Summer Sendoff

My family spent the end of summer once again at Amelia Island and I’m running out of new things to say about the beach that I love. Like everybody else, I think that the beach is my happy place (aside from those adults who think that DisneyLand is their happy place). Saying, “I love it, I love it, I love it,” isn’t exactly poetic, but sums up how I feel.  

There was perfect weather and drinks on the beach. I bought things that I don’t need and my brother put on a different movie every night. It was the perfect summer sendoff.

The best part of the trip was when, on the beach one night, we got to witness a nest of sea turtles hatch and make their way into the ocean. The sea turtles crawled out of their hut and scattered into the ocean one by one. We waited several minutes to watch as the final one struggled to get into the water after being pushed back by the waves each time. 

Same little dude, same.  

Apparently, the turtle that struggles the most to get into the ocean will be the strongest of them all, and there’s an inspirational something in that. He hung around so long that we almost had to name him. In the end, there was an unheard of 100% survival rate and I got to cross something off my bucket list that I didn’t even know was on it. 

I spent the rest of my time going through consignment stores, checking out a lavender shop, and perusing a tea store, because these are the things of no importance that you should do while on vacation. It was a quick week at the beach before each of us had to return to our lives– my parents back to work, my brother and his girlfriend back to their apartments and jobs, and me back to school. 

A great facial expression

I had spent much of my summer swimming, painting, trying to review any Italian, and listening to music poolside, not to mention my two internships. 

I can’t think of a more perfect end to the summer. Now, it is onward and upward to my next semester, taking place in Florence, Italy.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

A Birthday Fit For A Queen

“I am born. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
-David Copperfield, Charles Dickens, chapter one, page one

21 years ago, I was given the gift of life. Everyday since then, I have been giving life the gift of me. I kid, but in all honesty, I believe that is how people should feel: that they have touched lives, made an impact, and, most importantly, that they belong exactly where they are. 

Me, the morning I turned 21

I wandered around the area that I was staying in, drinking cold champagne outside of the Flatiron building while reading my book. There I was on my 21st birthday, celebrating one of those rare birthdays in which you are actually happy to be older. 

Some people don’t take their birthdays very seriously. I am not one of those people. I am the main character on my birthday. A birthday is an excuse to celebrate yourself, so you might as well roll out the red carpet in an event that is less of a birthday party and more of a coronation.   

And my coronation was not going to happen without its cake. A big cheesy cake isn’t just for kids anymore. Everyone will be having one on their birthdays from now on, up until they reach the age in which Type 2 Diabetes is a plausible threat and even then it’s still on the table. I went to Magnolia’s Bakery and got a rich tasting, sweet-but-not-too-sweet chocolate cake with a customized message. I got a cake that says “God Save The Queen.” I then invited some friends over and I let them eat cake. 

Today the cake says: God Save The Queen.

When I turn 40, the cake will say:

40

Pass the botox. 

If it can fit on a snarky birthday card, I will likely put it on a birthday cake one day. 

The outfit I wore was in reference to the fact that I was their master of ceremonies. I also thought that it was going to fit me better, having never worn it before. So please, check out my crop top costume vest with my black sparkly pants. The plan was to walk to dinner with my friends and then eat cake back at my hotel, mainlining drinks all throughout, of course. 

My gorgeous friends!

I showed up, ridiculously dressed, and had a wonderful time with my gorgeous friends. Dinner was at a French restaurant called Lou Lou, known for its craft cocktails and named after the owner’s dog, both of which I wholeheartedly approve of.

My Firebird cocktail came in the form of a bird shaped cocktail glass and my food was some rich, creamy, prettily-presented food that I scraped from my plate. 

Then, back at the hotel bar, I had a Cosmo, as I can be counted on to do, and had my cake with my friends. 

It was a pretty laid back birthday party, not the raucous-causing birthday bash where the drinks keep coming and the people in the next room tell you to keep it down. Upon learning that cocktails are expensive and that hangovers hurt like hell, I decided to keep it lowkey. Sipping alcohol responsibly and then being tucked in bed only shortly after midnight, isn’t most people’s idea of a typical 21st birthday party, but makes for a very enjoyable evening.

