Boston

2013 Year in Review: April – This is our Fucking City

I really think David Ortiz really summed it up better than anyone else.

I’ve only lived in Boston for two and a half years, but I can honestly say I have never felt more at home in my entire life. Boston is a really special place. Its people are tough as nails, yet fiercely loyal. It has all the trappings of a city, but still maintains a small town feel. It is a center of innovation. People come here to learn, to grow, to have fulfilling careers. To raise families.

When you live in Boston, it becomes a big part of your identity. I never really truly understood this until I went through this experience with the rest of the city.

The day after the manhunt I went to BBQ with my friends Katie and Tim in Cambridge. As I was walking to their apartment, I saw this draped on a fence:

IMG_2955To me, this perfectly articulated how the city of Boston came together to heal. We were collectively scared for a time. We were deeply sad, but we found solace in strength.

Average citizens were first responders. Boston’s finest were brave and acted valiantly in the face of danger and uncertainty. Bostonians immediately offered up their homes to runners and spectators who needed a place to stay. The world rallied around us to raise money to support those who were affected.

We paid our respects. We left flowers and mementos and remembered those that were lost.

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We shut down our entire god damn city for a whole day until we captured those responsible.

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Because this is Boston. And this is our fucking city.

2013 Year in Review: April – The Manhunt

I’ve been stuck in bed for a few days now with the flu. It’s actually sort of fitting for me to write this portion of the series in my current state of delirium…

I had slept like shit since the bombing. My area of JP is pretty noisy, especially with a police station right around the corner. The old sounds of passing cars, loud bangs, and the occasional siren never really bothered me until then. Before I never really cared about who or what was causing those noises, but now, any sort of loud noise would make my heart jump into my throat.

I think it was somewhere around 3 or 4 in the morning when I felt my phone buzz by my head. It was my friend Ramzi in San Jose asking me if I was ok and telling me to stay in my apartment. I assured him I was fine and went into my living room to turn on my television. Sure enough, something was up.

I ran and got my MacBook to hop onto Facebook and Twitter to see if there were any updates about what was happening. I saw my friend Tim had been following what had been happening for a couple hours by then. He updated me on what I had missed and then I settled in for what would be the longest 24 hours of my life.

My roommates woke up a couple hours later to find me in the living room with my iPad on Twitter, MacBook on Facebook and other news sites, and flicking between national and local news stations. People were slowly waking up across the country, and I knew they’d be pretty shocked at what they’d be waking up to.

It just did not seem like real life. What transpired that day is what Hollywood movies are made of. Car chases, gunfire, a manhunt. This isn’t what happens in real life. Except here it was – unfolding right before our eyes.

First, the city of Boston and some surrounding areas were asked to stay indoors. Businesses were closed. No MBTA service.

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A few hours later, the screen looked a bit different.

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 8.13.18 PMThis is getting hard for me to describe in a narrative what I was thinking/feeling/experiencing, so I’m going to try to boil it down to a few bullet points:

  • The virality of false information was astounding. Especially the garbage that was coming from the major networks (lookin’ at you, CNN). I ended up watching local news stations for the majority of this coverage, and I typically never watch local news. I find it hokey and annoying. However, the local stations in Boston did a really phenomenal job.
  • Access to information was even more astounding. It blew my mind that I could just listen to the police scanner as this whole thing was going down. That I could see images of SWAT teams crawling around people’s backyards. It was probably the most fascinating thing I ever experienced.
  • This totally and utterly consumed me. At any given moment, I was listening to the police scanner, watching 1-2 different TV stations, trolling several social media sites, and trying to boil down what I was seeing into my own posts (I only posted things that I had vetted through a couple different trusted sources). I almost feel ashamed to admit it now, but it was a huge high. I had news stations in Rochester following my posts, friends from across the country told me I was their trusted news source. It was incredibly thrilling, but totally unhealthy. I barely ate or drank anything. I didn’t sleep for nearly 24 hours. I was crippled by what was happening – and I wasn’t even all that close to it. I created a cocoon where I was really IN it, but I actually wasn’t. Knowing me, there wasn’t any other way I could have possibly spent that day. But looking back, it was pretty nuts.
  • I was scared. Once they shut down the city, I knew that this would have to come to some kind of closure. It just had to. But this is also why I felt so shocked when they lifted the closure of the city before anything had been resolved.

I couldn’t believe it when Menino and the Police Commissioner told us to go about our lives as if nothing happened. I was furious that all of this was for nothing. So I took a shower, got dressed, and was about to turn off the TV to head to the bar when I heard it – “GUN SHOTS FIRED IN WATERTOWN.”

And so I sat down, cracked open a Blue Light, and watched the rest unfold.

There he was – a very young man, blood soaked, exhausted, scared, being attacked with smoke bombs and gunfire. They pulled him out of the boat, dragged him to the ground, and cuffed him. This was the person who brought an entire city to its knees. It is pretty scary to think about that.

