1. Lunch@Not Your Average Joe's: There were not many hip places to eat in Needham, but we felt it was necessary to see how not our average this Joe's was. They had just opened. The menu had a great many options, but after hemming and hawing, we decided to all get burgers: a cheeseburger for barenakedjanie, a Cobb burger for smrou, and a turkey burger for me. While we waited for our food, we took a brilliant photoseries involving me and the metal hand smrou realized was a coathook. Also, Janie and I eavesdropped on people's conversations. Did you know Susan Hillard is now Susan Williams and is the sister of Marie Framingham, who is married to the son of a dentist?
My turkey burger was pretty good, but not great. There was a little too much "ziziki" sauce; I really should have asked for it on the side. And the Mediterranean salad was, uh, a shitload of feta with a few leaves of lettuce and bits of tomato and onion and olive thrown in for good measure.
Our waitress was named Carlin. We weren't sure that's how it was spelled (Carlyn? Carl-Lynn?), but we found out for sure when she signed the receipt "Thanks! Carlin." Awww. It was so adorable that I didn't mind that after we passed money around, we were leaving her a 22% tip.
2. Institute of Contemporary Art: smrou's awesome parents had given her their membership cards, so we were able to get two of us in free and split the cost of the other. The big attraction of the ICA was the Shepard Fairey exhibit. It was a pretty interesting exhibit. He apparently likes the words OBEY and GIANT a lot. He takes one or two ideas and does them three hundred different ways. What was kind of awesome was that for the audio tour, you could call on your cell phone and punch in the appropriate number. Amusingly, one of the commentaries used "Obstacle 1" as the backing track. There were some pieces I liked, but most of it was the same thing over and over. We watched a video interview and documentary with him, though, and to my surprise, he was not as full of himself as I expected. In fact, he seemed sort of bemused by his popularity and was just running with it. He just does art for the lulz.
The rest of the galleries were a mixed bag. There was a neat hanging sculpture of burnt wood, as if it was a moment frozen in time. There were some lovely photographs, like a time-lapse series of a refugee girl growing up over the years and acclimating to American culture and a cute Jewish soldier who was somehow arresting. Sometimes you just capture a Look, and if you're using a high-quality camera, you can capture it to its fullest extent. Then there was the Rodney McMillan section, which was full of destroyed furniture and a 27-minute video of him destroying a futon quite violently. Also, the TV displaying the video was on a table and chairs...that were also classified as "art." Untitled (kitchen table and chairs), they were. Whatever, Rodney McMillan. There were also a lot of videos on social experiments, the most interesting of which was one where someone had actually filmed six blind people feeling an elephant. For some reason, watching a blind woman run her hand across an elephant and describe what she felt and thought was mesmerizing.
Our favorite piece, however, was Tara Donovan's Nebulous. You walk into a room and on the ground is what looks like fluffy clouds or perhaps a sort of moss growing on the ground. EXCEPT IT IS MADE OUT OF FUCKING SCOTCH TAPE. Yards and yards of tape curled up and stuck together in a pattern. It was so cool. She also made a cube out of pins.
3. Moving the Couch: smrou needed to get her couch downstairs, where the TV was, eventually, and now she had two helpers! So we were recruited. It was quite an ordeal. First, we unscrewed the feet. Well, first, we took off all the cushions and pillows, of course. Then we attempted first to get the couch through the doorway into the foyer and then out the actual doorway without knocking out the lamp. We knew it was physically possible since the couch had gotten into the living room in the first place, but it was still a very tight squeeze that involved a lot of subtle manipulation.
Outside was the easy part, except Janie got punched in the face. By the couch. I think because of me. We were still carrying it in an off-balance way that was unnecessary now that we had room to maneuver. smrou and I carried the couch while Janie navigated us around the bricks lying on the ground. We took the couch to the back; it was to go down the stairs and into the basement. But first, smrou took the door off the hinges because she is a badass. Janie and I nudged the couch down the stairs and tilted it up and through the doorway. Then smrou and I lifted the couch through the basement and into the TV room, HUZZAH. Apparently, I did most of the heavy lifting.
Janie commented that not once did any of us yell, "PIVOT!"
4. Middleman! As a reward for our hard work, we watched "The Sino-Mexican Revelation," the one episode Janie had not seen. Then we watched various special features. Various, certainly not all. Shout!Factory does not skimp! Of note, I was wearing my Middleman shirt. The exact same shirt Javi was wearing in the "Middleman-ager" segments! Oh, Javi. I am going to be singing "Die Hard in a building" all the time now.
5. Dinner@Four Burgers: Four Burgers in Central Square offered, uh, four burgers: beef, veggie, turkey, and salmon. Having had a turkey burger for lunch, I opted for the veggie black bean burger with mango BBQ sauce (which was confusingly a replacement for the entirety of "guacamole, lettuce, & tomato salsa," although it makes sense that guacamole and mango BBQ sauce might clash) and smoked Gouda, although I can never remember what cheeses I like. I also wanted red onions, which seemed complimentary but the Eastern European cashier had trouble with. She had more trouble, however, with our request for sweet potato fries. They had no sweet potato fries, she said, but they had half-and-half.
