Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Big Fire

When I headed out the door at my usual ungodly hour to go to the gym, I smelled smoke. Initially, I was worried that there was a fire in my building because the smell was very strong in my foyer.

Walking out the door, I looked down Peterborough St. and saw firetrucks further down the block. I walked towards the excitement and saw that there were firetrucks lined up down the block. A quick look at the activity told me that I should turn around. The last thing the firemen needed was some gawker getting underfoot.

I headed off to the gym and when I got home I checked the Boston Globe site. This is the story. The whole row of little restaurants down the street have been destroyed.

It's upsetting. Not just because, selfishly, these are places I like to go to and give my money to, but because they were all Mom and Pops.

These were little privately owned restaurants, which unlike chains actually added to the character of my little part of Boston. They were by and large cheap places to get some good food. They were also a sort of common ground. Walking into any one of these establishments allowed you to see an interesting cross section of our increasingly yuppified neighborhood. While there were young professionals aplenty, you also could still see students, section 8 housing residents, the elderly and low wage earners, like me. All of them had sidewalk seating, so it afforded some great people watching opportunities. I especially liked the lack of pretense. No matter how much you are earning, it is impossible to pretend you are doing anything other than eating a burrito off a little cardboard container plate, when you are engaged in this activity.

I hope that the various store owners have good insurance. I really hope that they are all able to rebuild. It would be nice to think that the city will do something to ease the way for these small businesses to reopen. I doubt that will happen.

Hizzonner hasn't attached the Boston name to any project that didn't have the term luxury attached to it in years. I have a hard time believing, especially in the current economic climate that the city is in any way going to assist a group of small business owners, regardless of the ineffable contribution that they make to keeping some sense of neighborhood going in our area.

So, it is rather a sad day in the Fenway. I will be interested in seeing how the neighborhood reacts and if out of some sense of neighborly goodwill or a desire to keep some identity as a distinct neighborhood if the community does something to restore what has been an institution on Peterborough Street.