A wedding by the sea

Over the weekend, I traveled through Boston to Gloucester, Massachusetts to attend the wedding of my old friend, Kate (yes, that Kate). The ceremony and reception were held at Hammond Castle, the ornate mid-20th century creation of an eccentric millionaire rocket scientist, complete with artwork imported from Europe and the Gothic vibe of a Scooby Doo haunted mansion.

The last time I saw Kate was a week before I moved from Chicago to Nashville, some seven years ago. To say a great deal has happened in our respective lives since then would be a colossal understatement. The roads have been long and winding.

I’ve been to my share of weddings over the years, some rigidly traditional, others idiosyncratic and wholly individualized; most find a balance, maintaining the well-established structure but punctuating the traditions with unique touches or turning them on their head. Naturally, each couple has a way of injecting their personalities into the ceremony, especially those with, shall we say, strong personalities. Kate would fit into that category.

As a friend of the bride and the de facto date of one of the bridesmaids (former girlfriend), I spent most of my time in the company of Kate and her female coterie. I don’t have a lot of experience with the male version of a wedding party. I’ve never been a groomsman and the only bachelor party that I’ve been to was for my brother, a rather chaste event in every since of the word – it began with 30 minutes of prayer.

By contrast, I’m rather well acquainted with bridal parties; for reasons surpassing understanding, I tend to be closer with more brides than grooms.

Marriage: It’s, like, a whole thing

The language of marriage is steeped in notions of commitment, which is obvious, but still of interest to me: “vows” and “dedication,” “taking the plunge” and “ball and chain” (admittedly, not all the terminology has a positive connotation). Reaching back to its roots, the institution of marriage is simultaneously a business arrangement and a romantic bond, a facilitator of families and a symbolic gesture. In all its iterations, though, marriage remains a blind leap into the future, the unknown.

Blind leaps of faith are kind of my forte, and yet I find marriage almost unimaginable for myself. It’s not due to some cliché, “I don’t believe in the concept” political stance, or any desire to remain a bachelor forever. I actually find the notion of being married to the right person quite enticing, always have. Even having witnessed my share of marriages dissolve – including my parents – I still see the appeal.

What I imagine a marriage to be has changed considerably since my younger years. In my Christian youth, marriage was the end all, be all of existence. I believed all future happiness would be found within its boundaries. So powerful was this belief – and so insistently was it emphasized by my spiritual leaders – that even once I left the faith, it took me a great deal of time to shake the idea that being married with the only natural conclusion to a relationship, and by extension, to a life.

Based on my experiences, I feel I’ve had the opposite development of a lot of people. Most people spend their 20s saying they’ll never get married and then as their 30s approach, they open up to the concept. I spent much of my 20s absolutely convinced that marriage was the natural next stage in my life, but now in my 30s, I no longer put much stock in it, if only because I can imagine a life without it and – for me – it doesn’t seem like a tragedy.

There are any number of reasons why I’m not ready for marriage (besides for the obvious fact that I’m single by necessity). A more charitable person might suggest I haven’t met the right person, or haven’t reached that destination in my journey yet. If you were feeling less than charitable, you might suggest I’m just too selfish or immature to make such a commitment. All good reasons. I can’t argue with any of them.

I do know that at this moment in my life, there’s something I want more than wedded bliss, and that’s the open road. My dedication, my commitment – the plunge I will always rush to take – is travel. Honestly, I reject the idea that I’m a commitmentaphobe. At 22, I set aside ten years of my life for a travel project and I followed through with it. How many people could honestly say they could’ve successfully made a decade-long commitment to their significant other at 22?

This guy crashed the wedding.

I’m right at ten weeks from making the next big blind leap of my life, one that is even less knowable than 10 Cities/10 Years, and there are a lot of conflicting thoughts going through my head, a mix of “This is going to be amazing” and “You aren’t doing enough to prepare.” There’s so much that could go wrong; it’s what could go right that pushes me to take the risk.

Over the two days in Gloucester, I couldn’t help but see parallels to my own unknowable travels in everything that was going on around me. The excitement and fear, the uncertainty about the future and the memories of the past, the physical and mental exhaustion, all of these reactions are part and parcel with a a big move in the same way they are at a wedding. That wave of emotions is inevitable whenever you take a risk; it can become intoxicating. When it’s all said and done, we leap because we believe.

