Sunday, December 28, 2008

Where did all the good coffee shops go?

All I wanted to do on this unseasonably warm day was go to some cozy cafe and make French flash cards. I might not get around to it, because, after a few hours of considering where to go, I haven't come up with anything. Nothing at all.

Well, one thing. But Curious Liquids doesn't exist anymore. And frankly, since I've thought of Curious, nothing I've come up with as a possible substitute could come close to what I want, which is to sit in one of the little alcoves in the basement on a yellow antique armchair, nursing a caramel mocha steamer for hours and hours.

I used to do this frequently in high school, as either celebration of the last day before some school break or mourning the impending loss of freedom that would come when my folks saw my report card. I could spend countless hours playing board games, reading British teen magazines, and writing prose in the style of Francesca Lia Block, all the while feeling equal parts grownup, in the know, and Dead Poets Society. And I was well looked after there, too. No matter what the situation, I always felt unbelievably safe. Unbelievable because teenage girls never feel/are safe, ever. There's always something eating at them, or someone out to get them. But everything seems okay in the sunny windows of an old building with pink whipped cream on your lips. Everything.

It isn't quite what I'm looking for now, but no cafe in the metro Boston area compares, not even remotely, to what I'm looking for. Isn't Boston one of the top five coffee centers in the United States? Not that there isn't good coffee here. I would even go so far as to say we have good cafes, but few that are set up such that you'd want to stay, and I'm thinking none that want you to stay for very long.

Cafe Vanille, for instance, is a great cafe and bakery. In the summer, it's a lovely place to hang out outside. Inside, though? Sterile and uncomfortable. Grey and a bit clanky. L'Aroma Cafe has a warmer interior, and is a great place for people-watching on the well-to-do end of Newbury, but the espresso? Bad. And the tables, I swear, are built so that you can't balance any books or papers on them.

What happened to the great pastime of lounging in a[n independant] cafe, getting work done, writing the great American novel, or whatever suits your fancy? I'm wondering if I'm imagining a time when this was what one did from time to time in Boston. Was Curious Liquids (may it rest in peace, and maybe be reborn) the only place in Boston that was ever suitable for this? Did that culture die with that perfect Beacon Hill establishment?

Do I have YET ANOTHER reason to move to Paris?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Yelling cyclist, 24, keys trucks parked in bike lanes.

I wish. The thought occurred to me today as I got rerouted in front of a speeding 18-wheeler on Comm Ave because a Coke delivery truck was making a stop at BU. There was some comfort in thinking I could make Boston a more bike-friendly city by attaching a saw wheel to my right shoulder.

Wait a second: it wouldn't make this place any more bike-friendly than it's ever been. It's tragic, really, that a city as beautiful as Boston can't be enjoyed on a bicycle. It's too stressful. Between drivers that are notorious for doing as they please and defensive pedestrians who won't deign to use the crosswalk (and God, I know, I'm one), a person on a bike in Boston has to be focused so as not to get killed. Even our mayor, while promoting a bike commute as a means of going green and getting fit, got doored by just another driver who didn't take the three seconds necessary to look over her shoulder and see if anyone was approaching. Of course, Hizzoner is an easier target than most people I see on bikes, but it's a sad symbol of the Boston biker's dilemma.

Now hold it: people on bikes are also to blame. Like the defensive pedestrian, many a cyclist has taken a catch-as-catch-can attitude to being on the road. But not all of them. Some people are just DUMB. Too often I see people going against the grain of the traffic, sometimes being bullheaded enough to go the wrong way in the bike lane, which has a picture of a bike going the right way painted on it. Then there are people who blaze through red lights, as if traffic laws didn't apply to them. I was stopped at a red light last week and was told by a smartass freshman that I didn't have to stop. I cannot tell a lie: I flipped him off.

There's no question that the situation would be vastly improved by having bike lanes all over the city, but the truth is that a lot of what makes Boston so charming, its old winding streets, is exactly the reason that those of us on bikes can't enjoy it as we go. There is simply not enough room to add another lane, even if it's only a half of one, on a great many of our most centralized streets. As it is, there are too many one-way streets because we can't fit cars going in two directions. Until we come up with a better solution, we just need to learn to be more conscientious of one another.

