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A Baby in a Bar

This story takes place in Boston, known to its citizens as Bawstun.

My family and I spent the weekend visiting Boston, the so-called cradle of liberty, to celebrate my cousin Olivia’s high school graduation (congratulations Olivia) and to find out why it’s called that. With this being a family function and a graduation, I had to be a little bit more demure. I don’t think that anyone can accuse me of being buttoned up in my day to day life, but now it was time to bust out the professional pants.

The view from their apartment

After arriving at my aunt and uncle’s new apartment on the Mystic River, we all got dressed for her dinner party, which was held in the private room of an Italian restaurant, called Lucia Ristorante in the historic North End. It was time to whip out my blue jumpsuit.

It was the type of party where they place several meals on the table throughout the night and you help yourself, so I gorged on pasta and cosmopolitans the entire night, while fantastic music played. This meant two things: that I did not have to order my meal in Italian, like my brother wanted me to, because there was no ordering, and that regardless of situation and degree of inebriation, it’s impossible not to listen to Stevie Wonder and feel happy.

We went back to their place where I watched a sports game on TV, which I promptly misidentified as lacrosse and not hockey, with complete confidence. Next up was Olivia’s graduation. It was time black and white floor length sundress time. It also meant that my aunt was stretching herself thin and needing oxygen pumped into her as she saved seats for all of us on the bleachers. The event consisted of food for thought grad speeches and hundreds of names being called, all well recognizing the difficulties that the class of 2021 had to endure.

Saturday we took in the sights of downtown Boston. My aunt, my uncle, my brother and his girlfriend, my other aunt, my father, my mother, my uncle’s sister, mother, and stepfather, and his sister’s baby all went into the city.

We started at The Black Rose, a classic Irish bar, where we were served by a bartender from Dublin.

Some sport game I’d literally never heard of before played in the background, with throngs of people in the stadium- a replay from 2019, when such things were allowed. The important thing is that it wasn’t lacrosse or hockey. Jerome, “Rome” to his peers, who is the first pandemic baby I’ve ever met, accompanied us into the bar. We received no dirty looks and he ate a bunch of french fries. 

Walking down the street, I made a spiritual visit to their local Kate Spade store and proceeded to get one of their laptop bags. God bless.

Me at the Kate Spade store, buying a purse. This is not the purse I bought. This is a purse I bought a few weeks ago, because I might have a problem

Further down the street was lunch at the all-American restaurant “Union Oyster House,” which happens to be the oldest restaurant in the entire country.

We walked through the Holocaust Memorial, because not every part of a trip should be fun. Some parts should be somber and reflective. Then we crossed the street to the oldest working bar in the United States, Bell in Hand Tavern, where every visitor is encouraged to drink their Bell in Hand specialty beer, invented by the Samuel Adams Beer Company.

Following that, we closed out our adventure by laying out on the grass like it was Haight-Ashbury, in the green space in the middle of the city. Nearby kids, including Rome, played in the fountains to beat the heat of the current North Eastern heat wave.

We then had to work outside in the heat after day-drinking to set up for Olivia’s outdoor graduation party, which went about as well as it sounds. In case you’re wondering what it’s like when sisters get together to set up for a party, just know that my mom at one point threatened to cut off my aunt’s bun with her scissors. 

Then the party ensued, catered by a local Greek restaurant. An outdoor tent party meant a pair of cigarette pants with a striped navy t-shirt and sun earrings, making it just the right combination of Audrey Hepburn and J Crew. A tent in their backyard has been their MO for grad parties, having done the same two years prior for my other cousin. It was quite the shindig, even when it rained.

I can’t recall how much baklava I ate, but close to half the tray would be a conservative amount. My weekend had tiramisu, cannoli, lemon mascarpone, baklava, pesto tortellini, penne alla vodka, chicken parm, risotto, spicy feta, and tzatziki and while it’ll take me weeks to walk all that off, I loved every minute of it. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

In the throes of summer

The beginning of summer is always the best part in my opinion. It’s when everything is fresh and new, you feel the instant release of shirking off your school work, and the heat has yet to become unbearable. I’ll be spending all day in the pool and thinking nothing of it at the beginning of summer, but by the end of the summer the novelty and thrill of the nothingness will have worn off. 

Guess who

Most of the time when people speak fondly about summertime it’s usually because they invariably spent it in some chic place like Malibu or the Hamptons, two places that do seem nice from the pictures, but are nonetheless miles away from where I spend my summers.

I’m back in Valdosta for the summer where I’ll be spending the foreseeable future in my parents’ house. Although I will miss New York, and all of the friends that make it special, there are several things that I’m looking forward to.

I’m looking forward to my mom’s cooking, my pool, my favorite local restaurants, getting a job, doing some painting, and doing a bit of shopping. My immediate plan was to have a classic American summer by swimming in my pool, eating ice cream, soaking up sun, and giving into every hedonistic whim. I wasted no time doing just that. 

I’ve been riding around town in my Jeep with my windows down, blaring the radio. “American Woman” by Lenny Kravitz came on and in that moment, one truly feels like the quintessence of an American woman. 

On my first full day, I leapt into the pool and after a refreshing dip, I leapt straight into a steaming hot bath. Having been on campus, I hadn’t seen a bathtub in several months, but, rest assured, I didn’t go too overboard with it. I just used some lavender, rose pedals, bath elixir, bath salts, two bath bombs, some other bath salt, and hot water up to my chin. Then, I sat in it for over an hour. I left the tub, smelling zesty, and watched “Crazy Rich Asians,” for maybe the fourth time. 

