Malden Square is formed by the intersection of Main, Salem, and Ferry Streets (the town's three major arteries), but the term is loosely applied to a strip running from the square itself to the T station and widened to include a three-block area that encompasses Malden Government Center as well. Follow Main Street north to get to Melrose, or south to Everett Square. Ferry Street runs southeast through Faulkner and Everett before it ends at the Revere Beach Parkway. Salem Street heads east through Maplewood and Linden before the Northeast Expressway kills it.

The square is a definite reminder of a time when Malden was a bustling, independent city, rather than a town that primarily caters to commuters. Some of the buildings still show painted advertisements from the forties and fifties, if you know where to look, but now they're overshadowed by the McDonalds Express and the dollar stores. In winter, the Christmas decorations are ridiculously nice. Do yourself a favor and go for a walk.

The Orange Line takes 14 minutes to shuttle you from the station to Boston, but nobody comes up to Malden Square from the city. Malden fails to attract the sort of tourism that Cambridge and Brookline are so good at pulling in. Why? There's two pretty well-established reasons. One of them is the reputation of the Orange Line, which runs through Roxbury, Charlestown, Everett, and Malden. The first three communities (less so Charlestown) don't have the best reputations. The Orange Line was the only T line to see a murder in 2004. The line IS safe, though. I commute on it daily, and the worst thing to ever happen to me was to have an older man loudly sing at me and a few other passengers for about twenty minutes.

The second reason is a little more insidious and dates back to the 1980s, when the Orange Line was relocated from its elevated alignment through the central part of Charlestown. The T was upgrading three transit corridors at the time: the Red Line past Harvard, the Orange Line down the newly cleared Southwest Corridor, and the Orange Line north to Malden and Melrose. At one point, the line was expected to continue up to Greenwood Station, in Stoneham, but the T did its thing and started cutting corners. The T ends at Oak Grove and runs on a surface alignment, so Malden Station is a massive, neighborhood-destroying concrete behemoth that squashes pedestrian traffic like a bug. Arlington lost itself a subway by insisting that the entire line be built underground, but they were probably right in the long term.

One of the more interesting parts of the square is the location of the old Malden Square Station (the new T station is officially "Malden Center"), a stop on the now-defunct Saugus Branch of the Boston & Maine Railroad. What was once the depot is now a parking lot, but some remnants of the development remain on the lower blocks of Main Street. At Main and Charles is the BOWLADROME, a 50's-style bowling alley with a dying neon sign. Across the street is an unimpressive diner. The jersey barriers and barbed wire fences down here block off what was once the commercial center of the city. Traffic has since shifted north, above Route 60.

It's Malden, though. It's a fascinating town where there's very little crime and zero racism, and lots of interesting people. The view from Mount Hood is possibly the best in Boston, and there's a whole lot of good pizza. It was my hometown all year; I'll miss it terribly.