Category Archives: elsewhere

Even more snow days

The next time I have to go to work on a Monday, it’s going to be a rude shock. As of tomorrow, it’ll be three in a row, and next week is Presidents’ Day, so I already know we’ll be closed (but who knows, it could be snowing then too, it probably will be if the last three weeks are any indication). I’ve enjoyed the extra time at home to sleep in, read more (including all three books I mentioned in my last snow day post), and cuddle with the dog, speaking of which (whom?)…

Sudo is certified as a therapy dog!

Sudo and her new friend Daisy, certified therapy dogs!

After attending three workshops with Dog B.O.N.E.S. (Building Opportunities for Nurturing and Emotional Support), Sudo, Ben, and I are a certified therapy dog team. This does NOT mean Sudo can (or should) assist the blind in crossing streets, nor does it mean that I can take her on a plane as my “emotional support animal”; what it does mean is that we can visit places like assisted living facilities, nursing homes, colleges, and anywhere else where her presence might brighten someone’s day. Our instructors were great, and the classes were a very good start to what I hope will be a rewarding volunteer experience. (I think Sudo earned extra points for not trying to chew the tennis balls off the walker feet; unlike, say, golden retrievers, Sudo cares not a whit for tennis balls.)

I’m pretty certain she’ll enjoy visiting people who want to pet her. What she is enjoying less is this:

WHY IS IT STILL LIKE THIS?

WHY IS IT STILL LIKE THIS?

But until she learns to use the toilet – and I just can’t see that happening – three times a day we must rouse her from one of the below poses to go outside, at least for a few minutes.

Snuggling with stuffed alligator toy

Snuggling with stuffed alligator toy

Tucked under a blanket on the couch

Tucked under a blanket on the couch

Pretending that outdoors does not exist

Pretending that outdoors does not exist

Somewhat miraculously, Ben’s birthday outing was not snowed out. Six of us made it to Danvers to play indoor mini-golf, because nothing says grown-up birthday party like glow-in-the-dark monster-themed mini-golf. (Right, other grown-ups who read this blog?)

Par three? Are they kidding?

Par three? Are they kidding?

Cool, right?

Cool, right?

Both before and after indoor mini-golf, we stood around in the parking lot and ate homemade cupcakes out of the trunk of our car. This is also a very grown-up thing to do. (Hey, we knew enough not to bring outside food into the establishment. If glow-in-the-dark monster-themed indoor mini-golf can be called an establishment.)

Grown-ups!

Grown-ups!

While I was planning that classy outing for Ben’s birthday, he took me to see Nick Hornby. So yeah, I think we’re even.

What will tomorrow’s snow day reading be? Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug, Howards End by E.M. Forster (it was mentioned in Vanessa and Her Sister), another book from my TBR list? We shall see…

Last, and least, the rose bush got another haircut:

DSC07995

Almost a year old – it was a Valentine’s Day present last year.

 

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Our Trip to Portland, Part 2

After our ill-fated first attempt, we did actually make it to Portland the last weekend in August. Here’s the story in pictures and captions.

Brunch at The Front Room, with a view of industrial-sized kitchen equipment.

Brunch at The Front Room, with a view of industrial-sized kitchen equipment.

A tasting at the Maine Mead Works meadery.

A tasting at the Maine Mead Works meadery.

Spot the grammatical error on the Freedom Trail plaque!

Spot the grammatical error on the Freedom Trail plaque!

A church parking lot with a sense of humor.

A church parking lot with a sense of humor.

The garden behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

The garden behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

Taking a break in the garden.

Taking a break in the garden.

There were some real gems in the Maine Historical Society gift shop.

There were some real gems in the Maine Historical Society gift shop.

A visit to the excellent Portland Museum of Art, including a great Richard Estes exhibit.

A visit to the excellent Portland Museum of Art, including a great Richard Estes exhibit.

This one speaks for itself.

This one speaks for itself.

A visit to the Maine Potters Market.

A visit to the Maine Potters Market.

The Bar of Chocolate, where we ate a delicious slice of cake and overheard the best conversation of the day.

The Bar of Chocolate, where we ate a delicious slice of cake and overheard the best conversation of the day.

Pizza at Otto for dinner.

Pizza at Otto for dinner.

I wonder how much the state of Maine spends on lobster stencils.

I wonder how much the state of Maine spends on lobster stencils.

