Downtown View:Thanks for the Memories

By Karen Cord Taylor

Dear Readers,

U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas is retiring. Harvard President Drew Faust and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also are doing so. I’m following their lead. I’m retiring. This is the last Downtown View column I will write.

I’ve enjoyed creating them. I’ve enjoyed interviewing the people who participate in Boston matters. I’ve enjoyed visiting such places as the Commonwealth Kitchen to which I probably would never have gone if I hadn’t had to find something to write about.

It’s been a privilege to write about this city that I’ve lived in for half a century. It has its problems, but I’ve also observed kindness and a true urge to make things better. Sometimes I wish our local leaders were bolder, more visionary. But I trust their goodwill, honesty and managerial talents. Sometime soon I hope to be able to say that about our national officials.

I have enjoyed your comments about those columns. I’ve even enjoyed the comments that call me stupid, delusional and dreadful. Comments, letters to the editor and such usually say more about the person who is writing them than they do about the article or column that triggered the response. I also have enjoyed how the first comments in all articles, not just mine, address the content but then devolve into commenters calling one another names.

But I’ve been meeting weekly deadlines without fail either as an editorial writer or a columnist for more than 20 years except for a few months when I recovered from two rotator cuff surgeries. I’m ready to do something else.

What that will be I’ve not yet determined. I’m going to do nothing for awhile to collect my thoughts.

One thought is that I will become civilly disobedient. I might even get arrested. There are certainly enough dreadful things going on in this country to find it easy to protest. As a woman of a certain age, I find I’m not afraid of much. I’ve got some friends who might join me.

Another possibility is to spend more time with those friends. It was hard, with a demanding job, to escape to sit with my dying friend 14 years ago during her chemotherapy infusions. I traded with other friends and managed to go for several of them. Now, I will go with friends any time they need me. I’ll throw lunch parties. I’ll help friends arrange their bookshelves. I actually might re-arrange my own bookshelves.

I probably will spend about the same amount of time with my family, since we spend much time together anyway. This past summer, my husband and I decided we might as well move to South Station since we were there so much, picking up one child from the Dartmouth Coach, putting her back on it, collecting three teenage boys from the Acela from New York City, meeting one teenage girl coming from Maine, and ferrying those kids on to their next destination after feeding them well.

I’ll take more walks. I used to meet friends at 6 a.m. at the Taj. We’d walk down Newbury Street and back along the river. Then my friends stopped working. They didn’t want to get up early any more. I still needed to be at the newspaper at 9 a.m. so we fell out of that habit. Now I, like them, can meet at 10 a.m. for a nice, long stroll.

I might write a book. Often, in jest I guess, I have threatened that when I quit newspapering I would write a novel entitled, “Love and Sex on Beacon Hill.” My grandchildren, embarrassed though they are by the title, voted last Thanksgiving that I should stop this column and write that book.

I’m no fiction writer. I can tell other people’s stories but I can’t easily make up my own. I might, however, give it a shot and see what happens. If I could spend a month in Italy at the Bellagio Center’s arts and literary arts program, I’d give it an even better shot. That is unlikely, since those chosen by the Bellagio Center are mostly more accomplished and promising than I. But what the heck. Give it a try.

If I write that book, I say, you are all going to be in it. Even if you live in Charlestown, the Waterfront, the North End, Back Bay, Downtown or the West End, you won’t get off scot-free. You’ll be in it since the story will really be about downtown Boston. I’ll just change all the names and let you guess about who I’m writing about.

These are lots of “ifs.” I’ve not been in this position before. It’s an adventure. But if Niki Tsongas can do it, so can I.



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