Wellington-Harrington is Still Awesome

So, haven’t written in a while. The last post I wrote was on how my neighborhood — Wellington-Harrington in Cambridge — is awesome, because it has really good restaurants. This is true, and I continue to think that Wellington-Harrington is awesome.

Of course, since I wrote that post, Wellington-Harrington has become perhaps more widely known as the home of the illustrious Tsarnaev brothers. I was away during the week of the Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt, but I live close enough to their house that my poor cats were frightened by sirens and helicopters, as well as the initial gunfire in Kendall Square.

I don’t really have a takeaway from all this. Basically, I continue to really like my neighborhood. It’s vibrant and diverse and interesting, and I’m a little bummed that this is now at least partially how people know it. Though it has been interesting to see it on TV and read how various news outlets describe it.

It is a multicultural neighborhood where hardware stores and butcher shops are mixed with cafes and Brazilian and Portuguese restaurants,” said the New York Times, which is accurate but necessarily incomplete. I also vaguely remember an article referring to it as an “urban hipster” neighborhood, which to me suggests the reporter may have wandered into Grillo’s Pickles, where bearded men with iPads work on their media saturation strategy, and to my knowledge nobody has ever bought a pickle.

But I’m being mean, because I really like Grillo’s Pickles. I also really like Atwoods Tavern and Tupelo, the amazing Southern restaurant which sold pulled pork sandwiches to cops and FBI agents investigating the house, and the Kendall Square Cinema. Not to mention  Indian street food at Punjabi Dhaba, beautiful Donnelly Field and the Valente Library. Then there’s Christina’s cream, the East Coast Grill, 1369 and Lord Hobo. And soon we’ll have the cricket-themed sports bar, Hit Wicket.

The only thing we no longer have at the moment is Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, which from my point of view makes this the perfect time to check the neighborhood out! Lets all work to put them out of our minds and concentrate on food, beer, Little League baseball, books, cricket, and movies, which are all far more deserving of our attention. The end.

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The Beak: First Impressions (Part One)

So, like nearly everyone else in the area by this point, I’ve been hearing a lot about the Beak lately. Here’s the thing, though, I actually went for the first time yesterday night. And I want to write about it, which I’m not sure is totally and strictly something that I’m supposed to do. I’m going to anyway, though. The reason is this: I think the crazy air of secrecy surrounding this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion, and is giving people the wrong idea. I think it was intended to reinforce the organic process of how people learn about and end up at the Beak, rather than 30,000 people reading about it on Yelp or something and showing up one night. But now I think people are under the impression that it’s more like a secret society than anything else. And that’s really far from the truth.

So anyway, I’m not going to go as far as saying where the place is, and I won’t post any pictures (except for stuff I find online that gives you an idea of what some things look like). I’m just going to try to give an honest, non-blown-out-of-proportion account of what it’s like to go there. And honestly I don’t think anyone’s going to give me a hard time about it. Or it could really piss everyone off and I’ll never be allowed back again. One or the other.

Anyway, I went with a friend, who got involved, like a lot of people through his involvement with the visual effects industry. He worked on “Avenger in the Desert” in the 80s. And a whole bunch of that crowd, the folks who worked on movies like “Avenger” and “Swan Child” and the other trashy but enjoyable movies that made up the weird little boomlet of New-England-produced sword-and-sorcery flicks in the 80s, are apparently the people who started the Beak in the first place.

(And of course, my personal connection to that boomlet, as I tell anyone who is interested, is that I knew the actual Swan Child, Clea Tunnell — when the movie was filming and she went to classes at the local elementary school. We were in the same third grade class. Not only did I know her, we decided that we were “dating” and eventually would get married. Spoiler alert: we didn’t. Anyway…)

This pic is the closest thing I could find to what the sculpture looks like. The real one is all wooden, hung tentacles facing down, and more stylized, like a kraken in an old engraving.

This pic is the closest thing I could find to what the sculpture looks like. The real one is all wooden, hung tentacles facing down, and more stylized, like a kraken in an old engraving.

So I and my friend — who I’m not naming specifically at his request — went over to the Beak, at his suggestion, quite early. Like before 5 o’clock. So there were only a few people there at that point, and everything was very bright. It was certainly not the dark cavernous space that I’d pictured. The space is enormous; a converted factory floor. Stage at one end, and there’s a open loft-balcony-thing at the other that takes up about a third of the length of the building. And lots of very large skylights on the ceiling, so during the daytime, like I said, there’s just light pouring in. We drove in and parked in a small garage underground beneath the building, and took this big freight elevator up to the balcony area.

From up there, you can see the whole area. All wood, wood floors and everything, and of course the actual “Beak” itself, the big squid sculpture hanging down from the ceiling in the center of the building. And up on the balcony, where we were, is the sort of workshop area. There were 6 or 7 guys working on carving guitars and mandolins and things, and there were literally dozens of instruments hung up on all the walls.

And both up there, and down on the main floor, there’s art everywhere. Huge canvas paintings hung up, lots of murals painted directly on the walls, big paper mache parade puppet things hanging down or leaning against the walls.

I have to clean my apartment, and shouldn’t spend all day on this blog, so I’ll continue this post tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Spanx For Nothing.

Prehistoric Spanx turned women into mer-creatures.

So yesterday I tried Spanx for the first time. Now I’ve heard about Spanx for awhile—for the uninitiated into the rites of female body modification, Spanx are a combination  of industrial strength pantyhose/bicycle short that function as a smoothing and sucking  foundation garment—but I became convinced that I should purchase a pair because of the recent New Yorker profile of the inventor of Spanx, Sarah Blakely,  proving how totally nerd-bourgeois I’ve become.  I don’t know what I was expecting. I think my expectation can best be articulated as the possibility that the device would work like some kind of butt-corset and magically reduce my comfortable rump into something taut and yoga-fied resembling Madonna circa 1993. I’ve heard horror stories of not being able to move once enveloped in these sheaths of vanity and that they take up to 30 minutes to shimmy into. Is it a tribute to the current state of female body dysmorphia in America that these obstacles somehow made the Spanx that more appealing? If I was looking for some good ole’ fashioned masochism, I was disappointed. The Spanx were ….basically bike shorts. I mean, they were tight and made the bridesmaid’s dress I just bought hand smoothly over them, but any butt-magic I had hoped for evaporated in the two minutes it took to put them on. I’m pleased with my purchase,  but it won’t  sate my desire for a magic bullet for those of us who are too bootylicious for standard sizing. I guess I’ll just have to wait until Coco T’s clothing line is launched later this year.