Tag Archives: adventures in beantown

in which I take photos

So I’ll just say right off the bat—I don’t really like getting my picture taken.

I used to be a big ham when I was a kid. I loved getting photographed and was always striking a pose when a camera came around. But at some point something changed and I got camera shy. Aggressively camera shy. I hate photos. The idea of taking a selfie gives me a panic attack. I try to move as far to the back of group shots as possible. For a long time, my picture on Twitter and this blog had half my face covered1 because I just don’t like looking at pictures of myself.

I’m really not a photo person.

So you will not be at all surprised to hear that when told I had to take a headshot/author photo that would go on the back flap of my book, I was, to put it generously, not excited.

I put it off for a long time. Griped about it on Twitter, then felt bad for griping about such a lucky problem to have. Went through all the photos on my computer hoping I would miraculously find some professional but not horrible looking photo of me. Prayed someone would randomly snap a candid of me that would work.

But, at last, with the deadline looming, I had to admit defeat. Fine, I said. I will take an author photo for the book. I will do it…but I will not enjoy it.

Being in possession of a rather fine camera, Marx agreed to take the photos for me so I didn’t have to stare into the lens of a stranger, which would make the whole thing exponentially more uncomfortable. Together, we began to scour the interwebs trying to find somewhere cool to take the photos, my hope being that a great background might distract from….well, me. All the standard Boston engagement photos locations were too conventional. A blank wall was too boring. We needed somewhere cool. Unique. Subtly steampunk. I know, it was a lot to ask. After a time, we started to think it was maybe impossible.

And then we found the Boston Metropolitan Waterworks Museum.

And everything changed.

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YOU GUYS. The Metropolitan Waterworks Museum is AMAZING. Like, my new favorite place in Boston2 . It’s the old pumping station near the reservoir that used to supply the city of Boston with its water. It’s no longer functioning, but is now a museum, dedicated to the preservation and display of these massive, beautiful, industrial engines which I don’t understand, but I love love love looking at because they are just so gorgeous. Also, the museum is free, and the management is incredibly kind, and basically let us run amok in the place. We even got to climb on top of the giant engines3.

Marx took many great pictures of the waterworks.

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Less great pictures of me.

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The half face strikes again!

After a few excruciating hours of me grimacing into the camera and Marx doing a valiant impression of not being annoyed by this fact, we deemed we had enough great pictures to work with.

They were all of the engines. But that’s beside the point.

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If you would like to visit the amazing Waterworks Museum, which I can’t recommend highly enough if you’re ever in Boston, please visit this website here4.

Oh, also, I should probably mention here, I now have a proper website, which features these beautiful photos. Visit here, if you’re interested.

  1. I tried to send that particular photo to my agent when she needed a picture of me for something sales related. She then showed it to one of her colleagues, who asked, “Why does she have her collar up like that? Is there something wrong with her face?” No, just my brain.
  2. Rivaled only by my first great love, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
  3. This is also where I learned—a mere week before we went to Switzerland, which is basically comprised of high places—that Marx is desperately afraid of heights.
  4. One more waterworks photo. For good measure. (All photo credit to Marx!) 10672183_858089884202569_6797749548370404008_n
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in which I dig in the dirt with a spoon

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself crouched beneath my neighbor’s window, using a kitchen spoon to frantically scoop dirt from their garden into a ceramic mug, all the while poised to bolt if the door opened.

And I thought to myself, “Self, how did we come to be crouched beneath our neighbor’s window, using a kitchen spoon to frantically scoop dirt from their garden into a ceramic mug, all the while poised to bolt?”

Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, one of my roommates moved out, and my friend Marx, who you may remember from some of our previous shenanigans1 moved in—huzzah! However, when the first roommate moved out, I discovered that everything that was useful in this apartment was hers, and everything that was a Cat in the Hat pennant and three copies of 500 Days of Summer on DVD was mine. So me, Marx, and our third roommate, who is making her blog debut so I will call Galactica2 have been left to refurnish what a few weeks ago was a completely furnished apartment.

Now something I relearn about myself every time I move is that I don’t like living in a state of flux. There is no gradually buying the things I need, no slow acquirement of necessities and then luxuries, no operating out of boxes until I find the time to unpack. I need a decorated apartment and I need it NOW.

So over the past few weeks, we have furnished our apartment in what can only be called a frenzied manner. The most notable acquisitions include a hundred year old steamer trunk purchased from Craigslist3, a flaming red foot locker, a free TV because Galactica has great friends, a World War II propaganda poster, a slightly incorrectly sized frame for said poster, a blue lantern in the style of Paul Revere, and some sunny yellow paint to cover what was once ghastly pea soup-colored benches.

Also some plants. Those were my idea.

