Thursday, October 23, 2008

The autumn moon lights my way

My dear friend Olga, with whom I've been good friends since elementary school, couldn't have picked a more perfect time to come visit Boston. Last weekend was the Fun Fall Fest, and we took it all in. She'd been to the city before on previous bus trips with her pharmacy school in Albany, but this time, I showed her a lot of the things she hadn't been able to see before. We started out by checking out the setup for the Pumpkin Festival taking place in City Hall Plaza. Already, several carved pumpkins were lined up along the stone steps, and a giant scaffold was placed in the center of the plaza with hundreds of lit pumpkins with hearts carved into them. We later took in the sight of probably about a thousand lit pumpkins scattered around the plaza.

Just down the street, Haymarket was in full swing. This being my best area of expertise, I showed her around, and I was pleased to find that the guy shucking oysters and quahogs from the week before was back, only this time he only offered free clams. Nevertheless, Olga and I had two each; it was her first time eating raw clams. The first one she doused with hot sauce and the second she downed straight, and I was glad to hear she liked them better without any garnish.

We tried walking part of the Freedom Trail, but being as I never make a good guide (even when I think I know where I'm going) and most of the sites along the way required you to pay admission fees to look through them, we didn't see very much and ended up just walking around the city from Faneuil Hall to Boston Common, where we rested a bit in the sun and watched the squirrels searching for food. A man with a bagful of peanuts came up to us and offered us some to feed the squirrels. We gladly took them and held them out for our new, little friends. They boldly came right up to us, put their little paws on our fingers to prop themselves up to reach the food in our hand. Some quickly ran away with their little gems; others lingered awhile, letting us watch them nibble away at the nut's exterior to the food inside that would keep them warm during winter. We marveled at how cute they were.

Afterward, we decided it was time to find our own food. We ate in Little Italy on the North End at a small, modern cafe offering various sandwiches, salads and coffees. Then, I showed her Mike's Pastry, which she had searched for before but had never found. I dismayed that I had forgotten the famous bakery's cash-only policy, and we didn't have much cash on us, but I got Darren a little marzipan banana (since he hadn't tried marzipan before -- he ended up not really liking it all too much), and Olga got a piece of tiramisu in the signature Mike's Pastry box tied up tight with lots of string.

We spent the rest of the day walking from the North End, back through Boston Common all the way to Copley, where we walked around for a while before heading back to Quincy Market, where Olga had to catch her bus back to Albany. We lingered over saying our goodbyes, but eventually I found myself walking the darkening streets around 7:30 toward the State Street T stop. Already, the streets were filling with girls dressed to the nines going out on the town and guys with their buddies looking for a good sports bar they'd heard about. I wouldn't be joining them. Not that night.

So almost a week's gone by, and I've been pretty busy at work. Clients have been here the past two days, and they just left this morning on the drive back. I served as entertainer, go-fer, and note-taker for those two days. It was hectic, but really rewarding and fun. On Monday, I became an interactive programmer for a day and holed up in the conference room with three others to bang out some simple XML scripts that basically involved copying and pasting information from a spreadsheet into a coding program. That also was hectic, but we got done a lot sooner than we'd thought, and it was fun being in a room with the others, all coworkers closer in age to myself. All the staff got a free lunch from Santucci's to sweeten the deal, and I think in part to thank the four of us for taking a day to help out the interactive programmers in their massive task(s). Though it isn't something I could see myself doing every day, it was still a fun and also rewarding experience. Today and tomorrow, I don't imagine myself or anyone else taking on anything extravagant. Tomorrow's happy hour will probably include people's comments about the week and how busy everyone is. Just a couple more months and we should be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

The scarf I'm knitting is coming along really well. I'm already through one of the two skeins I bought, and it hasn't even been a week! If I finish in enough time, I could probably knit Darren something to keep him warm in the colder months. I've never tried knitting a hat before ...

A giant scaffold of lit pumpkins, each carved with a heart in the center, lights up City Hall Plaza.

A close-up on one of the pumpkins on the scaffolding

Another one of the pumpkins

The stone steps in City Hall Plaza were full of pumpkins participants had carved. There was even a pumpkin maze. People (like Olga and I) walked among the pumpkins, snapping photos, pointing out cute/scary/provocative carvings and simply marveling at the sight of all those brightly lit pumpkins.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Leaves are falling all around

I probably shouldn't be writing right now, but I just had to expound for a bit on the absolute beauty of fall and my love of the month of October. The weather's been in the 60s with sun and little wind, which makes for a perfect time of year for me. October's my favorite month, after all: I love anticipating Halloween and the harvesty, cozy feelings that go along with the month itself. Life with Darren couldn't be happier, and I've returned to my childhood hobby of knitting. Since I lost my all-time favorite scarf, which I'd knitted for myself as a teenager, I've wanted to make a new one. I hope I can at least enjoy it for part of the colder months, since I feel I'm starting a little late. I got a couple skeins of various blue colors, and so far the scarf looks pretty good. I intend to double it up after it's done, so I'm making it doubly wide. Since I finally learned purling, I'm doing a knit-two, purl-two pattern.

Last Saturday, Darren and I hit up the Boston Haymarket again. I think it's really helped us save a buck or two when it comes to our joint grocery account, along with eating out less or eating at cheaper establishments. There was an amazing amount of produce this past weekend, as compared to the slim pickings we found the weekend before. This time there was a bevy of seafood, including a stand where a guy stood shucking raw oysters and clams for people to just pick up and eat for free. Darren and I had an oyster and a clam each, and they were so fresh and delicious, tasting of the sea. We didn't, however, buy any fish, though it was cheap and looked relatively good. Instead, we indulged in the slightly higher-priced but good-quality produce that we needed.

Tomorrow and the day after, I meet with the producer working on the Naval Academy Museum project, for whom I'm doing research. I'll have a list of images and other artifacts USNA has on hand so we can figure out what we'll need and from where we can best obtain it. We'll also work on an ongoing request we have to obtain licensing for footage from "Master and Commander," starring Russell Crowe.

I can't believe the general election is only three weeks away. The latest poll has Obama ahead by about 10 percentage points, which gives me hope that he has a real chance of winning. It almost struck me by surprise; I don't think I've really thought about just how monumental an election this is and how amazing it would be to have an Obama presidency. I imagined all the hope it must give many black Americans and other minority groups in this country. It gave me hope as well, even though I identify as white. Though at one time Italian-Americans weren't considered white in this country, we seem to have fully integrated ourselves into society. The racial slurs lobbed at us in my grandmother's day no longer have much meaning, and many people my age from Italian descent don't speak a word of Italian (I'm sad to say I'm one of them), nor are they familiar with the slurs themselves or the severity they once carried. Still, it always surprises me to hear about someone in this day and age being named the "first Italian-American official" to hold a certain governmental post or to serve as a member of a committee or what have you. The first person who comes to mind for me is Justice Antonin Scalia, the first Italian-American on the Supreme Court. Though Italian-Americans seem to have assimilated seamlessly into this country's society, it still seems to be a distinct, monumental occasion when one of us assumes a higher-ranking position.

I guess I just fully realized for the first time that an Obama administration is entirely possible. Back in the primaries, the general election seemed so far away, so the reality of this historic and amazing possibility didn't really solidify in my mind. Today, it became an exciting, invigorating concept, and it gives me hope for the future of this country and this society.

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