Friday, October 31, 2008

The city that never sleeps kept me awake, too (Volume III)

It was a very, very cold morning that we rose early to make our way to Boston's South Station for our NYC departure. We rode the T there, which, as I mentioned before, is dirty and antiquated through much of downtown. But to be fair, they were undergoing extensive renovation, and much of the dirt and grime was due to construction. I think they're going in much the same direction that NYC's Metro is headed: artful mosaics with modern features, though harkening to a more elegant time.

Some of the lines are a little more modern, but for the most part they look like something unexpectedly hung over from an earlier, simpler era. The cars have that rounded sort of art-deco look, with chrome accents and bright colors. We used the Green line mostly, which is America's oldest subway line.

Much of what I enjoyed about our Boston experience was that the city was easily navigable. I never once was lost when we were in Boston. I always knew with just a hint of a map which way we should head. It's too bad we were only there for two days and that much of those two days was held captive to baseball (though it was really great baseball, and those two games that would go on to forecast much of the the ALCS championship). I was thinking about our trip thus far, and this is what I wrote in my travel journal, my Moleskine:

It's been an OK trip so far, but I'm excited about finally going somewhere and doing a few things that Dave hasn't yet done or seen. I feel kind of lashed, haphazardly, to Dave's plans, and what he wants to show me. Along with the lack of sleep, I'm a little bitter.

But one amazing thing is how Boston has this palpable grit. I kept thinking about how you might truly experience the city, and it really is best through your feet, in subway cars, your butt in Fenway's Grandstands and your back stretched out in a sunny spot on a grassy patch near the Frog Pond in Boston Common after a lunchtime brew.

So, we got to Boston's South Station pretty early, which was OK. Gave Dave and I plenty of time to eat our Dunkin' bran muffins and drink our coffee (I asked for Splenda with skim, and they were happy to oblige this time). The South Station pretty much set the bar for the other Amtrak stations: It was clean and easy to navigate, lots of friendly people around to ask questions, and lots of seating available, with easily accessible and well-lit newsstands. It even had wifi.

We hung out and waited for our train to be called, and Dave was much less nervous than we were before departing DFW for Logan, mostly because riding on a train was much less dangerous (statistically) than flying (or driving for that matter). I was just stoked to ride on Amtrak. I never had before, but my grandmother took my brother and my oldest sister to Dallas to see the Ramses exhibit many years ago via Amtrak.

Our train is called, we stow our small, small bags, dig out our iPods and off we go.

I wish I had taken pictures of our ride from Boston to NYC, other than the obligatory ones of viewing Manhattan for the first time. But if it's any consolation, this is what I wrote in my Molskine:

Sure, I like warm weather, endless azure water, white sands and an island's warm breezes that lazily your bare legs, and yet, cool mornings on the eastern coast, taking a ride on a train down New England to New York, stokes a hunger for thick cable sweaters, sailboats and long piers into a quiet bay, clapboard houses cheery in their idyll lawns, shining like a mirage, quaint and beautiful.

In the plans I always make for the lottery money I'll never win, there is a seaside home in Mystic, Conn.

And finally, we were in NYC.


We arrived at Penn Station just before lunchtime. Penn is a huge, dirty, disgusting port of arrival. I was immediately disenchanted when we got there. I began to think that if this part of NYC is this gross, then the rest is likely the same. I wasn't that far off.

We were staying in a small hostel on the Upper West Side, which is a neat, sleepy little area. We rode the Red Line up to 86th I think, and then stared about at the city, looking lost and Texan. A nice Jewish man took pity on us. He gave us directions and then suggested a decent place for us to eat. We thanked him for his hospitality and then made way to the hostel.

I was rather disillusioned by our accomodations. We are budget travelers, but even as budget travelers in NYC, I atleast expected a mattress that wasn't sunken in the middle. The room was equipped only a shitty bed and a table. It was definitely a situation that you don't really hang out in, accommodations for those who intend to see the city, and not the inside of their hotel room.

We were both dreadfully hungry, so we headed over to the Fairway cafe and market that the nice Jewish man suggested, and lo and behold, him and his lunch mate were both there, seated at a corner table near a window. We went over and said hello, asked what they might suggest (turkey burger or the salmon) and then bid them both adieu.

We sat, got situated, ordered coffee and our dinners (Dave had the turkey burger with swiss, I had the mediterranean vegetable plate, both were very good). We then started hatching our plans, when Jewish man and his friend decided to stop by and see what we were planning on doing (I guess having our guidebooks and maps sprawled all over the table, dodging the coffee with them, invites locals to sit down for a chat).

They said that we should avoid ground zero or any area south of TriBeCa, but we were determined to see Ground Zero. They relented, although saying that we'd most likely regret it (they were right).

So, we arrived in NYC on 9/11. This was just a casualty of arranging a vacation around baseball games. We were catching Tampa Bay on a road trip between the Red Sox and the Yankees, so it wasn't like we planned on getting into NYC to see Ground Zero, but we did anyway.

