i woke up at 7:30am to head down to harvard square to watch the very first cambridge half marathon starting at 8am. staging a marathon in the city was a serious logistical undertaking. businesses and residents along the race course had to be notified, and unsuspecting motorists would be stranded for hours once the half marathon began. i already saw preparations when i came home last night, metal barricade gates waiting along select intersections.
the route started in east cambridge, to the edge of harvard square, then to north cambridge following mass ave going through porter square, before heading to alewife via the bike path. the run extends to belmont center continuing along the bike bath before coming back on concord avenue by fresh pond through danehy park, returning to harvard square along sherman and garden street, then down broadway to the start line in east cambridge. the course is a little wonky, especially given how it travels in belmont for a few miles (so technically it should be the cambridge-belmont half marathon). the organizers could've made it all within cambridge if they looped back around through huron avenue, but that stretch of road is currently still undergoing major paving construction, so there was just no way. perhaps in the future they'll change the route to incorporate that portion.
i told freddy about the half marathon yesterday but he didn't seem interested. so i walked down to harvard square by myself (15 minutes), noticing all the side streets that lead to mass ave had already been cordoned off with traffic drums and looper tubes. the course goes twice underneath the cambridge street underpass beneath the harvard science center, so this would be a great place to watch the race. i arrived a bit before 8am thinking it'd be crowded but there was hardly any spectators. the area right above the overpass was blocked off by metal barricades. i stood along the side and talked to an older couple who came to watch their daughter run. the man was also surprised by how quiet it was, and how easily he managed to find parking, which is usually a nightmare around harvard square on a sunday (where parking is free).
i didn't think i could get a good view from above the underpass, so i walked around and down so i was at street level to the race course (cambridge street), across from the mile 2 hydration station. i was surprised to see runners in the distance by 8:10am. that's because i thought i was at the 3 mile mark, and thought maybe the started the race early. a trickle of runners soon became a river of runners. i was standing in front of a bank of portapotties and was surprised by how many people stopping to use the bathroom, there was a long line. why didn't they go before the run? and wouldn't this ruin their time?
i watched the runners come in for 10 minutes before deciding to go back above the underpass and get an overhead view of the runners. i ended up sneaking behind the metal barricade to get a better vantage point (there was no cops in the area anyway). i watched the runners from the eastern side before walking over the western side as they headed down mass avenue towards porter square.
i then made by way to the intersection of garden street and mass avenue (next to flagstaff park) to await the runners as they made their way back (this would be the 10-1/2 mile mark). the frontrunners came by around 8:55am. i watched a little bit, before heading back onto broadway street around 9:20am to see the runners heading eastward back to the finishing line.
i returned home a little bit after 10am. freddy asked me if it was okay if his friend catalina came by the house today. i said sure, and was surprised to hear her already knocking on the door by 10:40am. they went to market basket at 11:10am to get arepa ingredients and i decided to tag along. in my mind i thought i could also show them the view from prospect hill, but they weren't interested so we went to the supermarket instead. i let catalina and freddy do their own shopping while i went around collecting my own groceries. it was easy to spot freddy from the crowd of shoppers because he was the tallest person there. we arrived via somerville avenue, but going back i took them on my usual shortcut route which snaked through several small side streets. i kicked an empty milk carton to the side of the road. "you could at least pick it up," i heard a young woman scolding behind me. when she walked by i saw her holding the empty milk carton. "you're a better person than me," i told her, as she walked by, not saying anything.
when freddy asked me if i wanted chicken, i thought it was related to the arepas. so it was a little strange to see him cooking but no arepas anywhere, until finally i realized he was actually just making lunch; the arepas would be for dinner. what he made instead was a kind of chicken ajiaco - a type of hearty colombian soup - along with rice. he used a bouillon for the soup base and instead of chopping the tomato and onion he shredded them into a paste with a cheese grater. it was pretty good, but i wish it could've been spicier, so i enhanced the flavor by adding some fresh ground pepper. he also didn't add any potatoes, not sure if it was a oversight, but some additional starch would've upped the heartiness factor.
in the afternoon catalina and freddy retreated to his bedroom. i think initially they were watching a movie together but then fell asleep because things got quiet. as for me, earlier my mother called me saying that the espresso machine was broken again, water was leaking everywhere, and we might have to throw it out. but in the background i could hear my father saying all we needed was a simple part - a replacement o-ring - which would fix it. i asked him to send me some photos i could go online and search for the part.
it wasn't just the espresso machine that was broken; the coffee brewer was also broken, the hot water handle snapped off. finding a replacement part for the bunn coffee brewer was easy; although it sells for about $18, which is actually pretty expensive for a cheap plastic part that probably costs nowhere that much to produce. in fact, it's the sort of cheap plastic part that would be perfect for a 3D printer. in the meantime, my parents were using a piece of strategically placed bamboo skewer to act as a temporary handle.
as for the espresso machine, it was a briel ES200APG-TB multi-pro purchased for $400 7 years ago. it actually made better espressos than their professional italian rancilio, which broke one too many times, so they retired that one and started using just the briel. but the briel broken down early this summer, and it took me about 2 weeks to fix, which involved making a new thermal fuse cable. now it was broken once more, and needed a new silicone o-ring. briel spare parts are hard to come by, and apparently it seems there's only a single source online for them (electra-craft.com), and even they didn't carry the o-ring in question. but an o-ring is just an o-ring, and can be purchased from many other places, as long as we had the right size and material. so i asked my father to send me the dimensions of the o-ring. it was difficult because the ring had broken apart, and i also asked in millimeters when i should've asked for fractional inches instead (which seems to be how they're typical sold, at least in the US). as for the material, at first i thought it was rubber, but the red color meant it was silicone, which made sense, because silicone is heat resistant up to 400°F. i found an amazon seller that sold a package of 10 silicone 2" ID, 2-1/4" OD, 1/8" width for $5.64 (purchased today, arriving tuesday).
as soon as it got dark (late afternoon early evening), freddy and catalina started making the arepas. catalina was cutting slices of beef, while freddy was mixing the arepa dough: white corn meal, butter, milk, cheese, and water. it seemed like there was too much liquids in the bowl, but apparently corn meal is really good at absorbing water and soon it had the consistency of mash potatoes.
freddy was a real pro at molding arepas, starting from a ball the size of a medium snowball, then flattening into something that resembles a large english muffin. i made one myself, the dough was stickier than i thought, but i managed to make one similar to freddy's, maybe just not as smooth. after the arepas were formed, they were then pan-seared in some butter.
i chatted and learned more about them. like freddy, catalina is also just 22 years old. she already has her post-graduation plans mapped out, returning to the US in february to do 2 years of research at the mayo clinic before continuing with medical school to do nephrology as her specialty. i didn't know this, but the mayo clinic is in rochester minnesota, i told her to brace herself for the cold. it won't be too bad, because her boyfriend - also a medical student - just started his research grant as well.
i also got around to ask freddy about his height. 193cm he told me, which i thought was just shy of 6ft. but after i ran it through my conversion calculator, i discovered that's actually 6'4". his father was also tall, 186cm.
at one point freddy said he heard the doorbell chiming. i went to investigate, and found bruce and jack outside, inviting me to go see the supermoon. i grabbed my camera and followed them to beacon street, where we saw the moon rising over star market. it didn't seem any bigger than any typical full moon, but at least we can say we saw it.
after the arepas finished cooking, freddy sliced them open just wide enough to add the stuffing. everyone had 2 arepas: a cheese arepa and another with cheese and beef. the cheese arepa was sort of plain. because of the high corn and butter content of the arepa, for me it tasted a lot like movie theater popcorn. the beef and cheese one was better, but by that point i was so stuffed, i almost couldn't finish it.
catalina finally left around 6pm. i basked in my food coma, awaiting the sunday night game between seattle and new england.
the seahawk-patriots game ended up being a nail-biter, which makes the NFL happy because the ratings mean cash for the organization which has been marred this season with poor viewership. i was actually confident they'd win this one with seattle having just played a monday night game and having to travel across the country to foxborough. my last night my mother said something that scared me a little: if trump can win the presidency, surely stranger things can happen, and the patriots might lose at home tonight.
the game ended on a missed touchdown by new england which would've tied the game and went into overtime (even better for the NFL). i wasn't as devastated with the home loss as i normally would. after having survived the 2016 presidential election and with hilary clinton the rightful heir to the presidential power throne losing to an evil demagogue, the patriots losing just their 2nd game of the season and the 1st for tom brady pales in comparison. this lost might actually be a good thing, get everyone on the same page. it was a close game, really could've gone either way, and had new england sent the game into overtime, there was no guarantee they'd win it either. i even saw brady and belichick smiling, which is weird given that they lost. belichick even embraced pete carroll, which i hardly ever see him do with other coaches. i think we escaped the game without any injured players, and hopefully next sunday running back dion lewis comes back, so the pats will have another offensive weapon.