People who live in the city have an ambiguous relationship to it. They love its bustling activity, its old historical architecture. But they hate its poverty, ugliness, and decay. Tim Devin's notes on riding buses reflect both of these facets of the city experience.

The Boston Bus-Town Project website ( ) by Tim Devin chronicles his experience of taking bus trips on different routes in the Boston area. With notebook on hand, he jotted down his thoughts while riding. By clicking on bus numbers 1 through 100 on the webpage, visitors can read his account of riding on that route.

The style is stream of consciousness. Observations of an event occuring on the bus lead into fantasies or recollections of the writer. For example when Tim sees a woman who leaves behind a lily on the bus before getting off, he concocts a rather romantic imaginary story of her life. He imagines that "she set aside a certain amount of her paycheck.. for public flowers... bought from the same old man.... ( and would) leave (these) little bits of beauty behind everywhere she'd been."

An observation of a church built in an old architectural style leads him to muse what life must have been like in the days of the pre-industrial era. In a nostalgic and dreamy sentence he muses about how the church belongs to a world of fairy tales a five year child would think about while eating ice cream.

"We drove by a cobblestone church that seemed like an artifact from an older, wistful world of ogres and fair maidens that had been wished into existence by a five-year-old who loved chocolate ice cream,.."

The escape to fantasy doesn't last long, however, and the narrator returns his story to mere observation. That same sentence ends with a boring note that that the bus goes "down Main Street, which is one of Waltham's main commercial drags."

In this way, Devin's observations veer from beauty and fantasy to the more mundane, ugly descriptions of urban settings. On one bus ride, he expresses sadness at a worn-down city of "aging two and three family houses" where "paint was peeling." When he writes of how "trees casting scraggly shadows in the sunset sprouted in between (the aging houses)," it's as if he means to implicate the trees in condemning the decaying houses by darkening them with their shadow.

The writer's use of metaphor also encompasses the economical decline of the 90s. As he passes office buildings in Cambridge that have been abandoned by once thriving computer companies, he invokes images of gravestones to symbolize the death of a period of an economic growth.

He writes how these formerly occupied office buildings now had "for-rent signs that were moldy from long basement stays (and) stood like gravestones marking the passage of college-dropout money dream."

The description of the for-rent signs is also metaphorical. They point to a by-gone era of the 90s boom where Hi-Tech companies had no-need to give up their office buildings. For that reason the real estate people stowed away their for-rent signs, perhaps with the thought that the high tech boom was never going to bust.

An overally positive image of city life emerges from Tim's account of bus rides. It's certainly true that economic decline and poverty have deprived the city of some its beauty. But, the overall ugliness can be compensated by finding beauty in the smaller details like women carrying flowers and old quaint cobblestone churches.

Supplemental Information: Tim writes observations of his bus rides as a hobby. The Boston Bus-Town Project is not funded by any grants from art associations. However the fare for some of Devin's bus trips has been provided by his friends.

Special thanks to Andromache01, JohnyGoodYear, JoeBaldwin, and TheCustodian for helpful suggestions

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