Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Find Me a Bat

Don't miss the gorgeous, recently opened jewelry exhibition at the MFA, "Jewels, Gems, and Treasures: Ancient to Modern" (through November 25, 2012). The MFA is unusual in having both a gallery dedicated to jewelry and a full-time jewelry curator to care for its 11,000-item collection. We're lucky.

This is my favorite object in the show: a Chinese headdress from around 1900, worn by either a bride or a noblewoman at the imperial court. It's ornamented with brilliant blue kingfisher feathers and a heck of a lot of other fancy stuff, if you'll excuse my highbrow museum parlance. You can easily spot flowers made of pearls and tourmalines and a couple of phoenix birds with pearl strands on their wings. They bounce on springs to liven things up.

But can you find me a bat?

Lots going on, but no bats.

I spent most of stormy Sunday afternoon scrutinizing my photos to find the bats that are allegedly on this thing. It began asa tiny part of my writing assignment and progressed to an obsession.

Bats are good-luck symbols in China, and they can be very stylized in appearance, but they still look like bats with, you know, tiny bodies and batwings. Some look like cartoon bats, Batman bats. But I see nothing on this baby that looks anything like a bat. Go and examine it for yourself. If you can tell me where the bats are, I'll buy you a cupcake.

By the way, Possum was no use to me. He couldn't get past the kingfisher feathers. "Birds should be eaten, not worn," says Possy. I explained that kingfishers became extinct in China because their feathers were used for jewelry. "Entirely the wrong reason," he said. "I'm sure they were tasty. Blueberry-flavored feathers. What a waste!" I should mention that he has been more helpful on other jewelry topics. I have no idea where he picks up his information, unless he's been reading my library books, which I find on the floor....

More photos:

Right side: A bat-free zone.

Left side: Nary a bat.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Current Craving: Wheels

I'm in the mood to ride a bike. The weather is perfect for being outside at all hours. I know I should try the new Hubway rental bikes that are all over Boston.

Somehow I'm resisting. Could it be because the bikes look so clunky? Certainly no self-respecting thief would steal one. Could it be because every rider I've seen so far appears to be a tourist — riding next to the bike lane or on the sidewalk, while gaping so hard at the scenery that they run lights and nearly hit pedestrians? Could it be because I don't have a helmet? No. I've never worn a helmet; I didn't even bother with a helmet when I rode horses. But, yeah, I know I need a helmet if I'm ever going to ride a bike... The Proper Bostonian had about 14 brain cells at last count and needs to hang onto them. I would also need a tiny helmet with goggles for Possum, so he could join me, riding in the basket. (He wouldn't be caught dead on a Hubway bike, he says. What a snob.)

I think I'd just like to have my very own bike, please. The problem is that I have nowhere to store one. But if that changes, I want this:

It's the Missoni bicycle, coming to Target with the rest of their Missoni collection on September 13 (mentioning that just in case you're in Malta, I'm bombarded with ads wherever I look). While I don't see myself decked out in some knit outfit that reminds me of the ripple afghans my mother crocheted, I'm very taken with the idea of myself on a cute print bicycle.

I really loved the concept of the Liberty-print bikes Target offered last year, but they had a dorkier body design and no hand brakes. It's too bad this bike doesn't have multiple speeds, but it sure does look Italian. I can just imagine peddling to the North End and filling the basket with cannoli from Dairy Fresh; arancini from Galleria Umberto; olives, fontina, and pepper ham from Pace's; and tomato pesto and an Iggy's Francese from the Salumeria...

Oh, well. At least I can have everything but the bike.

