Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Golden Birthday, or: Goodbye

            Hi! December 4th is this blog’s anniversary day, and it will be the fourth anniversary! This blog has been around for far too long. If we compiled everything I’ve written here into a more constructive release pattern, it’d probably still be 2012. Sorry.
            I’m going to plug things. I finished a novel, which you can read fo’ free while I revise it, since I’m really thinking that I might hahaha no not really. Just read it! I think it’s pretty good, but I’m a little biased as I spent an entire year of my life on it. Read it here.
            I write for a D&D website, which is very very exciting. That can be found here. I’m the guy who’s called Udalf Alfisol. I write about being awesome at tabletop gaming.
            Here’s a piece that I wrote that I think is pretty good. It's much shorter than the novel at 1/100th of the length.
            So, I plug all of these things, not only because I’m self-serving and an idiot, but mostly to show you that with these things I did, and the Real Life things I’m about to start doing, I don’t really have time for this blog. I have much better outlets for half of the stuff that I come up with now. Like I have a history idea pop into my head? Well, I’ll just make that a lesson plan.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Poet and I DO Know It

For my creative writing class I'm taking this semester, we had a unit on poetry. Now, I'm a macho man with macho tendencies, so I had a hard time coming up with poems. Just kidding. But please understand that these are all "Hey write a poem RIGHT NOW" type dealies. Okay? Okay.


Villanelle:

Like a friend, impatient, calling
Autumn has seen its time again
From the trees the leaves are falling.

Cold nights in blankets, dawdling
An urge to cuddle has been
Like a friend, impatient, calling.

Memories of the harvest we all sing
Colors change from green to red when
From the trees the leaves are falling.

Tractors in fields like insects crawling
Becoming gluttons and other sin
Like a friend, impatient, calling.

Cold hard rains of clouds a'bawling
Put umbrellas into the hands of men
From the trees the leaves are falling.

Then the wind my cheeks mauling
Sending foxes into their warming den
Like a friend, impatient, calling
From the trees, the leaves have fallen.

Pantoum:

Rain beat softly at the large pane window
The house was quiet and the world was calm
A drink in hand and a pen on the desk.
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.

The house was quiet and the world was calm
As the ice sank into the brown
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone
Away from everyone, even himself.

As the ice sank into the brown
The pen stayed on the desk.
Away from everyone, even himself,
He stared out into the world.

The pen stayed on the desk.
Not a word was wrote.
He stared out into the world
Rain beat softly at the large pane window.

Found Poem:

Our Fathers brought forth
A great civil war
far above our poor power.

We have come,
conceived in liberty,
created equal.
But in a larger sense,
the world will little note
us the living.


We cannot consecrate
under God
and that government.
It is rather for us to
perish from the Earth.

(All lines are from the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln)

Tanka:

The plexiglass roof
Keeps our Colombo alive
In Iowa cold.
But it keeps him close to ground
While the mute koi fish pace on.

Asian bamboo grows
Next to this African bird.
The distance, cut short.
But neither one knows better,
This is their flora of home.



Free Verse-ish Thing I did for workshop:

Vacant Lot
A broken bottle, shattered glass
A gum wrapper, wasteful trash
Broken concrete, a vacant lot.

No more purpose, hardly used
A sad heart, split and bruised
Broken soul, a vacant lot.

But a flower sprouts, amidst the trash
Amidst the ugly, surrounded by glass
A lone flower grows in this vacant lot.
A shred of hope from what was lost.
A rope of love, a lifeline tossed.

One must never forget a single fact-
We can only grow from where we're cracked.

So there's that, I guess. I have more fiction things from the beginning of the semester I can post, plus we're gonna be doing creative non-fiction, which I'll be a boss at. I might just reuse 85% of this blog.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Job Opportunities

I read this at an open mic the other night, and talked entirely too fast. So read this as slowly as you like, but please remember that it was written for performance. Thanks, yo. 

