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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’s 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

My family and the other hurricane that hit New York City

For perhaps the first time in my life, I made it through a weekend that had more excitement in store for me than I wanted or needed. 

Where do I start this story?

I’m back where I belong

We’ve been collectively put through the ringer with our nation’s moving target COVID and foreign policy situations in recent weeks. My entire family is fully vaccinated, but it would seem that not every person can say the same, as we witness the surge of the Delta variant. A hurricane that sounds like it was named after Cirque du Soleil started chugging up the East Coast, which is not irrelevant to this story, and on a more personal note, I’m starting my junior year of college. 

My cousin Olivia is starting at LIM in the next few weeks (congratulations, btw), so she and her father, my Uncle Rick, decided to drive down from Boston to New York City for the weekend in order to get their bearings. They also were doing me a major solid by bringing me a love seat and several boxes I’d packed to put in my dorm room. Meanwhile my brother and his girlfriend Mikaela were visiting the city as well, only this time as two people contemplating moving there next year after graduation. My Uncle Eddie, on my dad’s side, managed to come from Singapore to surprise his mother for her 70th birthday on Staten Island. All of this coincided with my college move in as an RA, which my parents would be overseeing.

So here we have, for the first time in my family’s history, a scenario in which several members of my family would all be in New York City for completely unrelated reasons. We’d be remiss if we didn’t all meet up in the city to take advantage of this level of serendipity. 

Do you guys think that they’re Yankees fans?

It was in that spirit that my brother booked us all a dinner reservation at an Italian restaurant that our Auntie Regal swears by. Apparently she took me there as a child, but damned if I remember. This time, I will have no trouble remembering “Da Nico’s” in Little Italy. I’m not sure if it was the spot-on Sinatra impersonator belting it in the doorway or the perfect roundtable we all sat at, but it was a nice break from the stress of our dizzying lives. 

We stepped out to be seated outside, only to have the host look up at the sky and say, “hmmm, it looks like it’s about to rain.” That bit of rain he was referring to was the start of Hurricane Henri’s reign on New York City that would later wreak havoc on our entire weekend. We spent our dinner inside, as the first hour of the storm raged on outside the window.

Our dinner at “Da Nico’s” and our brief trek through Chinatown was spent with us catching up with one another. I’ve lived in New York for the past two years and haven’t bumped into any famous people, but my cousin and uncle were in town for about an hour when they bumped into Naomi Osaka, fresh off her Olympic victory and on her way to the U.S. Open. Bobby told us about him and Mikaela playing chess in Union Square Park, so that he might relive a childhood memory, in which he played against a highly-skilled Cambodian chess player. 

During the actual dinner, we were gushing over our food, pushing our forks into each other’s faces, so that we could all try a bit of everything and figure out who out ordered the rest of the table. We underwent a similar ritual with the drinks as well. When we left the restaurant it was pouring rain, in a way I hadn’t seen in New York City before. People were huddling under awnings and sprinting through the puddled sidewalks to get to shelter. The rain was pelting us and we were sopping wet in no time, but I hadn’t quite pictured New York City in heavy rainfall before and seeing raindrops dripping off traffic lights was surprisingly pretty.

After dinner, we crammed ourselves into Ubers and cabs, and narrowly avoided hydroplaning all the way to the somewhat splashy Hyatt that we stay at in Bronxville whenever I go back to college. In the city, Bobby and Mikaela were staying in questionable hotel accommodations (no one in my family will ever use priceline again), but they’d be with us in our hotel a few hours later.

After a particularly loud and unpleasant incident that they’d overheard in the other room, my brother and his girlfriend came to stay with us instead, even though we’d thought we’d said our goodbye the night before. 

The plot thickens, I guess. 

Then their flight out of the city was cancelled due to the weather. 

The plot thickens some more.

And my college postponed my move-in by two days as well, also due to the weather.

Now the plot really thickens, I guess. 

The hotel I had to stay at for an extra day

I had a disassembled sofa and several boxes with no place to put them, surrounded by family members whose flights had been grounded by the storm. It seemed strange to all of us that my school would postpone a flight due to a hurricane, but then again I lived on the Florida line, where people will drive through flooded roads with tree limbs sticking out of the sunroofs of their cars on their way to work during a category five shit storm. 

