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

Tchaikovsky and Pushkin: my last trip to the opera for a while

It’s not over until the fat lady sings

“My dreams, my dreams! What has become of their sweetness? What indeed has become of my youth?”

Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin

I was given one last chance to see the opera again before my semester ended and at the risk of being predictable, I went to the opera yet again. This time the trip was to see “Eugene Onegin” with my Russian music theory class, having read the poetry-based novel for class.

 

It took me all day to get my hair curled without a curler so I walked around like this all day having also slept like this

The fantastic dress that I wore was made by my aunt several years ago, and is now officially mine. She would want me to mention the asymmetrical bodice of the dress, being an architect who knows and cares about such things as “asymmetry.” 

Regardless of how I actually looked in it, the dress made me feel regal. I wanted to look like Ava Gardner, or some other decadent Hollywood starlet from the Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s the opera: the time to bring the glamour. 

What I was going for
What I achieved

I wore the dress to class because I didn’t have time to change after class, or at least, that’s what I told myself. Then afterwards, there was the small business of getting into the city and into my seat in time for the curtain to rise. Time was already going to be tight since class got out only about an hour before the show started and with the 45 minute train ride, I was especially in a hurry. 

Just as I was leaving however, a storm blew in and nearly blew me away. Please note the green rain boots with the ball gown. The trendiness is next level. I spent the whole day doing my hair just for five minutes of rain to ruin it. I got off the train as planned and on schedule, but that’s about the last thing that went as planned. 

The obligatory Met Opera fit pick. Note the rainboats

I then learned the joys of trying to get a cab out in the rain, which apparently no one does and every New Yorker knows but me. One does not get a cab in the pouring rain. One does however stand on a street corner in the pouring rain with their arm in the air, getting frustrated.

The makeup end result. Devastating.

I weigh about 115 pounds soaking wet– which I happened to be at the time–so I’m sure that I was exactly the type of person you would want to pull on your bike if you had to. I don’t know what I expected of my night, but pulling up to the opera in a rickshaw, wearing a ball gown in the pouring rain, wasn’t it.  

I was in such a foul mood from getting rained on and not making it to the opera on time. I’m sure I had the same resting bitch face that my cat Calypso has at any given moment. 

Keeping with the old Hollywood theme, here is an accurate representation of how overdressed and bitch-faced I was when I rode up to the Met Opera House

As they say in the opera, “I’m suffering. I’m unhappy. I’m ready to weep.” In case you think that I’m being dramatic for saying that about showing up a few minutes late for the opera, after having seen a different opera a few weeks earlier, just know that the teenage character was saying that about falling in love and wanting to die.

When you show up late to the Metropolitan Opera House, they let you sit in a separate theater where you can watch what’s happening. I was seething inwardly and upset enough to make a scene, but took a deep breath and kept it inside of me. Dramatically making a scene at the opera seems a little too meta. 

When I was finally let in, the show was phenomenal. The lighting for the opera was better than any other show I’d ever seen. It was beautiful, not just because of the costumes, the singing, or the music, but because of the story. Onegin is based on poetry, not tragedy, and like most poetry it has a clear theme of love and some heartbreak but does not end with the woman dying. Instead, the woman ends up married to someone royal after being rejected by the titular character and even though he asks for her back in the end, she now rejects him, staying married and amazing.

Poetic justice.

 

Having read the novel, I enjoyed hearing the people behind me discuss it. 

“So she told me that this is based on a novel by Pushkin.”

“Why is it called Eugene Onegin when it’s more about her?”

“Eugene is the worst.”

It was all almost good enough for me to ignore the fact that I was freezing cold from the rain. Following the opera, my friends and I raced through the subway to get back to campus before the last train left, basically the thing that I hadn’t done to get to the opera in the first place. At about one in the morning, I was back in my dorm room, enjoying having been to the Met one last time. Between next semester when I’m in Florence and this summer when I’m all over the place, I’m not sure when I’ll next be at the Metropolitan Opera House, but with Eugene Onegin, I ended on a high note.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

A Night on the Town

There’s no drunk like girl-drunk and there’s no girl-drunk like a drunk girl group.

