Thursday, October 20, 2011

I probably shouldn’t be writing about this

Today Alla and I had lunch at the restaurant run by a local cooking school. They serve a three-course lunch from a very interesting menu for $10 per person. They also serve dinners for $12 per person, but we couldn’t get any reservations until December so we settled for lunch. They warned us not to expect perfection, because it’s a school. Sure enough, the waiter dropped my dessert on his way to the table. No problem: He brought me another one right away.

They certainly didn’t make any serious mistakes with the food. Wow, we really loved it. In fact, we made lunch reservations once a week for every week when we’re in town and they have students. We got a dinner reservation too, for their last week before Christmas break. Apparently some people who live near the school eat there three times a week and they’ve already booked most of the slots.

That’s why I’m not sure I should be mentioning this in my blog. I don’t want anybody else in Boston to know about it, but since I think most of my readers live elsewhere I’ll let you see a few pictures of our food.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Silent Sunday

I thought it would be fun to do something sufficiently interesting to write about every day this week. But on Sunday I didn't.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Super Saturday

I liked yesterday even better than Friday. I started out at church, working on projects I’d prepared for over several days. I’m co-chair of the Maintenance and Property committee, and my partner and I gathered the troops to think about our five-year plan. The two years previous I didn’t manage to get everybody’s input on the long-term plan and I kept turning in documents I’d prepared with very little help and, honestly, insufficient information.

This year everybody managed to stay focused on the main project with only a little pressure from me. I think it’s the best five-year plan we’ve ever produced, and I’m proud of us all for our success. Following that initial success, we set in on a list of projects we’d agreed on for a church work day. A bunch of other church members came to join us, and together we produced obvious results. One group polished all the pews while another group polished up the Sunday School tables and undertook other deep-cleaning projects in the Sunday School. Meanwhile, I cleaned out the accumulated clutter from our coat room and from the Sunday School balcony. It’s impossible not to notice how much better things look.

After lunch I went out for my first bike ride in several days. I’d been prevented from riding by general business with guests from out of town and later by rain. Yesterday, however, I rode like a locomotive. I noticed in the middle of my ride that I was hitting the hills harder than usual and feeling great. I decided to see how fast I could go all the way home, and held my pace all the way.

Finally, we had a delightful evening with our friends John and Rebecca. Rebecca grew up in a family of Mexican immigrants, and she cooked us a traditional Mexican dinner with homemade corn tortillas. I love fresh corn tortillas, almost as much as I love Rebecca and John. (When I’m hungry, maybe I love the corn tortillas even more.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fun Friday

Yesterday we went to see Kings of Salsa at a nearby theater. I hadn’t been sure I even wanted to go, but when we found a way to buy some half-price tickets we figured we’d give it a shot. The last time we went to a salsa-music concert we became bored by repetitious music and were afraid it would happen again. It didn’t. We definitely were not bored.

For starters, our seats turned out to be quite good. Our half-price entry got us into the center of the mezzanine, far enough away that the music wouldn’t be painfully loud but still close enough that we could see well. This was our first experience buying half-price tickets from Goldstar, and we’re impressed that we got decent seats. With other agencies, our half-price tickets generally led to the worst seats in the house.

We both loved the show. The group played a variety of salsa styles, and accompanied nearly all of the music with fabulously-beautiful dancing. These folks didn’t count out standard eight step patterns, but performed far more complex pieces reminiscent of modern dance based on classical fundamentals. Alla liked the show so much that she tried to get a ticket to see the show again today, though she didn’t succeed.

We did see a little standard eight-step salsa after the intermission. They invited the audience onto the stage, and a cast of brave dancers took them up on it. The master of ceremonies asked some of the best dancers about themselves. The first guy said that his name was Andrew and he came from Belarus. We had noticed a few people speaking Russian in the lobby and knew anyway that the audience would include Russians because we see them at every cultural event in Boston. So the Russians began to applaud. I probably made more noise than the rest of them, however. I found myself yelling at the top of my lungs, “BELARUUUUUS!” People turned to look.

After the audience members cleared from the stage, the band invited a local musician to sit in with them. A Cuban professor of piano at Berklee College of Music came up and offered us a completely different interpretation of salsa style. The party never really ended. The troupe performed the planned second half of the show, said goodbye, and then apologized to the theater management and kept right on playing. We stayed until they decided they’d really better quit, perhaps before the big shots decided to shut off the lights. We loved it so much that Alla decided it was her favorite show of the whole year.

From 2011-10 Boston

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tourists in our own city

We’ve had friends in town, which motivated us to get out and see some stuff we ordinarily take for granted. It turns out we live in a pretty great city.

My favorite of our tourist adventures was the day we rented a car and drove out to the Berkshires. Alla and I haven’t been there in two or three years, and we really enjoyed coming back. It’s the most mountainous part of Massachusetts, and the hills are peppered with small towns that haven’t changed much in a hundred years. OK, they’ve changed some. But they’re incredibly quaint.

We went out there on Friday, just before Columbus Day Weekend. We chose Friday in order to avoid the crowds, and we generally succeeded. We saw lots of tour buses in Stockbridge, but that’s the only place we overlapped the leaf peepers. (“Leaf peepers” is New England slang for the tourists who arrive every autumn to see the fall colors. I suppose we use the term just a bit sharply because they’re the ones who clog up the roads for the rest of us.)

We strolled through several small towns and crisscrossed the grounds of Tanglewood where the Boston Symphony takes up summer residence. Bryant and Sam don’t generally walk as much as we do, and were pleased to discover the joys of travel by foot. We’re happy that they took our preferences in stride.

We finally left the Berkshires at just before 5:30 p.m. and estimated that we’d be home for dinner by 7:30. Unfortunately, others apparently shared our desire. Cars choked the turnpike and we drove long stretches at pathetically low speeds. Oddly, occasionally we’d hit a patch where we could drive at normal highway speeds but never for very long. I don’t understand how those fast areas open up in a road that’s generally choked, but I’m grateful that we had them. Still, I felt pretty exhausted by the time we got home, and we scaled back our dinner plans dramatically as a result.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oktoberfest, Cambridge style

As in Germany so in Cambridge, folks gather for Oktoberfest — a chance to hang out together, eat and listen to music. I understand the German version may involve a little more beer than the Cambridge version, but I’m pretty confident that nobody beats our musical scene.

I volunteered to work at my church’s bookstore / reading room after church this afternoon, so Alla came to Cambridge with some sandwiches for us to eat together before I opened for business. Since the reading room is right in the middle of Oktoberfest, she didn’t manage to leave the area until well after I finished my three-hour shift. I got to spend a couple of hours there too, and had a very good time. Alla kept coming back to the reading room to tell me about arts and crafts she liked. I liked them too, but I didn’t get any pictures of them.

I did get quite a few pictures of bands and band members. Some of the band uniforms bore some similarity to conventional school band uniforms, but most of them were unified only by color schemes and general freakiness. I’m not sure the music would have sounded so good without the ridiculous uniforms, but we found them generally quite listenable and certainly very amusing.

I also enjoyed a participatory art project by an organization trying to solicit good ideas for the betterment of society. I visited this organization’s web site and found it pretty empty, but today’s project worked out well. They passed out blank sticky notes and marking pens, asking people to write down what makes them happy. I wrote down “eye contact” and put my note as high as I could reach. (Mine is the highest blue one, but not the highest note of all. In fact, somebody beat me by about a meter.)
There are more pictures in my album