Activity: MFA lecture and French dinner
Dress code: Academic chic
Our December “Fun is fun” event took a different angle. Adam and I have always been intellectually curious, loved museums, and been game for learning deeply about irrelevant things. (Ask me about the time we hired a tour guide for a day to give us the low-down on the Albigensian Crusade). So I decided for our December “Fun is fun” event we’d go to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I found this particular event (“Complex Relationships: Egypt and Nubia“) by deciding on venue first, and seeing what was on their agenda second. This might have been a special exhibition, costume party, or lecture on pretty much any topic. I AM rather fond of Nubia from the African History class I took in college, but much more interested in the complicated history of Nubian Christianity.
We showed up to the museum right on time, and through some miracle of time and space got STREET PARKING. Astonishing. I went to the main window to pay for our entry – the tickets had been free, although I had to formally sign up for them. But in an amazing loophole, it turns out that the free tickets included entry to the museum. SCORE! Cost of the date so far: $4 in parking.
We thoroughly and deeply enjoyed the lecture and presentation. It was a very cogent and interesting discussion that mixed ancient and modern questions of identity, categorization, the connection between science and labeling things, and what makes Nubian pottery Nubian. The lecture was short – 45 minutes – but really engaging and well delivered and thought provoking. It was so much fun, I was sad when it was over.
After the lecture concluded, we had some time to spend in the MFA which – despite loving museums and living within a 20 minute drive for the last, uh, 20 years, we’ve only been to a handful of times. We barely hit three and a half galleries – our appetite still wet for bizarre and beautiful and interesting artifacts. But it turned out the museum closed at 5. Who knew!? So we headed early for dinner, vowing to return some day with more time.
I’d tried to pick the closest French restaurant to the MFA, which was in Back Bay. I’d planned on walking – we usually enjoy a nice stroll and parking in Boston isn’t in my list of fun things to do. But it was quite cold and we were underdressed for the weather, so instead we attempted to drive in. I swear we walked nearly as far from the nearest parking garage, and it was very stressful, but it worked! Our table wasn’t ready, so we sat at the bar and listened to the French-speaking bartenders chat as we contemplated the topic we’d just heard the lecture on and agreed that …. we really like attending lectures like this and we need more time at the MFA.
The drinks were excellent, the restaurant was noisy and the menu was adventurous. Note to self: you are an audacious eater, but you do not like liver. We were sated in mind and body when it was time to return back to the suburbs and our distinctly tweed-free lifestyles. But this was a real winner in terms of both the enjoyment in the moment, and the longer term feeding of the mind – it’s the sort of thing you can think about later that helps deepen and richen your experience of the world. I’ll never think of Nubian pottery shards the same way!
In the still locked down but waning days of last winter, when pandemic podmates were all digging very deep for new conversation topics, we did an evening on the topic of “What band would you most want to see live” (with time for both fantasy/dead options and currently playing ones). I wanted to see the Ring Cycle in Bayreuth. I forget the two others. But my friend said her #1 wish was to see the band Bombadil play.
In an idle moment a little later, I Googled to see if Bombadil had any upcoming tour dates that we might be able to swing to see them. But alas, the list of tour dates was empty. However, there was the tag line “Email us if you want to host a show or need help with tickets or just have questions about life.” I had many questions about life, but I was wondering … could it work? Were they still a going concern? Could they possibly come here? With little to lose, I dropped an email. And so it came to be that this fall, Bombadil was coming to play the street, making my friend’s dream come true in her own home.
We’d asked the band what they might need for the concert. The answers were a gentle preference for selzer, red wine, and cake with milk. I took responsibility for the cake with milk. The morning of, I cheerfully made about 60 cupcakes in my favorite kinds of cake, and liberally frosted them. As the dark began to fall, I brought them across the street to join the other offerings, and watched the band set up. Friends had come from all over – states away – for this event.
The sense of anticipation when you are mingling with the band while guests arrive and the equipment gets set up was singular. And this night was exceptional. November it might have been, but even in the dark the weather was in the upper 60s with clear skies and gentle breezes. Sure, climate emergency. But on this night it was a glorious feeling of liberty as the walls between inside and outside were literally down. As the hour came, we all gathered with our backs to Nobility Hill. Above us sat a gaggle of teens, sitting close on a blanket. The lights were soft and the moon was rising over my house across the street. And the first chords fell upon hushed and listening ears.
I am not sure I’ve ever been happier, for an hour and a half. I think that this depth of joy is only possible by contrast – after sorrow and pandemic and isolation and loss. You don’t understand a perfect moment until you have comparisons for it. And this was a perfect moment. We’d spent the lead up to the concert listening to the music, so when it finally came they were all familiar, I had favorites, and I could sing along with the choruses. Also, I got to actually ask the band what the heck the words to the chorus of “When We are Both Cats” actually are. We held our breath as to whether or not Daniel would fall off the steps where he was precariously perched. And around the circle of light the faces of my friends were glowing with a similar pleasure. It was a sweet loss when the set finally wrapped up, with the tear jerker, “Thank you“. The kids all bought tshirts, I got a vinyl (seriously 45 rpm dudes?!) signed by the band. We had another cupcake. The cables were all rolled up and carried to the van. We reluctantly found our ways back home.
My heart is still warm, thinking about it. My lips pull up in a smile. It’s a moment I would wrap in honey, capture in amber for a future, colder world to marvel at. It was singular, and I’d almost be afraid to do something similar in case it bled any bit of the perfect color from this picture.
We have come through so much together, friends. And so much remains of sorrow and fear. I don’t need to tell you – you hear tale if it every hour of every day. But there is also this moment, this opportunity for a new and beautiful thing to emerge and be all the lovelier for the dark background it is set against. More things than I believed are still possible. And it gives me hope.
What a wonderful feeling to feel like everything is right
What a wonderful feeling to know that everything is fine
Keep your family close
Because when you get in trouble they’ll be the last to lose their hope
I don’t know how the least few years have been for you, but the last, oh, two decades have felt like an ever accelerating roller coaster ride … after you ate the chili dog and large soda. The last three years, in particular, have been grim ones for me and my family. This is a large part of the reason this blog has lain dormant. My mind was more than full of things that are not appropriate to be delved into in public forums, and there was little authentic left over to be broadly discussed (except for cats. Cats are great. Hero and Leander became best friends and are a joy, delight and constant source of mischief.)
But if we were going to survive this all and still like each other at the end, we needed to bolster what was good. And my husband and I realized … we needed to have fun together, or nothing would seem worthwhile.
You remember fun, right? It’s that thing you do where you feel happy, and have good memories and enjoy yourself? You know, like laughing and light-hearted? Yeah. We’d kind of forgotten too.
But in the moment where society started carefully emerging from pandemic isolation – like a groundhogs sensing the coming spring, Adam got us tickets to an Event. The tickets said “Cocktail attire required”. And so we got dressed up and drove into Boston and sashayed around the common in the cold and went to this Beacon Hill mansion and got overpriced cocktails in a glamorous library with other well-dressed patrons and watched a magic show and re-creation seance.
And guys, it was SO MUCH FUN. And as we drove home, glowing with pleasure, we decided that we should do a Fun Thing every month. A thing we wouldn’t otherwise do. Dressing up preferred. I began the hunt for fun things, and here’s how it went.
March – Four Handed Illusion
This is the event that started it all. It’s held in this glorious setting (Although the books in the library are clearly for show and not for reading, which makes me sad). I actually super appreciated the formal nature of the attire – something about having to put on your finest and make an effort makes being a participant in the audience even more fun. Adam and I have both read rather extensively on the Spiritualism movement (for a fun time, ask me about the Mechanical Jesus next time you’re at a cocktail party with me), and the second half séance was a tour de force of just how the Fox sisters did it. I was grinning from ear to ear under my mask the whole time.
April – Tea at the Boston Public Library
No sooner had I heard that tea at the Boston Public Library was a thing than I knew I had to go. We’ve enjoyed teas across the world (ok, Victoria and London) and there’s something about crustless sandwiches that just makes you put out your pinkie finger while you drink your beverage. Good times are often better when shared with good friends, and we thoroughly enjoyed dragged our camping companions and gaming buddies along with us to a fancy dress occasion. Who knew they looked so good cleaned up? The only regret about this adventure is we had to get back to town in time for the soccer game (Adam coaches) and couldn’t linger in the library.
Don’t ask how old I was when I figured out how you actually pronounce petit-fours
May – Sculler’s Jazz Club
What I was going for: speakeasy vibe with dinner. What I got: awkward dinner in a nearly empty restaurant where the only other diners were the band and _extremely_ experimental jazz. This was fun, but probably the biggest mismatch between price and enjoyment we’ve had so far. We went in cold to the ensemble and, uh, they would have benefited from some of our prior knowledge. And the dinner was fine at prices that were exceptional. As I told Adam, if all of our adventures are huge hits, we aren’t being adventurous enough. We were adventurous here, at least!
June – Belle and Sebastian
This group is a favorite of our pandemic podmates, and when I found out they were heading to Boston, it was a no brainer that we’d be there to greet them. We’d seen the Mountain Goats together in the fall, and it had felt really weird in the masking and “are we supposed to be distancing” space of fall 2021. But Belle and Sebastian was just a fantastic concert in a brand new venue – Roadrunner – in Boston. The floor wasn’t even sticky yet. We danced and sang and had a fantastic time under the black lights.
July – New England Revolution
Mixing it up from our concerts and 19th century entertainments, we went to Foxboro (my first time for not a vaccination) in July to catch the New England Revolution home opener. We do really love watching football, and while men’s football isn’t my first choice, we actually were at the very last professional women’s soccer game in Boston and will have to wait a while for it to return. I went to three professional sports events this year: 3 of us for soccer, 2 of us for Mariner’s baseball and 1 ticket for Patriot’s football. I paid the same for all three events.
August – Roaring 20s Lawn Party at the Crane Estates
On one of the hottest days of a roasting summer, we dressed in our finest and drove up Cape Ann to Ipswitch to the beach… wearing our finest duds and preparing to drink squash and jitterbug to our heart’s content (although I had the foresite to pack swimming suits). And we had a blast, in the pounding heat. Adam did a ton of dancing. We enjoyed the very on point outfits and setups. And when the heat finally overwhelmed us, Nathan and I went down to the water and cooled our hot selves while finding horseshoe crabs and throwing rocks into the water.
September – Essex Dinner Train
I admittedly was starting to feel the heat of having to find a cool new thing to do every month. I mean, how do you find cool things to do? Some of the above was serendipity. Much of the rest was Googling. I keep looking for public murder mystery dinners, but to no avail. But I found a ball (tragically sold out) on a dinner train, and figured we could at least do the dinner train. So Adam and I drove down to Essex and then took this dinner train ride. Which was … fine. Perfectly fine. Much better if you were perhaps over 60. Nothing wrong with it, but not on my list of most memorable meals ever.
October – Fancy Dress gaming dinner with Paul of Wandering DMs
OK, so this probably doesn’t _actually_ count since I would have done this without the challenge. But October is the busiest month in the Flynniverse. For Adam’s birthday we asked our college friend Paul, who is as close to a professional role player as you get, to run a game for us. Ideally where all of us were formally dressed. I’m happy to report that Tobin brought the evening to a rousing and successful conclusion with a bit of murder and pumpkin-spelunking. Those villagers will never know what hit them.
November … requires a writeup all its own.
But folks, I have a problem. I’m running out of ideas. So please … what should we do? What depths of cultural experience have gone unplumbed? What opportunities to dress up have we missed? How can we be fancy and fun and make memories we’ll never forget? Let me know – no idea too crazy to be considered! Also, what have you done lately? Are you having fun? What’s between you and that epic funness? What amazingly fun things have you done lately that we should put on our agenda?