He crashed my photoshoot

Between the extravagant cocktails, the French bistro, and my royal cake, my namesake, Marie Antoinette, would have been proud. A few of my friends could not make it (I love you anyways, Alyssa and Julia) but I had a fantastic time with Bella, Anahat, and Valentina. Three’s a crowd, so I guess you can say that I had a crowd of people to celebrate my birthday with me. 

Finally, we bring the curtain down on my only 21st birthday. Here’s to a sensitive, dramatic, sweethearted (wickedly funny, extremely cute) fun-loving girl, who fits all of the descriptions of her beloved Cancer zodiac sign, worships her standoffish cat, and can now drink legally in her home country.

Happy birthday to me and thank you to all of the people who made it truly special. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Day #5: Chelsea art galleries, and American Buffalos

My favorite political cartoon is of a couple in an art museum. The art on the wall is little more than a circle. One person turns to the other and says, “I could have painted that.” The other person responds with, “yeah, but you didn’t.” That’s what seeing these paintings in Chelsea reminded me of. 

Technically, I could have painted the colorful Rorschach-blobs lining the walls of the Highline Nine art gallery, but I didn’t. It was hard at times to see the appeal of the artwork in front of me. They were vibrant, resplendent colors that would nicely decorate the wall of an apartment, but didn’t resemble anything real and cost about as much as a down payment on a Tesla. 

Chelsea is known for its spectacular art galleries, so once my mother left me I decided that I would get my bearings and practice my navigational skills by skipping along from one art gallery after the other. Am I posh yet? I’m striving to be better with directions. When I was a child I got lost in my own house (and it was a one-story house with about seven rooms). 

Using my GPS, I managed to mostly find my way and ended up in a variety of fascinating art galleries, starting with the fascinatingly named High Line Nine. I chose these galleries off the internet based on how much I liked their name. That’s how the great ones do it. After none of the pieces spoke to me, I moved on to the C24. 

This art gallery had less to do with actual paintings and more to do with conceptual artwork where everywhere you looked there were videos being projected onto the walls.

The third one, The Gagosian Gallery, which I clearly wasn’t supposed to be in because they were in the process of renovating it and moving in new art pieces, was filled with even more avant garde pieces, much of which could have doubled as furniture. 

From there, I walked over to the Chelsea Highline once again, never imagining that I would love a hollowed-out railroad as much as I do, before calling it a day. I wanted to get back to my hotel, so that I could prepare for my evening at the theater (still posh). Valentina, like the fabulous friend she is, snagged us both tickets to see a Broadway show via the ticket lottery, and gave it to me as a birthday gift. In order to fulfill my unofficial New Year’s resolution of learning the subway system, so that my parents can sleep at night, I took the subway from Chelsea to Broadway to meet Valentina, and, not to brag, I didn’t get lost. 

The play was being performed in the Circle In The Square Theater, even though, and this is not to start a fight, the stage is more of a rectangle in an oval. The theater is known for kickstarting the careers of several famous actors, yet all of the actors in this play were already pretty well known. Ever heard of Laurence Fishbourne, Sam Rockwell, and Darren Criss? 

“American Buffalos” is a play about three men who are going to pull off a heist in order to improve their lives and realize the American Dream, but since it’s a play they only discuss doing a heist instead of actually doing it. It mostly asks questions about loyalty. The play was written by David Mamet, a playwright known for his witty, rapid-fire dialogue. Aaron Sorkin, eat your heart out.

So together, Valentina and I saw an Emmy-nominated play being performed by heavy hitters at an illustrious theater in New York City. Truly, it was an incredible birthday present.

As far as the play itself went, I absolutely loved it. It was witty, serious, and well-acted. All three of the actors did a phenomenal job with Sam Rockwell being one of the best things to happen to acting in a while, in my opinion. 

Valentina and I had a fun time seeing the show, an act we hope to repeat some day when I get back from Italy and am stateside again. I went to sleep that night thinking about my 21st birthday the next day.

