School Street Sunflowers
Sep
1
2:00 PM14:00

School Street Sunflowers

We found Ipswich’s School Street Sunflower farm quite by accident. On Instagram, Aisha had found Colby Farm sunflowers in Newbury, we had every intention of going on Labor Day weekend. We put on our shoes… I check my GPS… wait a minute. There is so much traffic around Colby Farm! It’s red in both directions. Bummer, but understandable. A sunflower field—who wouldn’t want to visit that on peak sunflower weekend? While I’m Googling local sunflowers, another option comes up, right in Ipswich! School Street. Literally a 3-minute drive from my apartment. What?!

Okay, let’s go check it out!

It’s amazing! On School Street off of Linebrook Road—so unassuming, you might just drive by it—were just rows and rows of yellow sunflowers. At the gate we paid $8 a piece, got wristbands that were good for all-day access, and entered the field. They let us know that this was their first year doing this, which made me feel better about having no idea that the field existed.

A path winded through the sunflowers, and along the way were flowery quotes. Lots of bees. A few places for photo opportunities, and a drone flew overhead at one point! It was a visual spectacle for sure. By brain wasn’t sure how to process seeing so many sunflowers at once! Really awesome. I hope they do it again next year.

After sunflowers, we stopped at Agawam Diner for some tasty, tasty pie.

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Exploring Boston: Rose Kennedy Greenway and Lawn on D
Aug
25
12:00 PM12:00

Exploring Boston: Rose Kennedy Greenway and Lawn on D

Boston exploration day! Aisha and I started our adventure with breakfast at Boston Public Market. I got a popover and egg sandwich which was oh so good, and Aisha got… a bagel, I think?...  I’m not sure because I was so into my popover. We thought about getting some Union Square Donuts to go but decided to behave.

From there we headed out on what turned out to be an unexpectedly adventurous day. We crossed the street to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a long strip of greenery that cuts through Boston, a lovely by-product of the Big Dig. It’s dotted with unexpected diversions. We walked past the fountains and people swinging on the swings. We walked the labyrinth and saw the carousel. Walked through a garden, misted on a timer, trying not to get wet. We walked through a beer garden, not open for the day yet. Past a futuristic car with no wheels—a random piece of art—as well as lots of pig sculptures. When it started to rain, we opened our umbrellas and snapped pictures of the greenery and skyscrapers.

We ended our Rose Kennedy Greenway journey at the Greenway Wall, a mural that changes regularly. This time it was a beautiful purple mural of birds. Aisha kindly took a woman’s photo in front of it.

From there we decided to cross the bridge over to the Southie/Seaport area, to find Lawn on D. It was a longer walk than we anticipated, but we found it! It’s oddly nestled in the middle of nowhere, behind the Boston Convention Center. Seriously, there’s nothing around. No one was in sight and then suddenly, all the people, at Lawn on D!

While it’s free to enter Lawn on D, you have to show an ID and get a wristband to enter, and bags are checked. We weren’t expecting this intensity, but we rolled with it—there is literally nowhere else to go once you’re there—and went through security.

We went to the famous circular swings, which are surprisingly comfortable! Lots of people were there on the lawn playing cornhole, just out enjoying the day. We played some cornhole ourselves, then stopped by the shaded outdoor bar and got a beer while some live music was starting up.

The Lawn on D is… odd! A middle-of-nowhere fun space that feels very disjointed from everything else that’s around. A good place for a cornhole date or a birthday party. Or an afternoon outing, so long as you’re fine with it being the only hub of fun around.

From there we crossed back over the Summer Street bridge to catch a Lyft to Somerville. A successful day of Boston explorations!

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Museum of Fine Arts: Gender Bending Fashion Exhibit
Aug
4
11:00 AM11:00

Museum of Fine Arts: Gender Bending Fashion Exhibit

  • 465 Huntington Avenue Boston, Massachusetts (map)
  • Google Calendar ICS

Since June, Aisha and I have been talking about going to this Gender Bending Fashion exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Well, we finally made it, and it was worth the wait. I loved, loved, loved this exhibit! The neon lights, the genderless mannequins, the Gaga music, the fashion—ah, all of it!

The exhibit did a really great job exploring the history of gender-bending fashion through both well-known icons—like Marlene Dietrich and David Bowie—and more contemporary designers and people. A wall projected photographs and quotes from local Bostonians who regularly rock gender-bending attire.

It also explored how specific events and trends have contributed to shifting ideas about what makes male vs. female clothing. As someone who regularly feels frustrated and lost in both women’s and men’s sections of clothing stores, I left the exhibit feeling empowered and inspired to dress in whatever I please, gender be damned.

Other MFA exhibits we checked out included:

  • Hyman Bloom, who apparently enjoyed painting corpses, slaughtered animals, surgeries, and other grotesque and uncomfortable subjects. And squashes.

  • “Conservation in Action” – a behind-the-scenes look at restoring Buddhist sculptures. Where Aisha claimed that the temple smelled like Fig Newtons.

  • Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris – we had no idea that this was the final day of this months-long exhibit. And it was super busy. I admit I’d never heard of Toulouse-Lautrec but as we started going through, I was like, “I think this might be the Chat Noir guy” and I was very proud that I was right. This is not my style of art at all. But I did like learning about Loie Fuller and her luminescent dress dances.

From the Gender Bending Fashion exhibit program:

Separate the signal from the noise…

Hear your own ears. Cut the strings.

Be yourself. Only you. Walk.

Follow your own path…

Listen to your limbs.

Walk…Are there others watching you?

Who knows? Who cares…

There is only one of you. Only one.

— Tilda Swinton, from One Woman Show 2003

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Currier Museum of Art
Aug
3
10:00 AM10:00

Currier Museum of Art

This year Katie and I celebrated Sister Day by visiting the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire. Melting rugs, sad clowns, blue trees… the Currier has it all!

The special exhibit on display was about the art and history of the guitar. I learned that a lot of the instrument’s history is unknown or difficult to trace. For example: how did the guitar get its curvy shape? We’re not sure! Even the word “guitar” has multiple origins. The exhibit featured many types of guitars and guitar-like instruments, including lutes, an air guitar (the case was empty—hah!), and electric guitars.  