At the wedding, tears were in abundance before, during, and after the ceremony, from Kate and her groom, from the bridesmaids and the guests, and even from the officiant. There was talk of nerves and moments of stress throughout the weekend, but before the sun had set on Sunday evening, a new couple had taken the plunge together and the long path to their union was completed, one journey having reached its end, another just beginning.

Congratulations to Kate and Aaron; here’s hoping that every leap they take together only raises them higher and higher.

As for me, well, I don’t know if I’ll ever take the matrimonial leap. It’s always an option, but it’s not the only road out there. I’ve got plenty of other plunges ahead of me.

Allston That Ends Well.

Chapter IX

We watched the SUV sail across all three lanes of Storrow Drive. It was Saturday night and Amanda was giving three of us rides home after work. The bars had just let out and Storrow, which runs alongside the Charles River and connects the West End to Allston, was pocked with traffic. Not that it deterred the drunk in front of us.

That year, Boston was launching a pilot program to keep a selection of subway and bus lines running until 3 a.m. on the weekend, up from 1 a.m. Working in the service industry, I welcomed the change – unfortunately, only temporary – as finding a Taxi on a Boston Saturday night is cutthroat business. Plus, Boston roads are less than ideal that time of night.

After the SUV narrowly clipped our rear bumper, Amanda judiciously let him pass. In awe, we watched the drunk race ahead, swerving across all three lanes to sideswipe the cement barrier on the left side before ricocheting back across the lanes and nearly careening off the road into the river before correcting.

From the shoulder, a sitting police cruiser watched the scene but didn’t move. We called 911. To our dismay, the drunk slid off the same exit as us. The SUV must have pulled off down a side street as we merged into traffic because we lost sight of him. I have no idea where the driver ended up, whether back home, in a police car, or with his head bisected by a tree trunk.

Watching the SUV abuse the road evoked a visceral response in me, a seemingly gratuitous anger. I’ve done my share of idiotic things while drunk but my reaction wasn’t because the driver almost collided with us; or, it wasn’t just that.

There is a beauty to a road at night, the serenity of a world viewed only in the high beams. Red and white lights passing in streaks, chaotic yet rhythmic. It’s game theory and ballet; it’s sacred. And one drunk was fucking that up.

Forget it Jake, it’s Allston

My arrival in Boston coincided with the beginning of the school year, and since the city is one giant college campus with a town threaded in the cracks, hundreds of thousands of students had already gobbled up every rental well before I began my search.

Only a few weeks out from my ninth move, I received an email from a guy named Lucas. He and another roommate, Emily, had locked down a four bedroom apartment in Allston, but two of the other renters had dropped out unexpectedly and now they were scrambling to fill the rooms. Their misfortune was my… not misfortune.

On Moving Day – the bitterest Boston holiday – I drove into the city under a torrential downpour to meet my three roommates. Together, the four of us would survive our apartment.

Welcome to AllstonAllston is the cirrhosis-stricken liver of Boston’s college nexus. Calling it rat-infested inaccurately characterizes the natural ecosystem: Allston is human-infested; the rats just tolerated us. Our first floor apartment included easy access to the basement laundry and a quarter-inch layer of black, indeterminable grease coating every surface. It was a week before I realized our floor was actually made of hardwood.

Like any classic sitcom setup, the four roomies had one dynamic as a group, but split into pairs we developed distinct relationships. With Lucas, I chatted pop culture and liquor, money and politics; life. He worked in fraud prevention for a major bank and, of the four of us, was the only one with a traditional 9-5 job. He was also a practiced cook and spent many weekends with his out-of-state girlfriend.

Adam, the youngest of the four, had been studying film at UCLA before transferring cross country. He required little prompting to expound endlessly on his passions. He and I frequently debated art at length, somehow always circling back to David Lynch (he a devoted fan, me, not so much). An off-hand comment about a  superhero movie trailer could unexpectedly turn into a three hour exegesis on the shifting classification of film genres.

