Life: First Visit to Boston and Cambridge

For reasons that I may/not eventually disclose, I visited Boston and Cambridge in Massachusetts this month. I wanted to get a feel for what life is like there, so I bought some new “base layers” for winter weather (!), and headed out of the Bay Area for the first time since the COVID 19 pandemic began.

Boston and Cambridge each made a good impression on me. As a happy San Franciscan heavily integrated into the fabric of my multicultural, open-minded, caffeinated City, I wasn’t sure that Boston would feel comfortable. Happily, the diverse population, reliable subway system, and great vegan food won me over!

Both towns were walkable. The subway system made sense, and my Charlie Card (their version of Clipper) made travel easy.

Each time I ate in restaurants within earshot of others, other patrons were chatting at their tables about trying to get their research funded. (A good sign!)

Yes, many of the Freedom Trail sites were closed due to the pandemic, but I found other things to do. Yes, it got down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6.6 Celsius?), but I was dressed very carefully (lightweight yet insulating base layers!), and I could handle it. It snowed gently, and that was kind of fun. Puddles froze and never thawed, and I caught other tourists trying to break one, which was hilarious (adults playing with puddles like children!).

I did not fill my suitcase with art books. I did not go out to take photos at night when it was below freezing. These were good decisions.

My masks were comfortable in all indoor settings, and I learned that masks are very cozy when it is snowing.

Boston and Cambridge are both booming, filled with new construction of businesses, housing, streetcar stations, and more. Infrastructure matters, and they are clearly planning for growth.

I had a good time and a positive experience.

There is an awkward/funny postscript. I was there before the omicron variant of COVID was well understood. I participate in CA Notify, which is my home state’s bluetooth exposure tracking system. While I was in Boston, my phone asked me if I want to participate in MassNotify, and I agreed.

MassNotify sent me a COVID proximity/exposure warning 8 days after my return home (and three days after my negative home test). Someone with the right combination of proximity + duration on the day before I flew home subsequently tested positive for COVID. The instructions were clear, and since I’m both vaccinated and boosted, quarantine was never required – vigilant masking is enough. I’m impressed that the system worked, even though I was just visiting! Yaay, technology!

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