Thanks for checking into my blog!

As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Magical Food Eating Tour - Cheers to Boston

Rule #51 – Make pilgrimages.

     Brace yourselves… this may come as a complete shock.
     Ted Danson had a life before his D.B. Russell character on “C.S.I.”. So did Woody Harrelson (“True Detective” and “Hunger Games”), Kelsey Grammer (Mayor Tom Kane in “Boss”) and John Ratzenberger (pick a Pixar character – Hamm, Mack, Harland – he’s a Pixar fixture).
      They – and many others – were on a series called “Cheers”, based on a Boston neighborhood bar where “everybody knows your name”. Each week these characters graced our lives and gave us plenty of laughs. Then the bar closed down in 1993… or did it?
     Anyone who has been to Boston – 84 Beacon Street, to be exact – knows that Cheers lives on. But it doesn’t live the way it lives in our memories. 
One crazy tourist at 84 Beacon St., Boston... home of "Cheers" bar

      The exterior is just like what we see in the opening credits and the many “location” shots during the show. The sign points down to the bar. But when you get to the lower bar, it looks nothing like the set. Well, that’s because the interior was modeled after the Bull and Finch Tavern on the first floor (upstairs). 
Upstairs bar - originally the Bull and Finch Tavern - photo by Joe Knipp, used with permission

      The heck with downstairs – we wanted to eat at Cheers. It was a one hour wait for a table in the lower bar. So we wove our way upstairs and took seats at the bar itself, complete with a seating chart (teacher speak for plaques identifying the places where specific characters sat). My brother took his seat where Tommy the Lawyer sat. My nephew took Norm’s corner of the bar seat. In the show, there was booth and table seating around the bar itself. In the real bar, there’s no room for large tables. There are a few pub tables around, but nothing where you can sit down and relax. If you want table seating, you need to go to Cheers Faneuil Hall/ Quincy Market location. 
Name plate on the bar top where Tommy the Lawyer sat and made Cliff and Norm crazy

      The menu was standard pub fare, with sandwiches named after the various characters on the show. You have Sam’s Starters, Ma Clavin’s soups, Norm’s Sandwiches, and so forth. Both locations serve the same menu.
      We ordered lunch from the bar. It was 100 degrees outside so we just had a burger and fries. The burgers came with lettuce, tomato, and onion, but all on the side, so you could choose to add or not to add. Portion size was generous, but not ridiculous. After drinking about a quart of water, I was able to eat and actually felt hungry. We kept the water coming and the burger and fries disappeared.
      Cheers also had a great assortment of drinks and beers. Sam Adams – any variety out – was the showcase beer. Prices were competitive with other establishments.
      As with any landmark, there’s the requisite gift shop. It’s stocked with bar items, memorabilia, and plenty of “I was there!” tee shirts and sweat shirts. 
Quincy Market - location of the other "Cheers" bar
Faneuil Hall - follow the cobblestone walk between here and Quincy Market and there is "Cheers"
...and I wasn't kidding about cobblestone walk ways....

     We got our chance to compare the Beacon Street location with the Faneuil Hall location on this trip. The atmosphere was just a bit different. Beacon Street has a smaller location. Faneuil Hall has a look that really resembles the set from the show. The bar is larger and is laid out in a similar way to Beacon Street’s. But there is no “seating chart” for fans to enjoy. There is downstairs seating, which is a bit quieter and off the street. The downstairs area looks just like Sam’s “back room”, complete with TV, dart board and smaller bar.
      This is – without a doubt – a must-do pilgrimage for any fan of the TV show, “Cheers”. We got to go to more landmarks in town, and did it on the MTA, which is another story for another time (and soon, too). In the meantime, check your local listings for reruns of “Cheers”, so you can get to know the characters again. And check out the website, http://www.cheersboston.com/main_locations.html for more information and some of the history of the show.
      When you visit either location, don’t worry if nobody knows your name when you walk in. They will know you by the time you leave – it’s that much fun.

All photographs are the property of Marge McGugan, unless noted otherwise. No use or reproduction without written permission.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Magical Food Eating Tour - Stockbridge Story

Rule #3 – Experience everything.

You might have heard this before.

I know I have.

This is about Alice’s Restaurant. It’s not really the name of the restaurant. Not now anyway. It’s now Theresa’s Stockbridge Café… formerly Alice’s Restaurant.

