All posts by Rebecca

The Short Stack: May 23

Every Friday, I share  the pop culture, fashion, lit and randomness that crossed my radar during the week. Enjoy with some coconut water and circus peanuts!

I know I can’t save the world but I can do my part to make it a better place and that’s why I’m leading off with this:

Really ugly jean shorts

This is a mistake. There’s a shop online that’s trying to sell this as a look for summer. No, no, no… this is not a look one purchases. This is a look one arrives at after a series of bad choices that initially have nothing to do with clothing.

To my mind, this is a look we left behind in the 90s, emerging as better, stronger, faster people once this was behind us.

I saw an article in a magazine that asked people, “When did you know you were really an adult?” and, had I been asked as a “woman on the street,”  I would have said, “The day I knew cut-off denim shorts were no longer an option for me, not because I have heavy thighs but because I have taste.”

[OK, I do kind of hate my thighs. I guess I’m not that evolved.]

[Being a “woman on the street” interview would be on my bucket list if I could stand the term “bucket list.” But I don’t want to be asked something like, “What do you think was the most important outcome of The Second Sino-Japanese War?” I want someone to ask me, “What do you think of jean shorts?” so that I can say, ‘I despise them. Jean shorts are everything that’s wrong with our society today.” ]

Wearing
The Murakami t-shirts arrived!

Peter Cat Jazz Murakami tshirt

Internetting
I discovered They Draw and Cook this week and got super excited. They have cool t-shirts with a monkey on them, too. I’m going to make blueberry muffins.

Shopping IRL
The Grand Hand Gallery in St. Paul
Zinnia Folk Arts in Mpls

Shopping Online
A MANO
Chiapas Bazaar

Watching
You probably know this but Orange Is the New Black season deuce comes out at 12:01 am on June 6. But you probably knew. You’re all connected and shit.

Listening
Chromeo’s lastest, White Woman, is out.

Reading
Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words (Yeah, I’m on a kick)
The Origin of Satan (we should all know, right?)
Bibliocraft

*Preparing annual Summer Reading List, to be shared on this site and then (probably) promptly disregarded.

Looking At

Some of the best work I saw at last weekend’s Art-a-Whirl in Northeast Mpls was hanging in a hallway at the California Building – the paintings of Ryan Peltier, an artist and illustrator from Minneapolis.

painting by Ryan Peltier

His work, painted on boards and framed in dark wood, has an otherworldly feel, like you’re looking through a porthole at action you can’t quite understand – it could either be an innocent gathering or happening or very sinister. Maybe it’s both – poised right at the moment when something is about to take a dark turn. It’s hard to tell, which is why you want to keep on studying it and forming a narrative.

There’s something about his style that reminds me a little bit of the work of cartoonist Charles Addams.

When I went online to find his site, I also discovered his awesome illustrations of people in addition to his paintings.

Thinking About
Kanashibari (Sleep Paralysis)

Why my dog likes to roll on top of dead animals with liquified organs that get into the scruff of her neck and are sprayed all over my face when she shakes herself off mid-bath.

What to do when I find out that people I like/respect sincerely believe in astronomy.

Why anyone would throw a “90s Dance Party” and not play a single hip hop song? Few people want to dance to Better Than Ezra, many people want to dance to “Daisy Duks” by Duice. Hey, fat man who hasn’t left his basement since 1997, I don’t make the rules. Listen to the people. I’ll even let you wear those jean shorts.

[Warning: only watch this video if you want this song in your head for the next three days.]

 

 

The Short Stack: May 16

Every Friday (every Friday I can manage it), I share  the pop culture, fashion, lit and randomness that crossed my radar during the week. Enjoy with a banana and a pale ale!

Foot in tennis shoe in grass

I call this “Foot Standing in Grass.”

I don’t even know why I’m writing this. They found Casey Kassem this week and that’s really all that matters. What else is there to say?

Well, I can start by asking if anyone else remembers Casey’s wife, Jean, appearing on episodes of Cheers as Loretta, wife of Carla’s ex, Nick.

You do? Yeah. Wow. Good times, right? Those were the days.

On the www
Have you discovered The Selby yet? I mean, it’s not new, just new to me. It’s interviews with arty/cool people in their arty/cool places. It’s alternately inspiring and annoying – you know, a lot of “so and so makes things out of yarn and moved to London…” without a mention of family money. But that’s a small thing – it’s so well-done and you can get a lot of ideas for your own life and environs from looking at it.

There are also three Selby books, one of which I’ve read – The Selby Is In Your Place – but the newest one about offbeat world fashion looks the most interesting. It’s got stuff like this:

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 3.37.03 PM

Which reminds me of one of my favorite photo books, (un)Fashion, compiled by one of my favorite illustrators Maira Kalman and her (late) husband, Tibor Kalman. It has stuff like this:

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 3.42.06 PM
Which now reminds me that Maira Kalman has a new book out, something she did with Daniel Handler, called Girls Standing on Lawns. I first heard about it on The New Yorker’s Culture Desk blog. It’s paintings of historic photos of girls standing on lawns. And short poem-caption thingies.

maira kalman illustration of woman on fence

From Girls Standing on Lawns by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

Which leads me to remember something else (this is a LOT of remembering this week). My whole life I have not known where to put my hands when I’m dancing. I mean, not totally-getting-down dancing but more that swagger thing you do at concerts when you’re packed in with other people but the music is good so you want to dance and you’re moving your shoulders and then you realize that your arms are just hanging there like hams strung up in the smokehouse.

