Newman is a CREEPY PERVERT! Saturday, Mar 31 2007 

I have more than a few obsessions: celebrity gossip, world travel, Sex and the City. But there’s one that stands above all: the Baby-Sitters Club.

I started reading the books when I was seven, and I haven’t stopped. Those books were my LIFE. And a few years ago, I discovered all these communities of girls in their twenties who used to read the books back in the day, and who meet to talk about them, to discuss them as adults, to wonder if the real reason why Kristy’s dad left her family was because he knew David Michael wasn’t his son. (There are plenty of arguments for that.)

Anyways, the communities are great, and I’m not afraid to admit that I love them. There’s an awesome and hilarious blog on the right of this page, called “Claudia’s Room.” The girl who writes it is a librarian who started rereading them, and writes with shock, horror, and a LOT of humor.

Anyways, in one of the communities, someone was writing about how they were watching Seinfeld (the episode when Kramer and Newman try to return all their cans in Michigan to make 10 cents off each can), and there’s a brief scene in Newman’s apartment. The girl who was watching it noticed that he had an unusually turquoise video mixed into the stacks….and what could a bright turquoise video in the 90s be?

BABY-SITTERS CLUB!!

Someone took a screencap:

And that’s just gross. All along, Newman was watching the baby-sitters, and not for the plot value. (Believe me, these videos had NO plot value WHATSOEVER.) I can just picture him, the room dark, the TV on. Newman is eating popcorn or maybe some fried chicken — and sweating profusely.
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Pictures of Texas, Day One Thursday, Mar 29 2007 

Here are the pictures to go along with that first entry I wrote!

Padre Island from the airplane. I love when you can find actual geographical places that you’re used to seeing on a map! (We flew over Block Island when coming home from Gleetalia, and on the way home from this trip, we circled over Revere Beach and Nahant. I also saw Oak Island in Revere in the middle of the marsh, where my mom grew up.)

Posters from Tricia’s classroom (and Tricia’s hand on the right!) The stories: Juan and the Pinto Bean Stalk and The Three Chicharrones.

Tricia also had pictures of literary words and devices — of course, this one jumped out to me right away. It cracks me up.

This one was pretty funny, too.

SONIC!!! I was so excited to go there!!!!!

Sonic is a drive-in, so you literally drive into a spot when you’re ready to order, and then they bring the food out (sometimes on rollerblades!).

The regular menu, which includes Frito pie, tater tots, popcorn chicken, corndogs, cherry limeades and lots of other delicacies you won’t find at McDonald’s.

The dessert menu — gotta love that chocolate cake sundae!

I made Tricia take this picture of me. This was going to be my facebook picture until I met Vanilla Ice. You’re looking at one very happy girl.

Beth’s apartment building — everything is brand new, beautiful, and did I mention — SO CHEAP IT’S RIDICULOUS!!!!!!

I swear I’ll be writing the Vanilla Ice entry soon….

The Vanilla Ice Text Messages Sunday, Mar 25 2007 

After I met and danced with Vanilla Ice on Saturday night, I immediately began texting just about everyone in my phone to tell them. I was SO excited. I ended up getting a lot of texts back, and some of them are pretty funny. I’m going to start deleting them soon, but I’d like to immortalize them forever. Here we go:

Me to everyone: “Dude, i totally met and danced with vanilla ice tonight and i am not kidding – got an awesome pic”

From Jeff: “haha thats absurd! i gota c that” and “I cant bdlieve u havemt visited!”

From Jimmy: “Hey who’s this? I lost my phone a few weeks ago and don’t have your number in my new one.” and “Ah – that’s sweet about vanilla ice!”

From Eddie: “Ice ice baby…dun dun dah da dun da da dun dun…haha. Thats great. Glad u having a gd time.”

From Jaime: “Oh my god thats amazing! I cant wait to see!”

From Curran: “That is fucking awesome!”

From Lindsey: “This is kate right if it is that is so great did u c him in texas or here”

From Kara: “Ice ice baby! Sweet! Can’t wait to see it! Quality. maybe we can do an american idol night at your apt this week or something. Let me know!” (Oh, Kara, I only wish I were able to watch American Idol with you this year, or any prime time TV…. :-/)

From Billy: “Cant believe u met vanilla ice thats sick btw truth be told im not much of a republican anymore if ur ever in the big apple gim”

From Kelly Anne: “You have an awesome and ridiculous life. When are you coming to philly to see me?” and “Oh and i want to see the pic! Send it. :)”

I love you guys.

Live from Texas! Saturday, Mar 24 2007 

I’m sitting in Beth’s living room right now, enjoying my time deep in the heart of Texas. Technically, it’s not quite Texas Texas, the stereotypical one (especially as depicted in Tucker Max’s “The Midland, Texas Story”), since it’s Mexican Texas. Brownsville is one town over from Mexico.