Later that night, we had fried zucchini mixed into our parmesan and pasta, as taught to my mother by Stanley Tucci. An old friend of my father’s, who also happens to be a film mentor of my brother’s, made the trip with his wife to see us and we ate the whole thing outside in our backyard.

The next night, after burgers and tater tots for dinner, I had Rocky Road ice cream and actually watched the gorgeous Stanley Tucci CNN documentary: Searching for Italy, and after two years of Italian, I’m pissed that Stanley Tucci found Italy before I did.

Since I’ll be getting a job this summer, I wanted to spend the first few weeks doing all of the carefree things one does before they have to seek out employment. I’ve been waking up at noon, swimming, reading poolside, taking long baths, and dancing around my pool in my swimsuit. I listened to early 2000s pop music, made by sassy women, such as Britney Spears, Nelly Furtado, Gwen Stefani, Fergie, and Destiny’s Child, just to name a few. 

One of the first orders of business of being home was getting my mom a Mother’s Day gift. Being up in New York on Mother’s Day, I couldn’t join her for the actual day, but I intended to make up for that by getting her something she would love once I was down here. I surprised her with an all-black Kate Spade purse, a la Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson from the TV show “The Closer.” (She wanted me to be sure to add that). A powerful purse for a powerful woman. There also was a vase of carnations. 

It’s a small reward for being pretty great.

Then there was the small business of getting my second dose of Moderna. Just like before, the shot was a small prick, followed by the mild inconvenience of fever, chills, an overly-sore arm, nausea, and fatigue that passed within a day. When asked how I was feeling, I told a friend that I wasn’t ready to run a marathon, which meant that I was back to normal.

My family celebrated my full-vaccination by going downtown to Giulio’s and naturally, I dressed for the occasion. I was wearing a black baby doll dress and a new pair of black heart earrings that I’d just bought in Athens. I hadn’t worn this dress in a while, having only just been reunited with it in my closet, which was why I was blithely unaware of the fact that the thin black material was completely see-through. So, I waddled around with a jacket wrapped around my waist, hoping that no one was staring directly at my underwear.

Two days later, for lunch Bobby and Mikaela and I went to Ming’s, a place we’d never been to before but came highly recommended from my best friend over the years. We get there, only to realize that they’re takeout and cash only. Expecting to use our cards, we were forced to scrape together enough cash to pay for our shared to-go order.

Here’s how it broke down:

I had a dollar

Mikaela had a dollar

Bobby had 17 dollars

Guess who paid for most of it.

We sat there waiting for our food and complaining amongst ourselves, after which we spent some time downtown. I don’t think that this is the place that Petula Clark was singing about, but I love a good downtown area. A chai latte from Gud coffee, some hummus and shawarma from Mo’s Mediterranean, and stuffed grape leaves from Giulio’s are the types of things that I go downtown for. 

A chai latte from Gud with some Nutella toast

I went to the theatre with my mom, like much of the world, to watch “Cruella,” since it is a devilishly funny, fast-paced, and resplendent female anti-hero film with high-fashion and a phenomenal soundtrack. 

So, I know that I said I’d be spending the foreseeable future in Valdosta, but now that the beginning of summer is behind me, I’m actually going up to Boston for a family thing.

Peace out Valdosta! I have a graduation to go to.

See you when I get back.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

When in Athens…

After a headache-inducing college move out, executed by myself, I arrived in Athens, Georgia, where I made a brief pit stop to see my brother Bobby and his girlfriend Mikaela, en route to my parents’ house in Valdosta. I was promised a weekend of fun, with them dragging me around to all of their favorite restaurants and Athens spots, all the while hanging out with their ragtag group of friends, and I was not disappointed. 

I stayed in their apartment with them and their overly-skittish cat, Itty Bitty, who isn’t so itty bitty anymore. She’s the very definition of a scardy cat, so she had to warm up to me all throughout the week. At first I’d catch her peeking her head around the corner to get a look at me and then I’d occasionally wake up to her staring at me and audibly licking herself. Nothing says, “I’m staying with relatives” quite like being non verbally sexually harassed by your sibling’s anxiety-ridden and emotionally-stunted cat.

After a lovely wake up call from Itty Bitty, I started my day. Even though I left New York, I still could walk down the street and get a bacon, egg, and cheese on a fresh onion bagel. This was the case at least on my first day in Athens when Bobby took me to Ideal Bagel for breakfast, a place that more than lived up to its name.

Later that night there was a graduation ceremony that we attended for two of his friends, followed by a graduation party, followed by us trolling downtown in search of somewhere to go. Unfortunately, throughout the entire weekend, every bar and restaurant closed at 11:30 due to COVID, so when we arrived around midnight, the streets were filled with morons looking around for a place that was still open and we were some of those morons. 

The very next day, after waking up at noon, lunch was served at Cali n Titos, a beloved Cuban restaurant that they wanted to take me to. Not only was the food delicious but the setting was gorgeous, making for a friendly atmosphere that only further enabled my love of sweet plantains.

Filled with food, the rest of the group went to a brewery, while I seized the opportunity to mull around downtown Athens, a place that I learned the night before had an amazing selection of boutiques. After the semester I’d had, I was looking forward to strutting down the street and going into any dress shop that interested me. I had to talk myself out of buying a black silk evening gown that was too big for me and a matching $90 pair of shoes. I mostly just bought jewelry: chunky rings and some heart shaped earrings.

