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a decade in Seattle, part 6 of 6

Boston to Seattle trip log
Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Approximately 11:00 am PST: Left Mullan without refueling.

11:15 am PST: Stop for gas and breakfast at a service station, Wallace, ID, added 6.3 gallons. Odometer: 2,778 miles. Doug's note: "French fries and Street Fighter II (Champion Edition)".

2:10 pm PST: Stop for gas in Moses Lake, WA, added 5.6 gallons. Odometer: 2,962 miles. Eat at Bob's for lunch. 

3:15 pm PST: Left Moses Lake.

3:45 pm PST: Approximately 143 miles to Seattle, crossed the 3,000 miles mark on the odometer.

5:55 pm PST: Arrive at 920 13th Avenue, Seattle, WA. Odometer: 3,144 miles.

That was a total of 96.495 gallons of gas, for an average of 32.58 miles per gallon, which, considering how heavily laden my car was, is actually fairly decent mileage for my car.

One iPod = 3,000 miles of music
Listed in alphabetical order by artist, but not played in any particular order, though I did choose certain albums to play at specific times for specific reasons, as noted.
  • American Music Club, San Francisco
  • An April March, Impatiens
  • Belly, Star (played early Friday morning to help keep Doug awake while driving)
  • Ben Folds Five: Whatever & Ever Amen
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
  • Blue Man Group, Audio
  • Bows, Blush
  • Cocteau Twins, Stars & Topsoil
  • The Dambuilders, Encendedor (Doug actually chose to play this, wasn't expecting that)
  • The Dismemberment Plan, Change
  • Robyn Hitchcock, Jewels for Sophia (played Thursday afternoon, the first album of the trip—skipped the first two tracks in order to start the trip off with "Viva Sea-Tac!")
  • Hooverphonic, A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular
  • The Housemartins, Now That's What I Call Quite Good
  • Hum, Downward Is Heavenward
  • Joe Jackson, Big World (played Sunday as we left Eldy's in Minnesota… seemed appropriate)
  • Joe Jackson, I'm the Man (played Friday afternoon because of the final track, "Friday")
  • Joe Jackson, Jumpin' Jive
  • Joe Jackson, Look Sharp!
  • Joe Jackson, Two Rainy Nights (played Tuesday afternoon in Washington, as it's a live album recorded in Seattle and Portland, Oregon)
  • Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American
  • Kitchens of Distinction, Strange Free World (Doug said it'd been something like 8 years since he'd heard this)
  • The KLF, The White Room (played Friday evening, while driving through Minneapolis / St. Paul on I-94 in the rain, trying not to get lost while finding Eldy's home)
  • Man or Astro-man?, Destroy All Astromen! (not actually played on the trip proper, but rather while en route to SeaTac International Airport to drop Doug off for his flight home, truly the final stage of the trip)
  • The Ocean Blue, The Ocean Blue (played Thursday night / Friday morning while in Pennsylvania, as I recalled they were from there)
  • Tara Jane ONeil, In the Sun Lines
  • Tara Jane ONeil, Peregrine (I'm pretty sure we played this early Friday morning, but we were so tired, I'm not really certain)
  • Papas Fritas, Buildings and Grounds
  • Papas Fritas, pApAs fritAs (played Thursday night, I think)
  • Public Image, Ltd., The Greatest Hits, so far (played Thursday evening, the second album of the trip, for the song "Seattle", of course)
  • Reflecting Skin, Haley (played Tuesday morning, the first album, for the trek through Idaho; the dramatic music seemed specially suited for traveling through the Rockies)
  • Retsin, Sweet Luck of Amaryllis (played Monday night during the snow and rain-washed descent through the Montana Rockies; Doug liked the last song so much, he played it again and made up lyrics about alterna-chicks being in love with him)
