Best of Boston, Pop Culture, Writers and Writing

Honoring Jack

The following is a re-post from October 2017.

Pumpkins, large and small, adorn nearly every window box and doorstep in my neighborhood.  Along with the usual ghosts and witches, we here in the Bay State have easy access to the ultimate Halloween spectacle.  Salem may be a quaint New England town steeped in history, mythology, and magic – but Salem in October is way too touristy for me.

Instead, I take a day trip to Lowell to visit the grave of one of my literary heroes – Jack Kerouac.

The first time I visited Kerouac’s grave, it was just before Halloween, and the anniversary of his death.  I arrived at Edson Cemetery with a crudely drawn map that a kindly gentleman at the Chamber of Commerce had given me and, as I made my way along the neat little rows of tombstones and markers, I marveled at the extraordinary shades of yellow, orange, and red leaves underfoot and overhead.  Kerouac’s grave was an unassuming flat slab that was flush to the ground.  This is what it said:

“TI JEAN”

JOHN L. KEROUAC

MAR. 12, 1922 – OCT. 21, 1969

– HE HONORED LIFE –

STELLA HIS WIFE

NOV. 11, 1918 – FEB. 10, 1990

There had been many recent visitors to the grave, fans, and writers perhaps, because they’d left unopened bottles of imported beer, packs of Camel cigarettes, flowers, and sheets of poetry, some handwritten and some typed, in several different languages.

I sat on the ground and took out a bottle of champagne and my worn paperback copy of On the Road.  I purposely shook the bottle so that when I popped the cork, the bubbly came gushing out just like it does in the winning team’s locker room.  I took a small drink before pouring the entire bottle onto the grass, letting it soak right into the ground so he could enjoy it.

Then I opened my book to a random page and started reading.  There in that graveyard was all the history, mythology, and magic I needed.

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Girl Talk, Pop Culture

Finger Paint


What’s the one beauty product you couldn’t live without, even if you were stranded on a desert island?  BB cream?  Lash extensions?  Lip balm?  For me – no contest – it’s nail polish.  I can’t get enough of the stuff.  I’d drink it if it weren’t toxic.

When I was a teenager, the lady who lived next-door shared my love of nail polish.  She stored hers in the little egg holders on the inside of her refrigerator door because, she explained, the cold temperature helped prolong the shelf life of the polish.  By the time I was grown and had a place of my own, refrigerator doors no longer came equipped with egg holders, so I bought a Lucite organizer for my nail polish and have kept it refrigerated ever since.

My fascination with nail polish goes way beyond painting it on my fingers and toes.  When I’m on the subway, in line at the store, or at a social event, I always notice the nail polish other women are wearing.  At a recent family gathering, the lady in red had a clean and classic French manicure, and the child of the ‘60’s painted her nails midnight blue to match her cocktail dress.  My basic black ensemble needed a pop of color so I went with a vivid fuchsia.

In a January 2016 blog post, entitled “Man Buns” I went on a rant about the onslaught of guys wearing their hair up in little ballet dancer buns and hypothesized about what might come next that could be even more cringeworthy.  Jokingly, I suggested men wearing nail polish.  But this is no joke.  And as alarming as it may be, it has come to pass.

A few days ago, a millennial wearing the grad student uniform: baseball cap, graphic tee, khaki shorts, and sneakers stepped onto the train.  After he sat down next to me, he reached into his messenger bag for a book.  That’s when I noticed his finger nails were neatly painted a garnet red metallic that I’m pretty sure was OPI’s “I’m Not Really A Waitress.”  I was aghast.

I’ll give them their messenger bags.  And their ridiculous man buns.  But my beloved nail polish?  I have no words…

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Girl Talk, Pop Culture

The Perfect Little Black Dress

Some women are forever searching for the perfect little black dress.  When they finally find it, their joy is so profound that a national holiday should be proclaimed.  Me?  I believe just as there’s more than one Mr. Right, there’s more than one perfect little black dress out there.

