The 61 New Best Things About Boston
A Bostonian we love (and what he loves about Boston)
30. John Krasinski, 28, actor
We cogs in the machine—and here in Boston, that’s more than half a million of us—know that you rarely get to pick your coworkers or, for that matter, your cubicle neighbors. There’s always going to be the loud talker, the weird eater, the social butterfly who spends her days flitting from one desk to the next. Barely 8 inches separate me, for instance, from a guy who frequently chuckles to himself, and can spend hours tossing a baseball up and down. Once I thought I heard him fart. (Maybe he’s heard me, too.)
Perhaps our desk-bound existences—and the fact that we’re a town of cynics—explain Boston’s particular affinity for NBC’s hit sitcom The Office (returning this month, post-strike), in which an ensemble cast of paper-pushers deal with one another’s quirks, most of them annoying. As Jim, the amiable, moderately ambitious voice of reason, John Krasinski—who can also be seen starring this month opposite Renée Zellweger in the new Clooney-directed, football-themed romantic comedy Leatherheads—calls on dry wit and a cache of goofy looks to express the disdain he feels for his more ridiculous office-mates. Whether confined in our own offices, stranded on the Expressway, or wedged onto the Green Line, we can relate to his perpetual exasperation: It’s not me, it’s the other guy.
Of course, Krasinski never actually had an office job. Growing up the youngest of three boys in Newton, where his parents still live (mom Mary Clare is a nurse; dad Ron is an internist), he spent his afterschool hours playing sports and his summers counseling 12-year-olds at Camp Chickami in Wayland. He was the good boy—did well enough at competitive Newton South High School to get into Brown, didn’t really date, and generally behaved himself. “I was probably a wuss,” he admits. I feign surprise. “Yeah. I never wanted to get into trouble. Like on Halloween, if my friends were like, ‘Let’s go egg blah-blah-blah,’ I’d be like, ‘Aww man, I’m sick, I gotta go home.'”
Over breakfast, Krasinski works the just-rolled-out-of-bed look: shaggy hair damp on the ends, hooded sweatshirt, scruff. He’s just heard he’s nabbed the lead role in an as-yet-untitled Sam Mendes movie penned by author Dave Eggers, and we celebrate with camera-friendly egg whites and avocado (for him) and desk chair–friendly oatmeal (for me). “When someone tells me they’re from Boston, there’s a whole other level of connection (#31),” he says, and I don’t believe he’s making a pass. “It’s like you don’t have to start with commonality. You’re just like, ‘Oh, you’re from Boston?’ Got it.” He was raised on the Celtics (#32) and the Pats (#33), a love that’s gotten easier to pursue since he became famous: In February, he and his dad caught the Super Bowl in Phoenix (“You can’t just blame one person,” he says, then silently mouths, “Gisele!”), and over Thanksgiving, he attended a Lakers-Celtics game. “When I was in high school, those games were so boring,” he says. “Now, every single little kid has a Celtics shirt on, everybody is screaming at the top of their lungs, Donnie Wahlberg’s there freaking out (#34). It made me feel really proud, which I didn’t expect.”
What he has come to expect is that people are paying attention. “Every once in a while, a picture will show up of me eating lunch with my buddy, or getting out of my car in my own driveway,” he says, then scans the room. For a brief moment in time—a week, really—Krasinski and the arguably better-looking and definitely much better-paid Zellweger were a tabloid item, victims of a paparazzi manipulation. “Our entire cast was going out together, but they just showed me and her,” he says of the Us Weekly story. “You know, I really made out like a bandit there. I got the better end of that deal for sure.” —Alyssa Giacobbe
35. We May Actually Have a Real Mayoral Race Next Year
Mayor-for-life Tom Menino will give up his job when an asteroid levels City Hall and at last unseats him from power. That, at any rate, is how it’s often appeared in the first century of his administration. Throughout his reign, Hizzoner has never faced a credible challenger; Maura Hennigan, for example, had a better chance of de-throning Kim Jong Il.
Suddenly, though, it may be that all it takes to remove Menino from the job is an election. City Councilor Mike Flaherty, the one-time ally who’s been slamming the mayor all over town lately, is looking like a formidable opponent. Another dangerous challenger, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce boss Ralph Martin, is quietly building his organization. Others, including charismatic City Councilor John Tobin of West Roxbury, smell blood in the water as well. And they’re all doing what not long ago would have been inconceivable: publicly, or pretty close to it, weighing whether they want a piece of this, too.
With the city in the middle of significant change, it’s about time that Menino was forced to defend himself and his vision against real competition. There’s a creeping sense of Menino Fatigue in the air, and the public, given a viable choice, might just decide to break with the pettiness, ego, and defensiveness that have accompanied the prosperity and accomplishment of the Menino years. This is Boston, after all: Maybe we’re ready to indulge someone else’s pettiness, ego, and defensiveness. —Joe Keohane
A Bostonian we love (and what he loves about Boston)
36. Charles Coe, 55, writer
He’s one of the finest poets in a place with more than its share, a tireless advocate for the arts, and an honest-to-goodness larger-than-life character. But Cambridge’s Charles Coe would make our list simply for the parties he throws. Endless food and drink, fascinating people, and something called the Garlic Orgy. What’s not to love?
Born in Indiana, Coe banged around as a musician in Nashville and New Jersey before settling in Cambridge in ’75. When not writing or delivering the best readings in town, he works for the Massachusetts Cultural Council. “The thing about Boston,” he says, “is that people develop this interior life (#37)—because you’ve got to be inside four or five months of the year.” Coe figures it’s these winter-haunted cerebral types that account for Boston’s literary scene. “I’m a big fan of the independent bookstores,” he says.
“I love Brookline Booksmith (#38). I like McIntyre and Moore (#39) in Porter Square.”
Of course, as we’re always told, all that time spent pondering heavy thoughts can make for an occasionally cold and unapproachable citizenry. At least at first. Coe recalls being startled during a visit to a San Diego café. A woman approached—”she gets her eggplant radicchio latte or whatever”—and [gasp] started a conversation. “I was reminded, ‘Oh yeah, I’m in Southern California.’ In Boston, people are crusty and take time to open up to you, but once they do, it’s solid. It’s real (#40).” —J.K.
We Love This Town Because…
41. In this city, there’s a good chance your family doctor is a bestselling author, too.
43. When homeless icon Mr. Butch died, nearly 1,000 people turned out for his memorial.
44. In addition to its unrivaled beer selection, Bukowski’s has the peanut butter burger, the best thing since the PB & bacon sandwiches Mom served you.
45. Danny Ainge didn’t give up, even when most of us had given up on him.