Drivers: re-examine your manuals! A bike is supposed to follow the same rules as a car! Bikers, take note: you can't expect folks in cars to be willing to share the road when you ride so aggressively. Please don't give us a bad name. Pedestrians: don't talk to bikers, but listen when we yell "look out!" That should be obvious, but you would be surprised.

And remember: mass biking season is almost over. The wussier bikers out there (such as myself) will be back on the T shortly after first frost.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Suckerpunched by the B Line.

The good news: I started a new job this week! I can now say I work for an organization that I believe in. Today was my third day.

The bad news: It's on Comm Ave., just before Packard's Corner. I live in Roslindale. There are basically two ways to get from Roslindale to Allston. As the crow flies, they are maybe 15 minutes away from each other. On the T, it can range anywhere between 45 minutes to three hours. These feature three (3) of my four (4) least favorite modes of transportation on the MBTA.*

Option A: Take the bus from Roslindale Square to Forest Hills. Take the Orange Line to Copley (or Downtown Crossing, Haymarket, or North Station), and transfer to the B line (1). Take that to Babcock St.
Option B: Take the bus from Roslindale Square to Forest Hills. Take the #39 bus (2) to the Mission Kill section of Mission Hill. Wait under the bridge until the #66 bus (3) comes. Take that to The Very Worst Part of Allston,** and walk 10 minutes in the stifling heat to Babcock St.

As much as the B line tops the list, I decided to take it. After all, it's only slow because it stops every block, right? It still runs more than any other green line train. Right? WRONG.
Day 1 (Tuesday): I was pissed because I was waiting at Park St and it felt like the center of the earth. NO TRAINS CAME FOR 20 MINUTES. Then when they did come, they were the D and E before the B.
Day 2 (yesterday): At BU Central, they decided the train would go non-stop to Harvard Ave. Because we were on BU campus, the ground was covered in the previous night's vomit, and the smell wafted up to all the people crowded on the ghetto platform.
Day 3 (today): Copley station felt like the center of the earth, only this time there were no fans. Trains came as follows: D, C, E, E, D, B. When we got to Kenmore, everyone had to get off the train because nobody really wanted to go direct to Harvard Ave. at 6AM. I actually shed a few tears.

*The other being the #1 bus.
**And I hate all parts of Allston.

Oh, so THIS is what it means to be a waitress.

The bar/restaurant that I work for just started making the night I work karaoke night. Of all the people that work there, I am the only one who had something nice to say about it. That's putting it lightly. I was ecstatic. What greater excuse is there to go to karaoke every week? How cool is it to be the hidden talent of the waitstaff? How much more likely is it that I can drag people to visit me at work?

The guy was taking song requests, too, for when nobody else wanted to sing. I asked him to play "Hello Mary Lou" by Ricky Nelson, and I think he didn't know whether to shit or go blind. And, in his book, he had my signature karaoke song: "Hey Jealousy" by the Gin Blossoms. My kickball bar and my regular karaoke bar don't, so this was thrilling.

By the end of the night...
I made more money than I did during the NBA playoffs.
My boss kissed me. Twice.*
A customer asked me to be in his band.**

All this time I've been sitting at the hostess desk, eating nachos and reading books. THIS is what waitressing, as I always imagined it, anyway, is all about!

* I could do without this.
** Pretty cool, actually. As his band is not of the Gin Blossoms cover variety, I think he will soon see that he doesn't want me in his band.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My age-old secret.

Remember, I was busting at the seams?

My mother is getting married in 38 days. I am happy for her. I really like Steve. I no longer entertain the idea of my parents ever getting together again. That was done, years and years ago. And, up until now, I've been really positive about this whole situation.

