I sent you a message on my squattoman blog

That's what my husband said to me, sprawled across our squattoman as if it were a balance ball. This was his message:

Sweet, huh? Distracting, though. I was lamenting - for the umpteenth time - how poorly I performed amidst a sea of teenagers during today's pre-college summer studio program orientation. It started off well enough...lunch was followed by orientation, and then the kids broke up into groups and went through various "stations" together to get their student IDs, that sorta thing. I was at the "meet your mentor" station with the other grad mentors. About half of my mentees seemed confused by the whole concept of "one-on-one" time but reluctantly agreed to an initial meeting later this week, while the other half seemed altogether uninterested in ever encountering me again.

I haven't felt this uncool since, well, high school. It probably didn't help that I whipped out my personalized jotter cards to give them my e-mail address and cell phone number. I realized pretty early on the damage I was doing, and then mumbled under my breath that I worked at a stationery store and got this kind of stuff for free (not true) or heavily discounted (somewhat true).

Oh well. Hopefully, first impressions are not that important to the average sixteen year old. We've got five weeks to grow together as mentor and mentee, after all. Five weeks is a long time when you're sixteen. I keep telling myself, they're just like bees, probably more afraid of you than you are of them. That should help.


summer rain makes me feel fine

Wow! That's all I can say after discovering my friend Keren's blog-like nearly daily postings of drawings at this site. I started at the beginning and spent a little time with each one. I like this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. They're pretty great, don't you think?

It's a good day to catch up on blogs. After a few days of warm temperatures and increasing humidity, the air above Boston was like a sponge full of moisture (that's more or less how the weather guy put it last night). All we needed was a cold front to sweep in and ring us out. And it was a pretty impressive thunderstorm (still making some noise, actually, as I write). I ran around the apartment, taking fans out of windows and took a couple of pictures that, of course, hardly do it justice. Here's a shot looking out of our living room window onto the front porch. The blurryness in the image is the sheet of rainwater covering the window. It's like driving your house through a carwash.

This is looking out the bedroom window. In about ten minutes this intersection was nearly flodded. Impressive, no?

Oddly, I have the song "Summer Breeze" stuck in my head (not the Jason Mraz version).

Otherwise, I've been spening the day checking off little boxes on my summer to-do list before things get a little crazy this weekend. Sunday is the kick off to the Museum School's summer high school studio program. I'll be participating as a mentor to nine lucky students and as a teaching assistant for a couple o' classes. I'm psyched but I have to admit I was getting a little too used to this light schedule, typically working just three days a week. I'll keep my retail gig for a little while longer. If all goes well, my last day will be on or around August 20th. Having a retail job has been a little like running a marathon...something I always wanted to try - and, barring that irritating knee injury that still flares up some five years later, more or less enjoyed - but knew going into it I probably wouldn't become a marathoner. Likewise, part-time retail sales associate? Check.


the summer I learned to krump

That would be the title of my collected essays on pop culture, if ever I was to gather my summer blogging and hire a ghost writer of immeasurable talent to make some sense of my various rants and stream-of-conscious diary-like entries. For now, this'll have to do. I'm loving the current season of "So You Think You Can Dance." The meat and potatoes portion of the show started last week, with the twenty dancers pairing up and dancing off in styles ranging from contemporary (if I'm not mistaken, this style was described as "lyrical" last season...I don't know enough about the dance industry to understand the change) to ballroom to hip hop. I always enjoy ballroom dancing more than I think I will (so that's how you dance to Enya) but hip hop's still my favorite. I'm endlessly fascinated with dancers' seemingly innate ability to break out in that bootie move so prevalent in krumping. I'm determined to master the move by summer's end. Watching the show ought to help, in addition to Missy Elliot's videos - always a good time - and David LaChapelle's documentary "Rize."

Anyway, getting back to the show...I don't have a favorite couple or individual dancer yet, although I did phone in and vote for four. I'm not sure what the ideal voting procedure is, but at this early stage in the competition it's difficult to single out just one couple to vote for. Off the top of my head I'm looking forward to seeing more of Benji, Heidi, Donyelle, Musa, and Natalie. Musa and Natalie are definitely the hottest couple - they've got the best chemistry so far. But with the partners remaining as is throughout the course of the show - barring rearrangement of couples due to individual dancers being voted off - the chemistry bit's bound to improve with each week.



Neal and I occasionally (well, lately it seems like quite often) have time off together during the week. Running errands in the middle of a weekday is optimal. Not that I'm the first one to have figured this out, but it seems a lot more consistent around here. I remember many a weekday that I randomly had off while living in the Bay Area (having spent most of my adult life thus far as a student, I'm no stranger to the flexible schedule) and being shocked - each time - at how many other people were at Target, Berkeley Bowl, Trader Joe's, you name it. That's the dark side of flex-time and telecommuting, both popular working options in the Bay Area. The Monday through Friday, nine to five gig seems to be a lot more common in the Boston area, however, which means you can pretty much bet on an empty Ikea or Costco in the middle of a weekday.

And the other great thing about hitting Costco in the middle of a weekday - around here, at least - are the samples. The samplers are positioned at the end of nearly every food/freezer aisle, their wares divied and ready to be snatched up by the student, housewife, small business owner, or general slacker there at noon on a Wednesday. Rarely were there many samplers at the Costco nearest to our Oakland apartment, and when there were samplers set up they were either mysteriously out of samples, fiddling with their little microwave ovens, or offering something boring and non-edible like Clorox wipes.

No, the Costco closest to us now boasts of many a hard-working sampler with tasty sausages, big bites o' cheesecake, and to wash it all down, perhaps some vitamin water. Here's what we sampled today:

* bite-sized Snicker's bar
* slice of Italian sausage
* wedge of whole wheat quesadilla
* a chunk of London broil in BBQ sauce
* an entire chicken nugget (in the shape of a dinosaur) with a drizzle of honey mustard sauce
* a forkful of New York style cheesecake
* a spoonful of raspberry sorbet
* half of a mini chicken egg roll
* and a slice of dried apple

It's like a free buffet.


cool corners and travelling pants

After several days of rain (again) Neal and I were itchin' to get outside yesterday to enjoy the sun while it lasted. After a walk through PJP park, we headed to Coolidge Corner in Brookline, a delightful little neighborhood in one of Boston's most coveted suburbs. Brookline's way more expensive than Dorchester and in addition to the no overnight parking rule, it's on a branch of the green subway line. Three things that made it very unlikely we'd live there, although it was high on my most desirable list of neighborhoods to scope out when we came to Boston looking for apartments around this time last year. Eventually, I'd like to be able to prioritize the ability to walk to restaurants, shops, movie theaters, etc., but at the time, space and general affordability outweighed everything else. And to be honest, I've always had a hard time justifying the amount of rent it seems to take to live in neighborhoods like Coolidge Corner, and there were plenty in the S.F. Bay Area. Where we lived in Oakland's Lake Merritt neighborhood, Adams Point, to be more specific, was pretty close to perfect in my mind, although at the time it still seemed to occasionally pale in comparison to the various dining, shopping, and entertainment options of nearby Rockridge and Elmwood neighborhoods, for example. So I think, on the one hand, the grass is always greener, and I'm just not sure I'd ever be able to pay the average $1500 per month it seems to take right now to live near this particular trendy neighborhood. Neal and I had a, um, colorful conversation about this on the way home. I'm just not totally convinced.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great little neighborhood. We saw "Brick" - finally - at the Coolidge Corner Theater, a nicely renovated Art Deco theater (another reason I couldn't help but think of my old stomping ground...and the Parkway, Grand Lake, and Paramount Theaters, to name a few of Oakland's treasures). Of course, since we waited so long to see "Brick," we missed out on the 600-seater main theater, moving upstairs instead to the much smaller "video screening room." The seats were comfy, though.

After the movie, Neal and I enjoyed a slice each at Upper Crust Pizza, which was pretty decent. I tried their daily slice (artichoke hearts and portabella mushrooms) on wheat crust, which was better than average as far as wheat alternatives go. Their motto is something terribly original like "not your average pizza." No, really, not like all the other pizza chains that claim they're not your average pizza place. Citysearch's editorial profile describes their offerings as "artsy." Ew. Artsy pizza? See, this is exactly the kind of thing that - I don't know why exactly - gives me the creeps. Why can't a neighborhood just do it's thang and make a decent pizza, show good movies in a nice theater, and serve decent coffee without getting all predictably smug about it? I realize it's Citysearch writing that, not the pizza place, but still...

The neighborhood is also home to a Trader Joe's and Peet's, my favorite grocery store and coffee shop, respectively, so we picked up a couple of basics and a good dose of caffeine before heading home. Peet's makes the best latte, hands down.

In other news, I recently added another title to my summer film festival. On my good friend Mer's recommendation, Neal and I watched "Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants." It's a total chick flick and quite possibly the poster child for my summer film festival. Actually, if I'm being honest with myself, "Crossroads" is the poster child for this little project of mine, and yes, I've seen it. I was an admitted fan of Britney's (you know you were too) pre K-Fed and four in four and bare feet, of course. At least I can still watch the music videos before she crossed over to the dark side...

Anyway, "Crossroads" was super lame-o, but if you think about it, it's the perfect movie for this scholarly project - girl/young woman in transition (the lyrics to the theme song say it all, really, "not a girl, not yet a woman"), goes on a road trip with other girls/young women in transition..."Travelling Pants" was kinda like that, times four, and way better. Although the DVD's special features did little to add to the experience. There was a bit about the film's director, talking about how "disarming" the story was, the story being so much more than just about pants and the audience who, presumabley, would go to the movie just, I don't know, expecting a story about pants. How disappointing for all those folks expecting a good old-fashioned story about pants, you know?


a partly cloudy week: part five

On Friday, we drove about forty miles south to the town of Plymouth, location of Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II, recreations of the Plymouth Colony and the boat the colonists used to cross the Atlantic in 1620. At the beginning of the week, I was really excited about visiting Plymouth, more excited than I felt about Salem, actually. And if I take the individual components of my Salem experience and compare them to individual components of our day in Plymouth, I guess I'd have to admit that Plymouth was a more impressive and worthwhile daytrip. Plimoth Plantation is much more impressive than the Salem Witch Museum, for example. And yet for some reason, maybe because I wasn't feeling well that Friday or maybe because it was a little more humid than it had been on Tuesday, I enjoyed Salem more.

Anyway, the plantation has been recreated according to the way things probably were in 1627. I'm not sure why they chose to freeze the plantation in time seven years after the colonists arrived. I guess it wouldn't be a terribly fun place to visit if they'd recreated the colony just months after they'd arrived. This way, the live action role players can talk to you about how the colony has succeeded and grown over the seven years. Talking to the LARPers is the best way to learn about how things were back in 1627. And I'm sure it is, if, of course, you don't have a head cold and a general lack of sociability that day. I did ask one girl what they did for bathrooms, quickly correcting myself and asking about toilets. She first asked if I was French (you see, they think it's still 1627 and I guess only the French were using les toilettes at that time) before explaining that you typically go where you are, unless you're inside and it's snowing outside or the middle of the night, in which case you use your chamber pot, of course.

From the plantation we drove three miles to the downtown area of Plymouth, where we had lunch before touring the Mayflower II and taking a look at the very rock the colonists used to step off the boat for the first time. The authenticity of the rock is, of course, highly questionnable, but that didn't bother me. To be consistent with the recreations of the plantation and boat, I think they ought to make a fiberglass replica of the rock and put that on view.

After a brief detour through a couple of kitschy gift shops (I almost bought a Plymouth Rock magnet that was little more than a gray blob of plastic with the year 1620 stamped on it...awesome) we headed home through a prototypically New England spring thunder storm. We couldn't have planned it better if we tried.

The next day, before delivering the inlaws to the airport, we had breakfast at Friendly's, a New England chain similar to Denny's but with their own brand of ice cream. Their ice cream's not bad and the great thing about Friendly's is the free hot fudge sundae you get with any of their featured sandwiches. And they make a decent burger. Breakfast, on the other hand, was not so exciting and, alas, no free hot fudge sundae.

The end.

P.S. In addition to all the historical stuff, I learned that week, in looking at the several batches of pictures after, that if I'm not posing obnoxiously for a photo, like this:

I look like this:

Or like this:

Have I learned nothing from America's Next Top Model?


a partly cloudy week: part four

I worked on Thursday. Neal took the inlaws to MIT and Harvard.

When I got home from work, I caught the last half hour or so of the premier of "So You Think You Can Dance," which reminded me about why I don't watch "American Idol," although I appreciate the show in principal (being popular culture at its most popular) and understand why it's so popular. I can only tolerate watching so many rejects in those first few weeks. One or two make for amusing television, but I'd much rather see the folks with talent. "So You Think You Can Dance," like "American Idol," gets better as they weed out the mediocre performers, but it's these first few weeks that really test my attention span.

Speaking of "American Idol," although I don't think I watched a single episode all the way through this entire season I did manage to catch the finale. Kat should've won, for sure.

And speaking of finales...I'm officially caught up on "Gilmore Girls," "The O.C.," "House," and "ANTM." I hate cliff-hangers and there were lots this year. I actually felt a little sad when Marissa died, but I'm over it now. I wasn't surprised, not only because I guessed she'd be the one to get the axe but also because somebody at work totally gave away the finale in casual chit-chat a day or so after (when Neal and I were still three or four episodes behind). I may watch a lot of t.v. but that's pretty much as far as my interest in the entertainment world goes. It's interesting that a lot of folks who give me a hard time about watching t.v. in general, let alone a show like "The O.C." (whatever that's supposed to mean), somehow knew the ending before I did. What's culturally more debased - watching the show or eating up all the media frenzy that buzzes around actresses like Mischa Barton? Anyway, I'm curious to see how they handle all the kids going to different colleges.

And I was disappointed Joanie didn't take the top model title. I like Danielle, really, I do, but I have to admit I was rooting for Joanie.


a partly cloudy week: part three

On Wednesday, we stayed local. After a late breakfast at North Quincy's Wheelhouse Diner, we took the T into town to check out, primarily, the Duck Tour. My part-time gig is at the Prudential Center (locally known as "the Pru"), also the starting point for the Duck Tours, so I've heard a lot about them, both from locals and tourists alike. It's a tad pricey ($26 per ride, $23 if you're a student), but our trip aboard one of the "authentic, renovated World War II amphibious landing vehicles" led by conDUCKtor (extra cheese) Ace Bandage, was almost worth every penny. Twenty plus bucks seems like an awful lot no matter how you cut it, or what you cut it on. And what's with the token $3 student discount? Clearly, $26 is too much to ask a student to pay for a ride, but $23 is reasonable? What am I going to do with that whopping three dollars in my pocket - pay off my student loans? Not likely...

Anyway, after our ride, we used the Ben & Jerry's coupon in the information packet they give you when you buy your tickets to have ice cream for lunch. I love having ice cream for lunch! I mean, I love ice cream pretty much any time of the day, but there's something so summer vacation about having just ice cream for your afternoon snack.

After lunch, we walked to Trinity Church, across the street from New England's tallest building, the John Hancock Tower. The church - surprise, surprise - charges a fee to take a self-guided tour of the interior. We checked out the gift shop instead, before continuing on to the BPL's (Boston Public Library) exhibition of 10,000 Joans. The BPL is an amazing buliding that many bloggers before me have already blogged about, but what I admire, in particular, is the library's café and courtyard, where you can enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee while studying or reading...your own books, I assume. We headed home a little early that day. Everyone relaxed in their own way. Feeling a sinusy head cold coming on, I took a long nap, a hot shower, and a couple of Advil before groggily tuning in to Lost's mind-bending finale. Why blog about it when Heather Havrilesky does such a good job summing up the good and the bad in t.v. land? Rarely do I disagree with her. If, however, for some reason, you haven't yet watched the finale and you plan to, I'd recommend against reading it.


a partly cloudy week: part two

On Tuesday we drove sixteen miles north to Salem while listening to excerpts from the audio version (she narrates) of Sarah Vowell's collection of essays titled "The Partly Cloudy Patriot." You may have heard Vowell on NPR's "This American Life," or as the voice of Violet in Pixar's "The Incredibles." She writes (and, in this case, reads) about her experiences travelling around the country, in large part attracted to former sites of death and destruction. Her essay on visiting Salem seemed relevant. We ended up listening to several more excerpts on the way back and later in the week when we drove south to Plymouth (more about that later). She's my new popular culture/social observer hero.

We got a late start that morning, getting to Salem a little before noon, giving us just the afternoon to tour the numerous attractions before everything closed at 5. Starting at the well-endowed Peabody Essex Museum, we strolled through the current exhibition, "Painting Summer in New England" (in case you're wondering, I plan to "summer" right here in Dorchester), checked out a half-dozen or so galleries of their maritime collection, and took a look at the kid-friendly "Owls and Art in Nature." I learned that owls are kinda like cats, meaning very different things according to different cultures.

From the PEM we walked to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, an open grassy area with twenty benches jutting out of the stone courtyard walls, one for each of the nineteen victims who were hanged for not confessing to practicing witchcraft and one other guy, Giles Corey, who was "pressed to death." Salem has its own red trail of paint (like Boston's Freedom Trail), guiding you to all things wiccan. From the memorial we moved on to the Salem Witch Museum, discribed in Fodor's as "informative, if somewhat hokey." Yeah, it's pretty much 100% hokey, but I did pick up a cheap copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic, "The Scarlet Letter."

We followed the red trail on down to Salem's waterfront, where we learned that, like Boston's USS Constitution a day earlier, the Friendship was mysteriously closed that day (the only explanation is some sort of conspiracy to keep us off watercraft of any kind). So we continued on to the House of Seven Gables (making a brief detour at Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie on the way, where I bought a few of their famous gibraltars, essentially massive after-dinner mints). Technically, we could have caught the last tour of the seven gables, whatever they are, arriving just before 5 o'clock, but, like everything else in the area, you have to pay a significant sum to get in, so we tried to see as much as we could from the outside before moving on to the super-cute Derby Wharf Lighthouse. We finished our visit with an authentic and quite excellent Mexican meal at Cilantro, oddly voted Best of Boston in 2002. I guess if the T goes there, Boston can claim it...as long as it's good, of course.

P.S. If you're wondering why this entry lacks photos, that's 'cause Neal took most of the Salem shots. Rumor has it he'll be blogging about the week as well.