The real event of my outing was when I went to Margo, a spiritual shop that sold all essential occult paraphernalia. I bought myself a ring that is supposed to ward off the negative forces in my life, although I’m not sure what it does when you’re the negative force in your life. 

I seized on the tarot card readings. Having successfully had my palm read in Italy several years ago, I was hip to the whole vibe. Like most people, I question the validity of tarot cards as a means of divining the truth, but like any true X-Files fan, “I want to believe.” She took me upstairs to do the reading in a room that looks nicer than most of the therapy offices I’ve been in, which is fitting since in some ways it felt like therapy. She informed me first and foremost that tarot cards were not a way of glimpsing the future, but more accurately that they tell you about yourself and where you’re currently at in life. She displayed the cards in an attractive array and told me to pick the three that I felt most drawn to. I felt compelled to choose the four swords, the queen of wands, and the queen of cups.  

Because I pulled the four swords, she said that I needed to relax; not surprising after the semester I’ve had. I was especially convinced that she was correct when I read the words “Hermant’s repose,” as a way of describing the four swords, which is how my mother describes me. Then there was the queen of wands, which told me that in order to be successful in life and to attract a partner, I’d need to be my passionate and vivacious self and not shy away from my true and inner boldness. Finally, there’s the queen of cups, which means that my intuition will see me through my current situation, so I must listen to it. 

In the end, I was told that I needed to rest and relax, be my boldest self, and trust in my intuition, all of which is a good sign that I’m on the right track. She was surprised that I had two queens in one hand, but that’s what happens when you’re a Tragic Queen

I met up with the group again at Creature Comfort Brewery, a place so relaxing that it seemed like the type of place that would actually be enjoyable if I was allowed to drink in it. There was cool music playing, outdoor seating, and all around pleasant vibes. Staying there until the sun went down was easy.

After about an hour, we left for Blue Sky, another place that had some equally pleasant vibes and outdoor seating. There were young people everywhere, straddling the terrace benches, definitely celebrating graduation and taking in the evening. 

Bobby’s friend Julian
My best friend’s sister spotted in Athens

The very next day can only be described as a lazy Sunday. I woke up late in the day and read. There was some dancing around my room, mostly to the Cure, and then I started a new book by Sally Rooney. For lunch, a.k.a. our first meal of the day, we got Kelly’s, an amazing Jamacain restaurant that I fell in love with. There was sweet tea, cornbread, rice, mac and cheese, and jerk wings, none of which I had available to me in New York.

Following that I went to Condor’s Chocolate, where I promptly spent over thirty dollars on truffles. This also should serve as a friendly reminder that money spent on chocolate is never wasted. Unless, of course, you’re diabetic, in which case it’s ill-advised. 

I chose truffles in various different flavors: mocha, dark, raspberry, lemon, caramel, and others. On our way out of town, we stopped by Dondero’s Cafe, a cozy little cafe in a centuries old house.

The weekend consisted of things that I not only love but am obsessed with: great restaurants, window shopping, chocolate, reading, and down time. I got to hangout with my brother’s friends: Raj, Sol, Marquis, Mikaela, and Julian (seen in various photos above). They know how to make a weekend special.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

The Sophomore Slump

Other schools have finals week. Sarah Lawrence College, being a school for the arts, has conference week. Instead of studying hard and answering multiple choice questions on a scantron, SLC kids get to submit novels and short films and just all around put on a show. Basically, conference week is where you spend the entire semester working on an art project for each class, and then rushing to actually complete it during the last week of the semester, when it’s due. 

It’s in times like this that you don’t finish the semester; the semester finishes you.

The semester finishing me

My conference work went as follows: 

Finishing up where I’m at in the novel that I’m writing

Submitting said novel

Translating said novel into Italian

Presenting said novel in Italian

Presenting a skit with a group in Italian

Writing an essay from the perspective of an ancient Greek figure to a modern day figure

Churning out a worksheet listing everything I read, or was supposed to have read, for Ancient Greek literature

Here’s how that went:

I submitted my Ancient Greek literature worksheet and essay early, which is a first for that class. I got everything squared away with the novel, except for the translation, and then it came time to perform the skit in Italian class. In the skit I played an Italian speaking tiger who tries to pull off a bank heist, so I decided to paint my entire face into a tiger. I woke up early, made myself into a tiger, then showed up to class. Do you ever have those moments where you have an out of body look at what you’re doing with your day and you think, “how is this my life?” Well, after playing a tiger in our group project, I had to present my individual conference project, which was just me reading my novel in Italian. So there I am, reading out my novel in Italian, while painted like a tiger. 

Una tigre

Oddly, it wasn’t the first time that I’d done something like this. Earlier in the year, I showed up to Italian class dressed as Morticia Addams for Halloween. 

It’s not easy being the Lady Gaga of your class.

I was informed that presenting a class project in tiger face paint was “bad ass.” I also gained much approval from a campus security guard, the people who work in the cafeteria, and the professor in my next class. I viewed the whole thing as a weird metaphor for what it takes to do well academically at the end of the school year. 

Sophomore year sucks so much that they give it a name: the sophomore slump. Interestingly enough, your sophomore year is even more of a slump when you spend it all online. Since we all know what all work and no play did for Jack, I took my mom’s advice which is to do things that I enjoy before, after, and during my school work. In previous summers, I’d saved up my money so that I could use it in the big city, but since that was not to be this year, I decided to spend my money in Bronxville.

I stumbled upon a live jazz and blues concert at the amphitheatre and danced until the sun went down, even though there are few as uncoordinated as I.

