Shiny happy things


Johnny's Luncheonette

This afternoon J and I walked to Newton Centre for lunch at Johnny’s Luncheonette. We’d been to the doctor for our annual check-ups in the morning, so taking a few extra hours off to take a walk and go to lunch was a small reward. We don’t even try to go to lunch at Johnny’s on the weekends, when it’s typically packed with brunch crowds, but if we go on a weekday after the height of the lunch rush, we can usually get a table for two without having to wait.

Funky lamps

Johnny’s has a fun retro vibe with its linoleum diner counter, Art Deco light fixtures, vintage décor, and framed black-and-white class photos from “back in the day.” Every time we sit toward the back of Johnny’s Luncheonette, I try to get a picture of a fixture I call the Diner Diver: a pale blue mannequin hanging from the ceiling in a perfect back dive.

Diner diver

The menu at Johnny’s offers reliable lunch and breakfast standbys: classic diner fare. J typically gets the macaroni and cheese, which features penne rather than macaroni pasta with a blend of Romano, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses, and I usually get the Jordan Marsh, which features two eggs, a grilled blueberry muffin, and a small fruit cup.

Johnny's Luncheonette sign

Today was busier than usual, so we sat at the counter rather than waiting for a table. As we were waiting for our food to arrive, we heard two women cheering near the coin-operated “claw” machine that stands near the entrance, tantalizing children with a colorful assortment of stuffed animals you can win if you’re deft enough to grab one.

“You won, you won!” the women–presumably a mother and grandmother–cheered as a young boy held a small, hot-pink stuffed Mickey Mouse and beamed. J started clapping, and I joined the women in cheering. “We’ve never seen anyone win anything, and you won” they exclaimed.

Vintage class photos

I don’t know if the boy was old enough to realize his hot-pink prize was probably intended for a girl, but that didn’t seem to matter to him or his mother and grandmother. As the family filed out the door and onto the street, the boy held the toy in two hands, looking at it with an air of overjoyed amazement, as if he couldn’t believe his good luck.

Boston Pride parade

One of the biggest cheers J and I heard at this past weekend’s Boston Pride parade erupted while the marchers were still assembling on Boylston Street and a much-loved, recently elusive entity Came Out: the sun. After a full Friday of torrential rains, on Saturday even tropical storm Andrea couldn’t rain a single drop on Boston Pride’s parade.

Boston Pride parade

Although J and I have watched Pride parades in other cities, before this weekend we’d never attended Boston Pride. Previously, we’d been what you might call accidental Pride spectators, with J watching the Atlanta parade because it wended its way through the predominantly lesbian neighborhood where he used to live and me watching the New York parade one year when my ex-husband and I happened to be staying in Greenwich Village that weekend. Before this year, though, J and I never made a point to attend Boston’s own parade, mainly because we’d never really set the date aside. You might say that Boston Pride didn’t really register on our gaydar.

Boston Pride parade

And then Jason Collins came out. The minute J and I heard that the current NBA (and former Celtics) center had announced he is gay, we knew we’d have to attend this year’s Boston Pride parade, where Collins marched alongside his Stanford roommate (and our congressional representative) Joe Kennedy III. Coming out as a sports celebrity in an age of unrelenting media and Internet scrutiny is a brave thing, and J and I wanted to make sure there were at least a few rabid basketball fans there to personally applaud Collins’ announcement. I’m sure Collins has gotten more than a few angry looks, nasty emails, and mean Tweets simply because he had the nerve to Be Who He Is, and J and I wanted to add our voices to a chorus of cheers drowning out the jeers.

Boston Pride Parade

I’ve mentioned before that I often get teary-eyed when J and I watch the Boston Marathon every year because there’s something emotionally powerful about cheering for perfect strangers:

What chokes me up on Marathon day is the way spectators show up to cheer on strangers, shouting all sorts of encouragements: “Keep going!” “You can do it!” “You’re amazing!”