Finally, there was Emily. She’d relocated to Massachusetts from Arizona for nursing school. Demonstratively bright and from a family of means, she could’ve studied anywhere in the country but was drawn out East by a desire to expand the borders of her world. With Lucas’s regular schedule and Adam being a morning person, Emily and I handled the late night conversation shifts and became fast friends from our first meeting.

On any given night, we could kill a bottle or two of wine while weaving through a range of topics, whether travel, music, mental health, or any tangents that might shake loose after midnight. Or, we might just have a 2 a.m. dance party, to Lucas’s chagrin.

Lucas, Emily, and I barhopped together – Adam, to our occasional amusement, wasn’t a drinker. We partied vicariously with the Founding Fathers on the Freedom Trail and danced to 90s songs in sweaty clubs. Sometimes we stayed closer to home to drink among the crystalline youth of Allston. My roommates could still pass for undergrads, in looks if not in lack of cynicism, but next to collegiate eternal youth, I couldn’t help but feel (and look) worn. The threshold for old age in Allston isn’t high.

In our apartment, indignities stacked up quickly. Even after we – well, Emily – gave the place a thorough cleaning, rodents were a fact of life. The rats and the mice maintained separate territories. Outside, long-tailed, beady-eyed rat bastards rustled incessantly in the garbage before retiring under the tires of passing cars, painting the streets like some sort of gut-splattered Jackson Pollock.

Though slightly less aesthetically repulsive, the mice were nevertheless a more persistent problem, scampering inside our walls and hungrily devouring anything within two feet of the ground. They got so comfortable in our home that they even invented a fun game: They’d hide in the trashcan and race up Emily’s arm when she went to throw something away. Boy how she howled with laughter.

As our landlord unhelpfully – but rightly – pointed out, mice were just a fact of life in Allston. The same could apparently be said of an apartment whose power grid had inexplicably been rerouted through the oven. Half of the apartment, including Lucas and Adam’s bedrooms, lost power unless one of the stovetop burners was left on. Not ideal.

When we eventually found a non-incompetent electrician (third times the charm), he discovered that the fuse box in the basement had previously caught fire and partially melted. Now, I’m no building inspector, but I suspect one or two codes had probably been broken to get to that point.

Then there was the paper thin ceiling. Usual college kid noises infiltrated our space, but we – again, mostly Emily – also had our upstairs neighbor’s awkward sexcapades projected down at us as if by loudspeaker. And yet, the true cherry on top of our shit sundae apartment didn’t arrive until New Year’s Eve.

With Adam and Emily out West, Lucas having an NYE dinner with his girlfriend, and me working the holiday shift, our apartment was visited by freelance movers. Climbing in through a broken window in Emily’s room, the intruders ransacked the place. In terms of financial loss, Lucas probably suffered the worst – I lucked out; though they swiped a couple hundred dollars I had sitting out, they unplugged but ultimately left behind my laptop, my only possession of any value.

The police were predictably unable to do anything about the break-in. While we could accept our material losses, it was the psychological intrusion that invoked the deepest absence. I’ve been robbed before, but never from inside my own apartment, even when living in some of the purportedly worst neighborhoods in the county. For Emily, especially, the use of her window as the point of entry was an unrectifiable invasion.

With the passage of years, we’ve come to appreciate the dark humor in our garbage dump of an apartment. Even at the time, though, the various frustrations never perturbed me quite as much as they did the others. In part, this was because I’d lived in my share of hovels. Even more so, though, I felt comfortable with concrete issues, problems with solutions. We could set mouse traps, put bars on the windows, call repair men. I didn’t feel, as I had in New Orleans, like returning home was a prison sentence. I actually liked the apartment; I enjoyed my roommates.

Lest I give the impression that I only experienced one Boston neighborhood, I did enjoy life outside Allston. I served tables at a pub in the Financial District, working alongside a diverse and rowdy crew, including my co-closer and concert partner, Amanda. I celebrated St. Patty’s Day in Southie with Emily and attended the Red Sox’s World Series parade with Lucas.

When the city started feeling too small, I left. The Northeast has an advantage over any other region of the US because a day trip in almost any direction will bring you somewhere entertaining and beautiful.

