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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

P.S.: If you want to support the Sarah Lawrence RA Alliance, follow us on social media:

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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.

The New Year’s Newsletter

What an eventful year!

On campus there was Fall Fest, Battle of the Bands, Hill House trick-or-treating, and Holiday music. Off campus there was the ballet with Anahat, Club Elsewhere with Bella and Eli, the ballet again but this time with Sig, the MoMA with Valentina, the Strand with Chiara and Tyler, and Rockefeller Plaza with myself (but I love a bit of me-time). This year I saw the Nutcracker, a Cupcakke concert, the 100th anniversary of Chanel Number Five, Mamhoud Hamadani’s exhibit, Serenade at Lincoln Center, the Christian Dior exhibit, and the play “Fairycakes” in Greenwich Village. There were a few stops in between at Halalal Guys, Blondies, and Magnolia’s Bakery for food. It was an idyllic New York City picture show and yet I am still going to top it in the year to come. 

I was masked, vaxxed, and distanced for all of the above. I started the year off with COVID, because I really know how to bring in the new year. There was an attempted coup d’etat at my nation’s capitol, a presidential election that came straight out of hell, but had a happy ending, and several protests across the country. I endured a second year of a global pandemic, in which I worked multiple jobs and attended college. Throughout all of this, I somehow managed to make great grades, new friends, and some reasonably good choices. The one thing I celebrated this New Year was the fact that I made it through all of this and did not do half bad for myself. 

You might know my policy on New Year’s resolutions: don’t do them. New Year’s resolutions focus on what’s wrong with you and not what’s right and I’m delightful, so what’s to change? Also, from a psychological standpoint, a person cannot just change their behavior, they must first change their beliefs, which is why declaring what you’re going to change about yourself seldom works. 

Nonetheless, every year my mind tends to wander towards things that I could change about myself and my lifestyle and I suppose you could call those things resolutions. A few obvious ones come to mind: learning how the New York subway system works, replacing all of my screen time with time spent reading books, and maybe going on an actual date- COVID permitting. 

My aunt told me about a friend of hers who picks up a new skill every year instead of fulfilling certain resolutions and then working on it weekly. One year she said that she wanted to become proficient at baking, so every week she baked something new. One year she decided that she wanted to professionally learn how to make cocktails, so every week she concocted a new cocktail. By the end of every year, she had picked up a new skill. 

Try as I may, I can’t come up with a weekly vocation to devote my time to, aside from attempting to read a book a week, which my school work won’t seem to let me do. I’m not yet twenty-one so the cocktail one is out. Groceries are expensive on a college girl budget so I won’t be baking weekly either. 

The Brooklyn Museum of Art

There is nothing that I would like to be good at by the end of the year, except for maybe having written a novel, but who doesn’t want to do that? 

Strand books

New Year’s Day came, which I spent doing only positive things that I like and eating food that I don’t like. 

Inside the MoMA. It was a year full of art. What could be better?

If ever there was a day to be superstitious, it’s New Year’s Day. I jinx nothing on New Year’s Day. I am hesitant to even wish people a “Happy New Year,” since we’ve jinxed it the past two years in a row. 

STARRY NIGHT BY VAN GOGH

Even though I was alone with my family and drinking Prosecco, I sat overly-dressed in my living room on New Year’s Eve, because I cannot bring in the New Year without looking my best. Superstition dictates that I shouldn’t sweep on New Year’s Day since it is bad luck. I take it a step further by not doing anything on New Year’s Day that I wouldn’t want to do throughout the year. Instead, I only do the things that I would like to keep up throughout the year. I consider it to be setting a precedent. Ideally, if I do everything right on New Year’s Day, then I’m on the right track for the remaining 364 days. So on New Year’s Day, the plan was to read, paint, and write while avoiding TV and social media. In the end, I worked on my novel, started a new book, watched the news, and went for a walk. 

Our selfie with Kahlo

I combine my Yukoslavian heritage with my Southern roots by eating special foods on New Year’s Day. It’s considered good luck in the south to eat collard greens in order to bring on wealth, rice so that you might never experience hunger in the new year, and black eyed peas for good luck. In Croatia, on New Year’s Day, they eat an animal that ruts forward, so that you might only look forward, and not backwards, in the new year. So, my mother makes pork. It was for these reasons that on New Year’s day, the menu consisted of pork, collared greens, black eyed peas, and rice, very little of which I like, but they should yield money, luck, and plenty of food, which I happen to really like. 

