Sunday, February 25, 2007

"I will miss..." - the Beacon Hill Nostalgia Day

Moving time again. Which means that today was "Nostalgia Day" for me. The day when I suddenly miss every little bit of the neighborhood I'll be leaving. Nostalgia - such a happy, depressing, exciting, sad feeling. Completely contradictory in its emotional nature. Ha!

Today, the list ran quite long as I reflected on all of the things that I loved about living here. Here's a randomly assorted list that attempts to get all of those things gathered together [but it's certainly not all-inclusive!]:

I will miss...
- late night talks with Pete
- the confused smell of several scented candles coming from Tim's room
- the slant of my room [a good 7-10 degrees, I think!]
- having a dishwasher
- the ease of living with Tim and Pete
- my view of the two Hancock towers from my bedroom window
- free heat
- the sore muscles of the 2.5 block uphill walk followed by the 4-flight stair climb to get home each day [yes, I'm crazy]
- the quaintness of the streets on the Hill
- Charles St 2 blocks away
- a really big Whole Foods at my disposal
- Fred's Video and Mike's Movies
- the cozy feeling of walking home through narrow, brownstone house lined streets
- my 10-minute walk to the Commons
- my crosstown walks to the grocery store and back
- my favorite Borders on Newbury/Boylston
- the Starbucks on Charles and Beacon - because it has to fit into the Charles St style instead of plastering itself green
- the new Charles/MGH T-stop
- my close proximity to the BPL at Copley
- the look on people's faces when I tell them I live on Beacon Hill
- my cute little laundromat
- the new laundromat I found this morning that I wish had always been "my cute little laundromat"
- dry cleaning stores on every other corner on the Hill
- the little yappy "punt dogs" on the end of everyone's leashes
- Tim's dumpster diving treasures
- listening to the boys practicing guitar/bass/songs behind the closed doors of their bedrooms
- my showerhead
- the "secret" entrance to a part of the Underground Railroad [it's not actually all that secret, but feels like it, and certainly more exciting if it's called "secret"]
- a new path to my front door every time I walk home
- discovering odd houses, sidewalks, streets, windows, stores, speed bumps on my walks through the Hill
- the fact that getting out of Beacon Hill is easier than getting in, since the one-ways change direction at the top of the Hill
- my proximity to my favorite view of Boston from the Longfellow Bridge
- the sense of connection to historical Boston from living in and around these old buildings on the Hill
- having the apartment number "4R"
- cobblestones, cobblestones, and more cobblestones
- eager tasters for new recipes I discover and attempt to replicate [Tim & Pete]
- Tim's mom's cookies [mmm...]
- Pete's stories and descriptions of work - I will never understand fully what he means, but it's always riveting because he's so animated in the telling of them
- my little spice/baking supply shelf
- climbing the counter to get at the stuff on the second shelf of my cupboard in the kitchen
- the pleasant feeling I always get upon entering the neighborhood
- the UPS store on Charles St
- Panificio
- Antique stores galore!
- half sliding down the icy hills when leaving my apartment
- the rooftop computer room on an adjacent building on our street [complete with computer and comfy chair and desk!]
- rolling around my kitchen with my saved-from-the-garbage, $150+ office chair when I'm too lazy to stand up and walk the 3 feet across the room
- the crazy colors in the painting of a Beacon Hill streetlamp hanging in the living room
- the 3 bricks outside my bedroom window about whose whereabouts I've always been mildly curious
- hearing the things that are supposed to keep mice away constantly emitting their soft clicking in the background of the otherwise silent apartment

Oh, man, most of all...I'll just miss Beacon Hill!!!

[I love that I could have saved myself the trouble of writing the entire list just by writing that last sentence, which pretty much sums up the nostalgic feeling I'm talking about in this post...but then, no one ever accused me of being concise.]

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bubble gum and pencil shavings...

Call in three months time and I'll be fine I know
Well maybe not that fine, but I'll survive anyhow
I won't recall the names and places of each sad occasion
But that's no consolation--here and now

So what happens now?

(Another suitcase in another hall...)

So what happens now?

(Take your picture off another wall...)

Where am I going to?

(You'll get by - you always have before...)

Where am I going to?

Man, job searching is certainly not an uplifting experience. The ups and downs, the back and forth, the false hopes and sore disappointments - it's a rollercoaster ride with your own life strapped precariously in the front seat, blindfolded. A recent disappointment of my own current job search put this song into my head. (Well, really just the chorus, but upon looking up the lyrics to ensure I had the right wording, the verse I included above struck a particular chord as well.)

I guess I'm struck by how so much of life can seem like a blind rollercoaster ride. Not necessarily even referring to any one area of life. Just life in general. It's unpredictable. It's exhilarating. It's terrifying. It's calm one minute and bumpy the next. It's amazingly adept at making our stomachs leap and our hearts race unexpectedly. It both makes us wish that we were anywhere but on this ride and that the ride would never end. It's hard to say whether its more fun to have someone beside us in the coaster car or whether the ride is more fun if that car is void of company - both are true at different points in the ride.

But we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy...

I suppose those are Seal's words, but I hear them from Alanis Morrisette on my computer. It's true, though, right? I mean, I'm going on and on about this rollercoaster ride we call life - describing it's similarities with what we know of actual rollercoaster rides. But what does that really say? That life is crazy. It's unpredictable. It's fun, exciting, and scary. And then Alanis pipes in to remind me that we need to be a little crazy in order to survive this ride we've elected to take. [Okay, one could make the argument that we don't actually elect to take the ride at all, but that we're forced into the car upon birth...but I'm not gonna get that philosophical today. I leave it to you to ponder if you choose.]

Crazy - not in the "clinical" sense. More like getting a little crazy in the way we approach life, the way we take control of certain situations, the way we interpret experiences as they happen and after they've passed us by. Really, when you think about all the stuff we go through as individuals on our own coaster tracks of life, we kinda have to be crazy to continue to travel along those tracks, huh? There are so many things happening to challenge us - mentally, physically, emotionally. Job-searching and unemployment are the specific topics that I refer to in this post, but there are so many others. Love, relationships, friendships. Pursuits of happiness - in th workplace, in living situations, in hobbies and recreation, in social structures. Belief systems. Overall health - physical health, fitness, eating right - mental health - emotional health, admitting feelings we'd rather not, experiencing emotions we're not sure we can handle fully. Man, we're one crazy group of creatures!

I suddenly have no idea where I'm going with this. I guess I started it to get the Evita song out of my head, then to rant a bit in a general way about my displeasure in the job-hunt. But it got a little philosophical after listening to that Alanis cover of an enigmatic Seal song...and now I'm searching for answers to rather large life questions...or perhaps just rambling about big ideas and thoughts that bounce around in the background of my mind. Huh. Right then... now that I really have no conclusion, I'll leave you. [Hehe, man, I hate it when that happens...]

Oh, the title? Yeah, I dunno. It's as good a title as any for this post, I say.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Toast to Winter

It's finally cold enough to officially dub this season winter!!!

Which means that going outside requires the 10-minute layering process to guard against the biting winds and skin-numbing cold air. It means that you can see your breath in the middle of the day. It means that the smell of snow rides on the wintry breezes - that is, if it's warm enough to snow.

I can't say that New England knows winter quite as well as Minnesota does. I have to give the winter season to Minnesotans - they really know how to live this season to its fullest. And as Minnesota is rather famous for its wintry weather (making it hard for some people - particularly coastal natives - to believe that Minnesota enjoys a warm and balmy summer as well), I suppose it's suiting that they do it so well. But I will concede that New England does its best to create the cold, icy world of winter in all of winter's glory.

For me, winter is a magical world, bringing to mind fantastic words and phrases. Numbing cold - frost - frozen - chilly - billowing snow. With these come equally fantastic images of frosted windowpanes, warm fireplaces, steaming cocoa, snowmen in the front yard, and, of course, the wonderful "snow-baby effect."

Winter creates the world of frozen ponds, rivers, and gutter puddles. Its winds whip past us as we walk, pinching our cheeks and numbing our legs through our jeans. Scarves, hats, winter coats, mittens, ear muffs, face masks, boots, thick wool socks are the costumes of the season - which people use in different combinations to create a bubble of insulation to allow them safe passage from place to place through Jack Frost's Wintry Wonderland.

The joy of winter rests in those breath vapors dancing in front of you as you walk. Its in the thawing-out feeling that comes when you get inside from the cold - your cheeks once again easily movable as the numbness leaves them. Its ice skaters laughing on the Frog Pond in the Common. Its in the "blinking red" of the old John Hancock tower signaling "snow ahead." Its hot chocolate after a good frolic in the snow. Its cuddling up under blankets while watching the cold winds dance through the night, the frost slowly appear on the windowpane, the snow billow past creating a silent shining landscape of white. Its bright colored mittens, hand-knit scarves and hats, big lumpy coats hiding their occupants inside. And its the beginning of that Christmas song:
Frosted windowpanes,
Candles gleaming inside,
Painted candy canes on the tree.
Santa's on his way,
He's filled his sleigh with things -
Things for you and for me.

It's that time of year
When the world falls in love,
Every song you hear seems to say,
'Merry Christmas,
May your New Year dreams come true!'

Winter brings a sense of childhood back to everyone - even as we feel we've forgotten as we drive through the hazardous icy roads on our way home from work. We can't help but remember the days of our youth, when we raced our friends down the sledding hills, soaked our play-clothes completely from rolling in the snow, built the best snowman on the block, and kicked up the snow in front of us as we patrolled the white slopes of our own winter wonderlands. Memories of warm soup and hot cocoa after a neighborhood snowball fight fill our heads. The inevitable need to go to the bathroom just when Mom finished the 15-minute ordeal of wrapping us up to play on the cold, snowy Saturday afternoon. Winter meant Christmas - Santa - presents! It meant snow-days from school, or "dangerously cold weather days" by declaration of the Governor if you lived in Minnesota (and I imagine in the surrounding states as well). Winter creates that youthful spirit in our adult lives as we hear the new generation laughing and running and tumbling in wintry bliss.

There's something very satisfying in the feeling of being utterly chilled to the bone, then stepping into a warm, cozy living room with a cup of cocoa and a pair of fuzzy slippers. And something so satisfying about that cold bubble that you in your warm insulated bubble you create for yourself each day. So, as you shiver slightly underneath you numerous layers, looking out across the frozen river to the snowy roofs on opposite bank, I invite you to raise your thermos of steamy cocoa, full of bobbing mini marshmallows, and join me in toasting this cold, icy season. Here's to winter!!!

Yeah, I just burned my tongue, too. That's half the fun!

[This post was inspired in part by this wonderful season, but also in part from a request by a reader for a toast to winter after reading my toast to fall. Stay tuned as the seasons change yet again and perhaps inspiration will strike again to produce a toast to the spring!]

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