Meanwhile, Emily and I worked to bend Boston to our inebriated will. Boston doesn’t permit happy hour and its nightlife is mostly constrained to weekends. Allston dives were fine, but half the fun was in wandering. On one late night, in fruitless search of a rooftop to lounge on, we surreptitiously climbed the fire escapes of strangers, dodging the headlights of passing cars.

One Sunday evening, we trekked half of the city until we finally located an open liquor store. Stashing bottles of champagne, we entered Boston Common and reclined on the grass while the dusk burnt away to night.

For all its posturing as a city, Boston is a small town, for better and worse. It didn’t take long to feel like we’d experienced most of what it had to offer. When the city felt constraining, we sought out fresh avenues. Emily was a fellow traveler, accustomed to taking detours in life. Restlessness was our bond.

The Drive

Twenty-four hours after the NYE break-in, I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona. The trollies and subways of Boston could be inefficient, especially in winter, so Emily was transporting her car across the country. To give her parents peace of mind, I volunteered to co-pilot. They expressed their appreciation, but fact is, I’d drop a baby to go on a road trip.

We had a loosely planned route: Avoiding winter in the Midwest, we cruised across thirteen hours of hypnotic, Texas nothing, then dropped into New Orleans overnight for Emily’s first visit. From the bayou, we crept through eerily quiet Mississippi and Alabama towns in pursuit of plantations and any restaurants open on a Sunday afternoon. Our progress was hampered by a snowstorm as we approached Nashville. Finally, we reached the coast, dining with Marianne and her beau in D.C. before swinging past New York on our way back home.

Somewhere in the lull between Texas and Tennessee, while I sat behind the wheel with Emily asleep in the passenger seat, I had a moment of such transcendent calm that it bordered on religious. With the road stretching to each horizon, no cars in sight, I was overwhelmed by a sense of timelessness, as if there was no future, no past, just that road, that instant. Maybe I wasn’t meant to have a home; I’d be okay.

I could’ve driven forever.

Separate Paths

In the waning months of my year in Boston, while I focused on my final move, my roommates were also resolving plans. Adam jumped the Charles River to live in Cambridge; Lucas moved in with his soon-to-be fiancé in Connecticut; and Emily found a new apartment with Amanda so she could finish her final year of nursing school.

As for me, it was almost literally the last hour before I had a place in New York. It didn’t matter. Even if I ended up homeless, come September 1st, I was driving my few belongings the four hours to Brooklyn to begin Year 10.

I could see the finish line, if nothing else.

Keep Reading: Start from the beginning

Boston: Final Thoughts on Bean Town

Welp, the time has come for my annual tradition (of which I have many). Just as I gave my impressions of Nashville, Seattle and New Orleans, it’s time to give Boston it’s very own report card. As usual, I must give my caveats about subjective experience and the limits of any person to fully experience all that a city has to offer in a year. Yes, 12 months is a lot of time to explore a city, but it could never be enough to be definitive.

Boston couldn’t be more different than my previous city, New Orleans, so those contrasts (for better and worse) will inform my impressions and my evaluations. But, I am not comparing cities. I’ve lived in 9 different cities for this project, and the point has never been to list them from best to worst (though I am frequently asked to do just that). If life in Boston is dramatically different than life in New Orleans (or Seattle, or…), it represents a variety of choices, both personal and metropolitan, that are no more comparable than filet mignon and a ballpark frank. Two totally different experiences, two totally different expectations.

That doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t have expectations for city living, which is what these grades are all about. I base my ratings on what I look for as a resident. Completely subjective, completely personal, completely mine. So, naturally, completely right.

Without further ado, my final thoughts…

George Washington at Public Garden 3

Public Transportation – Boston has a subway system. That right there is an automatic ‘B’. Buses are fine and every city has them, but what truly transforms a city from functional to liveable is the ability to jump on a (fairly) reliable mode of transportation. No, the ‘T’ doesn’t always run on time, and yes there are occasions when you’ll be stuck between Copley and Arlington for 20 minutes with no explanation. Live in enough cities and you’ll realize that’s just reality. Maybe someday they’ll make a citywide train system that isn’t interrupted by human error, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Not only does Boston have a subway system, but it actually hits pretty much everywhere you’d want to go in the city (with enough transfers). No, it’s not as extensive as New York City (what is?) or even Chicago, but it’s certainly got more tendrils than San Francisco’s Bart and it’s basically on par with D.C.’s Metro (maybe even better). The point is, if you want to go somewhere in the city, odds are good that you can catch a train there.