Also on exhibit was Edward Hopper’s final painting, as well as The Raft, a short slow-motion film of people getting suddenly soaked in water.

After the museum we got lunch at the Bookery in downtown Manchester. I’m obsessed with this indie bookstore! It’s so organized, well-curated, really fun to browse. The café in the back is a delicious bonus. I already want to go back!

Hurray Sister Day!

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Thoreau Society Annual Gathering 2019
Jul
13
9:00 AM09:00

Thoreau Society Annual Gathering 2019

This was my third year attending the Thoreau Society Annual Gathering in Concord, MA. The gathering spans multiple days, but as in past years, I joined for just one day. The cost and commute are factors, as well as the fact that while I’m a Thoreau enthusiast, I’m not a Thoreau scholar, and this tends to be a scholarly-leaning event. I enjoyed this year’s event more than last year’s in some respects (more diversity, more discussion) and less in others (more sweat, sweat dripping off my body all day long).

Before the gathering, I stopped by Walden Pond to walk the loop and to visit Thoreau’s cabin site. I got there around 9, and I’ve never seen the pond so busy. Holy Moses! I got in just before the lot closed, at capacity. I guess everyone wanted to spend the hot, sunny July day at the pond. Tanning, fishing, swimming, picnicking, kayaking. There wasn’t a single rocky spot around the perimeter of the pond that was open for me to sit without being up in someone’s business. I did have Thoreau’s house site to myself though, for the first time ever.

After about an hour at the pond, I headed into downtown Concord for the keynote at First Parish Church. The town way busy with cars and bikers. The spots where I usually park were already taken so I parked in the Keyes Road lot, which is thankfully free. For having a weird traffic circle in the middle of downtown, Concord is pretty easy to navigate.

The theme of this year’s gathering was Engineering Thoreau: Nature, Technology & the Connected Life. The original keynote speaker had to bail because of a health issue, and so a panelist of scholars stepped in to discuss this topic of Thoreau and technology. Honestly, I think I preferred this format. Everyone had different takes on the topic, which then extended into the audience as a somewhat tense debate about Thoreau’s philosophy on technology.

The revelation that came out of it was that everyone has their own preferred Thoreau: Thoreau the Spiritualist, the Naturalist, the Environmentalist (last year’s theme), the Abolitionist, the Civil Disobedient, the Engineer, etc. That last one often gets overlooked, but Thoreau studied locomotive engines, was a surveyor, liked to understand how stuff worked, tinkered. It was very clear that many people there would rather talk about Thoreau the Spiritualist or Naturalist or Civil Disobedient, and I liked that this year’s theme forced them to consider this question that was raised: “Which Thoreau are you ignoring, and why?”

After a heated keynote (the church had no AC… sweat city), I had lunch and decided to explore Concord a little. I got some caffeine at Haute Coffee – cute, kinda fancy-feeling. I was also surprised to see a Caffe Nero downtown. Not a Starbucks but still, I didn’t expect to see a big chain like that around. I went to Concord Bookshop, got a couple books. The vibe is… sophisticated?

Then it was time for afternoon sessions at the Masonic Hall, which started with this year’s delivery of the annual Thoreau Prize for nature writing. This year’s winner was Mary Oliver, who I learned would’ve been there to accept the prize if not for her death in January. Totally bummed to miss the chance to see her speak in person. Nature writer Deborah Cramer spoke instead, honoring Oliver’s life and poetry, and she did an awesome job.

Afterwards there was a reading and sharing of Thoreau-inspired poetry, including poems from Mary Oliver, Louisa May Alcott, Philip Booth. W. B. Yeates, Robert Francis, William Bronk, Maxine Kumin, and many more. It was an awesome session even through all the sweat… no AC in the Masonic Hall either. Phew.

Over break, I stopped by my car on Keyes Road and on the way found a cute, woodsy boardwalk and a secluded blue bench. This is Chamberlin Park.

The final session of the afternoon was back at the Masonic Hall, a panel sponsored by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE). Four scholars presented their papers on Thoreau studies, including:

  • The connections between Walden and B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two

  • Thoreau’s antisocial practices, and is solitude necessary to have Thoreauvian reflection

  • Thoreau’s philosophy of scientific versus poetic description, especially in journaling  

  • Eco-erotica in Thoreau’s writings and his potential ecosexuality

That last one fascinated me. I’ve never heard of ecosexuality or eco-erotics before. I always assumed Thoreau’s sensual nature writing was a kind of suppressed or re-routed homosexuality, but I hadn’t considered that he might’ve been speaking more literally about having erotic experiences in nature. But, bringing it full circle to the morning’s keynote, that’s just me re-affirming my preferred Thoreau – Thoreau the Queer Icon.

At the end of the day I got dinner at Main Streets Café where I got to cool off and eat a delicious sandwich.

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Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth
Jul
11
7:00 PM19:00

Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth

This July, all of Ipswich is a-buzz with galleries and events centered around Robert Shetterly’s traveling portrait series, American Who Tell the Truth. The portraits depict “citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness,” and each feature an accompanying quote. These large, striking paintings are hanging at Zumis, the Ipswich Museum, and Truth North Brewery. They’re actually gorgeous.

At the end of the month I’ll be reading at a related event “Poets Who Tell the Truth” at the Hall-Haskell House. To make sure that I’m informed about what the heck I’ve signed myself up to participate in, I figured I ought to learn a bit more about the portrait series and the artist. And so I attended a lecture at the Ipswich Library, where Shetterly spoke about the history of the project and shared some selections from his collection of over 200 portraits.

It was a full house, and for good reason. Shetterly gave a great presentation, and I learned about some interesting and inspiring citizens from recent and distant history. These included:

Claudette Colvin: In 1955, this 15-year-old was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Nine months later, Rosa Parks did the same. Unlike Parks, Colvin is largely forgotten.   

Tim DeChristopher: In 2008, he infiltrated a rigged auction of Utah land that was to be handed over to oil and gas companies. He was convicted of fraud, but his actions led to regulators re-evaluating the sale. There’s also a documentary about him.

Richard Bowen: American banker and whistleblower who outed Citigroup’s mortgage fraud, which led in part to the 2008 financial crisis and recession. Citigroup keeps trying to shut him up, but he keeps talking, and now he teaches Business Ethics.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: A pediatrician in Flint, Michigan who witnessed, reported, and exposed the dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water and its health effects on children. She now leads an initiative to address the Flint water crisis.

Other people discussed included Oren Lyons, Kelsey Juliana, and Alicia Garza, and Walt Whitman.

Especially interesting was the Q&A portion, where Shetterly discussed how we should recognize these subjects as complex and flawed individuals who shouldn’t necessary be put upon any kind of pedestal. Susan B Anthony was a suffragist who fought hard for (white) women’s right to vote and was also a blatant racist. Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist who said outright anti-indigenous things in his speeches. In capturing a range of subjects, from the nationally famous to the locally notable, Shetterly’s goal is to show how the everyday citizen can be a catalyst for change and reform.

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4 Days in San Francisco
Jun
27
to Jul 1

4 Days in San Francisco

Aisha and I spent four days in the counterculture capital of America: San Francisco. It was the first trip to California for both of us, and we went during Pride weekend. San Francisco was beautiful, busy, chilly, scenic, queer, hilly, and straight-up odd.

We followed our self-made itinerary of things to do and see, and yet I’m not sure any tour guide or SF blog could have prepared us for the colorful chaos that is San Francisco Pride.

From the Golden Gate Bridge to man walking a dog by the paw… from City Lights Bookstore to all the naked people… San Francisco was a trippy trip. Here are some highlights.

DAY 1
Cable Cars & Fisherman’s Wharf

After a six hour flight from Boston (on which the woman in front of us was unironically blasting the Backstreet Boys and the stewardess had to ask her to turn it down), we arrived in San Francisco hungry and ready for some walking. So our first stop after the hotel in Union Square (too early to check in) was Sears Fine Food for some tasty breakfast/lunch before catching a cable car on the Powell/Mason line.

It being a Thursday, the cable car wasn’t too packed, and we got right on, riding it all the way to the turnaround, which was cool to see. I didn’t know they turn around the cars manually. Then, because this was our super-touristy day, we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf. Wow’ed at the Pacific Ocean, the boats, Alcatraz. We stopped into the Musee Mecanique which was surprisingly free and fun and we both got fortunes delivered by mechanical fortune-tellers.

Next we went to Pier 39 to see the sea lions. There were… a few? I think the sea lions must be out-of-season because there were many docks on which I think they should’ve been lounging, and yet they were gathered on only a couple of them. The ones that were there were still adorable.

We walked along the Embarcadero until around Pier 31, when we headed inland to walk the Greenwich Steps to Coit Tower. Okay. The cable car to the wharf assured me that San Francisco has steep hills, but damn. I was not physically prepared for these steps. They. just. keep. going. Just when you think you’re done, there’s more steps! Granted, there are some beautiful flowers on the path, if you can wipe the sweat out of your eyes to see them.

Finally at the top, we reached Coit Tower. Some cool views of the water, but mostly we just sat to catch our breath from those steps. Inside the tower, there are pretty murals. We decided not to elevator up to the top, in part because we were exhausted, and also because we didn’t want to wait in line or spend the $9 apiece.

We took a cable car back to Union Square and Hotel Emblem, where we were finally able to check in. This hotel is awesome! A book wall, typewriters when you walk in, ah, they pander right to me! The carpet and walls have poetry on them. I want to live in this hotel.

After some R&R we cashed in our free cocktails at the hotel bar and went to Hops & Hominy for dinner. There was a very awkward date happening beside us, but the food was delicious.


DAY 2
Golden Gate Everything

The time change had me up early. Zing! We got to Golden Gate Bridge in the morning, and we couldn’t have wished for a clearer day. No fog, no crowds. We walked right onto the bridge like it was nothing. It was such a cool experience seeing something IRL that I’ve seen so many times in media and in photographs. Aisha sang the Full House theme song and I was embarrassed but also super happy. We walked a bit past the first pillar and then turned around — it got windy out there!

We walked down to the Warming Hut and Crissy Field before catching a free shuttle bus to the Palace of Fine Arts. This place is cool, but what the heck is going on here? There are ponds, pillars, a random bar and people playing cornhole inside a warehouse. I don’t even know.

We got hungry and so Lyfted to Burma Superstar in Inner Richmond based on a recommendation. I’ve never had Burmese food before, and it was delicious. It’s a small and busy place and we’re lucky we got in when we did. It was tasty. Aisha and I ended up swapping meals — she liked my salad better than her noodles and vice versa.

Next, we went to Golden Gate Park which is an enormous park south of the bridge. We went to the Japanese Tea Garden where we saw a big Buddha statue, bamboo, a pogoda, and a koi fish jump up out of the water. What?! It was… kinda peaceful?

From there we walked to Stow Lake and Strawberry Hill where there’s a man-made waterfall. Along that walk we encountered so many Canada geese, people paddling in the pond, and… the people who were sitting next to us at Burma Superstar! Super-weird coincidence. This giant park and we just happen to run into people from the same restaurant we were at? If it weren’t for the fact that they were a super nice couple (“Heyyy Burma Superstar!!”) I would guess we were being followed.

We waited for a shuttle that turned out to only run on weekends and holidays (what?!) before calling a Lyft back to the hotel. R&R. We to Del Popolo pizza before heading to Jolene’s to kick off our pride weekend. I loved Jolene’s. Loved.


DAY 3
Mission Dolores & Dyke March

Hearing that the Dyke March was an all-day affair, we decided we had some time to kill in the morning. So we walked through Chinatown to City Lights Bookstore where I got a book and wondered why all the famous writers from SF are men? Kerouac, Ginsberg, sure. But where are the SF lady writers?

We walked down to Civic Center Plaza on a whim, passing by the Transamerica Pyramid on the way. You can walk around San Fran pretty quickly if you can put up with the hills. We got to the San Francisco Pride Festival just as it was opening at 12pm, and I’m glad we went when we did (more on that tomorrow).

