East to West by Plane

| November 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

I saw a building shaped like Marciano Commons the other day, and I felt something I’d sworn to myself I would never feel. I missed Marciano Commons.

Last semester, I made the life-changing decision to finish my time at Boston University with a final semester in the Study Abroad program. And so I applied, and I packed my bags, and I booked my flight, and I read up on the strange cultures and customs in this wild and foreign land to which I would soon be bound. It was going to be a land unlike any other, more than halfway across the world.

In fact, I was going to be moving about twice of halfway across the world. More specifically, I was moving to Los Angeles, California.


One month later, I step out of the Boston University Los Angeles office and take it all in, again: The City of Angels, as they call it. Gone is my frenemy the MBTA, which granted me the ability to go wherever in the State of Massachusetts I so desired, at the most irregular of times. Gone is Kenmore Square on a Red Sox Game Night, where I could’ve gone out of my way to avoid the Fenway area only to find the Fenway area stampeding towards me. Gone is Newbury Street where window-shopping is advised and inexpensive but shopping for windows is not, and worst of all, gone are Boston Burger Company, Chinatown, the Commons, and my favorite crossing-the-street dance: The J-Walk.

You dance in the shape of a J around incoming traffic on Comm Ave. photo credit: andy in nyc Quick! via photopin (license)

You dance in the shape of a J around incoming traffic on Comm Ave.
photo credit: andy in nyc Quick! via photopin (license)

LA’s nickname is a lie, and there are no angels here – at least, not in the cars. I can only presume the people of this city have also replaced Boston Burger Company with Los Angeles Salad Studios, but let’s get to what I know for certain first.

Transport is much harder, because everybody has a car. I’d anticipated it being as such, but sometimes buses simply don’t show up for that reason. Walking is harder. The streets are far more labyrinthine, and slope so haphazardly that LA feels like the D-Pad when God inputs the Konami Code. Luckily, the milder (and more consistent) weather help make the walks more bearable.

Parts of the city are also exactly what I’ve come to expect from movies, and sometimes caricaturely so. The Grove, located just off where I live, is a small fountain square with old timey Hollywood music that’s always in the background and tram tours that circle the plaza, hat-waving conductor and all. And speaking of hats, even the policemen stationed there look like detectives out of film noir!

Our one field trip so far was to the Getty Center. The museum was massive and a maze all on its own, with multiple buildings that housed different kinds and eras of artwork. What really fascinated me, however, was the museum’s own history: Getty had personally seen to it that every tile and original structure was of consistently proportional dimensions. He’d also fought to have the museum facing away from the sea, so as not to distract from the beauty of the art. But perhaps most interestingly of all, he’d had fountains and waterways built all around the exterior. Because the entire museum is protected as a piece of “art,” they’d been allowed to operate that water same as usual when the drought had hit – while farmers had not.

They also had this building, which is a AT-AT from Star Wars and no one will convince me otherwise.

They also had this building, which is a AT-AT from Star Wars and no one will convince me otherwise.

As I continue to explore and uncover new places out west, LA grows on me at about the same rate that it stings me. I can’t help but think of the snow every time I walk out into the sun, the T every time I board the bus, and Faneuil Hall every time I walk through the Grove. I can’t help but remember Newbury Comics, Boston Burger Company, and all my best friends on the East Coast, possibly but not necessarily in that order. And, when we went to the Getty Center and marveled at the architecture and legacy of J. Paul Getty, I couldn’t help but think of Isabella Stewart Gardner and her own magnificent palace of a museum.

But then I remember that this is how I felt about Boston three years ago. I arrived there as a freshman not only from a different city, but a different country altogether – and I got lost walking down a straight line on Commonwealth Avenue. I lost my jacket on the T. I waited twenty minutes in the pouring rain for the BU Shuttle, then decided to walk without an umbrella – only to get passed by two Shuttles mid-walk.

And so, particularly to the freshmen who happen to stumble across this post, I urge you to give Boston a chance to become home. I urge you to forget your umbrella on a rainy day and to go on picnics to North End and to walk into the aftermath of a blizzard with so many layers of clothes on you fall over. I urge you to visit the Mapparium, The Breakfast Club, and the wonderful Science Museum. And I urge you to go to Gene’s Café in Chinatown and order the hand-pulled noodles with lamb skewers, and tell them ol’ Aaraf sent you. They’ll have absolutely no idea who you’re talking about because I’ve only been twice and never told them my name, but it’ll be kinda funny. Maybe.

And meanwhile, I’ll do the same for Los Angeles and see the sights and meet the people – and maybe, just maybe, it’ll become home one day, too.


featured photo credit: ruimc77 American A319 (LAX) via photopin (license)

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Boston, East by West by T, featured, Food and Travel, Reflections

Aaraf Afzal

About the Author ()

Aaraf Afzal is many things, but he's not particularly good at being any of them. He continues to work towards this goal, among others, studying Film & TV and Economics at Boston University. An avid subscriber to the belief that all forms of media have their own sense of artistic beauty, he is particularly invested in writing fiction and recently released his first novel "Re: Revolution" in Bangladesh. Alongside his pursuits at Culture Shock, he's currently at work writing an online series called "The Chosen Zeroes." Fandoms and inspirations include Neil Gaiman, Kingdom Hearts, Ratchet and Clank, Marvel Comics, and Culture Shock. Giggity.

Leave a Reply