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Where art thou?

Valentina invited me to hang out with her in the city over the weekend so that we could go to her friend’s art event. It sounded like heaven so I said yes. 

We made our way through a cordoned off street that was hosting a festival, though neither of us could tell you what was being celebrated. When we arrived, we met up with Daniella, another Sarah Lawrence student. 

The idea for the art event was that each floor had a set number of artists on it and that you went into the room that interested you most. We started with Mahmoud Hamadani, an Iranian artist and personal friend of Valentina’s whose black ink paintings reminded me of Pollock’s drip paintings. They are beautifully simplistic and lacking that sense of chaos that comes easily to jet-black abstract paintings. 

An example of his work

From there, we visited Katinka Mann, a woman in her 90s, who was easily the most modern artist there. She explained to us the roundness of her shapes and how that symbolizes what we so often see in nature. After discussing former Sarah Lawrence professor Joseph Campbell and the way that he could articulate a thought on paper better than anyone else we knew, we moved on to other artists in the building. 

Almost every artist seemed to be operating in a different medium. There was crochet, sculptures, pottery, videography, and a few paintings that you could only tell were paintings when you walked straight up to them. 

It was around this time that I discovered the tarot card reader who was promoting their boss’s recently designed tarot card deck. I could be fleeing a country and I would still be able to locate the nearest tarot card reader. This time I asked about the trajectory of my education. I am on the cusp of a rebirth apparently. I need balance and strength but I must look to teamwork for all of these things. My pursuit may even be something charitable. I cannot wait to see how that takes shape. 

Afterwards, we hung out at Valentina’s apartment in the city and went for Dim Sum on Restaurant Row in Hell’s Kitchen. The whole thing was as amazing as it sounds. A quick little excursion into the city to view beautiful art and eat incredible food is my idea of a good time.

On the cusp of a rebirth,

Raquel

Halloweekend

For all of this year’s flaws, this year’s Halloween fell on a weekend, making for a weekend full of festivities. It was a “Halloweekend,” if you will. The fall weather was so crisp it made me want to break into my president’s backyard and play croquet again. I bought pumpkins. I bought materials for pumpkin spice cookies that I never made. My suitemates pasted spider stickers all throughout the apartment and I hung up some cobwebs and fake spiders, plus a “trick-or-treating” doormat. 

In order to finish decorating for Halloween, I purchased a full-sized skeleton to put in my suite and after picking it up from my post office and hauling it back to my school, I got to work sticking candy bars in its ribs. There I was: a girl, listening to the Corpse Bride Soundtrack, while carrying her life-sized skeleton down the street. I then proceeded to fill it with candy. Now it sits in a chair in the kitchen and scares the shit out of me when I go into the kitchen at night. 

Halloween was in full effect. 

That Thursday, I began my “Halloweekend” early by watching my school’s production of Bull in a China Shop, a new play about the true story of Mount Holyoke’s first female president. It contains themes of feminism and lesbianism in the 19th century. It had a glittery set, wonderful acting, and some doses of comedy. I enjoyed it, is the point. 

For some more theatre, I went to Sarah Lawrence’s annual production of Rocky Horror Picture Show the next night. The cast acted out the show in front of us while the film was being projected behind them as part of a beloved SLC tradition. Having missed it my Freshman year, I vowed to watch it the next, which obviously did not pan out, so this year I was determined to go. Unfortunately, everybody else was determined to go. The entire school turned out to see it with people filling up the lobby and then lining the street down to the intersection to see the show. Let me just emphasize that no sporting event this school has ever put on has come even remotely close to that kind of turnout. 

My friends and I were huddled together under umbrellas as it poured down rain and the street lights flickered, setting the mood for our dark and stormy night. When we were eventually let in everyone was squeezed into chairs or squished along the back wall, making it so that people had to be turned away and they had to promise to put on another performance. If it was your first ever “Rocky Horror experience,” as it was for me, you were marked on your way inside with a red lipstick “V” on your forehead and had to play a round of freeze dance in the middle of the room until you were among the finalists. 

From there, it was a typical production of Rocky Horror with everyone getting up and dancing and shouting at the screen. Many of the scenes in the film, in particular the sex scenes, have an undercurrent of coercion but, since the show’s main theme is sexual liberation, the school decided to honor the film in the spirit with which it was intended. All of the sex scenes were edited out with dance numbers from Glee, we were encouraged to shout the word “daddy” anytime they said the word “master,” due to its connotations to slavery, and, when acted out, the whip that Frank-n-Furter uses is replaced with a nerf gun. The nerf gun however was not loaded because guns are also bad. It ended up being a glorious night of loud music, one-liners, and perverted outfits with a red, glittery “V” lipsticked to my forehead the whole time. 

The next day, being the day before Halloween, I hung out with friends. I always pick out my Halloween costume about two years in advance. There are few things that I take as seriously. My Halloween costume was (drum roll, please) Gloria Steinem. Throughout the day I was Gloria Steinem in street clothes. At night, I was Gloria Steinem undercover at the playboy mansion, about to fuck up Hugh Hefner’s day. 

It was a versatile costume.

Gloria Steinem, Cruella De Vil, and a mermaid

The party was us sitting around, listening to music, while eating candy and junk food. Hill House put on our Halloween trick-or-treat event on the actual day of Halloween and I donned my Gloria costume once again. I was in full costume and had my skeleton beside me to hand out candy in. For once our RA event had a good turnout. It was a Halloween miracle. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Fall Fest

No matter how many times I listened to “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire or wore my knee-length wool socks, the weather wouldn’t get any cooler during September. I’m starting to think that that’s not how it works.

There’s something magical about fall. It’ll make you want to stay in bed all day, re-reading Harry Potter books and watching Nora Ephron films. For food there’s lemon poppyseed muffins, hot apple cider in a pumpkin-shaped mug, and a cauldron full of Fireball on Halloween night. My fall wardrobe is usually my favorite: knee-high socks, black tights, sweaters, and scarves. 

One month is not enough time to get into the Halloween spirit, so I had to start putting out my Halloween decorations in September. I did this by putting up my Halloween-themed mask signs, putting out my “trick or treat” doormat, and by creating and taping some spooky, scary bats throughout my Halloween hallway. Donna Reed has nothing on my homemaking abilities. 

As an RA, I am encouraged to provide condoms for my floor, which I organized as my condom-spider-web-door. I have to replenish it quite often. Good for my residents. 

In case you are wondering what the sign at the top of the door says, it says:

A message from your RA:

“Don’t let your affection cause an infection, put some protection on that erection.”

-Anonymous

*please check expiration dates before using

I set all of my Halloween decorations up and then waited for everyone else to do the same. I wanted oversized pumpkins, crunchy, fiery leaves, and spooky films. I was impatient for them. 

Then, lo and behold, on the last day of September, I felt it: 

A palpable chill in the air. 

Fall is upon us! 

Cue Earth, Wind, and Fire!

For my first RA event of the year, on said last day of September, Bella and I put on a “Free Britney, Free Cookies event.” You may otherwise refer to it as “toxic cookies.” It was a cookie decorating contest with Britney Spears playing in the background in order to celebrate her recent freedom. We had a terrific turnout. I was dressed in proper “Baby One More Time” attire, so, naturally, it was the one day it was cold. 

I was given a blanket

The very next day, I was fully in the throes of my Friday afternoon, buying an overpriced latte at a local coffee shop and a kitschy new millennial book from a local bookstore. I received a tarot card reading from my fellow RA Casey. Since few students show up at RA events, and since I promised myself that I will always get a tarot card reading whenever I encounter one, I was at her service.

I always ask for a reading on a different aspect of my life each time. Last time I asked about my love life- yikes– so this time I asked about my career. I didn’t ask about my career the first time around because I always knew that it would be fabulous, but I wouldn’t mind having it confirmed.

Son of Pentacles 

I will be committed and dedicated to my craft, perhaps at the expense of my other relationships in life, but I already knew that when it came to my writing career. I will give everything to it and it will give everything back to me, which is what I like to hear. All in all, the future looks bright. 

It’s bright out in that fall weather
That’s better!

A few hours later, I screened “Addams Family Values,” to kick off the first of October, as my RA consent event. Morticia and Gomez have a pretty grand (consensual) romance, making it the only family values that you’ll ever need. Unfortunately, only one person came, which is to be expected with RA events. Afterwards, at a far more well-attended event, I went to a rock concert at the amphitheatre, where I third wheeled left, right, and center.

People were sitting on the large stone walls, laying down the aisles, and standing directly in front of the bands. If this were an indoor event the whole thing would have been a fire hazard. We were treated to some Sarah Lawrence talent, the bands “Remove the Balloon” and Moxie,” which we responded to with a mild mosh pit that was Sarah Lawrence’s attempt at a rave. 

The very next day was Fall Fest, my school’s cottage core themed fall celebration. There was a polaroid station, a book swap, an essential oil making station, a stuffed animal stuffing station, and a buffet, all with crisp weather and blankets set out on the lawn to enjoy it.

I spent time with Alexis and Anahat, meeting a few new people, while drinking apple cider and eating tiny pies. The event lasted for hours and made for a relaxing fall day, not counting my being ambushed by an overzealous dog who ate the rest of my pie. 

It’s developing…
It’s developed! (I love polaroids)

Fall had officially begun and other people, not just me, could enjoy that infectious Halloween feeling.

Happy fall, yall!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

October Study Days

Sometimes, the best thing about living so close to New York City, is having an excuse that keeps you away from the city for a little while longer. This is what October study days does for me. October study days is my school’s response to not giving us a full fall break. It is two whole days of no classes and a week with no conferences. My plan was to spend them catching up on my reading, catching up on my sleep, and drinking tea alone in my room.

Flowers for October Study Days. I put them in a bucket because I did not have a vase

This time, I actually stayed true to my promise by hunkering down and hitting my books. 

The readings that I had to do for various classes, is, as follows:

Grace Paley short story collection

Isaac Babel short story collection

Virginia Woolf

Sally Rooney

Freud

Story that Brian wants me to read

Other Virginia Woolf

Other short story that Brian wants me to read

That sounds like a nice, well-rounded education. It also sounds like a stereotypical pretentious smart person education with all of the Freud and Woolf. The only thing I am missing is being schooled in eastern philosophy and gender studies, so that I can learn to be a pacifist who blames men for all of my problems. 

