#88: See Fenway Park

red soxTraveling with Harvin and Ticcoa, who are anti-sports, pretty much meant that my chances of convincing them to catch a game at the stadium was very low. But I was satisfied with merely standing in the presence of Fenway Park, one of the most legendary stadiums in baseball history.

It was pretty fantastic to be standing on the sidewalk outside Fenway. Next time I go, though, I’m catching a game. I wanna see the Green Monster. 🙂

Nonetheless, it’s an accomplishment. Here are some pictures:


fenway2We were driving away at this point, so because of the angle, I missed the “Park.” But, hey, “Fenway” is the part that really matters, right?

#87: New England Clam Chowder

Bowl of ChowderI love clam chowder. I live in South Carolina. Therefore, I made it a goal to order clam chowder at least once while in Massachusetts.

[Side note: I also ate lobster for the first time that I can remember while there. I ordered a lobster sandwich from Panera. It was divine. And special that I ate lobster for the first time in Massachusetts.]

Back to clam chowder. I managed to enjoy a cup of chowder three times: once in Salem at a restaurant called The Lobster Shanty, once in Concord at Walden Grille, and once in Cambridge at Legal Sea Foods, which Dr. Sepko recommended. Her husband Ken declares that Legal makes the best chowder ever.

I agree. It was superb! So good that I almost had a quart shipped home to Dad in South Carolina. So good that I’m demanding that my family go to Atlanta soon, since that’s the closest Legal Sea Foods to where we live.

While the chowder in Salem and Concord was delicious, they were still no match for the chowder at Legal. That combined with the amazing fish and chips I ordered made that meal the best one we had the whole week. I heartily recommend that if you’re ever in a town where there’s a Legal Sea Foods, GO! It may be the best meal you’ve ever had. 🙂

An unexpected, challenging, awesome surprise.

I’m just gonna say it…

I’m 24 years old, and I’m teaching (developmental) college English.

Yes, it’s true. I never expected it to happen so fast, yet here I am. I taught my first class this morning. Granted, it involved introducing myself and going over the syllabus, but it still counts.

For some reason, this goal never made it onto my List. Maybe it was just so big and obvious, I felt like it didn’t need to even be written down. Nonetheless, my desire to be a college English professor is the reason I started the M.A.T. program at Converse last year.

How did this happen? Dr. Boone, one of our English faculty, unexpectedly resigned over the weekend due to some health problems. This left Drs. Collier and Sepko scrambling to shift her classes to other professors. This required several of them to overload, and that created a problem. So because a Bachelor’s degree is all that’s required to teach developmental and remedial classes, Dr. Collier asked me Monday afternoon if I’d be interested in taking one of Tim’s writing classes to free him to take one of Dr. Boone’s 1310 c lasses. I said sure, not really thinking anything would come of it. After all, I was a last resort, really, and surely something else would work.

Nope. Dr. Sepko called me yesterday morning to ask if I’d take both of Tim’s classes. I agreed. By yesterday afternoon, I was super-hyper, bouncing around White Hall, getting my syllabus from Tim and advice  and encouragement from every other English professor. This morning, I walked into a classroom with a stack of syllabi with my name and office hours on them, and I met my first students. When I returned to White Hall, I walked into Tim’s office (which I’ll be using for my office hours) to discover that Betsy, Tim’s wife, had acquired a desk for me and made a nameplate. I was awed. She’s so sweet, and it’s really awesome to know that they’re trying to make me feel like an actual instructor now. 🙂

On top of my new desk was a stuffed animal: Stitch, left for me by Dr. Bruce. During my very first English class with Dr. Bruce at NGU, he pulled out Stitch and announced that, although he was a new professor here, we were all going to be a family. And we were. Seeing Stitch on my desk six years later, right after teaching my own first class made me so happy. It’s been a long time since that day, and I’ve changed so much, and it’s such a great reminder of the family I have at North Greenville.

I love this place. I love English. I’m going to adore teaching, I’m sure.