Okay, I've been walking on eggshells around the house, because I got a save-the-date card and really couldn't put it on the fridge. And I got a formal invitation to the wedding, but I couldn't leave it out anywhere. And I'm a bridesmaid, and I can't tell Dad how the dress search is going. And I had to book a flight to New Mexico, but I couldn't talk about the soaring cost of flights to Albuquerque. Not that my dad hasn't been dating someone for a really long time, or that he isn't a grown man who doesn't need to be protected. But I know my dad, and he's nostalgic for their marriage and the way things used to be.

My parents' marriage, as I experienced it, is only 20% of my life, really. I remember my parents talking in the front seat of the car as I slept in the back, my mom chewing watermelon and buttered popcorn jelly beans from Ogunquit. I remember Christmas mornings with Gumby and Pokey, and Irish soda bread with the Sheas, and Talking Heads dance parties, and Ring Around the Rosie. I remember my father's 35th birthday party, the day we got Sammy, training her to shut the door behind herself. I remember the day I asked permission to drink chocolate milk upstairs and instead sitting on my bed, talking about how things were going to change. I remember the feeling of chicken pox forming the day my mom moved out.

To hear my dad talk about it after dinner every now and again, they were the dream team, and very much in love. That's why they married less than a year after they met. That's why it wasn't so big a disappointment for my father to be leaving the Brothers for good. And I came along a few years later, and they were the dream parenting team. Every time we go to Doyle's, we hear the John and Eileen method of taking a kid out to dinner.

It's sad sometimes to hear my dad talk that way. A lot of family and friends tell me he never got over my mom, but I don't think that's true. The way my mom tells it, they sought counseling, and when they were asked to separate "loving each other" from "wanting to stay married". Mom says she said she thought she still loved him, but didn't want to be married to him anymore. She says Dad said the opposite. My dad is kind of in love with being in love, maybe, and forming habits with someone he cares about. I think that's reasonable, and not at all pathetic.

That aside, I haven't been nostalgic for that time of my life since I was eight, maybe. Today I found a picture of me and my parents. It was taken in Torrington, to the side of my grandmother's house on Chelton St. None of us seem to care that anybody might take our picture. We look so candidly happy - and to think all those years I never thought much of it.

So I guess in a way, the closer I get to my mom's wedding date, the more I come close to mourning my parents' marriage. What did Kubler-Ross says about grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance? I'm beginning to think it's been an awfully long period of depression.

I'm glad I have my best friend as my date. Who knows how I'll feel in July.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Your love life will improve if you dreamed of an avocado.

I've stepped outside myself in the last week or so, taking risks I wouldn't have taken in all walks of my life, including those risks that are the result of inactivity, like not returning the phone calls of the HR manager who took a shining to me a month or so ago. Risks aren't always smart, and I'm far too often aware of that, but sometimes they're good.

Taking on an extra source of income, and one that supports one of my passions, at that, is a huge risk. It comes with its benefits. I got to go to an avocado dinner the other night, and it was delicious (I even tasted, but did not bite, three kinds of fish - and ate duck and cactus and avocado ice cream! Risks, all, for a picky eater such as myself)!

What's wrong with an avocado dinner? Dreaming about it a week later, when you're trying to show people from work all the different dishes, and each literal dish sticks to your fingers and the checkered tablecloth, so as you try to gesture to each course, there's a clashing of plates and forks, and ceviche and guacamole spill everywhere, and everybody tries to be nice and pretend it didn't happen, but you can't stop talking about your damned avocados. And what does the dream dictionary say?

Your love life will improve if you dreamed of an avocado.

Clearly, this dream dictionary is a fraud. Why I am I dreaming about people from work, anyway? What do they have to do with avocados, in any sense? Why are the plates sticking to my fingers? Why are they being so polite? Blow up, already!

Why am I looking for an explosion?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Back from Paris, and busy again.

I thought I would be less busy when I came home, having been certified to teach English as a foreign language (read: I have my Saturdays back!!). Not so! I'm up to something new! A few somethings, actually.

Remember when I was interviewed by one of my best friends for her MenuPages blog? I'll be writing the odd entry there now - about nine a week, in fact. So check me out there.