My friend Julia was turning 22, and having been robbed of two glorious birthdays by this pandemic, decided to celebrate with a night on the town with her best gal pals. So, for one night and one night only, we decided to hit the town to celebrate Julia’s birthday. There is nothing like a night on the town with “the girls” at the end of a long week. I’ve waited my whole life to say those words. 

In attendance were Anahat and Alexis and two other friends of Julia’s, Caitin and Sahiba. Getting out of a five hour class, I threw on my black leather dress, knee-length Michael Kors boots, and over-the-shoulder Kate Spade bag, before hauling ass to meet up with my friends. 

For her birthday, Julia took us to a restaurant in Midtown called “Taco Vision,” a loud, dimly-lit restaurant filled with stylishly-dressed people: something I always keep my eye out for. It was a dinner for catching up with friends and eating tacos that had me renewing my vows for how much I love my friends and falling in love with ripe slices of avocado. 

Julia!

The food was amazing but Taco Vision is mostly known for their impressive array of drinks. They have this smooth and fantastic signature drink called a “double vision,” which is a frozen paloma, a frozen margarita, and a shot of tequila, served in a spicy-rimmed tiki glass with a slice of lime. They call it a double vision for a reason. 

They went down pretty smoothly with all of the tacos I scarfed down (it had been a few hours since I’d last eaten out of anticipation for our food).

To keep the momentum going, we walked around for a bit, making it to a place that was bathed in electric blue light, where the DJ played “22” by Taylor Swift at our request, after which I slipped her a twenty to show my gratitude. 

My friends all share a love of espresso martinis, so they kept those coming all throughout the night, along with more shots of tequila. If I were to give my friends a blood alcohol test, I might not have found any blood in their alcohol. 

Sahiba and Alexis parted ways with us while the rest of us walked to an Irish bar named “Jane Doe.” Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Other times, you can go to a bar where your name is so irrelevant that the bar is literally named “Jane Doe.”

I would say that this place was more of the same, except for the fact that at some point someone knocked over the table, broke a glass, and then cried about it. Believe it or not, it was not me. Finally, we made it to our last stop, which ended up being a nearby nightclub. 

Some Marines were visiting the night club as well, so naturally I wore one of their hats. No one wanted to dance on a bar top with me, which is fine. You should always save something for the next night out. We danced until we felt like we couldn’t stand anymore– which was due to all of the dancing and walking and not the drinks– and then hobbled next door for a slice of pizza, and a cannoli, if you’re me, while we waited for our Uber. 

So, what have I learned from this? Absolutely nothing, which is what made it worth it. It was just a really great night filled with some pretty cool people. After two years of laying low and being cautious, it felt good to be indulgent and irresponsible, and at the end of yet another long week of being a full time student, part time intern, and a 24 hour human peon, also known as an RA, it felt particularly euphoric to hit the city with a few of my closest girlfriends. I got to experience that feeling of instant relief when I was released into the city, the kind you get when you face plant into your bed and know that you’ll fall asleep immediately, or like exhaling after holding your breath for a full minute. 

Here’s to wishing everyone an equally debauched and cathartic night on the town and a happy birthday to Julia!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Spring Breakers!

Over spring break, I chose to stay in New York and go into my internship in person. My spring break was an exercise in waking up early, commuting into the city and then knowing what subway to take to and fro. I’ve been taking public transport, coming home, watching TV while I cook my dinner, and bringing my leftovers into work the next day for lunch. This unprecedented level of adulthood and maturity that came over me was a welcome change from my laissez-faire college mindset of sleeping in and turning in work when I feel like it.  

We managed to find a beach

The subway system makes no sense to me and is therefore very stressful. I never know what the schedule is, when the subway will arrive, which one I need to take, and when to get off, but since the only real way to learn is by doing, that’s what I set out to do on my spring break. My streak of getting on the right train was short lived when I got on the wrong train on my way home from work. I meant to take the B train uptown. Instead, I took the B train downtown. I got on in Manhattan, meant to go to the Bronx, and ended up in Brooklyn. I prefer to think of it as not getting on the wrong train but getting on a train that was going in the wrong direction. It’s the same thing, I know, but we’re going to pretend that it’s not. 