  • Sleater-Kinney, The Hot Rock (played very late/early Friday morning; I dozed through half of it, something that seems to happen far too often for an album I like so much)
  • The The, Soul Mining
  • They Might Be Giants, John Henry (played Monday night during the Montana Rockies descent; Doug started playing Apollo 18, deliberately skipping "Dig My Grave", but then I asked him to switch to this album after "I Palindrome I". Of course, the first track on this album, "Subliminal", begins by talking about a car crash; not the most auspicious music for that point in the trip.)
  • They Might Be Giants, Live in NYC (last album played Monday night, left unfinished)
  • They Might Be Giants, Severe Tire Damage (played Thursday night I think, for the road trip and leaving Massachusetts)
  • Throwing Muses, The Real Ramona (played Tuesday, entering Washington; a suitable follow-up to Reflecting Skin)
  • Tones on Tail, Everything! (played all of disc 1, maybe half of disc 2)
  • Too Much Joy, Cereal Killers (played Friday while driving through Ohio, for "Goodbye Ohio" of course)
  • Trash Can Sinatras, Cake
  • Various Artists, The Eighties Mix (all of disc 1, some of disc 2, played Friday while going through Chicago; I didn't know Doug hated Blondie, but there were other tracks he liked)
  • Wade, Wade (played Monday evening, I think)
  • The Wonderstuff, Never Loved Elvis
  • Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts, Cowboy Bebop Original Soundtrack 
  • Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts, Cowboy Bebop Remixes: Music for Freelance (played both of these Cowboy Bebop albums in a row on Thursday night)
  • Zuntata, Darius: the Omnibus (played Friday evening while driving into St. Paul / Minneapolis, in honor of Eldy)
Additionally, we played the following cassettes:
  • New Order, Substance Disc 1 plus three extra tracks (dubbed to cassette by me)
  • The Smiths, Louder than Bombs (dubbed to cassette by me; played a little more than half)
  • "Canadian Friends" mix tape, featuring selections from the IndieCan '92 Sampler
  • "Give Me My Bottle, Bitch!" mix tape created by Brendan Murray
Finally, I also had the following albums on my iPod:
  • An April March, Lessons in Vengeance
  • The B-52's, The B-52's
  • Belly, King
  • Freezepop, Fashion Impression Function
  • Freezepop, Freezepop Forever
  • Joe Jackson, Live 1980/86
  • Joe Jackson, Night & Day
  • Joe Jackson, Night & Day II
  • Joe Jackson, Tucker: The Man and His Dream soundtrack
  • Lazlo Bane, 11 Transistor
  • Mind Science of the Mind, Mind Science of the Mind
  • The Police, Message in a Box
  • Rainer Maria, A Better Version of Me
  • Red House Painters, Retrospective (disc 1)
  • Reflecting Skin, Agony Star
  • The Sonora Pine, The Sonora Pine
  • The Sonora Pine, II
  • Stereolab, Dots and Loops
  • The Sundays, Blind
  • The Sundays, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic
  • The Sundays, Static & Silence
  • The The, Mind Bomb
  • They Might Be Giants, Apollo 18
  • They Might Be Giants, Flood
  • They Might Be Giants, Then: The Earlier Years
  • Throwing Muses, House Tornado / The Fat Skier

a decade in Seattle, part 5 of 6

Boston to Seattle trip log
Monday, March 11, 2002

12:15 am MST: Stop for the night at the Buckboard Inn, in Beach, ND, right on the border with Montana. Odometer: 2,040 miles. (Repeating the last entry I posted yesterday on the journal, as it technically belongs to today.)

11:00 am MST: Added 7.0 gallons of gas at the service station in Beach, ND, and hit the road.

2:45 pm MST: Stop for gas in Billings, MT, added 8.8 gallons. Odometer: 2,302 miles.

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm MST: Had lunch at Pizza Hut in Billings. A lot of bowling pros were present, apparently for some kind of convention. Called Mom.

7:38 pm MST: Crossed the continental divide just east of Butte, MT, at an altitude of 6,368 feet. Odometer: 2,525 miles.

