Boston’s Own Zero Dark Thirty Shuts Down City

Again, this piece was originally published in the Huffington Post yesterday, Thursday April 25th. 

 

To be honest, I never thought they’d take him alive.

From roughly 6 a.m. on the morning of Friday, April 19, until almost 9 p.m. that evening, the ongoing story in Boston held me completely captivated. Late Thursday night into early the next morning the much needed breakthrough came in the all-out manhunt for the two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, those allegedly responsible for the horrific bombings at last week’s Boston Marathon.

Waking up Friday morning I quickly caught up on what I’d missed throughout the night. Dave Portnoy’s (“El Pres” to his fans) recap on his popular Barstool Sports blog ran at 6:02 a.m. with the title, “If You Just Woke Up You Missed The Craziest Night In The History of Boston,” and provided a pretty accurate summation of those intense hours. Despite Barstool Sports’ raunchy reputation, Dave and his staff deserve credit for working tirelessly throughout the ordeal to provide objective, real-time reporting on the events by gathering intel from police radio frequencies and other sources. One such police radio broadcast has even become an Internet meme now. In the report, you can hear one officer mentioning to a superior, “Sir, just so you know, we’ve received reports that this channel is being broadcast on the internet,” followed by several warnings (that have taken on internet notoriety), “remember, we’re on an open channel, watch your mic.”

It wasn’t until Friday morning that I learned that the two suspects — heavily armed and possibly strapped with more explosives — had held up a 7/11 store in Kendall Square and eventually killed an MIT police officer. This deeply disturbing news hit close to home, as I’d often stopped by this 7/11 while working in Kendall Square during the past year. What’s more, I later learned that the two suspects were Cambridge residents who’d lived nearby my former apartment, the same one where my best friend still lives. Knowing that the FBI had found “explosives, synthetic powder and an unspecified number of pipe bombs” in this home really put into perspective that feeling of terror I and the rest of Boston felt when the government was forced to take unprecedented measures and shut down the entire city.

To call this situation in Boston “surreal” is almost an understatement: for those following intently via social media, traditional news, word of mouth, and especially via live police scanners, it was like watching a horror movie of which no one knew the ending and for which the consequences were dreadfully real. One anonymous blogger augmented his police radio webcast with a live message board where I and thousands of others shared the tension of Friday’s manhunt, listening to every detail unfold live. Several of us drew parallels between what was going on then and the recent film Zero Dark Thirty, referring to the Boston events as a sort of “Part 2” playing out right before our eyes.

My only respite from the coverage came during a job interview of all things. The person I met with, a middle-aged woman from Australia, and I spent the majority of our time discussing what unfolding events of that day Boston. What I remember most about our conversation was this woman’s honest and heartbreaking concern about having recently brought a child into the world, a world which has increasingly turned toward acts of violence as a means to express outrage or seemingly accomplish other agendas (still unclear in this case). Having emigrated from Australia to the United States as an adult, she’d never experienced in her childhood the horrendous acts of terror that have plagued us in the past decade and a half, not just in the United States but also throughout most of the rest of the world. With this woman’s own past experience being in such stark contrast to her and her child’s current reality, she understandably admitted an apprehension and hesitation about how to approach such events when her child becomes old enough to register them — and inevitably lives through something similar. Eventually our conversation turned to the question that was on everyone’s minds that day: “why” would two brothers resort to such violence against the innocent?

As the investigation now proceeds with the second brother, Dzhokhar, having been captured and taken into custody late Friday evening, the “why” remains at the forefront for nearly everyone, from the victims and their families affected by the bombings to the rest of the world tuning in from abroad. Though alive, Dzhokhar apparently suffered injuries severe enough to keep him in critical condition in Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital, ironically the same hospital where several bombing victims are still being treated. According to reports at the time of this writing, his wounds are so grave that he has not yet been able to speak (since this piece was originally written, he has apparently begun to answer some questions). Whether the responses he gives will ever satisfy our to need to know “why” this all happened remains to be seen. As similar incidents have shown in the past, no matter what we hear from Dzhokhar firsthand, we’ll never stop wondering if there were any signals that someone — a teacher, a relative, a friend — missed along the trail to the bombings. Was there any indication that these two young men, described by friends and family alike as “angels” and “kind,” could even be capable of carrying out such destruction? The brothers’ aunt has even started demanding evidence that her nephews are responsible for the bombings at all, despite their reported admission of it. Will the remaining brother appeal to religious conviction? To rampant racism directed at him during his schooling in the states? President Obama has repeatedly urged the American people not to jump to any conclusions or to make unsubstantiated claims of connections these two may or may not have had, but instead, to “relentlessly gather the facts.” His request came alongside a justification of the police’s controversial decision not to read Dzhokhar his Miranda rights upon his arrest.

However, even during such a short period of time, facts and rumors alike have poured in. Reporters on Friday and ever since have scrambled to fill in the missing pieces on these two. Will their YouTube channels, Twitter accounts and Facebook profiles help paint a picture of their motivations? Everyone remains on the edge of their seats waiting to know exactly what happened, what went wrong, and especially the “why” behind their acts. Unfortunately, only time can tell whether we will ever find the answers we so desperately seek.

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“We all live in a…” – The Beatles

When I asked my friend (and San Francisco host for the week) where to get a sandwich, he claimed without hesitation that ‘Yellow Submarine,’ in the Inner Sunset, was not only the best sub he’d had in San Francisco, but the best sub he’d ever had period.

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His only other sub-par recommendation came on Art’s Cafe, but since I knew that this was based on his being partial to a good value and that he held on to the same desperate hope as I did that we may finally have found a Yankee Doodle competitor, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

By about 11:00am, I had to decide whether to go for breakfast or lunch on my last full day of exploring SF, and given that I really only wanted out of breakfast was steak and eggs, I figured I could go without the eggs.

That decision made my sandwich choice for me, steak and cheese; however, I still liked their very limited menu(only basic sandwiches). Interestingly, for the latter portion of my time spent living in Philadelphia, I gave up the “cheese,” part of the Philly-famous cheesesteaks. However, whenever I would find myself at one of the two classics in the city of Brotherly Love (Pats or Geno’s) or my favorite, Jims on South Street (usually when hosting friends or family), I’d still grab a plain steak. However, I’ve recently gone back to adding some provolone back into my sandwich topping arsenal. Therefore, at the Yellow Submarine, I ordered what would be known as “One provolone wit’ “(meaning a steak and provolone sandwich topped with onions) back east.

After applying a healthy dose of ketchup, I took my first bite and couldn’t have been happier with my friend’s recommendation or my order choice. The steak was nicely shaved (not finely chopped like they do at Jim’s, but still great), the onions well-cooked, and the bread perfectly grilled.

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My only slight improvement might be to cook the cheese a little longer. While it was warm, it didn’t quite melt to my liking. Like I said, I haven’t had a true Philly Cheesesteak in quite some time, but I’d be willing to bet that if these two were stacked up, they’d go down to the wire.

Back in Cambridge, my new favorite sub place has become Al’s (I frequent the Harvard Square location, but they’ve got a few throughout the city). When there, I mostly go for the award-winning chicken or tuna salad subs, served on Al’s unnecessarily large, but delicious, sub rolls. I’ve had a steak sub there once and it was very similar to the one from the Yellow Submarine. I’d have to call it a 50/50 toss up, perhaps with the sandwich meat and toppings going to Al’s and the bread going to YS, but all in all a great contest.

Even though the menu was limited, there were plenty of others I’d like to try and it will certainly make it on to my list for a repeat visit on my next trip back there (which will hopefully be sooner rather than later…)

 

“Rosebud…”

After trekking to Davis Square for the second freezing morning in a row for an early physical therapy appointment, I decided to treat myself to some breakfast. I knew of a few good spots around Somerville, but none of them in the heart of Davis. Fortunately, smart phones and Yelp exist. After quickly scanning several independent online sources for “best diner,” and “best breakfast” in the immediate area, I concluded that the Rosebud Diner was the way to go.

 As soon as I came around the corner, I liked what I saw- your classic, lunch-car look.

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The atmosphere and feel inside matched perfectly. The small establishment was complete with a long counter-top, several cozy booths, an old fashioned mechanical cash-register, and interestingly a fully stocked bar. This feature piqued my curiosity about what the late-night scene, fueled by booze and perhaps music would look like.

 With my choice of seats, I situated myself at the counter along with a few other mid-morning patrons. The friendly (and elderly) waitress promptly brought over a tall glass of ice water and a weak coffee (but it was certainly warm and that was all that mattered to me given the outside temperature).

 In the quick online search I had done, the only menu item I saw highly touted was the corned beef hash- so my decision was simple. I go through phases of really enjoying hash; however, I had taken a hiatus after being served one of the largest football-sized orders I had ever seen at the 4th Street Deli in Philadelphia.

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I literally felt like I had eaten as much as I could possibly devour, and my boss still took the rest home to feed her dog for the next week.

 With my hash, I got poached eggs, as I try to order things that I can’t or don’t typically make for myself at home (even though I do own an egg poacher, which is hidden somewhere in my kitchen closet).

 The hash came with the typical side fare- toast (which I almost never eat), and homefries (one of the staples to any breakfast I eat, and high on my list for a repeat visit).

 The home fries were good. They certainly weren’t the best I’ve ever had, but they were well seasoned and decently crisp. The hash also wasn’t my favorite, but it had a good balance of salty and sweet and I’d certainly order it again.

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Despite the mostly empty scene I came across today, I gathered that one would find a very different one on a weekend morning, or perhaps even earlier on a weekday. Shortly after I got my food, a group of four girls (likely from Tufts) came in and hovered near the doorway waiting to be told where to sit, presumably because this was the routine they had come to expect on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

“Girls, grab any booth you’d like. We sit wherever we’d like to during the week.” The sole waitress politely shouted from the other end of counter, while tending to someone else.

The old fashioned experience was nicely rounded out when the waitress attempted to swipe a credit card unsuccessfully several times before she gave in and profusely apologized for having to send it’s owner back out into the cold to find an ATM. Luckily I happened to have some cash on me (an increasingly rare occurrence these days.) Interestingly, she didn’t seem too apologetic when she warned the young woman, “cash only today ladies.”

 All in all, some might argue in favor of the more “gourmet” breakfast food that you may find at the likes of my recently visited City Girl Café or the South End’s Masa; however, for me, when it comes to breakfast, I want a diner and the Rosebud certainly ranks up there. 

Meeting “Girls” and making friends in Inman Square

My best friend and current roommate, Drew and I used to meet  almost every weekend for what we liked to casually call our “hangover cure breakfast club.” You can read about some of our old favorites here (The Breakfast Club, Eagles), and others included Masa in the South End, and The Neighborhood Restaurant and Bakrey in Somerville. However, our most recent adventure, City Girl Café, at least solidified its rank in Drew’s heart (and stomach) as his new favorite and even earned his designation as “best in boston.” I’m not sure if I’d make that claim just yet, but I certainly loved the food.

As is to be expected almost anywhere in Greater Boston, there was quite a wait (around 30min), but unlike today, the weather was great, and we worked up an appetite by walking around the center of Inman Square for a bit. We went back before the expected wait time was up, as I’ve known hostesses at small restaurants like City Girl (only 19 seats) to be very quick to give up your spot in line (reminds me of a very funny joke by Gary Gulman, whom I saw recently live with, about giving up your place in line at Trader Joes- will post link shortly) if you’re not eagerly waiting and maybe even more importantly, doing so in her direct line of sight.

Besides guaranteeing our spot in line, Drew preferred our people watching (a favorite pastime of both of ours) options in the crowd of other hungry prospective brunch patrons.

The options included a very interesting-looking May-December couple that perfectly embodied the quintessential “Cambridge Look,” multi-colored scarves and all. Additionally, there was an interesting looking pair of female friends, whom we probably paid more attention to because of their cliché conversation than their looks. Within only a few minutes, we could already pick out the trend-setter and trend-follower within the group. The leader, had the typical look of a hip, Cambridge, short-haired, sexually ambiguous female (Picture Pink with black hair). Whereas the other, could have easily been a poster girl for your ivy league, J-Crew model turned hipster (turned out to be NESCAC, but close) toting her thick-rimmed black frames (which she CLAIMED to actually need for the unlikely purpose of seeing things).

Their conversation quickly transitioned from some recent film culture (the trend-setter recently saw Zero Dark Thirty (high on my to-see list) but found it “too violent,” to one of the most popular TV shows I hear discussed today, whether in line, in a restaurant or on public transportation- Lena Dunham’s Girls. (I used this trend as another answer in my BSS application. When this topic came up, I couldn’t help but laugh and point out the irony to Drew. Luckily they didn’t hear me, as within a few minutes we were seated at a 4-person table directly next to them.

I can’t remember whether it was Drew or I who struck up conversation with them first, but it certainly wasn’t one of them. I’m pretty sure he started with a simple, “have you guys been here before, and if so, what do you have to recommend?” One had and one hadn’t, but didn’t have any quality recommendations. Though, this didn’t matter, because everything on the menu looked great, and I loved my “Spinach, Roasted red pepper & fontina egg sandwich,” served with “roasted red bliss potatoes,” and a hearty side of bacon:

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The girls and Drew all had the “Goat cheese, bacon & carmelized onion egg sandwich,” also served on the same delicious French baguette and with the red bliss potatoes, and they all swore by it:

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I firmly believe that there are so few variables in a Breakfast/Brunch menu, that it is critical to nail those which tend to vary (Potatoes, breads, and meats)- and the City Girl did indeed nail all of these. I’ll admit that I was skeptical when the potatoes came out and they didn’t look as crispy as I usually like. However, they were surprisingly crisp and unbelievably seasoned. Drew’s only complaint about the whole experience may have been the translucent coffee mugs. For some reason, which I don’t quite understand, he doesn’t like seeing his coffee as he drinks it-

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Putting the tremendous food aside, the conversation that went along with it was enjoyable as well. Drew and I both tend to be fairly outgoing, and when we strike up conversations at Brunch, as oppose to over drinks in a loud and/or crowded bar, our approach tends to be less threatening and (usually) more successful. With these girls, when they brought up Girls for a second time (which I would’ve bet money they would) and we indicated that we watch it, we were in. We quickly found out that the “hipster,” had attended Brandeis College, studied abroad in some third world country, and written a blog entitled “A Broad, abroad,” (which I was shocked to discover is not unique (and moreover, there were multiple Brandeis students who had named their blog this). The other, the heavily optically adorned blonde, it turned out had gone to a certain NESCAC school in Maine, the same one in fact where the group of girls we had just spent the previous night partying with had gone. By this point in the conversation, we had all  become somewhat friendly with one other, but then realized that no one had been introduced. Before we had a chance, they blurted out, “no wait, let us guess first!” I quickly became labeled “Brad” one I had never heard before, and a name that I would more associate with a WASPier looking individual. I have a preppy looking appearance and style, but I have fairly dark hair (most likely from the half of my family which belongs to the tribe) and I mostly would picture a stereotypical Brad as a blonde, although that’s just me. Drew on the other hand became “Tanner,” though I really can’t find any explanation for that one and I don’t think they much process behind it either.

We exchanged our real names and numbers on the walk we shared back towards Central Square and Drew and I realized that our friendliness at Brunch and our interest (even if partially feigned) in Girls, earned us two potential new “friends” (though he did make me promise, to keep them as only friends for the time, as we’re seriously lacking in female friends) in Cambridge, to where we have recently relocated.

Exploring Boston’s North End (and some tasty lunch)

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Today marked the first day of my first full week of “unemployment,” or “fun-employment,” as a friend tried to convince me to think of it as. I understood and appreciated her efforts; however, it’s difficult to completely ignore some of the feelings of disappointment and disloyalty that my recent turn of events have dredged up.

However, since I wrote about it as my “weekly goal,” in my application to the BSS, I decided to venture out into the cold (felt like 21°) and get myself a delicious Italian lunch. I joked with my roommate that it wouldn’t be a problem that it happened to be MLK Jr. day and interestingly Obama’s second inauguration into office, since Italians in the North End don’t care about such holidays (it may scare you when you see how right I was).

Moreso than the holiday causing a problem, it turns out most  North End eateries don’t serve lunch. Eventually, with some help from my wannabe Boston restaurant connoisseur roommate, I lucked out and found that his 3rd choice was serving lunch. I grabbed my cold weather gear and headed out. In terms of my mild self-pity about having just been fired, it certainly helped that most of my friends and other people on the street weren’t headed off to work.

It also helped that this restaurant was only a few short minutes from Haymarket station. Part of my weekly goal was to explore new parts of Boston and presumably this would include some aimless wandering to see help discover places. However, I felt more compelled by my distaste for wandering around a cold city than my weekly goal of exploring.

Upon arrival, I took in the casual, family like scene, with the only other lunch patrons actually being one large multi-generational family taking up several tables, a loud-mouthed couple (mostly the woman was loud-mouthed, but her date didn’t seem to be bothered by this), and one stiff sitting at the bar, who either conducted business for the restaurant or was possibly a lawyer enjoying a liquid lunch (or perhaps both).

Very promptly, the wait-staff delivered a warm loaf of Italian bread along with some excellently seasoned Oil and Balsamic Vinegar, all of which I polished off in short order. After a quick glance at the menu, I opted for the Linguine Ai Frutti Di Mare with a plum tomato sauce. While I would’ve preferred a slightly thinner pasta accompaniment (when given a choice, I almost undoubtedly go for Angel Hair), the dish was delicious-

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Not only did the dish arrive steaming hot, with a generous serving of clams, mussels, calamari, and shrimp, but the sauce was a perfect mixture of sweet, spicy, and garlicky. I would have had no chance of missing this final pungent ingredient, as several of the mollusk shells were filled with sauce-covered chunks of delicious white garlic.

Besides the food, I thought I might get to enjoy some entertainment, as our 44th President of the United States was set to deliver a speech during his 2nd inaugural ceremony. The timing of which, a friend who happened to be visiting our Nation’s capital, reminded me about.

When I first arrived, every TV in the restaurant was tuned to various parts of the festivities, albeit with little to no detectable volume. After some time, I heard one of restaurant managers chatting with the imbibing businessman and still the sole patron at the bar-

“Isn’t there a B’s game on today? When does that start?”

Though I’d consider myself a casual hockey fan, I certainly don’t follow it closely and especially not when the Bruins are playing. However, I had noticed several passengers on the T rocking their bumblebee Black and Yellow sweaters. It would have been one thing if this elderly Italian woman had changed one of the televisions to the game. However, she did not change just one, but rather changed each one away from an important political moment in the history of not only the African-American community, but that of the entire political history of our country. Conveniently, this key moment happened to also fall on the birthday of one of the greatest Black Civil Rights Leaders of all time. What’s more, she not only switched off Obama for some afternoon puck, but she did so after exclaiming, “I just can’t stand seeing any more of HIM on TV,” emphasizing her distaste for Obama in the expression.

While I have to admit, I’m also not the biggest proponent of politics or political television being shown in restaurants, I was a little disappointed in how this exchange almost to a T fulfilled the racial joke I had made earlier about North End restaurants not being concerned with the celebration of MLK day. In the end, this wasn’t enough to ruin my experience, but I decided not to publish the name of this eatery out of respect for their privacy. However, if you’re seeking out some delicious seafood and pasta, or moreso, a nice Italian spot open for Lunch during the week, just contact me. 

Welcome!

Welcome. About a year ago, I started my first blog (My Type of Place). I had always enjoyed writing and thought that starting a blog would motivate me to work on it more consistently. This idea worked for a time. It worked especially well when I attempted to use this blog to catapult myself into a new career and I even attempted to commercialize the idea inspiring my blog (you can read about it here). While the company never took off (it seemed to require a more sophisiticated search algorithm than I had initially anticipated; however, if there are any developers out there who find the idea interesting, and would like to collaborate on trying to get it off the ground, let me know as I now have some time on my hands and still think it is a really cool concept that could potentially have some success as a mobile app or website. Some people at American Express agree also, because they’ve tried to launch something somewhat similar- read about that here (Article)

Anyway, the reason I’ve come into some unexpected free time is that I was just laid off last week. This job, in a way, did stem from my interest in startups that grew out of the work I was doing on the blog about a year ago. However, while it was a really exciting and a tremendously valuable learning experience to enter a well-funded startup software company as employee number 12 and ride out the wave, seeing the company grow from sharing space in one of our VC backer’s offices, to nearly 40 employees, a dozen or so customers (half of which I sourced in the first year of business), and continuing to grow. Near the end, I had come to the decision that I didn’t want a future as a salesman, therefore making my role as an inside sales associate make much less sense.

In looking at it from some (though not much) distance, I’m understandably a little disappointed at being laid off (as who wouldn’t be), especially because I truly liked and respected most of the people I worked with there. However, at the moment, I think I’m most upset that now when I go to a certain burger place (which I happen to like quite a bit and is just around the corner from my apartment), I am of my first experience in getting laid off…

So how did this inspire me to start blogging again?

Well first, I now have some free time on my hands, at least in the interim, until I decide on the next step in my meandering early career and find the right position to move on to. Additionally, in my job search (probably a whole post to come on this later), I’ve focused initially on entry-level marketing positions. Not surprisingly, many of these positions either ask for links to my social media accounts, blogs, or other writing samples. If not, they at least ask for extended written responses in the initial applications.

In particular, when I applied to the Boston Startup School yesterday, and they asked for the link to any of my blogs, I couldn’t believe that the last entry to MTOP came on January 8th, 2012, just over a year ago.

The first idea for one of the topics of this blog came from one of the other questions in the application- “what are your goals for the coming week?” Immediately, I had one answer to the question, in that I had already decided to make an effort to get out and explore some new parts of Boston, starting with the North End. However, in thinking about my old blog, and my desire to get back into writing, I incorporated the idea that I would try to visit one new place/do something different each day and write a little something about it.

This task would give some structure to my return to writing (similar to how I pledged to write 5 pages a day in the first few months of taking a year off between my freshman and sophomore years of college, when I decided to write a screenplay and before my parents forced me to find a “real (read income-producing) job”). From there, I knew that I’d also been meaning to write about all of the movies I watch and have watched in the past. I certainly spend enough time doing this and have even started to do so a few times, but at least I keep coming back to it.