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Archive for August, 2008

The Death Knell of Summer

And so it begins. The June Bugs are clicking away outside (I think I just heard three at once), and evening temps are back in the 60s. Every year that sound makes me wonder why the hell I still live in such an unforgiving wintertime place — and while there are legitimate answers to that question, they don’t do much to appease me when my favorite time of year is coming to an end. I hate being cold. Warm clothes cost more. And — what it all comes down to — I don’t like leaving the house when it makes my face hurt.

Time for a countdown of what I’ll miss most about this particular summer!

End of Summer Appreciation Countdown: 2008

10. Early Release Fridays at work. Granted, it doesn’t happen every week, but when it does it makes the rest of the year worthwhile. The best part is how I choose to spend them: lunch at Les Zygomates followed by a stroll downtown and shopping. Try that in the winter.

9. I stayed in shape! Counterintuitive though it may be, I typically work out like hell when it’s crappy outside, only to fall off the wagon when faced with sunshine. This summer I kept it up. Not that I look good in a bikini, but still: go, me!

8. Awesome Central Square fights. Unfortunately, the amazing Soda Fight of 2008 was not recorded by any media (that I know of), but others sure were. Those non-denominational raceless dudes sure were angry this year!

7. St. Germaine. The “It” booze o’ the summer! A splash in a gin & tonic on a hot day? Not nearly as beautiful in November.

6. The Time Our Friends Made Us Lobster. Remember that, guys? We liked it. We’d eat it any time, really.

5. Those stupid gauzy skirts that got popular. Sure, I only wore the orange one once, but the white one got more mileage than Rob’s car. And I only spent $20 at Target!

4. Beers outside. This is self-explanatory.

3. Creative summertime food. This year I made variations on calamari salad and the best salad I’ve ever made. I’ll miss those when I’m back to craving pasta with meat sauce and/or mushroom ragout.

2. Vacation. Sure, we only went to Connecticut. But it was the first week Rob and I have ever spent out of Boston together, and despite the occasional strife, it was worth it.

1. Barbecues in our back lot. All those dudes baking on the asphalt eating my Nana’s famous potato salad and disgustingly fatty meats. Can we squeeze one more of those in, please?

And yes, there are other events that deserve honorable mention — like Gymkata Night, the Mount Auburn Cemetery, and some fun shows and parties — but we can recreate those at any time of year.

Summer, don’t leave me yet. You’re not even dead and I already miss you.

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My New Calling

Dudes, I know you have all been scouring the internet, wondering: “Who, WHO is out there sculpting wee cardinals from clay?!” You’ve been searching Google over and over, always coming up with nothing.

Well, search no more, my friends. I have single-handedly filled the void left by all others who have not been sculpting cardinals!

BEHOLD!
Cardinals of Clay

Yes! I have done it! Wee cardinals for everyone! I am waiting for Things Remembered to contact me re: offer of millions of dollars for my beautifully crafted memorabilia. Until they do, these lovely cardinals could be yours! Each dude is personally initialed by ME, which verifies their authenticity.

I’ll let you know when I’m a millionaire. Probably like, tomorrow.

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It’s gettin’ hot in here: Friday morning fun on the MBTA

I’ve experienced some pretty shitty commutes on the red line lo these past several years. I’ve been trapped in Central for 45 minutes. I’ve been shuttled at a snail’s pace through downtown Boston. I’ve been hit on, slept on, and harassed by crazies.

And this is one of the worst:

Upon my descent underground, I am greeted with an all too familiar scene at Central: wall to wall people + angry faces + unintelligible announcements = here we go again. I head straight to my little pocket of cell phone service near the turnstyles at the end of the platform (I have this down to a science by now) and advise work that I’ll be late. With that done, I settle in for the long haul, figuring I’ll get there when I get there.

I manage to squeeze onto the second train, which isn’t too bad — usually I wait for three or four. Instantly, though, I regret my decision. There is no air conditioning. And with the path to the door blocked by a mob of 20, I have to grin and bear it.

It’s only moderately sucky for the first few minutes. Then, in the tunnel between Central and Kendall, we stop. We sit. And the engine goes quiet. All I hear around me are sounds of agitation: sighs, rustling, muttering. My shoulders are scrunched painfully into my neck, and I try to relax them. There’s no room. I’m sweating. People are smelly. I’m already considering getting off at Kendall — if we ever arrive there — and waiting for another train … and then the engine starts up again and we’re back on our way. Okay, I think, I can make it.