 

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Our trip to Portland

This morning, we got in the car and headed to Portland, Maine, for a day trip. There can only be so many beautiful summer days left in the year, and we wanted to take advantage of this one. We planned to have brunch, go to the art museum, maybe Longfellow’s house; a meadery and a chocolate bar were also on the agenda, and perhaps some time sitting by the ocean; maybe a visit to the Maine potters market, and a peek into the impressive public library. Our friends had agreed to take care of the dog’s evening walk and dinner so we didn’t have to cut the day short. It was going to be great!

Let’s let the pictures tell the story.

Ben staring at his car, minus one functioning ball joint.

11:10am: Ben staring at his car, minus one functioning ball joint.

The lovely Adopt A Visibility Site, Georgetown, MA

The lovely Adopt A Visibility Site, Georgetown, MA. Who knew there was a Georgetown, MA? Or a Rowley?

Ben making friends with a caterpillar on a pine needle.

Ben making friends with a caterpillar on a pine needle while waiting for a tow truck to come.

A whole lot of pretty sky, and no tow truck.

A whole lot of pretty sky, and no tow truck.

Finally! After a mere three hours of waiting. Thanks, Liberty Mutual! Hate to think how long it would have been if it'd been snowing.

Finally! After a mere three hours of waiting. Thanks, Liberty Mutual! Hate to think how long it would have been if it’d been snowing.

The Independent in Union Square, Somerville, MA.

4:02pm: The Independent in Union Square, Somerville, MA.

So no, we didn’t get to Portland today. But on the plus side, if the car had to break down at all, this was pretty good timing: we had nowhere to be, no one to meet, the weather was as conducive as it could possibly be for spending three hours on a highway overpass. We had a frisbee and at least one of us had a book; I learned a lot about ball joints. And we got to have lunch (dinner?) in Union Square, where we never go because it’s inconvenient to get to, but it’s where our trusted auto mechanic is located (Mike!), and we were very hungry by four o’clock. (Thank you to the fine, fine folks at The Independent, who brought us tasty food speedily. Much appreciated.)

Maybe another time, Portland.

My day was great, thanks for asking.

My day was great, thanks for asking.

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Vacation reading

“Focus on the journey, not the destination,” some say, but I say that airports are a drag. Not just airports, but whatever version(s) of public transit one takes to get to the airport (in our case, a bus to one subway line to another “subway” line that is actually a bus) and from the airport (another bus), not to mention the hours in the air. On one hand, I recognize that modern travel is a miracle; on the other, the atmosphere of stress, hurry-up-and-wait, and recycled air…the “journey” is never the best part of travel for me. (Being afflicted with motion sickness doesn’t help.)

However: all that sitting and waiting translates to hours and hours of reading time. I don’t usually pack for a trip until the night before, but I start thinking about what books to bring at least a week in advance. (Here’s what I read on honeymoon last year.)

Despite a Twitter joke about reading Ulysses on vacation, I don’t usually bring monster classics with me when I travel, especially legendarily difficult ones. (Except Anna Karenina, that one time, and I’d already read half of it.) I try to choose books I think will be absorbing, but also easy to pick up and put down frequently; travel involves a lot of waiting and a lot of transitions. This time, I included a mix of fiction and nonfiction, galleys and published books.

south_colmtoibin The South by Colm Toibin: This popped up on a list of books set in Barcelona. Toibin is one of those authors I knew I ought to read, and I wanted to, but hadn’t gotten around to it till now. The first thing I noticed about the book was its wide, heavy font, and it took a few pages to get used to that. Then I began noticing the sentences, which were short, reminiscent of – yes, I’m going to say it – Hemingway. However, Toibin has a female protagonist, Katherine, who leaves a husband and son in Ireland to come to Barcelona, where she falls in love with Spanish Civil War vet Miguel and makes friends with another Irishman, Michael Graves. I’m not entirely sure what to make of The South and would like to discuss it with someone else who’s read it.

remedy_goetz The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz: I won this as a galley from LibraryThing. I was hoping it would be similar to Steven Johnson’s excellent The Ghost Map (about a cholera outbreak in London), and I was not disappointed. Koch’s and Conan Doyle’s stories don’t so much entwine as they do intersect, but the author pulls off the combination pretty gracefully. Koch discovers the cause for TB but announces a cure prematurely; Conan Doyle reports on Koch’s findings. Sherlock Holmes stands as an example of the detective-as-scientist; indeed, he helped popularize the scientific method at a time when society was beginning to look to science for answers, instead of with skepticism.