Of course, meeting and dancing on stage with Vanilla Ice has been the highlight of the trip so far, but there have been lots of other good moments as well. Here it is from the beginning:

I arrived in Brownsville at around 6:45 on Wednesday. The flights were good if uneventful; I had a cross-terminal connection that would be nearly impossible to make in Boston or Chicago or Paris, but the Houston airport is so well laid out that I made it in plenty of time. The flight from Houston to Brownsville was SO not the opposite of a sausage fest.

I arrived and met up with Beth — and it was HOT! It was probably just in the low eighties, but the humidity made it feel like so much more — like the mid-nineties or so. It was fucking FANTASTIC — I love very hot, very humid weather. It wreaks havoc on my hair, though — picture that episode of Friends when they go to Barbados and Monica’s hair goes crazy. Not quite that bad, but the same idea.

The airport is located right near Beth’s school, so we went by to check it out. And the outside of her school smells SO GOOD — there are some kind of plants or flowers that have an amazing, fresh smell. Next, we went to a Mexican place called Bigo’s for dinner, and we met up with one of Beth’s two roommates, Andrea (Andie). We had some huge, delicious piles of tortillas stuffed with chicken and cheese, with plenty of avocado. On the side there was also limes, green salsa and really spicy pico de gallo. We hung out and they told me teaching stories.

I should probably give a bit of background here. Beth and I have been best friends for ten years, since we forged our bond in the seventh grade over dioramas for social studies and watching Maury Povich (say it….you are NOT the father!). In the eighth grade, she and Lisa and I were inseparable, wearing our “best friends forever” necklaces almost every day. Once we started high school, Alexa became the fourth member of our group, and we were christened “The Brood” by Matt Stempeck and Chris Tringale. There’s so much more that I could say about the Brood, and how close we were, but that’s the basic gist of it.

Beth went to Muhlenberg in Pennsylvania for college, where I visited her once (and got my tattoo), and during her senior year, she was accepted to Teach for America. Teach for America is a program through Americorps that places new college graduates, most of whom hadn’t majored or minored in education, at schools throughout the country that are in the greatest need of teachers. You could teach in an urban area like DC, New York, Miami or the Bay Area, or you could be in a rural area like the Mississippi Delta, North Carolina, or a Native American reservation in South Dakota or New Mexico.

Beth got placed in the Rio Grande Valley, the area of southeastern Texas that borders Mexico. She got placed in Brownsville, one of the larger cities in the region. The region is known for having one of the lowest costs of living in America (more on that when I get to Beth’s amazing apartment!!), but the areas vary greatly. Last night, we went to dinner in the nicest area of Brownsville, which isn’t quite to the level of suburban Boston, but it was worlds away from Southmost, the area where Beth teaches, where there are fireworks shacks reading “Buy One Get Five Free”.

Beth teaches special education at a middle school. Her kids run along a wide gamut — she’s got kids who are MR (mentally retarded), autistic kids, and kids with plenty of various learning disabilities. She teaches one class of her own each day, and does inclusion for the rest of the day, which is working with the special ed kids who are integrated into normal-level classes.

After dinner, as I continued to marvel at the delicious weather, we went back to Beth’s place. She lives in a luxury complex with two roommates, and what an apartment it is!! There are three bedrooms and two full bathrooms, a spacious living room, dining room, and kitchen, plus a balcony. They also have their own washer/dryer and DISHWASHER (I am SO jealous of that). Everything is brand new.

And they pay $965.00 a month total, or a smidgen over $300.00 each.

Yeah. I’m jealous. I pay so much more, and I definitely don’t have a dishwasher!! But it’s worth it to be in a city I love….even though it’s not QUITE the city….I’ll get there someday.

While driving back, we passed a Sonic, and I freaked out. Sonic is like an urban fast food myth for those of us who live up north — we get all the commercials, but there are none anywhere!! From the commercials, I’ve really started craving a caramal banana split and a cherry limeade. They’re right about that — Sonic’s got it. Others don’t!

I met Tricia, Beth’s other roommate. All three girls work for Teach for America, and Beth and Tricia teach at the same school, while Andie teaches at a high school. We went to bed early, since I was going to school with Beth the next day, and I had only gotten four hours of sleep the night before. Which was great, and I mean that.

Beth’s alarm went off at FIVE the next morning (five!), a far cry from my 2-10:30 schedule. It was pitch black as we drove to school. On the way, we stopped at a gas station for breakfast tacos, which Beth had been telling me about for a long time and I really wanted to try them. And, trust me, that wasn’t as skanky as it sounds. There was a whole taco place inside the gas station.

We got to school and classes began. Beth’s first class was the special ed kids, and just watching her, I got exhausted. You have to have infinite patience to work with kids like these, especially at this age, or probably any kids, period. The reading lessons are for reading at a first-grade level. For example, they had a sheet with a paragraph on it, and they had to circle every word beginning with spr- or str-. And they had to say aloud a list of words on the side board, and their goal was to say them all — say them all, that’s it! — in less than FOUR MINUTES. That’s the level these kids are at.

And I really have to commend Beth — if there’s someone teaching special ed, it’s someone like her — she’s very well suited for it. She’s very kind and empathetic to kids, but she can also be a hardass when she needs to be! Later on, in a class with non-special ed kids, one of them kept asking her what my name was.

