Tuesday, February 22, 2011

There's a cat in my house !

     I'm really not a fan of cats.  If made to choose between cats and dogs, I have always chosen dogs.  There is a reason that they are called man's best friend.  My experience with dogs has been that they are good listeners, they come when called, you can teach them tricks, and they love when you show them affection.  The line between master and pet is never blurred with a dog.  My opinion on cats, however, was entirely different.  They seemed to have little use for people, they came and went as they pleased, they were high maintenance and were ornery, and I have seen many instances where the cat seemed to be the owner and the person the pet.  I had little interest in becoming a cat owner or of letting a cat own me, plus I have an allergy, so I was surprised with the request that came from my family, to take one in.

Nibbler at 6 weeks
A friend's cat in the next town bore a litter, and the couple had many cats to get rid of.  My brother Ace took two of the girls in (sucker), but the couple was struggling to get rid of the others.  My entire family seemed to be on the "pro cat" side, but I am, after all, the man of the house, so no cat was coming in here without my say so.  There were tears and pleas and a pretty cute campaign by Nolan that consisted of putting "cute" cat pictures in everything I owned for about a week, but I wasn't moved.  You see, I'm really not a fan of cats.  Finally, one night at dinner, when the entire family was convinced that there was no way I was going to let a cat in, I quietly instructed my wife to call the couple and see if they still had any cats.  There are a few things I have learned about parenting in my lifetime, one is to stay away from absolutes (You'll never get a later bedtime and such) and the second is to always keep your offspring guessing.  It makes life more interesting.  I learned that one from my Dad. A day or two later, we connected with the couple, and took the last cat they had, and that is how Nibbler came into my house.

     From the onset I could tell that Nibbler was different from the "regular" variety of cats I had known.  In spite of my hard stares and indifference paid to the feline, she insisted on interacting with me. We had just returned from vacation and I was sporting a week old beard (see Of Beards and Men).  Each morning as I sat at the computer, Nibbler would insist on jumping in my lap, and rubbing her face on my beard, both sides for several minutes.

Nibbler practicing her biting.
 I would have to get up and wash it immediately after, to avoid breaking out, but she was the biggest fan of the beard.  She was the only one who missed it when I shaved it off. Having owned dogs, I really didn't know how to interact with a cat either.  I'd wrestle with her, and swat at her, and she, in return, would bite and scratch me.  In retrospect, it probably wasn't a good thing to teach the cat to "play" that way. Be forewarned if you enter my house and she wants to play.  Remember I was never a "cat" parent before, and I'm really not a fan of cats.  I did notice that the cat has good instincts, one of which was to always take the high ground. She quickly progressed from jumping onto tables (where we eat), to counters (where we prepare food) and finally took over the top of the fridge.  One day I left the coat closet open and Nibbler climbed up the shelves to the top and into the false ceiling over the laundry room.  I reentered the room just in time to see gravity taking it's toll and Nibbler come sailing down riding a fiberglass tile, looking amazingly like the Green Goblin in the Spiderman cartoons.  It scares me to think of what she is practicing that trick for. 
I think this picture of her (the one on the right) captures her evil scheming self pretty well.  I've seen those Omen movies, and this cat still scares me more.  Is it accidental that she walks between my legs each morning as I walk down the stairs? I don't think so, she has plans.  Some day my death certificate will read (in error) "accidental death" when it should read "death by cat".  Think I am kidding?  Then why did she secure her spot in the house by curing my allergy?  Each morning she'd rub my face and expose me to a little cat dander, each afternoon she'd scratch me, and inject me with more, and each night she'd snuggle up on my lap, looking innocent but secretly giving me my last dose.  A few months later, I was no longer allergic, and had lost my best argument for the cat's removal.  I had to admit, it was quite the plan, and remember I'm really not a fan of cats.  

