The line stretched down two blocks and around a corner.
I could see the single-file mass that had accumulated outside of Brookline Booksmith from the smudged window of my green line escort to Coolidge Corner. Walking closer, I began to be able to make out the general forms of the patient Bostonians, with their hard covers in hand, waiting to enter the eclectic book store. From Bean Boots to duck ties, every type of Boston-area resident seemed to have made their way to Brookline to welcome a “legendary” guest.
Overwhelmed by the linear expanse, I stepped into the bookstore just in time to have How I Met Your Mother star—and apparently new author—Neil Patrick Harris shuffle past me as I fumbled through piles of literary t-shirts.
Not your average trip to the local bookstore, to say the least.
I can’t say that every venture to Trader Joe’s has resulted in an accidental and semi-awkward (but completely wonderful) Instagram selfie with a minor celebrity, as my Friday evening adventure did, so I have to thank Brookline for that.
Nestled in Greater Boston, according to a quick Google search, Brookline sits in the purgatorial outskirts of the city. The neighborhood is a metropolitan misunderstanding, not really a suburb but not entirely assumed into the city either. Brookline houses grad students and the middle of the green line, instead of picket fences or the Citgo Sign.
But Brookline’s blurred, in-between quality makes it one of the best spots in the city.
A few stops away from the congested Copley, Brookline still maintains a sense of beloved Boston culture through little instances of delight like Red Sox paraphernalia-covered students at the bus stop, dog walkers on Washington St., and, of course, book signings at Brookline Booksmith. Instead of hurried strides in the shadows of city skyscrapers, visitors are able to find comfort in communal jaywalking and the neighborhood-wide satisfaction in being the setting of President John F. Kennedy’s childhood.
It has the Tudor-style feel of Newbury St. with a much more approachable air, exchanging Cartier and Kate Spade for CVS and the Paris Creperie. Although often overlooked during the typical work commute in Boston, Brookline offers a more communal sense of the urban experience.
Be it a result of city sprawl or steep Back Bay apartment prices, un-belonging Brookline is evidence enough that sometimes the outer bounds of a city have just as much, if not more, of a sense of culture and community than the city itself. Brookline is the place to which Boston’s commuters come home, as they have a job in the city but choose to live outside of its limits. It is busy but intimate, quaint but urban.
Take what you will out of my appreciation for Brookline; an appeal to the city’s masses, a deserved recognition to all of the neighborhoods that go unnoticed, a cliche suggestion to stop and smell the roses, whatever, but most importantly take from it both an invitation to exit at an unfamiliar t-stop and a demand to feast on a Reuben and bagel chips from Brookline’s beloved Zaftigs.
It is easy to get caught up in aquarium visits, swan boats, and duck tours when you live so close to a city that is so proudly itself (is it possible to walk through the Common without seeing upwards of 10 Red Sox hats?) and sometimes the best quirks and communities get lost between Fenway and Newbury St.
On Friday evening I left Brookline not only with a bag of Trader Joe’s latest pumpkin products, a substantially “liked” instagram—and the false and fleeting glee of the Internet popularity that comes with it—but also with an accidental adventure thanks to the wonders of semi-suburbia. So thank you Brookline, for Neil Patrick Harris and for your ability to surprise me just a few stops beyond my dorm. You are truly “legendary.”
Featured Image – AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File