Stay tuned for that.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Day #4: The Met, Winslow Homer, American Fashion, and the Temple of Dendur

On day four of our trip, my mother and I took our regular pilgrimage to the Met, in particular to see the Temple of Dendur. A person could spend an entire day in the Met, so we did.

Not only was the Temple of Dendur still standing, but the Met had several new exhibits on display for just this occasion.

We first set out to check out the Met’s exhibition of “Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents,” a new Met exhibit that had been advertised across the city.

Winslow Homer was controversial in his time, which would have been during the Civil War, for depicting people of color in his works and for showing a woman’s bare legs in a painting on the beach. He’d been deeply influenced by the Civil War, which bled into his work, having personally followed the conflict from the North. 

His work took place throughout the Americas, living up to its name of “Crosscurrents” by containing an idyllic, yet dangerous sense of nature, through his depictions of sharks brushing up against ill-fated rafts in the middle of the ocean, choppy waves, storms brewing in the background, and doomed rescue missions across stormy seas. 

I’d never heard of him before, but fell in love with his works. Not only were these poignant, historically-relevant paintings, but they were beautiful and realistic, not chaotic and messy. Most of the artwork that I’d seen from that era featured extremely pale people sitting still with their hands neatly folded in their laps, staring blankly at the viewer, not these sensationalized images of people galavanting across beaches and trying not to drown. We stood in front of the paintings, admiring them until our feet hurt from standing.

From there, we saw the Met Gala’s exhibition. The Met was showcasing their: “In America: An Anthropology of Fashion,” as part of the Met Gala’s “American Style theme.” It feels like it was just yesterday that I was being disappointed by the outfits worn to the Met Gala… and then disappointed again a year later when they were just as bad, if not worse.

What would I have done for the Met Gala, you don’t ask?

For American Style I would have dressed as an homage to Zelda Fitzgerald. She was from the south, moved to New York, enjoyed writing, painting, and swimming, and supposedly either wrote or contributed whole chunks to “The Great Gatsby” (if that’s the case, then F. Scott can go choke). She is everything I have ever wanted to be, up until she burned alive when her mental institution caught on fire. Zelda was America’s first ever flapper girl, making her synonymous with American style and feminism with her skirt at her knees and page boy hair cut. 

For the Gilded Age, I simply would have worn a deeply-ironic gilded soot-gray dress, since Mark Twain coined the phrase “The Gilded Age” to convey the fact that era looked like it was shimmering and golden as a mask for the corruption beneath. Alright, so that’s enough about my Met fantasies. 

After we perused the entire Met and saw the two new exhibits, we closed down the Met in the Temple of Dendur. My mother and I sat in the Temple of Dendur writing our novels. It was as sweet as it sounds. It had always been my dream to live in New York City full time, writing my novels in Central Park, the New York Public Library, and at the Met’s Temple of Dendur, an ancient Egyptian temple that has since been turned into a chic part of the city for parties and, at least once, a Chanel fashion show. As the story goes, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was given the temple as a gift from the Egyptian government before it could be destroyed by the creation of the Aswan Dam. 

So, The Met excavated it brick by brick and the temple has called New York City its home ever since. We wrote until the Met turned out the lights. It was a very productive day and a beautiful one to share with my mother. This was her final day with me in New York before returning to our home. 

My next few days in New York would also be filled with art and perhaps a bit of novel writing. More on that soon.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Day #3: Pride, MoMA, Central Park, & Strawberry Fields

For all of America’s faults, one of my favorite things about America is the fact that Pride month started here. Now, several countries around the world celebrate it. 

I was staying in New York at the end of Pride month and since I was in Chelsea, a part of town known for being a home to a LGBTQ+ community in this country, I was eager to witness my first ever Pride parade. The streets were packed, people were sitting on top of scaffolding or out of their windows watching the parade floats go by. You had to shuffle down the sidewalk, pressed against countless other sweaty bodies which feels like a personal, post-COVID hell unless you’re into that sort of thing. For the first time in my life I was able to witness the joy, the celebration, and the protest as it unfolded around me. 

