The Incidental Patriot

New place, new job, new life.

Underwhelming Boston

Let’s get this straight: there are a lot of really cool things to do here.  Lots of history (as long as you consider “history” as being 300 years old — this ain’t Europe!), art, gourmet food, and just all around culture.  But who wants to talk about the positives?  Here’s a small list of what I consider “Underwhelming Boston.”

1.  THE WORLD TRADE CENTER — Speaking of “this ain’t Europe,” “this ain’t New York!”  It’s a building.  Woo!  I’m sure there’s stuff that goes on in there.  Business-y stuff.  Stuff Occupy Wall St. despises.

Is this even part of the Skyline?

2.  The site of the Boston Tea Party — ask any 3rd grader what they know about Boston.  If they’re not an idiot, they might say Boston Tea Party!  Taxation without representation!  Boston Cream Pie!  Ah yes, one of the most well-known happenings here (more or less well-known than THE MASSACRE???)  Alas, here is what lies there:

Boston Tea Barge?

Did you know they had already invented cranes by 1773?  Part of INTERESTING Boston might be the Children’s Museum in the background (check out that giant milk bottle.)

3.  The Paul Revere House — One if by land, two if by sea, three if by air, four if by underground (those Brits were all CHUDs, weren’t they?)  The house he lived in during that fateful night he rode to the Old North Church (that’s a cool one) is pretty shitty.  In fact he got richer and moved to a nicer house which doesn’t exist anymore.  This house was turned into a boarding house.  So basically nothing to give you insight into his life even exists there.  It is literally just an old house with weird plastic food and not even that much information (“Revere may have slept in this room.”)  The worst part is you have to pay $3 to get in!

Who decided ALL BROWN was a good color?

So, when you do come to visit, feel free to mark these off your agenda.


The Nonpedestrian Pedestrian

Do you remember those books that were titled Everything I Need to Know About _____, I Learned in Kindergarten?  Is it just me, or is that really stupid?  I’m not sure if I learned anything in kindergarten.  In fact, I am pretty sure I only learned a few things, and they were all about survival skills.  There were:

1.  Look both ways before crossing the street.  (What if it’s a one-way street?)

2.  Don’t talk to strangers.  (How do I make friends?)

3.  Don’t accept candy from strangers.  (But I like candy SO MUCH.)

4.  Don’t get into the car of a stranger.  (Unless he has really good candy.  And have you noticed strangers are always male?)

5.  Don’t pick your nose.

You would think that kindergarten teachers would teach you something useful like, say, math or firefighting.  But it’s a fact that all elementary school teachers (in the U! S! A!) absolutely despise math.  This is a fact.  I would say “no offense,” but can offense be taken to the truth?  I think not.

For the few things that I learned in kindergarten, I think the people of Boston learned even less…

As I was crossing a very busy intersection for lunch, I stopped at the curb.  I mainly did this because, well, it was a green light in the direction of traffic that would potentially kill me.  And there were cars coming.  What do the people behind me do? Well of course, what any normal person would do — cross.  No yielding, the light didn’t just turn green and wasn’t about to turn yellow.  This is not an exaggeration.  They just went.  WHAT!?  And the craziest part is — the oncoming cars not only stopped to let them cross, but didn’t even honk their horns/give them the finger/attempt to kill them with a shotgun.  Then once these idiots started crossing, everyone else did too.  Again: what!?

I don’t know if the traffic laws are different here.  I imagine so.  It must say something like “All cars must yield to pedestrians.  All the time.  Yep, you heard me, all the fucking time.”  I guess this is what you come to expect from a state that does have healthcare for all (take that Obamacare!)  Either that, or they really did learn math in kindergarten.

Discussion questions:

1.  Did you learn math in kindergarten?  Let’s be honest, did you learn math ever?

2.  Do you look both ways when crossing the street?  Do you remember to reverse the order of looking when you’re in England (or any place under The British Empire?)

3.  Do you wish you had healthcare?  Secondly, do you wish you lived in a state that taxes 27% of your income (you have to have both)?

The Boston Train Book Club

There are only a handful of socially acceptable (or at least socially legal) things to do on the T.  T is for Train by the way — very creative!  The list is as follows:  read, text (when you have service), do the crossword, stare blankly, stare creepily, smell funny, smell really really bad, chat with people, chat with people that is WTMI (way too much information), listen to music, play music on your headphones loud enough to hear that you listen to shitty music, fart, shart, and sway drunkenly.  There’s probably a few more.  I’ll update if I see it happen.

But let’s get back to first one — read.  Are you looking for a new and exciting book to read?  Well, look no further!  Welcome to The Boston T Book Club!  (Yeah, this will probably be a recurring feature.)  It’s a wrap up of books I’ve seen people reading over the last week (as well as my commentary about their taste.)  I won’t purposely leave out books to make people seem weirder / less weird.  Get a Kindle, people!

1.  At Home by Bill Bryson.  Bryson is one of my favorite authors.  I was very impressed to see someone reading this!  In fact, one of my ideas for this blog title was the title of one of his books: I’m a Stranger Here Myself.  But I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I am not a crook!

2.  Defiance by Nechama Tec.  I’m sure this is a fine book and all, but I bet the guy who is reading it bought it because of the sweet new cover featuring the movie version’s Daniel Craig.  “I’d read anything with Daniel Craig on the cover,” he seemed to say.


3. Room by Emma Donoghue.  This award-winning book seems pretty messed up.  A kid grows up with his mother in one room.  Held captive, PRESUMABLY???? Or is it a conspiracy?  Only time will tell.

4. Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LaZebnik.  Yet another novel about knitting?  How many do we need?  From the blurb:

Three L.A. girlfriends keep it together with their Sunday morning knitting circle in LaZebnik’s sophomore warm-fuzzy (after Same as It Never Was). Charming, irresponsible Kathleen Winters is dependent on her identical twin sisters (semi-famous actresses reminiscent of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) for a paycheck and a home.

Looks like a fun “beach read,” as long as you’re into getting sand kicked at you on the beach.

But the cover is so clever!

5.  Lastly, my favorite:  La Arctica Diaria.  I can’t find any information on it.  But it had a penguin on the cover.  I was about as small as a pamphlet so it looked like instructions on how to use your walkmen.  I could see some of the pages and they were white with the top 1/2 inch of each page colored purple.  I’m thinking it was a cover-up for medical information about Viagra (prescription only, ladies!)  Was it a kid’s book?  It seemed so!  However it was read by an older man.  Maybe he lures little Cuban kids into his car with it.  “Hola niños, quieres que los PENGUINOS?”  I don’t want to know what happens next.

Creepy Colleague, or How Ladies Must Feel All The Time

In my department, there aren’t many classes taught on Fridays.  Therefore, most faculty do not come in.  One Friday not long ago I went in to do a little bit of work (NERD!).  I was happy to find I was the only one in my usually crowded office (6 desks, 10 lecturers or something –this is what a Ph.D. gets you, people!)  Yes, freedom to write quizzes, listen to Spotify, watch cat videos, and do whatever it is math people do (watch cat videos.)  Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that with a “full time” job, I don’t have to work on Fridays?  Aha — a Ph.D. does get you something besides getting to check “Dr.” under title and talking down to everyone.  Oh, entitlement!

After being alone for some time with both of the office doors closed, someone begins to turn the key to open one of the doors.  One of many friendly colleagues I share an office with?  (This isn’t sarcasm, I genuinely like all my officemates…in case they’re reading this.)  Nope, it’s someone I’ve never seen before!

Now before I get into the following “conversation,” I just want to say that I have a high level of tolerance for creepsters.  I’m a creepster probably.  I have been in math departments my entire collegiate and post-collegiate life.  So trust me, I know.  On many occasions, someone has said (usually a female), “That guy at the party/office/bar/restaurant you know from the math department is soooo creepy!”, to which I respond, “Oh him?  He’s alright!  He’s just a little awkward.”  Look at me, coming to the defense of potential pedos.  And there you have it.  Now back to the good part, which starts with me initiating conversation:

“Oh, hi!”


“Umm, are you new here?”

“No, I’ve been here awhile…”  (ellipses are here to indicate trailing off)

“Are you in this office?”


“What do you do here?”

“I’m a grad student…”

“I thought this office was only for lecturers.”

“Oh, I guess not…”

“Well I’m Dennis.”

“I’m Rob.”

[I offer to shake his hand, and I get the limpest, most awkward handshake you can imagine.  I can’t confirm this, but his hands were probably clammy.]

After this is a series of things I tell him about myself, and his only response every time is the word “Neat…”  As in, I did dynamics: Neat.  I’m from Florida:  Neat.  This is my office:  Neat.

Okay so maybe that doesn’t sound too bad on paper (hard to convey vibes.)  Then he proceeds to sit down and turn on one of the office computers and I continue to work.  As he gets to the log in screen, he isn’t able to log in.  Every time is the Windows error tone BEEP!  Then, BEEP!  Then, BEEP!  This goes on, without exaggeration, 15 times.  WHO ARE YOU???  WHY DO YOU HAVE A KEY???  ARE YOU HERE TO KILL ME!?!?

Upon looking him up on our website to make sure he exists (i.e. to see if my Tyler Durden is creepy and feminine), he in fact does exist.  But his office is NOT my office.  Also, I discovered this about him.  Yeahhhhh….


Not having seen him for awhile, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Ahhhh!  However, just a few days ago, he tried to come back!  AHHHH!  It was during normal hours and everyone who legitimately does work there was there with several students getting office hour help.  He quickly departed.  But I’m sure he made sure I noticed him first, as if to say, I’M BACK.

Discussion Questions:

Is he trying to kill me?

Is this how women always feel about (almost every) man?

Why couldn’t he log in?

Really though, is he trying to kill me (what if he finds this blog????) ?

Meet me at the combination Taco Bell / Toilet Paper Roll

1.  Chain restaurants are surprisingly not ubiquitous here.  Maybe it’s not surprising.  I suppose more walkable cities have a lot more local business (not as many drive-thrus!)  What we do have on campus though is a combination Taco Bell / Pizza Hut.  I haven’t done it yet, but my colleague has gotten, on multiple occasions, breadsticks and a few tacos.  Oh yes.  Tacos Marinara.  (Where’s that KFC when you need it?)

2.  My office is very close to a really shitty bathroom (in both sense of the word.)  Okay, okay, it stays pretty clean.  But the door is hyper-spring loaded and will destroy you if you are in its path.  Also there’s just one stall and two urinals.  Between the urinals is a little wall.  HAHAHA JK there’s nothing.  “Hey guy, nice penis.”

3.  Having a good janitorial crew is key.  And I think we have one of those (crew, not just one — but who knows?).  So when I do do my number twos (pun intended), there is always ample toilet paper.  Except one day — it was dangerously low.  I have to think that the department had a seminar and Taco Bell catered.  What other conclusion could there be?  (Toilet paper thieves?  Janitors on strike?  TP-eating moths?)  No, the most plausible is a Taco Bell luncheon.  There were probably some personal pan pepperoni pizzas involved.  And at least one P’zone.

4.  Do you think it would be a good business model for Taco Bell (especially combination ones) to sell toilet paper as well?  I mean, everyone knows what happens.  It’ll be the next big thing since bookstore cafes and, well, combination Taco Bell Pizza Hut Kentucky Fried Chicken Piccadilly’s Sizzler Chinese Buffets.  I’d buy it.  Or maybe just throw it in with those two dollar meal deals.  Maybe they can serve the burritos inside the toilet paper roll cylinder?  Recycle!  Reuse!  Re… there’s a third one somewhere.

Discussion questions:

Is this a good business model?  At least it’ll take people’s minds off the whole 42% beef thing.

How come when people order a bunch of pizzas, they don’t call that “catering?”

Do you prefer urinals with or without the courtesy wall?

What is the best combination of any two things ever?

When was the last time you saw a REALLY nice penis?

Elevator Music

Welcome to Boston!  Hello, it’s nice to meet you.  Hello Tom Brady, What’s up Ray Allen, How’s it going Aerosmith?  Did you know Aerosmith’s only number one hit was the Armageddon song?  Did you know Boston is (supposedly) from Boston?  Oh that’s obvious you think — but is Asia from Asia?  No.  (But Chicago is from Chicago, I think.)

You always hear about the hustle and bustle of New York City, but it seems that people are in quite the hurry here as well!  Case in point:  Elevator Etiquette.  Everyone knows the rules:  Off before on.  It’s the same in the subway (which it seems, most people abide by.)  I have found it quite disturbing that a large percentage of people don’t think this is how it’s done for elevators.

I have been shoved aside way too many times for the short time I’ve been here.  Do they think they will arrive at their one floor up faster if they don’t let me get off first?  And yes, if you’re going up one floor, use the stairs!  My advice to you: STEP ASIDE AND WAIT FOR ME TO GTFO THE ELEVATOR!  (Here, this O stands for “off.”)

But that’s not all.  Then there are the passive aggressive elevatorists.  They seem to wait for you to get off without so much the “stepping aside” part.  This might be worse.  Are they oblivious?  Do they just hate me?  Let me give you a visual:

I am Stephen Curry. Bad people are Tim Duncan. I'm not sure who Tony Parker would be -- I guess the analogy doesn't work for Tony.

Remember Boston:  Be kind, GFTO of my way.


Discussion questions:

What etiquette rule(s) that you think are obvious aren’t being followed enough?

Who does Tony Parker represent in the picture?

Should you be able to give your band a place name if you are not actually from that place?