It’s only a $1-$5 donation to get into the festival, and suddenly we were in a mix of food trucks, techno music, pride vendors, and…. penis! 12pm is far too early to be seeing dicks, my friend, and yet we were seeing dicks! Flaccid dicks. Erect dicks. More dicks than I’ve seen in my life in 20 minutes. Oh wow. Aisha and I gathered ourselves on the plaza lawn. We had to get to the Dyke March, pronto.

So we called a Lyft. Too bad we exited the Pride Festival as fast as we could straight into the Tenderloin, where it’s apparently very hard to call a Lyft! The one that picked us up had a child in the backseat and wouldn’t let us in the car. Oh my. Try 2, we got one. To the Mission!

On the quest for lunch, we went to Taqueria Cancun. Best burrito ever. I was in a sour mood from the penises and the Lyft debacle and still… this burrito took me to another realm. I got the vegetarian burrito and it was amazing. I so wished that I could finish it, but I could not. Too big.

Full of burrito, we walked to Mission Dolores Park for dyke-fun, stopping by the Women’s Building on the way to see the murals.

Mission Dolores Park was crazy busy and beautiful. We took a seat up on the hill with a fabulous view. People were drinking everything openly, and we realized that public alcohol consumption must be allowed in the park? We tried looking up the laws but there were too many people, cell reception was poor. People walked around selling booze and marijuana and just about anything. The folks in front of us started snorting coke. Wow, welcome to SF!

At 5pm we decided to go find the Dyke March itself. We turned around, walking up the remainder of the hill only to discover twice as many people! Due to the hills, we hadn’t realized just how big Mission Dolores Park was, nor how many people had been surrounded us this whole time. Oh. My. God. Life moment. I literally gasped and gasped again.

Still, we joined the March and ended up in crowded chaos. When the march jammed, we skipped onto the sidewalk. The sunset was crazy bright, but we did get to see the Pink Triangle. We finally broke off near the Castro for water, food, and bathroom at Super Duper Burgers. The burgers were quite good and we got to people-watch from the windows. We watched a man walk his dog like a child. No leash, by the paw.

We walked into the Castro, where chaos further ensued. The rainbow walk was a blur. Police were everywhere. The 7-Eleven was outrageously litty. All bars were at capacity. We left promptly. R&R and Hotel Bar, yasss please!


DAY 4
Pride Parade & Museum of Ice Cream

Despite a crazier-than-anticipated Saturday, we got up early for the San Francisco Pride Parade. Yay! We got a good spot, right in front on Market Street. The parade got going and then… it stopped. For an hour.

Pro-tip: If you’re going to counter-protest a Pride Parade, have clearly marked signs or messaging about why exactly you’re protesting. We knew there were people laying in the streets, but we had no idea why. Police? Corporations? Tell us! Have signs! I’m still not sure what it was about.

Anyway, once the parade got going, it was amazing. It was cool to see a parade led by gay organizations and not politicians or police for once. There were many tech companies there.

Apple. What is happening at Apple? Facebook had a lot of people, and Amazon too. Netflix… so cool seeing the Tales of the City cast… but Apple. So many people! Is your whole company gay?

After the parade, we needed some R&R at the hotel before heading to the Pride Festival at Civic Center Plazaaaa yeahhh just kidding! We walked down into Market Street and into what I can only describe as total chaos. Police fighting with pride-goers. A woman pooping on the street. Public inebriation far and wide. The line of people waiting to get into the plaza went on and on forever. Nope. Nope. We got lunch at Cafe Mason diner. Delicious sandwich, though I hardly remember it, my brain was way over-capacity.

After recovering from all that we’d witnessed, we decided to go the Museum of Ice Cream. What a strange, fun place! Unlike any “museum” I’ve been to before, MOIC is an experience of desserts and themed rooms guided by peppy people dressed in pink jumpsuits. Rideable cookies… a sprinkle pool… unicorns… just, wow.

After the MOIC, we were so full of ice cream, but didn’t want to turn in just yet. So we popped by the Golden Gate Tap Room where we played some skeeball and reflected on our weird and wonderful time in the Golden Gate City.

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North Shore Pride 2019
Jun
22
1:00 PM13:00

North Shore Pride 2019

Where else can you see a steampunk-pride crossover costume? Black lace parasols coupled with rainbow feathers? Well, in Salem Massachusetts of course! Witch city, witch witch city.

Aisha and I arrived late for the parade, but met up with Ian and Alex at the post-parade festival in Salem Common. It was a beautiful day, and the busiest North Shore Pride I’ve seen. So many people! Vendors! Food trucks! Flying Saucer Pizza ran out of regular pizza so Aisha and I tried slices with vegan cheese. Worth a try, but I probably don’t need to eat vegan cheese ever again.

After the festival, we went to the rooftop bar at the relatively new Hotel Salem. Loved the retro decor, and the rooftop bar was cool, not literally though. It was hot. Sun-beamin’ hot. Extra-sunblock hot. We watched rain clouds roll in, which was neat to see, until they reached us and we had to duck for cover. Thankfully just a sprinkle.

I had heard that the Friendship of Salem was finally back at Derby Wharf and I wanted to go see it, if only to prove to Aisha that it actually exists (on our first date in 2016, I suggested we walk to the wharf to see it, only to find the boat straight-up missing — removed for renovations!). On our way to the boat, we stopped by Modern Millie to oggle all the adorable dresses and The Coven’s Cottage for some incense.

Well, the Friendship is back, but it’s missing all its masts! The intricate masts are what make it majestic in my opinion, so it was kind of underwhelming in the end.

We then went to the Pride After Party at Brodie’s Seaport. Had some drinks, danced some, avoided eye contact with people we’ve dated because gay north shore is too small. The space and bar was also too small to support the volume of pride-goers. But hey, unlike anywhere in Boston, there was no cover. Can’t complain.

When we needed real food we went to the new Casa Tequila, coincidentally located where the pride after party used to be, back when it was Murphy’s. The tacos were so good. After a successful pride day, we rushed to catch the train back.

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Fun Home @ the Boston Center for the Arts
Jun
21
8:00 PM20:00

Fun Home @ the Boston Center for the Arts

And your keys OOOHHohhhohh your ring of KEYS!