...So we couldn't get a full order of sweet potato fries, but we could get...half of one? Explain! She couldn't, so she asked a co-worker to explain. Apparently the "sweets" weren't looking good, even though they tasted fine, so they mixed them in with the regular fries. Once we got the half-and-half, her rationale made sense. The sweet potato fries were limpid and thin, in contrast to the crispy regular fries. They did still taste good, but a whole plate of them would not have been as satisfying as they ought to have been.
smrou also got a veggie burger, and Janie got a turkey burger. I was buying smrou dinner, but the cashier was a bit confused about many things and put us all on the same bill, so I figured we'd take care of things later. My veggie burger was good, but not great; the black bean burger didn't really have much flavor beyond being made of black beans, and the mango BBQ sauce was really just a sauce (that I mistook for mustard at first) that had a bit of a kick but didn't add much.
6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: Hat tip to Anjali for letting me know about this performance at the Cambridge YMCA Theatre, even though she couldn't join us herself. I hadn't seen a way to buy advance tickets on the Cambridge YMCA website, but it turned out that advance tickets were sold on the production company's site, and they were five dollars cheaper. So twenty bucks a pop it was, except for me, who had a "valid student ID." You keep doing what you're doing, U-Mich ID. I will be a perpetual grad student if it means I only pay ten dollars. Of course, I actually paid for everyone since they didn't have enough cash.
I encouraged my companions to sit in the front row; we had gotten there early enough to snag those prime spots. We read through the program, which refreshed our memories on the major events of Hamlet and the life of Tom Stoppard. We heartily enjoyed the bios as well; since it was Bad Habit Productions, everyone had to list a bad habit. Some were more entertaining than others. "Smoking" and "yoga junkie" are lame. "Eating too many ice cream sandwiches, giggling too loudly, and a crippling addiction to smack," "having oral surgery at inappropriate times during production," and "failing to turn in his bio on time and making his stage manager create a fictional bio as a place-holder" are awesome. The one that made us laugh the most, however, was "Alex has the bad habit of falling down stairs, but finds solace in his support group for FDS." (None of us understood how someone could have the bad habit of "eavesdropping on strangers' conversations and then making judgments about their lives." We would never do such things. Never!)
I'm pretty sure I saw a Basement Arts production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in Ann Arbor several years ago, and I remember liking it. But holy goddamn crap, what the hell, this play is awesome. It should totally be one of my favorite plays! It speaks to me! IT IS PONDERING WHAT I'M PONDERING. Death, eternity, existentialism, supporting characters, it has it all!
Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and the Player were really good. Everyone else ranged from mediocre to awful. Gertrude made me cringe, and Claudius had basically chosen a tone and delivery and confidently said his lines, whatever the hell they were supposed to mean. Polonius was close to being good but there was something off, as if he was trying too hard to be Shakespearean. Ophelia only has, like, two lines. Hamlet was weak. We were baffled that some of these people had been in multiple plays despite being so clearly bad. But whatever, as smrou noted, everyone else was just scenery. The three leads carried the play wonderfully. I couldn't figure out whether I liked Rosencrantz or Guildenstern more (as characters; as actors, I had to give the edge to Rosencrantz if only because Guildenstern had a lisp). I think when I first saw the play, I saw myself more as Guildenstern, but Rosencrantz has some great monologues that I totally identified with.
Sitting in the front row did provide us with a couple neat moments. During the opening scene, we were all waiting for it, and it finally happened: one of the quarters bounced off the stage. Rosencrantz looked over the edge and shrugged, "Heads." I left it on the ground until intermission, when I picked it up without looking at it and turned it over several times so that I would never know what it had actually been. Janie had sneaked a peek, and I stopped her from telling me. Heads or tails? I don't want to know. This! Is! THEATRE! I gave the "stage quarter" to the girl selling concessions, saying it was the "one that got away." I'm not sure she knew what I meant; she must not have seen it happen. At the end of the show, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern did their curtain call right in front of us, on the floor. They totally heard my "Woooo!"
7. Toscanini's: I called for a return to Toscanini's, guessing it would still be open at 10:30. Besides, Janie owed me ice cream for her dinner, and I was clearly not paying for ice cream on this trip. We braved Central Square at night and found an open Toscanini's, although it was closing at 11. I really wanted coffee ice cream sandwich...but they were out! "It doesn't exist anymore," said the guy. Rats. So I got Hydrox cookie (cookies and cream, essentially) and...and...well, they had lemon chocolate again, and I knew I liked it, so bam. I also asked for chocolate sprinkles, which I refused to call "jimmies" because WHAT THE HELL. Janie got Vienna finger cookie and Belgian chocolate, and smrou got orange butter flake. Because it was the end of the day, the ice cream was a bit melty, but it was still good. Everyone was pleased. I even got a whole half-cookie.
I've left out all the interstitials! Like our parking adventures and trying to get more quarters and using the magic EZ Pass on the Mass Pike and reminiscing about theatre and Spooky antics and smrou's precise book organization system and her freaky cymbal monkey and, uh, you know the general fun times of hanging out with the people you post with all day.