I clearly remember comedian Dana Carvey making fun of my alma mater, Boston University, for having the least intimidating mascot possible. While I would argue the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz might have us beat, Carvey makes a fair point about us Terriers. That said, Boston was a pretty great city to go to school in. There are something like 50 colleges within 50 miles. And I would bet that most of the students in the city felt the same way we Terriers did: The day of the year we looked forward to most was Patriot’s Day.
Technically, the holiday commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which took place April 19, 1775. But for us, the third Monday of April was a party that celebrated sports, camaraderie and summer.
If you woke up early, you could walk over to Fenway Park and watch the Red Sox play a morning home game, the only time of the year this would happen. But the real draw, of course, was the Boston Marathon. Every corner from Copley to Kenmore Square, from Heartbreak Hill to Scream Tunnel was lined with fanatics and revelers. For us, it was about being part of something. It was special. It was something that belonged solely to Boston.
You knew parties were going on everywhere, so you had to have one of your own to contribute. Sure, as day faded into night, the bars got more packed, but this wasn’t about getting drunk, this was about being a involved in a community. And it wasn’t just happening on the streets. We used to set up beach chairs and barbecues on the rooftops and grill the day away, watching the show, both the runners and the crowd, down below.
One thing people who don’t live in Boston don’t understand is just how cold the city really is. While Chicago has the Windy City nickname, Boston is actually the windiest city in America. But just about every year, come that third week in April, the weather would (sometimes finally) clear up and we’d have a beautiful day to spend outside with friends, fans and racers. Every college student looks forward to summer vacation, and in a way, ours started on Patriot’s Day. Sure, there was still a month of school left and finals to take, but once the sun finally stayed out, the end was in sight. It was like our pre-end-of-the-school-year party.
And in Boston, nice days are appreciated in a totally different way. Steve Sweeney, the seminal Boston comic, perfectly expresses the Bostonian attitude, “You say to someone, ‘It’s a nice day’” (and he responds) “Yeah, we won’t get many more of these.” (or) “Yeah, well we waited long enough.”
That’s Boston. Perhaps no people in this country are more self-deprecating than Bostonians. It’s a Northeast way of showing love—making fun of your family, your friends and yourself. Boston, like America, will endure. But Boston will do it with a little more humor. The city and its people will get back up. And as they do, they’ll joke about how they did it, making sure they take themselves down just enough to keep smiling.