So although my life has been super crazy over the last two days, as I’ve tried to figure out my new teaching schedule on top of my full-time library/writing center schedule, on top of my own grad school courses, I’m super excited about life right now. This semester is going to be wonderfully chaotic and challenging and great!

#45: Boston

Although Harvin, Ticcoa, and I said for weeks that we were “going to Boston,” in reality, we only spent one full day in the city. But what a day it was!

Our activities in Boston included walking the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile long walk that connects 16 stops important in the founding of our nation. We didn’t go to every stop, but there were some cool ones:

1. The trail starts at Boston Common, America’s oldest public park. It’s big and beautiful and right in the heart of Boston. Lots of green grass, the Frog Pond, and expensive parking. We wandered through the park, took a few pictures, and moved on to the first big stop.

revere's tomb2. Granary Burying Ground. Paul Revere is burried here. John Hancock. Samuel Adams. Ben Franklin’s parents. The five victims of the Boston Massacre. It’s really an impressive place, just a few blocks away from Boston Common. Old, crumbling tombstones; dirt paths; steeped in history. I love graveyards, especially when cool people are buried there.

3. Next was King’s Chapel and King’s Chapel Burying Ground. The graveyard actually came first, and the church was built later. In literary history, King’s Chapel is important because it’s where Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale were buried in The Scarlet Letter. Sadly, they’re not real, but it’s another great little, old cemetery.

boston massacre4. We also saw the site of the Boston Massacre, just outside the Old State House. A ring of bricks marks the spot where the five men died.

Near the massacre site is also the visitors’ center for the Boston National Historic Site, which encompasses most of the spots on the Freedom Trail. I bought cool postcards there. 🙂

cheers5. Fanueil Hall was an awesome place, if only for the marketplace near the old building. A replica of the Cheers bar is there; Chris demanded that I stop in and buy him a t-shirt. My dad also appreciated my stopping in, as well.

Fanueil Hall Marketplace is an impressive building. Food vendors sell all sorts of international cuisine. I ate Thai food–delicious! Coa enjoyed a lobster roll and Harvin a seafood wrap. Good, inexpensive food.

paul revere house6. We visited the Paul Revere House, too–the only house museum on the Freedom Trail. It wasn’t that great, really. Just four rooms housing some artifacts from Revere’s life. But it was a self-guided tour with little signs and descriptions on everything. Not the best museum we’ve been to, by far.

north church7. The best stop on the trail, and one of our best of the week, was the Old North Church, where the lanterns were hung to warn the colonists about how the Patriots would be entering Boston: “one if by land, two if by sea.” We arrived at the church in time to hear a great tour guide give a talk about the real history of the hanging of the lanterns. Revere was the one to give the order to hang the lanterns, but he never actually hung them–he headed off in the direction of Lexington and Concord to warn those residents.

newman windowA young man named Robert Newman was one of the two men to hang the lanterns in the church. They climbed up to the belfry to get the lights as high as possible, and when they emerged at the bottom after taking the lamps down, the British had already entered the church. Newman and the other man leaped out of the windows to escape. A replica lantern now hangs in the window known as the “Newman window.” One of the actual lanterns is housed in the Concord Museum, which we saw later in the week, and we also visited the site where Paul Revere was captured just outside of Boston. More about that later, though.

poe birthplacePoe, darling Poe, was also born in Boston. The boardinghouse where he was born is now a coffeeshop or something similar. There is a plaque on the building, though. We stopped to take a picture.

Boston is really a spectacular city. So much history, surrounded by so much urban development. It’s a pedestrian’s city, too–they’re fearless! They’ll just walk out in front of traffic, knowing that they’ll stop. I had to work up the courage to cross, even when the don’t walk sign was lit.