            It’s freakishly bright out. The sunlight, unhampered by any clouds, bounces off of the office paper, practically blinding me. I squint as my pen moves, scratching out words, adding notes. I’m wrapped up enough in the revisions and squinting tight enough against the glare that I don’t see him until he speaks.
            “Mind if I sit?” he asks me.
            I look around. Every other table on the Union rooftop is empty, despite the beautiful sunlight.
            It’s obvious that he wants something from me. I’ve spent years keeping my eye on my phone and earbuds in my ears to avoid clipboarders, but he’s managed to sneak under my defenses.
            “No,” I say reluctantly. Even knowing what kind of person talks to complete strangers, I’m too afraid that he’s someone I’m supposed to remember. High school, class, maybe some bartop best friend- my mental Rolodex spins furiously as he slides his bag off his shoulder.
            “You’re looking pretty good,” he says. “You must be working out.”
            I smile with only a corner of my mouth. He must know me from somewhere. “Yeah, uh, running a lot. You know.”
            “Oh, cool, cool. That must take a lot of work to get that energy up!” he says. He slams a protein shaker bottle onto the table, even though he looks skinnier than I do. I don’t say anything, settling for a casual bobbing of the head to indicate that I was, in fact, listening.
            “Finishing up homework?” he asks as if he was my roommate, full of assumed familiarity. Or maybe it’s genuine familiarity, but just one sided, thanks to my knack for forgetting faces. His is especially forgettable.
            “Uh, yeah,” I allow. It’s easier than telling him the truth- that I fancy myself a writer and am revising my own work that I can’t get relatives to look at.
            “It looks like writing!”
            Shit.
            “Yeah, uh… Yeah."
            My mind screams, flinging aside the file cabinet drawers full of irrelevant information in a frantic attempt to identify this guy. Andrew Johnson was impeached by the Radical Republican legislature in 1868. Petr Cech wears that stupid helmet because he fractured his skull on a goalpost. My girlfriend’s middle name is Elizabeth: all these files get tossed aside in the desperate search.
             I want his name, the police chief in my brain growls.
            “Ooh, writing! Is that your major?” The guy looks young enough to be a freshman, and only freshmen are dumb and lonely enough to try talking to strangers.
            “Nope, Social Science Education, to be a high school history teacher.”
            My mind’s given up. I’ve searched every file I have. It’s clear I don’t know him. It’s a relief that he doesn’t know me either. The relief doesn’t last, though, because now that I know he’s a stranger, we’ve returned to the root of the problem. What does he want?
            “Oh. Are you hoping to, like, do something professionally with that?”
            I blink. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?! My mouth answers as my eyes dart for a savior. Please, God, just someone else to rub this guy off onto.
            “Am I hoping to get a teaching job with this teaching degree? Yes. Yes I am.” Get away from this table, I think. I even look at my watch make sure the message gets across.
            “Hmm,” he says definitively. “Hmm.”
            I stare, bug eyed.
            “So, like-” Oh god, he’s searching for a new topic. I cut him off.
            “I’m sorry, but can I help you with something?” I ask. I don’t know how my voice sounds so calm.
            “Yeah, I was just seeing if you were interested-”
            My mind fills in the blank, ringing through the possibilities like a slot machine as it spins. Greek life. Your stupid club. Political movement. Jesus camp. Murder/suicide pact. WHAT IS IT?
            “-in making some extra money?” he finishes.
            Ugh. Pyramid scheme. I’ve heard this before; you buy a box of their product and then sell it to others at a profit. The logo on the side of his protein bottle registers in my memory. It’s that AdvoCare thing; Mary Kay for gym rats, or people pretending to be gym rats. I would rather have the murder/suicide one. “No thanks, I’ve got a job, class all day, training for a marathon…”
            “What if I told you time wasn’t a factor?”
            I facepalm mentally. “Well, I’m leaving town in the spring, so…”
            “It can follow you wherever you go!”
            He really isn’t getting this. “I’m flattered by your offer, but I’m sorry- I have a girlfriend.”
            He laughs. “You’re a funny guy, you’ll do great at this!”
            I level a venomous stare, hoping that he will learn that I’m not laughing with him. That my silence isn’t an invitation, but an indictment of just how badly I don’t want to speak with him.
            “What you would be able to do, here, is buy some nutritional supplements from me, then, find your friends-”
            “I don’t know much about working out!”
            He seems perplexed for a moment, but carries on nonetheless. “You said you were running a marathon, I’ve got tons of stuff that you could use and-”
            “I don’t use nutritional stuff when I run. Hell, I run in dress shoes. I like to keep it classy, you know?”
            “Well, if you get in on the ground floor on this, you’ll certainly do a lot better. In time and money!”
            I’ve had it. “Is it drugs? Are you dealing drugs?”
            “What?” He’s surprised, taken aback. “No, I’m not selling drugs. It’s just nutritional stuff.”
            “Well if it’s not drugs, then I’m not interested, sorry,” I say, and turn back to my writing.
            “Oh-kay…” he trails, and leaves lamely, his tail between his legs. As he glances around the rest of the rooftop for another sucker to interrupt, I can’t help but think how terrible of a salesman the guy was. I wouldn’t want to join any scheme he’s involved with.
            Screw revising, I think, and open my notebook to a new, fresh sheet of paper. I begin to write.

