[Editor's Note: This is the first in a new series that chronicles lifelong Boston musician and writer John Von Bittrich's January relocation to Portland, Oregon, where he'll compare scenes and cultures and show us how the other half lives.]
I was born at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton on a snowy January day in 1983. I was brought up in West Roxbury and attended Boston Public Schools, where I performed poorly and didn’t fit in at all. It wasn’t until I discovered the local music scene that things really started falling into place for me.
When I was twelve, my older cousins started letting me tag along to various all-ages matinees at the Rat and the Middle East, and by 13 I had my first real punk band. We gigged around town, opening on occasion for locals of note including the Unseen and the Trouble, as well as scads of bands none of you would remember.
By 17, I had dropped out of school and was working in the DIY scene as a full-time job, running the distro end of a local label and playing in a couple different bands while crashing on friends’ floors and couches. Eventually I could afford a room of my own, the bands I played in started getting better shows and the events I helped organize started drawing huge crowds. I even started seeing my words published in local papers and magazines.
The Boston scene raised me. It gave a miserable misfit kid a reason to live and something to work for. And now the time has finally come for me to leave this surrogate parent behind and strike out on my own.
This January, two days before my 29th birthday, my girlfriend and I will be moving away to Portland, Oregon. She’s a recent Boston transplant from upstate New York, and being around her has really helped me understand exactly why it’s time for me to leave Boston
behind: my psychological map of this city, the way I see it in my head, simply does not match the physical city any longer.
Boston has always been a college town, and the majority of the people living here can’t possibly understand how hard some people work to keep the culture alive and going for more than four years at a time.
It’s a bittersweet thing to always be pointing out where the things I love used to be, or the places old friends used to live and congregate; whether it’s explaining the charm of Herrell’s (where I worked for nearly three years) or trying to paint her a picture of Deli Haus or the Rat or the House of Suffering Succotash or what Little Steve’s USED to be like that would do those places justice, or just why I’m so bummed that the Other Side is closing.
This is not to say that the Boston of the present is a bad place, but it’s not the same one that raised me. It’s not my place. It’s time for me to leave it to its new residents and let them author their own memories and mythologies about it.
I’ll be publishing Hub Capped, the blog you are reading right now, to express my hopes, adventures and trepidations in the lead-up to my move. Once I get to Portland, it will be a place for me to talk about how that city differs from Boston for better or worse, what’s noteworthy over there, who you should be listening to, and what I miss about the city that, for me, will always be home. I hope you’ll find it informative and maybe even a little touching, whether you can relate to my story directly or not.
Feel free to drop me a line with any feedback.