Friday, December 23, 2011

How To: have the best Maine Yankee Swap

A few years ago, my family started a tradition at our annual Christmas Eve party. Instead of the awkward gift-giving ceremony, in which members of the extended family exchange unwanted gifts, we decided to do a Yankee Swamp.

I was totally against the idea at first. I'd seen The Office, and basically my only real "experience" with this weird gift-stealing game was watching poor, Pam-smitten Jim realize defeat as the Dunder Mifflin Secret Santa had turned into a greedy version of Yankee Swap. As a result, I associated the game with selfishness and show offs (i.e. Michael Scott buying an iPod, despite the $50 limit). But it turns out, (and savor this moment because I'm Irish, and I rarely admit this) I was wrong. This game rules. And if your friends/family are planning on doing one this Christmas, you're going to have fun, as long as you do it right.

First, I'm going to point out a few "rules." And don't be a jerk and tell me rules are made to be broken. They aren't. That's what little potty-mouthed teenagers say because they don't know anything yet.

1. In my family, YS gifts are generally in the $10-$20 range. Either we're cheap, or we're respectful of the rules, but so far, no one has been the asshole to show up with a $100 gift. This is a big DON'T. The game is supposed to be fun. Period. Show offs are for the birds. Don't be one.

2. Do NOT regift. I'm all for reduce, reuse, recycle. But I don't want the potpourri you were given by the old lady in your book club. If you don't want it in your home, chances are I don't want it in mine. Bring that useless stuff to Good Will, and start from scratch, because everyone can tell when they've been regifted, and no one is impressed.

3. Don't take it too seriously. It's a game. If someone opens your present, and then gladly exchanges it for something they wanted more, smile and keep playing. You didn't buy it specifically for anyone, anyway. It's a game. As long as everyone leaves happy (either from the gifts their wound up with, or just from the general experience) then who cares? If you're a sensitive little guy/gal and can't handle that your 50 year-old uncle would rather have a nice bottle of wine than the lame gift-certificate you bought, then maybe you should go to a different Christmas party. Much like baseball, there's no crying in Yankee Swap.

So here are my top 3 favorite Yankee Swap gifts from years past. They're all pretty obvious choices, however, the key to my Christmas shopping this year has been to buy local, so I've taken my top 3 faves, and given them the Maine treatment. Here goes:

iTunes card - The first year we did a Yankee Swap, the iTunes card was maybe the most popular gift (it even beat booze, and we're Irish). It was snatched a few times, lots of laughs were had at the expense of one particularly disappointed music lover as he found himself dispossessed of the gift card, and in all the years since, it remains a popular gift at our party. Personally, I love a good iTunes card because I'm almost always broke and I definitely always love music. So this is a great and easy idea. However, here's my Maine alternative: buy a Bull Moose gift card instead. It's a local establishment, with plenty of locations throughout Maine and New Hampshire, and they sell vinyl, tapes (if you're a shithead hipster that thinks listening to a tape player is somehow more "real"), and CDs, among other things. Plus, they're a big supporter of local music, so that's awesome. If you're family isn't all from Maine, don't sweat. You can redeem their gift cards online, too. It's a Christmas miracle. Oh wait, no, it's just not 1998.

Manicure gift card - The men reading this might roll their eyes, but wait just a minute. The whole point of this game is the SWAP. If a dude doesn't want a manicure, he can exchange it for whatever testosterone-filled gift he has his heart set on. But in all the years we've played the game at my house, the manicure is a hot commodity. You can pretty much see the fire in each female's eyes as one rips the gift card from the other's unrelenting hands. It's awesome, and everyone gets a good laugh. My cousin owns Rejuvenations so I'm plugging the crap out of it. It's local (Falmouth, ME) and they do a beautiful job. So buy your gift cards there. If you absolutely can't get your buns out to Falmouth, there's about five million salons in the Old Port you can support with your patronage.

Wine - Now, I know not everyone drinks. But again, the key to this game is the swap, so who cares? Plenty of people do drink, and those who do, probably like wine. Every year, someone brings a kickass bottle to our party, and every year, whoever originally opens it does not end up with it. This means it's a popular gift, so I say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Except, I don't really say that, because this whole post takes these ideas, and Maine-ifies them. So here's how to "fix" it: buy local. While Maine is certainly known for it's microbreweries, it's wines aren't quite as mainstream. Though there are some Maine wineries (Vintners, Cellardoor, Winterport Winery, etc.), you don't technically have to buy a Maine-product to keep things local. Just go to a Maine business. City Beverage, Old Port Wine And Cigar, Downeast Beverage Co., Maine Beer & Beverage Co. are among many options.

Alright. Obviously, there are tons of fun things to bring to a Yankee Swap party that aren't in my top 3. So if you're thinking of something else, that's cool. But as a big supporter of Buy Local, I plead you to do just that: there are so many business in the Pine Tree state--give them some business! Maine is an awesome place. Let's celebrate the holidays by giving back to the community we love so much.

Until next time, Happy Holidays!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Beat the broke kid blues: money-saving tips for your weekend

Last night I went to dinner with my stepdad and mom at Portland’s Five-Fifty-Five. After I finished slurping (yes, slurping) down my bangs island mussels, I impatiently awaited the truffle lobster mac n’ cheese* I had ordered. Upon the delivery of such a heavenly creation, depression set it.

*Side Note: I previously blogged about best cheap mac n’ cheese in the city. While all the macs I mentioned in that post are truly great, this Five-Fifty-Five mac n’ cheese really takes the cake. However, I can’t really justify recommending it as a cheap dining option in Portland, as it’ll run you about $31. What I will do is recommend you suck up to your parents, find a sugar daddy/momma, or start sleeping with your boss in the hopes that one of these older, more financially-established individuals will purchase the meal for you.  That’s right—I just told you to essentially throw away your integrity for a plate of mac n’ cheese. But damn, was it good.

At what should have been one of the better moments of my eating-life (from at least a mac n’ cheese stand point), it occurred to me that I had an embarrassingly small amount of money in my bank account and a lot of bills.  Essentially, this means not only no more truffle lobster mac n’ cheese, but the denial of many fun things.  And to top it all off, rent is due this weekend. Shit, I hate the first of the month!*

*Wow, what suburban white girl problems I have—complaining that I can’t eat at Five-Fifty-Five on the reg?! I know, I know. But this is a blog called “Things I heard in the Old Port,” not “How I Freed Tibet,” so just relax.

As the first of the month approaches, you may be finding yourself in a similarly depressing situation: broke, hungry, and pissed that you aren’t living the twenty-somethings lifestyle Friends lied to you about. Basically, leaving the apartment seems like a distant dream, as it usually requires money being spent. However, as you reluctantly hand that rent check over to your landlord, don’t lose hope of ever having fun again.

