Jul 30, 2012

The New Place

Long story short, (again), we're in a new apartment. The location is fantastic, one of the best locations of any sublet I've seen in craigslist. We're pretty close to Back Bay station, and about five minutes walking south from the Boston Common. I'm walking to work every day.

The apartment is large- four bedrooms, plus a nice sizable kitchen, and a large living room with bay windows. The whole thing is on the forth floor of an old brownstone, in a row of brownstone houses. Behind, there's a kind of green alley, blocked in on the other side by the backs of another row of brownstones. The space created is really nice- the old wrought iron fire escapes, the moss and ivy growing everywhere, the intimate glimpses into people's lives, living stacked one on top of another, and a few massive trees growing in the brick canyon, reaching above the tops of the apartment building. One tree has an old school desk in it, probably thrown by some drunk students. Lots of students live around here, I hear.

Once again, we are subleasing, but this time, we're a lot more comfortable. Actually. Everyone else in the apartment is also subleasing. Saori and I share a room which has enough floor space to contain a queen sized mattress and a very narrow Ikea shelf. There is enough space around two sides of the mattress to fit a business card, if you turn it on its side.

Anyway, there's exposed brick walls in the kitchen, which opens onto the fire escape. Sitting at the wood table by the window, I look out into the back alley and I cannot even see the forested bottom. Nice breezes roll in through the window. I do like this particular spot in the apartment.

We share this apartment with four other people, all of them in their early twenties. Nashville is a thespian, a very dramatic and loquacious young woman, part of the Shakespeare in the Commons group and currently acting in Coriolanus. Oxford, appropriately enough, is the director of a school which teaches English to adults, and Ms and Mr Ireland, a couple, share the largest bedroom. Mr Ireland is an intern at a big MPE engineering firm in town, and Ms Ireland is working various jobs.

They're all really nice, charming people and I'm really lucky we got them as roommates.

Tay's visit

Last week was very, very busy.
For example, I am now living in a completely different apartment.

Long story short, the student we were subleasing from got an eviction notice for nonpayment of rent, and the management was constantly sneaking in without previously notifying us, so we got fed up and moved.

Tay flew in to visit two days before, so he got to participate in the packing and cleaning. Again. I took a half day Thursday and all of Friday off to spend time with Tay. Tay, who arrived still limping from a sprained ankle, proceeded to walk the entire Freedom Trail through the downtown, culminating in a climb up the spiraling steps to the top of the Bunker Hill monumental obelisk.

That afternoon, we took took a duck boat ride and then met Saori for drinks and dinner at Trade in the financial district. Friday, we walked Newbury street, met Saori for Thai lunch, and then biked our way across town to the Gardner museum.

At some point, we went to dinner at the Union Oyster House, which is the oldest continously operating restaurant in the US. Apparently the building sheltered the last emperor in exile of France, and is incredibly ancient. As it turns out, it's a giant tourist trap. Not much of a wait to get in. Tons of dining spaces. The waitresses all wear special apron/bibs with the restaurant logo on it, and the entire place was filled with tourists and their screaming kids. I joked that we would have to hit the gift shop on our way out, not yet realizing that they did indeed have a gift shop, stocked with tee shirts, mugs, boston and lobster pariphenalia, and my personal favorite, clam puppets.
Bonus: you use your fingers to control the eyes. We told jokes that were so terrible, the staff were shellshocked and told us to clam up.

The food was alright. We split a fried seafood platter (not as good as The Barking Crab or No Name), but we nailed the right amount of food- never get a fried seafood platter to share with less than two other people unless you want to feel miserable for the rest of the day.

Saturday, we walked Harvard and MIT together with Saori, and then hit up Regina Pizzaira for a pizza dinner. Afterwards, we walked out of North End to the movies to catch the latest Batman movie. We agreed that it definitely wasn't as good as the second one, and not really up to the hype. While I liked the cinematography and the sets, the actual equipment and suits I thought were really kind of stupid. Overly technical. Plus, the story was not that great- one again we're fighting a nuclear bomb and a vaguely near-eastern looking hordes. And Batman is supposed to be a detective. The World's Greatest Detective, actually. But all he does in this one is get into brawls and run around. In fact he does seem to miss some rather obvious clues with catastrophic consequences.

That night, we met up with the rest of our house mates and decided to tag along to a night of drinking and clubs. We stopped at a gay bar long enough to enter and exit, but Tay and I were still hit on by a guy who complimented our hair. We got a few drinks at another bar and got ready to move onto the club.

Saori's shoes were really bothering her, so Saori and I decided to split from the group and head back to the apartment, and Tay decided to stick with the house mates. They all went out to the clubs and then hit a 24 hour diner afterwards, sounded like a great time.

Sunday, we slept in and took a lazy day. We were thinking that maybe we would get to the beach but it was cold and rainy all day, so we hit up a nearby bakery/cafe and played bananagrams and durak for a few hours. It was a great time, just chatting and joking, and whiling away the hours with coffee and pastries.