I'm looking for any English or French tutoring I can get my grubby paws on. Suggestions? Let me know.

In particular, I need to go back to France without delay. Preferably on a closer to permanent level. Anyone know of a school in France that would help a nice and funny American girl get her EU working papers? Let me know sooner.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

À Paris, malade.

I am in Paris. I have looked forward to this trip since November. I have the following ailments:

Conjunctivitis (in both eyes)
Sinus infection
Sore throat

Yesterday, it was just the conjunctivitis (in one eye) and sinus infection (for which I had medicine already). I drag myself to the pharmacie.

Moi: J'ai mal aux yeux.
Elle: Oui, je peux le voir.
Moi: J'ai besoin du medicin.
Elle: (En francais, bien sur) You will need this eye wash. Rinse out both eyes three times every day - you never know, the other one might be infected already. Also, apply this antibiotic to your eyes every day.
L'autre femme: Et la Baccide!
Elle: Ah oui. La Baccide est pour les mains.
Moi: Ca coute combien?
Elle: 18.60.
Moi: [Shockee, because I got OTC antibiotic and more. For so little!]

And then today, at Place Blanche...
Moi: J'ai mal de gorge. Et aux yeux, mais j'ai deja le medicin pour ca.
Elle: Vous avez difficulte avaler?
Moi: Pardon?
Elle: Avaler (makes swallowing motion).
Moi: Ah oui.
Elle: (Aussi en francais, bien sur) You will need this syrup. It will ease the swelling, and make it easier to swallow. Three tablespoons a day.
Moi: D'accord.
Elle: Avez-vous de l'aspirine?
Moi: Non?
Elle: Voici l'aspirine. Trois fois par jour.
Moi: D'accord. [Note later: this is fizzy, comes in two Airborne-like tubes, and containes vitamin C]
Elle: Et des pastilles. Merci. Au revoir.
Moi: [Shockee encore, parce que le medicin goute tres bien]

It's insane. And if I wanted to go to the doctor, it wouldn't cost much. And for the French, it wouldn't cost anything. I don't want to leave, ever.

It sucks that I'm sick on vacation in Paris, but there is probably no better place in the world to be sick.

Friday, March 07, 2008

One drawback of laughing gas.

So I've had to go to the dentist an awful lot in the last two months. I have always been petrified of the dentist, scarred for life by the ghosts of dentists past. I finally sucked it up and went to a new dentist, who I like very much. Apart from my dentist and his assistant's phenomenal chairside manner, my office visits have improved with the help of laughing gas.

It really calms me down. It is, as my dentist told me, like a couple glasses of wine.

I think they turned it up a little high the other day, because I admitted I was especially nervous. As they left the room to let the gas kick in, I lay listening to the satellite "blend" station was on the speakers. I found myself drifting off to the sound of Jimmy Buffet. Looking for my lost shaker of salt.



But for that period of time, I was wasted away again in Margaritaville. And it was calming. And yeah, I liked it.

Don't worry - I'm normal now. Even laughing gas can't make a parrothead out of me. Not permanently, anyway.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

An open letter to

Dear Knot,

I have loved you - I have! When you debuted when I was in high school, I was one of the many dorky unlovable teenage girls who signed up as members with their crush as their fiance and set some random wedding date after the year 2000. What a great idea, right? Like a wedding planner for girls who don't want wedding planners. Everything bridal at the bride-to-be's fingertips, complete with a personal organizer and free couple's webpage. Genius!

I signed up, I forget who I said was my fiance, I forget the date I claimed I would be married, but I had a TON of fun looking at dresses with outrageous prices, gazing all day at that off-the-shoulder, 3/4-length sleeved Reem Acra gown I had originally found in Martha Stewart's Weddings magazine. Logging in and seeing "Welcome, Jessica & Cuteboy" was bound to have me reeling in a daydream when Mr. Cuteboy and I would someday be living in a house with all the things I'd registered for, looking at albums of me and my bridesmaids in their gowns I had so carefully chosen.