I decided to be on the grind at “Slave to the Grind,” where I got a solid hour of work done while Lana Del Rey played in the background. 

Photographic evidence of me studying out in public

I did more than just spend the whole time studying. There were also times where I caught myself watching old episodes of “Sex and the City” and realizing how I’d gotten behind on my schoolwork in the first place.

Some vacation-y things

I was also going through my James Bond phase having just seen “No Time to Die” and listening to old Bond songs like “From Russia with Love” whenever I walked around. This was how I ended up using Nancy Sinatra’s Bond song to explain Freudian theory in my psychology class, because, as we all know, Nancy Sinatra is essential to the teachings of Freud, whose name started to look like “Fred” after I read it for so long, late at night. 

I woke up late every morning, drank some tea, and read the works of Isaac Babel. The only thing that was missing was the sound of rain hitting my window pane.

Anahat and I said goodbye to our October study days (cough, cough, fall break) with dinner at “Haiku,” a Japanese restaurant in Bronxville that neither of us had tried before. The night ended like many of our other dinners out, with us getting ice cream after I ate way too much wasabi and felt like my nose had been violated. 

I completed everything that was pressing and due within the week and made progress on everything else. It’s not exciting. There should be more songs about getting a good night’s sleep and saving your money, but that probably wouldn’t sell very many records. 

My spider web door, not just for Halloween

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Serenaded by the New York City ballet

The morning after my epic night out with Bella and Eli, I went out to brunch with Tyler and his mom at the Bronxville Diner. I had a classic American diner meal: orange juice, bacon, and scrambled eggs. The afternoon that followed seemed to be going perfectly. I had Valentina over for tea, I watched “Pride and Prejudice,” with Colin Firth, of course, and I updated my resume– a very Raquel afternoon.

It was not until much later in the afternoon that I started throwing up violently and took my school’s shuttle to the emergency room. There was a dull, yet all-encompassing pain in my abdomen, but the real torture was throwing up every five minutes until there was nothing left but stomach lining. They gave me an IV to stop the nausea and vomiting and did a cat scan of my abdomen, which should make for a juicy medical bill. I was made to sleep sitting up with the lights and tv on, vaguely watching cable TV shows with the thinnest premises imaginable. An infomercial for a Jesus meditation service was on TV when I dozed off and an infomercial for a face cream that tightens up old lady’s faces was on when I woke up. They discharged me the next morning at 6am, telling me that they detected an acute infection in my abdomen, brought on by something that I ate. 

Me, not being dramatic at all

I took it easy for the rest of the week, not doing anything or going into the city until Friday night, when I made plans to go and see the ballet with Anahat. Back during our first year, Anahat and I passed on an opportunity to watch a rendition of Swan Lake. A few weeks later, we’d gone our separate ways to quarantine in different parts of the country, regretting missing our chance to watch the ballet. Finally, after two years at Sarah Lawrence College, Anahat and I made it to the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. 

We got ready for over an hour in her dorm room with our friend Alexis, with Anahat agonizing over whether she should wear that skirt with that top or those pants with those heels, while listening to Regina Spektor.

Alexis and me
See, I clean up nicely when I am not in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm

We took the One train to Lincoln Center, feeling completely overdressed when we stepped onto the subway platform, but all of that went away when we got to Lincoln Center, where everyone looked ready for a Vogue cover shoot.

Anahat was wearing a full ballerina skirt that we insisted she wear. She looked so radiant that undoubtedly no one looked at me the entire night. I felt like Jane Russell in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

The picture I was taking

I was wearing a long black pencil dress and pink heels since you can never go wrong with a reliable little black dress and a pop of color. If the full ballerina skirt made Anahat look like Carrie Bradshaw, then my little black dress made me Charlotte York. 

We scrambled to our seats just as the curtain was coming up, coming in on two wheels to watch an incredible ballet. It opened with a number called “Serenade,” where the women danced in tranquil blue dresses, standing on pointe and twirling at a dizzying, break neck speed. I was struck mostly by the movement, how the skirts moved with the dancers in the most fluid ways imaginable. I could almost feel my own muscles seething with pain every time they lifted their arms above their heads. The feminist in me was awakened as I appreciated the women’s command of their bodies and their space. I admired their coordination and precision and the way that nothing in the world could break their concentration. 

During events like this, I usually forget about the orchestra, but this time, since I was sitting on the sides and could see directly below me, I had a full view of the orchestra pit and those performing in it. It all was astounding. 

The second act could be described as a fashion show and a ballet, since the second half was intended to showcase outfits that were designed by famous Japanese fashion designer, Tsumori Chisato. The best way I could describe it is as if Picasso designed ballet costumes. 

Yes, I do know that it is wrong to take pictures of performers during a ballet. In my defense, I was not the one who took the photos.

Inspired by commedia-dell’arte style, the purely avant-garde outfits were gorgeous. There were faces and flowers plastered on their mostly-yellow outfits. At one point, a woman’s tutu was cut in half. Using our admittedly limited knowledge of ballet, we decided that the second act had the most unconventional outfits for the most conventional ballet routine, while the first act was soft and traditional, as far as ballet is concerned.  

