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Is a City Really a City if it Doesn’t Smell Like Pee?

By March 14, 2006December 13th, 2022No Comments


There are some key words associated with this particular Sarah Khan.

They usually include (but are not necessarily limited to): sleep, giggle, useless, platter, beef, rrarr, curly, and neener. And now that I’ve upped and moved to New York, let’s be sure to add “Boston” to the list.

Though I’ve lived in numerous random locales during my two-and-a-half decades of existence — some (India) more picturesque than others (Syracuse) — Boston has always retained a special place in my heart as home, more than any other city that’s been ephemerally blessed with that distinction.

Boston is where my family now lives. It’s where I went to college. It’s where I resided for nearly a year after grad school with Karishma, roommate extraordinaire, and a ghost. It’s where I discovered the sartorial necessity of sporting a Caramel Frappuccino (tall, no whip, extra-extra caramel) as a summer accessory. It’s the home of Natalie’s, the greasiest (and thus yummiest) late-night pizza around. It’s where I met a friend for breakfast and walked all the way through the Prudential and down Boylston Street in broad daylight — before I strolled into work and someone pointed out the giant glob of hair gel in my curls that my friend had neglected to alert me to.

Hm. You didn’t really need to know about that though, did you.

But as much as I may [heart] New York — and let there be no doubt, I most certainly do [heart] New York, a city that’s alluring and magical, albeit forever varnished with an omnipresent coat of pee — I will always maintain that Boston is great little town in its own (slightly-more-urine-free) right.

There’s nothing like floating down the Charles, quack-quacking your way through a Duck Tour. Driving up Comm Ave when it’s lined with either Christmas lights or blossoming flowers. Ambling along Newbury Street with arms laden in shopping bags, then taking a break by people-watching from a coveted perch at Armani Café. Scoping the nighttime view of the lit skyline when you’re driving over the bridge from Cambridge. Bowling at Jillian’s, no matter how badly you suck. Ice skating on Frog Pond, again sucking tremendously. Late nights snacks at IHOP, or News for the more glamorous set. Knowing everyone, everywhere, every time you go out. Boston is a small, quaint, familiar city. So what if it closes down at 2 am? You should be tucked away in bed by then anyway, missy.

It took me a trip to DC — a city that is so clean, so virtually devoid of the aroma of pee, that I wonder if its citizens are somehow stripped of their urinary glands before they are assigned zip codes — to decide I need to be more vocal in my love for Boston. New York and DC have champions galore nationwide, but everywhere I go I’m attacked by Boston-haters. DC is a great city, but apart from its admirable state of general pee-lessess, I didn’t find it to be THAT much different from Boston.

Georgetown is cute. But it looks like a recently cleaned Harvard Square would (if such a miracle were ever to happen), minus a few creative hairdos. Adams Morgan is lively. So is Landsdowne at 2:15 am. DC is a great college town. Ever heard of Harvard, MIT, Tufts, or Boston College? DC has a nice harbor. So does Boston, big whoop. DC has a great subway system. Boston has the first subway system. DC has history. Boston invented history. DC is patriotic. Boston has the Patriots. DC knows how to party. Boston threw the best damn tea party of all time.

I could go on forever, but I trust you catch my drift. Really, apart from positions on the Atlantic (and positions on the merits of cleanliness, evidently), they may as well be the same city.

So I’m thrilled beyond words to finally be living in my own city of dreams, New York. And maybe someday my olfactory sensibilities will drive me southward to the spotless streets of DC. I wouldn’t mind Chicago or San Francisco either. But wherever I go, I’ll always sing (off-key) songs of praise for Boston, probably more than any other place I’ve ever lived.

It’s not like Syracuse should have been expecting the honor.