i had big plans for this morning, most of which never came to fruition. the only thing i did was to take a shower. repotting the plants, having a breakfast of cereal, those were things i didn't have time to do. i woke up with a weird sensation in my right shoulder, like i sprained it some how, but i can't remember the last time i did any heavy lifting, unless i count helping dan move this past saturday, and that wouldn't make sense for my body to wait 5 days before it acted up. mostly likely i slept on it wrong last night.
i decided to eat first before going out for a run in the afternoon. i heated up the packet of instant pindi chana masala (chick peas cooked in a spicy gravy, vegetarian dish) that i got yesterday from that indian store on somerville avenue. i waited an hour, then got dressed and went out running in the 60+ degrees temperature. the sky was clear blue when i stepped out of the office. the weather was perfect for running, warm but not hot, dry not muggy. the warm weather brought out the people onto boston common and along the banks of the charles river. i ran as far as the longfellow then walked across the bridge before continuing my run again. i had olivia newton-john songs stuck in my head the whole time ("please,mister,please" and "have you ever been mellow"), humming the tunes through my teeth. after the run i went to 7-11 to buy a 28 oz. green shreck slushie.
around 5pm, a lot of guests showed up at the office, invited to go see the jellyfish exhibit. i left and headed for south station, where renata and i scheduled to meet up. i've been noticing a heavy police presence in all the train stations for the past few weeks. heavy like, "is there a police convention? why are their so many officers here?" waiting on the top of the escalator, i was surprised when renata suddenly materialized. she tried to get some money from the train station atm's but they were all out of service (probably ran out of money). we headed over to the aquarium, renata returning my collapsible umbrella (which was hidden away in her car from the last time i saw her), showing me the fetching chi pao style shirt she was wearing (which was actually purchased in cambridge, not in china, even though she just came back from there).
there was actually two events happening at the aquarium (which was already closed for the day): the first one was the jellyfish reception for the developers, the second one was a fancy black-tie silent auction in the main section of the aquarium. just letting them know i work at squid was all that was necessary to gain admittance to the special exhibit. renata and i came early (around 6pm), when there wasn't a lot of people there yet, so we had first dibs on a lot of the catered food dispersed throughout the exhibit hall. the things i love all converging at one spot: food, nature, and photography. what more could i ask for? the first thing we saw was the moon jelly tank. moon jelly are a fairly common sight around here, and for most people, it's probably the only jellyfish they've ever seen out in the wild. they've always seemed kind of plain, and i remember my sister and i used to toss rocks onto these moon jellyfish to sink them (we were bad children). but swimming in the tank, with adjusted colored lights (from a flywheel) perfectly highlighting every detail of their intricate translucency, they seemed out of this world, heavenly almost, alien in its strangeness.
next we saw the upside-down jellyfish. they were hard to see at first, cleverly camouflaged. initially i thought it was just a shallow beach display with mangrove trees and interesting exotic fishes (pajama cardinal fish for one). i noticed the clumps of vegetation on the sandy bottom, and figured they were probably sea grass, or at most sea anemones (even though anemones would never live this shallow). i was trying to find the jellyfish when i realized: those clumps are the jellyfish! upon closer examination, each clump was pulsating, short tentacles that look like grass flittering in the water, an upside-down jellyfish. myself and another woman who made the same realization i did just stood there with our mouth open, uttered amazed. in another display, there were some lagoon jelly which looked like smell clumps of cauliflower, interesting but not impressive. the mandarinfish hiding within the coral was more captivating.
we went downstairs, passing a gauntlet of more finger snacks, which prompted renata to remark, "let's not go to dinner tony, let's just stay here and eat." we saw some lion's mane jelly with long thick strands of tentacles, reminded me of vermicelli noodles.
another display allowed you to use a magnifying glass and examine jellyfish polyps, which resemble tiny white hydras. the japanese sea nettle were displayed in a long blue tank embedded in the wall, like a huge flat screen television broadcasting high definition video of jellyfish. these had very long tentacles as well, and the bells reminded me of translucent mushroom caps. it was very soothing to press your face up to the glass and just watch the sea nettle seemingly dancing in the water.
the blue blubbers were the most energetic of the jellyfish we saw. they pulsating at a much faster rate than the others, and they resembled blue balls bouncing around the bottom of the clear tank. true to their name, they're in fact different shades of blue. watching them made renata and i simultaneously think what this exhibit needs is a jellyfish petting zoo. true, these fragile creatures would probably die from the trauma, but you can't help to want to touch one to see how it feels.
the last jellyfish we saw were the sea walnuts, which the aquarium actually has on permanent display in their main exhibit hall. they do have a walnut shape but that's not what's cool about them. the amazing part is their non-stop bioluminescent pulsations, more mechanical robots with blinking lights than organic living creatures. they were displayed in front of a television screen that would run a quick video about them, and it's cool watching the screen through the translucent jellyfish.
we made our way back upstairs, played around with the color changing moon jellies one last time, before leaving the aquarium. outside, a single seal was swimming on its back underwater in the observation tank. we walked back to south station, to chinatown, to have dinner at the shabuzen hot pot restaurant, where i had a gift certificate from katrinka and brian i wanted to use. the place was crowded, which was surprising. i remember when they first opened up a few years ago, there was hardly anyone. now, if you come at the wrong time, you might be expected to wait, but we were seated right away. i went with the lamb, renata had the beef, we both went with the "chinese spicy" broth addition, which is just schezuan ma-la paste. renata requested a mild, which we'd later found out there's no such thing. my technique for eating hot pot is to throw everything in all at once. i like eating it, but i have no patience for cooking my own food when i eat at a restaurant. renata's technique was more deliberate. i warned her about the cabbage leaves, which tend to soak up the most flavor (because of all that surface area), and renata was able to verify this was indeed true. i noticed the couple sitting next to us eyeballing our food even though they were almost done with their's. they asked what kind of paste we were using. "chinese spicy," i said, then we had this big conversation about hot pots. turns out this is one of their favorite places to eat, and they come here twice a month, so often that the waitstaff know them as regulars. the woman loves "chinese spicy" but can't eat it anymore on the account that she's allergic to the ma-la. so tonight she had the kim-chee while her husband went with the tom yum. they talked about how whenever they come, they see asians (they themselves being white devils) eating their hot pot just plain, no spicy additions, and were delighted that renata and i decided to go with "chinese spicy", so they didn't feel like they were doing something wrong. "oh, once you go spicy, you can't go back," i told them from personal experience. "are you japanese, chinese?" the woman asked. i told her. later they revealed to me how they see people use the other side of the chopsticks to pick up the meat slices (which neither they nor i did), and they recommended a few side dishes for me to try out, including the seasonal drumstick mushrooms, which taste like "buttered chicken" the man said over and over again (they were a funny couple). renata kept on raving about how cool the place was, and the fact that she hadn't had a good meal in quite some time. we both ate to capacity, renata giving me the beef portion she couldn't finish.
leaving the restaurant, renata wanted some glutinous rice balls with peanut filling inside, but unfortunately all the bakery stores were closed by that time. we walked to south station to catch the red line back to cambridge. "you made it to my hand," renata said to me as she showed me my name and telephone number written on the back of her hand, her personal note taking system (apparently not afraid of ink poisoning). a good portion of the train ride she was busy fishing for change in her purse, trying to find enough money to pay for the parking ticket. i told her i had some money but she wouldn't hear of it, determined to pay in a fistful of loose coins. finally she accepted some dollar bills in exchange for some quarters, noting that i could always use more quarters. she wanted me to tell her again how to say "son of a turtle" in chinese, and when i refused (i don't need her to sully my language), she had a tantrum. approaching porter square, i said my good byes, we embraced, and i told her what she wanted to know before i left the train.
as soon as i got home, i went over to dan's place, where it was poker night. walking out of the house, i had to go back home again because i forgot to bring the book rob house let me borrow last summer (stalingrad) and the book i'm letting him borrow in return (battle for berlin). i decided to take the underground tunnel connecting cambridge with somerville (across the train tracks) despite a certain element of danger traveling a secluded shortcut late at night. dan buzzed me in and when i came inside his apartment, the boys (mike, james, rob house, matt, and dan) were huddled in the dining room, poker chips, cards, and empty bottles of sprite on the tabletop. mike and james left soon afterwards, leaving the rest of the guys to play it out until one of them won.
i've often been invited to attend poker night, but since i'm not a gambling man, i've never been interested, but i was curious to see what went down. a few times they tried to deal me in, but i wouldn't submit to the peer pressure. rob house was the big winner tonight, his name was like a curse word, spoken with disbelieving disdain over his lucky streak. slogans like "nobody beats the house" were bantered about a few times as rob's stack of chips grew more and more. i think rob himself didn't believe it either, considering how i had heard rumors that when poker night was first started many months ago, he was the unwinningest guy there. there were some poker lingo i wasn't quite familiar with, but for the most part i understood the game, asking questions when i was in doubt. i stayed for about an hour before leaving around midnight, cutting back through the underground passageway.