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The Escape Artists

A vacation in five movements.

***The Ocean in All of Her Moods

The tuff one has a serious unlove of critters.  

The rockhoppers at the NEAQ are her guys and she talks to them with utter disregard for whoever else might be standing around.  (This also goes for the mandarinfish.)

But the small, skittery stuff is right out, which makes beachcombing difficult, even with the promise of such treasures as pink sea glass and bits of blue and white patterned china.

She likes the look of spiral snail shells, but has a positive horror of accidentally picking one up to find it still occupied.  Seagulls are downright shifty and who knows what other sinister, slimy slitherers are coming in with the tide?

I'm an indoor kind of girl.  And yet.

It only takes a short walk from our place to have the harbor in view, but it's not the same as being able to dig into the sand, to float on and listen to and commune with the water.

The ocean is J's element and I'd brave all kinds of wildlife to watch her there.  She just kind of glows.

***Full of Good Ideas and Ice Cream

It is easy to be seriously spoiled when it comes to stellar ice cream in the Boston area.  There's a whole host of places to get a fix of the home-made stuff and I have favorites at all of 'em.

Christina's banana cinnamon.  Herrell's chocolate pudding.  J.P. Licks' reverse chip (they also have the best black raspberry.)  Toscanini's burnt caramel.  Captain Dusty's butter crunch.

For me to say that ice cream is essential to a beach vacation might fall a bit flat , since I pretty much think it's essential all the time, but it's true that it seems especially life-affirming when I'm sticky with sand and sweat and salt and wondering just what the heck I was doing falling for a glowy ocean-lover anyway.

I'd expect a summer tourism mecca like Rockport to have fantabulous ice cream, but it's actually disappointingly average.

However, I did find one innovation, at Molly's Sweet Tooth, that restored my faith: chocolate chip cookies rolled and baked into cones.

How can you not love that?

***Mapping the City by Books and Sugar

I'm not even halfway through Irma Arcuri.  It's magical, but I'm finding reading astonishingly slow-going these days, meaning there's a whole pile of books I set aside expressly for vacation that remains virtually untouched.

This did not stop me from acquiring more, though, because we are the kind of people who took an empty suitcase on our first-ever visit to London so as to have room for our literary purchases.  (Which numbered, in the end, fifty-seven.  Disclaimer: lots of these were paperback picture books, or we would never have stayed within the weight limit, so Don't Try This At Home.  Unless you also like kids' picture books.)

We hit all of our Manhattan habits: 192 BooksShakespeare and CompanyThe Strand

I'd like to say we exercised constraint with regards to budget, but, as usual, discretion was much more a matter of what we could comfortably carry home.  (The Strand will ship, but that's clearly the road to hell.)

I got a trio of foodie titles: Cooking with Pomiane, with an intro by Elizabeth David.  Alice B. Toklas' Aromas and Flavors of Past and Present, with an intro and comments by Poppy Cannon.  And Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century, by Laura Shapiro. 

I read (and highly recommend) Shapiro's Something from the Oven, on the heyday of convenience foods, which is the only reason I know who Poppy Cannon is and why her gloss would be such fun.  (Sample: "Consider this said in a whisper...you can use Miss Toklas' ideas even though you resort to canned or packaged dehydrated onion soup.") 

Plus, of course, more kids' picture books.

We take sweet stuff seriously around here, which is why our other haunts have names like Burgers & Cupcakes and The Donut Pub. 

(Warning: you can follow the link to B'n'C to get a feel for the joint, but the location information is inexplicably out-of-date.  We only managed to get there 'cause I'm paranoid and we called ahead to check if they were open, which got us a different address.)

Then there's our new discovery, the Milk Bar in Chelsea Market, where I utterly redeemed my vacation ice cream experience with a Chocolate Orange Peel shake, a marriage of the most voluptuous chocolate ice cream ever with Boylan's orange creme soda. 

We also had a terrific breakfast there the next day and I can happily report that, despite the virtuoso quality of the place's namesake beverage, the waitress took J's desire to have her coffee black with great aplomb.

***Power and Grace (and the Man in the Clown Car)

It was just lucky chance that we happened to be in B&B/hotel rooms on the nights of the women's gymnastics team, all around, and beam finals.

(NBC is one of those channels we get with a screenful of snow, watchable enough for the occasional episode of Days, but no way to try and follow a sport that's scored on elements like degree of split and toe point.)

I didn't actually watch any of the last Olympics and wasn't planning on it this year, either.  I love college gymnastics--I field a team in a fantasy league and last December we hauled a 'puter on a Disney trip that included our 3- and 5-year old nephews just so I wouldn't miss the draft--but there's too much about televised gym that I find grating. 

Al Trautwig, for example.  I realize he started out doing color commentary, but we've been stuck with him for about a millenia now and he still hasn't managed to pick up a damn thing about the sport.  Have some shame, man.

But we ended up turning it on, and I'm so glad we did, because there were some really gorgeous routines and Shawn Johnson is both fierce and adorable and just fun, fun, fun to watch compete.  Plus, there was a moment where Tim kinda laid a smackdown on Al ("as I just explained, if you were listening, before the break"), so, bonus.

***Ocean Redux

Yesterday was our last official day off when J, at least, would usually be at work (I'm only part-time, so I'm always home on Fridays, though I usually try and do errands so we can play more on the weekend.) 

We hit the beach one final time and, I'm sad to say, the tuff one's relations with the seagulls reached a shocking new low--one actually swooped down, over our shoulder, and hijacked a peanut butter sandwich out of our fingers.

But the water was beautifully warm and there was much glowing.  It's been a fine, fine time.