On this lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon in Islamabad, I got around to watching the movie “The Town.” You know, the one where Ben Affleck finally decides to do a movie in/about Boston just to shake things up a bit? (Sorry: too easy a target, Ben.)
Once you’ve lived in a place, it is imprinted on you. I know a real Boston street in my bones: I know the specific blue and white striping on the police cars, the sound of Joe Castiglione calling Red Sox games, the smell of roasting sausages at Fenway. I know the brick-paved sidewalks downtown, the exact look of a T stop sign, a Southie accent, and the newsstand in Harvard Square. I lived in Boston for ten years before moving to Pakistan, and watching the movie was like having a two-hour visit with an old friend, because “The Town” got all the details right.
Most movies manage to flatten out the quirks of a city into an easy blandness that could be Anytown, USA. But no one can fake the details of a place you know well. Say what you will about good ‘ol Ben (who also directed the film), but he has Boston down: the security guard sitting in the armored van reading the Herald, how beautiful the Zakim Bridge is at night, the hoop earrings on the trash-talking townie girlfriend, and of course, a scene in a scruffy Dunkin’ Donuts.
Of course it makes me wonder what details will stick out most vividly about Islamabad when I eventually leave here. I have a few guesses: the guy who bikes around the neighborhoods all day yodeling for everyone’s old newspapers and rags. The faint white haze when you drive down the wide avenue of the Blue Area, or the hawks that slowly circle out of the Margalla Hills over the rooftops into human territory. The whiff of burning trash, and the smell of the guards making roti outside for dinner. Of course, men in shalwar walking together in the park, the stately streetlights on Seventh Avenue, stray cats, and the occasional, acrobatic monkey on the terrace next door.