My Boston Favorites

I always talk about Boston – I literally never shut up about it.

My soul is full of pride to know that I grew up in this incredible city. And after watching the Marathon from the finish line this weekend, my heart has just burst from happiness, love, and pride. Although it is normal to love the place you grew up, I know that my love and pride surpasses that normal capacity.

And as I am turning 2o this summer, I have put together a list of my all-time favorites within the city of Boston. For the most part, I am a HUGE foodie which is the reason why a lot of my favorites are restaurants. Along with food, I love shopping and large hang-out places which makes my list a combination of hidden places and well-known parts of the city. The way I went about making my list is by creating a quirky, lil’ map through Google to actually pinpoint the places I am talking about AND to make it easier for you all to figure out where they all are if you decide to try them out for yourselves!

Continue reading “My Boston Favorites”

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In Defense of Young Love

As I packed up my boxes to leave my dorm room for the summer, I felt all the usual end of the year nostalgia. Saying “goodbye” to the friends I’d begun to call family was certainly not easy. But, I also could not help but feel a wave of excitement rush over me. Of course I was happy at the prospect of no more school work or final projects to stress over, but more so I was happy at the idea that for the first time in over nine months I was going to be able to wake up each morning next to the boy I loved. This meant no more FaceTimes with roommates intruding, no more crying simply because he was so far away and no more late night fights about how much we missed each other. Finally, we would be able to return to our in person relationship, and I could not be more thrilled.

This year marked my three year anniversary with my boyfriend, John, as well as the beginning of both our first years of college. We’ve been together ever since sophomore year of high school when our chemistry as lab partners was undeniable. We held hands across the lunch table for weeks before even exchanging phone numbers. We officially became boyfriend/girlfriend after a friend asked if we were “a thing” and both of us just looked at each other and smiled. “I guess so,” was the final decision. Thus, began three years of seeing each other everyday nonstop and falling more and more silly in love. We even spent a summer living together.

However, in the fall of 2015, our college plans separated us by over three hundred miles. John attended a university in New Jersey while I chose a school in Boston. Despite the distance, we knew that we were going to continue on and make our relationship work. Though he now plans to transfer closer in the fall, we always knew that we wanted to stay together no matter what time apart or distance we may have to endure. Many people, especially “adults”, have told us to simply give up, claiming that breaking up would just be easier. Since we are young, they believe our relationship is not something worth fighting for. I have heard one too many lectures on “all the fish in the sea” to ever consider using the hackneyed phrase again. John’s own mother has infamously said that she thinks “high school relationships should stay in high school.” But, for us, from the beginning, breaking up was never an option or even a conversation.

Now, I am not going to pretend that long distance is an easy feat. There were times when the mere fact that we were physically so far apart led to fighting and mental distance. Both of us were having new experiences and changing so much in such a short period of time that we of course had to wonder if we were growing in opposite directions. Still, our relationship stood strong as we texted and FaceTimed and made room for each other even in our ever-evolving new worlds. And, guess what? It worked. Now that we are finally on the other side, I am so happy to be reunited with him.

Though we may be “high school sweethearts,” I would venture to say we’ve been through a lot together already, and our relationship is just as valid as any other despite our ages. We’ve been with each other through some of the most pivotal and life changing moments. We’ve made so many memories together and encouraged each other as we’ve grown. I feel so lucky to have had him by my side these past three years. From holding me up at my grandfather’s funeral to holding my hair back when I’m sick, John has been there for it all. There have been so many tissues and sleepless nights both good and bad. He truly knows me better than anyone else in many ways simply because he’s been there for so much.

Sadly, it is still so often assumed that our relationship’s long standing will only eventually end in tragic heartbreak and the idea that we have wasted these years together. Many family and friends wonder if we’re planning too far ahead, especially as John transfers to a school that while academically more rigorous than his current institution also happens to be geographically closer to me. They think we are too young to allow our lives to intertwine quite so deeply and to decide upon such a definite future. Although I can try and understand this concern, I am dead set on the fact that they are unbelievably wrong.

