Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blizzardy Snow in Southie

Blizzardy Snow in Southie, originally uploaded by southiejason.

With plenty of light, I thought I'd break out the camera for a few fast shutter-speed shots of the snow, capturing the individual flakes.

I took this picture from my back door, using a 1600 ISO and a very fast shutter speed of .002 sec (1/500) to catch the snow coming down.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Discarded Southie Street Markers

Usually come January or February, the random litter on the streets of Southie tends to pile up due to the lack of street cleaning until April 1st. This year, we are a bit early to the party.

Pizza boxes and lottery tickets are one thing....

But vacuum cleaners are another....

As are utility pails....

And playsets for children....

And camping chairs....

And the effective mail bin / cardboard box combo...

I realize another storm is set to hit this week, but my fellow Southie neighbors, can we please bring our space markers back inside of our basements in between storms?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Shopping at Woodbury Common

After a difficult 5-hour drive in the rain and traffic, I made it to New York on Christmas Eve pretty beat. Night driving isn't usually fun. When compounded by terrible weather, fog, and holiday traffic, it makes me take a beeline to the vodka upon reaching my destination.

Rosie also hated the drive. Like clockwork, we pulled up at my parents' home, and she puked in the car.

Fast forward to today - my day of shopping. Buying stuff...for me.

It's been a while since I simple bought stuff with reckless abandon. Today was that day.

I drove about 45 minutes north of my parents' house to Woodbury Common, an enormous outlet mall in Central Valley, NY. It's quite a pretty drive through the Hudson Valley and southern Catskills.

Woodbury Common is larger than the Wrentham Outlets, and possibly the largest outlet mall in the country. Many of the shoppers were not American, but unlike the Brits and Irish who take advantage of the current exchange rates and shop at the Wrentham Outlets, the foreigners at Woodbury Common were predominantly Asian and Hispanic. I saw many people wheeling around suitcases there, undoubtedly purchased at the outlets with the sole purpose of filling them with merchandise.

I've been there a number of times, but not for a while. I figured I'd give it a shot - see what the crazy after-Christmas deals were, and battle the shopping crowds for just the first time this season.

Thankfully, I arrived at 10:15 am.

The parking lots were packed already, but spots remained. I found one rather quickly and ventured into the fray. A few early missteps (Neiman Marcus Outlet, Off 5th), and I worked my way into my wheelhouse - J. Crew.

Sales galore. Everything was like 40-50% off, some items marked down further from sale prices.

That became a common theme everywhere else I purchased things - Lucky Jeans, Crate & Barrel, Harry & David, Puma, Eddie Bauer, and Williams Sonoma.

I even walked past a number of lines just to ENTER stores - Gucci, Ugg, Coach, and Juicy Couture four of them. Unreal!

The only places that I didn't have a chance to patronize but likely would have were Banana Republic (line to get inside), The North Face, Brooks Brothers and Polo Ralph Lauren, all of the latter which had insane-o lines to pay, probably over 50 waiting customers in each.

Final damage for the day at Woodbury Common includes a number of printed t-shirts, a pair of pants, some drizzled popcorn, a hoodie, a vase, two jackets, tea lights and candle holders, two knit pullover tops, a flask, socks, 4 bottles of drink mix, lotion, cocktail rimmers, some queso, a bottle opener, a Le Creuset casserole dish, hot chocolate mix, and a knife.

I had to make two trips back to the car just to unload bags, the first of which at 11:50am revealed no empty parking spots, and vehicles following anyone who looks like they might have been leaving, lurking down each aisle. I had NEVER seen a mall parking lot as busy as what I saw today.

Since dinner with the parents meant a 5pm departure time for our house to the restaurant (yes...they eat early), I cut my trip a little short, but still spent about 5 hours there mulling about, slackjawed at the crowds, getting pushed by strangers, and finding some great deals.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Movie Review - The Wrestler

I had the distinct honor of being invited to a special screening of The Wrestler last night, a movie I had been wanting to see since I first heard about it. Currently, it's in limited release, but goes wider on Christmas Day, I believe.

34 years into this life, one of my consistent features has been pro wrestling. I still DVR four wrestling shows weekly and catch matches online on occasion. It's to the point that I just accept it as part of who I am. I've watched it since 1985, and now find myself reading wrestling websites daily. I'm sure it's partly the nostalgic factor, as I'm very interested in the historic side of the industry. Sometimes I fast forward through matches just to see the outcomes, as I still like being in the know.