My mother and I spent the morning weaving our way through hundreds of rainbow-clad people, then weaved our way through a bunch more people that afternoon in the MoMA. We spent the afternoon looking at paintings which meant more Klimt, Van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso. 

There were so many new things to see, as well as all of the things that I’ve seen previously. I returned to the fifth floor to see Starry Night by Van Gogh again in very much a been-there-done-that fashion. As it turns out, I still love it. Starry Night is still a blissful painting of a cool blue sky with a dizzying pattern and deep golden stars. 

After the MoMA, we went to Central Park where we laid on our backs in the grass and admired a different blue sky. There was a lot to take in, as there is on any given day at Central Park. Dog walkers were curbing their dogs, or not curbing their dogs, as it were; young girls were taking an insufferable amount of pictures of themselves, but no judgment. 

Through the park, we headed to Strawberry fields, where there is always a guy with a guitar singing either a John Lennon or Beatles song, although, strangely, never “Strawberry Fields.” If you are lucky he actually knows how to sing. There also is always droves of tourists being marshaled onto the spot so that they can stand in the circle and take turns taking pictures. That’s how I was first introduced to Strawberry Fields: a kid in a tour group, wearing matching, crawl-into-a-hole-and-die-because-I-want-no-one-to-see-me-in-this uniform with the other students, while a guy with a lightsaber ushered us through the crowd. 

The experience had left an impression on me, so I’ve always wanted to come back to the spot, preferably when no one is swarming around it. This time there were masses of students visiting from another country, shuffling in for a photo in waves, while two guys sort of sang a Beatles Duet. It was just another day at Strawberry Fields, where nothing is real. Nearby, there were anti-mask and anti-vax protests with actual tables set up. Supposedly they hadn’t gotten the memo that, when at Strawberry Fields, there is nothing to get hung about. 

By the end of the day, I’d seen Strawberry Fields and Starry Night, two pop culture forces of nature. I’d seen several things that I’d seen many times before, MoMA, Central Park, and Strawberry Fields, and one thing that I’d never seen before, a massive, unbridled Pride Parade.

It’s all in a day’s work when on a trip to New York City.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

NYC Day #2: The Chelsea Market, The High Line, the Little Island, and John Mulaney at Madison Square Garden

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man 

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”

–John Donne

“No man is an island,” John Donne boldly claimed. Funnily enough, I have heard it suggested that there was no way John Donne had ever been to the island of New York City when he said those words because everybody in New York City is an island, not caring about what the other little islands are doing. Writers need to remind themselves that they’re not islands, especially when they’re brooding over their own works and agonizing over a single sentence, and here I speak with some experience. 

Not being an island myself, I often get by with a little help from my friends and during my second day in New York City, I spent some time with my friend Julia, the first of many of my friends on this trip. 

Julia, one of my best and closest friends, unfortunately could not make it to my birthday party, but was able to hang out with me on one of the days leading up to it. She spent the afternoon with my mother and me at the Chelsea Market, showing us the indoor vendors and promising not to spoil John Mulaney, whom she’d seen the night before. 

The Chelsea Marketplace is an indoor market, perfectly situated in the meatpacking district, where you can buy and eat just about anything you want. We had a great time: me eating my Japanese and Mexican fusion tacos with mint, hibiscus tea, Julia eating something similar, and my mother eating jerk chicken, followed by creme brulee and donut holes. Julia let us talk about our family and social issues, while finding out what was going on in her life. 

Then, we hit the market. 

I tried on several rings and nearly bought too much pottery. Julia bought me a creme brulee as a birthday gift because I couldn’t decide on a ring to buy. I talked her through which pens and cups to buy, being that they are her addiction. I walked away with several new books. A person could spend a day going from market to market, getting inspired by what’s around every corner. 

After Julia left us, my mother and I ventured out on our own, walking aimlessly along the highline. The Chelsea Highline is a nice, peaceful bridge to walk across on a cool day, filled with street performers and people selling artwork, spanning across Chelsea.

