Since the School Year Began

Wow! It seems as though so much has happened since the last posting, it is hard to get it all into a single posting. The end of last week marked the halfway point for the first quarter at the high school, where I work. It is hard to believe that it has been that long already. It seems like only a week or two ago the year began in earnest. I guess it is safe to say that my beloved was right to give me a hard time about taking on extra work, of course she always believes she’s right. This time she was more accurate. Between working at a new school and trying to get the routine down there while coaching a soccer team at another school, I have been racing around like a madman for most of the fall. So here is the redux.

The school year started off with a bang and the new school is a stark change in comparison to the kids from the tough streets of Waltham. Other teachers kept telling me, “These kids are pretty good, for the most part. They basically do what you ask them.” While I was a serious doubter, it has proven to be the case more often than not. It has been rather startling, really.

I have been coaching a soccer team of undersized, painfully young Jewish kids, from a private prep school, to mixed results. We started out with real promise, but have quickly begun looking more and more like a bunch of over-matched, falsely entitled, whiney brats that show little desire and even less heart. It has been a rough season to date and one that is only halfway through the schedule. I’ll keep you all posted.

Ali and I had the great fortune of entertaining my other parents, the Eastman’s. They are parent’s to my oldest friend. While they were on a layover, waiting to head back to Chicago, after enjoying a cruise up the coast of New England and Atlantic Canada, we met for brunch. It was a real treat to see them and take them out into the city. I only wish we could have spent more time with them. It was great fun and, as Ali pointed out, the only visits I have had since moving out East were from my parents and my other parents. All in all, the afternoon was real delight.

Photo: Me and the Eastmans

Of course Ali, Keri, and I returned to the Big E for all the wholesome goodness that can be found at a six state fair. While there were no Big E-clairs to be found this year, we definitely filled up on carnie food and candy. We took in the impressive sculpture of a bovine biker atop a Harley-looking hog, all made of butter, as well as mutant produce of unusual size. We even stole sights of the whole fair from high above, in the fair’s largest Ferris wheel.

Photo: Butter Motorcycle with Cow Rider from Front Photo: Butter Motorcycle with Cow Rider from Side

Photo: Me and Mighty Large Pumpkins

Photo: View of the Fair from the Ferris Wheel

Most recently, we returned to another annual event of enormous appeal, Marlborough’s Horatio Alger Festival, which hosts a chowder festival with the best bang for your buck that I know of anywhere in the greater Boston area. For $2.00, we had healthy shares of the New England nectar from over a dozen vendors. While our choice failed to take the top prize yet again, at least there was a competition, in contrast to fiasco that Boston claims as its own chowder fest.

Photo: Me and Keri at Horatio Alger Festival

Finally, Ali and I finally made our living arrangements a bit more official than dwelling in the den of iniquity we have made our home for a little over the past year. On Monday, we became formally engaged. That’s right, we’re gonna get hitched, details to come later. In an effort to catch her off guard and truly win her heart, I popped the question with a cherry flavored ring pop. Candy that is. A real rock is forthcoming, to be set in a one-of-a-kind, custom designed piece by a local artisan. It should be a rather impressive sight, once it all comes together. For now Ali’s ring lives in a Tupperware container in our kitchen so as to stay free of lint and other potentially destructive elements. She couldn’t bring herself to actually eat it.

Photo: Me and Ali with Margaritas

So as you can read, much has happened and it kept me at a pace that prevented me from sitting down and writing at length about it. Very shortly, I will be able to settle into a bit more regular routine again and hammer out more frequent postings. Hopefully, said postings will be rich in entertaining detail and include a delicious diatribe or two.

Food Fests: Fabulous and Farce

Not that long ago, I headed into Boston’s Government Center, for one of the annual events to which I had been looking forward ever since I moved here. The Scooper Bowl is a benefit for the Jimmy Fund, but more than that it is a festival of ice cream. Now anyone that knows me well knows that ice cream is far and away my favorite food. So from the moment Ali had mentioned this phenomenon, I have been waiting anxiously to attend.

Here are some pictures of one of the finest event I have attended since living in the Boston area. Featured prominently is the gate to get in and enjoy the dairy deliciousness and a shot from the belly of the beast.

Photo: Ice Cream Cone Gateway to Scooper Bowl Photo: Inside the Row of Ice Cream Tents

With well over a dozen vendors, all handing out heaping cups of savory ice cream flavors in a myriad of fabulous flavors, as well as standby chocolate and vanilla, this was a magnificent occasion. Better still it lasts nearly a week. For a mere $7, you are let inside the gate and it is all you can eat. For me heading to the Scooper Bowl was a sprint, from the moment I raced from the high school onto the train, to entering the gate and commencing with the consumption. For those concerned among you, I knocked down eleven scoops inside a half hour, before deciding that it would not be wise to continue. Unfortunately I was solo for this because of the timing. Since I was still in school and had to wait until the later afternoon and Ali made it a work outing with her staff earlier in the day, we missed one another by a couple of hours. Next year we’ll have to coincide. Plus I will be experienced and better able to pace myself.

Photo: Ben and Jerry’s Tent

I wanted to rave about the Scooper bowl for a couple of reasons. One because it was one of the best fests of its kind I have attended here or anywhere; but two, because it serves as such a shocking contrast to the other equally awaited food event, Boston’s annual Chowderfest. Again, even before I lived here I had heard tale of the Chowderfest and how magnificent it was supposed to be. Travel television shows had regaled it as one of Boston’s best, saluting hall of fame winners of this distinctly New England fare. As soon as I found out that it was going to be Fourth of July weekend, the third, it was penciled in for a must attend. Neither Ali nor Keri had ever been there, so the three of us piled on the train and headed to Government Center.

Photo: The Line to Get into Chowderfest

Simply put, the Chowderfest was the worst travesty ever perpetrated on an unknowing public in search of either festival or food. The three of us arrived to join thousands of others, all of us gift wrapped in cellophane, suckers waiting to be bilked. After waiting in line for well over forty-five minutes, just to get into the farce-fest we walked through the gates to find yet even more lines for the equivalent of six tablespoons of less than stellah chowdah. A mere three, that’s right three, chowder vendors, two of which were not even from Boston, were there ladling out miniscule sample cups of their ware. Better still while we there the lone Boston contingent and past winner, Ned Devine’s, even pulled up stakes and knocked down their booth, apparently having been drained. Mind you this was at 2:30 PM and the event was supposed to go ‘til 6:00 PM. It was a complete joke. Even better was the local news, later that evening, celebrating the event with very tight shots of the event so you couldn’t really see the complete paucity of chowder. It was made even more complete with a Mayor Menino sound bite, “It was great. We had some of Boston’s best restaurants…” Are you kidding me?! I still don’t have enough literary control to exercise all the venom I still harbor for this outrageous Harborfest experience.

In spite of the soup sham, I still always manage to find a way to enjoy myself downtown. It was packed from Faneuil Hall al the way down Washington street and all along the Freedom Trail. Plus it is not everyday that you see Red Coats in the street marching.

Here’s hoping everyone had an Independence Day that exceeded our chowder experience. In spite of the horror show we still managed to have a quality weekend. More on that, perhaps, later.

My Birthday Recap

As we close out the month, I thought I should recap that I did in fact have a birthday. That’s right I am merely a few months from officially being the LP age. Since the thirteenth, I am only thirty-three. Moreover, it was the best one in recent memory, thanks to Ali. Being keenly aware of many of my longing for certain aspects of Chicago, she made a special order in anticipation of the day. Of course these longings have nothing to do with Boston. However, certainly everyone has a special place in their heart for things reminiscent of where they are from. For me, a lot of these longings center on food. Chicago is the place with all kinds of food that will undoubtedly send you to an early grave, but it’s so good. What’s more you just can’t find many of the tasty treats outside Chicagoland.

Of the many delicious treats I miss is the Italian beef sandwich. Everyone that I know that has moved away from the area secretly desires the exquisite deliciousness of this Chicago delicacy. Ask for an Italian beef anywhere else in the country and people look at you like you have grown an extra head. This requires all of those that have left the area to devour one whenever we have returned. Ali knows this, for she frequently remarks on my need to satisfy my cravings when home. In a gift of pure genius she had a kit of Italian beef sandwiches shipped in for the occasion. Here is the moment of realization.

Photo: Box of Italian Beefs

While my favorite vendor of the beef is Carm’s Beef No. 3, the box from Serrelli Street was a delectable treat that was every bit as good. I had never been to place, despite having lived so close to it when I was near North and Harlem. I guess I never really stretched much further than Johnny’s which was only a block or so away. Yet, I cannot recommend Serrelli Street enough for the out of towners. It is cheaper than Portillo’s and is even more scrumptious with its jars of peppers and giardenera. It was awesome, as you can tell.

Photo: Preparing to Eat Beefs Photo: Box of Italian Beefs