Tag Archives: BBC

in which i fight for my favorite accessory

My personal philosophy is to never do anything by half.

Which is why I get into something, I get totally, annoyingly, way-too-obsessed.

I cite, for example, this past May, when I did not have a conversation that did not include mentions of Sherlock1, last summer when I thrust the book One Day upon everyone I met, the year I was in England when every night ended with an episode of Chuck, and the fact that I can recite (500) Days of Summer in its entirety.

So it will come as no surprise that I have recently thrown myself head-first into the deep end of another obsession.

Hello, my name is Mackenzi Lee, and I’m a Downton Abbey addict2.

My first encounter with the Crawleys was last year at Christmas time, when my dad was doing his daily shirt ironing/TV watching. Usually he watches Chuck, but on this particular night, as he smoothed out the creases in his purple button up, Downton Abbey was playing on low volume in the background. Being right at the peak of Christmas vacation boredom, I flopped down on the couch and started watching with him.

I spent most of the hour with absolutely no idea what was going on. At the best of times, I can barely keep track of who everyone is and how they’re related to each other. Coming in blind, it was a crapshoot. The whole time, I felt like my mom at most movies – “Who’s that?” “Do we like him?” “Why is she the only American person?” – but my father was patient, and answered all my questions. Which made for quite a pleasant first Downton experience, and it left me wanting more3.

But then I got distracted by other obsessions, like John Green and Benedict Cumberbatch, and Downton went off the air for the time. And I forgot about it.  But then, six months later, it floated back into my life in the form of a Jimmy Falon skit from last year that I discovered while doing research for an interview with Brooke Shields on the radio show I work for4. And now I am completely sucked into a vortex of Edwardian soap opera from which I can’t extricate myself.

There are so many things I love about Downton. I love Maggie Smith’s one-liners. I love Lady Mary’s eyebrows. I love Bates and Anna being adorable.

But my favorite part of Downton? The hats. Oh, the hats. I pine for them. All of them. Even the servants’ hats, I’d take any of them. And I don’t understand why we don’t wear hats anymore. They are the epitome of refinement and class. They polish off any outfit.

Now, observe while I artfully change the subject.

Yesterday, I went to the Randolph Street antique market here in Chicago. It was basically the most awesome Saturday morning of all time. As someone who was almost certainly born in the wrong century5, nothing makes me happier than antiques, and this fair had some of the most amazing and lovely things I’ve ever seen. It was good that I have no money or permanent place of residence. I could have easily blown my life savings on a set of restaurant booths from a 50’s diner and a tandem bike from 19356.

At the Randolph Street fair, I stumbled upon a booth selling nothing but vintage hats, run by a friendly white-haired woman7. She must have noticed my fingers twitching as I examined them. She could probably sense how I pined to touch the hats. Caress them. Try them on. She could also probably tell I was a little bit scared to ask, especially since I knew I couldn’t afford any of them. So she approached me tactfully. She lifted one off the hats off the rack. “Excuse me,” she said. “Would you mind trying this hat on for me? I’m not sure how it looks on.”

So I tried on the hat for her. Then another hat. And another. And another. And after being there for almost forty-five minutes, I had tried on every hat at her booth, from the Edwardians to the WWII plucky newspaper reporter hat8. She had stories about every hat that she was dying to tell, and I was genuinely interested in hearing every one of them, so we made a great team9.

Hats are awesome, friends10. Many of them are works of art. They exude class and refinement, and I yearn for the days when women knew better than to leave the house without their hat. A better time, in my opinion. So I would like to propose that we bring back the hat. This week, I implore you to wear a hat at least one day. In tribute to Downton. In tribute to history. In tribute to class and refinement and art.

This week, wear a hat. Because hats are freaking awesome.

  1. Can we also talk about the fact that I am currently in a coffee shop, and a stranger just came up to me and complemented me on my Sherlock laptop sticker. Man I love nerd solidarity!
  2. Yeah, I know I’m like three years late on this. The rest of the world is in Downton fatigue, I am just getting caught up.
  3. In retrospect, it kind of sucked that I watched the last episode first, and clearly remember everything that happened. I’m like an elephant when it comes to remembering things I wish I could forget.
  4. My life is complicated, okay!?
  5. Seriously, can it PLEASE be 1890, but without the cholera and poor sanitation?
  6. Also – ALSO! – I found a hook for a hand! In real life. Those of you who know me and my weirdness well (so basically the MT) know that my favorite plot device of all time is a hook for a hand. Captain Hook. Buster Bluth. Snape in “A Very Potter Musical.” And I found one, in real life, that was actually used at one time. Meaning that, at one time, there was at least one hook-handed man wandering this world. I wish that I could have met him, to shake his hook.
  7. I am like my mother in that I end up making friends everywhere I go. They are almost always women older than my parents. With my aforementioned nostalgia, it will come as no surprise that we relate well to each other.
  8. Unfortunately they didn’t all fit, because I am cursed with an abnormally large cranium.
  9. Some of the hats had come from the estate of the wife of the Chief of Staff of President Eisenhower. They were divine.
  10. First draft of this post, I left the comma out here, so the sentence read “Hats are awesome friends.” Which is also true. Hats can keep you company when you are lonely. They are great listeners.
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in which i am surrounded by corn and stillness


A long time ago, I saw a play with my family called “The Curious Savage1.” You might have heard of it, because it’s pretty great and mildly well known. I don’t actually remember much about the play itself, other than generally enjoying it, and this one particularly line, which has been quoted in my family ever since;

“People say ‘I love you’ all the time – when they say, ‘Take an umbrella, it’s raining,’ or ‘Hurry back,’ or even ‘Watch out, you’ll break your neck.’ There are hundreds of ways of wording it — you just have to listen for it.”

This past weekend, I was told “I love you” more times than I could count.

Do you need an extra blanket on the bed, my grandma wants to know.

Did you have enough to eat, my uncle asks after every meal.

You can pick what we watch2, my aunt tells me.

We worry when you take the four-wheeler out, says grandma.

Will you play goblins with me, begs my seven-year-old cousin3.

If you remember from the last time we spoke, I spent this past weekend at my grandparent’s farm in rural Iowa. We did the math, and discovered that I haven’t been there since 2003. And yet, it was like I never left. Sure, the kids are all a foot taller, the adults are all a little paunchier, and there’s new tile in the bathroom, but the things that matter, like the underlying theme of every interaction I have with my family, hasn’t changed.

The Iowa where my grandparent’s farm is located is about as far from a Chicago atmosphere as you can get. It’s so remote that the silence rings4. My dad, who grew up there, went to a one room school house5, and lived his first eighteen years without running water. When my grandma and I were driving to the cemetery, we passed a guy on a motorcycle. As we drove away, my grandma commented, “He must have been from out of town – he didn’t wave.”

And, while I love living in a city that never stops moving, it was nice to be part of stillness for a few days. To have a horizon with a vanishing point. To listen to the corn whisper.

To be surrounded by people who love you, even if they don’t always know how to say it. They don’t have to.

Passing around polaroids and telling stories on the living room floor says it all.

  1. Yes, I get it, pretty much every blog post so far is based upon unoriginal thought, or references some play or book or something. I promise I am capable of coming up with my own ideas!
  2. I chose Masterpiece Mystery, the best hour and a half of television every week. The program this week may have been the least frightening police drama in the history of police dramas and yet it still scared me to the point of sleeping with the light on.
  3. She also told me, when I asked her where she wanted to run away to, “Chicago to be with you!” And I just about died of cuteness.
  4. And, as it occurred to me after watching the aforementioned unscary British police show, it is the kind of remote that is the ideal setting for a horror film.
  5. Not a joke.  A straight-up Little House on the Prairie style one room school house. I visited it on Sunday, since it’s now a museum. It looks like this.

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