Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Presents from Strangers


Have you heard of this not so new but still startlingly American phenomenon of paying a total stranger to send you presents? You can do this for all sorts of products--makeup, dog treats, clothes, arts & crafts, whimsical house items. The way it works is that you sign up for the service, and add some specific details about your skin and hair coloring, your likes and dislikes, the size of your bra. For Stitch Fix, you give them all of your measurements and choose colors you like and dislike and take this little quiz that gives you options of sets of clothes in certain styles--like, one that's termed romantic because it has lacy blouses and floral prints, or "classic" which includes polo shirts and khaki pants and an anti-choice button. You also say generally what you want to pay for certain items, though there is no range option for 0 to $20. Once you've filled out your style sheet, a person in this company picks out five items of clothing or jewelry for you and then sends it to you. You try everything on and decide what to keep and what to send back, free of charge. The package also comes with a little note from your stylist that says something like, "Hi Aimee (no comma)! I picked out the Pirates of Penzance black stretch pants for a Friday night date. The Wrinkled Fleur de Lis Off the Shoulder T-shirt is good for on the go, and the Crushed Cranberry Swinging Skirt will be perfect for a shot gun wedding. x0, Brittany."
They offer this other incentive--if you buy all five items, the entire order is 25% off. That's not totally true though, because each month, you pay a $20 "styling fee" prior to your order being shipped out. So, even if you buy all five, it's 25% off minutes (or plus?) the $20 you've already paid. You could opt to just buy two things or one thing or none, but whatever you do, you will be paying $20.
You still might feel like you're getting a deal though, because the $20 comes out the week before, it's already lost money that you won't get back, so that $58 white T-shirt with the tiny pocket costs $38 at checkout which is somewhat more justifiable if you ignore that you're really paying $58 for a shirt you could buy at Target for $10. It took me about six months to realize this automatic $20 deficit. Buying nothing results in paying $20 for the fun of opening a box of clothes that you don't really like or that don't fit (note to Brittany: pant and shirt sizes vary by brand and cut). In the ten times I have done this so far, I have never bought nothing. Even if I only sort of like one of the items, I buy it, because I don't want to lose the $ I've already spent. This is why I have a magenta tie dye shirt hanging in my closet like a unwelcome step cousin. I think there have been four times that I've bought all 5, even if I don't love every single item, because I'd rather pay $190 for five pieces of clothing than full price for two items that total $110. Keep in mind that math is not my strong suit, so please intervene if my logic is faulty. I mean, I know it's faulty, but usually, I do like all of the pieces and love maybe two. No, not true. I usually love maybe two items, like two and tolerate one.

But I will keep doing it. Because it's nice to get presents, even if you're paying someone to choose them for you. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mistress America vs. Shame


We went to see Mistress America on Saturday and it was charming and annoying and I felt like we were 20 years too old to enjoy it. The plot is about a first-year college student in Manhattan who feels out of place and so calls up her stepsister to be, who introduces her to the city and is quirky and funny and damaged and egocentric and grandiose. The young girl writes a short story about her called Mistress America and it's not flattering and then there is this long scene at someone else's house that felt like a play--all dialogue in the living room for twenty minutes between secondary characters. After the movie ended, I tried to uncover a second meaning. How the character played by Greta Gerwig is really a metaphor for the city or for lost youth or for America as this hopeful yet misguided place where amazing and terrible things happen, but I couldn't sustain it. Mostly, I watched the movie never forgetting that I was watching a movie, because the dialogue and acting appeared purposefully stilted (i.e. lines delivered in this self-conscious monotone as if the actors were doing a cold read; characters stringing together quotable sentences that don't happen that often in real life). But that could have been the director's intention--to keep us always aware of the artifice of these superficial situations. Mostly, I just felt like I was watching a super polished grad student film filled with characters I didn't particularly like or care about.

But that experience was starkly different and much more enjoyable then the one I had on Sunday, when we rented Shame. Michael Fassbender was on the cover of this past weekend's NYT Style magazine and so I read an article about how he got his start in films directed by Steve McQueen (not the 1960's actor), including Shame, made in 2011. I remember hearing about this movie, and rumblings about the nudity (i.e. his penis), but I didn't see it when it came out because I usually prefer Woody Allen films were Freudian references are made to genitalia, but you never see them in action.