It’s a city I’d very much enjoy living near, but living in the city would be a nightmare, I think. I don’t have the courage–big cities still frighten me a bit. 🙂

There’s one other part of Boston I saw, that I’ll talk about later, since it was a special item on my list. I stood outside Fenway Park. It was a beautiful thing. 🙂

New England Trip Day 3: Salem, Massachusetts

Our first full day in New England, we headed to the great little seaside town of Salem, which is, of course, most famous for the Witch Trials that took place there in 1692. And, boy, do they play it up. There are so many museums dedicated to witch history, but we only visited one–supposedly the best and most visited–the Salem Witch Museum. It was fun, for the most part–not as kitschy as I expected. The first part was a dramatic reading, of sorts, of the history of the witch trials, and then we walked through a section of the museum detailing the portrayal of witches throughout history.

After leaving that museum, we wandered through Salem Common, played on the swingset a bit, and then headed to the Engine House Restaurant for what promised to be the best pizza in Salem. We were not disappointed.

derby street booksThe best part of the day came after lunch. First we visited a half-priced bookstore with books stacked to the ceiling! It was surprisingly well-organized for a store with almost no shelves. And it’s certainly an adventure shopping for books when you’re a clutz maneuvering through narrow aisles with the constant threat of books falling on your head. It was here, however, that I found my copy of The Road, and it’s awesome to have such an adventurous story of buying what’s now one of my favorite books.

After leaving the bookstore, we drove to The House of the Seven Gables, which was one of our best visits of the entire week. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s cousin once lived here, and while he was visiting the house (which only had 3 gables at that point) one day, she told him, “This was once a house of seven gables.” With that remark, his story of the curse of the Pyncheon family was born.

seven gables gardenSeven Gables is a beautiful place. The gardens are marvelous, and it sits right on the Salem waterfront, so one may sit in the garden and look out at the boats in the harbor. Ah…I wish I were there right now. Here we are in the Seven Gables garden, before the tour even started.

And, oh, the tour! The house has a lot of stuff original to the families that lived there. But perhaps the coolest part is that, a hundred or so years ago, when the house was first transformed into a museum, the owners added elements of the fictional Seven Gables in order to attract more guests. So, readers of the novel will note the room where Hepzibah Pyncheon would have sold her baked goods. While not original to the house, it’s still been there about a century, which is seriously cool. But the best part about the whole tour was the tiny, narrow, hidden staircase that was added behind a chimney. In the novel, Clifford maneuvers around the house and appears in the dining room from the story above, seemingly like a ghost. The owners added the staircase to show how Clifford could have been so stealthy. And we got to climb that staircase! It’s steep, dark, narrow, and a little scary. All of that equals awesome, though. Because I was standing closest to the chimney, I got to be the first to climb it, and when I arrived at the top, I burst out of the staircase gasping for breath. It’s confining, but the coolest part was just that I got to climb Clifford’s staircase. Yes, I’m a literary dork. 🙂

nathaniel_hawthorneAlso at Seven Gables is the Hawthorne House, the house where little Nathaniel was born in 1804. He only lived there a few years, but it was just the first of several houses that we got to tour that darling Hawthorne had lived in. Also, in the gift shop, I bought a poster-sized print of the Osgood portrait of the angelic, handsome Hawthorne. Soon, he will grace the walls of my room. Indeed.

custom house stepsBecause Seven Gables is so near Derby Wharf, we walked there after touring the house. First, we stopped by the Custom House, where Hawthorne worked and wrote much of The Scarlet Letter. I sat on the steps of the Custom House. Perhaps in the very spot where Hawthorne’s foot once touched as he walked into work one day.

derby wharfIf one sits on the steps of the Custom House, one will look straight down Derby Wharf, to the adorable lighthouse there. It was my first lighthouse outside of South Carolina or Georgia! So exciting! It’s an adorable little 25-foot-tall lighthouse, one of three small ones used to guide ships into Salem Harbor. Off in the distance, we could see one of the other two. Two lighthouses in Massachusetts in one day. Very awesome.

