Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Break! Sort of...

This was Spring break for both Dave and Hannah (who came up to visit us for the week), but I still had work. I do occasionally miss the school year system.

Saturday the 12th
On the first Saturday evening of Spring break, Dave, my mom, my sister and I all (finally!) saw Elton John in concert - in Worcester, MA of all places. The "finally!" comes from the fact that we were supposed to see Elton John and Billy Joel in Buffalo in the Spring of 2009. That concert was postponed to the Fall of 2009. That concert was also postponed, and we gave up. This past year John released an album with Leon Russell, a very famous singer/songwriter who I had never heard of before The Union came out. Listen to that album, by the way. There is a song about Captain Goddamn Ahab.

Anyway, we finally got a chance to see Elton John. He played for about an hour, and then started talking about the new album, and what a pleasure it had been working with Russell and going on tour with him for a while. He said that playing the music without him just wasn't the same. Then he said that we didn't have to worry about that, and out tottered Leon Russell. I could have sworn the man was in his late 80s, but he's apparently only 68. They played at least half of the album before Russell left. He was, by the way, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two days later.

Elton John, as always, was an amazing performer. he played for close to three hours straight, brought tears to peoples' eyes when he dedicated Your Song to his husband and newborn son, and wore a jacket with his own name embroidered on each lapel. I look forward to seeing him again, hopefully with Billy Joel, for real this time.

Sunday the 13th
On Sunday morning we all went to eat at Minado. It is a small chain (5 locations, one of which I just discovered, is close to Allentown!) all you can eat Japanese buffet.

The food was all really good. Not the best sushi I have ever had, but close, and with everything else that is offered, it is totally worth the price.

Sushi bar: yummmm.
My favorite roll had apple in it - really nice sweetness and crunch in combination with spicy fish.

Before we drove back to Maine with Hannah we stopped by a number of the Indian grocery stores in the area. We got lots of food - I got a huge pack of Parle-Gs, a cookie I haven't had since I was in Mumbai, and a couple frozen naan pizzas that turned out to be amazing. Dave and I got samosas from one store that I assume had been sitting out for a few days, considering they gave us food poisoning. Those I do not recommend so highly.

Tuesday the 15th
On Tuesday we took a day trip to Ipswich and Salem, Massachusetts. Hannah, being the geography expert that she is, had originally wanted to take a trip to Virginia, confusing it with "the other state that starts with a V", Vermont. She was delighted to find out that Salem is so close to us - only about an hour and a half drive - so she changed her request.

Ipswich, it turns out, does not have a lot more in it than fields and cops Hannah can scare the crap out of, so we weren't there for long. Salem was a lot more interesting. Hannah had a bad experience with the witch museums when she was younger, so we didn't go to any of them, instead making our way though as many of the shops as we could before closing time.

Pamplemousse (my favorite French word, meaning 'grapefruit') a bath and kitchen supplies boutique. I added to my collection of weird cookie cutters by getting a pig and a castle. The pig, incidentally, is identical to one my mother has had for decades, which, by some stretch of the imagination, could conceivably be a polar bear. It has been used as such for more Christmases than I can remember. I now have a polar pig of my own, and this makes me insanely happy.

Harrison's Comics and Collectibles is your basic comic shop with a used book section. In addition to some books I got a Firefly decal for my car. Oh yes.Derby Square Bookstore was terrifying and delightful at the same time. The books you can see through the windows there only hint at the chaos contained within those brick walls. A man hides behind a mountain of books and is something akin to the classic "teacher" character of fantasy novels - he knows where everything in the place is, despite the apparent lack of order. One must think very skinny thoughts when traveling through the stacks, as any wrong move risks sending a flood of printed pages in every direction. Some other patrons, regulars, I assume, whispered this fear to each other, "I've only heard of it happening once. It was awwwwful...". Hannah took one look at the inside of the store and chose to stay outside. I recommend it at least for the novelty of being in the place, if not for the fact that most of the books are brand new, and every single one is 50% off the original price.

The Salem Magic Shop, or "The Salem Harry Potter Store" was not as big as the one in LA, but still quite awesome. Dave and I purchased a Ravenclaw banner for our bedroom, because we are just that nerdy. We were also told by the proprietor that Rowling is working on three more books, news which seems to be both true and not widely talked about. I'm not sure why, I'm certainly excited, especially if they are prequels, as is rumored. I'd love to read more about Snape's history.

We had dinner at A Passage to India, a restaurant I had seen mentioned in about half of the websites I looked at about where to go in Salem. It lived up to all expectations. Even Hannah really liked her food, and she is not normally a fan of spicy things with lots of ingredients. The atmosphere was really nice - dimly lit and warm, it seemed more like and English pub or hookah bar than a restaurant. The food was fabulous and reasonably priced, and I absolutely recommend it after a long day of sightseeing, especially if it is cold outside.

Thursday the 17th
Being that Thursday was St. Patrick's day, and because I don't work on Fridays, we decided to celebrate the day appropriately in Boston. All of the annual Dropkick Murphys concerts had been sold out for ages, but to my delight I discovered that the High Kings would be performing as well. I listened to the High King's debut album incessantly during the months I was writing my thesis, and a few of their songs even worked their way into the script, so they hold a soft spot in my heart. We even met half of the band before the concert.

The concert itself was awesome. A great combination of traditional and rock sounds and songs, the music appealed to the entire audience, which was an even mixture of young and old. One of the band members, Brian Dunphy, is the son of Sean Dunphy, who represented Ireland in Eurovision 1967. His father was on hand, and they sang a song together in one of the most moving moments of the concert. Another was the rendition of The Fields of Athenry, after which there was not a dry eye in the audience.

They ended the performance with The Parting Glass, arguably the most beautiful song ever written. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for our eardrums), we didn't get the bagpipes.

Friday the 18th
We spent the night at Sisi and Chen's place, because they are wonderful people. They both work in the morning, as real grown ups are wont to do, so the three of us fended for ourselves for breakfast. In Chinatown. I have yet to meet a Chinatown I don't like.

After introducing Hannah to the wonders of dim sum last year, she is addicted, so we went to the Winsor Dim Sum Cafe for breakfast. It has all the regular dishes at the same low price ($2-4 for a bowl of dumplings or buns), but rather than the normal set up of a large restaurant with women pushing carts around, every dish was made to order. Since Hannah had a train to catch early, we were worried about time, but our first dish came about 8 minutes after we ordered, and they rest followed soon after. We were in and out within 40 minutes, and it was $10 each. Also, the food was great. Definitely give it a try if you want a small restaurant feel rather than the hectic cafeteria feel.

Hannah's other demand before leaving was stopping at a Chinese bakery, so we went to the Hing Shing Pastry, right around the corner from the cafe. The prices were a bit different from the Tai Pan bakery in NYC that we usually go to (sesame balls a lot cheaper, mooncakes a lot more expensive), but it evened out in the end and we all got enough pastries to keep us happy for a few days.

It was sad to see Hannah go, since it signaled the end of a week of sort-of vacation, but it did give Dave and I a few days alone to... do laundry and stuff. It was a fun week, and made me really glad that I will be living closer to my family next year.

Photo Credit: Hannah Nast, 2011
Check out her work, she is amazing.

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