Sunday, December 29, 2013

Our Rainy City – Now in 2.1 Glorious Megapixels!

Nothing says winter like a mild late-December rain storm! And nothing says fine photography like the built-in camera on a flip phone (if I imagine it's a filter, I can pretend it isn't just a poor quality picture).

When it comes to rain in the city, I believe that a shower or two can make city life a little bit better. There is something charming about the musical pitter-patter of the raindrops and the irregular heights, widths, and colors of umbrellas. There is a sense of relief in finding shelter and a sense of adventure in getting back out there again.  There’s a reason that so many romantic comedies feature scenes in the rain: it’s a little bit romantic.

That might be why a short jaunt to Newbury Street seemed like such a nice idea today. Some time with my fiancé, a pair of umbrellas, a hot cup of coffee, hopping over puddles, and taking shelter by going shop to shop – it makes for a great day.

But man-oh-man is it wet outside! It’s a downpour out there, and it turns out that today’s jaunt became less about the romance of the city and more about making sure that the rain did not dissolve our paper shopping bags. It featured parking blocks away from our destination, sprinting to get out of the rain, getting soaked, umbrellas flipping inside out, and bringing said umbrellas (soaking wet, no less) into designer stores. But, it was still fun!

Stay dry, Beantown.

Til next time!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Returns on Christmas Investments

It is the day after the day after Christmas, and I sincerely hope that everyone had a special and meaningful celebration this year. And it wouldn't hurt if you got the gift you wanted, so I’ll hope that happened for you, too.

But, the simple fact is that even if we all got what we wanted, it may not have come in the right color or fit as well as we hoped. And those gift cards? Well, we probably planned what we would like to purchase with them before we even received them. Not to mention the fact that this year’s Christmas season was a three week whirlwind of purchases, as opposed to the four week white-out blizzard of a purchasing season to which we are accustomed. It all adds up to this: The nation’s retail outlets and malls are full of happy shoppers, ready to make even more purchases.

Some items are still in stock! GET THEM! They’re on sale!? GET THEM DOUBLE!

If I’m sounding a tad bit sarcastic, it’s because I am. It seems like the ideal objective this time of year would be to enjoy a relaxing day or two off surrounded by the loved ones with whom you don’t always get to spend time. And let’s not forget that as gift-givers and gift-receivers, we are in a good and fortunate place to begin with. Good times and bank accounts are like the wind; they’ll blow south just as quickly as they rise north. With that in mind, we are lucky to be experiencing a gift exchange this season and a good deal of thanks should accompany that.

That said, I am steadfastly dedicated to written (though not always lived) optimism, so let’s put a positive spin on the returns, exchanges, and gift-card purchases that are taking place.

What’s the point of getting back to the mall the day after Christmas, returns and exchanges in hand? The point is that you’re still in the Christmas spirit! Someone who loves you gave you something that doesn’t fit…or that doesn’t interest you…or that you just won’t use, but they gave it to you in the spirit of Christmas. So while Christmas is still in season, there is an opportunity to exchange the item so you can make use of that generosity. How gracious is it to accept a gift that you’ll throw in the closet and forget about?

For example, when I was seven, my Memere (pronounced “meh-may” for those of you even less French than I am) gave me a sweatshirt that fit well and kept me warm. Unfortunately, it had a picture of a sweet-looking bunny wearing a pink ribbon on it, and I was a boy hoping for a Ninja Turtle. This bunny, it should be said, did not appear to know any of the martial arts. Just as I took it out of the box – and a look of horror crossed my face – my mum jabbed me in the side and gave me a stare that said, you love it.

“Thanks, Memere, I love it!”

The next day, my mum facilitated the sweatshirt’s transfer to a family friend. She liked bunnies, so the gift was far more fitting. Though there was love in the giving, how gracious would it have been for me to keep a sweatshirt that my Memere would never see me wear? Except, of course, under duress. 

Merry Christmas everyone!

P.S. Enjoy these pictures of a near-empty Prudential Mall, especially if you’re there wading through the crowds. ;) 

Til next time!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Speaking of Elsewheres...

There are some elsewheres (okay, many) that I would like to see at some point in my lifetime. Preferably sooner rather than later, but I suppose I will take what I can get. There are plenty more that I have not pictured here, but when you're really not prepared to jump on an airplane and travel (like, not at all), a short list of six places seems a reasonable number to start with. So without further adieu, here are six places that -- if I was given a plane ticket, accommodations, spending money, time off from work, a guide book, etc., etc., you know how it goes -- I would leave tomorrow to see. Oh, and I should mention that they are presented in no particular order.

First, Rome:

Second, Istanbul:

Third, Egypt:

Fourth, Japan:

Fifth, Memphis:

Sixth, Venice:

Lastly (bonus!), New York City:

That's my shortened travel list. What's yours?

Til next time!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Elsewheres: Christmas in New York City

It never goes unnoticed: Black Friday shopping is always – unmistakably – a news item and conversation topic at the Thanksgiving table. So now that we are a week out from Turkey Day and the Christmas season is in full swing, it seems appropriate to post another Elsewheres, this one about Christmas in New York.

I have had the good fortune to take two Christmas season trips to the Big Apple. Anyone who grew up at any point during the 80s and 90s – and by that I mean anyone who can remember the now-extinct romantic comedy film genre – has an idealized vision of Christmas in New York City. I have to tell you: It really is that wonderful.

all wrapped up

One thing that I should note is that Christmas crowds in NYC are large – larger than you’d expect if you’re visiting. Entering Macy’s is a shoulder-to-shoulder experience that rivals getting in and out of Fenway Park. Forget “I’m just going in to use the bathroom.” You’ll find that few of the major attractions are available to just walk in and out of at will.