In case you missed it too, Shame is about a thirty-something New Yorker who suffers from sex addiction. This means that he's preoccupied with getting his fix at almost any moment--- in the middle of the day at work, by watching live sex acts while eating Chinese food after work, through prostitutes and bar hook-ups.  He rarely smiles, and he rarely seems to enjoy himself. Then his very needy, messed up little sister shows up, and there's a weird tension between them--like, at first, you're not even sure who she is, she just appears naked in his shower and then you see her with no bra in the kitchen. She could be a former lover. She's sloppy and boundary less, sexy and vulnerable and needy. He agrees to let her stay with him, but he's not happy about it, in part because she is interfering with his masturbation routine.

The movie has a couple of very drawn out scenes, such as the sister singing the entirety of "New York, New York" in slow, pained notes and another of him jogging though Manhattan and then this other scene where he's with two prostitutes and it looks as though he's descended into one of Dante's circles of hell. It's all about habit and not being able to escape this need for his next fix, so that's disturbing and you see that he will always be alone because when he does try to sleep with someone he likes, he can't get it up. I kept thinking, Get a therapist! Talk to someone! But alas, he didn't seem capable of asking for help, even though he was clearly suffering and hating every second of his behavior. Then, something horrible and dramatic happens and he may be changed by it; it may be bad enough to break through the self-abuse, but at the end of the movie, we go back to the beginning, with him sitting on the subway, checking out this same married woman he chased after at the start, and he stares at her and clenches his jaw and we're left to wonder... Can he resist? Will he follow her and begin again? If the movie is truly about addiction, the answer is yes. Yes, of course. You don't necessarily wake up one day and find yourself able to put an end to your worst behavior. Then again, maybe this touching moment in the hospital  with his sister is enough for him to stop. Maybe his clenched jaw is a sign of resistance and not one of agonized sameness.

Whatever the case, watching that movie totally obliterated any of the pleasure of Mistress America.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why you should buy my house

No one has ever died there (to my knowledge). One cat was put down, but not on the premises and it was his time.
Not this cat. This cat lives and has moved to New Jersey.

Exposed brick, built in bookshelves in the kitchen. Very lovely and perfect for cookbooks or a row of increasingly smaller Russian dolls.


This little secret toothbrush holder in the bathroom.



It's listed as a two bedroom, but there's a small room that could be a baby's room or an office or a huge luxurious walk in closet. My mom used it to keep her Singer happy. I used it for bookshelves. The previous owners kept a baby in here.


Along with having central air, it has ceiling fans in both bedrooms and the living room (I'm proud of that one because I commissioned it).

Which fan is it?? You'll have to come visit the house to see.

The bathroom and kitchen have both been redone in the last three years and I got this little bitty dishwasher, and there's a garbage disposal and a gas stove and these drawers that slide out. The shower has that kind of removable shower head with five different water pressure choices (make of that what you will).

Cute little backward with a new fence around the top and a little built in brick place for potting a rose bush or a small tree or anything else you may be inclined to add, sparkly lights?  Flower beds? A mini-waterfall?


Winton Street is featured in Rocky I. There are a couple of scenes where he runs down the street and you can go, "That's my house!" No one will really care but you; still, it's a satisfying thing to know, as if Sly Stone may drop by at any moment.

This is a scene where he's talking to Little Marie. Behind him, the end of my block near 12th Street. Those awnings may still be in place. 
The house is located on a quiet one way street right next to a church, which means, that unlike other houses on the block, you don't have houses facing each other--you are facing Jesus.

This may or may not be the church. 

You know how long it takes to get to the Snyder exit of the Broad Street line? Four minutes, not even hurrying. There used to be an added bonus of passing a store that had an all white cat in the window, but the business has since changed hands and the cat is nowhere to be found.


Some rich people bought the row of buildings on 12th street and will soon be renovating them and turning them into nice new condos. This will elevate the neighborhood and may actually bring in coffee shops.

Speaking of coffee, there's a Starbucks one block away on Broad St. and Jackson. They always have The New York Times, and people often leave behind the Arts & Leisure section, so you can do the crossword while sipping your latte and people watching.

The Pope is coming. You could rent out the apartment for a weekend and make thousands of dollars in profit.

You're really only a ten minute walk from all of the Passyunk Square businesses and the Italian Market and numerous good restaurants (including Fond) and Doggie Style.



The neighbors are nice and no one owns a motorcycle.

All hardwood floors and so no vacuuming, ever.

Charming hanging chandelier that Dan put in, You may also keep the wardrobe in the larger bedroom for extra storage. There are lots of closets and two of them are specially built cedar closets.



I was happy there. So was my mom. You will be too. Now, go look at it: http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1113-Winton-St-Philadelphia-PA-19148/10393433_zpid/

Emma Carol again, looking as if she hopes you will fall so she can eat your face.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Fall

I've been thinking a lot about college and a particularly bad crush I had. I don't know why this is on my mind, maybe because there are so many songs that remind me of college on the radio lately. For instance, every time I hear Prince's "When Doves Cry," I picture him, but only like the physical details of him, like my brain is making an amalgamation of the MTV video and his corporeal self--ladder-like abs, too-long curly hair and blue eyes. And it also reminds me of a certain stillness that would come over me in his presence, and awe that he didn't deserve, but I couldn't seem to stop myself from feeling that way.

And thinking of my younger self reminds me how long and short life is. That sounds trite, but it's weird how thirty years ago seems both like forever and not long ago at all. I was thinking about far away/close when I was singing to a Pat Benatar song this morning in the car ("We're running with the shadows of the night..."), imagining her big slanted eyes with the heavy eyeliner and short boy hair, and wondering how she's doing today and then thinking about how awful it is that the older you get, the more deaths you experience, and that includes seemingly God-like pop stars such as Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Sting (who, not so coincidentally, reminds me of the aforementioned boy--same chiseled good looks and far off look in his eye as if he is thinking of more important things, such as how to write a song that includes references to Lolita. That, in turn, reminds me of a Shakespeare quote I can't quite put my finger on "greater things than can be imagined in the dreams of men" or something like that, probably a line from one of his tragedies.Which also reminds me that there was a time when I memorized the entire balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, "In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond." And wouldn't it be nice if I had more verse in my head and fewer song lyrics?).

There's a tendency to romanticize the past and talk about how amazing it was, wow, what it was like to feel so deeply for someone else? Particularly someone who I never knew very well at all. To feel it in the palms of my hands; that's how I remember it anyway, this sharp pain by my life line, but it wasn't that I enjoyed it--i-t felt like a bad ending to every movie, every shot dog story you can remember, this inevitable loss, because I knew he would go away without saying good bye. He did go away.  He dropped out of school to be an actor and I stayed behind and slept with his friend who reminded me of him, except the difference was that his friend liked me back and so therefore wasn't interesting.

Maybe I'm thinking about the past because Luke just started seventh grade, and he has all of this anguish still to experience--first dances, liking the wrong person, sweaty hands, scribbled love notes left on car windows in the middle of the night. I envy that and also don't envy it, because it's terrible. Much of growing up and falling in love is painful; it's only in the looking back that we pretend it was better than it actually was.

Still, I wish I could remember more than I do. There are a handful of moments. I remember being at a theater party and wondering if he would show up.  I am sure I dressed in a particular way, probably wearing that green cardigan sweater with the soft suede patches my friend Debbie gave me (I still have it. It's in the bottom drawer of a dresser in the attic).  At the party, I checked every corner of the yard, looking for him, opened closed doors and peered into bedrooms. I took a plastic cup of warm beer and squinted into the dark living room. I felt a hiccup in my chest when I thought I saw his face, but it turned out to be someone else, someone not him. And then I turned around to go into the kitchen and bumped into him, recognizing the way he smelled first (he smelled good, like patchouli and wood smoke), and he took my hand and we went up to the roof of the house, standing on the dangerous, slippery tile. I didn't care if I fell.  I could feel that adrenaline rush you get when you've just swerved to avoid a bad car accident, and I could feel my hair, long then, down to my waist, blow across my face, perfect, and he brushed it away and said, Why did you make me wait so long? And then, of course, he kissed me.

I'm telling you, that's how I remember it. I remember so few things, but I remember him saying that, because it was just what I wanted to hear, like something from a movie, and also so wrong, because I was the one who had been waiting. And anyway, he had his own love who he ached over, his own unattainable person who had way more confidence than he or I put together and if you asked him today what he remembers about college, he too will think of a song or songs (always REM in those days. "Losing My Religion") and a girl with long hair (hers was lighter than mine) who only kind of loved him back (not me).

P.S. I found the quote:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 
---Hamlet