“Full of crooked little streets; but I tell you Boston has opened and kept open more turnpikes that lead straight to free thought and free speech and free deeds than any other city.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
I have always dreamed of living in a major city. While my hometown wasn’t small, it wasn’t a city. The closest city to where I grew up, New Bedford, was more prominent, but it wasn’t anything like Providence or Boston. In my life, I would go on to have the pleasure of visiting several major cities in the U.S. and the world and residing in a few. Three years in Honolulu, one month in Shanghai, but Boston will always be the first. In 2008, I, along with Corinne, set sights on the city of Boston as our living location. Corinne and I had recently started living together, but we did so in her suburban apartment. So, we moved to Boston. For the next 12 months, we learned to be partners, adopted our shelter pup, Mr. Tuttles, and enjoyed city living, both its beauties and drawbacks. Today, let’s explore Boston as Corinne and I did.
“Marty, don’t be such a square. Everybody who’s anybody drinks.”
– Lea Thompson (Lorraine) from Back to the Future
On New Years’ Eve, I attended a small party at my brother Jeff’s home. He and his family, Corinne and I, and my mom, who traveled from New Hampshire, attended. The night before, my mom asked me what she should bring. I suggested some craft beer from local breweries near her home. She agreed, knowing that Jeff and I might have fun trying various styles. The next day, upon arriving at Jeff’s home, I discovered my mom purchased a growler and two 4-packs of IPA and wheat beer options from Rek’•lis Brewing, located in the heart of the White Mountains in Bethlehem, NH, and three 4-packs of IPA and NEIPA options from Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton, NH. None of these beers were disappointing, and Jeff and I had a wonderful evening.
While traveling, I have visited incredible breweries and sampled delicious beer. I have written about these experiences multiple times on this blog but failed to examine several beer-related adventures. Some of these experiences are local; a beer festival or brewery visit. Other beer moments were in another part of the world in Asia or Europe, and several were a short drive to a neighboring state like Vermont. Traveling for craft beer is a unique way to explore a new area. But enjoying the taste of an IPA, Wheat, or Kolsch style beer is a relatively new thing. It took me years, and miles, to see its value and accept the experience with open arms. Today, I write about those beer moments and breweries that stand out as memorable.
“I don’t believe in fashion. I believe in costume. Life is too short to be the same person every day.”
– Stephanie Perkins
Several years ago, my buddy Sean came to Corinne and my home in Salem for a night out on the town. One of Corinne’s friends joined, so it was a “double-date,” but amongst friends. We visited a couple of eateries and breweries while enjoying the bustling Salem nightlife in winter. That night, I rocked a fabulous tweed vest, Ralph Lauren dress shirt with a tie, slim fit jeans, and a shiny pair of boots, all of which worked perfectly together. I also wore a sleek peacoat I purchased while living in Hawaii, which was wicked cheap. It was an investment piece. I enjoy dressing up, and while this was a simple night out, I felt the need to wear tweed. Sean laughed, rightfully. A history professor living in an 1890s home in Salem, wearing tweed and a tie, was a little on the nose.
We had a wonderful time in Salem that night, and I felt confident and comfortable. I enjoy fashion and see myself as a stylish person, but this is a relatively new reality. If my thirties were a time spent experimenting in fashion, my thirty years prior were hammered by trial and error. Not all fashion fails were solely a product of lousy clothing or poor personal insight. Instead, the apparel was a symptom of a personal issue. Lack of self-esteem, anxiety about weight, body dysmorphia, and color blindness – all played a role in maintaining a clothing status-quo for one purpose; hiding my insecurities. Today, I submit myself to a deeply personal conversation. I have alluded to this topic but kept it at arm’s length; let’s discuss my body image and fashion.
Snow, what happened to us? We used to have such extraordinary times together, but we have hit a rough patch lately. Blizzards, adverse temperatures, like what’s the deal? Why can’t it be like when I was younger, and talk of an impending New England storm brought cheers rather than dreadful heart-stopping tears. Yes, I know that rhymed, but it’s true; we used to be so good together. Carefree and happy, the spirit of joy and excitement over the prospect of canceled school coming over the radio, but now I don’t feel the same way. It’s definitely you, not me, and I know that might be mean, but sadly it’s true. I have seen what it’s like to be around warmth year-round, and it changed me, and it changed how I see and think about you. I should be sorry, but I am not.
As a New Englander, I accept the terrible winters because the fall and spring are gorgeous, and while the summer is hot, it can be enjoyed with excitement. But winter, well, winter is another animal. Still, I haven’t always felt that way. When I was a kid, I loved it when it snowed, but now I wouldn’t say I like it. I am a born and raised New Englander, and maybe that’s why when the first snow descends from the sky, the battle commences. Shorter days, darker sky and mood, but a happier person emerges from the slumber at the first sign of spring. The weather creature, Punxsutawney Phil, might see his shadow, but spring will come in six weeks no matter what he says. Six weeks can’t come soon enough.
