New York, New York

I saw Hamilton!

I’ve been going going going nonstop October and November. The beginning of October saw Manbeast and I attending a gorgeous wedding in the Catskills but honestly there’s not much to talk about in a blog. Go to the Catskills in fall though if you get the chance, stunning foliage, little-to-no cell service, absolutely beautiful!

And now it’s December. Where has the time gone?

Then it was off to Hamilton towards the end of the month. One of my amazing friends got reasonably priced tickets (I KNOW!) offered me the chance to go with her- since it had been far too long since I’d hopped down the NYC!

The downside to a mid-week trip is that friend’s have to work. Lucky for me my esoteric interests were getting there due city wide, and my friend was not so keen to come look at taxidermy with me. Let’s talk about the great stuff I saw (and ate)

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

This pie shop is famous enough that for some people, it needs no introduction. I discovered it while google mapping my route to stop #2. It was right there, across the street and I saw the name and thought “Baked in a pie???” and they WERE (pie, no blackbirds were harmed). I relished their Bourbon Pear Crumble and some coffee. An amazing treat to start my day (while I waited for the next stop to open!)

Do I Recommend: Hell yeah. Go out of your way for this place. Or don’t, if you’re near a different pie shop. Just get pie. And this pie, it’s good.

Morbid Anatomy Museum

More curio cabinet, Less true museum they basically feature a cafe, a gift shop, and one exhibit. While I was there, the exhibit was TAXIDERMY. AND it feature Walter Potter’s Kitten Wedding, a posed scene of… well… a kitten wedding. It was an amazingly well-curated collection, showing off bad taxidermy, created scenes, rare animals, and memorials to beloved pets. I was giddy the entire time I was there, a true treat.

Do I Recommend: The taxidermy exhibit closed Dec. 6th, so I can’t recommend that one anymore, but I would have. Here’s what I think the trick is: Check out their exhibitions, and if the subject matter sounds interesting then check it out! But if you’re not too keen on the exhibit subject, there’s no point in going because that is exhibit is basically it. If you’re on the hunt for a good gift for that spooky someone in  your life, check out the gift shop. They have some amazing taxidermy mice!

American Folk Art Museum

The exhibit I went to see is still on display through February, I recommend! The exhibit is “Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America” I don’t remember if my interest into Spirit Photography/the Spiritualist Movement has come up on this blog at all, but I certainly have one. So this was a slight departure, but an incredibly fascinating exhibit. And it wasn’t that creepy, I promise!

Do I Recommend: 100% recommend ‘Securing the Shadow.’ The museum in general is great, hosts great little events (I got serenaded with live music while I explored memorial imagery) and is just overall a nice little place. Check their exhibit lists though- they didn’t seem to have a main exhibit hall, just an exhibition du jour so make sure you’re going to something you’ll enjoy. Bonus location fact- it’s pretty much directly across the street from the Lincoln Center- easy to find and get to!

We grabbed a pre-show dinner at The City Kitchen. I had the hardest fucking time finding this place. I ended up actually IN Times Square which just, ugh. I saw it on my first trip to NYC, I did not have a burning desire to be in that cluster again. At least I didn’t feel too bad not being able to find the food place, because there were a ton of tourists more lost than I! It’s a food court style setup with lots of options- I grabbed some sushi and gyoza from Azuki and it was delicious.

Do I Recommend: If you’re in the vicinity of Broadway/Times Square and need some food, it’s a great place- especially if you have an indecisive group and want options. There are enough excellent food places in NYC that this one is not really worth going out of your way for if you aren’t in the Broadway/TS area.

HAMILTON 

What do I need to say? There were a few original cast members left, most were replacements. More than Lin-Manuel Miranda, I was sad that I didn’t get to see Johnathan Groff as King George, but Rory O’Malley still did an amazing job. It was my first Broadway show, and it was incredible.

I got a ‘Hamiltini’ in the commemorative cup, I couldn’t resist!

 

The next morning I got a breakfast sandwich at the bagel shop down the block from my friend’s place. If I stay with this friend and she is in the same place, I will go back to that bagel shop. But rather then recommend that specific one, the right thing to do is go to the local bagel place near wherever you’re staying. It’s NYC, it’s gonna have a good bagel.

I headed towards the Brooklyn Museum, and decided I needed some coffee first. I stopped at the nearby Lincoln Station for a great drink and a break from the rain. Alas, I did not try their food, I should have! (all I ended up eating after my bagel that day was a freaking chocolate croissant from Au Bon Pain. It was good, but geez was it poor planning!)

Do I Recommend: Yup! Especially if you’re at the museum. Not as fancy as their cafe, but better prices and great dog watching!

The Brooklyn Museum

What an unexpected treat this was! An art of Africa exhibit that mentioned Elegba, Life, Death & Transformation in the Americas, Blake’s Great Red Dragon on display, and the now-closed exhibit My Room is Another Fishbowl. A truly, truly wonderful day at a wonderful museum!

Do I Recommend: An emphatic “hell yeah!” It doesn’t get the accolades the Met does, but this museum is truly, truly wonderful. Bonus, it borders Prospect Park (which houses the Brooklyn Botanic gardens, a Quaker graveyard, and a zoo). So in nice weather, you could truly make a day of that little slice of Brooklyn.

My trip home was an absolute nightmare, it seems the return trip always is, but I made it in one piece. I really love visiting NYC and this trip ended up being absolutely perfect. I have some pictures I’ll hopefully insert in an edit, but right now I need to figure out what is wrong with my phone gallery. Next up: my great European adventure!

 

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Blogging for Books: Mother, Can You Not?

canunot

I first learned about @CrazyJewishMom from the New York Times. I’m not a Times subscriber but my bff gets the Sunday paper and I was drinking coffee on her couch and took advantage. I checked out the Instagram because of the article, and stayed because I saw a lot of my mom in CJM (despite the fact that we’re gentiles).

While I still follow the account, I quickly became disenchanted with it. CJM is a “drone parent” and the similarities between Kim Friedman and Momma IotI were too much in a negative fashion. When this book came up as an option, I expected to hate read it.

So I settled down on Mother’s Day to devour Mother, Can You Not? and it painted a far, far more sympathetic picture of Kim and daughter Kate‘s relationship than I had imagined possible. I still think CJM might need to get a grip, texting your daughter 100 times in one day is just not normal, it’s clear that this mother and daughter have a relationship that is built on love and respect, even if it’s a strange kind. Kate’s anecdotes about how her mother shaped her life are understandable even by those not familiar with the CJM phenomenon, and I think Kate does have a knack for writing and I’m interested to see where she goes next. It also really sympathized Kim, who in my mind had been cast as the villain in Kate’s life. I guess I was really projecting.

My favorite story involves stealing a cat from an animal shelter… I guess that’s when I felt like CJM was someone I could relate to.

There are stories that give me cringey, secondhand embarrassment that don’t entirely paint the relationship in a good light (Kate’s photoshoot, for example), but overall Mother, Can You Not? is a tale of two women who actually understand each other.

And I respect that. And actually enjoyed this book.

 

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

[and in honor of my own fraught maternal relationship, here is the song I think best sums up what we have. “Nail in My Coffin” by The Kills]

In Which I Go to an Etsy Psychic

I read this article a few months ago and it opened me up to a whole new world, the world of Etsy Psychics. Technically against the terms of service (maybe? apparently? it’s confusing.) Etsy psychics promise to tell your future without a single word spoken aloud between the two of you.

I’ve talked about my interest in Spiritualism and modern psychic mediumship kind of spills over into that interest. So I went ahead and got a Tarot reading from a very nice Etsy store. I am torn between linking and not linking to them- on the business end of things they were great and I wish them all the success in the world doing their thing, but I’m also kind of, well… irreverent about the whole thing. If reading this post inspires you to visit your own Etsy psychic, let me know and I’ll give you a recommendation!

It was only $3 for a three card reading, which is why I just went with it. Below are the thoughts I typed up as I was going through the initial .pdf I received.

I feel a surprising amount of apprehension before opening the pdf. I don’t know why. I don’t take this stuff seriously and now, suddenly, I think “what if I don’t like what it says.” Am I worried that it will just say “neener-neener you’re a sucker?” I kept my question fairly simple so it’s not anything earth shattering should be contained within. Who knows.

Here goes. For science.

Card: 7 of Swords

Paraphrased explanation: Don’t be fucking passive-aggressive

Thoughts: There is nothing passive about my aggression. Literally sits and pouts. Who’s a big, dumb, Taurus. Me, I’m a big, dumb Taurus!

Card: 3 of Cups

Paraphrased Explanation: Potential reunion with a lost love

Thoughts: Well, I am seeing some of my very best friends in about a week. No lost romantic love there, but it has been a year since I’ve seen some of these friends… Speaking romantically, I have no lost loves. [Update: hanging out with friends in a fav city playing boardgames and drinking wine. If you want to count that as “lost loves” then this was accurate. Otherwise, nah.].

Card: 9 of Cups (reversed)

Paraphrased Explanation: Things are on the up and up

Thoughts: Damn that ghost lady has some knockers.

Thoughts on the whole experience: I’d do it again if I was bored with some spare money. I’d be interested to try some of the other types of psychic stuff that’s out there on Etsy

Cleaning Out My Closet

I hate Eminem but I get his stupid song stuck in my head every time I try to declutter. Tonight I am cleaning out my closet!

Every time I’ve moved in the past five years I’ve done a deep clean. Each clean gets deeper and deeper as I become ready to part with more items, and of course I accrue new stuff on the way. When we moved from Oregon to Massachusetts everything happened on a far more expedited schedule than anticipated, and I left two months before Manbeast. Our plans to carefully consider each item before packing where thrown out the window for the foolproof technique of Buy a Lot of Bins and Shove Everything in Them Hooray!

The problem was that then all those things had to be carried up three flights of stairs to our attic apartment, and when we move (hopefully) this year they will have to be carried down three flights of stairs and then who knows what awaits at the next destination?

So I’ve decided to do some serious downsizing, and if I can make a couple bucks before I crack and dump it all at Savers/H&M Conscious then that’s great. Security deposits are expensive.

THE FOLLOWING POST IS ALL AFFILIATE LINKS AND LINKS TO WHERE MY SHIT IS BEING SOLD, BUT MY REVIEWS OF THE SITES AND THEIR USABILITY IS MY OWN OPINION

Ok, disclaimer done, let’s look at our options for minimizing and getting cash:

Buffalo Exchange/ Plato’s Closet/ Local Consignment

Living in Eugene was a thrifter’s dream. Great cash-up-front consignment stores like The Clothes Horse and The Buffalo Exchange were everywhere, and anything they didn’t take you could bring to amazing local thrift stores that benefited the community like S.A.R.A’s Treasures. I haven’t had great luck finding things like that near me. There are two Buffalo Exchanges outside of Boston but both are terrible hassles to get to. I haven’t been to Plato’s Closet, but it is the same idea in equally inconvenient locations.  A local place did open near me but having been in it they don’t seem to do much contemporary dealings, and I don’t own much ugly 80s stuff.

Still, if you have one of these less than a traffic-riddled hour away from you they are easily the best way to sell your stuff. Cash up front, no concerns about shipping, if you’re looking to rotate your wardrobe you can try on stuff while you wait. Selling at the types of consignment stores is my preferred method to unload clothing.

The cons are, at least with BE, that they can be incredibly picky and sometimes snobby about it. They are trying to maintain a certain hipster aesthetic and it can be difficult to sell even new items to them. A pro is that they accept menswear.

ThredUp

ThredUp is an online consignment store that handles all the photographing and shipping for you. Order a clean out bag, fill it up, and send it back with the prepaid label. Currently the order fee is waived, but usually it is $5 to order a clean out bag. I’ve done two cleanouts with ThredUp, one is currently in processing and one paid out a whopping 8.70. Considering that one, just one, of the 8 items I sent in sold for $13, it feels like they were stingy with their payout.

They also make you pay $12 to get anything they don’t accept back. Last time I let them keep what they didn’t want, this time I’ve requested “return assurance” and created a spreadsheet of the items I’ve sent in so I can track what has been accepted.

Not getting return assurance and sending while the bag is free though, you really are only making money while unloading items. And the parts that I hate about selling online (descriptions, photos, packaging) are all taken care of. So that is nice.

They don’t take any menswear or jewelry, but they do have a large selection of children’s clothing. A lot of items are returnable to ThredUp, so if something doesn’t fit you can send it back.

I don’t love ThredUp, but it’s better than nothing. Here’s my “store page.”

Poshmark

Poshmark is… truly born of the internet. Like ebay, you are in charge of creating your listings, but the lack of bidding makes the site feel more like an Amazon Seller Page. But it’s still not exactly that either.

In many ways, it’s an online yard sale for (women’s) attire and makeup. You create a “closet” using their app and display items for sale. You set the price but users can also make their own offers, which you can accept or reject. I tried selling on ebay in the days before I had a smartphone, which meant creating listings was a giant pain. The Poshmark app eliminates that giant painy-ness of creating listings upfront, but they cannot be edited from a computer which makes crafting thoughtful descriptions frustrating (for me at least).

I’m still not sure I understand Poshmark, if we’re being honest. It seems like it is 90% a social networking site and 10% an actual sales site. People leave comments, follow each other, share items, like items… but there doesn’t seem to be much actual buying going on! There are accounts and listings just dedicated to gaining more followers. Well the four items I’ve sold haven’t even been to followers. I don’t care about growing my follower count, I care about growing my customer count! I have 700 followers and have only sold 4 things!

Also there are items that are not “posh compliant” but you can’t tell that by reading their seller guidelines or searching items for sale, you have to hope someone who isn’t an asshole directs you to the year-old blog where they tell you what isn’t “compliant!” Three of the four items I’ve sold were apparently non-compliant, but I found that out after making the sale. Oops. Apparently I have one more non-complaint listing if you count the fact that I’m selling a bundle of ties because they aren’t “womenswear” but I’d fight someone on that. Ladies can be wearing neckties.

A lot of makeup is being sold for higher than retail value, and a lot of people seem to be in this not to clear out their closet while making some extra money, but to straight up Make Money. And there are a lot of silly memes about bundles and pricing and all that shit and it’s like a game but I don’t want to play.

Poshmark takes $2.95 off every order you sell, so if you sell anything for less than $3 you get nothing for it. At least they’re upfront about that fuckery. They charge all users $6 for priority shipping but it doesn’t cost you, the seller, anything. So that’s a plus.As a buyer thought that high shipping rate can make or break a sale. I’m coveting this (non-complaint) listing, but when I tack on what I’ll pay for shipping I’m not actually saving any money not buying directly from Urban Outfitters.

Someone commented “is this still available” next to a listing I posted yesterday that doesn’t have a sold banner. Why wouldn’t it still be available? Is this a frequent problem on Poshmark?

So I’ve sold four cosmetic items. That makeup bag did need a clearing out but I was hoping to move some clothes, they’d be heavier! And then I bought some stuff- good times. I could literally dedicate an entire post to be baffled by Poshmark

I guess Poshmark is easy enough to try but it gets overwhelming fast. Here’s my closet.

Thrift stores all seem to be more interested in name branding than quality. I suppose I understand that online because it’s very easy to search for high end brands. In a traditional thrift shop I’m too focused on finding things that fit and that I like to care about what brand it is. I usually don’t think to check til I’m home. Maybe I’m an anomaly.

Honestly, Amazon is my favorite selling platform but it’s only really usable for books. I just appreciate the set up and the payout, and the ability to select different shipping methods as a seller and consumer. Here’s a link to my Amazon inventory… those books are heavy.

 

 

 

 

Blogging for Books: The Secrets of Blood and Bone

The Secrets of Blood and Bone by Rebecca Alexander is the second book in the ‘Jackdaw Hammond Series’ and that makes it tough to review.

In order to effectively review this book, I snagged a copy of the first one (The Secrets of Life and Deathfor my Kindle app and speed read before Blood and Bone arrived at my doorstep.

This book took forever to get through, because I just got so bogged down with SCHOOL and LIFE and STUFF and it honestly has sucked pretty hard for the past ten weeks but I finally finished this book and my term.

Hooray me.

The basic plot of the series is: Jackdaw “Jack” Hammond (who is a lady) was saved from death as a pre-teen by a woman named Maggie, who is a witch. Maggie needed Jack’s reanimated blood to save her daughter Charley from leukemia, and now everyone is all grown up and Jack mostly keeps to herself with her dog (Ches) doing some small-time magical wheeling and dealing. Along the way she saves a young girl named Sadie through the same reanimation magic, meets a professor named Felix, and gets loosely embroiled with some members of the modern day incarnation of the Spanish Inquisition.  In between the main characters’ shenanigans the reader is treated to fictionalized letters of real-life figures Edward Kelley and John Dee as they deal with famous serial killer Erzsebet Bathory (who in the book is also a “borrowed-timer/revenant”).

I’m going to try to write this review without spoiling either book for you, but that might prove tricky so be forewarned.

Onto The Secrets of Blood and Bone specifically:

secrets of

“following her showdown with Elizabeth Bathory, Jackdaw Hammond is running from her past, hiding from her future, and hoping to contain her newfound thirst for blood. Buying an overgrown home in the middle of nowhere seems like the perfect place to escape…at least until she finds herself in the sights of a murderous family with a terrible secret and a penchant for dark magic. Meanwhile, her old ally Felix Guichard has gone to New Orleans to conduct his own investigation into the nature of blood magic, but is soon sucked into the intrigues of the city’s occult underworld. But Jack will need Felix more than she knows, for the battle for her soul is set to begin.
 
Her only salvation may lie with the secrets of 16th century master occultist Edward Kelley, and a dangerous mission he undertook in Venice to confront the Inquisition, the darkest deeds of his own past, and the fearsome power of Elizabeth Bathory.”

Blogging for Books: The Library at Mount Char

House of Leaves is an experimental novel that plays with the reader psychologically creating a masterpiece of slow-burn horror. It is one of my favorite books. It is perhaps unfair to compare The Library at Mount Chato House of Leaves but I think if you’ve read both books you’ll have some idea of why I’m drawing a comparison between the two. But while House of Leaves kept me up all night pondering the great ‘what-ifs’ of having a closet Minotaur Mount Char was a page-turner that just left me asking “the fuck did I just read?”

mt char

The fuck indeed.

Let’s talk about the author, Scott Hawkins. Hawkins is a prolific writer who has published 7 books. And with the exception of The Library at Mount Char they are all computer manuals. Isn’t there some stereotype that the super technical among us can’t write decent fiction? Not Hawkins. No matter what I end up saying about this book the technical (haaa) aspect of the writing is impeccable. It’s tight, it’s well-plotted. In some ways it feels like it’s trying to be “experimental” the way House of Leaves was, but it still follows a much more linear, standardized format (not a negative, just a comment). The plot is certainly imaginative and unique, something really unexpected even though it draws for a lot of established tropes and themes. It’s a book about a library- it would be wrong if it weren’t alluding to a lot of things!

So what’s my problem?

Well one thing I feel confident in saying is that this book has an audience out there that will appreciate it for the whole picture it presents. I am not sure that I am that audience. This is a fantastical horror novel with a lot of blood and a lot of death. Things that are shocking are incorporated well into the mythos of Mount Char (so it doesn’t feel as though they are happening just for shock value), but if you are squeamish stay away. Honestly I can think of more people for whom this book is “not” for than “is” for. I guess I would say it has a niche audience.

Let me try explaining the plot: In 1977 Carolyn and her “siblings” are adopted by “Father,” a god-like figure with immense powers over time and space who acts as teacher as he molds the children into “librarians.” Each librarian is given a specific “catalogue.” Carolyn studies all the languages, Margaret studies the dead, David learns war, and Michael animal husbandry. Then Father disappears and the now-grown children are forced out of their library and into main stream America, which they are incapable of living in anymore, while they try to figure out what happened. As they quest for answer they bring in reluctant accomplice Steven, war vet Erwin, and a couple of lions. Chaos ensues and no one is exactly who you think they are (except maybe the lions). Hawkins has created a very complex version of modern earth and does a skillful job of tying everything together.

Mostly.

At one point the whole book takes a sharp turn towards “Cthulhu fanfiction” and then drops it. There are other little things that feel kind of like plot holes. Perhaps it’s because Hawkins is toying with (but not committed to) the idea of writing more books set in the Mount Char world. At a certain point I felt more confused with the text then just baffled by my feelings (and the quick pace!).

I have to assign this book a certain number of stars when I upload it to Blogging for Books and I am honestly not sure how many stars I want to give it. On technical merit alone it deserves more than one star- and I certainly didn’t hate the book the way I did Ballad of a Small Player. But I also didn’t 5-star love it. 3.5? 4?

I will sum it up as this: I cannot think of a single other book like The Library at Mount Char and so if you’re interested in the weird and wholly different, this is where you want to turn.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Blogging for Books: Spinster

spinster cover

Despite 5 years in a more-or-less functional relationship, I was very interested to read Spinster by Kate Bolick. Part of my BA is in Anthropology so the way societies and cultures view marriage is very interesting to me on an academic level. On a personal level I’m not sure that I believe that marriage should exist as a legally binding, government overseen thing (but recognize that current society structure makes the right to marry very, very important in a legal sense). So despite the fact that I will probably never meet any technical definition of a “spinster” I was interested to read Bolick’s book as a study on changing marriage trends.

Except that’s not what Spinster is. Spinster is a study in Bolick’s personal thought process and the way that she has justified to herself her decision to not get married. The book starts with “Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.” And I dare say it’s true. Playing wedding was a favorite and consuming passion as a child: when would I meet my future husband? When would I get to wear a pretty dress? Cake. So growing up and adapting my thoughts on marriage as an institution and my growing desire to throw a huge party with cake (and reconciling the two thoughts) I felt like there would be a lot for me to digest in the book. There are no larger insights about trends as a whole, just anecdotal tales about women writer’s who Bolick has drawn inspiration from. (Though I did identify with Bolick’s need for independence and fear of losing that in a relationship).

Don’t get me wrong, Bolick is a good writer and the book was interesting when it was taking a biographical approach to Bolick’s “awakeners” (Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Edith Wharton). Where the book fails is in trying to examine the way marriage has changed and why being a “spinster” is more likely and acceptable now than it was 100 years ago. And I never really felt like that was addressed. Instead I felt like Bolick was protesting too much in trying to justify her own decisions. I know a lot of women who have decided they have no desire to get married, I know some who are entirely aromantic and asexual. They all seem at peace with their decisions and when they need to talk about them they don’t come off as defensive or needing to justify, they’re simply stating facts: they like the beach, asparagus is iffy, marriage is great for some people but not me!

Now, my friends and I range from 10 to 20 years younger than Bolick so maybe that mean something about our attitudes. Maybe I’d know if they book had been the studying of marriage and singlehood as advertised. I lost interest towards the very end of the book (so not bad) because I was tired of Bolick. Which was serendipitous because then she perfectly described my problem with her: “More than a few people have told me I wear them out. Several years ago a dear friend confessed that she “couldn’t keep up with” my enthusiasm. “You have so many of them,” she said […]” (269).

Bolick exhausted me. She is 40 years old and all her relationships go belly up for some reason or another (a lot of them good ones, by her account) and I’m honestly not sure if she is actually ok with being a spinster and not getting married. She seems to have latched on to women she sees a part of herself in, ignoring many complexities for hackneyed comparisons. The analysis of marriage is crammed in the last 20 pages and is not very indepth.

I would give this book 3 stars, because it is well written and can be engaging in parts. But it is not what it is trying to be.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.