            It’s freakishly bright out.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Passing the Bar

Craig Marbury was a big shot corporate lawyer who had it all: money, cars, loose women; but the one thing he didn't have was love. He couldn't understand what he was missing until he met her- a public defender with a heart of gold.

Jennifer Madison couldn’t make time for anyone. Overwhelmed by her case load, she doesn’t have the hours in a day to make friends or meet people, and her sad squalid apartment is empty on days when she just wants to relax. She didn’t think she’d ever find someone to fill that apartment until she met the corporate lawyer with the chiseled jaw and fancy suits.

Introduced by their mutual friend, Plessy Ferguson, Marbury and Madison are initially at odds: will these two overworked lawyers make a motion- towards love?

When Jen goes on a date with each of the Scotts that Craig works with, he doesn’t know what to do. Not only just clean cut Scott, but she goes out with the one with dreadlocks too? If she’s willing to accept Dread Scott, maybe she isn’t for him!

But when he drives out to the Charles River Bridge, about to jump, she arrives just in time in a boat to talk him down into the shallow water. Now there’s only one way to get to land: Row with Jen or wade ashore himself! He chooses the boat, and they live happily ever after, together.

Coming this Fall, in: (Choose one)

Marbury vs. Madison
The Federal Just Us System
You’re On Her, I Object!
Habeas Corpus
Approaching the Bench
Conflict of Interest

Thank god the market is undersaturated with movies and shows about lawyers, so we'll really stand out!

Special thanks to @LegalDinosaur for help with jokes.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Beantown and the Big Apple: Days 5,6,7

            Well, I’m on my way home. Yes, yes, I know, I didn’t post anything about New York, but here’s the thing: I didn’t have any internet for the whole time. I wasn’t about to bring my laptop into the city just to spend my vacation time looking at a wifi signal. So, I’m waiting until now, riding back to Boston on the same train that brought me to NY.
            New York is possibly the most famous city in the world, and as such, has been written about countless times, by people much better than me. So I won’t spell out all my feelings on the city, and I’m going to combine all the days into one entry, mostly because I have cool titles for them.

