Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Believeland


I am sitting in a bar called The Treehouse in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, drinking beers with a guy I met on OKCupid. This is where we had our first date, but now, a month later, we're on date I-lost-count, & we've taken a $13 Uber here so we can both have more than a few PBRs in a can while we watch the Cavs dominate (please, please, please) the Hawks in game three.

We talk through most of the game, distracted by the company, but in the last seven minutes of this battle for game three of the Eastern Conference Finals, we turn our attention back to LeBron & the boys. The bar filled up while we weren't paying attention, & it's now teeming with Clevelanders donning their wine & gold, all eyes turned toward the TV mounted in the corner. We were lucky to have arrived early enough to score prime seats at the bar in what has become a standing-room-only space.

Watching the TV intently, some girl has her arm draped over the back of my chair, & I accidentally knock it off when I swivel for a better view of the screen. "I'm so sorry!" we exclaim in unison, laughing & giving each other the go-ahead to claim the spot. It is a comedy of polite errors, each of us out-friendlying the other. "You & that girl are exactly the same person," my date laughs, "so you should probably be friends with her." I look around the bar & think of all the people here who are like me, like us - gritty, gregarious Midwesterners with nasally A's who say "pop" instead of "soda" & wear their love of their state on their sleeve, often literally. (Truly, I've never seen a city full of so many people wearing hometown swag on an everyday basis - not just on game days.)

The end of this game is getting tense, & there is shouting, the bad kind, after a missed basket. There is hand-wringing & mouth-covering & profanity-muttering as, for a moment or two, the game becomes close & it looks like the Cavs might not pull it off - you know, as is customary. Briefly, I wonder what it will be like to be in a bar full of hopeful Clevelanders during a big loss, to start to grumble, "Hey, maybe next year" before this year has even finished; that's what we do, after all. But then, in the very last seconds of the game, there is victory. There is yelling & cheering & clapping & toasting & high-fiving with strangers.

And it is in this moment, surrounded by strangers & drunk on possibilities & PBR, that I realize: To be at a bar in Cleveland for a major Cavs win is the best possible reminder that home is exactly where I'm supposed to be, where I'm supposed to go, where I always knew I would end up. We call this "witnessing," but I guess you probably just call it "winning." And whether the Cavs do it this time or not, I feel like I already have.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Why My Online Dating Profile is Incredibly (& Perhaps Even Detrimentally) Honest


I don't like dating. I mean, does anyone like dating? I guess some people do, people who are extreme extroverts or sex addicts or both. Actually, a friend was just telling me about someone she knows who, upon being asked what she does for fun, responded, "I date."

I am not one of those people. I really like spending time alone, for one thing, & I find it difficult to convince myself to sacrifice an evening of Netflix & blogging to go out with a total stranger with whom I may or not get along. I'm also a nervous talker, which means that I will fill any void with my own chatter, just so we don't have to do that thing where one of us trails off & everything gets quiet. Unfortunately, the things I say when I'm nervous-talking are often the conversational equivalent of blacking out while drunk & later wondering, "What did I even do last night?"

Dating just makes me anxious, & on the whole, it seems like a waste of time, if only because it's never worked for me. All of my past relationships have sprung from existing friendships, & now that's my dating comfort zone - but also, I've run out of friends to date, & eventually that makes fun awkward social circles, anyway. I'd like to avoid that, if possible.

So, like every single millennial with love to give & dreams of finding The One (eye roll), I have asked my best friend to set me up. My best friend, of course, is The Internet; maybe you're acquainted?

Specifically, I rejoined OKCupid, that free online Rolodex of single-&-ready-to-mingle dudes within a 50-mile radius. I first opened my account in 2007, while I was living in D.C., & though I spent a significant amount of time browsing potential matches & answering the site's myriad personality questions, I only ever set up one date through it. (It went well, but it obviously didn't go anywhere, because here I am.)