This is mainly because John is not simply my boyfriend but my best friend. He is the first person I want to go to with my problems and the first person I want to share good news with. No matter what we are doing we always manage to have fun together, we can laugh together for hours over silly things. He is the person I want by my side on my every adventure. Our favorite thing to do; get in the car and just drive. Already, we have seen so many places together from the coastline of Maine to small art museums across the North East. We have admired the Brooklyn Bridge at night and the beaches of Newport at sunrise. Our mission to see all fifty states together began the first time we took a train into Philadelphia. I can not wait to see even more and learn even more. I am so excited to continue exploring the world with him.

But, I also have made a point not to sacrifice other friendships and relationships in my life for him. I have always been a big proponent of the fact that while having a boyfriend who is your best friend is nice it is important not to make him my entire world. It is important to us both that we both have friendships and interests outside of our relationship. Thus, we share our interests, challenge each other, and celebrate the times that we can have adventures hand in hand.

Despite the fact that I am young, I am quite certain that I could never see my current relationship as anything but a benefit in my life. Even if circumstances abound and for whatever reason we go in separate directions, I can not imagine seeing our time spent together as a regret. In addition each choice that we make is ours to choose, and at the moment we are certainly quite happy with my choices. So, let us be happy. We are constantly making new memories and having new experiences because we are young, and at least at the moment we want to experience it all together. It is certainly not easy to be young and in love but, it is definitely worth it. 

Reclaiming Your Identity After a Breakup

So you’re single now.

If there’s anything I’ve learned during my first year of college, it’s that life is a wild ride. Friends come and go, opportunities are lost and new ones found, relationships are made and broken. Upon a series of events (whether fortunate or unfortunate only you can say), you’ve found yourself out of another relationship. Maybe it was for the best. Maybe you feel lost and really, really confused. Maybe you don’t feel anything.

It doesn’t matter whether the relationship was long term or only a brief romantic encounter–each one hurts in its own unique way. You may be reading this on your phone at the grocery store, thinking, “I’ve read this post a thousand times. What makes you think you have anything new to say about break ups?” Well curious reader, as the saying goes, originality is nothing more than undetected plagiarism. That being said, I do have motive for opening up this overplayed dialogue once more.

I’ve seen far too many people I care about spiral into a twister of angst and turmoil after breaking up with someone. What I want most of all is to speak directly to each one of my friends who I’ve seen go through this very thing. I would tell them the only way to truly move on from this is to stop thinking about the person they’ve broken up with and start thinking about themselves.

I’m making this personal, single people. Remember that scene in The Notebook when Ryan Gosling shows Rachel McAdams the studio he made for her and she remembers how much she loves painting? Well, you don’t need a hot guy to build you a house in order to rediscover what you love. You can do it all on your own.

Think back to the things you used to do by yourself before you got into the relationship. The kind of things you did out of self love, that are meant to be done alone. Those activities are the building blocks of your identity, but all too often disappear in an overly dependent relationship. Starting those things again will help you rediscover yourself, whether it’s playing more guitar, playing a sport, writing poetry or pursuing some other hobby.

It’s essential during a breakup period not to agonize over the other person too much. Take this time to reassess who you are as a person and what your goals are. The healthiest relationships don’t involve either partner depending on the other. Your happiness should come from within yourself–you are responsible for it.

It’s time to reclaim yourself and grab hold of who you are. Listen to what your body and your mind need. Practice self-love and be mindful of what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. Use this time to do the things you said you never had time for before–they will be your life raft to sanity and the key to being happy on your own again.

Date Ideas to Spark Up Your Summer

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The summer is a perfect time for fun dates. So many opportunities arise that couples just can’t do during the chillier months. Especially after a long year of classes and work, the summer months allow couples to reignite the spark that may have been lost during the year by going out and taking advantage of these special activities. The ability to create the most memories is important during these sweltering hot days, and there are so many adventures that can help create them, so why not spend it with the one you love?

Whether you have been in your relationship for a long time or are just starting one, here are some fun date ideas to inspire your summer spark.