It was a really weird experience, and not one that I'd recommend. I figured we'd see a little bit of progress on the construction of what is supposed to be America's living monument to 9/11, the Freedom Tower. It was little more than a concrete hole in the ground, swarming with people who were there to see something, though were unsure of what. Just our luck that Barack Obama and John McCain were both visiting on that day, so there were dozens of news crews there as well, only compounding the melee.

There were also protesters. (More irony on that front, later).


And we saw a few things beyond the hordes, too. Like this sculpture.


It looks familiar for a reason: we have one in Dallas, too, outside the Dallas Museum of Art.

There were several interesting things to see and to shoot in the area around Ground Zero, even if Ground Zero itself was a big let down.

There was a gorgeous Episcopal church on Wall St. called St. Paul's Chapel, the home of Trinity Episcopal.



It had this fascinating sculpture in the courtyard, which was a bronze cast of a tree uprooted by the 9/11 attacks.


There was also a flag memorial in Battery Park. It was touching, but was also swarming with tourists. Not my bag, but a decent photo op.


But this is my favorite shot of the day.


We were both spent, and we decided to get a beer and some dinner at Famous Original Rays.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I will post another episode about our trip very soon...

... but I'm in the middle of a existential pseudo-crisis.

Please be patient!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In case you couldn't figure out what to get me for Christmas ...

I know this is awfully presumptuous, but since I'm already knitting Christmas gifts for my loved ones, I bet they're wondering what lovely thing they could get me this Christmas/Birthday. A few ideas:

A set of two poach pods.

A mandoline slicer.

A food grinder/slicer attachment kit and a pasta maker kit for my kitchen aid stand mixer.

A juicer.

A set of 2.5mm and 3 mm Harmony Wood double pointed knitting needles.

A food scale.

And a gift card to KnitPicks, for yarn, of course. :D

Oh, and you know, I like fabric, too, so how about a gift card to Ikea and one to Joann's?

I know I sound greedy, but people, I have dreams. Domestic ones.

Monday, October 13, 2008

With my bare hands

I hear that a lot of people did fun things this weekend. A few people went to the UT/OU Red River Rivalry game at Fair Park, others went to the State Fair of Texas just for kicks. Others even went to the movies and hung out and had drinks with friends. What did I do, dear readers?


I built a new run for our flock of SIX hens.


It has a full-sized door. Now I don't have to crouch on hands and knees to give the gals food and water.


I also painted the exterior to resemble the magnificent Fenway Park.


The girls are loving it!

I couldn't have done it without the patience and understanding of my dear husband, Dave. Thanks babe!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

To collapse in a heap, Episode 2

So, I left off where Day 1 in Boston ended, but there are a couple of things I left out: We had to get up ungodly early to catch the shuttle to the airport, so by the time we were done with dinner and about to head over to Fenway, I was exhausted. I've never done this, but I fell dead asleep on the hotel bed, face-down, and stayed right there for an hour and a half. That's crazy tired.

So, when the game was over that night, I was ready for bed. Besides that, we had to get up kinda early to see a few sights before our Fenway Park tour. Since there's a Dunkin' on every corner in Boston, we grabbed breakfast and coffee (there coffee is surprisingly good, but I forgot to ask for splenda instead of sugar with my coffee, so it was ridiculous sweet, but good nonetheless).

We ate, walked around Yawkey Way and the neighborhood nearby, where there is a community garden that was so cool. Since I live in a state best known for its wide-open spaces, I had never been familiar with not having my own backyard. Some of the plots were beautiful, with koi ponds and climbing roses. Others had neat little rows of veggies, and maybe a stool to sit on and contemplate.

We headed back to the Fenway area, which is so neat because the ballpark is literally carved into the neighborhood. In the area we saw:


Manny Who? (Shortly after Manny Ramirez left Boston for the greener pastures of LA)


So, we went on a very cool tour of Fenway Park with a very knowlegeable young lady named Christina (I think) and we got to go to some really cool areas of the park that I'd probably never get to go unless I bought a heinously over-priced ticket to be there.


From the top of the right-field deck ...


From the 406 club boxes looking at the retired numbers (this was before they retired Johnny Pesky (# 6)...


And of course...


From the left-field foul pole atop the Green Monster.


Best. Tour. Ever.

So, from Fenway we decided to go to Cheers after a beer at the Cask n' Flagon. We also thought we would walk, which is very ambitious because it's REALLY FRIGGIN' FAR!


We got to Cheers, and of course, it was packed. Nobody knew our names, either. Well, besides Norm, nobody knew us.


We hung out for a while with the Cheers gang ...


And then we went on a stroll through Boston Commons.





And then we did some window shopping. I then spied a yarn store!


Then we hoofed it back to a subway station and made it back to our hotel to change and get ready for the game. So, we get to the ballpark and there's all sorts of crazy fun going on.