The third and final act was a modern segment of ballet, which sounds like it could have been terrible, but was actually our shared favorite. There were clusters of people walking around like on a crowded street, then suddenly breaking out dancing. After that, silhouetted women shuffled across the stage in front of the scrim. 

I’m not sure about you but when I’m watching ballet, I try and figure out what the story is, if there is one. Could this be commentary on our need to burst out of the monotony of our routine lives? That’s what I’ll take away from it. 

When the ballet was over we had much to discuss and did so while getting a snack outside of Lincoln Center. After that, we met up with Anahat’s boyfriend Jordano, so that I might be introduced. One subway ride later we were at Air’s Champagne, a “parlor” in Greenwich Village. There are some places that you can describe in one word. This place could simply be described as “loud.” It was charming and colorful with a zany bartender and other charismatic patrons, but the word “loud” comes to mind first and foremost.

Being the first of Anahat’s friends to meet her boyfriend, I felt honored, but also obligated to size him up and make sure that he is good enough for our Anahat. I can’t build suspense so I’ll just tell you that yes he is. He was sweet and charming, making for a fun time at Air’s Champagne.

After a few hours, I called it a night and Ubered back to campus. It was one of those nights where I walked back to my dorm with my heels in my hand. Anahat and I both agreed that the whole night, from the ballet to the club, was thrilling. I was happy to have such a satisfying ending to a week that began with me curled up in the fetal position on a hospital bed, hurling into a trash can and calling out for help. Throughout the night we saw many college age girls, at various levels of inebriation, living it up in the city as well. Like all of those other girls, I had an equally wonderful and exciting night and can’t wait to do it all again.

It was a night to remember. I’ll report back with all my future nights like these. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Club Elsewhere

Stefon voice: New York’s hottest club is Club Elsewhere. This place has everything: strobe lights, drunk girls who want to befriend me, bathrooms that are designed to look grungy, spilled drinks everywhere, and, for one night only, the rapper Cupcakke, sold out. 

Cupcakke, sold out. (All of these pictures are going to be nauseatingly blurry)

So, for the first time in a while, I had a fun filled night of concerts and nightclubs. First, since it was my cousin Olivia’s birthday the next day, I was invited to have dinner with my cousin, aunt, and uncle at an Italian restaurant in the city. Then, after a great time with them, I hailed a taxi and made my way to Brooklyn to attend a Cupcakke concert at Club Elsewhere. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the musical stylings of Cupcakke, let me just say that you clearly never went through the American public school system, where her song “Deep Throat” is referenced with regularity. 

Bella, my beloved suitemate from last year and fellow RA, invited me to see her in concert with her boyfriend, Eli. They checked my vaccination card and ID at the door and then I spent the next few minutes weaving my way through a very dark, masked crowd trying to find my friends.

Club Elsewhere, I am told, is popular on Tik-Tok and it’s not hard to see why. With its wild lights that make it look like the world is ending and sound waves that bounce off every square inch of wall, I can’t picture a better place for a night out when you’re in your twenties.

Having never been out to a nightclub before, I threw on some deep blue eyeshadow and dangly earrings to impress.

The crowd looked ready to burst out of the room. The DJ kept the energy up all night until it was time for Cupcakke to come on stage. She entered wearing a giant coat that I’m amazed didn’t make her melt.

Too much flash. Mea culpa.

She cursed a blue-streak, was hilarious, knowingly went over time, and sang- or rapped- her heart out. Cupcakke wrapped up after about an hour of us being there and the club shut down as soon as she strutted off stage, some time after midnight. The three of us then proceeded to walk around Brooklyn in search of another good time. My philosophy for the night was that since I would be Ubering back to campus, I could do that at any time, so I might as well do that when we were absolutely done having fun.

 We stumbled upon a weird open-air, outdoor nightclub. The idea was that you could drink with friends and play cornhole, since that always makes for an exciting Friday night. There was loud music, drink stalls set-up, and, unfortunately, port-a-potties. Eli and I, both coming from the south, thought that we could obliterate our opponents at cornhole, while Bella sat off to the side, staring at us like we were idiots. We gave it our best shot, hyping each other up, and throwing our bean bags with fervor. 

Anyway, we ended up losing. 

After our defeat at cornhole, we walked to the next place that we could hear from the street, which ended up being another packed nightclub. The music was great and people were dancing all around the room and all over each other. Also worth mentioning, I spent the entire night with my purse wrapped around my neck so that no one else could touch it and, no, it is not the type of bag that you can put across your body. I nearly strangled myself everytime I needed to get something out of it. 

I made it back home with sore feet and blurry photos, wishing that, just once, my makeup would have lasted until the end of the night without globs of it ending up in the corners of my eyes. I also made it back with my wallet and phone, which qualifies as a successful trip out of the house, and I did not get lost once, which made it a successful trip to Brooklyn. 

Bella and Eli, my two Brooklyn buddies, will be joining me in the future for more New York adventures. Club Elsewhere also hasn’t seen the last of me.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

A Modern Day of Modern Art

Of all the incredible art museums that New York City has to offer, the Museum of Modern Art is one that I had yet to see. Sunday afternoon, the day after I went to The Strand, I decided to rectify that, by making plans with my friend Valentina to peruse their art.

