For at least 40 years, Jamaica Plain has been Boston’s hotbed of progressive ideas. JP residents’ lasting inventions include the city’s first recycling program and the unique Wake Up the Earth Festival. That spirit also has made JP the City government’s favorite test market for such left-field innovations as parklets and the Open Streets street fair.
While JP is now famous for its cutting edge, the neighborhood actually adopts a lot of its ideas from other places, especially the Left Coast liberal utopias of San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Ore. The Gazette decided to get ahead of the curve and discover some hippie and hipster trends that JP doesn’t have—yet.
Backyard goats. JP is a hotspot of backyard chicken-farming in Boston’s local-food movement, but chickens are already passé. Backyard ducks give better eggs, their proponents claim. But backyard goats are the real cutting edge, providing milk, cheese and free lawn-mowing. Jennie Grant and her Goat Justice League led the charge to legalize backyard goats in Seattle in 2007, and she wrote a how-to book about it (goatjusticeleague.org).
Bicyclist rights laws. Considering JP first got bike lanes only three years ago, we are way behind on bike culture trends. Cities with more bike infrastructure are enacting what some call bicyclist civil rights laws.
Los Angeles in 2011 passed a bike anti-harassment law that bans motorists from threatening bicyclists and allows alleged victims to sue without the City filing any criminal charges, according to the Los Angeles Times. The idea is spreading to other cities.
Last year, San Francisco enacted a law requiring employers to allow bike-commuting employees to park their bikes inside the workplace wherever possible, or to create outdoor bike parking, according to the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The Boston Cyclists Union is working on a campaign to raise the issue locally, according to its website (bostoncyclistsunion.org).
Public nudism. JP this year will see its first “parklet” mini-park, an idea borrowed from San Francisco. But will it also see its first naked advocates of public nudism, like those who filled one of the original parklets and sparked a citywide debate, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported? Free-spirited San Francisco has a long tradition of public nudism, but critics said in recent years pure exhibitionism was running rampant, especially in a parklet in the gay-friendly Castro District. Last year, the City banned most public nudity, an effort led by an official named, to the delight of comedians and protest sign writers, Supervisor Wiener. But nudists continue to give the ban a dressing-down.
Marijuana vending machines. With Massachusetts finally hopping on the medical marijuana legalization bandwagon, pot vending machines could be coming soon. A top contender is the Canna Medbox (cannamedbox.com), which offers fingerprint-scanning technology to dispense medical pot to registered users. The company that makes the machines recently opened an office in Natick. Various brands of pot vending machines have operated in California since 2008, as the Associated Press reported.
Secret supper clubs. JP has had its “pop-up” restaurants—short-lived eateries operating inside existing businesses. But we don’t yet have secret supper clubs (or maybe they just forgot to invite us). In a trend that started in Portland, Ore., a decade ago, aspiring or well-known chefs create meals for invited guests in underground restaurants typically arranged inside a home. The trend is going high-end in New York and L.A., with supper clubs offering prix fixe menus of more than $80 and sometimes featuring a staff including sommeliers. “The New Yorker” highlighted the trend in a long article in December.
Car-free main streets. Making Centre Street pedestrian-only in the central business district was floated about 10 years ago during a Green Line streetcar restoration proposal, to some support and much horror. But in San Francisco, motor vehicle traffic has been restricted on busy Market Street since 2009 in favor of bike, pedestrian and public transit improvements. And a full-blown car ban is now under consideration, according to the San Francisco “Streetsblog.”
Rabbit-meat restaurants. “Rabbit is the new chicken,” declared the Village Voice in a recent feature about 2013’s hot restaurant trends. How long before JP’s increasingly hip restaurants pick up on the rabbit-meat trend that has been hopping in New York City since 2010? While rabbit is the “cool, exotic thing to order,” as a chef told the New York Daily News in 2010, the Voice predicts that deer, buffalo and various animal internal organs also will appear on new menus.
Composting everything. JP has many efforts to compost household and garden waste. But New Zealand’s HotRot Organic Solutions is helping people worldwide compost just about anything—all with its “OdourFree Guarantee” (hotrotsolutions.com). Parents can even use disposable diapers without a case of the “environmental guilts,” a New Zealand government minister said in a 2011 Fuseworks Media story, thanks to HotRot machines’ ability to compost the notoriously nasty items. HotRot composting machines also handle zoo animal waste and turned California’s Sierra Nevada beer company garbage into hops field fertilizer.
Official song. Every West Coast progressive mecca has an official anthem, so why not JP, which has its own local music festival? San Francisco has two: the famous “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and, incredibly, the theme from a 1936 earthquake disaster movie. Seattle has an original song called “Seattle the Peerless City.” Portland has an original composition called “Portlandia”—also the name of a locally famous statue, and now the title of a TV comedy that gently ribs the city’s crunchy, hipster habits.
Peter Shanley contributed to this article.