Swans at rest

Because it’s spring and I work a block from the Boston Public Garden, I head over for a mini-retreat after lunch some days. When the swan boats are launched and the real swans return, it’s officially spring. No matter that scarves and gloves are still needed some days, it’s spring. Overnight it will be summer and kids on their last field trip before school ends will wonder why the swan boats aren’t air-conditioned.

Boston swan boats scene

swan boats

The line forms around the building

The prospect of the Shake Shack opening in my state (not even my neighborhood, but my state) excited me so much that I forgot I don’t go to things when they open. Movie premiere? You risk moviegoers talking too loudly, tickets being sold out, a packed house; I’ll wait a week. New restaurant? Dying to try it, but not if I have to wait two hours in the cold.

So the NYC-based Shake Shack that’s creeping its way into CT and other random locations (Miami, Turkey) has crept, rather oddly, into Massachusetts. But not into Boston where you’d expect, and certainly not into the Boston Common where I lobbied hard for it to take over the most perfect little structure in the park that would have drawn crowds like their Madison Square Park location in NYC where you can watch the line on a live cam online. No, it opened in a schmancy new development in Chestnut Hill, a tony burb that most people will have to drive to, unless you’re attending Boston College around the corner.

Still, when I was in the area around lunch, I swung by to enjoy a burger and a shake. Only to remember why I avoid new places. The Shack was one of the few storefronts open in the new development, but that didn’t stop a line from forming around the building amid hard hat workers constructing, ironically, a gym next door. The line suggested “You will not see any food for at least an hour.” I balked. And then caved. And waited for an hour before carrying a petite tray with a Shack Burger, fries, and vanilla shake to a table in the sun where I ate every last crinkle fry and thought about getting in line again.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack (Photo credit: Kwong Yee Cheng)

Ferry bound

I’ve been found in the prone position on the floor of a ship or two in my day, so while I was apprehensive about taking the ferry home from work, I found myself in the dock queue on the most perfect day of the year when the sky sparkled a bright blue and the boats in the harbor bobbed contentedly in cheerful reds and blues. My friend went straight to the bar while I snagged us some sunny seats on the top deck and proceeded to exhale in a way that was not hyperventalitive but relaxing.

We left the Boston skyline in our wake, cruised by the Harbor Islands, the egg digesters at the waste water treatment facility (cuter than you’d think), and enjoyed a flat, incident-free sail. No passing out or scrambling for lifejackets. I’m sure my fashionable motion sickness wrist bands stabbing my pressure points helped, if only to make me look like Olivia Newton John and her sweatbanded self. The strong sea breeze offered relief from the heat of late and it was pleasantly chilly as we hugged the North Shore towns and beaches, rounding the corner into Marblehead and its painfully quaint harbor before sliding up to the dock in Salem to be greeted by the picturesque monolith of a power plant. Ah, home!

I might of even taken the ferry like a big girl, alone, to work the next day where I arrived with unusually windswept hair and the relaxed demeanor of a sailor, long at sea, arriving at his home port.

Food truck festival

While my mom was visiting earlier this month, I convinced her to hit the Food Truck Festival in Plymouth, and though she initially thought we were visiting a truck stop, she soon got the picture when a cluster of gourmet food trucks circled their wagons around the crowded green at the Pine Hills community, doling out tacos with grass-fed beef and Kickass Cupcakes.

Apparently, Boston is loosening some restrictions on truck ventures, so Boston should no longer be the poor little sister of New York and LA that have embraced the idea of the wandering canteen. We’ve got Clover and a few others, but I can’t wait till we have enough to warrant a whole show on the Food Network. Working in Boston, you’d think the options are plentiful, but Subway, McDonald’s, D’Angelo’s, Rock Bottom, California Pizza Kitchen, and some suspect places in Chinatown, do not a good lunch make.

Fiery sunsets

I thought the sky was on fire when I snapped this by the Charles River in Watertown last week. Alas, it was just the sun going down in a blaze.

As I was taking the T home yesterday across the Longfellow Bridge, another cool sunset as bright as the Citgo sign. Pretend there’s no window glare and the train isn’t in motion…

What’s better than a cantaloupe and lilac-colored sunset? Getting out of work early enough now to catch it. Hello marginally longer days.


I really like clouds—from above when they’re not blocking my sun. I snapped this while returning from my sister’s wedding in Virginia.

