Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

August 1999

How local is local?

I heard from an old pal in the Boston area recently. In the course of catching up, he began to complain that Boston was losing its soul in order to be just like everywhere else.

What do you mean? I asked.

You've heard about Fenway Park, right? he began. Well, the Garden was torn down, now its Fenway's turn.

The Garden he referred to was the Boston Garden, former home of the Bruins and Celtics who now play out of the Fleet Center. The Garden is pronounced with a semi-silent r. The Fleet Center is so named because the Shawmut Bank was bought by the Fleet Bank before the Shawmut Center could open. The Patriots play at Shaefer Stadium, which was named after the beer that acted like a conglomerate and tasted like it was made by a bunch of bankers. I have no idea what the new stadium will be called or where it will be built. Its the New England Patriots, so I suppose Williston might still be in the running. Maple Tree Stadium?

Anyway, I found that conversation informative as the Essex Outlet Center begins to look like the huge outlet centers everyone passes on the way to anywhere else more than 500 miles away. Apparently, people everywhere are concerned that their old hometowns are beginning to look like everyone else's hometowns, which, of course, don't look like they used to to the people who grew up there. The result seems to be that everyone is sure no place looks like it did, and fearful that everyplace will end up looking the same.

Consider the excitement surrounding the coming of Filene's, an upscale retail chain with stores in several locations around the Northeast. Its kind of ironic, you can climb out of the original Filene's basement (now called Filene's Basement) on Washington Street in Boston (now called Downtown Crossing) and be within spitting distance of a Ben & Jerry's, a Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and a Brueggers Bagel Bakery. So, why not an Al's French Frys?

How about a swap with Savannah; they get an Al's, we get a Krispy Kreme Donuts.

We really have everything else, don't we? We've got cineplexes, coffee bars, aroma therapy centers, and sushi at the supermarket. We have the VSO and the Mozart Festival and 15 local bands, most with constantly changing names and members. We have senior centers and non- traditional student programs and a goodly supply of pierced and tattooed young people, who in 30 years will look only slightly more ridiculous than bald guys with pony tails.

So what if were becoming like everywhere else, its still colder here, sometimes.

So there!