Beth: “That’s Ms. McCulley.”
Kid: “What’s her first name?”
Beth: “Ms.”
Kid: “That’s not a real first name.”
Me: “You’d be surprised.”
Beth: “She’s Ms. to you, just like I’m Ms. to you. And that’s it.”

But forget Ms. — the kids are all about MA’AM! Every kid calls every woman ma’am, mostly ma’am, and hardly ever call women by their names. (Though occasionally when Beth’s on the other side of the room, you’ll hear “Miss Go-li-NI!!”). Ma’am isn’t said with a Texas drawl, since virtually all of these kids are Mexican, so it’s just “Mahm” or “Mum”. You should hear them when they’re trying to get your attention! “Ma’am. Ma’am. Ma’am. MA’AM!!”

The kids are adorable. They really are — especially this little boy with autism, who kissed Beth’s co-teacher Kyle on the cheek when he walked in. Beth asked him how he was today, and he replied, “Weee! Weee!”

Later on, in one of Beth’s inclusion classes, the kids were writing poems and she had me help one of her special ed students. This little girl just seemed quiet to me, but then I learned just how bad off she was. The poem was fill-in-the-blank: “If I could be any color, I’d be ______ like ______ and ________.” I asked the little girl what color she’d like to be. She was wearing a pink jacket, and she said “pink” so softly you could barely hear her. So I told her that she could write it down, but she just stared at me. And Beth came by and said, “Remember the pah-pah-pah sound? Remember what letter that is? Is it this?” and she drew a P on the paper.

This girl is twelve years old.

Beth says that some specialists have classified her as mentally retarded, but others haven’t, and you can tell she has fetal alcohol syndrome. And I was just shocked to see that she was like that — and being integrated into regular classes! Beth really thinks that she shouldn’t be there, but there’s nothing she can do.

For all the success stories you read about with Teach for America — one that stands out is how a girl in Atlanta took a class of first graders who couldn’t read and got 90% to a third-grade level and the remaining 10% to a second-grade level by the end of the year — you also have the reality that some kids are just hopeless. This little girl will never achieve literacy — and what kind of future can you have without being able to read anything? Beth said that when the career fair comes to schools, the only choices the kids have are the military, the police, the fire department, and cosmetology school. That’s it.

Anyways, I got to meet a lot of Beth’s favorite students and colleagues, and they’re all great people. We were in a seventh grade English class with a LOT of rambunctious boys in it, and they naturally took an interest to me. (In another class, while Beth was out of the room, one kid actually let out a WOLF WHISTLE at me!!) They kept moving, little by little, closer to my desk. Then the question of the day:

Kid: “Do you speak Spanish, ma’am?”
Me: “A little. I can read it, understand some, but I’m not that good at speaking it.”
Kid: “So you can understand a little?”

All the boys’ eyes light up.

Me: “Don’t even go there, because I know you’re going to be saying increasingly inappropriate things, and even if I don’t understand you, I’m going to know it!”

The boys just stared, maybe a little afraid to laugh.

One kid in particular was wild, and he kept asking Beth about me. Beth told him it was my first time to Brownsville.

Kid: “You’ve never been to Brown Town?”
Me: “I’ve never even been to Texas — or Mexico!”
Kid: “Do you like Mexican food?”
Me: “I love it — we went to Bigo’s last night.”
Kid: “Do you like margaritas?”
Me: “Who doesn’t like margaritas?”
Kid: “Do you like Bud Light, ma’am? There’s this place where I go, it’s really good, I drink Bud Light there all the time….”
Me: (looks at Beth) “Um, I don’t think we should be continuing this conversation….”

(Later:
Me: “He’s TWELVE!”
Beth: “He’s actually fourteen — he had to repeat sixth grade. Twice.”)

Beth had a meeting after school, so Tricia gave me a ride home. I took this opportunity to let out the floodgates and ask every question I had about the school, about Mexico, and how it is that so many kids walk over the bridge each day from Mexico to go to a U.S. public schools. We talked like crazy, and she told me that about a quarter of the kids live in Mexico and give a relative’s address in Brownsville. In Mexico, you have to pay to go to school past the fifth grade, so that’s the main reason. Occasionally, like once every three weeks, they find out that a kid doesn’t really live there and he or she gets kicked out, which is sad. Every now and then, Beth has to ask a kid for his or her address, and the kid invariably goes, “Yeah, that’s it but you can’t get my mom there, try this phone number instead,” and it’s always in Mexico. The kids can barely keep it straight — they keep forgetting which one they’re “supposed” to have.

It’s so fascinating, learning about the culture down here. We’re in America, but it might as well be an entirely different country.

Halfway home, Tricia says the magic words:

“Would you mind if we stopped at Sonic?”

WOULD I MIND?!?!?!?!

I was thrilled — I had been begging Beth to take me as soon as possible. Sonic is fucking AMAZING. You sit in your car and order — it’s a drive in — and they bring you your food, sometimes while wearing roller blades. And the food features so many different things, things you wouldn’t find on other fast food menus. I got a popcorn chicken and a chocolate cake sundae. So good. And you just sit there and it, because it’s a drive in! All this time, I thought that the people in the commercials were just paused at the drive-thru window!

