Thursday, July 29, 2004


I started at Emerson College just as its plans to move to Lawrence, Mass., sank glub-glub out of sight, weighed down by logistics, resistance and the psychic horror of the notion itself: Leaving Boston’s, glamorous, cozy, brown-brick Back Bay for the crime-riddled strip malls, traffic and cultural isolation of Lawrence.

The move would have saved money, as the brownstone campus was incredibly wasteful in almost every way imaginable, and it would have transformed Emerson. But that was an inevitable and obvious loser: Location is why I chose Emerson, and probably the defining factor for most of my fellow students, past, present and future. Although an imperfect metaphor, moving the college to Lawrence would have been like relocating the human heart to somewhere around the left knee. If a restaurant keeps selling out of chocolate cake, it shouldn’t urge its buyers: “Hey, let’s take chocolate cake off the menu!”

Emerson has sold off its brownstones and moved across the Common, gathering with cool-by-association around its Majestic Theatre. A good move, even if nostalgia prevents unrestrained celebration.

But the Democratic National Convention at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center?

Something can make perfect sense -- as did the plan to move Emerson -- and still be completely idiotic, and this idea was. Holding the convention at the FleetCenter put it in the mainstream of Boston, one of the greatest tourist cities in the world, and a heartbeat from everything that makes it so: the cuisine, the shopping, the sights, the history, the spirit.

Moving the convention to the undeveloped, unattractive South Boston waterfront would have meant thousands of visitors gathering daily in a corner of Boston just to be shuttled off in crowded, rattling buses to the city’s lamest, dullest outskirts. Its Lawrence, Mass., equivalent. Its left knee.

There are reasons why Boston deserved to host the convention, and the wastelands of the waterfront and some giant, impersonal sloping shoe box of a convention center aren’t among them.

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