I was introduced to Central Square when I came in to see my favorite band in the world: Morphine. They were playing at the World’s Fair in Central Square. I think that must have been 1995. I loved this band. I think Brooke was with me, I think that may have been the summer we first met. I have a photo I took of Sandman and Dana and Billy from the front row. I had that picture on my wall in college.
When I was trying to decide which college I should attend that experience played an enormous role. I’d gotten early admission at MIT, and also gotten into Stanford. So I was trying to decide between my top 2 choices. And I remember asking people at Stanford when they last went to San Francisco to a show, and the answer was usually never. And I remember thinking I wanted to go to school some place where I can go to Central Square and see Morphine, my favorite band in the world.
I got involved at the radio station my first year at MIT. It’s something I’d done in high school and I loved radio and music. At the MIT radio station, WMBR (Walker Memorial Basement Radio), there was this magic book. You could write your name in this book and you’d be on the guest list for basically any show in the city. I think I went out 3-4 nights a week my first 2 years at MIT. The best venue in the entire city was and is of course the Middle East.
The point: I love Central Square. I have for a lot of my life at this point. And I’ve always felt pretty defensive of Central. It was just the other year I was at an IDEO event (they have offices in central) and somebody was encouraging me to join some Central Square improvement group, and I remember asking, probably with more attitude that I should have: “what makes you think Central needs improvement?”
Central is definitely dirtier than other squares in Cambridge. It’s a hodge podge of businesses. Not all of those businesses are high end. OK, maybe none of them. There’s nothing sanitized about the Central Square experience. And I think this aspect of Central is probably what I find myself defending. Central feels less like Boston, more like New York. And like New York it’s a beautiful, if messy, collision of different types of people from different walks of life. And there is something invigorating about that. Central has room for everybody and I’ve always loved that egalitarianism at work.
I aim to write posts much shorter than this. But I’ll warn you all, this may be the first of a few long ones about Central. We’re opening the next Clover here in Central Square, at the former home of HiFi Pizza. I’m sad to see them go, they were such an institution. And I’m hoping Clover can be worthy of the corner they were operating for nearly 60 years. We’ll approach it with humility and try to create a place of which the residents of Central are proud. I want this Clover to be vibrant 60 years from now.