Tricia is a native of the Valley, and she kept telling me how much Beth and I are alike — maybe because we’re friends, but she’s never known too many YANKEES before. I have never been called a Yankee in my LIFE!!! Tricia also said that she’s visiting Beth this summer in Boston (Beth will be working at a camp for autistic kids either in North Reading or Bedford, and living at home!!), but she’s apprehensive that everybody’s going to be awful. Northerners. I told her that people really aren’t awful — but then I realized how much friendlier people are here, and I told her, well, maybe. For example, when I ran out to Beth’s car during school, when I walked back to her room, literally every teacher I passed said hello to me.

Also, Tricia went to school in Austin, and was telling me what a great place it was. I’ve been thinking about moving to a warmer city in a few years, because even though I love Boston, I can’t stand that many more cold winters. I was halfheartedly thinking Miami, even though Florida is a bastion of serial killers (just ask my coworker Duval), or Los Angeles, which is a city that I don’t really like but at least my sister will be there a few years from now. I wrote off anything in Texas because I don’t want to be around crazy Bible-beating Bush lovers.

Well, it turns out that Austin is, as Tricia says, “a drop of blue in a sea of red.” Tricia is the lone Democrat in her family, and she says that Austin is actually an extremely liberal city. They were the one district in Texas not to ratify the Defense of Marriage act. And I remember reading a few years ago about a list of best cities for young people, and Austin topped the list. And Austin has the University of Texas, which is a great school and a BIG school with a lot of programs, where I could go to grad school (should I ever decide exactly what I want to study). And the cheaper cost of living would be a breath of fresh air….

So it’s something to think about! I’m definitely going to be doing more research on this.

I took a nap after school, then we went out to dinner at Jason’s, this Panera-type place with a great salad bar. They also have FREE frozen yogurt. Sweet! I went with Beth and Tricia, and they told me so many stories about the autistic boy in Beth’s first class. He’s very different medicated and unmedicated; I got to see him unmedicated, and he was smiling and laughing, but they said that when he goes on his meds he turns into a zombie. Apparently they help him focus, but Beth and Tricia aren’t sure that it’s worth it. One day, unmedicated, Tricia asked him how he was, and he replied, “Shoot for the STARS!” and pumped his fist into the air. And Beth gives out little packets of Goldfish crackers as prizes, and he keeps all of his in a glass jar at home, never opening them. I asked why he doesn’t have outbursts in Spanish, and they told me that autistic kids have difficulties with languages, so his family made the decision to speak only English with him. He does know a little bit of Spanish, though, especially food words! He’s an adorable kid. And meeting him made me want to learn more about autism.

This entry is SO long….I think I’m going to stop for now, but I’ll be writing about my trip to South Padre soon! And meeting VANILLA ICE!! It was awesome. I can’t wait to post the pics.

I MET VANILLA ICE!!!! Saturday, Mar 24 2007 

I MET VANILLA ICE!!! I MET VANILLA ICE!!! I FUCKING MET VANILLA ICE AND GOT ON STAGE WITH HIM AND GOT PICTURES WITH HIM!!!!

More details to come.

St. Paddy’s Day 2007 Thursday, Mar 22 2007 

First of all, let me state that Lisa and I are the greatest bar duo EVER. How do we do it so well?! We always go in and OWN the place. We’re the girls people want to hang out with. We drink, but not that much; we dance, but don’t get disgusting; we flirt with guys, but never end up sucking face with them; pretty much, we just spend time trying to meet the craziest people in the bar and just hang out with them. And wherever we go, whether it’s the Burren on St. Paddy’s Day, a summer night at Sissy K’s, or joining a nearly all-male pub crawl on Boylston St., we have an awesome time.

I’m really behind on blogging. As I write this, I’m in Brownsville, Texas, where it is SO hot and humid outside (my fave kind of weather!) and I just spent a day with Beth at her school. But before I can write about my time here (and my VISIT TO SONIC!!), I have to catch up with St. Paddy’s Day.

Lisa came over around 2 or so, and since she was planning to stay over, she brought me some Gingerbread Construction Company muffins. It was a taste of Lake Quannapowitt (only without the windsurfers and toxic pollution) — I miss it! We took the red line down to meet her friends from Holy Cross in the Faneuil Hall area, and that’s when it started to look like the holiday. People were drinking in the streets, painted green, and waiting in HUGE lines at the bars, even though it was just the afternoon.

We ended up meeting the group at Boston Beer Works, had some great Irish beers (an Irish Cream Stout, which tasted just like Bailey’s, and then a green Fenway Pale Ale) and some nachos and burgers. A few of the girls left the group, and then Lisa, Carissa, Erin and I walked around the area looking for a new place to go.