“With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.”
– Dr. Seuss
One of my first albums was Bryan Adams’ smash hit, Reckless. I remember opening the Christmas gift from my Aunt Sybil and seeing a shiny new jewel case with an awesomely designed CD. After hearing “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” from his Waking Up the Neighbors album and Kevin Costner’s 1991 film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, I started listening to his music. That song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1992 Academy Awards but lost to Beauty and the Beast. No musician is more identifiable to my youth than Bryan Adams. His albums matched a moment in my childhood when I dreamed with intent. As I listen to Reckless, I think back to that younger me, wondering, was what I envisioned…this? I often measure my life against the existence I imagined when I was a kid and blasted Bryan Adams’ songs regularly from my stereo.
My life is grander and more exciting than I could have ever dreamed. Yet, there is one area where I feel my path has curved far more than I expected. Remember when you were young and inspected your reflection in a mirror, trying to picture what you might look like as an adult? That’s kind of what I mean, but instead of wondering what I will look like, which I am still asking myself, I am referring to my profession. In elementary school, maybe fifth grade, we did a play about what you want to be when you grow up. Although I secretly wanted to be a comedian, I performed as a baseball player. But all types of professions were present; even one child dressed in B.U.M. Equipment clothing represented a homeless person. Not sure how that was inspiring or compassionate.
I have been teaching for some time, but I often ask, is this it? After the odd jobs, hours of reading/writing towards my Ph.D. degree, and nearly two decades in a classroom, is more to come? If so, where does all this lead? Many people, including my wife Corinne, are asking ourselves these questions. The pandemic and the “great resignation” have shown life is too fragile and “work” is no longer going to be accepted for what it was. Instead, paths forward will demand leaps of faith and scenery changes. I love teaching, but is it what I expected, or is my position what I imagined? In the end, as long as I don’t resemble, nor act like, a core member of the Roy family from the HBO series Succession, how bad can it be! Well, maybe Greg, but I like Greenpeace, so maybe not. Join me as I explore my career and ponder what’s to come.
“Ebenezer Scrooge: Let us deal with the eviction notices for tomorrow, Mr. Cratchit. Kermit the Frog: Uh, tomorrow’s Christmas, sir. Ebenezer Scrooge: Very well. You may gift wrap them.”
– Michael Caine (Scrooge) & Steve Whitmire (Kermit the Frog) from The Muppet Christmas Carol
It’s that time of year when those who celebrate Christmas begin to rewatch specific movies. Most people, like myself, have a favorite film they immediately watch with a loved one or save until the last moment and watch alone. The simple task, or tradition, of rewatching a festive film performs a nostalgic function. That tradition comes with rules that one must follow so as not to break with a familial custom. Personally, after the last couple of years, these traditions are equally important as well as expendable. I have had to take stock of those traditions worth holding onto and those I wish to set aside. Yes, even the practice of watching a film is one I took notice of, but rather than avoid it, I leaned in and turned on, for nearly my twentieth year, The Muppets Christmas Carol.
Today, I am going to explore the ghosts of Christmas. I will illustrate those moments of joy, those family traditions I nostalgically recall, and how the Christmas holidays have changed. In doing so, I will discuss those Christmas films that I play and replay this time of year, with particular attention given to those adorable Jim Henson Muppet characters. In the end, this post is an opportunity to get sentimental and excited about a new Christmas season and a celebratory year that will, thankfully, be nothing like last year. I will spend this holiday with extended family because of vaccines, lower COVID numbers, and great determination. Whether you celebrate or not, all are welcome to explore the holiday ghosts of my past once again.
“There is no time. There is no death. Life is a dream. It’s a wish made again and again and again and again and again and again, on into eternity. And I am all of it. I am everything. I am all. I am that I am.”
– Kate Siegel (Erin Greene) from Midnight Mass
I commend Mike Flanagan, creator of The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, for creating, yet again, another Netflix show I cannot get out of my mind. I have, it seems, on countless occasions discussed his cinematic success. I am a huge fan; this is true. His shows regularly mix genres, and I am constantly surprised by the quality of his written stories. I will not make this a four-thousand-word diatribe on Flanagan, although I could. I recently discussed him in a post about my emotional relationship to cinema in the context of 9/11.
Now, I do not plan to cross any similar bridges today, but my watch/rewatch of Midnight Mass offers me the chance to explore the show with a more detailed perspective. It grants me the opportunity to include another part of my early life, my Catholic upbringing. The show is riddled, if not saturated, with religious discussions centered around, if not primarily concerning, Catholicism. Now, I am not a religious expert, nor do I confer judgment on any religion. I am, however, a human being who lived, for some time, religiously. While it never played a prominent role, it played a role, nonetheless.