That night, we walked over to Newbury street for dinner at Tapeo, a spanish restaurant. They have some pretty killer tapas plates and we split a small paella. No question- it's an expensive place. But if you bring three people there's more than enough paella to go around and its only $10 a person. The difficulty is resisting the tempting tapas plates and glasses of sangria. (Still not as good as ours).

This morning, I hugged my brother goodbye and watched him get in a cab at 5 am for the airport, all of us totally exhausted.

Jul 20, 2012

not too shabby

Went to the bar Trade last night with Chuck and Saori, which was a really cool place. Nice industrial-elegant mix, with the marble bar cutting around painted, riveted wide flange steel columns. Good drinks too, I got one called The Man with No Name. Afterwards, metro down to our neighborhood for a late night kebab.

The last few days have finally turned cool after the 90 degree heatwave lashed us. Actually, its nothing compared to the 100 degree temperatures in the midwest, but still, without A/C at the apartment, its pretty miserable at night. So we're happy it's finally reasonable out.

Yesterday's big excitement was my sunglasses coming in, which I had ordered from Zenni online. They're kind of a derivation of the wayfarer frame, with a keyhole bridge and a plastic wood patterned frame. Brown tinted polarized lenses. $60 delivered here.

Jul 17, 2012

I'm wondering if I made the right call coming to Boston. Money is nice, and there's a possibility I'll actually leave Boston with more money than I had coming in. I do really miss all my friends in St.Louis,  however. There's a hell of a lot of soft opportunity costs in coming here.

Sleep, being one of them.

Jul 10, 2012

Mamma Mia and Apple Pie

Whew, fourth of July came and went...

My time here in Boston is spending itself, and while my intent was to work to save money this summer, according to my bank statements, its more like my job is there to support my extended New England Holiday.

We had 4th of July off wednesday, and we began the day by going out to the old fort on Castle Island to watch the USS Constitution sail out (or be towed out) and fire off a 21 gun salute. The USCGC Eagle was out there too, which is another giant tall ship which was also kind of fun. Then we walked around the fort and watched the Blue Angels do flyovers.

In the afternoon, we headed over to the bandshell on the esplanade beside the Charles river to try to catch the Boston Pops 4th of July concert, but since we got there less than two hours before the performance was supposed to begin, it was impossible to get in. The esplanade park was absolutely packed. Seething mass of humanity, and major streets had been closed down to accommodate the movement of all the people.

We were lucky to find a small patch of grass in front of some other picnickers on the edge of the river, and as the afternoon wore on, the boggy grass and marsh plants got beat down and sat upon by an obnoxious and boisterous group of early 20somethings/late teens who chain smoked the entire time. Saori and I both wished we could just push them the extra foot into the river, although I'm sure they were being eaten alive by all the bugs they were fighting. We were also sitting next to a very quiet Indian man who works as a programmer for the US government, who hauled out his tripod to take firework photos.

The concert was not bad, as they broadcast the music around the park. A few selected works from John Williams as it was his 80th birthday, which is understandable, and a few pieces from ABBA which was completely bizarre. When I think of 4th of July and America, of course Mamma Mia jumps to mind. And Jennifer Hudson, who at least is an American.

The show was interrupted because of the threat of storms, so they told everyone to evacuate the park for about half an hour until they changed their mind and told everyone that they could go back to where they were waiting. Most people, who had fought tooth an nail for several hours to get to where they were, and to fight for their territory with the grit of pioneers, were not going to budge. It didn't rain, anyway.

At least, not until the fireworks started. And then it poured like the apocalypse was upon us. Our location to see the fireworks was great, right on the edge of the river, watching all the pleasurecraft on the charles, with MIT accross the river, and the city lit up at night, but we seriously got drenched out there.

The display was alright. Number one, I'm just not that into fireworks. Number two, after seeing the entire sky filled with fireworks in London bringing in the new year, the average American 4th of july is just not going to cut it, especially with all the waiting and fighting for space and crowding. I still do hate confined spaces, and we were basically on a island with literally no space to even sit down.

Anyway, we walked home and we were almost dry by the time we got back to the apartment.

Last weekend, we took it easy. Finally hit the Museum of fine arts which is right next door. While I bitched about the $20 entry fee (even for students!) the museum is pretty stellar, world class. Great American collection with famous portraits of patriots. Plus, we can get in free within the next ten days, which means we can come back next weekend for round two. Spent a few hours reading and lounging in a cafe nearby.

The next day, we went to Nantasket beach, a bit of a hike from the city. Without a car, you have to take the red line to Quincy Station, then take bus 220 to the depot in Higham, then there's a $2 shuttle which runs you to the beach. But I didn't know about the shuttle, so Saori gamely walked the 2 miles with me along the highway to the beach, and we caught a taxi back to the station.

The beach was wonderful. Not much space. A little rocky. Tons of people out enjoying the day. But the water was great. A mix of cold and warm as the tide was coming in, and it was amazing to be able to go out and play in the surf, body surf, and simply to float on our backs and close our eyes and let the waves wash us around. We spent about two hours at the beach, most of it in the water, and when we left, we both remarked about how invigorated we felt. Definately would go back.

The job goes well. Still making models at various scales. Feels like camp, making models and playing with cardboard and glue all day. Be nice if there were some cheap eats nearby.

Getting a lot of reading done. Finished Blue Death (a book about the history of Cholera and public waterworks), the biography John Adams which was excellent and definitely fits the place, and Bldg Blog  book which is a collection of essays, notes, and small articles about architecture, landscape, and infrastructure. I'm currently working my way though The Death and Life of Cities by Jane Jacobs, The Complete works of HR Lovecraft, and a book about ecological models of business, which is one of the hideously depressing things I've read in awhile (the only way we're not going to completely screw ourselves is  [read: total collapse of civilization] if corporations and the world economies decide to focus on something other than power or money).

Jul 2, 2012

Tall ships weekend

We are trying to get to Nantucket Island, but unfortunately by the time I realized I needed to buy ferry tickets in advance, the times we wanted were sold out. So, we took advantage of all the fun stuff going on in Boston this weekend. It's kind of a Harbor Week/200th anniversary of the war of 1812/Fourth of July/Tall Ships festival all going on under one umbrella master event.

Six tall ships sailed into the harbor from the militaries of several countries. These are the huge old sailing ships, towering three mast vessels with lines and rigging everywhere, although the hulls are mostly steel these days. There were ships in from Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Columbia, and also modern battleships from Denmark and Norway and Canada. The coast guard training tall ship, the Eagle was also in port, alongside the Constitution which permanently resides here.

We took a cheap hour long harbor tour in a small open top boat where we got to see everything from the water level. Really amazing views of the tall ships, fluttering with flags, and really giving a feel of what Boston must have been like in the earlier days when its harbor was filled with ships like these.

We've also been seeing a lot of the sailors in town, each in their own distinctive uniforms. The main event we sat in on saturday was the international tug-a-war competition where teams of six sailors from each ship competed, which was a lot of fun. The Constitution crew put in a good fight, coming in second place, but the winner went to a Canadian team.

We wandered around the Danish warship, taking the harbor ferry over with our MetroLink passes, which was very cool. It's strange to be in something spatial and architectural which was designed and made in another country.

For a late lunch, we attended the 31st annual Boston Chowderfest, where eight restaurants competed to see who had the best chowder by popular vote. Tickets were $12 a pop, but once you were in, it was all you can eat chowder-wise. I thought the Ipswitch clam company had the best chowder, but Saori disagreed, giving her vote to Anthem.

Finally, we ended up going to a heavily abridged version of the trial of the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre, which was held in the historic Old State House, where the original office of the British Crown resided in colonial times. John Adams and Robert T Paine were both in period costume, and other than the historian playing Adams being far more overweight than Adams was at the time, did an excelling and compelling job. It was actually a lot of fun, and they asked for volunteers from the audience to be the clerk, accused soldiers, witnesses, and jury. We found the soldiers not guilty except for two, who were found guilty of manslaughter.

office sox

Monday night, Saori and I walked north of our apartment through the back bay fens, one of the lovely public parks part of the historic Olmstead-designed emerald necklace of Boston. We found our way to Fenway park, the baseball stadium, and we wandered around there for awhile, stopping to pick up some Red Sox fan memoribilia. I actually picked up a red sox hat with a big red B for boston on it.

What I really like about Fenway is the way that it centers a block or a district with numerous pedestrian corridors leading to it inside of a larger block. So instead of the massive walls ringed with major roads, there's a soft zone of overpriced sports goods, bars, cafes, and restaurants, so even though there's an access control point beyond which you need to have tickets, you can still go to Fenway for a partial experience at least. The light, pleasant drizzle we were walking in turned into an outright downpour and Saori and I got so soaked, I was literally walking in water inside my shoes.

Tuesday, I left work early to go play softball in the Architecture Softball League of Boston. Our office had joined up with another firm to form a team, and we went out and played against a much better team. Everyone works in an architecture office, which is why I was kind of surprised to see the opposing team coach/captain look like he worked in the meatpacking district. He was massive, huge, and looked like he was going to split his jersey wide open. Looked like a Lithuanian farmer more than a desk jockey.

With my new cap and a borrowed mitt, Chuck and I warmed up tossing the ball back and forth. Our team did not fare well. We ended up losing 14-0 in a mercifully quick game. I got a hit, but didn't make it to the base. The rest of the team saw what kind of a game it was going to be and started cracking open the beers.

All in all, it was nice to be out there, playing ball, and I'll probably do it again this tuesday.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...