After deciding not to pay a cover just then, and seeing that the line at Hurricane O’Reilly’s was so long (which is so desolate on some nights that Lisa was the lone dancer and has resorted to using the pole as her partner), we decided to go into Sports Grille and have a few drinks. The NCAA games were on, and that inspired Lisa to chant, “Go Holy Cross! Go Holy Cross!” (Yeah, I don’t think people cared.) And then she started pointing out that both teams (Vanderbilt and whomever) were tied at 69, and, well, that made everything go crazy. And then two OTHER teams were tied at 69….and Lisa went wild.

We asked for Irish car bombs and denied, then left the place shortly after. We walked through Faneuil Hall for a while and in terms of line and pricing, the Hong Kong looked to be our best bet, but who really wants to go there on St. Paddy’s? After a while, Lisa and I split away from Carissa and Erin, and we jumped on the T at Government Center (while running into my awesome coworker Mike, who went to UNH, and Lisa is a grad student at UNH now, so that was cool!), enjoyed a rendition of “Whiskey in the Jar” by the college students in the car, and then went up to Davis to go to the Burren, where I knew several of my coworker friends were spending the holiday.

The line was long, and cold, and Lisa’s shoes were filling up with water, but we made it in. (We also saw one of my coworkers get kicked out, then chased by the bouncers. Heh.) Towards the end of the wait, this guy, who was with a friend, started yelling out, “$20.00 cover?! What does that get you? A FREE HEATER!! Free heater, everyone! Come up here for the free heater!” I really can’t capture the absurdity of it, but Lisa and I were laughing like crazy and yelling back stuff like, “The one thing I want to know — is there a FREE HEATER involved?”

We got in, and I looked for my coworkers, but couldn’t find anyone. We saw the Free Heater guys in the back, so we went up to them and introduced ourselves. Their names were Jeremy and Jeremy (although Lisa thought the tall one was named Frank, for some reason, which led to some confusion — I will call him Frank here to keep things clear), and they were roommates in the navy! They were there with Shelly, who I believed was their friend’s sister, and she lives in Davis, which is why they were there. The guys immediately bought me and Lisa some beers, and we just hung out and talked. They were really, really cool guys, really hilarious. So was Shelly. I love when you meet buddies for the night at a bar!

Later on, a band started up — the Johnny Come Latelys! They were pretty good — and there is NO better music to dance to than Irish music! And when you’ve had some drinks, everyone thinks that they can Riverdance with the best of them. Lisa and I sure did — it was too bad Mrs. L wasn’t there to show us how to REALLY jig! (She has performed it, at Lisa’s graduation party and on other occasions, and it’s always a show-stopper!)

Several more of my friends showed up once they got off work, and we had a great time — my coworker Lindsey actually said that Lisa and I looked like sisters, which we don’t think is true at all, and that’s the second time in six months that somebody has said that!

Oh, as the night went on, guess what — the Jeremys and Shelly kept buying us drinks ALL NIGHT LONG, including a round of shots. Can you believe it? We offered to pay, and they wouldn’t let us. We just kept dancing around and feeling the hair of this guy who came in full green outfit, complete with giant furry wig. (He got kind of pissed off later, but come on — you show up dressed like that, expect to be groped by the whole room!) There were some random little old men around the room, too….the band was old guys, but the drummer was young and kind of cute.

At the end of the night, we hugged the Jeremys, Frank got Lisa a Guinness balloon from the wall, and we seeked out the drummer and told him how much we enjoyed the band. They really were good. I love Irish bands — they remind me of the Black 47 concerts at Fairfield, and how I always wanted to crowdsurf but never did….

We walked home, since the Burren is right in my neighborhood, and met two guys on the way home. They were at the Burren, too, and we talked about how AWESOME it was there. (It was. No better place for St. Paddy’s! I can’t wait to go out there again, too.) Then one guy goes, “So, where were you tonight?” “DUDE, WE’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THE BURREN FOR THE PAST FIVE MINUTES!!!”

We got back, we hung out, we drank some water and we went to bed. What a perfect St. Paddy’s Day. And it goes without saying that Lisa and I fucking OWNED that night!! I really wish I could describe it in better detail….anyways, that night was legendary. I can’t wait for next year.

Next post will be about the great time that I’m having down here!

Québec: the FUN pictures! Friday, Mar 16 2007 

I had the best time in Québec with my friends, especially with Mike and James — I love those guys so much. We were the Trifecta and had our own group on Facebook (until James decided that it might impede his career prospects if he was one of the founding members of “The Trifecta Gave Me Beer and Told Me It Was Juicy Juice”). Last year was just incredible, all the good times we had, especially at the guys’ townhouse. The guys are seniors at Fairfield this year, and the trip was going to be during the first part of their spring break.

I found out about this trip the Thursday beforehand, when James started texting me while I was at the bar and inviting me to come to Montréal with them! Montréal turned into Québec a few days later, since Brian and Steve were going there as well. I asked for the time off and got it granted — so I was good to go!!

