The Hyde Park Bandstand

The Hyde Park Bandstand sits amidst one of London’s largest and most luxurious green spaces. Its vast grounds give visitors the impression that it couldn’t possibly be amongst one of the busiest metropolises in the world. The structure itself is no more than an eight-sided, elevated platform, above which sits a decorative metal roof held up by black iron columns. Emanating from the base of its steps, large pavestones encircle the platform, and a few meters out from that is a stout garden fence; one that could feasibly keep out small children or any number of flightless birds. On this particular Sunday afternoon, the stage was taken by a fighter and his training partner, perhaps attracted to the octagonal shape made popular by contemporary Mixed Martial Arts arenas. The trainer pranced gracefully around the perimeter of the gazebo wearing padded mitts as the trainee followed, fists up, entrained on his two outstretched targets. Engrossed in the moment, the two moved swiftly back and forth, then side to side, in their own little eight-sided world with the gate locked behind. Passersby didn’t take much notice, but attention was of no concern for the men, motivated by nothing more than a sunny Spring day, a mutual rush of testosterone, and the love of the sport.

So focused were they, as they traded gloves from fighter to training partner and back again, they hadn’t noticed the few girls that mysteriously appeared along the short fence between the Bandstand and the gravel pathways that sprawled out to the rest of the park. But even the prospect of being observed couldn’t shake much more than a sideways glance out of the determined sportsmen. Had they stopped to investigate the developing situation, they would have seen the churning mass in the distance rapidly approaching from the main path. The fighters, however, kept at it while the only sounds that could be heard aside from a distant car horn were the shuffling of their shoes and the satisfying *pock* of a gloved fist making contact with another.

Then suddenly, a piercing shriek punched a hole in the otherwise tranquil soundscape. Some nearby turned their heads, but the two men kept theirs down and their hands up. The initial disturbance was then followed by another which was followed by another and so on until they began to overlap melding into a menacing drone screeching toward them. Pedestrians casually strolling through the park were now hurling themselves off of the main pathway as a flood of seemingly rabid teens and tweens charged violently toward the Bandstand. Within seconds, the mob descended upon the tiny perimeter fence like a flock of buzzards awaiting their next meal. It wasn’t until they were completely surrounded by concentric rows of them that the fighters broke concentration and were taken aback by the mass of anxious faces gazing at them- then past them- then in every other direction. The fighters’ first instincts were to back away, but with nowhere to back away to, they gestured incredulously with their gloves to invoke some sort of explanation. Instead, a mutual taciturnity continued on while the fighters mumbled to each other, and each of the girls glanced down at her smartphone. After several more seconds and the craning of many necks, another scream pierced the air followed by a seismic shift in the crowd as it morphed again into a torrent that funneled back down the main pathway and out of sight. The final cries echoed like a pack of banshees in the night and subsided as some stragglers in the group, winded from the mad rush, stumbled to the next prospective location. Once again the park was quiet as a couple unlucky members of the pack were left behind. One limped off to the side from a potential ankle sprain. Another wept as she held out a limp wrist while bystanders attempted to diagnose the sustained injury.

The fighters looked onward with glazed eyes where the horde became one with the horizon. Only after the dust had literally settled did they slowly muster the focus to continue on with their training. Having been separated several yards from the crowd, they wouldn’t have been able to distinguish a word from the cloud of fanatical discourse amongst it, nor would they have picked out the names of the two YouTube celebrities with which it was collectively infatuated. They would never have seen the little screens of the phones flashing updates which inaccurately disclosed the secret location of their next surprise appearance. For the few eyewitnesses that knew of these details, it was a silly mixup of time and place, but for our beloved training partners, their bewilderment will forever live on.

A Letter From The Battle Of Bagelsaurus

Bagelsaurus, Cambridge, MA

May 7th, 2017

My Dear Wife, 

I hope this letter finds you well. The sun is high at present, and although my tearful departure from home was some time ago, it seems that breakfast will most definitely have passed by the time I can return with your Eggspañola. I stand here amongst my brave brothers and sisters at an unfortunate standstill for what has seemed like hours after our arrival. The shop has already opened its doors, but our ranks already run dozens deep past the storefront. As you recall, I awoke shortly after sunrise to “beat the rush,” but it must already be near noon as the sun bears down on our infantry on this most unseasonably hot morning. There may well be some validity to this “global warming” we have been hearing so much about. 

Spirits have been low among us, and as much as I myself am tempted, I take pity on the poor souls that find they need to resort to the Express Line, settling for the Grab Bag of pre-assorted bulk bagels. You of all people, Margaret, know that I believe that the freedom of choice is what sets this great nation apart from the rest, and I intend to fight for it no matter the cost. As I write this letter, I am reminded of your smile, gleaming brighter than the dawn of a Spring day glistening off of the dewy hillside out our kitchen window. One of my deepest regrets would be to disappoint you, but what pulls at my heartstrings most is to think of our children, little Anna and young William. It pains me to think they may be subjected to Pop-Tarts for the third time this week. It is my duty to provide our children prosperity and variety - things that my father could not afford for his own. 

Please write soon. I can nearly see the sign for Bruegger’s around the bend, and already there have been hushed whispers of abandonment among us. I, however, remain strong and shall not settle for anything short of four dollars per bagel for the ones I hold dearest. 