I think that The Wrestler is receiving such rave reviews because it's a subject that is so rarely seen in theatres, and the performances were stellar. Great script, interesting look behind the curtain, and a terrific overarching story about a fallen 80's icon, clinging to the past and struggling to live a borderline-poverty line life in New Jersey.

I'm sure many former pro wrestlers will see this movie as their own lives, while many younger guys hope they don't become Randy the Ram (virtually unrecognizable Mickey Rourke's character).

The movie pulled us into two parallel yet similar lives, Marisa Tomei's character - a late 30-something stripper - being the other. Both hanging on, both working in questionable industries, both connecting with one another. (side note - for a 44 year-old, Marisa was often topless and a total cougar)

Two major thumbs up. This one should feature prominently during the upcoming awards season.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How to Get a Southie Stranger to Shovel Your Walkway

See this dude?

Left-hand side. A bit hard to see. He's holding an orange shovel.

I've never met him before.

But I got him to shovel my walkway.

How could this be possible?

It certainly helps when you:

  • walk outside
  • in full ski gear
  • during heavy snow
  • with your dog
  • and see a newly-created mountain of snow
  • on the shoveled sidewalk
  • outside of your home
  • that you personally shoveled yesterday
  • and then say to him
  • "Did you shovel your car out and dump all of your snow right here?"
  • and he says that he did, since there was nowhere else to put it
  • to which you reply "Well, I'm just going to shovel it right back into your spot if you don't figure out somewhere else to put it."
When we returned from our walk, he had already cleaned up much of the mess that he created on the sidewalk that I shoveled myself yesterday.

No additional threats. Just a "thanks a lot" from me as we went back inside.

I am assuming that he didn't expect the homeowner (me) to emerge from his place during a storm at the moment he was shoveling snow onto the sidewalk.

I am also guessing that without my comments, he might have just left it there on the sidewalk, but of course I can't be certain.

Nonetheless, he was smart.

I would imagine that it wouldn't have been the first time somebody shoveled snow from a spot onto a sidewalk, marked it with a cone upon leaving the following day, and found said cone missing and another car parked there. I do realize that unfortunately penalizes both the original spot-shoveler and potentially the car that parked there thinking it was an available spot (i.e. retribution from the original parker)

Not that I would have done that....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Southie Snowed-In Pub Crawl

Well, if a storm is going to hit at any point, I suppose right before a weekend is probably the best time. Although Friday started with a drive to the office in Quincy, my time at work was short - just about 90 minutes. It certainly was not my choice to drive in (I'm a huge proponent of work-from-home), but I didn't mind the trip since 93 was desolate during each drive there and back again.

Karin and I carpooled, and we ended up driving our president to Logan - partially the reason we were let out as early as we were. No complaints!

So, back to the kitchen table. My workspace at home.

Around 1:15, Ryan comes by, and he's angry. His car has been towed. While no signs marked Dey Blvd. as a Snow Emergency No Parking zone, state police interpreted it as such and towed everyone. His car ended up in Quincy, and he took the red line to Quincy Adams to retrieve it.

After the 1:30 conference call, the IM's began pouring in from others who were also home. I'm glad that multitasking isn't an issue for me, as I did still have a few things to finish up before calling it a day and starting the...

..Southie Snowed-In Pub Crawl!

What better use of time on a snowy Friday night in Southie than head to the bars. We pregamed a bit at my place, moved on to Mike's for margaritas, then onward to Stadium for dinner and pints of beer. We soldier onward to The Junction (which was packed) when Mike discovered that his keys were missing. Luckily they were exactly where I tackled him into a snow bank.

We finished the night at The Black Thorn, Debbie, Mike, and I being the only non-native Irish in the place. I've been to that place three times now, and last night I left the least drunk of those occasions! Small victory.

So, now it's time for Storm #2 tomorrow. I just finished a pot of chicken soup, which will be a perfect elixir for yet another day of snow, freezing rain, and general precipitation misery.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holidayed Out

I'm very holidayed out already, and it's not even Christmas.

It's just been a busy month. Actually, a busy few months. As fortunate as I am to have great friends and ample social opportunities...I need a bit of a break.

Silence. Solitude. Catching up on TV. Eating at home. Reading magazines. Organizing music. Playing the Wii. Posting my photography. Kicking back. Putting my feet up.

I have been missing routine. That's the major problem. Plain and simple.

I think I'll just soldier through the next few weeks, do the holiday thing, smile and make others laugh, finish up the parties and desserts, drink a few cocktails a few more times, welcome in 2009, and then pull back a bit.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Returnable Christmas Trees at Home Depot?

