Thursday, June 13, 2024

What spring break looks like in Cambridge. (Photo: Catching Flies)

Cambridge Day is part of a project called Voices of MainStreet — a weekly, nationwide Q&A in which editors at the money and lifestyle site ask questions and bloggers answer them. For this entry, I was asked about spring break.

I’ve never traveled for spring break, partly because of money and partly because during the four prime spring break years of college I was entranced by the city I was in: Boston, which by the end of those four years seemed about as big and appealing as the inside of a coffin.

To some degree I blame myself for essentially never leaving Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Chinatown and the North End, a world so small you could walk it in an hour. But there was a contributing, external factor to my desperate need to escape after college — racial problems there and across the country that made the black/white divide seem like, well, black and white.

There was white Charles Stuart, blaming a black man for killing his pregnant wife, which led to police publicly strip searching innocent people before Stuart himself was revealed as the killer. And O.J. Simpson, and the divide that followed between blacks who blamed Office Mark Fuhrman for framing him and whites who saw him as obviously guilty. And Rodney King, and the subsequent rioting when the police officers who beat him were let off. And the aftermath of busing, when, as a stringer for The Associated Press, I went into Southie to interview people who swore they weren’t racist but surprised me by going on talking until they proved they were.

Walk across a certain street and you were in black Boston. Walk back across the street and you were in white Boston. The lines were invisible, but that well marked.

Risks of remaining remain

Things are better now and, while far from perfect, better yet across the river in Cambridge — where black families came in the 1880s because Boston schools were segregated and Cambridge schools were not.

Both cities are also packed solid with colleges and college students, of course, except during holidays, summers and spring breaks, and just because the area has a reputation for smarts doesn’t mean the most common and cliched spring break destinations aren’t packed solid with those same students as winters wear tediously on. It just means students are smart enough to get away when things are the worst — me excepted, obviously — and that there are surely some extremely well educated student bodies showing up in Girls Gone Wild videos.

The alternative, which is staying right here instead of getting sun, warmth, drunk and a pregnancy/STD scare, does not seem attractive when looking at the obvious lies and rationalizations of Yahoo Travel, which offers such “Things to do” as the Boston Public Library (for spring break?) and Boston Common and the Public Gardens, which not only are really one thing, not two, but are parks … you know, the outdoor kind. But the alarm bells really start to go off when lured to sites such as, where an uninformed algorithm has decided to include Blue Man Group three times on a list of “Upcoming events during spring break.” Seems a little desperate. And expensive.

The danger of staying in town for spring break is learning too much about your town. It’s the week you’re not supposed to learn anything, and the risk is learning you should have left.

But be careful where you go!

After college I fled Boston for Florida, which is the eternal spring break, and only four months later came running back to Massachusetts with a renewed appreciation, if not a passion, for what I’d tried to escape. Problems and all.