My visits home to Massachusetts always seem to unfold the same way: Spend the first few nights partying in Boston, reluctantly drag myself to the sprawling metropolis known as Central Mass (not reluctant because I don’t want to see my family, but because it’s just not Boston), continue the partying at family gatherings for a couple more nights (where “night” = “start boozing by 3PM every day”), walk around like a zombie for the final day or two in Fitchburg, realize how F-ing boring it is once I’m stuck there by myself on a weekday where everyone I know is working, hightail it back to Boston.
Basically if you’re in Massachusetts and want to hang out with the fun version of me, you’ll want to find me in Boston or during the first two days of my return to Fitchburg. For the people who had to see me in my final two days of this most recent trip, I’m sorry.
This was a Memorial Day trip, but I’m just now getting around to posting because there’s always a one-week adjustment period when I get back to the real world. The alcohol and junk food withdrawals tend to mess with my sleeping patterns and therefore my productivity level.
If you’re thinking, “Ross, why the hell would I wanna hear about your trip back to Massachusetts? Do you really think you’re that interesting?” …I hear ya, but all I can do is promise that you’ll laugh at least once during the next several hundred words. As a matter of fact, to laugh immediately just scroll down to the bottom where I unveil the ridiculousness that was my diet for six days.
I have no way to organize the following thoughts because they are all jumbled together in my head. Let’s just go with whatever pops into my memory first:
- With some time to spare on the afternoon I landed in Boston before meeting up with a college friend, I decided walking through the Copley/Boylston Street area where the Marathon bombs went off was the best course of action. I honestly had no idea if there was a memorial of any kind out there on the streets to all the victims of Marathon Monday, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out. After a quick Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger at the Boylston St. Wendy’s, I was off to pay my respects. Below are a few of the pictures I took when I made my way over to the makeshift memorial across the street from the Boston Public Library. But as for the atmosphere, I can only describe it as hushed, calm, respectful, and of course a little eery. Not something you’d expect from one of the busier streets in the city.
- For those of us that were born and/or raised in Massachusetts and had been lucky enough to never experience any major tragedies that hit close to home, this Marathon terrorist attack ended that streak almost certainly. It feels like everyone knows someone who was injured, or knows someone who knows someone who was injured. It’s one thing to hear the crazy stories from secondary sources, but it’s something entirely different when a person who was hurt during the bombings is recapping the experience as you look on from three feet away. Hearing a dad say he was pretty certain his son, who had just crossed the finish line before the first bomb went off, was dead, and then hearing him say that his son thought he was dead when the second bomb went off…just a different level of a major tragedy sticking with you.
- The details still need to be figured out, but I’m confident that we’re getting a group of people from Fitchburg together to run next year’s Boston Marathon, with the goal being to raise money for all those affected this past year, and to specifically honor the family we all grew up with who was hurt on that Monday in April (though none of them critically injured, thank god).
- OK, enough with the grimness, right? Right. Well, if you happen to be in your thirties and feel like you’re lacking a bit in maturity, just know that there are people in your age range who still need their mother to write their names in marker on their toothbrushes or else they’ll forget whose is whose and accidentally share the same one. I know because I live with these people whenever I go home.
- And in possibly the greatest example of someone simply not giving a fuck about his appearance in public, I went to the movie theater with a guy in Fitchburg who strolled in wearing a fancy dress shirt on top and sweatpants on the bottom. So if you’re 35 years old and can dress yourself and remember what color your toothbrush is, you’re doing better than at least one person your age.
- Speaking of acting their age, good to see my grandparents finally acting more like the 80-year-olds that they are. My grandfather has a history of saying borderline inappropriate things to women that dates back to the FDR administration. But it’s always been contained to good-natured joking, and only when the woman he’s talking about is present. But on his way out of my Dad’s house over Memorial Day weekend, he looked me in the eyes, made sure I was paying attention, and said, “Tell Julie I said hi and that I’ve been thinking about her.” Julie, of course, is my girlfriend who was 3,000 miles away at the time, and was presumably NOT thinking about my grandfather. Though I’m kind of afraid to ask…maybe they have some strange connection that I didn’t pick up on the last time they were in the same room together.
- And this trip home marked the moment my grandmother gave up even trying to half-remember things I told her during my last visit. First she asked me how my book was coming along. I told her I was never writing a book, and she basically got mad at me for lying. I told her I’ve been working on TV and film the entire time. But I’m sure she’s telling people right now that my book-writing is going OK. Then she asked me if I’m still finishing up school in September, which I’ve never told her because I’ve been randomly signing up for classes whenever something looks good. So why would I tell people I had a target end date to my school work? Then she asked me if I ever write about my dog with my comedy stories. I told her the dog doesn’t play into my writing very often. So about five minutes later in front of a group of eight other people, she announced that my sex life was suffering because my dog is always in the bed with me and my girlfriend. I had no conversations with her in between the things I just told you above, but she somehow created this sexless narrative based on the few things I told her about writing, comedy and my dog. At least now we can all re-calibrate our opinion of her. Because after my grandparents left the house on Saturday night, at least two people said, “Oh, your grandmother is so sharp for her age.” Really? Did we switch the meaning of sharp recently and no one told me?
- Not to be outdone, my other grandmother asked me one day later if I remember playing with my Mom’s dog, Bruno, who died when my Mom was like 12 or something. I need to learn to just say “yes” to any question or assumption my grandparents make at this point. It will save me hours of miscommunications.