     Then there's the trying to be cute all the time thing. No box or bag comes into this house un-inspected, no matter how small it is.  She crawls in and pops her head out and looks around all cutey-like.  It is pretty amazing the places that she can get into. I don't know if it is the way she is designed, or just an evil trick, but she can even crawl into the small desk drawer at my wife's desk.  She'll pull it open to get a pencil and there will be the cat.  Thank God, I work in the garage, because that would freak me out.
She even practices her "coming out of the chest, like in Alien" trick sometimes.  See the picture to the left.  Scary, isn't it?  She has all kinds of things she has fooled the others with.  She reaches under the door to the bathroom to play while you are in there.  She drinks from the tap if you leave it running.  She curls up completely in a ball, and buries her head so it just looks like a circle of fur.  She'll run upstairs when you go to sleep and hide under the bed and swat at your legs.  She'll burrow under piles of clothes in the laundry room, she'll peek out of the window there when we are in the hot tub, and she'll climb on top of the piano and hide behind the pictures.  My wife is training her to fetch currently, but I am teaching her to play the piano.  I know you are laughing now, but admit it, which one will be more impressive when you come over for cocktails, Nibbler fetching a ball, or Nibbler doing the Peanuts theme on the piano?  Thought so.  I haven't figured out yet, how it works into her scheme, but she definitely knows how to turn on our I-Pod player that sits in the dining room too. I thought at first she was just stepping on the button accidentally, but that doesn't explain how she does it repetitively after you turn it off.  I still had my doubts until a few weeks ago when Dan had a friend over and he left his guitar in the dining room.  I first heard the radio go on, and shortly thereafter, I heard Nibbler strumming the guitar strings!  That's just like that cat, she complains about her piano training, but then wants to play guitar.  Cats!  

     I really should start to finish this blog, as it is getting dark, and I don't trust living with animals that don't
 need light to see.  She freaks me out like that at night sometimes too.  I suspect that Nibbler will be a recurring character in the blogs, whether I want her here or not.  Just in case, I have taught her to pack herself really small, so she'll be cheaper to ship if I can ever get rid of her.  I doubt it will ever happen as my family loves her, but remember, I'm really not a fan of cats.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why I Love Boston - Part 3

The last part promises to be more on point, although it will focus more on restaurants than tourist sites. 

     For the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to travel to Boston on an expense account and to frequently entertain my distributors and my customers.  An expense account is a wonderful thing, but it is also a pact that you make with your company, they give you a budget to use, and you use it to increase your sales in your region.  I think I have more than fulfilled my side of the bargain, as the Boston area market is thriving, and a good return on my company's investment. The next thing you learn about entertaining is that it is your dime, but the customer's time.  That means that you pick up the tab, but that they get to pick the venue.  In most of the instances below, the customers picked the activity or restaurant.  I have yet to meet the customer who wants to walk the Freedom Trail with me, or go to someplace like a casual chain restaurant.  Restaurant people like to eat, so they want to go to the best restaurants with deep wine lists or the trendiest chef, and I am just happy to tag along and pick up the tab at the end.

     I spent the first 5 business years traveling to Boston while I worked for Mrs. Smith's Bakeries selling pies and desserts.  My VP and director would frequently come into the market for big opportunities and while there we would entertain.  I liked my VP's philosophy on our entertainment budgets, he considered us as much "good will ambassadors" for the company as sales.  We would often pick up the dessert tabs of tables next to us, and then slip out before they noticed, or sometimes we would invite ourselves to join a table for dessert and pick up the tab and sample all the items.  I know it sounds kind of cheeky, but we had a lot of fun and even made some friends doing it.  One night I joined a group of women who were having a college reunion for drinks and dessert and one of them still sends me invites to stay at her Bed and Breakfast.  I think that is pretty cool.

     One particular trip will always stand out for me.  We were in town the week of St. Patrick's Day and decided to spend the weekend over in Boston (St. Patrick's Day was on Saturday).  We stayed down at the Marriott Longwharf and remained mostly in that area.  We had some great meetings on Thursday, and signed a significant deal.  On Thursday night we scouted the place where we planned to spend St. Paddy's Day.  We picked the Black Rose on State Street.  To this day it remains my favorite Irish bar anywhere, and any trip I get near it, I stop in.  It has 2 floors and has the feel of an authentic Irish pub.  I smell Guinness now, just thinking about it.  It turned out that even with all of our restaurant connections, that they wouldn't play favorites on St. Paddy's Day, we had to take our chances on getting seated like everybody else.  We had a drink, and then started to head off to dinner at Grill 23 the Back Bay.  We were entertaining 7 customers and had reserved the Trading Room upstairs.
The Trading Room at Grill 23
The minimum number of people to get the room was 10, and just before we left the Black Rose, we found out 2 customers couldn't make it.  My VP, Dan, was talking to a young couple from Iowa who were on their honeymoon.  They didn't have a lot of money so he invited them to join us.  That dinner was one of the best I remember, we had gotten jaded with fine dining, but not the sweet couple from Iowa.  We were able to give them the night of their lives. The bride made homemade peanut brittle for all of us when she got home and sent it to us.  That was night one of that epic weekend.

     The next evening we went to Lucia's on Hanover street. We weren't entertaining, so we ate slowly and had some great conversation and wine.  I had a stuffed veal chop that was delicious. I rarely find that particular item on menus outside of Hanover street in Boston.  One quick note on the North End in Boston, if there is a bad Italian restaurant there, I haven't found it.  I have eaten at 8 or so places there, and I think it is all the close competition that drives them all to be better.  After dinner we discovered Stanza Dei Sigari, an underground cigar bar.
The staff at Stanza Dei Sigari
It was a speakeasy in the 20's and it still has that feel, it's the best kept secret in cigar bars in Boston.  My bosses rented me a humidor there as a gift for a job well done, and I enjoyed that place for the following year on my visits in. My humidor was near one labeled "Danny Devito", and while I never saw him there it was nice to think that he might have had a cigar in the cozy little jail cell room a time or two, just like me. Check it out if you ever get near there, it's right near Mike's Pastries (my favorite spot for cannolis.).  We had 3 shots of Louis XII Cognac, before we headed out.  The rest of that evening we spent at an underground club we were directed to, and it is a blur of loud music and glow sticks from there.  End of day 2.

     We awoke early on St. Paddy's day and headed over to The Black Rose.  The line hadn't started yet at 9 in the am, so it was the perfect time to go.  We made our way upstairs and the manager up there, recognizing our perseverance, ended up seating us in a booth along the wall, which we monopolized for the next 10 hours.  It was the perfect spot, because as the day goes on, the tables in the center of the room are all taken away to make room for people to stand.  Our booth held 6-8, so all morning and afternoon, we shared it with groups of people enjoying the High Holy Day, just like we were.  If you ever have the chance to get into the Black Rose on that day, jump at it, it is a memorable experience.  The line to get in, and the cover charge goes up as the day goes on, so head out early like we did.  The 10 hours we were there just flew by and we eventually gave up our prime real estate around 7 pm and headed to the Oak Room for dinner.  The next morning we got on our planes and headed home, the end of one of the most memorable weekends I have ever had. 
Durgin Park interior
     A quick note on places like the Oak Room and Locke Ober in Boston.  I've found both of the places to be disappointing at best , though admittedly it's been a few years since I've been to either one.  They are great places to go to experience the history of Boston, but I found the food lacking.  I do like to recommend Durgin Park near Faneuil Hall.  It's traditional Yankee cooking served up by surly waitresses, and it's a value too. When I wore a company logo'd shirt there, I drew the comment " Oh honey, can't afford to buy your own clothes?"  Priceless.   I like the Union Oyster House as well, and it is the oldest restaurant in the US, so it's worth the visit.  If you're on a tight budget, try lunch there instead of dinner.

Wow, this blog is so easy to write, and I haven't scratched the surface of all the places I have found in the area.  I want to get as many in, so here is a good number of other places I like, for various reasons, in and around Boston....

     For lobster and seafood in town, I like Jasper White's Summer Shack.  I like the Dalton Street location and it is close to Fenway (a must see in Boston as well).  I like the way they do their Lobster Bake, in a net with lobster, mussels, clams, potatoes, corn, a piece of Linguica sausage and a hard boiled egg.  It's delicious.
Lobster bake at the Summer Shack

I went with my siblings a few months ago to the one in Mohegan Sun, and it did not disappoint either.  I went with my niece (who is a big Little Mermaid fan) a short time later, and it was an entirely different experience.  I don't struggle eating my seafood, even if I picture it dancing in musical numbers prior, but she had some difficulty.  I have to give her kudos for going to the Little Mermaid slaughterhouse with me though, she manned up, big time. For lobster aficionados I would recommend one of New England's lobster pounds.   My favorites are an hour above Boston in Seabrook NH.  Go to Marky's or Browns and you will get a great lobster with no frills at a bargain price.  For a nice fancy evening out, I like the Capital Grille, at any of their locations.  They have great seafood and steaks and it will be a memorable dining experience.  Start your dinner with a Stoli Doli cocktail, one of their specialty martinis.  One of my favorite places to eat near Providence RI is Mike's Kitchen in Cranston.  It's actually inside of a VFW Hall, but it has some of the best Italian food I have ever had, and the prices are ridiculously cheap.  I normally go with a broker friend of mine and we have 4-5 entrees just to try them.  They do a sausage and potato dish that is to die for.  For pizza in Boston, I have never found better than Pizzeria Regina at their original place in the North End.
Artist's rendition of Regina Pizzeria in the North End
They are the oldest pizzeria in Boston too, and they still use the brick ovens and the pizzas are fabulous.  I found a quirky little place in Meriden CT a few years back, called Ted's World Famous Steamed Cheeseburgers.  It's worth the visit if you get close.  They do steam their cheeseburgers in little steam drawers and they are good.  Near Revere Beach, it's tough to beat Kelly's Roast Beef.  That location is takeout only, but the portions are big and reasonable.  When I stay in Burlington I am a fan of Cafe Escadrille, their menu is unique and they are good at everything. In Wrentham, it's always Luciano's for me.  It's big enough to accommodate a large group but it still feels cozy. 
I lost a restaurant I liked this year in Billerica.  The Naked Fish went out, but I think the original location is still open.  I liked it for some unique fish dishes that they did.  I try and eat fish a couple of times a week, and in Boston I never struggle with that quota.