Odd note: Two things happened with the ‘T’ during my year, one good, one bad that basically balance each other out. First, they closed Government Center Station for a 2-year restoration. Seeing as this station is a major hub, it’s kind of inconvenient, though it had little effect on my day-to-day. The positive, though, is that the city voted to keep the trains running until 3 am on Friday and Saturday nights (rather than just 1 am), which is such a no-brainer I can’t believe it took a vote.

Grade: A- (I don’t generally do minuses, but in this case I think it’s necessary to point out that the system is excellent, but there’s always room for improvement.)

City Planning – Ironically, for a city that has such good public transportation, you actually don’t need to take the train because Boston is damn walkable. That’s pretty important in my book. On numerous occasions, I’ve left my job down in the Financial District and decided to walk through Boston Common, and then up Newbury St and before I knew it, I was on Commonwealth Ave and less than a mile from my apartment in Allston. The city is laid out in such a way that there’s really nowhere to go that is completely off the beaten path. Are there sketchy areas in the city? Of course, but they’re avoidable.

Boston manages to stuff three times as many people and sites in land that is roughly a third the size of New Orleans. To reiterate, I’m not pitting one city against the other so much as I’m suggesting that because of necessity, northeast cities pack a whole lot of city living in very compact areas. Southern towns tend to sprawl because they can, which I’m sure is very appealing to people, but not to me. I live in cities because I like cities: Tall buildings, rows of bars, great views, that’s what a city is for me. Boston also has the luxury of being built along the Charles River that gives it a nice shot of nature running through an otherwise concrete jungle.

If you visit Boston, bring walking shoes and skip the rental car.

Grade: A

Bars/Nightlife – If you’re like most everyone, hearing the name ‘Boston’ brings to mind Cheers and Irish alcoholics. Fair enough. The truth, though, is that Boston (and Massachusetts) is surprisingly conservative when it comes to alcohol. Bars close at 2, which isn’t unusual, except that many bars close at 1 and most nights of the week public transportation shuts down at 1. Basically, go out on Friday or Saturday night, otherwise you’re in for an early evening. I guess that makes sense for a city that is largely young professionals and college students, but it’s sad that going out on a Thursday night can be more of a hassle than it’s worth (don’t even try on Mondays).

Obviously, there are no shortage of bars and clubs in this city, and there are a lot of fun parts of town to hang out in. Allston is teaming with college life, while Fenway is usually a good spot to barhop, same with the Harbor. Southie is cool, and you can always head up to Cambridge and drink with the smart kids. No question, Boston doesn’t lack for options. It just needs to pull the stick out of its ass, because if I want to get drunk on a Sunday night, my only choice shouldn’t be drinking bottles of champagne in the Common. Hypothetically.

Oh yeah, no Happy Hour. Process that for a second, because after a year of living here it still blows my mind. Liquor laws make it illegal to have hourly specials on drinks. In fact, if a bar has a drink special, it has to run for an entire week. So while people do still go out for drinks after work, they don’t get any specials (except on fried pickles). The absence of Happy Hours isn’t a deal-breaker or anything, but it’s certainly indicative of how buttoned up the city can be when it comes to drinking.

Grade: B


Art Scene – Boston isn’t as famous for its music scene as New York, but it’s got a more than respectable history of birthing musical talent (no doubt in part to the presence of Berklee College). Aerosmith, the Pixies, the Dresden Dolls, Dropkick Murphys, Passion Pit and Rob Zombie all trace their heritage back to the Boston area, just to show some of the diversity. And for that reason, there are no shortage of venues to see concerts in the city. Huge arena spectaculars and small club shows are plentiful here. In fact, I might have seen more live music this year than I did in New Orleans (though that’s mostly because the bands I like don’t tend to get down to NOLA often).

Other arts are represented by museums, plentiful bookstores and a collegiate scene that is a breeding ground for all types of artistic pursuits. Every city in this corner of the country will forever live in the shadow of NYC, but that shouldn’t take away from what a city of Boston’s modest size does well. Plentiful statues and murals express the city’s impressive historical significance, filling every park and common area with something beautiful to admire. Boston may never be the center of the art universe, and most people in the city are business-minded, but that doesn’t keep it from fostering an admirable art scene.