8:00 pm MST: Stop for gas in Butte, MT, added 8.0 gallons. Odometer: 2,535 miles. Called my soon-to-be landlord and also called Farida Dowler to let them know of our progress and expectation to arrive late in the afternoon the next day.

11:15 pm PST / 12:15 am MST Tuesday March 12: Crossed into Idaho and the PST time zone. Odometer: 2,769 miles. Stopped at the Lookout Motel in Mullan, ID, for the night—as Doug wrote, "for a good time, don't stop here." We probably should've gone just a bit farther, as the next day we passed a much better-looking hotel right off the highway, but we didn't know, and the last 100+ miles of the Montana was the worst driving of the trip: all downhill from Butte on the twisty mountain highway, with rain, snow, fog, and large tractor-trailers.

Some highlights of 2010
  • Did a series of 40 push-ups a day for 250 days, 10,000 push-ups in all.
  • Started going out to a weekly trivia night, making some new friends as a result.
  • Once again attended the Sasquatch! Music Festival and Decibel Festival as a blogger for KEXP, and both were fantastic again.
  • Started going out dancing monthly at Sweatbox-hosted events at the Electric Tea Garden, and later added TRUST at the Baltic Room to my monthly dance night.
  • Had a great time attending the Capitol Hill Block Party as a volunteer for KEXP, and saw some amazing performances.
  • Had a very serious car crash that totaled my car—which isn't really a "highlight" as such, but surviving the accident with relatively little damage (a broken knee being the worst of it) certainly counts.
Some highlights of 2011
  • Got a new bicycle, my first since I was a teenager, in part with a generous birthday gift from my brother.
  • After hitting a real slump in work that broke my finances (definitely not a highlight), work more than rebounded, it kept me consistently busier than ever for the last four months of the year and into the new one, which also helped me break the downward spiral of relying on credit to keep going (though much of the accumulated debt remains to be paid off).
  • Attended Bumbershoot as a volunteer for the KEXP media team, posting updates about the Music Lounge performances as well as blogging about some of the evening performances.

a decade in Seattle, part 4 of 6

Boston to Seattle trip log
Sunday, March 10, 2002

3:30 pm CST: After a rather late brunch with Eldy and Priscilla, said goodbye to them, added 4.5 gallons of gas, and hit the road.

7:00 pm CST: Stop for gas in West Fargo, ND, added 7.5 gallons. Odometer: 1,686 miles.

9:45 pm CST: Stop for dinner at an Applebee's in Bismarck, ND. We closed the place out; it felt like old times. The waitress had an adorable accent.

10:30 pm CST: Stop for gas in Bismarck before heading onward, added 6.27 gallons. Odometer: 1,878 miles.

Approximately 10:45 pm CST: Crossed into Mountain Standard Time just outside Bismarck.

11:30 pm MST: Just outside Billings County, ND, at mile 41 on I-94, crossed the 2,000 miles mark on the odometer.

Monday, March 11, 2002

12:15 am MST: Stop for the night at the Buckboard Inn, in Beach, ND, right on the border with Montana. Odometer: 2,040 miles.

Some highlights of 2008

  • Having made some offhand remark about how I should learn how to make ice cream, Tony and Farida got me an ice cream mixer for my (2007) birthday, and I started making homemade ice cream.

  • My friend Dawn talked me into trying out swing dancing, which was fun but not really for me.

  • I had good visits from my sister Andrea and her partner Jen, and my brother Jeremy. (Family visits are always good; I haven't mentioned all the previous ones because I'm not sure when some of them happened.)

  • I went to all three days of Bumbershoot this year, my second time attending, and really enjoyed it.

  • I went home to New Hampshire at Thanksgiving time in order to attend my high school's 20-year reunion. I also had Thanksgiving with my family for the first time since moving to Seattle.

Some highlights of 2009

  • I was asked to take on a long-term data entry project at KEXP, which involved me being at the station on a weekly basis in order to do the work, and thus marked my transition from "volunteer" to "intern".

  • I was also hired by KEXP for a week-long contract to audit the data entry for the spring membership drive, which has turned into a regular contract gig and technically qualifies me as "staff".

  • I also volunteered to write a review of Hotels' then-new album for the KEXP Blog, which began my volunteer work as a blogger for the station.

  • Because of being a KEXP blogger, I attended the Sasquatch! Music Festival for the first time, and also the Decibel Festival, as well as a few other concerts I otherwise would've missed, such as My Bloody Valentine.

  • At the very end of the year, I turned 40 years old; to mark the occasion, I wrote a series of posts called "40 Topics, 40 Days, 40 Years Old" about my life to date, starting with this post in November.

a decade in Seattle, part 3 of 6

Boston to Seattle trip log
Saturday, March 9, 2002

Caught up on much-needed sleep, visited the Mall of America, and generally hung out with Eldy and Priscilla.

…that's it for that day! So let me write a little bit about music for the trip. Conveniently and fortunately, the original iPod had been released back in October 2001, and I'd purchased one right away. I loaded it up as full as possible with a carefully-selected set of albums, totaling 1,103 songs, or 2 days, 19 hours, 39 minutes, and 55 seconds worth of music contained in 4.55 GB. Out of that, we played 626 songs, which was 39 hours, 58 minutes, and 8 seconds of music without repeats. In addition to my iPod, I had my collection of mix tapes and other cassettes, but we only played four of those. The full list of albums played is long enough (even without a few annotations) that I'll save it for another post.

Some highlights of 2006
  • Finished my orthodontic treatment, and had bone graft surgery to fill in the gap in my upper jaw where the dental implants would eventually go.
  • Visited Portland, Oregon, for the first time while Doug was here for a visit, and also drove out to Seaside, Oregon, stood in the open Pacific Ocean, and signed my name on the beach.
  • Played a fantastic role-playing game series run by John Harper, dubbed "Tales of the Aether, Vol. 1: The Thought Lords of Mars"—which itself was a follow-up to another fantastic series that Tony Dowler had run way back in 2002 that featured some of the same characters.
  • Received my Mac Mini as a bonus from work.
Some highlights of 2007
  • Was laid off from my job two days before I'd planned to give notice, which worked out to my advantage.
  • As planned, began working as a freelance editor.
  • Purchased my first Mac laptop.
  • Worked with Tony Dowler, John Harper, and Brandon Amancio to plan and hold the first Go Play NW, which was a great success.
  • Purchased my first iPhone, which also provided me with my first digital camera.
  • Began volunteering with KEXP.
  • Visited Las Vegas for a third time, for Brandon's wedding.

a decade in Seattle, part 2 of 6

Boston to Seattle trip log
Friday, March 8, 2002

3:07 am EST: Stop for gas in Willoughby, OH (near Cleveland), added 5.6 gallons. Odometer: 637 miles. Doug was driving at this point.

4:30 am—5:30 am EST: Stop to nap in a rest area near Toledo, OH.

6:30 am—8:30 am EST: Second stop for a nap, at the Oak Openings Service Center on I-90, somewhere a bit after Toledo. Doug had tried driving further after the first nap break and quickly decided nope, he just couldn't carry on without more rest, which was of course a wise decision. We ate breakfast at this service center.

10:00 am EST: Stop for gas at a service center in Indiana, added 6.1 gallons. Odometer: 859 miles.

Approximately 11:00 am EST: Driving along the Chicago Skyway (I-90 / I-94) in Illinois, passed the 1,000 miles mark on the odometer.

1:20 pm EST: Stop for gas at a service center on the north side of Chicago (near O'Hare Airport), added 5.0 gallons. Odometer: 1,021 miles. Ate lunch at McDonald's here. Called Eldy and told him to expect us to arrive in about 7 hours. Reset the clock at 2 pm EST to 1 pm CST.

5:15 pm CST: Stop for gas at Black River, WI, added 8.0 gallons. Odometer: 1,274 miles.

8:00 pm CST: Arrived at Eldy's home in Bloomington, MN. Odometer: 1,432 miles. Elapsed time since leaving Medford, MA: approximately 28.5 hours.

Some highlights of 2004
  • After consultations with my dentist, an oral surgeon, and an orthodontist, got braces for the second time in my life as a necessary precursor toward getting a couple implants to replace a pair of teeth that were extracted when I was a teenager.
  • Started doing some informal aikido training with John.
  • Decided that due to the expense of the orthodontic work, I would not go home for Christmas, making it the first time I was ever away from my family for Christmas.
  • After a few years of talking about getting a cat, took in a stray found by friends of my friends.
Some highlights of 2005
  • After deciding in 2004 that I wanted to be seeing live music more often, started making a point of attending at least one show a month. That led to also writing about the shows in my LiveJournal, developing my music blogging skills.
  • Visited Canada for the first (and still only) time in my life, despite being of French-Canadian descent and growing up in New England, while my parents were here for a visit. We went to Vancouver, Whistler, and Victoria.
  • Went to Bumbershoot for the first time.
  • Bought a condo and moved out of my apartment.

a decade in Seattle, part 1 of 6

Boston to Seattle trip log
Thursday, March 7, 2002

11:30 am EST: This was the time Doug planned for us to leave. He got up early, even. Was the car packed and ready to go? No, it was not. Additional boxing and mailing of various belongings—mostly books and CDs, but a few stray other not-book items may have been shipped book rate—was followed by packing the car well past the point at which Doug kept saying, "No. There is no more room." Left behind: my minimal furniture, and very little else.

4:00 pm EST: The car quite obviously was riding really low over the rear tires, and there was some concern about whether it'd actually be drivable. A very cautious drive around the block did not result in any obvious alarming noises or difficulty.

4:30 pm EST: Left 99 Lincoln Road, Medford, Massachusetts. Stopped for 4 gallons of gas; a full tank is about 13 gallons. Headed out on I-90, westward-bound. Not the best time to be attempting to drive out of Boston (hello, evening commute); see 11:30 am EST.

7:45 pm EST: Stop for gas at a service area on I-90 just past Albany, NY, added 5.7 gallons. Odometer: 147 miles.

11:20 pm EST: Stop for gas at another service area on I-90 somewhere a bit east of Buffalo, NY, added 8.125 gallons. Odometer: 445 miles. Ate supper at Burger King here. Due to optimistically telling Eldy that we'd arrive at his place on Friday evening, and due to leaving 5 hours late (see 11:30 am EST), we kept on driving.

Some highlights of 2002
  • Moved to Seattle, of course.
  • Reunited with college friends, made new friends, including finally meeting John Harper after years of knowing him through the Talislanta email list. 
  • Started career in the software industry as a technical writer, editor, and software solution tester.
  • Visited Los Angeles for the first and still only time, for the Microsoft MGB Conference for work. Technically, first visit to the open Pacific Ocean, as there was a post-conference party at the Santa Monica pier, but I did not actually stand in the ocean.
  • Started my LiveJournal, although I only posted 4 times that year so nothing of substance there.
Some highlights of 2003
  • After being laid off from my first tech job due to circumstances unrelated to my work, picked up the next day by the start-up company of another college friend and a new Seattle friend. Began working more as a technical editor than a writer, continued doing software testing as well.
  • Had my apartment burgled. Fortunately did not lose anything very valuable (besides my sense of security), but still annoyed about losing some of the CDs to theft.
  • Visited Las Vegas for the second time (first was in 2000), for a fun weekend with friends who were attending another friend's wedding.
  • Took a trip to Maine in October for Jason's wedding.