One of the by-products of new kitchen cabinets and a new countertop is that random stuff is left out and not put away, causing yet another cluttered surface. How ironic, as cabinets and drawers are intended to create just the opposite - places to hide stuff from plain view.

I tend to accrue receipts. For items like clothing, I'll keep them for a bit just to make sure that the items fit and look OK. Grocery store and drugstore receipts, I usually shred immediately.

I'll keep Home Depot receipts for a few weeks, as I'm often buying and returning things from there regularly during my random household projects.

Home Depot is also where I purchased my Christmas tree this year. I bought an 8-9' Frasier and paid 65 bucks, which is about 30 more than I thought it was going to cost, but it was one of their best looking trees. So, why not?

I noticed their return policy on what I purchased.

90 days, expires 2/27/09

Wait, I can return a Christmas tree?

In February?

Now it seems a bit obvious to me that a cut Christmas tree is a non-returnable item, especially two months after its expiration date.

But I wonder how many people try to return their trees, citing the date on the receipt. I'd imagine a few each year.

Reading a bit further reveals Home Depot's out - "reserves the right to limit / deny returns."

Still, why print a return policy specific to this item when common sense defies all policy?

I seem to recall Home Depot guaranteeing their plants for a set period of time (perhaps 30 days), so I looked on their website for more information. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything about plants beyond this:

Holiday Trees and Wreaths: Plants and live goods, including cut flowers, holiday trees, wreaths and garland are non-refundable. Please call 1-800-430-3376 within 3 days of delivery to report damaged or dead plants and/or live goods and we will promptly ship a replacement at no charge.

OK, makes sense. But what about holiday ornaments and such?

Holiday Décor: Holiday Décor items must be returned within 30 days of delivery. Any product damage and/or defects must be reported within 30 days of delivery.

So trees and wreaths are out....but ornaments, stockings, nativity sets...all returnable? If I purchase all of my Christmas adornments on December 16th - today - I can return all of them on January 15th for full refunds, essentially renting my Christmas décor?

Hmmm. Times are tough. Pinching pennies. Might not be a bad idea.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wasteful, Unwanted Phone Books

It's happening again.

In this month of holiday cheer and no judgement, my blood has begun to boil.

Just a little for now. But, I fear the worst is yet to come.


Unwanted phone books. Again.

Setting - Our Quincy office building

Wednesday evening, 6 PM
Quantity of unwanted books: 10

Thursday afternoon, 4 PM
Quantity of unwanted books: 10

Friday morning, 9 AM
Quantity of unwanted books: 10

I'm sensing a pattern.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Good Eats - Orinoco in the South End

Last night was the third meeting of the Boston International Dining Association.

We ventured to a place that I had wanted to check out for quite some time - Orinoco in the South End on Shawmut Ave. I have heard about this place and how busy it gets due to its incredibly small size, delicious food, and modestly priced entrees.

Definite two thumbs up. And Tuesday night around 7:00 PM is the perfect time to go - no waiting, not packed.

I selected a traditional Venezuelan Christmas dish called Hallacas, which was a meat dish inside of a cornmeal dough, mixed with olives and raisins, wrapped in a banana leaf and served with a piece of pan de jamon and a cold meat salad on the side (which tasted like an upscale chicken salad). We also tried some appetizers and friend plantains, and their molted chocolate cake. All delicious. Outstanding flavors.

My only complaint - which is a common one with many restaurants here in Boston - is that we weren't seated until out entire party was present.

While that's understandable if we were two or three people in a party of, say, six people total...we were three people waiting for the fourth, and either way were were going to be seated at the one empty booth that was large enough and available.

AND...a couple walked in a few minutes after us and asked about that booth before they were told by the hostess that they "reserved it for parties of three or four" and were shown a table for two.

It makes me wonder why we didn't just tell them that we were a party of three all along, or why they didn't just seat us since we were three of four people, and the table wouldn't have changed.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Southie Resident Parking in the South End

To all of my Southie neighbors with vehicles:

Here's a free tip for ya - if you're in the South End looking for parking, check out the block on Appleton Street east of Berkeley, before hitting Tremont.

Outside of Icarus, there's a lone South Boston Resident Parking sign, in what I can only assume is a neighborhood exchange program, creating opportunities for us Southie folk to enjoy some haute culture and swanky South End brasseries.

Of course, this could easily be an error, as the neighborhood is indeed the South End, and just two car lengths away from the South Boston Resident Parking sign is a more appropriately-placed South End Resident Parking sign.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Equal Immigration Rights for Same-Sex Binational Couples

I was sent this link and encouraged to post here at Platinum Elite. It's an important cause for some friends of mine (who are a binational same-sex couple). Clicking on the VOTE NOW button takes you to a page on's website about this cause. There's a brief video spotlighting a couple who are being forced to separate because one is a New Zealand resident.

Sunday, December 07, 2008



Earlier today, first snowfall / snow dusting in Southie:

Friday, December 05, 2008

One Night - Two Franklin Cafes

I was able to milk one final birthday dinner out of this year, when Mike insisted that we headed out for dinner last night. Granted, today is Doug's birthday, and we're pretty well ensconced in the month of December, but I'm never one to pass up a free dinner.

My plan was to hit up the new Franklin Cafe here in Southie. I believe they just opened a few weeks ago, and are located in one of the new loft buildings by the Broadway T Stop.

We walked in around 7:30, and were greeted with an hour and fifteen minute wait for a table for two. Unreal! It's a Thursday night. We're in a recession. Everyone's out of work.

What the deuce?

We opted out of the wait, walked back to his car without a Plan B, and drove up Berkeley St. into the South End. I figured we'd hit up Dish or Joe V's - somewhere along Shawmut or Washington Streets.

Luckily we found a visitor spot on Shawmut a block away from...

...the other nearby Franklin Cafe.

Why not?

In we went, fifteen minute wait, not a problem. Had a round at the bar (which I picked up to make me feel better about having dinner purchased for me), then we were seated in the back corner.

Now Franklin Cafe appears to be the type of restaurant that neighborhood folks visit frequently - one of those restaurants that everyone knows the menu, knows what to expect, and doesn't ask questions.

I, on the other hand, had only been there once, and this was Mike's first visit. We were rookies.

I asked our server what he liked, and he mentioned a few entrees, but not the one I was considering (a bacon-wrapped salmon dish). He preferred the steak frites, which apparently people went to the Franklin Cafe specifically to eat. Mike had asked me what steak frites was, and I erroneously claimed that it was like an open-faced steak sandwich.


It's a hangar steak on a bed of fries with a demiglaze.

I didn't know what a demiglaze was either, but it sounded good. We each ordered one.

There were two options for separate sides - beets or mashed potatoes. I saw that another entree had brussels sprouts as part of the dish, so I asked if a side of brussels sprouts was possible.

It was not. Apparently, they are shaved brussels sprouts. Huh? Fine. No side for me.

The meal arrived, and as the food runner was leaving, I asked for some ketchup. She had a word with our server, squirted some onto a side plate, and brought it to me.

Immediately, the server came over and asked if it was our first time eating the steak frites, because "most people use the demiglaze on their fries, it pools up at the bottom and it's delicious."

I felt like an idiot, of course. Not fitting in with the locals. A clear novice. Being judged.

I managed to soldier through the indignation and enjoyed the meal. All of it. Almost licked the plate, but that might have caused our ejection and permanent ban due to inappropriate outsider behavior.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My Home = Lost and Found

It's nice to have a home where others feel comfortable enough to swing by and hang out.

Watch some TV. Have a drink. Play Wii. Eat dinner.

Lately, I have noticed that when my friends depart, however, they have been leaving their stuff here.

  • Umbrellas (multiple people)
  • Nintendo Game Cube (Kevin)
  • Chicken broth, apples, and an onion (Jamen)
  • Board games (Jamen)
  • Folding chairs (Chris)
  • Travel mugs for roadies (Doug)
  • Spare change (Ryan)
Now these aren't leftovers. Leftovers are meant to be consumed by the host and/or distributed in containers to the guests.

These are items that were meant to be claimed upon departure, yet were not.

Kind of like a Lost and Found.

I thanked Kevin for his gift of an older Nintendo game system, to which he laughed and said that it was a leave-behind so he gets invited back. Strange. I thought it was a present for me.

I think Doug can do without the travel mug. He's left it here multiple times.

Jamen's ingredients were left over from the turkey on Thursday. He probably doesn't want them, but will likely be over when I use them to prepare another meal.

Umbrellas are hot commodities, but I don't need many. I usually return those to their respective owners.

Spare change, if unclaimed by bedtime, goes into the change pot.

And Chris' folding chairs. they were helpful for Thanksgiving dinner. Since then, however, they have been in the way. I think he wants them back. Just not "that badly." Maybe I'll leave them on the deck for now.

I usually utilize leave behinds.

I'm staring at a beach towel right now that a childhood friend left at my parents' house during a pool party. I don't remember the kid, but I sure remember the towel. I use it to dry Rosie after walks in the rain.