Best of Boston, Life Lessons, Pop Culture

Wishing Every Day was the Fourth of July

It’s no secret that here in Boston we like to do it up big on the Fourth of July.  For decades, the Boston Pops has performed at the Hatch Shell along the Esplanade and, after the concert, a spectacular fireworks display rains down over the Charles River.  My neighbors and I may curse our lack of closet space 364 days of the year, but on the Fourth of July, we have the best place on earth to watch the fireworks: our roof deck.

Last week, as neighbors and friends gathered with beach chairs and blankets, food and drink, I was struck by what a diverse group had assembled on our roof deck for the day’s festivities.  One young mother was nursing her nine-week old baby, while the oldest, a vivacious lady in her seventies, sported an American flag motif scarf.  There were straight couples and gay couples.  And folks whose ancestry represented each of the seven continents.  There were Boston Brahmins, first-generation Americans, and at least one New Yorker.  All afternoon and into the evening, the sense of community prevailed as we waited in anticipation for the fireworks to start.

On the day we celebrated the red, white, and blue, there was no red state/blue state divide.  No political talk at all.  Do we all agree on everything?  No way.  But for one glorious, sparkling day we had come together with respect, pride, and patriotism.  All of us different, yet all the same – Americans.


Best of Boston, Life Lessons, Pop Culture

New York to Boston and Back


The distance between my two homes is about 210 miles.  I’m a New Yorker who lives in Boston.

New York is the home my parents made for me.  All my peeps are there.  The Big Apple’s in my DNA – in the tone and cadence of my voice.  Regardless of where I go, my birth certificate and passport identify me as a native of the greatest city in the world.  Just like the song says, I want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep…”   We talk fast, and we walk fast, like a type-A personality after a couple of cans of Red Bull.  Go people watching in Times Square and you’ll see what I mean.  My favorite piece of architecture is the Chrysler Building.  Favorite hotel, the Algonquin.  Favorite drink, the egg cream, of course.  Growing up in Queens made me a Mets fan.  For life.  Because I’m of the belief that when it comes to baseball, you stick with your home team, no matter what.

Boston is the home I made for myself.  The day I moved to the Bay State I heard the Standells’ song about the Charles River playing on the car radio, “…Well I love that dirty water, oh, Boston you’re my home, and I was hooked.  I fell in love with the swan boats in the Public Garden, the Citgo sign, and Filene’s Basement.  Despite my proximity to Fenway Park, I am not, and never will be, a member of Red Sox Nation.  I did, however, fall hard for the Bruins.  Apparently my home team rule doesn’t apply to hockey.  We’re called Beantown, The Hub, and more recently “Title Town.”  And the water?  Not so dirty.

My tale of two cities is a love story.  When I’m in New York, it feels like home.  Yet when I leave to go back to Boston, I’m on my way home.  And visa versa.  It may sound confusing, but not to me.  Home is where the heart is.

Best of Boston

Snow Day Dreamin’

The snow days of my childhood were idyllic.  Just like Peter, the little boy in one of my favorite books, Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day, my brother and I, bundled up in our snowsuits, boots, and mittens, would go outside to play in the newly fallen snow and make snow angels.  We would do this over and over, until we were soaking wet and shivering.  My mom would get us dry and warmed up with hot soup and a freshly baked batch of chocolate chip cookies.  What could be more perfect?  The day off from school.

Last week’s Nor’easter brought 55-mile-an-hour winds that rattled my windows and changed the direction of the snow so it appeared to be falling horizontally.  But the City of Boston generally does a good job of snow removal.  And New Englanders don’t scare easily when it comes to extreme weather, until both the mayor and the governor tell everyone to stay home.  And just like that, children and grown-ups alike were given a gift – a most uncommon occurrence – a snow day.

But there are no real snow days anymore.  At least not the care-free, snow angel, chocolate chip cookie snow days I remember.  WiFi and laptops make it not only possible but mandatory for us to work remotely from home.  Maybe I was cozy and comfy in a pair of yoga pants, sweatshirt, and spa socks, as the barrage of emails came as fast and furious as the snow.  With my landline ringing and my cell phone humming, I didn’t even take a lunch break until 3 in the afternoon.  I was so focused on the work at hand, I didn’t realize the snow had let up.  As I watched from my living room window, neighbors shoveled out, walked their dogs, and played with their children.  I’d missed it all.  My snow day was over before it ever began.

Best of Boston, Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Taking Tea

Last Sunday was the scene of a Boston Tea Party, of sorts.  Okay, it wasn’t exactly a party since there were only three of us.  And technically, we were southwest of Boston.  But there was tea involved.

With Christmas only a week away, we were exhausted, what with all the shopping, the cooking, the cards… and we needed to take a break.  Which meant taking tea.

fancy_thatWe met up in Walpole, Massachusetts, at a hidden gem called “Fancy That.” This unique tea room offers a wide variety of tea, delicious scones, tea sandwiches, and sweets, in an atmosphere that makes you want to trade in your tunic sweater, leggings, and boots for a costume straight out of Downton Abbey.  We truly felt as if we’d been transported to another time and place.

For two luxurious hours, the three of us harried gals sat sipping tea, (I chose a jasmine earl grey called “Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea”) nibbling on lady-like sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and delicate confections.  We chatted and laughed and recharged our batteries.

My usual remedy for being overbooked, overworked, and overwhelmed is to drink more coffee which only speeds my heart rate as I rush around trying to do just about everything faster.  Who knew I could find such serenity at the bottom of a tea cup?

The next time you’re feeling the pressure, take a few minutes, and take tea!

red poppy

Best of Boston

Leaf Peeping Season

pumpkin-shoppingWe’re lucky in New England.  We enjoy four distinctive seasons.  Here in Boston, winter is pure magic, with the trees along Commonwealth Avenue outlined in tiny white lights, and the strong scent of wood burning in fireplaces permeating the neighborhood.  Spring is a riot of color in the Public Garden, with beds of tulips at every turn.  In summer, sailboats meander down the Charles River, and the Esplanade is home to the Fourth of July fireworks.  But it’s in autumn that we’re at our best.  Potted mums and squatty pumpkins adorn window boxes and doorsteps.  It’s time to don a comfy, bulky sweater, drink a cup of hot apple cider, and go leaf peeping, as the crisp air nudges the trees to turn hues of golden yellow, sunset orange, and fiery red.

Over the weekend, my family and I visited a farm just outside the city.  It’s one of our favorite seasonal traditions.  After picking a bagful of local apples, and pumpkins for the hearth, we treated ourselves to still-warm cider doughnuts.  The foliage has not yet reached peak color.  But the people-watching was well worth the trip.  There were couples holding hands, children running around, families enjoying time spent together.

I encourage you to enjoy the simple pleasures of autumn.  Go leaf peeping, bake an apple pie, and most of all, enjoy some time with family and poppy

Best of Boston, Life Lessons

September in Boston

Emerson Union“They’re baaaack…”   At summer’s end, nearly a quarter-of-a-million college students descend upon Boston.  They arrive in SUV’s and with U-Hauls that get double and triple parked along the city streets.  It’s a chaotic and familiar scene that jars my memory, transports me back to a September when I was a student.

My classes took place in a cluster of century-old brownstones that was Emerson College.  The Back Bay streets I walked were lined with gas street lamps, and every statue and church marked a piece of history.  There was no quad, no field house, no bookstore, nothing even remotely resembling a traditional campus – this was an urban campus.

The city was filled with a new kind of student – their oxford shirts and Shetland sweaters were packed away in their parents’ attics.  These young men and women were costumed in vivid colors, leather jackets, tight black trousers, walking boots, male and female alike wearing haircuts as short as their fathers had worn thirty years before.  They liked to gather in front of the Mass Communications Building and smoke clove cigarettes.  Their energy was palpable and it made me feel as if I were in the midst of a bizarre 1980’s new-wave cartoon with loud, clashing colors.

The Emerson Library windows overlooked the Charles River.  The water was calm but I could imagine the prep school trained crew teams from the Cambridge side of the river out in the early morning, their movements synchronized, their breath coming in steamy huffs.  I never got up early enough to actually go down to the Esplanade to watch them.  I would’ve felt out of place there.

It was an odd mix of scenery, of philosophy, of fashion.  At first I didn’t know exactly where I fit into the picture.  But this was where I belonged.  I found my niche.  My peeps.  My voice.  And although I knew it was not possible, that September, I wished that for once, time could stand still.

red poppy

Best of Boston

Boston’s North End

Polcari's CoffeeThe North End is Boston’s Italian neighborhood.  Salem, Parmenter, and Hanover Streets are lined with restaurants and shops, all celebrating Italian culture, and more importantly, Italian cuisine.  I often go there on Saturday afternoons and, as I make my way from the cheese shop, to the fresh pasta store, from Polcari’s Coffee (where I get my spices), to Bova’s Bread, I am met with smiles and nods.  None of these merchants know my name; they call me figlia mia (daughter), bambola (doll), or bellezza (beauty).  Recognizing me as one of their own, the second and third generation Italian-Americans who live and work in this colorful neighborhood treat me like some kind of Mediterranean goddess.

Whenever friends visit from out-of-town, they always want to have dinner in the North End.  Then after some wine and good food, we walk about, as I point out the Old North Church, the statue of Paul Revere, and St. Leonard’s.  Afterward, we stop by a café for espresso and pastry or gelato.

Despite all there is to love about this romantic and magical neighborhood, right now is the best time to go there.  The Feasts begin in June and continue throughout the summer, but the Feast of all Feasts is the St. Anthony Feast, in late August.

Locals, suburbanites, and tourists come out.  Italians, Italian-Americans, and Italians-for-the-day line the streets.  Vendors sell pizza, sausage-peppers-and-onions, cheeses, zeppole, cannoli and pastries of all kinds.  But not to worry because whatever you eat while standing up has no calories.

Sant Antonio

Music and laughter abound as generations of family members celebrate.  As the parade makes its way down the old and narrow cobblestone streets, the large statue of Saint Anthony leading the way, balloons and confetti are dropped from apartment widows above.  The crowd chants, “Viva Sant Antonio!  Viva!”  The faithful stand in line, waiting to pin money on the statue as they offer a silent prayer.  It’s quite the spectacle.

The Feast of St. Anthony takes place next weekend in Boston’s North End.  I wouldn’t miss it.

red poppy