     I have to finish, lest I lose your interest, but I am hoping that this will be one of the more interactive blogs I have done. I have a number of regular blog readers that either travel to Boston or reside there, so I would love to get your favorite places too.  Comment below or share it, as I'd love to benefit from your friends experiences too.  Thanks for reading my 3 part blog on why I love Boston.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why I love Boston - Part 2

This post could have been subtitled, Boston on a budget, or something similar as it covers the next few trips to Boston, when I was in my twenties, poor, and not traveling for business.  

     So I started to see a different side of Boston when I got old enough to drink, and stopped going there with my folks.  At first I would tag along with other family members that were going (I remember one Easter riding up with Hummingbird and her husband), but eventually started going on my/our own.  It was during this time also that I got to introduce my girlfriend to Boston, and nothing she saw there deterred her from marrying me. 

     Boston quickly expanded from a neighborhood in Southie and one in Quincy to all of Boston proper and it's suburbs.  We would still stay with relatives, mostly on K street, where my Aunt (that's Ahhhnt, not Ant), Mary and Uncle John would host us, but sometimes we ventured out to stay with others.  Uncle John would give the best driving tours of Boston, intermixing the historical Boston with the more current relates, IE: "on your left is the oldest house in South Boston, built in 1804 by John Hawkes on the corner of 5th and K streets" to "coming up is the L street Tavern, made famous by the movie Good Will Hunting".
Of course I had a beer here.
Any down time at the house was quickly filled again with visits from the cousins, who had grown and started their own families.   I have to admit that any time I mention that I am coming to the area, I immediately get multiple offers from cousins to stay with them, eat with them, catch a game at Fenway, or the like.  I do a really poor job of taking them up on their offers, but this year I am going to try and make a point of accepting some of their gracious offers, in spite of my business obligations.  We still went to the beach, but our favorite activity switched to smooching instead of "whale watching".  We discovered Quincy market, and Faneuil Hall, well actually  we didn't discover them, they had always been there, but we started to visit them as tourists.  My cousin Tim worked there, but I can never remember if it was an Ice Cream place that he worked at or a Lemonade place.  He'll remind me, I'm sure.  We still walked the neighborhood, but we also ventured out to visit people in Brockton or the Cape.  We camped on the Cape, one time, when Molly was just a baby, and we stayed close enough to some friends from Canandaigua that were visiting relatives, that we were able to sneak in a couple of visits with them ourselves.  In a small world kind of relate, it turned out that we had a relative (shout out to cousin Marge) that lived around the corner from theirs, and they were "walking buddies" for a while. 

     We did the touristy things like visiting the Aquarium (I firmly believe that if you have seen one Aquarium , you have seen them all), went to street fairs and took Duck tours and such.  We toured Martha's Vineyard and took a train ride, and explored the nooks and crannys of New England.  We walked the Freedom Trail and absorbed all the history on it.  I was never a big history buff, but later I picked up a few books on that period in Boston's past, and I enjoyed them.  One I recall was "Rise to Rebellion" and it was listed as historical fiction because the author included dialogue between the characters.  I liked it better that way. 

Bull & Finch Pub (Cheers)
On one trip we visited the Holy Grail of tourists spots at that time, The Bull & Finch Pub.  You probably don't recognize it by that name, but if I had said we went to Cheers, I would bet most of you would instantly hear the crowd yelling "Norm" as George Wendt walked into that bar.  It was a good meal as I remember it, but I was likely caught up in the atmosphere of being in Cheers.  Two stories come to mind when I think of Cheers, and they are great life lessons.  The first is that the show was dead last in the ratings for the first year it ran, it ranked # 74 out of 74 shows.  It got renewed though and went on to become one of the longest running and most popular shows in television history, who would have guessed it?   The 2nd story is even more interesting to me.  The actor John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin) actually auditioned for the part of Norm Peterson but was bested by George Wendt.  Instead of accepting his defeat, he asked the producers who they were going to cast as the bar's "know it all", and then spontaneously auditioned for the part he had just made up.  He, of course, was cast in it, after the producers wrote the character into the show.  The two lessons I garner from these stories are, to never give up no matter how far behind you are, and if you do lose, it is perfectly acceptable to change the rules of the game to provide a better outcome, but I digress.....