            Day 4: Escape to New York

            So we left Boston on a train pointed directly into the heart of New York’s rail system, Penn Station. Then, we proceeded to keep going. It turns out that, in addition to literally everything else, hotels in New York are extremely expensive. So, instead of putting off the trip for another year to store up the necessary funds to get a hotel, my girlfriend contacted her great uncle who lives in New Jersey that she hasn’t seen in 7 years to ask if we could stay with them. Graciously, they accepted, and made plans to pick us up from a station in Newark.
            Quick sidenote: There’s no way that they didn’t name Newark so close to New York to try and confuse people. Newark is like the New York that your grandmother buys for your birthday from a bargain bin and you have to smile and thank her anyway.
            Anyway, we start down the escalator that will take us to the people picking us up, and only then do I think to ask my GF if she remembers what our hosts look like. “Well, kinda, I think,” she replies, and a piece of me dies. But it worked out, because a woman did one of those “Are you waving at me or the person behind me?” waves, and when we replied, it all worked out.
            We piled into their car and taken through what they described as a “twenty-five cent” tour of the city, which meant driving on major roads, pointing out but not stopping at things we may have heard of. We did get dropped off half an hour in so we could buy hotdogs while Uncle drove around the block. So, less than 45 minutes into my trip, I’d already had quality organic ingredients. MSG is organic, right? I’m not complaining, by that time in the day, I was starving.
            We weren’t very talkative to these two people that had the thickest accent I’d ever heard, mostly because our jaws were too far open to communicate effectively. Tall buildings, you guys. I don’t know what it is about tall buildings, but they’re a crowd pleaser.
            After the tour, we were taken to their house, a beautiful place in Glen Rock, NJ. Three of their grandchildren came over for dinner and somehow had thicker accents than their grandparents- “Can I getchya sumthin’ to duh-rink or will you just have wuhtah?” The kids were all our age, and after a trip to Wikipedia, we learned the difference between second cousins and cousins once removed and all that. They are second cousins, and it works like this. If you share a relative one generation up, parents, you’re siblings. Two generations up, grandparents, you’re cousins. Three generations up, great-grandparents, then you’re second cousins. Easy!
            Later, the three “cousins” and the two of us went to a trivia night in a nearby suburb. We did not go to New York that day, and I’m pretty okay with it, because the cousins were all boss as hell.

Day 5 and 6: I Would Walk 500 Miles

            So, now that we were settled in to New Jersey, we figured it was time to get to the heart of the matter and see some Big Apple, nah mean? So, rising early, we caught trains into the city. It’s amazing to think that you can see the New York skyline from the suburb we were staying at, but the time it takes to get into the city is the time it takes me to get from Cedar Falls to Ames. Big city livin’, folks.
            I don’t know how acquainted ya’ll are with NY geography, because I wasn’t at all. So I’m posting this map of Manhattan so you have an idea of what I’m talking about. I’m not trying to be “Oh, you poor uncultured swine have never been to the city,” I’m just trying to help. Just love me.
           