I started crying when it was over. I was listening to the jubilant voices over the police scanners – the people who talked me through that entire ordeal. I felt as if I were celebrating with them. (And I did have a little celebration – I definitely needed a beer after all this).

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I was finally able to drag myself away from my living room – nearly 20 hours later – to grab a sandwich at the shop around the corner next to the police station. As I was walking home, the policemen were returning to the station. I stopped and thanked them with tears in my eyes, went home to eat my sandwich, and for the first time in a week, went to sleep feeling safe.

January Tourist Spot: New England Aquarium

As I mentioned in my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 post, each month I plan on hitting up a different tourist attraction in Boston. This month I opted for the New England Aquarium, which is something I have wanted to go to for a long time.

It was a great place to choose for my first tourist attraction. While it was a little bit annoying to have to wait in a fairly long line (outside) to get tickets and it was pretty packed, I can definitely see why so many people go there.

Some of the things I loved about it were:

  • Shark & Ray Touch Tank
  • Jellyfish Exhibit
  • Penguin Habitat (Three different tanks!)
  • The 200,000 gallon Giant Ocean Tank

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It is a little bit pricy ($23.95 for adults) but they have a student discount that they don’t advertise. It only saves you $2, but its still nice to get the discount. If you are a library card holder in Boston, you can get discounted tickets (my friend Dan tried to do that the night before, but there weren’t anymore available).

Either way, it is a really great place to take a little kid, go on a date, or check out with friends. I highly recommend checking it out!

Click here to see the rest of my photos from the day.

Thanks to Dan Blahnik for going with me!

2011 Year in Review: July

Well I barely got any sleep last night because I was surrounded by three large dogs and one little guy. When I woke up at around 3:00 am and realized I had absolutely no blankets and was on the verge of falling of the bed, I felt like I was really finally home. However, I’m pretty sore this morning from having to sleep at a weird angle to accommodate the monsters.

But I digress.

Move to Boston

July 1st I packed up a uhaul and moved to Boston. (Cue the “I think I’ll go to Boston” song). I was really excited to be starting this new phase in my life. Boston was a place I have always been interested in living in, but I had only been there a few times. With a new job and grad school on the horizon, I had a lot to look forward to.

My first weekend there was a lot of fun. My parents were able to move me out there and Katrina’s family was there, too. Her and her mom threw a bbq so I could meet Katrina’s friends, which was really great. It was really nice to walk into a roommate situation where she already had a social network of cool friends for me to get to know. It was also 4th of July weekend, which was an absolute blast.

Friends Visiting

Now that I lived a lot closer to upstate NY, it is a lot easier for friends to come stay with me. My second weekend in Boston, I had Andy, Erica and Rachel come up and it was a lot of fun. We did a lot of drinking and basically just did touristy stuff around Boston since I didn’t know the area all that well yet. (In fact, Andy ended up playing tour guide for the majority of the visit).

The next week, Nick came up to visit (I know he was really there to see Maria, but I’m sure he already missed me too, haha).

City Year Summer Academy

Summer Academy is always a really long week, but it was an exciting time for me because it was my first major City Year event where I was totally in control of City Year’s social media (with Elliot of course). We helped facilitate a social media training with Mike Messina, my mentor who was leaving City Year that week. It was the first time City Year had trained programming staff (people who work in schools) in social media and I was really excited to be a part of it.

It was also really great to be able to see everyone from San Jose and people from other sites that I had met in the past. I think the best part about Academy is just being in the same place as all of the people who are working just as hard as you are towards the same mission. Pretty cool.

Other stuff:

  • Chowdafest with Katrina and her Mom
  • The World Cup (damn that heartbreaking loss)
  • Carson Beach with Dan and Katrina
  • Museum of Fine Art with Dan to see the Chihuly Exhibit
  • Flaming Lips concert

What type of newspaper reader are you?

I’m reading Effective Public Relations by Glen R. Broom for my Introduction to Public Relations and Stakeholder Communication course at Emerson (which is an incredibly good text book, by the way) and I came across a section discussing what the different types of newspaper readers are.

I haven’t read the newspaper consistently since I was in college (more specifically, the semester I took COMM 301: News Writing and Reporting when I had a free subscription to the New York Times) but it is interesting to think about the different types of newspaper readers.

Here is what the text laid out:

  1. Instrumental Readers use newspapers to get info they think will be useful for daily living
  2. Opinion Makers use newspapers to get advice and guidance for formulating and validating opinions
  3. Pleasure Readers use newspaper reading as an enjoyable habit
  4. Ego Boosters use the newspaper as a source of information for impressing others. They read to enhance their self-image and status with others
  5. Scanners use newspapers for many reasons, but there is no single motivation or pattern to suggest they belong in on of the other four types
  6. When I was in college, I’d have to say that I fell under the Opinion Maker category because at that time, I was a political columnist for the Cardinal Courier and a political/lifestyle  blogger for AOL.