The couch in question

I still remember attending a weekend drama club rehearsal and then eventually school, while everyone’s houses were without power and running on generators. As it turns out, this is the first hurricane that has hit New York in about thirty years. There was a shelter in place implemented, but none of us considered following it, since it was practically drizzling by the time we were all at our hotel. 

I met up with my friend Tyler since we were staying an extra day and then we met with my Uncle Eddie. Per our recommendation, we all ate at “Dumpling and Noodle,” a Sarah Lawrence favorite. The rain didn’t stop once so I spent my time in a perpetual state of wetness. 

After saying goodbye to Bobby and Mikaela, for real this time, I went to hang out with Tyler, who’d informed me that his uncle had a small role as someone who died in “Silence of the Lambs.” I forced him to watch the movie with me, so that he might point out his uncle as we watched, only to discover that his uncle hadn’t been in it and he’d mixed it up with a different cannibalistic movie. At least he liked the movie. 

The next day, my parents lovingly bought me some new pots and pans and groceries to make sure I had everything I could possibly need for my semester back at school, before going back home themselves.Now everyone has left New York but me, the day before I move into my school. The school had me holed up in the Hyatt, where I was supposed to finish writing my articles for my summer job and interview for classes. 

I spent my time clicking through my course catalogue, heating up the greasy leftovers I took off my family’s hands in the lobby microwave, and idly channel surfing on a TV that doesn’t have half the channels they say they have. At some point while I was doing this, the rain stopped outside. The hurricane had come and passed. 

It would seem that while my family was making its way up to New York, Hurricane Henri was doing the same. Now I’m off to work on my school work and oversee the schooling of the Sarah Lawrence residents that I will be in charge of. 

They’ve got a big storm coming too.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Beach Bum

After spending the past three weeks working three jobs and getting wisdom teeth removal surgery, I finished up my summer at Amelia Island beach with my family. It was the perfect vacation after my first few weeks of actually working a job and the perfect end to summer before I went up to college to start my RA training. The air is fresh, the ocean water is bath-tub warm, and the whole town is summer personified. Being cozy and calm, it is the epitome of the phrase “happy place,” all while being wrapped up in the romance of being a seaside town in subtropic heat. 

I’ve determined that I love the beach the same way that I love autumn weather and hot tea and if the beach is my favorite place then Amelia Island is my favorite beach. It is, of course, a playground for the rich along the waterfront with its Easter egg-colored oceanfront houses, that will have you driving the scenic A1A route every time. 

God, aren’t they cute?

I spent the days laying out on the beach, drinking hard seltzer corona (the only good kind of corona) and watching my skin get pink. In town we went to the local bookstore called “The Book Loft,” which has two stories of perfect-condition books on old bookshelves that you can just drool over all day long. I bought a book, as well, in the form of “My Policeman” by Bethan Roberts, as recommended by Harry Styles.

The first night there we got “Moon River Pizza” in town for obnoxiously large as-big-as-your-face slices of pizza. Did I need to get pizza at a trendy pizza joint with snarky bumper stickers and graffiti where everyone has a sleeve of tattoos and they only play rock music? Yes, I did. And it will be a tradition that I do so every year. 

Bobby and Mikaela arrived a few days later, after my parents and I were already tanned, burnt, and well-rested. To celebrate their arrival we ate at a Spanish restaurant, appropriately named “España.”

Ordering around the bane-of-my-existence, Achilles heel seafood allergy and mouth issue, I had steak with blue cheese, while the rest of them ordered tapas and meals that I was allergic to. The adults had sangria. The waiter took one look at me, and I spent the evening putting sugar packets into a glass of unsweetened tea. For dessert I had some tiramisu, as well as a few well-proportioned bites of everybody else’s dessert.

Walking along the bike trail the next morning, beneath a canopy of oak trees, we made our way to the Marche, a local restaurant that I keep forgetting I don’t like. I ordered a ham, egg, and cheese croissant and got a croissant that arrived looking like a giant pile of sandwich ham and waxy melted swiss cheese atop a load of scrambled eggs. Not the delicate, savory croissant I was envisioning. 

There also were potato slices that I did not want that were equally as flavorless as the eggs and my chai tea latte was just a tea bag in hot water that tasted like nothing. A singular onion would have solved most of the problems. We made up for it by spending the afternoon splayed out on the beach like McDonald’s French Fries under a heat lamp.

