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Geek Love

Author Ethan Gilsdorf on Boston for smart people

ethanPhoto: Meg Birnbaum


poet, teacher, critic, journalist, and self-proclaimed geek, Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, which National Public Radio described as Lord of the Rings meets On the Road. Lord of the Rings is a big part of Gilsdorf’s life, and with the LOTR universe being so huge (you can read the LOTR Wiki here to catch up), there’s no shortage of new content to explore.
Not coincidentally, Gilsdorf, who lives in Somerville, watches the extended edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy at least once a year. He also writes the blog “Geek Pride” for PsychologyToday.com, and covers travel, pop culture, and the arts for the New York Times and other outlets.


The Lizard Lounge Poetry Jam. Every Sunday night, sax master Jeff Robinson and his funky-jazzy trio (including bassist Blake Newman and former Morphine drummer Jerome Deupree) groove with poets in the subterranean Lizard Lounge over above-average food from Cambridge Common upstairs.


Porter Square Books. One of two great bookstores in town. (No, not you, B&N, are you kidding?). Who woulda thunk such a well-stocked store with a smart staff, killer café, and jaw-dropping reading series (David Sedaris? Marilynne Robinson?) would be stuck in the middle of a shopping plaza?


The MIT Museum. MIT has a museum? Yep. There are rotating exhibits on robotics, rocket science, DNA research, holograms, kinetic sculpture, and the school’s super-sick, brain-boggling research, plus a geeky gift shop. After your visit, stop in at the Middlesex Lounge and Miracle of Science nearby.


The Brattle Theatre. Check out an old film-say Panic in the Streets or Evil Dead 2-and sip a beer (hell, yes!) with your popcorn.


Santarpio’s. Take the first exit after the Callahan Tunnel on the way to Logan. Welcome to East Boston’s pizza paradise, old school. No-frills service, thin pies, and, oddly and wonderfully, skewers of charcoal-grilled lamb and sausage. The most exotic brew on the beer menu is Heineken.


Pandemonium Books and Games. Central Square’s Mecca for all your geeky needs: dice, miniature fantasy figurines, Diet Coke. Plus it hosts game nights (D&D and its derivatives) in, yes, the basement.


Formaggio Kitchen/South End Formaggio. Breads, pastas, chocolates, and other gourmet goodies. Crave a $43 bottle of Chateau d’Estoublon olive oil? They got that. Most impressive are the cured meats and cheeses, some of them exclusives found nowhere else in America. Take that, New Yawk.


Ball Square Fine Wines. The staff of this Somerville corner booze outlet has always been super helpful to the libation illiterate like me. Stop by for weekly tastings and other last-minute party needs like back-breaking bags of ice.


True Grounds. Also tucked in the up-and-coming Ball Square (p.s., there’s no square there, in Ball Square) you’ll find this humble coffee shop, home to Tufts students, writers, tattooed baristas, and the cool, community-minded proprietors Amy and Rhett. Their espresso drinks get my brain going.


Walden Pond. So everyone knows about Thoreau’s little slice of watery sanctuary. But it’s still worth fighting the crowds. The trail around the pond helps unspool your urban neuroses.


The Druid. This wee little Irish pub in Inman Square has the best fish sandwich in town, a burger that’s among the top five, and a well-picked selection of draught beer. It’s hot and crowded, especially on Wednesday trivia nights, and a popular date spot.


Tisch Library, Tufts University. From the Tisch Library roof is a killer view of the Boston skyline, with its tall, pointy reminders that we live in not just a constellation of three-story, human-scaled, residential neighborhoods, but an actual city. In other words, that Boston is my home.