I will let you know whether or not the food is working its magic and if I truly do get to be well-fed, well-paid, and lucky throughout the year, but in the meantime I am wishing everyone else an equally appealing new year that is filled with those wonderful things as well. 

Happy New Year! We all could use it. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

All the Books I Read in 2021

Lately, I decided to read more books as part of my unofficial New Year’s resolutions. This past year, I was determined to consistently read throughout the year and ended up reading thirteen books, which takes work when you’re a full time student. Most importantly, I feel like I got something out of each of these works, by reading on a wide range of topics. I accumulated this eclectic collection of novels by being open to recommendations and reading books for my classes. The results were an amalgamation of finding new favorites and discovering books that were just meant to be shelved. 

Here are the books that I read throughout 2021 and the thoughts that I had on each of them (feel free to disagree)…

“The Body” by Stephen King– This book more likely classifies as a novella since it was under 200 pages. This novel makes every aspiring writer in the world feel understood. King gets right at the heart of growing up and being a writer as a child, coming up with clever stories to amuse your friends with and feeling like you have a way of seeing the world that makes the world have trouble seeing you. King is such a prolific writer, that I was almost surprised that he could be so profound as well. This story had boys showing emotion and much discussion of bullying. King tackles the subject of bullying often and it is not difficult to see why. I am amazed that anyone could endure 1950s bullying and come out without PTSD.

“The Fran Lebowitz Reader” by Fran Lebowitz- Fran Lebowitz is currently considered to be New York’s greatest New Yorker and she probably will be until she dies. “The Fran Lebowitz Reader” is a compilation of her essays on life, revolving around life in New York City. Since my cousin Olivia is living in the city for college (congrats btw Olivia), I decided to get her a copy of this book: a guide book to New York written by one of its greatest New Yorkers. Since it is a bit unusual to gift someone a book that you yourself haven’t read, I decided to give it a read before I gave it to her. It’s clever, witty, what the brits would call “cheeky,” and very 1970s. I recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about visiting New York, or just wants a good chuckle.

The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho– I kicked the year off with “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. We had to read it for class because it was one girl’s favorite book of all time, so I had high hopes for it, but I ended up being disappointed in a way that I have never really been with a book before. The whole story reads like a fable in which nothing seems to happen normally and people talk by philosophizing, rather than how they speak in real life. The main theme of the story, which jumps out at you without any subtlety or tact, was the pursuit of one’s dreams. In fact, the whole story was allegorical about the inner conflict of pursuing those dreams. The book just wasn’t for me, but it made for an interesting analysis in class. 

A pretty picture of me with a pretty book

The Summer I turned Pretty” by Jenny Han– In Nora Ephron’s film “You’ve Got Mail,” Meg Ryan’s character at one point says, “So much of what I see reminds me of something I’ve read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?” That line resonated with me in a strange way when I read this novel. When I read “The Summer I Turned Pretty” by Jenny Han, I was expecting a kitchy YA book that was simple to read and no longer relevant to my life. It did have simple sentences and an easy to follow plotline, but I was shocked to find that one of the virtues of reading a book that takes place in high school, once you’ve already graduated, is that for once I was reading a book that reminded me of my life and not the other way around. I felt like I experienced much of what this girl was feeling: being the only girl at a reunion of family friends and always being treated like some guy’s younger sister, but eventually making your own way and doing your own thing. Bizarrely, this simple novel gave me much to think about.

“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan- Since I was nearing Valentine’s Day and am a firm believer in “Galentine’s Day,” I decided that I was going to read a book that depicted female friendship well. I knew that my reading would slow down once my second semester started, because school work would take precedence, but it ended up taking me a month to finish this novel- going from Galentine’s Day to just before International Women’s Day. The book was very slow moving at the start, to the point where it made me question why it was so highly-regarded. Then out of nowhere, it suddenly got good. I think that the main problem was that the story is told from multiple different perspectives, instead of one steady plotline, like I’m used to. My mother suggested that perhaps I was too young to understand the novel, like how some people are too young to understand why Stanely Kowalski does what he does in Streetcar or why Gatsby takes the fall for Daisy in “The Great Gatsby.” Some books require a decent amount of living in order to understand the motivations of the characters and I simply did not have that. I’ll revisit this novel when I’m older and can give it the respect it deserves. 