changingmymind Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith: I’ve read Zadie Smith’s fiction (White Teeth, On Beauty, NW) and appreciated it, but I really love her nonfiction for the clarity of thought and expression, as well as the topics she chooses. Changing My Mind is heavy on literary criticism (George Eliot, E.M. Forster, Roland Barthes and Vladimir Nabokov, Franz Kafka, David Foster Wallace), but Smith’s writing is worth reading even if you aren’t familiar with the authors or books she writes about. Changing My Mind also includes a season’s worth of film reviews, an essay about an Oxfam trip to Liberia, thoughts on reading and writing, even an essay about the Oscars. Throughout, Smith’s intellect is fierce and focused, sharp and incisive, and not without humor (though she’s no stand-up comedian).

senseofanending The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, and it was available as an e-book from the library before I left for my trip. I read it in one sitting on the plane flight home from Madrid to Boston, and wow. Tony Webster, our narrator, is a man in late middle age, peaceably divorced with one grown child. In order to tell his story, he starts with background on his school days with his two close friends and a fourth friend, Adrian, who joins their clique. The friends go their separate ways after school, and Adrian writes Tony to let him know that he is dating Tony’s first serious girlfriend, Veronica. Tony’s response is extreme, and it comes back to haunt him, despite the mild life he’s lived since.

graduatesinwonderland Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale: This was another LT advance copy. I’m a sucker for anything epistolary, and Graduates in Wonderland surpassed my expectations. It fits perfectly between the post-high-school, pre-college novel Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr, and Rachel Bertsche’s friend-making memoir SWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend. Certainly, as graduates of Brown, Pan and Kapelke-Dale have a certain level of privilege, and I’m not sure how well this book will sit with those who don’t come from the same or similar backgrounds; however, setting that aside, I think this has the potential to be hugely popular with the twenty-to-thirty-year-old set. Pan and Kapelke-Dale are both great writers; they’re funny and honest, and they write about work, social life, managing depression, romance, living in foreign cities and struggling with the language, and deciding what to do with their lives. The subject matter and casual style make for addicting reading.

Five books in seven days, and all of them enjoyable: not a bad vacation! Oh, and we also saw some things.

 

 

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Opening Day at King Richard’s Faire

As much as it kills me to spell “Faire” with that “e” on the end…

faire_entrance

 

…we spent a day at King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA, and it was great. It would not have occurred to me to go on my own, but it turns out the husband is kind of a fan of Renaissance Fairs (though he didn’t dress up), and since we couldn’t get down to any of the big ones in PA this summer, he allowed that this was a decent substitute.

To my surprise, everything was set up in a forest rather than an open field, so we were able to be in the shade for most of the day. Also, the first person we met when we entered was a tall man who walked around with a pewter tankard on his head. He had superb balance – we saw him later in the day and it was still there (and he wasn’t using velcro, and we never saw him spill).

It was my first-ever Renaissance Fair and I enjoyed it. Because look:

jousting

 

Jousting! For real! Well, not really for real, but there were knights (guys) in armor on horses, so even if the outcome was rigged and the falls were staged, it was still pretty cool to see.

jousting2

 

You don’t see this every day. Unless you’re in the habit of watching A Knight’s Tale on a daily basis.

In addition to the knights, there was a parade (including a girl on a pony with a unicorn horn affixed to its forehead, or as my friend said, “The happiest girl in the entire world”), games, people in costumes, turkey legs and mead for sale, bawdy wenches (seriously, don’t make eye contact unless you want to become part of the performance), a sad magician, and an impressive balancing act.

Oh! And baby tigers.

babytigers

 

Because why? Who knows! But when there are baby tigers, the “why” is less important that the “awww.” And the awe.

Here’s one about the pummel the other:

babytigers2

 

So that was our day at the fair. It was a nice adventure, even if we didn’t see these guys or this guy.

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Traffic Calming Turtle

O Canada.

trafficturtle

 

It’s been a while since I posted a good road sign, but I saw lots of these in Toronto. So much better than the ones we have here, which (a) don’t have turtles, and (b) are grammatically ambiguous, such that it might appear we are calling our children stupid.

 

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Never take me anywhere but here

A best friend and Riot Fest were my twin reasons for visiting Toronto this weekend, and it was a perfect trip.

flatliners

I spent most of Saturday and Sunday morning wandering the city with my best friend from college: we went to the beach, a bookstore, and out for amazing Thai food. Sunday afternoon I met up with another friend* at Riot Fest in (at?) Fort York. I skipped the first band but got there in time to see The Flatliners (above), a band I hadn’t heard of before I saw the lineup for this show, but I really like them now. They’re from Ontario and have apparently been around since 2002.