Recently, I was poking around my profile & discovered this section where OKCupid tallies all your quiz responses &, I guess, pits you against other OKCupid users to tell you how you differ from them. Here's what it told me about myself:


I know the words are tiny, but I had to zoom way out to get a screencap of all the many things OKCupid had to say about my personality. Let's recap: Based on my answers to its quiz questions, a free dating site has determined that I am "more aggressive," "more sloppy," "less friendly to strangers" & "worse mannered" than its average user. To add insult to injury, it has deemed it appropriate to put such information in my profile so that potential dating prospects can see exactly how terrible I probably am. Oh, heyyyyy, fellas.

Seriously, what is this? I have smoked exactly two cigarettes in my entire life, so I'm not sure how that qualifies me to be "more drug-friendly." And does it actually call me "sexperienced"? I take umbrage with that, OKCupid. I'm a 30-year-old woman, damn it, stop making me sound like a sorority girl on spring break. And "less kind"? I mean, if I'm "less friendly to strangers," I guess it follows that I'd be relatively unkind, but neither of these things is true, I swear. Hot damn, I would never ask me out on a date based on this.

Yes, I am pretty independent (except for living with my mom right now...), & yes, I am pretty bad at math - OK, like, really bad. I'll give you those, OKC. But pretty much everything else is questionable.

I think the crux of the issue, though, is actually this: I am probably not this much worse than the general population of ladies looking for love on OKCupid. I think the real difference is that I am probably way more honest than the general population of ladies looking for love on OKCupid.

I know, you're supposed to put your best face forward on your online dating profile, right? Sure. And I do! I mean, my profile doesn't admit that I eat crackers & Brie for dinner three times a week or that I'm probably the worst driver you've ever met. It doesn't reveal that I can probably only accurately identify half of the U.S. states on a map, or that I sleep in torn-up Guantanamo Bay sweatpants. (Again: Heyyyyy, fellas.) Like everyone else on the Internet, I've tried to highlight my best attributes & use photos in which I do not look like a hideous demon.

But here's the thing: I also don't want to waste valuable could-be-spent-alone time going on dates with guys who are a total mismatch, guys who are expecting some version of me that doesn't exist. That's why my profile includes at least one requisite full body photo, so that if you're looking for a Victoria's Secret Angels body type, you know I'm not your girl. And it's the same reason that I answered the site's questions honestly - because I want to find somebody who's interested in going out with actual me, not a whitewashed version of me that pretends to be flawless so that you think I'm your ideal match until you meet me & realize you've been duped.

Over drinks a couple weeks ago, my date (got one!) noted that I actually look like my profile photos, which is apparently a somewhat uncommon online dating experience. "I don't want to trick anyone into going out with me," I told him, & he responded, "Sadly, I don't think a lot of women on OKCupid share your perspective there."

And that is sort of sad, really, because those women are end up going out with men with whom they have nothing in common. If you lie on your profile, you're going to end up on dates with people who are interested in a false version of you. That's fine, I guess, if you're just in it for awkward small talk & maybe a free dinner or two - but I've got Netflix to watch & crackers & Brie to eat, so I don't play that.

Now that I think about it, maybe OKCupid got something else right in its analysis of my personality: Maybe I am "more honest" than its average users. I swear I'm not, like, that aggressive or anti-exercise, though. Quit trying to ruin my game, Internet. I never had any game to begin with, so the joke's on you.

But I have another date tonight. So there.

Monday, April 20, 2015

8 Lessons I'd Like to Teach My Mother's Tiny, Ferocious Dog

Chyna, left, & Jed, right
My mom has two dogs, whom I lovingly(ish) refer to as the diva & the demon. Their real names, respectively, are Chyna & Jed, & yes, I'm fully aware of how terrible their names are, but they came with them, & my mom didn't feel like changing them, so Chyna & Jed it is.

Chyna, the tiny diva, is a chihuahua/miniature pinscher mix, & she is cute but not as fluffy as I like dogs to be. She has hella anxiety issues, which you would think would mean we'd be BFF, but really it just means that she is 100% obsessed with my mom & needs to be basically on top of her at all times, so she has no time for me unless my mom is not around.

Jed, the tiny demon, is a chihuahua/Pomeranian mix, we think, & he is basically the cutest dog I have ever seen in my whole life, & we are indeed BFFs. He sleeps in my bed at night & tries to lick my face when I'm not looking, & I love him, but he's also sort of an asshole. The first time I met Jed, he snarled at me & threatened to bite me & wouldn't come near me for almost a full week. Like so many tiny dogs, he thinks he is actually a lion.