Turns out, being broke isn’t the end of the world! Just ask Joey from Friends; he’s a struggling actor who lives in a fabulous Manhattan apartment and frequents Knicks/Bulls games in the 90s! That could totally be you! Ehh…anyway…to have fun in REAL life, you just have to know where you can go for free stuff in this town—thank God you have me. Don’t worry, I got your weekend covered:

Tonight: FREE dance party at Flask Lounge! Atomik and Hjort & St. Pierre (formerly Secret Weekend) will provide sweet tunes all night long for you to boogie to for free.  This place is the official home of the Moxie Bomb, so if you’re a real Mainer, you will try this incredible creation. Oh wait, you’re broke. Bat those lashes, and shamelessly flirt, in the hopes of some stranger purchasing the beverage for you. You can’t afford to be picky, either, because you probably can’t  even afford shampoo at this point. Moxie + Jager will be worth the exchange with a creepy stranger. Party starts at 9 and is sure to be a fabulous time. Don’t believe me? Fine, you don’t have to take my word for it, check out Dispatch Magazine’s latest News by the Nunz for confirmation!

Saturday: You will wake up tired from all the Moxie Bombs, your feet will hurt because you danced all night long, and you will still have no money. Oh, also, it’s going to rain, so Saturday is looking grim. False! The Nick has $6 matinees! I’d say check out Drive because Ryan Gosling kicking ass is pretty much guaranteed to cure your broke-kid blues; the soundtrack is also pretty awesome (click here). If violent movies aren’t for you, skip the Ryan flick and check out 50/50 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. JGL was almost capable of out-cuteing Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer, not an easy feat, and he is, I think, a fantastic actor. Plus, who doesn’t’ like a good bromantic comedy? Ooh Judd Apatow, look what you started you sly dog!

After the movie, take a nap. It will prevent you from spending any more money, and it’s Saturday afternoon—you deserve it, damn it! Once you arise, resist the urge to pay for food outside of your apartment—unless it’s a $3.50 slice from Otto’s (believe me, I’m as devastated as you are about the fifty cent price increase).

Evening plans: Sunset Hearts CD release party at SPACE. While my brother would describe this venue as “RFH,”* I like it.  Try to look beyond the hipsters, and enjoy yourself. It is Saturday night, after all! This show’s only $5, and the wonderful Kurt Baker and Mango Floss join Sunset Hearts—so that’s 3 bands for $5. I bet the Marshall’s lady would agree when I say that’s a wicked bahgain.

*Really Effin Hip adj. Describing somewhere likely to be crawling with skinny jeans wearing, thick-rimmed glasses donning, MECA dropouts (or worse…currently enrolled students), who most likely aren’t enjoying themselves at this RFH hotbed because the amount of people in attendance might suggest the band playing is now too mainstream, and obviously way less “legit.” RFH can describe a place (Congress Street), a thing (messenger bags), a band (Foster the People before “Pumped Up Kicks” was ever played on the radio), a state of mind, etc. 

^You might see that guy at SPACE.

Sunday: It is supposed to be a lazy day. Sleep in. Watch Netflix; Breaking Bad is now on Instant Watch! Score! If you HAVE to spend money on breakfast,* skip the cluster-eff that is Becky’s Diner on a Sunday morning, and head to Uncle Andy’s over the bridge in South Portland. Not only do you not deal with the annoying leaf peepers waiting impatiently for a diner meal at Becky’s, but you also get to experience a deelish breakfast for very cheap. Personally, I’m an Uncle Andy’s girl over Becky’s, any day. Not just because I hate crowds, but because they have a sign on the back wall that says “Where the Elite Meet to Eat.”

*Here’s a hint: you don’t—eggs are cheap and widely distributed in the state of Maine. Purchase some. You will save money.

Come nighttime, head to your parents' house, or to a successful friend's who has Showtime; it’s the Dexter season 6 premiere! You’re broke, so you should probably not do anything but watch Dexter tonight. Payday is five incredibly long days away, so slow down on the spending and mooch some dinner wherever you go to watch this highly anticipated episode of excellent television. Make sure whoever cooks makes a lot---you’ll probably need leftovers since you can barely afford groceries.

Until next time, good luck out there...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crawlin' Forest Ave: a pub crawl for the chronically broke

This summer I spent way too much money, didn't read enough books, ate at too many restaurants, and as evidenced by my blog, never wrote. Now, my toes are cold in sandals, the leaves are changing color, and I can't afford the delicious pumpkin-flavored beers now on draft everywhere. Thank you summer for leaving me completely penniless for the fall. 

The weekdays aren’t so bad—go home, watch Netflix, overdose on the sodium from yet another Ramen Noodle dinner, fall asleep on my blow-up bed. However, after bopping around all summer long, staying in every weekend will get old fast. The Old Port has too many bars for my debit card to handle at this point, and like many twentysomethings in Portland, I don’t actually live downtown; God knows I can’t afford the cab rides to and from town. Do I stay in? Do I surrender to yet another Mad Men marathon?* Heck no—not every weekend at least!

*Though staying in with Don Draper actually doesn’t sound so bad…

So what’s a broke girl do? Well let me tell ya: venture out to Forest Ave—for a cheap, slightly slummy, pub crawl!

            Contrary to popular belief, the Old Port is not the only fun place Portland has to offer. I know the possibility of stumbling into Gritty’s for the same semi-high school reunion you have every weekend might seem really enticing, but maybe try something different for once. I did this Forest Ave pub crawl myself, and it was actually pretty awesome. And when I say pub crawl, I don’t mean just go to one or two bars—make your way down that beautiful strip of Asian restaurants, dive bars, and conveniently placed ATMs (some of these bars have yet to discover debit cards). Let your hair down and really make a night of it.

On my pub crawl, we wisely started the night at Samuel’s (a bar not unfamiliar to this blog), for some 50 cent wings and cheap pitchers of Miller Lite. It was a great, if not fast start,* to a fantastically cheap evening.

*If you know me, you know I love Samuel’s with all my heart (I have taste buds and a soul, don’t I?). However, their service is oftentimes…unbelievably slow. I once watched a waitress fill about 200 cups of blue cheese before bringing us our tab—but the wings are only 50 cents and they serve food until 1 am, so who’s the asshole complaining?

            After I wiped the buffalo sauce from my face (this took a while), we left Samuel's and made our way to The Frosty Pint. The scene was pretty much exactly what you would think it’d be: middle-aged alcoholics posted up at the bar, a few trashy-looking twentysomethings from Hollis or some other slightly out-of-the-way Maine town which refers to Portland as “the Big City,” and a couple college douchebags wearing the typical “look how funny this is that I’m slumming it” shit-eating grin you might come to expect from such individuals. However, if your friends are cool, who gives a shit what the rest of the crowd looks like. With 20 beers on draft, and splendid drink specials, this place is a win-win! If you’ve graduated college, technically Thursday is no longer a weekend—however, if you do find yourself on Forest Ave Thursday night, definitely hit up The Frosty Pint for their Talls for Smalls special, running from 7 PM-close. Also, Wednesdays they feature a different draft beer for only $2. Everyone likes $2 beers! Just ask the alcoholic sitting at the bar next to you!

            After we drank our fill of Talls for Smalls, we ventured to our next destination: The New Venue. I’d never been in the “old” Venue, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. The beats were bumpin’, the dancefloor was huge, the bar looked great, and the drinks were only $1!!! The only downside (for some) was its emptiness—I literally saw more staff than patrons! In all fairness though, it was a Thursday night before USM had started up again, and I’m pretty sure the place had just re-opened. Anyway, it didn’t really bother the group I was with as we weren’t in a meet-and-mingle mood anyhow. We sat at the bar and enjoyed the $2 Blue Moons and $1 PBRs. All in all, a fabulous find. Plus, now that school is back in session, I’m sure their business has picked up. Check out their Facebook page to see their sweet daily specials!

            Our last Forest Ave stop on this crawl was exactly where you would want to end the night: Ernie’s Pool and Darts. Though we played neither pool nor darts, we did play a riveting game of ping pong, or at least our version of the game. Not only do they have pool, darts, and ping pong, but holy moly, they’ve got pinball! Gritty’s doesn’t have pinball! One point for Forest Ave, zero points for downtown!

No one was really there but the bartender was just genuinely pumped to have some new (or any) faces in the bar—excitedly telling us they stayed open til midnight, “or later, if we wanted!” They don’t serve hard liquor at Ernie’s,* which is probably best because there are a lot of pool tables and I don’t really want any balls flying in my face which just might happen if hard alcohol were involved (that’s what she said?)…But seriously—that has happened to me. Pool ball to the face, that is. Didn’t feel great. Black eye for an entire summer. And you better believe booze was involved, so beer is best when billiards are a factor.

*But they do sell mini-bar bottles of Kahlúa?

            While I’d like to say we ended the evening on Forest Ave (which was kind of the point of this Forest Ave pub crawl), we failed and wound up in town. That’s only because our last planned stop was the Great Lost Bear; we had all forgotten they close stupidly early. So, we cabbed to Sonny’s, then sadly, cabbed back to our USM-area apartment. Sorry bank account. However, you don’t need to make the same silly mistake. If you don’t want to end the night at 11:30 PM (which no one does, Great Lost Bear), begin the night at GLB! Then make your way down to Samuel’s. As previously stated, they serve alcohol AND food until 1 AM; you can’t lose with this plan! Plus, by the time you reach Samuel’s, I bet that waitress has already filled her 200 cups of blue cheese so I’m sure the late-night service will be fabulous!

One more tip: if you find yourself with a horrendous hangover in the morning (you will), make one last stop on your Forest Ave adventure: Mekhong Thai is open and serves alcohol before 11 am.* While White Russians are not on the menu, believe me, they serve them. And they are dee-lish; just ask my friend Caroline (pictured above). You will thank me later.

*Why do I know this? Mind your own business. But really, I’m serious when I say it’s one of the only places on Forest Ave that serves this early, aside from Valley Chinese. But if you can handle the smell of Valley so early in the morning, you’re probably not hung over enough to need the White Russian.

Until next time, keep pinchin’ pennies and maybe I’ll see you on Forest Ave…

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer is here, for real this time.

Now that you’ve spent all of your money on the beer and illegal* fireworks required for celebrating freedom, you most likely were planning on taking it easy this week. Think again. Summer finally decided to show up so don’t blow it by being a hermit. There’s a bunch of cheap ways to spend your summer evenings in the Greater Portland area; your “lack of money” is really just a euphemism for lameness.
*despite the fact that a certain governor wishes us all to blow ourselves up on the Fourth of July, the new bill legalizing fireworks does not go into effect until January 2012. Anything you set off yesterday, save sparklers, was still against the law.
Tuesday, July 5—Darlingside and Elijah Ocean Band play Port City Music Hall. The New England string-rock quintet Darlingside is definitely worth checking out. They’ve got an imaginative sound, blending rock, classical and folk. Doors open at 8 pm, and you get two bands for only $2.  If you were responsible over the holiday weekend and didn’t destroy your liver, then you may be interested in Port City’s $2 beer specials. However, fear not college freshman itching to get out of your parents’ house: the show is 18+. Port City seems to be one of the only venues in Portland that understands underage people sometimes listen to music. Who would’ve guessed?

Wednesday, July 6—Summer Concert series at Mill Creek Park. If you’re a bluegrass fan, cross the bridge into Mill Creek and take advantage of the free Wednesday night concert. Since Americans celebrate everything with alcohol, you may still be hungover by Wednesday evening.  Instead of hiding in your bedroom with the shades drawn, enjoy a chem-free night outside of your apartment. Skip the booze and pack a summer picnic to snack on while enjoying this week’s bluegrass band, The Dave Rowe Trio.  All concerts are from 6:30 to 8. This is a great all-ages event, perfect for a family outing, a friendly get together, a date, etc. Again, this is a free event, so no excuses!
Thursday, July 7—Alive at Five Concert Series. This annual series kicks off at 5 pm this Thursday at Monument Square. This week features The Mallet Brothers and Paranoid Social Club. It’s free, so again, just show up. Loosen your tie and head over after work with some friends. Have a cold drink in the Sebago Brewing Company beer garden while soaking up the free entertainment. It’s a great way to unwind after the work day, listen to some local/national music, and socialize.
Saturday, July 9—5th Annual Radiance Arts and Culture Fest,. This block party-style festival is a celebration of summer, local art, and Portland culture. Admission is free and there will be plenty of live music, local food, arts and crafts, and even yoga demonstrations. The festival prides itself on promoting a healthy mind, body, and soul. This festival is probably going to be pretty darn cool; I always like to see Portland recognized and appreciated for its creativity, even if most references to “mind, body, and soul” make me cringe a little.  
I’m aware that most of these suggestions are music events. I didn’t really plan it this way; I guess the Maine music scene really amps up in the summertime when the weather is fine.  Or maybe I just have music on the brain. Either way, I think it’s pretty cool that these concerts are free or very cheap, allowing for your average “waiting-til-payday” Joe to stop being such a sweet bitch and have some fun. Portland’s got some very talented musicians out there and they deserve some recognition (well, some of them do anyway—see this for more on that subject).
Until next time…

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Portland's Best: Mac n' Cheese

