Sometimes I wonder why I live where I do. It's crowded and expensive. And there are no sophisticated boutiques or elegant watering holes near me. My local bar, where I meet my friends to drink, is Joe Sent Me, half sports bar, half college hangout. It does have a mural of Bogey and Elisha Cook Jr. on the wall (though, for a long time, I wondered if Elisha Cook Jr. was Richard Widmark, though I couldn't imagine what movie that was from). I live in suburban Cambridge. I have a driveway and a yard.
But I have a half hour bike ride to work. I work in a curvy building in the Financial District building in 1873, and the bike messengers get high in the little park in front of my building, beneath an incongruously rustic statue of Robert Burns and his dog--don't ask why that is in Winthrop Square. When the temperature gets below 10 degrees or there is ice and snow on the ground, I take the subway.
And today I drove 15 minutes to Lincoln, and went cross-country skiing through fresh snow for a couple of hours. My favorite trail goes past Walden Pond. That landscape is certainly not wilderness--I was in the Sawtooth Range of Idaho a few months ago, and I know the difference. It is, instead, a humanized landscape. You cross roads here and there, sometimes the trail goes across farm fields that have to be kept operational by severe land-use restrictions, and you're never very far from a house, but it is silent and elegant.
Some of Massachusetts, like everywhere, is thoughtless and ugly. But a lot of it is thoughtful, and lived-in, and gives the distinct impression that there may be more to things than getting and spending. And I like it fine.