Friday, July 17, 2009

We all look like we feel

Last Saturday found us all around the greater Boston area. First, we took the motorcycle up to Wakefield, where we hung out with one of Darren's new coworkers, Brandon; a visitor from his native New Orleans, Natalie; and a husband-and-wife team of Boston transplants, Tom from Phoenix, Ariz., and Emily, a school friend of Natalie's from New Orleans. We grilled in the back yard on Brandon's outdoor smoker, which he brought with him from New Orleans, and had a nice time sitting in the shade, talking and playing fetch with Brandon's dog. Later, we made plans to meet up in Boston to check out the tall ships. Darren and I dropped the motorcycle off at home, got changed and took the T into the city. We toured two of the stately ships, one from Romania and another from Brazil, and we took plenty of photos. They were all so beautiful, though I was a bit disappointed we didn't get to see more, such as the American ships. I read online there was even a German ship hanging around somewhere but never got to see it. Still, it was a great experience, and I'm glad Darren and I could share it with our newfound friends.

After that, we went to dinner at a very packed nearby restaurant Brandon had found, and then we took Natalie to Mike's Pastry in the North End to give her a taste of a Boston landmark. It began pouring just as we were leaving (the rest of the day had been gorgeous, especially compared to the past month and a half), so we booked it to the nearest T stop to head home. Our day began around 10 a.m. and ended by midnight, so you can imagine how exhausted we were. The next day, we lounged around the house like lumps without regrets.

And so we find ourselves at the end of another week, and already we have grand plans to visit the Narragansett beach house to go clamming, possibly spend some time at Scarborough Beach, and enjoy everyone's company. There was talk of possibly taking the motorcycle -- I bought a brand-new DOT- and Snell-certified helmet (for those of you unfamiliar with those, they give their seal of approval after exposing the helmets to rigorous safety and durability tests -- not all helmets are good enough to earn those certifications) that I bought on sale online. It looks really snazzy, with colors that match the motorcycle (red, black, white) and are bright enough to see at night. I also like the styling and the silver glitter. It's nice to have a helmet that finally fits me correctly; the one I was using before was a medium, and this new one is an extra-small. The old one used to slide over my face on the highway, so I couldn't see anything but the highway asphalt melting below us. This one feels much more snug, secure and comfortable.

Still, it might not be possible to take the bike -- regulations in the camping area are pretty strict when it comes to motorcycles, and the forecast predicts morning thunderstorms, and we'll be setting out early, in order to arrive around 9 a.m., just before low tide, the perfect time for quahogs. We'll probably do the usual as well: cookout, grilling, playing games. I always love going there, and I always feel welcome, almost like part of the family.

My helmet arrived a day earlier than expected, and now all I'm waiting for is a Marion Zimmer Bradley book from an Amazon.com seller. I figure it'll be great summer reading; indeed, I used to spend hours in the evenings of my high school summer vacations reading and rereading her Avalon books -- something about the word "Avalon" intrigued me, and as I got further into her mystical Celtic world of Romans, druids, priestesses and Arthurian legend -- half based on historical fact and fantasy, always concentrating on the women's perspectives -- I became engrossed in them. I've read probably her most famous novel, "The Mists of Avalon" (from which a TV movie starring Anjelica Houston, Julianna Margulies and Joan Allen was adapted in 2001), three or four times now. There was a time when I elected to reread it once a year, usually during the summer. So now I'm looking to continue a form of that tradition with "Ravens of Avalon," a take on the revenge taken by Queen Boudica of the Celtic Iceni tribe after her people were ransacked and brutally raped by the Romans. The book was actually written by Diana L. Paxon, a good friend of Bradley's who took over writing the Avalon books after Bradley's death in 1999. It'll be a much-welcomed respite from "American Psycho," which I dared to read thinking it wouldn't be as horrific and brutally gory as I'd thought. I was wrong, and now I'm paying for it, since I have about 60 pages to go and I just have to see it through or I'll feel bad. It's almost as torturous to read through to the end as the indescribably inhumane acts Patrick Bateman performs on his victims. The film is quite tame compared to the book; trust me.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

It's official ... I'm in love with summer

I'm so glad the weather turned out much better than planned for our trip to Old Orchard Beach! We spent the long weekend at the beachside amusement park and the Pier, munching on cheese fries and Pier pizza and riding the rides. We ate at a delightful vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Portland, a city I can only describe as "eclectic."

Portland's a much bigger city than I'd anticipated, a seaside city full of nice little byways, curious little nooks with local shops, restaurants, and clubs, including a cool, trendy little teahouse/foot spa called Soakology, where we stopped for tea on Saturday afternoon. Before we were seated at the vegetarian place, called the Green Elephant, we went down the street to the city square, where hippie street performers regaled an equally artsy/hippie audience with illusions and dangerous feats (walking on glass, breaking a cement block over a guy's chest while he lay on the broken glass, juggling lit torches -- one girl even hammered a giant nail through her nose into her face with a big mallet; I still don't know how she pulled that one off), including one performer getting a cake to the face and some audience members picking the remains off the ground and stuffing their faces -- literally. While I somewhat identified with the hippie and arty atmosphere, I failed to see the appeal in some of the performers' and audience members' behavior. Still, it was cool to hear seemingly live music broadcast through invisible loudspeakers throughout the square, people gathering and sharing in the freedom and limitlessness of it all.

On Saturday, we also hit up a water park, Funtown Splashtown, and got through every ride we wanted to go on except one when a storm passed through and temporarily closed down the rides. At that point, we had other things to do, so we left and stopped at an all-you-can-eat buffet in a building that actually used to be a schoolhouse, separated on either end into boys' and girls' sections. The dining rooms were transformed from old classrooms. It was really cute -- we ate to our hearts' content from the buffet and shared a boiled Maine lobster -- it was a bit smaller than I'm used to, but it was one of the most delicious, fresh lobsters I've ever had. After that, we went to the Portland Headlight, a beautiful lighthouse, where we took pictures and I got some souvenirs for my family.

We watched the fireworks from the beach at Old Orchard, standing in a group of people in the amusement park area right by the beach; it was the closest I've ever been to a fireworks show. I was surprised at how they did it -- instead of setting off one firework at a time with a "grand finale" at the end, it was just one long grand finale, with about 10 fireworks going off at a time! It was very impressive, but ended abruptly, since there really was no final ta-da. Still, it was beautiful, a nice end to our Fourth of July.

On Sunday, we checked out of our hotel in the morning and set off for York Beach, a town at the very southern tip of Maine that my mother's family has been visiting for about three generations now, always staying at the same motel right across from Long Sands Beach. I have many fond memories of going there with my family, grandparents and aunt, and staying the week, eating lobster nearly every night and feasting on freshly caught steamers, finding starfish and hermit crabs in the tide pools, and going to York Village to shop and visit the famous Goldenrod Kisses store -- where you can see them making the saltwater taffy right there -- and playing at the arcade. I also loved visiting Nubble Light in the evening, watching the sun set while a jazz band played. In bad weather, we'd go shopping at the Kittery Outlets, and in better weather, sometimes we'd go whale-watching nearby off the New Hampshire coast.

My mom and aunt had been going since they were children, and we kept the tradition going when my brother and I were children, though as we got older, it became more boring doing the same things every year. When you get older, it also becomes harder to meet new people on the beach, because kids that age don't really "play," per se, so the chance never arises that your sandcastle's structure may carry over to theirs, sparking a conversation or an argument that later turns into a friendship. But, even now, my grandparents -- and sometimes Aunt Mo, as such is the case this year -- make the trip each summer for a week or so, visiting the same sites and oftentimes the same people who also come each year and stay at the motel. It felt good to show Darren all these things from childhood vacations past, and he liked seeing the lighthouse; the water was absolutely, beautifully blue, and the sight of the waves crashing up against the rocks made a perfect picture. We drove through York Village past the Goldenrod, the other shops and Short Sands Beach. The weather the entire day was bright and gorgeous, with nary a cloud in sight. For a moment, it was as if I was a small child again, scouring the tide pools for sea creatures and lying on the beach, soaking up the sun.

The weather now is less than what it was last weekend, which leads me to believe a power higher than my own was involved in creating such a wonderful vacation for us ... or maybe it was just good fortune. Tonight, Darren and I will try to get into a screening of "500 Days of Summer," a film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (someone I used to have a crush on as a child during his "Third Rock from the Sun" days) and Zooey Deschanel (another favorite of mine, whom I loved in "Almost Famous" -- she also had a great four-episode stint on "Weeds"). I've been longing to see the Sundance film since I first heard about it a couple months ago. The trailer looks rather promising. The screening is first come, first served, so we're hoping to get there early enough to snag free passes.

Then, this Saturday, we've been invited by one of Darren's new coworkers to a cookout at his house. I plan on bringing some orzo salad and something else to throw on the grill -- some fish or seafood, perhaps. On Sunday, we're going to the Philippine Food Festival in Quincy, which we've been looking forward to for about a month now. And we want to try to fit in a trip to see the tall ships in Boston Harbor ... so much to do and only so much summer to do it!

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

The rain falls down and covers all of us in silver light

The above title, taken from a little-known Dave Matthews song titled "Cigarette Lit" (it was cut from his solo effort, "Some Devil" [2003], and leaked on the Web), may imply there's something positive to all the rain we've been getting here in New England, and to some, that may be true. I, conversely, have had just about enough of waking up to rain and falling asleep to thunder and lightning. This morning, it seemed like night hadn't ended; it was very dark, and soon lightning flashed through the sky, rain pouring down as I drove to work. We've hardly seen a ray of sunshine the entire month of June, and the outlook for July isn't much better. And then there's August, when I've heard hurricanes will ravage their way along the coastline ...

At least thoughts of Darren's and my trip to Old Orchard Beach early tomorrow until Sunday somewhat ease my frustrations ... except I'm sure we'll get unpleasant weather there, too. Still, I hope it holds out long enough for us to be able to enjoy the two amusement parks and walk along the boardwalk and possibly do a little shopping. I can't wait to try organic green-tea noodles with "soy filet" (whatever that is) and vegetables in a miso broth at the Green Elephant vegetarian/vegan restaurant nearby. Our hotel, the Rodeway Inn in South Portland, even has a coffeemaker in the room, so I won't be wont for some caffeinated refreshment in the morning before we head out to see the sights.

I must admit, I'm getting kind of intimidated about posting now, as I've gotten some praise from admirers of this blog, bless them. It remains a mystery to me as to how they even found it, but I'm grateful nonetheless that they regularly read and get some sort of pleasure from its contents; however, that makes it harder now for me to write, since I feel obligated to make each post more delectably enjoyable and poetically verbose than the last! Forgive me, dear readers, if I ever let you down along the way!

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