The first time I met Sally I was a 4-and-a-half-year-old immigrant who did not speak English. She was my babysitter and despite my origin, she was always persistent and demanding because she only wanted the best from me. Usually when she is babysitting she is the most unique person out of the crowd, even though she is swarmed by kids, dogs, teenagers and babies. She has dark sandy hair, multicolored clothes, zany glasses, different colored stockings usually matched with strange wooly socks and finally a nice pair of clogs. Her personality is so unique that even she makes fun of herself, thus her many nicknames, such as the Wicked Witch of the West, from the Wizard of Oz or Barbie.
This unique lifestyle she holds is full of humor, strictness and also something easy to love. She is charismatic and alongside her regular jobs as a fundraiser, caterer and neighborhood babysitter she is also a teacher and a very good one at that. She taught me a lot, like how to spell and use grammar, proper mannerisms, and the power of good old negotiation. In total, Sally was the real deal. Her motto is, “You can always wear a suit and tie but you’re never fully dressed without a smile!”
A story that I find funny with Sally happened when I was little, maybe seven or eight. It was after wine time, meaning she had already had her glass of dark red wine, and she was relaxed but that not sedated.
I was sitting down waiting for the food to be ready. Sally and I were talking about trains. When I was talking I hadn’t realized that my elbows were on the table and also didn’t know that it was rude.
She told me once sternly, “Daniel, don’t put your elbows on my table.” 
I thought it was funny and did it again and again, thinking no disciplinary action was going to happen. Who disciplines people for putting their elbows on the table in the 21st century? All I can tell you is that Sally does.
She told me, “If you do that again, I will throw your food out the window.” 
I laughed and did it again thinking little of it.Then almost like the north wind with the gust of her hand, she grabbed the plate, opened the window and threw the plate out, almost like she had done this to kids many times. 
Then she defiantly said, “And you thought Sally was playing.” 
To me it was a catastrophe because who is crazy enough to do this? What happens if the plate hit someone? That is just what I asked.  
Unexpectedly, she said comically, “Then my mission is accomplished. You learned not to put your elbows on the table and the person outside who got hit knows not to cross in front of Sally’s house again.” 
If you go outside in the North End and you ask someone who has grown up there, there is a high chance that they know Sally. Looking at how locals treat her is like watching how people treat grasshopper in “A Bugs Life.” She does eccentric things a lot and everyone turns their heads because no one doubts the ways of the good old Witch of the West.
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Do you remember your first encounter with a homeless person? For those who are not among the 100 million Americans living near or below the poverty line, it was likely an upsetting and discomforting moment. The hallmark cardboard sign probably had a tragic story scrawled on it, telling of the other mouths to feed, the strike of a disaster that started it all, or the hunger that has pushed them to begging. A coffee cup, maybe, placed before them, waiting in vain to be filled with the offerings of strangers. All of these things are likely to have been there, but to push that jab of pity out of your mind, you probably turned away uncomfortably and refocused your attention on more pleasant matters as you walked away. 
Human beings are inherently sympathetic, and for those not accustomed to witnessing such reduced circumstances of life, seeing that kind of suffering first hand can be jarring. A form of immediate relief from this discomfort lies within the empty cup in front of you, an easy and accessible outlet for your sympathies. Yet somehow, it is rarely striking enough to make someone crack open their wallet. Despite the obvious course of action, most will inevitably hurry away with a guilty weight in their stomach. Why? Perhaps, these people actually sparing a moment to engage in kindness is an admission and acknowledgment that their suffering is real and that it exists in our society today.
Recently, I’ve found myself thinking about the terrible hardship faced by a great number of our population, and how overlooked their plights have become. Among the wide array of hot topics in today’s national debate, caring for the poor and bringing them out of poverty is almost never discussed; the greatest number of American citizens is the middle class, and so that is where politicians focus. But their priority should not just be the rich and the middle class. It should be every American and every major difficult they face: majority, or minority. 
There are perceptions that America does not face extreme poverty, and in many ways, that does feel true. According to the New York Times, numbers show that the poorest 5 percent of Americans are still richer than 68 percent of the world’s population. Additionally, only 15 percent of American citizens live below our government’s defined poverty line. And, we already have plenty of systems in place to help the poor, right? Plus, if the poor really wanted to, surely they would lift themselves out of poverty. 
After taking many of these statistics and popular views into account, many of my worries were soothed. Maybe this wasn’t as big a problem as I’d thought; maybe, this isn’t even a big enough issue to actually write about. But then, I dug a little deeper. The situation for our nation’s poor is more complex than people see, more important than the data above had me believe, and contrary to many of the callous perceptions held toward the poor—this is still an issue that required my attention, and everyone else’s. 
True: knowing that America’s poorest 5 percent is still well-off relative to the rest of the world makes poverty feel like less of a problem, but those numbers do not mean the poor should not be a priority. According to the UN, 18 million Americans are living in extreme poverty, and regardless of the rest of the world’s status, that is still an issue. A 15 percent rate of poverty seems like a small number, except that 15 percent means 49 million people. 
Government benefits can help, but there are other programs and systems in place which counteract these by making the poor even poorer, an article for the Heritage Foundation explains. Though surveys show that half of “non poor” Americans believe poverty is at the fault of the poor themselves for not doing enough, there is much to suggest this is simply not true. The cruel belief that being poor in money results from being poor in character still exists, and I have always found it horrifying to hear about. The poor should not be held responsible for the extreme circumstances they live in.
Let’s talk about why this is wrong. First, there is a glaring discrepancy to be accounted for in the demographics of the poor. While 76 percent of America is white, white people make up only 12.3 percent of the poor. What could explain this? Possibly the well-known cycle of oppression, discrimination and lack of opportunities offered to people of color in this country? Dating back to slavery, the government has implemented programs that institutionalized racism and helped promote prejudices against people of color, like the war on drugs. Consequently, the government's actions have created an adverse reality for people of color. Most people aren’t poor for lack of trying. Many are poor, and remain poor in part because they’ve had the odds stacked against them since the moment they were born without pale skin.
It can be unpleasant to talk about this kind of suffering: suffering that cannot be pinned on one single person, suffering that is real and widespread. But, we cannot let the grim circumstances of the impoverished allow them to be ignored altogether. In the eyes of many on the street, the homeless are nothing more than part of the background. But when it comes to the national debate, political battleground, or the concerns of our government, they should not, and can not be a part of the background. If we are to remain faithful to our most fundamental values as a nation, then we ensure all Americans are prioritized and cared for. Although indifference to the poor is widespread and easy to exercise-- don’t. Ignorance is indeed bliss, but not for the ones depending on you to hear them.
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Michelle Wu
I was escorted by City Councilor Michelle Wu’s media manager, Cassie, to a hallway surrounded by offices. There, Wu showed me to a somewhat large room, pushed a chair out from one of the rows, and sat down across from me. I could clearly tell she was very down to earth, as she sat by me like we were two friends talking. And it really felt that way.
Wu has been an active city councilor for six years now. She is from Chicago, Illinois where her parents owned a small business. From there, she journeyed to Boston for college, where she attended Harvard Law School (and, fun fact, was a former student of Sen. Elizabeth Warren). In 2012, she was elected to city council, and as of 2016, is the president of the council.
However, she didn’t really have much of a relationship with public speaking before then. “I’m not naturally very outgoing or loud and never met anyone in politics. I think a lot of what I work on now, it just comes from the sense that I want to help you.”
As for Wu’s road to success, the journey was not easy. From her mother battling mental illness to having to raise her siblings to working at the family business, her life was constantly in motion. But, defying all odds, she graduated as valedictorian from Barrington High School, which led her to Harvard Law School and in the long run her election to the council. 
Wu has proven countless times that she regards community engagement highly. “It's the most important part of being a counselor and trying to make a change,” she says. “What I have learned over my time in government is that you can write laws that change the policies on the books. But unless you're connecting with communities on those issues and empowering people to advocate and then implement the solution, you're not actually changing much.”
As important as it is, community engagement is only the beginning of Wu’s struggles when it comes to Boston’s problems. Currently, Wu is working on getting people active in the Boston Community, such as protesting the new MBTA prices.
“[R]ight now, the traffic is so bad around Boston almost any time of day, any day of the week, that we should be trying to get as many cars off the road and people onto the T as possible.” 
Going back to community engagement, she explains, “we are trying to engage riders. Let people know they can have a voice it's not hopeless and here is very specific things that you can ask for.” 
Her focus on Boston’s problems span far past the MBTA. “I focus on three big issues: income inequality, racial disparities and climate change.” She assures me that the way to solve this problem is yet again the engagement with the affected community. 
“The way to fix all of those three is what we were just talking about; getting people involved to implement the changes that they are already making in their part of the city,” she explains. “[A]lso certain communities in Boston have a much harder time getting to where they need to go, and often the neighborhoods are of the working class and color.”
Once we finished up, she led me out where a man was waiting for her. After we said our goodbyes, she left with him to possibly and probably engage more people in their communities. Although most of Wu’s current and public political standings were presented in our interview, there is much more to her than what met this interview’s eyes. With a promising future in politics and supporting base that is only growing, more and more Bostonians are becoming confident in her capabilities as a city councilor. 
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Percy Jackson Musical ‘The Lightning Thief’ Electrifies Audiences
Chris McCarell as Percy Jackson in "The Lightning Thief" on January 3. / Jeremy Daniel for The Huntington Theatre
Have you ever expected absolutely nothing, then not only be pleasantly surprised but almost immediately enthralled by a theater performance? Well, that feeling and I got pleasantly acquainted Thursday night at the Huntington Theatre during “The Lightning Thief”. 
 For those who haven't read the fantastic Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series, “The Lightning Thief” is about outcast Percy Jackson, a demigod living in New York, and his quest to retrieve Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt from the depths of the Underworld. A pretty tame story as far as Greek mythology goes, but enthralling nonetheless. Along his journey, we’re introduced to a pantheon of characters from  Grover, Percy’s goat-man best friend, to Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena and brain of the group. Together the unlikely trio is pitted against a “greatest hits” of Greek gods, monsters and titans.
 My biggest concern as both a closeted musical fan and a diehard fan of the Percy Jackson books was the translation from page to stage. How would they handle the fights? The witty dialogue? The very literal presence of gods and monsters? My fears were quickly diminished by the obvious thought and care that was put into this production.  As a musical, “The Lightning Thief” is a rare example of an adaptation that is arguably better than the source material. In particular, the music stood out as entertaining and catchy. A particular favorite was Mr. D’s hilariously negative, “Another Terrible Day,” in which he gives much-needed exposition about the world the play inhabits by describing just how much he hates his life. 

