Friday, June 28, 2013

Medford, a Non-Illustrated Guide

This is really the kind of blog post that should have pictures, but I never got around to taking any, and it's raining today, so I don't particularly want to go outside right now to take some.  I'll use plenty of descriptive imagery, though.

I live in Medford right now.  It's a lovely little town, despite being almost-inconveniently far away from things.  I moved into a house with two other ladies from church, who are fantastic and good at appreciating British comedy and Joss Whedon things.  Our house is old, but very spacious and fairly well-kept up (just try to name one old house in the Boston area with perfectly functional electricity).  My room is large and the walls are purple.  The floors are half wood, half linoleum, and all squeaky.

I've been running in the mornings to get in shape (and also because I have nothing much to do these days), so I've had a decent chance to explore the surrounding neighborhoods.  Boston Avenue seems to be one of the main streets in the town (city?).  There are lots of little businesses, restaurants, and even a convent!*  There's also this Danish pastry shop that I've been to once before I knew the area but will probably patronize more now that I know where it is.  Medford is bordered by the Mystic River, and along the river there are little parks with trails.  The river is lovely!  There are lily-pads and today I saw a family of swans floating along.  I think it would be quite nice to live along the river one day and have a rowboat to get around.

High Street is another main street and it leads to the Commuter Rail, which I rode for the first time yesterday.  It was fun, sitting on a train while a man in a hat walked through and collected my fare.  There is also a cute place called the Magnificent Muffin and Bagel Shoppe that I visited primarily to break a twenty-dollar bill.  It's run by adorable old ladies who sell muffins the size of a premature infant.  I had a cranberry scone that was quite tasty.  There is also a bank, a post office, and a drug store close by.

My house is also only two miles from Davis Square, a pretty happening area in Somerville.  There's a bus that goes straight there, but I walked it the other day without getting lost once.  The only downside to my location is that the closest (i.e., only walkable) grocery store is a Whole Foods, and I am slightly morally opposed to Whole Foods because they bought out all the Foodmasters and now Bostonians who aren't pretentious organic millionaires have to find new places to shop.  They do have a good bakery section though, and that might placate me enough to do some shopping there.

So that's my initial impression of West Medford (oh yes, I live in West Medford, which doesn't mean much, I don't think) in a nutshell.  Perhaps at a later point I'll be motivated to take pictures.  Or people could just come visit and I'll show them around, maybe buy them a Danish.


*This will be a good thing to know in a few years if I ever decide to formally abstain from the company of men.  The vow of poverty shouldn't be an issue (grad school...sigh), and I'm sure they won't care too much about my not being Catholic, right?

Monday, June 24, 2013

First Weekend in Boston

As Charlie Brown might have said, "Happiness is having such a wonderful time that there's no time to blog about it."  I've been in Boston since Thursday now and this is the first moment I've been able to collect my thoughts and write about what I've been doing.

I arrived in Boston early Thursday morning after a terrible flight (crazy turbulence over Montana, snoring guy across the aisle, and a middle aged couple next to me groping each other's bums).  My friend Hannabeth picked me up and drove me to Charlestown, where I stayed for one night before I could move into my sublet.  After a quick shower to wake up and rinse away the airplane smell, I went to the Prudential Center for lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen with Patrick and Judy.  As I was riding the T to Back Bay Station, I was overwhelmed with familiar smells and sounds and it was as if all of my senses were telling me I was home at last!

Couldn't zoom out without falling onto the tracks
After lunch and Pinkberry/much-needed catching up with Patrick, I went back to the apartment and decided that a pedicure was in order, and what luck! there was a pedicure place right around the corner on Bunker Hill Street!  My toes are now cute and the girl was able to massage some of the knots out of my feet.*  Then I went to Ward Temple Night.  I had also forgotten how lovely the Boston Temple is.  I played a fun game in my mind riding there as I tried to reconstruct the inside from memory, but after going to Laie so often, I couldn't.  The beauty of the Celestial Room was striking, and I'm glad that Boston is my home temple again.

Of course, coming from Hawaii, I couldn't fall asleep at a reasonable time (though staying awake through the Temple session was quite the struggle--it's dark, okay?).  It was fine, though, as I could sleep in on the red couch.  I did little on Friday morning but enjoy being a Townie for one last day.  I had lunch at the Grasshopper Cafe (got the Turkey Club...my, they have delicious bread), and bought a jelly donut at Zume's Coffee House.  In the afternoon, my friend Matt helped me move my stuff from Charlestown to Medford.  (I will blog about the town of Medford later!)  My new roommate was kind enough to take me to the grocery store and I stocked my cabinets with enough to last the length of the sublet, I hope (minus perishables, of course).  Again, I couldn't fall asleep so I read a bit of The Bell Jar; I haven't decided if I like it yet.

Saturday!  My roommate and I went to Haymarket, another place whose greatness I'd forgotten.  Haymarket is this outdoor weekend market for incredibly cheap produce.  It's a fun Boston experience, and it made me kick myself for buying inferior produce at the grocery store the night before.  I did buy some really great flatbread at a Halal market hidden underground.  In the late-afternoon, I went up to Cape Cod for a beach bonfire with people from the wards.  Not only was it great to see so many familiar faces, but it was lovely to be at the Atlantic Ocean again.  I'll grant you that the Pacific is beautiful in its own way, but the calm blue/grey/green of the Atlantic is soothing in a way that the Pacific's striking aqua-blue could never be.

See what I mean?
I came home smelling all smokey, as one does after a bonfire, but at least I was tuckered out enough to sleep well before going to church on Sunday.  Oh, how I had missed the Longfellow Park wards!  The lesson in Relief Society was probably the best Relief Society lesson I'd ever heard.  One sad thing is that the counselors in the bishopric got released that day, but at least I got to see them one last time.  (Although I did nearly knock one of them over on the way to hug a lady I hadn't seen in forever and had missed dearly--partly because she babysat all of my sheet music for the past year.)  The rest of Sunday brought a lunch with some other friends and a barbecue at a house in Brighton.  

Although much has changed in Boston, and I do feel like I've lost a year, parts of me feel like I never left.  Hawaii seems like a blurred memory of feelings that I left behind at the airport.  I am so incandescently happy to be back, and I can't wait to have even more Boston adventures.



*This is a recurring issue, perhaps I should buy a tennis ball or something to do this myself.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Last Hawaiian Restaurant Review: The Counter

Served with the most amazing sweet potato fries (not pictured)
On the suggestion of a friend who I wish I'd gotten to know well enough to miss, I went to The Counter in Kahala Mall with some other friends who fall into the same category as a farewell dinner of sorts.  The Counter is a "build your own burger" type of place with a multiple-choice sheet that was super intimidating, even to one who is so awesome at standardized tests.  The options for what to get were very wild; had I been able to go a second time, I would have tried brie and apricot jam, but in the nature of objectivity and normalization, I went traditional (except I got scallions in lieu of regular onions).  Here's how this burger measured up:
  • Structural Integrity:  A.  It stayed together, and the scallions didn't even fall off!
  • Burger-to-Bun Ratio:  A-.  Generally okay, though I was left with a bit more burger at the end.
  • Topping Quality and Distribution:  N/A.  You can get pretty much whatever you want on this burger, and they give you a decent amount of it.
  • Burger Patty:  B+.  It was good, but their interpretation of "medium-well" was definitely much closer to "medium."  I don't love my burgers too pink, but I didn't get sick after, so it was fine.  
  • Fries:  A+.  These were probably the best sweet potato fries I've ever had.  Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and served with this sauce that I don't even know what it was (there was definitely some dijon in there) but it was AMAZING.  I wish I had either ordered a bigger plate of them (they're not included in the cost of the burger) or not offered to share.
  • Overall:  A.  I might have liked this more than Teddy's, though it was more expensive.
The service was good.  The only thing I very much disliked is that there was a live musician playing.*  He was too loud for the small space and I couldn't hear half of the conversations.  Also, deciding what to order of a million options is stressful enough without some acoustic rendition of a Katy Perry song blasting behind you.  They also sold desserts and milkshakes, but I can't believe that any milkshake could have been good enough to be worth six dollars.  That milkshake would have to bring all of the boys and all of the men and the fracking Queen of England to the yard.


*As opposed to a dead one, which would have been terribly interesting.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stay Tuned

In case you were wondering why I hadn't blogged about being back in Boston yet, don't worry, it'll happen soon.  I've got lots of thoughts swirling around in this jet-lagged brain of mine, and they'll organize themselves eventually.  Until then, I sit up late eating Fiber One Honey Clusters because I can't fall asleep.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Alternatively...

If Europe isn't your thing,


One Week

Find someone to pick me up from the Logan Airport:  Check.
Find a place to stay before I can move into my summer sublet:  Check
Out-process from work:  Half-check
Finish packing and sending stuff:  Probably should start thinking about it.

Like my time in Hawaii, my to-do list is getting shorter.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Restaurant Review: Cheeseburger in Paradise

The pineapple wedge is a nice touch.  Scurvy prevention with a side of burger.
I'm wrapping up my search for the best burger in Honolulu as I am leaving quite soon!  I was in Waikiki buying a hard case for my ukulele and decided to eat at Cheeseburger in Paradise, right across from the beach.  I was going to go to Cheeseburger Waikiki, but it was farther away and it's owned by the same people so I'm guessing it's the same thing.  I had heard good things about it, so I was pretty excited, probably too excited.  First of all, like most things Waikiki, it's very tourist-friendly.  Lots of gimmicky Hawaiian things to cater to the Jimmy Buffet crowd.  I don't mind touristy if the food is good, however.  I can't say I was huge fan of the service.  It was a busy Saturday evening, I'll grant them, but it took quite a while for my server to get my order.  May I just say how much I dislike when servers call you "sweetheart" (or "doll" or "love", etc.)?  If I'm at a crusty old diner and there's a matronly woman named Flo taking my order, she can call me "sweetheart," but some blonde, tattooed early-twentysomething named Holly can keep the pet names to herself.  Maybe I'm "overly sensitive" but I find it slightly condescending.  I can't be too angry, however, as she did keep the Diet Cokes coming.  I ordered the basic cheeseburger and a side of sweet potato fries.  Here's how the burger fared in my grading rubric (that maybe I've only used once):
  • Structural Integrity:  A.  The whole thing stayed together and only a few lettuce bits fell out.  They call it a "five-napkin burger," and I was worried when I was only given two, but it was much less messy than I'd expected.
  • Burger-to-Bun Ratio:  A.  Probably the best B:B ratio that I've seen!  One thing I'll note is that they used one of those "Hawaiian" buns which is a bit denser than a normal bun, which probably also contributed to the structural integrity.
  • Topping Quality/Distribution:  C+.  Lettuce, one poor little tomato slice, and some onions that were all stuck together.  Where the frack were the pickles?  I missed pickles the most.  I don't even think you could request them extra on the menu.  The cheese was good, but the sauce wasn't plentiful enough to make the burger moist and flavorful.
  • Burger Patty:  C.  Meh...it was okay.  It was cooked medium-well, which combined with the Hawaiian bun and the lack of condiments made the whole thing rather dry.  The flavor was decent, however.  
  • Fries:  A.  Sweet potato waffle fries are a terrific creation.  They were perfectly seasoned and crispy.
  • Overall:  B-.  It was fine, but not really worth the $20 I paid (after tipping Holly), especially when I could have gone to Teddy's just down the street and gotten essentially the same thing much more quickly and for half the price.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

If I could do it all over again...

I often have little moments of regret.  Maybe not 'regret' in the purest sense, but more in the "here's what I would do differently if I could start over again" sense.  So on this day, for no specific reason (even though this very day, the sixth of June, has rightfully earned reasons for me to want to look back and reassess), I present a list of things I would do differently if I had to start the whole Hawaii thing from scratch.
  • Don't ship all of my books to Hawaii.  I mean, I would have taken some books (how could I survive without a copy of East of Eden at my side?), but not all of my enormous heavy ones.  I thought, "oh, I'll need all these textbooks!" but I didn't realize that the lab would include a giant library that would have all of the same books and I wouldn't need to touch the ones in my personal library.  I could have stored them and saved the hassle of shipping them back and forth.
  • Live somewhere different.  Like in my current building which is so much more awesome than my old building.  Maybe this one couldn't have been helped, as I moved out here the weekend before starting my job and I just took the first place that was offered me.
  • Buy a pedometer.  I walked so freaking much this year; it would have been nice to keep track of exactly how much.  I'll walk a lot in Boston, though, so maybe I'll get one there.
  • Become friends with this awesome couple in my branch sooner.  Normally I don't hang out with couples because most couples are lame, but then quite recently I spent time with these two, both separately and together, and I was like, why haven't I been hanging out with you guys this whole time?  They're really cool, and, unlike 99% of people in Hawaii, they like some of the same music that I do!
  • Go kayaking earlier, because I like kayaking!  Actually, I'm okay with just going kayaking the one time.  I got a pretty bad sunburn from the kayaking trip, but it's only the second bad burn I've had here.  More kayaking would have probably meant more sunburns and a higher risk of melanoma.  So never mind on this one.  And there's a river in Boston; I can totally kayak there maybe.
I know I could think of more things, but I'm pretty sure that they're little things, like knowing where to buy the good curry paste and stuff.  But did you notice how not one of these things was "don't move to Hawaii"? Even though I shattered various aspects of my world by moving here, and even though there was much about this year that sucked beyond the telling of it, if I had to do it all again, I would.  This year has been very good for me.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cat Lady

"Kirk's always been a cat person; he's just never had a cat"
-Rory Gilmore (Gilmore Girls, "A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving")
I live with a cat now.  His name is S.J., short for Simba Jack.  I'm fighting my horrible habit of renaming other people's pets, but I kind of want to call him Darwin.  He used to be wary of me, but we've bonded now.  See?

Not the most flattering picture of either of us, but it's hard to tell a cat to hold still so I can take a webcam picture.
He likes to snuggle.  And also use my arm as a scratching post.  And lick my feet.  Maybe it's not bonding so much as him biding his time until he tries to kill and eat me in my sleep.

Tolerable Cruelty

"There's a breeze off the Hudson, and just when you think you're sick of living here the memory floods in..."
("Finale," In the Heights)

I have two weeks left in Hawaii, so obviously things have stopped sucking so much.  I daresay, in the past few weeks I've been liking things, having almost-fun, socializing, hugging (men!), and even wishing I had more time!  Life is cruel.  But I wonder, are things going well because I know that I'm leaving soon, or is this just how long it takes me to adjust to a place well enough to actually enjoy things?  I remember that I lived in Boston for over a year before I really decided that I wanted to stay there.*

The quote above is from In the Heights, which has kind of been my 'theme musical' for the past year (I saw it for the first time a few months ago), although my favorite line used to be Vanessa's from It Won't Be Long Now:

As I sweep the curb, I can hear those turbo engines blazing a trail through the sky
I look up and think about the years gone by
And one day, I'm walking to JFK
And I'm going to fly!

Kind of funny how things change like that, huh?  I guess I can be a little bit sad to leave Hawaii, but only a little bit, because I'm going back to my favorite place ever.



*It was actually the ward campout that made me realize I wasn't ready to leave Boston, which is strange, because I find camping dreadful.


Monday, June 3, 2013

On the Rocks

This is a post where I let my willingness to prove something overpower my self-consciousness about my body.  Behold, a picture of me and my pasty, not-as-toned-as-I-might-like legs in a bathing suit in front of a bunch of really sharp and dangerous lava rocks.

Look how precarious those rocks look!
I went kayaking with a bunch of people last Monday.  It was pretty fun--I saw a turtle!  But we kayaked out to this island that was kind of a "bird sanctuary" with a really tiny trail and then all of a sudden, it turned into rock climbing.  Thank goodness for my Tevas as my poor feet wouldn't have survived otherwise!  I was so scared and I wanted to turn back so many times, and there were definitely a few "Jesus, take the wheel" moments, but I did it!  I climbed on the rocks and didn't fall off of any cliffs.  I'd say that this was definitely a good life experience.