Photopost: Baseball Double Header


Over Memorial Day Weekend, I enjoyed a two-city, two-team, two-day baseball double header. On Sunday, I traveled down to New York to see R.A. Dickey and the Mets take on the San Diego Padres in the good company of some of my Mets fan friends. The next day, my son Peter & I went to Fenway Park for the Red Sox victory over the Detroit Tigers.

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Photopost: Wake Up the Earth 2012


Some photos from back on May 5th when Spontaneous Celebrations presented its annual Wake Up the Earth Festival in Jamaica Plain. This year we not only watched the parade but my son and I also participated in the festival, performing with Sing Positive JP.

Here’s a sample of our chorus’ singing:

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Beer Review: Slumbrew Porter Square Porter


Beer: Porter Square Porter
Brewer: Slumbrew (Somerville Brewing Company)
Source: Draft
Rating:  **** (8.3 of 10)
Comments:  This is a nice porter.  It’s a deep, chocolaty black with a thick, foamy head.  The mouthfeel is very smooth and the taste is sweet with hints of cocoa and coffee.  Seek this out!

Beer Review: Cambridge Brewing Co. Sgt. Pepper


Beer: Sgt. Pepper Saison / Farmhouse Ale
Brewer: Cambridge Brewing Co.
Source:  22 oz. bottles
Rating: *** (7.8 of 10)
Comments: The beer is a nice cloudy copper with lots of bubbles and a foamy head. The smell and taste stand out as the peppercorns give the beer a spiciness that is unique.  It also has fruity, citrus flavors and a pleasantly spicy aftertaste.  It’s good to have something different.

Photopost: Holiday Week in Boston


There’s no place like home for the holidays, and Boston is our holiday home. With a week off from work and school, my wife Susan, son Peter, and baby Kay sought and found many adventures including: The Museum of Science, Boston Common, The Children’s Museum, The New England Aquarium, The Christmas Revels, The Larz Anderson Auto Museum and Park, and Edaville USA. Thanks to the Boston Public Library for providing the museum passes that allowed free entrance to the Museum of Science, Aquarium, and Auto Museum.

Some of my favorite photos are below. If you want to see more, check out my online photo slideshow.

San T. Rex is coming to town.
Leatherback Turtle surfaces for a snack in the giant ocean tank.
Anderson Auto Museum license plate collection.
The Edaville Railroad's steam engine
Big fun on the big wheel

The 41st Annual Christmas Revels


This afternoon my family and I took in the annual performance of The Christmas Revels at Sanders Theater in Cambridge.  The Revels is a family tradition and this marks the tenth Christmas Revels production I’ve attended (including a Washington Revels performance in 1995 and performing as a cast member in the 2009 Christmas Revels).  This was also my four-year-old son’s second Christmas Revels and my five-week-old daughter’s first Revels ever.  Peter showed exemplary behavior and was deeply engaged by the performance while Kay amazed me by actually appearing to watch the show at times when she wasn’t feeding or napping.

The Revels impress me each year by crafting a show around a theme with consistent narrative that logically incorporates music and dance from various traditions.  This year’s production is set in a French fishing village on the Mediterranean that is hosting an annual feast that draws pilgrims from near and wide.  Thus we are able to enjoy traditional music from France and other parts of Europe as well as traveling performers from the East playing Arabic music.  The Sharq Trio steal the show with sets in both acts of Arabic singing, dance and percussion.      The trio seemed to mesmerize my infant daughter at the very least.  Salome Sandoval also lends her stunning voice as a soloist.

The center of the performance is three members of the Guild of Fools – Soleil (Timothy Sawyer), Etoile (Sabrina Selma Mandell), and Eclaire de Lune (Mark Jaster) – performing the annual pageant. Amid the music and revelry there is the lurking presence of the skeletal Boney (Linnea Coffin) who seems to be just out of sight of the villagers on stage, but very frightening to at least one four-year-old boy in the audience.  At a key moment in the first act, Boney and her skeleton crew seize the light from the world plunging the holiday performance into darkness.  The fools thus are given the quest of finding their namesake light sources – the moon, the stars, and the sun – which they do with plenty of song and dance and a nativity play along the way.  The Revels crew deserve a lot of credit for the stage design featuring multiple layers of scaffolding for the performers and a Ship of Fools upon which the featured trio sail to fish for the reflection of the moon.  The costuming is also brilliant, especially Soleil, Etoile, and Eclaire de Lune’s outfits for the concluding mummer’s play.  And the makeup helped make Boney and the other skeletons the scariest things I’ve ever seen in a Revels’ production.

The final performance is Thursday December 29th at 1 pm, so get tickets and go see the show if you can.  If you’re reading this after the fact, make sure to check out The Revels’ website for future events.

Other Reviews:

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October 30th: Avenue of the Arts – Boston By Foot Tour of the Month


Huntington Avenue photo courtesy of Yarian Gomez's photostream on Flickr

Come out this Sunday October 30th at 2pm for a guided walking tour of Boston’s Avenue of the Arts lead by Boston By Foot guides (including yours truly).  The tour begins in front of The Church of Christ, Scientist on Massachusetts Avenue and the cost is just $15/person.  If you become a Boston By Foot member admission is reduced to just $5 and you get lots of other benefits as well.

Have you ever wondered why so many cultural institutions dedicated to fine arts, music, education, religion, and sports are clustered in one area in Boston?  As we walk along this cultural corridor we’ll explore the history of Huntington Avenue and learn about:

  • landmarks created by two of the most remarkable women in Boston’s history: Mary Baker Eddy and Isabella Stewart Gardner
  • not one but two acoustically perfect concert halls
  • not one but two historical figures named Eben
  • the oldest artificial ice sporting arena in the world
  • Boston’s lost opera house
  • the many innovations and contributions of the YMCA
  • the site of the first World Series game
  • expansion and development at Northeastern University, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • and much, much more

I’m particularly proud of this tour because I originated the idea and collaborated on the research and manual writing.  So please come out and join us to learn more about this fascinating Boston district.

Huntington Avenue in 1920, courtesy of Boston Public Library's photostream on Flickr

Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon & Green Roots Festival


On Sunday June 26th, my son Peter & I rode in the fundraiser Bike-A-Thon for Bikes Not Bombs.  We were able to raise $376 for this worthy cause (feel free to add to our donations).  All-together 464 riders raised over $135,000 to support the work of Bikes Not Bombs!

My photos are online and some other great photographs from a professional photographer are also available.

The 15-mile riders prepare to set out.
  • There were rides of 65-miles, 25-miles, and 15-miles in length.  We rode the shortest of these, the longest I could expect Peter  to stay still.
  • Riders were sent off with a “trumpet” blast played through a modified set of handlebars.
  • The PA system was powered by cyclists spinning on stationary bikes.
  • There were an impressive number of children riding on their own bikes on the 15-mile ride.
  • Some of the steepest hills were near the start of the ride challenging everyone especially the young children.
  • The first place I’d never been before was the Stony Brook Reservation which featured a bike path through the woods that felt miles away from the city.
  • The path rather gloriously zipped downhill, but wet pavement and downed leaves forced me to be cautious.
  • Near our rest break there were well-uniformed adults playing baseball.
  • We returned to urban Boston passing through the rusty but charming Hyde Park area.  The neighborhood was very quiet on a Sunday morning.
  • When I finally returned to parts of the city I’d been to before on Walk Hill Avenue, I didn’t recognize it at first.
  • Another new discovery is a corrections facility right behind Forest Hills Cemetery.  I live on the opposite side of the cemetery and never knew it was there.
  • In Franklin Park we saw men playing cricket in the field by the zoo.  We were not able to find a toilet or port-a-potty that was  open (several were chained shut) for when Peter really needed to pee.
  • At the finish of the ride we were awarded medals made of old bike parts! Mine was a chainring, Peter’s a brake lever.
  • The Green Roots Festival was a great follow-up to the ride (and very JP).
  • Free food for the riders, which was delicious – hummus, beans, salad.  Yum, yum, yum!
  • Musical entertainment include some great drummers.   Peter enjoyed that a band of bucket drummers had left their instruments out for children to play with.
  • Children of all ages enjoyed zipping down the hillside on potato sacks down a large strip of cardboard.  Peter spent most of the afternoon doing this.  There were no real rules other than that you had to get off the slide so as not to be in the way of the next slider.
  • Other activities we admired but didn’t participate in included yoga, face painting and massages.
Weeeee!

Tired but happy we went home to cool off in the wading pool.  I had a great time and would love to do this ride again next year.  Come join me!

Boston By Foot Boston Common & Public Garden Tour


Today I enjoyed another special Boston By Foot tour focusing on Boston Common and the Public Garden.  Our guide taught us a lot about the history of these two great public places, their features, and many works of public art.  It was a wet day, maybe not the best time to enjoy the parks, but on the plus side I got to take lots of pictures without people getting in the way.

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Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon


Would you like to help out a cute 3.5 year old kid and his dad as they ride a bike 15 miles around Boston to support Bikes Not Bombs?  Then donate now to support our efforts for the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon.

My son Peter & I love riding our bikes around Boston and look forward to the 15-mile ride around the city on June 12th to support Bikes Not Bombs. Bikes Not Bombs is a great charitable organization that helps the youth of our city through programs that offer bike safety lessons, teach mechanic skills and encourage a healthy life. As a result of Bikes Not Bombs programs, kids learn confidence and leadership skills. Bikes Not Bombs also refurbishes bicycles and ships them abroad. These bikes help people in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa fulfill necessary transportation and technological needs in an environmentally friendly manner.

Please consider making a donation to sponsor us and support Bikes Not Bombs. Better yet, sign up and ride with us!

Thank you very much.

Lilac Sunday


Jamaica Plain continued welcoming in the spring with Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum.  We took some time to pedal our bikes and sniff the petals.  Here are a few photos.

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Wake Up the Earth


Today, Jamaica Plain woke up the earth at the annual festival sponsored by Spontaneous Celebrations.  I took my son to soccer practice this morning and afterward we biked to Centre St to watch the parade.  Stilt-walkers, bicyclists, drummers, dancers and lots of bunnies starred in the procession. After the  parade passed, my son wanted to follow on our bike.  I got a bit frustrated with the stop & go and having to put my foot down all the time so I took a shortcut to Stony Brook.  There we were able to watch the parade arrive at the festival where all the participants formed a circle with much rhythmic drumming and swaying.  The stilt-walkers and puppets were a little scary for Peter but it was cool to feel the drumbeats reverberating in the soil.  With a storm and naptime approaching we pedaled home but enjoyed a fun morning.

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New Bicycle Blog


I’ve started yet another blog, this one about bicycle commuting, aptly named Bike Commuter through the Boston Biker blog network. I’ve been thinking about starting a bicycle blog for a long time and have dragged my feet about it but with spring coming in, this is as good of a time to get started.

I don’t ride as much as I once did, but I hope to get back into more regular commuting and I intend to use this blog as a way of keeping me in check.  I also feel that my many years of experience as a bicycle commuter could be helpful to others.  Boston feels like a scary place to ride a bike, but I’ve found my experience riding in the city Here’s what you may expect to read on the Bike Commuter blog:

  • Ride Log – stories about my experiences biking in and around Boston.
  • Tips –  suggestions for how to make your ride in the city safe and enjoyable.
  • Advocacy – political action to support bicyclists and bicycle facilities (I may sometimes venture into overlapping issues related to walking, public transportation, and urban planning).

Things you won’t see on this blog:

  • Athletic pursuits – if you’re into bike racing, endurance rides, and/or mountain biking, I salute you, but you’re probably not going to find anything you’re interested in.  This blog is more geared to the everyday person who uses a bike to get around.
  • Rampant consumerism – much of what is on the internet about bicycling is geared toward convincing you that you need to spend money on the right bike, the right accessories, and the right clothing if you want to be serious about riding a bike.  This blog is here to convince you to get a bike that works, put on it what you need, wear what you have on and get on the road.

If you’re interested in bicycling or just like to read things that I write, subscribe to the feed at http://bikecommuter.bostonbiker.org/feed/.

 

Photopost: Woolapalooza


My son and I attended Woolapalooza today, Drumlin Farm’s celebration of all things pertaining to sheep.  We saw one man working hard with the shears to remove the wool of many sheep quickly and skillfully.   It was surprise that there wasn’t a team of people using electric shearing tools, but he got the job done (although we did see one sheep in the meadow with a big boo-boo from the shears).  We were also impressed by the sheepdog demonstrations as a border collie expertly herded a small flock around the pasture.  This made an impression since we recently watched Babe.  The only pig at the farm was a large, pregnant sow named Hattie sleeping in the pig shed.  There were many pregnant ewes as well as new-born lambs and kids.  It was a fun day and made for some good photographs.

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Retropost: Confessions of a St. Patrick’s Day Curmudgeon


In honor of this special day let’s revisit one of my favorite posts.

While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America.  Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Ital … Read More

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The 40th Anniversary Christmas Revels


Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I’m a big fan of Revels and their annual Christmas Revels performances at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge.  I was excited and honored to attend the dress rehearsal performance of this year’s 40th anniversary production of the Christmas Revels on Thursday, December 16th.  Had I better journalistic standards I would have used this scoop to get my review up before the show opened on Friday night, but at least at this point there are still eleven more shows to go.

This year’s Christmas Revels returns to a familiar setting, Haddon Hall, an English manor house that was the scene of the first and many subsequent Revels performances.  This time the show is set in the 1920s and the 10th Duke of Rutland with his wife and children are making one last visit to the long abandoned house before it is demolished to make way for a motorway.  I never before realized that Haddon Hall is a real place and the characters in these Revels are based upon real people who in fact saved and renovated Haddon Hall in the 1920s.   The story told in the Revels performance of course is a beautiful fiction but one that contains deeper moral truths about family, ritual, and place.

In the performance, the spirits of the Duke of Rutland’s ancestors emerge from the walls to celebrate the solstice.  This gives the chorus and instrumentalists the very enjoyable opportunity to perform music and stories from various eras – medieval, Renaissance, and Victorian – a Revels’ clip-show of sorts.  While building on the historic traditions of England, the show also builds on Revels traditions of the past 40 years.  Sanders Theatre is very much our Haddon Hall for the families and friends of the Revels who come each year.

I’ll try not to give too much away, but here are some of the highlights of the show (don’t read if you want to be completely surprised):

  • The emergence of the spirits in white shrouds to the “Cries of London” is eerie and creepy in a beautiful way.  When the chorus makes it on stage and remove the shrouds so that there costumes are visible for the first time is a big wow moment for me.
  • The children’s chorus is excellent as always and seem to be more integrated into performing with the adult chorus, especially on the lovely piece “On Christmas Night.”
  • All the actors put in a great performance, particularly Tim Sawyer as the Duke and Emma Jaster as a mute jester.
  • Harriet Bridges plays the Duchess and also provides a soaring soprano for pieces like “Down in Yon Forest.”
  • The traditional mummers play of St. George in the Dragon is always entertaining and the brand new dragon (part costume/part puppetry) really steals the show.
  • A sing-a-long of “Let’s All Go Down the Strand” is joyful and exuberant, and as David Coffin noted they really do make it fit into the show.
  • The real showstopper for me is the chorus’ performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s “There Shall A Star From Jacob Come Forth.”  The intertwining of voices and the Cambridge Symphonic Brass Ensemble is breathtaking.

I’ll be returning to Sanders Theatre on December 26th to catch a Revels’ matinée with my wife, son, and mother.  In the meantime, if you live anywhere near Cambridge and want to celebrate the holidays, go see this show!

Other reviews & articles:

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Book Review: A City So Grand by Stephen Puleo


Author: Stephen Puleo
Title: A city so grand : the rise of an American metropolis, Boston 1850-1900
Publication Info: Boston : Beacon Press, 2010.
ISBN: 9780807050439

Previously read by the same author: Dark Tide

Summary/Review:

I looked forward to reading this book with great anticipation and was not disappointed.  With a certain amount of civic pride, I enjoyed this history of Boston’s many municipal accomplishments during the period 1850-1900.

Boston’s greatest hits of the half-century include:

  • Leadership in the abolition movement and opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law.
  • The Great Railroad Jubilee celebrating rail connections to Montreal & port improvements for ships to Europe as well.
  • Waves of immigration from Ireland and Italy and the perseverance of the new residents on the city.
  • The filling of Back Bay and development of a new upscale neighborhood.
  • Bostonians in the Civil War.
  • Emancipation and black regiments in the Civil War.
  • The National Peace Jubilee featuring a specially designed Great Coliseum in Copley Square and 1000-member choir and orchestra.
  • Expansion of Boston through immigration and annexation.
  • The Great Fire of 1872, recovery, and innovation of new fire prevention techniques.
  • The first subway in the United States going underground in 1897.

Other interesting tidbits I learned from this book include:

* At one time the Boston Archdiocese required English-only confessions in the Italian North End.

* On the day of Alexander Graham Bell’s burial all telephone service in the United States was suspended for one minute (I wonder what will happen when Tim Berners-Lee dies).

* Walter Dodd is the real-life Good Will Hunting going from janitor to physician experimenting with x-rays.

This is a great book for anyone who loves Boston and an uplifting history of what a community can accomplish through perseverance and direction.

Recommended books: Boston’s Back Bay: The Story of America’s Greatest Nineteenth-Century Landfill Project by William Newman, Change at Park Street Under;: The story of Boston’s subways by Brian J. Cudahy, Eminent Bostonians by Thomas H. O’Connor, A Game of Brawl: The Orioles, the Beaneaters, and the Battle for the 1897 Pennant by Bill Felber, Local Attachments: The Making of an American Urban Neighborhood, 1850 to 1920 by Alexander Von Hoffman.
Rating: ****

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Winter Lager


Beer: Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Brewer: Boston Beer Company
Source:
Draft
Rating:
*** (7.8 of 10)

Comments: I had this on-tap at Doyle’s Cafe the pub close to the Samuel Adams headquarters in Jamaica Plain where Sam Adam’s beers always taste best.  This is a chocolate-brown beer with a thick – although quickly dissipating – head that leaves nice lacing on the glass.  The flavor is malty, spicy and sweet but not too sweet.  It’s a complex and refreshing beer and I ordered another pint.

 

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Photopost: Topsfield Fair


Today we went to the last day of the 2010 Topsfield Fair, America’s oldest fair dating to 1818.  Our time was limited and we were guided by a toddler, but I think we got a good sense of the fair and had a great time.  The Kiddie Land area had a lot of rides my nearly three-year old son enjoyed including little cars, a fire-fighter themed climbing structure, a Crazy Bus, a Berry Go Round, and a jungle bounce (I want one of these for my back yard).  In the agricultural area we feed miniature horses and brushed a calf as well as saw rabbits, llamas, guinea pigs, sheep, and goats.  There were other things I would have enjoyed such as the history exhibit in the Grange Hall and the rides in the Midway (not to mention the racing pigs), but I think we all had a fun and fulfilling day at the fair.

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