So then I try to do something with my hands but everything short of clapping or a fist pump feels so artificial that all I’m thinking about is how lame my hands must look. Then I notice what other people are doing with their hands.

Then I realize that there are a lot of hands in the crowd. Like, if you made a pile of them (if you could safely do that without hurting anyone), it would be a big pile of hands. And also a lot of teeth and hair. A big cavernous room of teeth and hair.

And then, while I’m lost in my own head thinking that, the concert ends and it doesn’t matter WHAT I’m doing with my damn hands.

Doing
People, it’s Art-a-Whirl weekend in Northeast Minneapolis. So much to do, so much to do! This is the time of year when I decide that I’m interested in things like at-home bronze casting.

Indeed Brewing is having music (along with a kabillion other venues) but only they have the Black Eyed Snakes on Saturday night at 8 pm.

And when that’s over with, time to head over to the Video Mania/Art-A-Whirl Dance Party put on by the 90s Preservation Society at Spring Street Tavern. You don’t even have to dress up, you can be all normcore about it!

Dreaming
I’ve been looking for something BIG to do, something that will involve physical fitness and travel, and I think I may have found it in this bike trek through Vietnam. 2015? Anyone??

Retailing
If you’re looking for a cool/pretty case for your iphone, I think these choices from Rifle Paper Co. are some of the best I’ve seen, plus they are sturdy (you can choose from slim or inlay versions). I’ve got my eye on all the flowers, especially Spanish Rose.

Have a happy and stimulating weekend! If you’re in Mpls, see some art.

Murakami Used to Pour Drinks: A T-Shirt Tribute

Before Haruki Murakami was a novelist (I would argue one of the greatest novelists of our time) he owned a jazz club in Tokyo called “Peter-Cat” or “Peter-Cat Jazz“. It was named after his cat. Although the club is no longer there, Keith and I thought it would be fun to make a t-shirt for it. Here is our design:

Peter Cat Jazz t-shirt design

 

Working on getting some shirts printed up.

Harriet the Spy: Still Writing/Still Edgy at 61

In honor of Children’s Book Week and the 50th anniversary of Harriet the Spy (1964), by illustrator/author Louise Fitzhugh, I caught up with Harriet, prickly protagonist extraordinaire, to see what she made of herself in these intervening years.

Q&A with Harriet “The Spy” Welsch

Harriet the Spy at age 61Age: 61
Lives in: New York City, Upper East Side (not far from where she grew up on East Eighty-seventh Street
Education: The Dalton School, class of 1971, Wellesley College, class of 1976
Occupation: writer/novelist/noted satirist

So, for anyone who doesn’t know, you did become a writer. Tell us about your career.
Right after I graduated Wellesly in ’76 I wrote what ended up becoming a very famous article for Time Magazine called “Where Have All the Groovy People Gone?” It was my reaction to coming back to New York to live, after having grown up here in the 60s, and being hit by how absolutely ugly things had become.

So that single article launched your career?
The Time article got the attention of The New Yorker and its editor William Shawn, and he hired me as a staff writer. I might have been the youngest person to ever be hired as a staff writer. Me or John Updike, I’m not sure.

But I wrote for many magazines in the 80s and 90s. New York Magazine, Ms., Rolling Stone… I ended up doing some film criticism for The New York Times for a short time.

How did you get into writing novels?
Well, that was the goal from the beginning. I don’t think I’m any different from any other writer who has to make a living – you write for other people during the day and for yourself at night. Eventually, I was offered a book deal for Secrets, my first novel, and I took myself away to Montauk and finished the damn thing.

I find it delightful that you made good on your promise to publish a book titled Secrets.
Well, its subject matter is not at all what I thought it would be when I was 11. At age 11, I thought the best thing would be to tell other people’s secrets but it turned out that’s it’s much better to tell one’s own.  Secrets is a story about lesbian awakenings among a group of young women in Manhattan in the 1970s. Still in print.

And so it reflects your own experiences?
I hate to sound trite but “write what you know,” and all that… I had a lot of close friendships and relationships with women, really important women, that shaped my life. Some of them gay, some not.

Who are some of these women?
I became very close to Fran Lebowitz. We’re still close and talk on the phone every day and are considering writing a children’s book together. Renata Adler, obviously. I was friends with Ann Magnuson and that whole downtown crowd. Gloria Steinem and her circle.

Do you still write mean things about them in notebooks?
Always. I’m a modern day Cecil Beaton. There’s already a contract in place to publish my private journals posthumously, with all proceeds going to PFLAG. I think Diana Vreeland said it best when she said you need to give people what they don’t know they want.

When you were 11 you had no clue you were a lesbian?
I didn’t even understand that the Boy with the Purple Socks was gay, so to have that much introspection was just beyond me, I’m afraid.

Well, I have to ask: single or taken?
Very much taken with my long-time partner Vera Darkheart. She’s a sculptress and collage artist and my favorite person in the world.

What other stuff have you written?
I’ve written nine plays, all of which have been produced. The most famous is probably Christmas Dinner, an allegory of the Cold War as told by talking Christmas dinner foods. Five novels, countless magazine articles, essays, etc. One book of short stories. And my memoir, Diary of a Spy.

In that book you talk about how your father was a real spy…
Yes. He was a spy during the early part of the Cold War but then came home, somehow got into television, produced some very successful shows, married my mother and they had me blah, blah, blah… but it turned out he also had another family out on Long Island.

So you’re not really an only child?
No, I have two sisters and a brother. He was quite busy out on Long Island, as it turned out, and it absolutely wrecked my mother. She was a bit of a WASP, I’m not really sure that came through in Harriet the Spy, and she was devastated to find out that my father’s other family is Jewish. She literally died when she found out.

She died?
She dropped dead.

How old were you?
I was 28. One of my sisters showed up at my mother’s house and explained who she was and my mother didn’t believe her. So she called this other woman – Rena –  and they had a long talk and when my mother hung up the phone she had a major stroke and died.

How traumatizing. Is your dad still alive?
No, he died of lung failure when I was in my 40s. Our relationship was strained, to say the least.

Changing subjects, I notice that you dress pretty much the same.
I have no patience for shopping. I found this look as a kid and I just thought, “This works for me. It’s comfortable. I’m sticking with it.” I change brands sometimes but I remain true to jeans, a hoodie and sneakers. The big difference now is that my glasses are real – they have lenses in them.

People are going to want to know  – are you still friends with Sport and Janie?
Well, no, but I did run into Sport in maybe 1988? 1989? He went to the University of Michigan on a baseball scholarship but then didn’t…. you know, try to make it in the major league, or whatever it’s called, and became a CPA in Manhattan instead. Janie… I honestly have no idea. I hope she got into the sciences, but she was a troubled person, overall.

Let’s finish this off with some rapid-fire questions and answers.

Favorite New York restaurant?
La Grenouille, because of my mother.

Favorite TV show?
I’m re-watching all of Absolutely Fabulous.

Best place to shop?
When I do shop, I’m partial to the Housing Works Thrift on 2nd Avenue. Also like going to Foot Locker but not Lady Foot Locker.

Best book of 2014 so far?
I live mostly in the past. I haven’t read anything published this year.

Well, do you have any books on your bedside table?
Watchmen by Alan Moore, the plays of Rachel Crothers, the first Harry Potter book because everyone says I should read it but I keep falling asleep whenever I open it. I guess I’m not much for children’s literature.


About Louise Fitzhugh
Author photo of Louise FitzhughLouise Fitzhugh grew up in the South in a wealthy family but unhappy family (her parents divorced when she was two). She escaped to New York City, to become a painter, but made money as an illustrator. After starting in children’s lit with a collaboration with friend Sandra Scoppettone, she published her own first book, Harriet the Spy, in 1964. According to everything I’ve read, adults didn’t love it but critics and kids did. It was awarded a New York Times Outstanding Book Award in 1964. He works include published:

Louise died suddenly and at a young age – she suffered a brain aneurism at age 46. You can read more about her here (or there is this very insightful review of The Long Secret) and see if you can find shades of Harriet.

The Short Stack: May 2

Every Friday (every Friday I can manage it), I share  the pop culture, fashion, lit and randomness that crossed my radar during the week. Enjoy with a crusty bread and citrusy wine!

Let’s get this show on the road. Tomorrow, May 3, is my birthday, but I always start my birthday celebration the day before, at least in my mind.

So, happy birthday to me!

Happy Birthday cat and cupcake!

Reading
It’s been a rough warm-up to the birthday. It’s rained every day, often all day, for the past five days. It is dark, gloomy and wet. Luckily, I’ve had an enthralling book to take my mind off things. So far off things, in fact, that I realized tonight that all I’ve done since Sunday is read about flappers and go to work.

The book is Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell and it tells the stories of Lady Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, Tamara de Lempicka, Tallulah Bankhead and Josephine Baker.

painting by Tamara de Lempicka

Detail from painting by Tamara de Lempicka

I’ve learned so much! I’m bursting with so much information that I’ll periodically turn to Keith while I’m reading and announce, “Flapper fact!” before entertaining him with a factoid I’ve just read. Among the interesting flapper facts:

  • There was a lot of undiagnosed and misdiagnosed mental illness in the 20s and 30s. I know that we lament our mental health system today, but it looks like Candyland when compared to a world where one either had a “nervous breakdown,” and went away for a little while, or had a complete breakdown and when away for years, possibly forever.
  • Josephine Baker slept with whoever she had to sleep with to get ahead and get out of the slums of St. Louis and I don’t think she wasted any time feeling bad about it and ended up having a sweet life in Paris (at least as far as I’ve read so far) and that’s refreshing, in a way. I’m not saying fun or cool or deserved but she didn’t waste a lot of time dwelling on things.
  • It was very common and very unsafe and very illegal to have an abortion.
  • Hysterectomies were performed often and liberally.
  • The secret to being successful at something, or at least getting better at it, is to simply do it and keep doing it. You might not find fame and fortune but you’ll probably live a life you can feel good about. And you may find a sliver of fame, a dab of fortune.
  • Cocaine was considered a god-send by many women. Ditto morphine.
  • Being thin was important in the 1920s. Lots of crash diets. So don’t think that just sprang up out of nowhere in the 90s or something.
  • Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald had a horrible, truly depressing marriage, most of which was brought about, in my opinion, because Zelda wasn’t able to be the artist she truly was without the shadow of Scott hanging over her (alcoholism and mental illness also played a role). When she sold stories to magazines they often insisted on having it be in both their names or just his alone! That would be enough for me to go berserk as well.

