Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Time I Took an Actual Midnight Train to Georgia

As I researched good travel options to get me from Washington, D.C., to Hilton Head, S.C. for a week-long vacation, it quickly became clear that there were no good travel options. I could fly out of Baltimore at 5am; I could spend $700 to take a direct flight to the island; I could hitch a ride down with friends, but I'd get in two days late.

When someone suggested I look at Amtrak options, I laughed - until I found a $100 ticket to Savannah, the stop closest to my destination. The catch is that it was an 11-hour train ride - 11 hours on a train, you guys - but at least it was overnight, leaving at 7:30pm & arriving at 6:30 the next morning. My mom's flight was to land in Savannah at 9am, which meant we could easily meet up to drive to Hilton Head.

And that's how one warm August evening, I ended up on a literal midnight train to Georgia. What follows is a timestamped account of my 11-hour adventure south.

***

7:30pm: I exchange pleasantries with the middle-aged man sitting next to me. He'll be getting off early, he says, in Richmond, & he does not crack a smile when I apologize in advance for being the sort of person who eats a tuna sandwich for dinner in an enclosed space.

7:35pm: I am seated behind a very loud, very large family. I think I count 11 of them, total, with at least seven children, the youngest of whom are seated directly in front of me & have incredibly grating child-voices. The non-smiler next to me continues his trend of not smiling as we are subjected to a great deal of high-pitched yelling & absolutely zero adult intervention. I am slightly more forgiving when I realize that this family, who boarded in Philadelphia, is bound for Miami... which is a 24+ train ride, altogether. Those poor, poor parents.

7:45pm: In my stress, I consume an entire bag of Cheddar Chex Mix & immediately regret it. My actual dinner, a tuna sandwich on multigrain bread, sits untouched in my carry-on bag.

8:15pm: I Instagram two sunset photos, like a very basic Internet person, & spend a great deal of time texting with friends & with my mom, who has to wake up at 3am for her flight. Clearly, we're a family with travel smarts.

7:55pm: One of the teenagers in the family in front of me has a revelation: "I just realized that 'chillax' is 'chill' & 'relax' smushed together!" she howls. Her relatives proceed to laugh hysterically.

10:00pm: I pop half a melatonin, recline my seat, cover myself in a thin fleece blanket I got for free at a baseball game, & settle in for an hour of uninterrupted, almost-even-comfortable sleep.

10:45pm: This outstanding Facebook conversation reaches a culmination.

11:00pm: I awaken with a start as the man next to me - a new guy, as the other got off an hour & a half ago - begins to snore. Loudly. Very loudly. Pushing my earplugs further inside my ears to try to block it out, I drift in & out of sleep.


11:45pm: The familiar & dulcet tones of Sesame Street ring out over the train car, even over my earplugs. With her whole family asleep, the child in front of me has opted to lull herself to sleep with TV... out loud. But with her whole family asleep, no other adult on the car seems to feel comfortable asking her to to put on headphones. Snoring Seatmate & I sigh at one another in frustration, & my eyes well up with tears of exhaustion as I take a quick walk through the train to cool off.

11:55pm: When I return to my seat, Sesame Street has been silenced. "It woke her mama up," Snoring Seatmate explains sleepily. The relief in his voice is palpable; he sounds the way I feel.

12:00am: It's official: midnight train to Georgia! I pop the other half of the melatonin & fall asleep for approximately 30 minutes.

12:30am: "MAMA! MAMA!" I awaken to the frantic louder-than-whispers of the child in front of me. "MAMA, I'M SCARED! It's scary on this train when everything is dark! There are noises!" To my relief, Mama is not having it. "Go to sleep," she grumbles, & the child obliges. I send up a blessing to a God I don't believe in for Mama's train-parenting techniques.

2:15am: I am 85% conked out, but I'm awake enough to realize that I just farted in my sleep. I hope that Snoring Seatmate, for all his own inadvertent bodily noises while asleep, will forgive me. I'm not even that embarrassed. I mean, it's 2:15am, & I ate a whole bag of Chex Mix for dinner.

3:30am: I awaken again to find that Snoring Seatmate & I have fallen asleep with our heads inclined toward one another. I have been sleeping awkwardly close to a total stranger. I overcorrect this embarrassing behavior by curling into a ball against the window.

4:45am: Snoring Seatmate, who has not snored for many hours, exits in Charleston without so much as a head-nod in my direction. After all we've been through together, man? I thought we had something.

5:00am: The old man across the aisle from me is coughing up both lungs. Is this croup or Ebola or some natural result of being approximately one thousand years old? There's no way to know. I breathe into my neck pillow & pray that I do not contract the Bubonic plague before I get to see the ocean again.

5:15am: Now begrudgingly but fully awake, I consume half of an hours-old tuna sandwich under cover of darkness in the hopes that no one will be able to trace the source of its pungent odor.

5:31am: My 92-song playlist finally runs out of songs.

5:35am: The train starts moving backward. Ebola Man is the only person around me who is awake, but he appears unconcerned. WHY ARE WE MOVING BACKWARD?

5:55am: I discover that my beloved straw fedora has been crushed under the footrest of my seat. I observe a moment of actual mourning, as I doubt I'll be able to find a suitable replacement to keep my very pale self from burning at the beach.

6:00am: Seven cell phone alarm clocks go off simultaneously, awakening half a grumbling train car. I note with some relief that we're moving forward again, though I don't know when it happened.

6:15am: As the sun rises, we pull into Yemassee Station, which looks like the set of a cheap horror film (see photo). An abandoned hardware store sits across the tracks from the station, & heaps of broken furniture litter the ground for dozens of yards. Each sign is missing at least two letters, including the sign for the train station itself. I realize that this "town" is just 20 minutes away from the home of a high school classmate who once told me I would burn in hell for being Jewish. I decide I would rather face that fate than live in hell, which is what this place appears to be.

6:25am: The kids in front of me are blissfully still asleep, but Ebola Man next to me just coughed up a wad of phlegm the size of a gumball. I start to wonder what shtick must be to the strangers around me, & I decide that I'm probably the girl who's always shuffling stuff around, looking for stuff in my purse - my contacts, my Chapstick, my phone charger, the rest of my tuna sandwich. It occurs to me that I might be inadvertently annoying.

6:35am: My stop nearing, I head to the restroom to freshen up (which seems like an oxymoron in a restroom like this). When I return, the child seated in front of me is awake. And watching Sesame Street again.

6:55am: About 25 minutes behind schedule, the train pulls into Savannah's Amtrak station, a comically small, isolated building surrounded by exactly nothing. My Weather.com app tells me the humidity level is 100%, no joke. I head to the bathroom to do some more freshening up (again with the oxymorons), because what else am I going to do for the next two hours? Thanks to the glory of Neutrogena face wipes & copious amounts of dry shampoo, I emerge looking surprisingly decent, given that I've just spent a half a day of my life on a train.

8:00am: My friend Rachel, who is interning in Savannah for the summer, arrives at the station to catch an 8:20am train to South Carolina! Before her train boards, we have just enough time to laugh at the ridiculousness of seeing a familiar face in such a ridiculous place at such a ridiculous hour, &, of course, to snap a selfie.

9:15am: Having taken a cab to the Savannah International (haha) Airport, I meet up with my mother, & we point our rental Kia in the direction of Hilton Head Island. Our vacation begins!

[10:00am: I learn that we cannot enter our vacation condo until 4:00pm & that it will therefore be six more hours before I can even think about napping. I promptly burst into tears.]

Monday, August 4, 2014

Notes To My Younger Self on the Eve of Turning 30

Yes and Yes's "Notes To My Younger Self" is helping spread the word about The Post College Survival Kit. We learned the hard way so you don’t have to! Don’t wait until your thirties for a better job, a nicer apartment, financial stability, & better relationships/friendships. Seize the day, kiddos.

I'm about to turn 30. Maybe you heard? That's happening tomorrow, & I'm pretty enthusiastic about it, despite the fact that my twenties have been a collectively phenomenal learning experience. Onto the next!

Still, like most people who enjoy the sound of their own voice (read: every blogger), I have some thoughts on the matter. Shocking, I know. As I reflect on the last decade & prepare to leave my twenties behind, I'm joining Sarah of Yes and Yes for her series “Notes to My Younger Self,” sharing a few small-but-valuable life lessons learned in my time as a twentysomething.
  1. Don’t be ashamed of what you like. For me, it’s bad TV dramas (long live Grey’s Anatomy), trashy magazines (I love you, People), &  cheap beer (gimme that PBR). I spent a long time trying to live up to other people’s expectations of good taste, hating it all the while – & I looking like a fraud. Push your limits, try new things, expand your horizons, etc., but when you find something you dig, own it.

  2. Do your chores. Nobody's giving you a gold star if you wash your dirty dishes or make your bed, but you'll feel a whole lot better if you do. Dedicating five minutes to basic household cleanliness goes a long way in making you feel like your living situation doesn't suck (even if it sort of does).

  3. Negotiate your salary. The first time you’re offered an amount of money that ends in “000,” you’re going to experience minor palpitations and daydreams of ballin’. But the salary you settle for now will impact your ability to ask for more down the road – which means you could find yourself struggling to pay rent at 30 (ahem) & kicking yourself for not being smarter at 22. But wait! Actually…

  4. Learn to ask for what you want, period. Whether it’s a higher salary or more foreplay or just a burger that’s cooked more to your liking, master the art of self-advocacy & become the kind of person who can eloquently articulate your wants & needs. The worst they can say is no – but they’ll respect you for asking.

  5. Save your damn money. Why wasn’t I saving bank during the three years in my twenties when I didn't have to pay rent? I have no idea. Don’t be me, OK? The future will come, and you’ll be pissed at your past self if you’re flat broke for it.

  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Go to parties. Do adventurous stuff. Date questionable characters. Spend some of your hard-earned money traveling or skydiving or getting tattoos. Have fun. In your twenties, you can get away with a lot – like occasionally being drunk, selfish, emotional, and/or an idiot – but still end up being taken seriously as a fledgling adult. It’s a lot tougher to pull off drunk, selfish, emotional, idiocy around 30, when you’re expected to be an actual adult, so get it out of the way while you can. You’ll be thankful for the stories later.

  7. Go on vacation. You think you’re going to be able to take a week at the beach when you’ve got two kids & a career? You have vacation days for a reason. No matter how busy you are at 23, you are not too busy to use them for their intended purpose.

  8. Be a friend a friend would like to have. Yes, this is a line from a Tim McGraw song. He's a smart dude. How are you going to hang on to the people you love if you’re not following the golden rule? The older you get, the more work it becomes to maintain friendships – so be somebody who’s worth making the effort for.

  9. Wear sunscreen. Because Baz Lurhmann said so, & because you’ll be giddy when a recent college grad tells you, two days before your 30th birthday, that they would’ve guessed you were 25.
PS: In celebration of making it to 30, I'm still fundraising for suicide prevention. I have more than $1,000 to go before I hit my goal. Will you consider donating to this worthy cause? Visit www.stayclassy.org/kateis30 to read my story & join me.

http://www.yesandyes.org/p/the-post-college-survival-kit.html

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Out from the Darkness: My 30th Birthday Fundraiser in Support of Suicide Prevention

I'm turning 30 on Tuesday. I've thought a lot about turning 30, but I haven't written much about it - until two weeks ago, when xoJane published a very personal piece I wrote titled "I Vowed To Kill Myself By Age 30 -- My Birthday Is Next Month."

You can probably tell what the post is about just by reading the title, but in case not, here's the TL;DR: When I was 20 years old, I was very depressed & lost & scared of living, & I promised myself that if I lived to 30, I'd commit suicide. Spoiler alert: I haven't, & I don't plan to, but hitting the big 3-0 is a strange milemarker for me in a way that it's not for many people, for people who haven't struggled with depression & anxiety their whole lives. I'm very, very happy to be here & am very, very proud of the piece I wrote. I'm also very, very thankful for the support & kindness I'm received in reception to its publication.

Having made it this far, though, I'm also quite cognizant of the fact that many others are not here yet, & many more never made it here at all. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that in 2011 (the most recent year for which data are available), someone died by suicide every 13.3 minutes.

I'm turning 30 on Tuesday, & there are a lot of material items I would put on a birthday wishlist, if that were a thing adults could get away with doing. But more than I want a new Longchamp bag or a rechargeable iPhone case or a Groupon for someone to come clean my apartment (see what I did there?), what I actually want is for other people who are struggling like I was to see their next birthdays, too - & the ones after that & after that & after that.

In honor of my own birthday, I'm making a donation to To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope & finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, & suicide. I waffled between TWLOHA & the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, both worthy organizations, but I ultimately decided on the former because it's made a name for itself as a safe place for struggling teenagers, in particular, to turn. Given my personal journey with mental illness - which was in full force during my teen years & early twenties, in particular - this seemed like the best way to help other people who are currently facing the same sort of battles I did.

Will you help me support To Write Love on Her Arms? Visit my fundraising page, www.stayclassy.org/kateis30, to make a donation in any amount. The process is fast, easy, & secure, & your donation is 100% tax-deductible.

If you have been moved by my story or by someone else's, or if you have faced mental illness & thoughts of suicide yourself, I hope you'll consider joining me in this worthwhile effort to give hope & save lives. You can make a donation in any amount, no matter how big or small, but if monetary support isn't in the cards for you right now, you can help me reach my goal by sharing this page on Facebook & Twitter.

Thank you for your support & your love & your kindness & your positivity. From the bottom of my almost-30-years-old heart, thank you, to so many of you, for helping me get here - & now, for helping others do the same.

Bring it on, 30. You don't scare me.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Someone Else Lives in My Apartment, Too


It was 3am on a Friday night when I got up to use the bathroom, no contacts in or glasses on. As I leaned down toward the sink to wash my face, I heard a strange, sinister rustling noise. I looked up to find that my face was inches away from a giant cockroach hanging out on the wall. I apologize for making you look at this photo, but if I have to see this thing, so do you.

I yelled, "Oh, God" a lot. I shed a few tears of anxiety. I trapped it between a glass & a Tupperware lid. I flushed it to its watery death. I sent my landlord a frantic email asking to have my apartment bug bombed as soon as humanly possible. Then I tried to fall back to sleep, but I was thoroughly convinced that every bit of noise & every feeling against my skin was one of its cockroach brethren, come to exact revenge by crawling all over me until I died in a panic of disgust & fear.

Today, I learned that you can't drown a cockroach. Today, I learned that cockroaches are attracted to water. Today, I learned  that cockroaches come up through the pipes. Today, I have been terrified of using my bathroom, taking a shower, washing my hands... basically, I live in fear of my own apartment. It's all going very well.

Not to make light of this horrifying situation, but I think I may have watched too much Men in Black.


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Time a Stranger Maybe Drew Me Like One of His French Girls


If you're open to weirdness, weirdness will always find you, especially in a city - even this city, where you envision the professional, buttoned-up likes of Olivia Pope & Barack Obama & Michele Bachmann & Jed Bartlet & whoever else the general populace associates with Washington, D.C.

This afternoon, I encountered a special & new-to-me variety of weirdness.

I sat in Meridian Hill Park reading a book in the sun, a yoga class happening next to me & "free energy healing," whatever that is, taking place a few benches down. A middle-aged man, looking appreciatively down the length of the park, turned to me & said in a thick accent, "This is a great park. I'm visiting from Florida, & I could just stay in this park all day." He asked if he could sit at the other end of my bench, & though I wanted to keep reading, I found myself chatting with him a bit.

He introduced himself as Winston, a photographer & a painter who had spent the weekend in D.C. taking strangers' portraits. "Two minutes," he told me. "It will only take two minutes."

I wasn't super-keen on talking to Winston any more, & that's when I probably should have said no, gone back to my book or just walked away. Something about him made me a little bit uncomfortable, but I told myself I was probably just being uptight, as I sometimes am, so I agreed to let him photograph me. After all, it was a public park, & there were dozens upon dozens of people around us. Maybe, I thought, this will be like Humans of New York!

Winston asked me to sit on a flight of cement steps & snapped four or five shots, some close-up & some from further away. It all seemed very normal, & I began to feel less weirded out. After a few shots, he asked me to swing one leg over the side of the stairs, sitting sideways. As I repositioned myself, he touched my foot to move it into place, & I recoiled at the unwelcome contact. Not OK.

And then it got weirder.

"Would it be OK..." be began. "Would you mind if I take a photograph of your thigh?"

HEY, HUGE RED FLAG. YES, I MIND THAT.

I gave him a firm no, & when he asked why, I told him it made me very uncomfortable. "This wouldn't be for portraits," he said, "just for me." As though that was going to make me say yes? No, Winston. No, no, no, no. As I stood up, he asked to take one more photo - a normal one - & then told me, "OK, we're all set. I told you it would be quick! Thank you so much," as though he hadn't just creeped me right the hell out.

I asked if he had a card or a website, someplace I could see his art (& yes, I recognize that I should've asked this before agreeing to be photographed). He told me he was hoping to have one soon, then he asked if I'd like to see some pictures of his work. As I stood at a safe distance, he clicked through photos of beautiful paintings, tilting them my way. "I sell these for thousands of dollars," he told me, "to very rich people."

One of the photos was Jan Vermeer's very, very famous "Girl With a Pearl Earring," painted circa 1665.

OK, Winston. That's enough. We're done here.

It was only then that I started to walk away, bidding him adieu & wishing him well while trying to effectively cut off all further communication. As I made my way toward a bench closer to the yogis & the energy healers, the last thing I heard Winston say was this: "I do nudes, too, you know. But I don't sell those in galleries."

Keep your eye out for nude paintings with my mug superimposed over them, please, as I try not to think about whatever that so-called artist is doing with photos of my face in in his private collection. And maybe just... don't talk to strangers.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

She Whose Idiocy Must Not Be Named

 

I recently used Craigslist to sell an old phone to a stranger, which is the exact sort of transaction Craigslist was made for (although much less hilarious than Missed Connections & far less sordid than Casual Encounters).

I sifted through the responses to my post & chose a buyer who seemed nice & normal & responsible, however one can determine such characteristics via email. He was willing to meet me midday near my office, in public, & I brought a coworker with me to be extra-safe.

As it turns out, said buyer was a friendly, slightly nerdy guy who couldn't have been older than 26 & who probably couldn't have taken me in a fight. He paid via PayPal, cracked jokes with my friend Alexa & me, thanked me profusely, made fun of me a little bit for including my Twitter handles in my email signature, & went on his merry way. Generally, the whole thing was an easy, hassle-free experience.

He texted a couple days later to politely suggest that the next time I sell a phone, I first wipe it clean. Cue embarrassment. First of all, who doesn't clear a phone of their personal data before selling it to a Craigslist stranger? Second of all, I thought I had! Apparently technology is not my strong suit. And finally, that cringe-inducing, panicky thought: "What the hell did I have saved on that phone?" Luckily, I'm not one for nude photos or otherwise incriminating data, so I wasn't too worried. I changed my passwords, & my Good Samaritan buyer assured me he'd deleted everything. Lesson learned for next time.

Fast-forward a few months.

A few days ago, I spent some time Googling how to get to Savannah, GA, for an August vacation. I mapped all sorts of configurations, ultimately deciding to go with Amtrak (yes, I'm literally taking a midnight train to Georgia, but that's a story for another day). Two days after my trip-planning, I got a text message from a number I didn't recognize... until I scrolled through our past text chain & realized it was the guy who bought my phone.



Many a time I've wished to be a great & powerful wizard, even an evil one, & this is one such instance. Because we all know how that story ends, right? Neither can live while the other survives.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Confronted a Rude Stranger in a Starbucks, & (Surprise!) It Did Not Go Well

I'm of the belief that there's a special place in hell (you know, if I believed in hell) for people who listen to electronic devices aloud in communal spaces. If you're watching a YouTube video or playing Candy Crush or calling your mom or listening to Iggy Azalea in a place where there are other people - especially people who are working quietly, as in a coffee shop - then you should be wearing headphones. Period.

Of course, not everyone is on board with this concept; if they were, I wouldn't be complaining about it. Because I spend a great deal of time working in otherwise-quiet public spaces, I've encountered many a situation in which someone who is not on board with this concept aurally offends me on a deeply annoying level.

Today, I encountered the worst offender yet.

The Starbucks on P Street in Dupont Circle is hidden & quiet, one of my favorite work spaces in D.C. Its upstairs level has lots of one- & two-person seating arrangements, making it perfect for workday camp-outs with no "I've been here too long!" guilt. My friend Emily & I had been there for a few hours when the whole upstairs level flooded with a robotic voice & a barrage of bad elevator music; someone, somewhere was taking a phone call on speaker, & he'd been put on a loooooong hold.

Everyone around us looked appalled. The architecture of the building meant that the noise, which originated from a corner of the first floor, echoed up over a balcony & throughout the second floor, clearly disrupting every single one of the dozen of us up there. It was one of those moments when strangers came together in sympathetic annoyance, muttering, "Can you believe this?!" as "Your call is important to us" repeated at 30-second intervals.

Finally, I'd had enough. I walked downstairs to ask the offending call-maker to kindly cease public use of the speaker function.

What I found was a guy who didn't look crazy or rude or otherwise threatening. He was wearing a nice suit, & a freshly pressed purple dress shirt. He was bespectacled & balding, probably in his late 50s or early 60s, & he had the sort of accent I associate with Manhattan Jews. In other words, he both looked & sounded like he could be the father of any one of my friends. His speakerphone didn't seem loud from that corner, yet it was booming throughout the second floor. I figured he had no idea, & that if asked, he'd be happy to be a decent citizen of the world.

"Excuse me," I began. "Would you mind taking your phone off of speaker? I know it seems quiet from down here, but it's echoing up over the balcony, & it's actually really loud from the second floor."

He stared at me. I wondered if maybe he didn't speak English. I continued anyway: "There are a lot of us working quietly up there, & it's just... it's actually really loud." I thought I was being polite, but as his face contorted in anger, I began to second-guess my tone.

"Are you kidding me?" he boomed, morphing into a wild-eyed, Patrick-Bateman-with-an-axe type. "Are you serious right now? You know this is a public place, right? You know that?" I nodded, bristling with nerves & indignation, & reiterated that the second floor was full of people on laptops & that the noise was much louder from where we sat. "This is so rude," he insisted. "I can't believe this." It occurred to me that everyone upstairs could hear the conversation.

When I countered that it was actually sort of rude to blast hold music throughout an otherwise quiet public space where people were working in silence, he spluttered & stuttered. "You know, that's pretty rude!" he erupted. "This is a public place! You can't make other people be quiet! You can't dictate what I do!"

I was visibly flustered but tried to stand my ground. "Well, it's a coffee shop, so a lot of people are working here," I told him. "But look, I didn't come down here to be rude. I just thought you probably didn't realize how loud it was up there & that you might turn it off if you did."

"I'll turn it off," he snapped, as though he was doing me a huge favor by not being an asshole, "but this is really unbelievable. I mean, I've never gotten a request like this in my life."

"I wasn't trying to be rude," I repeated as I walked away. "Do whatever you want." My hands were shaking, & I could hear my heartbeat in my skull. The baristas I passed on my way back upstairs looked concerned, mouths agape, & when as I crossed the room to reach my table, a few strangers gave me smiles of... approval? Shock? Disdain? Impression? I was shaking too hard to be sure.

Shortly after the confrontation, my new friend stormed out of the Starbucks, hopefully never to be seen again. All was quiet on the home front for a good... 20 minutes. Then, as I wrote this post, someone else turned their phone on speaker - hip-hop music, this time, assaulting our ears on floor two yet again.

The struggle is so goddamn real, you guys. If I can't trust the rest of the world to wear headphones, I'm going to need to invest in a better pair of my own. Or just some straight-up earplugs.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Time I Was a Fancy Hobo in Chicago

I'm not a particularly fancy person. Most of my clothes are from Target, & I still eat ramen for dinner sometimes. I swear a lot & frequent dive bars. I don't know makes for a fancy person, necessarily, but I think most of those things disqualify me.

In May, I went to the fanciest event I've yet been to: the black tie wedding of Tom & Anna, two friends who I met at Bloggers in Sin City last spring, which took place in downtown Chicago. Many, many texts were exchanged in advance of the event, as my friends & I decided what to wear, when to arrive, where to stay, & other such vital details. For my part, I tried on no fewer than 60 gowns in an attempt to dress myself in a properly fancy manner, scouring every Macy's in the Greater Metropolitan Area for the perfect formal frock. I purchased six gowns online, all of which I returned when I decided to go with my top choice, the navy gown you see here, finally located at the Macy's at Tyson's Corner. Whew.

The weekend of the big event, four of us went last-minute shopping for sparkly heels & appropriate clutches, & we got our hair & makeup done by professionals who know hair & makeup better than we do. And when the time came for us to celebrate with Tom & Anna as they said "I do," we all felt - & looked, if I may say so myself - like pretty, pretty princesses. The wedding was a fabulously good time, the newlyweds were the happiest, & I have never felt so fancy in my whole life.

And then.

My plan was to stay in Chicago for a few extra days to explore the city & catch up with friends who live there. Unfortunately, I was slated to spend each of the next three nights at a different apartment, which meant lugging my suitcase through the streets of the Windy City - not exactly a tourist's dream. In a moment of brilliance, I decided to ship my suitcase back to D.C. before me; I'd set aside a few things to use during the next few days, & my heavy suitcase would be waiting for me D.C. when I arrived home! The kind folks at FedEx were delightfully helpful in making it happen, & I was quite pleased with myself for coming up with the idea.

While it was a smart plan in theory, the reality went less smoothly.

I put some clothes & toiletries & an extra pair of shoes into a Men's Warehouse bag - a paper bag, you guys - which, laden with all my things, turned out to be heavier than I'd bargained for. And though I didn't have to tote a rolling suitcase around the city with me, I still had to take the paper bag everywhere - you know, like a goddamn hobo. Needless to say, I didn't end up doing much sightseeing, after all. I shopped on the Miracle Mile, spent hours in a busy Starbucks writing & people-watching, sat in a park watching the season finale of Grey's Anatomy on my iPad. I did bar trivia with Jess, went out to dinner with Ethan, caught up with Kevin - & I brought my paper bag with me to each of them, carrying all my worldly belongings (OK, that's dramatic) everywhere I went.

Flying without luggage was a delight, as was returning home to find my suitcase waiting for me inside my apartment. But, um, maybe I'll plan ahead next time & bring a backpack with me - or better yet, a bindle.

I think the cigarettes really make the shot, don't you?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Social Experiment: Wearing a Feminist Statement Tee in Public

"Kate! I'm wearing a shirt tomorrow that you're going to love," my friend Jenn told me. She knows me well, it seems, as her prediction was confirmed when she showed up at brunch the next day sporting a men's tank that read, "A WOMAN'S PLACE IS IN THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE." The next time I opened my computer, I bought the shirt for myself.*

The first time I wore it was on my day trip to Cleveland two weeks ago. As my friend Lindsey & I walked the streets of the Cleve, I noticed other peoples' eyes on me, trying to read my wordy tee as I strolled by. Though I knew I'd be making a bit of a statement in the shirt, I hadn't realized how uncomfortable I would feel with the attention.

I became fascinated, though, by other people's reactions to the sentiment emblazoned across my chest. Those passing quickly by seemed, at first, to be shocked. As their eyes widened & their brows furrowed, I could see them thinking, "A woman's place is in the house? Oh, this bitch!" & then, as they continued to read, a look of relief. Mid-way through the shirt, I look like the anti-feminist - & then, at the end, I just look like a raging feminist.

But in the cosmopolitan & forward-thinking land of the Midwest, though, raging feminism isn't always an endearing or valued trait. I watched as some of the folks finished reading my shirt & threw me a look of annoyance or disgust - not necessarily at the idea of that women can be lawmakers but, I assume, at the idea of needing to broadcast my support of it. "I'll feel better wearing this shirt in D.C.," I told myself.

Today is my first day wearing it in the District, though, & it feels just as weird - in a totally different way. At Trader Joe's, an enthusiastic man in a neon pink tee high-fived me: "Oh, you know that's the truth!" he shouted as he slapped my hand in the produce aisle. At BakeHouse, an adorable neighborhood coffee shop, a hipster barista looked at me with equal parts disdain & amusement & asked, "So do you, like, work on the Hill?" Suddenly, I felt like I was trying too hard to be DC-quirky, damn it.

I guess that when it comes to wearing liberal statement tees, a girl can't really win. But speaking of winning, did you know that there are a record number of women in the Senate right now? A woman's place, indeed. So I think I'll keep wearing the shirt - at least until I get one that says "A woman's place is in the White House." Hillary, girl, I'm waiting for you.

*You can buy this tank & similarly sassy clothing items from Wicked Clothes, if you're so inclined. Free shipping!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

You Can Always Go Home Again

I spent 11 days in Ohio. Like, a week & a half. ELEVEN WHOLE DAYS. It was... a lot. Before I left, I thought, "There's no way I can handle 11 days away. That's an eternity." And in some ways, it was, because 11 days is a really long time. It's a long time to live out of a suitcase, a long time to live at my mom's house, a long time to be away from my apartment & all of my belongings, a long time to be "on" for visits with friends & family.

But it was perfect.

The impetus for the trip was to attend the wedding of one of my favorite couples, Sean & Kristen. During their outdoor nuptials & day-long reception at an adorable, picturesque Ohio farmstead, I caught up with many of my favorite individuals & tried not to sweat to death. We joked that everyone had at least two exes in attendance, & yet somehow, everyone got along smashingly because that's how small-town friendships work. I was honored to be present to celebrate this couple & their love for one another, & I always appreciate an open bar populated by so many people I like.



Speaking of people I like, I also spent a lot of time hanging out with my mama & petting her tiny, excitable dogs, who look like twins.

 

As always, I ate at all my favorite places - sometimes healthy but oftentimes not, because vacation & also because oops. I went to four of those favorite places two times apiece, with a bunch of others peppered in to spice it up. Rockne's! Melt! Happy Dog! Clogged arteries & dying happy! Instagramming photos of my food!


And for better or worse, I basically never said no to dessert, including tiny donuts, Graeter's Buckeye Blitz ice cream, a pistachio macaron, & crème brûlée cheesecake. And yes, I'm planning to eschew cabs & public transportation for awhile in favor of walking everywhere for the next... forever. Just as soon as it stops raining.


But it wasn't all food & booze, I swear. I also took in all the sites I love & saw some new ones, too, in the three Big C's - Cleveland, Columbus, Cuyahoga Falls. And while I know my hometown isn't exactly "big," Cincinnati sucks & home is where the heart is, et cetera.


My friend Lindsey even took me to Cleveland for a day, where we started with a visit to Sweet Lorain, a massive vintage superstore. Every three steps or so, I shouted some excitable phrase, like, "Oh my God, look at this!" & snapped a photo of something colorful &/or absurd. Not recommended for people who are easily distracted by shiny objects.

 
 

Speaking of shiny objects, we were easily distracted by nearly everything we found at a massive toy store called Big Fun, including meat tattoos & animal masks & wax lips & finger puppets & a drawer full of Pogs straight outta the '90s.


Of course, I saw lots of other favorite people, too, & made all of them take photos with me for the sake of vanity & posterity.

 

I got back to D.C. exhausted & exhilarated & a little bit sad to leave the Buckeye State behind. And yes, I wrote this post almost solely to show off all my wonderful photos, so I apologize for the total lack of interesting substance. This was the longest trip I'd taken to Ohio since 2011, & I spent each one of those 11 days feeling fortunate to come from such a wonderful place still filled with such wonderful people who always show me a, well, wonderful time. 

I've always mentally adapted the lyrics to that old Hawthorne Heights song, & this visit only reinforced it: I can make it on my own, but part of my heart will probably always be in Ohio.
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