Grade (Music): A; Grade (Everything else): A

Living – I’ll just say it: This city is too expensive. It’s not unmanageable but it’s on par with San Francisco, and at least with San Fran the lack of space makes the exorbitant prices make sense. There is no reason I should be paying the same price for an apartment in Allston that I paid to live in an apartment a few blocks from the beach in California. People are willing to pay it, obviously, so I guess the market has spoken, but I don’t get it. It probably doesn’t help my impression that New Orleans is half the price and a lot more lucrative for servers.

With that out of the way, I’ll say that Boston is a very liveable city. I already touched on how walkable it is. Along with the ease of getting around the city, every neighborhood feels fully equipped to sustain life. No matter where you are, grocery stores, restaurants, bars and other necessities are within reach. If the residents are being overcharged, at least they’re being compensated with ample amenities. Heck, the city even has movie theaters, something I greatly miss every time I live in the south. I can’t speak for every neighborhood, but from what I’ve seen it feels like no one is truly cut off from the perks of city living.

Grade: B

People – This is always the hardest one to write because it’s the most important. The right people can make a shithole fun, while the wrong people can ruin Shangri-La.

I’ll start by addressing the common reputation of east coast cities: Yes, people here are rude. That is to say, if you’re from another part of the country (Seattle, California or the midwest, for instance), people out here are going to come across as impatient, brusque and even downright mean. The reason for this is that (how do I put this nicely), people from other parts of the country are pussies. Making it in the northeast is not like making it anywhere else. It’s just that simple. There is more competition, a larger pool of candidates and far too many people on the sidewalks. Either keep moving or get out of the way.

It’s not that people in Boston are really less compassionate than people other places, it’s just that niceties cost extra. Besides, some of the worst people in the world hide behind a toothy smile and a friendly handshake.

Since Boston is such a massive black hole for college students, most of the people I’ve met haven’t even been from the city. None of my 3 roommates were from here, nor were a good percentage of my coworkers. Most of my nights out were spent with my roommates, which was a lucky break. We hadn’t met in person before living together; it could have been a nightmare. Lord knows I’ve had my share of bad roommate experiences. But while tensions could occur in our apartment, generally the experience was smooth. (We won’t discuss the dishes.)

And then there was one roommate with whom I explored half the bars in the city, drove across country, attempted to sneak onto other people’s rooftops, had 3 am dance parties, drank frequently in the park (hypothetically) and even got a tattoo. Those aren’t highlights, those are the foundation of my year. My memories of this city will be of such nights. What else need be said?

Grade: A

Boston Pana

We’ve Been Having A Mouse Problem

I am a month away from my final move and still looking to lock down an apartment somewhere in Brooklyn, but until then I remain here in student-invested housing in the Allston neighborhood of Boston. As with most areas heavily populated by people of the college persuasion, this neighborhood sacrifices cleanliness and basic adult courtesy for late-night pizza and a plethora of bars. Pros and cons.

Because of the slovenly living habits of the post-adolescent/pre-adulthood human, the nooks and crannies tend to become inhabited by unwanted creatures, and I’m not just talking about ex-girlfriends. We’ve had mice. Lots of them.

From pretty much our arrival here in Allston, my three roommates and I have had to deal with an invasion of rodents. Initially, we were alerted to their presence because of the holes in our food. We put our edibles on higher shelves, they still came. Then, we started to see them. We’d be sitting in the kitchen and one of us would catch a glimpse of a little fur ball flashing by underneath a counter or behind the stove. Sometimes we’d search and no trace could be found, but still the original eyewitness swore they had seen Mickey scurrying across the floor, sometimes disappearing into a hole behind the dishwasher, or into a corner, and even into a burner on our stove. Eventually, all four of us had at least one sighting.

We took action.

Mouse-proofing your apartment requires many steps, the first obviously being traps. Though the mental image of a wooden slab with a spring-loaded metal bar is what comes to mind when one thinks ‘mousetrap,’ the variations on a theme are numerous. We’ve put down sticky pads for non-lethal capture, and black boxes holding bricks of green poison for decidedly non-non-lethal capture. Then there’s the white, semi-circular contraptions that work like your traditional mousetraps but with a concealed container so you don’t have to see the dead mouse. All the rage with the ladies.