I cried out of frustration when I first got off the train. When that didn’t solve my problems, I called my dad to set me straight. I couldn’t call my mother to help me out with directions since I get my terrible sense of directions from her. I also, probably, wouldn’t have had very nice things to say to her about this.

(“YOU DID THIS TO ME!”) 

With a little bit of help from my father, I went back on the B train, this time going uptown, and got off at Grand Central. It was at least another hour before I was back home off the Metro North. 

It occurred to me while I was venturing into the city to go to my job everyday that I wasn’t having a typical spring break like all of my friends were when they left school to go to Los Angeles or some other fabulous locale. 

Photos taken from Glenn Island Beach

I deserved to be in Cabo or Miami, where everybody is a college student at risk of alcohol poisoning and heat stroke. I wanted to be in the type of place where sleazy men try to find girls with low self esteem to make their “girls gone wild” videos, so that when a guy yells “take your tops off,” I get to yell back “no thanks, I’m a feminist.” I had big dreams for my spring break. 

With a view like this, who needs those other places?

Anahat and I have had our noses to the grindstone since the start of our semester, so during the one nice weather day, we ventured half an hour away to the beach so that we could eat a picnic, read our books, splash around in the water, and soak up what little sun existed. 

It was a gorgeous day outside: not-even-a-cloud-in-sight type of weather. It was there that we listened to “Solar Power” by Lorde and devised our plan to see her in concert in about a month. We didn’t end up reading our books (sorry Eudora Welty) or getting in the water, but we did decide to come back later with a bunch of our friends.

For our picnic, I made cilantro lime chicken with cilantro lime aioli on a ciabatta roll that I slathered in melted sharp provolone cheese. It was a successful first attempt at making a panini. On the side we had a fruit bowl of bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, and for dessert, because we hadn’t had enough strawberries, we had chocolate covered strawberries from Topps Bakery. I know that we all have some pretty great movie moments in our lives, but biting into a strawberry right as the song “Strawberry Fields Forever” plays is a whole other level of serendipity. 

We’d clearly gone a little wild laying out on a bedsheet, eating a bunch of fruit and listening to music. We spent hours just like that, taking the kind of fun, relaxing trip that we knew we deserved. Afterwards, we got back to campus with the knowledge that we’d finally done something with our spring break other than work our asses off and that we’d be back at our beloved beach soon. 

I had a wonderful time and I hope that everybody had as pleasant of a spring break as I did. Now I am back to the grind as my semester winds down. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

The Late Show with Raquel Antonette

Welcome one and all to The Tragic Queen. I’m your host Raquel Antonette.

Welcome one and all to The Tragic Queen. I’m your host Raquel Antonette. 

Folks, *pauses for the crowd to die down* I recently had the privilege of seeing a live show of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. How did I score such highly-coveted tickets, you might ask. Well, Valentina works as one of their interns and was kind enough to let me and a few others bum along to see a free showing.  

Valentina signed an NDA so I’m not allowed to know anything about her internship. All I know is that I should be jealous, which I am. I’ve loved watching Stephen Colbert for years now so my excitement was palpable, so much so that the woman beside me told me that she was more excited to see me watch Stephen Colbert than to watch Stephen Colbert herself. 

One of the best parts of this wasn’t just witnessing the interviews and the monologue but experiencing the fun aspects of being there in person. There is a comedian who comes out before Stephen Colbert does named Paul Mercurio who gets the crowd warmed up. He asks people in the audience to stand up and give anecdotes while he cracks jokes at their expense. That was how the whole group heard the story from a drag queen baker who makes penis-shaped cookies that he sold at churches with his queer blue grass group. Paul Mecurio made it very clear that he’s never gotten an answer like this before either.  

Then, when Stephen comes out he does a bit of a Q & A with the audience. It ended after three questions, before I could ask mine. When he walked out, we cheered and even though he said that it wasn’t a competition who applauded the loudest, we won up in the balcony seats. 

He joked about how rough the zoom format has been for the late show, since comedy is all about timing and it’s hard to have good timing when you’re cutting each other off and having to say, “no, you go ahead.” In the end, he told us how amazing it was that we could now all be in person for the show, since he does this, not just for us, but also because of us. 

These pictures were taken by someone who wasn’t me who hadn’t heard the rule that you couldn’t take pictures of the theater, though it was said *multiple* times, lest we want to run the risk of getting kicked out.

First he did his monologue, which only contained one foul-up when he got tripped up on his own tongue. “Let me try it again, this time with words.” He jokes, “No one will know about this, as long as they don’t have twitter,” he points to the audience. No, but at least one of us has a blog. 

He gave a hilarious monologue, had fantastic banter with his guest, and kept the crowd energetic the whole night long, making it look easy.

His first guest was Sandra Bullock who was there to promote a film of hers about a writer who goes to Latin America and gets dragged into an adventure. I’m not saying that this movie sounds derivative, but I am saying that it would not exist without Romancing the Stone. It is, however, a zany comedy starring her and Channing Tatum. 

We watched the two cold opens, his “Meanwhile…” segment, his extended interview with Sandra Bullock, and then his interview with Da’Vine Joy Rudolph, another star of the film. Sandra Bullock looked incredible, as if she was photoshopped just walking around. The two had such easy chemistry together. It was like you were witnessing a casual conversation between friends and not an extensive interview about a film that was about to come out. She promoted her film, talked about Betty White, showed us some bloopers from the film, and took the “Colbert Questionnaire,” a game in which he asks his guests a series of questions that I have seen enough times to know what my answers would be. I was surprised by how every section of the interview flowed just as seamlessly as it does when you watch the video online. There were no breaks or edits. What you watch on the show is exactly what happened. 

Next came Da’Vine Joy Rudolph. She told a hysterical story about a time that she almost defended a dim sum restaurant from a shooter with knives. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that, but I am convinced that I could put my life in this woman’s hands and come out okay. 

A couple of things I learned: the stage and desk aren’t as big and intimidating as you think they’re going to be. It’s literally just a man’s desk. Secondly, the interviews just go on straight through, not with any cuts in between, at least not from what I witnessed. The third thing I learned was that his band, “Stay Human” can really play, not that I had any doubts. The band went wild every chance they got. 

Thank you very much, Valentina! You are a true friend for getting us these tickets– it definitely beats watching clips of the show in the bathroom– and The Late Show is unequivocally lucky to have such a talented person on their staff. Thanks again!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

P.S.: In case you want to watch a clip of the episode that I saw in person, click here

(Those cheers are coming almost exclusively from me, believe it or not)

L’opera: Tosca

Tristana, a beloved former professor of mine, asked me if I would like to accompany her current Italian class to the opera, and never being one to turn down a chance to see opera, I immediately agreed. This time, we went to see Tosca, an opera about a woman named Tosca who, through her own fortitude, must try and save the man she loves while dealing with a predatory man.

The drama. The betrayal. The romance. I was all in. 

I was struck by the opera’s humor in the beginning, but how it could still never have a happy ending where they run into each other’s arms and run off together. Or better yet, an ending where they go their separate ways and nothing changes at all and everybody lives, because this is opera. 

There is a man and a woman who are, to put it mildly, in a tricky situation. The man gets arrested for helping out a friend who is a criminal. The authorities want answers but Tosca won’t give them any until they torture her boyfriend. They then want to put the man to death when they get the answers, unless Tosca sleeps with the man in charge. She kills him instead. In the end, they’re about to run off together and be happy, having gotten away with everything, but then he gets shot by a firing squad and she pitches herself off a building in despair. 

Then the curtain falls. 

It’s hard to relate to them obsessing over one another in a way that makes Romeo and Juliet look like commitment phobes, but I love the intensity of the emotions, being a woman with some very big emotions myself. It’s not just entertaining, but also gratifying to watch them pour their hearts out, and the way that they would fling themselves into graves if they thought that it would alleviate their heartache. I like the way they think. 

I was seated early enough to watch the crew walk the stage, which did nothing but build my anticipation. I wore my purple dress for the occasion, this time without the angel wings. I thought that it was the most perfectly dramatic outfit for a Puccini Opera with a famous premise and even more famous ending. 

There’s something satisfying about finally knowing what everybody’s talking about. I now know what everybody means when they talk about the genius of Puccini’s work. 