            So, we got into Penn Station, and decided that the first day, we’d go north, because that way lies Central Park, The Natural History Museum, and madness. I don’t know if you know this about maps, but everything is drawn very small. I don’t know why, they should just draw things life size so you know what you’re getting into, because it was a 40 minute walk to Central Park. Luckily, my GF had thrown fashion under the bus and wore running shoes, or I’d have carried her home.
            Central Park is pretty, the history museum is awesome. You should go there. I don’t have much to say, again, that hasn’t already been said by poets and whatever the world over. So I’ll skip that stuff.
            From the museum, we stopped in the Park again to do the rowboats because we were total tourists. Then, off to the U.N. building, also known as another hour of walking. The U.N. building wasn’t very exciting, because it’s just a building with flags outside of it. I don’t know what I expected, I’ll admit.
            You may be noticing that we aren’t taking New York’s famed subway in these stories. It’s because we have more time than money, and figured that subway tunnels are the same all over. In Boston, the trip was a much more obvious distance, because the city wasn’t so damn uniform. In NY, blocks on a map meld together to the point where they’re more suggestions than distance. So we walked.
            From the U.N. building, we decided to try to get to the top of the Empire State building. It was a three hour wait. We decided to go home.
            Waiting for us back at Glen Rock was a barbeque of my GF’s very-extended family. It sounds awful, but was actually very fun, because east coasters are amazing at keeping a conversation going. Like, a Midwestern gathering would lapse into awkward silence every once and awhile, but these east coasters always had a relevant comment or were able to twist the subject to one they did.
            After dinner, we went drinking with the cousins again. They know how to treat guests.
            The next day, we did the same train thing, and we should be commended for our expertise when we had to do it hungover. This time, from Penn Station, we went south to Freedom Tower and the 9/11 memorials. It was an hour and a half walk down. I’m not going to say much about the memorials, other than to say they were very beautiful and somber. Though I’m not much of a sacred subject kind of guy, I was still pretty mad at people taking pictures of themselves at the memorial. Whatever. On to Battery Park.
            Oh, first, on our way down south, we passed through NYU and saw the Washington Square Arch. It’s a really pretty park, arch, and fountain. Lots of people, as always. One person was playing the saxophone somewhere, and the music drifted everywhere. I felt like I was smack dab in When Harry Met Sally.
            Battery Park, the southern tip of Manhattan, gives you a small but still clear view of the Statue of Liberty. It’s about a twenty minute walk from the memorial. Needless to say, we went through a lot of America feelings pretty fast.
            At this point, we decided we’d seen enough of New York’s neighborhood system, having walked through midtown, the Villiage, Noho, Soho, Flatiron, a touch of Little Italy, Tribeca, and now the financial district in that day alone. So, we descended into that marvel of stinky engineering, the NY subway system.
            On the subway, we traveled to a neat little idea called the High Line, which is an old elevated rail track that the city has turned into a park. When the foliage is mature and casts shade, it’ll be great, but we’ll settle for good right now. The skinny, long park turned mostly into a single path so it felt like you were walking down any sidewalk in the city, but with plants next to you.
            We were exhausted by this point, naturally, but had made dinner plans with an acquaintance that had moved to the city earlier in the summer. So out to Brooklyn we went, to Park Slope, which I wanted to see when we were planning the trip, but had cooled on as I realized how friggin’ tired I was. We managed to stay awake until she arrived, when we had two drinks, then went back into Manhattan to head home. I can at least say I didn’t spend the entire time in one borough.
            The day was 14 hours long, most of it walking. There was no time spent with the cousins that night.

Day 7: It’s What’s Happening Now

            So, we’re up to date. I usually wait until the day is over to post about it, so as to get the full course of events under my belt and set in my head, but I’m doing this now, on the train back to Boston. Why? Because when we get to Boston, we’re buying the cheapest fast food we can find, and not doing anything.
            Look, I love travelling, I love seeing new people (seriously, the cousins were awesome) and places (Washington Square Park was beautiful). But holy crap I am ready to stop moving. I’m training for a marathon, as I am fond of saying, and my feet were sorer over the last two days than the last three months, combined. So, nothing will be happening after I get off of this train.
            In fact, this is the last part of the last entry. Tomorrow starts at 4:15am. We have to get a taxi to the airport because the public transit system doesn’t start that early. Then it’s the three hour flight back to Chicago, then the five hour drive home, and then it’s a year and a half of getting my bank account back into shape. So, needless to say, I’ll be crashing a little bit.
            So in that spirit, I’m going to try and add a conclusion to this rambling. When I went to Seattle and Portland, I compared the two cities, and even then it wasn’t exactly fair. Now, it would be downright insane to directly compare Boston and New York, but here I go.
            I think it’s great that both Boston and New York know exactly what they want to be. Boston clings to history as much as it can: the buildings are made of brick, historical sites are preserved as much as possible to the point that they are rented out in order to keep the exteriors, and one of their most major tourism attractions is dedicated to their city’s role in the revolution. It’s not annoying, it’s endearing, and I love it. The city also prioritizes green space to an almost obscene degree. Just about every block had one kind of park or another. It was beautiful.
            New York is also beautiful in a different way. Soaring glass and steel skyscrapers made the kid from Iowa gawk with his mouth open. The amount of different types of people coexisting is simply inspiring. One thing I noticed was the amount of people just chillin’, talking to some dude from their neighborhood. I thought that was really cool, that in such an unfathomably large place, people can still be friends. While Boston went for historical, NY put all its chips firmly into modernity, which is an equally valid track. Construction crews were omnipresent, constantly updating or repairing infrastructure. In our first trip to Central Park, half of one intersection was coned off for these repairs, and on our visit the next day, everything was completed. I was impressed.
           
