A quick post from Cambridge (Massachusetts, need you ask).
I am back in the life I might have had. Sunny New England Spring. Vibrant but easy city. More bookstores and toy stores and restaurants than you would ever know what to do with.
What strikes me in Cambridge is the curious mix of brilliance and frivolity. If you sit in a cafe and half-listen to the conversations around you, you could easily assume that you were surrounded by very immature, superficial twenty-somethings. And then, you listen more carefully, and realize that between the ‘like’s’ and ‘so I said’s’ they are stringing together sentences on literary theory, particle physics and obscure philosophy. Note, that’s an ‘and’ not an ‘or’. The divide between arts and science is practically non-existent. People specialize, but they can converse in both.
The academic culture here seems to move seamlessly in and out of popular culture. There is no shift of tone, no code-switching, no self -consciousness. I suppose it is what comes of gathering such a high proportion of the world’s brightest and best in one small place.
The same lack of self-consciousness was evident as we sat in an old hotel bar late in the evening (we didn’t have the Veuve Clicquot, but the fact that we could have will give you a sense of it). We were in the sort of clothes you would expect. The table next to us were in stripey legged track suits, and the table beyond were in black tie. And it was all OK.
There are so many things that America gets criticized for — and often justly so. But there is good here too.