20 Reasons We Loved Boston in 2014
Edited by Lindsay Tucker
The Chinese calendar must have gotten it wrong, because by our calculations 2014 was the Year of the Bear. An anonymous man dressed in a scruffy costume melodically tearing up a keytar brought us a form of street entertainment we didn’t know we were missing—and for a moment it seemed his celebrity would never fade. We followed the mystery bear from the MBTA tunnel to the Boston Calling stage, all in a matter of months. But under the suit (as he’s quick to remind fans) is, in fact, a man—one with a dark sense of humor who wears a full-body costume to “level” a playing field he feels needs leveling. The costume, he says, gives him total anonymity— a deliberate move to displace race—but it’s also brought celebrity. Cue the haters: Attacks in April and October sent our beloved keytarist into partial early hibernation. But even a smashed nose and a broken instrument couldn’t keep KTB from his street serenades. “If you take life too seriously,” he says, “you’re gonna have more wrinkles on your face than people who don’t.”
After hearing about the first attack on KTB, local events manager Abigail Taylor raised more than $5,000 for the musician she’d gotten to know from afar, initiating a gifting spree that brought the masked celeb, among other things, a new keytar and hundreds of new friends. —Madeleine Coleman
Tom Menino was Boston’s indefatigable single parent for a crucial 20 years, during which time the city grew from the coarse backwater of Curley and White to the urbane metropolis it is today. Menino’s hand was in every critical transformation, including the explosion of downtown development, the increasingly overlapping demographics, the humming of new industry and innovation, and the creaking improvement of schools.
At the same time, Menino’s omniscient control was more myth than fact. Yes, he was certain that he knew what was best for Boston—his strong-mayor government became a power-wielding phenomenon. But he amassed said power based on the belief that he understood our needs better than anyone else. To him, the city wouldn’t have survived without his ongoing stewardship; efforts to bolster his political fortunes (and crush those of potential opponents) were his way of caring for the thing he loved.
Which is why even the harshest critics couldn’t help but love him back. And why his death has hit us much harder than his leaving office did. —David S. Bernstein
Most Bostonians share an intense hatred of the Yankees, an unabashed love of shellfish, and, increasingly, a deep curiosity for how bicycles, cars, and pedestrians will all get along now that we’ve invested in striping bike lanes down our major roadways. Mayor Walsh—along with City Councilor Ayanna Pressley—has picked up where Menino left off, trying to make sure that riding a bike isn’t akin to a death wish. Behold, the Boston Public Works Department’s truck side-guard ordinance, which requires city-owned and city- contracted vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds to have wooden side rails (plus convex mirrors and blind-spot-awareness decals). The idea is that cyclists will merely bounce off, rather than get hauled under. According to the Boston Cyclists Union, since 2012, at least four of the city’s nine bike/truck fatalities could have been prevented with safeguards. So far, results look promising: In July, when a side-guard-equipped garbage truck collided with a Hubway cyclist traveling down Mass. Ave., the biker was still pinned under the truck, but his injuries weren’t severe. —M.C.
It’s been a busy year for the senator. She continues to push for raising the federal minimum wage, helping working-class families, and solving the student-debt crisis. And the former Harvard professor hasn’t hesitated in accusing President Obama of standing behind corrupt financial behemoths, demanding that white-collar criminals are held to the same standards as everyone else. “The main reason we punish illegal behavior is for deterrence—to make sure that the next banker who’s thinking about breaking the law remembers that the guy down the hall was hauled out in handcuffs when he did that,” Warren told Federal Reserve officials in September. Though many have eyed her as presidential or vice-presidential material, she says she’s staying put. —Lindsay Tucker
And it works. Dubbed the Copenhagen Wheel, it’s a motorized, 350-watt, regenerative-power harvesting device that mounts to a bike’s back wheel. When your energy lags, it gives your ride such a jolt of electric power that you’ll be breezing by gridlocked cars at a cool 20 miles per hour. Despite its name, the wheel was designed by Cambridge-based Superpedestrian, which will be filling preorders by year’s end, allowing more of us to ditch our cars for good. —Hannah Lott-Schwartz
Spoiler alert: Behind a secret door inside an innocent-looking Back Bay corner shop lie untold riches, if custom kicks are your thing. If you know what we’re talking about, consider yourself among the truly plugged in. Among countless other Bodega aficionados, the late, great Robin Williams was known to frequent the fabled sneaker boutique. “Robin came out of the blue,” co-owner Jay Gordon says. “He took a speaking gig in Boston, and [when he came in] he said he’d taken the gig because he wanted to check out the store. He knew every brand, he knew every artist on the wall, he knew more than half of my staff knew about the history of the shoes. Nobody was as absolutely into it as Robin.” —Joseph Gordon Cleveland
Like any long-term relationship, Boston’s love affair with the sea has been occasionally stormy, but ultimately rewarding. To memorialize that indelible bond, graphic artist Liz LaManche treated the Boston Harbor Shipyard pier, in East Boston, as a sailor’s chest, tracing our city’s nautical connection to the rest of the world much in the way that a mariner of yore would have commemorated his salty travels. Dubbed Connected by the Sea, the 1,000-foot inking is perhaps more poignant than LaManche even intended. —H.L.S
Three years ago, GQ took up the rigorous (eye roll), totally objective task of ranking the worst-dressed cities in America, and Boston, as you probably know, took first prize. But this year, luxury retailers bet big on Boston with a wave of dramatic expansions and renovations: Chanel quadrupled its footprint, crossing Newbury Street to a new 10,000-square-foot, Peter Marino–designed temple of chic; Valentino revealed a slick take on a palazzo; Tiffany & Co. added a second Back Bay store; Dolce & Gabbana debuted a two-story boutique; Bottega Veneta cozied up to the Public Garden with a new shop; and, finally, Dorfman Jewelers, a mainstay of the society set, reopened with a sleek new look and a tightly edited collection of one-of-a-kind fine jewelry to match. All that’s to say, Boston ain’t exactly a fashion wasteland. —J.G.C.
When he hung up his Red Sox cap at the end of October, chef Gordon Hamersley ended a remarkable 27-year run as the patriarch of not just his eponymous South End bistro (which he owned with his wife, Fiona), but arguably the entire local restaurant scene. The beloved eatery may have shut its doors, but Hamersley’s influence will live on through the many talented chefs he mentored in his kitchen. —Leah Mennies