November 2014 Archives

Boston... Howdya' like them apples?

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I love my job. I truly do. I'm so fortunate to work at a place with people that I really enjoy both as co-workers and as friends, that I have a strong support group of magnificent leaders, and that I get the opportunity to head-up some really amazing projects.

The benefits are unreal - we are encouraged to go to training, seminars, and conferences as much as possible. I've been dinged a bit on my annual reviews for not attending enough training or events; I've had so many projects going on that time hasn't been available for things like that. My boss strongly encouraged me to take some classes this year, so I scheduled one in Boston.

I'd never been to Boston before, and it's been a place that I've always wanted to check out. So, I registered for a class, bought my plane ticket, found a cool hotel, and made my way to the land of chowda.

I arrived sometime in the late afternoon on Sunday, took a short cab-ride to the center of the city (my hotel and class were in the Back Bay neighborhood), and got settled-in.

My hotel was insanely awesome. I stayed at the very elegant and historic Eliot Hotel.

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Built in the 19th century and recently restored, every single room is a luxury suite. Upon entering the room, there was a short hallway that lead to a little landing area. Go straight, and you'd enter the bedroom:

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Turn right, and down another hall you'd find a wet bar area, with a nice marble counter, refrigerator, coffee and tea maker, and some basic kitchen utensils.

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Take a turn from the hall near the bar area, and you'd find yourself in the massive living room. The living room also connected to the bedroom via French doors.

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The bathroom was equally nice - black and white subway tile, a big, open walk-in shower (no door), and cool vanity. The only downside to the hotel? None. ;-) It was perfect. Quiet and very awesome, all the way around. The staff were unreal as well.

The location was absolutely perfect - it's situated about a block from major streets like Newburry and Boylston, and was less than 10 minutes walk from places like Harvard, MIT, and Fenway Park.

After getting settled-in, it was time for a drink, and my fellow Yelp Elite community members from Boston suggested the first stop should be a dive bar called Bukowski's. So, it was over to the little corner bar for a beverage and a light bite. You know you're in Boston when this is what's on the menu at the favored local tavern (apologies in advance for the crudeness, but I didn't type-up their menu):

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The little tavern was outstanding. The bartender was extremely helpful and friendly and the braised Brussels sprouts with Thai chili paste were outstanding. From there, it was over to a sub-terrainian bar for some more substantial food. The bartender at that joint suggested the dry-rubbed BBQ chicken wings, and I must say, they were divine.

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On the way back to the hotel, there was one final stop at an Irish pub, where a local suggested a ton of great places to check-out during the rest of the stay. Copious notes were taken and a sincere round of thanks was given for all of the assistance. And that was truly one of the more surprising things about Boston - the attitudes of the people there were really positive, friendly, and helpful. Everyone was more than willing to share tips, ideas, and strike-up casual conversation. It was really enjoyable.

Class started at 8:00am on Monday and ran until 5:00pm, at which point it was time for some dinner. Many people had suggested the Atlantic Fish Company as a hot place to check-out, so after a short walk down Boylston, I found myself seated at the bar of the AFC and chatting with the bartender, who suggested the half-platter of chilled seafood.

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The platter featured 100% local seafood - all from within 5 miles or less of the area. There was lump crab (meh), lobster (delicious), littleneck clams (icky), shrimp (ok), and oysters (quite good). With the belly full, it was time to wander the area a bit; stopped-in to several joints along the way back to the hotel, and then landed on this super high-end, very swanky place called "Clio."

Clio is the kind of place where you'd take Gordon Gekko or Gisele Bundchen... truly impressive; the place to see and be seen. A cocktail started at around $15, and went up from there. I spied something called "Iberico Jamon" on the appetizer menu and had to give it a shot. It was basically very thinly shaved cured meat - salty and good. Not sure if it was worth $35...

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After paying a $145 tab at Clio, it was time for bed. Class would start at 8:30am the next day and run until 5:00pm. Tuesday night consisted of a walk over to Fenway Park:

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Followed by more awesome oysters from the Island Creek Oyster Bar. Truthfully, I liked ICOB so much better than AFC - there was no comparison between the two, in my mind. The service and the oysters from ICOB were truly wonderful - each was twice as delicious as the next.

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Wednesday allowed some time to wander the city, of which I took full advantage. Here are a few random shots of things between the hotel and the day's first full meal, Flour.

I love the sunken patios along the streets:

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And the old churches:

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And the cool buildings (in general):

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After scarfing down a delectable salad of grilled chicken and avocado, it was time to keep walking east; there were some parks, The Freedom Trail, the harbor, and a brewery to check out. More cool photos as captured from along the journey:

Awesome architecture:

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A classic old fire station near Boston's Little Italy:

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More cool entryways - I have a thing for red doors:

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Stopped by a very historic location:

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It's interesting how these historic places exist between modern skyscrapers and the like:

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Getting closer to the harbor:

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The Boston Tea Party took place just beyond this little marina's gazebo:

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After about 10 more blocks or so of walking, the holy grail was reached:

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Harpoon's IPA was the first beer I had while in Boston, and it was quite honestly the best one of the entire visit. What a great local brewery! They started in 1986 and now have two locations - the original spot in Boston and a second brewery in Vermont. The tour was super fun and only cost $5. Everyone at the brewery was really fun, helpful, and engaging.

Here I am about to go on the tour:

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And some obligatory Lauderton and Brewery workings photos:

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As stated, the tour was great, but the beer was even better. Got to sample several of their offerings, and all were fantastic. I wish we could get Harpoon's goods out here in Wisconsin.