Salem really is a great little town. I thought it would be much more involved in the witch history, and while they definitely embrace it, the tourist aspect of it doesn’t take over the whole time. Salem is worthy of visiting on its own merit, beyond just its history. It really is a great New England, seaside village where people live everyday lives. However, I would definitely love to see it in October. I hear it transforms into a spooky little place then.

Salem also embraces its literary history. They seem quite proud of their most famous literary icon, Nathaniel Hawthorne. There are two roads there that can be confusing if one knows the history of the name–Hathorne St. and Hawthorne Blvd. Hawthorne added the “w” to his name in order to remove himself from the stigma of the Hathorne name–his great-times-something-grandfather was a judge in the Salem Witch Trials, and Nathaniel wanted to dissociate himself from the name.

Finally, at least, I’ll show you the massive Hawthorne statue on Hawthorne Blvd. It isn’t representative of the young, angelic, heartbreaker Hawthorne, but older Hawthorne was a distinguished-looking fellow.

(We really love Hawthorne, by the way. I love his work, particularly his short stories, but he seemed to be the author that evoked the most giddiness in all of us, as you’ll see in later posts. We even ran into a mother and daughter in Concord on our second day–we had all toured the Wayside together the day before–and she referred to us as the “Hawthorne girls.” I like that title.)

hawthorne statue salem

The Road

the road“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you.”

~Cormac McCarthy, The Road

* * *

I read about half this book two years ago. I have no idea why I put it down and never finished it. In Salem, MA, at this great bookstore, Harvin unearthed this movie tie-in addition of The Road. I bought it a) because it was half-priced; b) because I’d always intended to finish it, and this summer seemed like a good time; and c) because Viggo Mortenson is on the cover.

This book is a post-apocalyptic novel about a man and his son continually walking, searching for food, shelter, and safety, and fighting to survive in the vast remnants of a bygone civilization.

Stylistically, the book is fascinating. There are no chapters–just one continuous narrative with hundreds of short, intense sections, such as the one above. It’s the perfect book for the ADD reader–if you have five minutes while you’re stuck in traffic or standing in line in the grocery store, you can pull it out of your bag and read a few sections. Or you can sit down and become so engrossed that you read it in one shot–as I would have done had I not had Boston to keep my occupied. Even with all our fantastic activities in New England, I still managed to read this book in about two days. Additionally, note the sentence fragments–perfectly representative of the fragmented world in which the man and boy live. I think that, stylistically, this book could be as representative of the postmodern era as Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury is for the modern era.

As I was reading the next-to-last page of this book in our hotel in Danvers, MA, Harvin turned to me to show me something in the Longfellow poem she was reading. I shushed her and ignored her until I could read the last paragraph, after which I threw the book down on the bed. The ending is superb–but it leaves so many questions open-ended, which I think is actually quite a good thing. In reading the book, the reader never actually learns what caused civilization to end. All we know is that most people–seemingly worldwide–are dead, and the few who are left are slipping into madness or are on the run from those renegades who embraced crime and violence. It’s been years since civilization ended, as we discover that the man’s wife was actually pregnant with the boy when the disaster happened. The boy is now old enough to talk, and to grasp some huge concepts about civilization and the past vs. the present. In addition to knowing that years have passed, the only thing we really know is that whatever disaster occurred left the world covered in ash. The man and boy must wear face masks so as not to breathe in the ash, and everything is coated in gray. Was it fire? Flood? Famine? We never know for sure. In the book, however, that doesn’t matter. What matters is life after the tragedy–how does the man continue to live in this hopeless existence? He has his son–and some hope that perhaps someday the world can be a better place for his child.

The reader can imagine and fill in those blanks in the story. If the reader understands that the world ended in some great fire, then that works. If it was a series of natural disasters (like The Day After Tomorrow), then that works, too. There’s also more to the story after the reader closes the book. What happens to the characters after the events that conclude the novel? Does civilization return to some semblance of normalcy? There’s tension in the unanswered questions, but there’s beauty in the unknowing, too. Much like life, the story could take so many different directions.