Kendall provides a temporary respite as I step onto the cool platform to allow the fortunate ones to exit. Revived, I step back onto the train — but my revival is short lived. My brush with cool air has only served to render the car more oppressive by comparison. Before I can even think of stepping off again (why oh why don’t I trust my instincts?!), the doors close.

The doors close, but we don’t move.

And the engine goes quiet again.

I get a vaguely familiar feeling that I recall from a harrowing green line trip during Christmas shopping season: it begins in my chest, flashes up to my head, and travels to the tips of my fingers, which begin shaking. Oh, yippee yay! I’m officially freaking out!

And I’m not alone. People in the middle of the car are yelling to the people at the back to hit the emergency intercom button in hopes of getting someone to open the doors. It is so insanely hot by now that I fully expect people to start fainting. Those of us close enough — myself included — are pounding on the doors in case there’s a random staff member wandering around Kendall. (There isn’t.) In my entire life, I don’t recall ever feeling so desperately trapped …

… and then we start moving.

Surely, this is a good thing, right? WRONG! We are traveling over the unsound bridge between Kendall and Charles — the bridge that, pending repairs, cannot withstand T speeds of over 4 miles per hour. Normally, this would be a 2-minute ride. We, however, will be stuck this way for another 10 minutes. Under these conditions, it is an eternity.

Just when I’m contemplating curling into a ball on the floor, I feel it. Something rustling my hair ever so gently, something … COOL.

“I FEEL AIR,” I call to my fellow captors. (This is definitely the first unsolicited sentence I have ever uttered to anyone on the T.) “I feel it, too,” says someone next to me. The sounds of anger and distress give way to bemused speculation as to WHY THE FUCK THEY DIDN’T HAVE THE A/C ON TO BEGIN WITH, but in reality, I don’t think anyone cares. My panic dissipates as quickly as it came on, along with all fear that I may actually die on this train.

The crowd thins out considerably when we pull into Charles, and a few more passengers, oblivious to our harrowing ordeal, file in. Among them, a mother with a kid of about 8.

“It’s hot in here,” whines the brat.

I am sure I’m not alone in my burning desire to smother him.

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The Corn Wound (or, Everything is Dangerous, People!)

Everybody on alert! It is time now to respect things that we once viewed as harmless. Because I, ladies and gentlemen, have been wounded by corn.

Yes, CORN.

It is a longstanding tradition in my family household: The kids get stuck shucking the corn while our parents sit and drink. Nevermind the fact that the kids are all pushing 30, and some of them don’t even like corn! (Yes, I am talking about me.) We stand over the outdoor table covered in those awful silky hairs, making ourselves crazy by trying to remove every last one. (Perhaps this is why I don’t like corn? The thought has occurred to me.)

I was snapping off the big knob at the bottom of one ear — very bravely and powerfully — when it happened. A remarkably firm bit of husk sliced right through the skin of my finger. The corn drew blood! So much, in fact, that I was forced to run inside for a band-aid! I can see the blood right now, as it has seeped almost all the way through to the surface. I have been visibly wounded by CORN!

My siblings, of course, viewed my corn wound as a desperate ploy to relieve myself of shucking duty. While this was not my intention, the shucking was complete upon my return — so the wound was ultimately worth it. Still, though, this is the second lamest injury I have ever sustained.

The first, if you must know, was from a nut.

I was cracking it. A piece got wedged into my palm like a splinter. It took weeks to work its way out. And I don’t even like nuts!

Lesson learned, I suppose. I will be very careful next time I handle a carrot.

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Vacation adventure time: Laura and Rob go to the boardwalk!

Oh, the dire consequences of a week without internet. I am now stuck with days worth of blog fodder, which, due to my attempts to keep posts short(ish), must be doled out piecemeal. I will begin with one of the several lowlights of our ultimately wonderful vacation: our visit to the Niantic Boardwalk.

Before departing for our vacation, I solicited several tips from coworkers and friends who grew up in the area. For this I was much obliged, as there is not much to do in southeastern Connecticut. Yes, there are some beautiful beaches and cute seaside towns, but Cape Cod this ain’t. So when we we’re ready for lunch on a nice sunny day, we decide to take the advice of a friend — oh, let’s call him “Bave” — and venture to the town of Niantic for a stroll on the famous boardwalk and some delicious fried delicacies.

