Minus One (Ending Bonus)

Wow, I can’t believe a year’s gone by since I started posting Minus One! I know the comic’s over, but I needed to flush out my final thoughts.

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Whew! And that’s really it. Thanks again to everyone who read along!

Freezing water and no bathing suits? Ahh, let’s jump in anyway.

Thinking back on my trip to Japan makes me pretty 懐かしい– nostalgic. I mean, we saw some amazing stuff. Mt. Fuji. Massive temples. Clothes-eating deer. The awesome giant Gundam statue in Odaiba, Tokyo.

One of my favorite days from that trip, however, was at a place I had never heard of. None of us knew this place before our trip. It was a little town in Hokkaido known as 小樽市 (Otaru-shi, or Otaru City) located by the sea. The city has been declining in population for several years, but is still popular as a tourist destination.

Nobody really knew what all this meant, but at this point in our trip, we had learned to just roll with it. People rarely knew what we were doing on our trip until the day before– our sensei, determined to take us as many places as possible, was constantly shifting and editing our itinerary.

In fact, I didn’t know we were going to Otaru until one day in Japanese class. The Japanese student I was practicing with told me,

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It’s the sad truth. Knowingly or not, our group was going, and we hopped the train to Otaru. I spent the hour-long ride enjoying the train signs.

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So, what is Otaru famous for? Well, it has a long history as a center of trade in Northern Japan. It was the site of Hokkaido’s first railroad line, even. You can still walk along the tracks today.

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Otaru was a center for maritime trade as well. The city has preserved the canals that ships used to carry goods back and forth from the warehouses. Today, it makes for a nice stroll.

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Otaru used to house a big bit of the Bank of Japan, but the building has since been converted to a museum detailing Japan’s financial history. Here, we got to see curiosities like old 1-yen bills.

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As a port city, Otaru is also famous for its seafood! We went to a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, as I’ve posted about beforeMy friend also nabbed some huge grilled prawns from a street vendor.

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As a tourist town, Otaru has plenty of souvenir shops as well. We encountered glass shops…

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…more glass shops…

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…and even more glass shops.

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Well, Otaru isn’t exactly like Cape Cod. I don’t think the Cape is famous for selling… music boxes?

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After looking around the shops for a while, we took a ferry out to see the 鰊御殿 (Nishen Goten, aka the Herring Mansion.) For some reason, our sensei encouraged us to feed the seagulls on the boat ride there.

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We discovered that admission to the Herring Mansion wasn’t free. So, we wandered along the shore for a while…

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When someone suddenly decided:

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None of us had bathing suits, of course. Also, Otaru is in Hokkaido. Aka Northern Japan. In other words: the ocean’s not going to be warm.

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It would be more accurate to say that the ocean was freezing. Did I jump in? You bet I did. I almost chickened out, I admit.
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Our sensei thought we were nuts.

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The other Japanese people in the area also thought we were nuts.

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Afterwards, we dried off, boarded the bus, and went home.

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The day we spent in Otaru is one of my fondest memories from Japan. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the flashiest city with the most impressive sights. But it was a day spent with friends, food, and our sensei yelling at the peeping Japanese boys. What more do you need?

Minus One. (#358-365) (FINAL)

And thus ends this absurd comic about weight loss. It’s been quite a project. For those who read along with Max’s adventures– thanks for reading!

There’s also a mini bonus comic here, where I answer a few questions I’ve been asked about Minus One. Enjoy!

Here’s to you, dad!

Mother’s Day was a month ago. In commemoration, I wrote a post about my mom! When my family celebrated, I showed my mom the post. My dad reacted:

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Well, dad, here you go!

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My dad isn’t really a sentimental person. He’s not one for huge, dramatic emotional displays or sweeping acts of grandeur. Instead, he’s very down-to-earth.

Yes, my dad is a practical guy. He’s not like those dads who pamper their daughters. My sister and I aren’t about to receive a pink convertible on our birthdays, or that $4,000 Gucci purse, or that super-cute necklace from Tiffany’s.

And I prefer it that way. After all, what kind of person would I be if I was spoiled like that? No, with my dad, it’s the little things that count. He has his own little ways of showing his love to my sister and I– not in material gifts, but in what he does. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate those things more and more.

And what are those things?