Few people I know would go to the Chelsea Market without making a pitstop at the Highline, if for no better reason than to walk all of that off. We wandered onto the Little Island, being pipelined from the Highline onto a pier at the Hudson River. 

The Little Island is a patch of grass in the Hudson River, making it the island of New York City’s newest island, donated by a New York billionaire. An argument could be made that, for a moment, we were no longer part of the main. 

It was an incredible summer day in which the best of the city was out in full force. Everywhere you looked there were people rollerblading, couples buying soft-serve, and kids rolling down a hill. Then there were people nearly dying of heat stroke– oh wait, that was just me and my mom. It was a pleasant trip over an idyllic island, the type of thing that I picture when Jane Austen is describing how overwhelmingly beautiful Pemberly is. After experiencing and roasting on the Little Island we headed back to our hotel to reunite with my aunt and cousin and prepare for John Mulaney. 

When I’m with my Aunt Natasha and my cousin Olivia, we always pick up right where we left off. Most importantly, we’re always on the same page, so when we were on our way to see John Mulaney together, we stopped for some dinner and some drinks, talking about the things that we all care about: Roe V Wade getting overturned, the  New York City apartment search industrial complex, and the Running Up That Hill scene from Stranger Things

At Madison Square Garden we watched John Mulaney perform his newest special “From Scratch,” named for the fact that it covers his recent life-altering escapade of going to rehab and how he recently revamped his life, starting from scratch, like scorched earth. It was easily the funniest night of my life. My man John Mulaney can deliver a line like no other, to say nothing of turning tragedy into humor and laughing at himself. He had us eating out of the palm of his hand from the opening line. I’m so proud of that lanky, tall child with feminine hips, even though I’ve never met him. (If you’ve never seen his standup, I’m not sure how that sentence just sounded to you). 

The view from outside of Madison Square Garden. We were not allowed to use our phones inside since they locked them in bags

Julia was right: it was a hilarious routine and there’s nothing like being there in person. Not to spoil the ending too much, but he ended it by saying that through his journey he learned that you cannot rely on external forces for your happiness in life. Drugs, alcohol, even people, cannot be relied on for your own happiness. He now is in a better place, happier than ever, having gotten through it with a little help from his friends, because no man is an island, not even John Mulaney. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Those NYC Days 

“There’s nothing like summer in the city”

-Lin Manuel Miranda

Nothing renews my excitement and love for New York City more than being away from it for a while and then finally being able to return. That’s how I felt a few weeks ago when I arrived in New York City with my mother for my 21st birthday, after being home for about a month.

My summer was already in full swing. I started two new remote internships. You’re looking at the newest fashion writer for Fizzy Mag, a European fashion magazine for cool girls everywhere. I’ve also started writing blog posts for the female empowerment lifestyle brand: Miss EmPowHer. I am helping to form the fashionista feministas of tomorrow. 

When I’m not doing that, I am spending my days doing my four favorite things in life: reading, writing, painting, and swimming. My life is the absolute worst in case you couldn’t tell. So why did I choose to leave it even for a little bit? Because New York City was calling my name, I was about to turn 21, and my friends were in the city, so it was always my dream for my first legal drink to be in the city with my girlfriends. With that in mind, my mother and I decided to beat the heat by leaving south Georgia and heading to New York City, where it actually wasn’t that much cooler.

Specifically, we stayed in Chelsea, at a hotel just down the street from the Flatiron Building. Our hotel room had a particularly magical view of the Hudson River with Lady Liberty visible on the horizon. 

On day one we sat outside of the Flatiron Building, drinking and eating tacos at a nearby restaurant.

We watched people walk by with countless Harry Potter bags, enough to make you wonder “why is even acting like they just left Harry Potter World?” The answer, it turns out, was because there was a giant Harry Potter store nearby. 

No, I was not too old to walk up and down the Chelsea Harry Potter store with its Dumbledore-themed spiral staircase down the center of it. There were wands, chocolate frogs, Hogwarts scarves, and other paraphernalia for sale and I showed enormous restraint in not buying anything. 