My first perfect LBD came in my mid-twenties courtesy of a talented seamstress – my mother.  Sewn from a Vogue pattern, it was truly a custom fitted garment.  The simple jersey shift that hit just above my knee, with a boat neck and three-quarter sleeves was anything but simple because, when I turned around, the dress featured a daring, plunging, V-shaped back.  I wore that little number on dinner dates, on New Year’s Eve, to the theatre, and to one very memorable cast party with a group of quirky but hunky Shakespearian actors.

In my thirties, when all of my friends were getting married, I found the perfect LBD on a sale rack at Needless Markup aka: Neiman Marcus.  Reminiscent of the iconic long black gown Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, this sleek, silk dress was ankle length, but with a deep slit up one side.  Even though I didn’t wear Holly Golightly’s opera length black gloves and tiara, this dress was magical, for it made me look taller and thinner than I am in real life.  It got me through the wedding blitz, and eventually I donated it to a young classical musician who needed a formal black gown for her performances.

My cousin’s upcoming wedding is cause for celebration, and for yet another perfect little black dress.  I was delighted to find a vintage-style, tea-length dress, embellished with appliques and lace, and a label that promised it was machine washable.  Although not my usual style, it was Boho Chic, like something Stevie Nicks would wear.  I liked it because it was different, and all was right with the world.  Until I washed it.  Despite following the care directions, when I took the dress out of the washer, I was horrified to see that the applique work had unraveled.  The dress was ruined.

With the wedding only two weeks away, I made the rounds at several fave dress shops.  Bad news travels fast, and one of the sales ladies had heard about “the woman with the shredded dress” and was eager to help.  The shredded dress turned out to be a happy accident because it brought me to my new perfect LBD.  This one is timeless, ageless really.  And since I’m now a woman of a certain age, timeless and ageless is a good thing.  This ladylike sheath dress is sublime, with delicate capped lace sleeves and the same lace yoke around the gently rounded neckline.  I will wear this one for a long time to come.

Just like the men who come into our lives, who are the perfect fit, at a particular time, so are these little black dresses.  Be assured ladies, this is no urban myth – there really is more than one Mr. Right and more than one prefect little black dress for the taking.

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers, Pop Culture

Red Hat Lady for a Day

Have you ever seen a group of women all wearing red hats, and flamboyantly dressed in purple?  These older ladies can be seen lunching and laughing, and generally whooping it up all around town.  Some of them even wear feather boas… Truth be told, my mother is one of them and, on a recent visit home, I crashed the party.  But I did not wear the requisite purple, nor the red hat.   According to Red Hat Society lore, someone my age wears lavender and pink instead.

The Red Hat Society was founded quite by accident by a woman who bought a stylish red hat for herself, then started giving them as gifts to her friends.  The purple attire came about as an homage to the poem that begins, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple…”  Now, there are a bazillion chapters all over the country.

On the first Wednesday of every month, when my mother and her friends get together adorned in their whimsical outfits, they remain mindful that everyone is not as carefree and blessed as they are.  That’s why they never fail to pass around an envelope for their donation to a food pantry.

I was expecting lunch to be a quiet affair in a subdued café.  Instead, it was a raucous celebration in a sports bar with Bon Jovi and Led Zep piped through the loud speakers.  The ladies talked about hair and makeup, current events, and their families, just like my friends do when we get together.  And I nearly forgot how much older they were until the talk turned from gardening, to their former careers, and to their numerous doctor appointments.  Save for the arthritis, they were mostly just like their younger counterparts.

So thank you Red Hatters for welcoming me into your circle, and for offering me a window into what lies ahead.  It promises to be fun and fabulous!

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons, Pop Culture

Wishing Every Day was the Fourth of July

It’s no secret that here in Boston we like to do it up big on the Fourth of July.  For decades, the Boston Pops has performed at the Hatch Shell along the Esplanade and, after the concert, a spectacular fireworks display rains down over the Charles River.  My neighbors and I may curse our lack of closet space 364 days of the year, but on the Fourth of July, we have the best place on earth to watch the fireworks: our roof deck.

Last week, as neighbors and friends gathered with beach chairs and blankets, food and drink, I was struck by what a diverse group had assembled on our roof deck for the day’s festivities.  One young mother was nursing her nine-week old baby, while the oldest, a vivacious lady in her seventies, sported an American flag motif scarf.  There were straight couples and gay couples.  And folks whose ancestry represented each of the seven continents.  There were Boston Brahmins, first-generation Americans, and at least one New Yorker.  All afternoon and into the evening, the sense of community prevailed as we waited in anticipation for the fireworks to start.

On the day we celebrated the red, white, and blue, there was no red state/blue state divide.  No political talk at all.  Do we all agree on everything?  No way.  But for one glorious, sparkling day we had come together with respect, pride, and patriotism.  All of us different, yet all the same – Americans.

 

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Pop Culture

The Candy Holidays

It’s over.  I can breathe a sigh of relief.  You know what I mean.  The candy holidays.  No normal human being can resist the constant barrage of sugary treats that appear in September and last until April.

It starts with that damn candy corn and the “fun size” candy bars.  You can have a few because they’re so small, harmless really.  Yeah, right.  It’s only fun until you suddenly can’t zip up your favorite jeans unless you lie down on your bed and hold your breath.  Let’s say that by some small miracle you make it through Harvest without gaining any weight.  Now it’s the hap-happiest season and you’re surrounded by candy canes and chocolate Santas.  Be careful here or you might get sucked into the sugar vortex that leads to an obscenely gigantic heart-shaped box of caramel and nut-covered chocolates, and a bag of tiny red cinnamon candies that, if you eat one too many, will burn your tongue and leave the roof of your mouth numb.  Next you’re hopping down the bunny trail trying to dodge those pastel-shelled chocolate mini-eggs, (I refer to as “devil eggs”) and neon-yellow marshmallow chicks.

As alluring as all that candy is every time you go shopping at the supermarket, drugstore, or large retail chain, the real challenge, at least for me, is the day after Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter when holiday candy gets marked down to half-price.  Forget the allure of the candy itself.  Who can resist such a bargain?  Clearly, not me.

Easter Sunday has come and gone and here’s my dilemma:

What to do about those Peeps?   A friend of mine once told me of a long-standing tradition that took place at her ivy-league university.  After eating one or two of the gritty, sticky little things, the rest of the brood got put into the microwave.  To get nuked.  Until they exploded.  I swear I’m not making this up.

Summer’s coming and fortunately, there are no Fourth of July sweets to tempt me.

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Best of Boston, Life Lessons, Pop Culture

New York to Boston and Back

 

The distance between my two homes is about 210 miles.  I’m a New Yorker who lives in Boston.

New York is the home my parents made for me.  All my peeps are there.  The Big Apple’s in my DNA – in the tone and cadence of my voice.  Regardless of where I go, my birth certificate and passport identify me as a native of the greatest city in the world.  Just like the song says, I want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep…”   We talk fast, and we walk fast, like a type-A personality after a couple of cans of Red Bull.  Go people watching in Times Square and you’ll see what I mean.  My favorite piece of architecture is the Chrysler Building.  Favorite hotel, the Algonquin.  Favorite drink, the egg cream, of course.  Growing up in Queens made me a Mets fan.  For life.  Because I’m of the belief that when it comes to baseball, you stick with your home team, no matter what.

Boston is the home I made for myself.  The day I moved to the Bay State I heard the Standells’ song about the Charles River playing on the car radio, “…Well I love that dirty water, oh, Boston you’re my home, and I was hooked.  I fell in love with the swan boats in the Public Garden, the Citgo sign, and Filene’s Basement.  Despite my proximity to Fenway Park, I am not, and never will be, a member of Red Sox Nation.  I did, however, fall hard for the Bruins.  Apparently my home team rule doesn’t apply to hockey.  We’re called Beantown, The Hub, and more recently “Title Town.”  And the water?  Not so dirty.

My tale of two cities is a love story.  When I’m in New York, it feels like home.  Yet when I leave to go back to Boston, I’m on my way home.  And visa versa.  It may sound confusing, but not to me.  Home is where the heart is.

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