I’m in Cambridge among old friends, and October has come again, has come again. All of the bright and bitter leaves, flare up; the maples turn a blazing bitter red, and other leaves turn yellow like a living light.
For old times’ sake, I took a walk down Massachusetts Avenue towards Harvard Square yesterday, though we didn’t quite make the Square due to the press of time. I was also waylaid by a new Indian/Asian grocery store nearby, which turns out to be fantastic. It’s even better than the big Indian grocery stores on Devon Avenue in Chicago, though it looks unprepossessing from the outside:
They had white eggplants, which I’d never seen before:
. . . and big jackfruits beside baby bananas. (Jackfruit is wonderful if you can get hold of a ripe one.)
Tons of chutney:
And the Muslim equivalent of Spam®. In the U.S. it’s made of pork shoulder, but of course pork isn’t kosher for Muslims, so we have beef Spam-equivalent:
Look at all the different kinds of rice!
On the way to Harvard Square, we ran into HONK!, an annual three-day festival of “activist street bands,” full of, well, activist street bands, as well as jugglers, dancers, and immigrants who now live here, sporting their national finery. It’s quite a show, and tells you why the government should designate Cambridge (as well as Berkeley and Portland) as National Cultural Preserves.
Some scenes from HONK!
A rent-activist street band:
I’m not sure what nationalities are indicated by the costumes in the next two photos. Perhaps readers can help.
The old Art Deco Sears building in Porter Square was built in 1928, It went out of business years ago, became an Asian food court, and in 1994 became part of Lesley University.
We stopped for a minute to visit my friend Andrew Berry, who has often featured in these pages. He teaches evolution and also advises biology students at Harvard, and in the few minutes we visited he managed, as Brits do, to jokingly insult me several times. At least I hope he was joking. One never knows with Brits!
Just a block away is a landmark for movie buffs: the Oxford Laundry and Dry Cleaning emporium, where you do your own washing.
Why is it famous? Because of this 1970 movie:
From the link:
[The laundry] was best known for its cameo in the blockbuster “Love Story,” based on Harvard graduate Erich Segal’s tale of star-crossed love between rich and poor Harvard and Radcliffe students. Some of the movie’s key scenes were shot at Harvard and in the Baldwin neighborhood – including at 104 Oxford, then the Gold Star Laundry. Segal’s novel spent more than a year on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list; the film went on to break 1970s box office records and get seven Academy Award nominations, winning the Oscar for Best Original Score.
The movie was pretty sappy, as I recall, though I haven’t seen it in decades. It starred Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal as two Harvard students who meet in the laundromat, fall in love, get married, and she dies (of leukemia, as I recall). It’s a real tear-jerker, and the iconic phrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” comes from the film. Here’s the 50th anniversary trailer that features the famous phrase:
Inside the laundry:
It was at the pet store below, in 1975 or so, that I. bought a baby skunk whom I named Pinkus after my father’s college roommate, Irving Pinkus (it was a Jewish fraternity). I had Pinkus the Skunk for seven years or so before he died. The pet store is still there.
Last night I took my friends to dinner at this old favorite, a Mexican-American restaurant on the Cambridge-Somerville border. The menu is here.
You can’t eat there without starting with “Guacamole en molcajete”, guacamole prepared tableside with (and served in) a mortar and pestle:
A good starter with chips:
. . . and a pitcher of their spicy mango margaritas, which were quite spicy. They didn’t stint on the tequila, so we were a bit tipsy after dinner.
Tacos baja: “beer-battered fish with jicama slaw, cilantro-garlic aioli, and sesame seeds:
Pescado a la Veracruzana: “pan-seared seasonal fish with chunk tomatoes, green olives, and capers. Served with Mexican rice, grilled lemon, and steamed vegetables.”
And my go-to choice to judge a Mexican restaurant: Chilies rellenos, “roasted poblano peppers served with plantains, creme and ranchero sauce, and Mexican rice. stuffed with cheese and pork. They had duck breast en mole, but I find myself unable to eat duck any more .