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Seven Hills

Boston-area exploration, travel notes, crafty things, and other Somervillainy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Making Movies

Last summer Daniel wrote about the outdoor movies our neighbors were projecting off the back porch onto the cinderblock wall of the supermarket behind our building. I was reminded again a few weeks ago just how blissful it is to sit outdoors in the summertime watching a movie.

I don't know about you, but my summer is going by way too fast this year. A lot of June was rainy and kind of cold, so summer didn't even feel like it started until July (and I guess technically it doesn't, but you do often get a sultry June). And now it's suddenly half over! Trips to the beach, swimming afternoons, summer seafood-eating, farmer's market shopping - all these things have barely gotten underway, yet it feels like they're already drawing to a close.

It's the planning these things entail, like the trips to Cape Cod that involve a weekend expedition. I look at the calendar to see when we can fit in such-and-so, and there are only four true summer weekends left to work with.

But the other night when our neighbor fired up the projector and put in "Pirates of the Caribbean," I was able to relax and enjoy myself. Just to have a reason to sit outside and enjoy the warmth of the evening was pleasure enough, and I minded the movie's slow scenes less with the diversions of the sky overhead, a tepid glass of red wine, neighbors' voices drifting through the open windows, and moths occasionally swooping through the beam of light pointed at the wall. Summer was happening right then, not two weeks away for one day and two nights by the beach. And it felt that way for a whole 143 minutes.

I've never been to a real drive-in. It's always been something I've glimpsed from afar, fraught with longing. When I moved to San Francisco, flying in on a cheap red-eye flight from Chicago's Midway, I got a clear view of Woody from "Toy Story" vivid on a rectangle of screen somewhere on the San Francisco Bay.

Even more dreamlike, I remember a certain drive-in that was visible from the highway my family habitually took between Chicago and Michigan, the one fleeting (literal) bright spot on those summer evening drives of early childhood. It had closed down by the time I was old enough to even understand why you could see a movie screen from the highway, much less petition to stop in for the show.

And so I've felt lucky for this drive-in to pull up, as it were, in my own backyard, and for the reality of it to be every bit as sweet as I thought it would be.

Incidentally, a reporter for the Boston Globe is apparently a new neighbor on our block, and this weekend they ran a story about our little local movie nights. We were out of town for that one, but are immortalized forever as the referenced "upstairs neighbors."

The above image is the June 19, 1954, New Yorker cover, and it's by Arthur Getz.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

By the Sea, by the Sea

Like much of the country, we had a few days of melting heat earlier this week. To escape it, a friend and I took off for the day to Rockport, north of Boston ... though even the ocean breezes couldn't compete with the air-conditioned car most of the time.

The cooling blues and greens of these sailboats in the harbor helped chill us out though.

Off Halibut Point we watched a lobster boat pull traps out of the water. "How picturesque," we cooed, observing the heroic fishermen. "Wait, is that guy naked??" said my friend.

We stopped to admire a little crab in a tidepool (or possibly a pool of stagnating rain water - get out, Crabby, get out!), until the biting flies forced us to move along.

The promenade of Bearskin Neck is lined with little maritime art galleries, women's summerwear boutiques, and fudge fudge fudge. Also airbrushed t-shirts featuring Bart Simpson in various lewd poses.

Of course the main purpose of the trip was a visit to Rockport's celebrated Lobster Pool restaurant.

As we waited in line for our lobster rolls and fried clams (and, ultimately, two sodas apiece - it was a two-soda day), the teenager ahead of us turned to ask if we knew what a lobster roll was, exactly. Oh, kid, you are going to be sorry you asked us that. We could barely suppress our glee in describing our favorite bite of high-low Americana seafood goodness.

"Different places have different ways of doing it ..." my friend began, which should have warned him off immediately. "Here they tend to use very little mayonnaise ..."

I felt the need to interject, "It's pieces of lobster ... on a hot dog bun! It's just lobster salad, on a bun!" Get it? Get it? my chortling tone was meant to imply. Expensive, special-occasion lobster on a cheap hot dog roll! And it's the best combination ever! Isn't it awesome?

Another kind of teenager would have tuned out at "very little mayonnaise," but this one nodded appreciatively, trying to take in the nuances -- he truly wanted to understand the lobster roll.

And apparently we adequately reassured him that he should go ahead and get his roll, even if the finer points of our reply were inevitably -- at least until he could gather a bit more personal lobster roll experience -- for the present lost on him.

I meant to look over later to see whether he was enjoying it, but by that time I had a lobster roll of my own, and was lost to everything but savoring each morsel, scant touch of mayonnaise and all.

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Monday, July 17, 2006


Last weekend we made a flying visit (both literally and figuratively) out to Colorado for a dear friend's wedding. It rained all day the day of the wedding - quite an aberration for the Denver area, apparently - but it didn't matter, it was still a beautiful day.

Luckily the bride and groom were already prepared with dozens of umbrellas for the guests, they just hadn't known they'd be used against the rain instead of the blazing sun.

I enjoyed the various Rocky Mountain motifs and other Wild West imagery we saw around town. I'm sure it's old hat to locals, but on such a brief visit it helped reassure us that we were indeed somewhere miles from home.

I ventured into this souvenir shop in search of something unintentionally awesome, but unfortunately someone had made an attempt to bring the inventory up to date - or at least up to the '80s - so it mostly consisted of Colorado T-shirts and generic mugs. There were a few beaded barrettes, some cases of bad turquoise, and a rack of "Lil' Sheriff" badges, but otherwise the pickings were slim.

I did consider a pair of Minnetonka moccasins, but they only had my size in electric blue, which seemed wrong, and even those were a bit tight. "They stretch, they stretch!" the saleslady encouraged me, urging me to buy them anyway, but I resisted.

On the flight out, during my three hours of manic Jet Blue satellite TV surfing, I caught a few minutes of the video for the song "500 Miles" by the Scottish band The Proclaimers. Then I heard the same song again during our cab ride back to the airport at the end of our weekend.

Our hotel had this painting by the elevators - the marquee of a local club called the Bluebird, featuring a show by The Proclaimers. At the rehearsal dinner, somebody gave a toast reminiscing about the bride and groom going on an early date ... to a concert at the Bluebird.

And among the guests at the wedding was a young Scottish man, dressed in a kilt of his family tartans, black and yellow on a blue background, oddly similar to the electric blue of the Minnetonkas I tried on earlier that day.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Summertime Reasons

My friend Julie was listing some of the considerable delights of summer in Maine: strawberries, wildflowers, farmer's markets. I've been savoring the simple pleasures of summer in Somerville, too.

Clothes on the line, in popsicle colors.

A pot of fresh basil, poised to enhance a plate of tomatoes and mozzarella at any hour of the day.

Flourishing tarragon and thyme. (We had cilantro, too, but it got wilty in the sun, and then somebody dug it up with its scrabbly little paws.) I don't normally cook with these herbs, so I'm not quite sure what to do with them, but we liked the way they smelled at the garden center. I put some in a potato soup last week: savory and wonderful.

Walden Pond, first swim of the season. The water was high from all the rain we've had. I've never seen it like that. A groundskeeper said they'd lost 40 feet of shoreline. The beachy area along the right side of the shore where we normally sit was completely under water. But we found a vacant spot where the trail dead-ended right into the pond, hung our things on the fence posts, and waded out into the cool, clear water.