I especially like when a mass of them makes it look like I’m flying over Antarctica, which gets me to thinking about explorers like Shackleton and how absolutely ridiculous his voyage sounds, even decades later. I mean, could you eat your friends if you got stuck in ice?

And then, we descend through the clouds and the city opens up below just in time for the sun to cast a glow along the skyline. Hello, Boston. Good to see you again.

Wait a minute

Boston, you’re so fickle. Today, I’m in love: you’re in the 60s. Tomorrow, you’re still pretty amazing for November: hello, 50s. Saturday you’re looking average, 40s, but I’m sure we can work it out. Sunday, damn you, you’re gonna be in the 30s, so we might have to break up. I refuse to look at Monday’s forecast.

What the fluff?

I missed the Fluff festival held in Somerville, home to the sugary white substance, but perhaps it’s not too late to celebrate with a post commemorating the 90th anniversary of Marshmallow Fluff. No one I know likes the stuff, but I have a soft spot—a soft, sticky spot—for the stuff, not because I enjoyed peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches like my entire elementary school class, but because my mom used to beat it into a marshmallow substance (just add water!) that we put on sundaes. To this day, I forego whip cream and insist on marshmallow topping because I love the way it oozes off the glass dish, mingling with the hot fudge.

The celebration did get me to thinking though, what if the giant Fluff holding tank were to burst? Would it be the Great Molasses Flood of 1919  all over again? Incidentally, could we just pause here to consider a flood of molasses. When the giant tank burst, it left the North End streets covered in two to three feet of the sweetener. What?? Twenty-one people were killed by molasses. Could Somerville ever recover from streets running white and wild with the sweet glue? Apparently, it took 87,000 man hours to clean up the mess last century, but if the Fluff factory explodes, I’m willing to go out there with a giant spoon.


Tall ships

You gotta love an event that’s named so simply and accurately: Tall Ships.

I remember when they came to Boston ten years ago; I couldn’t have been less interested. This time, though, the idea of these majestic oldies seemed so anachronistic, I just had to see them, so I took a leisurely stroll along the Harborwalk to check them out one day after work last week. So did a lot of other people. It was hard to tell if people were more excited to see the ships or the sun. The sun!

Here’s a tall ship gleaming in the sunlight by Rowes Wharf…


and a couple docked by the World Trade Center at night, all glowy:


We stumbled upon them the second time after spotting from afar twinkly lights draped along the mast, like they were decorated for Christmas. 

Boston.com has a nice slide show of the ships, which sailed out yesterday morning for the vast, slightly frightening open ocean.

U2 vs. Hall & Oates

Last week, the smallish Somerville Theater held a surprise, invitation-only appearance by U2. Yes, that U2. The band that fills stadiums. For those of us who were not invited to the concert (and with only 900 seats, who was?), we would make do with another concert in town.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of the shaggy Hall & Oates 80s duo, but it was my boyfriend’s birthday and he’s not afraid to admit he likes a good rendition of Sara Smile, so I thought, Why not? Oh, and I won the tickets, which made it a lot more palatable. So, in preparation, I spent the day responding to people in Hall & Oates song titles.

“Do you want to go to lunch?” my friend asked.

“I can’t go for that,” I said. “No, no can do.”

My boss asked if I wanted to go home early.

“You make-a my dreams come true,” I said.

I mean, the guys were prolific. Hit machines, my boyfriend calls them. In doing my pre-concert research on iTunes, I discovered I knew the songs I didn’t even think I knew. Somehow though, it’s not right that I know all these songs of a band I don’t even like. 

In the end, my boyfriend was sick, so we didn’t get to sing along to Rich Girl or do the double clap during Private Eyes. It’s just as well. I think the music would have transported me back to eight grade and the feeling that I’d better get home and finish my math homework.

Tourists. What’s not to love?

Summer’s here and the tourists have invaded Boston like mosquitoes in a swamp during the rainy season. The Duck boats rumble by quacking and the locals shake their heads like they’re too cool to be caught dead on a tourist trap, when in fact every single Bostonian has played tour guide to an out-of-towner and found themselves on a Duck Tour kind of enjoying themselves.

