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21 April 201511:56AMusa-2015travel

Walking around Harvard, I realise how much of my perception of Boston is shaped by The Social Network. The area has a really distinctive architectural style, but until I imagined it at night with Aaron Sorkin-esque cinematography it didn't click where it was that I recognised it from.

I keep expecting to see Jesse Eisenberg jog around a corner.

Harvard is nice. It is a very nice school, in a very nice neighbourhood, and when you hear that it costs a hundred thousand dollars a year, it suddenly makes sense. It's also not all surrounded student housing, or frat housing (apparently they don't have frats at all), or anything like that. It's just a pretty regular upmarket neighbourhood, with kids on tricycles. Kids on tricycles. Near Harvard. We saw them, and it was a little bit weird.

"Imagine growing up around the corner from Harvard. What kind of expectations would you have? How would it feel to live here your whole life and then not go here?"

Embedded in that fairly ordinary neighbourhood is a pub called The Thirsty Scholar, which is pretty prominently featured in the opening sequence of that aforementioned Facebook Film. They have some signed posters inside, in between all the Boston Bruins jerseys(?), and a table in roughly the same position as the one where the characters sit in the film, which we inadvertently sat at. We genuinely didn't realise, but we must've looked like massive tourists. The bartender, to her credit, took it pretty much in stride.

See, here's the thing - despite being immortalised in what I'd consider to be one of the greatest movies of the past decade, this is just an ordinary pub. It's not even that big. It's somebody's local, and for them it just happens to be their local that was featured in a really good movie, and not the other way around.

And as is the way in pubs, we engaged in some serious, deep discussion of The Future, and What Could Have Been, and What Might Yet Still Be, which I won't repeat here except for one particularly interesting fragment.

"Here's a weird thought. If I was American, I'd probably be going here. Or expected to go here."

Because after all the hype, Harvard is like MIT. It's just another place. A place with a truly kickass natural history museum full of glass flowers and giant plesiosaurs and the best curated exhibition on natural selection I've ever seen, I'll grant you that - but it is just a place. It's a place that makes you want to spend the rest of your life there as an undeclared major, but it's just a place. It's not an idea. You can really go there, and really wander around.

< Boston Astronaut >