The best type of water there is – the fountain

Recently it seems I’ve been soapboxing in this blog quite a bit.  I guess this is what comes of following ‘current events’ – you get annoyed.  The world (especially as portrayed by the media, who’s trying to get your goat) can be an annoying place to be.  But there are rewards for existing in it.

One of my favorite rewards has to do with water in its best form – fountaining.  And I’m not talking about splashing around in your swim trunks or au naturel.  I’m talking about dancing around mid-fountain in whatever clothes you happen to have on, splashing, climbing, possibly drinking, and generally getting down and acting like a frog.  It could even entail photographically documenting your excursions.  This is really the one aspect of modern sculpture that I can understand – something tactile, that really invites you to come forward and explore it.  Of course, there are issues of liability if someone should fall, which is why most fountain owners don’t allow play.  But if you’re going to expend the energy to pump all that water up and around, why not interact with it?

Of course, my own (typically clandestine) interactions have been limited by my environment.  Not only is the weather typically too cold for these types of excursions in Boston, but also most of the locations with fountains I have thus far discovered are entirely too public.  Not that I mind publicity –  no, it’s more of an internal debate about being arrested.  There’s always the Frog Pond at Boston Common, which welcomes waders and includes a fountain.  Unfortunately I would be embarrassed to wade without a toddler at my side, and they frown highly on actually touching the fountain portion.  Also, I think it’s closed for the season.  Open year-round is the Christian Science Plaza and its reflecting pool and fountain.  And while the Mapparium and surrounding buildings are pretty cool (go I.M. Pei!), I still fret about being monitored by Eddy and her cohorts.  It’s just not the place for me to really relax and feel full of life.  Also, it’s one of the few places I’ve publicly cried in Boston.

While I have been to a few little parks around the city, I definitely need to explore more.  Sure, places near m within walking distance, like Gore Place, don’t really have fountains.  But why should I let that stop me?  I should be able to find something new – just the other day we discovered a little park-like reservation just down the street from my bus stop.  I need to get going, and brave the winter chill a bit to find someplace new.   Dipping into the Charles River isn’t really an option.

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The Last Banana Standing

Bananas are a popular fruit.  Not only are they funny (just say it five times fast), they come packed with good stuff, like potassium.  And even though there are drawbacks to the current banana marketing and distribution strategies, I was largely satisfied with them.  Sure, there are weird gassing techniques that different companies use to make them ripen, making them a little more mealy and less pleasant, which why is my mom always says they’re better straight off the tree.  But otherwise they are almost the perfect fruit.

Unfortunately, we’re losing them.  I first discovered this while searching through CNN’s tech blog for anything not related to space.  Unfortunately, like many media outlets, if it’s not space it’s disaster.  Evidently all those commercially grown bananas are genetically the same.  The Cavendish banana we all eat is exactly genetically identical.  It was created to have no seeds, unlike ‘wild’ bananas, and requires vegetative reproduction.  So diseases (such as the Panama disease, which has already killed off at least one cultivated type of banana) are easily passed from plant to plant.

According to the UK Observer, scientists are rushing to find wild varieties of banana to help increase the Cavendish’s resistance to disease, or to completely replace the species used commercially.  It is also noted in the article that due to deforestation and other human population pressure, it may already be too late for all bananas – many varieties are dying out, or have already done so.  It makes me wonder if the ‘experts’ are going about things the wrong way around.  I don’t know much about growing bananas, but it might be a wise idea to start growing some of those wild ones commercially, even if they do have seeds, to at least preserve some genetic differentiation.  Also, perhaps commercial growers would be wise to select different species than their neighbors – instead of Cavendish, we could have Burmese Blue and Chinese Yellow and Monkey Fingers all at the same supermarket.  Perhaps some growers could actually produce several different varieties themselves.  If apple growers can survive in Vermont selling a variety of the rare ‘antique’ apples, I don’t see why banana growers couldn’t do the same.  Maybe that Norwegian seed bank will already be able to prove its worth, and surprise us with new genetic banana material.  Maybe we should be thinking of a longer-lasting solution, rather than simply killing off another variety and potentially endangering one of the best fruits there is.

Boston’s Best

One of the things I both love and hate about living in a young, highly transient city like Boston is the bars.  Something about people in my generation gravitates towards meeting new people with alcohol in place of traditional means (through family, church, or co-workers).  Perhaps it’s our inability to settle down in a single city – the casualness of a bar smooths the way for new and easy friendships.  Or perhaps we’re fed up with the narrowness of old pools of association, perhaps we’re simply looking for something new.  Whatever it is, it leaves me somewhat uneasy.  I don’t particularly like bars.  It’s difficult to talk in such crowded and noisy environments.  I feel like I never end up really ‘meeting’ people there – I just talk to them and then forget whatever was said.  True, due to legislation in the area, I don’t have to put up with smoke as well, so that’s a plus.  But without sounding like a prohibitionist, I’d like to state that bars probably inhibit meeting rather than aiding it.

