Robert Hesse

Dark and windy city

"Unquiet City XXA'' (pigment print on canvas) in the "Boston Through the Eyes of Robert Hesse Collection'' at the Patricia Ladd Carega Gallery, Center Sandwich, N.H.

I must admit that I have always found Boston unfriendly, class-ridden, too ethnically and religiously tribal and too windy. This picture reminds me of the chilling scenes outside my father's office on Federal Street in downtown Boston more than 50 years ago, when he worked for a long-dead Boston company called the United Shoe Machinery Corp. in a stepped, gold-topped Art Deco skyscraper put up right before the Depression. That slump lasted, off and on, into the '50s in Boston, at least in some ways. The Brink's Robbery was a nice distraction.

Poor John Cheever, the novelist and short-story writer who grew up just south of what we headline writers used to call "The Hub,'' used to get so depressed and anxious when he returned to Boston that he'd get drunk and sometimes be found like a bum sleeping on a bench in Boston Common.

Of course, he did have various "issues,'' as they say. But growing up in the downcast environment of Greater Boston was one of them.

The city is a lot spiffier now than it was a few decades ago, but no friendlier.

I'll take Manhattan., or even Brooklyn.

-- Robert Whitcomb