Summer 2014

Don't leave, Summer, you're the best.

Don’t leave, Summer, you’re the best.

Despite the fact that it’s currently 80-something degrees outside and both air conditioners in the apartment have been blasting all day, summer is unofficially over now that the sun has set on Labor Day. The summer of 2014 went by in an all-too-fast blur, much of it rife with horrifying news from around the globe. However, there were some shining moments to remember as we head into the final stretch of the year. Let’s think about those, shall we?

Summer came at all. After a brutally cold and snowy winter, the entire region awaited warm weather and lazy summer days with anxiety. Would it rain all season long? (Nope.) Would it be hot? (Not really.) Everything would be all right, if we could just make it to those warmer months. (Correct.)

There was no “Song of the Summer.” Say what you will about the relatively recent trend of dubbing one pop anthem the inescapable hit of windows-down season, but there really wasn’t one this year. Sure, Iggy Azelea’s “Fancy” was an early leader, but it burned out fast. I’m just sad “All About that Bass” didn’t start seeing regular airplay until the waning days of August. (However, that means music industry marketing folks are having emergency meetings to sharpen the knives for summer 2015. Prepare for an onslaught of universally appealing pop!)

Road trips. New England is the most beautiful place to be in the summer. Everyone is outside, sweating and baring their skin to the suddenly fierce sun. It’s best to take advantage of several long summer weekends around the region. This summer, I visited Martha’s Vineyard, Newport, Ogunquit, York, Jamestown RI, Portsmouth NH, Scituate MA, and Lake Winnipesaukee. Can’t wait to see where fall’s road trips take me.

Running outside. There’s nothing better than being woken up by the sun and getting a quick jog in before work, feeling the day’s heat slowly beginning to build. Sadly, that only lasted for about a month before the mornings started getting darker. Ugh. (Sorry. Positivity!)

Weddings! My good friend got married this summer at a lovely, low-key ceremony. She’s one of my first very close friends made during post-college life to get hitched, and I’m so happy for her.

Summer of the Shandy. I think I drank what feels like 500 Narragansett Del’s Shandies and Harpoon Big Squeezes. To say nothing of the Narragansett Summers. Fall beers are awesome, but summer beers are finally giving them a run for their money.

So, what was your favorite part of Summer 2014? Let’s reminisce so we can use these thoughts to keep ourselves from giving up entirely when it’s -30º in a few months.

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Insult to Injury

Although I am generally more active and willing to be outside in the summer months, I often gain weight when it’s warm outside. Every day, I wear the stretchiest, loosest, most breathable clothing I own. While I walk more places, it’s typically to a patio upon which to dine and drink al fresco for hours. By the time cool August nights roll around and I’m donning my jeans, I notice they’re a little more snug than they were in the spring.

Combine this with an increasing number on the scale and a recent vacation during which I ate and drank my way across the port towns of southern New England, I’ve been pushing myself hard to exercise this week. I made my valiant and sweaty return to the gym on Monday, stunned at how much of the strength I’d lost in a mere week away. Tuesday I rested (and ate pizza nachos) but I returned yesterday.

Tonight, I was a little tired, but figured I should push myself to do one more fitness class this week. I’d missed the start of a short class by mere moments, so I waited around for the 45 minute (and more challenging) class to begin. The warmup began with some squats. My muscles were tired, but I felt fine. We did a few downward facing dogs and cobra poses to get loose. Sometime between the slowed-down burpees and the mountain climbers, I felt a stabbing pain in my knee.

Shit.

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Third Time’s a Charm for My Debit Card?

Soon, I’ll be receiving my third new debit card of 2014.

Yes, that’s right. Numero tres. The second due to my number being used for a fake debit card in another state.

Ever since Bob Dole blew my burgeoning adult mind with the idea that I could one day pay for things out of my checking account without a check, I’ve been a debit card user. In my days of youthful folly, I used my overdraft protection frequently. In my recovery from living beyond my means, my debit card has gotten a significant workout because I know I can’t be trusted to pay a credit card balance in full every month and I try to pay “cash” for everything.

But now I’m reconsidering this move, since I’ve had to replace my card so often. Earlier this year, my bank called me to report a small charge, typically used by data thieves to see if the bank will flag the card. Then because I’d used my card at Target, the bank sent me another card. Yesterday, I got the dreaded voicemail from Santander fraud protection.

It’s a monumental hassle in so many ways that this keeps happening. I pay for myriad bills through my debit card, including things like Birchbox or the New York Times. There are so many things I don’t even know I use the card for until my inbox is filled with notices that an attempted payment has failed. Then there’s the fact that it takes Santander more than a week to mail the new card to me. If I want to get cash outside of banking hours during that time, I have to pay Visa’s exorbitant rates for cash advances on my credit card.

It is absurd to me that banks are dragging their feet to use the type of debit cards that are less easily hacked. These cards are in wide use throughout Europe with largely positive results, but US banks aren’t going to roll out the new cards because the cost of the technology is as much as 10 times the cost of a card with a magnetic stripe.

The customer service rep I spoke to this week was lovely, and helpfully suggested that the cause of my repeated security issues was due to somewhere where I use the card. It’s a herculean task. I buy coffee from a slew of different shops. My lunch spots vary. I had the card to servers regularly. I buy gas every few weeks. I use strange ATMs. How the hell am I supposed to narrow it down? The banking industry encouraged me to conduct my transactions this way. Now it’s my fault their security is subpar?

One of these days, I’ll go through my bank statements to see where I used the card before both times I was compromised, since it’s likely my card is being skimmed. And then I will break the fingers of the punk who’s causing me this hassle. Until then, I guess it’s time to start hiding cash under my mattress.

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Why I Would Bring a Child Into This Fucked Up World

On days like today, with planes being shot out of the sky and what looks like wars erupting around the globe, it’s easy to get down on this whole “being alive” thing. Why do we keep going? Why did our parents bring us into a world in which little boys meet their death by being bombed on a beach?

Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan asked the question directly this afternoon in a post titled “Why Would I Ever Want to Bring a Child Into This Fucked Up World?” It’s a valid question, and one that I’m sure most parents consider before choosing to conceive new life.

My mother told me that my father was skeptical about having children for the same reasons. Life was complicated. War. All the jerks that abound and who may make life a living hell for his potential progeny. Why make another human suffer through a turn on this crappy planet? While I’m not quite sure how they resolved it, it’s clear they did because my brother and I are here.

I won’t lie; the thought of “God, can I really bring a child into a world that has days that hurt our hearts this badly?” crossed my mind around the fourth heartbreaking news item I read today. But then I thought about it. Why bring a child into this fucked up world? Because, odds are, your child will be a source of light in a dark world. And not sure while he or she is young and adorable and makes strangers smile on the train just by being there. But because, if you do your best to raise the child right, he or she will be a force for good.

Not in an earth-shattering way in that he or she may cure cancer or find a solution for peace in the Middle East, although it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. But in the way that matters to all of us insignificant specks that just try to get through the day. Think of those people that bring you love. The friend who knows the right thing to say or the right bottle of wine to pick up when you’re feeling blue. The mentor who teaches you what you need to know to grow into the career and life you’ve chosen for yourself. Those who fix a broken wheelchair for a veteran.

Without a doubt, the world can be a horrifying place. But part of being a parent is teaching your child how to rise above it, to look for the small, good things in the world and to be one of those good things for someone else. They will fail at it some days. They’ll have phases in which they bully and are cruel. But you keep teaching them that the light is stronger than the dark, they’ll give it up. They’ll find that light. And that’s exactly what this fucked-up world needs.

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Buddy Cianci: Third Time’s A Charm?

buddy bow downLike most Rhode Islanders, my family viewed the half-hour drive to downtown Providence as “too far” to travel. Why struggle to comprehend the labyrinthine streets when the suburbs had plenty of food and a couple of half-decent theaters and concert halls? My mother was loathe to even drive through the city, opting to take I-295 around Providence when heading north for family vacations.

Therefore, my knowledge of life in Providence is limited to my experiences in high school when I had a driver’s license and started driving to “the City” to get a change of scene. I caught productions of Shakespeare in a then-new Waterplace Park, as the skeleton of what would become the Providence Place Mall rose behind the performers. My friends and I moshed at WBRU summer concerts at India Point Park, which was then located across a glass-strewn pedestrian footbridge. Thayer Street still had dozens of locally-owned small businesses that put the suburban mall stores to shame.

I’d grown up hearing stories about Providence’s colorful mayor, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci. Like the schools in Foster/Gloucester closing every time it snowed, Buddy was one of those things Rhode Islanders both loved to joke about and were slightly ashamed of. Sure, he assaulted a guy. But he played a part in saving the now-gorgeous Providence Performing Arts Center from the wrecking ball. The Providence Place Mall was getting a Nordstrom. We were all pretty sure the guy wasn’t operating above board. But he didn’t physically hurt anybody (except that one guy who got him kicked out of office the first time) and good stuff was happening in the capital of the Ocean State, which has struggled longer than many other cities in the Northeast since every industry that had created it has since moved abroad.

Alas, Buddy got nabbed on a federal racketeering charge, and spent a five years in a “federally funded gated community.” He’s worked a talk show gig like so many other, shall we say, displaced politicians. And now that he’s fulfilled the terms of his sentence (he wasn’t allowed to run again until this year), Rhode Island is reeling from the news that Cianci is running for mayor for a third post-conviction stint.

Many political watchers didn’t think he’d have the stones to do it. He’s currently battling cancer and is 73 years old, as well as making money hand over fist for his media jobs. Why go back to civil service, where every reporter in a 100 mile radius will have their noses in the city’s finances, looking for signs of malfeasance?

Because he’s Buddy Cianci, that’s why. He LIVES for this stuff, like a certain other New England mayor who kept his nose much cleaner than Cianci ever did. Why do you think Cianci started that radio show in the first place? So he could go on the record against what the mayors who came after him did while elevating his profile and staying front of mind to Providence voters.

And I wouldn’t underestimate his ability to win. Yes, Providence has changed dramatically since Buddy’s incarceration. But people remember how Providence looked when Buddy was mayor. A new mall. Rebranding it as the “Creative Capital.” A super maudlin network TV show bore our capital city’s name. How do people think of Providence now? Every time I say I’m meeting friends, my Mom begs me not to get shot. That’s why Buddy talks about the past in such glowing terms and mentioned crime and drugs in his announcement today.

Not to mention so many other Rhode Island politicians are having much worse problems. The state’s Legislature is in a shambles, dealing with a scandal involving its House Speaker that is only now beginning to unfold in public. 38 Studios is still an albatross. Cianci lines his own pockets a little bit while construction picks up in Providence? It seems almost quaintly comforting to return to the feel-good era of machine politics then, doesn’t it?

So, I can’t wait to see how this unfolds in my home state. And kudos to Buddy, the greatest troller of them all.

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Derjue Taps That: Maple Water

Growing up in the ’90s made me a sucker for a well-marketed beverage. In my later years of high school, there were so many empty Sobe bottles in my backseat it sounded like an alcoholic trucker had taken up residence in my Ford Taurus. I experimented with a wide variety of Nantucket Nectars. Don’t even get me started on the Coolatta.

In my adult years, most of the beverages that have separated me from my money with the promise of improved health and mental clarity have been sold in cardboard boxes. I tried unflavored coconut water, but since I’m not a fan of coconut-flavored things, I loathed the flavor, even when cut with flavors I do like.

It's so cute!

It’s so cute!

I’d read about the maple water product craze. If it’s good enough for triathletes with a fetish for unprocessed foods, surely it would make me feel better after a workout? Like all good New Englanders, I was raised on real maple syrup. I love maple-flavored things, from pancakes to ice cream to this amazing milkshake I used to drink at the Hopkinton State Fair in New Hampshire. After a particularly strenuous recent workout, I spied a tiny container of maple water at my gym. $2.83 later, I was walking down the street, sipping and waiting for… something.

While the maple water has a light maple flavor to it, it was almost too faint. I wanted more in my initial few sips. Where was the sweetness? That syrupy cling to the tongue and lips that indicates you’ve partaken in the glory that is real, sweet, delicious maple syrup? Not in my water.

Alas, much like chugging an actual glass of straight maple syrup, the flavor became overpowering while still being unsatisfying as I reached the end of the container. I felt like my breath was turning sour as I drank it. Once I’d finished the package, I was still parched and felt none of the effects of the well-advertised nutritional benefits. Disheartened, I tossed the empty container into the trash and headed home to enjoy what is perhaps my favorite and most effective post-workout drink: a tall glass of cool tap water.

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15 Reasons to (Really) Date a Reporter

(Post inspired by this.)

1. Reporters have a great B.S. detector. When you tell your reporter you don’t care that he/she doesn’t make any money, he/she won’t believe you.

2. If you’re free for lunch on a Wednesday, your significant other might be able to join you, due to a reporter’s flexible schedule. However, if he/she is on deadline, you’re eating a sad desk lunch alone at your office. And are probably on your own for dinner too.

3. I’d like to see the science that says reporters are better at Scrabble than the general population. If you’re dating a copyeditor, sure.

4. Reporters meet deadlines. Usually, this means they’re several hours late to an important social activity you ask them to attend.

5. Your reporter date will be up on all the local news and current affairs. Because he/she won’t get off Twitter long enough to get behind.

6.  Successful reporters (like the one you’re dating) are ambitious and aren’t afraid to take risks. It’s why they almost never have health insurance.

7. Your date may make the first move on you. When his/her cellphone is dead and there’s nothing else to do.

8. “Reporters make great dates to parties and family events, as they’re great at asking questions and engaging others in conversation.” Did this person base this entirely on TV and movie reporters? Reporters hate asking questions or engaging unless it’s getting them paid.

9. Your date will always have interesting stories to tell. You will read them in his/her newspaper.

10. Remember that time your ex forgot your birthday? Your journalist is going to do the same thing. Deadlines!

11. Reporters are passionate communicators. They have a special talent with profanity.

12. When dating a reporter, everything is off the record. Which will drive your S.O. crazy if you have a good scoop.

13. Reporters can act fast, redirect questions and problem-solve on the fly. They can also bullshit all day long. 

14. “Reporters get invitations to swanky events.” No, magazine writers get invitations to swanky events. Reporters hop around to various community events. If hanging around a church basement with a package of Chips Ahoy and some Kool-Aid is your idea of a party, you’ll be living the dream.

15. Making a living as a journalist in the modern media world is tough, and those who do it are truly committed to their work. And, for the right kind of person, that’ll outweigh all the minor frustrations.

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