On the train platform there were many nervous, but eager, Sarah Lawrence first years on their way to get their feet wet in the city for the first time. I read my murder mystery book while I rode the train, which I thought was a romantic detail that I needed to share with you all. 

I met Valentina in front of the MoMA, where we sat outside drinking and talking in the garden for the first 45 minutes. Vintage cars were on display around the reflecting pool, which was funded by, like most of the city, a Rockefeller. Valentina has been to the MoMA often, to study and enjoy the artwork, since she lives close by, and could tell me in great detail the stories behind the permanent exhibits. The MoMA was expanded into an adjacent building, but wasn’t able to have a grand unveiling due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We walked the exhibits with her telling me which paintings were done by the spouses of other, much better famous painters (apparently the spouses of people like Pollack made artwork as well). We made fun of art history students who think that all paintings featuring female nudity degrade women in some way. She explained to me the politics behind several pieces. 

We took a selfie with Frida Kahlo

She showed me a wonderful Matisse that she loved that was scraps of paper cut and attached to the wall, making up a beautiful scene of blue ocean water. I, however, started to see other images in the cut-out pieces of paper. A few were mountains, one was a cat, and one was the guy that slips and falls on wet floor signs.  

We didn’t love every piece of art we saw. There was a chair that was, quite literally, made up of penises. All I can say is that this type of artwork is exactly what conservative middle America thinks contemporary art is and according to the MoMA, they’re not wrong. This led to a series of tasteless jokes because that chair was a never ending barrage of innuendo. Valentina said, “that piece of art should be named ‘How many is too many?’” I said, “that gives the phrase ‘to sit on a dick’ new meaning” and “that chair looks really stiff.” 

There was an Ives Klein we saw that Valentina knew quite well from her time in Nice. I also knew about Ives Klein and his influence since there is a famous, allegorical story about him. Basically, Ives Klein wanted to capture this perfect shade of blue on camera, so he leapt off a wall into the air and snapped the photo in midair before he hit the ground. Since his body was going to smack onto the pavement, most likely resulting in a minimum of a few broken ribs, the story was viewed as a radical example of an obsessive artist, but also as a perfect metaphor for how you have to be all in when it comes to pursuing art. 

The picture of him leaping into the air was titled “Leap of Faith,” but what many do not realize is that in the original photograph, he actually had friends of his standing beneath him, ready to catch him. I like that version better, because it captures the idea of leaping out haphazardly in the name of art, but still having a support system there to catch you.

In the end, Yves Klein managed to capture the shade of blue, still referred to to this day as “Yves Klein Blue,” and Valentina and I were able to see the piece of artwork labeled “Yves Klein Blue.” 

Yves Klein Blue

In a weirdly serendipitous turn of events, I put my Starry Night poster up on my wall the night before our trip to MoMA. The very next day, I stood about a foot away from the actual Starry Night painting by Vincent Van Gogh. I wasn’t aware that it was at the MoMA when I made plans to go with Valentina. In an amazing turn of events, I stood in front of it, getting extremely giddy, much to the amusement of Valentina. 

The fact that I even bought a print of Starry Night in the first place was auspicious. I had read a quote from Van Gogh in which he stated that “he didn’t know much but looking at the stars made him dream.” I decided that if I ever felt upset at night, I would take wisdom from Vincent, and step outside to look at the stars until I felt better. That night I stood in the parking lot of my building and despite the light pollution, managed to stare at the night sky until a few of them emerged. The very next day, I saw a giant print of the painting being sold on campus and took it as a sign that I needed to have it. 

Valentina told me that when the pandemic first broke out, she went to the MoMA, which was deserted, and spent an hour staring at “Starry Night” all by herself, getting misty-eyed in its presence. I have never been so jealous of another person’s experience with a piece of art. 

There’s so much that I couldn’t tell about these world famous pieces of art, until I was directly in front of them. I was surprised by how mesmerizing Pollock’s drip paintings are and how you can stare at each individual line like it’s a string that needs to be untangled. I also didn’t know how Monet’s paintings somehow look like they are ten different paint colors layered on top of one another. I am also now convinced that I spotted a small mistake in “Starry Night,” because there is a reddish brown drop of paint amongst the blue where it doesn’t belong. I checked my print in my dorm room, when I got back and it isn’t there. 

We passed through a public park that Valentina loves, also brought to us by the Rockefellers, then headed to an early dinner. We ended the day by eating Greek food, lamb with lemon potatoes and pizza with chicken and spinach, discussing once again our thoughts on our school and what we thought about our outing to the museum. It was a dreamy day in which I got to see the works of Rothko, Kahlo, Matisse, Picasso, Warhol, and other artists from romantic times in art history. 

We discussed the need to venture over to the Whitney on another day, but for now I will enjoy the glorious images of the greats that I saw.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Friends of the Strand

“The Strand” is one of the oldest independent bookstores in New York City, a relic of a time when indie bookstores controlled the Upper West Side and Amazon was just a small startup website invented by a bald man. It boasts an impressive 18 miles of books, spread out over four floors. Aside from their massive collection of books, there are records, mugs, sweatshirts, snarky t-shirts, bags, and all-around collectible items that tell the world that you read books.  