After a mostly uneventful drive (and Mike did it all the way from Fairfield to Québec, stopping in Boston to pick me up — VERY impressive), we arrived and checked in at the Best Western. (Would recommend it — great location, reasonably priced.) We then asked where the nearest bar was, and ended up at Boudoir, a bedroom-themed lounge-type club with a relaxed setting upstairs and a dance floor downstairs. Everyone there was really attractive, especially the bartender (a girl, but she was HOTT, as was every other bartender in the city!!), and the crowd was pretty evenly mixed in terms of gay and straight.

Here’s me and Mike on the first night.

Mike and James — these two have been roommates since their freshman year and were upset when they moved to the apartments and wouldn’t be sharing a bedroom anymore!

James and me, cruisazy as always

The next day, we woke up and walked to Vieux-Québec, which is depicted in the scenery pictures in an earlier entry. What a beautiful, beautiful (and fun!) area. We had some delicious crêpes at a Breton crêperie where the waitresses were dressed up in traditional clothing, then walked around and did a little shopping. I bought a Québec flag for my cube at work.

We then walked down to the bank of the river and discovered a tobogganning slide down a hill. It reminded me of Geronimo at Water Country, only with a sled. It was only $2.00 CAD per ride. Mike and I went first!

It was really fun — but near the bottom of the hill, it got so BUMPY that my ass was being pounded and pounded like you wouldn’t believe! And I got it on video! (Sounds like my Friday night! Kidding….) Mike sat in front and I sat in the back, completely wrapped around him, as the instructor dictated. (The instructor actually hitched a ride on the back of us, and we didn’t notice. He was giving me bedroom eyes earlier. Weirdo.) Mike took the video, which I will be uploading to Youtube. Youtube is being weird with blogger lately, though, with the new format of it, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post it.

I announced to no one in particular that I wouldn’t be putting my poor backside through any of that again, so Mike and James went for another run.

After walking around some more, checking out some art, and getting a drink on top of the revolving restaurant (there were actually people from Peabody who lived at Brooksby Village up there!), we decided to head back to the hotel to see if Brian and Steve arrived. As we walked in, Brian was in the lobby!

We rested at the hotel for a bit (James found the free wireless internet, as he does WHEREVER HE GOES — it’s scary), I read for a bit, and then the five of us headed out to eat in the Basse-Ville. It took us forever to get there because few roads allow you to go all the way down, and we couldn’t find the original restaurant. We ended up eating at Le Cochin Dingue, and the food was fucking FANTASTIC. I had some of the best French onion soup that I’ve ever had, and then all five of us dug into pots of moules frites — mussels with fries. I had two pots, one with two mustards, and one flavored with smoked salmon. Fantastic.

This is a fantastic picture of James that totally epitomizes him. I’m pretty sure that his idea of heaven is a place where you can eat cheesecake and take pictures all day.

This is the only pic of the five of us: James, Brian, Steve, me and Mike.

Later that night, we were looking for a bar in the area, and it being Sunday night, we couldn’t find anything near our hotel that was open late — so after a few drinks at a sushi restaurant, we headed back to Boudoir! It was pretty different from the night before — it was all Latin music, rather than techno, and the crowd was decidedly more straight and ugly.

However, we somehow snagged this little VIP-type room that happened to be open!! It was the perfect size for us, hidden behind a curtain with a U-shaped couch, table and private bar (alas, no bartender of our own). We took pictures. James took a nap. I tried not to think about the things that people had done behind the curtain on the couch. And then we took a video of me, James and Mike performing the Family Matters theme song. I still don’t know whose idea that was — but it was FANTASTIC!! I have the video uploaded to Youtube; again, I don’t know if I can post videos here.

That’s how I roll!

I can’t describe how much I love these two dudes.

The Trifecta, together again!!

After that successful night, we headed back. We got some breakfast in the morning (just Mike, James and me since the other guys were doing Vieux-Québec on their own), then went to the Ice Hotel. Those pictures are in an earlier entry. However, on the way we passed….

….a PFK!! POULET FRILLEE DU KENTUCKIE!!

After going back, we had dinner with the whole group at Le Lapin Sauté (which means the jumping rabbit, not the sautéed rabbit!!), where we had yet another delicious meal. I had escargots, lapin aux deux moutardes, and petits pots de crème for dessert. FANTASTIC. We continued to enjoy the Stella Artois promotion of having a chance to win a glass with every pint you bought, but even though one in ten supposedly won, only Mike won. And we got dozens of those coupons all weekend!

Upon returning, we went to this weird, grungy little bar across the street from our hotel, where we each had a beer and then returned to the hotel to hang out. (All weekend, we were talking about swimming in the pool in our clothes — I was so excited to do that!! — but the pool had closed early.)

After realizing that we liked it better at the bar, we headed back. I started chatting with a guy named Stéphane who started telling me about the drag scene in Québec — and that dingy, little bar, the bar that would look like a redneck bar in the States, was actually a gay bar!! The bartender wasn’t gay, but everyone else was. Who knew?! I never would have guessed that — but I did kind of get the idea when a drunken middle-aged woman named Catherine started falling all over me and saying, “T’es gorgeuse, c’est vrai,” and veering through the bar.

