Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Boston Strong

Unless you have been living under a rock, you heard about the horrible bombings at the Boston Marathon last week and likely were following the manhunt for the two suspects.

In what may be a case of the worst timing ever, the boy and I had a vacation pre-scheduled in Boston for last week and we had the extra bad luck of booking a hotel in Watertown - scene of the suspect standoff and eventual capture. Our hotel was, in fact, less than 1/2 mile away from where the suspect was found in the backyard boat, so subsequently we were locked down for most of the day Friday and entertained by a constant symphony of sirens and helicopter noise, tv news vans and reporters outside. Since we only had barely two days in Boston anyway, this meant that over half of our vacation was lost and we came home in a bit of a haze, both from the insanity of the events we witnessed and were smack-dab in the middle of, and due to the fact that most of the previous 4 days were spent either driving or watching the news.

Yes, I am complaining - it sucked! But that's not the point of this post. The point is the experience oddly made me love Boston even more.

This was my third visit to the city. Before this, I could tell you that I loved Boston but could not necessarily pinpoint the exact reasons why. Sure, there is undeniably great history and architecture, parks and museums, restaurants and shopping. In a way, the city reminds me of a large-scale version of my hometown of Halifax - a city with the down-to-earthiness of a small town, a working class/sea-faring past and the character that comes along with that.

However, now I understand. It's the people that make this city great. They are warm and welcoming and will talk to you as if you're an old friend even if it's your first conversation. Many would take the clothes off their back and give them to you if you really needed them. They are there for each other and value hard work. At the same time, they have an edge - they are a down-home, potty-mouthed, hard-drinking lot who, basically, don't take shit (I mean this with love).

Both sides of this mixed character were highlighted during the hysteria of the bombings and the aftermath. The selflessness, support, and strength of the citizens warmed my heart - countless people organized donations and events to show solidarity to the victims and their loved ones, to say 'we are with you and you are in our prayers'. Then the tenacity and ruthlessness that was displayed during the hunt for the suspects left me in awe and made me want to pump my fist in the air and say, 'yeah! You go!'. They were not going to let these men get away with this and I loved that commitment. I loved the fact that they did not 'fuck around' but that they did so in a way that put the safety and well-being of everyone in the city first and foremost.

It's that mix - the hard and soft, the tough and loving - that makes the people of Boston great. Sure, our vacation was kind of ruined, but I never once felt concerned for my safety or that the situation was not under control. Did I hate being cooped up in our hotel room all day and having to miss the Red Sox game (which was scheduled for Friday but subsequently postponed)? Of course! But I appreciated the care and precautions taken. I felt comforted that the job would get done and done right.

There are so many things being written about these incidents - so many opinions and analyses floating around out there, and I don't want to add to that pile. Honestly, I kind of just want to move on from this, as I am sure we all do (although I should reiterate that 'move on' does not mean 'forget'). I just felt compelled, in my own small way, to thank the people of Boston for being, well, them. For being strong and loving and, in true Boston fashion, giving the finger to those that tried to ruin their lives.

Thank you for making great what little vacation we ended up having.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Gigantick Laughs and Heart at Zuppa Theatre

Pictured: Susan Leblanc-Crawford and Stewart Legere
Friday night was my first Zuppa Theatre experience, and I have to be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. Even for an arts aficionado such as myself, "theatre" can be a bit intimidating, especially going to see a "play" rather than, say, a popular musical. There is an implication that the experience is going to be very intellectual, maybe even so deep that you will walk out of the theatre unable to process what you just saw. 

This was not the case for me after seeing "The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions". I walked out with a smile on my face and a comfort that none of us are alone in our experiences.

The title of this play is appropriate because it deals with a lot of big subjects - death, grief, trauma, separation, isolation, love. But it is also an oxymoron because the play deals with tiny things, too; i.e. the little moments that make up the majority of most of our lives - the conversations with friends, the house parties, the spontaneous day trips. The characters in the play deal with all of these things - big and small - all at once, separately and together. And like all of us, they deal with them as best they can - on their own and together.

Each of the actors held my attention for different reasons - Stewart Legere (Martin) for his endearing awkward immaturity; Susan Leblanc-Crawford (Alice) for her protective yet snarky big sister vibe; Ben Stone (Frances) for his unassuming air punctuated with inner sadness; and Katie Dorian (Robin) for her vivacious energy. I enjoyed watching each and every one of them and was glad to see that they each got their moment to shine. Surprisingly, the dialogue of the play was really funny - the characters had me laughing out loud at their various one-liners.

My favourite part of the show, however, was how the story was told. The miniature buildings and their interchangeable roles created an amazing dynamic and made the props almost like cast members in their own right. It was so creative to use them not only as set pieces, but as containers and hiding places for the cast, as well as a backdrop for the various projections, including moving people, photos and video of the cast members own faces. There was always something to look at it, always something happening but it didn't take away from the story or the dialogue - it all moved together seamlessly. I was amazed at the energy and fitness of the actors in that they were on the stage for the entire two hours, always participating, and that they could scrunch themselves up into various positions!

The sounds were as incredible as the sets - the scenes where the 'gang' visits Peggy's Cove and the soundtrack of waves crashing and wind screeching made me feel like I was actually standing out there myself. The sounds were a bit TOO loud at times, making it hard to follow the words of the cast, but I love how they completely filled up the entire room and enveloped me.

As someone who has lost loved ones to sudden death, I could relate to the feelings of grief and sadness that Frances and Alice felt about their father. At one point, Alice says something about the silver lining being that they have time to say goodbye and process his death, and this really spoke to me because agree completely. And I agree because I know what it's like to lose someone and not have that chance. To be left with questions and loose ends untied. That made the play all the more profound for me.

We all go through things - gigantic and miniscule - but that's the point - that we ALL go through them. The good thing is that when we do, we have laughter and the support of friends and family to help us get through another day. We are not alone in the world.

*Added note-Apr16th: Wondering where the 'unique' name of the play came from? Well, according to the Zuppa Facebook page, "...the title The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions comes from a list by scientist/alchemist Robert Boyle, in the 1660s, of the most pressing problems for scientists to tackle." Hmm, neat! As my boyfriend would say, "the more you know"*

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Burger Bonanza

There has been quite the case of "Burger Fever" here in Halifax this past year, with a gourmet burger joint opening (it seems) every other week in various neighborhoods and enthusiasts endlessly comparing the pros and cons of each.

The Coast, in all their awesome genius-ness, decided to get in on the hype by making March 21st to 27th "Burger Week"! A whole week dedicated to eating burgers? Pretty sure this is the best idea ever (next to the hairdryer, of course). They also offered a prize of a Big Green Egg smoker/grill for anyone who visited a minimum of 3 establishments, so the boy and I promptly grabbed our passports, picked our Top 3 and spent the week trying them all out.

We decided to try 3 places we had never visited before, so this was an excuse to not only eat delicious burgers but to visit a few restos I have been meaning to get to for a while! Win-win!

1. Bearly's House of Blues, Burgers and Ribs

All photos by me
This place was PACKED when we arrived and we only got a table within 10 minutes out of sheer luck. Clearly this is a popular place on Friday and Saturday nights. I can see why, since it has a casual laid back vibe and low prices. The Bearly's Burger was one of the $5 ones from The Coast list - that's $5, TAXES IN, y'all. The price was great for the amount of food - this plate was HUGE. And the burger had some great toppings, including onion rings and house-made salsa.

Unfortunately, our service left some things to be desired, but I'm willing to cut them some slack since they were really busy. And the important thing is that the burger was delicious! Next time I hope to catch some of the great blues music they are known for.

2. Tempo Food + Drink
This is a brand new restaurant that I had heard good reviews for, so I was probably anticipating this visit the most. It just looks like such a cool, funky place through those big, open windows on Barrington Street - like a place that has interesting cocktails and takes on food. This burger was one of the most delicious-sounding on the menu, with its smoked ketchup, fried onions, candied bacon (candy and bacon in ONE?!), and tempura pickle! Who could resist all that fat and grease?!

The burger was quite tasty, although all the tempura promptly came off my pickle the minute I bit into it, which was disappointing. The prices here are also a tad higher, so it's not a place I could afford to frequent often (most dishes and drinks are around the $15 mark). The two cocktails I had were good though, particularly the "Chant", aka. lemon vodka, lemon gemello, blueberry liqueur, rhubarb
bitters, sour, pineapple. I think it's really cute that their drinks all have musical names, since I'm a music geek and all.

My favourite thing about this place is the atmosphere - the decor has a real modern, sleek feel to it with a touch of down-to-earth comfort (long cafeteria-esque counter in front of the kitchen, chalkboard special listings). They had a great-looking "lounge" area with candles and comfy chairs that looks like a great place to sit and sip a drink and talk with a friend. Will keep this spot in mind for just such a future visit!

3. Finbar's Irish Pub
This being a suburban pub, we weren't sure what to expect, but we liked it very much! It's just your basic Irish-style pub, not really anything special but the burger we had here was probably the most unique of the 3. This patty was lamb instead of beef and had a delicious sweet Guinness glaze on top, which I really enjoyed. The service here was great - all the waitresses are really friendly and helpful. Ours helped the boy pick out a beer to compliment his burger when he wasn't sure what to have, and he's a bit of a beer snob so if he's impressed with your pick, you have done something right!

Thanks to The Coast for putting on such a delicious promotion - it made our tummies very happy and also got us out to try some new places, which we are always up for! It seemed like this promotion was very popular and well-received, so hopefully this means there will be more. May I suggest something dessert-related?