This week, my boyfriend Ben made mac and cheese for dinner (as seen above). Not the Kraft powdered stuff, but real, home-style macaroni and cheese. There was heavy cream, flour for thickening, so much butter it’s best I not disclose the actual amount, three kinds of delicious cheeses, and homemade bread crumbs to top it all off. Mmm, mmm, mmm.
As I greedily slurped down the cheesy goodness,* I couldn’t help but reflect on the joy brought by something as seemingly small as this homemade comfort food. It’s so familiar; I kept thinking about my mother’s old kitchen in South Portland and suddenly I was ten again, sitting at the table with my favorite cheesy meal. And while it brings us back to our childhood memories of home cooking, it can also be constantly reinvented. Add a new ingredient and you’ve got a whole different twist. The possibilities are endless. The more I thought about mac and cheese, the more I sympathized for all the people I know who don’t have a Ben to cook them this miraculous meal whenever the craving strikes (and this particular craving strikes a lot at my apartment).
*I’m one of those unfortunate souls who never learned how to properly eat meals…I sort of just inhale everything in front of me and ignore any effort of conversation made by whichever poor fool happens to be sharing the meal with me.
Then, I remembered three things: 1) I’m in Portland, 2) we have almost* more restaurants per capita than any other city, and 3) many of these restaurants have incredible home-style mac and cheese ready for the ordering. So, I racked my brain and thought about all my favorite mac and cheese hot spots in Portland, and as a result, we now have this post. So next time you’re craving some home-style mac, you may not have to wait until laundry night at your mom’s house; just saunter down to some of these restaurants and get your fix. A cool thing about these mac and cheese dishes: they’re typically not too expensive. You can satiate this craving without ruining your credit.
*supposedly San Francisco is in the number one spot, but maybe they just have better PR than we do.
1) Hot Suppa—Located at 703 Congress Street, this small but very popular restaurant serves up hands down one of the BEST macaroni and cheese dishes I’ve ever had in Portland. It’s offered as an entrée at lunch or as a side all day. The lunch serving is HUGE, so if you’re a normal person who doesn’t stuff themselves silly like I do when I go out to eat, you’ll most likely have some leftovers. It also comes with a side (I like to go for the creamy tomato soup).  And here’s the real kicker: it’s topped with grilled kielbasa. Meat lovers, rejoice! * Hot Suppa also uses local goods whenever possible and their mac and cheese is no exception—this particular cheesy goodness can partly be attributed to the Pineland Farms Maine cheddar used in the recipe. All in all, getting your homemade fix will only run you about 9 bucks. And given the quality and the quantity of this mac and cheese, I’d say it’s well worth it!
*If you’re a vegetarian, you can definitely ask them to hold the kielbasa.
2) Great Lost Bear-While I normally go to this Forest Avenue beer oasis for their draught selection (over 50 taps!), they also have one heck of a mac and cheese. It’s so good, it’s listed not once, but four times on their menu. They claim to have the best mac and cheese in town; I say the competition is stiff, but GLB’s mac is definitely up there. The portion is smaller than Hot Suppa, but I like to get it as a side and split it with someone too dumb to realize I don’t share food well…or at all. It’s also a good lunch option—and at only $6.99, your wallet leaves happy, too. Get it with the buffalo chicken for only a dollar more. Match this cheesy delight with one of the 50+ delicious microbrews and I’d say you’ve got a darn good night.
3) District-I tried their mac and cheese for the first time this past weekend, and I am pretty excited about it. It’s served as a side, and while I think mac and cheese goes well with just about everything, it pairs nicely with your steak or chicken entrée. Aside from being creamy and just generally delicious, Distrct serves up the traditional staple with a delightful twist: bacon! As evidenced by my Hot Suppa mention, I am very pro mac and meat. So if you share my feelings on this one, next time you get that cheese/bacon yen, head to District on Danforth Street. Their chicken wings are also amazing, but we’ll leave that for another day, another post…
4) Bayside Bowl- I love this venue for many reasons: bowling+bar+karaoke=a happy girl. Adding mac and cheese to the mix should be illegal. The best thing about Bayside’s mac and cheese is the topping options. They give you the same topping choices as their pizzas; you can mix and match with 20 different toppings! If I’m remembering my high school math correctly,* the number of possible combinations is so high, my iphone calculator displays it like this: 20! = 2.43290201 x 1018. That’s a lot of mac and cheese. If you’re a “just cheese” type, this meal will only run you about $7. It’s $1 for every additional topping. Choose wisely.
*I’m not
Before I sign off, I want to throw an honorable mention out there: I have heard The Corner Room has amazing baked mac and cheese with truffle oil. As I’ve never sampled their dish, nor did I see it on their online menu, I did not want to lead anyone astray. However, if they are still serving it, do it up and let me know! It sounds amazing. Furthermore, if I left out any of your favorite mac and cheese spots, leave a comment! If there’s mac and cheese, I will go!
Until next time…

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Solstice: a guide to summer fun without the sun

You’ve probably noticed this fantastic weather we’ve been having. If you couldn’t tell by the cold, drizzly grey outside, the summer solstice was this week. That’s right folks; summertime in Maine is finally here! And while nothing quite says beach weather like foggy misting and a high of fifty-seven degrees, something tells me Portlanders may be looking for some non-swimsuit activities this weekend, at least until Sunday.* Lucky for you, I exist and have taken the time to find cool summer kickoff activities that don’t require real summer weather. You’re welcome.
* I’m not counting Sunday as the weekend because I have to work, therefore no one else can have fun.
The 29th Annual Greek Festival—I’d forgotten all about this awesome Pleasant Street festival until I involuntarily listened to traditional Greek music all evening from my Spring Street apartment. This probably would’ve been a lot cooler had I actually been at the festival, rather than lying on my couch with a glass of chardonnay and a box of Raisinets trying to watch The Empire Strikes Back.*While I did not go, a good friend of mine did and she stopped by my place afterwards, positively glowing from her Lamb Souvlaki and rice pilaf. It really made me question the frozen pizza and bagged Caesar salad I’d opted for earlier in the evening. This festival resumes today at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Pleasant Street from 11:30 am to 9:30 pm, and again at the same place and time tomorrow. It’s a great way to try some delicious food, listen to different music, and dance your heart out. There are tents so you won’t melt from the rain, but I suggest bringing an umbrella—and galoshes so you can splash around in the puddles while you get jiggy with it Greek style…
*Probably a lot of things are cooler than that, huh?
Allagash Victoria Ale Premiere—Beer lovers: tonight from 5 to 8 at the Victoria Mansion celebrate Allagash’s 2011 Victoria Ale. This event features live music from the Pete Kilpatrick Band, self-guided tours of the mansion, and some light dining fare provided by Blue Elephant Catering. Tickets are $25 at the door. This is a great opportunity for a group outing, or a date; it’s a pretty smooth move to take a girl (or guy) here on the first date. Elegant beer tasting and dining in a historic mansion on a “dark and stormy” night? You’ve got that in the bag. Plus, it’s really an interesting way to start your weekend.
Hands Across the Sand at The East End Beach—I know, I know. In the beginning of this post, I sarcastically made comments about the “excellent” beach weather this weekend was sure to have; however, this beach event is not really about getting your tan on and showing off your new bikini body. Hands Across the Sand is a movement that’s going on throughout the world. People will be taking hands on beaches across the globe at noon tomorrow to stand in solidarity against the threats of offshore drilling. If this sounds like your thing, grab your raincoat and head to the East End Beach tomorrow morning at 11:30. This event is about protecting our shores and supporting clean energy. Though it may not be the beach day you had in mind for your first weekend of summer, it might make you feel good to be a part of something this large. Check out the website for more information
Portland LobsterFest—Speaking of offshore drilling, Governor LePage* will be one of the judges at Saturday’s Great Maine Lobster Eating Contest, which is just part of the fun at the 2011 Portland LobsterFest. Starting at 11 am this Saturday, June 25, the third annual festival is sponsored by Fairpoint Communications and is presented by the Falmouth Rotary. The proceeds will benefit the Maine Children’s Cancer Program, so buy that $12.50 lobster dinner—it’s a pretty sweet price and it goes to the kids, darn it! After you’ve filled your belly with bottom feeders, check out the live music from The Stream Reggae, Typhoon Ferri, and the David Good Trio. If you later regain your appetite, there’s going to be a Gourmet Lobster Tasting Bar—we’re talking Lobster Pizza, Lobster Cakes, Lobster Bisque, Lobster Stew (do I sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump yet?) and other delectable Lobster treats. The festival also has a cash bar, and a mechanical bull. My advice: ride the bull before you hit the bar. No need to ruin your summer with a drunken mechanical bull injury.  While it may be rainy and not particularly warm tomorrow, lobster, music, beer, and mechanical bulls are sure to turn any frown upside down. Get into the summer spirit, even if the weather won’t. Have fun, be safe, and just hope that Gov. LePage doesn’t find any murals to remove in his short visit to Portland.*
*Only and last political barb of this post
*I lied—that was another political barb. Oops.
As previously mentioned, I will be working Sunday so I don’t want anyone else to have any fun. However, since I guess it will be nice out, maybe you can go to the beach or something. Or check out Reggae Sunday on Peaks Island. I don’t know. I don’t care. I hope you can’t find your bathing suit and have to swim in a t-shirt.
I am well aware that it is not a holiday weekend and that Monday, despite my own wishes, is indeed not normally part of the weekend. However, I do have this particular Monday off, so just go with it. Furthermore, it’s going to be nice out. Plus, it’s summer so all sorts of cool things are going on in Portland even when it’s not the weekend.
Pai Men Miyake—I have blogged about Masa Miyake’s noodle bar before, and that’s because it’s awesome. This particular mention has been added because my beloved Pai Men is finally getting their liquor license Monday, June 27. I am not the biggest hard liquor drinker, however, I do enjoy a cocktail now and again, and I know many Portlanders can get behind that. While I appreciate the interesting beers they carry and their wide array of sakes, I am looking forward to the possibility of a gin and tonic if the mood strikes. As of Monday, Pai Men will be serving some creative and fun summer cocktails. Try the Green Tea Gimlet with their amazing lobster ceviche. Even if you went to LobsterFest Saturday and think you don’t need to eat any more lobster for a good long while, try this ceviche! You won’t be disappointed. For those whiskey drinkers out there, you’ll be pleased to taste Pai Men’s take on the classic cocktail: come Monday, they’ll be introducing their Maine Blueberry Manhattan. Monday night you can find me at the bar, savoring my ceviche and sipping on the Gimlet. I hope to see you there.

So now that I’ve scheduled your entire weekend for you, take Monday night (after you go to Pai Men) to get a good night’s sleep. You’ll need it; summer is here (despite what looking out your window tells you), and there is bound to be all kinds of activities going on in Portland for the next few months. Until next time…

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Creative Impotence

For all twelve of you that read this (the majority of which are related to me or to my boyfriend) you may have noticed this two month hiatus I’ve taken. While I am not notorious for much of anything, let alone reliable blogging, this has been the longest I’ve gone since I began forcing my very important opinions onto the unsuspecting readers of the interwebs. Though I’d like to say I’ve been busy traveling Europe, taking in new experiences, and living life the fullest, I’ve actually just been sitting around, feeling sorry for myself about where my “writing life” is going—nowhere. Like most full-time employed “adults,” at the end of a long work day  I am tired, grumpy, hungry, and more inclined to watch four hours straight of other people’s creativity on 30 Rock rather than try to come up with something of my own.  If you’re a creative person, you most likely understand the rut this routine can become: before you know it, the laptop is literally gathering dust (no seriously, cleaning this thing off required a mask and a lot of Claritin) and the deli below your apartment is thriving from all the Crunch ‘n Munch business you’ve been giving them.  In the past few months I drank approximately 27 root beer floats, used my old college email to get one free month of Hulu Plus, cried when my crappy internet connection interrupted Netflix, watched two full seasons of 24, and wrote absolutely nothing. 
As much as I’d like to continue turning this blog into a LiveJournal entry, there is a punch line to all this self-pity.  I’ve come out of my creative impotence, or at least am actively looking for an inspirational Viagra to help me come out of it, and have woken up to all the creativity that’s constantly buzzing around self-involved whiny me in this very cool seaside city. Portland has really come to thrive on the arts. There’s an entire community not just of writers, but of musicians, painters, dancers. And while not everyone can write something, sing something, make something, there’s the overwhelming support of Portland's many art appreciators. For me to sit around, borderline-crying to reruns of Dawson’s Creek (God, I did a lot of bad TV watching these past months) and lamenting over my inability to get my imaginative shit together, is just pathetic. And as my friend Caroline knows, if there is one adjective I would wish never to be called, it’s pathetic. Ugly I can handle—I had headgear, acne, and bangs so hairsprayed they literally cracked in middle school.  Stupid is even OK. We’re all a little stupid sometimes—just yesterday I asked my boyfriend what sports team the “Cong Rats” were when I saw a car parked outside the Bonny Eagle High School graduation at the Civic Center which read “CONGRATS 2011.” But pathetic? I don’t think so. Therefore, I’ve picked myself up off the futon, and am re-emerging into the creative life, at the risk of making a fool of myself. Whether I have to listen to criticisms for my poor choice of syntax, receive rejection letters, or deal with whatever other trials any aspiring writer faces, at least I won’t be pathetic. Maybe. I hope.
So, if you’re self-involved enough to think you’re creative, rock on. Here’s a few cool things happening in the near future in Portland that encourage Maine writers to keep on truckin’. For all you dudes cruising for ladies out there, these readings, book signings, etc. are really a great way to meet insecure women with bad high school memories and daddy issues. Jokes, jokes. But actually, it is a wonderful way to network and get inspired for your own writing. I am personally going to make it my mission to get my tired ass down to many of these, so I encourage any of you who are interested in what the Maine writing community has to offer to show up as well. To return to television, because that’s all I seem to have in my head these days, maybe Red Forman had it right: sometimes to get shit done, all we need is a swift kick in the ass. 
(Disclaimer: I took all these events from the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance I did not re-write the write-ups because I thought the original ones pretty much summed everything up perfectly. I repeat: I did not write these. I said I was looking for my inspriational Viagra, I did not say I'd found it yet. Baby steps.)
Wednesday, June 15 at 7 PM Join the University of New England’s Add Verb Productions for a reading and book signing of its first book, Out & Allied Anthology, featuring youth-written monologues, short plays and poems at Longfellow Books in Portland. The material focuses on the experiences of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) youth and the importance of allies. Included is a guide for directing, producing, and writing original pieces and other resources. FMI or contact Cathy Plourde, Director Add Verb Productions 207-221-4493 office/ 207-653-4554 cell.

Friday, June 17 at 12PM Helen Rivas-Rose reads from her new memoir Brave about overcoming shyness at the Portland Public Library's new Friday afternoon series, downstairs in meeting room 5.

Thursday, June 23 at 7PM Maureen Stanton reads from her brand new book, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-market America at Longfellow Books in Portland. FMI

Saturday, June 25 at 12PM Join Caitlin Shetterly for a very special book-signing event at Salt Water Farm in Lincolnville with Annemarie Ahearn. A three-course meal—based on the food in Shetterly’s memoir Made For You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home—is being offered for $45 per person. Seating is limited. FMI

Saturday, June 18 at 7PM Join the celebration at Mayo Street Arts for the inauguration of newly appointed Portland Poet Laureate Bruce Spang. Megan Grumbling will emcee the evening, the Gay Men's Chorus will perform, and poets Annie Finch and Russ Sargent will also read. FMI
*Side note: I know this isn't in Portland, but I included it anyway because Lincolnville is beautiful, only two hours away, and this event sounded way too cool to leave out.

Saturday, July 9 from 12:30PM to 3:30PM The sixth annual Books in Boothbay: Maine's Summer Book Fair (formerly Books & Blooms) will be held at Boothbay Railway Village in scenic Boothbay on Rte. 27 South. The event is cosponsored by and benefits the Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library and the Boothbay Railway Village. Forty authors from around the state will attend to sign their books, discuss their writing, and meet their fans. The event is free. Confirmed authors include: Charlotte Agell, Elizabeth Tova Bailey, Crash Barry, Liza Blakewell, Cheryl Blaydon, Sarah Braunstein, Holly Chamberlain, Richard Shain Cohen, Melissa Coleman, Susan Conley, Katherine Davis, Sandra Dutton, Cathryn Falwell, Adreana Hamlin, Hannah Holmes, Shonna Miliken Humphrey, Lily King, Cynthia Lord, Tammy LR Meserve, Lillian Nayder, James Nelson, Jim Nichols, Maria Padian, Van Reid, Michael S. Sanders, Caitlin Shetterly, Susan Hand Shetterly, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Jim Taliana, Harrison Thorp, Lea Wait, and Val Walker. FMI

I know this last one is also not in Portland. I included it for four reasons: Boothbay is amazing, especially in the summer. It's a nice little drive up the coast. It's free. And, Book Fairs are awesome. I hope to see some of you at a few of these events this June. Until next time...and hopefully that's not another full two months away.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Midnight Snack

I recently was on a trip to Florida. My brother was flying in a couple of days after my boyfriend and me, so on the day of his arrival we went to the Orlando airport to get him. On our way back to our rented home, we decided to grab some lunch. As we passed a Chili’s on the left, my brother cracked “How about Chilis?” and being the food snobs that we all are, this comment sent us into a frenzy of sardonic laughter. After driving back and forth on the Orlando highway strip ninety times, seeing nothing but Cracker Barrels and gas station “cafes,” we found ourselves slinking into Chili’s with our tails between our legs. Luckily, they had 2-for-1 margaritas, so all was not lost. However, this encounter got me thinking about what spoiled brats most of us are in Portland. While I am sure downtown Orlando must have better options than the highway strip we searched on, the town of Davenport, where we stayed for a few days, boasted nothing but chain restaurants and “cheap” Disney ticket sales at the grocery stores. So, being the never satisfied person I am, instead of relishing in the wonderful restaurants scattered throughout Portland, I began to think of what could be improved upon in our city. My conclusion was that late-night dining could definitely get beefed up. I’d like to see some “street meat”: taco stands, gyros, etc., ready at my convenience past normal business hours. Sadly, the world does not always serve me at my convenience. Even so, I am not going to be a complete glass-empty kind of girl (today), and instead, I will celebrate the places in Portland which do offer good food past ten.
I know most of us have been there. Last call has been called. The very bottom of your warm Bud Lite has been drank (although, you’re not quite sure why), and just as you’re gearing up to crawl in that cab and then superman into your amazing bed, it hits you: hunger. Now if this were some time in the not-so-distant past, you perhaps would have begrudgingly made your way down to Bill’s Pizza to get some overpriced cardboard, guaranteed to treat you to one heck of a belly ache when you arise in the morning. However, get pumped Portlanders, gourmands, or just drunks kids, because this city has wised up recently and slowly accumulated some great late-night dining spots.
1)      Best Late Night Pizza can be found at Otto’s. Now, for a lot of you, this is old news. You’re saying to yourself, “of course Otto’s…that was cool years ago—why am I even reading this stupid blog?” Fair enough, but I am mentioning this lovely little pizzeria because I can’t seem to wrap my brain around that fact that a lot of the Old Port’s biggest frequenters seem to continually settle for Joe’s Slice Bar & “New York” Pizza, when the delicious and far superior Otto’s is just a skip and a jump away. Let me tell you something about Joe’s Slice Bar. Not only is it stupidly overpriced ($10 for 2 slices! Unreal!), but it’s not even very good. The pizza is usually just lukewarm when you get it, there aren’t that many slice options, and on several occasions I’ve seen Kevin Federline look-a-likes get into fights with each other, all over some lovely girl wearing a sparkly tube top with a bedazzled “bitch” written in rhinestones across her chest. I guess you take what you can when you’re next door to The Cactus Club and Foreplay, still it kind of kills the appetite. Even more ridiculous is the “New York Pizza” added at the end…really Joe? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that when people say they’re craving some New York pizza, they’re not fondly thinking of elbowing their way through a sea of cologne-soaked drunks to buy one of your overpriced second-rate slices. So, instead of subjecting yourself to pizza that’s slightly better than Bill’s, take the brief stroll up to Congress and enjoy some Otto’s. As most of you know, every slice is $3 and they like to get creative with their pizza---you can get mashed potato on your slice! For those more conventional pizza fans, fear not; they also offer the old failthfuls like cheese and pepperoni. So skip the mediocrity, and save money. All you have to do is a walk a little further, and if you’re making a habit out of eating pizza at 1 in the morning, you could probably use the exercise. Best of all, while Otto’s is open until 2 am on the weekends, it’s good even when you haven’t been drinking, so stop by for lunch.
2)      Treat yourself to a tasty sandwich at Nosh-This place, I will admit, is not as cheap as my usual suggestions. A late-night sandwich at Nosh is going to cost you from $9-11. However, you won’t regret it, unless you hate delicious food, in which case—stop reading this and go to Bill’s. This is a dining option I recommend on a night when you aren’t really “getting after it” too hard (isn’t that what all the kids are calling it?). In other words, don’t spend $10 on a scrumptious Steak N’ Cheese only to wake up the next morning wondering why you have heartburn and bits of cheese next to the mascara stains on your pillow. Since Nosh serves food until 12:45 AM, it’s a good place to go if you get out of a concert late and realize you've skipped dinner, or if you have what I will argue is a healthy appetite and want dinner round two come midnight. Nosh also has a full bar, so enjoy your favorite drink while mowing down on late night snacks. If your wallet isn’t cooperating with your sandwich needs, split one with a friend. It’s late anyway, and your digestive system will probably thank you. Plus, they’ve got more than just sandwiches. Their fries and fried pickles are more affordable ($5-6) and equally delectable. I stopped by the other night with a friend and split an incredible meatloaf panini and some of the seasalt and vinegar fries. I went home a very happy lady.
3)      Check out the late-night menu at Sonny’s. Jay Villani (Local 188) has got a new spot and it’s a great place for lunch, dinner, drinks, or late-night munching. I’d been there for lunch and really enjoyed my meal, so I was pretty excited to discover that they have a late-night menu. I know a lot of people frequent Sonny’s during the night scene, as it really is a nice spot to meet up with friends for a drink. So, if you’re hungry while you sip, order an empanada off the late-night menu. Everything is under $10 on this later menu, and if you’re a fan of “new world cuisine” (fancy shmancy way of saying delicious Cuban, Mexican, and Brazilian influences), then you’ll most likely leave happy. One funny thing about Sonny’s is that the crowd on a weekend night is often mixed. Look around and you’ll see your barely graduated twentysomethings probably ordering shots, wealthy (or at least trying to look so) 40 year-olds sipping on martinis, the typical Elvis Costello-glasses-wearing hipsters most likely drinking Brooklyn Lagers, followed by the group of single women bordering on 30 and “totally cool with it,” as they sip their vodka and soda water through tiny straws. What does this mean? Well, if you’re anything like me this translates into “there’s a surplus of people to make fun of.” So sit back with friends and make fun of everyone while you destroy some empanadas and drink a tasty beer. But don’t think you’re too cool—some other group a few tables down is probably laughing at you and your friends as you chow down.
Until next time, stop going to Joe’s Slice Bar, enjoy the weather as it (hopefully) gets warmer, and bon appétit!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

(Don't) sing me a song piano man...leave it to those with talent: a few suggestions for good live music in Portland

While patronizing a local establishment in the Old Port, I recently experienced a rather pathetic yet sadly common pick-up attempt. It was about ten minutes until closing and I had gone over to the bar to order a drink. I had hoped to quickly grab my beer and then resume my evening on the dance floor. On this particular evening, I had met up with some coworkers from a very new job and was trying to get back to the group before last call so they could all marvel at how cool I am outside of work. However, I was unable to return to the dance floor to impress these coworkers with my awkward un-rhythmic jolting because as I turned to walk away from the bar, I was blocked by a very intoxicated and lonely looking man in a suit and tie. I’d seen this man drunkenly eyeing me from a few feet away and even heard him mumble something incoherently while I’d ordered my drink; his speech was so slurred that he wound up sounding more like the prospector Gabby Johnson from Blazing Saddles than the white-collar young person he appeared to be.
At first, I couldn’t be certain he was speaking to me as he certainly wasn’t speaking any human language I’ve been made aware of. However, as he stepped in front of me, head bobbing in a drunken trance, I knew what was coming and whole-heartedly dreaded it. Just as I suspected he might, he opened his gaping drinking hole, gave me a full body scan from his crossed eyes, and somehow (kind of) spoke: “Dojoo like live music?” Despite the intellectual witticism of this opening statement, I felt my eyes going for the roll. I stopped myself from completely dismissing and embarrassing this fellow merely out of the truly pitiable nature of the come-on. Amazingly, as drunk as he was, he seemed to realized the blunder he’d just made. He tried to recover by hitting himself on the head with his palm and essentially shouting à la Napoleon Dynamite: “That was stupid! I’m so bad at this!” I actually felt bad for him and was about to agree with him while politely dismissing myself, when he carried on by asking me what I do for a living. As I was about to respond with another phrase for "goodbye," he blurted: “I work at such-and-such office, but I’m really a musician…”
 I immediately felt my gag reflex preparing for launch.
The rest of this man’s awkward attempt to talk with me was sad and boring. He didn’t listen to anything I had to say, although what I was trying to say was goodbye. He just continued to go on and on about how his guitar and his music were his “true loves.” The worst part of this annoying encounter is that it was not the first time a “musician” has tried to impress me (or anyone) with a very lame come-on about their musical interests. Even more, not only have they crashed and burned with their self-promotional conversation topics, these guys (and sometimes girls) tend to ignore everything you say, only waiting for another chance to tell you about how talented they are.
At this very same bar a year or so earlier, I was settling up my tab at the end of the evening, when the night’s musical act thought it’d be a good idea to approach me by stating that he “couldn’t help but notice” I was dancing along. There were only about six of us dancing, so he immediately impressed me with his keen observation skills. Instead of being the mean, sarcastic person I sometimes want to be, I smiled nicely enough and grabbed my jacket. As I was trying to make my exit, he tried again: “So, do you like original music?” I might add that this guy was doing pretty terribly rendered Billy Joel covers throughout most of the night. I responded (perhaps rather freshly) that anyone who liked music probably liked original music, as all music was once original. Instead of being stung by my sarcasm, he completely ignored my disinterest and proceeded to tell me about his “other gig” doing “originals” and “that kind of thing." To top it all off, not only did he fail to notice my boyfriend standing right behind me the entire time, he also concluded this painfully boring “conversation” by asking me for my e-mail address so he could “get in touch," as well as alert me of any upcoming shows he might be playing.
I guess my point in writing about these unfortunate run-ins with would-be musicians is that this is a fairly common occurrence in Portland, and probably every other city where instruments are freely sold. I for one would like to see an end to it. I love music. And live music is even better. But not if you’re a moron that can barely play guitar. There’s too much good music to settle for mediocre ego-maniacs whose idea of a good conversation starter is something as brilliant as “do you like original songs?”  Rather, I would like to steer us all towards some of my favorite places in Portland where you can enjoy some good live music and I'd also like to mention some of the great acts coming to play here in the near future. Hopefully, these venues and shows will let you avoid the previously written about run-ins (although I’m not making any solid promises).
1)The State-Thank goodness this wonderful and historic venue is back in action. It was a dark time for the Portland music scene (and certainly for me) without it. It definitely brings in some musical acts that aren’t normally inclined to play at the Civic Center. No Kenny Chesney stadium blow-outs at this more intimidate theater (though I must admit, I’ve been known to belt out lyrics to “Keg in the Closet” on more than one occasion). This place has a knack for attracting some world-renowned talent. I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know, but The State’s got some pretty sweet shows coming up this spring that are worth checking out. Plus, most of the tickets are very reasonably priced. Here’s just a sampling of the great stuff they’ve got lined up:
Soul Live comes to Portland Saturday, March 19. Tickets are only 20 bucks.  I’ve seen this funk/jazz trio before, and they kick butt. So, scoot on over to the State and embrace your funky side.
Sara Bareilles is performing Friday, April 1. Tickets are $22 in advance and $25 at the door You may remember her from her 2007 pop hit “Love Song.” While I definitely sang along to the radio every time it came on, that particular song doesn’t really do Miss Bareilles justice; it sounds more like a Kelly Clarkson chart climber. However, Sara Bareilles is actually a really talented vocalist and musician—she plays four instruments in addition to singing. Plus, while I’ve never seen it first hand, I’ve heard she gives a great live performance. Skeptical of her talents? Check out this really nice stripped-down cover of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”                                               
Iron & Wine will be performing Monday, April 18. Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam is really talented, a bit of an oddball, and he kind of looks like Zach Galifianakis, so what’s not to like? Tickets are $23 in advance and $25 at the door (if it doesn’t sell out).
The Avett Brothers come to Portland Thursday, June 2! I am unbelievably excited about this one. I first heard of these guys a few years ago when I was researching the bands at Bonnaroo to make sure I didn’t miss any shows I’d kick myself about later. Well, I did end up missing The Avett Brothers because I slept through it. And ever since my friend Pete later got me into them, I absolutely have been kicking myself. But now it seems life has given me a second chance as they’ll be gracing Portland with their folk-rock-bluegrass-pop-honky tonk fusion of loveliness. I will say though, while I usually recommend pretty cheap entertainment, the tickets for this show are a wee bit more expensive than the rest of the acts I’ve been suggesting: they’re about 40 bucks. And if you’re a broke college student, or just plain broke, quit your whining and skip a weekend in the Old Port so you will have enough money to go see this amazing band. You won’t regret it. It beats another drunken night at Gritty’s anytime. Anyway, if people can shell out hundreds of dollars to see Miley Cyrus wear a blond wig and badly sing crappy songs, then you can spend $40 on The Avett Brothers.
2) The Empire­-Because I just freaked out over national (and international) musical acts, I want to make sure I also promote the local talent we’ve got here in Portland. The Empire Dine and Dance is usually a pretty fun place to go to dance and listen to some local musicians. They often have pretty decent acts. If you’re a bluegrass fan, definitely check out The Stowaways (no cover), playing every Monday night 8:30 to 11:30. Also, the drinks are reasonably priced and it can be a really fun atmosphere. The downstairs and upstairs almost seem like two different bars which is kind of fun in itself—upstairs is more dance-happy, while downstairs offers a more relaxed astmophere to sit and chat with friends while you sip on drinks. Plus, they’ve got open mic night every Sunday, which can sometimes be a good way to scope out local talent or even show off your own chops. Although, at such an inclusive event, you’re almost guaranteed to encounter some of the aforementioned talentless airheads with delusions of grandeur—proceed with caution!
3) Blue on Congress Street is absolutely one of the most intimate venues in Portland to relax and listen to music. It’s got a cozy and neighborly feel to it, and the close quarters makes the audience very much a part of the experience.  They’ve got both local and national talent streaming in. Every Wednesday is Irish Night, which is a cool way to check out something a little different. There is never a cover at Blue (though about once a month they have a ticketed show), but don’t be a stingy jerk. Musicians need money in order to keep entertaining you, so throw some love their way and toss a few bucks in the basket. Blue is a great place for everyone. They’ve got a really nice beer and wine list and if you’re not a big drinker they’ve got more than just alcohol to offer: as I’ve stated before in a previous post, they’ve got a wide array of teas and yummy coffees to choose from. Plus, the food is good and cheap so enjoy a nice home-style meal while being entertained.
This is a very small list of musical happenings in this city.  I am by no means cool enough to know all the good live music spots and goings-ons in Portland. So, if you have suggestions, comments, or ideas that could contribute to this post, by all means let me know. Furthermore, there are many places where you can see very talented local musicians which I've excluded only because I didn't want this post to go on for the rest of my life, and you probably don't want that either. As far as what I have suggested, I can’t guarantee that the musicians won’t ever be self-involved morons, but at least they might be talented ones. Until next time…

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Funny Girl

DISCLAIMER: If you are a Dane Cook fan, maybe you shouldn't read this.

A few years ago, a male acquaintance of mine said to me, “Ali, you’re so funny.” As I felt my ego swelling, I smiled and thanked him just in time for him to follow up his compliment with this gem:  “And for a girl, that’s pretty rare.” If there were crickets in Maine in January, I think I would’ve been able to hear them chirping.
The depressing thing about these off-putting comments is that they are not uncommon. I’ve heard similar arguments against women all of my life, and I’m sure you have, too. Just by Googling “female comedians,” you can find really intelligent hits like these: “7 Hottest Female Comedians (Who Are Actually Funny),” “10 Female Comedians Who Are Almost As Funny As Dane Cook,” and “Women should not do stand up comedy.”
First off, I’m not sure what being hot has to do with comedy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember anyone laughing at Chris Farley because of his rugged jaw line.
Second, the one referring to 10 female comedians being “almost as funny as Dane Cook” must be a joke in itself. In fact, I laughed harder reading that title than at anything I’ve ever seen Dane Cook do. He’s the most overrated comedian I can think of. The fact that he gets paid to tell unfunny stories and perspire in front of thousands of people actually upsets me. He’s an idiot. Apparently, not even his own family likes him; his brother stole millions of dollars from him, probably as payback for all the years of terrible jokes and exaggerated body language. I can think of 10 garden slugs funnier than Dane Cook, let alone 10 women. The only funny thing that man has ever done is his monologue describing women as “brain ninjas,” and that’s only because there’s humor in truth. To be a brain ninja, in Dane Cook’s case at least, women would have to be smarter than Dane Cook. Based on his comedy routines, I can confidently say almost all of the women I know (and most of the men I know, as well) qualify in this category. As revenge for all the times in college I had to watch that jerk shout unfunny anecdotes on YouTube, I can only hope Dane Cook encounters as many brain ninjas in his life as women in this world that are funnier than him.
Lastly, the brilliantly titled “Women should not do stand up comedy” floored me with its unparalleled wisdom. Duxtape comments on the thread: “I turned on some Comedy Central Presents, and there was this girl named ‘Iliza Schlesinger’, so I put it on out of randomness. She is horrible. She's hot and has a nice ass, so I left it on just to gawk at her in her tight jeans.” Furthermore, I was also impressed with the immense amount of research that appears to have gone into many of this website’s comments. HAWTakayama writes: “Just about 100% of female comedians are horrible because they haven’t evolved to have the creatively-insane thoughts males do.” This insightful quip is followed by JSTORM’s life-changing attitude: “To be a funny standup comic you need insight into those little oddities that we encounter once in a while on this strange journey of ours that we call life. Such humorous and often poignant idiosyncrasies are not found in the kitchen.” Thank you for your thoughts, JSTORM, but first of all, “standup” is not a word. And secondly, with an attitude like this and a username like “JSTORM,” I have a hard time believing you’ve ever successfully brought a woman back to your mom’s basement, or wherever it is that you live, so I almost forgive you for being so out of touch with the opposite sex.   
There is a point to all this ranting; women are funny. Need proof? Well, then you’re an idiot, but here’s a small list of just a few of Hollywood’s funny ladies: Lily Tomlin, Lucille Ball, Joan Rivers, Cheryl Hines, Mo’Nique, Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ellen DeGeneres, Leslie Mann,  Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Maya Rudolph, Wanda Sykes, Rachel Dratch, Jane Lynch, Kristin Wiig, Allison Janney, Mindy Kaling.  Obviously not all women are make-you-laugh-‘til-you-cry hilarious, but if you think that all men are then you’re a bigger ass than Dane Cook. I know more funny women than unfunny women. The only reason I don’t shrivel up into a ball and stay that way until I die after reading or hearing ignorant comments like the ones we just saw, is because I do have a sense of humor.
So, if you also have a sense of humor and are tired of seeing funny ladies finish last, then check out Kerri Louise February 24-26 at the Comedy Connection at 16 Custom House Wharf in the Old Port. Kerri, a former finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing with Jay Mohr, makes a lot of jokes about her life as a mother and wife and is pretty entertaining to listen to, though our friend JSTORM may tell her to get back to the kitchen. If you go to the Thursday night show, it’s only half-price—that’s $8.75. You can buy your tickets at
Until next time, appreciate the funny women in your life. Maybe actually let them know you think they’re funny…just please don’t end that compliment with “for a girl.”