Sunday, August 27, 2006

What ever happened to Harvard Square?

(Imagine crochety old woman shaking her finger at you when you read this). In 1986 when high school ended at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, I was one of those kids who made a beeline for "The Square." We would laugh at all the suburban teenagers that would take public transportation in from the godforsaken wilderness that were Arlington and Belmont. We would hang out in the Pitt and smoke. Then we'd go back to my house and dye our hair in my apartment's only bathroom while my parents slept.

The Square was full of neat little restaurants like the "Mug and Muffin" where you could get a .50 cup of coffee and sit for hours on a cold day. My dad's architects office was in the building above "The Tasty" a tiny sandwich shop with only a lunch counter where they made a lime rickey from real limes and raspberry syrup that was world renowned for it's total deliciousness. JFK street was home to "Patisserie Francais" where you could get a roast beef sandwich on a fresh baguette, and tiny little custard tarts with a sweet glaze over fresh fruit. The Garage was home to "Baby Watson" the original home of the Chocolate Orgasm, a tiny brownie so dense with chocolate the smallest bite would give you chocolate nirvana. (To be fair, Chocolate Orgasms can be purchased at Rosie's Bakery in Inman and Porter Squares) The Coop was a normal college bookstore that got me hooked on Lancome cosmetics. They sold tacky clothing and tons of cool posters, not a trumped up Barnes and Noble that sells books at full price (that doesn't take discount cards). Wordsworth, one of the greatest independent discount bookstores ever is gone, replaced by a store that sells all manner of things leather. In the remote likelyhood I need something leather like a really expensive suitcase Harvard Square is the last place I'd go for something like that.

Now where is there to eat in Harvard Square? Chains. Au Bon Pain, Uno's, Bertuccis and Finagel a Bagel. What is there to buy? Same old crap sold in every mall in America, Origins, The Gap, REI, Tower Records.

I call it the Galleria West. Cambridge has fought tooth and nail to keep MacDonalds out of Harvard Square. I wish the same people had fought harder to keep out all the stupid other chain restaurants.

One of the things I loved about my house was its relative proximity to Harvard Square. It's about a 15 minute walk to the edge of Harvard Yard near the Science Center. Then I actually go to Harvard Square and wonder what the Hell happened to it.


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