Wednesday, February 22, 2017

TREKKING THE FARM

Snowshoeing again today.  Another perfect spring day invades winter as my school break extravaganza continues.  I drive to Maine for a day of lazy, crazy sisterly activities with the sibling I had to share a room with for seven years.

My Maine sister lives about two miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, maybe less.  I have walked a 5k along the beach near her house, and we have paddled kayaks out through the inlet and into the mouth of the ocean.  Near to her house is a reserve in Wells, Maine, called Laudholm Farm.  This is a natural estuarine research reserve that spans 2, 250 acres, and boasts seven-or-so miles of interlooping trails that lead through the woods, to the salt marshes, to the ocean, and to each other.

Today we trek to one salt marsh and to the ocean.  The sky is bright blue, and the sun is strong.  We cover half of the trails before we decide to conquer the main field with its rolling sledding slope.  Cutting a trail across open land, the only things behind us are the crusty trails, beaten down by overzealous winter people, and our snowshoe prints in the snow from our off-trail exploration.

Spring can come, or Spring can go.  I wouldn't mind more snow this season, and I wouldn't mind some warmth. either -- snow to make the snowshoe trip possible, and warmth to make it spectacular. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

PAHKING THE CAH AND OTHER CAMBRIDGE ANOMALIES

My pals and I decide to take a spontaneous lunch trip to Cambridge.  The weather is gorgeous, so it's great to be outside.  I'm always up for a spontaneous adventure.  Truth be told, I'd rather do spontaneous than mark something on my calendar -- I'm much better when I don't have time to think through my decisions.  "That sounds great!" with ten minutes to spare is a hell of a lot easier for me than, "Gee, that sounded great two weeks ago.  Now I'd rather just stay home."

Anyway, we spontaneously decide that we need a burger, and we're a little bored with our usual trek into Boston's Seaport, so we weave our way into Cambridge.  I know most of the way in because of a judo club my boys attended near Union Square in Somerville.  I'm not driving today, though, so I help navigate from the back seat.

The main problem with Cambridge is that parking sucks.  Well, honestly, the main problem with Cambridge is that it's full of crazy social justice warriors who have lots of cash and very little brain cells.  Secondly, however, parking sucks.  We drive around searching for spots and get rejected at the garage because it's full.  For anyone who claims to "pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd," that's really an anomaly because there are no spots to be had in the Yard nor anywhere else.  The garage guy directs us to another lot down the street, and for a mere $24 (not including tip), we can park via valet for a couple of hours.  Talk about bending over and taking it.  So, apparently parking alone is worth a pound of flesh.  (Where's Portia when I need her?)

We walk about a half a mile to Boston Burger Company.  The walk isn't the problem; the problem is the crowd.  There are so many people here, it's crazy.  Even crazier is the idea that Harvard Square, the Jewel in the Crown worn by the young hipsters who do not know any better, is actually a bit of a dump.  Oh, sure, it is littered with high-end stores that sell patchouli-smelling woven blankets leftover from the seventies and sold by people with straggly long hair who haven't bathed in decades and wear only gauze clothing with fringe.

But, it is also littered with homeless people.  It disgusts me that in a Sanctuary City of SJWs these homeless people are begging, living, and sleeping right out in the open in broad daylight.  We are walking around them and stepping over them to get to the burger place.  Cambridge is the city that is packed with people who want to be SJWs as long as it's NIMBY.

Throngs of people are pushing along the sidewalks, and idiots are jogging through it all, smacking directly into people without any concern that maybe one shouldn't try to run the gauntlet when thousands of people are packed like sardines on conveyor belts moving down the walkways like the Great Molasses Flood, only with skin.  We are swept up to the crosswalk to get to Boston Burger Company, make our way to the opposite side of Mass Ave, and are thrilled to discover no line at the restaurant.

We get seated in the back because I insist on not sitting anywhere near children.  I am on school break, and by "break" I mean it will break my spirit if I am near school-aged children for the first forty-eight hours of decompression.  My pals and I order local beer on tap: Harpoon Spring Pale Ale (highly recommend this).  Then comes the menu.

There are many amazing burgers on this menu.  I end up with the Killer Bee, a burger smothered in barbecue sauce, and topped with several deep-fried onion rings, large to small, creating what looks like a beehive on my burger.  I have to put the top bun on and squish everything down in order to start attacking it.  The cole slaw is pretty good, but the homemade potato chips are absolutely outstanding.

On the way back to the car, we stop into Harvard Square's Out of Town News to check out some of the newspapers they carry, which are far and wide and even foreign, only to find out they don't sell the newspapers anymore -- just local and the NY Times.  Lame.  So damn lame.  Sure, everything is online now, but there's something about having the print right there in  one's hands.  Alas, it is not to be.  Out of Town News should change its sign to Out of News Town.

We try everywhere to find some ice cream because the line at JP Licks is ridiculously long, but the only other shop advertising ice cream is actually a hole in the wall that has a couple of prepackaged chocolates for sale and looks more like a bookie's office than a real store, especially with the old guy sitting alone at the table with nothing but a phone and a folded up piece of paper.

Back to the car we go, pay the highway robbery fee, tip the valet, and get out of Dodge.  The GPS takes us the long way home, around to the west and over instead of straight north and back through Somerville, but we get a lovely tour of Cambridge's lusher side, the side where people in their glass and mahogany houses preach to us common folk about the importance of taking in more needy, all the while stepping on or over the ones we already have.

The burger is definitely worth the trip, and Cambridge does have some eclectic architecture.  I'm not sure I feel the need to go back any time soon.  It has been over two decades since my last trip in to Harvard Square, and it may well be that long again before I go back.  Probably take me that long to save up enough quarters to pahk my cah again, anyway.

 

Monday, February 20, 2017

56 AND CLIMBING

56 and climbing.  This is today's temperature, right on the heels of several snowstorms and sub-zero wind chills.  The sun is out, and it's like late spring has plopped itself right in the midst of February.

People are outside.  As a matter of fact, it seems like everyone is outside. 

People are driving around with the tops down on their convertible cars.  This may be folly because the warmth is melting the snow, so the roads are wet with rivulets of water, sending spray up and into the open cars.  I see a man in his semi-ice-covered driveway, washing his car with a hose.  Throngs of runners are enjoying the day despite the fact that they are running far into the street due to snowbanks.  Short sleeved shirts are everywhere, people are wearing light shoes without socks, outdoor tables are crowded with patrons anxious to eat outside in the fresh air, and windows are open on cars and in houses.

Thursday it might hit 60.  In New England, that's considered bathing suit weather.

I don't know where winter is right now, but I do know Mother Nature is fickle.  Things can be and will be worse, and the very worst probably hasn't even begun to play with us yet.  For now, I'm going to get outside, breathe the air, and enjoy this brief preview of the spring to come.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

WINTER'S WONDER OF SNOW

For some masochistic reason, I decide to go snowshoeing this morning.  I have been exhausting myself at work, so I slept a reasonably solid eight-plus hours the night before.  I see the sun is out and there's a short thaw heading this way, so if I am going to get outside, today would be a great day to do that.

I suspect that heading out into the forest by myself is not the brightest idea.  I used to live in the woods when I was a kid.  I had an unrealistic fear of the Boogey Man roaming the trails, but I also had a realistic fear of falling branches and errant wild animals crossing my path.  My town is loaded with trails, but I am unfamiliar with a large percentage of them, and some of the ones closer to my house cross swamps.  The possibility of me taking a wrong showshoe turn into an unfrozen bog while all alone is too strong for me to go on a forest adventure today.

I want something a little more exciting than an open field, though.  Much like I bore easily at walking and running in circles, I see no need to snowshoe in circles, either.  I head up to the church cemetery that backs up to one of the large reservations.  This is a multi-faceted cemetery; it has open spaces, woods, flat areas, a pond, an inspiration garden area, and an old chapel with Tiffany windows.  Best of all, it's close enough to the street to be a safe balance between nature and the emergency room should I do anything stupid like break an ankle or get whacked by a tree limb.

This cemetery is a popular walking and cross-country skiing area, so I am surprised when I strap on my snowshoes and trek up and over the snow bank.  All I see is pristine snow, untouched and unbroken by anyone else's footprints.

I start across the open area when I see bunny tracks.  Apparently a bunny lives (or, in this case, lived) under a bush here, and it looks like it came out to explore.  It also looks like it might have been chased as its tracks go round and round then snake out about thirty feet where they suddenly disappear.  It seems like the bunny just vanished into thin air, which probably means a hawk got it.  That might explain the frantic circular pattern around the bush, as well.

I see more tracks when I near a small grove of trees.  I think I see dog tracks, but the paws are larger and a little wider.  I doubt they are bobcat tracks, but who knows.  This place does back up to a busy road on one side, town conservation land on the other.  I also see some tracks that look like razor cuts in the snow.  I surmise these to be eagle or hawk tracks, dragging its talons through the snow as it encounters and closes in on its prey.  It's kind of cool but also unnerving thinking about an animal hiding in the grove of trees, so I circle the grove but do not attempt the trail that disappears into the clump of woods.

The cemetery is busy with trucks today, two pick-ups with plows and a box truck.  I do not realize until later when I am set to leave and see the sign that there is a funeral being held at the stone chapel shortly.  I feel a little self-conscious with the workers as audience as I am a novice snowshoe-er, so I work my way back up toward the inspiration garden, which is blanketed in snow.

Backing up to take a better picture, I forget that snowshoes only work going forward, catch the blade in a deep rut, and fall over hard backward, angling to save the cell phone I am holding in my bare hands.  I start laughing, attracting the attention of the man shoveling the roof of the building attached to the church.  I am not sure he can see me struggling in the snow since the stone wall blocks a full-on view.  When I finally right myself, I am minus one snowshoe, covered with white, and have left a giant ass print in the snow behind me.

It's a successful trek this morning, but I have things to do and places to go.  I've cut a wonderful trail of criss-cross patterns through the cemetery, breaking that pristine sight-line.  I also probably should get my car out of the lot before the funeral attendees arrive or I might find myself in a longer procession than just a walk in winter's wonder of snow.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

CHILI'S CHILL

My daughter and I like to go out to dinner after our hair appointments.  We usually hit Outback, but the place is mobbed for a Thursday night.  Instead, we head toward home and stop at Chili's.

Mistake.

I've eaten at this Chili's before, many times actually, but this time the experience is horrible, like the Land of the Zombies.  We walk in and the hostess doesn't acknowledge us nor speak to us.  It's like she's wasted.  Finally, my daughter says, "Two."  The hostess leads us down toward the back, even though she has just seated two people in a booth that's not in the boonies.  No, we get the booth closest to the toilets and the backside of the kitchen.

Then, our waiter arrives.  He seems nice enough but in an awful hurry.  He doesn't seem particularly interested in telling us about the menu nor interacting with us at all.  After the meal comes, he walks briskly by and says, "How is everything?" while trucking along so quickly that he is there and gone before we can say anything.

Then, he disappears.

Oh, we see him waiting on other people, but he never comes back again.  He never asks us how the meals are, if we want more beer, if we want dessert, or if we want to pack up our leftovers.  I have to circle the entire restaurant, go through the bar, get ignored by the barmaid, and walk into the other end of the kitchen, away from where we are seated.  It isn't until my presence is noticed inside the kitchen that someone acknowledges me, all so I can get a take-out container for my meal.

Meanwhile, it is well-past eight p.m., yet the restaurant is smattered with screaming babies and yowling toddlers and a few kindergarten-aged children who think that the booth seats all around them are a giant connected jungle gym.  This is a school night (Thursday).  What in the hell are these kids doing out right now?

I think tonight will probably be my last experience at Chilis, at least at the one in my town, anyway.  I certainly don't need to be paying people to treat me like shit.  If I want that experience, I'll go to the professionals at Durgin Park or Dick's Last Resort and have a party with it.

It isn't completely horrible, though.  The Newport Pale Ale on tap is decent enough.  Too bad no one ever asks us if we'd like second mugs.

Friday, February 17, 2017

HEAVENLY SNOW

There are these moments when I love where I live. 

Oh, sure, there are those times (like now) when it is so cold that my feet and hands crack, and times when it rains for so many weeks in a row that the sun scares me when it finally shows itself, and stretches when it is so ungodly hot that eggs fry on sidewalks.

Then, there are moments like my commute home today.  This ... This is why I live where I live, at least for now.  Spectacular.  Mesmerizing.  Magnificent.  For all of you who cannot be me - because this is as close to Heaven as some of us will ever get.








Thursday, February 16, 2017

COME ON, BREAK

I cannot wait for school break.

Many schools get their break in March -- some for one week and some for two.  In Massachusetts, we take a week in February and a week in April.  (Technically it's eight school days not ten because of holidays.)  There are two important things people need to understand:

#1. We need the break because kids are puking all over the place.  Just last week we had three pukers in the hallway and bathroom across from my room.  Not a single one of them made it to the actual toilet without a splash or two or five of explosive stall and floor decorating.  The teachers are dropping like dead flies, as well.  We all need breaks from each other and the never-ending germ exchange.

#2. We don't get paid for these days off.  Nope.  Teachers do not have paid vacations nor paid snow days.  Well, private school teachers do get paid snow days, but that's not my concern.  I do not get paid for those days.  They are unpaid leaves.  We only get paid for the days under our contract, 184, and we work every damn one of them.  Period.

I am so ready.  I need to get away from germs and stench and coughing and bleach wipes and the constant sound of gagging.  Come on, break.  One more day.  You can do it!  I can do it!  We can all do it!