Lemon pastries

It was supposed to be a very quick trip: fly to Boston on Friday, drive to southeast Connecticut on Saturday for my niece's wedding, then back home on Sunday. Airplane travel, however, is never a sure thing. Summer thunderstorms and cause lots of delays. And with winter weather, things can go completely wrong.

As they did.

Terminal C chaos
Not at the wedding. That was lovely. But last Sunday, the day after the wedding, we were at Logan Airport Terminal C in plenty of time for an early flight back home via Chicago, a hub for United Airlines. But when we tried to check in at the kiosk, it told us we couldn't do so. Turned out our flight was cancelled, along with pretty much every other flight to or through Chicago and Toronto and a few other cities. We waited in a customer service lineup for four hours due to very few personnel at the counters. When we finally made it to the counter, we learned that the earliest we could fly out was Thursday. We were in shock. No amount of begging, pleading, or pushing made any difference.

We kind of collapsed, wondering what we should do. Sweetie was going to lose four days' pay, and me four more days of vacation. I spoke with my sister, who urged us to see if we could get at least one of us home earlier. So we went back into a lineup for another two hours. The agent tried very hard to find one or two seats, but to no avail.

It wasn't just us. Two winter storms in a row had set the airlines back severely. In fact, JetBlue stopped flying completely for almost an entire day. Adding to the problem were new rules (good ones) that mandate more rest for pilots and crew between flights. Some people could fly to their destinations (there was no weather problem in Boston), but most were just as stuck as we were.

We were more fortunate than the people who had to camp out at the airport, sleep on the floor, and clean up in public washrooms. My sister and mother live not far from Boston, and we have some money to dip into. So when life handed us lemons, we were able to make lemon squares, lemon meringue pie, lemon loaf, and lemon poppy seed muffins. And maybe lemon tarts as well.

Lobby of the Boston Park Plaza
Once we had stopped standing in airport lineups, we rented a car and drove to my sister's. She was kind enough to put us up. While there, I got to visit my mom and help out with transportation (she's not driving now) as well as to discuss caring for an elderly parent with my sister. Sweetie and I hit a nearby mall to augment our meagre wardrobe and supplies. Travelling with only a carry-on bag is great if you don't end up being away from home for more than twice as long as you had packed for. We also had an excellent Thai lunch on Tuesday at a place that would be one of our favourites if it weren't 5,000 kilometres away.

We got a great deal on a room at the historic Boston Park Plaza hotel, so after two days with my sister we decamped and went back to Boston. On Tuesday night, we met up with an old friend from my theatre days whom I had not seen in well over 20 years. We had a wonderful evening over great Italian food, wine, and drinks.

Australian Spotted Jelly
On Wednesday, despite frigid temperatures, we had a full Boston day. We spent the morning at the New England Aquarium, where Sweetie once worked. It was always a good aquarium, but now it's even better, and we enjoyed our time very much. Then we met a former colleague for lunch. I have no idea when is the last time we saw him. Maybe 30 or so years ago? We had a really nice lunch together. After he went back to work, Sweetie and I braved the cold to walk from the waterfront to Faneuil Market. We didn't buy anything there, but it was enjoyable just to walk through and see what was there now.

After that, we took the T to Harvard Square, where we did some book shopping at the Harvard Coop and some coffee sipping and bread pudding eating at Crema Cafe, a wonderful (but crowded) coffee shop. We then intended to see Inside Llewyn Davis at the Landmark Kendall Square cinema, but when we came up from the subway, we couldn't find it. Google Maps wasn't working well on Sweetie's phone, no one we spoke with could give us directions, and it was too cold to go wandering around (as it turns out, it's quite a hike from the T stop), so we got back on the T and went to Coolidge Corner in Brookline.

Classic: clownfish with anemone
The Coolidge Corner Theatre is the last independent theatre in the Boston area, and it's a gem. It doesn't have one big screen like the Rio in Vancouver but rather several smaller ones in small rooms, not too much bigger than some home theatres nowadays. We were late for Inside Llewyn Davis, so instead we saw Philomena, which was excellent. Finally, after the film, we rode back downtown and had dinner at Legal Seafoods, a Boston mainstay. We remember the original restaurant in Cambridge next to the fish shop, which burned down many years ago, but there are several Legal Seafoods restaurant all over the area, and they're very good.

We've been back east many times since we moved away almost 20 years ago but have rarely had time just to be tourists in the city. It was quite enjoyable! So much has changed, yet so much is still the same. We really knew we were back in Boston when we rode the T, which is pretty much the same as it ever was. It even smells the same! The drive in across the Tobin Bridge and down a bit of Storrow Drive, that peculiar half block of Beacon Street that becomes two-way only long enough for you to turn right into Arlington Street, gorgeous historical buildings downtown, the beautiful Charles River basin as you cross the "salt and pepper" bridge on the Red Line, Harvard Square, Coolidge Corner, all of these still so familiar. But the waterfront especially has been transformed since the "Big Dig" that put a large section of the Fitzgerald Expressway underground. In a lot of ways, the city seems to have grown up over the last two decades, yet it retains the charm that makes it unique.

Returning to New York City a couple of years ago after having been away for so long made us realize how much we missed it. And now I know that there is much about Boston that I miss as well. I don't want to live there again, but I definitely want to go back before long—and when the weather is warmer!

A final feminist angle: I finished How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran on the flights home. Loved it!


Stop and start again

Most advice sucks. All those stupid lists of things that claim to have the answers to life. Things that sound profound but are really either complete bullshit or things you know already. I especially loathe the guru industry. Anyone who claims to have the answers is someone from whom you should quickly run far, far away.

One thing I've seen a few times is a list of things you should give up in order to be happy. That seems so negative to me. Life is short enough already without constantly depriving ourselves of things. But I guess I see the point. Often, in order to do something positive, we have to stop doing something negative.

To make my year work—indeed, the rest of my life—I have to stop doing something I've done my whole life: holding back. Editing. Not going for it. Not following through. Failing to focus completely on a goal.

It's a lesson I'm feeling right now, thinking back on last night. Sweetie and I were going out to a New Year's Eve party. She went downtown to get her hair and makeup done. She came back with her hair looking great and a stunning makeup job complete with beautiful long eyelashes that really made her eyes pop. She wore a simple but very nice little black dress that she had actually had for years. She finished the look with a fascinator, a sparkly necklace, and some long black gloves. Me, I spent big bucks on a dress. A fabulous dress, to be sure, black, short, form-fitting, and lacy, but that's where I put most of my effort. I added a nice necklace. My hair is bobbed, so I didn't think anything could be done with it. But I never actually found out. And I did my own makeup, because I'm good at it. But I can't do glam, and I don't have false eyelashes. And I'm not that good at doing my makeup, not like a professional.

I held back. Remember that old United States Army slogan, "Be all that you can be"? I never fucking do that. I regret it every time I hold back, but I do it again and again, like a drunk who forgets how bad the last hangover was. The New Year's Eve thing was minor, silly really, but it's indicative of something larger. I can feel the regret in my stomach.

You should not have regrets on your birthday, on the first day of a new year. That's a stupid way to start the year. Mistakes are fine, but only if you make new ones, because if you make the same old ones, you're not learning. If I finally do learn this lesson, then it's probably not a bad way to start the year. And I must learn it this year. I have to stop holding myself back and start going for it.

Why "must"? Why this year? Because I have important shit to do. The status of my band has changed. Really it has only gone back to what it ever was, a band in which four friends have fun making music. I had pushed it in a direction I need very much but no one else in the band wants. I love playing with them and will continue to do so, but it's clear now that I seriously overstepped.

So I need a new primary project. For me, treating my music as a career (however unlikely I am to be successful) is fun, more fun than just playing. Coming up with a new project is both exciting and scary. At this point, it's just me and my guitars and some new songs, many only partially finished. No band, no partner, no real prospects yet.

I gave the Hotcakes a pretty good push. I put a lot of effort into making the band successful. I could have worked both harder and smarter, but I definitely improved on my track record. Now it's time to do better.

Sweetie had not read this blog post when she handed me a birthday card earlier today. The front has a picture of a dessert tower with a quote from Bette Midler: "I want it all, and I would like it delivered." Inside, the message reads: "It's your birthday. Don't settle."

Perfect, right? Is the universe telling me something? This year begins with a new lunar cycle. I look ahead to the next two weeks, the next month, the next season, the next year and beyond. Maybe even next New Year's Eve. No settling. No holding back. That's advice that doesn't suck. I mean, really, after six decades, it's about fucking time.