Well, the list could go on to infinity. For brevity’s sake, I’m just going to list a few.

1. He feeds us.

Ok, I know it sounds silly. But now that I’m cooking for myself, I’ve realized what a pain cooking can be! My dad is the main chef of my family, and he’ll often put in the extra time to cook our favorites or grill that steak to perfection.

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2. He trained us in sports.

My dad, an avid tennis fan, taught me and my sister tennis in elementary school.

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Unfortunately for him, I didn’t always want to learn.

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I disliked tennis all the way into high school, which was when I joined the tennis team. Tennis was definitely one of the defining experiences of my high school years– I made friends, later made varsity, and even ended up joining the boy’s team for a season. If my dad hadn’t taught me tennis, I would have missed out on all of those experiences!

3. He takes us places.

I remember one of my high school friends saying,

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…to which I reacted,

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My parents love to travel, and my dad usually takes the helm for planning family trips. Before I even hit middle school my dad was taking us on hikes at places like Yosemite, the Smoky Mountains, and Mount Tremblant. Acadia National Park in Maine is still one of my all-time favorite places.

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Although my dad is a pretty careful planner, he isn’t afraid of a little spontaneity.

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It’s thanks to these trips, and my dad, that my sister and I now have a healthy sense of adventure!

4. He gives us words of wisdom.

Lots of dads like to quote stale platitudes and old idioms to inspire their kids. Not my dad. He makes up his own!

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Though sometimes, his self-made words of wisdom don’t make sense.

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Well, you have to give him credit for originality!

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5. He drives us.

My sister and I did lots of sports and activities in grade school, forcing my dad to drive us everywhere.

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6. …so he taught us how to drive.

To get out of driving duty, he taught both of us how to drive himself. This turned out to be a more arduous task than he probably initially expected.

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So I failed my driver’s test once. Whatever. It was because of the parallel parking part anyway! At least I have my license now– thanks to my dad’s lessons!

7. He tutored us.

My parents grew up in Vietnam, where the academic competition is fierce. As a result, they’ve always wanted us to be at the top of our class. Before kindergarten, I remember my dad teaching me long division and multiplication.

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As a result, I did end up having an edge over the other kids in my first years of elementary school. (Math remains my worst subject, though!) My dad still did his best to help as we reached higher grades– though by the time I hit Calculus 2, this became a bit trickier.

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My dad’s an engineer, so he’s studied way further into mathematics than I have. Still, when you’re faced with integrals and derivatives for the first time in 20 years, there’s bound to be some memory lag. But he always does his best to help us, then and now!

8. He pushes us to success.

My dad has an arguably crazier past than my mom. He grew in a farming village in Central Vietnam, where his family grew rice. He often tells us about building houses from mud and bamboo, or picking leeches off his legs after tending the fields, or how he never ate phở (the famous Vietnamese beef broth soup) until he reached the US. When he finally escaped from the war (as one of the boat people of Vietnam, no less) he lived in a refugee camp in Indonesia for a year before finally securing passage to America. He arrived in the USA– as he famously likes to tell us– with nothing but a garbage bag of clothes and 50 bucks in his pocket.

My dad, like my mom, had to work his way up to success. I remember when I was in elementary school, my teacher assigned us a list of questions to ask our parents. One of them was

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to which my dad answered promptly,

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And so, growing up, my sister and I have always been urged to work our way to success as well. Which is why I credit my dad with my hearty work ethic today.

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My dad pushes us, sure, but he would also do anything for our success. Thanks to his support, I was able to do tennis and National Honor Society and vocal ensemble and track and all the other activities I did back then. Because of him, I’m able to go to college without being strapped with debt. My father was not only able to survive the tough times, but also prevent the tough times from happening to his kids.

Yeah, I’m very lucky that my dad is… well, my dad!

So dad, here’s one for you as well! My sister and I know that you’re always looking out for our best interests. You’ve dealt with our girl drama for so many years, and for that, we can’t thank you enough. So, on this Father’s Day, it’s only apt for us to say:

You’re the best father we’ve ever had!

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You know what we mean.

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In which I get asked out via LinkedIn.

About a week ago I received an disconcerting e-mail.

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To understand why this message is disconcerting, we need context.

The closest T station to my house is about a mile away. It’s a short distance, so I always walk. A couple months ago the green line was experiencing problems and they replaced the trains with bus service.