Boston Pride parade

Can you imagine a world where we cheered each other on like this everyday, not just on Marathon Monday? Can you imagine a world where strangers shared simple kindness with one another, simply to keep them motivated and moving?

It turns out, I also get weepy at Pride parades, and for a similar reason. Can you imagine a world where everyone you see is happy and smiling simply because everyone there accepts them for who they are?

Boston Pride parade

Long before we spotted Collins walking alongside Kennedy with a throng of photographers shooting their every move, J and I hollered and clapped for the much less famous marchers. At any Pride parade, the participants who make headlines are the flamboyant and fabulous: the shirtless young men gyrating in underwear, for instance…

Boston Pride parade

…or the strong and serious dykes on bikes,

Boston Pride parade

…or the towering drag queens.

Boston Pride parade

All of the above were present at Boston Pride, but they were far outnumbered by the otherwise ordinary folks who were simply doing in public the things straight people do all the time without considering it a Political Statement, like walking hand in hand with their partners while wearing a uniform…

Boston Pride parade

…proudly proclaiming themselves as parents,

Boston Pride parade

…taking the baby for a stroll,

Boston Pride parade

…or just walking the dog.

Boston Pride parade

A Pride parade, in other words, isn’t about flaunting your sexual preferences in public; it’s about having the courage to show your face in a world that often wants to pretend you don’t exist. This is why J and I wanted to attend Boston Pride, look Jason Collins in the face, and let him know that in the eyes of these two straight, entirely non-flamboyant basketball fans, being gay is okay.

Boston Pride Parade

And so when Jason Collins and Joe Kennedy passed where J and I were standing and cheering near the corner of Boylston and Clarendon Streets, J and I got loud.

Jason Collins and Joe Kennedy

“Celtics Pride,” I yelled while pointing to my Celtics ballcap, and J screamed “Jaaaaasoooon!” while pointing to his Celtics shirt. Collins looked at us, smiled, and waved, and I yelled “We love you, Jason,” at which point Joe Kennedy looked right at me, mouthed the words “Thank you,” and walked on.

Boston Pride parade

And that was J and my brief brush with fame. We’d already cheered and gave our “thumbs up” to peace activist and Boston Marathon bombing hero Carlos Arredondo…

Carlos Arredondo

…and later, we’d cheer (and J would dance) as Senator Elizabeth Warren sashayed her way down the street.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

But the real heroes of the Boston Pride parade aren’t the famous or fabulous folks who dominate the headlines on Pride weekend but the otherwise average, ordinary folks who live, love, and deserve common human decency every day of the year.

Boston Pride Parade

Click here for more photos from this year’s Boston Pride parade: enjoy!

The aliens have landed

Plenty

Every now and then, I like to take pictures at the grocery store as a way of reminding myself of the abundance so many of us enjoy.

Plenty

Today is Thanksgiving, a day officially devoted an attitude we should cultivate every day. As I explained last year, I always feel a bit tongue-tied at Thanksgiving, when one is officially expected to count one’s blessings. In my mind, I’ve been blessed with gifts too numerous to count: a loving husband, meaningful work, healthy pets, a roof over my head. Those are the obvious blessings, but less obvious are the simple pleasures that grace one’s life in unexpected ways.

Sometimes while I’m grocery shopping, for instance, I’m stunned by the simple wonder of so many choices–so many pumpkins, so many gourds, so many apples–that surround us daily. Isn’t every pumpkin, every gourd, every apple itself an infinite blessing? And yet we live in a world where we are surrounded by fruit and fruitfulness like leaves pouring down in the fall, the very picture of plenty. How is it, then, that we need an annual holiday to remind us of such riches?

Here’s wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving, filled to overflowing with a cornucopia of contentment.

Pumpkin cannibalism

This past weekend was the 20th annual Keene Pumpkin Festival, where you can see carved jack-o-lanterns of all shapes, sizes, and styles. Given all the cute, pretty, and aesthetically pleasing pumpkins on display, it’s always difficult to choose a favorite…but I always seem to gravitate toward those pumpkins that are just a little bit warped.

In addition to the act of pumpkin cannibalism depicted above, for example, J and I spotted a random act of pumpkin violence…

Random act of violence

…along with one pumpkin-person who looked like he’d been in a particularly nasty barroom brawl.

You should see the other guy!

Jack-o-lanterns with odd anatomical deformities naturally grab one’s attention…

Zucchini nose

…as do pumpkins in curious colors.

Pumpkin skulls

One ghoulish gourd displayed such monstrous features, he might best be termed a “Franken-pumpkin.”

Franken-pumpkin

Some of the “pumpkins” at the Keene Pumpkin Fest played freely with the definition of “jack-o-lantern,” as in the case of this gourd-geous green swan.

Gourd-geous green swan

Things of beauty notwithstanding, the most creative–and arguably most warped–carved creation we saw at Saturday’s Pumpkin Festival was a gutted spaghetti-squash “baby” with a disgustingly dirty diaper.

Stinky spaghetti-squash diaper

This is my belated contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, Warped. Saturday’s Pumpkin Festival reportedly attracted a crowd of 70,000 humans and 22,943 lit jack-o-lanterns, a bunch of which you can see in my 2010 Pumpkin Festival photo-set. Enjoy!

Quinceañera finery

Last month when J and I spent a long weekend visiting family in Houston, we saw a teenage girl in frilly pink finery posing for pictures aboard the Battleship Texas, her Kate Winslet “queen of the worldTitanic moment at the bow of the ship back-dropped by the nearby San Jacinto Monument.

San Jacinto Monument

“This is a popular place for Quinceañera pictures,” J’s niece noted, and both she and I explained to J the coming-of-age celebration that Mexican families typically throw for daughters on the occasion of their fifteenth birthday. “It’s like sweet sixteen,” J’s niece observed: a ceremonial celebration of a girl’s passage into womanhood, with appropriately feminine finery. When J expressed amazement that any girl would want to pose for a pink and frilly photo-shoot on a retired battleship, I shrugged. Is a war monument any less appropriate for coming-of-age pictures than a harborside Presidential library is for wedding photos?

I forgot all about this anonymous girl and her sweet fifteen photo-shoot until yesterday, when I realized that crabapples, cherries, and other flowering fruit trees get to pose for pink and frilly Quinceañera pictures every year.

Pink & frilly

Cranberries!

In case you’ve ever wondered what the berries in your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce looked like before they got sauced, here’s your answer.

Water reel

At last month’s final regular-season New England Revolution soccer match, the folks from Ocean Spray set up an artificial cranberry bog outside the entrance to Gillette Stadium, where soccer fans could see what a New England cranberry harvest really looks like. Cranberry vines grow in marshy areas, and the fastest way to harvest cranberries is to flood the entire area, a process called wet harvesting. Once the vines are covered with water, machines called water reels rake the berries from the vines, and the cranberries–which contain pockets of air–float to the surface of the water, where they are gathered by growers.

Cranberry growers chat with passersby

The artificial bog outside Gillette Stadium had all the accoutrements of an actual cranberry bog: potted cranberry vines along the border of the bog, thousands of floating cranberries, a working water reel, and three men in hip-waders who stood up to their shins in wet cranberries while answering questions and chatting with passersby. In mid-October, it seems there isn’t anything lovelier than a New England cranberry bog, even if that cranberry bog is only a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.

Although I’ve never been much of a fan of cranberry sauce, I regularly drink cranberry juice. When I was growing up, my mom raved about the health benefits of cranberries, especially noting cranberries’ legendary ability to help women avoid bladder infections. The folks from Ocean Spray weren’t handing out any free samples of cranberry sauce or cranberry juice, but they were handing out packets of dried cranberries, which are just as tasty as a tall glass of cranberry juice. I guess that’s one more thing to be thankful for.

Click here for a complete photo set from the cranberry bog at Gillette Stadium last month. Whether or not you’re eating cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, I hope your holiday is safe, restful, and happy.

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