“Conversations With Friends” by Sally Rooney- I decided to read “Conversations with Friends” by Sally Rooney because I thought it was a capital “R” romance novel. As it turns out it has much to do with friendship (I suppose the title should have told me that) and in particular, female friendships. I also wanted to read this book so that I could give Sally Rooney another chance. I’d previously read, “Normal People,” which was by her as well, but it was not one of my favorite novels, to put it mildly. 

This novel was much better than I thought it was going to be. Parts of it were fairly relatable, starting with how the narrator observes every shift in the room and reads into what it all means. The character, being a joyless, college communist and a supposed artist felt very real to me, even though when you’re in the arts you have to be all in and she’s barely even dangling her feet in the water. Also, I’ve noticed that in her two novels, her characters just casually happen to be extremely good at writing (because, sure, that’s how it works). The characters were extremely passive, making the novel lethargic at times. I understood none of the character’s motivations, despite it being narrated by the main character. The ending was anticlimactic, aside from when she fainted in a church. There were themes of familial strife, religion, infidelity, and love, but I felt as though they were touched on more than explored. Overall, it was a pretty good sort of novel that did not leave me wanting my money back.

Amazon.com: Social Creature: A Novel: 9780385543521: Burton, Tara Isabella:  Books

“Social Creature” by Tara Isabella Burton- This is a story about the messy friendship between two women in New York City, trying to live up their twenties. The girls have the type of New York City experiences that you think you’re going to have as soon as you move there. They go to wild parties that are far less vanilla than those featured on “Sex and the City,” but this isn’t a girlhood adventure story about two girls living it up in Manhattan. One of the girls has to die, which means that one of the girls has to deserve it. The story gets candid about networking with pseudo-intellectuals in the humanities, having to maintain soul-wrenching jobs to afford your life, and entitled friends who demand all of your free time because they don’t understand that you need to work.

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” by Iain Rand- It was written in simple sentences. Fragments. And it began sentences with transitional words like “but” and “and.” Existential. But nothing I haven’t thought of before. It had a weird ending that didn’t make any sense. One of the redeeming qualities of the novel was how short it was and the way that it didn’t linger. Overall, I didn’t hate it, so that’s something, I suppose. 

“Again but Better” by Christine Riccio- A never-been-kissed twenty-year-old, who doesn’t socialize, but reads excessively, realizes that she hasn’t made enough friends or hung out with enough people at her New York college, so as she enters her junior year she studies abroad in literature and writing. She also runs a blog, speaks Italian, has a financial advisor for a father, and is trying to write the next great American novel, and I’d just like to know why the author stole my life story. I read this book when I was about to enter my junior year, having also felt like I could have gone out to more events and taken more advantage of my New York City setting. The dialogue misses a few beats, but ultimately captures relationships at that age. The ending was a forcibly happy one in which the protagonist gets her cake and eats it too. 

“Enormous Changes at the Last Minute” by Grace Paley- This collection of short stories was written by Grace Paley, a short story writer who reinvented the American short story, was perhaps one of the greatest activists this country has ever had, and turned the Sarah Lawrence writing program into what it is today (so I owe her a great debt). She is now deceased, because, naturally, if she is a praiseworthy female writer, she will not likely get her praise until she is already dead. Her writing is sharp and poignant, made extra impressive by its brevity. 

“Portnoy’s Complaint” by Philip Roth- I was told that there are three things that you should never talk about with someone you have just met, or at a dinner party, and those three things are sex, politics, and religion. It is therefore fitting that my first introduction to Philip Roth came through a story of a sexually-neurotic, politically-savvy, Jewish Atheist. Aside from the fact that this rule leaves little else to talk about other than things you’d talk about with your coworkers at a water cooler, it does point out certain taboos in our society, and this novel acts as though it’s never heard of the word “taboo.” Roth, who is known to some as a self-absorbed writer, wrote with a confidence and clarity befitting of the subject matter. Controversial in its grotesqueness, the novel redeems itself by its uncomfortable relatability, which speaks to all of the ugly feelings humans have inside of them. However, there were some scenes that I felt were too disturbing and took things too far. It was perhaps not the type of book that I would have chosen for myself, but I enjoyed reading as part of my Modern Jewish Literature class. 

