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Meat and zoning? and storms

My feeing of being surrounded by veg*ns needs to be re-calibrated; at Grendel's tonight there was a block of 5 of us, munching away on animals from land, air, and sea. (Well, kind of air, not like those birds fly.) And of the Taiwanese couple further down I'm pretty sure A. at least was eating meat. Actually I think the veg*ns were late and few tonight.

But the current line cook at Grendel's seems unable to cook steaks rarely. My rare order came well-done; I complained, as I've done before about a medium-rare order that came well-done. The waiter even remembered that incident! The replacement took a long time to come, apparently because the waiter looked at steak #2 and refused to even bring it out. As it was, steak #3 was medium rare at best, inching to medium, but I didn't push it. I'm not sure the steak was good enough for the cooking to matter that much, in the end. And how do you mess this up? Thin steaks should be easy. Sear it and send it in; if it's too rare you can cook it more, rather than having to throw steaks away.

He's good at chicken breast, though; I actually thought mine was better, and I'm a chicken breast skeptic. Subtle flavor, and juicy.

Yesterday I hung out with a close friend from college who's moved back to the area; yay! Which is as much as I'll say about that in public; close friendship with me means I barely talk about you except to other close friends in private. But afterwards I went exploring the beyond-Powderhouse region, toward Mystic Valley. At Harvard and Main I found another Brazilian BBQ place; there seem to be a fair number of these. Almost worryingly cheap: $7/pound buffet, or $15 all you can eat, probably not splurging on the grass-fed meats there.

Just to get the meat news out of the way, at the end of the journey I tried a Five Guys cheeseburger at Wellington. They have lots and lots of copies of newspaper reviews, making it sound juice and exciting, the authenticity of a simple specialty done well. The experience... not so much. The burger itself was kind of physically awkward, what with the two patties, and I didn't get any juicy beefy taste explosion. The cheese was a slice of American that hadn't even melted properly.


So, back to exploration. Harvard and Mystic felt like one of those car deserts, at first. Wide road with long lights, and everything's one story businesses and parking lots, or car lots. The businesses all seemed car-related at first (like window replacement), but then I noticed a fruit and vegetable store, next to hydroponics, and some guru a couple buildings down. The produce store had some bhakti [devotional] yoga literature inside as well, so I suspect a connection to the guru.

But it's still a bunch of one story buildings and parking lots, like a stretch of Allston/Brighton the 70 bus goes through, and I always wonder about the supposedly expensive property and the tight housing market. How is that you can't print money by buying up these properties and putting 5 story buildings on them? You don't even have to lose the business space, except temporarily, because you can sling them back into the first story.

My lead guess would be "zoning", that such areas are zoned to be commercial and that's that; government stupidity at work. A secondary guess is that the local buses run only occasionally (20 minutes rush, 30 or 60 day), and the people who'll put up with that can't afford new housing, and of course if you build too much new housing you need either parking lots or good public transit. Of course, that gets into chicken and egg problems: agency doesn't provide a decent bus because no one lives there, and no one lives there because there's no decent bus.

Later I realized that the 6+ lane streets in the area could easily absorb some light rail. Sigh.

Anyway, getting past the freeway and river, I got to the Mystic River Reservation, a riverside park area that had been my main goal besides just exploring. Looked nice, but when I took a break I heard the rumble of distant thunder, and the weather site said a storm warning was out, quarter-sized hail and all. Looking up, I realized the sky wasn't blue, or rather sky *was* blue to the south, making it more clear that I was under some not too dark but still solid and somewhat ominous cloud cover. Lacking even an umbrella I decided to flee, rather than marching further into the overcast. The cloud weren't moving very fast, or barely at all, so I went on down the river, finally reaching Wellington. Nothing really of note along the way.

But at Wellington... well, first I noticed the 11 lane street. I kid you note: 6 lanes on one side, not counting the turn lane, 5 on the other. Pretty damn wide. But full of cars even so, at 6 or 7 pm on a Saturday.

But across the intersection of not quite doom, I saw the physical embodiment of what I'd been envisioning for Mystic Avenue. Rising abruptly out of the suburban desert were four uniform blocks of six story buildings, full of shops on the first floor. I'm completely shocked that the phrase "transit-oriented development" isn't on the Arbor Point website, though it is associated with the Woodland Station site of the same company. This is where I had the Five Guys burger. Good income range: from $5 burgers and a nearby Qdoba to a sushi bar where you'd spend $23 on a chirashi bowl, which seems to match the Woodland claims of being mixed income, including apartments for <50% of median income.

The storm never did break. And I never noticed a storm today, though I was surprised by all the water on the streets when I went to Grendel's, so I guess it rained at some point.

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Damien Sullivan

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