Monday, July 22, 2024

Lee Stabert is a Philadelphia transplant podcasting from – and about – Greater Boston. (Photo: Explain Boston to Me)

Locals know how the Big Dig, the Boston Marathon and the rise of Tom Brady defined the fabric of Boston. Maybe transplants understand Allston Christmas, the North Shore beaches and the history of counterculture and punk in New England.

Journalist, writer and podcaster Lee Stabert, a Philadelphia native and Cambridge transplant, is trying to “learn to speak the language” of Boston.

In her new podcast, “Explain Boston to Me,” a Boston expert takes Stabert and the listener through a casual conversation about the quirks of a neighborhood or more serious cultural customs of the largest metro area in New England.

“I’ve always prided myself on being the type of person who knows all of the hyperlocal minutiae,” Stabert says in the podcast’s intro. In her new pod, local experts and journalists explain a topic chosen from her long list of local idiosyncrasies.

Stabert still runs her Pennsylvania publication Keystone Edge, but the podcast allows to flex her creative muscles in Boston while exploring iconic institutions of the city.

“In Philly, and in Pennsylvania, like, I knew everything,” Stabert said in an interview. “It was literally my job to know everything.”

Quintessential lore

As the pod continues, Stabert hopes to tackle some of the most quintessential Cambridge and Somerville lore, from the delayed green line extension, the history of Central Square, the advent of The Lemonheads and Somerville Honk! festival of activist street bands in Somerville’s Davis Square.

“I liked the idea that it could be everything from Hilaria Baldwin to the Big Dig, so everything from pop culture to history,” Stabert said. “I want to talk about the busing crisis. I’m open to talking about tough subjects.”

The podcast premiered in mid-July, with Stabert’s guest WBZ reporter and TikTok star Matt Shearer explaining what he called “magical” Allston Christmas – happening in Cambridge and Somerville as well as Boston but named for when students move out of the Boston University-adjacent neighborhood and deposit what seems like all of their belongings on the curb.

“It’s all free, it’s Allston Christmas,” Shearer said. “There are so many students and it’s become this sort of thing that the city, I wouldn’t say embraces it, but they just allow it to happen.”

This first episode is lighthearted and nostalgic for Shearer, a former Rat City resident who hosted punk rock basement house shows for which the Allston neighborhood is famous. Stabert questions Shearer like a new resident, asking why the Sept. 1 move-in date is law around Boston and how to make the most of Allston Christmas findings.

The pod isn’t just for new residents. Lifelong Bostonians can learn something from the in-depth look into the microcosms of culture such as her most recent episode about the ’70s band The Modern Lovers. Students can get a new appreciation for the city that hosts so many colleges and universities.

Stabert said even former Bostonians could appreciate the show, which she relates to since leaving her hometown of Philly.

“Getting that taste of home is really appealing,” she said.

Latest: The Harvard Square Pit

Three more episodes have aired every Wednesday, and this week Stabert discovered the Harvard Square Pit – a famous meeting place for punks and outcasts, artists and performers in its countercultural history.

“I just am obsessed with the tension between this space that was the hangout for punk kids and rebellious teenagers right outside the walls of Harvard,” Stabert said.

The Pit is closed now, as construction broke ground last year to make the amphitheater-like structure compliant with access laws for people with disabilities. If the Allston episode touched briefly on the inequity in neighborhoods due to soaring housing prices, the Harvard Pit episode tackles gentrification head-on.

“Harvard Square used to be where we would go where it was like vintage shops and tattoo parlors and very cool counterculture, whereas my own experience of Harvard Square is chain stores,” Stabert said. “That’s a story that is repeated not only all over Cambridge, but all over Boston.”

Boston is considered one of the most expensive cities in the country. A 2020 report from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition called Boston the third-most gentrified city after Denver and San Francisco.

“One person’s treasured memory is probably another person’s change that they don’t like,” Stabert said. “The cost of living here changing so much and making it much more difficult for independent businesses to survive, I think that’s more generally a negative.”

Stabert said she’s learned a lot about Boston, and what’s surprised her most is how small Boston proper actually is – so her podcast wouldn’t be complete without looking into the eccentricities of municipalities such as Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline for more ideas.

Listeners should reach out on Instagram with local tips as she learns more about Cambridge, Stabert said.

“What this project is doing that’s really fun is it’s making me like where I live more,” Stabert said. “It’s making me really understand this place, and that makes life richer.”