Unlike a lot of people who lament the tourists and get annoyed by their clustering on the sidewalk, I like them. They’re excited to visit Boston, and why not? It’s a great city. Sure, maybe they need help finding the Freedom Trail (the clearly marked red stripe on the sidewalk through the city) or want to know where the Public Gardens is (um, you’re in it, ma’am), but they’re a good lot. They could have opted for San Francisco or Chicago, but they chose us, and I can’t help but feel victorious. I’m competitive like that.

Whenever I see a couple turning a map around and around, I ask if they need directions; it’s as if I’ve unlocked the city for them. Having been to New York City recently where I tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to orient myself to the north and south, I know a quick point in the right direction makes you want to hug a stranger. Sometimes though, if they’re grumpy or funny-looking tourists, I’ll send them to the Museum of Fine Arts by way of say, Kansas.

I’m kidding, of course.

The other day I asked a couple if they needed directions. Simultaneously, he said “no,” and she said “yes.” Oh, stereotypes. Another group, a threesome of women on a shopping mission, was so excited about Filene’s Basement (before the original closed), that I wanted to forget work and go with them to scout for bargains. Recently, a Japanese couple pointed on the their outdated map to the Institute of Contemporary Art, which is now in a new location, so I shook my head and tried pointing to the waterfront, but I doubt my charades made any sense to them. I should have wielded my Pictionary skills.

Last week I struck up a conversation with a guy while standing on Newbury St.—a spot where you’re more apt to see a man wearing a bowler than a baseball cap; he was wearing the latter, looking boyish in a very good way. After chatting about whether it was best to walk across the Mass. Ave. bridge to Cambridge or to take the T, I had manufactured a connection, at least in my mind, when it occurred to me that the flirtation was kind of pointless given that he didn’t live in my city. But I was a good ambassador nonetheless; who’s to say that given a warm welcome and friendly advice he wouldn’t just up and move here?

Your turn, Celtics.

Another day in Boston. Another parade. This is getting old. (Not really.) Oh, Boston sports teams, why are you so suddenly and universally victorious?

For me, the highlight will forever remain the first Super Bowl win and the parade that followed. A frigid winter day didn’t stop thousands of fans from lining up around the Boston Common to express their thanks to the Pats, even if my fingers were numb from staking out my spot for hours and the cup of hot chocolate I was holding splashed into my hair and froze immediately. We were an excited bunch that couldn’t contain the joy and amazement at our luck.

The second Patriots victory was pretty exciting too: more hot chocolate and signs held aloft. By the third, I was content to watch from my warm cafeteria at work, which overlooked the route in the most convenient way.

The first Red Sox win in my lifetime: huge, and during a season more conducive to a parade, so we joined the billion people along the route where old people tears were not uncommon. The second one I was again perched on the windowsill waving at Manny like a fan all too comfortable with winning.

Now, the cheering has begun and the Duck Tour boats are about to rumble by, but seeing as I have no interest in basketball and watched only the second half of the last game, I know I’d be booted off the bandwagon if I even tried to jump on. So, I think I’ll just sit here as basketball fans approach the euphoria that I felt the first time my team won and reminisce.

Independent Film Festival Boston

I walked the red carpet last night, a short velvety walkway from the entrance to the Somerville Theater out to the sidewalk that was rolled out for the opening night of the Independent Film Festival Boston. Rumor has it that the carpet was held in place by red duct tape, but I couldn’t tell amid all the flashbulbs—photographers looking for the perfect shot (just not of me). Apparently, Ben Kingsley scooted in just before the screening of Transsiberian, a film by Brad Anderson (who directed Next Stop Wonderland) starring Emily Mortimer, Woody Harrelson and Gandhi himself as a Russian detective. I couldn’t see the arrival action because I was in a line that stretched around a couple blocks, but I had a nice time chatting with festival volunteers and other film buffs. And on a night where temps were in the 70s, it was much warmer than Sundance.

Transsiberian, which won’t see wide release for a few months, takes place largely on the train that goes from Beijing to Moscow—think The Darjeeling Limited as a Hitchcockian thriller. The claustrophobic setting ratchets up the tension and the stark terrain of Siberia lends the movie atmosphere; you never really know where it’s going. The performances are excellent, including Kingsley’s lines of Russian dialogue, which he said he would repeat after his Russian language coach standing just off set. The action swept me along, and I ultimately overlooked the somewhat unrealistic moments that occurred toward the end. Ben Kingsley’s presence in the audience kept me from chuckling; he did, after all, play a tough Russian detective, and I didn’t want him reprising his role.