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After sampling some brews, it was time for food, and all of the locals emphatically recommended a place nearby called "No Name Seafood Place." Apparently their chowder was unreal... not a fan of chowder, I gave it a try, along with another rarity - broiled smelt.

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Belly completely stuffed, it was time to walk back into the city. A few more cool photos from the walk back:

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Dogs truly barking after walking around 10-miles or so, it was time to cry uncle and to take the "T" (also known as a subway) from the center of town back to the hotel. Probably not the best idea to ride the subway in the dead-center of rush hour... it was a little full.

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Back at the hotel by 5:30pm, it was time for a quick nap. There was a band playing in Cambridge (about a 30 minute walk from the hotel) that I wanted to check out. They were called "Vapors of Morphine" and consisted primarily of the original members from a fairly well-known band called Morphine. Their show was scheduled to start at 10:00pm, so a two-hour nap hit the spot.

Morphine plays this smooth, sultry, seductive music that consists of a baritone saxophone, a slide bass guitar, and a drum set. The singer has this melodic, trance-inducing voice; the entire sound is really enjoyable. And to catch them at a club that sat at most 50 people was a real treat.

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For those of you with access to You Tube, I took a short video of one of their songs - it'll give you an idea of what they were like.

The show ended around 1:30am, and it was back to the hotel for some shut-eye. But not before taking notice of how cool of an area that Cambridge is. The club where Vapors of Morphine played was located smack-dab in the middle of the MIT campus. It was a really enjoyable place.

I'm not sure why, but I liked this building and I liked the way the photo turned-out - it's from along the walk to Cambridge:

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The next morning arrived and it was time to back the bags and think about hitting the airport. Ugh. But not before one last trip over the bridge to Cambridge for some breakfast. While walking the bridge, I stumbled across this graffiti - it was pointing toward MIT... not sure if the Harvard lads painted this or what, but it made me chuckle.

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Breakfast consisted of a super yummy omelet from a little cafe called "Veggie Galaxy." It had roasted portobellos, grilled Brussels sprouts, caramelized onion, and a tomato pesto. It was divine.

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Satiated, it was back to the hotel, where a cab ride to the airport was waiting. Getting through Boston Logan was a breeze, the flight was uneventful (thanks, Southwest!), and before I knew it, my feet were back on terra firma in good 'ole Milwaukee.

To say it was a great trip would be an understatement. I would go back to visit Boston in a second, even if it is an insanely expensive city.

Before I go - I have to share two items I scored while out there. The first is a neodymium bracelet that was custom made. Neodymium is a rare-earth metal that is utilized in high-end speakers and microphones. I felt it was appropriate, given my sound engineering work that I do for fun:

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And the second is this hand-made stoneware mug/tumbler with a gnarly skull on it. I absolutely love it - and I love my Chemex coffee pot as well (located to the right).

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If you ever have the chance to visit Boston, but haven't - go. Just go. You'll love it.

Oh, and the title for this entry? Bonus points if you know where it came from...

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The second dog we ever adopted passed away earlier last week. Regis, or "Brownie" or "Brown" or "Sledge" as we often referred to him, had to be put to sleep. He had stopped eating and couldn't keep food down, even if it was home-cooked, specially prepared food as made by Amy's mom (usually eggs and a little chicken with rice). Amy suspects he had some type of stomach or intestinal cancer. It's a truly sad week.

Amy and I adopted Regis on New Year's Day, 2002. We had adopted Big Boy in October of 2001 and when Regis was brought-in to the Bella Vista Animal Shelter just prior to New Years Eve of 2001/2002, we knew he was meant to be with us. We figured he was about a year old or so at that time.

Brown was an interesting dog. He was the most loyal, loving, and protective dog you'd ever meet. I'm convinced he would've done anything for you at any time, no matter what the cost or consequence. He projected a fierce loyalty about him; something about his expressions and how he always positioned himself between you and others... but he'd always turn and look at you with these big eyes that seemed to say, "Stay behind me - I've got your back."

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His sense of needing to protect extended beyond people. When Amy and I would foster sick kittens (or other animals), it was always Regis who took it upon himself to stand guard over the ailing creatures. It wasn't uncommon for him to "fend off" our other curious pets in the interest of protecting the sicker, weaker ones. For this behavior, he earned the nickname, "Nurse Regis."

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Unfortunately, he also had a slight crazy side to him... without warning, and for little apparent reason, he'd sometimes take a healthy nip at you (or others). I'll never forget when during one of our Holiday road trips from Arkansas to Wisconsin when Regis decided to clamp down on Amy's gloved hand and refused to let go no matter what we did. Amy also told me that he one time took a little nip at a stranger while she was at a dog park a few years ago. Because of that, Regis didn't socialize much in his later years... Who knows if he was senile or if he knew something about people that we didn't.

Regardless of his slightly crazy side, he was one of the greatest dogs I've ever known. I hadn't seen him much in the past few years, what with life changes and everything, but every time I did see him, it was special. Especially this last visit - I had to travel to Boston last week, and Amy offered to watch Flea while I was away. So, I dropped Flea off at Amy's house, and when I did, I couldn't help but notice how thin and frail Regis had become. He really looked bad.

When I walked-in, he made his way over to me, sat down, and just looked at me. I sat down next to him and petted him for quite a while. Each time I tried to stop, he'd give me a little lick or he'd extend his front paw, as if to say, "What's the hurry? Sit here a bit longer." Maybe we both knew it would be the last time we'd see each other... maybe it's just me projecting feelings on to the situation.

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I'm glad I got to spend some quality time with him before he passed on. He was so regal, so stoic, so sincere, and just special. I'll definitely miss him and his quirky ways.

Regis 1/1/2001 - 11/17/2014 - You'll be missed.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

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