Finally got to see Fun Home from the SpeakEasy Stage Company at the very awesome Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. I had meant to see it last year in Boston, but it sold out! Very glad it came around again, just in time for pride month.

Fun Home is a musical based on the 2006 graphic memoir of the same name — probably one of the most formative books in my life. It’s the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist, Alison Bechdel, who authored the book as well as other awesomeness like the Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip. The musical follows three timelines - young Alison, college-aged Alison, and adult Alison.

Aisha and I sat in the very front row of a surprisingly small, intimate black box theatre, audience on three sides, a live orchestra on the fourth wall. We were practically part of the performance, moving our knees back once or twice as the actors sang and danced and moved furniture pieces and rugs right in front of us.

In short: the musical was fantastic. Super emotional, funny, original, all of it. The kids — young Alison and her two brothers — were especially awesome. My favorite songs were “Telephone Wire” and of course “Changing My Major.” I hope it comes back to Boston again so even more people can see it.

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Robert Frost Poetry Hoot @ Cafe Azteca
Jun
11
7:00 PM19:00

Robert Frost Poetry Hoot @ Cafe Azteca

Students of Lawrence High School featured at the Frost Foundation’s monthly open mic in Lawrence, reigniting my love of poetry. Reading, singing, sharing in front of a full crowd, these young adults restored my hope for humanity. Really awesome.

Hoots are on hiatus for the summer, but I can’t wait to see these folks again.

Bonus: On my way to the restaurant, I accidentally stumbled upon Lawrence’s raising of the rainbow flag for pride month. A small crowd was gathered outside a rainbow crosswalk. My tender gay heart swoons!

Bonus, bonus: On my way out of the restaurant, I caught the sunset illuminating the buildings of Common Street. Ah, the afterglow of poetry.

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Boston Pride 2019
Jun
8
10:00 AM10:00

Boston Pride 2019

This year had the biggest Boston Pride parade I’ve seen. Wowza. The volume of people, the length of the parade, the size of the festival at City Hall Plaza... either Boston is getting gayer, or more people are coming out to join in the party on a beautiful June day.

We stuck with the parade for 3 hours, or until the Bruins beaver mascot showed up waving and wearing a rainbow lei. Turns out he’s not a beaver, but a bear. My mistake.

Bonus: Todrick Hall headlined the pride festival concert! From where I stood, he was a small dancing speck, but still cool to see someone famous.

Bonus, bonus: Aisha and I decided to forgo the after parties with their outrageous covers ($30 just to get into the ladies’ party?? Do they think us queers are made out of money?!) and stay in watching Tales of the City instead. :)

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Botanic Garden at Smith College
May
25
1:00 PM13:00

Botanic Garden at Smith College

We accidentally almost crashed someone’s party at the Botanic Garden. They had cookies.

Also, bees. So many bees.

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Walden Pond
May
11
2:00 PM14:00

Walden Pond

Aisha’s first visit to Walden Pond and my first visit of 2019 was buggy and bizarre. It involved some wide open train tracks, now exposed due to trees being removed. It also involved a man in a red speedo in the woods. Let’s hope he was there to live deliberately.

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Grandfather's House
Apr
14
12:30 PM12:30

Grandfather's House

“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go…”

Today, not only did I learn that the lyric is actually “to grandfather’s house we go” but also that the house in the song stands in Medford, Massachusetts, just an 18-minute walk away from Aisha’s apartment. WHAT. We discovered this completely by accident when Aisha was looking up the Medford Public Library on Google Maps, and I happened to notice a landmark on the map called the “Over the River Poem House.” What is a poem house? Intrigued I looked it up and had my mind blown when I came upon this Wikipedia article claiming that the house (also known as “Grandfather’s House” or the Paul Curtis House) was the inspiration for Lydia Maria Child’s famous poem “Over the River and through the Wood.” The “river” is the Mystic River, and the “wood” is now Medford neighborhoods.

Naturally I got so excited, we had to go see it. It was a good excuse for a walk on a warm spring day, and we got to explore some streets of Medford that Aisha and I have never seen before. South Street is pretty with brick sidewalks and runs along the Mystic River. Grandfather’s House definitely stands out as looking very grand, as it has white columns in the front. There’s a plaque on the front lawn explaining the historical significance of the house. I’m not sure if anyone lives there now, but I took a photo of the house anyway, because – come on! – it’s the house that’s over the river and through the woods!

Fittingly, once we saw the house, we crossed over the river and walked along the Mystic River Path, passing by a sweet community garden, a mural half-shell stage (which I later learned is called Condon Shell) and a Free Little Library.

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Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University (in Spring!)
Apr
13
1:00 PM13:00

Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University (in Spring!)

It’s spring! Aisha and I celebrated the first really warm day of the season by visiting the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in Jamaica Plain. We’d been once before, last summer, on a particularly hot day when everything was green in bloom, but the sweat was too real. Though many of the trees and shrubs are just starting to bud now, it was exciting relief to see some of the first flowers and vegetation of spring – like yellow daffodils and patches of blue-purple wildflower that I don’t know the name of yet. A great way to kick-off the season!

A huge perk of the arboretum is that it’s free – yes free! We grabbed a paper map at the visitors center and started on our way through the 281-acre park. It being so nice out, it was a busy day, with many folks having picnics, sitting on park benches, strolling with kids, walking their dogs. So many cute puppies! Little white fluffy dogs seem to be on trend.

First, we walked to the three ponds, where we saw an adorable turtle crossing the trail from one pond to the other. It was speedy (for a turtle) and lots of folks were watching and protecting it, letting it cross. We continued on to the shrub and vine garden, where a couple trees were in bloom. Because they were bare, the vines were especially impressive, because you could see where they snaked and twisted up and around trellises. We went to go see the bonsai trees next, but the bonsai collection was closed! Either there was a grand bonsai heist (they are usually protected by alarms), or it’s still too cold for them to be outside on view. Oh well!

From there we continued up Bussey Hill, which was a workout after a winter of not hiking much. At the summit, some people were doing yoga and playing music. The Boston skyline is somewhat visible from the overlook, but we would get a better view of Boston later, though we didn’t know it yet.