I watched the concert with Tyler

I’ve been getting into the habit of walking to Slave to the Grind every weekend for a chai tea latte, which was what I was doing when I was ambushed by a goldendoodle puppy that might just be the embodiment of pure happiness. 

I couldn’t get a photo that wasn’t blurry because this was an energetic boy.

One weekend, Theo and I went to Dumpling and Noodle, a classic standby and Sarah Lawrence favorite, where we had- get this– dumplings, noodles, but also sake.

The next night, feeling a little bit more extroverted than usual, I went with Anahat to Wild Ginger, a Japanese restaurant we’d never been to, where we ordered green tea and vegan sushi.

Next door to Wild Ginger is Cookies N’ Cream, which- get this– serves nothing but cookies and ice cream. Assuming that the “salted caramel” ice cream flavor was, at the very least, chocolate with salted caramel, I ordered that in a red velvet cone, only to be disappointed when it was basically vanilla. I rectified the mistake a few weeks later by getting rocky road. 

It was a while before I went out on the town again. My friend Theo and I went to the Bronxville diner, the kind of place where they give you a patty melt with a pickle on the side and a chocolate shake with an overflow, and we discussed movies, because it reminds me of “When Harry Met Sally.”

Since my friend Tyler chauffeured me around the day before school ended, so that I could buy my moving boxes, I decided to repay him with dinner out. We went back to Wild Ginger, since he considers himself to be a “wild ginger.” Naturally, there was ice cream afterwards. The very next day, I brought all of my friends together on the last day of school, to Urban Hamlet, a restaurant that none of us had been to in Bronxville. 

The wild ginger at Wild Ginger

I’m not sure where the Hamlet part fits in, but the urban part definitely fits. It was one of those restaurants with dim lighting and eccentric, well-presented food, but also a bar and a baseball game on television. Naturally, there was ice cream afterwards. 

It was a great final send off for my friends Tyler, Theo, Anahat, and Valentina, before we left for summer break the next day. I woke up the next morning at 10 am and moved out of Hill House by noon, making me perhaps the only person in Hill House who left by closing time. Every single floor was filled with college students and their horrified parents, trying to shuffle every scrap out of their child’s room and then waiting for an elevator that wouldn’t stop at their floor. I jammed my way into the elevator with two parents who were having one of those nostalgic, “back in my day” chats. “Back in my day, if it didn’t fit in the trunk, it wasn’t coming with you to college.” I then proceeded to carry both my suitcases all the way across campus, lugging about one hundred pounds behind me as I reassured myself that I had the eye of the tiger and could therefore do it. 

Some last minute shots of the beauty of Bronxville

There was no food left on campus and I couldn’t partake in the food trucks because I wasn’t a senior, so I decided to get to the airport early and eat there. I then proceeded to sit around the airport for about two hours, waiting for the independent airline my mom booked a flight on to show up at the ticket counter. Frontier airline, some unheard of airline that probably has a shoddy safety record, is what I signed up for. It was at the end of the terminal with all of the other not-reputable airlines. I sat in front of that baggage check on top of my suitcase for two hours. Nearby Spirit airlines baggage check went through and checked in countless people. It was the first time that a person thought “wow, Spirit airline is looking pretty good right now.” After two hours of wallowing in my own hunger and thirst, someone showed up, I checked my bags, went through security and made it to the restaurant section. Half of them were closed, but I eventually scarfed down a slice of pizza that was about the size of my head, eating my first meal of the day at like 3pm, and feeling like a human being again.

The book I was reading while waiting for frontier had this to say about baggage claim and how awful airports are. How apropos.
The Laguardia employee making me a slice of pizza and saving my life
The end result

Once on the plane, the pilot informed us before take off, “We had some maintenance issues earlier, but we fixed them.” 

“They really didn’t need to tell us that,” the woman beside me said. 

Also, You fixed them? You fixed the whole damn plane in a few minutes? The only thing that could have given me less confidence in this airline’s competence is if I’d seen an employee putting duct tape on the wing of the plane.

In the end, the plane ride was painless and my semester was too. I didn’t die, which can also be said for both my semester and the plane ride. Now, I’m back en route to Valdosta, where I’ll spend my summer working and probably getting sunburnt. 

My arrival in Atlanta

I’ll keep you posted.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

One down, one to go (Thanks Moderna)

I spent the morning sipping my Earl Grey tea, listening to “Avatar: The Last Airbender” low-fi music and the sound of the rain. Two nights later I was doing a face mask and getting to bed early, so that I could read the Fran Lebowitz book that I’ve been looking forward to. Some days, I can’t tell the difference between this and my introverted ways before COVID. Those are good days. 

It’d been raining here all week. I was going to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Wednesday, administered by the school, but the nationwide halt changed that plan. In lieu of that, our school sent us to a vaccination site in Westchester. A few hours later, after a vexing online sign-up process that resulted in many tears, I went with my friend Tyler to the site. 

This is quite the operation… as it should be

They sat me down, asked me the obligatory medical question of “what is your birthday,” and much to our mutual excitement the nurse and I discovered that we had the same birthday (give or take a few decades). I love meeting people who have my same birthday, because, unless I’ve imagined it, very few people seem to have been born on June 29th. Since we’d built up a rapport, I warned her that I’m not great with needles. It’s not much except for my historically low threshold for pain, the counter-intuitive nature of sticking a foreign substance into my body, and the fact that whenever I see the needle going in all I can picture is the needle going straight through my skinny arm and coming out the other end. 