            In closing, we all learned a lot from this trip. #1: Simply existing on vacation is super expensive. Bottles of water are key. #2: Public bathrooms need to be planned around. #3: A hotel next to public transit is worth the extra money. #4: Take a little time, if travelling with another person, to not be with that person. Stuff gets a little too close. #5: Oh my god guys everything is so pretty and awesome in planes, even if it’s going to be 6:30am. #5a: Coffee.


            I can’t thank my hosts in NY enough, they were amazing in helping feed us and pat us on the butt while we figured out train schedules, not to mention letting us sleep for free. Thank you for reading all of this, and if I can leave you with one thought, it’s that honking doesn’t actually accomplish anything. Thank you.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beantown and the Big Apple Day 3: I Walk the (Freedom) Line

            Our last day in Boston. My, how the time flies. Actually, each day seemed incredibly long, like Day 1 and Day 2. This day seemed even longer, though I’m not complaining, because today was almost exclusively walking. That’s right em effers—FREEDOM TRAIL.
            The Freedom Trail, not to be confused with the Freedom Trial (which is what Barack Hussein Obummer has turned this country into) is a five-or-six mile long path through downtown Boston highlighting important historical landmarks, most to do with the Revolutionary War. Hence the “Freedom” part. In case you’ve never ever read this blog before, let me explain something: Holy crap history you guys.
            Seriously. I’m not much of a “place” history buff as much as a slow, sweeping cultural trend history buff. Or maybe a person history buff. Or maybe a place history buff. But NOT a communist. I thought the Freedom Trail would be specially catered to the place history buffs, but I was wrong. Even though things like the site of the Boston Massacre were mostly just “Wow, I’m standing where this happened,” which, don’t get me wrong, is really cool, there were plenty of other places to be excited about other types of history.
            Like the graveyards. Seriously. Not because I was standing at the headstone of Ben Franklin’s parents, which, kinda yawn, but because you could look at the different graves and see so many things about history between the lines. For example, the number of childhood graves, or women buried with their babies because both died in labor tell you a lot about what it was like for families back in the day. In addition, the multiple spellings of everything remind you that language is a fluid thing, even if you use Fs in place of Ss and capitalize random things. The graves in Boston were old enough that you could see a progression towards modernity, starting with spelling it “lies” instead of “lyes” and dropping the English U.
            I’m not going to take you step by step, I promise, but one more thing I do want to mention about the Trail is I appreciated some sites’ frank attitudes about the ugliness of American History. King’s Church was a little bit more forgiving and positive about the whole “We totally owned people as property in this city for awhile” thing, listing how blacks could become members of churches and baptized, which certainly made them look better in the eyes of their ahem masters.
                However, Old South Church was very pleasantly honest about the whole thing. It juxtaposed the ideals of liberty and freedom that the Founders carried with the names of notable slaves. The Old South also functioned as a meeting hall long after the War of Independence, and the site had history up to World War One. So there were a lot of exhibits about how the Founders had fought for free speech and then immediately tried suppressing opinions they didn’t share.
Presented without comment
            This is all well and good, but agreeing with places isn’t interesting. Let’s see some conflict.
            I’ve developed a couple gripes with historical writing that tries to be politically correct. Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to use the same words that slaveholders used to describe their slaves because that’d be racist as all get out. But when talking about how slaves were treated, please don’t call them African-Americans. The country decided pretty awfully but firmly that slaves were anything BUT Americans. I’m not saying it’s right that they weren’t- I’m saying don’t try and fix it. Call them slaves, or Africans, or even blacks, but goodness gracious not African-Americans.
            Okay, moving past racially-charged talk, which I almost always try and avoid, let’s talk about why I hate Paul Revere. We all know he was famous for riding through the countryside exclaiming “The British are coming! The British are coming!” and what-not. That makes for a great American hero! EXCEPT HE DIDN’T DO THAT. Don’t get me wrong, he tried, but was arrested almost immediately after getting out of Boston. His two associates, Dr. Joseph Warren and William Dawes, escaped from the British and continued riding. He, on the other hand, did not, and returned to his house. Also, nobody would say “The British” were coming. They’d shout “The Royalists!” or something like it. Because, let’s remember, there’s no real country of America to belong to yet. Paul Revere and his compatriots wouldn’t consider themselves Americans, but Colonists.
            Look, I don’t hate the man Paul Revere. He gave it his all, got arrested for a cause he believed in, and continued fighting for that cause after. What I hate is the culture of worship around this dude when he was the LEAST SUCCESSFUL out of the three that did his same job.
            D’ya know why he’s revered (ha)? Because Henry Wadsworth Longfellow decided to write a poem about the event in 1860, which you might recognize as “Way The Hell After”, and decided that Revere rhymes a lot easier than Warren and Dawes.
            The first stanza reveals why it was a terrible, terrible idea to start writing history books about the poem like it was historical fact.
           
