Friday, January 24, 2014

All about Chores

Growing up, like most everyone, I had chores to do. Clean the dishes, mow the lawn, clean the pool, and periodically help roof a house. Oh, and vacuum. Oh man – and how could I forget cleaning up after the dog?

It might just be me, but I feel that the dishwasher is – as an appliance – the most emblematic symbol of chores in suburban America. It’s just enough of a task to warrant being called a “chore,” and it is a simple enough activity that even I, as a child, was entrusted to do it – especially since so many of our cups were the plastic ones that came with Pizza Hut kids meals and our bowls were the (equally plastic) Ninja Turtle-themed mail-aways from cereal boxes. (Okay, only one of them was, but I really liked that bowl.)

It wasn’t ever really “doing the dishes,” though, was it? Really, it was just running cold water over a dish for two seconds and then putting it inside of a machine – which, let’s face it, I wasn’t going to hold onto it for the rest of the night, so it had to be put down somewhere. Was it worth $5 a week for my parents? Probably not.

“Doing the dishes” by filling a dishwasher really just reinforced that equally important task of childhood: consuming all of my food, if only because throwing the rest of my dinner down the disposal gave me a defining, guilt-ridden visual for “there are starving children in [insert location].” (Still a compelling point. We are very fortunate to have our meals, after all.)

Flashforward to my mid-twenties, though, and doing those dishes took on a whole new meaning. Moving to Boston and into my first apartment, my mom and dad “casually” noticed that the kitchen didn’t have a dishwasher. (I say “casually” because they had only noticed this while inspecting my new home for various and sundry hazards and/or deathtraps. “The only smoke alarm is in the bedroom.” That, and there was no dishwasher.)

I think what they meant was, “We love and support you, but you spent a decade and a half of your life complaining about loading a dishwasher, and now you don’t even have one. HAHAHAHA!”

I, of course, responded (and proudly, at that), “I know! I guess I’ll have to wash them all myself, just like when I was a kid.” What I really meant was, “Not having a dishwasher is a sign of my independence. Not only am I out on my own, I am responsible for cleaning up after myself – just like a real adult. Which is what I now am: an adult in a city, and city life means hard work, like doing dishes.” In my own mind, I was the Patrick Henry of household tasks: "Give me dishes, or give me death!"

Good Lord, the significance of a machine that cleans plates.

Do you know what one, single item I want now more than anything else?

A flipping dishwasher! My mom and dad were right, and I don’t care anymore about showing off my independence. I want the 30-40 minutes a night I spend washing dishes back! Do you know what I could do with that time? As long as I stayed away from the TV, I could do a lot.

Now that I have done dishes – and I mean truly washed dishes – every night for years, I do have some advice. First, get a dishwasher. Second, if that isn’t possible, get speakers for your iDevice. Just make sure you set it up a safe distance away from the water – you know, to protect yourself and your absurdly priced iProduct.

Why? Because music makes everything better. I like to do my dishes while belting out B.B. King, Ray Charles, Tom Petty, and the Rolling Stones. I don’t think my neighbors like it, but a day without music just sounds like such a bummer, and doing the dishes without music? What a chore.

Til next time!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sherlock and LEGO Fun Night

Greetings, Beantown!

Tonight is the North American premiere of Sherlock. And, now that I look out the window, it is snowing. Now I really have no interest in going out.

If you are looking for something fun to do while staying in, might I suggest an England-themed evening with Sherlock and some Harry Potter LEGOs?

Yes, I said LEGOs.

LEGO has introduced board games to its burgeoning lineup of retail products, and they're pretty cool. What’s so great about them? First, you have to build them. (Okay, duh, but it wouldn’t be fun with LEGOs if you didn’t get to build, now would it?) Second, the games are actually good. These aren’t like those games that you got for your birthday as a kid and then never played after opening the box.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, my fiancée and I had some friends over along with my soon-to-be sister- and brother-in-law. We had fun drinks, built the board, and began playing the game. Designed to simulate the ever-changing Hogwarts Stairways, it features sliding rooms that can be strategically moved towards your character or away from your opponents’ pieces. There was much strategery. The set was a gift from last year, and the twelve months it took us to play were time we didn’t know we were wasting.

Okay, time to come clean – I’ve been trying to hide that we played this game on New Year’s Eve. I know, I know. Most people our age would have gone out… I don’t know… clubbing somewhere with an absurdly high cover charge. Or, you know, have celebrated Boston’s First Night -- or at least have gone to a bar. But we didn’t. We stayed in and played a board game, and it was great, so no apologies. Besides, it's pretty clear from the ads for The LEGO Movie that the building toys are for grown-ups with fond memories and working responsibilities. (Thanks for validating me, LEGO!)

