Boston By Foot Tour of the Month: Longwood/Cottage Farm

About twenty hardy souls braved the rain and stickiness to visit two neighborhoods in Brookline on the Boston By Foot September Tour of the Month of Longwood & Cottage Farm.  These neighborhoods feel like a remote English village although one is never more than two blocks away from Beacon Street and it’s trolley line.  The two areas developed as subdivisions of the land of David Sears II (Longwood) and Amos Lawrence (Cottage Farm) developed to provide housing for other worthy elites.  As a result they could live in charming cottages in a rural setting just a short trolley ride away from Boston.

I actually rode my bike through these neighborhoods for a couple of years but never got a chance to fully take in the beauty of the houses and landscaping.  I didn’t take detailed notes but do have a gallery of photos on my website.  There’s also a good history of Longwood and Cottage Farm at the Brookline Historical Society.

The last BBF Tour of the Month is a return of the delightful Art Deco tour on Sunday, October 26th.


Shea Stadium: A Personal History

Beloved Mets mascot Mr. Met signs autographs during a 1997 game at Shea Stadium.

Yesterday, the Mets lost to the Marlins and brought an end to their 2008 season as well as the William A. Shea Municipal Stadium.  The Mets will begin the 2009 season in a retro-ballpark modeled on Ebbets Field, but Shea Stadium will always be home for me.  People criticize Shea for being a “concrete donut” but I think it has a lot more charm than the truly awful multi-use stadiums that followed it in Cincinatti, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.  I think it compares well to Dodgers Stadium, although Dodgers has the advantage of an open concourse so one can still watch the game while going to the concessions stands and it has a full seat of outfield bleachers.  On the other hand, Shea Stadium has much better public transit connections and a decent park nearby to wander around before a game.  The big shame about CitiField is that for all its retro-ness it will still be in the middle of a parking lot and not a true neighborhood ballpark.

A Polaroid photo from the September 20th, 1986 Mets game against the Phillies at Shea Stadium. I’d hoped the Mets would clinch the NL East division title at this game but they’d already done it several days earlier.  The grass was still all patched up from Mets fans storming the field and tearing the turf in celebration.

Undoubtedly, Shea Stadium is the venue where I’ve attended the most sporting events in my lifetime.  As a kid, I would go to Mets & Jets games with my family.  The Jets games were especially interesting since we’d sit in the temporary wooden (splintery) bleachers in the end zones (roughly behind home plate and in front of the scoreboard in the baseball configuration). The seats by the scoreboard were particularly remote from things like restrooms and concessions.  At one game I complained to my father of thirst and rather than go all the way to the concession stand and wait in a long line, he gave my some of his beer (which I didn’t like but it got me to shut up).  I fell for the great Mets teams of the 1980’s there and returned in good years and lean in the 90’s and 2000’s.  I have memories of going to games with my late father at Shea and more recent memories of attending games with my wife (and even my son in-utero!).

Banner Day 1987.  That’s right!  A scheduled double-header and if you were artistically talented enough you could parade around the field with a bed sheet between games.  And all for six bucks!

Here are a dozen memorable games from my Shea history.

  • June 14, 1980: Giants 6, Mets 7 — This is the earliest game I can remember at Shea (and how could anyone forget it) but I probably went to some Mets & Jets games in the late 70’s too.  We’d just returned from a vacation in California and my sister was wearing a San Francisco t-shirt, so we gave her a hard time but an older woman told us we were nice kids for wearing our Mets hats.  The game ended on a walk-off 3-run homer by Steve Henderson.  I kid you not when I say I’ve never been to a sporting event where the fans went completely insane in joyous celebration.  No wonder I became a Mets fan.
  • October 5, 1980: Patriots 21, Jets 11 — I don’t remember the game so much but afterwards my father (or was it my uncle?) knew some people having a tailgate in the parking lot.  Some of the players actually came to the tailgate and I got to meet the Jets strong saftety Ken Schroy.  I think it is not a coincidence that after meeting me, Schroy went on to lead the team with a career-high 8 interceptions.
  • December 14, 1980: Saints 21, Jets 20 — The New Orleans Saints started the 1980 season with a 0-14 record and were poised to become the first NFL team without a win.  The Jets prevented that with a loss of their own on an icey day where the winds swirled around Shea.  After the game, several hundred drunken fans stormed the field and wrestled with one another in the snow.
  • November 22, 1981: Dolphins 15, Jets 16 — A much better Jets memory as the team was able to rally in the fourth quarter and score a win against the hated Dolphins.  This helped the Jets gain a spot in the playoffs, the first time any team I liked would participate in postseason play in my lifetime.
  • Some game in 1985, could be August 24, 1985: Padres 1, Mets 5 — Mets fans remember Ray Knight as the hero and MVP of the 1986 World Series, but in 1985 Mets fans loved the light-hitting Knight as much as they love Luis Castillo today.  I was fortunate to go to a game where Knight had multiple hits, drove in the majority of the runs, and topped it off with a great defensive gem.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember when the game was or who the Mets played but it may be this game against the Padres.