    Now that I live in Boston, I read the Metro everyday on the T on my way to work, but I’m not sure if that is truly a newspaper… I’d have to say it is more of a tabloid than anything.

    Thinking about why I read the Metro everyday, I feel like I fall under pretty much every category, which I suppose places me in the Scanners category.

    For those of you who still read newspapers (I know you’re out there!) what category do you most align yourself with?

Getting Oriented

All summer I’ve been trying to fight the fact that I’m terrified to be going to graduate school. It’s not that I’m concerned about being able to handle the challenge (though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little bit nervous about that) it’s that I’m concerned about whether or not its a good investment.

I’ve been reading article after article telling me that college debt has surpassed credit card debt in America and that tons of tons of students are walking across the stage to receive their Master’s diploma and then riding in their parent’s car back to their basement because they can’t afford to live on their own thanks to the mountains of debt they’ve accrued.

My independence is crucial to me and the thought of having to lose that makes me literally sick to my stomach. I’ve had countless sleepless nights where I’ve tossed and turned trying to grapple with how the hell am I going to live a life I want to lead all while managing loan payments, credit card bills, rent…. the list goes on.

To be honest, I seriously considered dropping out of graduate school before it began. 

I was feeling guilty because a Master’s degree is something that isn’t absolutely crucial to finding success in my career field. You could say I don’t even need it. It is just something I’ve always wanted to do for my own personal development. That, and I really do enjoy learning.

After going to orientation at Emerson last week, I’m feeling better about my decision. President Pelton addressed the graduate students and I really connected with what he had to say. Not only did he make me feel a little better about job prospects with my degree, but he made me feel inspired to really give this my all.

It’s going to be difficult (both intellectually and financially) but I’m going to make it work.

Five things Friday: Life in Boston Edition

I’ve been living in Boston for about a month now, and so far, so good! It’s a lot different from San Jose, but I definitely feel a San Francisco-esque vibe here that I’m totally into. And thanks to visits from friends and a very social roommate, I’ve already done a bunch of fun stuff here and have even started to know my way around (which if you know me, that’s a huge feat).

Here’s a list of the things I have found to be really enjoyable in Boston so far:

1) The T

As someone who hasn’t owned a car over the past two years, the T is a blessing. Public transit wasn’t too bad in San Jose, but the T blows VTA out of the water!

Luckily for me, I live really close to an Orange Line stop and that line runs right by the City Year office and Emerson College, so it is pretty ideal. My only complaint is that the T stops running pretty early (around midnight-ish) so if you don’t want to cab it home from a late night out, you have to cut your night short. But maybe that’s not such a terrible thing…

2) Jamaica Pond

I live in Jamaica Plains, which is a really cool area of Boston. It’s a fairly quiet neighborhood in comparison to the college-ridden parts of town and there is a really cute downtown area.

My favorite part of Jamaica Plains is the Jamaica Pond. It has beautiful scenery, you can rent sailboats and rowboats, go fishing or walk your dog. I try to make it there every day to go running around the 1.5 mile loop, cause if I’m putting myself through hell to try to get back in shape, I might as well do it in a pretty place!

3) Sam Adams Brewery

It’s no secret that I love breweries. Thankfully, I have the Sam Adams Brewery right around the corner!

I love the Sam Adams Brewery because the tour is SUPER informative (they even passed around hops for us to check out), the tour guides are really friendly and it’s free.

During the tour, they take you to a tap room where they show us how professional beer tasters sample their wares and encourage us to do the same as we “taste-test” up to five different brews.

They provide you with a small Sam Adams taster glass for you to keep and don’t charge you for the beer, either. They do ask folks to give a donation that the brewery will then in turn donate to local organizations that work with kids. Can’t go wrong with that!

After the tour, they offer you a free Party Trolley ride over to Doyle’s Pub, which is the first bar in Boston to serve Sam Adams (and also apparently makes an appearance in the film Mystic River). If you go there from the tour and buy a Sam Adams draft, they will give you a really nice Sam Adams glass for free. Excellent.

4) Boston Common

This is a really cool area in Boston that just so happens to be where Emerson College is located. There is a really pretty park, lots of cute café’s and eateries and of course, pubs. I really like Sweetwater Tavern and have frequented the AMC movie theater in that district. I’m excited to spend a lot of my time in the Common.

5) Purple Cactus

One of my big concerns moving here from San Jose was that I would be doomed to eat crappy Mexican food for the rest of my life. Then I went to Purple Cactus and saw the light.

Not only do they serve burritos that are the closest I’ve found to the greatness of California taquerias, but they also serve delicious fruit smoothies (I highly recommend the Classic Blonde).