1. Have A Picnic

Between our phones and computers, there seems to be hardly any time spent with your significant other or love interest without looking at a screen. Having a picnic allows you to change timgreshis. Buy some sandwiches, fruit and wine and put a blanket in your car. Either plan the picnic with your lover or surprise them! The most important part about the picnic (besides the food) is probably the location. You want to find a place that is calm and beautiful, and preferably in nature. Of course, this is “weather allowing,” so be sure to check your local weather station before you leave the house for the day. Besides the romantic scenery and having the chance to just be with your date, it also allows you to talk about the real stuff. It will most likely be a fun memory that you and your “person” will share, and will also give both of you a chance to find out more about one another no matter how long or short you have been dating.

2. Dress Up

After high school, there aren’t many times that one gets to dress up. Think about it, you have formals,
imagessoph hop, homecoming, junior prom and then senior prom. In college, you pretty much have an occasional formal, but it just doesn’t feel the same as they did in high school. Plan a date night that gives you and your boyfriend or girlfriend the chance to “clean up.” Take them to a nice dinner at a restaurant that you have both been meaning to try, or even one that neither of you had a clue about! Besides the fact that it’s always nice to see your significant other looking their absolute best, the formality of it all helps to bring back those “first date” butterflies, and makes you realize how lucky you truly are to have that other person in your life. It sounds too cliché, I know, but it’s true.

3. Berry Picking

images-1Like most dates, this one requires a bit of research. First comes first, you need to find a farm that grows berries. Secondly, you need to find one that is in a reasonable range from where you live. So what is berry picking?  It’s pretty much the summer version of apple picking in the fall. At the farm near me, you pay a set price, depending on what kind of fruit you are picking and then take a basket and go off to your berry picking adventures. Some farms will make you pay at the end, weighing the amount of fruit you have picked, so be wary. As silly as it sounds, as a date, it can be fun. It definitely mixes things up, and can be made into a really fun day. The best thing about the date is that the farm will most likely have a ton of property to roam on which is scenically beautiful. There shouldn’t be a dull moment in the day. You can even make a competition out of it with your date by seeing who can pick the most berries. I know, it sounds nerdy, but it is probably what will happen. (Don’t judge!)

4. Drive-in Movie

Drive-ins are pretty hard to find and tend to be located in more suburban or “in the middle of Elm_Road_Drive-In_Theatrenowhere” areas. The closest one to me is about an hour away (with no traffic). However, if you look hard enough, you should be able to find one. Usually, they are much cheaper than a normal modern day movie theater and also show two movies for the price of one. Most drive-ins also provide food in order to gain funds to keep the outdoor theater open. Because of this, they tend to be pretty strict about bringing in outside food, so be sure to check with the theater before bringing a whole dinner into the screening areas with you. The one downside is that you have to have a car to not only get there, but also watch the movie. Usually, the theater will have a radio station which provides the sound for your film. So it’s pretty easy if you have a car to use, but if not, you can’t really go. Overall, the drive-in is really romantic. It makes you feel more intimate with your date than if you were stuck in a crowded theater, and also allows you to cuddle up and watch the stars. Just one fair warning – don’t forget the bug spray!

Searching for Music to Move the Stars

By: Erin Kayata

While flying from Boston to San Antonio, Texas, I embarked on my spring break reading: Travelling to Infinity, the memoir by Jane Hawking which the recent movie The Theory of Everything is based upon. When I was watching the Oscars a few weeks prior, I became intrigued by the story. Having not yet seen the movie, I decided to start off by reading the book. After all, the book is always better than the movie and being compelled to write about personal romances myself, I was interested to see how Mrs. Hawking devoted an entire memoir to her marriage.

The book, while a good read, did not impress me. This was due in part to the immense focus on Stephen Hawking. Jane Hawking seems fascinating to me. A doctor in Romance languages, I was more interested in her work than Stephen’s (admittedly, I am much more literary minded) and was sad to see a woman who does such fascinating work devote her writing to a failed marriage.