I kept enjoying my conversations with Stéphane and Sébastien, and they didn’t mind that I was only drinking soda as they had beers. What great conversations — half in French, half in English. Stéphane told me that I spoke French very well, and that I had a Paris accent. He was kind. My friends were hanging out at another table and Stéphane joined them, and I stayed at the bar, talking to Sébastien.

It’s funny — weeks later, I emailed both of those guys, and they emailed me back. Nice guys.

The drive back was slightly more eventful than the ride there (dude, there are SO MANY SUBWAYS IN QUEBEC!!, so we had to stop there!), particularly because we got pulled over in New Hampshire. The cop was pulling everyone over, though, and telling them to stop speeding, but it was only a warning. It was especially scary, though, because James was driving Mike’s car and Mike couldn’t find the registration — yikes! Unscathed, though.

All in all, Québec is nothing short of fantastic. I highly recommend a visit there. It’s about 6.5 hours from Boston, so it’s a doable weekend trip. You can get by without speaking French, but if you can, you should.

And I truly love, love, love my friends. I know that James and Mike are going to be my most proverbial “college buddies” — the ones you meet up with whenever you can and go crazy talking about good times and creating more good times. I love them both so much. SO much.

L’Hotel de Glace Friday, Mar 16 2007 

I first read about l’Hotel de Glace, the Ice Hotel, a few years ago in Jane magazine. Upon remembering that it was only about half an hour from Québec, I immediately decided that we HAD to go! And Mike, James and I did on Sunday. Here are the pictures. Also, my camera broke after the last picture was taken. It fell off the ice counter at the ice bar.

The view of the hotel from the parking lot: it just looked like a mound of snow!

The grand entrance

This is what you see when you first walk in. The architecture changes each year, and the hotel is melted down on April 1 of each year. Not quite sure when it opens.

James has a seat on an ice chair and realizes that it’s not exactly toasty!

I try to get warm by the fake fire. That’s a reindeer pelt on the chair. They were SO thick and soft, and I was really hoping they were selling them in the gift shop, but to no avail. I definitely would have bought one.

Glass chandelier

There was even an ice slide for kids to go down!

Many rooms were themed, while others were plain. This is the Viva la Musica room — I liked, of course!

IGLOO!!!!! 😀

This was one of my favorite rooms — I loved the branches embedded in the ice. The bed is behind the wall with the branches, giving you some privacy.

Lounging amongst reindeer pelts in what is, by far, the most luxurious bed at l’hotel!

The chapel — and one of the most ADORABLE little girls I’ve ever seen. She was a roly-poly three-year-old, in a tiny suede coat, and she was eating chocolate and staring at me the whole time!

THE BAR!! Mike and I got drinks, of course. The glasses were giant cubes of ice with holes carved in them. Fantastic.

Overall, I would absolutely recommend a visit there, albeit a short one, it’s really not an all-day activity. We were there about an hour, an hour and a half or so. For the people who actually STAY in the hotel — God, they deserve medals!! If you do go, I would recommend wearing REALLY thick and warm boots and socks — all three of us agreed that our toes were freezing. We actually had to go outside to thaw! You can learn more about l’Hotel de Glace here.

Québec Scenery Wednesday, Mar 14 2007 

Nobody really likes to look at their friends’ pictures of scenery, anywhere, no matter how beautiful it is — well, nothing beyond a quick “Wow, that’s nice,” and promptly forgetting about it. Here are just a few of my scenery pictures to give you the essence of beautiful Québec.

Ice skating near the entrance to Vieux-Québec

One of many buildings on a hill

A very charmante area in Vieux-Québec

Some lovely hilly streets

And even more!

I’m pretty sure that this is a government building.

Château Frontenac, which is the most recognizable monument of the city. It’s on about 75% of the postcards.

A boat chugs through ice on the St. Lawrence

A building with a clock on it — I loved that I fully learned each and every building’s name….

The view of Vieux-Québec, with the Château Frontenac on the right, from the revolving restaurant

I loved this — someone wrote OUI in the snow!

I loved these houses and had to take a picture of them. Aren’t they adorable?

The Basse-Ville of Vieux-Québec at night

Kind of blurry, but that’s the Château at night, through the snow.

Québec in a nutshell Wednesday, Mar 14 2007 

Moules frites. Soupe à l’oignon gratinée. Escargots. Lapin aux deux moutardes. Crêpes.

Stella Artois — big promotion.

Getting my ass pounded harder than ever — and I got it all on video!! (Hehehe, and by that, I mean we went tobogganning.)

Walking around, Vieux-Québec, and just enjoying everything. And l’Hotel de Glace, too.

And the room at the club, where we recorded ourselves singing the Family Matters theme song….twice. And I swear that wasn’t my idea.

Great friends, great times. I love ’em!!

In a Happy Food Coma Thursday, Mar 8 2007 

If you’re one of my local readers, you know that this week is one of the greatest weeks to grace our fair city: Boston Restaurant Week. Most restaurants around town are featuring three-course prix fixe meals, only costing $20.07 for lunch and $33.07 for dinner. It’s the perfect opportunity to get to eat at one of the more famous and expensive places in Boston for a price that you can afford.

