Nicely written article by Scout Cambridge about small bookshops in cambridge, ma.
Nice write up in Portland-based Maine magazine.
PORTSMOUTH, NH: EXPLORE THIS FUN LITTLE CITY’S BREWERIES, PARKS, SHOPS AND TRY TO MEET EMILIO
The second I turned 15-and-a-half (legal driving age in New Hampshire), my friends and I went to Portsmouth, the cool place to hang out away from our parents. It’s been a few years since then, but I’m happy to find Portsmouth hasn’t lost its cool factor.
Portsmouth is often compared to Portland — maybe Portland’s cute little sister who really likes indie rock, french toast and Rocky Horror. The two have a lot in common: They both love the ocean, beer and twisty old streets. They’re both historic, walkable and filled with art stores that have to satisfy locals and tourists. Portsmouth has so much that we’re going to have a full guide up soon*. Plus, at only 50 minutes away, Portsmouth is a lot closer to Portlanders than Rockland, Bar Harbor, Bangor and most of the rest of Maine.
You could spend an entire day window-shopping in Portsmouth, and if you go you probably will. Poke around the book stores, cafes, thrift shops (there are lots of them, some with sequined pants, just sayin’), breweries and historic neighborhoods or catch a show/movie at the beautiful Portsmouth Music Hall.
DESTINATION: Downtown Portsmouth, NH, about 50 minutes from Portland.
HOW MUCH: $9 for a flight of beer.
WHO: You, probably. Portsmouth is best if you have another reason to go, like if you are already planning to catch a concert.
WHY: It’s close by, quirky and super walkable.
WHEN: Autumn and spring are nice because everything is open, but the tourists have migrated elsewhere.
If you go, here are some places to check out:
BOOK & BAR
Every little city needs that killer coffee-beer-books-wifi combo space. In Portsmouth, it’s Book & Bar.
After some window-shopping in downtown’s Market Square, this is a nice little (air-conditioned/heated – pick your season) respite. You can order a local beer with a grilled cheese (with hot pepper jelly) or coffee and a cookie while perusing the Pollan, Atwood and Nabokov hardcovers in the sale section. A few New Hampshire beers (or ciders) are usually on tap, plus some other New England breweries, lesser-known West Coast brews get a couple taps too.
It can get pretty busy. The cafe doesn’t offer wifi on the weekends to cut down on all those aspiring novelists who might otherwise spend all Saturday morning at the counter with their MacBooks. Darn aspiring novelists.
Book & Bar is at 40 Pleasant St. It’s open every day 9 a.m.-10 p.m., open until midnight on weekends. More info at bookandbar.com.
SEE IF THE YARD SALE STORE IS OPEN
“Good stuff — not cheap” is an understatement, or overstatement, depending. It’s the sign I saw at about 93 Daniel St. I was headed to get a cappuccino at the German caffe next door (Kaffee Vonsolln — it was great, btw) when I saw Emilio come down his steps and unchain his sign. When I asked if he was open, he began to test me. He pulled out a drawing of a mouse in a white tuxedo with the caption, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
“What’s this from? This fine drawing with watercoloring?”
“How did you know that? Do you know where the word ‘hearth’ comes from,” he asked.
“No,” I said.
He gave me an etymology lesson.
“Are you open?” I asked.
“No. I have to clean up first. Go get a coffee and then I’ll let you in. You know, in Germany you don’t order the coffee. You buy some chocolate, sit down and begin shaving it. They’ll bring you a cappuccino. You put the chocolate on and (smacked his lips).”
After a cappuccino next door (perhaps not coincidentally, with chocolate shavings), I headed back to find Emilio hadn’t cleaned up (he apologized), but was instead arguing with a customer. No, he would not sell that. No, he can’t do $10 for that.
“She won’t leave me alone,” he told me about another customer who was trying to buy … anything, it seemed. I poked around the Audrey Hepburn mugs, the $150 heavy cast iron dutch oven (one of the only priced items in the store) and the stuffed animals before finding something useful. I snagged a small hand-held panini press (shaped like two scallops) that you might bring camping and a chess grater. I pulled $5 from my pocket and handed Emilio the money.
“Oh no no no,” he said, taking the aluminum (tin?) camping panini press from me. “What do you want to do with this? What do you think this is for?”
“Paninis? Maybe for making eggs when I go camping,” I said.
“This is very old, valuable,” he said, “you put your bread here, then your filling here, then put it over heat,” he said. “I can do it for $15.”
“Sorry,” I said, putting the money back in my pocket.
“Take this for example,” he said, taking a mashed potato hand-masher from a jar near me. “You buy this at Wal-Mart it will cost you $7. But it will break and you’ll need to buy four of them in your life. You buy this one for $15 and you’ll only need one.”
“True,” I said.
He shook my hand, asked my name and said goodbye.
Emilio’s yard sale store doesn’t have a name. I suspect he lives there. I suspect he won’t sell you anything. If you go, bring cash and your Latin books — he’ll appreciate it.
Emilio’s place is near Kaffee Vonsolln (79 Daniel St.), doesn’t have hours, probably doesn’t have a phone, no website and no name.
NOW GO TO THE PARK
After all that haggling, how about some serenity? Six minutes (walking) from Emilio’s yard sale store is the ever-pretty Trial Gardens in Prescott Park. The park is green and occasionally has free music (every Wednesday night) or theater (most weekend days) or movies (Monday nights). But it also has wharfs where you can watch the Terns dive (or the teenagers make out, as the case may be).
You’re now near Strawberry Banke (an outdoor living history museum) and State Street, which has a bunch of shops. Pickwick’s Mercantile has gifts like tea, bracelets, cologne, hand-made candles, etc — everything beautifully arranged, right down to the store’s color-coordinated bookshelf, offering a rainbow of spines. There’s also a cupcake shop, a dog boutique, The Red Door Lounge (for a late-night drink and some music every Monday night).
Prescott Park is on Marcy Street. It’s free. All the program listings are available at prescottpark.org.
*Don’t worry, we will have The Friendly Toast in the guide.
MORE MAINE MINI ADVENTURES
Get out of dodge (at least for a little while) with a mini adventure. These excursions can be done in a day – sometimes an afternoon – and will hopefully lead you to places you’ve never been. This is Maine, after all, and we all need some adventuring.
Great review of the recent Patty griffin show at Prescott park in Portsmouth, NH. The reviewer also talks about Portsmouth Book and bar.
The very word “surreal” is an appropriate summation of guitarist, composer, artist and gamer Roger Clark Miller.
His interests have taken him on a path of existence that would be very hard to make up. From his days as a co-founder of seminal Boston rockers Mission of Burma, to the heady arrangements constructed by the Alloy Orchestra, and all of his musical endeavors in between, Miller knows no artistic bounds. Chase that which calls to you and navigate as best you can. Let the muse be your guide.
When Miller sets foot in Portsmouth Book & Bar on Saturday, May 17, he’ll be continuing to carve out another path he’s ventured down lately: that of the coordinator of his very own surrealistic games night.
The evening also will showcase his DJ skills, as he’ll provide the soundtrack to the night’s events.
If there’s any certainty of what will occur on Saturday, it’s that no matter what preconceived idea one may have in mind as to what may occur, the evening will definitely be out of the ordinary.
SPOTLIGHT: Tell me a bit about the evening you have planned. What inspired you to create this type of event?
MILLER: When I delved into Surrealism in the mid-70s, I found a way to create dream-like settings without the psychedelics, if you know what I mean. My friends and I would play the “Exquisite Corpse” drawing game on a regular basis. I expanded my interest in Surrealism during Mission of Burma (see our first 45, “Max Ernst”), and incorporated imagery and stories from my dreams in the lyrics. As I delved further, I discovered the word games, frottage drawing (using a pencil or other drawing tool to make a rubbing over a textured surface), and my son ended up creating “The Dream Game” for his fifth-grade project in Quincy (Mass.)! This “Dream Game” is played on a board with dice: by following the directions on the board you spontaneously write down a very phantasmagorical/dream-story, and it really works.
So eventually I had a good pile of games that I enjoyed playing with my friends, so why not do it in public? So far I’ve done it at Mass MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), Real Art Ways in Hartford, Conn., and the I.C.A. (Institute of Contemporary Art) in Boston. It’s always great fun.
The setting is that everyone sits at a table supplied with paper and drawing/writing tools. I explain the “Exquisite Corpse” drawing game, and people go at it! I stroll the tables explaining the various word games, and explaining the rules to the “Dream Game” and how to utilize frottage drawing to create interesting visual compositions. An extra plus is that everyone at a table quickly gets to know each other as they play the games.
The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. It’s up to the players, really. I love walking by tables and no one is talking, they’re all concentrating on writing words or drawing. Then when the paper is full, they open the paper up and read the surrealist sentences to each other or show the drawings. It’s really a blast, and sometimes astounding results are achieved, all through surrealist activities. Of course, these are the same games the Surrealists played in the ’20s and ’30s in Paris and other places.
SPOTLIGHT: The other element of interest here is the fact that you DJ these events. Tell us a bit about the soundtrack you provide. How does music enhance the overall experience?
MILLER: A very wide variety of music and styles will be included. From rock, there’s Roxy Music and Brian Eno’s early work, some Mission of Burma songs qualify, especially with my use of dreams in lyrics. Both the “Dream Interpretations” from my “Elemental Guitar” CD, and music from some of my other bands: Exquisite Corpse (of course!) and with my brothers Benjamin and Laurence, M2 and M3. Of course John Cage, Steve Reich, and some just abstract sounds. Not all of this music is ‘technically surrealistic,’ but it suits the evening. Often people will come up to me and ask what piece is playing. I like that.
Basically the music is mildly disorienting — helpful for surrealist activities — and encouraging towards the unusual — also helpful for surrealist activities. Often abstract.
SPOTLIGHT: What do you know about the Book & Bar? What excites you about producing this event at the venue?
MILLER: I know (co-founder) Jon Strymish — isn’t that enough? He has taken a number of pretty cool photos of Mission of Burma, the Binary System, and other ensembles I’ve been in. On the CD called “Monsoon” — me; William Hooker and Lee Ranaldo (from Sonic Youth) — most of the photos are by Jon. I like his style. I figure his club would have style as well, based on that. I’ve heard nothing but good stuff about the place, and it seems a great venue for the games. Good size, casual vibe, high-quality beer!
SPOTLIGHT: Do you have any history with Portsmouth, N.H.? Did Mission of Burma ever play the (late) Elvis Room by chance?
MILLER: The Alloy Orchestra has played The Music Hall on a couple of occasions, always fun. I don’t think Burma played Portsmouth, but I can’t always recall where we played way back in the day (1979-1983). It kind of p——- me off that my bands don’t play New Hampshire much, so here’s a chance to change that, even if this ain’t a band …
SPOTLIGHT: What are you looking for people to take with them when they experience an event of this nature? What’s the communal feel?
MILLER: That by working together you can create something totally unexpected. The end result is inherently collective. The Surrealists claimed that the unconscious/subconscious of the players was revealed, and I have found that, to some degree, that is definitely true. I’ve walked by tables where people are discussing why they drew a particular image, based on what was going on in their life. And it’s just plain downright fun in a social fashion. Everyone’s making art, even if they don’t normally do that! What’s the problem with that? Nothin’ but fun.
The Surrealist games inherently produce imagery rubbing up against imagery that wouldn’t normally happen. So one sees connections in things one normally wouldn’t think of. I believe that is useful in day-to-day life, to make life more interesting. The unexpected — it can be marvelous.
SPOTLIGHT: What is the most surreal experience you’ve had while hosting one of these events?
MILLER: For me it’s mostly work! For three hours I don’t stop talking and explaining and listening to people’s word-games or looking at their drawings. Honestly, most of my life it’s about ME creating things. Here, it’s about me supplying the experience to OTHERS, making it easy for them to create. I love it, actually. When I see participants amazed at what they created, or just laughing at them, that makes me totally happy. I love seeing things being created, by myself or others. But I’m usually pretty tired by the end of the three hours! Probably the most surreal part of these events is the dreams I’ll have later that night …
Says the aforementioned Strymish: I’m really excited about this event …; Watching Roger play guitar in Mission of Burma when I was 17 was a life-changing experience, and seeing his integrity and thoughtfulness in everything he’s done since has been an inspiration. So I am stoked to be able to bring this to Portsmouth and see the inspiration go forward.