You may remember that last summer I played mother to two lovely office plants, Sherlock and Mycroft. Being back in an office for the first time since then has made me yet again pine for greenery, so I made a snap decision to invest in two hanging baskets, some fern-ish things, and a flowery bush for our back deck. Then I ate a lot of food in jars with the thought I would repot the fern-ish things into these jars and be super Antorhopologie-esque5.

Except it turns out to repot something, you need dirt. Which I failed to consider.

You also, it turns out, need nerves of steel to nick this dirt from a garden that might not technically be yours but is on your property, except it’s technically not your property because you just rent the second floor, and the garden on what might or might not actually be your property is mostly cultivated by a downstairs neighbor who for no apparent reason dislikes you. Also the dirt in question just happens to be located directly underneath his office window6.

And that, kids, is the story of my now furnished apartment, my repotted plants, and my crouched spoon digging in the dirt.

 

  1. Such as the Ikea trip from Hell and our iFrankenstein opening night escapade.
  2. Because of our shared affinity for most things nerdy and awesome
  3. And a failed acquisition of a hundred year old piano, because apparently I wasn’t a “serious buyer.” Whatever that means4.
  4. Though I admit, my entire plan of how to get this piano back to our apartment was a set of bungee cords and the roof of Marx’s petite Mazda.
  5. It should be noted that I sincerely meant to take pictures of all these things to accompany this post, because a picture is worth a thousand words, or so I’ve been told, but somehow I forgot to set my alarm this morning, so blog pictures sort of slipped down the priorities list.
  6. And by the way, he has this fantastically cool pop up model of St. Basil’s Cathedral on his desk. Neighbor, you and I would probably be friends if you did not insist on hating me.
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in which my violin is fixed by a russian master and his dog

As you may or may not know, a few months ago I bought a violin. It should be noted that I am not an accomplished violinist by any stretch of the imagination. The word “novice” seems a bit generous to describe my skill. So my goal in purchasing said violin was to find something cheap but functional. I ended up buying one off Craigslist1. And for someone who knows nothing about violins and just wants to be able to play Greensleeves marginally well, it worked fine.

Until it didn’t. As the seasons changed, the pegs that hold the strings in place inexplicably refused to do their job. It didn’t seem like a big problem, but also not something I could fix on my own.

So a few weeks ago, I Gogglged violin repair. The first place that came up had both a high Yelp rating and was located near my school. Great, I thought, I have to pick up my diploma anyways. So I strapped my violin case to my back and set off.

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What I failed to notice was that the shop was located next to the symphony hall. And if I had noticed this, I might have realized that this probably meant they were accustomed to a certain caliber of clientele. Namely, not wannabe Craigstlist-trolling slightly-less-than-beginner violinists.

I approached the shop door and found myself greeted by a sign that announced in large, firm-looking letters NO WHISTLING. That’s weird, I thought. Maybe it’s a joke and these lovely violin-fixing people have a great sense of humor.

As soon as I opened the door, I realized immediately that this was not the case.

Inside, I found a room with fancy red carpet and walls lined with framed newspaper clippings and magazine covers, fancy art2, and only a few violins. As someone who used to get a lot of enjoyment out of walking into fancy stores in Europe and pretending I was rich, I know that the emptiest stores are always the most expensive ones. This shop was very clearly very expensive. The only furniture was a table so shiny you could see your reflection in it, surrounded by three straight-backed green leather chairs, and a desk at the opposite end of room with a tiny man and a tinier woman bent over it, neither of whom looked up when I entered. And stretched on the floor in the center of it all was a massive blonde dog. My parents have a St. Bernard, so I know a thing or two about big dogs, and this dog was BIG.

I hovered in the doorway, debating whether or not I should bolt. The giant blonde dog seemed to be the only one who noticed me, and he trotted up and sat down at my feet. I scratched him behind the ears.

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After a few uncomfortable minutes, the man behind the desk acknowledged my presence by calling, “Yes, what is it you need?” He had a very thick accent that I can only describe as Bond villain-esque.

Tentatively, I edged across the room towards them, and began with a confident, “Um, hi. I have a violin and it has a problem, and I didn’t buy it from you guys3, but I was hoping you could maybe fix it for me.”

“Where did you buy it?” the man asked without looking up.

“Uh, Craigslist,” I said.

Slowly and simultaneously, they both raised their faces from the desk and gave me what can only be described as “the look.”

“Craigslist?” he repeated. I lost a few inches of height under his glare and nodded. I half expected him to raise one long, bony finger and use it to point me firmly to the door. Instead, he pursed his lips, removed his spectacles4 and said, “You may place your violin case on the table and wait for me.”

Oh really? May I? I thought.

But I was too intimidated to be a smart ass. So as instructed, I wordlessly placed my violin case on the table and sat down in one of the very straight chairs. The massive blonde dog wandered over and put his head on my lap. I opened my case and waited.