- But the socially-inept people that I hang out with apparently aren’t limited to my grandparents. At one BBQ I attended, I felt like I had to make small talk with a guy that was sitting next to me on the couch, so I said, “Oh, congrats. I heard you guys have a little one on the way soon.” His response was a 15-minute rant about his wife’s period, or lack thereof. I promise there are plenty of acceptable ways to discuss your wife’s pregnancy, but going into elaborate details about the tardiness of her period is not one of them. Whatever, the party had good hotdogs at least.
- So the real reason I was home for this particular weekend was to attend a benefit event for a high school buddy who passed away last November. His family organized a great event with a ton of raffle prizes and a live auction (where I proceeded to field remote bids from my brother on items such as a signed Tom Brady jersey, a chainsaw and a cord of wood. We were outbid on every one of those items).
- But I don’t know if that’s the right setting for grown adults to be running around giving each other ball taps and hitting on the grieving friends of the guy who died. I haven’t been to a lot of benefit dinners though, so maybe I’m the one who doesn’t fully understand the etiquette?
- Everyone that I saw over my six days home complimented my afro (aka “gray bush”). People just going out of their way to say they like when I have long hair, which I’m growing for good luck for the Bruins by the way. It’s like my version of the lucky playoff beard since I still can’t grow dark facial hair. Anyway, I can’t figure out for the life of me if these people really do like my hair in its afro state, or if they all got together before my visit and came up with this big practical joke to pay me back for everything bad I’ve ever done to them. If that’s the case, I’d just have to say well played, everybody. Well played.
- Serious question: If a person talks throughout an entire movie at the theater—I’m talking repeats every line of the movie out loud to his significant other—is it OK to hit him? I bet you said yes. What if instead of a man it was a woman? Would you still say yes? I still say yes. Lucky for me she only ruined the worst comedy movie ever made.
- Here’s why true Red Sox fans shouldn’t be upset at all with the drop in attendance at Fenway Park this year: Tickets were so hard to come by when I was in college that I was one of those people who slept on the sidewalk overnight while waiting in line for Red Sox-Yankees tickets. For the game I went to on Memorial Day against Philly, a group of four of us strolled up to the day-of-game ticket window one hour before the game and bought four seats at face value. And in theory, we could have picked any section of the ballpark to sit in. If that’s what the end of the sellout streak means, then I officially hope the teams I root for can never fill their stadiums again.
- But here’s the moment where I almost decided not to be a Red Sox fan anymore. The ticket window that’s specifically for day-of-game sales has moved, and now it’s kind of inside one of the entrances. And there’s a Red Sox employee that tells people who enter that area that they’ll have to go directly into the ballpark once they purchase their tickets, even if it’s 5:15PM and the game doesn’t begin until 7:10PM. But then you ask the person at the ticket window about leaving that area with your tickets, and he says it’s perfectly fine. So you buy the tickets and then that first person who said you’d be stuck inside the park really tries to make it happen. But then you realize he has absolutely no authority, maybe even less authority than you have at that very moment, and you simply move a barrier and exit the park. After discussing this whole scenario that played out when we bought the tickets with my group, we realized the Red Sox wanted to make it seem to people as if they had to enter the park right away so that most people would do so and obviously spend a bunch of extra money during the time leading up to the game, but they have absolutely no lawful way to enforce this. It just feels so unnecessarily sketchy to me. I know these owners want to squeeze every penny out of their fans, but come on. I can’t think of any other reason they would have this soft enforcer trying to persuade people to go immediately to their seats two hours before the game.
- Final sports note: If there’s one thing I miss about Boston, it’s the palpable buzz that energizes all parts of the city when one of our teams has a big game on the horizon. We got a large group together for the Bruins-Rangers game 4, and walking around the city all day leading up to that game, you could feel the excitement. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in the other two major cities I’ve lived in. I need to return for more big playoff moments.
And now, the moment you’ve probably all been waiting for. I mentioned just before my trip back East how bad my eating habits are when I’m traveling or away from home for an extended period of time. I just want to show you all how bad this sickness gets for me. And there’s really no reason for me to embellish this list, so I promise I won’t:
- Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich at airport in LA
- Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, fries, Diet Coke at Wendy’s on Boylston St.
- A home-cooked meal of oven-roasted chicken and sweet potatoes, made by my Wednesday night hosts (and easily the only thing I ate all weekend that could be described as “reasonably healthy”)
- Carnitas Super Burrito, Diet Coke from Anna’s Taqueria
- Turkey club sandwich, several rounds of fries from the bar where we watched the Bruins
- Two eggs, two sausage links, two strips of bacon, two pancakes, two pieces of toast at breakfast in Boston
- Peanut butter cup ice cream for lunch in Fitchburg
- 8-10 slices of pizza at the benefit event
- Peanut butter cup ice cream on top of a brownie as a late-night snack
- Omelet for breakfast in Fitchburg
- Popcorn, Peanut M&M’s at movie theater
- Cheeseburger, hot dog at a BBQ
- Peanut butter cup ice cream on top of a brownie as a late-night snack
- Brownie, pasta salad for breakfast
- 2 hot dogs, two peanut butter cookies, slice of strawberry cheesecake at BBQ
- Steak & Cheese grinder from D’Angelo’s
- Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts
- Cheeseburger, hot dog, Diet Coke for lunch
- Nachos and boneless buffalo wings at Game On before the Red Sox game
- 2 breakfast burritos, hash brown, Diet Coke from McDonald’s at Logan Airport
- Pulled BBQ pork, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, texas toast, Dr. Pepper (no Diet Coke available) from restaurant at airport in Dallas
No presence of vegetables or fruit in that entire six-day run. And keep in mind that my liquids for six days were a revolving door of soda, beer and Jack Daniel’s.
How much salad do you think I need to eat over the next month to offset the damage that was done in Massachusetts?