I don't love taking the dogs on joint walks, so I've been walking them separately. Chyna is fine - lovely & meandering. Jed, on the other hand, is... well, a demon. Here are a few things I'd like to teach this dog, if he were at all teachable (which he is not):
  1. Just because that dog is barking over there does not mean you need to follow suit. It's 7am & the neighbor has a tiny jerk of a dog, too, but that doesn't mean you need to be a tiny jerk of a dog just because he is. Does it? I mean, why does it? You're a dog, not a lemming. So shut up.

  2. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to pee on everything. Look, it's a fence! Look, it's a fire hydrant! Look, it's a daffodil! Goddamnit, dude, keep moving. You are too small for a bladder so endless.

  3. You are never going to catch that bird. That bird is faster than you & it has wings, so just give it up already. You're never gonna get to taste a bird, little man.

  4. Or that squirrel. Can you climb trees? Balance on telephone wires? No? Then give up on squirrels, too.

  5. That cat does not give a shit about you. I'll concede that you could feasibly catch a cat someday, if that cat were stupid enough to wander into our fenced-in backyard while you're out on the prowl. But that cat is smarter than you, & that cat is never gonna cross the threshold, & so you're never gonna get to eat him, either.

  6. That biker will hit you. I can keep you out of the way of cars, but what do you think you're doing, zooming up to the curb to bark at an innocent bicyclist? That dude will smoosh you flat - & probably flip over his handlebars in the process. Are you trying to kill & get killed? Stay in the grass, man.

  7. Nobody is out to get you. Why are you barking at that kindly old woman who asked what breed you are? Why are you barking at that cute little kid who wanted to pet you? Why are you barking at the man smoking a cigarette on his front porch who waved at us? All of these people like you! Or at least they would, if you weren't being a tiny jerk.

  8. Everyone likes you better when you're nice. You are mightily adorable, but when you are rude to everyone, people start to hate you. Including me. Why not quit trying to play the hotshot loud-guy card & instead just start playing up your looks? They say you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, little dog - but now that I think about it, you'd probably just chase those flies while barking at top volume, anyway.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Quest to Have a Sense of Style Continues - With a Little Bit of Help


If you opened up my closet door, you would find A) a massive trophy from when my Odyssey of the Mind team came in first place circa 1994, & B) a lot of black clothing. Like... a lot of black clothing.

Last we discussed my sense of style, I told you that I aspire to dress like a crazy old lady before I am actually old (or crazy). I have since done my best to embrace that aspiration, cultivating a wardrobe that falls within my style guidelines. I've gotten rid of everything that doesn't suit me by donating it or selling it on Poshmark. I buy less far clothing impulsively than I used to. And I continue to invest in a ton of big, bold jewelry.

That's my jam, jewelry. Clothing-wise, I'm usually wearing something black or dark grey or, on a really wacky day, navy - topped with gold jewelry that, like, says something. I let my jewelry speak for me where my clothing doesn't, which is why my collection includes a gold-plated bird skull replica necklace, a gold-dipped arrowhead necklace, & a bracelet that reads "Bitch, don't kill my vibe."

Enter Rocksbox. You have have noticed that I almost never, ever pair up with brands on my blog because it's just not my, well, style. It usually feels very inauthentic. But when the Rocksbox folks reached out to ask me if I would be interested in a subscription with them in exchange for telling you how I feel about it, I jumped at the chance. Because if there's one thing that is authentic to my style, it's jewelry. (And black clothing, but that would make for a boring subscription box.)

For $19 a month, Rocksbox sends you an unlimited amount of jewelry to borrow, three pieces at a time. As soon as you return one box of jewelry, they'll send you another - as many as you can fit into a month. You can take a style survey & create a jewelry wishlist to be sure they're sending you pieces that suit your style, & if you decide you want to own any of the jewelry they send, you just keep it - simple as that - & they'll charge your account. They also provide you a $10 credit each month, which means you'll recoup half your subscription cost on anything you decide to buy.