Those who shop there have a superiority complex for buying only from the greatest independent bookstore in the city, so naturally my friends and I decided to party hard on this, my first pilgrimage to The Strand this year. 

It was my first time going into the city since the start of the pandemic, not including my family’s visit. Masked up, Chiara, Petra, Tyler and I, woke up early on a Saturday to make our way into the city. After nearly causing my friends to miss the train, we made it to Grand Central and then to Union Square Park.

While en route, I ate an incredible gyro from a street vendor, but had white and red sauce dripping down my arm and staining the inside of my shirt sleeve salmon pink. I ate it while walking through Union Square Park, where I suddenly wished that I was a good enough chess player to play there on weekends. Since it was Saturday, the street market was out in full swing and I bought lavender soap while my friends got white peaches. 

Breakfast peaches

We hit Chiara’s favorite shop in the city, Muji, where I bought myself the first pens of the school year, so that I can stop using the one that I definitely stole from the Hyatt Place. Then, at the Strand, after cleaning off my hands so that I could actually touch the books, I went in search of the books on my list that I made this summer. 

The full, comprehensive list:

Chiara, Tyler, and myself outside of the Strand

Dear Mrs. Metropolitan by Carolyn Ferrell- was written by Sarah Lawrence alum, Carolyn Ferrell, so I’m biased. I know very little about it aside from that, but I know that it was published very recently, the administration made an excited fuss, and now here it is in my favorite book store. I am really looking forward to it since it shows much promise. 

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger- Someone told me while discussing internships that in the story “Franny and Zooey” by Salinger, he references two students on a train who “were clearly Sarah Lawrence students.” (I know exactly what he means). The lecturer said that she liked to think that the two students were on their way into the city to work at their internship. The person sitting next to me and I promptly wrote the book title down and, lucky me, it was right there at one of the front tables when I walked into the Strand.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath- Right beside it was a book I have always wanted to own. “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, is a novel about a young woman at a summer internship in 1906s New York. It chronicles the depression of the main female character, mirroring Plath’s own life. On a personal level, I feel like I need to read it. Aside from the fact that I’ll probably enjoy it, it is a classic, feminist novel and a story that I believe I’ll relate to.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo- I’ve also considered reading this one for a while. It comes highly recommended from just about everyone. It was massive bestseller and Harry Styles, being the male feminist that he is, apparently loves this novel. That is enough to have me sold. It was sitting right there beside many of the other books I picked up, so I decided to buy it for myself. 

Dear Girls by Ali Wong- The famously raunchy comedian, Ali Wong, wrote a self-help book to give to her daughters, that answers some of the burning questions about womanhood. The topics range from her being sexually active in her twenties and being a female comedian. I wanted to read it, for no better reason than seeing what she thought was worth saying. 

A notebook for school- Since it is becoming a bit of a tradition that I show up for each new year of school woefully unprepared in terms of school supplies, I bought myself my first notebook of the school year, one week into school. 

I pigged out and bought nearly $200 worth of books and merchandise at The Strand. When I made all of my money over the summer, I knew that this would be one of the first things I spent it on. Aside from my books, I got a sweatshirt for myself, two mugs for Bobby and Mikaela (one of which broke in transit, but what are you going to do), book marks, and a postcard. I now have plenty of books to keep me occupied for the time being with this eclectic collection. The only question now is when will I finish them, seeing as to how the reading for my schoolwork will take precedence. 

My studious babbbyyy

Tsundoku! 

A Very well read Queen,

Raquel

First week of school

I hate to be plunging new depths of banality with my blog posts, but I will nonetheless recap for all of you what went down during my summer and my first week of classes. A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to summer, which blended seamlessly into my RA training. 

Another year has passed which means that there has been another summer that I’ve spent at my parents’ house. I kicked off my summer by sitting poolside the entire time. The days were searing hot and there was little more to do so why do anything else? 

I watched The Big Chill with my parents and listened to them introduce each individual actor as they appeared on screen, like they knew them personally. “Glenn Close, phenomenal actress…Kevin Kline, great in this film…William Hurt…” In the end, it ended up being one of my favorite movies. 

Then there was my birthday, my three jobs, and my mom’s cooking. Those were my months. I indulged, I relaxed, I worked hard. Now, I am back to school where there will be very little indulging and relaxing but no shortage of hard work. 

It is a shame that I left when I did. I think that my cat was starting to like me. Those days, she sat in my lap even when I was not eating food.

You may recall that my hall theme is “Sexy Shakespeare,” although it is only a little bit sexy and only a little bit Shakespeare. I spent my last day of RA training working on a drawing of Romeo and Juliet for my hallway and listening to “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” on audiobook, while it rained outside. It has always been my favorite Harry Potter book, even though no one ever agrees with me. I was sketching out an anime styled version of Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting while listening to Harry talk about how excited he is to be going back to school. I started thinking about how excited I am to go back to school, being amongst my friends, where I am studying short stories as creative writing, the psychology of the creative process, and modern Jewish literature. The future job market will be thrilled with my course selection of literature, writing, and psychology. 

On the first day of class, in which I attended the modern Jewish literature class, I wore an outfit that was a nod to a private school girl uniform, while still being appropriate. It was a black sweater tucked into a black and white striped mini skirt, paired with my grey wool thigh-high socks and school marm pumps. I tested out the outfit the day before the first day of classes, making it, quite literally, the dress rehearsal. Despite testing out the outfit, I couldn’t feel my toes and perhaps did not think through the thigh-high wool socks in 80 degree weather, but damn did I look good. 

So much was right about that outfit: the cohesion, the elevated high-chic fashion, the way that the clothes were form-fitting, creating a soft silhouette, the way that the shirt was always tucked in and the socks were always pulled up. Now if I just bring a fraction of that level of attention to detail, commitment, and camp to my studies, my schoolwork will be flawless. 

On my way out of class, I stumbled upon a clothing sale on the lawn in front of the Barbara Walters Student Center. About 15% of the proceeds were going to victims of Hurricane Ida, which was all of the justification that I needed to buy everything my heart desired. There was a black and yellow plaid blazer, which invoked Cher from Clueless and since she’d been the inspiration behind the school girl outfit I was wearing at the time, I took it as a sign that I was meant to spend $25 on it. I receive many “signs” that I need to buy clothes. 

Me, wearing said jacket, with my friend Bella, who was wearing a similar jacket

Whilst dressed to the nines and prancing around campus, I hung out with my friends Valentina and Emma and offered to do their nails in my dorm room, since I had feminine style on my mind. Emma is one of those people who derives immense pleasure from cleaning and organizing and I’m one of those friends whose room could always use cleaning up, so that’s how she voluntarily ended up cleaning up my room. I graciously accepted her help, while I worked on Valentina’s nails. It wasn’t until after she left that I checked how she rearranged my medicine cabinet and decided that if there’s a heaven, she is going to it. 

Emma’ handiwork

The next day, I traipsed around campus in search of a shaded spot to read, and feeling uncomfortable everywhere, I decided to walk into town to “Slave to the Grind,” where the tea is excellent and the music is incredible. I ordered a hot chai latte, despite the heat outside, then sat at the window reading the Agatha Christie book I’d bought a few doors down at Wormwrath bookstore. I’d tried reading Agatha Christie back in middle school, but I already knew who did it, and it’s pretty hard to read a whodunnit when you already know who done it. I’ll give you a hint: whoever Agatha focuses the most attention on in the story is the one who did it, especially if it seems impossible. 

Wednesday, I went to my psychology seminar and participated throughout. My creative writing short stories lecture is in the lecture hall of a building named Titsworth (no, it never stops being funny). I sat in the very first row, directly in front of the professor, so he couldn’t ignore my hand. This class only further proved what I’d already known: that despite all odds, I’d really lucked out with my choice of classes and professors.

I attended my school’s annual showing of “The Princess Bride.” Cary Elwes who plays Wesley, and also happens to be my first ever celebrity crush, is a Sarah Lawrence alumna, so this is our way of honoring him. The audience loses their mind every time a character says, “as you wish” or “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.” Our collective favorite had to be when his character says, “It’s just that masks are terribly comfortable– I think that everyone will be wearing them in the future.” Usually, the class reacts strongly to the film, bringing Rocky-Horror-like energy to it. Since we’d all been in quarantine and this lot doesn’t know about tradition, the task fell upon me to yell out obnoxious things. When Inigo Montoya shows off his facial scars, I yell out “contour!,” when Wesley is hooked up to the life-sucking device by his nipples, I shouted that it looked like he’d been lactating and using a breast pump, and finally at the end when the old man is talking about how Wesley and Buttercup’s kiss far outweighed the five other best kisses in the world, I shouted out the question that everyone was asking, “What were the other five?”

Friday, I had a barbecue at my professor’s house. My writing professor from last year, Mary, throws an annual barbecue in the spring for her class, and since we were deprived of that last year, we had one at the start of term this year with some of her other former students. Having had a similar experience at Cristle’s house a few weeks prior, I wouldn’t miss a picnic at Mary’s house for the world. 

Before that, there was a poster sale on the front lawn of the Barb, where I snagged a “Starry Night” poster and discovered Chiara, Petra, and Tyler flipping through the posters as well. From there, I went swimming with Valentina in the Campbell Sports Center pool at 1:00. 

We swam together for about half an hour, our heads throbbing from our swim caps while we chatted and treaded water in the same lane. Afterwards, I sat across campus at the Bates gate to meet up with Emma, who promised to walk with me to Mary’s house for the BBQ.

Not to give away too much about my professor’s life, but Mary lives in a chic-as-shit house that looked like it was straight out of Architectural Digest, with its flawlessly, well-stocked bookshelves. We were put right to work dumping ice into coolers with sodas and seltzers, arranging the seat cushions into cute patterns, labeling her house with neat signs indicating where the bathroom is, moving the bench, and making a fresh and wholesome playlist that screams “outdoor BBQ.” The party had all of the food we could need: chili, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, guac, chips, cupcakes, brownies, cake, and lemonade punch. Emma made the guacamole and I made the punch. She mashed an avocado and squeezed in a lime. I swirled around lemon wedges, ice, seltzer, and lemon concentrate. We’re regular Martha Stewarts. 

