Hello, my name is Beth, and I have started wearing a scrunchie.

I can't help it. Wendy gave me a package of scrunchies as part of a "things we enjoyed in college" basket for my birthday, and darn it if they aren't the most helpful things. At first I put one on to remind myself of how funny they are. But it was so handy! All my hair will stay back in a scrunchie, which is not true of the clippies, barettes, and regular ponytail holders. And your hair never gets stuck and pulled in a scrunchie. It's a soft, gentle friend. I haven't worn it to work or outside the house other than while gardening or walking the dog, but I fear the day will soon come in which I will forget I have it on.

another letter to Martha

Dear Martha,

I have just received the September issue of Living and feel I must write to express my concern with the magazine's depiction of ... well, you.

Firstly, what in the name of good sense are you wearing on the cover? You are a grown woman who no doubt has a stylist and a lively checkbook and lives in close proximity to Manhattan (although I suppose you can't personally go shopping right now - apologies). You look like any one of several thousand undergraduates on my campus. Your jeans are whiskered, for goodness's sake, and your sweater is sheer with a strappy tank. You look about twenty years younger, but not in any way that could possibly be natural. You also appear to be standing in a pose based on Paris Hilton, with the joints on alternating sides of your body jutting out strangely. You're cradling a shrubbery. I know you like your plants but I'm not sure I've ever seen you hug even your pets. Put the plant down.

Furthermore, your column about paint color inspiration is deranged. Do you have a robot, attached to a thesaurus and the New York Times social pages, that writes those for you? We don't care where the antique fair was where you saw the exquisite lava jewelry cameoes. We don't care who your friends are or how many marathons they've run or what other virtuous things they do in their spare time. I'm sure your new house is lovely - I have never for an instant doubted your talents - but surely there was a better way to express your process of making it, as you say, a home.

You may remember me from a previous missive last February. Your publication generally brings me great joy and inspiration - and appreciation for your staff's love of life's little delights - so it is with a heavy heart that I have written the above. I just wish you the best - but don't your toes hurt in those little pointy shoes? Put on your gardening clogs and tell me what to do with my crop of tomatoes. Please. I miss you.


PS Is the cover image the work of Trump or those other reality-show sleazebags? Just walk away, girl. Walk away.

Devon? Divine!

Wendy and I went exploring for filmi yesterday on Devon and were not disappointed. She found two places to rent and I found a movie I have long wanted to own for $10. Also we got numma Pakistani takeaway and made mango sodas. With sari-esque hot pink and gold fabric and CDs purchased in Madison's hippier-than-thou shops (The Rough Guide to Bollywood and Mondo India: Featuring A. R. Rahman), it was like we were getting a signal from the mother ship to stop driving around all over the midwest and just go a few yards up the block from where we started.

PS Wendy if you are reading this, I try to write what I think about the Bollywood I've seen. Will just quickly update now.

This road trip brought to you by the letter M.

  • Not necessarily the prettiest roadway, but when then summer evening is cool enough to leave the windows down for the whole trip, and you can see the sunset over the fields, and the air rushing in is soothing and velvety, it's wonderful.

  • State Street is a great street - Wendy and I both decreeded it cooler than Chambana. However, we did at least three round trips of its length and ended up a little weary from looking for things we thought we would find but didn't - not due to bad information, just expectations that needed a little tweaking. I had my first Afghani food and it was wonderful, except for when I dribbled mint sauce on my shirt. I really enjoyed all the Indian import stores, as my shopping will attest, but how come "alternative" seems so twinkified? If you can judge by the items in the stores, UW students look just as much like a parade of clones as those at UIUC - just trade in polos and baseball caps for boho skirts and giant stone jewelry.
  • Saw Short Cut to Nirvana, about the Kumbh Mela, at the Orpheum, an old theatre that had been smartly restored to have a sit-down restaurant in its lobby. The movie left me with more questions than answers, not only about what really goes on for the average visitor (pilgrim? participant?) at one of these but also what the filmmakers were really trying to document. I don't think they included the view of a single average Indian visitor - we followed around a few Americans (white and Latina) and an Indian fellow who was in training to a guru or something. I didn't really understand what he was doing - or why he felt such a magical "connection" (drink!) to the blonde, white woman from New York, and whether that was cool with the other American guy. This review in In Los Angeles says it all. Admittedly I am both skeptical and ignorant, but doesn't it seem unfair to say to a curious learner that only people pure in heart will understand true peace/wisdom/insight/whatever? That sounds to me like you just don't know how to explian it properly or get them to ponder the right questions. "If you have to ask the question, you won't understand the answer" is a cop-out if you're a figure of wisdom.

    I should preface this part by saying it was really hot and humid during our visit, and neither Wendy nor I do well in this kind of weather, so I think the minor frustrations of having an out-of-date guidebook and non-specified hunger at weird hours were blown out of proportion. To deal with this, we later developed a mantra: "Excpet nothing, and accept what the world offers." That helped a lot, but we only came up with it in sheer desperadoes, I think after sitting in a cafe for 15 minutes and no one came to take our order.
  • Eat Street - Vietnamese lunch at a place called Bubble Delite, featuring a menu of over 70 flavors of bubble tea. So good.
  • Fringe Festival - we saw a play written and performed by a childhood friend of Wendy.
  • Afterwards we rambled around Uptown for late shopping and dinner. It pains me to say that Uptown was a little bit of a disappointment. A friend from grad school lived in Minneapolis for a time and I remember her talking about how great this area was, so my head was filled with the notion of block after block of cute shops and yummy interesting restaurants. There were about three blocks, and other than some really spectacular bookshops - Magers and Quinn and Booksmart - I have little to say about this area that couldn't be said of any other slightly edgy neighborhood (but not edgy enough not to have a Gap and other big chain stores) in any other US city.
  • Thanks to Wendy's friend and his girlfriend, we had a heap of good suggestions of things to do in St. Paul, where we were staying. She clearly had an unspoken connection with us, as she asked us if we would like to have breakfast in a French cafe in a historic neighborhood. Oui! Bon Vie's french toast rivaled that of the Butler's Pantry in Toronto and was generally a very pleasant place to sit on a quiet Monday morning.
  • Summit Avenue, St. Paul - if you ever get millions of dollars and want to buy a house, do it here. Really beautiful and classy. We were told that the governor's mansion was F. Scott Fitzgerald's childhood home - although I had always thought that FSF came from a family wealthy enough that he had access to the kinds of people and privilege he writes about but wealthy enough to feel secure about it.
  • More aimless driving and walking, as we explored Grand Avenue and some random eastern parts of the city.
  • After a mini-meltdown on my part and a quiet rest in the hotel for a bit, we gathered our resources and found the Birchwood Cafe for a late lunch. So good, restoring both tummies and high spirits. Sometimes it is enough to drive through an interesting neighborhood with the windows down in the sunshine.
  • Met our friends for a personalized tour of downtown Minneapolis - Target HQ and the Mary Tyler Moore statue - and dinner at the Local, a humongous Irish pub. Then we drove somewhere north of where we were, crossed the river, and saw the oldest church in the city, a beautiful little French building, and the surrounding neighborhood, which is the oldest part of the city, called St. Anthony. Old mill buildings had been converted into apartments and restaurants, and you can stroll along the river.
  • Tried to have a drink in the campus area of the University of Minneapolis ( Dinkytown). (The next day, we heard a song on the radio about Dinkytown by Willie Wisley, whom I really like. Weird.) The bar we chose closed just as we stepped in the door. Poop. Went to Chino Latino in Uptown instead, where I was pleased to find that drinks come with little plastic animals hanging off the sides.
  • Tuesday breakfast at Coffee News near the Macalaster campus. I had the puffed pancake, which according to Wendy's friend and the man at the counter is famous. Do me a favor and close your eyes and picture a puffed pancake. Does it look like a yorkshire pudding, sort of dense but rippled and bubbly and golden bround? Good. Tell the folks at Coffee News that that is what a puffed pancake is. There was a plate-sized slab of cake. Ook. The sauteed apples and the crispy bits around the edges were good though.
  • On to the Museum of Russian Art, a lovely little place that has nothing but 20th-century Russian paintings. Their labels were a mess, with nothign but biographical information about the artist next to each painting. They had a few introductory-level texts that told a little about what was going on in Russia at different times throughout the century, but not nearly enough to provide the average American with an understanding of historical issues and subject content and context. I also must nitpick about the timeline label that said that Stalin "liquidated" over 10,000,000 people. My museum has recently been through the process of figuring out how to word uncomfortable topics and this is not the way. This one word made me feel I was under the sort of stereotypical Soviet-era noninformation the museum said it was trying to correct.
  • The Walker Art Center - we rambled through this, ignoring our maps in favor of a leisurely stroll. The maps didn't make much sense anyway, I discovered. There are something like eight half-stories here - an architectural approach I hate in houses but worked well here, because it minimized the feeling of huge rooms and giant stairs, maybe to prevent "museum fatigue"? Lots of what I'd imagined for a modern/contemporary art museum. Really amazing film by Shirin Neshat called Soliloquy that I want to see again. The sculpture garden, complete with the iconic cherry on a spoon (which is a fountain! who knew?), was pretty well ruined for me by the rush of the interstate next door. I don't know which one was there first, but it's an unfortunate site, to say the least. The highway cuts between the museum and garden and this big public park. The pedestrian bridge overhead, thoughtfully decorated with poems to read as you walk, was a little dizzying with all the cars zooming by a few feet below.
  • Lunch at the French Meadow Bakery. V g. And they have nanaimo bars! You don't understand. Nanaimo bars are my very most favorite Canadian treat and I have never before seen them in the US. I used to plan my route home from work to walk by the bakery with the best ones I found in Toronto. It's a wonder I only bought one. Soooooooooo goooooooooood. Nutty chocolatey creamy crunch-squish goodness. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.
  • One more museum: the Weisman Art Museum on the UM campus. Josh went here a few years ago and liked it (I think) so I had big expectations. The Frank Gehry building is, of course, gorgeous, although again I think it is a bit hampered by an unfortunate site - it seems to have its back to a large chunk of campus, but I guess it makes sense to put the shiny metal towards the river. I wasn't on campus long enough to get a feel for it so maybe there's something about foot traffic patterns that I'm missing. The primary exhibit was on work by artists that inspired Frank Gehry and I didn't know enough about him to find that interesting in the slightest. Mostly I just couldn't believe that this is a peer museum to the one I work in. Felt like an entirely different world. Good labels. I thought the self-guided tour thingy was a little insulting. "Get it?!" might make your visitors feel stupid. I wonder what kind of audience testing went into that. Think will write the museum to ask. Fascinating.
  • After that I missed an important exit on the way home so that took a bit longer than expected. Then we rested a bit and had our final twin cities dinner at Cafe Latte (whose website seems to have frozen my browser so I'm not linking to it). Wine. Salad. Pizza. Cake. Coffee. Perfect. Dana recommendedt his place and Dana would certainly not lie about cake.

    That's it. That's our trip. The best part was getting to spend so much time with Wendy and have a bit of an escape from work (although did catch self thinking/worrying about it here and there). Next time we're going to Montreal, airfare schmairfare.

    Thanks to our co-pilot, Mr. Christmas, who is now lodging with me for awhile.
  • I rambled about other stuff too. Wanna see?

    April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 May 2006 June 2006 August 2006 October 2006 December 2006 February 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 September 2007 July 2008

    projects, friends, etc.

  • I love Bollywood so much that I made a separate blog for it.
  • remember when I went to Australia?
  • when you take grad school too much to heart re: literature
  • when you take grad school too much to heart re: travels
  • The Trophy Wife
  • rock and roll lifestyle
  • Why God Why
  • Technically not a friend, as not a human, but still a place I love very much, so it counts: Massey College
  • credits

  • Blog design is based largely on Not That Ugly with some ideas from Firdamatic with some additional tweaking
  • Flickr rocks! Really.
  • Hurrah for Blogger
  • And for folks trying to library-ize blogs: Blogwise and Blogarama
  • Sorry this looks like poo in Firefox. I've no idea why.