As would be expected, the reservations at the very best places — Bonfire, Smith and Wollensky, Meritage, Excelsior (yes, I just totally name-czeched you), Pigalle, the Federalist — are snapped up almost immediately. But there are plenty of options. Janelle and I were planning to do lunch somewhere today, so last night I began surfing around on the concierge software we use at work to see what reservations were left.

And I found one at 11:30 AM at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

I couldn’t believe it. Ruth’s Chris had been fully booked for weeks. But it was there, and I snagged it and reserved it, then called the restaurant to confirm — and THEY couldn’t believe that I had it, either!

I’ve always wanted to go to Ruth’s Chris, but it being crazily expensive, it never happened. So Janelle and I were thrilled to walk into Old City Hall and actually have the right to eat there….for so cheap!

The service was sub-par. It took forever to get my glass of wine, and the waiter gave the excuse that they had to open a new bottle. PLEASE. I waited tables for several months, and while that’s a viable excuse often given, anyone who’s ever been a server knows that’s complete bullshit. But anyway.

I started with the Louisiana jambalaya, which was good, though in a small cup. Janelle had the garden salad, and I would have gone with that — it was much more reasonably-sized. But then came out the strip steaks. Un-fucking-believable. FANTASTIC. From the very first bite….wow….I do have to say that my first one came out a bit overdone, but I told them and they whisked it away and had me a new one in less than two minutes! (There IS a difference between a warm red center and a warm pink center.) It was SO DELICIOUS….I could go on forever about how good it was. How do they do it?!?! Is it how they cook it, or the amazing juices? I was also happy about the size of it — 12 oz., nice and big.

The mashed potatoes were good — very similar to the ones at Boston Market, which are still the best ones in the world. I saved some and brought them to work, since I promised Jen that I’d bring back whatever I hadn’t finished. (Andy jumped for joy and shared the rest of them with me.) And then came dessert — a delicious chocolate mousse cheesecake that struck the perfect balance between the two flavors. It was small, but so rich it felt like a huge slice. It was absolutely delicious, like eating a piece of heaven.

That was one of the best lunches I have ever had in my life. One of my friends commented that I had a “perma-grin” when I came in to work half an hour later. I was just so happy! My entire body was smiling.

Jen started emailing the rest of the late-nighters at work, pointing out that we really didn’t have as many chances to enjoy Boston Restaurant Week with our weird schedules, but the InterContinental, the hotel we frequent after work (it has a REALLY nice rum bar and a great, cozy yet sophisticated atmosphere), has a Provencal restaurant, Miel, that was serving dinner until 2:00 AM. Six of us met up there after work — Jen, Jess, Brynn, Gader, his girlfriend Irene, and me — and I’m glad we did, because this place had one of the best menus I’ve seen for all of restaurant week.

I started, as did most of us, with a calamari salad. The calamari had a perfect texture, was both rings and tentacles, and was in a Mediterranean vinaigrette. It went well with the arugula in a sweet dressing.

Next was magret de canard, which my family can tell you is one of my very favorite foods. I always order it whenever I end up in France. It’s basically duck breast, but while the French often overdo it, this time it was beautifully rare. And while it’s often quite fatty, this had hardly any fat on it. It was in a sauce that had a touch of ginger in it — SOOOOOOOO good. Absolutely delicious. Nearly all of us got that.

For dessert, I had creme brulee, which was good but not the best I’ve had. Jen and Gader got the flourless chocolate torte — I had a tiny bite and knew I’d be up all night; I really can’t handle chocolate past a certain hour! — with olive oil ice cream. And olive oil ice cream tastes just like olive oil. It’s unnerving. I’m not sure that I liked it, but it definitely had a distinctive taste I haven’t tried before.

The food was SO GOOD!! Both meals were so good in different ways….I LOVED my steak at Ruth’s Chris, and the duck at Miel was SO good, some of the best I’ve ever had. I think it goes without saying that this is one of the best food days I’ve ever had in my life — in the U.S., anyway. (In Florence, you just cannot compare. Don’t even try to come CLOSE.)

Tomorrow night, I’m going out with Carissa, Lisa’s good friend from college whom I’ve been becoming friends with. We’re going to Beacon Hill Bistro — I think I’m going to be having the salmon, but you never know! And after that, I’ll be meeting up with my cruisazy coworkers. Oh, I have been doing SO much good eating….

In other news, I’m going to Quebec City this weekend with James and Mike!! Trifecta reunion!! We’re also meeting up with a bunch of our friends….and I’m the only girl with four or five guys!! James called me last Thursday, while I was at the Hong Kong, and asked me if I wanted to go. I got the time off from work, and I’m going! I’m looking forward to eating some good brasserie food and hopefully seeing the ice hotel.

So if you’re looking to do the next Boston Restaurant Week, let me know! I earn a dollar for every reservation I make — or even up to ten bucks. I’ll be glad to book you a table where you can enjoy a giant, delicious steak for the paltry price of $20.07.