Oh and we also went to a bakery

Since my brother is adamant that we watch a film on every beach trip, we watched Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and The Sixth Sense after convincing Mikaela that it wasn’t scary. If she couldn’t sleep that night, it would have been Bobby dealing with her and not me. In the end, she enjoyed the film and I received double the entertainment by watching her watch the ending of The Sixth Sense for the first time. 

On our last day at the beach, we decided to spend it not on the beach at all, but perusing the shops downtown. We started by going into the antique, consignment, trash-to-treasure- shops where I found a crab plate to hold my jewelry, since I am a cancer, and then went to the equally enjoyable “Trailer Park Treasure.” It had an impressive collection of classic antiques, but also a dog, which is how you know that they were legit. 

In the afternoon we made our way to the art gallery, “Art on Centre,” and stared at the abstract lobby art. Abstracts are not my favorite; I like art that looks like things that I can recognize, that are of people, animals, and landscapes, not colorful blobs that are meant to decorate walls. But these paintings were fluid and exuberant, even if they were not representational. The colors were resplendent and vibrant and all around warm, while the sculptures were cool and ornate, but equally as satisfying. There were photorealist seascapes that are enhanced by dimming the lights, obligatory paintings of crashing waves, and at least one painting that invokes a chaotic, mixed-media judgement day fresco.  

Lunch was a quick trip to “Tasty’s” before going to “Pelindaba Lavender” and “The Spice and Tea Exchange,” because nothing makes a relaxing vacation more literal than lavender and tea. In an extremely purple room that sold all things lavender, I bought some nice lavender scented linen spray to appease my future roommates.

The luxury tea and spices came from “The Spice and Tea Exchange,” a shop I’d been eyeing all week. The whole room smelled like the rose petals and lemon shavings that made up their custom made teas. I stocked up on green tea for cramps and chamomile tea for sleep in full anticipation of any personal health problems that might befall me at college. 

It was a nice wrap up to my summer. Now, I am fully stocked up and relaxed for my impending college arrival. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

Punching My Clock

I have not been writing very much for good reason: I had three different jobs. I edited the current issue of my school system’s magazine, I worked as an intern for another local magazine, and throughout the work week, I worked as a receptionist at a law firm. 

The waiting room of the law firm

The perfect skin that I had when I left high school is now gone in exchange for stress-induced neck zits and under eye bags, because nothing says you’re no longer a teenager quite like a breakout of acne and a chaotic sleep schedule. I also had my wisdom teeth removed, because dental problems, I am told, always come at the best possible times for your work schedule. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I was actually looking forward to being at college, where less will be expected of me, as an RA, Junior, and potential intern.

The start of my time sheet

With my Kate Spade laptop bag and the two pairs of professional pants I kept on rewearing, I was armed and ready for anything corporate America could throw at me. I woke up at 7 so that I could work from 8 to 5:30 (8 to 12 on Fridays). Then I went home, counting my earnings for the day like they were strapped in my garter and I was walking away from my street corner. After work, twice a week, I went to karate, which is appropriate because when you work three jobs, you sometimes need to grunt and kick the air. If it weren’t for my three jobs, karate, and my biological need to sleep, I would have simply gone home and watched Working Girl. In fact, I spent a lot of my time thinking about the films that I could and would be watching if I was sitting on my couch and not being a productive member of society. 

Me, eating a cookie that my mom packed for me, while on the job

I’ve learned much about life through these job experiences. For instance, I learned that the expression is “punching my card” and not “punching my clock,” which more aptly describes the act of punching your time card into the time clock everyday. Also, through my various lines of work, I encounter people whose names, despite the difference in spelling, can only be pronounced “Fuck.” Sometimes, I get put on hold and I understand how I make others feel, often holding the phone to my ear for so long that I’m convinced I will get cauliflower ear. The phone won’t ring for several minutes on end and then suddenly, three different people will call at once needing everything. 

And they needed it by yesterday.

Me on a lunch break on my last day on the job

Because I worked with five other people (who I didn’t interact with much being the receptionist) and then worked alone as a journalist, there wasn’t much workplace drama to dish out. I did, however, often spend my lunch hour at my mom’s office where I learned about all of the hot gossip. So if you’re ever in need of an expert on the goings-on in the Valdosta legal scene, I’m your girl.

For the last half of summer, I was constantly working, but I didn’t mind it. Having a lot of work to do is like getting old; it’s the worst thing in the world except for the alternative. I think now I finally understand the feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction people get when they have a job that they go to everyday. There’s a sense of pride in having a job. I knew that I accomplished something day in and day out regardless of how tired I was when I got home. 

My brief stint at the law firm came to an end when it came time for my mouth surgery. I’d been working nonstop leading up to it, that I hadn’t given much thought to the reality of getting surgery. I hadn’t, for example, given any thought to the IV they stuck into my arm that knocked me out in a matter of seconds. I’m sure I was their absolute favorite patient, having exclaimed things like “is that thing going into my arm? Where’s the novocaine? My arm is getting heavy. My arm hurts. Is my arm supposed to hurt? I’m getting sleepy.” This was met with responses like “my arm feels heavy too,” and “I’m sleepy too,” which is not always what you want to hear from a surgeon as you’re going under. I woke up twenty minutes later, convinced I’d been through a rugid, three hour long surgery and feeling like I’d been drop kicked. 

Mouth surgery has a way of feeling like a punch in the face that’ll leave you with sore gums, a tight jaw, and a liquid diet. High as a kite, my mother then dragged me to the car where I supposedly cursed a blue streak and demanded everything. The only part of this that I remembered was when I dove head first into my pillow with my mouth stuffed with gauze and my face wrapped in an ice pack. Being lowered into my bed, I told my mom, “I sleep on my face.”

“Not today you don’t,” was her response.

A swollen mouth

After that I took it easy and made it through this surgical rite of passage. Like all of my friends, I am forevermore without my wisdom teeth. So much of what I’ve been doing recently has felt like steps into adulthood. Working a couple of jobs, answering phones, and getting my first real dental problem has always felt like the type of things that were decidedly in the realm of adulthood, which is no longer nebulously far in the future for me. Here I go, trying to navigate it with as much grace as I can muster. 

So far, I have yet to disappoint myself. We’ll see if I can keep that up.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

I Think it was the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is a holiday in which we celebrate some guys signing a piece of paper to get exempted from their taxes and we celebrate it by getting liquored up and setting off explosives in the sky. I kid, but only because I had a really fun time. 

This year, we were invited to a family friend’s lake house about four miles from Florida to watch some fireworks and grill out. That’s nice considering that my family never has big plans for the fourth. The holiday always comes and we just group up with someone else who is throwing a party. As long as we’re looking up at the sky as fireworks go off, we consider it a success.

The very American spread of food

It was a BYOB Fourth of July celebration, in which we brought an entire pitcher of white sangria, and since I also got tapped to bring a dessert, I spent the morning making a strawberry shortcake trifle with my mother. There’s something about making a strawberry shortcake trifle for a Fourth of July party, while sixties music played in the background, that made me feel like a sixties housewife. In the weird hypothetical I made up in my head, I was making the strawberry shortcake trifle using a recipe that I found in a lady’s home journal with a frilly apron over my Leave it to Beaver dress.

The strawberry shortcake trifle

At the lake there was day-drinking, grilling, music, boating, fireworks and old friends who we hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic. At first we were playing some AC/DC, because nothing says celebrating America quite like listening to a band from Australia. Then, we got on a boat and drove through the lakes while fireworks went off, directly over our heads. We enjoyed other people’s fireworks, while navigating the dark water that was packed with other boats.

I took a million blurry pictures of my mother and her friends while trying to get the fireworks in the background. Then, we drove back to finally watch our own fireworks. Everybody valued their fingers and launched them off the docks at a safe distance, while we watched. 

It was a perfect and fun way to celebrate our country’s independence. There’s no better way to enjoy our country than to light off fireworks that, like most goods in America, originated in China. 

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

It’s always been my plan to one day throw a birthday party that is Midsummer-Night’s-Dream-themed, for I am a midsummer night’s dream myself, being born in the evening at the end of June. That plan is many years away and for now, I’ll just have to have a bit more of a traditional birthday party, where I break bread with my family and have a homemade meal. That’s what I did a week ago on my 20th birthday. 

It was a strange birthday, since it felt surreal to already be turning twenty. Two decades around the sun is something that I have yet to process. I couldn’t decide how I wanted to celebrate my birthday. Last year, during the global pandemic, I had Indian food and watched a movie. This year, for my first birthday in the new house, I knew that I wanted to at least swim in my own pool. 