So, my point is, if it was good enough for New Year’s Eve, then it’s good enough to celebrate the start of a new season of Sherlock and avoid cold temperatures.

And… my fiancée wouldn’t want me to post about throwing a get-together without mentioning a signature cocktail. So if Sherlock is your favorite character, then a G&T seems fitting; for Watson, an English ale; and if Moriarty is your pick, grab an Irish stout.

Oh, and just to bring us full circle on our two themes, enjoy some Sherlock LEGOs. If you're feeling really motivated, you could even build some Sherlock-themed LEGO characters for that old Clue board you haven't used in a while.

Til next time!

Friday, January 17, 2014


When comic books grow too formulated or the story requires that the masked adventurer take a break, characters are often uprooted and relocated. Should you be the same level of supernerd that I am, you may have known that already. If not, well, now you do. Or, you learned it from the Big Bang Theory.

So this got me wondering. If any superhero had to move to Boston, who would it be?

There are tons of ways to look at it: personality, secret identity’s occupation, villains’ secret bases, etc. etc. (Tongue firmly in cheek, by the way.) But one of the more interesting ways to see it is architecture. After all, Spider-Man’s web-slinging would be near impossible in the Back Bay, where the old world brownstones rarely exceed five stories in height – that makes for an awfully short swing radius.

If you looked at a city’s history, too, it might be hard to justify moving someone like mild-mannered Clark Kent -- aka Superman -- to a hardscrabble city like Boston, what with the region’s history of witchcraft, colonial strife, and unforgiving sports rivalries.

These are the things that keep me up at night, by the way.

Weeks later (flash to yesterday), inspiration smacked me in the face as I was browsing Newbury Comics.

Doctor Strange.

Dr. Strange is a Marvel Comics character, a former world-class surgeon whose hand-crushing accident sent him all over the world to find a fix. Finding a mystic in the heart of Tibet, Strange learns humility and magic (what a pairing!), and quickly becomes the realm’s ultimate sorcerer.

Of course, world-class medical care is not uncommon in Boston. Strange’s sorcery seems a fine pairing with Massachusetts’s history of witch trials. And Boston’s roadways will teach you humility right quick. In Manhattan, Dr. Strange has carved out his niche in the iconic -- and unique -- Greenwich Village, but with Boston’s consistent colonial theme present in every neighborhood, the superhero could have the run of the whole city.

Imagine the story possibilities! Lost souls trapped in the bog that used to be Back Bay! Nineteenth Century aristocratic ne’er-do-wells! Art and artifacts of unknown origin at local museums! Ivy-league research gone wrong! Colonial and Revolutionary spirits adrift in the modern world!

Whew… that got the better of me…

Most importantly, though, Boston’s architecture lends itself to a Sorcerer Supreme, and one building does it particularly well. Welcome to the Burrage House [Commonwealth Ave, Back Bay].

It doesn’t even need a makeover! This is the base of operations for a crime-fighting mystic with supernatural powers and abilities. Like, hello, it even has gargoyles and a solar. I guess the only questions left are does it have secret passages and is there a huge library full of occult books and digests? (I assume even occult researchers enjoy digests.) 

Wait, can I claim this as a scouting report for Marvel’s Doctor Strange film?

You can read the fascinating history of the Burrage House here.

Oh, and for the Boston faithful, previous residents have included a Mr. Burrage and local sports deity Tom Brady. (On a more serious note, you can read about Burrage at the same link above.)

Til next time!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Excuses to Talk about Game of Thrones: The Best Place in Boston to Read Game of Thrones

Some of you may know that my fiancée has launched her own blog initiative about adding style to all aspects of life. So when I discovered that she was going to cover tonight’s Golden Globes with a write-up on quick hosting and signature cocktails, I realized that I needed something equally timely and high interest. But how to tie that into living positively in Boston? And because I was thinking of all this while reading Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in the Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones series, I thought, well, it should really tie into that as well. (These things tend to make the most sense as I think them and less so as time goes on.)

After thinking about this for approximately 2.5 seconds, I decided to post on the best place in Boston to read Game of Thrones.

So, without further adieu...

