After an Absence, Some Thoughts.

We were at home, painting the house, slopping primer all over the wooden trim and ourselves, when our phones just started going off.  Some people would say that our phones “exploded,” but after today’s events that phrase just doesn’t seem right.  Keith’s office overlooks the finish line, and his colleagues were under the impression that he had been in Copley Square when the bombs were detonated.  He wasn’t, but still his phone kept on ringing and buzzing, and alerting him that people cared.

I am a New Yorker, born and bred. Up until this point, I’ve allowed Boston a sliver of space in my heart because it raised the man I love. Still, “I’m not from here,” I’ve said. I’ve bemoaned giving up my New York license. I’ve called its people provincial. I’ve scorned its awkward and archaic laws. I’ve derided its class system. I’ve begrudged the bagels.

Today, I’m telling all of you that I’m from Boston. I’m from here, and I’m mad. I’m mad and confused and troubled and upset and pissed off. I’m frustrated with the breathless affect of the news media. I’m sick thinking of all the athletes who were running for a cause, or for a charity, or a for purpose that didn’t include hate or fear or pain or terror. I’m shaking with anger because I need someone to explain to me the point of this.

Something that has really struck me about these events is not how much people hate and want to hurt, but how much people love and want to help.  The Red Cross website was inundated for hours with people trying to glean information on when and how and where to donate blood.  Residents across the Boston Metro Area and beyond are opening their homes to strangers stranded in a maimed city.

This is what’s important to remember: in times of terror, there are moments of triumph, and those moments are made by people.

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Marathon Monday, or Getting Out of the City.

I remember my first Marathon Monday in Boston: I had to go to the printer to pick up copies of a short story I was submitting to a writing workshop the next day…  and of course the printer I ended up using was in Copley Square, practically sitting on top of the finish line.  I know, don’t tell me —  dumb move, but come on.  I was new to the city!  I didn’t know any better.  I had to elbow my way past throngs of marathon aficionados, and what normally would have been a fifteen-minute walk ended up being something like forty-five, because of all the revelers and runners.

Anyway, my point is this: unless you’re super-into marathons, get out of the city.  Which is exactly what Keith and I did, heading up I-95 to Newburyport.  Though we had a two Newburyport destinations in mind and one in Salem to loop us back home, our main goal was to do what the Filipino side of my family calls making paseo.  Making paseo is easy — it’s basically a mini-road trip.

joppa-fine-foods When we got to Newburyport, we first made our way to Joppa Fine Foods in the Tannery Mall, which is made up of all really cool and interesting converted mill space.  After sampling a few different cheeses, we decided on Pradera (Dutch cow’s milk) and Erhaki (French sheep’s milk), as well as a bottle of my favorite peach Lambic and a crusty, crunchy baguette.  In retrospect, I’m surprised we didn’t devour it in the car, but that might have been because I was too excited about our next stop, Tendercrop Farms.

tender-crop-2Tendercrop Farms is a small farm in Newbury that not only sells its own fruit and vegetables but also its own meat, poultry and baked goods.  Keith loaded up a basket with two different kinds of sausage (andouille and sweet Italian), corncob smoked bacon and cinnamon-raisin bread while I checked out the selection of herb seedlings in the nursery.  Something else I checked out was Buffy, Tendercrop’s buffalo; if you click on this photo, it will take you to a short slideshow of Buffy trying to ignore me.  I’m not joking when I say it’s a short slideshow — Keith pretty much pulled me down off of the rock I was perched on, saving you all from a twenty-frame slideshow of Buffy chewing.  (And yes, I needed to stand on a rock to see over Buffy’s fence.  What can I say?  I’m short, and that fence is tall.)  What you can’t see in the photos is Buffy’s penmate, a nameless white llama who also ignored me.

the-old-spotAfter Tendercrop, Keith and I made paseo down to The Old Spot in Salem, where we were planning to have a late lunch (or early dinner, depending on how you look at it). I decided to order The Old Spot’s eponymous meat pie ($15.00) and a shandy with Hefeweizen ($5.oo).  I love a shandy: it’s happy and light, and a perfect counter-balance for something like meat pie — which Keith described as “cold, winter food.”  He’s not wrong there.  The Old Spot’s meat pie is made Guinness-stewed lamb and beef that is then smothered with rich, buttery mashed potatoes; with toasted corn kernels adding a bright sweetness and scallions giving the dish a crisp crunch, it’s a hearty one-course meal that would warm any stomach, no matter the weather.  (One note: I did think the beef and lamb were a bit under-seasoned, but those potatoes were perfect.)

Something else I should mention: Keith got the slow-roasted pork sandwich ($8.00), and it was fantastic, layered with Swiss cheese, Dijon mayonnaise and crunchy pickles, which gave the sweet pork a zippy bite. I would go back to The Old Spot for the sandwich alone.

The Old Spot is a British-style pub located on a picturesque corner of town across from the Hawthorne Hotel; it’s also near the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Witch Museum and the House of the Seven Gables — which inspired the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel of the same name — so a stop at The Old Spot is ideal even for a Salem-centric trip…  something I’m already thinking of planning for the next three-day weekend.

Joppa Fine Foods
50 Water Street
The Tannery
Newburyport, Massachusetts 01951
978.462.4662
joppafinefoods.com

Tendercrop Farms
108 High Road
Newbury, Massachusetts 01951
978.462.6972
tendercropfarms.com

The Old Spot
121 Essex Street
Salem, Massachusetts 01970
978.745.5656
theoldspot.com

Old Spot on Urbanspoon