Saturday, July 28, 2007

"Gotta make the donuts..."

If there's one constant in my life, one love that has spanned the years, a rock that keeps me grounded, something worth waking up to every morning and something that I miss and long for when separated from by the cruelties of life it's Dunkin' Donuts.

More specifically, it's the New England-based chain's coffee.

Now you Starbucks-sippers in Seattle, or you Waffle House-loving southerners don't know the joy that is the morning's first sip of the rich, creamy iced coffee sucked from a bucket-sized cup through an orange-and-purple straw. It's a high that shoots straight through your mouth to the front of your brain, endorphins shower down, birds sing, the world is beautiful once more.

Alas, my favorite double-Ds isn't worldwide yet. But, darn it, we'll get there!

But if you've never had a chance to visit a Dunkin's and have an iced coffee on a steamy summer day - DO IT AS SOON AS YOU GET A CHANCE.

(Disclaimer: I promise not to yell too much on this blog, but for God's sake, some things I just feel too strongly about!)

For example, if you visit Boston, stopping under the purple-and-orange is just as important as visiting the site of the tea party, paying homage at Fenway Park and drinking a Samuel Adams. You can't miss them, anyway, there's literally one every block.

You New Yorkers out there have the same experience with Starbucks. In fact, I think that's the thing that pissed me off the most about living in the City - you can't get away from that stupid angel in the green circle, but there are, like, three measly Dunkin's in all of Manhattan. Abomination!

What's funny about our local Dunkin' Donuts, though, is the variety of differences in each retail location. Sure, they're pretty much branded the same, but unlike Starbucks where a barista from London is the same as a barista from the airport is the same as a barista from the Upper West is a same as a barista from hell, local flavors actually get added to the mix at DD.

For example, there are four locations I visit on a regular basis (generally, I go to each at least once a week). I'll rate them here from worst-first.

4) Dunkin's on the corner of Tremont & Boylston, right off the Boston Common. It's in the basement of 180 Boylston Street (an address I know only because it's the main campus building for Emerson College, where I'm getting my master's).
This location has everything I dislike about coffee shops... it's busy (because of it's location - right by one of the main tourist sites and a T station), homeless people shill for change constantly outside its doors, there's no bathroom and the ghetto-blastin' staff's quantitative IQ probably doesn't add up to Stephen Hawking's toejam.
But, the iced coffee tastes just as good as the nectar of the gods and it's super-convenient for the 8pm halfway-point break during my night classes.

3) Dunkin's on Boylston, one block from Copley Square, across from the public library.
Okay, so some of the same problems here (particularly with the homeless guys at the door, begging for spare change. Ugh - look, if you reek of booze, I'm not giving you money. It's obvious you're not there for a coffee! Every now and then, I'll buy a cup of coffee or a donut for the "doorman," but just as often, they'll turn it down, claiming they "just ate." Yeah, right.).
Other problems: crowded, due to the business towers in the area and tourist traffic, it's long and narrow so it can get kind of cramped, for some reason a lot of candy-faced kids hang out there.
Pluses: the staff is super-efficient and the line always moves fast. They also seem to be friendly all the time and they've never gotten an order wrong.

2) Dunkin's on Newbury Street, between Mass. Ave and Hereford.
Again more homeless (gah! They're everywhere!) brings this location down. The staff, which seems to be predominantly Arabic, with the exception of the super-enthusiastic Filipino guy who makes the sandwiches, has the most trouble communicating of any other Dunkin's out there. But it does add to the unintentional comedy when you have three people, from three different continents all trying to explain to each other how to make a non-fat, no-whipped cream, decaf coolatta. Good times!
For me, the reason I go to this one is it's there. It's a block from my office, which makes it convenient, and whether or not I ride the T, walk or bike to work, it's on my way and calling my name every morning (and, sometimes, every afternoon). I'd compare this branch to a girlfriend you have because she's fun to hook up with - she'll blow your (mind) at night or when the time is right, but you have to put up with a whole lot of ish all the time and you wonder why it's worth it to stay but since there's nothing better you do but secretly you always hope for something better to come along or a new store to open up one block in the other direction.
Uh, not that I've ever been in that situation or anything...