Some of the pieces way out of my price range, like the gorgeous necklace up in the top photo. At $90, it was too expensive for me to own - so I wore it for a few days in a row, felt real fancy, then returned it. Others, like the Gorjana ring I'm wearing on the left, are less expensive; at $26, I'm gonna keep that one.

If you want to try out Rockbox, use code heyescapistxoxo for a free month. It's a no-strings-attached subscription, so you can cancel when it ends, if you want - but I, for one, have a feeling that when my free subscription is up, I'm gonna pay to continue it. Twenty bucks a month is a small price to pay for an ever-changing, never-ending jewelry box.

Disclaimer: I received a free three-month subscription to Rocksbox in exchange for my honest review. But I like it enough that I would be saying the same thing about it even if it weren't free.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Home Sweet Coffeeshops: On the Weird & Wonderful World of Becoming a Regular

In case you were wondering how long it takes to be considered a regular at your local coffeeshop, here's the answer: two weeks.

I've been going to a new Starbucks, for reasons some of you may have read about on Facebook & that others of you will never know about because I can't talk about it here. Suffice it to say that the Starbucks I'd started to call home - like, all day, every day - is now off-limits. Instead, I've taken up residence at a new location, one slightly further from my home but in an area of town that I like a little bit better (namely because it's next door to my favorite restaurant & now I eat there basically every day). It's rarely crowded, & I never have trouble finding a seat, & one of the baristas remembered my name the other day without asking me for it, which was a milestone in my relationship with this Starbucks.

The next milestone came just this afternoon, when one of the other baristas said to me,"So you pretty much live here now, huh?" I was equal parts embarrassed & proud - embarrassed because there's something lame about being such a regular, but proud because it also makes me feel more like a real person & less like every other faceless customer when the baristas start to recognize me. VIP treatment means they don't even spell your name wrong on your cup! Usually.

For awhile (two weeks, exactly), I was going into another cafe regularly, one that's locally owned & that I like a lot, save for the fact that they sometimes rent out their space & I end up getting the boot; this has happened frequently enough that I don't go there much anymore. When I was going every day, though, I worried that the baristas started to think I was big bitch because one day, when I got kicked out for a room reservation, I sort of blacked out & stormed up to the manager & demanded to know, "Can you start putting a sign up to let people know when this is going to happen? Because it makes me not want to come here anymore." After that, I was super nice to the people who worked there because I wanted them to know that that particular incident was a rage-induced fluke & that I am indeed a super-nice person (OK, that might be an exaggeration of my personality, but I'm pretty nice).

Anyway. I went into that joint on a weekend day, & one of the baristas, this pretty, friendly blonde girl, said to me, "Hey, you just started coming here during the week, right?" I was so weirdly excited to be, like, worth recognizing. She introduced herself & made me a special drink & then by some moderately creepy coincidence of the Internet, we ended up following one another on Instagram. But still, I don't go there much anymore because I'm embarrassed about the time I raged out about the room situation - & also because I'm still mad about the room situation itself.

My point is this: It takes two weeks for the baristas to start to remember you. If you're nice, they'll even tell you that they remember you, & they'll start remembering your name along with it. If you're really nice, they'll ask you on a date (inside joke, ha ha ha ughhh, don't ask), but remember: This is your office now. Keep it professional. You're just there to drink coffee & do your work & spend half your salary on lattes & croissants & cold-pressed green juice.You're a regular. Don't eff this up.

Friday, April 3, 2015

10 Things That Happened During My BFF's Wedding Weekend

One of my closest friends got married two weekends ago, & I had the honor/joy/expense (just kiddinggg) of being one of her bridesmaids. It was a really beautiful weekend, & some of my favorite people in the world were present for it, & it was a privilege to be a part of my friend's big day.
  1. There is nothing quite as daunting as working a full day while knowing that you have a seven-hour drive ahead of you, yet that's exactly how my pre-wedding Thursday went. After shlepping across the state of Pennsylvania, I stopped to pay my toll near Philadelphia... & learned that it was a whopping $35. I had exactly $31.50 on me, so I had to commit to an IOU & pay my extra $3.50 within 10 days or risk it going to collection "immediately."
  1. A friend & I adventured in Philly on Friday afternoon, braving serious snow on the first day of spring - & me with no winter coat. We got manicures & pedicures at a place that gave us free wine, & then we had lunch at the glory that is Reading Terminal Market, where I consumed a gourmet grilled cheese (with cranberries & brie!) in approximately seven seconds. Needless to say, I am kind of into the City of Brotherly Love.
  1. At the rehearsal dinner, I gave an impromptu wedding toast, & I neither cried nor vomited, which are my public speaking standards. People even laughed! When it was over, I got two high-fives & three compliments from strangers, so I think I'm gonna call that a win. I hope the bride & groom liked it as much as I did (which I hope is not an egotistical thing to say - I'm just kind of proud of myself because I am really not a public speaker).
  1. On the day of the wedding, having brought four dresses with me, I ultimately decided to wear the one the tailor botched because it matched the other bridesmaids' dresses better. (I first removed the tags from another, though, so I now own all four of them). Fortunately, I had borderline fasted for a couple days ahead of the event, so the dress I chose didn't look nearly as terrible as it could've.
  1. The bride, her family, the other bridesmaids, & I gathered in her hotel suite to have our hair & makeup professionally done, & I requested what I shall now refer to as my Standard Fancy Hair (see: the last time I got my hair done for a wedding). Then, we had the honor & the nerve-wracking responsibility of helping her get into her (gorgeous! button-laden!) gown so the big day could officially begin.
  1. When we headed to the venue, I was the bridesmaid who brought a Mary Poppins bag full of anything anyone could ever need - hairspray & bobby pins & safety pins & dry shampoo & deodorant & gum & snacks & a sewing kit... You name it, I probably had it. Except Bandaids. (My apologies to one of the other bridesmaids, & to my own heels.)
  1. Just before the wedding began, the bride's mother used said sewing kit to securely reinforce the last two remaining buttons on the neck of my dress after the third one mysteriously disappeared between group photos & the ketubah ceremony. I spent much of the rest of the evening worrying that I looked like a fancy hobo and/or that I was going to end up totally unbuttoned.
  1. I drank a lot of cranberry martinis & ate a lotttt of food. Like... a good-thing-I-wore-such-tight-Spanx amount of food. Seriously, you've never seen so much food at a wedding. Ever. More importantly, I also spent a lot of time with a lot of friends, & we did a lot of dancing, as one does at a wedding full of one's favorite people.
  1. One of my best friends married the love of her life in a beautiful ceremony on a day that was beyond joyful. I felt incredibly honored to be a part of the day, & it's one that will long remember fondly.
  1. The bride asked us to keep the day "light on social media," so I took exactly one photo at the reception (it didn't turn out well) & none with the bride. Hey, that's what pro photographers are for, right?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

These Streets Are Yours, You Can Keep Them


I was in Philly for a wedding earlier this month, & I decided to turn it into a more of a vacation than just a quick weekend away. I couldn't find flights under $350, so I planned to make the six-hour drive to the City of Brotherly Love, but I knew that, exhausted & possibly hungover, I wouldn't be keen to make the drive back to Ohio the morning after the wedding.

And so I went to New Jersey for two days.

Specifically I went to Red Bank, where I lived for a year & a half - &, yes, where my ex-boyfriend still lives. I know what you're wondering: No, I didn't go for him. No, I didn't see him while I was there or even talk to him ahead of time. We were on good terms for awhile, & while I guess we still are, we don't talk anymore - which is, I suppose, the way breakups are supposed to work. I worried the whole time that I would run into him around a corner & that I'd seem like a huge creep for being there, until I remembered that people who live in the same cities break up all the time & do probably run into each other, so once wouldn't kill me. Anyway, it didn't happen.

And anyway, I didn't go for him. I went for me.

When I left Red Bank in November 2013 to live alone in Washington, D.C., we decided to try the long-distance thing. I went back to New Jersey for a two-week visit over Christmas, & when I went back to Washington, D.C., I never expected that I wouldn't return - but we broke up on January 4th, & that was that.

There are a lot of things I miss about living in Red Bank, even though I know that leaving was the right decision for me at the time. It's just such a nice place - quirky & cool, with a distinct little downtown full of cupcake bakeries & consignment shops & an indie movie theater & a board game store & the best taco place ever & Kevin Smith's comic book shop &... I didn't love living there, but that's not because it's not a great place. It is. And lately, I'd found myself missing it, like I'd never gotten to say goodbye - because I hadn't, I guess.

So I went back. I stayed in a teeny-tiny hotel room in an historic inn just steps away from my old apartment, on the base of the beautiful Navesink River. I had no plans except to do whatever the hell I felt like doing in the moment, which translated into: sleeping in, shopping, drinking a lot of lattes, eating multiple tacos & macarons, visiting an old lighthouse, wandering around parks in very cold weather, & driving by the beach because it was too cold to get out of my car. And then, when I didn't feel like doing anything anymore? I went back to my hotel room & slept, or caught up on my favorite TV shows, or wrote, or read magazines, or... did whatever the hell I felt like doing in the moment, like I said. And it was glorious.

For some reason, I'd been newly having a bit of a hard time with the breakup, despite the fact that it happened 15 months ago; I guess I've been having a hard time in general, with life. I worried that heading to the town formerly home to my now-decimated relationship would be depressing, particularly after a weekend of joyful celebrations of someone else's love. I feared I was setting myself up for sadness & wallowing & dredging up old memories that are better left buried. But you know what? It was some of that, I guess, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed. Mostly, it was just cathartic & quiet & perfect.

I listed to Bastille's "These Streets" a lot throughout my visit, setting it to play on repeat as I walked up & down the streets of a town I used once knew so well. A lot of those old memories did come flooding back, but instead of pushing them down, I spent some time with each of them, turning them over in my mind, savoring them, & saying goodbye to them. It was bizarre, really, to know that my ex-boyfriend (& our cat) was just a few miles up the road, & to realize that not only do I not know this town anymore, but I don't know him anymore, either. I cried more than once, remembering the people we were & the life we had & the future we tried for; they all seem so, so far away, like someone else's story.

It was hard sometimes, yes, but it was peaceful, too. Mostly, it was closure, the kind that sticks. And as I hummed along to the album that got me through that breakup, I knew this was the last song of my personal soundtrack - that I wouldn't need to come back to Red Bank again. I might want to, maybe, but I didn't need to anymore. This did it.

Goodbye, New Jersey. You're a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

Monday, March 16, 2015

27 Dresses, But All for the Same Wedding


I'm in a wedding this weekend for one of my very best friends. As one of three bridesmaids (plus a bridesman), I was asked to find a navy blue, cocktail-length dress so that the wedding party gives off a Destiny's Child vibe - coordinated but not quite matching (my analogy, not the bride's).

I was so excited to choose my own dress. Something that fits! Something that's flattering! Something I'll wear again! I set to work searching for my perfect bridesmaid dress.

Bridesmaid dresses can cost, like, $300, & I didn't want to go that route if I didn't have to. Instead, I started at all the standard mid-level places prone to decent dresses: Kohl's, LOFT, GAP, J. Crew, Dress Barn (stop laughing). I tried the standard Internet places: Modcloth, Shabby Apple, eShakti, ASOS. And I stepped it up a notch to department stores: Macy's, Nordstrom, Dillard's.

Alas, it seems navy blue is not one of 2015's hot colors. In fact, based on most of this year's dress inventory, you'd never know that the color navy blue exists at all. Of what I could find, certainly nothing screamed "This is perfect for a wedding!"

So I searched & searched, & I bought some backup dresses in case I got desperate. At a GAP outlet in Brooklyn, I scored an A-line dress with subtle stripes in shades of navy, probably too casual for a wedding. At the Kohl's in my hometown, I spent $20 on a chiffon-imitation polyester dress, probably a bit too short for a grown woman. At a J. Crew in Chattanooga, TN, I bought a scalloped shift in some ungodly heavy fabric, probably not matchy enough with the other bridesmaids. And from Modcloth, I found my best option: the Windy City dress, which was slightly too big but otherwise practically perfect in every way.

Exactly one week & $85+tax later, the tailored dress... does not fit. Or, rather, it fits, but it looks terrible. The tailor seems not to have taken into consideration my, uh, ample bust, thus altering the dress in such a way that the delicate pleats stretch nearly flat across my chest - but not flat enough to look, you know, good. The dress sags & bags in strange spots, giving the general feel of a plus-size woman who has no idea how to dress for her body - not exactly the image I want to project as I fly solo at my best friend's wedding.

I told the tailor, but I didn't do a very good job of it. When she rang me up, she said, "Everything is fine?" & I said, "The dress is too small," & suddenly she looked at me like she didn't speak English, & I got flustered &... paid her $85+tax & took my ill-fitting dress home.

So now, I've purchased three more. I cried on the phone to a J. Crew bridal specialist named Shekinah, who was equal parts stylist & therapist (the dress didn't fit, so I sent it back). I spent $10 on a LOFT dress from Poshmark that fits well but has the overall vibe of a blue barlap sack. And over the weekend, I bought a dress from a Macy's that fits like a dream (& makes me look skinny!) but that might not look right with the other bridesmaids.

All this to say that at this point, I have purchased 10 navy blue dresses, six of which I still own (& five of which I cannot return). All of them are fine, but none of them is quite right. I plan to take all of them with my to Philadelphia & make a last-minute decision based on which option makes me want to cry the least. When all is said & done, I had better A) end up looking damn good at this wedding, & B) thank my lucky stars that I look pretty decent in navy.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My New Favorite Place: Grandpa's Cheesebarn


There's not much to see on the highway drive from Akron to Columbus. Both of those places are real places, I swear, but there's nottt a whole lot in between them. It's exactly as you imagine Ohio to be (though I spend much of my life convincing myself exactly the opposite about the rest of the state). It's cornfields, mostly, & farmhouses, & a big outlet mall, &... that's kind of it.

Except for Grandpa's Cheesebarn.

There are signs for Grandpa's Cheesebarn starting miles & miles before you get anywhere near Grandpa's Cheesebarn. It's sort of legendary, even amongst people who have never been there - perhaps especially amongst people who have never been there. If you mention Grandpa's Cheesebarn to anyone from the northern half of Ohio, the conversation is the same: "Oh my gosh,  I've always want to go there! I always see the signs, but I've never been."

On a recent drive back from my mom's hometown, Lima - yes, the one from Glee - we decided the time had come. When we reached Ashland, OH, we turned off the highway & down the winding road that leads to Grandpa's Cheesebarn, my excitement building in a display of fairly bizarre & totally uncharacteristic enthusiasm. And then we were there:


Don't worry, there was nobody inside that mouse. I think.

Anyway, I don't know how to begin to describe to you the glory that is Grandpa's Cheesebarn. I guess I expected it to be sort of lame, a podunk letdown after all those miles of signage. I figured it would be small & weird & disappointing.

I was so wrong.

OK, actually, at first, I was a little let down. The downstairs is surprisingly void of cheese, save for this fantastic & massive cooler full of more than a dozen varieties of vacuum-sealed cheesecurds:


But I thought to myself, "This place has 'cheesebarn' in the name. Do you mean to tell me that this is all they've got?!"

And then I realized: There are two floors.

I planned to take photos of the upstairs of Grandpa's Cheesebarn, but I got distracted by eating, well, everything. They offer samples of nearly every kind of cheese they sell, which means you can take baby steps around the entire store, pausing every half a foot to inhale cheddar & havarti & muenster & colby & Limburger & cheddar - &, like, 12 varieties of each. Any cheese you've ever imagined, Grandpa's Cheesebarn probably sells. I checked their website to try to figure out exactly how many, but it doesn't say; my guess would be well over 100.

And if cheese isn't your jam, I don't want to know you they have tons of others stuff, too: jellies & jams, homemade jerky, dried fruit, pickled vegetables, flavored popcorn, loose-leaf teas... The list goes on & on, just like my excitement. You can try those things, too. In fact, you could eat a a whole meal at Grandpa's Cheesebarn, made entirely of tiny samples. I think I did, actually.

What I'm trying to say here is that Grandpa's Cheesebarn is basically the best place in the world. It's a palace. A palace of cheese. We arrived an hour before they closed, & it was not enough time for me to take in its full glory, so I'm already planning a trip back - not a trip where I pass it on the side of the highway & think of it as an add-on destination, but a trip where it is the entire destination.

Soooo who wants to visit me in Ohio? Surely I've convinced you by now that I don't live in the sticks, right?

...right?

Shit.

Whatever, I don't need friends. I've got cheese.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

When Karma Isn't a Bitch

 

I am prone to losing expensive and/or important items.

I've lost not one but two FitBits - one on the streets of London & another on the mean streets of good old D.C. - never to be seen again. My iPhone was either lost or stolen from a bar on New Year's Eve a few years back, also never to be seen again. I lost a sterling silver Tiffany necklace my grandparents gave me while swimming on a local lake. And I once called the police to (erroneously) insist that someone had stolen my car out of a parking deck.

But I've had good luck, too, even in the face of initial bad luck. I once lost my driver's license in the Boston airport & was surprised when it showed up at my mom's house a few weeks later in a typewriter-addressed envelope. A Days Inn employee called my place of employment when he found my wallet on a city bus & later returned it to me with $180 in cash still inside. And longtime readers of this blog may recall The Great Thanksgiving Miracle of 2011, when a kind US Airways pilot tracked me down on a holiday to return my lost iPad, which he refused to entrust to the airline's shoddy lost & found system.

I try to contribute to good karma & the circle of life & all that hippie jazz by paying it forward whenever possible, & I had the opportunity to do so last week, after I found a lost Garmin Vivo Fit at a bar in Nashville. I spotted the wristband on the dirty, beer-covered floor of a joint called Honky Tonk Central & thought it belonged to one of the girls in my party, so I snatched it up & tossed it in my purse to return to her at a soberer hour. When I learned that her fitness tracker was in fact still on her wrist, I decided to try to track down the owner of the one I'd found.

One afternoon last week, I called Garmin's customer service line, where a rep initially offered to email the owner of the band, who he'd located using the serial number I read him from the bottom of the device. He put me on hold to get things in motion, but when he returned to the line, he reneged on his offer to send its owner my contact info, telling me that Garmin's official policy on such matters is to instruct the finder of a lost device to turn it in to their local police department.

Apparently Garmin feels confident that the cops will go to the effort of returning lost wristbands to their rightful owners. Sending my contact information to the wristband's owner, the rep told me, is a breach of privacy - though I fail to understand how, since they already have her contact info, & I was asking them to share mine. Whatever; he was insistent that they could not contact the wristband's owner on my behalf, & he was actually fairly rude about it, given that I was just calling to do something nice.

Look, I trust the boys (& gals) in blue, but I don't think this is the sort of matter that's worth their time & hard-earned money. On top of that, I recently stopped my local precinct, sobbing, to report a road rage incident & was told that it was "not worth" reporting... so you'll forgive me if I had doubts that my hometown cops were going to give a damn about a lost Garmin from Tennessee. Because that is the most ridiculous policy I've ever heard.

So I hung up. I sent an angry tweet. And then I called Garmin back, hoping for a more sympathetic customer service rep.

And I got one! The second person I spoke to said she would be happy to send my contact information to the wristband's owner, which just goes to show that A) rules are breakable, B) some people don't know (or care) about the rules, & C) if at first you don't succeed, try, try another customer service rep. She thanked me for trying to return the device, then she promptly sent an email to the owner of the lost Vivo Fit to try to make the connection.

The owner emailed me almost immediately, thanking me for getting in touch & offering me a finder's fee &/or the cost of shipping (both of which I turned down because that's not how paying it forward works). She told me I had made her week, & I told her I'll drop it in the mailbox tomorrow, where it should only take a couple of days to reach her... in Cincinnati.

Remembering how grateful I was when strangers returned my difficult-to-replace items - my iPad, my wallet, my driver's license - I'm thrilled to be able to pay it forward & do the same for someone else. It's so easy to do something nice for someone - to try to make someone's day instead of ruining it. They say karma's a bitch, but when it works out, it can be pretty lovely, too.

Take that, stupid Garmin call-the-police policy.
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