It only takes about half an hour to get from Tufts to Boston using public transit, so there’s no reason not to hang out in the city at least a few times a month. Unfortunately, it’s really easy to talk yourself out of making the trip because of whatever time constraints you impose upon yourself. Last semester, I only made it in to Boston three or four times. When I was home for my winter break, everyone I saw was asking me how I liked Boston, and I realized that I still didn’t know the answer because I hadn’t been there enough. So I entered this semester with the clear goal of doing a better job exploring the city I live so close to.
I went to a restaurant in Boston’s Little Italy the first weekend, and then a concert at the Paradise Rock Club the second weekend. But then I started to fall into the same trap again. I went about 3 weeks without making it past Davis Square, the small urban hub that’s only about a ten minute walk from campus (although in my defense, the blizzard is a pretty viable excuse for not going anywhere for a period of time). Last Friday, I had a gaping expanse of free time all afternoon and night. I promised myself I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity.
With no specific destination in mind, a friend and I took a train directly to the center of the city. Once we got there, we just picked a general direction and started walking. You can get a great feel for a city by checking out its different niches or taking advantage of its various events, but just roaming its streets really allows you to let its overall character soak in. All the unique people, shops, restaurants, schools and homes you pass fuse into one general aesthetic that gives the city its own personality.
One of Boston’s idiosyncrasies that stood out to me during my short excursion was a store called “Bodega.” If the friend I was with didn’t know the city so well, there’s no way I ever would have noticed this place.
It gets its name from its external appearance; when you walk by it, you wouldn’t think it was anything more than an average street-corner convenience store. There’s no sign or anything. The only indicator that it even exists is its window stocked with essentials like laundry detergent and cereal.
It doesn’t look like much from outside, and even when you walk in it seems like a pretty standard, small deli. Take a few more steps, however, and you’ll enter the back room, which looks like this:
Immaculately clean and stocked with items that are probably pretty stylish (I wouldn’t know; I have a pretty bad eye for fashion), the inside of “Bodega” totally shocks anyone who took the building at face value. In fact, a group of kids that was entering the store just before me had a hard time convincing one of their friends that there was anything but a convenience store beyond the product-filled windows. As soon as he walked in, he turned around and tried to leave, under the impression that his friends were messing with him. But a few more annoyed shouts from the rest of the group convinced him to proceed warily, and he was evidently as impressed as I was when he saw the room that hid behind the façade.
There’s always a ton to do on campus. Every week there are all kinds of musical or theatrical events and fascinating academic talks about everything from North Korea’s nuclear tests to contemporary Mexican art. But even though there’s so much to choose from right here, Boston and its surrounding areas offer even more fun activities and oddities, and its too easily accessible to pass up any opportunities you have to explore.