Next up was Best Coast. Objectively, they’re a good band; subjectively, I didn’t like them much. Next was Dinosaur Jr.:

dinosaurjr

The vocals were way down for some reason, so it was hard to hear the singer. I haven’t listened to much of their music until the past few days, and then only their most recent album (and they’ve been around since 1984), but their real fans seemed to enjoy the set. (I did too, but I only recognized a few songs.) Edited to add: Dinosaur Jr. played a great cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” (Thanks to Ben Apatoff for reminding me.) It must be a popular song to cover – I saw the Bouncing Souls do a version in the early 2000s. I loved it both times. 

Here I should say that the timing of the show was absolutely precise: the set changes were quick, bands went on the minute they were scheduled to and left the stage on time (except The Replacements, who had an encore and went ten minutes over, but who on earth would complain about that?).

After Dinosaur Jr. was Rocket From the Crypt, all in matching outfits, and with some of the strangest banter I’ve ever heard. (“Who likes shrimp cocktail? Make some noise!”)

rocketfromthecrypt

I’m sure there are better photos out there for those who are interested.

Another nice thing the concert organizers did was to have a water refill station just inside the entrance. You couldn’t bring unsealed bottles in, but you could refill water bottles there throughout the day. Since it was in the low 80s/high 70s and we were standing in the sun all afternoon, this was great.

After RFTC it was time for the first of the final three bands, The Weakerthans. This is a band I’ve been listening to ever since a friend put “Pamphleteer” (from Left and Leaving, 2000) on a mix for me my first year of college. Though they probably wouldn’t make my all-time top ten list, in a way they are my perfect band, because the lyrics are clever, funny, precise, touching and storylike, and audible over the rest of the music (which is also excellent and not to be downplayed). As soon as I got my ticket for this show, I bought their live album, Live at the Burton Cummings Theatre (2010) and listening to it repeatedly. (Along with many songs from Reconstruction Site, it includes “Civil Twilight,” “Tournament of Hearts,” and “Left and Leaving.)

weakerthans1Lead singer John Sampson came out first for a solo version of “One Great City!” (Later, he put on a Winnipeg hat. The way the stage was set up, the bands were facing directly into the sunset.)

weakerthans2

“Benediction”

I loved every minute of their set, and they played every song I hoped to hear (with the exception of “Civil Twilight”).

Next up, Iggy Pop and the Stooges. They did not disappoint. Iggy came out shirtless, with abs visible from fifty yards away (though probably too small in this photo to tell):

iggystooges

He sang with manic energy, though he wasn’t quite as insane as I was expecting after watching Henry Rollins talk about opening for him several years ago (video footage from Live At Luna Park, about 20 minutes and well worth it). I knew perhaps half of the songs; I really enjoyed “Search And Destroy” and “The Passenger.” Shockingly, the crowd was fairly calm; everyone was enjoying it, and there were mosh pits here and there, but altogether there was very little shoving or jostling; it was the most polite, considerate punk concert audience I’ve ever been in. (Thank you, Canada.)

After Mr. Pop, we made our way as far forward as we could (about 3-4 rows from the front) to wait for The Replacements to come on. We agreed that we wouldn’t quite believe it until we saw them up there, but they arrived on time and opened with “Takin a Ride.”

replacements1

By then it was approaching full dark, and I must commend the lighting guy (or lighting lady, or lighting persons), because it was perfect: coordinated with the music but basically unobtrusive. Never once did they flash strobes at the audience or zoom spotlights wildly around or do anything clever with disco balls or star-shaped lights.

replacements2

The high point of the set, for me, was in the second half when they played “Little Mascara” and “Left of the Dial” (from Timfollowed by “Alex Chilton” (from Pleased to Meet Me). Three of my favorites, in a row; I couldn’t have asked for better. I also liked “Favorite Thing,” “Color Me Impressed,” “Kiss Me On the Bus,” “Androgynous” (even though Paul Westerberg forgot the words), “I Will Dare,” “Merry Go Round,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” and “Bastards of Young.”

replacements3

Yet another Canadians-are-nice anecdote: about halfway through the set, I saw a security guard leaning over the barrier to pour sips from a bottle of water into people’s mouths. He was so careful, and the crowd was so non-jostle-y, that I don’t think any was spilled.

replacements4

I have to do it: even though they didn’t play “Unsatisfied,” I think everyone there was satisfied, if not ecstatic. It was well worth the trip.

A better photo, videos, and the complete setlist can be found from a Pitchfork post that went up less than an hour after the show ended. Edited to add: Replacements write-ups can also be found at Rolling Stone and Spin (includes video).

*Edited to add (9/7/13): Read his (much better) write-up of the Replacements’ set here: The Replacements at Riot Fest.

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All photos in this post licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 

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