In spite of this, I was deeply invested in the story. I was so interested in the experience of being married to and raising a family with a person with a mobile impairment. I felt for Hawking as she struggled with these duties. I also related to her experience of having a relationship with someone intelligent to the point of being eccentric with such a vastly different area of expertise from her own.

I realized that my discomfort with Hawking’s focus in the book was a bit hypocritical. In fact, a month earlier, my friend posed me the same question while I was telling her my idea of writing a memoir based off my dating experiences.

“But Erin,” she said, “You’re so much more interesting than that.”

In some sense, this may be true. I’ve travelled to places like Luxembourg and Athens. I write everything from fiction to poetry. I read excessively when I can, hitting upwards of 20 books a year. However, I too, find myself drawn to writing about my love life. Why?

This question can, in part, be answered with a quote from one of my favorite songs from the band, Bastille. “I have written you down now,” they sing in their song “Poet”. “You will live forever/all the world will read you/and you will live forever/on eyes not yet created/on tongues that are not born.”  To me, the ultimate romance in writing about my former flames comes from the permanence of words.

“This is the only immortality you and I may share,” reads the last line of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and it is so true. I feel the need to honor the ones I’ve loved or shared a romantic connection with in the past. There’s something so touching to me about capturing them, in the details and in the story, and having that remain as a legacy. Perhaps the subjects do not feel the same (especially those portrayed in an unflattering light), but to me, I like the idea of my stories, whether they be about true love or a fleeting fling, remaining in the world for posterity, or at very least, for my future dates to read so they’ll know that I’ll probably write about them. But there’s no greater gift than love and I think it’s so important that if we can, we capture it on the page and share it with the world.

The second part to this question can be answered with the tug of familiarity I felt when reading Jane Hawking’s description of Stephen’s intelligence: how she often had to make excuses for his disinterest in small talk, how he got so deeply involved in thoughts of physics that she referred to it as his “mistress”. I spent a good majority of my late teenage years involved with a boy who posed Hawking-esque intelligence in that his genius often veered into the realm of eccentricity.

This moment of recognition comes only from me: a 21-year-old whose relationship experience is mainly limited to that. But I imagine the book struck a cord with anyone else who’s loved a great intellect or with anyone who’s cared for a disabled spouse. Many with loved ones with ALS undoubtedly also related, as did anyone who’s loved someone with an illness with a terrible prognosis. The list, I’m sure, can go on. Why do we write at all, really? To create these small moments of comfort for others, to see their experiences reflected in ink and to know they’re not alone. This especially applies when it comes to the beauty and sometimes horror of romantic relationships.

My copy of Travelling to Infinity begins with a quote from French writer, Gustave Flaubert: “Human expression is a cracked kettle on which we beat out music for bears to dance to, when really, we long to move the stars to pity.” An appropriate foreword, seeing as Jane Hawking titled her first memoir about Stephen, Music to Move the Stars. While I will no doubt continue to write about a wide range of other subjects throughout my lifetime, I will probably also spend the better part of my eternity searching for the music to move the stars.

Interested in contributing to Atlas Online as a guest blogger? Email your pitch to emersonatlasmag@gmail.com!

Californication: San Francisco

I’m standing on some random street in San Francisco close to midnight, carry-on luggage and stuffed backpack in tow, shivering in my cotton shorts and a thin t-shirt because I didn’t take into account the difference in latitude and bay winds. Nathan throws me his sweatshirt and insists that I wait on the stoop, somewhat shielded from the wind. We are waiting for his high school friend, Reg, to arrive and let us in to our chateaux for the next day and a half. Reg finally arrives, waltzing down the street with a smile and open arms towards an old friend. He and Nathan embrace briefly and I rush my introduction because let’s face it, I’m freezing my ass off.

The weather in San Francisco is very similar to Boston and I think that’s the reason why out of all of the places I visited in California, San Francisco had an air of familiarity I couldn’t shake. The wind whips from the Bay as it does from the Atlantic and the cloud cover brings out a different breed of people than it would in splendid sunlight. The sun, however, is something to be rejoiced whenever it actually does come out. Henceforth, I decided I wouldn’t be able to live in San Francisco. I couldn’t see myself settling down in a city that reminded me so much of a former home. Boston is my home, for now, and I love my home but I am a nomad.

This is a fact that many who grow attached to my presence, family especially, have a difficult time understanding. I can’t fathom the thought of settling down in a city or seaside town and saying to myself, “This is it. This is where the road ends.” There are so many roads, so many unexplored paths, and so many doors that are cracked open, dying to be burst through that I have yet to stumble upon. I see San Francisco as a city for nomads such a myself. I could hold a temporary love for the city by the Bay but it honestly would be a short lived romance.

Of course, it is unfair to make such an assumption when I only spent less than two days exploring it, but, regardless, it was my gut instinct. Nathan and Reg stayed up to chat and catch up and I took the liberty of passing out on the bed closest to me. The next morning is an early start to see as much as possible before the 10 hour trek back down the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles. It’s overcast, rather breezy and the morning chill nips at my bare legs. To say I am underdressed is a gross understatement.

The only “warm” article of clothing I brought along with me is a knit sweater meant for brisk summer nights. The overcast skies block out any warming rays of light. Reg, Nathan and I trek a few blocks down (or up, you can’t never really gauge in San Francisco) to a small but bustling breakfast joint run by a family of Asians that are the epitome of “morning people.” The walls are slathered with band and concert posters and various customer etchings on the back of booths. Coffee is served in mugs that seemed to have been collected in various parts of the world; Nathan has a tourist mug from Vienna and mine is a faded blue with a charming Tinkerbell smiling up at me as I nosh hard on sunny side up eggs and warm biscuits dripping with saturated fat ham.

With food babies festering in our bellies, Nathan and I drive over to Golden Gate Park. The Golden Gate Bridge is massive, a true architectural feat and a sight to admire. I could gaze upon each wire and support beam for hours and wonder how long it took to assemble and what part it played in the grand scheme of things. Everything beautiful takes time to develop, blossom and thrive. We explore the port of San Francisco, watch a duo of British circus men ride unicycles, balance themselves on 10-foot ladders, juggle knives and make horrible jokes to an audience that eats up every word they’re saying.

We munch on Mrs. Field’s cookies while making our way through a swarm of tourists that have descended upon the port of San Francisco. The fog is still very much settled over the Golden Gate but the clouds have parted over the port. Hand in hand, Nathan and I meander our way through a mirror maze, bumping our bodies against glass, one another and small children running and screaming around us. I lead at some points then Nathan takes my place, towing me along until we see the light and stumble out of the maze back into the crowd of tourists. Later on in the day, we venture into Chinatown, very similar to Canal Street in New York City with street vendors splaying out their merchandise and offering you a two-for-10-dollar deal on anything that piques your interest.

“Okay, were in Chinatown, now for some good ass Chinese food,” I gush. We enter a restaurant that looks promising but find only businessmen and women is pant suits broodingly sipping on their old fashioneds and discreetly munching on their dumplings. “Another place, maybe?” Nathan suggests in a low voice. I nod and another block down we are handed a coupon for free dumplings and dessert with the purchase of any lunch entree.

“Say no more, lady,” I take the coupon from the woman’s hand and she points across the street to the restaurant with roof deck seating. The food is delicious but nothing that I would consider to be mind blowing for San Francisco Chinatown. Isn’t this where American Chinese food originated from? C’mon guys, set some standards. The atmosphere was everything I had expected though.

Young children puppeteered a life-sized dragon suit while being pursued by drummers setting the rhythm for the dancers beneath the dragon. The day came to a close with a relaxing drive through Napa and Sonoma Valley. There was something so therapeutic about gazing upon an endless expanse of grapes that would soon be fermented, bottled and consumed by many for a variety of occasions. Maybe it would be drank for all the wrong reasons, maybe these set of grapes here would be consumed to celebrate a one or 50-year-anniversary or maybe this row would be downed just because one doesn’t need a special occasion to open a good bottle of wine. The sun was dipping beyond the valley and another day well spent in beautiful California was coming to a close.

The night before our departure, Reg, Nathan and I sat in the kitchen taking shots of vodka and slurping Malibu from the bottle, laughing and sharing stories with one another. I had the grand idea to trim down Nathan’s beard in a slightly inebriated state and did a hell of a good job if I do say so myself. I went to bed that night, drunk but happy with photographic evidence of my short lived love affair with San Francisco. The morning of our departure, we packed our bags and said our goodbyes to a groggy Reg recovering from a long night of online role play gaming. On to the next adventure.

“Before we go, let me show you something,” Nathan said. I followed him out to the back porch where I was greeted with a stunning view of the early morning San Francisco skyline. Of course the fog played into the beauty of the landscape and I now believe the city was built to look good in the fog. If San Francisco was a model he or she would be able to pull off yellow in any shade and make it a fashion statement. I found myself falling in love with the city on that back porch that morning and Nathan, sensing this, assured me that we would be back soon and this time for longer. Yes, my dear, but not for too long. I don’t want to spoil this love affair.

Book Review: We Are Water

We Are Water

We Are Water is not a book one treads lightly. It is not a book that you buy for light reading or despite it’s name, as a good beach read. This novel is over 550 pages and covers topics from race to death to child molestation. As dramatic as this introduction is, I do not want to discourage readers from endeavoring on the journey. As exhausting as the novel is to read, the experience of feeling so much from one story is so unique it makes Wally Lamb’s novel a must read.

We Are Water tells the story of Annie Oh, a successful artist living in New York City, who is about to get married to her art coordinator, Viveca. Annie and family (ex-husband, children, and new wife) must come to terms with their pasts to move forward. (As a side note: Along with the touchy subjects, Wally Lamb also takes his readers into the art world in NYC, which I found extremely enlightening. So it’s not all death and destruction here, regardless of what you’re about to read in this review.)

I read the majority of We Are Water on a plane, which was a pretty ideal place, because I couldn’t run away from it. When covering such difficult topics (again, race, death, molestation) it can be very difficult to read at points. There were points where I had to physically take a breath before I started reading again. Looking back, I think that is what makes Wally Lamb’s book so incredible. You really, really feel this amount of dread when characters are faced with pain.

I can only imagine how extremely difficult (emotionally as well as writing-wise) writing these scenes must have been. But Wally Lamb never shies away from the most gruesome of human experiences. When you most want to look away, he forces you see. I think this is a quality that many writers lack and one that I admire most in Mr. Lamb.

But, of course, this goes both ways. As the reader you also get to experience character’s delight and joy along with their pain. And most importantly, you get to really understand them.

We Are Water switches points of view which makes for a very interesting read. I think the different points of view work to the story’s benefit, especially when you get to experience two characters you love and understand clash.

This, for me, as a reader and writer, was especially fulfilling. I find it extraordinary how intricately unique Mr. Lamb creates each character. As the reader, you understand both character’s points of view and you have experienced their pain, so when they clash you get the experience of really seeing.

This is perhaps most prevalent between Annie and her ex husband Orion. Both characters care a lot about each other, but their pasts, together and apart, have made them too different. Unable to understand each other, and hurt by their past relationship, they often fight and question one another.

And Lamb isn’t afraid of making you question his characters. Throughout the novel Annie and her family make some decisions that are cringe worthy. But when witnessing these mistakes there is no question as to why they were made. They were made because these characters are human. They are filled with fear and love and, like all humans, they act upon these emotions. Wally Lamb has this amazing ability to create true, beautiful and horrifying people. If anything I think it is worth reading We Are Water just to experience this amount of humanity.

We Are Water is a book I want to just sit around and talk about for hours and hours. I think when you read a good book, you are taken into, not just the characters’, but the author’s world. In the case of Wally Lamb, his world is filled with graphic horrors, violent delights and a lot of gray area in between.