Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A very sexy Halloween to everyone

A roundup of "sexy" Halloween costumes: my least favorite trend ever!
Sexy Cookiemonster

Sexy Corn

Sexy Ernie

Sexy Etch-a-Sketch

Sexy Ghostbuster

Sexy Grinch

Sexy Hamburger

Sexy Honeybadger (All time favorite you guys!)

Sexy Hotdog

Sexy Indiana Jones

Sexy Mime

Sexy Mummy (with unironically awesomely sexy tights)

Sexy Pineapple

Sexy Rooster 

Sexy Chef

Sexy Construction Worker

Sexy Shark

Sexy Skunk

Sexy (?!?) Unicorn

Sexy Willy Wonka

Friday, March 09, 2012

Sriram and Nivedita's Fabulous Wedding (Reception)

There is nothing quite like getting back from an international trip, then hopping on a bus the following weekend. But these are the things I do when Lakshmi comes to the Northeast.
Lakshmi’s brother Sriram was getting married to Nivedita on Saturday, and there was no way I was going to miss this. I realized that my best sari needed to go to the dry cleaners, and my other sari (YES I HAVE TWO LEAVE ME ALONE) was packed away, so I had to make a last-minute packing dash before heading to work on Friday, December 9th. Afterwards, went down to Penn Station and took a Bolt Bus to Boston. Arrived around 9 or 10ish, and was picked up by Lakshmi and Daniel. We did a Christmas gift exchange, then got some food at a North End restaurant before driving up to Andover.

Lakshmi’s parents were sweet enough to get Daniel and me a hotel room, where we crashed immediately. It was pretty freezing, so having our own thermostat was a real mitzah, let me tell you.
Got up early on Saturday, everything exceptional crisp and sparkling as only Massachusetts mornings can be. Ambled over to a gas station and bought a doughnut and some conditioner (failure of cognition on my part), then took a shower. Lakshmi picked us up and took us on a many tour of her old highschool, Phillips-Andover, which was just as awesome as I had always imagined.
Gosh, can we take a moment to talk about how fantastic Lakshmi’s family is? I get to their house and am immediately forced to eat some of the best vegetarian dishes I’ve ever had in my life. I talked with her Philadelphian cousins—smart, sassy Hunger Games enthusiasts. I looked through some of the pictures from Sriram and Nivedita’s actual wedding ceremony in India while Lakshmi worked on her speech.
As the time approached to head over to the reception hall, Lakshmi’s female relatives decided to help me with my outfit, loaning me a sari, brushing out my hair (mistake! Frizz central), and giving me a sweet choice in bindi.
It was everything I could do not to take some of the clothing and jewelry and just run. So much 22k gold! Do you have any idea what that does to my heart?
At the reception hall, the Ramgopal’s catered some fantastic food—had my first dahi papri, which was so exceptionally delicious I kept eating to nausea.
I befriended the precocious children of Lakshmi’s childhood neighbors, teaching them how to crossstitch, I discovered Nivedita’s family was from Dallas-St Mark’s, specifically—so we had a lot of mutual friends in common. (One of them being my own sister, whose best friend was best friends with one of Nivedita’s brothers).
We even managed to get in some awkward sober dancing in before the end of the night. Since most of the weddings I go to are Mormon, they’re always dry, so this nothing seemed at all weird about the lack of alcohol until a non-Hindu I was talking to mentioned it. Welcome to my life, kids. Bringing the party when sober is not always easy, but Nivedita’s brothers were true champions.
Sunday morning, my lifestyle caught up with me. Too much traveling and too little water led to a colossal vertigo attack, where I was so sick I couldn’t even stand up. I somehow managed to say goodbye to Lakshmi and Daniel at the airport, get on a bus, get on a subway, and crawl into my bed—all while being unable to sit up for longer than 3 minutes. I was truly a hot mess, moaning and dry heaving while laying prostrate on public surfaces. But went home, drank 2 gallons of water, then slept 18 hours, and all was put to right with the world.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Thanksgiving 2011: The Valleys and the Rivers, The Mountains and the Roads
One of the things I’ve never understood in advertising is why it is that clients want everything due right before major holiday breaks. It isn’t as if anyone’s going to be looking at these things over break, and it usually takes everyone a few days after a break to get caught up, so why the mad dash? This Thanksgiving, like my past 3 Thanksgivings, I spent working on Thanksgiving Day to get a gigantic iPad presentation finished. From Paris. Not my favorite way to spend the holidays.
But Paris! Paris. My sister Margaret’s home, and my favorite place to morn dead love. While I waited for my coworkers to wake up on Wednesday the 23, I walked around with the family, running errands for Margaret while she was still at school. Margaret’s been studying art restoration at the école de condé, and when she’s not in school works an additional 8-10 hours a day on art, so there isn’t a lot of time to do things like buy paper. Our apartment, a few blocks from Margaret’s sublet, was in the Bastille arrondissement (what is that one? The 8th?), so we got to walk in the sparkling sunshine. Mom and Dad introduced me to the divine mathematical perfection of Lanôtre pastries before we picked up some supplies at Papeterie Saint Sabin. Walked the dog, ate some hamburgers at Margaret’s place, then finished some work over satellite phone before heading to bed.
I know it’s déclassé to talk about money and medication, but I have to say that this trip to Paris was an important lesson to me: antidepressants are not like Adderall. When you go take them irregularly, you go crazy. At first, the craziness was my dreams. Since antidepressants interfere with the REM cycle, when I stop taking them, my dreams bounce back crazy vivid. Not particularly significant, but violent and creepy and super realistic. I think the first night I dreamed Jordan was in the
Hunger Games, only instead of fighting bees she was fighting Voldemort.
Thanksgiving in Paris was harder than my family had anticipated. Many of the things my father had to have (and each year, the list grows) were nearly impossible to find. There isn’t really a Gallic equivalent to a turkey or a mashed potato, pie tins don’t exist, allspice and evaporated milk couldn’t be found, and the kitchen’s were too small for breath, much less a 4-person cooking team. We took turns prepping, reading the Hunger Games, shopping, and taking photos. When everything was done, we went window shopping in the St. Paul’s neighborhood, where I spent entirely too much money at Fragonard. Mattieu (Margaret’s boyfriend) and Morning (Julia’s college friend) joined us, as did Mattieu’s German mother. Oh, the dear Mercado family. They spoke almost no English, and we spoke so fast and with so many idioms it was hard to keep track. (We tried translating a joke about marijuana in a Sukkot being a “high holiday” and it was not well received).
Friday, as soon as Margaret was done with her morning classes, we shoved ourselves into a matchbox “7 Seater” (in what universe, Parisians, is this card capable of sitting 7?) and drove down to the Loire Valley. Despite several wrong turns that could have been avoided had people ceased to interfere with my exceptional navigational skills, we made it to Chamford, the first chateau on our list.

Chambord wasn’t as cold as I was expecting in November, but it suffered from interminable dampness. Fog, clouds, wet, everywhere. Despite my father’s proclamation that most of it was “modern art crap,” I enjoyed a lot of the modern installations within the chateau, as well as the exceptional wall fabric and ceramic fixtures.
In the evening, we went to the saddest little Christmas market ever in Tours, then had a screaming match over McDonalds vs pizza. These seem like #Americanproblems, but trust me, when you’re on a budget and you’re in Paris, the idea of walking into a bistro with a family of 7 is LUDICRIOUS. Every night is McDonalds vs pizza, or McDonalds vs Auchon. There is nothing else.
Another side effect of infrequent antidepressant use is complete and utter despair, which is so much more fun than your run-of-the-mill sadness. Somewhere in the Loire mist I became convinced I was unloveable, I had never been loved, and I was going to die alone. Even as I knew cognitively that at best, only 66% of those things were true, it was impossible to talk myself out of the crushing misery. I started crying for no reason, staring off into space. This did not help the mood of the dark and forboding winter Loire.
Saturday the 26th, we got up early at went to Chenonceau, one-time home of Catherine de Medici. This castle, by sheer nature of Catherine de Medici’s patronage, has been kept pristine over the years: it looks like a reproduction of a 16th century chateau, not an actual 16th century chateau. Francis II even married Mary, Queen of Scots at Chenonceau. But here’s my favorite bit about the castle:

Following the assassination of her husband King Henry III by the monk Jacques Clément on August 1, 1589, Louise of Lorraine retired to Chenonceau in meditation and prayer.
Surrounded by nuns who lived in the château as in a convent, and always dressed in white in compliance with the etiquette of royal mourning, she was known as "the White Queen". Her bedroom has been reconstructed around the original ceiling. It is decorated with mourning objects : silver tears, widows' cordons, crowns of thorns and the Greek letter - l - lambda, Louise's initial, intertwined with the H of Henry III.
The devout and mournful atmosphere of this room is highlighted by Christ with a crown of thorns and the religious scene – a 16th century painting on wood – which decorates the chimney.

Having just come to terms with a terrific loss, and having been chemically kept in a state of near-despair for the first part of the trip, this room affected me more than it should. But I instantly had a profound reverence for the place, and wish I could have stayed.

Afterwards, we drove up to Gien so mom could visit the porcelain factory (sadly, all I could afford was a saucer and cup—really wish I could have bought an entire set). Then we went back to Paris and had Pizza Hut (not for lack of trying! Every other low-price restaurant in Gien was closed) behind the loudest group of girls I have ever had the displeasure to hear.

Sunday we took the little kids to the airport, which was depressing. It’s always depressing when the wolf pack breaks up. But it did mean we could go Christmas shopping without them getting all up in our business, so there were some small benefits.

Headed over to the Cluny (Musée National du Moyen Age), a medieval art museum I’d been trying to see for almost 2 years. I took so many pictures I’m sure the security guards thought I was scoping the place for a break-in. There’s something about the design, the symbolism, the crude attempt at expressing the divine that creates a strong emotional connection with me. It’s darkness grasping at light, sometimes succedding, sometimes not.
Monday my parents and I drove over to Switzerland, leaving Margaret in Paris to finish up school. The trip was on a shoestring budget, but it was my first return trip to Switzerland since I left at 16, so I was excited. Except about going to Lausanne. I really don’t remember good things about Lauseanne. By the time we arrived, it was so late all we had time for was an ambulatory walk towards McDonalds (I wish you could have seen my dad’s face—the raw fury over the fact that nowhere else was open and he had to eat here AGAIN).
Tueday the 29th, we finished some business in Lausanne, walked around, did some shopping. I don’t remember there ever being a single begger in Switzerland before, and suddenly they were everywhere, which was really odd because the Swiss public service system is exceptional. The very presence of these people, perfectly dressed and clean and asking for money, was alarming. Roma, African mostly—not that it would matter, since in my experience at least, the Swiss aren’t a super prejudice society. But it was weird, it didn’t make sense, and it was INVASIVE. Aggressive, constant, and omnipresent. There was nothing like that when I was there 14 years ago. I puzzled over it for hours.

Going shopping in Lausanne tickled me. I hadn’t realized how at home I felt in the country until I went into a Co-op, and then it all came flooding back. The brands, the currency, the smells and the choices, the staggering amount of dairy, the blasé way in which my foreign accent and foreign currency was taken for granted. Oh, you don’t speak German? I’ll switch to French. Still no? I’ll switch to Italian. No wait, it must be English. The cashier keeps trying until she gets the language. Not like the long, accusatory stares the French give me when I stumble through a transaction in their native tongue.
Had a divine fresh cheese tartin sandwich and spicey soup at a café, toured the Lausanne cathedral, then drove over to Broc so dad could finally fulfill his lifelong dream of visiting the Caillet (Nestle) chocolate factory.
Whoever was in charge of the Caillet tour really had a great sense of humor and fun about the whole thing: It was a 10 room mechanical tour on the history of chocolate, complete with smoke, diaramas, hidden doors, and puppets.
At the end, we saw chocolate being made, and were allowed to eat it straight off the assembly line. Needless to say, the facility was inhumanely clean. It made me proud to be Swiss.
The final room, however, was a showroom where you could try every brand of chocolate Caillet makes. After about 3 pieces, I knew I’d made a huge mistake—it was too rich, and I had no water—but I pressed on. By the time I got to 6 pieces, I just about wanted to die. It took me over a month before I could eat a piece of chocolate again.
Wednesday, November 30th we left Switzerland and drove up through the back roads, winding our way towards Strasbourg. The final consequence of my erratic antidepressant use should now be stated: nausea. Whenever I don’t take my antidepressants for a while, the first return dose hits me wit so much nausea I can barely walk for 2-3 hours afterwards. This meant back-mountain alpine driving was not my thing. We detoured over to the town of Chemin-sur-Fond so my parents could visit a bell artisan, who made family brass and silver bells a la tradition ancienne. Driving through Biel, we cut up through Germany, along the Rhine until we got to Freiberg.
This was my first trip to Germany since I was 6 years old, and I had to say I was super disappointed by the drive. Super boring, industrial. Things picked up a bit when we got to Freiberg, a college town on the edge of the Black Forest.
We did a bit of Christmas shopping, had a currywurst and some fried potatoes at the markets, and generally marveled at how NOBODY spoke French, despite our proximity to Switzerland and France.
Crossed back over into the Alsace, and drove into Colmar, where I forced my parents to take me to see the Issenheim altarpiece.
I’ve loved this tortured, grotesque tripech of Grimswold since I first studied it—and was delighted to see the monstors, ghouls, and ghosts stuffed into the back panels in brilliant Technicolor.
Arrived after dark in Strasbourg, and after much stopping and direction searching, finally made our way to the Hotel de Rohan, which I suspect mom booked solely because of it’s name. Strasbourg takes Christmas SERIOUSLY, and visiting there, I can see why: every store front, every window, every street was packed with plants and toys, glitter and lights. Christmas markets everywhere, bands on every corner. It sounds like hell when I type it out, but it really was fantastic. We even took dad to a real sit down French restaurant, so everyone was happy.
Thursday, December 1: I love Alsace. I absolutely adore it. From the buildings to the colorful ceramics, the embroidery to the lace, ever bit of the area was completely entrancing to me. The food was also divine. We got an early lunch over near Petite France, and I tried the local tarte flambé—sort of like a pizza and a crepe sale hybrid. Found a store that sold Christmas lace, a kind of precious Alsatian garland spun out of lace so your little tree looks fancy. And yes, I bought it, because that is the kind of cat-lady person I am: BUYING CHRISTMAS LACE. I also bought mom some shows for her birthday, and picked up some embroidery supplies at a few specialty houses. I’m nothing if not crafty.
Last stop was a visit to the Alsatian museum, which had all kinds of fabulous regional artifacts, like old stoves and wedding dresses. One of my favorite things is the wall paintings: Alsatians used to paint birds over the door of their homes to remind them of eternal marriage, and the existence of eternal love. I teared up a little bit, no lie.
After the museum, mom and I went to the Christmas market by the cathedral and bought some presents for dad, then I switched parents and took a long walk through the market stalls wit dad, drinking hot chocolate and trying our best to remember our French.
Friday the 2nd, we made a last ditch attempt at grabbing whatever foodstuffs we could find in the region (Swiss organic grapejuice, cheeses, pepper sausages), and made the long slog back to Paris to visit Margaret. Got her a little Christmas tree, which we helped decorate with some of our Christmas lace.
Saturday, Margaret and I took mom and dad to the airport, where we mortified dad by stealing some of the clothes some Japanese passengers had left behind because they were over their weight limit (it wasn’t really stealing, but dad was still mortified because FRENCH PEOPLE WERE LOOKING). Dad, I got news for you, French people always look. It’s like staring is a national pastime over there.

Once mom and dad were in the air, Margaret and I went back to her neighborhood and shopped for some Christmas presents. I will give the Parisians this, they have more perfectly designed home good items here than I have seen anywhere. I wanted to buy so many things. Picked up some embroidery thread, then went back to Margaret’s apartment and cross-stitched all afternoon while watching Desperate Housewives. Having Margaret drop me off at the airport on Sunday was pretty much the most depressing thing ever. It’s always worse to be the last to go!