It’s about my visit to Stockbridge, Massachusetts and how we found Alice’s Restaurant.

One fine, hot summer day in July, we left our vacation home in the Berkshire Mountains. It was time for a day trip. So we all piled into the brand new, adorably blue Ford Es-ca-pe and drove due south to Stockbridge. We drove through some great looking towns on our way. Some towns had architecture that looks like it could be an old movie set. Some towns had a village green, and you could just imagine Jimmy Stewart running down the snowy center of town wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Then, we see the dawn of technology in I-90, also known as the Massachusetts Turnpike. Well, we weren’t fixin’ to head east toward Boston or west toward Albany so we just road past the MassPike. We got a bit farther down the road and there it was, like a scene right out of a picture post card… or a drawing… or a Norman Rockwell portrait. It was the Red Lion Inn and Stockbridge General Store – hell; it WAS right out of a Norman Rockwell portrait. It makes sense since he lived here and all.
Stockbridge General Store
Downtown Stockbridge

We parked my brand new, adorably blue Ford Es-ca-pe on the street and started to wander around town. We tried not to get lost and that wasn’t too hard to do. The town center is only three blocks long. But there was so much back behind the stores. We wandered back down one of the small alleys off Main Street and found lots of boutique shops. My favorite was called Peace, Love and Chocolate – my three favorite things. It was tucked in around the back of the general store. We did get lost in the old Town Office building, which is now a Yankee Candle Store. It’s a good thing those candles don’t have contraband fragrances, because we were sniffing and snorting for at least a good half hour.
Peace, Love and Chocolate

Our wandering was starting to involve a search for food. Then we see this sign. It said “Cafe”. Where there’s a cafe, there’s food, usually. So we went around the back to the restaurant. And were we surprised to see Alice’s name still on the restaurant. And it was open. And it had people in it. So we walked right in and sat down.
The sign taking us around the back
We're open for business

The café had the look of the 1970’s with yellow walls and some hippie-type paintings hanging around. There were some great memories hanging up on those yellow walls, too. Arlo Guthrie’s guitar – signed and autographed – was up on the wall at the restaurant. So was a fantastic drawing of a VW microbus with trash stuffed in the back. So was Alice’s apron from the original restaurant. There were a few of the 27 8x10 color glossy pictures with circles and arrows… but we didn’t see the paragraphs on the back describing the details. We did see color glossy photographs of Arlo, and Alice, and Theresa, the new owner of Alice’s Restaurant.
Autographed album cover
Signed Guthrie Guitar
VW Microbus from the story
Alice's first apron, used at the restaurant
8x10 glossy color photograph of Arlo, Alice and Theresa
Now we sat down and placed our order. That day was a gorgeous, hot, summer day and the restaurant was a bit short handed. We waited for our food…and we waited for our food…and we waited…well, some people might have just walked out. Be we were hungry and finally our food was delivered. We had big sandwiches that had lots of fillings and plenty of chips and/or fries on the side. We had a mixed-greens salad delivered that was fresh, and looking better than Alice ever would be. I had a felafel! In beautiful, downtown Stockbridge Massachusetts on this bright, beautiful hot summer day, I had the best felafel I ever ate. It was stuffed with sprouts, tomato and lettuce. It had lots of tahini sauce over the top. And the felafel itself…it had just the right amount of garlic and spices, and not much mint at all. Wish I had an 8x10 color glossy photograph of my felafel so you could see just how delicious it was…before I scarffed it down.
Menu back tells the story of the Alice's Restaurant Massacre

We had one more stop to make before we left the restaurant. Yeah, that little room, you know about it. I went in and found some more of the 27 8x10 color glossy photographs hanging up in there. Guess the paragraphs on the back were in case you got stuck there for a bit.
Yep, we were there

Then it was time to hit the road. We double checked the sign on the front door of the restaurant. It says Theresa’s Stockbridge Café…formerly Alice’s Restaurant. Yeah, we were there. We are going back there too. How about you?

Come on and join us… with full orchestration and four-part harmony…
You can get anything that you want at Alice’s Restaurant… it’s now Theresa’s.
You can get anything you want at the Café Restaurant.
Walk right in, it’s around the back. Just a half a mile from the railroad tracks.
You can get anything that you want at Theresa’s Stockbridge Café.

 All photographs are the property of Marge McGugan. Copy or reuse not permitted without written permission.