This time as I sat and watched I really got a sense of the richness of the language. My knowledge of Italian has grown considerably because I was able to understand more of what was being sung as they belted it out. In that moment, I truly immersed myself in the language and the culture. The good news is that I’ll soon have the chance for even more immersion. For this upcoming Fall semester, I have been accepted to study abroad in Florence, Italy. 

Of course, I never turn down a chance to come here

I will be on an adventure, livening up my senior year as I perfect my Italian. I am looking forward to being in Florence, a visual feast that will be able to satisfy even my insatiable love for great art. My friends have already promised to visit. There has been some big talk from my brother about an Italian Thanksgiving. One way or another, I am going to make the most out of my upcoming study abroad in Florence, having almost as dramatic a time in Italy as Tosca.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Raquel and The Cursed Child

My friend and fellow RA Naomi scored two free tickets to watch “The Cursed Child” on Broadway for me and our other friend and RA, Madison. Naomi’s aunt, Hatsumi, who is an actual angel, got the free tickets for all of us. It was a pretty good group of Harry Potter obsessed girls, seeing as how I read the books repeatedly as a kid, so she could not have bestowed these tickets on three more appreciative theater-goers. 

The group ate some pizza next door and then we walked over to the theater that was decked out from floor to ceiling on each floor with some next-level Harry Potter-themed decorations that put any Halloween decorations you’ve ever had to shame. 

The show is like a play and a magic show at the same time; you stare at the stage, transfixed, trying to figure out how they made the magic happen. There was levitation, spontaneous combustion, outfit changes that happened with the flick of a wrist, people transforming into other people, and people vanishing at a moment’s notice, all of which, I can only assume, was achieved with a rotating stage, a pool inside the stage, trapdoors, harnesses, and some very well coordinated stunts.  

When I wasn’t trying to find the wires, I was noticing the sleekness of the show, how it was far more artistic than I had anticipated with neatly choreographed dance numbers and montages. The smoke and mirrors aside, it was a sensational play that was heartbreaking, heart wrenching, and heartwarming, and no I’m not being dramatic for describing a Harry Potter-based play like that. 

I loved the show despite the fact that the main premise of the play was–swallows hard–time travel. Let me explain. Time travel is, objectively, the worst plot device. The characters go back in time to solve a problem, but then they come back to the present to realize that they ruined something seemingly unrelated and that they will have to right the wrong. Then comes the inevitable storyline where the characters have to go back in time a second time and undo all of the work they did the first time, so that none of it even happened in the first place. As an audience member, you have to keep it all straight in your head. 

Then there’s the principle of time travel that makes it so awful. An existence with time travel is an existence with no history or tradition, in which anything is subject to change at any given moment, where each person on earth is like a puppet just waiting to be controlled. Everything would be precariously hanging in the balance at all times and that doesn’t seem to be a fun way to live…but I digress. 

For a brief, non-spoilery summary of the play, just know that the story revolves around Harry’s son going to Hogwarts and becoming best friends with Malfoy’s son Scorpious, who is rumored to actually be the son of Voldemort. Scorpious Malfoy might be one of the greatest characters in the Harry Potter universe, which I do not say lightly. He definitely is the most precious. 

For once the story gave the Harry Potter fandom some positive Slytherin representation. I take a lot of pride in my identity as a Slytherin, who, on Pottermore, are defined as being “cunning, ambitious, and proud.” That serves as an apt description of how I see myself up at college: lean and hungry in my pursuit of becoming the next great American novelist. 

Their half-on, half-off British accents were particularly amusing, but otherwise I found the show to be surprisingly and appropriately funny. My reactions were apparently fun to watch, according to Naomi, as I obnoxiously reacted to everything, like when something would burst into flames on stage or when papers magically flew off a desk and into a neat stack and I just couldn’t seem to cope. I found myself utterly terrified and clutching the person next to me as a dementor floated over me and the room got cold. Never see a horror movie with me. 

After the show, I bought a completely unnecessary Slytherin scarf and then headed home. There was so much to talk about since there was so much to process. The show in itself was an experience in the way that the set could actually ripple every time they went back in time and have words splashed across the entire theater appearing on cue when the lights went out. 

Perhaps, it was not the most traditional side of playwriting with the bare bones set of an Ibsen play, but taking on a story about magic seems like a thankless task since their wands couldn’t shoot actual sparks. Yet it ended up being a big-budget play with a larger-than-life concept and a scale that was unheard of. I am so grateful for Naomi and her queen of an aunt Hatsumi. 

Until my next Broadway experience…

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Getting COVID, making demands, and not washing my hair

So what’s been up with me you might ask?

Well my RA friends and I have been organizing and making demands from our school’s administration for fairer working conditions. It was never much of a secret that some of my fellow RAs and I were dissatisfied with our workload and pay, but also our treatment as a group. So, we have decided to start sticking it to the man by delivering a list of demands to our Dean of Studies and wait for the ball to be back in our court. We’ve taken to social media with our pleas and have been so fortunate as to receive the respect and approval of our peers, who support our efforts in bringing about change. Our work has been steadily improving through various escalation tactics, and we are optimistic that we can bring about change. 

It was right smack in the middle of these efforts that I had a terrible sore throat and went to my school’s health and wellness center to get tested. Drumroll… I tested positive for COVID-19, again, and strep throat, at the same time. The nurse practitioner was shocked but no one could have been more shocked than I was. 

I am vaxxed, boosted, always masked, and I’ve previously had COVID. I also haven’t been around very many people and no one I knew was sick, and yet somehow I got COVID and strep. It was sort of like an infection and a magic trick all at once. I was then moved into a shoebox in a different building that was so boiling hot that if I ever had a fever I didn’t know it. It only took a couple of hours for me to become convinced that there was a ghost in the dorm room. It was also around that time that I realized that I was definitely the only person in the building…aside from the ghost. The whole thing felt like a nice, relaxing stay at the Overlook Hotel. I was then tasked with informing everyone who I had contact with, which was beginning to feel like everyone I’d ever met. I felt like Typhoid Mary. 

I told you it was hot

I was very limited in what I could bring and it wasn’t until after I had handed over the keys to my dorm room and my student ID card that I realized that I had forgotten to bring shampoo, conditioner, or a hair brush, but cleverly remembered to bring my nail file. Whatever. There was no one to impress and no one who was going to see my bio-hazard hair. My meals were left for me at my door after I ordered them through an app so that I would have zero human contact, so in other words, I’ve been living my best life in 2022. 

My throat was so sore that I sounded like I smoked three packs a day and made Oscar the Grouch sound exuberant and upbeat. I spent my time reading, updating my resume, and writing my novel, taking advantage of having a room of one’s own since that’s what Viginia Woolf swears by. I did all of this while listening to campus tours go by during what appeared to be gorgeous days outside. I burned my leg at one point on my radiator by leaning too closely towards the window to see what was going out there. It was all part of the quarantine experience. Fortunately, my leg has since healed and my sore throat also ebbed after a stint on antibiotics. 

At least I had a pretty sweet view

There were no COVID symptoms to nurse away, just the strep that I have been susceptible to my whole life, which made me suspect that perhaps I’d scored a false positive on my COVID test. My insanity was only furthered when I learned that everyone I had contact with got tested and not a single one came back positive, leading me to believe once and for all that I did not, in fact, have COVID this time around. So if you’re keeping score, I spent five days in quarantine for an illness that I probably didn’t have and forced everybody who knew me to panic and get tested. Let me just add though, that I’m not really bitter about my having to stay in quarantine. It was a nice vacation from my life. 

A picture right before disaster struck my hair

Now I’m back in action, being able to rejoin my cause, and, more importantly, having washed my hair. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

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Valentine’s Day 2022: An open Love Letter to Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is usually a day that I enjoy. It breaks up the monotony of everyday life, it wholesomely celebrates love, and some of the best music ever invented gets played around this time. The more jaded side of me wants to pride myself on seeing Valentine’s Day for what it really is: a 19th century marketing gimmick, designed to make people feel inadequate about what they are already self-conscious about- their love life. First off, it makes zero sense. It is a holiday named after a Catholic saint that was beheaded, which doesn’t exactly conjure up romance. Everything is decorated with images of a naked baby that happens to be the Roman God of love. Its main intention is to make people eat boxes of chocolate and then have sex and yet the only significant thing that happened on this day was a massacre. 

