I used to live downtown. Now that I've moved to JP, not having a skyline has knocked my sense of direction out of whack.
I still work downtown. At night as I come home, JP doesn't feel that much darker. Centre and Tremont glow the same disco-freak orange, the outer capillaries that guide buses west through Mission Hill.
Then maybe given our willingness to conduct all public, nighttime conversation under these bug lights, no one even bothers to look up anymore.
Once you make it out here to JP, this our stiltedly defiant suburban utopia, the skyscrapers have drifted under the horizon line and out of sight: The twin dimples of the Boston skyline, one half a monument to bankers and traders, the other half rising like a balloon full of blood diamonds and crisp biomed shares from the Back Bay. On the other hand, they can't see our oil paintings or bowls full of sweet fried plantains.
The entirety of the skyline sinks away behind Mission Hill, leaving our roof decks without a star attraction. Somewhere in this hilly neighborhood a 45-year old Merck researcher and father of three went a bit too far with the deck reconstruction and chopped down just the right tree, revealing a peek at the Prudential Center. I can't say that I know him.
One clear fall day I planned a search of my own, maybe to feel a little more connected to the city. More importantly, having gone to Northeastern and put the Pru/North Star navigation method to good use through various states of intoxication, I was anxious to get my bearings.
My first and most obvious stop was the Arnold Arboretum, or more specifically Peters Hill. I climbed through piles of leaves and, reaching the precipice, stood on an errant bench and took a look around.
But everywhere, I saw trees. Even on my tip toes I couldn't get above their choking greenness. No glimpse found here.
Like a Neanderthal fed nothing but Food Wall egg rolls, I sauntered tiredly down to Jamaica Pond, figuring the lack of tree cover might be refreshing. Around and around the pond I went, stopping only to admire puppies, angry that each and every time I looked east by northeast, I saw only the other side of the pond.
With one notable exception: the 32-story Jamaicaway Tower, our lone skyline entrant and a noted favorite of altitude-loving retirees. You'll know you've found the right place not only thanks to the activities pamphlets and your elevator partners, but the cozy 76-degree climate and pervasive scent of almond butter.
Up to the penthouse I went, hoping to be just an unlocked utility closet away from roof access. When a padlock the size of a gorilla paw and alarm warnings in three different languages on the roof door said different, I resorted to cold-knocking.
Lord knows this isn't the first time I'd gone door to door harassing the elderly, but it had definitely been awhile. Focusing on the small handful of apartments on the building's east side, my efforts were met with only a single response- a curt "No, sorry" from the gentleman inhabiting the corner property.
The best view from the Jamaicaway Tower grounds is from atop their parking garage, as it turns out. Through the chain link you can see the VA Medical Center hulk over the back of the hill, and the distant helipads of Beth Israel beyond that. Mission Hill itself blotting out the city, I felt as lost as ever.
I slunk back towards Miami Restaurant, hoping to find guidance not in glistening office space but in a bowl of the aforementioned plantains. Walking down Perkins Street I looked towards the MSPCA, hoping to spy some more puppies, when through a hole in the brick I saw it: the Pru, standing distantly in the sunlight.
The world around me fell into place, contextualized by that single familiar landmark. Out here it isn't that useful as such, and walking out of a pub I'm left mostly to my own means.
But with any new home comes that readjustment, and while Jamaica Plain might not have offered much of a look at the city I remember, the separation offers a fresh start.
Plus the plantains were fantastic.