We also watched two blocks of people wait outside a cafe to get served, cafe-style by pop star Conan Gray during a merch drop that coincided with the release of his second album. Aw, yes, New York City, where you can be in such close proximity to famous people just by walking down the street. 

That same day, we went to The Strand bookstore, a place that always feels the love from my mother and me whenever we visit New York. I strutted around the bookstore, flipping through the books that I found interesting, seeing the books that were written by Sarah Lawrence professors, and having to pretend to look busy while my mom bought the books on my birthday list. 

When we returned from The Strand, the crowd of people was still standing around to see Conan Gray, even though he had long since cleared out. We found this out by having my mom ask the only close in age person she could find in line, a forty-something-year-old-man who seemingly had his teenage daughter for the weekend.

“Conan Gray is doing a merch drop,” was his very matter-of-fact answer, followed by, “he’s a pop star.”

“I know who Conan Gray is,” I told him. I was, after all, about to be a board-certified 21-year-old. 

We didn’t stick around for his merch drop (did I mention the line?) but instead we went in search of food, the first of many great meals. This was a wonderful start to my almost week long trip. Six days in New York City: John Mulaney at Madison Square Garden, a Tony-award winning Broadway show, two museums, the Strand, Central Park, the Chelsea marketplace, some super cool people, and my 21st birthday.

The plot is about to thicken. I’ll keep you posted.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

A Last Hurrah in Athens

The day my semester ended and I was almost allowed to go home as an RA, I got on a plane and went to Atlanta, where my parents picked me up to take me to my brother’s college graduation in Athens. I jumped in their car and was taken straight to UGA where I was treated to days of shopping and other fun events where I went where I was told and enjoyed every minute of it.

I spent my day shopping at an occult shop that sold spiritual jewelry, a vintage clothing shop, and a locally-owned, independent bookstore, and then had low tea at a cafe in the afternoon and drinks on a rooftop in the evening. This was all my version of nirvana for those who are wondering. I spent my day looking at moonstones I couldn’t afford and vintage hot pants. 

For lunch, we went to a cafe on Lumpkin, cleverly named “The Cafe on Lumpkin.” The appeal of going to “The Cafe on Lumpkin” is that, at around 3:00, they serve low tea, although how it’s any different from “high tea” is beyond me. Each person received a pot of their own tea and I chose “The Marquess,” because, naturally, I can be counted on to choose the one with the bougiest sounding name. With it comes finger sandwiches and scones, plus all of the jams that a person could possibly need to slather on their scone. 

Many royal family jokes were made during low tea and all of them came from me. My older brother, the heir to my spare, graduated from college the very next day in a ceremony that made Joe Biden’s fireworks display look like a sparkler show. 

UGA knows how to roll out the red carpet during a graduation ceremony. At my school, I’m likely to get two hours in an uncomfortable folding chair underneath a tent, at the end of which, I receive a diploma with a subtext of “we-will-not-speak-of-this-again-until-we-ask-you-for-money-in-a-few-years” and I’m fine with that arrangement.

At some point towards the end of the trip, I realized that this was likely to be my final trip to Athens, Georgia. Now that my brother has graduated from UGA and moved away, I do not foresee any reason to return. Now, I must say goodbye to Athens, but only after a long, wonderful trip visiting it. So, congratulations Bobby and Mikaela, and goodbye Athens, Georgia. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Life is Art

Art is love made public

-Hernando

A few months ago my friends and I decided to do a “sip and paint,” in which we drank wine and painted some art. However, since I had a music listening quiz for my music of Russia class the next day, the only way that I could justify painting and sipping on a Wednesday night was by making all of my friends listen to my Russian music while we did it. So my friends and I drank wine and painted while listening to Tchaikovsky– you know, the college experience. 

We had a fantastic time–impossible not to with that setup– but we were then left with some interesting paintings lying around as a result. About a month after the sip and paint, a Russian student named Tassia decided to host an art auction to raise money for the conflict in Ukraine. Along with the art auction there would be a live performance of Ukrainian music and a serving of Ukrainian food made by the students. For the auction, I decided to turn in what I had from our “sip and paint,” but I also decided to paint another painting using the water colors and paper from my watercolor painting class. 