The wrapping paper on the gifts I received ended up being gifts for my cats

The night before my birthday, I listened to “Teenagers” by My Chemical Romance, as a last minute farewell to adolescence. On the actual day of my birthday, I had lunch with my parents at the Passage to India lunch buffet.

I dressed up for the day

I continued with my karate that afternoon, because though I be but little, I be fierce, and then, finally, I had dinner with my parents, my great aunt Mac, and my grandmother. For my birthday dinner, my mother made me fried zucchini fettuccine, Stanley Tucci-style, and bleu cheese steak tips, Chrissy Teigen-style, plus some chocolate cake. 

Because I’ve acted like a princess my whole life, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that on my seventh or eighth birthday, I convinced my mom to make me chocolate crepes in bed. Surprisingly, she actually did it, and even more of a surprise it became a birthday tradition every year ever since. It means, among other things, that I have a very sweet mother and that I need to marry a very understanding man. This birthday, however, my mother couldn’t make the crepes because she had work. She made them a few days later, over the weekend. 

Calypso joined me for breakfast in bed, but didn’t seem to believe that the crepe was food

In a way, the crepes were symbolic because they caused me to develop a birthday philosophy. A birthday is an excuse to be happy and to take it easy. I sleep in, eat my morning pastry, don’t touch a single dirty dish, and just overall don’t lift a finger if I don’t feel so inclined. 

I also pull the “it’s my birthday card,” like it’s a reverse uno card. 

Is this selfish? Maybe.

Is this how all of us would like to behave on our birthdays? Absolutely.

If you think I’m bad, just know that my mother doesn’t even go to work on her birthday.

All of my gifts were perfect with handmade, chocolate covered strawberries and a bouquet of flowers from my best friend Padgett, a birthday haiku and one whole dollar from my friend Tyler, and a sunset lamp from my friend Anahat, that I can’t wait to use in my dorm room.

Thank you Padgett!
Thank you Tyler!
Thank you Anahat!
Thank you guys!

Not to mention, there was a stack of books to add to my stack of books and some movies. I spent the day receiving birthday wishes from family and friends all across the country, because they know how to really make a girl feel special and loved on her birthday. 

That night, when I was met by moonlight while swimming in the pool, it truly felt like a midsummer night’s dream. While most people had an adolescence filled with flirting with guys, holding onto old friends, and skipping curfew, mine was filled with reading good books, exhibiting some anti-social tendencies, and doing whatever I could to out myself on the path to becoming the next great American novelist. But the course of true love never did run smooth and that’s what this is: true love, true love with myself all throughout my teen years and now it will continue into my roaring twenties.

A saga

And since I am an honest Puck and I have unearned luck, I’m wishing myself a very happy birthday and a very happy next decade. Your twenties are when things happen, I am told, so I can’t wait.  

What visions will I see!

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

A Day Trip to Jacksonville

Not much has happened to me since we last chatted.

I got a stomach bug that lasted several days, so I drank green tea (which tasted like dirt) to fix it, and then successfully passed it on to my mother. I got a new job, after extensive worrying about getting a job. I went out to a fancy restaurant in a fancy outfit to celebrate. I ate lots of chocolate, cream, and strawberries for dessert in what is known as pot de creme, which translates literally to “cream pot” (ya gotta love the French).

There, you’re all up to speed.

I never go to Jacksonville, unless I’m boarding a flight to Laguardia, but years ago, my family would take the occasional trip since that’s where the nearest Apple store is. We went to the Apple store this past Sunday to get new laptops for my mother and myself. I spilled orange juice on mine over a year ago and she lost hers. We make a great team. 

We hung around the town square in the withering Florida heat, passing by Nordstrom, Louis Voitton, Lululemon, and other stores for people far posher than I.

The wizards at the Apple store worked their magic and dealt with our new computers. Then we shoved some Mexican food into our faces before peeling out on two wheels to get back home in time to watch “In the Heights,” in theatres.  

Three days later, my mother and I went back to pick up my new laptop after its data transfer. While there, we got Panera, so I could continue my love of green tea. 

It was a really simple Sunday, but it also was proof that we’re getting back to normal. When locked up during quarantine, I was looking forward to the day I could spend an afternoon watching literally any movie in a movie theatre. A few years ago I might have considered this a boring Sunday afternoon, but now, after the year we’ve had, this is a better afternoon than most.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel