Skip the Easter Ham and Hop into Julians for a Vintage Beer Dinner



Dinner, but more importantly drinks

Providence’s acclaimed restaurant, Julians, previously featured on Food Network’s “Rachel’s Vacation,” is hosting their Vintage Beer Dinner celebrating their 20th anniversary, on April 20 at 6pm. Located in the heart of Providence, they are known for serving creative comfort foods and on Sunday night, they will not disappoint.

It will certainly be a special evening, featuring rare and unique selections from their cellar. They will offer deliciously paired courses served with top-notch drinks. Their featured drinks include 2008 St. Feuillien Tripel  (Belgian tripel), 2005 Schneider Aventinus Weizenbock (wheat doopelbock) and 2008 Southern Tier Cuvee 1 and 2 (oak aged American strong ale). In addition to those, they will serve 2009 Dogfish Head Black and Blue (Belgian-style golden ale fermented with black raspberries and blueberries), 2009 & 2012 North Coast Old Stock Ale (English style old ale), 2012 Brooklyn Black Ops (barrel aged imperial stout spiked with champagne yeast), and Firestone Walker 14,15 and 16.

Their combination of a laid-back atmosphere and unique beers on draft will make for a memorable celebration. Reservations are a must and space is limited, so reserve your spot today! Reservations can be made over the phone or in person at the restaurant.
Julians, April 20th, 213 Broadway, Providence 401-861-1770

Not So Great Gatsby Asks, “What Does the Fox Say?”

Dear Nick,

horrorHow is your NCAA bracket holding up? With so many upsets, buzzer beaters and instant classics this year, it seems the rubbish bins from here to Burrillville are littered with the broken dreams of office pools dashed. I have our old friend Rick Pitino squaring off against Billy “The Kid” Donovan in the finals, because I am a fool for nostalgia, so I am still alive, but barely. Ed Cooley deserves all the praise he is getting plus some after going on the improbable run to the Big East Tournament and almost upsetting basketball royalty North Carolina in the second round. He’s put together a good team, he recruits well and coaches even better. He has restored “the basketball culture” at PC in less than three years. And it’s a lot of fun to watch.

Not as fun to watch is almost everything else going on around the state. The Speaker of the House, Gordon Fox, had every place he puts stuff raided last week by almost every government law enforcement unit. He resigned his position as speaker, and while we are not sure what all the raiding was about yet, it is certain they weren’t doing research to give him an award.

It’s disheartening because he is a guy who seemingly jumped out of the pages of a Horatio Alger story. Mixed race kid bullied by both blacks and whites in his neighborhood, drops out of school, but comes back to earn a law degree and works his way to power in the state house. Along the way he comes out to the general public by blurting out his sexual orientation while speaking about marriage equality, which he helped to pass, but not until an influential gay state senator was elected to help push the law through that body of congress.

There is a wonderful production of Macbeth playing now at The Gamm Theatre and one can’t help but draw parallels between the ambitious couple who struggled for power and what seems to happen every few years in the biggest little. Even before reporters could ask “What does the Fox say?,” state reps were crowding rooms on either side of the aisle (and by rooms I mean restaurants, and by aisle I mean Federal Hill) like the ambitious Scottish general plotting to fill the not-yet-warm seat.  Not to say that these lawmakers have bad intentions, but it seems to be a corrupt Hydra running this state, and as soon as one head is cut off, multiple others spring out to take its place.

And it seems like many of the stories are the same. Much like the Drake song, they started from the bottom and now they’re here. And when they began, their main focus was to make the state a better place. Maybe it still is; I cannot say for sure. Sure the Buddy Ciancis and then Gordon Foxes do make improvements to the status quo, but at what cost? For every positive like the Providence Place Mall or Gay Marriage bill, how many other positive game changers are dismissed because the right pockets didn’t get lined or palms weren’t greased? Politicians love to run on change and hope because it is an intangible positive feeling. By keeping the state in a quagmire, by keeping the status quo, they can run on change and hope in perpetuity.

Nick, I brought up Ed Cooley earlier, and it was for a reason. This state, like the PC basketball program, is small, with limited resources, and not a whole bunch of basketball players or businesses want to come here. At least it’s not their first choice. But coach Cooley came in with a plan. He is passionate about his program and is frank about its place and his intention to make it better. He thinks outside the box to get players to commit and once they are here he coaches them with the intention of making them better. And he leads with integrity, suspending players even though it meant he would be short handed for the season. And he turned it into a championship season.

Now I know politics isn’t basketball, but Rhode Island is small enough that a few great leaders with a handful of great ideas can turn this state around. Be pro-active about this. Call your state rep and ask them what their great ideas are. If they don’t have any, ask when you can call back to get an answer. If they give you any push back, ask them why they ran for office, and please report the results of your conversations to the editors here at Motif. These men and women should not be led by the cutthroat ambition of a Macbeth constantly trying to wash the stains of corruption off their guilty greased palms; they should be leaders who always have the best interest of our team in mind, trying to coach us up from last place (like in employment) to the championship.




Not So Great Gatsby: March Is the Cruelest Month … for Some

midtownDear Nick:

They say that March is the cruelest month.  They say it comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb.  They say beware the Ides of March. With the staggering snowfalls we’ve gotten this year, all the cold mad winter hatters still snuggled up hope March will get here. Whether you fall in the mad hatter or wishing March here camp, we all can agree that there is a lovely looking glass effect that affects us in a positive way when spring gets sprung.

March, for me, no longer is the month of toy soldiers or Julius Caesar thrice refusing the kingly crown. March is no longer about having my face match my shirt after drinking far too many green St. Paddy’s day beers. Although I am still advocating for a national holiday, March is no longer about the madness that ensues once the college hoopsters are selected to the tourney. For this Gatsby, March will always be the month I met my Daisy.

Nick, you know that most springs and summers I am out most nights, frolicking from event to event. To me, the Providence Preservation Society Bash is the bat signal that shines across the cold night of winter warning warmer weather to wake up and show herself. It is the first big fun party of the year where everyone gets out and shakes off the winter blues and dances the night away. The reasonable ticket price ($30 until March 7) makes it accessible to everyone, and a wonderfully diverse cross section of lords and ladies (but not that lady Lorde) mix and mingle. Last year, I came to the party ready to mingle, but left no longer wanting to be single.

Last year the theme was Second Chance Prom. I liked the theme, thinking it was something that folks found nostalgic, and those who had horrible high schools had their second chance. As accessible themes go, prom is a good one. Take it from this Gatsby, even I am growing tired of the roaring ’20s in the recession 2000s.  So, psyched for a fun night, I figured I would invite some of my closest Facebook friends to a prom pre-party. I invited everyone who clicked “yes” on the Facebook invitation page, bought a case of champagne and waited for the fun to unfurl.

But you remember me in those days, Nick. I was living the life of the carousing bachelor, and I was up toasting the dawn on the day of the event. By the time guests began rolling in, I was still nursing a hangover. With a bunch of friends and strangers in my house, I wanted to emulate my namesake and take in the party far from the festivities in the west wing. I was doing my best, when one of the guests noticed a trend. All of the guests were women. My pre-party was all women and me. While my friend Arnold Rothstein always taught me to stack the odds in my favor if I could, this was strictly happenstance. So there I stood, the lone dude in a room full of 15 dames. Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you, my friend, that it was a problem I was happy to suffer through.

My head still throbbing from the night/ morning prior, my rocks glass was filled with bourbon as the Sallies sipped champagne. A lovely lady in a tight dress and ponytail slid next to where I had propped myself against the kitchen counter.  Looking at my glass, she harkened for some harder hooch. I poured her a glass. I will never forget the first thing she said to me. I complimented her dress, and her retort made me laugh out loud. While I am shy to share what she said, I was immediately smitten. As the party time approaches, we all raised our glasses one last time to toast a great night and my good fortune to have such a harem.

I followed Daisy around the party like a lost puppy trying to find its way home. I thought I was cool, breezy, aloof, but I think she knew, especially when I offered to escort her to the restrooms, holding her drink and purse while she navigated the not quite completed commodes at the Providence G. I took a detour from doting long enough to dance, and laugh and sing all the words to “Scenario” by Tribe Called Quest, but always somehow found my way back to where Daisy had dropped her anchor. She was smart and funny with a wicked wit, and she was as beautiful as you imagine spring will be after a long cold winter. A year and many layers later, I can say that my first impressions still ring true. She is the love of my life, and I feel I owe a little bit to the second chance prom and the Providence Preservation Society for giving this confirmed bachelor a brand new life and someone wonderful to share it with.

I was never shy about asking for a woman’s number, but the night got away from me, and I never did get Daisy’s digits. As I sat back at home among the empty glasses and bottles, trying to devise a way to not-so-accidentally meet her again, my text message lit up. One of my friends had snapped a picture of Daisy and me and sent it. I never asked if she had ESP or if my intentions were that transparent, but instead responded, “Thank you for this picture.  I think Daisy is really great and would like to ask her out. Could you please forward her number?” Minutes that seemed like hours passed without a response, so I picked my phone back up staring at it, trying to command a reply with my mind. It was then that I noticed another, strange number CC’ed on the text message. It was Daisy. I don’t want to bore you with what happened next, but suffice to say it has worked out wonderfully.

If you’d like to meet your own Daisy, or Gatsby, the PPS Prom is on March 29 this year.  For tickets, click here: http://www.ppsri.org/events/view/95. If you make it, please come by and say hello. I certainly have a lot to celebrate, especially the first of hopefully many happy years with the love of my life. Until then, old sport.



An Alternate Reality in Reality A

realityABy Joshua Gannon-Salomon


It’s not often that one comes upon something great while it’s still in its infancy. But this past weekend, my girlfriend got the paws, claws and strength of a bear, our mutual friend Ben gained the ability to talk to anything with a power switch, and I got magickal powers. And all of this thanks to a relative newcomer to the world of tabletop gaming called Reality A.

Reality A is the brainchild of Herbie Hicks, a veteran gamer from Rhode Island, who started with basic Dungeons & Dragons at the tender age of 9. He invented the game one night in 1999 as an on-the-spot alternative to the usual tabletop games for his gaming buddies. He liked the idea of a world where magick and                                              psychic powers existed side-by-side, two concepts that he had not found fleshed out to his satisfaction in other role playing games. The original campaign was a hit with first his friends, running for a year and earning him his first die-hard fans. Encouraged, Herbie wrote up the rules, and today the first edition of his Reality A handbook has sold out after its debut at NecronomiCon in October, and Reality A Games is a growing small business.

The game begins with a series of odd events beginning around the year 2000 and culminating in a red mist engulfing the planet. The mist sends most of the population into a deep sleep, after which they wake up with extraordinary powers. Some are Altered, changed into part human, part animal chimeras; others become psychic; still others gain unnatural affinities for technology or the power to cast spells. The GM (game master) decides which characters are affected in which ways, using what they know about the person in our so-called ‘real world.’ After that, the players have free reign to discover their characters’ powers and the limitations that come with them.

I played the game with my friend Ben and my girlfriend Kelley, and our friend Fox is our GM. After we were swallowed by the enigmatic Red Mist, Ben became a techno, a person psychically linked with — and obsessed by — technology; Kelley became an Altered — in her case, part bear; and I became a mage, a user of magick, though I did not know any ‘spells’ at the outset. We escaped a gun-wielding NPC (non-player character) known only as The Collector, and learned more about ourselves at a campground full of similarly changed people. After Ben nearly got the place shut down because of semi-illegal Internet shenanigans and Kelley nearly killed a part-wolf Altered in a friendly sparring match, I began to experiment with magick. We then encountered a hooded being of great power who fed vampirically on others, and failed miserably attempting to fight him off, getting beaten quite badly in the process. Of course, this only made the three of us hungrier for more, and we have since been badgering Fox for the next gaming session — our next visit to that strange, yet familiar world. To quote Ben’s oft-repeated query to our beleaguered GM, “When can I throw fireballs again?!”

Technically speaking, Reality A is interesting because instead of a system based on the d20 (twenty-sided die) of Dungeons and Dragons and innumerable other role playing games, Reality A uses percentage dice and a simple chart to determine the degree of success or failure of a character’s actions. Damage and healing are all based on d6s (six-sided square dice), and a powerful character like Kelley’s bear-Altered can roll an astonishing number of them for one strike. Herbie puts it this way: “In Dungeons and Dragons, combat is part of the wonder of it all, In Reality A, combat is kinda deadly.” Psychic powers and magick are fueled by Karma, which can be positive or negative, and accrues according to your in-game actions, though certain GMs are not above a little harmless bribery (massages and food are good places to start). You can also invest Karma in improving your character’s statistics and skills. Furthermore, players’ powers are affiliated with one of the four elements, which predispose their characters toward different kinds of magick or psychic abilities. The user-friendly gameplay is refreshing, a snap to learn, and may prove to be an advantage when dealing with first-time tabletop role-players, aka n00bs.

Since I basically play myself in the game, the experience has been one of self-discovery, and though Herbie has guidelines to fit just about any character you could wish to create, I recommend playing this way above all. You find out how you would react to a world suddenly full of magick and exponentially advancing technology, and the portrait that comes out is like the image in a magic mirror — it’s you only more so. Similarly, it is extremely interesting to see what others do in the situations we find in the game, and you get a distorted but oddly truthful view of your friends. For example, I knew that Ben had an aptitude for technology and an appetite for destruction, and that Kelley feels extremely protective of her friends, but the world of the game allows us each to live those feelings to an epic extent. That kind of situation, used correctly, is always dramatic and often cathartic. It is for this reason that Kelley wisely advises new players thus: “Don’t try to make your character an ideal you. Make it yourself and just watch what happens when you give into the game heart and soul.”

What’s next for Reality A? Herbie is currently editing the next edition of the rule book, doing everything from fine-tuning the game rules to revising the illustrations — in his own words, “making it worthy to be out there with the greats.” He is also looking for some help updating the company website. For those of you for whom tabletop role playing games are too tame, I can also substantiate the rumors that Reality A is working on a live action version of the game. Herbie confirms that he is working on the rules for a Reality A LARP, has found a suitable indoor space for an inaugural game, and he is looking into finding space for an outdoor game as well.

Needless to say, my friends and I highly recommend the game, and we are far from alone. There are currently Reality A games running throughout New England, Florida, Ohio, and up to Quebec. Herbie himself will be going to TempleCon in February to run games there, and hopefully Origins in Ohio, and MegaCon in Florida to spread the word still farther. To find a game in your area or to learn more, visit facebook.com/realityagames or Reality-A-games.com/

Motif TV : Top things to do this weekend

The Not So Great Gatsby Is Thankful … and Not So Thankful

snowAll the many tidings of the season to you and yours! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and gobbled up your share of turkey. 2013 was such a great year for me personally. I had so many new and strange and wonderful experiences that is was nice to spend a couple days reflecting on how fortunate I am. There is a saying, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” So, I’ve been lucky a lot lately, but I’m working harder than ever. And I love every minute of it.

At Thanksgiving dinner we go around the table, and we each say what we are thankful for, but we also get to name something for which we are not thankful. What made you feel grateful this year? What made you cringe? Something I am thankful for is Rhode Island passing the marriage equality law. It’s really difficult to be progressive and yet simultaneously ass backwards policywise, but somehow little Rhody pulls it off. I am thankful they got this one right only about 13 years after Vermont.

I am thankful that Rhode Island kept its stores closed on Thanksgiving. Only in America can we follow up a day where we give thanks for the things we have by trampling over folks to buy something we really don’t need. I am glad that the shadow of Black Friday didn’t encroach on us eating until we pass out on the couch in front of a football game, the way God intended.

I am thankful for the incredible farm to table movement in this state. By acting locally and buying from area farmers, you know who grew your food, and under what conditions. Remember last week how it was 16 degrees one day and 60 degrees the next? Well, these folks have to grow vegetables and livestock in that weather. Want to know more about how free your free range chickens are? Head up to the farm and take a look. Think the Perdue people would let you do that? Besides being better for the environment and local economy, groups like Trace and Trust and Farm Fresh RI have made it pretty easy to get the food onto your table. And the farmers market on Saturday morning is a great way to start your weekend, and much more fun than pushing a cart under florescent lights with the rest of the zombies. Don’t feel like cooking? You can find local ingredients all over town from Nick’s on Broadway (you should follow Chef Derek Wagner on Instagram immediately) to Farmstead to Cook and Brown.

Something I am less than thankful for this year is the political power grab in the state. There was a time, not long ago, that our youngster aren’t old enough to remember, when politicians ran for office to serve the people of that city or state. If elected, they told you what they were going to try to improve, and they usually at least made an honest attempt.  Then, if successful, their constituents urged that person to run for higher office. The politician had a track record and had earned the trust and, dare I say, admiration of the people he or she served. I guess what I am saying is that I wished that someone in this state would take a stand against the status quo and accomplish something before attempting to run for a higher position. Leave an office better than how you found it. Rhode Island has one-eighth the number of people of New York City. Connecticut has three and a half times as many people. It’s difficult for me to accept that a state with our resources and potential can’t get things turned around unless there is something fundamentally wrong with the leadership. I hope to add this to the thankful list in the coming years, but something will have to change drastically.

No matter our station in life or how low we get, there is something amazing about the human spirit that allows us to be grateful for how good we have it. Things could always be worse, and while it is sometimes difficult to see when you are staring right at it, being grateful gives you perspective, and from perspective it is easier to have some hope that things can and will get better. During the holidays, make sure you tell the special people in your life how much you care for them, and look out for those who may not have anyone else. By performing a random act of kindness, you may be surprised who ends up the grateful one. Happy holidays, Old Sport.