Archive for September, 2007


Nerd Pride

Unsurprisingly, the pretentious creeps at that other Cambridge school fail to realize the hotness of MIT chicks.  (So what if I’m a sample of 1?)

Anyone who’s spent any significant time in Gifted & Talented or other accelerated settings (or watched Napoleon Dynamite multiple times), knows there’s nothing more smoldering (and kinda nasty) than a little geek love. 

As we say at the Institute, if the lab’s a rockin’, don’t come a knockin’.



Weekend Update: Redstar and Weboy visit the Natick Collection

On my third straight day of shopping (it’s Redstar’s “buy my fall wardrobeâ€? weekend), Weboy and I headed to the new Natick Collection.  “Eh,” is all I really have to say. 

I second Adam at Universal Hub re: the vertigo of standing in the old “Natick Mall” section at the doorstep of the suburban retail nirvana that is the new hall of shops.  Readers above the age of 22, beware the second story, where it’s one Abercrombie or their competitor after another.  I asked Weboy, when did we decide that the upscale wardrobe of today consisted essentially of sweatshirts and flip flops?  (If you do make your way out to Natick, check out Ruehl of Greenwich Village.  It’s as if Disney added a Village facade to Epcot, and let fans of shows like The OC and Gossip Girl decorate it according to what they’ve been told is fancy – that’d be fake fireplaces, college basement-party quality lighting and framed photos of half naked boys leaning against the walls.) 

The first floor feels more mature, definitely more pricey, and not quite at full throttle, given about one-third of the stores still are not open. They also need many more pushcarts to fill the dead space in the middle.  (I wonder if they’ll have the one where my dad can have his face emblazened on mugs for Xmas gifts for my stepmom and me.  You know, to go with the one I already have.)

As someone who lives closest to the Chestnut Hill mall, but about equidistant between Back Bay and Natick, I don’t foresee too much siphoning off from these other retail destinations due to Natick.  (I would be worried if I was the Atrium, which is the most generic of all the neighboring upscale spots, lacking the anchors of Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s, Saks, Louis Boston, etc., and having the most stores that I saw replicated at Natick.)  Boston should still have its international set and folks who prefer to shop downtown, and Chestnut Hill still has Jasmine Sola and Bloomingdale’s for the Newton/Brookline crowds.  Given that our parochialism means few of us like to drive further than 15 minutes to get what we need, I only see the Natick Collection adding to Boston’s fragmented retail market, rather than acting as a consolidator of sorts.  If anything, Natick should be avoided as it will bring together the over-caffeinated, hell-on-wheels rich suburban moms that roam the grounds of Chestnut Hill with the more slow-moving, easily confused, thick suburban crowds.

Ultimately, it’s about the kind of atmosphere in which you want to shop.  For the M.A.S., the perfect atmosphere is my living room with a beer in hand as I deliver packages I picked up for him that day at the outlets.  For me, it’s obviously a more sedate, preferably weekday experience where I can wander in peace and still find some deals.  Space and air matter; Newbury St., most outlets and the pseudo-downtowns of places like Mashpee Commons and the one in Hingham that my cousins love – all these are outdoors and offer varying degrees of “street life” and space.  In contrast, I hate “high-rise” malls like Cambridgeside and Providence Place where the stores are narrowly stacked and closing in around on you and the families and adolescent crowds.  Lighting is also key.  The Chestnut Hill Mall and Copley Place have pleasingly resisted the garish lighting that ultimately leaves the Natick Collection feeling stupifyingly similar to its traditional mall roots (or, as Adam at U. Hub put it, like the duty free section of an airport).   

I’m curious to see how the Natick Collection fares.  It’s not too often you see a Sears and Neiman Marcus sit side-by-side as you search in vain for a parking space between them.  It’s a long walk between JC Penney and Neiman Marcus, where the former has bi-lingual English-Spanish signage* and the latter’s snooty customers nonetheless ask for “Stella McCaHTney.”  I’m well aware of the $$ in the suburbs; visitors to the Natick Collection can browse the adjacent opening-in-2008 Nouvelle condos sales office as they wander from Nordstrom to Neiman’s.  But though I felt momentarily like I was in Soho as I passed the same chains that now consume that neighborhood, I thought I’d feel a lot more like I was in our version of Manhasset.  All I can say is, shame on this Masshole for being disappointed in our failure to measure up to Long Island luxury. 


*I’ve noticed many stores like Sears, JC Penney, and Best Buy now have bi-lingual signage, but at what I think was a Nine West I saw my first bi-lingual hiring sign today.


Harried & Messy

…also known as the shopping experience that is H&M.

I’m sitting on my couch with a cup of tea and my feet up.  Three straight days of intensive retail immersion – Newbury St. on Friday, the Wrentham outlets on Saturday, and the Natick Collection (don’t believe the hype) today.  I achieved my goal of filling out the fall/winter wardrobe (though shoes, as always, continue to allude me.  I LOATHE shoe shopping, contrary to the conventional wisdom.), but any gaps likely will be completed on-line.  I am done with the crowds, the schlepping, and the faux lifestyle marketing assault that overwhelms the average consumer these days. 

Shopping for me is a constant battle between procuring quality, muted luxury and a functional if stylish look without exceeding the arbitrary price points I’ve set in my head.  I am proud that this weekend I bought absolutely everything at the outlets, rather than on Newbury or in the “lux” section of the Natick Collection, but that still means I’m buying discount Barneys Co-op, Tahari and Theory, with a LOT of Banana Republic rounding out my closet. (The frequent discounts of BR are a much more significant driver for me than a true appreciation of their clothes, which I find highly unpredictable in terms of quality and, especially, fit.  But after awhile, it feels like they’re giving it away in there.)

Yet, despite the desire to save $$ and not look too flashy nor trendy in my search for quality clothes, I am not a bargain shopper in the traditional sense.  I’m mourning the loss of the original Filene’s Basement in Downtown Crossing as much as the rest – including my mother, who fondly reminisced while I was paying for my Off 5th Tahari pants yesterday about picking up her own pair on her lunch break in the late ’60s, when she was a skinny 19 year old working downtown.  But I miss it mainly for this enduring connection to my family, and not because I was a regular there, like an MIT friend of mine who knew the place so well she led the M.A.S. through and out with 3 shopping bags of his own duds one Friday afternoon in his first year in Boston. (Though she was still alive to grieve for the loss of Jordan Marsh, at least my grandmother passed away before this latest retail blow to our Boston roots.)

I have a pretty low tolerance for bargain hunting.  Blame it on my allergies, my easily irritability, my fastidious Virgo nature, but I hate shopping at places like H&M or Filene’s Basement, where the low, low prices come at the cost of hunting through bins or other people’s mess in the search for that perfect find.  I hate overheating in the lines for the too small, forever crowded, dressing rooms, or checkout, and I can’t blame but don’t want to deal with the snappish attitudes of the sales people (there’s few jobs I’d rather not have than to work in retail).  I’d rather pay more for clothes that I can find on my own, reach easily, not have to hip check someone out of the way for, and not want to wipe my nose on when I’m having an allergy attack in the dusty dressing room. 

I wish I loved bargain shopping like this.  I do; I’d be one of those cool chicks who could tell you how I got this Prada shirt for 75% off, or who’d be wearing the latest trends because my entire H&M outfit was only $70.  Instead, this weekend, the retail victory came in doubling back for a final loop through Off 5th after seven hours at the outlets, to finally find the deeply discounted midnight blue velvet Theory pants that go with the rather expensive Mark Jacobs shirt I guiltily purchased at the Barney’s Outlet earlier.  My victorious smile looked perfect atop the rather 80s-rocker-outfit I modeled for the M.A.S. later that night, who was no doubt conjuring Debbie Harry while I strutted around my apartment – in bare feet, given I still need those shoes!


Jena 6 Update: Judge Overturns Bell’s Conviction

A LA appeals court judge reversed the aggravated second-battery assault conviction of Mychal Bell, the first of the “Jena 6” to be convicted.  From the Chicago Tribune:

With the prospect of a major national civil rights protest looming next week in the central Louisiana town of Jena, a state appeals court on Friday abruptly vacated the felony conviction of a black teenager accused of beating a white student in a case fraught with racial tensions.

Louisiana’s Third Circuit Court of Appeals, acting on an emergency defense appeal, reversed the aggravated second-degree battery conviction of Mychal Bell, 17, ruling that the youth had been tried improperly as an adult in a case that has raised allegations of unequal justice in the small, mostly white town.

Click on the “reversed” link above for more insidious details.

This is great news; now brace yourselves for the appeal.



This just in, via text from my cousin Jane, recent BC grad and NYC transplant:

“Women on the [Upper East Side] with strollers = running of the bulls…”

True ‘dat, Janie, true ‘dat.


Trot trot to Boston

Slept in this morning for the first time in weeks, after an evening flight home from an intense two days in New Orleans. Slow to get working as I sit on my couch in a fleece and sweatpants.  Apparently I took the sweltering heat with me on Sunday morning and left it behind in the Gulf Coast.

As my mind and soul slowly recover from the whiplash of traveling back and forth between my peaceful New England life and my heated, urgent political organizing work down South, I’m welcomed home by some nostalgic chatter in the Boston blogs.  VA transplant Gift of Green offers a Top 10 list of MA things that stump the locals south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Some of my favorites: the fluffernutter sandwich (invented in Lynn, it seems, and actually I’ve never been a fan of fluff, but it was always in my aunt’s cabinets), the triple decker apartment building, home to generations of Redstar kin…and a bunch of other working-class and ethnic families in Boston, and radiators (though in my two-family house, we had floor vents that opened and shut, that I’d stand on to warm up at the end of a freezing winter school day).

Her list reminds me of my own regional “wha???” when I was down in New Orleans two weeks ago.  Dining with a table of Southern women, white and black, young and old, at a nouveau Southern restaurant (the local version of trumped up comfort food places here that charge $12 for mac ‘n cheese), I responded to a dish incl. turnip greens that the only time I ate turnip was at Thanksgiving, and it was mashed, like potatoes.  Well, me and my bland Irish palate were practically run out of town.  I told them about Whoopie Pies, another New England treat (thanks, Amish peeps??), they were intrigued, though ultimately heads were shaken in pity at the dishes I clearly considered cuisine.

While I head out for a needed long walk this afternoon, the M.A.S. is off to a MA Historical Commission meeting for some networking.   He has his car with him, as the High Holidays commandeer all the parking spaces around his apartment building that sits next door to a synagogue.  As Rosh Hashanah begins tonight, I proudly display my own multi-cultural “roots,” hanging up the pic of a Deis friend’s daughter that decorates the Jewish new year card I receive every year.

L’Shanah Tovah to all my M.O.T. friends and peeps!  May your new year be filled with the delicious happiness of Whoopie pies, fluffernutter, turnip greens and ice cream with jimmies!


Redstar, you’re wanted in hair and make-up

Walking back to the Renaissance Arts Hotel just now, I was taken aback by a horde of funky, decked-out young women spilling down the street in various directions.  Turns out the hotel is the site for an upcoming Ryder Make-Up Labs training.  For more on why this run-in with the “most popular make-up artistry workshops in the nation…” is an ironic coincidence, click here.

And we’re live in New Orleans in 5!