Going to the Connecticut Forum this week highlighted the appeal of small to medium size city living. I could imagine that, if I lived in Hartford, I would be thoroughly plugged into the cultural scene, in a way that was so easy for me when living in Dublin. (And something I find elusive in Boston. I could blame myself, my inertia, but it is far easier to blame the place, natch.) The theory is that the rarer the event, the more likely I am to make an effort to attend. I don’t think I am unique in this vein.
In Boston, big name speakers, world-class concerts, theatre, symposia, exhibits are a dime a dozen. So much so that they tend to just wash right over me. If I miss it, there will be something equally worthy next weekend.
“Missing it” in Dublin brought a sense of real loss. “It” –the speaker, the event, whatever–would probably not be easily replicated any time soon. Missing it meant being left out of interesting conversations with friends. Missing it meant not getting the jokes or references made on the radio or in print.
In contrast, in Boston, I never have a sense of having missed something. My friends’ and colleagues’ activities are too diverse and we don’t really talk about cultural events nearly as much as we did in Ireland. There is simply too much going on. For instance, I just left a party where four friends with four differenct theatre subsciptions compared the mertis of their venue of choice, but not one of us had seen the same play. Despite the fact that we share the exact same passion. Frustrating.
As an aside, the Red Sox and Patriots are notable exceptions: they are always useful for stimulating conversations in Boston, no matter what the audience. My Pilates teacher, who has no interest in baseball, always listens to Sox games to make sure he is prepared for conversations with his clients.
Granted, Dublin was special, being the only sizeable city in the Republic of Ireland, and the capital of the country to boot. But I do wonder if places like Austin or Madison would offer similar benefits. I’m not talking the whole creative class argument, as interesting as it is. I’m just talking about the ability of a single person to feel plugged in and committed to cultural life in their given city of residence. You can “own” a place like Ann Arbor, or Jacksonville. You really can’t “own” Boston. You can just be a participant.