The woman understood and assured me that “this too shall pass.” Instead of watching the injection, I picked a spot on the wall, which ended up being the banners of the victories of the Westchester Community College Viking’s Basketball Championships. It wasn’t bad at all. The initial injection didn’t really hurt, although soon after my arm felt so sore that I thought that my arm might fall off. It must have been the microchip. (I would like to specify for all of the conspiracy theorists out there, that was most definitely a joke). 

While waiting the standard fifteen minutes post-vaccination, I scanned a barcode, using the camera on my phone in order to schedule my next appointment. I overheard one of the volunteers instructing another person to do the same, by stating, “we’re just going to let big brother take control, right now.” I burst out laughing, hopefully validating him and his literary references. 

This would be Tyler

Once I got home, the side effects hit. At first it was just a fever and some chills, which set in that night. I wasn’t worried: this falls within the normal range of symptoms. The next morning I still had the fever, plus nausea, the kind where you feel like you’re going to throw up if you so much as take a sip of water. I spent most of the day in bed, trying to get my fever to ebb and sleeping in between my conferences. After nap number four of the day, I got up to pee, down a glass of water, eat my first meal of the day, and take my temperature. 

Some more shots of the red tape

You know that it’s a bad sign when standing up is where the problem starts. I knew I was uncoordinated before, but my inability to walk straight and the way that I bumped into everything, was a new low for me. The dehydration, lack of food, and staying in bed all day, in conjunction with my adverse reaction to the vaccine, didn’t exactly make for a banner day in my life. I drank a glass of water, put a slice of bread in the toaster, and couldn’t find the thermometer. I stumbled from the kitchen to my room and could not see anything by the time I got back to my room.

Ringing started in my ears, then everything around me went silent. I moved toward the chair at my desk when I collapsed. Miraculously, I didn’t hit my head on anything on my way to the floor, even though there were about five different things I could have hit my head on. I did take about half the contents on my desk down with me. I dragged down my keyboard, my atlas, and, ironically, the handout on the side effects of the Coronavirus vaccine. 

I was sitting on the floor, sweating uncontrollably, unable to see or hear. I’d never had a serious health problem before; I hadn’t so much as fainted, so, when I was sitting there on the ground, missing half my senses, all I could think to do was call out for my suite mate Bella.

Bella helped me up off the floor and set me on my bed. She called our school’s 911 and gave me back my toast, although she offered to make me a new piece of toast that hadn’t been on the floor. My entire body was coated in some nice, sticky sweat.

My vision steadily came back in about a minute; the ringing persisted a little while longer, but that eventually subsided as well. I was offered an ambulance, but since my side effects dissipated and my body temperature plummeted, I decided instead to just chug some electrolytes and call it a day. 

The electrolytes, provided for me by the school and brought to me by Bella

Even though I collapsed (the perfect get out of class free card) I went to class anyway. My peers were reviewing my piece that day and since it would be my last chance to hear their thoughts on my novel before the semester ended, I felt that I had no other choice but to go. I went early, told the professor what happened, and asked if I could go first in class. I spent the whole class in bed, with many eyes carefully on me. 

I had no more serious episodes after that. I don’t want this anecdote to be mistaken for a reason not to get the vaccine. Most of the women I know have had strong reactions to the vaccine. I read that women tend to have stronger reactions than men do because the vaccine was designed with fully grown men in mind. This doesn’t surprise me. 

Apparently, for centuries doctors treated women’s bodies under the assumption that they were the same as men’s bodies, just with added, obnoxious hormones, so they thought that the best way to study and treat women is to do so by studying men. Women are 73% more likely to die in a car crash than a man is, because seatbelts and airbags are also designed with fully grown men in mind. Is that why they call it “a man’s world?” 

My female friends and I fainted and threw up and lost a day of our lives (but what’s a day in comparison to the year we lost?) My male friends got temporarily sore arms, but I’m not bitter about this. Overall, I’m just happy to be healthy and on the right track to being fully-vaccinated. 

We’ll see how the next shot goes.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

A Very Nice Day

In class we had to read “Spring in Fialta” by Nabakov and then had to write something mimicking the language. We had to describe a location using details that felt vivid and fresh, so I had to pick a place that makes me feel a lot when I think about it. In the end, I chose Valdosta- with its auburn pine needles and green puddles of pollen- but I could have written about Bronxville. It got me thinking about how badly I want it to be Spring in Bronxville again when I can hang around campus and downtown, enjoying the sun, preferably without a mask. 

The mask part didn’t happen, but since it was a brisk 66 degrees a few days ago, I roamed the campus, mostly listening to Prince and taking in the start of Spring. I did this at the request of my Italian conversationalist, MariaGrazie, who probably thinks that I’m depressed and suggested that I go for a walk around campus, so that I could feel a little less stale and break up the monotony. This came after she asked me, in Italian, what I’d done recently, and all I could say was that I finished a Stephen King book two days ago.

Me with a fabulous book, on facetime with my mother

So I went for my little walk.

The morning of, I had my Italian conversation and a routine COVID test, which came back as a much-anticipated negative. I’m testing negative and staying positive. Following that happy news, I mulled things over in the middle of campus, before making the hike back up to my far-off dorm rooms. 

The sky was a perfect blue without a cloud in sight. Everything was in bloom and just to prove it, I took photos. I present to you, Spring at Sarah Lawrence College:

This tree:

This tree:

This other tree:

Some billowy white flowers in front of a sky that is Easter Egg blue (on a tree):

The sad thing is, that because I’ve never seen flowers like this in real life, up until now, all I could think of was “Daisy perfume” by Marc Jacobs.