Next, we crossed through the Explorers Garden where a white rhododendron bush was already in bloom! On the map, I saw there was a “rhododendron path” so we descended the hill and headed there next. Unlike the bush in the Explorers Garden, the rhododendrons on that path weren’t yet blooming. It was still worth the detour because we found a sweet trickling stream through the woods and rocks to sit by it.

From the stream we got back on the main path and headed south towards Bussey Street and Peters Hill. We hadn’t traveled that far last summer, so we were excited to explore somewhere new. Along the way, we crossed a cute footbridge over the stream, and walked passed grassy fields. After crossing Bussey Street, we started walking uphill again. Phew. It was kind of steep, but I should’ve guessed Peters Hill was, well, a hill (240 feet, higher than the 198 feet of Bussey Hill). Along the loop around the hill we encountered some gravestones – surprise! Turns out that Walter Street Burying Ground is there, which houses a few 1700s pre-Revolution graves. About one-third away around the loop, there was a path leading up to the summit. We took it, discovering that Peters Hill offers an awesome view of Boston. Lots of people were hanging out at the top, looking at the skyline, taking photos. Little swarming bugs started irritating us suddenly, so we descended down to the bottom.

We walked up Hemlock Hill Road and Valley Road, taking a break on a shady bench for a little bit. As we made our way back north, we passed more adorable folks walking puppies and one man with a big tan lizard riding on his shoulder. Hmm. Hey, exotic pets deserve to enjoy the spring weather too! We also encountered a group of people gathered around a tree, where a lone snake was slithering around the base of the trunk. Having now encountered three different reptiles on our adventure (a turtle, a snake, and maybe a bearded dragon) we decided to call it a day, and head to the Forest Hills gate, conveniently near the Forest Hill T Stop, to take the orange line home.

I would love to go back to the arboretum to an adult education class in tree or plant identification. And Aisha and I agreed that now that we’ve been to the park in spring and in summer, we should visit the park in autumn too.

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The Muse & the Marketplace Conference for Writers
Apr
5
to Apr 7

The Muse & the Marketplace Conference for Writers

This was my second year attending the Muse & the Marketplace, a 3-day writers’ conference hosted by GrubStreet. Last year’s conference exceeded all my expectations. From it I met fellow writer folks whose friendship and feedback have since totally changed my writing life and practice for the better. At the end of the conference last year, I knew that I’d be back in 2019.

This year was different for a couple reasons: 1) I knew some folks attending and 2) I participated in Manuscript Mart, meeting one-on-one with a literary agent for the first time. But overall like last year, the biggest highlight was getting to spend three days with writers from across the country, hearing about their stories, struggles, triumphs, and advice.

Day 1: Friday

Luis Alberto Urrea delivered an awesome keynote, which expanded the idea of “write what you know” into writing what “you’re told not to talk about.” With anecdotes from his life growing up in Tijuana, he talked about writing about the “smallest moments,” writers being the “raw nerve of the universe,” and how stories can “elevate the worst day in someone’s life – even your own.”  It was a thought-provoking kick-off to the weekend.

From there I spent most of the day focused on the business (i.e. “marketplace”) side of writing, attending two sessions about residencies and fellowships – all stuff I admittedly knew little about. Also, I met with a literary agent. He was very kind and provided thoughtful feedback on what’s working and not, how I can improve my opening pages and pitch. The querying process can feel dehumanizing, so it was humbling to have a down-to-earth conversation with an agent, a reminder that even though they may appear as gatekeepers, they are people with preferences and interests like anyone else, plus a love of literature.

In a query letter “clinic,” my query was selected randomly from a pile of anonymous submissions, and so I was lucky to get a second round of feedback here as well. Let me tell you though: even though it’s anonymous, it is nerve-wrecking to hear your pitch being read aloud in front of a crowd of fifty-or-so people! And then to have it live-critiqued by agents? Phew! I was relieved (i.e. joyful) that their critique was overall positive.

At cocktail hour, I indulged in some celebratory French fries, chatted with awesome writer folks, and then attended a fun improv-style writer event in the evening. Though tempted, I was too socially exhausted to party afterwards, knowing I still had two more days of conferencing to go.

Day 2: Saturday

With agent meetings and clinics out of the way, Day 2 focused almost exclusively on the craft of writing. To start, Stacey D’Erasmo delivered the mid-muse keynote about “writing in a time of upheaval.” My main takeaway was about the freeing power of anonymous writing, or publishing without your name (and ego) attached. Also, how monumental events in the world and in a person’s life can radically change their art. I wrote down: “Follow a sacrifice you didn’t choose with an artistic change that you do choose.”

I mean it when I say that I got something out of every session I attended. I didn’t feel this way about last year’s conference, but I got lucky with picking some really great ones this time. My favorite session of the whole conference was by Katie Bayerl, which was about writing literary page-turners. In other words, balancing big ideas and prose with plot and stakes. I found it immensely helpful, and it forced me to get vulnerable with fellow writers, writing down and sharing what inspired my current project and what I see my protagonist’s deepest desires and misbeliefs to be. I also attended a session on writing “effective settings” and another on “irresistible characters.” 

Saturday was a beautiful spring day, so I spent my lunch break in Boston Common, enjoying in the sun and watching squirrels. Over the second break of the day, I went to the Starbucks in the hotel, and my fingernail started spontaneously bleeding (a lot) while I was waiting for my coffee. Wow, fun. I am very proud that I was able to carry out a meaningful conversation with some fellow attendees, pitch my book, and take reading recommendations all the while privately nursing my finger. I’m also very happy that the registration desk had Band-Aids.  

After a long day, I rallied for the conference party at Democracy Brewing. I’m glad I did, because what a cool spot! The nice thing about a writer’s conference party is that because everyone there is a writer, many are introverted and/or socially awkward like me and therefore easy to talk to! Hurray for writers!

Day 3: Sunday

At breakfast I circled back with a friend I had met at breakfast on Friday – funny how a densely-packed weekend can feel like a lifetime! We caught up on the conference and our favorite sessions. Our table talked ghost stories, Neil Gaiman, and Twitter, and I was living for it. Afterwards, I picked up a couple books from the authors’ bazaar and then attended two very different and yet equally insightful sessions – one on “unlikeable female characters” and the other on writing op-eds. The closing keynote featured authors talking about how they balance work and writing. It wasn’t as discouraging as I thought it was going to be. The main takeaway was about the importance of writing time and community. Lastly, we wrote encouraging postcards to our future selves and made writing wishes over cake and candles. I can’t tell you my wish because then it might not come true. :)

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Porter Square
Mar
24
11:00 AM11:00

Porter Square

It seems silly to dedicate a “wandering” to Porter Square in Cambridge, when it’s a neighborhood where folks live, shop, work, go to Lesley University, and access the MBTA every single day. But though I’ve passed through it several times, I’ve never actually stopped to check out what’s there.

My first stop was a haircut at Floyd’s, which I don’t think is technically in Porter, but like a 6-mintue walk away. Thankfully there was no wait at 11 am, and I got in and out pretty quick. Then it being an unusually nice spring morning, I walked down Mass Ave to Cambridge Common (the park, not the restaurant), orienting myself, passing Lesley University and Harvard Law School along the way.  

After chillin in the park a bit, I walked back up to Porter Square T stop to meet Aisha for lunch. and along the way I passed a huuuuge line at Bagelsaurus. What is Bagelsaurus? I don’t know but it has a cool name and I guess it’s popular on a Sunday at brunch time.

Though it was only a 15-minute walk at most, I was hurting for caffeine by the time I met up with Aisha. We got coffee at Bourbon Coffee, which was full yet eerily silent as just about everyone in there was studiously working away on a laptop. It must be a student hangout? We decided to drink our coffee outside in the fresh air and hustle-and-bustle, where MBTA shuttle busses kept coming and going (the Red Line is under construction, but isn’t it always). A group of pigeons swooped down on us, causing Aisha to scream and me to laugh and so we decided we should move on to our next destination.

Which was Porter Square Books! Yay books! I’ve heard of the bookstore before many times but had never been there. If I had, I would’ve known that they have a cute little cafe inside, where I could’ve gotten coffee instead. Live and learn. The bookstore was small and busy but I loved the independent vibe and their themed displays. They have some awesome jigsaw puzzles and greeting cards too. Along the way to-and-from the bookstore, we passed by a Henry Bear’s Park toy store, which was weird, because I basically live across from an HBP in Ipswich and had never seen another one before.

We had planned to get lunch at either the Shaking Crab or Cambridge Common (the restaurant, not the park this time), but instead went to Christopher’s across the way, and I’m so glad we did. We got in right away, sat by a window, and they were still serving brunch. Christopher’s has a dark pub feel, but tall windows, cool art, and bloody marys served in a goblet, essentially. I got an avocado omelet because, frig it, I was already being full-out-hipster today anyway. The omelet was so yummy, as were the home fries and toast and the peach gin-and-beer drink that was a risky choice but weirdly delicious – and all fairly priced for Cambridge, I thought. We also had an awesome view for people watching on Mass Ave. One very fashionable woman in all pink was taking photos of the Porter Square Hotel that was beside us.

Happily full we went to Star Market so I could pick up some fruit. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been to a “Star Market” – maybe never? It’s just Shaws, right? The store is in the back of the shopping plaza that Porter Square Books is in. There’s also a Michael’s craft store attached. Books, crafts, toys, food… what else do you need? Vitamins maybe (there’s Cambridge Naturals for that) and maybe some booze (and there’s the liquor store).

Overall impression: Porter Square feels kind of strange, but not in the way of being intentionally so. It has some great spots – like the bookstore and Christopher’s – but the gentrification (or some other phenomenon of building up, pushing out?) is very obvious. It feels like an “in-between” place, primarily for students and shopping, and maybe for folks with young kids. There’s a big Target there that I’m told is fairly new. I’d maybe like to go to Porter again, but probably only for the bookstore or if I’m craving an avocado omelet (I’m telling you, it was otherworldly).

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William Forsythe @ ICA Boston
Feb
16
10:30 AM10:30

William Forsythe @ ICA Boston

  • Institute of Contemporary Art (map)
  • Google Calendar ICS

As a belated Valentine’s Day excursion, Aisha and I visited the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), catching the last weekend of its William Forsythe: Choreographic Objects exhibit. Pitched as an interactive show blending art and movement, it was something we’d been meaning to see for months.

We got there early in the day, knowing we’d need to snag a timed ticket to enter the Forsythe exhibit, which only allowed a limited number of people in at a time due to its hands-on nature. While we waited for our 12:30 PM time slot, we explored the other exhibitions on the fourth floor, which included a few interesting (sometimes head-scratching) contemporary pieces, including a crocheted room (YES a crocheted room!) and a deconstructed camera. One unique work, called The Visitors, played videos of different folks playing instruments all on individual screens, but together they made lovely, somewhat haunting song.

Even with our timed ticket, the Forsythe exhibit was high-traffic. It was a Saturday, after all. Spread out and taking up at least half of the fourth floor, it included only a few pieces, as each one took up a whole room, for the most part. Works included (described best to my ability, hah!):

  • A room with a tall, wide screen that reflected the participants, delaying and wiggling their movements in the playback

  • A room with dangling hoops that participants climb and swing across, attempting to make it from one side to the other — a contemporary art obstacle-course of sorts. This was the busiest room, and because there was a long line, Aisha and I were fine to watch others climb (and sometimes fall)

  • A room with two videos of gravity-defying choreography

  • A crawl-space. Cement floor = 1, My knees = 0!

  • A room with chalkboard instructions for movement on the walls (walk nine steps forward, nine steps back.. that sort of thing) — also a bit tough with the amount of people

  • A room (my favorite) that you are invited walk through, from one side to the other, trying not to touch or be touched by the many dangling, swinging silver pendulums at your feet

Even though we passed through the rooms at least a couple times — crawled, walked, wiggled, spun in circles, dodged pendulums — it still felt that we went through it all pretty quickly. Especially when compared to our last visit to the ICA to see the Mark Dion exhibition. I suppose that’s the nature of a gallery with such large pieces — there’s just fewer of them. We concluded our visit in the seaport overlook, where a woman was having an intense fashion photo shoot by the windows.

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Queer Qomedy Hour @ ImprovBoston
Jan
17
7:00 PM19:00

Queer Qomedy Hour @ ImprovBoston

Aisha and I had been talking for months about wanting to go to a comedy show. So when my friend invited me to see her partner do stand-up alongside other comedians at ImprovBoston’s monthly Queer Qomedy Hour in Cambridge, I got tickets almost immediately! Queer + comedy = yes, absolutely, please and thank you! And only $5 per ticket? Extra yes.

It ended up being a sold-out show, so I’m glad we got tickets in advance. The theater is small, so it has an intimate, informal vibe. Perfect for stand-up. There were five or six comedians and all of them were genuinely hilarious! The show did a great job representing across the LGBTQ spectrum, I was pleasantly surprised. Some jokes were queer-focused (obviously, it’s Queer Qomedy!), but not all.

I’m so glad to know this exists as a monthly event and will definitely be going back.

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Mystic River State Reservation
Jan
1
2:00 PM14:00

Mystic River State Reservation

  • 4253 Mystic Valley Pkwy Medford, MA, 02155 United States (map)
  • Google Calendar ICS

Happy new year! The first day of 2019 was a windy one. But since the sun was inviting, Aisha and I ventured to Mystic River State Reservation to test out her new camera, hoping to snap some scenic shots. On the Mystic Valley Parkway bridge, we marveled at the Boston skyline through watery eyes. At the park, we climbed the wooden tower overlook and took some photos, but couldn’t stay up there long due to our faces going numb.

We walked down to the pier, where the Mystic River rippled a bright blue. By the water, we came upon two new (?!) sculptures made of metal tubes — vertical xylophones, of sorts! A bucket held batons for playing the oversized instruments. Of course we indulged. It was a fun discovery.

On the walk back, I noticed an adorable wooly caterpillar in the middle of footpath! I don’t know where it was going, but the poor thing was at risk of being squashed, so I moved it onto the grass. A wooly caterpillar in winter? Hey, at least must be warm under all that fuzz!

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Danvers Lights
Dec
9
7:30 PM19:30

Danvers Lights

Sunday night, Aisha and I went for a drive to the fabulous Galicki Lights in Ipswich only to discover that the whole Galicki property was pitch black. No twinkling lights, no animatronic snowmen, no Santas on skis. Bummer. I’ve since learned that Galicki Lights don’t happen every year, and I’ve just been lucky to have seen them in the past two years I’ve been in Ipswich. In true Ipswich fashion, there’s no real way to know if they’re going to be on or not. Just word of mouth.

Anyway, we continued on to check out the Danvers Lights, which we’d never seen but were recommended by a coworker. While not nearly as grand as Galicki’s, the house on Arthur Street was bright and festive and worth the drive through an unfamiliar part of Danvers. A couple kids with their parents frolicked through the yard while taking selfies. People were in the house, too, which made it feel kind of intrusive. Like, these people are sitting down to dinner and we’re all staring at their house! But I guess that’s what they want.

The real excitement came when we got back onto the highway and were greeted with flames and smoke. A highway fire! It was over in the brush, thankfully, and it must’ve just happened because traffic wasn’t blocked. We scooted past one fire truck that didn’t appear to be putting out any flames yet. The fire stretched for yards and yards and continued on past an exit and onto another median. I’ve never seen anything like it! It made for a fairly successful light-looking adventure, I’d say. We found lights, just not the kind we were expecting!

danvers-lights-fire.jpg

Went light looking…

Found a fire.


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I Won a Christmas Tree!
Dec
3
2:30 PM14:30

I Won a Christmas Tree!

Today I had gum surgery… but I also decorated the Christmas tree that I won from the Bektash Shriners’ “Fez”-Tival of Trees in Concord, NH! Hurray! Life balances out. Check out this beaut:

feztival-tree-winning.jpg

Things I love about this Christmas tree:

- I won it
- Doesn’t drop pine needles
- The colors aren’t exclusively Christmassy, so I can use it for other holidays. I’m thinking an Easter Egg tree?!
- I only had to sacrifice 1/2 of my dining space to fit it in my tiny-ass apartment.
- I can put presents under it
- It’s mine and I won it

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Ipswich Memory Tree Lighting
Nov
30
6:30 PM18:30

Ipswich Memory Tree Lighting

Confession: I’ve never been to Ipswich’s tree lighting, despite living across the street from it. In my defense, I never know when they’re going to light the tree, as it’s one of the many annual Ipswich traditions that’s been done forever so you’re just supposed to know about it. From what I finally gather, it happens at 6:30pm on (maybe?) the last Friday of December. This year, when I heard the music and saw people crowding outside (surprise!), I decided to go out and join them instead of creepily watching them from my apartment window.

Instead of holiday songs, the tree light DJ was playing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and that “all your curves and all your edges” song by John Legend. I thought that was kind of strange until I was handed a candle and a pamphlet that informed me that this tree is sponsored by a funeral home in town, and each star ornament on the tree has the name of a person who has passed away this year, and that we want to remember. Hence the “Memory Tree.” Ah.

A man from the funeral home lit my candle and it promptly blew out. The on-duty police officer let me borrow his lighter and gave me the tip to the hold the candle sideways so it wouldn’t go out again. Other people’s candles blew out and we kept all re-lighting each other’s candles in this circle of “ah, my candle is out again!” And this went on for a half hour as every single name on the tree was read aloud. Every. Name. There had to be about 300. I had no idea this was part of the lighting ceremony, and once I was in it, I couldn’t really bail without looking like an insensitive jerk. So I did my best to be respectful and practice patience, even while my candle started dripping all over my jacket and then its little paper holder caught on fire and I had to wave it around to put it out. At one point, I realized my fingers were freezing so I juggled my candle while attempting to put on gloves. Oh, and also, the names weren’t read in alphabetical order, so there was no way of knowing how far along we were.

After the final name was read, we initiated a countdown from ten, and on one, the tree lit up! Everyone said “Woo!” and “Ahh!” and then we parted ways.

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