For a whole day, you have to hear people talk about what their love languages are while they say things like “love is blind” and “the course of true love never did run smooth.” The quote that I prefer from that play, that I think is the most applicable to Valentine’s Day, is “what fools these mortals be.” It’s not hard to think about that quote when people give each other cardboard Cupids and watch bad rom-coms that rival Hallmark Christmas movies for peak tackiness. 

Looking good for Valentine’s Day anyways

People who are in relationships just feel pressure to do something great to great expense, others face massive rejection since this is the day they make big, public romantic overtures to little success, and the rest just feel lonely. So who actually enjoys this holiday? For everyone, Valentine’s Day is either a heartbreaking day or a love making day. 

My bitterness towards Valentine’s Day is exactly the same as everybody else’s. It’s a time of year that brings matters of the heart to the forefront, which no one asked for. Yet, every year, despite this, I’m determined to make the most of it, regardless of my relationship status. 

For me, the real holiday around this time of year comes the day before Valentine’s Day. Galentine’s Day is the sacred celebration of womanhood and female friendship. I celebrated it by getting gifts for all of my closest gal pals and having brunch with Valentina in New York City.

We ate at “Good Enough to Eat,” an uptown breakfast place that more than lived up to its name. I would avoid this place if you don’t love coconut chocolate pancakes, goat cheese omlettes, and strawberry-flavored butter. Afterwards, we strolled through Central Park as it snowed and then spent the afternoon perusing the Met. In case you were wondering, it was, in fact, as divine as it sounds. 

I wanted to locate the Met’s sculpture of Cupid and Psyche, a statue that I found years ago and thought would have couples lining up to take pictures in front of it given what the next day was. Unfortunately, however, I could not find it, but instead managed to find the Birth of Venus painting, in which Venus is splayed out in the middle of the ocean having just been formed by the sea foam. 

My parents have had a print of that painting for years, since, according to my father, the Venus in the painting reminds him of my mother. (Smooth move, dad).

That evening I attended a Valentine’s Day music performance that was being put on by the same people who put it on last semester during the holidays. So many beautiful voices, so many well-played songs. It was a match made in heaven, which was appropriate seeing as to how I was wearing my golden angel wings while there. 

I felt that I had a few options regarding how to spend Valentine’s Day while single. I could sacrifice myself at the altar of corporate-whatever-greed and cave to the self-care products that have been cleverly marketed to me to “fill the void,” but that really only means that I’d spend the evening in a bubble bath with a Korean face mask and “Ben & Jerry’s.”

My cat is back in Georgia, otherwise I would be curled up with her, alone in my dorm room, watching clips of the Graham Norton Show. It sounds pathetic, I know, but only if you don’t have any pride. 

My final option was to prance around in my angel wings, telling people that I’m “sent from heaven,” and show all of those guys in relationships what they’re missing. It seemed a better option than being alone in my dorm room playing “A Woman Left Lonely ” by Janis Joplin, so that’s what I went with. I donned my sparkly, gold angel wings over my long purple dress and attended the Valentine’s Day performance. 

You might ask: how can I be both a queen and an angel? 

By Divine Right.

The front of the dress is incredibly short, but the back of it drapes over my shoulders and touches the ground. In other words, the dress is so short that it caused a wardrobe malfunction, but so long that it caused a tripping hazard. I wore the angel wings at the music event on Sunday night and then walked around with them for all of Valentine’s Day. It’s not easy being the “it girl” at your college, even for a day. 

All of the girls I know are gorgeous on Valentine’s Day with red and pink outfits and glitter eyeshadow. Valentine’s Day as female empowerment. (Is that a thesis or what?) It makes me happy in some weird way to think about women being extra on Valentine’s Day and making it their own. 

Me, at said event

On Valentine’s Day I taped heart-shaped Dove chocolates to the doors of my residents. They all got to be my Valentines for the day. So it’s another Valentine’s Day come and gone with no change in my life, but I still managed to have a wonderful time with my friends. I hope that you all had a satisfying Valentine’s Day as well, regardless of your relationship status.  

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Raquel Goddard

xoxo

P.S.: Venus was in retrograde, which should have added some spiciness to the festivities. I did not observe any such romantic turmoil.