Still, in looking over Citysearch’s top ten list of Boston’s best bars, I found that I must be going to quite a few bars – I’ve visited 3 out of 10.  Either I’m hitting all the right ‘hot spots’, or I just go to lots of bars.  Yet all the ones they listed, I was not particularly satisfied with.  One, the Foundation Lounge, Mike and I went to after dinner on our first date.  The decor was nice, and the seating comfortable and intimate, but otherwise it was nothing special.   Service wasn’t great, it was pricey, and they had no beers on tap.  Wait, we’re in a bar, right?  Two, the Oak Bar, may have been colored by the unfortunate first date I had there.  Again, a bit pricey (and old-looking), but nothing really bad, per se.  Third, Sidney’s Grille at the Hotel @ MIT.  I went to this one for a work function, so we were in a reserved space.  The food and drinks were good, but I didn’t think they deserved special rating.

So, just what am I looking for in my bar of bars?  Perhaps it has something to do with the clientele I’m likely to meet, or the people I visit the bar with.   Or maybe it’s some other unexplained phenomenon.  Below is my top 5 list.

1) Alibi – This is the only ritzy/pricey bar I’m going to list.  It wins in this category because it it is cute and just a little different.  Cocktails, decor, and menu are all jail-themed.  I’ve been there with work people, and it’s always fun.   Plus, you get a postcard with the bill.  Someday soon, some lucky person will be getting the mug shot of a young Jane Fonda, and it’s all because of Alibi.

2) Harry’s Bar and Grill – Although this is pretty much a standard local bar (and has the downfall of being in a college neighborhood, making its patrons sometimes annoying and rude), I still have a special space for it in my heart.  Pool + Trivia + Gina + Cobb salad + Sirloin skewers = always fun.

3) Burren – Yes, this is a somewhat cheesy ‘Irish’ pub.  But at least they know they’re cheesy – read, ridiculous cover bands at least once a weekend.  The food’s not bad, there’s often a group playing Irish-type jiggy music in the front, and I’ve had good times there.  So they win.

4) Rosebud Diner – Yes, they are a diner.  A small little trolley-car diner that serves beer.  So, perhaps not the classiest place.  Perhaps not a first-date establishment.  But the service is always friendly (and usually funny).  And I ask you, where else can you get beer and pie at 11:30 at night?

5) Halfway Cafe – I cannot say how disappointed I am that the Cobb salad is no longer on their menu.  But, for the Parmesan peppercorn dressing alone, they win.  Besides, anyplace that can come up with something like the Safari dog deserves and extra self-esteem boost.  I just have one question – halfway to where?

I have just now realized that many of these places specialize in food, rather than drink.  I guess that should tell you something – I can make a fancy cocktail at home.  Other urges are not so easy to satisfy.

Can’t we all just get along?

Growing up as an Indiana girl, I’ve always been fascinated by the sea.  Except for an 18-month interlude in my childhood, I’d been without it, and because of this lack of familiarity, it’s exerted an inexorable pull on me.  On one of the first vacations I can remember my family taking, to the Atlantic seaboard, the ocean was one of the most memorable parts of the trip.  I remember my father admonishing my sister and I to keep our eyes on the waves while his own back was to the surf – and subsequently being boweled over by it.  I can remember taking a look at one seaside park late in the afternoon, and just begging and begging to go out and play in it – my parents eventually acquiescing, and themselves having a delightful and riotous time, despite gritty swimsuits later.  The sea plays powerfully in my imagination, and can create a kind of almost-magic in my stories.

It was especially powerful to me then to read this news article today.  Not only was I amazed at the cooperation exhibited between the beached whales and the dolphin that lead them out to sea, but by the intelligence of the dolphin and its ability to communicate with the whales.  These are two different species, albeit related ones.  I don’t know much about  whale or dolphin noises or soundings, but to me they seem very different.  How did the dolphin communicate effectively?  Do they, in fact, ‘speak the same language’, or did they communicate in other ways?  How do you earn the trust, in moments, of an animal of another species?  There are messages here we all could learn from.

To me however the most interesting aspect of the article was the whales themselves.  Due to past research of my own, the pygmy sperm whale, or Kogia breviceps (yes, I know the Latin name – it makes a good story title, but you can’t read this one yet as its main character remains…elusive) , is pretty familiar to me.  They are a strange and secretive species that we don’t know much about, perhaps due to their generally shy nature.  In fact, much of what we do know comes from dead or beached whales of this species who are probably not the average in behavior.

Perhaps the Japanese know them best, dubbing them the ‘floating whale’ due to their surfacing habits.  They don’t rise quickly or flash their tails a lot – they simply surface slowly, float silently for awhile, and then sink back down without really ‘diving’.   They are not much bigger than dolphins themselves, which is perhaps why they seemed to cooperate so well with the dolphin of the story.  They have teeth (unlike most sperm whales) and spermaceti, that substance we don’t exactly understand.  They also have a sort of reddish stuff they can expel in fear – to confuse enemies, to mask scent or hide, or for some other purpose as yet unclear.  It is perhaps because of these secrets, these mysteries and unusual habits that I am drawn to this particular animal.  What mysteries could they unlock for us if we could, like the dolphin, communicate and share with them?