The entire cast's performances deserve commendation, especially Ryan Knowles’ performance as a variety of characters including a centaur.  Through his commanding stage presence and high-energy delivery, his performance made this cynic “LOL” a multitude of times.  The ensemble also deserves recognition, providing no small amount of laughs to an already humorous show along with providing a sense of atmosphere to the definite benefit to the performance overall.
All in all, despite a hit or miss situation, “The Lightning Thief” rarely seemed to miss, with a campy and self-aware, yet heartfelt tone throughout the 110-minute show.  It is not going to change your life, but it's also not going to sour the reputation of a Gen-Z classic, in fact, it may even make you wanna take another crack at the source material. While it still seems utterly bizarre, this is the crossover that gets it right and it’s without a doubt a fantastic way to spend a summer night. 
The Lightning Thief will be ‘bringing the thunder’ to The Huntington Theatre (264 Huntington Avenue) from July 17-28. Tickets start at $30.

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La Taqueria on Facebook
Visit: The Norman Leventhal Map Center
Although it’s only a single room, the Norman Leventhal Map Center, nestled in the Boston Public Library, squeezes in masterfully curated rotating exhibits. The information is presented in an accessible and engaging way, and there are small nooks with fun activities for children and adults alike. Previous exhibits have centered around maps as art and the history of Boston, while the one currently running is about westward expansion. Whether you consider yourself a map connoisseur or are just looking for a fun, quick, and free (!) activity, this is the place for you if you enjoy art, history, good museums, or just want to learn something new.
700 Boylston St., Boston.
MBTA: Green line at Copley

Eat: Double Chin
Double Chin, located in Chinatown, is a Chinese restaurant with a sweet and relaxed aesthetic that will welcome you and your friends in for a good treat. Muted colors, pretty lights and even a porch swing make for a cozy setting reminiscent of a 2014 Tumblr bedroom. If you go with a few people, I recommend ordering an entree each, and sharing them among your friends. The crispy noodles with pork is a highlight—the balance of peanut oil, vegetables, and pork will have you munching until there’s nothing left on your plate.
86 Harrison Ave., Boston.
MBTA: Orange line at Chinatown

Eat: La Taqueria
In Hyde Park, La Taqueria is a small but colorful Mexican restaurant that you will find yourself entranced by. The atmosphere is set with appropriate songs in Spanish and stunning murals that make you feel like you’re on the set of the popular joint all the friends go to eat at after school in a Disney sitcom. If there is anything I am a snob about, it is black beans (the best ones explode with flavor in your mouth with garlic-y hints and a pure bean taste), and La Taqueria satisfied my expectations and my stomach (but don’t get it wrong, nothing can top the black beans mi abuela would make). The chewy and smokey steak fajita fill you right up, and the street corn was my personal favorite, with mouthwatering the chipotle sauce and butter pairing beautifully with the grilled cob.
636 Hyde Park Ave., Boston. 
MBTA: 32 bus and others

Drink: TeaDo
Sitting in view of one of Chinatown’s iconic gates, TeaDo offers appetizers, desserts and, of course, boba tea. TeaDo also has several board games including Jenga and Connect Four, so that you and a friend can enjoy some friendly competition as you sip on one of their specialty teas and munch some onigiri. Make sure to come back soon so you can try their dumplings, puddings and variety of milk, black and green teas.
8 Tyler St, Boston.
MBTA: Orange line at Chinatown

Play: Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
Were you sitting in the theater watching Avengers: Endgame thinking, “Dang! How cool would it be if Miles Morales, Deadpool or Ms. Marvel were the ones punking Thanos?” Luckily, reality can now be whatever YOU want it to be with Marvel's Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. The third installment of the classic UA series will allow you to assemble your own team in a race to collect all the Infinity Stones before the mad Titan, Thanos, and his nefarious Black Order can get their hands on them.
Available for Nintendo Switch July 19.

Watch: Spider-Man: Far From Home
(to the tune of the 60’s Spider-Man theme)
Spider-Man, Spider-Man,
He’s in Europe, Spider-Man. 
That guy’s a wizard; he can fly. 
Nick Fury still, has just one eye. 
Look out for “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
“Spider-Man: Far From Home,” starring Tom Holland, Zendaya and Jake Gyllenhaal, premieres July 2. 


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