My Week in Geek :: Portland, ME Edition

It is common knowledge that an important part of being a geek girl is obsessing over the things you love. Here’s what I’m obsessing over this week!

This past weekend, my boyfriend and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary! Although it technically was Wednesday, between work and wondering where all that time went we had to push “couple time” (puke) to the weekend. As an escape, we decided to go to Portland, Maine–a super adorable, wonderfully New England town, that’s just as eclectic and hipster as its West Coast counterpart. We only spent a short time there, but had a blast and hope to go back in the summer.

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 Lodging// Staying true to three years of adventure, we decided to try something new and booked a private room through Air B&B. Now, if you haven’t heard of it, Air B&B is a site were people can rent out a room, a floor, or their entire house to travellers. I was very very skeptical at first– the chance of creepers seemed extremely high– but after pouring through listings and reviews, we found a delightful room in an artsy neighborhood, only a stone’s throw from downtown Portland.

This was such a great decision! Our host and her adorable two year old daughter were the absolute sweetest; even greeting us with a plate freshly baked cookies! By the end of our stay, we even found out that we shared a lot of similar interests. Not to mention it was much more comfortable and homey than a hotel.

Cool, right? Air B&B does a lot to ensure the safety of everyone who uses it, but of course you should always use precaution. If it does seem like something you’d want to do:

  1. Read the listing’s reviews. And make sure there are more than one!
  2. Make sure the host has verified IDs.
  3. Research the neighborhood.
  4. Alert family or friends of your plans.

Eating// Portland is a culinary haven! Not only do you have fabulous gastropubs and restaurants, but there are tons of vegan and vegetarian options. Or if that’s not your style, there’s a always the pub dedicated to creative sausages.

But our favorite stop by far, was The Holy Donut! Magic. Pure magic.

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Just look at that! That, my fiends, is a Maple Bacon Donut. It’s basically brunch on a donut. I also got the best mug ever from there. Look! It has a thumb rest!

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Drinking// Where there’s good food, you better bet there’s good drink. And like any good New England town, there are microbreweries galore! Every year, there are more and more pumpkin beers, but my alltime favorite is Shipyard Pumpkinhead. It just so happens that Shipyard Brewery is located in Portland!

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Breweries are a great way to have cheap fun. Most offer free all-you-can-drink tastings, with their staff sharing their passion for their craft. Shipyard had many flavors that they don’t usually sell in stores or bars. My taste buds left happy!

What?!-ing// While in Portland, we had to visit the world’s only cryptozoology museum. We had heard stories of the International Cryptozoology Museum, but it really had to be seen to believe (which is indicative of cryptozoology in itself). Even if you you think it’s a load of balogna, this place is a hodgepodge of cool collectables and pop culture; did you know that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were based on the Japanese kappa? Ooh boy, this was truly an off the beaten path adventure.

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Thanks for reading! I hope this has inspired some weekend getaways!

 

Book Pairings :: Dark Places

Just like a sommelier recommends the perfect wine for your meal, I am here to pair the ideal drink for your reading pleasure. Book Pairings is an unconventional book review that expresses my thoughts and feelings about a novel in terms of booze.

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The Book: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

The Booze: Keystone Light

On a drizzly Saturday night in early September, I stood in a dank, crowded basement with a group of girls whom I had only met a week ago. We weren’t really speaking; there was nothing to talk about. We were standing around in a pack cradling red solo cups that we had just received by a guy manning the keg. Most of the people I was with had already got to work depleting their nectar of the college gods. I, on the other hand, stared at its pale sudsy contents. Here it was, my first sip of alcohol. I’m about to be a big girl now. I brought the beer to my lips and took a sizeable gulp, letting the taste wash over my tongue. However, a sobering thought washed over my brain:

“Good god! I’m supposed to like this?!”

This disgusting excuse for a beverage was Keystone Light, and if Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places was to have an alcoholic doppelganger, it would certainly be it.

Dark Places is by no means the worst book I’ve ever read. In fact, unlike Keystone Light, I couldn’t put it down. Gillian Flynn’s sophomore thriller has her twisted stylings and unsuspecting turns that can be found in her other novels (seriously, what happened in this lady’s life that she thinks of this shit?!). Told through the eyes of the victim, the suspect, and a witness, the novel follow the search for truth to the gruesome Satanic massacre of an impoverish Kansas family. Enlisted by a group of amateur sleuthers that call themselves the Kill Club, Libby Day, the sole survivor of her family’s murder, goes down the rabbit hole of that dark day’s events to determine if her teenage brother Ben was really the hand behind the gun. Potential, right? I was constantly turning characters into suspects and eagerly awaiting the next clue. But just like Keystone Light is watered down beer, this novel had me craving more substance. It was a watered down version of what it could be. I wanted more depth to the characters, more motive behind the events, and quite frankly, with the novel’s undertones of devil worship, I wanted more supernatural.

Oh, but there are more parallels to be drawn! Anyone who has sipped cheap beer in a cold, frat basement knows that it doesn’t get better as it goes on. Likewise, the main characters remain unlikeable to the very end. The protagonist, Libby, is the first to call herself “an unlikeable child,” but she continues to be an unlikeable adult. Friendless, disgruntle, disgraced, a kleptomaniac, yet with an internal monologue of undergrad with a degree in creative fiction, it is hard as a reader to care about her. While it is absolutely understandable how she ended up this way (immense childhood trauma probably does that to a person), Flynn does very little with her growth throughout the novel. By the end, I didn’t really care one way or another what happened to Libby once the pages ended. Same goes for her brother, the convicted, supposedly demonic Ben. As much as rumors surrounding him are dispelled, he was introduced as a little shit, and being a little shit is what gets him in trouble.

Then there is the overall mood of the novel: depressing and desolate as the muted plains of Kansas. Flynn is clearly commentating on the correlation between poverty and choice, but it is just as much likely to simply decide never to step foot in Middle America again. It is easy to imagine Runner Day, Libby’s father, downing a can of American light lager on his way to see his kids, or Ben Day getting drunk in the woods off the Keystone thrown at him. To them, it is not so much the taste of the beer as it is how quick it is to get drunk without spending a penny. And to me, tasteless beer is depressing.

If you just want to drink something to get a buzz, pick up keystone light; if you just want to read something to wet your mind, pick up Dark Places.