     Ok, if I digress again is there a word for that, like Re-digress?  I have to another relate to Boston and to failure.  I have family there now (on my Mom's side) who are descendants of the man who invented the Steamboat.  Any guesses?  Wrong.

John Fitch's "Perseverance" Steamboat
 I heard you say Robert Fulton, but in actuality it was my ancestor John Fitch who invented the Steamboat, and held patents 12 years before Fulton ever got into the game.  My ancestor, however, never made money on his boats, dealt with substance abuse, abandoned his wife and family and died at 55, by his own hand.  He had lived a colorful life manufacturing guns, traveling, selling booze, and inventing.  He had even been held captive by Indians for a period of his life, but it was the crushing weight of his steamboat failures that led to his taking his life.   History forgot him for a long period of time, and credited Fulton, but this year, the John Fitch museum should open in Buck's County Pennsylvania and he might finally get his due.  The lesson here might be, get stronger patents, keep your family close, and don't do drugs.  I was torn as to which picture to include for this part of the blog, the one above, or the one of his descendant who was a New England Patriot's cheerleader (April Fitch).  The latter would have drawn more eventual hits to the blog, but I thought I'd give old John his due. 

     So I got "off course" a little on this blog, but it's mainly because I don't remember enough details from those days to fill the page.  I remember the generalities of family surrounding us, and interactions and meals with them and the high points of our touring Boston, but that's all I've got.  Feel free to fill in any shared memories you may have of us during that time, and I won't feel like such a slacker.  I do promise that the last installment will have more detail because I come to Boston so often now, and my memory can hold things for that long at least.  The last installment will be my about my many business trips to Boston.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why I love Boston - Part 1

Although not written yet, I can tell this is going to be a three part blog.  I have loved the city of Boston since I was a small boy, but through each phase of my life, I found more or different things to love about it, so I am going to break this down and write a blog about each time period, Enjoy.  

    My mother grew up in Southie.  Her last house was on K street in South Boston, just down the street from the L street Brownie's Bathhouse.  They take their annual dip in Boston Harbor (pronounced Ha-Bah if you are a native), to promote their club, which is the 2nd oldest swimming club in the country.  That's one of the many draws to Boston for me, its rich and longstanding history. At that time the bathhouse was all male and swimming was clothing optional.  They had a fence that wrapped around
the property and then went all the way to the ocean for privacy.  One of
L street bathhouse
great family stories from that time, was the one of my brothers convincing my sister Meter Maid to look over the fence to see the "whale" there.  She did look over, but she did not see a whale.  My history with Boston, as I recall it, started in the early 70's.  My Grammie and Grandfather still lived in that house on K street, and we went to visit often.  It was a strange place to visit considering the small town that I was coming from.  The houses all touched each other, there were small patches called lawns, and the streets were packed with cars.  There weren't porches, there were stoops. I couldn't even order a soda or a pop at the local corner store,  I had to remember to ask for a tonic. At first it was a strange and sometimes scary place.  The more I went, however, the more I felt like a part of that neighborhood.  I fondly remember my Grandfather keeping vigil at his window and watching the neighborhood like we watch TV.  The corner grocer even got to recognize me as one of Grammie Mascal's grand-kids when I visited. It took almost a day for the drive to Boston back then, but after we arrived the activity never stopped.  We always went walking around the neighborhood first to see what had changed.  Stores opened and closed, houses had been remodeled, and there were always construction cranes putting up new buildings, something I didn't see at home. There was a variety store around the corner that was a frequent haunt.  I had my other favorite places back then, and I had to visit them to make sure they stayed the same.

     Every summer trip we took included a stop at Castle Island. For me it meant 3 things, plane watching, Fort Independence and great food at Sullivans.  We would lay on the grass and the planes from Logan would pass over our heads, and they seemed close enough to touch.  We'd spend hours touring Fort Independence and peering through the cannon mounts to aim our pretend cannons, and at some point we'd get hot dogs or fried foods from Sullivans.  I never got hot dogs, we had those at home.
I had found these things called fried clams, so I always got those.  They were either fresh strips or whole bellies, done in a light clam batter and fried until golden.  They served them in paper cups back then they tasted like heaven to me.  I would go back home and try to order them at restaurants, but no one near me had anything except the small breaded clams, that tasted like rubber bands. Some foods are unique to certain places and for me fresh whole bellies are unique to New England. I rarely miss a meal of these when I am in Boston.  I can't get to Sullivans as often but the Legal Seafood at Logan has some good ones too.  If you go there, say hi to my bartender friend Sully (I think his last name is Sullivan too and this is his nickname)  and tell him Bill the taco guy sent you. 

     After word had spread that the Yargers were in town, our cousins would start popping by.  Some were close to my age, but most of them were a few years older and they were a mixed bag of characters.  One of the families was comprised of tough and street wise kids, and they and my older siblings would roam Boston and see what mischief they could get into. I think you had to be tough in Boston in those days just to survive. I'll paint the picture of Boston a little more clearly for you from that time.  One of the years I recall they had just started mandatory busing of the kids between schools.  Southie was primarily made up of white kids and some of them got bussed to Roxbury and some blacks got bussed into Southie.  It was not a good plan, especially when decided upon quickly, and forced down the throats of the residents.  Nobody seemed to like the plan except for the courts, and racism reared it's ugly head a time or two.  I think a lot of people got cast as racists that year when in actuality they just didn't like the change and wanted their kids to go to school in the neighborhood like they used to.  It was kind of the point of moving to a neighborhood to begin with, and historically the people in Boston don't like to be told what to do without having a voice.  You remember the Tea Party right?   I do remember seeing some racist graffiti including some that said "Bus them back to Africa" It was a tumultuous time.  

Boston's Combat Zone circa 1990
 Boston even had an area that they dubbed the "Combat Zone" that was more dangerous and rife with prostitution and all things seedy.  If we had to go near there, we would go quickly through it to avoid the inevitable trouble that would follow you from there.We could get in enough trouble without even getting near the Combat Zone, mostly due to my cousins.  I'm not going to name the family or even nickname them, because frankly they still scare me a little and there are like 9 of them.  On one visit, we saw the father of the clan and he was taped up fully around his chest with gauze and bandages.  A burglar had broken into the house and stabbed my Uncle several times.  This awoke his boys and they chased the burglar out of the 3rd floor window by beating him with baseball bats (I'm not sure any of them even played, they just had bats, or at least that was how I saw it).  The burglar was more injured than my uncle by the time he leaped from that window.  They were a force to be reckoned with.  I got to hang with them a few times, once riding mini bikes on a baseball diamond, that I was sure was Fenway (after all that was the only baseball park I had heard of in Boston).  Even hanging with some of them on K Street got dicey sometimes.  I remember one night when my brother Redface and I were hanging with one of my cousins, I'll call her "Roberta", and a bunch of kids (gang) came by.  Redface and I retreated to the shadows of the house in the driveway (just wide enough for the pale blue Volkswagen Beetle to fit in), while she full on heckled them.  I am glad that they kept on walking, because to this day I don't know if the rules of chivalry apply to loud, trouble-making girl cousins, or not. I do have an instinct for survival after all.  I fared better when we visited my other cousins nearby.

     Some lived in Quincy and I remember camping in that yard a time or two.  Once we broke in because we got there early (Now, who are the hoodlum cousins?).  It was quieter there and we could sit in an actual yard and drink our tonics.  A playground was down the street and was easily walkable (even by my one sister's standards). We could spend a whole day just playing PIG and HORSE (although the spelling of HORSE was vastly different back in the Combat Zone).  We stayed there a few times, which is probably why that Aunt got nicknamed my father's "girlfriend".  The rest of my early memories of Boston I can't attribute to any certain relatives or places.  I remember getting Chinese take out from an authentic Chinese restaurant, they hadn't come to Canandaigua yet.  I remember picnics on lawns and tours of the city in cars.  I remember a bunch of us swimming in a pool with dragonflies nearby.  We called them "Darning Needles" back then, and the rumor was, if you swore they would sew your lips shut.  I didn't fall for that because, well, I had met all my cousins and none of them had their mouths sewn shut.  Not even "Roberta". 

I think I'll end Part 1 here and let my family fill in the blanks with their comments. If you are not mentioned here chalk it up to my aging and not you not being memorable. The best parts of Boston are yet to come, and yes even some beer relates.