Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Desert Dweller's Look into Jamaica Plain

By Megan Roy


As most of the people I know at Emerson College have heard by now, I am from the middle of a desert known as Palmdale, California. With a population of 156,000, spread thin over 104 flat square miles, and temperatures that reach over 110 degrees in the summer, my city is, uh... Quite a hoot. My sheer excitement to have emerged from this desolate "city" has led me to bring it up more than its fair share of times in conversation.

Hello, home.
As you can see, making the shift from Palmdale to Boston was a large one. And, naturally, I've noticed an enormous number of differences between the two areas. It would probably be harder to actually find similarities between the cities, if anything. However, when looking at Jamaica Plain, it was hard not to find some glaringly obvious contrasts between the brown world I grew up in and the strange new world I was visitng.

1) SNOW.


I know about 155,999 people that still think this stuff is a myth.
Apparently I lived a childhood supremely deprived of the color white. I thought it was insane walking around, hearing people groan as they swiped snow off of a car windshield or trudged through the snowdrifts in their rain boots. I giggled as I tromped through the stuff wearing flared jeans and some $10 knock-off Converse from Payless. Guess it just depends on where you were raised.

2) Different states seem to exist here.

Since California is abnormally large, and I am from an area no one really drives multiple hours to visit, I am very accustomed to the "number-letter-letter-letter-number-number-number" California license plates. It is crazy to remember how small states on the east coast really are! In Jamaica Plain, I was finding license plates from more states than I could keep track of.

Number-number-number-letter-letter-number?? MY LIFE IS A LIE.

To be completely honest, sometimes I forgot that Virginia was a state. Sorry, Virginians.

I love the nice decorative border New Yorkers get on their license plates. California put
so much effort into our license plates, that they gave us cursive red writing. It's okay to be jealous.

3) The color green.

Akin to my awareness of the state of Virginia, I forgot that nature possesses this color known as "green". This bush in someone's yard in the dead of winter most likely holds more pigment than the whole of the bushes I encountered while living in Palmdale.

Just feels so... exotic, doesn't it? Stupendous.
And don't even get me STARTED on the trees. They were everywhere. Back home, we had to plant those suckers and hope the sprinklers would keep working. Here, they just kind of grow. I was baffled. Jamaica Plain felt a little like a forest to me.

An example of the wild thickets I encountered on my journey. Jamaica Plain is dangerous...
You could lose children around trees like these.

4) The houses don't all look the same.

Palmdale is not a city I would particularly classify as having a unique "character", per se. In essence, every house in my neighborhood is a variation of 3 different floor plans, cookie-cuttered onto cul-de-sacs to give every housing tract a nice, creepy, deja-vu atmosphere. While walking down Burrough Street to Jamaica Pond, however, I didn't see a single house that was a replication of another. They all had their own personality. The Palmdalian architects could really take a hint from places like Jamaica Plain.

Palmdale does not believe in porches. Jamaica Plain believes in porches.
Jamaica Plain - 1
Palmdale - 0

This house has a porch AND a tree. And about 49 windows. Such pizzazz!
Jamaica Plain - 2
Palmdale - 0

Color variation?! Say it ain't so! Palmdale thinks that its citizens moved to a city with  so
much brown, that they must want more of it; and thus, every house is brown. Thanks, JP,
for using your color wheel.
Jamaica Plain - 3
Palmdale - 0

What is this, an airplane runway?!? This driveway is like its own little street! Jamaica Plain
even does it's best to make the cars feel comfortable. I feel safe in proclaiming a winner.
Jamaica Plain - 4 (and counting)
Palmdale - 0

5) This sign.

Palmdale never takes the time to warn its citizens about children performing Russian Leaps across the city streets. Who would want to hit a person so happily gallivanting over the asphalt? Certainly not me. For shame, desert folk. For shame.

6) People walking places.

Despite Palmdale's large population, everyone is spread out so thinly that it's nearly impossible to live in an area where everything you need is accessible by walking. At best, you will see people biking around the city, but walkers are virtually non-existent. The occasional "hi" I got from passers-by on the street of Jamaica Plain reminded me that human interaction is actually normal.

I didn't even have to Photoshop them into the picture. They were just there.
And, finally...

7) This hat.

Perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence I found in JP's favor.

If you had any doubts about Jamaica Plain's "cool factor" prior to this... You're welcome.

And so...

I may have begun by saying I was pointing out differences... Yet it seems, in fact, that maybe I was only finding what I believed were improvements. Nonetheless, without continually bashing my hometown, Jamaica Plain was filled with wonderful surprises and welcome differences from the place where I grew up.
If anything, I guess I discovered that so much of what you see is dependent on perspective.
...and I also relearned the existence of variety, nature, atmosphere, love, and Virginia. But that may be besides the point.


  1. The New York license plates are actually different now. The current version is just a plain gold plate with numbers. It's a lot less interesting. I miss the old ones.

  2. From the perspective of a girl who has lived in New England her entire life: I am so sorry you never experienced these things before! But at the same time, I'm glad you're being exposed to them now and are enjoying and making the most of it. Most people I know here who are from warm places complain about things like the snow, but your optimism about this new environment is refreshing and I really respect you for it. Beyond that, this post is so multidimensional it's insane. Your writing is entertaining and super conversational; your pictures are dynamic and have captions that are downright hilarious; and the way you put yourself into this piece is just really cool. I hope you can continue to enjoy Boston as much as I do and always have, but I also hope you never lose sight of the great things about your "other" home, too. I'm sure there are many of them.