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The bus driver, who obviously had little idea of where she was going, dropped us off a few blocks away from the actual station, much to the confusion of the passengers. As we all headed off in what seemed like the right direction, a guy piped up behind me.

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I responded,

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Inadvertently, I had opened the door to further conversation. This kid also happened to be headed in the same direction as me, so he struck up some small talk.

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We talked for about 15 minutes before parting ways. The kid seemed eccentric but non-threatening; he was barely taller than me and much skinnier. He also seemed like a bit of a shy, awkward dude, but as an awkward flower myself I’m used to dealing with that type.

And that was that. Pretty standard.

The next morning I see an e-mail, forwarded to me from LinkedIn. The kid had somehow found my LinkedIn profile and sent me a message.

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I had forgotten that I had a LinkedIn account in the first place. Oh, ok, that kid, I thought. I sent him back a message of greetings…

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…and left it at that.

That was two months ago.

And that brings us to now, and this message:

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I should also say, about my LinkedIn account: there’s barely information on it beyond my name and my university. I know, I know, as a future professional I should keep it up-to-date. But I don’t even have a photo on there. And my name is, surprisingly, extremely common, so my LinkedIn isn’t exactly going to be at the top of any search.

I called my sister and asked her this:

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I hadn’t told him my last name, so finding my LinkedIn profile meant that he was actively searching for me on the wild wild Internet.

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This kid who I had talked to for about 15 minutes.

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Two months after talking to me once, completely out of nowhere, this kid was pretty much asking me on a date.

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All of this freaked me out a bit, so I went the path of the annoyingly passive girl and didn’t respond. A week later he messaged me again:

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This walk was going to be so quick that he needed two quicks.

But hey, you know, maybe I’m being unfair. From the girl’s perspective, it’s easy to write off a guy as creepy or weird. Maybe scouring the internet for someone’s LinkedIn profile is actually a normal thing. I mean, at least the guy had the balls to approach first. And really, why was I being so paranoid? It’s not like I have a history of attracting strange guys or anything.

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I guess this guy is another one for my list.

What do you think? To me, this is definitely skirting the line between “normal” and “creepy.” But that’s just me. Let me know your opinions in the comments!

I have never seen so many rainbow accessories in my life.

Massachusetts is well-known as a liberal state. I mean, the abolitionist and women’s rights movements started in Boston. Massachusetts was also the first state to legalize gay marriage, a fact that its residents hold with pride.

A lot of pride.

Last weekend was the main weekend of Boston Pride Week, a seven-day festival celebrating LGBTQ culture. My friend and I, never adverse to racking up more volunteer hours, decided to help out at the event. I’d never been to Boston Pride before– in fact, I haven’t even heard of it before now.

On Saturday morning, I traveled out to City Hall Plaza with little expectations. My friend and I arrived early, so we decided to take some time to peruse the many booths.

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I admit, I’ve never been involved with the LGBTQ community. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the number and scope of organizations set up around the square.

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And these organizations were very generous. It was freebies abound!

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Ok, so we didn’t get just condoms.

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Ok, ok, there was other stuff too.

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After collecting free stuff for an hour or two, it was finally time for our shift. We checked in at the volunteer tent and donned our badges and t-shirts. My friend and I were sent to the end of the parade route, where we were to make sure the floats didn’t run anyone over.

This was a valid concern.

Because it was packed.

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The Boston Pride parade is a huge thing, as I found out. One of the head organizers announced that it was the second-largest LGBTQ parade in the nation. I believe it. Thousands and thousands of people lined up on the street to watch the paraders march by.

And there was a lot to watch! Apparently, the parade doubled in participants this year. I had a prime spot to enjoy the three-hour parade.

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Big companies came out to show their support.

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Religion gets a lot of rap for promoting the hatred against LGBTQ people, but several churches marched in the parade.

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I wish I was that fit.

The mayor of Boston has announced that he won’t be running next year, so tons and tons of mayor-hopefuls showed up in the hopes of gaining supporters.

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I’m impressed that she walked the whole parade in those heels!

Even Jason Collins, the NBA player and also the first American professional athlete to come out, showed up.

Which was really cool. Actually, the whole parade was really cool. The cheering from the spectators was deafening. It was amazing to see so many people support a community that has been stigmatized for so long. Here, people could dress up, strut their stuff, and just have a good time. Hey, I’m no stranger to people in costume.

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After the parade, my friend and I returned to the volunteer tent.

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The headliner?

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We shook our heads. I was imagining that Carmen was some drag performer famous in the gay community. We were led to the side of the street where we waited for Carmen to show up.

A limo pulled up.

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The doors opened, and Carmen emerged. Except instead of a man in drag, as I expected, a guy in Red Sox gear emerged. He looked kind of familiar…

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A woman followed him. Suddenly, I recognized them. And my jaw dropped.

It was Karmin!

Karmin, the musical duo responsible for the song Brokenhearted and also known for their covers of Look At Me Now and Super Bass. I happen to be a big fan of them. And now they were five feet in front of me!

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I think the lead singer, Amy, saw my shock, because she cracked a grin. As a volunteer, I couldn’t ask for photos– but walking beside them to the stage was already cool enough.

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They’re just as good live as they are in studio. The performance was awesome.

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If you can’t already tell, I thought Boston Pride was awesome. Really, it’s an incredible event. The entire time, I couldn’t get over just how many people were there. How many rainbow flags were flying around Boston. How many people could accept and embrace those who are different from them.

Sure, there was the occasional aggressively heterosexual family:

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…but it seemed to be the minority. For this weekend, anyway. As I learned from older volunteers, this wasn’t always the case. The first Boston Pride was 43 years ago– and, as you can imagine, things were a lot different then.

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So, the next day, when I worked the Boston Pride Block Party, it made me very happy to how many people showed up.

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Since, you know what? I’m straight. My friend is queer. We share a friend who’s bi. This weekend, all of us– and also the gays, the lesbians, the asexuals, the transgenders, everyone, no matter your sexual orientation– could come together and have a good time.

We’ve come a long way. It’s still a while before the discrimination ends, of course. But here, at least, people have finally realized– in the end, Boston just wants to party!

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I’m on a boat!!

Boston’s weather is rather unpredictable. Last year we had a winter with temperatures in the 50’s. This year, we’ve gotten those cold, wet, autumn-esque days all the way into May.

But last weekend, we finally saw a bit of warm weather. The sun was up, the temperatures climbed to the 90’s, and that uncomfortable stickiness had entered the air.

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For some reason, a lot of Californians attend Northeastern. I happen to be friends with a few. Last weekend, they wanted to get away from the heat. I did too.

We decided to head over to the harbor.

The Boston Sailing Center happened to have an open house this weekend, you see. Apparently if we headed over to Lewis Wharf, we’d be able to ride on a sailboat.

A sailboat!

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I wanna ride on a sailboat!

So did my friends. We jumped on the T and, at my friend’s lead, used our smartphone navigation skills to get to the sailing center.

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My friend safely navigated us to the port.

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Unfortunately, we were not the only ones who had heard about the free sailing. There was a long line of people waiting to sign up and fill out the waiver. And after we got through that line, the organizer informed us…

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So we plopped down in the shade.

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And waited.

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And waited some more.

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I was impatient.

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I pulled out my camera.

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And finally, after about an hour and a half…

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By this time, we were all exhausted and dripping sweat, so we enthusiastically boarded the boat. Now, I don’t know what we were expecting, since this boat ride was free. The sailing center was giving hundreds of people rides that day. Would this ride even be good?


If you’re as stupidly excited as my friends and I were, anything would be good. 

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We pulled out of the dock.

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Our captain let us unfurl the sail.

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The boat began to tilt under the force of the wind. I almost fell off.

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Any hairstylin’ I tried that day had long since gone.

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My Asian superpowers activated.

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It really was a lovely day. The ocean spray, the cool breeze, the sun, the exhilaration of almost falling into the sea with your fancy camera… everything was aligned. It was the idyllic summer afternoon. Since I’ve been working all the time, and the weather’s been erratic, I hadn’t really noticed. But on that sailboat, I finally felt for the first time this year that

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And then I went to work on Monday and it was cold and rainy again.

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Of course.

Dear Boston: You are a moody little bugger and you need to make up your mind. But it’s okay. Because sometimes, you give us days that will last in our memories forever. (Or at least a for little while, until I forget it.)

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Though I stand by the fact that Boston is too darn windy for its own good.