Of course, we’ve got traditional mousetraps, too. After everything, they’re the only ones that had any success.

Our mouse infestation began in the fall when the proliferation of new students and their resulting trash heaps made Allston the Times Square of Rodent City. It was not unusual to step over a flattened rat in the streets or to see them racing under cars as you walked back to your apartment in the evening. Luckily, those nasty bastards stayed outside, but that only meant that their smaller, twitchier cousins stayed inside with us.

When we alerted our landlord of the problem, we received a nicely worded reminder that ‘this is the city, so deal with it.’ So we did. We bought traps and spray foam and steel-wool to fill in the many, many (many) holes in the walls. We also bought electronic mice repellents that emit a high-pitched noise to deter rodents. For a few weeks, we even seriously discussed getting a cat for the apartment. In other words, we weren’t kidding around.

(At some point, someone must have reminded our landlord that Boston law requires them to provide a rodent-free living environment, because they sent someone to fill holes and leave behind even more traps, months after we had already done it.)

By winter time, our mice infestation seemed to be under control. We didn’t know if this was due to our vigilant mouse-proofing or because mother nature is just fickle like that. Either way, our mouse problem seemed to be solved. Until…



On a warm spring night, a tall WOMAN cleans in the kitchen, all alone. She washes her dishes, then wipes the counter. Opening the cabinet under the sink, she pulls out the trash can.

CLOSE ON a small mouse walking along the edge of the can. Startled, it scuttles up the WOMAN’s arm.

WIDE-SHOT: WOMAN screams. The trash can falls, scattering its content across the floor. The mouse escapes beneath the stove.



WOMAN knocks on the door. A few seconds pass, then it opens, revealing a tired-looking LYTTLETON.

What’s up?

They’re back.

LYTTLETON’s eyes narrow. An ominous song plays.


Thus began the ‘2nd Great Mouse Hunt.’

We’ve doubled down on our efforts to capture or expel the sunovabitch, but despite a tireless effort and a thorough cleaning of the entire apartment, the mouse keeps popping in to say ‘Hi’. Mostly from the trash. And usually when my roommate is in the kitchen by herself. Apparently he’s fond of her.

This past Monday night, though, I had the good fortune of getting a trash can visit of my very own. It was like spotting a celebrity in a nightclub, except, not like that at all.

More traps have been set. Our determination to get this guy (or girl; don’t want to be rodent-sexist) is unwavering. In fact, around two in the morning, hours after having seen the creature for myself, my curiosity got the better of me and I checked under the sink. And, lo, what did mine eyes behold: a four-legged garbage disposal, its hind leg stuck under the metal arm of our trap.

This clever girl had managed to eat the cheese off of two traps without setting them off, and it would have gotten away with it, too, if I hadn’t scared its furry little ass when I opened the door. I heard the trap snap. Jerry was lodged behind a copper pipe in the back of the cabinet, too awkwardly situated for me to reach with my hands. Should I leave him there to undoubtedly cry in abject terror all night, or should I attempt to pull it out and toss him into the street like DJ Jazzy Jeff?

The thought of the Tell-Tale Squeak echoing through the apartment all night felt a little creepy, so I opted for the latter. My efforts to pull the trap towards me, however, only loosened the mouse, and as swiftly as he had been caught, Speedy Gonzalez was up the wall and in a crevice that up until that moment I didn’t even realize existed.

The animal’s leg is probably broken and its access route to our trash has been blocked with steel-wool, so with any luck, our persistent invader will find some other apartment to squat in. That is, if a larger predator doesn’t pick it off first. I realize even typing that sentence will mean I’ll likely never receive another Christmas card from Morrissey, but I can live with that.

It’s been over 24-hours since the last mouse sighting, so perhaps we have finally won. I will admit, though, I have to feel some admiration for the little beast. It’s avoided traps, chewed through pounds of foam, and lived off the most miniscule of kitchen scraps, all so it can repeatedly scare the holy living crap out of my roommate. That’s some dedication.