The party was my first opportunity to meet with many of the people I had class with online last year. No one is the height that I expected them to be. I gossiped with my fellow RA, as a group we discussed each other’s written works, and at one point when we were making the playlist and adding in some Beatles songs, Emma told me about how her grandmother properly knew all of The Beatles and Mick Jagger back in the day and how her grandmother and her sister were questioned by the FBI for the Manson murders. Iconic. At the start of the playlist I had the song “Along Comes Mary” by the Association, as an ode to Mary. 

Topping off the night, I walked over to Anahat’s dorm from Mary’s to celebrate her 20th birthday. Anahat looked gorgeous and we had a great time, thus concluding my first week of school.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

I didn’t choose the res life, the res life chose me

In a blog post that will be little more than a public diary entry, allow me to explain to you what my experience has been like becoming an RA at Sarah Lawrence College. A resident advisor, for those of you who don’t know, is the person who lives in your hall and solves every problem that might arise. Within reason.  

I am a liaison for the students and the administration. I am an extension cord, making me the only extension cord that students are allowed to have in their rooms. I had to prepare for this within two weeks, coming off my three week tenure as a three job holder and a tumultuous college move-in during a hurricane. I spent the days in 11 hour shifts becoming an expert in fire safety, Title IX, campus security, bias, LGBT safe zones, online bookstores, conflict management, event planning, resume building, community engagement, and boundary setting. 

The president’s house

It all became worth it on the second to last night when we all got to have a dinner party at the president’s house. Cristle, our beloved president, had a buffet on her terrace and badminton and croquet in her backyard. I tried out croquet, because I couldn’t not take advantage of being at her house, and found that I could barely move the ball an inch. I stayed until the end of the party, once again taking advantage of an invitation that won’t come twice, and still did not end up in a single picture. 

Things devolved on the lawn

As an RA, I have to pick a theme for my floor. The theme for my floor is sexy Shakespeare, although I have yet to bring the sexy. I also have yet to bring much Shakespeare to the hall. I finished setting up my hall the night before first year move-in, which also happened to be the night that Hurricane Ida nearly washed away all of Bronxville. All throughout the night I received tornado and flash flood warnings, while I put thumb-tacks into bulletin boards and water slooshed into the lower floors of my building. I also ordered a few pizzas before the hurricane hit, which ended up getting delivered when the streets were flooded. God bless that delivery driver. What a hero.

The next day the storm had ebbed, which meant that move in was calm for the residents, even if it wasn’t calm for me. Living in Hill House, I mostly had first years, which places me in charge of the freshies. 

Me on move in day with my nails painted various shades of green and white to represent my school’s colors. I’m also wearing the rain boots my mom got me because they are “Sarah Lawrence green” and the uniform tie-dye shirts we had to wear. I was a symphony in coordination

I thought that I would feel like a high priestess atop her tower, overlooking her subjects. Yet, when they arrived on campus and expected me to tell them everything they needed to know about living here for the next four years of their lives, I suddenly didn’t even feel qualified to teach grade school kids how to jump rope. 

I ran around the first day with a core of poorly tamped down anxiety, which was sometimes comical even to me, like when I was doing my weird run across campus, screaming out loud when I meant to only do it in my head. Moments later, I’m randomly crying mid-sentence, an amalgamation of the sleep deprived week I’ve had and the need for all of my stress to escape my body in some capacity.

Photographic evidence of what the storm did to us the night before move in day

 A couple of minutes later, I’m well aware of how phenomenal I am at this and I’m ready to crown myself the most fabulous RA that’s ever lived. 

More of downtown Bronxville

Those around me assured me that I’ll be great and that this is only the start of everything I’ll be able to do. Meanwhile, I’m dispensing with random issues as they come up and disseminating any and all information they could possibly need, making my underarms smell like onions, the way that only deep stress can. 

This all begs the question of why I subjected myself to this. I have friends that I like, I am now old enough to understand what I like to do in the city, and I finally have enough work experience to move up on the company ladder to a decent, higher paying job. As a junior, I would have had my pick of campus living and ease my way through a smooth junior year, but instead of being surrounded by my friends all the time and focusing solely on school work and jobs, I decided to do this.

Me working *very* hard on day two of move in, waiting around for people to come by

The simple answer is that I did this because I thought it would be good for me. I believe that I am a highly creative person. In my mind the hall decorations and events I planned to put on would make the Met Gala look like dinner theatre. I thought I would have loads of fun picking a theme for my floor and seeing it through for the remainder of the year. Then there was the perks of money, a single room, being the big man on campus, and being able to put on my resume that I had done this. 

Me taking a nap after my hard work

But most importantly, I thought it would allow me to grow as a person. It would force me to meet more people, both by meeting my fellow RAs and by interacting with my residents in meaningful ways. I would learn how to mediate conflicts, an important skill no matter what I do in life. I would come out of this feeling more like an adult, having grown more confident and able, to the pleasure of everyone around me.

After hosting several floor meetings, in which I told my residents everything that I could remember from my training, I had had several ice breakers in which I asked them to recommend for me either a book, film, tv show, podcast, or fun thing to do in the city. Then I compiled a list and passed it out to each of my residents. Now we all have a list of books to read, shows to binge, podcasts to listen to, films to watch when bored, and fun things to do in the city to see us through the school year. We all have a better understanding of who our fellow residents are and a common language together. 

I know that I can be good at this. 

Extremely responsible,

Raquel