Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Smells of a City

I've been commuting to and from work via bicycle for nearly a year now. Surprisingly, the weather permits most days, excluding the coldest days in January and February and the hottest in July. I get to work faster but things go a little slower. Slow enough that my nose is taken on a journey of smells through Somerville, Cambridge, Boston, and finally Brookline. It's mostly Cambridge that smells. There's garbage day, which is a bad scene. Then the day everything smelled like old fish. Whenever a diesel truck passes me, I'm brought back to Thailand. Something about the humidity level and that gust of pollution that takes me there. For several weeks in June, everything smelled like jasmine. One brilliant day a few weeks ago when I turned on to Massachusetts Avenue I smelled something sweet like marshmallows or doughnuts and then one block later it changed to vinegar. And not just any vinegar, distilled white vinegar, something used to clean things. Then as I was crossing over from Cambridge to Somerville, I could smell chocolate. The Taza Chocolate factory is a couple blocks away and I could smell them making their delicious Mexican chocolate. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Library Is Open

Something monumental happened today--I got a library card. Boy it's been a few years since I've checked out books from a library, but they're pretty conveniently located in Boston and Somerville. The Brookline Library Main Branch is just a block or two from from my office. It's in an old marble building with archways and a dark, wood reading room an approachable amount of shelves. Nothing too intimidating--except maybe the unsmiling, balding lady who signed me up. (How does one deal with lady-balding? That would be a challenge.) I picked out two memoirs, hoping for some creative inspiration. One is a memoir by Grace Coddington, the creative director at Vogue, and the other is by a coworker who I don't talk to. It's Molly Birnbaum's Season to Taste about losing her sense of smell. It's funny how weird I feel about reading her blog and her book. Clearly, they're public and for sale, but she does work in my building (though not in my department). I feel like a freshman in high school, spying on a cool upper classman. I'm sure she has no idea who I am. But I like her. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Herbal Tincture

I'm off coffee again after nearly a year of good behavior. In its stead, I've been sipping various spiced teas (decaf chai, this kava tea that knocks me out and burned the entire inside of my mouth today). But the best replacement I've come up with yet is a home remedy: just a few slices off a knobby thumb of ginger and mint leaves all smashed up a bit in my mug. With a healthy shot of honey (for my aching throat), it's a soothing herbal remedy. I like to call it my tincture--even though I don't know what that word means and upon looking it up am only half right (it is herbal; it is not alcoholic). 

It's a gloomy, rainy day in Somerville, which means it's just right for a cup of tea. I'm feeling a bit glum myself after another little breakup. Little ones--I have a pile of them by now. But this one was nice while it lasted. I often think my life will be a string of these short-lived and all-encompassing relationships followed by a recovery period. I don't feel it defines me, so I don't mind it. Sometimes lonesome days are just what the doctor ordered--so to speak

I ran across this article today by a coworker who I actually haven't ever talked to; it stood out to me. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Be Like Bey

I don't know about anyone else, but I found last week's Super Bowl performance by Beyonce to be empowering. At first, I wanted this show-stopping thing where Jay-Z pops out, followed by Stevie Nicks (actually Stevie Nicks would have been amazing), and then Michael Jackson makes a surprise zombie appearance. So my immediate reaction was to be disappointed by just plain ol' Beyonce.

But about 30 seconds into the performance it became very clear that there were no men whatsoever on the stage. No male musicians spewing fire from their penises, oh I mean guitars, no male dancers, no male singers. And you know what, it was kind of awesome.

Now let's get to the outfit. I heard someone at work (a male) make a comment about the tight, leather, skimpy outfit she wore. I'm sure there are bazillion supporters of that position online, and I'm sure many of them have valid arguments about role models and how to show off your body in a modest way. All arguments I've heard and participated in way back when I went to conservative churches. Today, I could not disagree more. I thought her little jumpsuit was fabulous. To me, the message was that women can be powerful and sexy. It's something I have a hard time with. Obviously, I will not be wearing a leather catsuit to my office. That said, I'm getting a little sick of everybody throwing around words like "slut," "bitch," etc etc first of all as if those are bad things and second of all as if those are bad things applying only to women. There has to be room in the world for women to be sexy and for men to be sexy and still be smart, capable, powerful and silly even. I think it's a little scary. I'm a little scared frankly. I'm scared to have people think I'm not intelligent or creative or interesting because what I'm wearing distracts from it. But I know who I am, and I think I just have to allow others to perceive me as they will.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Make Me Up

I first started using makeup against my mother's rules when I was 12. She wanted to shield my sisters and me from looking too old and too slutty I think. Protect us from what we didn't know. A noble gesture, but I needed that foundation and powder to cover up my acne. Puberty was not kind to me in some ways. I had this greasy face with painful pimples popping up mostly on my chin and around my mouth. Not even two bouts of accutane could stave it off. And makeup was the only thing that made me think no one could see all my facial scarring. It was a necessity. 

Thankfully, once I was about 22 my face cleared up and all I needed before I left the house was a splash of powder and a sweep of mascara so I didn't look like I had just woken up. Up until a few months ago, I had one or two tricks I could pull out for a wedding or a night out. It was my friend Di who changed my mind. She would come to work pulling off funky orange lipstick and vibrant colors on her eyes. It's silly but I was always scared to wear something bold like that. But Di sees clothing and makeup as an extension of her creative self. With a little guidance and some encouragement, Di had me lining my eyes with liquid with the tiniest flair of a cat eye. It's fun. I can't do much else. But it's nice to have a third trick up my sleeve. 

Next up: the smoky eye:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Just Be a Queen

So I have a confession over this little thing that I am obsessed with. My friends Craig and David introduced me to this world. They didn't know the beast that awakened and my complete lack of self control when it comes to drag queens, specifically as featured on RuPaul's Drag Race.

What's not to love? It's boys playing dress up. The premise of the show is America's Next Top Model meets Project Runway but it's fun because the gays are involved. Now, in some circles I know I'm late to the game. There are blogs, live video chats, RuPaul Barbie dolls.

The cult culture aside, there is something I find deeply alluring about these ladyboys. There is a depth to these performers that I haven't ever seen. Yes, yes, it's about glitter and big hair, fake boobs and lip syncing to Beyonce, but it's all about entertainment--on sometimes the crudest level. I could stand to learn a lesson or three from these ladies about self confidence and sexiness. I'm basically afraid to be sexy--what if I embarrass myself? I'll think a little about the queens--they can't care if people think they're weird or crazy, that would stop everything. They're out (of the closet and on the town) having fun and making people laugh, cry (yes, I've done it) and sing along. It's inspiring even on the smallest sense. If they can dress as a woman, I think I can put on a little red lipstick.

Do yourself a favor and watch the previous seasons on or Netflix. Below is a video of one of my favorite drag queens, Raven, in a music video for MNDR.