It only takes a quick walk down the Commonwealth Mall to realize that Boston is a city of literature and politics. Even the Boston Public Library’s statues and art reinforce this relationship. But where in Boston is the best place to read these books?  It’s not like we're wanting for options: there’s the old world charm of Beacon Hill, the bustle of Faneuil Hall, anywhere overlooking the sea by the harbor, the cafes of the North End, or your cozy home, perhaps. Pretty much anywhere in the city would work well.

But the best place in the city to read Game of Thrones? That honor goes to the café in the Museum of Fine Arts. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why pay admission to a museum just to read in the café? Well, there are two caveats that make this suggestion work best. First, if you have a membership, which is affordable at under $100 (four visits will pay for it), then you can take as many trips to the museum over the year as you like. You get discounts on food, merchandise, classes, and special events, too. Alternatively, you could visit on Wednesdays – after 4 pm, the admission is by donation.

So what makes the museum the best place to read Game of Thrones?

The fantasy series is a gateway to our own history, something that, once you’re in the building, the Museum of Fine Arts highlights around every corner. As you read the series and travel across Westeros, the Iron Islands, the Dothraki Sea, and Valyria with the characters, you are transported to different aspects of our world history. In fact, the second volume ends with a battle familiar to anyone who may have read about the fall of Constantinople.

This is not to say that Game of Thrones is a history book – it is fantasy, for sure – but it is inspired by the legends, lore, and events of the past, and turned into something else entirely through the power of imagination. It would be hard to speak of Daenerys’s journey without picturing Egypt or Mesopotamia, even more difficult to picture the Ironborn without understanding anything about the Vikings, and all of Westeros would be unimaginable without knowing a thing or two about medieval history.

So immerse yourself in the source material. Take a seat at the café, order a coffee, and read a chapter or two or three. Then, pick yourself up and stroll the exhibits, find a statue, painting, or relic that triggers your own imagination and speaks some truth to the fiction you just read. There are whole sections of the museum that could have come from the series, so feel free to repeat the process; I think you’ll want to. And who knows? With all the special exhibits that have had mainstream appeal lately (Samurai, Hippie Chic, etc.), maybe the museum will do something special if they see enough George R.R. Martin novels in the hands of their patrons.

working on their roar

At the Museum of Fine Arts, the books will be just the beginning.

Til next time!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Green T

Today’s post is just a quick recommendation, but it’s a good one. I promise.

I don’t know about you, but coffee shops are a weekend experience for my fiancée and I. During the weekday, I’m lucky if I can get the Mr. Coffee to brew up a couple cups before I run out to work. Having a leisurely sit-down and reading the paper just isn’t going to happen. Well, it could – if I would set my alarm early enough. Also, I would need to get a paper.

And so frequenting these enclaves of caffeination must wait for a Saturday or a Sunday. (Enclave? Nation? Oh, puns...)

If your coffee excursions wait until the weekend, too – and you like a little bit of adventure by trying something new – then put a trip to Green T [754 Huntington Ave] on your itinerary.

The shop is a cozy, ground-level location reminiscent of those brick-and-mortar shops where my classmates and I studied for college exams after the libraries and common areas closed. Or, it’s reminiscent of the interior of an Irish cottage. Or, it’s both at once – if you’re studying at Trinity in Dublin, then I guess I hit the nail on the head.

Well, there are wooden rafters and twinkle lights and seating in the bay window. It is small, cozy, and unique, and it’s an exciting and inspiring place to be. Maybe that’s the best way to describe it. It's the kind of place that makes you want to sip your coffee and read the paper, or sip your coffee and sketch, or sip your coffee and... I don't know... pin on your smartphone. Or sip your coffee and write. In all of these scenarios, it's a charming little shop that you won't want to just dash out of.

across the street
Anyways, the coffee is local, fair trade, fantastic, and competitively priced against major chains (which means there is no reason not to try it, by the way). The food is great, too. The “Egg-in-a-Basket” is delicious and unique. Highest recommendation.

Happy exploring, weekend adventurers!

Til next time!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Fenway Freezes Over

Truth in advertising: the Frozen Fenway was frozen.

My future in-laws joined my fiancée and I for the games. We had expected it to be cold (I mean, any group of people that brings blankets to a sporting event is obviously expecting it to be cold), but yesterday’s experience gave us all a new respect for the Weather Channel. While the sun was out, there was enough sunlight to give us all a little bit of surface warmth, but once it went down there was nothing to distract us from the plummeting temperatures. The Weather Channel told us that it felt like 7 degrees. This wasn’t just a hockey game; it was a survival event, like watching the Iditarod, or running it... but while sitting.