We set out with visions of a bustling stretch of beachside boards flanked by restaurants, shops, and perhaps an arcade. (I believe Hampton Beach may have fueled this fantasy, not that I’m proud to admit it. Although skee ball RULES.) Perhaps the difficulty we encountered in finding this mecca should have been an indication of its merit — but no, no. We drive on, past a few shipyards and dinky snack stands, and finally find the boardwalk parking lot, which — surprise, surprise! — is shared with Amtrak. (Did I mention that Connecticut purports to be “full of surprises”? It’s on a billboard located about two inches from the border — and for better or for worse, it has proven to be true.)

Oh, I should mention at this point that we are absolutely starving. This tends to be the prelude to most of our memorable misadventures.

A path leads us underneath the railroad tracks and onto the boardwalk. At first glance, it is beautiful. Niantic Bay is a pretty semicircle of beach that cradles a rock-studded haven for little boats and shorebirds. That concludes the Travel Writer portion of this blog entry. As we walk, we realize the following fairly quickly — but not quickly enough:

A) There is NOTHING — and NO ONE ELSE — on this boardwalk.

Quickly followed by …

B) “NOTHING” means NO restaurants, shops, arcades … or EXITS.

Yes, we are 100% TRAPPED on this boardwalk. To the left of us: Niantic Bay, which is rapidly losing its scenic charm. To the right of us: a steep, rocky slope that is majestically crowned by the Amtrak tracks. To remind us of Amtrak’s existence, a train will occasionally barrel past with horns blaring. And ahead of us? Another half-mile of boardwalk, which, I should mention, isn’t actually made of boards at all. It’s that weird rubber stuff that they use in kids’ playgrounds; perhaps they’re protecting against potential face plants from people like me, who are rapidly losing hydration whilst TRAPPED on the boardwalk in 90-degree heat. And did I mention that we are completely starving?

We look a bit further to our right, and we see the place where we’ve been told to have lunch. As my friend “Bave” did not make the food recommendation, we trust it, and want desperately to see it through. But short of hopping Amtrak’s six-foot fence and dashing across the tracks, we cannot get there, because the only exit to this godforsaken place is at the very end. As we’re about halfway across the boardwalk by now, we figure we might as well keep going. After all, food is basically equidistant from the car …

… except for the fact that it’s NOT! Had we turned back, we could’ve picked up the car at the entrance to the boardwalk and driven the half mile to the restaurant. Instead, because we just hate the thought of giving up — a flaw that both of us will come to curse by the end of this vacation — we decide instead to walk the remaining half mile of the boardwalk … and then BACKTRACK and walk to the restaurant. Which, of course, is another half mile.

So that adds up to a mile before food. It is 90 degrees outside and the sun is throbbing. We may or may not have indulged in a few cocktails the night before — which doesn’t seem to bother Rob, but the fear of dehydration is causing me some distress. I want nothing more than to hop the boardwalk railing and collapse into the soft sand, crying, “Save yourself! Leave me! (But if you have the strength, please return with some fried clams.)”

Incredibly, I do nothing of the sort — although I do complain a lot. Rob, being awesome, understands the suckiness of our situation and allows me to do so. In fact, he even joins me. After what seems like an eternity, we finally, finally, finally reach the exit. There is another tunnel leading us back underneath the train tracks, and on the other side — oh, glory! — a gas station. We buy some water and soldier on.

This is what needs to be fixed in southeastern Connecticut: Places like this may be entertaining for someone who’s stuck living here and has nothing else to do, but for a tourist? I don’t think so!! If cruise ships keep dumping thousands of people in the area, they need to give them something to do. For a half mile, we trudge past auto body shops, bait and tackle shops, and one cheesy clothing store. We can’t really see the pretty bay from here, not that we care. All we care about is food — and at this point, I don’t even care if it’s good.

Incredibly, it is good, although it’s definitely not good for us. Rob has a delicious cheeseburger made with beef that I estimate as 35% fat, and I have clam strips. We both get shitty beers.

And then, another half mile walk back to the car! Fortunately, we are sustained at this point, and it isn’t as horrible as the walk that preceded it — even in spite of the fact that we are now filled with grease.

I look over a railing, tempted by a sign touting shellfishing. I see a giant fish carcass, maybe three feet long. Most of it is gone, save for the tail, bones, and head (though a gourmet seagull has plucked out the eyeball).

It is the coolest thing we have seen all day. We take a picture, and then give an onlooking seagull some leftover fried clams. He enjoys them immensely. It is halfway through our vacation, and we want a rematch.

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