I am no longer 16, and while I'm not getting married any time soon, it's time for me to visit your site again. This time, for real. I'll be a bridesmaid twice over, and while my mom isn't doing any sort of planning that might require your assistance, my dear friend Emma has sent me a number of pictures of potential bridesmaid dresses. In order to see them, I had to suck it up, and bite the bullet.

I was relieved I didn't have to humiliate myself by making up a phony account. I was glad I could choose "bridesmaid", even though I had to distinguish myself as one "playing the field" rather than any of the other corny relationship status titles I could have chosen. But why did I have to tell you when somebody else was getting married? They haven't set a date yet, so I had to make it up again.

And WHY oh WHY is it that when I sign on, I'm greeted by "Welcome, Jess &"?? Is it not enough that I already had to establish myself as the girl who is always the bridesmaid and never the bride? Are you trying to make me feel incomplete? I don't have any anxieties about this, normally. Or I should say, I didn't. Why do you do this to me?

I feel betrayed, Knot. And I know I'm probably going to have to make use of your invaluable services someday.

That is, if I ever get married. Because, you know, I'm a mulletted, Skoal-chewing shortstop playing the field in what is projected to be sky blue taffeta.

Bite me,


Monday, January 28, 2008

February 5th comes so quickly!

I catch up on my presidential candidates on an individual basis. I come up with an opinion on each without comparison to the others, and then later I compare the ones I can still stand.

I'd written off Edwards as soon as I heard about that enormously expensive haircut. Or no, it was when he was the first person to be openly badmouthing his opponents in his ads. No wait, it was when the fact that he was southern didn't win us a democratic president in 2004. I don't like him. He rubs me the wrong way. And for someone whose most admirable political plan is to end poverty in 30 years, he sure spends an awful lot of money on things that don't matter too much.

Hillary - I like Hillary. She's a politician, yes, and she seems to calculate her every political move with no apology or regard for those affected. But! That's almost what I like about her, that tenacity. I think politicians give up their integrity the minute they enter the big game - in particular, I think progressive candidates give up their integrity when they raise and spend so much money for the purpose of getting a job when such huge amounts could put a serious dent in any of our causes that are lacking in funds. So I'll say it: I respect her, and as she was the second-to-last candidate I reviewed for myself, I was totally in her corner, near ready to vote.

I knew that Obama could end up being my decision for next Tuesday. I knew because all of my friends have already supported Obama on their Facebook profiles, because he's a moving speaker, and because he's against the war in Iraq. But all this time I have been wary. I've been burned before - by Howard Dean, by Felix Arroyo, and by Deval Patrick. By the time I decide to jump on the bandwagon that every other liberal in my generation has jumped on, they go crazy, they get lazy, or they have a new commuter rail line as their crowning achievement in their first year in office. And frankly, I have had it!

That isn't Barack Obama's fault. But that is why I saved him for last. I still haven't read "The Audacity of Hope", but I plan to before I vote. I was actually going to start tomorrow, and then I heard on NPR/read in the Globe/saw on CNN and the BBC that Ted Kennedy is officially endorsing Barack Obama.

Ted Kennedy is who I want for president. Obviously this cannot be. And obviously Kennedy's endorsement does not make Obama Kennedy. But my bandwagon skepticism has waned considerably thanks to this new development, mostly because Ted Kennedy hasn't made an enormous rash decision since 1969.

I hate that I'm so easily swayed by that, but I am. Anyway, on to Obama's "Hope".

Sunday, January 27, 2008

At least I meet somebody's requirements...

I'm on a job application kick like you wouldn't believe, and as I have had, on average, one interview per 50 jobs I've applied for (really!), I'm just going to keep applying willy-nilly until somebody offers me a job.

That said, I made the first step in applying for a flight attendant position with Delta. My favorite question was:

Are you willing to serve peanuts?


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Me che naav Jess!

Yesterday I started my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification course. I can speak a bit of a few languages, but not enough to teach English in a language that isn't English, so the idea behind this style of language instruction is to use the communicative method, speaking nothing but the language being taught.