1) Dunkin's in the Shaw's Plaza, off of McGrath Highway, just over the Somerville/Cambridge border.
This one has all the good and none of the bad - it's the closest one to my apartment, right in a plaza that I visit a couple times a week anyway for groceries, it's on the way to the T (with only a slight detour). The staff, which seems to be the entire female/teenage child branch of an extended Indian family, is very friendly and even tries to upsell by insisting on asking every customer "If you would like any donuts or muffins today" (which, as a salesperson, I appreciate). They make the best breakfast sandwiches - even double-toasting the English Muffins so they have a nice crunch. The orders are always right and they're very fast. Heck, even the floors are always clean.
And the coffee? Ooooooooh, the coffee is so good. I visit this one when I'm running late, overslept or after the occasional hangover. That first sip is pure bliss.

I guess the only downfall is that they don't deliver.

I'll have to put that into the "comments" box.

I'd never leave my house.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I have friends. No, really!

So, in the midst of a summer that's been hectic in the office and pretty busy overall with a grad class, graduations and weddings to go to, I needed a break.

Last weekend, I took off for five days and headed South for the third installment of the now-annual 237A Coddington Road Housie Reunion. We've done a wedding, a trip across the Alaskan frontier and, now, a relaxing five-day trip to lounge next to the pool cute, little Fort Mill, South Carolina.

I lived with four other people senior year. And, even though I've been out of college long enough to not know a single person going to my alma mater, two of us are married, two others well on the way down that road and one with a child, we still make it a point to get back together each year - even if only for a couple days.

We're all busy people (probably too busy for our own good) and we don't keep in touch very well. The girls do, because, well they're girls and they like to talk. But the one other guy and myself are pretty crap at it. I'll maybe call once a month, send out an email every couple and generally don't have much deep, meaningful contact with most of the others for the whole year.

You know what? It doesn't matter. As soon as we're back together, we fall right back into the old habits of talking about old times, catching up on the new and just being perfectly at ease with each other.

The five of us (well, now ten - we've doubled in number thanks to four signifcant others and one baby) are a family. Sure, we're scattered across both coasts of the US, talk mainly via short emails through the year, but it doesn't matter. Our hearts are always together - and that's a gift you just can't take lightly.

It was a terrific weekend - and I'd forgotten how special it was to be with everyone.

Here's 'til next year!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

To sell or not to sell?

My goodness, that's an awful and uninventive title... I apologize for making you read such tripe.

But, screw it, there are more important things to talk about.

I heart music. I really do. I spend way too much money going to concerts; for example, I'm seeing Tool for the second time this tour with my lady friend next week and I dropped $150 for tickets to see them in the exact same place, supporting the exact same album in almost the exact same seats that I did last September. I subscribe to and actually have a monthly allotment in my budget for "music" (this became necessary one month after spending all of my "food" money on CDs).

I bought a 60-gig iPod the day it came out, which was, at the time, the MOST POWERFUL PORTABLE MUSIC PLAYER IN THE WORLD. And, even now, is pretty sweet. I also have an external hard-drive for the sole purpose of storing all of my ripped music files, because they won't actually all fit on my laptop.

To go along with all of this, I have an extensive CD collection, too. It's one I've been working on for over a decade... starting with buying my first CD player and CD (Newsboys, "Take Me to Your Leader" when I was 12.

I'm not entirely sure how many albums I own, but it's somewhere between 500-600. And that's after periodic culling of artists I don't listen to and re-selling them to my local Newbury Comics.

All told, these stacks of shiny discs in jewel cases has taken me years to amass and cost roughly the same as a halfway-decent car.

I baby that collection, too. The CDs are stored in those portable, zippered, faux-leather cases which are all alphabetized by artist, and then arranged chronologically. Heck, I even bought racks just to display the cases in my room, in case anyone wanted to be impressed by my eclectic taste while perusing my room.

I clean the discs before and after each use, ensure there are no scratches, make sure each is placed back into the space it came out of (right side up, as well). I hate loaning them out and I only do it to people who I know well and where they live. So I can kill them if they scratch one of them.

