ooo, ee, ooo ah ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang

Fireball Island: At Michelle B’s party on Friday, Noah brought Fireball Island, an exasperating hell-pit from Milton Bradley. You and three other explorers scramble your way up the slopes of Fireball Island, dodging fireballs until you can snatch a jewel from an altar. Then there’s a hilarious slapstick while the jewel changes hands until one explorer can get down the hill, into the boat, and off the island.

Part of what makes the game ridiculous:

  • Every time you roll a 1, a fireball appears. Whoever rolls the 1 can pick who gets the fireball, which has to roll from one of several points around the island. If you get hit with the fireball, you’re bumped back to a distant space and lose the jewel, if you’re holding it.
  • You can take the jewel from another explorer by passing them. And since you’re only moving 2 to 6 spaces at a time, this leads to the “end-game traffic jam”, where three to four players are clustered one or two spaces away from each other, and every consecutive move leads to the jewel changing hands.
  • As such, the wisest strategical moves, once the jewel reaches your hands, necessarily involve prolonging the game. Once I had the jewel, I ran to the other end of the island – as far from the exit as possible – forcing the other three players to sprawl out in tracking me.
I won, but largely through luck and attrition.

Luau: The annual Davis Square Luau (hosted by Colby, Dea and others) was again a success – perhaps not as ridiculous as last year’s, but still fun at all relevant points. True to the voodoo theme this year, Colby busted out barbecue ribs in a serving tray shaped like a coffin, and Dea decorated the inside of the house with loads of shrunken heads. A tiki band played for the first few hours, handing the reins over to a veritable stable of DJs until the morning. I drank, I circulated, I danced, I took some good photos. If you missed it, you suck.


every stop I get to, I’m clocking that game

The Footlight Club put up a production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in Jamaica Plain this weekend, so I took Sylvia and Katie H. to see it. The play has some limitations compared to the novel – all action takes place in the drawing room of the mansion on Indian Island, with occasional bits being narrated from off-stage (“oh no … he’s fallen off the cliff!”). And this version has a happier ending than the original novel – two of the guilty party escape death. Fortunately, the director of this adaptation ramped up the creepy atmosphere by having ghosts, dressed in rags and Eyes Wide Shut masks, stalk across the stage at opportune moments. Despite the melodrama, I found the ending genuinely chilling, and was grateful not to have to walk to my car alone.

Then I got to Common Ground, only to find a bar full of drunken Allston hipsters … and the real horror began!

# # #

Sunday dawned gorgeous and warm, 80s with a storm-tinged breeze but no actual rain, so I took my notebook to Davis Square and brainstormed. Inspiration struck me, and I plotted out my next novel from beginning to end. I filled five pages with notes, alternating between furious scribbles and vacant staring. I outlined the project so thoroughly that, if I died, someone could reconstruct the novel from those notes alone.

Lots of authors advise that you not outline a novel in too much detail – you don’t want to straitjacket yourself into a plot that’ll stifle you. But a solid outline makes me feel more confident. It’s a landmark to which I can always return, even if I want to go exploring.

# # #

I also saw a war between transients in Davis that afternoon: a guy in his late teens, dirty but fully dressed, hit up passerby for bus fare. He avoided me – whether intimidated by my attention to my notebook or my comical mirror shades, I couldn’t tell. But then he asked another transient for change. This man – dressed in red sweatpants and unlaced sneakers – vaulted up off his bench and blared something incoherent. He stumbled across the square, ranting louder as the distance between the two of them increased, until he collapsed onto a different bench.

(Edit: The wanderer – Angry Mike)

The truce among the indigent strains to the breaking point. Soon, all hell will be unleashed.

there is a season, turn turn turn

As of this past Sunday, I’ve lived in my current apartment for one year.

Today, you get the grand tour.

The view from the front door. Bed immediately to my right. Walkway defined by position of couch. TV (and flatscreen Mac also used for watching movies) facing the couch. Bathroom in the back.

Detail on the bathroom.

Detail on the kitchenette.

As for the actual living experience: the studio’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer, thanks to built-in A/C and electric baseboard heat. Either the walls have reasonable soundproofing or I’m the loudest person (by far) on my floor. Laundry’s in the basement; parking’s out back. And I live within 3 minutes of one of the hippest neighborhoods to visit in Somerville, and within 6 minutes of the Red Line, which can get me downtown in 20.

So I plan to stay.

nobody seemed to know me, everybody passed me by

I found a new karaoke spot on Friday: the bar beneath the Charles Playhouse in Boston’s theatre district. Small turnout for a Friday, though Memorial Day weekend might have contributed to that.

A few friends had turned out for Dave C’s twenty-ninth birthday. “I wanted one last big bash,” he said. “I’ve noticed that I have different priorities in an evening as I get older. I can’t bounce back from those big nights out any more.”

I agreed with him. But that strikes me as an excuse to schedule your Saturday mornings wisely, not to cut short your Fridays.

# # #

I missed my car (in the shop – over one thousand dollars of spring and strut work) most acutely on Sunday, when I had to hoof it to Brighton to grab a burger wih Sylvia then back to Cambridge to have a drink with Pre-Doctor Margaret N. But the benevolent confluence of the Red Line, the #66, the D Line and the #1 made it all work.

The evening brought me through a gamut of bars, too – from the 112 beers on tap at the Sunset Grill in Allston to the cultivated dinge that is the People’s Republik. Does anyone else think a 112-beer tap is wasted on 90% of Allston residents?

# # #

Explored the bike path in Davis Square with Andrea on a balmy Monday afternoon. We passed and were passed by a record number of cyclists, enjoying the shaded ride and the air free of humidity.

“That dog looks lost,” she remarked, commenting on a pug that had planted its feet in the middle of the sidewalk.

I indicated the pug’s owners, a mom and her toddler pedaling a few yards away. “The dog knows what it’s doing. It can wait all day if it has to.”

I also hit up Joanna’s annual barbecue in Porter Square, eating some grilled sausage and listening to Serpico recount earlier adventures in New Jersey.

“It’s a massive grown-up arcade and restaurant complex,” he was saying, of Xanadu, “that looks like nothing so much as a stack of shipping containers dumped in the parking lot of Giants Stadium. There’s no way that place can be making money.”

“Well, sure,” I said. “Based on the set of books you’re looking at.”

“True. There’s probably a wealth of boxed-up arcade games in there that’ll burn real easy.”

“Or just vanish overnight. ‘Hey, it’sa one ‘a dem extremely local collapsars. Just sucked everyding into its event horizon. Whaddaya gonna do?'”

the way you treat me is a shame; why do you hurt me so bad?

I considered taking the car on a road trip to Baltimore this coming weekend. I ended up buying train tickets instead, but I had the car in mind for a while. So I started considering what sort of maintenance the 1996 Camry would need for a 1,200 mile round-trip. Probably need the CV joint looked at. Fuel filter, too – oh, and see if that recurring shuddering is the EGR valve.

And when’s the last time I got my oil changed?

Craning my neck forward, I took a look at the sticker in the top left of the windshield. Apparently, I was due for an oil change in October.

I had a surging moment of adrenalized panic, as if my car had been fueled by ignorance for the last six months and knowing the date would set the engine on fire. Then I double-checked the sticker.

The nice folks at Valvoline had recommended I come in for an oil change in October – at 145,000 miles. My car just hit 144,000 this winter.

I did some simple math. Mechanics and dealerships insist that you change your oil every three months or 3,000 miles (even though the actual requirement’s closer to 6 months and 5,000, respectively). This would mean I last got my oil changed in July 2008. If I’d only put another 2,000 miles on in that time, I probably wouldn’t hit 145K until July 2009 – three months from now.

Holy hell. When did I start driving fewer than three thousand miles in a year?

Moving to Davis has offset so much of my transportation costs. I take the subway and shuttle 3 days a week and I rarely drive on the weekends. My closest friends all live near the Red Line, or at least within walking distance. I could make do without a car if I absolutely had to.

Of course, I should still get the oil changed anyway – nine months is a bit too long to go without oil changes if you use your car with any regularity. But it’s good to get that last bit of proof that I’m a city boy at heart. I couldn’t get away with driving fewer than three thousand miles in a year outside of a city, unless perhaps I lived on a farm.

then the devil jumped up on a hickory stump and said boy let me tell you what




no, nothing, no woman need matter, no change

Why does dinner theatre get such a bad rap? Is it the quality of the food? The calibre of the actors? I haven’t taken in a lot of dinner theatre myself, but I saw Bad Habit Productions charming performance of All in The Timing in the back room of the Burren this past Sunday and loved it. Jonathan Overby remains one of my favorite local performers, and Anna and Daniel (the directors) had a clear and interesting vision. Plus, I got to eat a burger, drink some Guinness and snack on the Burren’s thick, salty steak fries. The best way to watch a play, really.

. . .

Just a reminder: you can also check out my articles on Overthinking It, now that I’m a staff writer there. I also take part in the podcasts pretty regularly, which are always fun to listen to. Like last week’s, where Mark, Pete and I talk about hospital dramas, The Matrix and North Korea’s communications satellite.