Our perfect little corner of the world

By Dan Janis
Special to the Gazette

When the doors open at Green Street and I hop off the Orange Line, my blood pressure goes down a little and I breathe a little easier. Downtown is for stress and working. Jamaica Plain is for living. Everyone thinks their neighborhood is perfect, but as we all know, here in JP, it’s true.

We’re part of Boston, but when people ask where we live, we say Jamaica Plain. ’Cause it’s different. We’re part of the city—six miles to the center of downtown—but we’ve got our own little neighborhood oasis. People from other parts of town are baffled about how to get here. A lot of directions, and a lot of crazy intersections between there and here. But that’s OK. Only the most determined adventurers can find our secret hideout.

We’re a motley crew here in JP. Anyone could be your neighbor. Some of us are rich and could live in a big house in any swanky neighborhood, but choose to live here where the vibe is festive and funky. Some of us are poor, but have a pretty nice set-up anyway—with parks and space and friendly folks all over. We’ve got hipsters and professors, businessmen and artists, kids and old folks, lesbians, musicians, lawyers, bikers, vegans, plumbers, yogis, nuns and crazies. And we’re all pretty much OK with whatever it is our neighbors are into. You have to have a really spectacular number of piercings to turn heads in this part of town.

The Emerald Necklace snakes its way into JP. And, by whatever fluke of urban planning it was that caused Harvard to locate its Arboretum here—across a river and several ZIP codes away—we’ve got one of the most impeccably manicured, obsessively labeled parks in the universe. Add to that the pond and Franklin Park and Forest Hills Cemetery and the Southwest Corridor, and voila—some of the most accessible and beautiful space you could ever hope for in an urban area.

You can hear a thrash band at the Midway or a flamenco guitarist at Acapulco. You can gossip with the old guys at Galway House or the yuppies at Canary Square. You can have a cheesesteak at Same Old Place or an anniversary dinner at Ten Tables. You can get a tattoo at Fat Ram’s or a fedora at Salmagundi.

It’s not perfect here all the time. We complain about fences being over our property lines and call the police when band practices are too loud. We argue about trolley tracks and grocery stores and bike lanes. We yell at people who let their dogs poop in our yards. But that’s all just a part of city living. For the most part, we nod when we pass each other on the sidewalk, we take in each other’s mail, we go see each other’s art exhibits. And, more than just about anywhere else, we cohabitate and we like it! We’ve got it all here in JP. There’s nowhere else I’d rather live.

The writer is a 12-year resident of Jamaica Plain.

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