I hope that nod of respect fills his tiny heart with pride when he’s burning in mouse hell.

A Better Mousetrap




The Road

The Road Through A Dirty Windshield

It’s true love.

Sure, it can be draining, physically tasking and nerve-racking, but to be out on the road with miles behind you and even more ahead is a romance that makes living worth dying for. It was somewhere in the middle of windswept Alabama or Tennessee that I felt the ephiphanic thrill of knowing that briefly – far too briefly – nothing else in my life mattered. The job back home, the money in my bank account, the exes in my past, where I came from or where I was going, none of it touched me.

Of course, it could only be a fleeting sensation since, inevitably, I would eventually reach my destination, Boston. But, then again, Boston isn’t a destination so much as another stop in this gargantuan journey; a sustained destination where I work and have a personal life, but still a finite one. In another short 8 months, I’ll embark on the final leg of this sprawling endeavor, a winding mountain pass.

It’s easy sometimes to lose sight of the road, to get focused on the crick in your neck, the burning in your lower back, the weights on your eyelids, and think only of getting to the next city, making it to the end. But every hour on an open road adds exponentially to your lifespan. Forget egg whites and antioxidants, the true secret to long life is in a gas pedal. If you choose to think of the pavement as a bridge between two towns, then the day slips away from you, but if you can think of every inch of the road as the destination you want to be at right now, then no minute is lost.

Which is not to say that I live my life with some beatific belief in the now. I’m always thinking of the future, and sometimes I’m damn sick of the present. There’s so much more that I want out of my life, and I can’t help but imagine a time when I have it.

But there was a moment this past week on the drive between Arizona and Massachusetts when I remembered why I do what I do. Traveling in any capacity, while sometimes bitterly difficult and crushingly lonely, is the only path of freedom. The road is life.

The road is love.

the Road is Life

A map of the United States for a cross-country road trip from Phoenix, Arizona to Boston, Massachusetts.

Cross Country Road Trip: Phoenix to Boston

When I relocated from New Orleans to Boston in August, I opted for a rental car and a nostalgic trek through a few of my past cities. The trip was a blast and a whole hog success. It kind of made me wish I had made all my moves that way (though, that would have been impractical for most). I don’t own a car, so it’s rare for me to get to take many road trips, especially out of state.

Well, as chance may have it, an opportunity for another cross-country toad trip through America presented itself and I will be starting off my new year with a nearly 3,000 mile drive from Phoenix, Arizona back here to Boston.

One of my roommates has spent the holidays back in Arizona with her family and needs to drive her car back here so she can have it for next semester. As she could use a co-pilot for the trip (and Jesus is too hungover from celebrating his birthday), I volunteered. I will fly out to Phoenix on the 1st, and then after a day or two spending time with her collective past, we will head out on the road.

Driving for long, calm stretches is about as close to meditation as I will ever get, the unreachable horizon coaxing out contemplative and creative ideas. Almost all of my longest drives have been done alone, so it will be unusual to have a companion on this trip, but other than breaking up the monotony of the gas pedal, I don’t imagine it will fundamentally change the experience of drifting.

A cross-country road trip in the winter is quite different from one embarked on in the summer. I’ve learned the hard way that the weather in the cold months can be a bitter barrier, so we’ll be staying mostly south, crossing through Breaking Bad territory and into Texas, probably staying in the southern states until we cross up through Nashville before driving up the coast. We’re giving ourselves a few days cushion to allow for bad weather, unexpected detours and the unplannable possibilities of the road.

I’ll be leaving the winter drizzle and darkness of the Northeast for warm, sunny Arizona. And then like a boomerang, I’ll be right back. It’s been many years since I’ve been in the Southwest, and even more since I drove through Arizona and New Mexico with my family as a kid. I don’t really have any strong memories of that time there, so in that respect this will almost be like unexplored territory for me. You know that excites me.

Hopefully I’ll be able to update from the road. In the meantime, this will probably be my last post of 2013, so I’ll wish you all a happy New Year and look forward to what 2014 has in store, for all of us. And who knows, maybe I’ll see you somewhere out on the road.



A map of the United States for a cross-country road trip from Phoenix, Arizona to Boston, Massachusetts.