It's nearly time to make our annual, reluctant pilgrimage to Target to pick up cleaning supplies and whatever else we can't find elsewhere. We find big stores like Target confusing and depressing: so much cheap, plasticky stuff. We have to keep prying our hands from those multi-pound bags of candy they have everywhere because we get so miserable and rammy under those fluorescent lights, faced with too many aisles and choices. But perhaps I can console myself with this pretty laptop sleeve, something I do need:
Fat chance. Everything is going to sell out in a heartbeat. Advertising works.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting Naked at the MFA

I'm going to try not to imagine what's going on over there.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pancakes for Possum

I can't make pancakes; they always come out raw in the middle. Based on a small, lifelong research study I began when I was about 4, which includes my parents, grandparents, and godparents, I have concluded that men are better at making pancakes than women. Fortunately, I married a pancake professional. Show him a box of Aunt Jemima Original and he will go to town.

Today's storm put us in the mood for butter and syrup. Indeed, breakfast was the exciting part of the day because the tropical storm Irene turned out to be not much of anything around here — although it did manage to bring down some nice old trees. Quite unnecessarily, we thought. Some trees, like willows, will jump at any excuse to fall over.

All we need to do is think about pancakes and Snalbert instinctively knows. He loves them; he loves all kinds of carbs. He'll sit on the table yelling enthusiastically, long before the mixing bowl and frying pans come out. He gets his own tiny pancakes dipped in syrup, and then he gets some of mine, and then he washes his sticky whiskers like a gentleman. Snalbert is the only cat who can routinely join us at meals because he keeps a polite distance from serving dishes and our plates.

But Possum joined the three of us at the table for his first encounter with pancakes. He was curious to know what all the howling was about. He waited patiently until Snalbert left, and approached his bowl, which had a few remaining pieces. He didn't know what to make of them, so he tried scooping them up with his paw to study and sample them. This is something Maine Coon cats do, and I hope it serves them better than it does Possum. All he does is make a mess; he still doesn't have the knack of getting food into his mouth. It's hilarious to watch. He licked syrup off his paw, and tried scooping up some pancakes several more times, scattering them onto the table as soon as he felt the sticky sensation on his pads. He decided he didn't like having goopy paws and gave up.

Possum doesn't see the point of pancakes.

Wendy arrived immediately after he left. She took one sniff, discovered that pancakes don't smell like chicken or turkey, and took off. Wendy has limited interest in people food. She has yet to figure out the point of cheese, for example.

The youngsters' lack of enthusiasm is fine with us. We've already got one pancake fiend and we don't need another one.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Water, Candles, Cake

The intrepid Proper Bostonian is so far managing to write her way through an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week. We expect to be fine when Irene comes through tomorrow, despite all the dire predictions. We didn't make special purchases beyond our habitual shopping before a snowstorm (milk, bread, cheese, Diet Coke, cat food, litter). We did fill several pitchers with filtered water, just in case. (We remember running around to buy water when that water main broke last May.) We also have enough leftover birthday cake to see us through the storm. And there are tapers and scented candles galore if we lose power — or decide to turn out all the lights just for fun. We might fill the tub, too, depending on how lively the action is around here tomorrow. Perhaps Possum will decide to go for his first swim. He could use the exercise.

Natural disasters do not affect Possum's charms nor disturb his rest.

I remember Hurricane Bob, back in 1991. It was a major storm elsewhere, but it didn't affect Boston as much as had been anticipated. I was working at the MFA, which uncharacteristically sent its staff home early, even before lunch. My boss announced that he was heading downtown to Filene's Basement — there was either a big Barney's or Louis men's sale starting that morning. A couple of us drove with him. There was no one in the place: bargains galore! Later, I went for a windy stroll along the Charles, admiring the serious waves; I've never seen anything like them since. I will probably check out the Charles tomorrow, if there's a lull in the wind in the afternoon.

For years after Hurricane Bob, you'd see duct-taped Xs stretching across large windows all over town, or the unscrubbed marks remaining from the adhesive. I believe I actually spotted one such ghostly leftover on a downtown window within the past year. I guess the owner of that window doesn't need to bother to do it again. But no one is duct-taping windows this time, it seems. I never understood the point in 1991, but it did seem kind of cool, in a creepy, medieval way — sort of like marking the plaque sign on your front door.

My husband has so far mentioned his gratitude that we don't live in a basement only about three or four times. More to come, I'm sure.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Possum Provoked

I counted 22 little birds in the tree outside our window, all chirping loudly and taunting poor Possum:

"Goodness, Possum," I said. "Those birds are behaving very rudely to you. Are they wrens, finches, or sparrows?"

"I would love to know the answer to that myself," he replied. "So why don't you let me go outside so I can climb that tree and study them more closely?"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Smarter Cars?

Is it just me, or are there more "city cars" in the city these days? I think I'm seeing more Minis, Beetles, Smart Cars, and other compact models — and lots of Priuses, as ever. But I'm wondering if there are fewer "boats," as we call SUVs and other gigantic cars hogging the resident parking spots in Back Bay.

Maybe they're all spending the summer on the Cape, but I'm keeping my fingers crosssed.

Shoe Dilemmas

Unlike most women, I have only five pairs of shoes in my closet:
  1. Bronze Ferragamo T-straps, my wedding shoes ($13.12 — a moment of silence for the original Filene's Basement)
  2. Bronze Me Too ballet flats, synthetic lining horribly deteriorated.
  3. Brown Timberland rubber-soled slides, look like elf clogs, require thick socks.
  4. Black Ferragamo heels with sexy, slender T-straps. Perfect shoes. ($43, Second Time Around. They're size 8AA, so it's a triple miracle that I spotted them, tried them on my 7B foot anyhow, and they fit perfectly).
  5. Black Easy Spirit mid-heeled shoe-boots (shooties? booes?) with tiny side zippers. Like boots, only shorter, these need opaque tights.
Those are my shoes. The last pair is new, the others are between 4 and 14 years old. Before you start thinking that I'm one of those possession-discarding Minimalists, let me assure you that my closet is nevertheless packed with boots, rubber flip-flops, and lots of painful sandals that are shiny-new so I can't get rid of them without guilt. (It is my fate to buy a carefully considered, likely-looking pair of sandals every darn spring, imagining they'll be so comfortable I'll wear them to shreds. But reality always bites within the first hour I wear them out of the house. When flip flops are ridiculously inappropriate, I resort to two pairs that hurt only after awhile, despite years of "breaking in.")

But women need shoes. I love shoes. It's too bad they don't love me. I keep trying to find winners, in fits and starts, like when the seasons are changing and I feel a burst of optimism. My chief excuse is that I occasionally need to look respectable and I hate scrambling around at the last minute for a decent ensemble that doesn't exist. Plus, I suspect that it's a major Fashion Don't for a woman of my age and situation to spend half the year in flip flops. Surely one should have a more fashionable, age-appropriate alternative for all those weeks between May and November. Something attractive and "fun" that one can easily walk a few miles in — is that just too much to ask? Yes.

Don't advise me to wear sneakers or trainers or those "walking shoes" that look like running shoes that aren't fully evolved. I'm not the Proper Bostonian for nothing, despite my flip-flop addiction. Athletic shoes are for being athletic. And that's all.

Anyhow... I've had it with sandals. And my paltry shoe collection won't tide me over until boot season starts. So I recently ordered five pairs of shoes from Anthropologie and J. Crew while they were offering discounts and free shipping. Usually shoe prospects come out of their box and stay on my feet less than 60 seconds; that's all it takes for the pain alarm to sound. But, surprisingly, all five of these shoes seem to have potential. Here they are:

Heels from Anthropologie.

Suede ballet flats from J. Crew.

I desperately need flats since I've worn out my only pair. Plain ballet flats are so versatile, and I see dozens of pretty pairs speeding around Boston's streets every day. But it's amazing how painful ballet flats can be, even though they appear just the opposite. Many of them don't have flexible soles, and often they are too flat. A slight heel is much better for walking. After years of making adorable, unwearable flats, J. Crew has improved their "Cece"style with an internal wedge heel, a flexible rubber sole, gentle gathers for a snug fit, and no shank. I ordered up a half size, and they're close to perfect, although they'll need some breaking in. Of course. (I always wear flats without tights. With other shoes, I go bare-legged when it's warm and wear tights when it's cold.)

There's just one problem with these ballerinas. They're noisy! They make a constant, "grunting" racket as I walk around the apartment, waiting for them to hurt. I had everyone's attention last night as I modeled both colors. So weird. I tried on my old flats to see how noisy they were: slightly, but no comparison. I'm not sure what to do. I googled them. J. Crew must be selling thousands of these and no one is complaining that they're noisy. Leave it to me to find a pretty, comfortable shoe with other problems. I suppose I can get away with grunting shoes as long as I remember to seek out loud places and avoid quiet streets, museums, concert halls, and memorial chapels. I suppose. But then my next challenge will be to pick a color; I don't need two pairs of grunting flats. Or do I?  Both seem to look good with most of what's in my pathetic closet. But navy doesn't work with black and bronze doesn't look good with navy....

All three pairs of Anthropologie heels are charming, and a new look for me. I haven't worn heels routinely since I was in my 30s. I had to dress very nicely when I managed a chamber-music series, and it's strange to recall that I once had a closet full of lovely dresses, elegant jackets, silky blouses and skirts, and beautiful shoes. I used to love getting dressed every day; I wasn't always a hopeless case. Blame freelancing and the dot-com era.

Anyway, the Seychelles T-straps seem truly comfortable, and I can wear them with tights when the weather cools. They're also a deal with my birthday discount: $83. Keepers. The Miss Albright pumps are darling in both colors. They're cut high, so I could wear peds with them if I decide to become a ped-wearer. (I don't think I'll ever wear nylons again, despite all they do for Kate the Duchess.) If I decide to splurge, which color? The yellow is intense, but somehow they go with nearly everything and make a statement I can handle. But the brown pumps are gorgeous and classy, and I think they are a tad more comfortable. 

I'd forgotten that even medium heels make legs look spectacular. Especially legs that live in flip flops. My husband likes all of them, mainly for that reason. But do I need them? Can I afford them? Can I afford not to have them the next time I have to look presentable? What to do....

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Home Again

Coming home from traveling is always hard. We're exhausted from a long drive or a longer flight. My first impulse, after dropping our bags and greeting the cats, is to lie inert, face down on the sofa or the bed, for as long as possible — preferably forever — to avoid unpacking and cleaning up. But my husband transforms into a dynamo as soon as he's in the door. He'll be throwing things in drawers, making a pile of laundry, and putting his bag away while I'm still making sure we're in the correct apartment. It's the only time he ever races around to clean up. So what can I do but follow suit?

When my bags are empty, there's a mountain of dirty clothes to start on, and then it's time to start de-cattifying the place: removing all the towels and plastic sheets we put down in case anyone decides to protest our absence, and removing any kitten-sized tumbleweeds of fur drifting around. Then there's the mail to go through, and then I've got to face all the mess that results from both packing and unpacking. I have to unbury and reorganize my silver and jewelry. Even after all that, the apartment is in chaos for at least a day or two after we return. It needs scrubbing, vacuuming, and dusting.

When it all gets to be too much, it's time to head out for milk, bananas, bread — and maybe a burrito for dinner.

But it's wonderful to sleep in our own bed again, on an excellent mattress with a perfect pillow.

The cats were happy to have us home, even though their sitter leaves out about three times more food for them than we do. Mr. Possum has been demanding extra attention, grooming, and conversation.

Possum is relieved we're home because 
his fellow cats are not sufficiently intellectual.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Last Photos of Maine

The Vagabond, a deep-sea fishing charter out of SW Harbor.

One of the inn's old trees at sunset.

Proof that we actually got out onto a trail in Acadia National Park. 
(Confession: it was only a carriage road; we do those in flip flops.) 

Cadillac Mountain and Bubble Pond. 

 The trail around Bubble Pond.

Beach pebbles at Seawall. 

The Tom Cat as seen last month. It's where everyone goes for beer, coffee, soda, 
beer, cigarettes, rental movies, beer, and newspapers.

While we were in town, the Tom Cat got a fresh coat of paint. 
VoilĂ . But it's still a mess inside.

Left Bank Books, in Searsport. One of those rare shops that makes you 
feel like you died and went to heaven. I found a recent edition of 
John Cheever's stories that I'd been hunting for. And much more. An amazing bookstore.

Postcards from Maine: Foggy Times

Coastal Maine's periodic rain and fog can seem romantic and interesting if you're open-minded about weather. It's more relaxing (and gracious) to accept whatever the day brings than to fret to helpless locals about the lack of sun. We had foggy days and nights last week, between stretches of sunshine. Since even a downpour doesn't keep us out of the hot tub (our outdated New Yorkers just get soggy faster), we don't mind. We were a little disappointed to take a very foggy sunset cruise on an antique Friendship sloop with some friends from Manhattan who happened to be staying across the street from our inn. But it was still an excellent time, out on the waves with a picnic basket full of expensive cheese and plenty of lively conversation, with our captain blowing on a conch shell as our foghorn.

Here are some foggy scenes from various places on the island:

 Waterfront road in Northeast Harbor. Fog can draw attention to 
nearby colors and details you don't notice in sunshine.

A foggy high tide at Seawall, where you creep around
 on slippery rocks and watch the waves crash nearby.

Slippery rocks and waves.

Marshland across the road from Seawall.

Jordan Pond with fog obscuring the Bubbles (mountains)

The typical sunny, postcard view of the Bubbles.

Ospreys nesting in Southwest Harbor, 
taken during our sailboat ride. (We also saw seals.)

Postcards from Mount Desert Island: Rent-a-Cat

A fluffy, brown tabby named Ruby lives across the street from the inn. In the morning, she often turns up on the front porch, hoping for a lap in which to sleep. She is not interested in the zucchini bread or blueberry-rum cake, scones, fruit-and-yogurt parfaits, mixed-berry pancakes, tomato frittatas, or risotto, which the rest of us enjoy. She's probably just finished snacking on a bird or a mouse.

The innkeepers aren't fond of cats and don't see her advantages, but she's very popular with us. We always feel cat-deprived in Maine, so we'll let her settle in for an hour, if she's willing, as we eat and chat. We're used to eating with one hand and petting Wendy with the other, so we're fine.

Napping in my husband's arms.

Curled up in a sleepy ball. Is that seaweed in her tail?

Continuing her nap on the floor.

Hanging Around the Inn

Unlike most visitors to Mount Desert Island, we don't come for the hiking, sailing, fishing, kayaking, cycling, canoeing, ocean swimming, mountain climbing, or other pleasures of Acadia National Park. Too exhausting, although we do some of those things occasionally, when we're feeling guilty. What we really like to do is hang around the inn and socialize with the locals. Now that we have a multi-year history of summer visits, being up there feels like going onstage in an improv play. If you are friendly and willing to listen, the people around the inn will eventually reveal themselves in small-town soliloquies reminiscent of Spoon River Anthology, but much more long-winded. 

The porch. Settle in, and tell me everything that's going on with you...

If you linger after breakfast on the porch, eventually one or two members of the inn staff will join you to eat and spill their stories. If you lounge around the pool area, you'll meet other guests, as well as neighbors who drop by for a quick dip. After years of being up there, we know several of them, as well as other long-time guests who come to stay at the same times we do each year. We hear news and gossip about everybody, and there's always a certain amount of drama going on. When we aren't dissecting some personal relationship gone strange, we talk books, movies, news, cats, cooking, and restaurants. A regular I hadn't met before introduced himself, and we quickly figured out that we'd lived less than two blocks from each other on this street until last year. A Delta flight attendant tried hard to sell me on natural supplements for women: "It's changed ma life...." I had to lie low until she checked out the next morning. 

An empty spot in the hot tub, waiting for 
someone to hop in and tell me everything.

But, usually, it's fun to spend a week surrounded by chatty, interesting people in a small town, sharing their lives in more detail than we city folk would ever offer to a stranger down here. Maybe this happens because there's so very little to do there in the winter besides talk, drink, and shovel snow. But when we get our opportunity (finally!), we spill our stories, too. And we have no excuse except for the irresistible charm of the locals. Unless it's the instant intimacy of sitting together in a big tub of hot water, like some lobsters waiting to boil.

We're usually all talked-out at the end of our stay, and looking forward to some quiet downtime back in Boston, where most of our socializing is accomplished by email or on facebook. Much less entertaining.

Postcards from Mount Desert Island

On our first night in Southwest Harbor, I was relaxing in the hot tub when I saw beautiful light in the sky. I raced down to the dock, dripping in swimsuit and towel, to catch a colorful sunset: 

By the time I made it down there, the sky and sea were less dramatic but still beautiful, like a fire opal. No color correction for these photos:

I was glad to see the usual number of dinghies at the town mooring. There were very few boats earlier in the summer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

To Maine

I'm woke up to the sound of workmen hammering away in the alley between gossiping, and I'm currently listening to a car alarm that sounds like a Canada goose being tortured into a very slow death.

Time for a vacation.

Bags packed, books picked, house-sitter and vet tech in place. Future posts will be very Maine-y whenever I get around to them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Harbor Town

We went for a walk along the waterfront yesterday. It was a dark day, spitting rain, which kept the crowds away. I like clouds or even drizzle better than bright sunshine, so I was fine. And we both had umbrellas in case of a downpour; we rarely bother to carry them.

It's possible to live in Boston and forget for weeks, or months, that we're a harbor town. When I worked in South Boston, I never got tired of crossing the channel bridge and seeing the sea. (Okay, I'm romanticizing: it was hell in winter, when you were practically blown backwards with every step, and the CityMart on the other side began to seem like a cozy haven at the end of the world. Yeah, I dreaded it, but it was never boring, anyhow.) Our offices had huge plate-glass windows filled with ocean views, oil tankers and container ships plodding back and forth, tugboats, fishing boats, and all the activity that never stops surprising you when your life is usually centered inland.

As usual, my husband and I tried to imagine the harbor as it was in the 19th century, when it was jammed full of wooden sailing ships, a forest of masts rising high in the air. Although we've been to Tall Ships events, we still can't envision traffic jams in Boston Harbor.

The closest we can get on a typical day is this:

We found ourselves in the North End, naturally, which was in the middle of a feast. We heard a couple of brass bands playing, "O Sole Mio" and Sousa classics. The street food looked good; no line at all for a Mike's cannoli.

We added a dollar to the streamers on the Madonna banner:

And we were soon rewarded by being invited to jump the line outside Regina's because we were the only twosome. The pizza was perfect, as always. And we even remembered to bring the leftovers on our walk home.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sunset on the Charles

We took a Saturday evening stroll along the Charles. Lots of other folks had had the same idea:

Ah, summer sunsets. We should try to do this more often.

Current Craving: Moon Pie

This is Moon Pie:

He's a gentle, friendly kitten at the Adoption Center at Angell Animal Medical Center. We met him when we stopped by after taking Snicky to the eye doctor. Moon Pie not only has fabulous, symmetrical facial markings, he's got about seven toes on every foot. I believe that a cat can't have too many toes. The more the merrier. I've also found that cats with extra toes tend to have great personalities.

If you're going to adopt cats, I believe you should eventually try to have all the colors. We're doing pretty well, but we have never had gray or silver. Even so, we didn't bring Moon Pie home because having five cats is considered insane by some people, including my husband and our vet. (And even me, at the moment, given that we had almost $1,000 in vet bills this week for our seniors, who are nevertheless doing very well these days.)

And, yeah, I know.... it's better to adopt grown cats than kittens, although I have my own peculiar notions about that. It also depends on the mix of ages and personalities you already have.

There are dozens of cats and kittens at Angell waiting for homes, as always. Here's a dilute tortoiseshell 3-year-old named Lorelai. She's a very sociable former stray:

There was also a handsome fellow named Chiquino who reminds me a bit of Possum, only with shorter fur and fewer intellectual pretensions. He was always either eating or moving around his room, so I couldn't get a decent photo. But you can see him here.

Through August, Angell is offering discounted adoption fees of $75 for cats more than a year old. If you're on the fence about adopting a new friend, there's no harm in just dropping by for a visit.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Romper Reality

If you're going to wear a romper, make sure you are well under 4 years old. Even 3 years is pushing it, unless you are very immature for your age.

If you're going to insist upon wearing a romper when you're closer to 20, make sure you only wear it indoors, away from windows.

If you're around 20 and you insist on wearing a romper outdoors, think twice about choosing a backless, string halter model with short-shorts in a red floral print. Especially if it's a size too small for you.

If you're going to insist on wearing the red, too-small, backless romper with short-shorts outside, don't wear your grungy, nude-colored bra under it. It will not provide modesty, it will bestow tackiness and provoke silent shrieks of disbelief from passersby. You may imagine that your long, blonde hair will hide that bra, but it won't. What you could do as an alternative is: put a tank top under the romper, and then button and belt an opaque (no clear vinyl, please), knee-length, trench coat over it, fully obscuring the romper.

If you reject that piece of advice, kindly consider this piece: When your bra straps keep falling down, quickly push them back up before gentlemen along your route begin offering to do it for you.

If you're going to wear your ratty, exposed bra with your backless, red-disaster romper in my neighborhood, please carry a guitar case along with that 2-liter bottle of soda you're clutching. That way, we can assure any reporters from national publications such as GQ that you are not, in fact, representative of Boston fashion —you're simply a teenaged Berklee summer school student, visiting from New Jersey for a few weeks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some Good News

We're certainly getting enough bad news in the papers. Here's a little good news on the PB front that I feel like sharing.

1. The vet was delighted that Snalbert gained 1-1/2 pounds in the past few months He had grown skinny from chronic renal failure, but he feels and looks like a solid cat again. Since even a few ounces would have been good news, this is worth celebrating. Here's hoping he and Snicky also have good blood and urine test results; we'll know tomorrow. (The astronomical vet bill? Not such good news. But I keep reminding myself that having cats is still much cheaper than raising kids. I also believe that Possum will be the first cat to get a full scholarship to Swarthmore.)

2. The professional "voice" who is narrating my contemporary art scripts praised them in the recording studio today, according to my boss, who sent me a wonderful note. She said I know how to write for "the ear," and this is rare. She used to produce scripts and train scriptwriters for a major company in recorded-tour business, so it's an honor to hear this from an expert. I worked hard on those buggers all summer long. Phew.

3. Someone tried to use my lost/stolen credit card, and it turned out to be... me. I ordered a prescription online and forgot the card was canceled. So I doubt it was pilfered from my pocket; I'd much rather have lost it (and my T pass) absent-mindedly. Or to paraphrase my husband's favorite recitation, The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles (Jethro Tull), "perhaps I ate them, thinking they were a carrot."

4. I found classic ballet flats that possibly, just possibly, won't kill me even if I walk a few miles in them. They're plain, flexible, and have a bit of arch support. (Why do all ballet flats have buckles, or jeweled brooches, or big bows, or quilted toes, or some other doodad messing up the toe? Simple is better.) I ordered these in pewter and navy suede (20% off) from J. Crew:

5. I'm just starting the latest Donna Leon novel, Drawing Conclusions, her 20th book featuring the Venetian police commissario Guido Brunetti. I've read them all, and I never read crime stories or thrillers. Starting the first chapter feels like sitting down with the fiction equivalent of a box of Godiva truffles. I'm slightly dazed from anticipation of all the good things that are sure to come, not least of which are Leon's insider perspectives on daily life in Venice. I can't wait to stop writing this and get back to it.

6. Next week, we're going back to Maine. Trips to Maine are better than Christmas, and that means they're better than anything.

7. A large envelope from France arrived today. It looks like we might be going back to Avignon in November for another conference. Fingers crossed that we can really go and that I won't become a wretched mess during the flight this time. I'd like to return to the romantic Rue des Teinturiers:

Even a tanking stock market, which I invested in yesterday, can't ruin the promise of a fat old cat, a little praise, a new Donna Leon novel, and Avignon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dear Driver...

... of the unlocked black sedan parked on Marlborough between Gloucester and Hereford, with a resident sticker, and the passenger-side window wide open:

We spotted your forgotten window on our walk this evening, and tried to roll it up; it was raining.

Power windows = defeat.

Sorry it's pouring buckets into your car right now. I hope that wasn't genuine leather upholstery.

Comings and Goings and Musings

In September, Anthropologie is moving from Boylston Street to currently empty retail space in the old Prince School on Newbury Street, including the former Betsey Johnson shop. They will have much more space on multiple floors, and more window displays.

That's fine. But I love the current store. In fact, I love it so much, I want live in it after they move out.

Soaring ceilings, stone walls, exposed beams. Where else can you find a loft space like that in Back Bay? I can't use all those dressing rooms by myself, so if you want to join us and don't mind listening to Possum pontificate, let me know, and we'll pool our resources and make a bid for the place. There's lots of room.

In other news, the Italian restaurant on Newbury, Pazzo, which claimed to be "closed for renovations" for a very long time, is now a Japanese restaurant. Serious renovation there.

The Hubway Boston Bike Share Program has bikes at the corner of Newbury and Hereford. Bring your own helmet.

I haven't tried Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man, which has been open for a few months now, and strangely, I have no interest. Every time I go by, I peek at what the people sitting outside are having, and it's always some boring lunch/dinner food. Sandwiches. Never any of the outrageous chocolate creations that are their specialties. What gives?  And here's another question: can you remember what occupied that space before Max arrived? I can't remember for the life of me.

I guess, I'm not dying to go there because I know that whatever I choose will be too rich and I'll feel stuffed, ill, and guilty soon afterward. Much better to sit under the fairy lights and stars at Charley's on Newbury on a warm night, sharing a slice of their light-but-satisfying Boston Creme Pie. I haven't had a better one, but I'm always up for suggestions.

If you go into Benetton Men in Copley Place, you will find women's clothing. At least I think that's what it is, unless they've got radical ideas about men wearing pretty velvet blazers, feminine tops, and skirts. I never shop at Benettons of either gender, but a skirt near the door caught my eye. It was heavyweight twill in soft tan, with a long, full, A-line cut. Channeling my inner Out of Africa, I went in and checked it out. Oh, no. It was gauchos, the widest I'd ever seen. I backed away, and visions of Miss Jane Hathaway from The Beverly Hillbillies were suddenly dancing before my eyes. Yikes.

I went home.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sale Continues

My, what an "interesting" day for the stock market. It reminded me that another important shopping rule applies there, too:

When there's plenty of inventory, don't shop early. Wait for deeper discounts.

My plan is to invest the cash lying fallow in our retirement plans after things settle down a bit. In the meantime, it pays to watch the market carefully.

If you're more interested in investing in, say, shoes than the stock market, keep in mind that Anthropologie is offering free shipping (and returns) on shoe orders through August 15. Since President Obama would surely like us all to stimulate the economy while living within our means, I will obediently order these "Oxford" pumps in both yellow and raspberry brown, using my 15% birthday discount.

Chances are they'll be deadly uncomfortable and will have to go back, but hope springs eternal. That bodes well for for both the shoe business and the stock market.

I have to say that most of the heels and wedges at Anthropologie are either clownish or bizarre. Like these:

I would find these scary if I saw them heading toward me on Newbury Street. Maybe Lady Gaga is having too much influence on fashion. I like her, but I'm never going to put myself in her shoes. On the other hand, it's hard for designers to completely ruin flats, so you'll find charming styles at Anthropologie, including these, by French Sole, made from a laminated photo print of those millefiori beads from Murano:

Much better to be thinking about shoes than stocks this week. Hang in there.