But now, I'm thinking of getting rid of my collection.

(Ouch. It pains me to think of such things.)

It all started with my brother, actually... he got me hooked on eMusic - but it wasn't hard to get suckered in. For $10 a month, the site will give you 40 downloads a month (actually, they just cut back new subscribers to 30, but it's still a good deal) and it has a ton of indie rock stuff that I like to listen to.

Also - and I hope no spies from eMusic are reading this - but all you need to download another user's purchased tracks are their login and password. Brian and I have traded this, and so we've doubled our monthly downloads to 80 apiece.

That's a ton of music... basically two albums a week. It's a lot to digest and, in fact, I've been downloading stuff and then forgetting to listen to it for months on end.

It's also put a damper on my weekly trips to Newbury Comics and the other record stores I used to frequent - why buy a CD when you could just download it for free? And, even when I had to buy it, most of the time iTunes or eMusic was a cheaper option. I really want to support my guys in the record shops and I do get a little thrill every time I crack open some fresh liner notes, but I don't make a ton of money, am trying to save up to pay of school loans and buy a place... every little bit helps.

Brian's in the same boat. He actually just sold his collection (almost as extensive as mine, ha) for $550 to Second Spin - enough to give him and his wife a nice, little first anniversary celebration and a terrific B&B in New Hampshire and buy some other new gadgets and such.

It got me thinking... albeit ruefully... about selling mine. I mean, c'mon, think of the things I could be buying with that money! And what would I really be losing? I don't own a CD player for my apartment (the closest thing I have to a system is my sister's desktop, which is hooked up to some of my speakers and a sub), can use my iPod in the car and haven't even really looked at any of the cases or pulled the CDs out of their sleeves in forever.

But selling my collection means letting go - giving away my anal obsession of alphabetizing and organizing, losing the ability to show off hundreds of jewel cases and breaking the delightful habit of browsing record store bins on the weekends or my lunch break.

Let's face it... the best-selling CD of last year was a blank one. Maybe, like the 8-track and the LP, the CD's heyday is in the past. Perhaps it's time to cut my losses and run.

Besides, if I do get an iPhone, I'd have a new obsession to replace the old one, right?

To be continued...

Why you shouldn't read this...

So, welcome to my new blog. Or, actually, we could probably call it my first blog, since I think I wrote about 3 posts for my last one and mainly resorted to putting up links to random news stories of the day.

All together now, "laaaaaaame."

Before we get started, I figured I would cover a few things that I will not be covering for your reading enjoyment:

1) Television
Yeah, sure, I've worked in TV. But that doesn't mean I actually watch it... I know literally nothing about any of the buzz shows, can't name anyone who won an Emmy, don't subscribe to HBO and don't know how to operate TiVo. My boob-tube viewing consists of too much ESPN, any Sox game I can catch, some local/national news and "Lost. That's it...

Although, I have started enjoying Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel (I think that's where it's on - I'll watch the re-runs if I'm flipping through and it's on. Fascinating stuff! Actually, maybe I will blog about this show. But that's it.)

2) Film
I know absolutely nothing about film. I have lived a five minute's walk from the premier indie cinema in the Boston area for 15 months and I've gone there only once. The last three movies I saw were Knocked Up, Ocean's 13, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

A film buff, I am not. I enjoy watching an artfully done film with subtitles... but I never hear about them, never read up on them, never look to see when they're playing, don't order them on demand and couldn't care less who the next breakout starlet is.

3) My personal life
I am not emo. Online shiznit is not my life. I haven't used AIM in four years. I will not post naked pictures of myself.

Unless you ask me nicely...

I'll write about day-to-day things, but you won't ever see me bare my heart and soul about anything that's too personal to have a complete stranger read. C'mon people, that's what bathroom stalls are for!

Maybe I'll add some more to this list later on, but that's good for a start.

As to what I'll actually be writing about, I really have no idea. I know that all good blogs must have a theme, right? But right now... I am themeless. Pointless.

"Pointless Nostalgic, that's me." - Jaime Cullum