Lodgings in New York around Christmas are, of course, in demand and a bit pricier. Both times I stayed with good friends who lived there. I would suggest this for two reasons. First, it’s Christmas! Spend the time with people who are important to you. Second, it’s Christmas in New York, so stick tight to someone who can get you around! 

navigating the city
not navigating

Nothing is more iconic to a New York Christmas than the aforementioned Macy’s, so let’s begin there. For the full experience, find your way inside and head to the upper floors where you can pick up an ornament to commemorate your visit. Otherwise, all of the fun takes place outside. There isn’t a city in the world that does Christmas decorations and window dressings like New York, and there isn’t a building in New York that does it like Macy’s. If you’re looking for Christmas magic, you’ll find it here. While you’re at it, enjoy the view of the Empire State Building.


macy's from the top of the esb (plus tons of zoom)

esb from macy's

Speaking of which, there isn’t such a thing as a trip to NYC that is complete without ascending the Empire State Building. The views are simply amazing, and the biggest question you should really ask yourself is whether you want to see the skyline during the day or lit up at night. Digital cameras have come a long way since these pictures were taken, but for the clearest images, I would recommend daytime. If, on the other hand, you have some photography skill, the nearby lighting is enough to take some really beautiful nighttime pictures (better than mine, anyways).

paramount building from the esb

pretty much... everywhere... from the esb

chrysler from the esb

Another mainstay of the holidays is ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Get ready for long lines and large waits, but just enjoy it. I’m sure you waited patiently for the rides at Disney, and I’m sure you did the same when The Phantom Menace finally landed in theaters. Going in with that mindset, you won’t be disappointed and you’ll have experienced one of the most iconic elements of Christmas in New York. Also, some hours are randomly, discreetly sponsored by local businesses, gaining you free entry, though you’ll never know until you get to the cash register. And don’t forget to view the tree or grab a cupcake at nearby Magnolia!

rockefeller (really missing 30 rock right now)
rockefeller tree

it's even beautiful empty!

While you’re at Rockefeller Center, it would be hard not to notice the lines for the Rockettes’ Christmas show. Join them! It’s a great time that you’re sure to never forget. Radio City Music Hall is a sight to behold in itself, but more importantly, the show is very entertaining and well worth the admission.

hard to miss

great stage!

Beyond the top four, there are plenty of other things to do – this is New York City, after all. Visit the Chrysler Building lobby. Shop at FAO Schwartz. Pretend you’re a ghostbuster on the steps of the New York Public Library. Walk Greenwich Village (stop at the Swedish sweets store!). Gaze upon the Flatiron Building. And Grand Central Station, too, for that matter. Pick a museum and take your time with it (an actual museum crawl in NYC could take you weeks). Walk Central Park (daylight, please). Windowshop 5th Avenue. Get stupefied by Times Square. The list goes on and on.

be awed by times square

grand central... famous for trains and for inspiring the graham central station ice cream flavor



near(ish) the village

Buses run regularly from South Station in Boston, and tickets are pretty affordable ($30 average), so you’re really only 5 hours away. If you are trying to keep your trip on the less expensive side (which I always am), I’d recommend enjoying the iconic attractions – which are just going to be expensive by their nature – and saving on the incidentals. Walk when you can, take public transit over cabs, curb your spending when you eat at restaurants, price out your must-dos before you leave, etc. Do that, and your trip can be reasonably inexpensive and very enjoyable.

Til next time!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Lights at Fenway

Just a quick message for today, but an important one -- Merry Christmas from the Fenway tree lighting!

tree + museum

tree + pru

Hope you're enjoying the season!

Til next time!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stay Classy, Beantown

This weekend my fiancée and I returned to the Regal Fenway 13 after a painful, months-long absence for a late-night screening of Hunger Games: Catching Fire. My fiancée picked the movie, but it pulled me in immediately. I enjoyed the book series, too, but read them entirely while commuting to and from work on the bus. Which is to say that my intense focus on minding my own business led to far less retention of the plot than I anticipated. The positive side of that is the movie was fresh and exciting.

But that’s not the point of this post. Before the (spectacular) movie began, there was a promo for Anchorman 2. Of course, it looks great: as good as Ron Burgundy reading the news (“Hey everyone, come look at how good I look!”1)

Better yet, Ron Burgundy – yes, the Ron Burgundy – is coming to Emerson College on December 4 to dedicate (if only for a day) the Ron Burgundy School of Communication. I have to imagine there will be some hilarious antics to accompany the ceremony. Unfortunately, as with most of us in the Bean, I will not be able to attend the daytime event.

If, like me, you won’t be able to attend Emmerson’s event, there is another option. Last time I went to the Brookline Booksmith (Harvard St., Coolidge Corner), I found an incredible freebie: a preview selection from Ron Burgundy’s forthcoming autobiography Let Me off at the Top! My Classy Life & Other Musings.

Give it a look. It’s well worth it. Maybe you’ll find out why Ron proclaims, “I don’t give a damn about broccoli.”2

Til next time!

1.       Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Dir. Adam McKay. Perf. Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate. Apatow Productions and Dreamworks Pictures, 2004. DVD.

2.       Burgundy, Ron, and Will Ferrell. Let Me off at the Top!: My Classy Life & Other Musings. New York: Crown Group, 2013. Print. P17.