After a minute, the violin man came over and peered inside. And he cringed. Actually cringed as though I had opened my case to reveal a clump of festering human organs rather than my slightly battered violin. “My God,” he muttered, then removed my violin and began a doctor’s examination of it. I watched. The massive blonde dog drooled gently on my lap.

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After a moment, the violin man put down my violin and gave me “the look” again. I wilted. “Come here,” he commanded. The dog and I both stood and came to his side. “Hold out your hand,” he commanded. I disentangled my fingers from the dog’s fur and showed him. “You are a pianist,” he said. I was a little freaked out by whatever voodoo powers had granted him this knowledge I had definitely not volunteered, but I nodded. Then he said, “You are not a violinist.”

I began to babble senselessly about how that was definitely true, hence the crappy violin, because I didn’t really need anything nice and I couldn’t afford anything better, I just wanted to learn because I’d always wanted to learn and sometimes you have to follow your weird dreams—

Thankfully, he cut me off. “I can fix it for $10.”

“Great,” I said. “Great, great, awesome, great, thank you.”

The massive blonde dog and I sat down again and waited while the violin man took my violin into the back. I tried and failed to regain my cool. The blonde dog sat as straight as the chairs. I scratched him.

After about ten minutes, the violin man brought me my violin back and started showing me how I should be tuning it, and why the way I had been tuning it had apparently compromised its internal structure. At one point, he made what I thought was a joke about what a mess my violin was. I smiled and said something like, “Ha ha, yeah, I know it’s a terrible violin,” and thought to myself, maybe this man has a sense of humor after all.

He did the slow look up again, and I realized immediately that he didn’t. “That is not a joke,” he said. “You should not laugh, you should be crying.”

I shut my mouth.

While in the process of showing me all the ways I was slowly murdering my already corpse of a violin, a young man walked in. The violin man stopped his diagnosis of my dying violin and gave the young man the same critical eye he had given me. “Excuse me,” the young man said in a thick accent. “I am in the States for sixteen days and while I am here I wish to purchase a violin from you.”

“What’s your budget?” asked the violin man.

“No more than five thousand dollars,” the young man replied.

I snorted before I could stop myself. They both looked at me, and I chose not to explain that I had paid one hundred dollars in cash to a man out of the trunk of his car for mine. I should not even be there.

The violin man told the young man he could wait in one of the straight backed chairs5, and commenced his free lesson on how to make my crappy violin less crappy.

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Turns out, the violin man was not humorless. When I handed him my credit card, he asked me how I survived with a last name like mine6. We had a good laugh over that. Or rather he laughed and I nervous giggled. Then he looked me very seriously in the eyes and said, “You can still take good care of it.”

I told him I was going to. And then I skedaddled out of there without asking why patrons were so vehemently prohibited from whistling.

 

  1. Literally bought it out of the trunk of a man’s car down a dark alley. I am a Dateline special waiting to happen.
  2. And three more “no whistling” signs
  3. You guys! Surely no one had ever referred to these very upright people as you guys.
  4. Nope, not glasses. Spectacles. The word spectacles was invented to describe this variety of eyewear.
  5. The blonde dog abandoned me for him at that point, since his lap was more available.
  6. It should be noted my last name is not Lee. It is in actuality a Dutch monstrosity that consists of fifteen letters, six syllables, two capitalizations, two words, and a space.

 

 

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in which some big things happen

I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for about a week labeled “Things I Should Probably Talk About.” Because I am often really good at writing about the weird little stories of no consequence that happen to me, but not always great at hitting the big things, and these last few weeks were chock full of big things.

So here are a few that I felt were worth talking about:

Big Thing #1: I finished my MFA!

Two weeks ago last Friday, I donned a funny looking hat, a wrinkled robe1 and a shroudy hoodish thing that made me feel a bit like a sorcerer, piled into a bus with four thousand of my closest friends and drove to the Bank of America Pavilion which, it turns out, is a terrible place to host anything when it is even remotely cold, and oh man, was it cold. Rainy and grey and the wind off the water was merciless. At one point, the girl I was sitting next to and I realized we could actually see our breath. In May. It was a cold, cold place to be forced to sit still on uncomfortable folding chairs for two hours while name after endless name was read off.

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But in spite of sounding very negative about the whole affair, it was a good time. Graduation ceremonies are a bit silly if you think about them too hard, mostly because of all the pomp and circumstance, but every time I’ve gone to one, I’ve had a genuine moment of pride and coolness when I got to walk up on stage, hear my name read, and get the little fake diploma. So overall the day was enjoyable. And my lovely family came in from Utah for the occasion, so I got to be with them. And, true to our usual classy selves, while everyone else went out to nice fancy dinners afterwards at places with multiple forks and cloth napkins, we went to my favorite eccentric diner and ordered a cookie sheet of onion rings.

So I’m now a master. I expect you all to refer to me as such from now on.

Big Thing #2: We went to Maine!

After a day of graduation and another of doing Boston things3, my family and I packed up our rental car and drove up to Bar Harbor, Maine, where we spent a very enjoyable week doing enjoyable and Maine-ish things, like hiking in Acadia, riding on boats, and tearing apart lobsters with our bare hands2. Maine was lovely and quiet and not anywhere near as cold as graduation, so we spent our time overdressed and marveling at how easy it was to breathe when the hiking trails are level and at a low elevation4.

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Maine was impossibly lovely, and after a rather arduous two years of graduate school, I really enjoyed a week of doing little to nothing that required any brain power5.

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Big Thing #3: I got a new job!

Okay, job is a relative term. It is an internship. But not just any internship. My dream internship, an internship I have been chasing and applying for over and over basically since I got to Boston. At last, they either got sick of reading my resume or decided I was actually maybe worth considering, because they hired me. I am over the moon about this news, and I feel really lucky to be putting my children’s lit knowledge to use so quickly after graduating from school.

And speaking of children’s lit things…

Big Thing #4: The PEN-New England Susan Bloom Discovery Award Night!

So as you may remember, a few months ago I went nuts with excitement over being one of the winners of the PEN-New England Susan Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. Last week, there was an official awards ceremony, at which I was invited to read from my winning manuscript. And guys, it was amazing. I polled some friends who came to see if it was actually really that awesome or if I was biased because I was one of the guests of honor, but the general consensus seemed to be that it was genuinely awesome. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many people who were enthusiastic about children’s literature and me as a writer and my possible contribution to the field.

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Myself, Rebecca, and Pamela, this year’s three discoveries.

Everyone deserves the experience of being shepherded around a room full of witty, intelligent people who all tell you how much they love the art you are creating and the things you are doing, which was basically what the whole night was for me. Everyone also deserves the chance to be introduced by someone you really admire and hear them say nice things about your work, which I was also lucky enough to have happen when Lois Lowry introduced me and my manuscript. I did my best to not freak out when this happened.

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Miss Lowry and myself

After Lois’s very generous introduction, parts of which I am considering getting tattooed on my forehead, I got to read from my manuscript6. I am pleased to report that I did not lose my place, drop a page, say “Ingolstadt7” wrong, or pronounce “Frankenstein” the way they do in Young Frankenstein, which I was worried might happen since the MT and I spent the whole week in Maine quoting Young Frankenstein in honor of my impending reading. Then there was a lovely Q&A, where I got to talk very fast8 about Mary Shelley and how cool she was and about the Danny Boyle production of Frankenstein that inspired the whole thing9. And then I ate cookies and talked to more amazing people and showed off my Frankenstein tights and basically just had an amazing night. It was a fairly once in a lifetime experience that I will treasure and carry with me as a badge of courage as I go forward with my writing career.

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Rebecca, Susan (form whom the award is named), Cathie (head of the Simmons program) and me.

And those are the big things worth noting that have happened over the past few weeks. It’s been rather eventful here at Chateau de Lee, and I have enjoyed very much having a few weeks of good news and fun things. I’m bracing myself for real life to set back in again.

 

  1. Because some genius had the idea of making our gowns eco-friendly by crafting them out of recycled plastic bottles, meaning they couldn’t be ironed or else they would melt. To which I say, “A plague upon environmentalism!”
  2. The MT and I got very into naming the lobsters we met/ate. Or maybe that was just me and the MT indulged me. Whatever the case, over the course of the trip we met/ate Aloysius, Randall, Gob the Lob, Buster Bluth (because he was missing a claw), katniss, and Hannibal (because, it turns out, lobsters are cannibals).
  3. Such as treason, living free or dying, and protesting intolerable acts.
  4. Upon completing a particular hike, we were greeted by a sign boasting that we were now 520 feet above sea level. The Utahans, who live their lives at four thousand feet above sea level, were unimpressed.
  5. Though this doing nothing was interrupted by some strange and unexpected distractions, when I shall discuss in big thing number 3…
  6. This is the post modern revisionist steampunk Frankenstein book I have talked about a little bit here. In case you were wondering.
  7. Far and away the hardest and most German word in the manuscript.
  8. “Fast” meaning both briefly and at break neck speed, which I often do when I am nervous or excited, and I was definitely both.
  9. I also very nearly got set up on a date with Benedict Cumberbatch. Really.
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in which things come full circle

Late in the winter of my senior year of college, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. I was about to finish a history degree and knew I didn’t want to do what you are supposed to do with a history degree. I had a sort of inkling I maybe wanted to write things, or find some job that allowed me to read books for a living, but I wasn’t enjoying most of the adult books I was reading. I had had a similar experience when I was in high school—as soon as I hit an age where I felt I was supposed to start reading grown up books, I stopped reading. So I decided to check out the young adult section of my library to see what they had to offer. And I read enough really awesome young adult books to realize that the problem wasn’t that I didn’t like reading, the problem was that I wasn’t reading things I liked.

And that’s when I applied for my MFA in children’s literature.

One of the books that I picked up in the YA section was Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. This book was so lovely. It helped me realize what is important to me in a book—beautiful writing, vivid setting, and an atmospheric and imaginative world. This was the last book I read before I sent in my application to Simmons.

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A year ago last November, I was sitting on a mattress on the floor under bare light bulb in my very first grown up apartment in Boston. I was feeling a little overwhelmed, both by the adultness of it and by the fact that I had no furniture or things to call my own. Just a suitcase of clothes, a box of books, and a city full of strangers. So I picked up Days of Blood and Starlight, the second book in Laini Taylor’s series that had just been released, and lost myself in the story. Because books are safer than people.

Last week, the third book in the series, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, came out. Through some strange voodoo magic, the third book in this series that was such a big part of me being where I am right now ended up coming out just a few weeks before I finished the MFA it inspired me to pursue. And by some stranger bout of luck, Laini did an event last week in Brookline, where I live in that once-bare apartment, and I got to meet her and tell her thank you, because she was a large part of me being where I am, and I love being here.Image

If you’ve hung around here at all, you know that I like things to be symmetrical. I like signs and symbols and when things come full circle, it feels like confirmation that I’m doing something right. The weird symmetry of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series with my MFA life felt like a confirmation, a nice feeling to carry with me as I head out into the real world with my degree.

Maybe I read too far into things. But that’s what grad school taught me how to do.

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in which a friend visits

When you move around a lot, there are lots of people who come into your life, and then when you leave, they sort of drift out of your life without much consequence. Being apart is too hard, or too far, or you change and become too different to like each other as much in the present moment as you did in the past.

And then there are the people that stick with you. That no matter how far apart you are, it never gets too hard.

For me, this person is 14.

14 and I met in seventh grade health class1. The random seating chart set off a chain of events that shaped a good portion of my life. We were friends all through middle school. Took the same classes in high school2. We did theater things together. We went to our first school dance in the same group. We were roommates in college, tested out papers and outfits and flirty texts before we sent them to our crushes on each other.

And then I went to Chicago. Then Boston. And then 14 went to Norway. Then back to Salt Lake. And after spending almost every day together for years and years and years, suddenly we were far apart.

But with 14, the distance didn’t matter so much like it did with other friends. Sure, it sucked to have to synch our time zones for a phone call or to not be able to invite her to do crazy stuff with me. And yes, I missed her, but I never felt like we lost anything because we were far apart.

Last week, 14 came to visit me in Boston. As my mom pointed out, it was the first time the two of us have been around each other for an extended period of time since we graduated from college. There was lots of potential for things to go wrong. What if in our time apart we had both grown into different people that weren’t compatible anymore and we didn’t realize that until she was off the plane?

But it just felt like picking up right where we left off. Like nothing had changed3.

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14 and I are really different, but that’s never really mattered. Being friends with her has always been so easy. And that’s how friendship should be.

Here’s wishing you all a friend like 14.

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  1. 14 is the only good thing I got out of seventh grade health class.
  2. And often sat by each other often because we both have end of the alphabet last names
  3. Except we were exploring Boston instead of Salt Lake, and Boston is awesome. Though we could have done without the freezing rain that plagued the city all week. However, we still did some really awesome things. Like getting enlisted in the War of 1812 Navy. Here we are on board in our bunks:

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in which I have bookseller adventures

As you may or may not know, I am currently funding my extravagant Bostonian lifestyle by working as a bookseller in the children’s room of the Harvard Coop Bookstore. The Harvard Coop is, to use a technical industry term, a big-ass bookstore. It is four floors of books. Four grand, Harvardian floors of books, complete with a sweeping spiral staircase, shelf-lined galleries, and a well-read, articulate staff.

….so we’re basically just a glorified Barnes and Noble. But still. Harvard.

Now if you have never worked in a bookstore, particularly the children’s room of a bookstore, you may think that the job involves primarily handing out books to tiny people and their accompanying adults. You may think booksellers do little more than talk about the books they love to their similarly polite and well-read customers and then read covertly behind the counter while sipping tea and waiting for the next customer to chat them up about Tolstoy or the derivative nature of Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Oh contraire, my friends. Oh contraire.

Being a bookseller is hard. There is a lot of carrying books up and down those four sweeping staircases. There is a lot of fielding ridiculous questions and impossible requests1. There is a lot of talking to people who don’t know a darn thing about books (or in my case books for children), which is why they’re talking to me. There is a lot of putting things back where they belong because most patrons seem incapable of it. In the children’s room there is, on top of all that, clean up of snacks, reading at storytime2 and making really excellent crafts3 that the kids can then duplicate.

Today, the job also involved some light spelunking.

When I returned to the floor after lunch, I found the children’s room empty and the Boss behind the counter, grinning her most maniacal grin at me.

Boss: Why hello there4.
Me: …Hello?
Boss: Did you have a good lunch?
Me: I am very suspicious of this conversation.
Boss: So something happened while you were gone.
Me: Did it?
Boss: And now we have to fix it.
Me: So long as it does not involve me carrying the 160 copies of Panic by Lauren Oliver back down the stairs after already carrying them upstairs this morning5 then I am okay with just about anything.
Boss: I’m glad you said that.

So here’s what happened: while I was at lunch, the Boss made a classic rookie mistake. She gave the bathroom key to a small child and her nanny and told them to bring it back instead of walking them to the bathroom and unlocking it for them herself as she has told the rest of us time and time again we are supposed to do. It was a rather lazy and pathetic move on her part6. A few minutes later, the nanny returned rather sheepish and informed the Boss that while they were in the bathroom, the laws of physics had stopped, resulting in the key becoming nonsensically and impossibly wedged inside of the fold-out diaper changing table.

“No trouble,” thought the boss. “I got this.”

But she did not “got this.” Not even close. We discovered rather quickly that the key had fallen at such an angle that our adult-sized hands could not reach it7. It took a good half hour, a pipe cleaner, two straws, a dowel, a beehive of packing tape, and some very creative maneuvering before she and I working as a single until managed to chopstick that son of a bitch out from the interior of the diaper changing table and into our waiting palm. We both touched a fair amount of unmentionable things in the process, dug out some crayons that had also fallen victim to this strange black hole, and dropped enough McGyver references to last a lifetime.

But at last, with a small plop, the tiny silver key, now a bit tarnished and smelly, fell into the Boss’s hand. We cheered in unison. There might also have been some high fiving and victory dancing.

And then the Boss, still riding the high of successfully conquering the bathroom changing table, threw all our now soiled tools in the trash can and reflexively threw the newly-rescued key in after them. I let her fish it out of there.

We then returned to the desk and disinfected ourselves.

Friends, today was One of those Days. The sort of day where you find yourself stretched like a gymnast across a unisex bathroom while trying to prop the door open with your foot and simultaneously root around shoulder-deep in a diaper changing station with straws clutched like chopsticks fishing helplessly to get a key out from between the hinges of a collapsible diaper changing station, all the while cursing loudly and with great relish. It was One of those Days.

Being a bookseller is not a very glamours life. We’re not all the bespectacled, cardigan wearing do gooders you see in films8. So do me a favor–go thank your bookseller today.

Or bring them chocolate. I have it on good authority that booksellers love chocolate.

  1. Example of a real question I had: “I’m looking for a book. I don’t know the title but the cover has writing on it.”
  2. And doing the librarian hold until your arm starts to cramp.
  3. An example of one of my best, but ultimately rejected, ideas:IMG_0997
  4. She may have actually swiveled around in her chair while stroking a white cat and wearing an eye patch. Details blur together.
  5. True story.
  6. I can say this, because I know she is reading and because at the end of our harrowing adventure she said, “You should put this on your blog! But I don’t want to be named.” Careful what you wish for, Boss.
  7. And we both ended up with gouged knuckles to prove it.
  8. Though it should be noted that at this moment I am both bespectacled and cardiganed
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in which I celebrate valentine’s day

For the first eighteen years of my life, I lived in the same place. Same city. Same neighborhood. Same house. The biggest move I made was from my upstairs bedroom to the downstairs one.

But then I moved away to college, and never really stopped moving. In the last five years, I’ve moved five times. Salt Lake to Logan, Logan to England, England back to Logan, Logan to Chicago, Chicago to Boston. So I’ve lived in some great places, and had some great times, and met some amazing people.

But when you move that much, you don’t have enough time to really make friends. You find people you have things in common with, have some wild adventures with them, but then you leave and fall out of touch, only occasionally communicating on Facebook. I have friends from childhood I still talk to pretty consistently, the friends of the life-long variety, but even that’s different when you only have texting and emails.

This is not necessarily a bad way to live. I met some really amazing people and had some great times, but it also taught me to be self-sufficient—I learned to function independently, go to things on my own, and be my own emotional crutch when things went south.

These last two years in Boston have been the longest I’ve stayed anywhere in a while. And I’m starting to feel like I actually live here instead of just passing through. I know the subway system. I’m no long alarmed when traffic seems to be coming from twelve directions at once. I have heard the phrase “wicked hard” used ironically. I know what people mean when they say Allston Christmas.

And, as I realized the other night, I have friends here.

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Real, great, honest-to-God friends. Friends who I drag on my crazy adventures. Friends who laugh at my references even when they don’t get them. Friends who do more than tolerate me, friends who are friends for more reasons than just shared classes or living in the same place.

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Friends who sit on my bed and eat ice cream with me when I had a crummy day, or talk me down from my anxiety, or encourage my weirdness, or don’t make fun of me when I really let my fangirl show. Friends who pick me up from the airport. Friends who listen to me. Friends who like me.

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So this year, on Valentine’s Day, I’m celebrating my friends, who I love and adore and am so thankful to have in my life. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone—here’s celebrating all the weird kinds of love in your life.

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in which I learn storytelling lessons from iFrankenstein

I am, by principle, two things:

  1. Extremely selective about the movies I go see.
  2. Extremely obsessed with Frankenstein.

These two principles were in direct opposition last night when Marx and I headed to the Fenway cinema for the Friday night showing of iFrankenstein. Oh, you haven’t heard of iFrankenstein? That might be because it’s actually called, “I, Frankenstein” but come on.

So iFrankenstein. If you aren’t familiar with it, please take a second to acquaint yourself with the trailer.

So that’s iFrankenstein. You can probably get a good idea of its quality just based on those winning two minutes and thirty-one seconds. If that didn’t convince you, know that the film has, as the MT gleefully pointed out to me, a 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Even the new Smurfs movie had a higher rating than that.

Watching that trailer, every instinct in me screamed to stay away.

But the smaller, yet louder part of my brain screamed “BUT FRANKENSTEIN!”

So my patient and long-suffering friend Marx let me drag her to iFrankenstein last night.

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And friends, it was bad. Horrifically bad. Monstrous1. As gloriously appalling as I hoped it would be.

At first, Marx and I did a lot of giggling and being generally and unapologetically disruptive. But just before the climax, Marx and I both got bad movie fatigue, a common condition where a disaster of a film suddenly stops being so bad it’s funny and instead you start to feel like your brain is liquefying and sliding out through your ears. In order to distract myself from my steadily dropping IQ, I tried to think about what I, as an aspiring writer and storyteller, could learn from this Hindenburg-sized disaster that was iFrankenstein.

So here are a few storytelling lessons from iFrankenstein.

Taglines do not make good dialogue. I’m pretty sure this entire movie consisted of lines that were made to be said in a deep, low voice while in close up with an intense look on the actor’s2 face. Dialogue was not a high priority in this film. In fact, I think 90% of the script is in the trailer.

Follow your own rules. So for a reason never explained, Frankenstein’s monster, who this movie christens Adam Frankenstein3, is immortal4. Not just immortal. Indestructible. He falls off buildings. He gets thrown off bridges. He crashes through a square and onto a moving subway train. And he’s fine. Except then, every time the movie needed him to be weak or incapacitated, somebody would lightly shove him and he would collapse into a shaking, useless heap of a reanimated man. If you’re gonna make these nonsensical world building rules, you gots to follow them all the time, not just when it’s convenient.

Setting! It is important! Setting is probably my favorite aspect of any novel or movie. I’m a setting junkie. So iFrankenstein’s first setting issue was that I was totally uncertain what city this was set in. What city is this that has both a big-ass cathedral for the gargoyles to live in and a big-ass castle for the demons to live in, yet is huge enough that neither of those groups seem to be aware that the other’s big-ass structure exists. Then, there were these huge jumps in location. Such as at the end, when the Demons’s big-ass castle starts imploding for no apparent reason. Adam and Yvonne Strahovki’s characters are inside and both mostly passed out on the floor! Oh no! Then we get one shot of demon v. gargoyle fighting action. Then suddenly Adam and Yvonne are falling off the roof! No, not running up to the roof. Not running across the roof. Falling off the roof. Weren’t they just passed out on the laboratory floor? Yes6. Yes they were.

Never employ reoccurring phrases that can’t be said with a straight face. Props to Miranda Otto for repeatedly uttering the phrases “Gargoyle Queen” and “High Order of the Gargoyle” without cracking. Oh Miranda Otto. How far you’ve fallen since ripping off your helmet and crying “I am no man!” on the fields of Gondor.

Apply morals with a light hand. Was there a theme? No. Any sort of over-arching character arc5 or internal struggle for anyone? No. Even really a reason for Adam, the main character, to be in the movie? Nope. The whole movie was just a vehicle for exploding things7 and poor special effects in which men transformed into creatures that seemed a cross between the Skeksis in Dark Crystal and the cactus people in Doctor Who. And then every once in a while, you’d be hit with a speeding train of a moral. I think there was actually an audible thunk a few times. Adam can’t be destroyed by the demons because he has a soul after all!? Wow, blink and you’ll miss that life lesson!

Good adaptations walk a fine line. iFrankenstein begins with a summary of Frankenstein in its entirety. It lasts approximately thirty-eight seconds. And then the movie abandons its reported source material entirely. I’m convinced the writers have not actually read the book. Rather, they skimmed the SparkNotes. Friends, you gots to read more than the SparkNotes to write an adaptation. I’m a big fan of adaptations of classics or retellings, but there’s a fine line to walk. You can’t stick too close to the source material—there has to be something new to set your version apart. But you also can’t stray so far away that you lose your ties to what you’re adapting. If you could take the classic you’re retelling out of the story and have it remain virtually unaffected, you’re doing something wrong. So when your movie about Frankenstein’s monster is actually a movie about a war between Demons and Gargoyles…you’re doing something wrong.

Friends, this was such a horrifically terrible movie. So much cringe-worthy dialogue. So many random explosions. So much Aaron Eckhart doing his best Christian Bale Batman impression. It’s the sort of bad movie that gives bad movies a bad name.

And friends, I loved every second of it.

 

  1. See what I did there?
  2. Yes, Actor, because there were literally three women in this film, and they were all basically vehicles for tokenism. So glad Yvonne Strahovski (whose character name I can’t remember for the life of me) was there to be totally useless the whole movie except to ogle handsome monster with his shirt off and then be carried to safety by him. Goooood.
  3. ADAM. Adam Frankenstein. While I appreciated the fact that they were trying to do a Paradise Lost/Bible reference by calling him Adam, there is not a name in this world besides Victor that you can pair with Frankenstein and not have it sound moronic. Adam Frankenstein. Say it out loud a few times. Adam Frankenstein. Good grief. Why didn’t they just call him Dave Frankenstein?
  4. This is a terrible idea for so many reasons, the first of which is that it destroys almost all stakes for this character. Every time he’s in any danger, I thought, “No big deal. He’s immortal, so he’ll be fine.” I think the writers realized this halfway through, but instead of going back and rewriting things, they just decided to ignore it and keep trucking.
  5. So one of my favorite scenes in the movie was when Adam Frankenstein was walking through what I believe the cool kids are calling a disco tech. It’s full of loud music and dramatic lighting and skinny white people in metallic shirts sitting around drinking neon drinks. As Adam Frankenstein walks by, everyone looks up from their conversations and neon drinks to stare at him. Then, in one of his many nonsensical voice overs, Adam tells us something about how “People all stare at me and hate me because I am weird looking.” …uh, wrong. Friend, they are staring at you because you are super hot. I promise, those scars are only doing you favors.  You are literally the most attractive person in this film so the whole “people hate me because I’m ugly” thing really doesn’t hold up.
  6. There were also a few points where the characters ended up in locations with no explanation as to what that place was or why there were there. Such as when Yvonne and Adam have a scene in this impossibly dingy apartment that happens to have a fully-stocked medicine cabinet so that Yvonne can stitch up Adam’s wounds. So whose apartment is this? If it’s Yvonne’s, she needs to talk to her boss about what he’s paying her as one of the top electrophysicists in the country. If it’s Adam’s, why does he go back there looking for her later? Where are we!?
  7.  Pretty sure no one ever used a door in this movie. They all had to jump through windows or smash through walls. Or, in one nonsensical case, have a conversation through a waterfall in a train station. Also, Frankenstein’s weapon of choice is Frankensticks. You can’t make this stuff up.
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in which a kitchen cabinet takes its own life

Last night, one of our kitchen cabinets decided it was not long for this world and threw itself to its death.

Yes that’s right. Our kitchen cabinet five feet off the ground filled with all the plates, bowls, and Tupperware three poverty-stricken young people had in the world, spontaneously decided to detach itself from the wall. Fortunately, its fall was broken by my roommate’s boyfriend1.

The plates, bowls, and a sizable Tupperware full of flour cascaded to the floor in a slow-motion waterfall of glass and ceramic. So many casualties, strewn across the kitchen floor. It looked like the after picture of a natural disaster area.

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I was not home at the time the collapse occurred. I got a confusing text from my roommate that started, “Everything’s fine.” Which usually means something is very wrong.

“Everything’s fine,” she texted me. “Except one of the cabinets fell out of the wall and into my boyfriend.”

It was the icing on the cake of an already stressful evening.

A repairman2 came by today and fixed it, so the cabinet is once again suspended where it should be. I still have a lot of lingering anxiety that it’s going to pitch forward again3, especially since I’m the only one at the apartment all weekend and this time it might be me the cabinet breaks its fall on.

I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes kitchen cabinets decide to throw themselves to their death at seven pm on a Wednesday night. But take this as a public service announcement, and a warning.

It happens.

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  1. Oh, don’t worry, he’s fine.
  2. Named Emerson, which feels very Boston appropriate.
  3. And take our surviving dishes with it.
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