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year

            HARDLY A MAN IS NOW ALIVE. “Everyone who knows what happened is dead, so listen to me, a man whose Wikipedia page has no major scandals for Mick to harp on.” Writing about a historical event almost one hundred years after it’s happened is a recipe for disaster, and there’s no question that’s what’s happened here. But does anyone in pop history really care? Nope! Check these out:
 
Paul Revere, seen here pleading with the
British not to arrest him

Top: Guy that failed but has a easy-to-rhyme last name
Bottom: Guy who did his job.

            Ugh.
            So anyway, after a long grueling walk through history, which I might as well call this blog, we took the train back to our hotel. It was our last day in Boston, and it was well spent, even if we walked an hour to get to a restaurant that finally serves clam chowder. Not our finest moment.
            Boston, from what I’ve learned, is a pretty great city. The thing that stands out to me is how they mix history and modernity efficiently, if a little jarringly at first. The old Boston City Hall is now a steak restaurant and office building, because leasing the interior out allows the exterior to remain a historical landmark.
            I think that’s why I never really felt comfortable in the Back Bay where we stayed. Walking to the wharf or to the North End, everything felt lived in, every shop felt like a Boston institution, like it had always been there and always will be. Everything in the Back Bay felt kind of sterile and constructed. I finally get why people complain about gentrification, because while the twisting and intimate streets of Little Italy may be confusing or dirty, they actually feel like neighborhood, while the wide, clean streets of Back Bay feel like a group of apartments built next to each other.
            We’re off to New York on a train, which should be a pretty fantastic adventure. I just hope I get a chance to run; I haven’t exercised in almost a week. Training for a marathon doesn’t go very well without running, especially when you drink almost no water in place of beer, wine, and coffee. Oops. But, I hear tell that if I run around Central Park, I’ll have circumnavigated the equivalent of Vatican City, which is pretty neat.

            In closing, Paul Revere sucks, and you can quote me on that.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Beantown and The Big Apple: Day 2: Cloth Napkins and Train Tables

            Yesterday, I posted the story of my first day in Boston here. You could read that, if you haven’t, to get a bearing on where I am, and to a certain extent, why. I could also tell you now: I’m in Boston, because I want to be. It’s not rocket science, folks.
            So while yesterday dealt with plane rides and willy-nilly exploration, today was a well-planned adventure, like the first trip to the North Pole, or the top of Everest, except that most of my party didn’t die. We actually sat down in the morning, decided what we wanted to see, figured out how to get there, and then we went and did those things perfectly.
            First was a trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, located at the train stop “Museum of Fine Arts.” This place is hella beautiful. If there was a museum of museums, this one would be a premier exhibit. The architecture alone was breathtaking, not to mention the giant rotunda artwork. People in the northeast friggin’ love their rotundas, man, and I can see why.
            In addition to that, we got to see the Magna Carta in all its scribbled Latin glory. I don’t think I was impressed as you would expect from a history nut. I mean, I was more interested in the broadsheet copies and manuscripts of the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. The Magna Carta was a big deal—For nobles of England. That’s who that document protects. The famous “Clause 61,” which details how nobles can overrule the will of the king if they so choose, was pretty much thrown right back out when all the nobles left what we’ll call “killing distance” of the king. And yes, I know that the Magna Carta is a huge step in the gradual process of constitutionalism, which it’s why it’s pretty interesting. But it is only a step, which is why it’s only PRETTY interesting.
            There were also tons of other awesome crap. Like these things.
Pottery can be cool too

Two stories of colored glass? Sign me up!