Your affectionate husband, 

Joseph A. Bartlett

Alien World [Excerpt From 3rd Grade]

Once there was a chickadee named Russell. He was the biggest of all chickadees. Russell always picked on other chickadees. Except he was nice to one chickadee. Chris, Chris and Russell always used to walk down the street and do bad things like take all the chickadee’s money and beat them up. They also broke promises with other chickadees. One day Russell and Chris went down the street and saw the most beautiful girl chickadee they ever saw. Chris and Russell ran toward her. Then Russell started, heh, hem, hello whats your name? She said hi I’m Alexandra. Russell said, wanna be my boy friend then Chris cut in - no wanna be my boy friend forget about Russell. All right both of you shut-up. All of a sudden she said surender she took off a mask and zapped the bullys, they ran away and never came back and never botherd any one again. At the end of the day every one in chickadee town took off their masks and they were aliens! Then they all said, good job Alexandra said all the ailens, and one alien said this isn’t chickadee town this is alien world!

A Review: The Linguiça Egg and Cheese Bagel Sandwich

This past November, I shared a car ride with a good friend of mine on the way to a Friendsgiving gathering outside of the city. Inevitably, in the spirit of the season, our conversations steered toward food, and since he had lived in the Greater Boston area for many years longer than I had, I inquired about breakfast spots. He had a few suggestions, but one stood out among the rest: The Neighborhood Restaurant- a tiny hole-in-the-wall family joint sandwiched between a healthcare center and a law office on Bow Street, one of the spokes emanating from the center of Somerville’s Union Square. Just across the street was a magical place that could turn a dozen donuts into a mediocre $36 purchase; a fact I had learned on the very same day of our drive North. “I know that place!” I exclaimed. It was a spot I had passed several times prior. The nondescript façade donned a bright blue awning that spanned the width of the storefront advertising the restaurant with plain white font and coffee cup decals. Under that awning is where a line would inevitably form out the front door on any given weekend morning as customers waited patiently for a seat. Call-to-order was typically the best option, advised my carpool companion. “You can call it in and pick up the linguiça egg and cheese bagel sandwich for $5… It’s my favorite breakfast sandwich anywhere.”

Union Square is somewhat of a recently-hip, uppity part of town that manages to find that balance between young people boasting of its low rent rates and the nagging paranoia of getting stabbed on a busy street at high noon; the kind of place where you would see a man sit alone in his 1990 Chevy Cavalier for hours with no explanation before slowly driving off to some unknown destination. For what it’s worth, it’s certainly a place to ‘go’ with its trinket shops, comic book store, and apparently good food. Thus, weeks after my car ride revelation, Union Square is where I found myself indeed. It was late morning on an unseasonably warm day after Christmas. The click of my bike lock punctuated a 10 minute ride from my apartment wherefrom I had phoned in the sandwich without even looking at the restaurant’s menu. (Who am I to question recommendations from a friend of good taste?) Stepping under the bright blue awning, I pushed the door open at the top of the uneven concrete steps and was greeted by the Neighborhood’s patrons, packed tightly from wall to wall; their bellies as full as the tiny dining room that stretched long ways to the back stairwell leading down to the basement/kitchen. A steady stream of even fuller plates of breakfasty goodness marched from below, and the smiles on the faces of diners and servers alike were a testament to the list of awards and accolades that decorated the lime-green walls. After a short wait trying to stand out of the way of foot traffic, my sandwich emerged from the depths of the establishment in its brown paper vessel. I bid the cashier adieu with a $10 bill.

Back into the sunshine I stepped, breakfast sandwich in hand and on the lookout for a proper seat to enjoy my first meal of the day. The Square lured me in, and I made my way towards the middle of it. As busy and bustling as the place is, there aren’t too many benches, so I settled upon one just outside of a Citizens Bank across from a modest island of greenery created by the intersecting roads around it. Just across that on the other side of the square lurked a shadowed storefront that once touted the phrase ‘Living Well.’ The signage of the now defunct business overtaken by the passage of time read something more like ‘Li in Hell.’ Nevertheless, I breathed in a refreshing lung-full as the morning sun warmed my body and I opened the bag…

The linguiça egg and cheese bagel sandwich comes wrapped in a modest sheet of waxy paper that only hopes to contain the dripping, greasy heft of the thing. I let gravity take its course and waited for a few drops to fall at my feet before wrapping both hands around the plump plain bagel holding in what looked to be two fried eggs (over hard) topped with cheese (probably American.) As I moved to make my first bite, an overwhelming sense of being watched took over me, most likely because I was actually being stared down by every driver passing by wondering why a man was sitting by himself in the middle of an otherwise barren square. If tumbleweeds had somehow found themselves in the Northeast, the purpose of their long journey would have been fully realized in that very moment. Despite my wandering thoughts on the matter, I sank my teeth in, however the expected tastes were interrupted by the plume of carcinogens that had suddenly infiltrated my nostrils. Just behind me, an irate bank employee had just started his smoke break. After chewing the delightful mix of ingredients for a few seconds, the true flavors made their way through to the forefront of my senses, battling with the loud phone conversation the banker was now simultaneously subjecting me to. I pretended not to notice his blatant intrusions and carried on valiantly, bite after massive bite.

In the few minutes that passed, a slow-to-change red light down the street built up a line of traffic which was now obstructing my perfectly good view of the patch of greenery across the street, and I had no better choice than to retreat back into my own thoughts. After some other ruminations and wanderings of the mind, the deafening ‘TSK’ of a bus’s air brakes shook me back into consciousness as it roared on down the road. Before I knew it, I had fully consumed my linguiça egg and cheese bagel sandwich. Admittedly, because of my lack of self-education on the matter, I didn’t even know what ‘linguiça’ was until I bit into it- a Portugese smoked pork of some kind. Prior to this discovery, I postulated that maybe the sandwich was named after the owner’s daughter or some faraway place with beaches of gold. Regardless, the whole thing was goddamn delicious- pork and all. 10 out of 10 with a typical Union Square moment on top.