The painting I did while drinking came out a little sloppier. Theories abound as to why. As for my watercolor painting, I wanted it to look like a Klimt, having just studied him in art class. I wanted to imitate the resplendent gold color and minuscule patterns that are in so many of his paintings. 

As it turns out, Klimt, one of the most famous artists in the world, is a far better painter than I, so my work came out much differently than I was hoping. I painted a series of butterflies taking flight against a gold background, thinking that the intricate, Klimt-esque patterns would look cool on butterfly wings, and then let the paint drip down the page as if the wings were leaking. 

My Russian music professor, who “didn’t realize that I painted,” got into a bidding war with another student over my “an abundance of butterflies” piece. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t become super giddy and flattered when they both expressed interest in my work. The professor, not wanting to outbid a student, let her have it after an appropriately long back-and-forth, despite my insistence that it was all “for a good cause.” I really just wanted to see how much money my work would go for. 

My sip-and-paint painting was the red one at the end. Some of you might recognize it as the curtain at the beginning of Tosca

At the end of the night, my artwork sold for $70, all of which went to help out people in Ukraine. The Ukranians got more money off me after I ate and paid for a possibly grotesque amount of food; the Polish and Croatian side of my ethnicity makes me love babka regardless of where in the Eastern Bloc it hails from. 

Fortunately, that was not all of the painting I did at the end of the semester. For my final art project, I painted a portrait of my friend Alyssa. I chose to paint characters and scenes from the novel that I have been working on and I had decided that I wanted her to pose as the main character of my novel. She looks the way I envisioned the character: thin with long brown hair and brown eyes. I wonder why…

On top of that, Alyssa has these fantastic eyebrows that I love and a distinctive nose, all of which results in a very Athenian beauty that I wanted for my character. It did however take me several tries to capture said beauty. The distinctive nose was hard to draw, the hand came out looking like a T-Rex’s, and the spacing and proportions, which I’ve always struggled with, were always a little off. She was starting to look like a woman in a Picasso painting. 

In the end, I liked the finished product, a sloppy wet page full of saturated, dark colors that give off a subdued but serious look at my friend, dramatically tilting her head back while scantily-clad. (The body in the painting belonged to a person on Instagram. Alyssa would probably want me to make that clear). 

While my other friends had to write essays and study for finals, I was listening to music while painting. Those around me informed me of their jealousy. 

By the end of the semester, the music was no longer Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, but had transitioned to 80s and 90s Russian punk music. The music was a mixture of disdain for the systems in place and punk-styled anger, the kind of thing that you want to be listening to when painting artwork for an emotionally-charged novel that you think that you’re pouring your heart and soul into. It was kind of perfect: the fuck the establishment, stick-it-to-the-man music fueling the artwork. I stained my paper by submerging it in a red cabbage dye that I made myself by boiling it on my stove and did the same with walnut dye that was made in class.

My three pieces of artwork were on display for the art show, which was a building-wide showcase of all of the student art made throughout the year. If there is one thing that the Sarah Lawrence paintings, sculpting, photography, and mixed-media artwork did not lack, it is originality. I hung around, drinking bitter tea and admiring other students’ art, trying hard not to linger around my section in order to overhear people’s thoughts.  

I ended my junior year with an art auction and an art show. Once my schoolwork was behind me and I could relax, I managed to do some things for my own enjoyment.

  1. An excursion into the city with Alyssa to buy Mother’s Day flowers for her mother, that included some thrift shopping and a trip to a Kosher bakery.

2. An impromptu, student “sleaze ball,” a Sarah Lawrence tradition of barely dressing and dancing that has been canceled three years in a row due to COVID.

3. A trip into the city for a friend’s 21st birthday, which I had to end early when I couldn’t get into any bars, being under the age of 21.

4. Lunch at Urban Hamlet on the last day of classes, with some girlies, followed by gel manicures.

5. Attending a slam poetry reading for my friend’s poetry class in which she had to perform an original poem with a degree of interpretive movement to it. 