And Dave and I are drinking a few Octoberfest Sam Adams and we start to get really hungry. We're standing in the beer line, though, not the food line (priorities?) when this guy gets in line behind us with THREE sausage dogs, done up just like I like 'em (plenty of peppers and onions with spicy dijon mustard). Dave turns around and asks him where he got the dogs, and the guy says "You can have this one for $5." Now, I don't know about you, but I have this thing about second-hand food/drink. So we just laughed it off. But the guy was serious. Which is kinda gross. His friend shows up and we all start joking around and Dave says we're from Texas, and the guy says, "I'd have never guessed! You don't sound Texan, but you [me] do a little." WTF? No one says I have an accent. If I have a Texas accent, then Dave sounds like one of the Waltons.

Anyway. We get dogs, we couch our asses down in our excellent seats, and we proceed to watch the longest game I've ever attended. It was 14 innings. Fourteen riveting innings.

I once saw Josh Beckett pitch when he was still in high school, pitching for the Spring Lions. He's still got it.


And we saw Terry Francona get up in an official's face ...


and we saw Kevin Youkilis and his funky stance.


But nothing was more beautiful than cheering with the dedicated fans of Boston for 14 innings. We lit up Fenway until we couldn't anymore.


After that, it was showers and bed, because we had to get up early for the journey to NYC.

More on that, next time...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Planes, trains, automobiles and baseball: Chapter 1

Looking back on what I have started calling "Baseball Odyssey 2008," I now realize that it was a once-in-a-lifetime gig, and that I didn't take enough pictures (I took over 700, yet still that ended up not being enough). I had a great time going places I've never been and eating/drinking things I've never consumed/imbibed, but there's one thing that I can't quite reckon with: Why didn't we just stay in upstate NY? There's plenty of homes for sale...

Anyway. Just as an overview, it went like this: Tusday morning we left D/FW International Airport for Boston. After two days in Boston we left via Amtrak headed to NYC. After three days in NYC we headed to Albany via Amtrak, rented a car at Albany International Airport and drove to Cooperstown, NY. After three and a half days in Cooperstown, we drove back to Albany and departed from Albany Int. to Chicago O'Hare for a (woefully unavoidable) three-hour layover, and then departed Chicago for D/FW.

Now, We left for Boston from D/FW on Tuesday Sept. 9, the fucking day before Hurricane Ike decided to wipe Galveston off the Texas Gulf Coast and shortly after Hurricane Gustav gave Baton Rouge, La., a run for its money. So, needless to say, there was a lot of stormy weather on the coast. Also, with stormy weather comes bumpy flights. Did I mention that Dave doesn't fly all to well. He took a Xanax before we took off, but I still have some slight bruises on my thigh from where he was gripping my leg like it was the only thing keeping him in the plane.

So we land in Boston, ditch our stuff at the hotel after a rather hot and unpleasant subway ride, hop on another subway headed toward the government district area thingy (near city hall) only to find the warm, sunny weather we encountered upon landing in Boston had all the sudden turned into this:


Seriously, in this picture the rain is actually coming down sideways. So, I think to myself, "Self, you've got a new bag on and nothing to keep you dry other than the fleece jacket you just happened to grab before leaving the hotel. You're wearing clogs and long pants, too. You're going to be soaked. Why not wait it out a bit, hm?"

So we waited, at least until I couldn't stand the hunger any longer and the rain at least wasn't nearly so horizontal. We made a mad dash for the Union Oyster House, huddled in a booth and had the best clam chowder I've ever tasted, some oysters on the half shell, and we split some kind of fish casserole that was pretty tasty.

While we're both filling up on good food and the freshest Sam Adams I've ever had, we asked the waitress if the rain is going to clear in time for the Red Sox/Rays game. She said, "Oh yeah, of cowahse. This is nahthin'!" If I've learned anything from my travels, it's trust the locals. I'll be damned if it didn't clear up just before game time. There was a little sprinkling during one of the middle innings, just before the seventh-inning stretch, too, but it was nothing since we were sitting under the covered portion of the grandstands, which happens to be one of the best places to watch the Sox play.


Here, you see the beginnings of my vacation sock. I pretty much took it everywhere, and had it almost finished by the time we touched down back in Dallas. Is it shameful that it took me almost a full week to finish one sock? Maybe, but I don't care. Every time I put on these socks (once they're done, of course) I'm going to be reminded that one of them has been on a journey with me. Pretty cool!

So, our first night in Boston was pretty great, with the exception of the fact that the Sox lost and that it rained. It was Fenway Park, really, that puts you in a good mood no matter what the game's outcome. That ballpark seems alive. Or perhaps it's the fans that make it seem that way. Whether a favorable call, a base hit, as run on a sac fly or the amazing homerun that Jason Bay hit off of the Green Monster while we were there, the people around you, these complete strangers, are there to cheer and to celebrate and to watch this great game with you. From the press box to the box seats, Sox fans make Fenway Park breathe. They give it a voice of its own. It's like nothing I've ever seen.


Next Post, Day two in Boston...