Me kicking my legs up, as I sit near the main road:

Please excuse me while I take a load off.

Tulips:

Me sitting amongst the tulips:

In doing so, I was sitting in front of Westlands, the beautifully-classic, and probably deeply-haunted building that the founder of our college supposedly shoved a woman down the stairs in. We’ve promptly named the dead maid, Gertrude, so much so that if you google search it, her name will come up as Gertrude, even though that wasn’t her real name. This might be the wrong time to mention that I want to live in Westlands if I ever get the chance.

Other planted flowers that I don’t know the name of:

This scene, which might as well have been taken out of a rom com:

Me, climbing up on these high, rocky cliffs that border the campus, that students are allowed to sit on:

There are some nice little picnic chairs up on top, which I wasn’t aware of and sat there reading my book, pleasantly-alone.

Proof that I did that in heels: 

The book that I read from atop the cliffs:

I read “Lovely War” by Julie Berry, which ended up being the perfect book for reading in this weather, with it being a slightly seductive story about the gods and goddesses that takes place in the 40s. There was even a reference in it to the Ancient Greek poet that I submitted an essay on yesterday. 

A rare pic of me, outside, not wearing a mask, because I was eating my lunch and sipping iced tea:

Some tiny sprigs of something that are growing out in front of the library:

A few photos of the streets, taken at the side of the campus, that make Bronxville look like Hobbitown:

This oh-so-sexy pergola that always has withered vines on it, regardless of the season:

In conclusion, Spring is a time of rebirth and new life, so naturally it is the time to walk around, blowing away the cobwebs in my mind. The campus seems to be reborn too, not just with flowers and trees, but with people giving tours to parents and potential new students, who are just as amazed as I am at the beauty. We’re making way for the next group of students. 

The word for Spring in Italian is “primavera,” which sounds so much more resplendent and exuberant.  

I suppose if you were to say “Happy Spring” in Italian it would probably be “buon Primavera” (don’t quote me on that).

So buon primavera, or whatever it is supposed to be. 

And Happy Spring!

Love, The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Spring at Sarah Lawrence

My brother insists that I’m too heavily influenced by TV, which is correct, but completely beside the point. I’m trying to eat healthier because I heard about a macrobiotic diet (on House) and decided that I want to incorporate aspects of that into my diet. 

A macrobiotic diet is supposed to be a lifestyle, but knowing me, as I do, I know that I can’t commit to an entire lifestyle change, especially when it comes to food. So, I’m hoping that if I eat one healthy meal a day I’ll be in good standing with my own personal health. 

A macrobiotic diet, which is popular among female celebrities and cancer patients, derives mostly from Japanese cuisine. It claims to restore balance and help you to achieve inner peace, which I think we could all use a little bit of right now. On this diet, a person is expected to eat foods such as brown rice, eggs, plenty of vegetables, and otherwise healthy things. Since we all know that healthy food is the worst and that junk food tastes the best, I’m looking for inventive new ways to eat healthy food that doesn’t taste like carpeting. 

The day I started this pseudo-diet I had oatmeal for breakfast, followed by homemade fried brown rice, bok choy, and a scrambled egg. Then I proceeded to undo all of that by eating mint chocolate chip gelato, potato chips, white cheddar cheese popcorn, M&M’s, a crispy chicken sandwich, and girl scout cookies. In my defense, it was movie night and since I incurred a stomach ache, I don’t believe I should also suffer judgement. 

I stuck to this plan of eating my fried rice everyday for lunch for over a month, a big step up from my previous status of midnight ramen. For breakfast I always have Earl Grey tea with a buttered bagel and then dinner is whatever I get from the Barb. So here I am, shoveling poorly-seasoned brown rice and bok choy into my mouth, in the name of good health.

I bought the super foods while out on the town during a grocery run with my friend Anahat, a person who I hadn’t seen in a literal year. We are now each other’s grocery store buddies, just to ensure that we actually do go to the grocery store at some point. 

For fun, I ended up eating mint chocolate chip gelato with thin mints as I watched “Pieces of a Woman” (I ate the ice cream and cookies at the beginning of the film, but probably should have done so at the end, when the tears were making their way forward). I’ve been watching old tv shows from my childhood to see how they hold up. Spoiler alert: they do not. I was easily amused as a child and should now apologize to my parents for how much I tormented them. 

Every night my plan is to go to bed by 11 pm, but then something happens and suddenly it’s 3 am and I’m still awake, not fully aware of what I’ve been doing for the past few hours. I try to read before bed instead of mindlessly scrolling on social media, so that it can lower my heart rate, help me sleep better, and give me a superiority complex. 

There is a bit of good news though. For once, I got a chance to hang out with some of my friends, since my friend Theo’s 21st birthday was the very next day. We watched “Fish Tank,” a Michael Fassbender film featuring some early 2000s cringe and thick British accents. 

Me on my way to leave my house for once

Him and his roommate Tyler live in an apartment off campus, which means they have lawn chairs for kitchen chairs and a poker table for a kitchen table, which might be my favorite way to design an apartment. I nearly destroyed their microwave when I accidentally put a sandwich in it with the tin foil wrapper still on. My friends could see the glow of the microwave in front of the movie we were projecting, prompting them to all turn their heads when they all saw a blue flame. In my defense, I was doing this in the dark and thought that it was plastic wrap, which I have since been told is also not great in microwaves. I also should get credit for turning off the microwave within four seconds.

The group then decided to pause the movie and watch me while I ate, just in case. The party, overall, was loads of fun. I wore an unnecessary, full-face of makeup, simply because I was excited to just be leaving the dorm.