Anticipating
New Haruki Murakami novel gets released in the U.S. this August! Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Did you know that before Murakami was one of the greatest writers ever he owned a jazz club in Tokyo? It was called Peter Cat Jazz. I’m hoping to make my own Peter Cat Jazz t-shirt with my own design but poking around on the Murakami fan blog I found an image of a coaster from the club with featuring its real “branding”:

Peter Cat Jazz club coaster from Murakami's jazz club in Tokyo

Watching
Fargo, Mad Men, Orphan Black.

Just found out that Sharknado is streaming on Netflix.

If you haven’t seen Purple Rose of Cairo it’s funny and  entertaining and reminded me of Midnight in Paris (which has a great soundtrack, btw, with a song by Josephine Baker on it). Jeff Daniels is young and fresh-faced and Mia Farrow manages not to annoy (but, as Keith pointed out, she’s basically a stand-in for Woody Allen in the movie – since there was no part for him he seems to have made Mia do an impersonation of him the entire time which, oddly enough, didn’t bug me).

Falling Asleep
I can’t get enough sleep. When I’m awake I’m wishing I was asleep. When I’m asleep I pop awake and worry about not sleeping. Tonight, while I was walking the dog, I wondered, “What would it take to really, fully relax?” What would it take to get a full night’s sleep and have oodles of energy? I decided I didn’t have that answer but it’s something I need to figure out in the next year. I suspect that it might involve vitamin D and meditation. And a hot tub.

Strange Book People
I was excited to go to a book sale at my neighborhood library. I love libraries! I’m a Friend of the Library. Once, at this very sale, I came across the entire Doonesbury collection for Keith.

But the sale was overrun by book collectors or sellers, maybe both. The kind of people who run around the sale throwing books into boxes and putting annoying tags on the full boxes that say “Sold,” even though they intend to sit down on the floor and sort through them at their leisure, basically holding a bunch of books hostage so no one else can even look at them.

There were women with those little gadgets attached to their smart phones that allowed them to scan book bar codes and instantly see what the book was worth and they just worked their way down the rows, scanning furiously. There were pasty women in visors and pastel sweatshirts with rolling suitcases stuffed to the gills with books.

And none of them want you to look at anything, lest you get to some prize before they can pile it into their box.

It made me sad. It was not something I wanted to be part of, even if all the money went to the library. Humans always find a way to take something basic and fun and make it suck. It’s not possible to have a book sale to benefit the library without some weirdos turning it into a hoarding spree, piling their cartons high with books.

“Relax,” I wanted to say to the hunched man wearing a sweatband around his head as he humped from table to table. “You don’t need all the books. Be a decent person.”

I can just hear them, “This is how we make our living. It’s a sale – everything is fair game.”

To that I say, I don’t care. This aggression will not stand, man.

Thing I’m Missing This Weekend (That I’m Going to Next Year)
Modern Vintage Chicago

Stuff I Want for My B-day
Dynasty: Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD
Gold shoes
Skinny black pantsBooks, books and more books… but I don’t need all of the books. I’m not going to snatch one out of your hand, for instance.
Cloisonné earrings, preferably of tiny fans or something with flowers. Because you can still find great cloisonné right now, but get it while you can…  Like these babies!

vintage cloisonne earrings of fans with cranes

The Short Stack: April 18

Every Friday, I share  the pop culture, fashion, lit and random goodness that crossed my radar during the week. Enjoy with a glass of wine and some party peanuts!

Interior with Dog by Matisse

Interior with Dog, Henri Matisse

Reading
I did some thrift shopping this week and I stumbled across this:

 Trouble on the Dance Floor by Joey London

That’s right, a self-published memoir about years spent goin’ to da club. Oh, I’m sorry, I mean, “the COMPLETE Guide to Emergent Nightclub Dancing.” People, this is over 25 years of nightclub dancing wisdom in one comprehensive book! I’m talking tips, tricks, techniques, social strategies, outrageous tales, emotional alchemy, physiology, physics, theory of mind, self-preservation and dance archetypes all in one 336 page book.

I want to make the infomercial for this book. I want to sell this book on QVC.

I paid $3.99. It really should have been $1 but it’s like someone in the back room knew I was coming. “Oh, Rebecca’s coming today. Put this thing out for, like, three more dollars than it’s worth so she can have that moment of wrestling with herself before she totally puts it in her cart anyway.

Here’s the last line in the book, “I grabbed a light beer for the hair of the dog thing and jumped in the shower to make ready for heading to the club tonight.”

Epic.

I’m eager to read this densely-typed book that is surely 326 pages longer than it needs to be. Meanwhile, Moby Dick has been sitting on my shelf uncracked for over a year. What can I say,  I’m someone who craves new ideas about what it means to be human.

I will be tweeting the better lines from this book.

Also reading: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, one of my all-time favorite memoirs and  You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, a novelist who is new to me and one of those writers I find and wonder why I haven’t heard of them before. This always gives me so much hope – so much good reading yet to be discovered!

Interneting
When You’re at the Crossroads of Should and Must – this is where I feel like I am lately. You? Money. Time. Security. Success. Being misunderstood. What are you afraid of?

Watching
I was so excited to watch An Unmarried Woman this week. It was just me and the dog (and the stupid cat, who was upstairs conducting his ongoing love affair with the bathroom faucet) and Netflix. All I knew going in was that the movie was from 1978, takes place in New York and that it got Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Actress. These are all good things!

But the movie is ridiculous to someone who lives in 2014. The world has changed in leaps and bounds and, for better or worse, I don’t know, we do not tolerate knee-high socks in our love scenes anymore. The sweat socks, worn by star Jill Clayburgh in every scene in which she got naked and with every outfit, needed to have their own credit. They actually acted more than she did.

Everyone was so ugly in this film. The hair… Listen, the world before good conditioners and  anti-frizz hair products was a confusing and disappointing place. And the clothing… I know that the Official Palette of the 1970s includes avocado, rust, tan and beige but X took this to the very limit, going from gray sack dress to muted sack shirt to a cape the color of a sad bowl of oatmeal. Did I mention that the socks are also beige, not white?

The therapist in the movie looked like Edie Beale’s uglier cousin visiting from England. And the three best friends… well, I can’t even go there. One of them wears a pantsuit to go ice skating at Rockefeller Center.

You can catch a glimpse of the socks in this trailer, at about 1:35 in:

You could make a drinking game out of taking a drink every time they say, “Make a pass,” in this movie. “Did he make a pass?” “Why, did he make a pass at you?” “Are you making a pass?” “That was a pass!”

I admit I never even found out, in the end, who made the last successful pass because I pulled the plug.

Better ways to spend your viewing time: Broad City, if you, like me, don’t have cable and can just now get around to watching it, and FX’s Fargo, which I was skeptical about but ended up enjoying (first episode, anyway). Mad Men… oh, Peggy.

Doing
Detroit at the Jungle Theater
Antique show at the State Fairgrounds (although odd weekend to have it  – no show on Sunday because Jesus)
Matisse at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Chromeo at First Ave on May 6

I hope that you, like me, have a long weekend in which to put your feet up or set them on some bike pedals or get them out on the dance floor because “deep inside of you there is a great club dancer waiting to emerge.”

Out & About: Stepping Into the (Bathroom) Void at Macy’s

Destination: Women’s Bathrooms, Floors 4 & 12, downtown Minneapolis Macy’s

Hey ladies! Have you ever thought it would be exciting to get on a time machine, travel back to the 1920s and pee? You can do that at Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis.

OK, so there’s no time machine involved. All you have to do is step out of the intimates collection located on the 4th floor and through the portal. Here’s the entrance:

entrance to women's bathroom on 4th floor of macy's downtown minneapolis And you find yourself here:

Art deco bathroom - sink area - in Macy's downtown Minneapolis Don’t worry, the toilets are free! And in this ghostly restroom, there’s never a line!

Row of stalls in 4th floor bathroom Free toilet sign in downtown Minneapolis Macy's 4th floor bathroom. There are, however, lots of women who want to talk to you. The first time I ended up here, completely by happenstance,  there was a woman showing two of her friends the bathroom and I joined their de facto tour group to talk about the amazing tiles, original fixtures and color scheme. I’m so glad this was never renovated.

original prairie school tile over bathroom sink

How many bathrooms do you go into today where you get to enjoy beautiful tiles like these? They don’t have these at Chili’s!

close-up of lily pad tile installed over sink

flower tile over sink

sinks and tiles

The second time I was in the bathroom, I came to take photos and waited for it to be empty. Just as I was beginning to snap pictures, a woman dashed in and locked herself in a stall. When she came out of her stall into the main room, our conversation went like this:

Chatty Woman: I’m so glad I made it in here! Man, there is no place to set your stuff down though. I was running up here, looking for the bathroom, about to pee my pants and this sales clerk was like, “I know your pain! I was just like you when I was pregnant!”

Me: She did not say that! Chatty: Yes, she did!

Much squealing on both our parts at the rudeness and audacity of this woman. Then Chatty Woman pulled up her (tiny) t-shirt to show me her (bulging) stomach.

Chatty: I mean, I know I gotta do something about this but… that’s still rude, right?

Me: I think the rule is that even if someone is pregnant, you don’t bring it up if they’re in the in-between stage where they might be pregnant or might be putting on weight.

Chatty: Yeah, she shouldn’t have said anything. Oh, I just bought this new shirt and I’m gonna put it on and it will cover more of my stomach.

This changing of the shirt took place right in the sink area. Once she was in her bra, she noticed my camera.

Chatty: Hey, you’re not going to take my picture are you?

She struck a pose.

Me: Um, no. Absolutely not. I’m trying to document this bathroom.

Chatty: I didn’t even notice this bathroom. It’s cool. Here’s why I’m so fat: my man keeps on cooking for me! On Sunday we had baked potatoes, steak and salad. Then the next night he makes vegetable fried rice with rib tips!

She put her new sweater on, which was approximately the size of her old shirt and did not cover all of her belly.

Chatty: Damn! I thought this would be bigger. I guess it’s OK. I did have five babies. I’m just not pregnant right now.

She proceeded to tell me that when she was young and in love she had five babies with her man and now she wonders what she was thinking. She was caught up in a love cloud. She’s calculating who will die first. Her kids are almost all grown up except for the 12-year-old, who wears clothing that is too small. Older men ogle her and older men are disgusting.

In the middle of this conversation, it occurred to me that maybe I really had slipped into a vortex and perhaps this woman was not real. Was I imagining her? Was this like the bathroom scene in The Shining between Jack and Grady! Red rum?

Me: Have you ever seen the movie The Shining?

Chatty: Yeah. Why? Is someone going to bust in here and chase us around with an ax?

Eventually, I got Chatty to leave the bathroom so I could take more photos. I didn’t feel right taking them with her in there. But without her the bathroom did seem more gloomy and ominous. It doesn’t have the best lighting and there isn’t anyplace to set your stuff. And I still haven’t been able to figure out this sign, posted on the wall outside the main bathroom. Holly Bell? Red rum?

Sign outside bathroom asking patrons to report unsatisfactory conditions by calling "Holly Bell." So I moved on up to the women’s bathroom on the 12th floor (but not before stopping off to buy some bras. One day sale)!

The 12th floor is home to the Oak Grill, the original restaurant from when Macy’s was Dayton’s. Opened in 1947, it was first a club for men only – women had the space next door for their fluffy luncheons and fashion shows and, you know, all that dumb junk women used to do. If you go past the Oak Grill, you’ll see a small exhibit about the history of the building and it’s progression from Dayton’s to Macy’s and blah, blah, blah. I didn’t read a word of it. I was looking for the bathroom.

This bathroom is much more of a lounge, although it’s been updated. It has extremely good lighting. If you needed to get a sliver out of your finger, you could do so here without a magnifying class. There is so much light that I’m not sure anyone could work up the gumption to to anything tawdry in this bathroom.The updates however, are a bit sad feeling, sort of Vegas meets airport lounge meets clinic.

lounge in womans bathroom 12th floor downtown Macys

However, it does have Room of Mirrors. You can tell that Room of Mirrors used to be part of something really special, before the renovations. At least they left the mirrors , so you can be made dizzy while you wash your hands and see 30 more of you washing their hands and so on and so forth…

room of mirrors in 12th floor bathroom in downtown Macy's

There was a group of women here, too, having a deep conversation when I first came in (to pee – I’d talked to Chatty down on 4 for so long that I had to go again) but by the time I was washing my hands and wondering how I was going to explain my camera, they kindly explained to me that they had to leave because the mirrors were giving one of them a headache. “It’s so crazy standing here,” one of them said.

You should try a few floors down, I thought. And then I went all Vivian Maier on the place:

Taking a photo in front of mirrors

 

Standing in front of mirror taking picture

If you go: Be one of the Ladies Who Lunch and eat at the Oak Grill or The Skyroom, both on 12th floor. Oak Grill is sometimes open for dinner until 7 pm; Skyroom is lunch only. They have a salad bar and a wall of windows. No rib tips though.

Out & About: Wandering the Aisles at Whole Foods

There’s something about Whole Foods that completely throws me off my game. It confounds me like no other grocery store, although I’m not convinced it even is a grocery store. More like an organic fever dream.

Whole Foods sign for organic lemons 89 cents each

I go inside and am immediately confronted by the bakery. Even though I don’t want baked goods (lie) I take the tour, walking around the woman who is assembling an entire muffin from chopped-up samples. I spend a long time studying a loaf of “authentic French brioche,” imagining all the possibilities.

I look at all the fruit and vegetables, do a drive-by of the salad bar and wind up standing in the bulk foods section contemplating raw almonds. I think, “Raw almonds are so good for you. Even though they taste like wooden nothingness it’s good nothingness, the kind of nothingness a body needs.”

I talk to a worker in the vitamins/supplements/body products aisle. Wearing a t-shirt made from hemp that’s trimmed in jute, she stocks tiny bottles of essence of lavender while telling me about the joys of nutritional yeast. “I love to sprinkle it on popcorn!” she says. She is young – maybe 22 – beautiful and fresh-faced. The kind of woman who will very soon drop everything to help dig water wells in sub-Saharan Africa. When I was 22, I survived on peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and vodka tonics and thought I was hot shit because I bought the book Random Acts of Kindness at a book sale at the student union.

Of course I agree with everything this vixen apothecary is saying. In fact, I tell her I’ll look into the yeast even though this is an untruth. I won’t ever buy the yeast. It seems like an extravagant expenditure, like the time I bought flax to sprinkle on food and it ended up at the back of the cupboard for four years. I just wish I was the person who got excited about yeast.

I move on. A woman hands out samples of yogurt in little cups that look like medical waste. I never try any of the samples. I feel weird about it, as if trying a sample makes me seem desperate. “Yes, I would love to try a quarter of a flax-sesame seed flatbread cracker! My life is boring!”

I put food into my basket. Chunks of pineapple. Vegetarian chili. I end up in front of the case that holds sandwiches.

Confession: I have a horrible, guilt-inducing relationship with the cranberry tuna wrap sandwich at Whole Foods. Here is my history with this sandwich:

Discover sandwich. Eat it with some blue corn tortilla chips. It is amazing.
Eat it again.
Eat it again.
Repeat for 70 more days, although not consecutively.
Eat it again.
Feel horrible, crushing guilt after eating this sandwich for 72nd time.
Stay away from sandwich for weeks.
Eat it again.
Go to look for sandwich and find out they didn’t make it that day. Deflated. Elated. Deflated. Eat something else – marinated tofu, spinach with sesame dressing, thinking I’ll feel virtuous. I feel sad, like I missed out on something.
Check to see if they have sandwich. They do! Eat it again.
Have sandwich in hand, ready to buy, and remember that I don’t eat chicken, pork or beef. Remember that I saw tuna on TV in their whole state, as fish, not chopped up into bits. No animal deserves to end its life in a mayo-based salad.
Put the sandwich back and walk away.

“I have a very strange relationship with that sandwich,” I think. “Is this what it’s like when someone is trying to decide whether or not to buy heroin just one more time?”

The olive bar at Whole Foods

I turn to the salad bar. I pile cubes of marinated tofu into a cardboard container and spend too much time staring at the macaroni and cheese. There are beets. There is kale. There is a vat of potatoes that is crusted-over on top. I’m circulating around with the other lunch shoppers, all of us wearing knit hats that make us look eccentric and entitled, which we are.  There should be more for us here. In the middle of all this abundance, we’re not sure what we want to eat but we’re sure we shouldn’t have to search for it. It should be waiting for us on a (recyclable) tray.

I buy a salad and sparkling water in the express lane. I’ve never had a rude cashier at Whole Foods. This is something they get right – instilling charm and upbeat attitudes in their workers even in the face of women in berets who can afford cheese that is $27 a pound. They never berate me for not remembering to bring  my own bag. On Valentine’s Day, the cashier asked if I had plans but not in a creepy way. It felt very que sera, sera to me.

Also, they have good magazines. Except this one, which, if you read it, turns you into a pretentious asshole:

Clean Eating magazine

I take the salad and water to the little café area to sit with the other weirdos who want to use the tables and chairs for awhile before moving on to the next exhausting aspect of our days. Some college students talk about their impending trip to India. Someone else talks about recycling. I’m not making this up. Most of us talk about nothing because we’re alone, wringing the last bits of freedom out of our lunch hours.

Eating in their café feels like eating in a preschool that serves organic snacks and has only wooden and cloth toys. I keep looking around, waiting for a woman with a tambourine to pop out to lead us in a rendition of “This Land Is Your Land.”

I finish eating and feel dissatisfied. I think about the tuna again. “No, that’s over now. And not a moment too soon.”

I dart back inside and take a muffin sample. What the hell.

 

The Short Stack: April 4

Every Friday, I share  the pop culture, fashion, lit and random goodness that crossed my radar during the week. Enjoy along with a cup of tea and tiny cookies!

yes sail me hot fever sky

April is National Poetry month. Here’s mine. Want to read real poems? Check out http://april-is.tumblr.com/

A week ago, I went to one of my formerly-favorite “stuff shops.” It used to be an antique/vintage shop where a person could buy a cheap sparkly top from the 70s or a band leader hat and is now a place where ladies of a certain age can get great deals on second-hand Chico’s garments. Mixed in between all the sweater jackets and jacket sweaters there are still semi-antiques to browse.

It all adds up to a strange combination and not something of which I approve. Nevertheless, I did become obsessed, for a few days, with a sequined cardigan, not Chico’s, with suns and moons on it, marked $40.

I decided I would pay $40 if the moons and stars were spaced further apart on the cloth. Yes, that’s how finely I slice things.

But while I was deciding this (yes, this anecdote has a point), I was wandering around the store picking up various objects and setting them back down while being trailed by one of several older ladies who clerk the store to make sure I didn’t stuff any overpriced sequin cardigans into my purse.

In a back corner, I found a brass skull of a horned animal. It was shaped like a deer skull but the horns were wide and magnificent. I’d never seen anything like it in brass designed just to sit on a table. It was the best of the zeitgeist: animal skulls, brass, horns, etc. It was $15.

I set it back down and walked away, thinking about that stupid cardigan. Over the weekend I suddenly realized that the skull was the coolest thing in the world. I decided to return to the shop to buy it on Monday.

How does this story end?

Yes, with me skull-less after confirming that it was sold the day before. I went back out to my car to eat a terrible tofu sandwich and sulk. Ultimately, I have to say that it’s a lesson: if there are any brass skulls sitting right in front of you at this moment, grab them. Don’t hesitate. This could be something you want to have just because you like it, or it could be something you’ve wanted to try for years but are afraid to do.

Beware the lesson of the brass skull.

Watching
The documentary Finding Vivian Maier opens in the Twin Cities on April 18 at the Edina Cinema. Not familiar with street photographer Maier? Catch up!

Re-watching season 6 of Mad Men in anticipation of the season 7 premiere on April 13.  If you, like me, can’t wait a week for more Jon Hamm, check out this video of his appearance on USA’s dating game show “The Big Date” in 1996 (brought to my attention by Keith Pille). See, we were all awkward and dorky and had weird hair!

And as a thank you to Keith, I offer up this:

Nostalgia
The last time I got my hair cut my stylist said to me, “I want to try some mousse in your hair,” and I shuddered. I had some rough years in the 1980s when I was definitely into mousse abuse – I would take big handfuls of the stuff and mousse up the sides of my hair that that they dried into crunchy wings while the back of my hair went down. And I had bangs. It was a horrible mess. I think this is what I was striving for:

A 1980s babe in a white leotard, sunglasses and moussed hair.
But believe me when I say it was far, far away from reality. For one thing, it would never have occurred to me to wear a red belt with a white leotard. For another, I’ve never been the kind of gal for whom a white leotard was an option.

Reading
Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore, originally published in 1956.

Eat Mangoes Naked by SARK (got it at a thrift store for $2.50, may have overpaid by $2). I get a kick out of SARK’s very 1990s self-help outlook. We can be our own dance partner! This book came out in 2001 but I started eating the Inspiration Sandwich long ago and I’m pleased to see that she’s stuck with the same graphic design and color scheme.

eat mangoes naked by Sark
Coveting
I want to go to The End.
Vintage turquoise on Gypsy Hunter.
Painted sneakers on etsy.
Hate to break it to you, but you’re going to need a pair of metallic gold sandals this summer. Platforms? Yeah, even better.

Listening
“Smooth Sailing” by Queens of the Stone Age
“Hundreds of Ways” by Conor Oberst
“Rattlesnake” by St. Vincent

The Short Stack: March 28

Every Friday, I share  the pop culture, fashion, lit and random blips that crossed my radar during the week. Enjoy along with some crackers and cheese and a beverage!

Don't worry be happy in Jamaica

It’s been quite some time since we had a good, inspirational saying we could embrace as a nation, like “Don’t worry, be happy!” or “Life’s a beach!” or “You go, girl!”  Or even “TGIF!” said without irony but with a smile and genuine enthusiasm for the green light to start drinking beer on a Friday afternoon.

Whenever I hear “TGIF!,” I imagine a bunch of co-workers at a 1980s corporation that sells… dot matrix printers… or maybe the paper for dot matrix printers?… high-fiving each other and heading over to the Fuddruckers or Bennigan’s or… TGI Friday’s that’s just down the interstate from their office building and getting drinks that are served in enormous, fun chalices that can be purchased to take home, and feasting on potato skins with a side of ranch dressing. Everything came with a side of ranch.

One of the women in the group is named Debbie and one is Brandy and there’s a guy named Brad. Always a guy named Brad. Their wants are simple and their needs are met because they work at the corporation and one of them, probably Brad, got the Saab convertible he wanted.

Good times.

Looking At
So, it might be hard to explain exactly how and why I ended up on the blog Face Detective. OK, it had to do with Googling the director Michael Cimino, who directed the 1980s flop Heaven’s Gate, only to find out that he no longer looks anything like his 1970s/80s self and now more closely resembles Yoko Ono. Or Sir Paul McCartney.

Example:

Michael Cimino then and now

Anyway, what is a “Face Detective?” Apparently: “One who possesses a particular knack for discovering unlikely “twins” and various other breeds of look-alike both celebrity and mortal.”

First I thought, “Who can devote an entire blog to this pursuit?” but then I kept reading and reading and now, well, it’s on regular rotation. Who knew this detecting could be so addicting…

Reading
Final Cut by Steven Bach, which is an account of the making of the movie Heaven’s Gate, directed by Michael Cimino, thus the Googling. Bach was senior vice-president and head of worldwide productions for United Artists when Heaven’s Gate was made in the late 1970s (it was such a bloated flop that it brought down the entire studio). So far, it’s a book for people who really, really like the details about production and executive life, but I’m hoping that it’s the old “dope-a-rope” tactic Muhammed Ali used with George Foreman during the Rumble in the Jungle – hang back, let the reader get tired, then come out swinging with full force.

Bach went on to be a professor, lecturer and writer of biographies, including one about Leni Riefenstahl that seems to be a must-read.

Are you that special kind of person who has always promised yourself that one day you will conquer Moby Dick? This summer there’s a Twin Cities-based group of Twitterers leading that charge and all doing it together in a read-along. Doesn’t matter where you are, you can join in by following the hashtag #TCMoby. Reading starts May 1. If you want to read more, check out the details on Beth Babbles About Books.

Wearing
I got these vintage house slippers, never worn! They have hard-soled bottoms, so that’s cool. I’m going to rock mine with jeans.

Freja the dog posing with vintage 1960s gold house slippers

Watching
The Grand Budapest Hotel – twice. I admit to never being a huge Wes Anderson fan but this movie won me over. Everything is seamless, it’s funny, the actors are great. The story is fantastic. It’s a joy to look at. It’s like it’s 1944 – you can go to a movie and forget all your troubles, if only for a little while. Then you can go home and add some tin foil to your tin foil ball. (That’s a rationing joke) Go see it.

Possibly-Maybe-Doing
The Mpls/St. Paul International Film Fest gets underway next week, running from April 3-19. I used to make a point of getting the guide to all the films, reading through it pen-in-hand in order to circle the ones I wanted to see. This was more an exercise in being obsessive than because I’m a rabid fan. The most movies I ever saw during one fest was two. Here’s my new approach: look at the documentaries. Which I did today and here are my top three recommendations:
Cavedigger
We Don’t Wanna Make You Dance
Wicker Kittens

Done and done. I always wonder about the fest parties, too. I wish they would have a hot tub party or a roller skating party. Anything other than standing around with a drink in your hand. That being said, check out the photo on the top of this page for the closing night party. One blond woman is giving the bartender a stare that says, “Where’s my frickin’ drink?!” and the other is yammering away to her date/husband, saying something like, “You know you bid too low on that lake house. We’ll never get it!”

I think closing night party should be at TGI Fridays. Chalices of frozen daiquiris for all!

P.S. Mad Men is back April 13!

Cover of Time Magazine featuring Mad Men

P.S.S. Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche
“Real Men do not relate to anything. They do not have meaningful dialogues…. They don’t go for it, catch rays, crash, party, boogie, get down, or kick out the jams.” Besides quiche, they don’t eat bean curd, tofu, pâté or yogurt; they don’t drink light beer. In clothes, they shun “pith helmets, yachting caps, bikini underwear, Sansabelt slacks, gold chains…or anything with more than three zippers.”

P.S.S.S. Dogs in Cars