"Mark of the Blue Man" mix tape

Last week I was having a conversation with a friend about the music I was listening to twenty years ago. As I recall, my favorite artists at the time were still Heart, the Police, Steely Dan, and Joe Jackson, with They Might Be Giants a relatively new favorite. I now feel compelled to dig into my box of audio cassettes to see if I can figure out what else I had back then… The Sundays' first album Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic was definitely still a favorite; oh, Pink Floyd of course!; Supertramp; Yes; I have a mixtape I made of some B-52s stuff on one side and TMBG on the other; and I think I'd gotten into the Sugarcubes by that point… I know I was listening to WFNX, WBCN, and Rock-101 (WGIR-FM), which is to say a mix of alternative, modern mainstream, and classic rock. The key bands for me at that point were probably Joe Jackson and They Might Be Giants, with the Police, Pink Floyd, and to some extent Heart still really important as well.

In any case, thinking about that older music reminded me of a mixtape I made for another friend in 1997. I believe it was the first mixtape I made for which all of the music came from CDs I owned, rather than copying from tape to tape. As a result, not only do I still have a copy of the mix on cassette—I always liked to keep a copy of the mixes I made—but also I was able to recreate the mix in a playlist in iTunes. I've only listened to the playlist once or twice since I recreated it a couple years ago, as I have so much new stuff to listen to. But that means when I do listen to it, I'm overwhelmed by the thrill of hearing that particular music again in that particular sequence, the memory of that time. As a result of that conversation last week, I played that mix again, and as I posted on Facebook, it's glorious.

The mix is called "Mark of the Blue Man", and it was made after taking a friend from work to see Blue Man Group in Boston. It was my third time attending the show, and as luck had it, I was chosen for one of the audience participation sequences, which involved one of the Blue Men rubbing some of his blue bodypaint on my cheek—hence the name of the mix. The opening track, "B'Boom" by King Crimson, was meant to evoke the drumming done throughout the show—Blue Man Group's album Audio didn't come out until 1999—and the final track, "Last Train to Trancentral" by the KLF, was also used as the climax of their show. In between, I included lots of songs I loved at the time by many of my then-current favorite artists. Notably, although I did include a song each by Joe Jackson and TMBG, I otherwise used nothing that I'd been listening to back in 1991, and most of the music (including the TMBG song I used) hadn't even been released then.

The first side is mostly on the goth-shoegaze-dreampop continuum, while the second side is basically pop-rock. I'll include the source album name in parentheses.

Side A
  1. "B'Boom", King Crimson (THRAK)
  2. "Stupid Song", Mistle Thrush (Super Refraction)
  3. "Iceblink Luck", Cocteau Twins (Heaven or Las Vegas)
  4. "Hundreds & Thousands", An April March (Lessons in Vengeance)
  5. "Graffiti", Throwing Muses (The Real Ramona)
  6. "It's All Like Today", Mistle Thrush (Super Refraction)
  7. "Goldmund", The Sonora Pine (The Sonora Pine)
  8. "Tomorrow's Tears", Cranes (Wings of Joy)
  9. "Jack in the Box", Elysian Fields (Bleed Your Cedar)
  10. "Discopolis", The Dambuilders (Against the Stars)
  11. "Flowereyed", Mistle Thrush (Silt)
Side B
  1. "Mission Drive", The Wonderstuff (Never Loved Elvis)
  2. "King of Spain", Moxy Früvous (Bargainville)
  3. "Battle of Who Could Care Less", Ben Folds Five (Whatever and Ever Amen)
  4. "Colin's Heroes", The Dambuilders (Encendedor)
  5. "Super-connected", Belly (King)
  6. "Carnival", The Cardigans (Life)
  7. "Sleeping in the Flowers", They Might Be Giants (John Henry)
  8. "Hello City", Barenaked Ladies (Gordon)
  9. "I'm Your No. 1 Fan", The Beautiful South (0898)
  10. "Steppin' Out", Joe Jackson (Night & Day)
  11. "Vertigogo", Combustible Edison (Four Rooms soundtrack)
  12. "Last Train to Trancentral", The KLF (The White Room)
I still believe this is one of the best mixes I've ever made. I got the flow just the way I wanted it, and I still love all these songs.

night before Christmas

…and naturally I'm still stirring. When I was a little kid, at least one year at Christmas apparently I was shaking so hard with excitement that I couldn't open my presents. I don't really remember that happening, I think it was probably sometime between the ages of 2 and 5. I do however remember being a little older, in the 5-8 range maybe, and being so excited that I couldn't fall asleep. And I was tired, too. I lay there for hours, trying to be patient, trying to will myself to sleep, but I couldn't.

I used to have a funny habit too, if I was having a hard time falling asleep I'd try to wear myself out by pounding my head against the pillow. You know, that wasn't just a funny habit, it was really weird. Like, it makes sense in child-logic: I'm not falling asleep, I'm not tired yet, I need to make myself tired so I can fall asleep, but I have to stay lying in bed so I can't run around or anything, so the only physical activity I can do is pound my head agains the pillow. It never did work.

Anyhow, I remember at least one time I ended up crying, because I felt tired and I knew I had to get to sleep because Christmas is a big day, but I just couldn't fall asleep. My crying woke up Mom—well, I'm sure it woke up everyone—who called upstairs to ask me what was wrong and said something vaguely reassuring, and I tried to settle down and eventually I did fall asleep. 

As I got older, I eventually grew out of being so excited about Christmas, and having trouble falling asleep because of it. I also stopped the head-pounding-pillow behavior back then, too. I do still tremble with excitement occasionally, in certain circumstances, but not because of Christmas. And the only reason I'm up late on Christmas eve is because… I just like to be up late. Tomorrow's not such a big day, because we're doing the larger family gathering on Sunday afternoon instead of Christmas, but it is still Christmas and I am feeling tired, so it's time to make way for Santa.

the best pizza

Who makes the best pizza in the world? Where do you get it? I'm not talking just New York or Chicago or California or whatever, I mean specific pizza parlors, the single restaurant you always go to for the best pizza.

Pizzeria Regina in the North End of Boston has the best pizza. I've been going there for pizza for about 40 years now, so I know. And they've been open since 1926, so they know what they're doing. Here's another sign they know what they're doing, and they're the best. The original location at 11-1/2 Thacher Street is small and crowded with tables, so there's only room for a couple of people to wait inside for a table. People will line up outside on the street, for a half-hour or more, even on a cold winter night with temperatures in the twenties and freezing winds blowing—and that was before they added a few strong heat lamps under the awning just a year or two ago. And the place is also well-known for brusque and even surly waitstaff, besides being cramped, crowded, and noisy. As they say in Boston, that's paht of its chahm.

The pizza itself is thin-crust, with a thick outer rim that's sometimes a bit burnt but somehow never too dry. The toppings balance the floppy-thin crust: the sauce is thin with just a bit of bite, the cheese isn't too heavy either. The sausage is fantastic. 

So now here's the thing: the best pizza in the world is highly dependent upon, but not limited to, your childhood experiences and nostalgia. You can learn to love other pizza when you grow up, but I believe your taste in pizza is always strongly influenced by what's familiar from your youth. That's the only explanation I have for people who, say, have had pizza in both Boston and Seattle but somehow prefer Pagliacci's decent-but-nothing-special pizza in Seattle to Regina's superb pizza in Boston. Of course, the Seattle-raised people would take the opposite view, not seeing what the big deal was about Regina's. (But they're wrong.)

My favorite pizza places in Seattle tend to be the ones closest to Northeast-style pizza: Piecora's is pretty good, Tutta Bella is different but also very good, and I've been very excited by the opening of Big Mario's, which is really good and fairly authentically NY-style. I still have love for Bob's Pizza in my hometown Nashua, too. But growing up, going down to Boston to Regina's for pizza was always a special treat. Sometimes my parents would even decide to go there after we'd spent a day at the beach in Ogunquit Maine, adding an extra couple hours of driving to the day, just because it was that good. And so I'm happy that today I get to make my now-annual pilgrimage down to Boston for the best pizza in the world.

40 T/D/Y #39: Crush Stories

As a kid, I had my share of secret crushes, as I’m sure most kids do. Even in first grade there was a girl I liked in particular and wanted her attention but felt nervous about getting it. I think around fourth grade is when girls and crushes became regular subjects of conversation among my friends and me, but again I never dared tell my current crush that I liked her, afraid of rejection. In junior high as other kids started dating, I continued to nurse secret crushes.

I wasn’t a complete wallflower, though. I could still talk to these girls in class as regular people, I wasn’t left stammering and blushing, unable to speak. I went to my first school dance in seventh grade, and although at the end of the evening I had to be coaxed into a dance by one of my long-time female friends, I enjoyed the whole experience enough to attend the dances regularly after that. I went to the junior high dinner dance by myself without reservation and had a good time with my friends.

I had a major crush in junior year of high school, although it took me about half the year to realize how I felt. She passed out handmade Valentines to some people, including me, and wrote on mine “U R so sweet!”, which made me very happy. I don’t recall whether I spent a lot of time thinking about asking her to the junior prom, but I do remember overhearing her talking to a friend just before French class one day and her saying something about the prom that made me realize I might already be too late. So, after class, I pulled her aside and stammeringly asked if she would like to go with me; she seemed pleased to be asked but apologetically explained that she’d already agreed to go with someone else. I was crushed but took it well, and ended up going by myself, though I did give one of my good female friends a ride to and from the prom.

In senior year I had a lesser crush on another classmate and asked her to the prom, but she also turned me down. This time though I asked another friend, a junior I knew who also took violin lessons, to be my prom date and she said yes, and we had a very enjoyable time. In the photos my parents took before we left, though, I look very painfully awkward; rather than putting an arm around her for the photos, I instead kept that arm behind my back and held my other arm with that hand. I still can’t believe no one told me to relax and hold her, it’s ridiculous.

During college I had my first halting relationship, with yet another younger friend I knew from violin lessons. Interestingly, I learned at one point that a few of my friends had thought of fixing me up with her for my senior prom date; I believe one of my friends suggested her at one point and I dismissed the idea out of hand. She and I spent a lot of time hanging out after I graduated and we became close, eventually having a few make-out sessions, but she was never really interested in being more than friends while I struggled hard to keep my feelings in check. When she started college, during my fall sophomore semester at Thomas More (she was at a different local school), we grew apart, and by the time that semester ended I knew I had to stop calling her and trying to hang out. Fortunately the Rome semester gave me some needed space and time away; I no longer sought out her company, but I did see her a few times over the next several years as just friends and it was fine.

Throughout the rest of my twenties and into my early thirties, I had occasional crushes but never tried pursuing anyone. Frequently I would only realize I’d developed a crush after knowing someone for several months or more, by which time it was clear that that person liked me as a friend but no more than that. A couple of times I developed a closer friendship with someone but still believed nothing further could come of it. On a very few occasions a woman would show some signs of possibly being interested in me, but never anyone that I found interesting in turn. I wonder though how many times I may have missed expressions of interest because I felt strongly that no one would be interested in me, or whether I could’ve had a chance with any of my crushes if I’d been more confident and less self-conscious.

For quite a while after moving to Seattle, I continued on as I had been doing, feeling lonely a lot and developing one or two crushes that I knew would go unrequited. Eventually I started to put a little more effort into actively looking to meet new people and go on dates. It’s been a long slow effort for me, gaining more confidence, losing some self-absorption, trying different possibilities, trying to be open to different opportunities, and learning to relax and focus on being out in the world rather than on finding a particular someone. I’ve had a lot of support from my friends, who’ve helped me better understand myself and better understand how to relate to others. I’ve definitely changed and grown a lot in the past few years, and though sometimes I still feel I have a very long way to go, I also believe in myself. My crushes don’t always have to be secret, my interest won’t always go unrequited, my loneliness isn’t endless. And while I’m very tired of feeling lonely, being alone isn’t always so bad; I can take joy in the things I’m free to do on my own, and continue to keep an eye out for others who may enjoy sharing some of my life with me.

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The List: June 2011

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