The makeup
The make-off

Recently, I also gave an informal tour of my beloved school to a visiting girl that is considering coming to Sarah Lawrence. Even though we couldn’t go into most of the buildings, we walked around the campus and Bronxville, while I advocated for the school that has served me well. They seem to take my view of things, which is that Bronxville and Sarah Lawrence are absolutely stunning.

Easter Sunday is here and it’s the first time I have spent it without my family. My mother, who believes in making everything festive and giving everything a sense of occasion, still places Easter eggs around the house and enjoys concocting a scavenger hunt for me and my brother. In recent years, the scavenger hunt has taken place all across town, with our family friends playing along and Bobby and myself driving around town in my car, in our pajamas. We quite literally follow clues that send us to my friend Padgett’s house to retrieve the next clue from her mother, before moving on to my brother’s friend’s house. The clues say things like: Raquel’s friend who has a menagerie of animals. At the end of it, there’s a massive basket with things like movies, extra pajama pants, maybe a bathing suit, and lots of chocolate. 

This year my mother just mailed us the basket contents, which was a pile of fake grass, chocolate eggs, and some cash. I definitely missed spending time with them. My mother likes to play Gregorian chants in the morning on actual Easter Day while cooking up her Polish food. I’m more than just a little bit happy that I missed the two hour long Easter Vigil mass where we stand in my church’s parking lot, lighting candles while mosquitoes bite our ankles. 

Between the dieting, the binge-watching, the occasional hangouts with friends, and the uneventful late nights, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy, aside from the school work. The weather is now at the perfect temperature to lay out on the lawn so I’ll be doing that soon.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

P.S. Happy Easter! Or Happy Passover! Or Vernal Equinox! Or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year!

Some daily dull musings

Domestic life, treating me well

My radiator, which works all too well, causes my room to get stuffier than an oven at night, so in order to not wake up covered in sweat, I crack open the window in front of my bed and open all three of my curtains so that sunlight can flood in. That way I can wake up to perfect sunshine and start my day off on a lovely note. This works well until the 6 am sunshine peaks over the adjacent apartment complex, grazes my clavicle ever so gently, and then burns a hole into my skin, thus waking me up. If I ever wake up without my alarm clock going off, I have to check and make sure that I didn’t sleep through it and that it isn’t now 1 pm; I wouldn’t say it if it hasn’t happened. This causes me to clamor for my phone, see that it is the ungodly hour of 6 am, say some words that are unrepeatable and then drool off into my pillow again once I’ve reassessed the trajectory of the sun. I live quite the thrilling life, I assure you.

The view from my dorm
The Park

I walk to get my lunch every afternoon wearing my fabulous coats that no one gets to see, listening to “City of Blinding Lights” by U2, and yes I am aware that that song is about Paris and not New York City. Since I’ve been sitting around in my room, bored for ages, I’ve been thinking about all of the places in the world I want to go to, and I’ve narrowed it down to everywhere. I have a rough idea of what I want to do: spend an entire year traveling like I’m on a honeymoon with myself. 

A pic of New York City from a very different time

I want to soak up some sun on Bondi beach and do likewise at Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. Then there’s whatever France has to offer and Italy of course, seeing as how I’m learning the language. I also want to see the places that Americans tend to view as off-limits, like China and Russia. I blame my parents. I’ve wanted to see the Adriatic Sea and the pyramids and Croatia since they got me to watch “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Death on the Nile,” and “Evil under the Sun,” as a kid. 

The view from the steps of the Met

But first, I’d like to see New York again. It feels strange to be living in New York and to be missing New York. I keep reminding myself of all of the things that I loved about it, so that the distance between us doesn’t break my spirits. One of the things that I have enjoyed so much about Sarah Lawrence is the way that I could just pop into the city at a moment’s notice and check out the Mapplethorpe exhibit that they have at the Guggenheim or the Met Gala exhibit at the Met. 

The Temple of Dendur

There’s so much that I like and miss about New York City: the street meat, weird theatre, killer opera, and of course, the Park. I can’t wait to get back to the energy and the drama; there’s nothing lethargic in a city that never sleeps. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Fasttimes at Sarah Lawrence College

Since I live practically at east coast ground zero for the COVID hotspot, my school actually cares about whether or not we breathe each other’s air. The current policy is that I’m only allowed to interact with people in my “living pod,” so I only get to spend time with my suitemate, Bella, the only person I’m allowed to mouth-breathe on/near. Together, we watched “Malcolm & Marie” on Netflix, cramming our faces with white cheddar cheese popcorn, milk duds, and other movie theatre junk food. Then we watched “The Price of Everything,” my favorite documentary about the world of contemporary art, which also happens to be the only documentary I’ve ever seen about the world of contemporary art. Bella wants to be an art restorer, so I thought it’d be a good fit and as it turns out, I was correct. 

We tried to play a Valentine’s Day themed card game that the school provided us, only to find that you need more than two players. So instead we played war, attempted a card castle on her bed, and played one of those get-to-know-you-question-games. I just got a legitimate deck of bicycle playing cards and we’ll be learning how to play gin rummy. Thursday night was “sit in the hallway and socially-distance paint” night. I painted a bunch of lemons as part of my attempt to be optimistic, because when life gives you lemons you should paint the lemons or some shit.

Thursday was also the day that the school blessed us by paying for a Greek food truck to give us free lunch and a special empanadas food truck to give us dessert empanadas stuffed with nutella, strawberries, and brownies. It was exactly as amazing as it sounds. 