Mets legend Mookie Wilson throws batting practice before a game against the Phillies on September 8, 1997, my first game at Shea after a decade away.
  • June 8, 1998: Devil Rays 0, Mets 3 — Prior to the game a man introduced himself to me as a Japanese sports reporter and asked “Preach to me the Mets pitching rotation?”  The Mets had just acquired Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo and I figure he wanted to know the rest of the Mets starters.  I listed them off and he repeated them.  It took a lot of self-control to not laugh when I said “Rick Reed” and he repeated “Lick Leed?”  Lick, er, Rick pitched a great game that night going 6 2/3 innings until Wade Boggs hit a double to become Tampa Bay’s first baserunner of the night.  As an added bonus, the Mets new catcher Mike Piazza hit his first home run at Shea as a Met.
  • August 21, 1998: Cardinals 0, Mets 1 — This was the summer of Mark McGwire chasing, and finally surpassing, Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a season.  In the second game of a double-header, however, Armando Reynoso was the star striking out the mighty McGwire three times.

An Irish step-dancer takes the mound where Seaver and Gooden once pitched on Irish night in 1997.
  • Aug. 12, 2000: Giants 2, Mets 3 — Irish Night at Shea, and one of my all-time favorite Mets made a big blunder.  Benny Agbayani lost count of the number of outs and threw the ball to a fan after only the second out.  Somehow, he actually got the ball back from the fan and threw it back into the infield to keep the runners from circling the bases.  Following the game, the band Black 47 played a raucous set.
  • October 15, 2000: Cardinals 6, Mets 10 — The first and only playoff game I’ve ever attend and also Susan’s first game at Shea.  We sat in the notorious back rows of the Mezzanine where the Upper Level cuts off the view of the field creating a letterbox effect.  At every exciting play (and there were many) those of us in the back row jumped up to cheer and then ducked down again so we could see the action.

The Mets and Braves line up for introductions on Opening Day in 2001.
  • April 9, 2001: Braves 4, Mets 9 — This was the only time I ever attended a home opener, which was a special one since Mr. Met and Ralph Kiner raised the 2000 National League pennant flag prior to the game.  Tsuyoshi Shinjo tried to make up for the Mets not signing Alex Rodriguez with his first home run in the US, and Mike Piazza added two more homers.
  • August 9, 2001: Brewers 3, Mets 4 — The now defunct Fan Forum got together for a game in the picnic area, the small set of bleachers in left field.  It was a weekday afternoon game and it was something like 102°, most definitely the hottest game I’ve ever attended.  It was fun to meet fellow Mets fans some of whom are still good friends of mine.  I made a double-header of the day and saw the Brooklyn Cyclones play that night in Coney Island.  On a sad note, this would be the last day I’d see the World Trade Center with my own eyes.
  • April 21, 2007: Braves 2, Mets 7 — My Brave fan friend Mike and I made a tradition of going to see the Mets and Braves play at Shea once a season every year from 2005-2007.  This game was the only one of the three in which Tom Glavine did not hand his former team the game on a silver platter.  Instead Oliver Perez dominated the Braves and Mets scored most of their runs while I went to get ice cream for my pregnant wife.  You can read more about this game in a previous blog post.

I attended my last game at Shea on September 14, 2008 versus the Braves.  It started out well with two David Wright homeruns and nice pitching by Perez, but ended the way far too many 2008 Mets games ended: a blown save of the ridiculous variety!  My pictures from that final game capture a few of the great landmarks of Shea.

The diamond at Shea
The diamond at Shea

Ollie on the mound
Ollie on the mound

The big scoreboard is the best in baseball.
The big scoreboard is the best in baseball.

Skyline sillouhette on the scoreboard.
Skyline sillouhette on the scoreboard.

Mets Magic! A big apple for every home run.
Mets Magic! A big apple for every home run.

Cow Bell Man, one of the many legendary Shea characters
Cow Bell Man, one of the many legendary Shea characters

More on Shea Goodbye:

Previously: If the Mets Were the Yankees

Massachusetts & Me: A Decade Together

On this date in 1998, I pulled my rental van into Somerville and became a resident of Massachusetts.  Ten years later I’m still here, now in Boston, having now lead nearly a third of my life in this Commonwealth.

Here were some of my hopes and goals when I made the move:

  • Escaping the heat & humidity of Virginia and return to lovely four-season weather 1
  • Resume my identity as a New Englander 2
  • Live in a city and enjoy the cultural benefits therein3
  • Make good use of public transit and go car-free4
  • Continue my career in history museum education5
  • Live among a more liberal populace6
  • Form a circle of friends7
  • Find love. Get married.  Raise a family8

So I pretty much got that all covered.  Pretty good considering that I moved here with no job prospects, not really knowing anyone, and saving money by staying in a tent at Wompatuck State Park while looking for places to live.

Anyhow, it’s been a good ten years, and may the next ten be just as good.


1 Virginia seriously has only two seasons: Summer which consists of 90° / 90% humidity from March to October and the rest of the year where it just rains. Of course, I didn’t realize that in Boston, Spring doesn’t start in May or that fresh snowfall is immediately packed down into bumpy and sooty ice formations, but at least it’s only hot for like two weeks in the Summer.
2People in Boston apparently do not consider southwestern Connecticut (where I grew up) to be New England. Screw them, I say.
5I did get a job offer at Plimoth Plantation but they were offering $8/hour, the same pay rate I made in Virginia where the cost of living is half that it is here.  So I went into libraries and haven’t looked back.
6Massachusetts isn’t as liberal as I imagined it to be, but I’m probably not either.  Also now Virginia elects Democrats and is now considered a swing state.  Go figure!
7They say it’s hard to meet people in Boston.  I found it easy to meet lots of people, extremely difficult to make lasting connections.  But persistence pays off and I’ve met some of the best people ever, mainly through work, volunteering, church, and alumni groups.
8None of this happened remotely in the way I imagined it would, but I wouldn’t change a thing.


Book Review: Maps by Nuruddin Farah

Book Review: Maps (1986) by Nuruddin Farah represents Somalia for Around the World for a Good Book. The novel tells the story of Askar a boy whose father dies in the war before he was born and whose mother dies shortly after his birth.  He’s rescued and raised by an Ethiopian outsider Misra.  Much of the book details the close relationship of Askar to his foster mother described in language bordering on the erotic.  Farah also plays with narrative by rotating the chapters from Second Person to First Person to Third Person.

Reading books from Around the World helps fill in some of the huge gaps in my knowledge.  I’d never heard of the war between Somalia and Ethiopia which is the bloody backdrop of this book.  The novel also focuses on the theme of identity, contrasting the ethnic and familial backgrounds of the characters.  As he grows up he moves in with family in Mogadiscio and learns from a far that the land of his birth has been conquered. Misra’s Ethiopian identity leads her to be suspected of treason with tragic results.  This novel is full of pain and heartbreak.

Author Farah, Nuruddin, 1945-
Title Maps / Nuruddin Farah.
Publication Info. New York : Pantheon Books, c1986.
Edition 1st American ed.
Description 246 p. ; 21 cm.


It’s amazing what a major fiscal crisis can do to you.  I’ve basically have no interest in economics.  In fact I even managed to weasel myself out of the required economics course in High School by taking a special course in Japanese taught by a college professor (that worked out well as I know something like five words in Japanese).

I find it surprising that quite accidentally I find myself reading and listening to economics news pretty much on a daily basis.  Here’s what I’m checking out:

So if you’re trying to figure out what’s going in our global financial system, check these out.

Edit on Sep. 25th:

Hah!  This guy could be me:

Random Jots & Musings

For Sept. 23:

  • I saw a woman in Harvard Square wearing a McCain/Palin t-shirt.  I immediately assumed she was wearing it ironically, but after a few moments it occurred to me that she may be for real.
  • There was a massive line at Boloco.  Later I learned it was free burrito day.  What does it say about me that I’d rather pay for a burrito than be in a mob of people?
  • If you’re the gentleman to whom my son gave his slobbery pacifier on the Orange Line this morning, I once again heartily apologize.
  • Speaking of the T, if you find a little baby sneaker, yeah, that’s ours too.
  • The traffic light on Hyde Park Av at Forest Hills Station was stuck on permanent green tonight at rush hour.  We stood on the sidewalk for like 6-7 minutes as caravans of cars and buses buzzed by.  Finally a friendly cop came out and stopped the traffic for the crowd of people gathered by the crosswalk.
  • I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I tell you I saw three black helicopters flying in a row over Forest Hills as I walked up the hill to my house.
  • Today’s the 100th anniversary of Merkle’s Boner (all the 12-year old boys in my readership are rolling on the floor laughing now).

Food Meme

Here’s a food meme with a list of foods that apparently every omnivore should try at least once, via the Desert Librarian.  I’m a vegetarian (that is don’t eat anything from the animal kingdom but do eat animal products like milk, eggs, honey & cheese….mmmm, cheese), but I haven’t always been so I can check of a few meaty things on this list too.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea (this isn’t Nestea apparently)
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue (fromage et pan, mmm)
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush (so much fun to say)
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes *
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche *
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda *
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar *
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O -Shots
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (not intentionally)
43. Phaal *
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more *
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear (I accidentally had the cactus spines stuck in my tongue, does that count?) *
52. Umeboshi  *
53. Abalone
54. Paneer (mmm…cheese)
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini  *
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (clay?)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian *
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis (vegetarian haggis in Edinburgh)
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe *
74. Gjetost, or brunost *
75. Roadkill (maybe I’ll try it if it’s a dead apple or something)
76. Baijiu *
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong *
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant *
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers (like roses, daffodils, and violets?)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate *
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa *
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox (just the bagel, no lox)
97. Lobster Thermidor (just the lobster, no thermidor)
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

What I learned from this list is that if I had to look it up, it’s something I’ve never eaten.  There are some tasty things on here I’d like to try though.  I’ve marked those with an asterix.  So I’ll never eat all these things, but I can definitely improve on the score of 47 out of 100 that I have now.

If the Mets Were the Yankees

All eyes in the baseball world this week turn to Flushing, NY where the New York Mets play their final seven games at Shea Stadium.  The historic ballpark has been New York’s home for baseball memories since it opened in 1883 as home of the New York Giants.  Originally named the Polo Grounds, the old ballpark has been home for the Giants of baseball and football, the Mets, the Jets, and even the Yankees from 1912-22 and again in the mid-1970’s.  The Mets arrived in 1962, and after rehabilitation and minor relocation of the playing field in 1964, the Polo Grounds was renamed Shea Stadium after lawyer William Shea who brought National League baseball to New York.

Fans fondly look back on 125 years of Shea Stadium history from the Merkle Boner to the Shot Heard Around the World, from Willie’s basket catch to the Beatles, and from the Miracle Mets of 1969 to Mookie’s dribbler past Buckner.  Mets ownership have been credited with great judgement for keeping this historic landmark functional for so many years, especially after their crosstown rival Yankees demolished their historic Stadium in 1973.  The new Yankee Stadium which opened in 1976 has been described by an architecural critic as “a monstrosity of 70’s-era cookie cutter design.”

Still, the time for the old ballpark has come and the Mets prepare to move to their “new” home, Citifield in 2009.  Citifield, originally known as Ebbets Field was built in 1913 and was home to the Brooklyn Dodgers until 1957 and has remained vacant since then except for some local stickball league games.  Not only is Citifield 30-years younger than the Mets soon-to-be former home, but has been fully renovated with a reoriented playing field for the Mets and their fans.  Mets management look forward to making more history at the same ballpark where Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

Beer Review: Harpoon Octoberfest

No offense to Sam Adams, but Harpoon is my favorite Boston brewery.  Here’s a German-style Marzen for the Fall.

Beer: Harpoon Octoberfest
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source: Draft
Rating: *** (7.4 of 10)
Comments: This seasonal beer captures the feeling of autumn, crisp with the smell of burning leaves, and beautiful foliage all around.  Indeed, the beer itself is a lovely dark red color with a foamy head, although the head disappears a bit too quickly.  The beer’s aroma is a musty caramel and the taste is initially bitter, but with a spicy aftertaste that tingles the tongue.  Here’s to the season, Prost!

Previously: Harpoon Weizenbock

Avast, me hearties…

It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Before ye proceed further, click ye this link to continue readin’.

More ways for ye landlubbers to cel’brate this great day:

And, shiver me timbers ye scallywags can even see Facebook and Google in its proper pirate language!

Don’t forget to get yer pirate name like these fine piratelibrarians, and meself:

My pirate name is:

Mad Sam Flint

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Like the rock flint, you’re hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you’re easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
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Previously: Arrr!!!