Cool Kid Travels: Somerville, MA

Somerville, MA:  I never spent much time there when I lived in Boston, but it is sort of a dystopian Mission District.  Baby strollers and dogs mixed with white kids in flannel drinking tallboys.  That said, they have some pretty epic street art, especially from one guy “on walls.”  Enjoy.


Crab Happens


8 Responses to “Cool Kid Travels: Somerville, MA”

  1. Vinny says:

    That sticker that looks like an old-man-baby hybrid is also all over Cambridge, specifically the bathroom at People’s Republik.

  2. Sean says:

    Get it right: Jamaica Plain is their Mission, Somerville is their Oakland.

    • Frank says:

      I agree, I moved from the Mission to Somerville, and this place is more like the mission than JP. Not even close.

  3. C. says:

    Um, actually JP is OAK, “Slummerville” is The Mission. I moved here from there – many years ago.
    In the days before the Red Line allowed for further gentrification of Davis Square, and before swelling of gentry or upscale proletariat into lower and more freeway-accessible parts, there were (if I may reminisce a bit) many cool and somewhat liminal things about Somerville.
    The Rosebud Diner, a diner-car diner and bar, was a cool place to hang out and drink with friends, although for diner food, I preferred a little family-run place a block over on Elm St., I believe now defunct – Phyllis’ and Ted’s.
    There was an old-school newsstand, very narrow and filled with fragrant cigars and papers, near the center of the square, run (as it should be) by a portly, old, cigar-smoking man.
    On the square, the old Somerville Theatre was taken over by a collective of young collective-loving folks, some of whom later operated the Red Vic and the York here. These folks also took over a former real estate office a block down on Summer St., kept the old sign, added a very taggy ‘i’, and called their used bookstore “The Reality Center”. At the theatre, where a friend projected for awhile, there was a hole broken through the brick wall and a ladder leading to it from the (permanently closed) upper balcony to the projection room, so the projectionist could enter without risking life and limb on the decrepit wooden back stairs.
    The original Steve’s Ice Cream was also on Elm St., although it was taken over by Joey, who had an eponymous ice cream shop a bit north in Teele Sq. (which lead to legal conflicts years later when Steve re-emerged with a shop on Mass. Ave. in Back Bay).
    At Inman Square, there was an old club gone punk/new wave/no wave called the Inn Square Men’s Bar, where local art punk faves Children of Paradise used to play, and where Amy Mann of ‘Til Tuesday sometimes ruled (totally). Next to ISMB was the S&S, a truly old-schul Jewish deli with the best potato pancakes and freshest Nova lox, my favorite hangover-cure-breakfast spot (in Yiddish and German, “ess und ess” means “eat and eat!”). On opposite sides of the square were jazz clubs, 1369 Club and Ryle’s, where Pat Metheny, and later his less-famous brother Mike used to play (and also my friends in the Klezmer Conservatory Band). There was also for awhile a Chinese restaurant/comedy club where I saw young Jay Leno in the late 70s – really!
    Just outside of Inman Square, on the way toward Prospect St., was a very cool lesbian bar called Modern Times, with awesome bartenders, and, for some late-70s/early-80s reason, a selection of healthy non-caffeinated caffeine-imitation beverages. For awhile I was into Caffix and Kahlua sombreros (or gin & tonics), to keep it healthy AND real. A close (hetero male artist) friend of mine used to project ethereal image-based experimental films there on Wednesday nights.
    A ways over, toward Kendall Sq., and perhaps officially in Cambridge, there was another diner-car breakfast diner, run by an awesome woman chef whose name escapes me – but a very sweet, cool little place, although it closed by 2 in the afternoon.
    Over in Union Sq., the heart of the real Somerville, there was a decent, somewhat elegant but still ‘hoody Italian restaurant, and a very tasty and even somewhat elegant (but still cheap!) Chinese restaurant, New Asia, where I used to go with a vegetarian girlfriend who believed that shrimp were not adequately sentient.
    I lived for a summer on School St., a few doors down from where my maternal great-grandfather built a house and where my grandfather was born. Afterwards, I lived in a sweet flat on a little dead-end street whose name I can’t remember, where my prized 15-speed Peugeot was stolen from the front porch by local hoodlums.
    One of my favorite memories of Somerville was wandering through backstreets between Inman and Union Squares on Spring or Summer weekends, when smells of cooking – various ethnicities but often mostly Portuguese – drifted through the air, and one could hear Portuguese spoken at outdoor gatherings at neighborhood family clubs, and pop into a bakery (if it weren’t Sunday!) to grab a loaf of soft Portuguese sweetbread. I am sure this experience – and its demographic in their transitional historical moment – are long gone now.
    Graffiti was not so plentiful, artistic or humorous as the above in Somerville in those days; you had to go down to Soho, the Lower East Side or the Bowery for that. There was some “street art” around, but nothing terribly interesting (unless you are into the neo-Diego socially-meaningful mural-type stuff), except perhaps for the outside walls of the Western Front in Cambridgeport, which featured realistic black silhouttes of white people trying to dance or standing awkwardly and drinking, against a white background – a subtler-than-muralistic commentary on the neighborhood’s vs. the bar’s demographics.
    Ah, well…
    It’s nice to have the freshness of Mission Mission. :)

    • Frank says:

      Alot of the places you refer to are still there, and the area between Inman and Union is still very Portuguese and Brazilian. The Brazilian community is especially strong in that area.

  4. Belgand says:

    This “cool kid” nonsense needs to stop. Trying to whitewash out being a hipster just makes you even more of a hipster… and a far, far douchier one both for the failed attempt to hide it and the lame attempt at coming up with a name that has inherent positive spin.

  5. Brian says:

    @Sean Have you ever been to Somerville? Oakland? Hardly.

  6. on walls says:

    im no hipster, trust. i hate tight pants, my bike has several gears, i hate emo music and being a sensitive nerd. on walls-on everything.