The food truck that served these is called “Wanna Empanada” btw. Be sure to give them a google search

Then I made even more preacher cookies, this time showing Bella, and then made something called “copycat subway cookies,” that I undoubtedly made wrong.

I don’t think that they were supposed to come out salty

I’ve since been able to zhuzh up my blank walls with posters representing my favorite things in the hopes of making this self-isolation a little better. Above my head, I have Jane Fonda’s mugshot, so that she can watch over me while I sleep. Some of you may recall having had a poster in your weird cinder block dorm room that said something like “Frankie Says Relax.” Instead I have Wednesday Addams, Fleabag, and President Bartlet. 

Please ignore my messy desks

Wednesday Addams, from “The Addams Family” is, per her usual, drinking some poison. I put her up on my wall because she reminds me of childhood-me (don’t read too much into that). Fleabag, from the show “Fleabag,” is another woman who reminds me of myself, seen here cheekily turning towards the camera as she says something no doubt crass. President Bartlet, from the TV show “The West Wing,” is in Obama-style coloring, like any good president. Finally, my large tapestry of a Portugese Vogue cover hanging over my bed should immediately tell anyone who enters that I love fashion and am probably cultured (wink, wink). I got all of my dorm room decor from a website called “RedBubble,” which allowed me to set up my shrine to sassy women in black and white and President Bartlet.

A shot of my bed, made-up just for you guys

Most of them fell down shortly after I took these photos. Sigh. 

The newest addition

I can’t wait until I can spend an afternoon watching a mediocre movie in theatres and ordering the wrong thing off a menu at a really great restaurant. I also miss the Slo parties, which take place at “slo 7” , a series of dorms on campus, where you have to venmo people for drinks and act like you’re having a better time than you are. In the coming weeks Bella and I will be watching “Jojo Rabbit,” a newfound favorite of mine and I’ll keep you updated on how the gin rummy is going. 

Much love and also Happy International Women’s Day!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Even more Galentine’s Day Love

A goofy Galentine’s Day image, that I did with a limited amount of art supplies, but I think it sold my point.

If you’re anything like me and you think that this year is already taking its toll then you’re probably struggling to have a loving and affectionate Valentine’s Day in quarantine. It also doesn’t help that I am and always have been single, but that isn’t the point. The point is that I like to add a sense of occasion, even to the simplest of western holidays that my society forces me to celebrate and Valentine’s Day is no exception.

This time last year, Valentine’s Day marked the end of my pre-COVID activities. After that, my school clamped down hard with its restrictions, being an epicenter for this new virus, and I went back to live with my parents. I honestly can’t believe that I’m coming up on a year, a full rotation around the sun, abiding by limitations put in place due to a global pandemic. So without knowing it, I had to make that Valentine’s Day count and I therefore want to make this one count.

Drinking some Valentine’s Day lemon tea

Like most people on Valentine’s Day, I want to be sipping a virgin pina colada and wearing my black tights, because black tights are made for Valentine’s Day, as are pina coladas, at least in my mind. But I have no way of getting a pina colada and I left my tights at home. I could pick up some of the beloved chocolate covered strawberries from “Topps Bakery,” but since my school is actually strict about leaving campus for things that aren’t priorities, I might just wait until after they lift some of the restrictions. Then, I will practically live at Topps bakery.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to live here, right?

So what is a single girl, locked in quarantine to do on Valentine’s day?

Well, as many of you know, I am a strong proponent of “Galentine’s.” Galentine’s day is an alternative holiday in which you celebrate your best gal pals, brought to us by Leslie Knope, the fierce feminist voice of the fictional TV show “Parks and Recreation.”

It has occurred to me that I have never read a book in which one of the themes was female friendship. I’ve read several books with great female role models, like Hermoine Granger, but even in that example Hermoine only had friends who were boys. Many of my favorite films are about gal pals, such as “Booksmart” and “The First Wives Club,” but I’ve never read a book that actually depicts and celebrates female friendship. It is for that reason that I’ve decided to observe Galentine’s day by reading a book that has been praised for its female besties, preferably one that doesn’t overcomplicate the matter.

One book that was overwhelmingly recommended to me when I google searched this was “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan. So I decided to spend this holiday season reading, which is probably the safest way to celebrate anything while in quarantine. I also thought that in the spirit of “Galentine’s Day,” I should make some cookies for myself and my suitemate, the only other person I’m allowed to interact with because we share a living space together. 

My Valentine’s Day gift to myself! I haven’t give him a name yet, although I’m thinking Griffin for some reason

They’re called preacher cookies, although I have sometimes heard them called “no bakes,” since you make them completely on the stove without an oven. That also makes them incredibly convenient and easy to make. This was my first time making them alone, even though I have made them several times before with my mother. I stood over the stove the whole time, stirring together a full stick of butter, an obscene amount of sugar, and some whole milk. What I’m saying is, this is not the cookie you eat when you’re on a diet. I got globs of peanut butter over everything and stained a few surfaces with cocoa powder, but they came out perfectly. 

An obscene amount of sugar
A full stick of butter
The butter softens
Stirring
Stirring
The finished product
And my suitemate made brownies as well!

My mother has promised to send me some girl scout cookies if she ever stumbles upon them, so I’ll be supporting female entrepreneurs and eating sweets for Valentine’s Day. I’m wishing everyone a happy Valentine’s/Galentine’s Day and if anyone else out there has any recommendations for stories about positive female friendships, please send me your recommendations. I’d love to read them.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel