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An Insider's Guide To Boston

by Lois Cunniff 8 days ago in guide

How to survive the drive, understand what the fuck we're saying, and random facts.

This awesome footage was shot by Sid Roth.

Boston, there is magic in this city. If you asked each person who calls Boston home what their city means to them, you would probably never hear the same story twice. Some people come to school in Boston and put down roots here. Others are born and raised here. While others come from different countries seeking a better life. Boston is and always has been a melting pot. This is what I love about my city. Boston speaks 140 languages, with approximately 25% of the population being foreign born. Yet, one thing we are most well-known for is our distinct accent. Also, our superior driving skills which has earned us the name "Massholes."

Driving in Boston is like constantly playing a game of chicken. The person with the nicer car will usually engage, but they will also back off first.

Directionals or blinkers "blinkahs" as we know them around here are optional and seldom used. I have sat at a red light and banged a left, the second the light turned green; without ever using my directional. I wasn't being an asshole, I was proactively solving a problem. If I showed my intent, oncoming traffic would never allow me to make the turn. Anyone who has ever tried to make a left turn at a busy Boston intersection will understand this.

In Boston traffic lights have slightly different meaning, so allow me to enlighten you.

Murphy's Law a (Bar) Baaah in Southie

Red lights are not time for you to look at your GPS and figure out how to navigate our confusing city, or any other activity. Your eyes should be glued to that light, ready to hit the gas, the second the light turns green. Failure to do so will result in a symphony of car horns letting you know you've taken far too long. Yellow traffic lights do not mean slow down and be prepared to stop. A Yellow light means speed up to get through the intersection even as the light turns red partway through. In a Masshole's mind, it's not running a red light as long as it was yellow when you started. Nothing will piss a Boston driver off more than slowing down and stopping at a yellow light, when you both know you could have made it though before the light turned red.

The art of rolling stop. Hitting the brakes to slow down as you roll through the intersection without actually stopping. This also saves time, and is encouraged.

Another thing that is troublesome for novice Boston drivers is merging and changing lanes. The fundamental problem is the second they want to switch lanes, they show this by using their directional. Massholes will go out of their way to speed up and not let you in. Especially if traffic is barely moving to begin with. Here, we are intentionally being assholes. My best advice is to watch for any gap in traffic and just go. If you really feel the need to use your blinker, use it just as you move into your desired lane. You stand a 50/ 50 percent chance of being flipped off and beeped at regardless of using your directional or not, so go for it.

Lastly, speed limits are just suggestions. Feel free to interpret them as you will, provided that you are already exceeding the posted speed limit.

Long exposure creates streaming trail lights

Next to tackle that iconic Boston accent.

Do you know what we're sayin? If you are not well versed in "Boston Speak", the answer is probably not. We have some interesting ways of pronouncing words. I never had a strong accent, but I can turn it on when I want to entertain people. Hollywood has botched it pretty well in various films over the years. Apparently, it's a difficult accent to mimic. My tip is to think of what you say when you go to the dentist "AHH" and incorporate that into some words where the "R" would be. For example, water becomes wataah, park becomes paahk. We also have some unique words used only in Boston, here are some of my favorites:

Packie: I recently asked some co-workers in Maine what they thought this meant. I was met with blank stares and long pauses. Packie refers to a liquor store. It dates back to the time even before Prohibition, where drinking was frowned on by proper Bostonians. A common term in the time was never drink before 5:00pm or East of Park St. In order to transport liquor, stackable boxes were used and wrapped in plan brown paper secured with string, so one could discretely bring alcohol into their home. Getting a package became a euphemism, and over time the term was shortened to Packie.

Krullah: my co-workers best guess on this was a gross crawling bug , or a killer. A "krullah" or kruller is not anything to be afraid of. It's a delicious pastry, popular at Dunkins or "Dunks" as it's commonly known in Boston. I love krullers, but not "Dunks" coffee, it's just not strong enough for me.

Bubblah: Sounds like a fizzy drink, but it's actually a public drinking fountain. Apparently known as a water fountain in other parts of the country. In Boston, a water fountain is something you throw pennies into as you make a wish. As a kid, I didn't understand why I couldn't just wade into the fountain and collect the money. Seriously, it was free money.

Bang A Uey: This could have been in the driving section as it means make a U turn you will see these performed frequently and often illegally.

Pahlah: This one is pretty old-school and not commonly used anymore. One co- worker thought it was a place you went to get your hair done. Another thought it was a place a funeral was held. A pahalh , or parlor, is an old term for a livingroom. I think my nanna had a parlor. I grew up with calling it a livingroom as most people did.

Grindah: It is not a tool used to sand with or a very long day, as someone suggested. Grindah is an old-school term as well. A grindah, or grinder, is a sub sandwich. I grew up calling them subs.

My last favorite word is not difficult, but something you will hear often. The word is wicked. Use it often and weave it seamlessly into conversation, tossing in a few swears if you really want to sound like a local. Wicked simply means really. For example, wicked good, wicked bad, wicked easy, wicked stupid, etc... I've heard it said we use the term "wicked pissa" a lot, pissa meaning awesome. I have never used this term, but some people do. If you really want to enhance it, you can add the word kid, which means the same thing as dude. "The game was wicked fuckin pissa, kid." This is really more of a guy thing, as you may have guessed.

The language and driving isn't the only thing that makes Boston interesting. Here are some random facts you many not know about Boston.

1) The John Hancock is one of the most well-known buildings in the city. Roughly 13 acres of glass make up the John Hancock Tower. The light on top of the tower also forecasts the weather A poem, part of Boston lore, deciphers the lights:

Steady blue, clear view.

Flashing blue, clouds due.

Steady red, rain ahead.

Flashing red, snow instead.

During baseball season, if the Redsox game is canceled due to weather, it will also flash red.

2) The Boston Red Sox hold a patent for the shade of green that covers the Green Monster, known as Fenway Green.

3) The train lines on the MBTA or "The T" as it's called are color coded for a reason.

The Green Line is green because it runs along Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace parks.

The Red Line is red because it winds through Harvard, home of the Crimson.

The Blue Line is blue because it travels under the watery depths of Boston Harbor "Haahbah".

The Orange Line is orange because it runs beneath a part of Washington Street originally called Orange Street.

If you want to sound like an outsider, say you rode the train on The MBTA. Someone actually once said this to me, and it sounded so weird; don't be that person.

4) Bell In Hand Tavern built in 1795 and is America's oldest continuously operating tavern. Located in Pi Alley (often misspelled Pie Alley), the origin of the short street's name remains in question. It may be named after the pied type which newspaper composing rooms dumped into the alley in the past, or after the local restaurants that sold coffee and a piece of pie for a nickel. Bell In Hand, a gathering place for printers and politicians, sailors and students, it quickly became the most famous alehouse in the city.

This is one of my favorite photos I have taken around Boston

5) “Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most important figures in American literature,” former mayor Thomas Menino once said about the writer. “We are proud to call him a Bostonian.” Edgar Allan Poe signed his first published work, Tamerlane, with the name “A Bostonian.” Thanks to Poe’s anonymity on the cover, copies of Tamerlane are insanely valuable. One of the few surviving copies fetched nearly $200,000 at auction in 1988. Today, at the intersection of Boylston and Charles Street in Boston stands the statue of Edgar A. Poe with a raven and other symbols (like a “Tell-Tale” heart) from his well- known poems

In closing, Boston is a beautiful city with an impressive skyline. As a photographer, the city inspires me to shoot.

View from Bunker Hill Monument, I climbed all 294 steps to get this shot

The natives are colorful people who are not afraid to tell it like it is. To outsiders, Bostonians can appear gruff and downright rude. Beneath our tough exteriors, you will find some of the most generous and loyal people you will ever meet. It may take some time to build a friendship, we don't immediately let people in. We need to make sure you know how to drive first. Once that friendship is made, you will probably have that person in your life forever. For me, Boston is about the people who make up my circle. The people who know all my stories and love and accept me for who I am. In a few weeks, I'm moving home after living in Maine for the past four years. A lot has changed since I left. I'm looking forward to rediscovering the city that has my heart and will always be home.

Long exposure shot of The Zakim Bridge

Lois Cunniff
Lois Cunniff
Read next: Camping > Hotels
Lois Cunniff

I am a self- taught photographer. My passion is pet photography, but I also shoot some portrait work as well as landscapes, cityscapes and love long exposure. Animal rescues matter, I donate a portion of my profits to local rescues.

See all posts by Lois Cunniff

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