See child for accurate scale of giant picture


Russian WWI Propaganda

Ah, propaganda. You're the greatest.


Bad news for your united Czechoslovakia in thirty years, guys

This painting was so giant that this is the FRAME.

            After the museum, we went to Harvard, the school. That was located on the Harvard train stop. You might recognize a trend in Boston; the train stops are located pleasantly near major things to see, and are named accordingly.
            It was weird to see Harvard, this internationally prestigious institution of education that’s been around since the seventeenth century, and know that some people actually go to school there. Like, in a couple weeks, there will be a freshman that will have to face seeing tourists every day after getting a C on a test. If you looked into the great ivy-covered brick halls of Harvard, you can see the box fans that people use to stay cool. Like my omnipresent but not omnipotent god, you know all about the dorm life of college students, but have a really hard time applying that to what you know about Harvard.

            My only regret is because the whole thing is a tourist attraction, the buildings all need an ID to enter, so I didn’t get to poop anywhere on campus. I settled for cropdusting the people taking a picture with the statues.
            Then, after a fancy and delicious lunch that brought my girlfriend back from the point of tears for how hungry she was, we were off to the science museum. We only had a shortish amount of time; dinner reservations at 7, and it was around 2. After switching train lines a couple times, we made it to Science Park station.
            Also, quick interjection. We’re awesome at public transit. Pat and I may have used trolleys or even buses in Seattle, but my girlfriend and I were using subways like we’d always grown up in towns almost more populous than our state. I know that it’s really easy to read the chart once you know how to do it, but come on, let us have this. We’re also magically adept at getting to the station right as the train we need pulls up. Now we just need to work on being right next to the doors when it finally stops.
            So we only have around three hours of museum time before we need to haul back to get ready for dinner, and we discover that the tickets are $23. We had paid that much for the MFA, but $23 is a little steep for threeish hours. So back to the train line we went! Yay!
            A quick rest later, and we were all dressed up for dinner at Antico Forno, an Italian restaurant in the Little Italy-ish North End. That meal was delicious, and in true “You’re in a fancy restaurant” fashion, took forever. Oh well.
            The oddest thing about the Little Italy trip, though, was the celebration of St. Agrippina, a Sicilian martyr. The neighborhood hosts a feast in her honor every year, and apparently this was the hundredth year of the tradition. We walked up to the restaurant and were greeted with one of those most surreal sights I’d ever seen. A dozen young men in matching polos were carrying a litter with the statue of St. Agrippina. They would dance back and forth, march forward and backward, but the whole time a tiny little marching band was playing. The bass drummer had a cigarette in his mouth. The statue was loaded with single and five dollar bills, so much so that I couldn’t see what the actual color of the statue was. One man climbed up onto the litter and hung another wreath made of single dollar bills on the statue, and everyone cheered. What the money went to, I don’t know. I just know that I saw something SUPER Italian happen, and it was pretty great.
            Little Italy was fun in itself. The streets are tiny and winding, everything feeling more like an alley than a street, especially with the bumper-to-bumper parking on the sides of the street. It felt very intimate instead of intimidating, colorful instead of garish. As opposed to the Back Bay area, where our hotel is, which feels so ultra-rich as to be foreboding. The North End neighborhood we were in felt actually lived in instead of visited, alive in the way that the Back Bay feels sterile and cut off.
            But hey, I’m not making any new observations that Jack on the Titanic hadn’t.

            Tomorrow is our last full day in Boston, and it’s the Freedom Trail. Aw hecka yuh. History blastin’ at ya.