I ended my junior year with great grades and now have a summer full of writing and painting ahead of me. 

Cheers!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Our Lorde and Savior at Radio City Music Hall

Lorde: musician or philosopher? A bit of both if you ask me.

Anahat and I got tickets to see Lorde in Concert at Radio City Music Hall for her Solar Power album. They were for a Tuesday, the day that I would get back from visiting my family for Easter. My plane landed at 6. The show started at 8. I decided that the plan would be to get off the plane and go straight to the concert, in the hopes that in the future when I talk about the fun times of my youth, I’ll be talking about moments like this. 

Coming home for Easter

First, I had Easter with my family to get through. On Easter day, my mom plays Gregorian chants, a very interesting sound to wake up to. You’d think that I’d be used to it since she’s been doing it every Easter I’ve been alive. Then my parents have my brother and me do an Easter egg hunt, because we’re only in our 20s. My father takes it so seriously that he hides them where no one can find them. In case you think I’m joking just know that my dad hid one in the shower behind a bottle of shampoo. Half the fun is thinking that you’ve found all of them. Then one day in September a dinner guest looks up at the chandelier and says, “Is that an Easter egg?” to which we have no valid response. The egg hunt itself quickly becomes a game of Clue with one of us in the billiard’s room, one of us in the study, and one of us in the hall. It wasn’t a competition, but I still definitely won. 

So anyway, that was my Easter. I flew back on the Tuesday of the concert, got off the plane, and headed straight for the venue. I only packed a backpack so that I wouldn’t be carrying a trousseaux with me to Radio City Music Hall. Anahat and I met there and then stopped next door at Magnolia’s Bakery to try the banana pudding that always gets referred to as “to die for.” 

Then we got in line. It only took a few minutes for us to realize that Anahat’s online tickets weren’t working. I could feel an aneurysm coming on. We stood in line for about forty five minutes, messaging customer support and asking the guy who works the ticket booth how to help us. Eventually, after reloading the page and having our customer service representative come through for us, we were let inside. 

We’d missed the opening act, not that we’d had much interest in seeing them in the first place. We were completely ready for Lorde to come on stage and to deliver us the gift of perfect happiness and wisdom and to bring back the hype that had been drained from us from the ticket panic outside

“Hello, I’m Ella O’Connor. You all know me as Lorde.” These iconic words opened up our concert and we all lost it. 

LORDE: Are you ready to cry?

ME: ALWAYS!

Lorde was a natural. She sounded exactly like she does on her albums. She started performing, opening up her shirt, popping her chest up and down. She’s too authentic to be famous and yet here she is. I was equally as ready to bust a move in the aisles of Radio City Music Hall. The people around me shared some looks with me, but I challenge you to stand still during “Green Light.” 

Towards the end of the night, she rolled up in her skimpy black outfit, bowed so low that her hair touched the floor, and then brought the house down with “Royals,” the song that made us fall in love with her in the first place. She ended the night singing “Team,” encouraging us to go as crazy as we wanted to. 

LORDE: What did I do to deserve you?

ME: EVERYTHING!

The thing that I love the most about Lorde is her weirdness, the way that she was bopping up and down across the stage, doing swift outfit changes into crazier outfits while singing about not being ostentatious, like a member of the royal family. 

I strained my voice from singing along and shouting at the top of my lungs, having one of those moments where you don’t care if you’ll ever speak again. By the end of the night my feet were sore, from jumping up and down, a clear sign that I had been attempting to dance. Anahat and I had a fantastic time and had much to talk about afterwards. 

LORDE: It’s New York so I’ve gotta.

ME: YES MA’AM!

The best part of the night wasn’t the moment when the confetti cannon went off over my head right at the words “Solar Power,” although that was pretty cool. The best part of my night was going with Anahat. With Anahat being such a massive fan of Lorde, it was incredible to see how much she enjoyed it. 

I was celebrating with my family on Easter Sunday and then having a spiritual moment with Lorde that Tuesday. 

Praise be the Lorde. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel