Home, Sweet Eastie


EDITOR’s NOTE:

When we wrote our East Boston exploration blog about a couple outsiders (us!) walking around the neighborhood, we thought, “I can’t wait to see the comments. People are going to love it! Our new Eastie friends/fans are going to invite us to come back to hang out with them and they’ll show us new, cool places that we missed the first time around.”

Well anyway, that’s not exactly how things played out. We didn’t think that our attempt to express affection for Eastie as a more neighborhoodly section of the city that doesn’t suffer from the affliction of doggie boutiques would be compared to a bad Disney movie but, hey, such is life.

To make sure we fulfill our mission to portray Boston honestly through the eyes of young people, we’ve invited Eastie resident Steve Holt to give us his vision of the neighborhood. We hope you enjoy it!

-DC

Home, Sweet Eastie

by Steve Holt

I’m not a lifelong East Boston resident.  Far from it.

In only about four years, though, I’ve grown to cherish my neighborhood. It’s become a part of my identity. It’s my home.

Much ink has been spilled on what constitutes home. Some claim that home can be captured solely in the framework of physical place. A few even still hold to the 1950s ideal of home as white picket fence, lush yard, 2.5 kids, and a dog – and closeness to one’s family of origin.

But “settling down” looks quite different for the one-in-three generation than it did for our parents. To me, home has become both less about an American Dreamlike lifestyle or even my family of origin and more of a place or situation that allow me to discover and be myself, with no pretenses. Somewhere I can let my hair down, metaphorically. A scenario in which I am able to take off my mask. To be seen and accepted for who I really am.

In this way particularly, East Boston is home.  As a neighborhood, Eastie isn’t trying to be anything it isn’t, and generally speaking, even the young people who have moved in the last 10 years aren’t on a quest to turn Eastie into Charlestown or the South End. That’s because we recognize that East Boston already offers the truly important stuff: family, neighbors that care, diversity, and vibrant spaces to gather.

When I say that my family is here, I mean it not in the way you might think. We form “tribes” around common interests and stations in life, such as young children, entrepreneurial pursuits, ethnic origins, recreation, or cultural exploration. I have met some of the brightest and most thoughtful people here, people who have started their own businesses, are pioneers in their industries, create beautiful art or music, and care deeply for the disenfranchised – both locally and globally.

We support each other as well. In the absence of immediate family members, for instance, a network of young families formed a few years ago in Eastie to offer each other much-needed support in a crucial time in their lives. A different event for parents or children occurs every day of the week, from play dates to support groups for moms and dads. We even babysit each other’s children using a cashless “token” system to keep everything Kosher.

holidaybrunch11

Eaters sit around a common table at Scup's.

Food and drink are such important components of home. Around a common table, neighbors become family. Despite the erroneous claim a few years back that Eastie classifies as a “food desert,” my neighborhood features an abundance of quality, often simple, places for neighbors to gather to eat and drink. One of my favorites, for instance, is Scup’s in the Harbour, a quaint café down the street where I can eat scrumptious comfort foods around a communal table. Co-owner Wendy Saver greets me exuberantly every time I walk through the door. In fact, she tries to learn every one of her customers’ names; go to Scup’s, say, three times, and you’ll know Wendy and probably at least one other person you didn’t know before.

Eddie C’s is a gathering place that hearkens the Eastie of yesteryear, a mingling place for folks of all stripes. Here, we newcomers sit elbow-to-elbow with the “locals,” pop quarters in the juke box, and demonstrate that “old” and “new” Boston don’t have to be in conflict. The Maverick Square watering hole probably qualifies as a “dive” by most people’s definitions, but if a group of friends can’t be themselves here around a $7 pitcher of PBR, where on Earth can they?

zumixI want to talk about East Boston’s handful of parks and open spaces, its Harborwalk, and the Greenway, areas that bring us in touch with nature and new friends. I’d love to mention how helpful Eastie folks are – the success of the nonprofit ZUMIX in offering children a creative outlet through music or the willingness of residents to spend a Saturday picking up trash or loading a boat with water for Haiti. And it would please me to no end to expound on the amazing heritage of East Boston as a haven for immigrants from all over the world – first Irish, then Jews, then Italian, and now Central and South American.

But I can’t.  I have neither the space nor the time.

I’ll have to summarize by ending where I started: East Boston is home. And not just to residents like me – many people from outside the neighborhood have expressed a feeling of warmth and acceptance as they spend time here. If a concentration of Starbucks, boutiques, or expensive condos factors heavily into a person’s valuing of a neighborhood, then East Boston doesn’t rank well. But if what they want is home – a place where they can discover and be themselves – Eastie deserves a good, long look.

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13 Comments

Filed under All types of Resources, Where You Live-Housing & Neighborhood Nights

13 responses to “Home, Sweet Eastie

  1. Sal

    Steve’s post is one of the best explanations of what makes our neighborhood great that I have ever read. Thank you for putting so much time and effort into it.

  2. Jim

    Those of us who are (virtually) lifelong East Boston residents are happy to have people like Steve Holt living in the neighborhood. He does a nice job pointing out some of Eastie’s charms.

    With regard to the “kid in high school” analogy, I’d like to think of my neighborhood as the student who is so cool, so smart and so self-aware that he isn’t worried about current fashion trends, and only in retrospect do his peers realize how unpretentious and genuine he was.

  3. Lindsay

    This is awesome. I kind of want to move here now. [Just kidding, JP! I still love you, baby!] But seriously, you had me at babysitting tokens and I hadn’t even gotten to Scup’s yet. Who called Eastie a culinary desert? That’s ridiculous. A couple years ago I killed myself eating my way around the neighborhood for a dining roundup in one of the local papers, and then again when we did Italian-American. My introduction was [groan] “Eating Eastie could take eons.”

  4. Ian

    I too agree with everything everyone has mentioned so far. Steve, you did a great job with your perspective, but I’d also like to make sure we as a neighborhood don’t just rest on our laurels or let things slide by anymore. I think Eastie is great, but it has even greater potential. I’d like to see Eastie keep it’s old and charming ways, and in a healthy way, integrate new and modern as well. I love the sense of community, but would love to see it stronger where we standup together in unity against the little things that people think are not their problem in which it becomes a big problem such as trash, more plants and trees needed in our neighborhood streetscapes for further beautification, encouraging pet owners to take ownership and proper care of their beloved animals, and for everyone to continue to properly respect their neighbors and keep the neighborhood in mind and heart always. This is what I’m working towards and I hope and I hope everyone does their share to make our neighborhood even better. Thank you for the positive spot light on our neighborhood!

  5. Danielle Pillion

    Bravo Steve, an excellent job!

  6. Save me a spot, son…Mom and I just might be coming “home.”

  7. TJ

    Bravo Steve – poet laureate of Eastie

  8. Rob

    Well done, Brother Steve. Well done.

  9. Martina

    Steve, I really enjoyed reading your perspective on the neighborhood. You did a great job.

    However, I don’t think everybody experiences Eastie the way you described it, especially those who are not lifelong residents. It takes some people a lot longer to feel at HOME in Eastie.

    Also, I would not agree that Eastie is not on its “quest to turn into Charlestown or South End”. On the contrary, I believe it should be changing and it is! My husband and I have been here for only five years and we’ve seen a lot of signs of change. For example, 156 Porter, with over one hundred lofts, brought a lot of young professionals who like some of the amenities typically seen in Charlestown or South End, and care a great deal about Eastie as a neighborhood. These folks represent their own “tribe”, right? Who says, we should not aspire to have something for people that actually enjoy the cup of Starbucks coffee in the morning and who love having a chic boutique, coffee shop, bar/lounge or restaurant walking distance from their home while enjoying the cultural diversity and all the things you mention as well. I believe that neighborhood has been successful at this inevitable change for as long (or as short) as I have been here while still keeping its charm and warmth that you portray in your post so well.

    For all this CHANGE that I’m seeing happening every day, for all the variety of meals you can eat here, for the constantly increasing cultural, demographic and economic diversity and all the great characteristics you already mention, I just LOVE living in this neighborhood that has a potential of becoming a “jewel” of the city. We have the MOST BEAUTIFUL skyline view in the city and we are the place where people from all over the world step first when they arrive in our great city.

  10. Steve

    Martina –
    Thanks for chiming in! I could not agree more that not everyone’s view of Eastie is the rosy picture I painted in my essay. Indeed, many, many people feel disconnected and altogether alone here. Some are this way by their own choosing. Maybe they don’t see a neighborhood as a place for community building or are in a stage of their lives when this isn’t possible. (work balance, children, other barriers) But what about those people who hunger for the kind of community I describe? What are we doing to foster that?

    I also agree with you that change — especially when it contributes to a deeper sense of community and neighborliness — is a good thing. I’m not arguing against change. I am arguing against the kind of narrow concept of what a “good” or “livable” neighborhood or town looks like. My intent is not to pick on anyone’s tribe or on Starbucks or boutiques, but these things must be put into perspective. For instance, lobbying to get a Starbucks without working to build community between neighbors or justice and conversations in diverse places is missing a huge opportunity, I think, to focus on what really makes a neighborhood.

    Because at the end of the day, if we have a $4 cup of coffee and a closet full of doggie sweaters but no one to

    …help us shovel our porch or put together a shed
    …enjoy a celebratory meal with
    …be a shoulder during a rough patch

    then what do we have?

  11. workingreekgirl

    Steve–My name is Cecelia. I’ve been doing some research and someone referred me to you. I’m hoping to uncover your email so I can contact you, but if you get this, my email and phone are below:

    512 751 6768
    workingreekgirl@gmail.com

  12. Pingback: Post #6: Home Sweet Eastie by Steve Holt – ONEin3 Boston

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