AT&T and Old Foundry, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

New Building Under Construction, Cambridge, MA, U.S

New Building Under Construction, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Charles River Canoe & Kayak, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Charles River Canoe & Kayak, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Costa Lopez Taylor Park Basketball Court, Cambridge, MA, U.S

Costa Lopez Taylor Park Basketball Court, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Summer Hockey at the Ahearn Field, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Street Hockey at the Ahearn Field, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Charles Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

Charles Street, Cambridge, MA, U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “I’m a City Girl: My Neighbourhood

  1. Janet Fortunato

    Love your photos, Tamar. Your shots of people are very expressive. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Lori Weber

    Great shots Tamar. I too am a city girl and appreciate many of your points about the wonderful perks of city life; what I think you might not fully appreciate is WHY so many people, especially those with families, choose the burbs: it is simple economics. Those working class people you write about are often squeezed out when city areas are gentrified and rents sky-rocket. The burbs are a place where a family can have some room and space for half the price. We could not have afforded a house in Montreal when we bought. Instead, for such a great price, we got land, trees, a house by the lake and a great community. Not all suburbs are alike, just as no two cities are alike. That is why I tend to really dislike simplistic city vs. suburb arguments. They don’t allow for difference of any kind. This probably sounds defensive, but many burb-ites do get tired of defending why they live there. Hell, we are often embarrassed to admit that we even like it!!!!

    Reply
    1. sbandtg Post author

      lori – my post wasn’t meant to disparage the suburbs. you’re right, all suburbs aren’t the same. i happened to have nightmares about the particularly bleak suburb of my childhood in chomedey. this blog post is simply my own personal reactions, a reflection on how I feel about where I have chosen to live (or not live). i was not trying to make a city vs. suburb argument statement but describing how i feel about the city.

      Reply
  3. buntymcc

    Thoughtful portraits, particularly Walter and the guys playing basketball, and a huge variety of subjects well treated of which Thorndike St is my favourite. Happy Canada Day Tamar.

    Reply
    1. sbandtg Post author

      thank you. my favourites are: thorndike street, the canoe/kayak “abstract” shot, and the AT&T/foundry bldg. i also like the shot of walter. happy canada day to you! —

      Reply
  4. Lori Weber

    I get that (and who could blame you for dissing Chomedy) but you set up your post as a suburb vs. city argument, so I was putting in a pitch for the burbs. Sometimes it seems like ppl think no one who lives in the suburbs is interested in art or culture or cultures; that is just too untrue. I am not saying you said this, but it is a general belief out there, that more interesting ppl live in the city. I have met plenty of ignorant ppl in the city and I have met plenty of interesting ppl in the burbs. That’s all I was trying to say: it’s not so black and white. But I love your pictures, as always.

    Reply
  5. rsheffer

    Totally agree with you! I love the anonymity of the big city and the hum of constant activity and I hate the countryside and its chickens and dogs.The suburbs is also something which haunted my childhood but more from the point of view of being dependent on Dad to take me by car to parties and the lack of public transport into London.When I was a teen craving the party life I had to take a subway (tube) ,then a local bus and then walk along a scary dark street to our house along which potentially dangerous males lurked.As always superb photos which reveal your love of that environment.Also you have answered my unspoken question- what will you blog about now that Asia is finished (a question troubling me right now, of course).

    Reply
    1. sbandtg Post author

      oh god! tell me about it. to get into the city when i was a teenager, it tool 1.5 hours by bus. i had my driving license at age 16 but was not allowed to drive it into the city, only to see friends or take my mom places. but it all depends where you live in the ‘burbs. but most people have to drive everywhere or be driven. not for me. what can i say?

      Reply

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