While the business community didn’t quite return to business as usual in 2022, the weirdness was back in full force — especially if you knew where to look. So light up a large jar of White Tea, grab an Oreo Blizzard or some Archer Roose Sauvignon Blanc, and relax. But if you’re planning to read this on the Orange Line, be sure to pack some proper rations first.
Winning that dream vacation
Marshfield resident Catherine Graham can cross this off her bucket list: winning on “The Price is Right.” But the tropical vacation will have to wait. Graham correctly guessed the right price for an all-expenses paid trip to ... sunny Concord, N.H. So much for Hawaii, or the cruise around the world. Instead, this good sport got to pack her bags for a drive up I-93.
Forget about snakes on a plane
Things sure got wacky at winemaker Archer Roose when Elizabeth Banks showed up. In a video by Boston-based ad agency Colossus, Banks introduces an unusual rewards program. “For every 100,000 cases of wine, you’ll be a sent ... a live snake of our choosing,” Banks deadpans, while a serpent slithers in her hands. Just days later, Archer Roose replaced the giveaway with a “reptile-free” loyalty program, citing state and federal regulations. “We apologize for the inconvenience,” Banks said, sporting another straight face. “And also for the snakes.”
A walk in a Jurassic Park
A Ginkgo Bioworks executive once described one of its products as “Jurassic Park, but for perfume.” However, even knowing the synthetic biology company’s penchant for long-extinct creatures, the final slide of its investor presentation in March stood out. “Let’s build the world we want to see,” Ginkgo tells Wall Street. Who can argue with that slogan? The illustration is another story: a futuristic landscape in which people frolic alongside hadrosaurs and giant dragonflies. The scientists in that Michael Crichton novel had a similar motto. Things didn’t quite go so well for them.
Getting frosted over a blizzard
Forget about Staples or Office Depot. W.B. Mason’s latest business battle involved revenge, served soft. Lawyers for Dairy Queen insisted that the Blizzard bottled beverage that the Brockton business was peddling would befuddle buyers, who might confuse it with DQ’s similarly named treats. A judge in Minnesota put the freeze on DQ, rejecting its trademark infringement claims. No word on whether W.B.’s lawyers at Nixon Peabody hit the nearest DQ to celebrate.
Feel the pain of puzzle-solving
Middle-aged rock stars often find side hustles or second careers, like boxing promotion or real estate. But no one from the 1990s alt-rock heyday could have predicted this turn for Dinosaur Jr legend J Mascis: jigsaw puzzles. At least the Amherst resident’s Puzzle Heads subscription service is music-adjacent. Expect a different puzzle each month, carved from iconic album covers, starting with David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.”
New meaning for fast food
How do you top making a 46-pound chicken nugget (the largest ever)? If you’re local chef Nick DiGiovanni, you hit Manhattan with collaborator Lynn “Lynja” Davis and a judge from Guinness World Records to set a new record for hitting up the most fast-food joints in 24 hours. After working through McGriddles, Subway footlongs and Panera mac-and-cheese over an eight-mile obstacle course, they made it to 69 eateries, with plenty of discoveries along the way. “Apparently they serve alcoholic drinks at Taco Bell?,” Lynja tells the camera, before handing a stranger a breakfast burrito. And DiGiovanni finally learned how to pronounce “Pret-A-Manger” — along with the rest of us.
A constant battle
The MBTA sure did endure a cruel summer. A Red Line train rolls out of a railyard in Braintree. A bus spontaneously combusts in JP. A neighbor fetches a ladder to help commuters evacuate a train in Allston. But no incident captured the chaos quite like the Orange Line catching fire on a bridge over the Mystic River, with one frustrated rider jumping into the drink to get on with her day. So the genius behind “Civil War MBTA,” data analyst Brian Estabrook, briefly revived that Twitter account, offering new dispatches with 1860s-era lingo and artwork. Sample tweet: “I write to implore you to avoid the roads, for our wagon trains will paralyze the city. I fear we have not seen a disaster of this magnitude since Fredericksburg.”
Sweet smell of success
Yankee Candle founder Michael Kittredge turned a gift made from melted crayons into a wax empire. But look what he did with the three-bedroom colonial he bought decades ago in Leverett. By the time Kittredge died in 2019, it had morphed into a 60-acre estate with bowling alleys, a two-story arcade, and an indoor tennis court that doubles as a private concert venue for the likes of Hall & Oates and the Doobie Brothers. And don’t forget the indoor water park with palm trees and rock caves. “It’s too big for one person,” son Mick Kittredge told CNBC, explaining last month why the family put it on the market for $23 million. “You try vacuuming 120,000 square feet.”
Down with the ship
Remember that British ship-naming contest that went viral a few years back? Well, the Steamship Authority was flooded with submissions during a similar poll to name its newest ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. References to “Jaws” were rejected, as were “Ferry McFerryface” and its iterations. The authority ended up playing it safe, selecting “Aquinnah” and “Monomoy” even though the latter was essentially as popular as “Ferry McFerryface” and easily outvoted by “Boaty McBoatface” (a name ultimately embraced by the UK’s National Oceanography Centre).
Seal of approval
Want to get people back in the office? Maybe find a cute mascot to draw the crowds. A 230-pound grey seal, dubbed “Shoebert,” swam up a culvert to take up residence in a pond at the Cummings Center office park in Beverly. After two weeks of entertaining spectators, Shoebert waddled to the nearby police station and turned himself in. He was escorted to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut for care before being released back into the Atlantic. The peripatetic pinniped inspired two children’s books, including one with photos by Pulitzer Prize winner Stanley Forman. Now, Shoebert just needs a Netflix miniseries, maybe with an Elton John theme song.
Don’t wanna live forever
Methuen coffin maker Titan Casket became an unlikely outfitter for a pop superstar after one of its caskets played a pivotal role in a Taylor Swift video. An Instagram account followed by 100,000-plus Swifties posted the company’s name, and the news was everywhere. Unsurprisingly, cofounder Joshua Siegel did not see a commensurate sales boom. But there’s no bad blood. “You either need a casket or you don’t,” Siegel told Slate. “The audience is a younger audience, and so for us it’s a very long purchase cycle.”
What tenebrous horror is this, emerging from the ineffable darkness? The 700-pound abomination of a statue known as Lobsta Mickey had seemingly vanished into the ether, enduring only in Atlas Obscura, and our nightmares. This smiling mouse with lobster claws was thought to be lost to the ages. But then this statue suddenly reappeared, perhaps hearkening the return of Great Cthulhu among the ancient brownstones of Newbury Street, leaving mere mortals gibbering in its wake. Did this rodent revenant cross a stygian void to haunt us yet again? No, fair readers, you can thank the creative director at the Concepts sneaker store and the eldritch magic of eBay for summoning this daemon of the deep from the foetid hinterlands of New Jersey.
We’ll never be royals
Bostonians didn’t overthrow British tyranny three centuries ago just to be cut off from Market Basket bargains. So said a Somerville-themed Reddit group after news broke that Prince William and Princess Catherine would visit climate-tech incubator Greentown Labs, next door to the supermarket just outside Union Square, during their swing through the area. One person wrote: “Bad day to go to Market Basket. I bet the traffic will be terrible.” The first response? “And that Market Basket is crazy to begin with.” At least the royal entourage didn’t cut off the Dunkin’ coffee supply.
Jenga for giants
Boston University’s new center for computing and data sciences also happens to be city’s biggest geothermal-heated building. What remains a mystery is why it looks like a zigzagging tower of teetering blocks, looming over Storrow Drive. Maybe the designers at KPMB Architects were inspired by a pile of books or hard drives. Just don’t call it the Jenga Building: When BU president Bob Brown heard from a Globe scribe that he’s trying to make the Jenga thing stick, Brown quickly shot that down: “I like ‘Stack of Books’ better than a ‘Jenga Tower.’”
Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.