The day started with a lesson taught in Kashmiri. Just to show what it's like to be on the other side of the classroom. I knew it was going to be difficult, but WOW. On the other hand, the style has got to be very effective, because in 35 minutes I learned a lot!

My name is Jess. Me che naav Jess.
What is your name? Tze kati che naav?

Also the numbers 1-16 (there were 16 of us in the class - my favorite number was 8, pronounced ü-uht), talking about where we live, what we do, etc.

So cool! But it confirms my suspicion that I am mostly incapable of learning a language in a totally different alphabet.

Shukriya. (Thank you.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I'm calling in an order to a publishing company in Virginia, and the hold music is "Dueling Banjos".

I'm worried that this might set the tone of the day.

I'm also worried that they don't realize how funny that is.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sunday, January 06, 2008

In light of Iowa.

I don't know who I intend to vote for. I loathe Mitt Romney to such an extent that on my birthday last year, my dad blacked out his name in the newspaper so that I wouldn't see it first thing and be pissed off all day.

Those who are also undecided should check this out. While I'm pretty sure you can't take it as gospel, and of course there are plenty of candidates who have dropped out since the quiz was made, it's at least a starting point. All the ad campaigns and caucuses can be pretty overwhelming.

Here are my results:
Score Candidate
Unknowns, Other

67 Kucinich
Disagreements: (0)
Unknowns/Other: (0)

55 Gravel
Disagreements: (0)
Unknowns/Other: (5)
ANWR Drilling, Assault Weapons Ban, Guns - Background Checks, Wiretapping, Minimum Wage Increase
45 Obama
Disagreements: (3)
Patriot Act, Border Fence, Same-Sex Marriage
Unknowns/Other: (2) Torture, Iran - Military Action
32 Edwards
Disagreements: (4)
Death Penalty, Patriot Act, Iran - Military Action, Same-Sex Marriage
Unknowns/Other: (1) Border Fence
31 Clinton
Disagreements: (5)
Death Penalty, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Iran - Military Action, Same-Sex Marriage
Unknowns/Other: (0)
26 Biden
Disagreements: (4)
Death Penalty, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Same-Sex Marriage
Unknowns/Other: (3) Iran - Military Action, Same-Sex Civil Union, Universal Healthcare
26 Dodd
Disagreements: (4) Death Penalty, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Iran - Military Action
Unknowns/Other: (3) Same-Sex Marriage, Same-Sex Civil Union, Universal Healthcare
24 Richardson
Disagreements: (5) Death Penalty, Assault Weapons Ban, Patriot Act, Iran - Military Action, Same-Sex Marriage
Unknowns/Other: (2) ANWR Drilling, Iraq War
8 Paul
Disagreements: (10)
Abortion Rights, Embryonic Stem Cells, ANWR Drilling, Assault Weapons Ban, Guns - Background Checks, Citizenship Path for Illegals, Border Fence, Minimum Wage Increase, Same-Sex Marriage, Universal Healthcare
Unknowns/Other: (1) Same-Sex Civil Union
-20 T. Thompson 7/12
-21 Giuliani 12/1
-23 Brownback 13/2
-24 McCain 12/1
-35 Cox 11/6
-48 Huckabee 15/3
-58 Tancredo 18/1
-60 Hunter 18/2
-61 Romney 17/2

So thanks, Matt Waterman, for giving me a starting point. Now I don't need to read every candidate's well-timed autobiography before November.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Accomplishments of the year to date.

1. Almost spelled accomplishments "accomplischments". Still not sure why.
2. Won terrific Dexter boots on eBay.
3. Got ready to go out in less than 20 minutes.
4. Went to a show with no guarantee that I would know anybody there.
5. Finished "The Amber Spyglass", and therefore the "His Dark Materials" trilogy - for the first time!

I know there are other things that are personally list-worthy. Not that any blogrollers might be into.

Stuck in my head for a week: "Little Dawn" by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Not complaining.