Newton, Massachusetts is a super-suburb. Most streets accommodate multiple PhD’s and MD’s, sometimes more than one per commonplace five-bedroom, neatly-groomed residence; many parents prefer to send their kids to expensive private schools rather than to the esteemed Newton Public Schools system; and adults vote overwhelmingly Democratic (and advise their kids to one day do the same). Angst-ridden teenagers shudder at the nearly continuous perfection.
Newton Upper Falls, however, is an outlier that sits comfortably on the western edge of town. To understand, just take a walk down High Street. Near the south end, on the right lives Don. A can of beer in hand, he’s impressing twelve-year-olds with his gnome-filled yard, barbecue pit that makes the block reek of charcoal, and stories of how he got his scars. Four houses up, in a trash-filled driveway home to two ferocious pit bulls is the asphalt where local high school dropouts sit and smoke cigarettes. Passersby usually switch to the opposite sidewalk. There, across the street, a college professor pays workers to trim his hedges that guard his proud, gray-blue Victorian home. His neighbors are rarely home, spending most of their time running their dry-cleaning shop in West Roxbury. Two houses down, an immigrant Chinese family of four rents out the basement of a two-story house. And three houses down from there is Charlie, always outside fixing his rusty pickup.
But High Street is changing, and it’s changing fast. As of a few months ago, the dropouts no longer frequent their driveway: a construction team leveled the property. Bruce moved away, too, and the future owners of his house are renovating it before moving in. Carpenter trucks and bulldozers narrow the street and make it hard for cars to pass by. Ballooning housing prices aren’t just something to read about. They’re knocking down houses and clogging up High Street.
All I can do is watch. I didn’t have to move anywhere to live someplace new.