“Beautiful World Where Are You” by Sally Rooney- Sometimes, I get the sense that Rooney does a sort of dull Jane Austen routine. Much like Austen, Rooney tells the same story over and over again with slight variations on the plot. Austen wrote about classism in English society and feminism with a dash of lower case “R” romance, since there was little else to talk about. Rooney writes about the interconnectivity of people’s lives in which each character is filled with a textbook liberal agenda and is less interesting than I find myself and my friends. 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens-  For Christmas, I decided to close the year out by reading “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, having bought it a year in advance in anticipation of this. As the story goes, Dickens was presenting at a place called the Athenaeum of Manchester, a Learning Annex of its time, which was one of the few places rich and poor people could intermingle. Because it was Christmastime, Dickens was thinking about the Christian ideals of goodwill and charity and how that was what was lacking in English society at the time. So, he wrote “A Christmas Carol” in response to the gap between the rich and the poor and the setting of Christmastime. I thought that I would love it because “It’s A Wonderful Life” is my favorite film of all time and both stories deal with an ethereal being descending on a miserable man at Christmas to show him the impact his life has had on others by showing him a number of different realities (was that a thesis or what?). I found the story to be extremely heartwarming. I felt sorry for and fell in love with Ebeenezer Scrooge. 

My top three books for the year were:

“Social Creature” Tara Isabella Burton

“The Body” By Stephen King

“Enormous Changes at the Last Minute” by Grace Paley

That concludes my book list for 2021. This year, I intend to read even more books that I love. You’ll be sure to know how that turns out. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Getting my Royal Portrait Made

Every year, at the end of the year, I have a friend of mine do a photoshoot with me. By every year, I mean that I started doing this last year, but this is an every year type of thing. 

Lauren Pyrzenski takes the photos. You may recognize that name from the caption on my homepage that frequently says “photos by Lauren Pyrzenski.” 

Sigh

I make a playlist, I do a wardrobe change, we set out all across my house, I slide her some cash, and then we call it a day. I take these pictures to include them on my holiday card, which was sent out well after all of the holidays have happened, and to post them here on my blog. Since I am a tragic queen, and these pictures get taken once a year, I call these pictures “getting my royal portrait made.” 

Me, reading my favorite novel

My family members stopped finding this funny after the one millionth time I said it, so I am saying it here in the hopes of getting some extrinsic validation.  

A reminder that books are my passion, as evidenced here by me standing in front of a bunch of books

Here is last year’s card:

Stunning, right? Not me, Lauren’s photography. I needed to keep that energy up this year. 

For my first outfit I donned my statement earrings, blue top, bell bottoms, and high heeled boots. I was going for a chic, 70s goddess for the first round of photos– hence the bell bottoms. That, plus the cascade of yarn-like hair, made the 70s look unbeatable.

We snapped photos all throughout my yard before I put on my glitzy, black and white, sequined dress that I also wore on the eve of Christmas Eve. 

This picture is great, but that’s way too much sexiness for a holiday card

I tried to get a picture of my cat, but she was acting like a bitch that day so I only got this one in which she looks great and I do not. 

There also is the obligatory floor pic, in which I show off the crazy tiles in my parent’s foyer by laying on them in a dress that matches. 

Last year’s floor picture:

This year’s:

For the back of my card, I chose a picture of myself at a frozen quarry that I went to last January, when it was 9 degrees in Boston. 

I decided to get some shots of myself in my art studio (it’s actually the family pool house, but whatever) even though this work might not be good enough to be showcased on any card.

Disclaimer: The piece of artwork with the crashing waves behind me is not my own! Everything else behind me is, however.
It’s a work in progress
Some silliness caught on camera
Even more silliness caught on camera

Why do I do this? 

Lauren taking a picture of me
Me taking a picture of Lauren taking a picture of me

The pictures came out fabulously. I showed them to my mother and she gushed all over them. I can not express how much I appreciate Lauren for doing this for me every year. It might seem small and frivolous but I love the confidence boost that it gives me. I look exactly the way I want to. I experience the feeling of control that it gives me to look how I want and to wear what I want. Now, I have great photos of me laying around my house, ready to be used whenever I get the chance. 

Applying some makeup

You should try it. Everyone should. Photoshoots all around. 

A pic of my brother and me

This was this year’s card:

Perhaps in the future, I should consider smiling for the picture. The “Happy Holidays” message would probably come across a bit better if I smiled when I said it. Oh well. I’m leaving something to look forward to for next year.

Here’s a bit of a smile in the meantime

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel