Friday, March 29, 2013

Rave Review of Boston

Now that I've officially been accepted into a top 20 MBA program... I will definitely be moving away from Boston in the next 3-4 months. I'm having all kinds of mixed emotions about the move. Four years ago, when I gathered all my things after graduation in Washington D.C. to move up here , I didn't know that I would fall-in love with the city. Most of my decision to move to Boston after graduating from GW was because  I debated going to Boston University instead of George Washington when I was seventeen and I had a growing curiosity about living out the fantasy of my runner-up school choice. I always saw Beantown as a temporary hub that I would eventually leave for my next great life adventure/career move. Boston has become so much more than that over the past four years. I think it was moving to Southie that changed it for me. My ardor for the city turned from just a general appreciation to a close-knit feeling of belonging. There's something so intimate about Boston that has made me plant myself, crack open a Harpoon, and stay for a couple years. Unlike other cities I've lived in or visited, I've started to feel like I own some of Boston. Like a piece of Boston has somehow become my private possession. Unfortunately moving away, I can't uproot the Pru, Fenway, and local bars and take them with me. Somehow I'll have to find a way to let go of it to make room for my new home in the South.

I'll miss the food trucks in the summer, especially the lobster love and fro-yo trucks. I'll miss the sports bars with the endless amounts of patrons deeply invested in the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox. I'll miss Fenway and the big blaring Citgo sign that shines in your face when you get off the Kenmore T station. I'll miss Faneuil Hall and all the crappy food they sell at Quincy Market. I'll miss the North End and the cannolis and the confusingly narrow streets. I'll miss the local K-8 market that I go to three times a week for fresh meats and gatorades. I'll miss the Seaport and being able to visit restaurants, bars, and museums that look out on the Boston Harbor. I'll miss Marathon Monday and St. Patrick's Day and Fourth of July... holidays that have their own unique traditions living in the Bean. I'll miss my office in the financial district with the big window sill that local pigeons hang out and poop on. I don't know what the pigeons look like in the South but I'm not sure I'll appreciate their company nearly as much.

I'm lucky that I've gotten to move and live in so many places. I've gotten to travel, make new friends, and have enriching experiences. But Boston will always be a special place to me; a place that I will always consider home.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

St. Patrick's Day: Mardi Gras for Bostonians

The best day to be in Boston is March 17th especially if it falls on a weekend. When I see pictures of Bourbon street in New Orleans where people are drinking their hand grenades on the streets decked out in colored beads, I think to myself "If you dressed these people in green and put a Guinness in their hand, this would look like Southie on St Patty's day". 

I feel like there's a giant misconception about Southie for people who don't live there. Maybe you've seen "Good Will Hunting" or "The Departed" and think Southie is just a bunch of locals that hang out in taverns and drink Guinness after a long day of blue collar work at the factory. The reality is far removed from this stereotype. In 2013, South Boston is filled with college educated young adults who are relatively athletic, social and, for lack of a better word, genuine yuppies

Somehow, though, when St. Patrick's day rolls around all the yuppies becomes locals. Suddenly everyone in Boston has a tweed patchwork flat cap and has a great grandmother whose Irish so therefore they have given themselves the liberty to become a belligerent crazy person for the day. It's a good time. 

Here are the things that I will be participating in on St. Patty's Day weekend:

1.) Going on  The Harpoon Brewery Tour .  I have yet to visit the new Harpoon Beer Hall. I love the chandeliers because it gives the whole room a Medieval ballroom vibe. They are one Iron Throne away from being on the set of Game of Thrones.  I hope the beer comes in a chalice.  

2.) Watching the Southie St. Patty's Day Parade because unless you see someone play a bagpipe it's not officially St. Patrick's Day. I love this below map of the Parade Route and all the bars that fall on it. 

You can buy this pic on a tee-shirt here

3.) Making Irish Soda Bread but without the raisins. Raisins are the treat your grandmother gives you instead of candy. The prune-like texture of the dessicated fruit is just downright unappealing to me. I might put chocolate chips or marshmallows in my soda bread if that interests you.

4.) Running in the Southie 5K because if you're going to drink that much beer you might as well work for it. I'm irresponsible and didn't buy tickets before it sold out so I will be running stag with my other irresponsible friends that also forgot to buy tickets. 

5.) Attending a slew of "Kegs N' Eggs" parties. I was flattered to get invited to so many breakfast and beer parties this year.  I sincerely hope someone makes me some Green Eggs and Ham as that seems like the perfect fit for a St. Patrick's day brunch. I am not Sam I Am and if you put green food coloring on anything this weekend I will probably eat it.

Dr. Seuss must have been Irish

I leave you with a picturesque view of Southie that I pass everyday. I am lucky.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'm Tired of NYC and I Don't Even Live There

Yesterday, I was flipping through my T.V. channels when I stumbled upon a few reruns of Gossip Girl. On the next channel was How I Met Your Mother, then Friends. On my HBO Demand there was a new episode of Girls and some old episodes of Sex and the dawned on me that almost every single show  geared towards my age group is based in NYC.

This is the opening scene to 8/10 shows on television

I'm not sure who decided that shows targeted toward 20-somethings had to be based in New York. According to Hollywood, the only place young adults want to live is Manhattan. Of course, I have many friends who actually live in New York and  spout epithets of how much they LOVE it and "OMG how could you want to live anywhere else"... But I also have friends in Washington D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Austin who love their cities too. Unfortunately, Hollywood deems these cities less compelling for a television show setting.  Somehow New York has become the Daniel Day Lewis of cities and even if other cities are in the picture they never quite win the Oscar.

When I go to New York I'm super excited for the sparkle and adventure of the city that these shows always highlight. I usually end up in some aptly named "lounge" stuffed against a wall in a dark room with one candle lite for mood lighting. I can't see, I can't hear anything over the loud dub-step, and I can't lounge. People are all wearing the same black baggy tee-shirts, leather jackets and skinny jeans. I'm always wondering where the personality and style of New York is because everyone seems to be wearing the same five accessory items on rotation (big necklace, signature cocktail ring, purse with chain handle, some sort of motorcycle inspired item, or an array of mismatched bangles).

"Anything can happen in New York," my girlfriends tell me as we put on our black mini dresses and bangles for the night life in the city. Really? Anything? Can you ski in New York? Climb a mountain? Go on a Safari? I mean what are they really saying when they say "anything can happen". If by anything you mean I might possibly meet the one single straight guy at a packed club who may text me for a few weeks before avoiding contact because he met another girl at another club or if by anything you mean I can wait two hours for a table at a restaurant for a $50 quesadilla that took another hour after sitting down to come to my table... then yes anything CAN happen in New York!

I have a special place in my heart for New York City. My family had an apartment there when I was a teenager. I got to see my first drag queen, eat my first magnolia cupcake and have my first celebrity sighting of *gasp* Gwenyth Paltrow's baby Apple coming home from the hospital all on the streets of NYC. It's a fun city. But the hype around it has become bigger than the city itself. I like when New York had a mysterious allure. Now it's too trendy and cliche. It's like Disney World for the 20-something. "Oh you want to move to New York," I say to every one of my friends moving to New York, "You're so unique. What an original post-grad idea that no one has ever thought of. You're going to be the most individualistic New Yorker ever... "

I have so many cool friends in other amazing off-beat places. I just want to see someone... an artist, a T.V. show producer or a writer highlight one of this country's other awesome cities. And I don't mean like the show Nashville or West Wing that are entertaining but don't touch on the average person who lives in these towns.  West Wing talks about the White House staff but doesn't have two 20-something gal-pals eating Georgetown cupcakes and discussing their struggle with guys/jobs/life. It's hard to find a medium between "Nashville" and "Girls" that discusses our voice; The voice of the the 20-somethings that live in the rest of the country.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Why You Should Go to Europe

A question I've been receiving a lot lately is "Where should I go if it's my first time travelling out of the country?" My answer is pretty much always the same... Go to Europe.

Western Europe is more than just a slew of hugely commercialized cities filled with tour groups wearing fanny packs and carrying SLR cameras trying to capture the infamous sites.  The real compelling aspect of traveling here is learning the day to day life of a European. Europeans, with their shockingly fatty foods, strong caffeinated beverages and fashion-forward clothing choices, are a breed of creature we as Americans can learn a lot from.

Europe has taught me...

Gluttony: There is nothing that will teach you the love of carbohydrates more than watching Italians guzzle down pastries in front of the most galvanized  churches on the planet.  There is something poetic about eating in Europe, like a Baudelaire poem should be read while you eat your salami and baguette. In these countries you'll eat snails and way too much bread and stinky cheeses and calorie-filled chocolates and teas and espressos. You'll consume all these things in restaurants, cafes, on the streets, on steps on famous monuments. I feel like everyone in Europe is just killing time between meals. You'll take pride in the things you'll consume that don't come out of plastic wrappers but from rancid smelling stores that stock items from farms a few miles away from the city. Nothing is filled with preservatives. It's au natural. And the food is just tasty. In America, I miss eating like that.

History & Culture: Europeans are modern people living in their history and traditions. In Ireland people are Irish. In France people are French. In America, we just don't know who we are. We are always trying to evolve and redevelop. We have roots everywhere and can't decide which ones define us the most.  Everywhere I go in Europe the people are woven together to create the country. In America we are less of one brand, and more a group of puzzle pieces that don't quite fit together yet. Some of the magic of Europe is speaking Italian for a week or eating cheese like a French man for the evening. You get to try on their culture and wear it around. When you come back to America, some of it sticks with you.

Enjoying the journey: Watching a dutch boy in Amsterdam ride his bike through the Museumplein with a radio strapped on the handle bars playing (yes they pretty much listen to all American top 40 hits) made me appreciate bicycling in a totally different light. It's not just about where you are going on that bike but how you are traveling there. Life is about enjoying that 5 euro bottle of wine on your front porch.  Europe taught me how to slow down my anxieties. In America we are of the mentality, "I finished this project, now what do I do?" Europeans take siestas (days off) and don't worry about the cost-savings benefits. There's a permanence of relaxation in each European city that lacks in many other places.

Style: Besides the enumerable iconic things to see in Europe there is certain posh style that only exists in Western Europe. We try in America to meet the chicness of Paris, London, and Milan, but we are only replicators. I'm not saying that we don't have fashion here in our sea of long champ bags, Zara/H&M clothes, and Burberry trench coats... but to really understand it all... you have to go to where fashion was born.  I learned the elegance of street style from a  Parisenne woman who wore Chanel shoes while leading a tour group through the Louvre.  Europeans are modest and old-fashioned but avant-garde at the same time.
Right now men that read my blog are rolling their eyes, "Why do I care about clothes and shopping, Jessica?" But it's not about the clothes. It's about what you feel like when you walk up the Colosseum Steps and look out on the rubble of ancient Rome that stretches out far beyond what you imagined. You see a girl in a plain red dress against the gray stones. These colors and pictures create a mark on you that inherently will change the way you carry yourself on a day to day basis. And that is style.

Friday, March 1, 2013

10 Things I Didn't Know About Nashville

With the NYTimes dubbing it "Now-ville", Nashville has gotten a lot of attention this year. I suppose we have to thank Reyna James and Juliet Barnes for some of this publicity. If you don't know who these people are... we probably aren't friends.

I had a blast in Nashville last week with my GW friends. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the local culture, the venues, and the food.  There were a lot of things about Nashville that I wouldn't have known unless I had visited in person. Below are some of the quirks of the town that you might not read in a more common travel guide:

1.) Nashville is known for its coffee. People refer to Nashville as the "Portland of the South" because of all its great coffee shops.The city is full of quirky java places that serve homemade unique coffee blends and lattes.  My favorite was a place called the Frothy Monkey that served me a banana chocolate latte called a Monkey Mocha.

No monkeys were hurt in the making of this latte

2.) The Jack Daniels Distillery is in a dry town. If you live in the town of Lynchburg, Tennessee you probably work at the Jack Daniels Distillery. Even though you work, live and breath whiskey everyday you physically cannot buy it in the town. Somehow Jack Daniel's gets around this by allotting employees a bottle of  Jack with each paycheck... I smell government corruption in a small town. Maybe ABC will make a show about it.

They should bottle this together and sell it like a Smirnoff lemonade or something

3.) There are actually places called Honky Tonks. A big, three story bar in the center of downtown towers over the others and is named "Honky Tonk Central".  Each floor has a different country band and serves shots with names like "NashVegas Bomb". Other places we wandered into were named "Robert's Western World" and "Wild Beaver Saloon". I was happy to see every place has a country-vibe to live up to its country name.

Either covering a Taylor Swift song or playing Wagon Wheel

4.) There's a beer called Yazoo and it's brewed in Nashville. The blend of Yazoo I had reminded me of a Sierra Nevada Winter Warmer. Tasty, dark and delightful.

5.) A live replica of the Greek Parthenon is sitting in a random park in Nashville.
Parthenon not to be confused with the Pantheon

6.) You can smoke in the bars. The legal age for smoking in bars is 21. Upon entering bars the bouncers put a mark on your hands. When I asked the bouncer what the mark was for he said "it's coz you can smoke". Apparently underage drinking is a secondary concern to underage smoking.

7.) Dogs are everywhere. This little guy was in the KFC parking lot.

I wonder if he has an itty bitty helmet

8.) Fried chicken in the south- not a cliche.  You can buy fried chicken on every block in Tennessee. Also HOT down here means, three glasses of milk and your mouth is still on fire. Medium is the extent of my Nashville spicy food tolerance. Hatty B's chicken was the best fried chicken I've ever had.
My mouth gets hot just looking at this sign

9.) The biggest building in Nashville looks like Batman.  A hero can be anyone. Even an at&t building.

10.) Hayden Panetterie, Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Swift all live in the same building. I should add, everyone in Nashville is super proud of this building. It's on every unofficial guided tour. Clarkson, Panetterie and Swift all have Pent House suites. A bar in front of this building, called Losers, is a place where Taylor has been spotted in the past (I swear that was not a backhanded reference at her performance skills... the bar is really called "Losers"). We had a bucket of Miller Lites there but unfortunately did not run into her.

With all those lights on, one of them is definitely home

I leave you with this video from the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. Bluebird Cafe is in a strip mall in between a Panera and a McDonalds. Despite the location, it was a very cool hole in the wall where real local talent comes plays folk music. Hope you enjoy this brief end to a song. 

Nashville Skyline

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