Preparations for the cold began an hour before with the installation of hand and foot warmers in gloves and boots. Also, multiple pants. And many shirts (I wore three) and scarves and hats, too. And though there were eight of us, there were at least sixteen pairs of socks in use at the time. Suffice it to say, we were quite swaddled in the heat-retaining materials of cotton, wool, flannel, and imitation goose down feathers.

Like the freezing adventurers that have trekked through the Antarctic, the eight of us huddled together to maintain our warmth. Also like Antarctic explorers, we sent out small groups to search for hot cocoa (always in pairs). Our most elusive prey proved to be the refillable souvenir cup. At over $3 a cocoa, it showed its worth within 90 minutes of its purchase.

Even though we didn’t have the best view, we had a great time. For your own perspective: We could not see the ice, nevermind the puck, from our perspective. The positive side? We had an awesome view of the big screen, so it was like we were there on the ice. (And let’s not forget, bleacher seats are great for Red Sox games and will be great next year for football’s return to Fenway.) There was also lots of dancing in the stands, both out of excitement and the desire to create friction and generate heat.

During the first game we rooted for Providence (home), who had an amazing last period goal that had everyone standing and cheering. During the second game we rooted for Notre Dame (away), whose loss we only saw later on NESN. The games themselves were evenly matched and extremely exciting. For the play-by-play, check the recaps here.

After five and a half hours in the sub-freezing temperatures, though, we decided to reacquaint ourselves with our toes, two-thirds of which we could no longer feel. Is this how Liam Neeson felt filming The Grey?

Frozen Fenway is a hockey experience like none other. It’s hard not to enjoy an event that takes place in a park as wonderful as Fenway, and the fact that you get two great games for one ticket only sweetens the deal. If you want to go, there are still tickets available for the January 11th match ups between UMass Lowell and Northeastern, Maine and BU (psst... check stubhub). And, is predicting 43 degrees.

Should it be freezing, however, know that the bathrooms are the warmest place in the park.

Til next time!

Friday, January 3, 2014

This is Collection

You might know this already, but I am a big fan of Miroslav Sasek’s This Is series. Despite my enthusiasm, I have a slow-but-steady (and cheap) means of grabbing them up: wait until they are within $5-$10, depending upon how hard they have been to find, and purchase one a month. Usually I find them on the Amazon marketplace, though sometimes comes through for me, too.

My latest acquisitions were This is Paris and This is Venice. The trouble is, they never arrived at my apartment here in Boston. Because I was so excited to find them for $3 each, I rushed to buy both before someone else did. After all, we are talking about some of the finest collectible art I can actually afford. 

Yes, I did just admit that my price ceiling on fine art is $10. Christie's, here I come.

You know that phrase "haste makes waste?" Well, it’s true. The reason they never arrived was because I accidentally sent them to my parents’ house. Doopy. Having never in their lives ordered illustrated travel books from the 1960s (not even in the 60s), they were understandably shocked to find them. The fortunate turn to all of this is that the mistake gave my parents a great idea for a Christmas gift. Thanks to them, I now have This is Hong Kong and This is Israel, two of the harder-to-find books in the series.

What’s the point of writing about this? I suppose it's the unceasing realization that I admire Mr. Sasek’s work, and though I am not of his caliber, I really want to be. His books are like a reoccurring dream that I rarely ever want to leave.  He, like Will Eisner, captures city life in a way that is truthful, inspiring, and colorful. Compared with Eisner's penchant for capturing the characters in a city, Mr. Sasek illustrates the character of the city. In every book Mr. Sasek puts the city’s best foot forward, creating a fun and imaginative way to experience armchair travel. 

Can you imagine having a book series that invites you to travel the world, drawing everything you see? To me, it sounds like the ultimate dream job, something worth working towards. In fact, I would love to read a biography of Mr. Sasek to find out how he did it!

In the meantime, maybe I can steer the blog in a pseudo-This is Boston direction of my own. It is the start of a new year, after all.

Til next time!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Look for the New Year

Hello everyone! The blog has been redesigned for the new year!

a screenshot!

Besides the new look, there are also some new features to enjoy. The tabs at the top will take you there. "About the Blog" is... exactly what it sounds like... a mission statement of sorts. If you follow the "On a Blog-About" tab, you'll wander towards the other blogs and sites that inspire me. "Pinterest" takes you to that wonderful place known as Pinterest (the Don't Look Down, Beantown page), and, lastly, "Sketchbook" acts as a virtual collection of my drawings, randomly assorted.

I hope you enjoy the new site. Oh! And a huge thank you to my fiancee, who helped with the redesign.

Til next time!