Now that I’ve read the book, I am, of course, super excited about the film (ahem…Viggo Mortentenson as the unnamed man…yes, please). The film will be released on October 16, and after watching the trailer, I’m very intrigued to see how the filmmakers handle the issue of what exactly caused civilization to collapse. It seems that they deal with it somehow. Perhaps they merely chose some specific disaster and incorporated it into the plot. They also seem to deal a great deal in the backstory of the novel. All of the narrative of the book takes place on the road. The man and the boy are the two main characters, with a few minor characters that they meet along the way. The man also has flashbacks to life before the tragedy, and I think that’s where Charlize Theron’s character will appear. Anyway, it will be very interesting to compare the film to the book, especially since the filmmaker was asked to make a film version of the story before the book was even published in 2006. You can watch the official movie trailer here.

* * *

“The road crossed a dried slough where pipes of ice stood out of the frozen mud like formations in a cave. The remains of an old fire by the side of the road. Beyond that a long concrete causeway. A dead swamp. Dead trees standing out of the gray water trailing gray and relic hagmoss. The silky spills of ash against the curbing. He stood leaning on the gritty concrete rail. Perhaps in the world’s destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence.”

#78: Quote poetry at Poe’s grave in Baltimore.

poe portraitBesides reaching Maryland, a state that I had never before visited, which put me that much closer to reaching #41: visit all 50 states, visiting Poe’s grave in Baltimore was the first item I was able to mark off my list on this trip.

poe monumentOn Saturday, August 1, the second day of our New England Writers trip, we left Annapolis and stopped in Baltimore at Westminster Burying Ground, where Poe; his wife ,Virginia Clemm Poe; and his mother-in-law, Maria Poe Clemm, are burried.

Edgar A. Poe is one of my favorite authors–he has been since I first read “The Raven” in middle school. To see his grave in such an awesome cemetery was really an exceptional thing for me. The cemetery has this great brick walkways throughout, and the church that’s there was actually built after the burying ground, so a lot of the gravestones are sitting right next to the building, or even beneath the porch of the building. It’s a strange thing to find this, too, in the middle of Baltimore, with huge buildings so nearby.

The goal of this visit to Westminster wasn’t just to visit Poe’s grave, however. I had to quote something, too. And while I have significant portions of “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” and even “The Bells” memorized, the one poem that is my favorite is “El Dorado“–and at four stanzas, it’s a short one that I’ve had memorized for years.

I do have video evidence of this–the first time I have video proof of accomplishing something from my list. However, it’s stored on my brother’s camera’s memory card, and I won’t be able to access it for awhile. When I do, I’ll try to post it here.  It’s fun.

I’ll leave you with more pictures of Poe’s grave at Westminster, but if you’re a fan of Poe, be sure to check out the Edgar A. Poe Calendar, an incredible blog with great posts about important events in Poe’s life and literary history. It’s fabulous!

poe's grave

Harvin, me, and Ticcoa sitting at the monument. Note our two Poe dolls, given to us by Becky, and my Threadless shirt, Poetic Irony, which I bought specifically for this trip. 🙂


Poe’s side of the monument. His wife and mother-in-law are on either side, and his image and name are on the front of the monument.


Westminster Hall

Additionally, on the trip back home, we stopped in Baltimore on Saturday, August 8, for dinner at Annabel Lee Tavern, one of the best restaurants I’ve ever dined at, and entirely Poe-themed. I had bison sliders (delicious!), with their fantastic sweet potato fries and bleu cheese cole slaw. Additionally, if you drink, they have cocktails named for Poe stories and poems–Harvin enjoyed the Annabel Lee.

annabel lee

The entrance to Annabel Lee Tavern in Baltimore.

July Books

I reached the 50 book mark at the end of June, but just for fun, let’s see how many I can get in by the end of the year. This brings my total now to 66.

1. Cemetery Dance, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. The newest suspense/mystery by my favorite collaborators. Preston & Child always weave an intricate story with seemingly supernatural elements that can usually be explained away as the result of some psychotic killer. I don’t read a lot of current fiction, but I try to keep up with these guys. I’ve read the last 7 books that they’ve published, and I’m eventually going to work my way back to the early stuff I’ve missed. This particular one involves zombiis…that’s always fun, right?

2. Avalon High, Meg Cabot. This, in my opinion, is Cabot’s best young adult novel. In it, she uses Arthurian legend as the basis for the plot–Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere–all of them are reincarnated into a high school (“Avalon High”) in Annapolis, Maryland. I especially like that she uses Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” as epigraphs for each of the chapters.

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8. Volume 4: Issues 16-20. After we finished watching the series finale of Angel, Harvin and I decided we needed another fix, so we headed to Barnes & Noble to read some Buffy and Angel comic books. I think we mostly wish we hadn’t. The plot hasn’t gotten any better in volume 4, and we’re frustrated with it. Reading the comic books is nowhere near as satisfying as watching the TV show. If we can get our hands on the Spike and Angel books, we’ll probably read those, but I don’t think either of us is holding out much hope that they’ll be any good.

4. One Whole and Perfect Day, Judith Clarke. An Australian YA novel. Not bad, but not excellent. I like the title, though.

5. Hard Love, Ellen Wittlinger.

6. Boy Next Door, Meggin Cabot. Yes, the same author of The Princess Diaries and so many other YA novels. This is the first novel written for adults, however. It was good–light, fun reading. Two interesting things to note: (1) the story is told entirely through emails. (2) Towards the end of the book, a plot twist involves a diabetic cat. I smiled. 🙂

7. American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work, Susan Cheever. A book entirely about five of the greatest thinkers in American literary history. Check out my thoughts here.

8. 30 Days of Night, Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. Holy cow. This graphic is creepy, but the illustrations are phenomenal! They’re so different from any other art I’ve seen in other graphic novels–dark, of course, and slightly abstracted. At times, it’s almost like reading a film. I expected more detail in the storyline, as the progression through the 30 days seemed to move too quickly, but this was an incredibly intriguing graphic novel. Will I watch the movie? Maybe…in the daytime…with some other people.

9. 30 Days of Night: Dark Days (Book 2), Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. Yes, it was so intriguing that I picked up the second book, as well. In this book, one of the main characters moves to L.A. to fight off the vamps. It has a quite different feel from the first book, due to the change in setting, but the ending has a great cliffhanger, and I’m eager to see what happens in the third book.

10. Too Late the Phalarope, Alan Paton. His second novel about apartheid South Africa. This novel very much shows the way sin can destroy a man and his family, especially when society cannot embrace forgiveness and grace.

11. Best Foot Forward, Joan Bauer.

12. 30 Days of Night: Return to Barrow, Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. The sequel to the others, this is the last one penned and drawn exclusively by Niles and Templesmith. Other sequels and tie-ins exist, some written by Niles, others drawn by Templesmith, and some with neither on board for the project. In this book, it’s 3 years after the original attack on Barrow, and a new sherriff is in town. He’s skeptical at first, but when darkness falls and the vamps arrive, he realizes the truth.

13. Angel Omnibus, Vol. 1, Peter David, etc. Yes, this graphic novel goes hand-in-hand with the Angel TV series. Good stuff.

14. Slam, Nick Hornby. A young adult novel about a 16-year-old boy whose girlfriend gets pregnant. Hornby, I think, does an excellent job of conveying the thoughts of a teenager (having never been a teenage boy, I don’t exactly know, but it seems very honest). I enjoyed this. I’ll read some more Hornby now, since he’s my friend Michele’s favorite author.

15. Twisted, Laurie Halse Anderson. Another YA novel. A very good dark comedy about a boy who becomes popular after he paints graffiti on a school wall. He has to deal with a wretched home life, as well as the consequences of being accused of another crime he didn’t commit.

16. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne. My first time reading it. Expect a post soon.