Saturday, September 5, 2015

Happy Days Are Here Again

Well. August was a nasty, mean, horrible little jerk. Getting back on track now. If you ever have a bad minute, hour, day, week, month, or year, you should watch this video. It never fails to make me feel wonderful. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Throw some glitter. Make it rain. Enjoy the train.

I'm terrified of flying. Maybe it's because I didn't fly much as a kid. Maybe it's 9/11. Maybe it's my claustrophobia. Maybe I'm just crazy. Whatever it is, it's bad. Because of this, I tend to use Amtrak for all of my east coast travel. Yes. I know. It takes longer. There are no seatbelts.  There's technically less security. There was a derailment recently. Fine. Got it. You'll never change my mind.

As I'm writing this I'm actually in the middle of an eight-hour train ride back to Boston from Washington D.C. In reflecting on this most recent journey I'm noticing that I've gotten quite good at riding the rails, so I thought I'd share a few strategies to make your journey a bit better should you decide to go with Amtrak the next time you travel. 

Tip #1 -  Choosing and securing your seat*
You need to act fast, but never become frantic. Put the iPod away. Finish your coffee and toss the cup. Stop texting. It's go time. Focus. Amtrak trains are set up with two seats on each side of an aisle. There are no assigned or reserved seats. Your goal is to secure your own set of two seats in which to burrow. This is crucial to your train happiness. As you walk down the platform towards the train do NOT enter at the first open and available door like all the newbies. Walk swiftly to the second one, enter, and immediately survey the car but keep moving slowly but confidently forward. As you're moving, assess the other passengers so you can decide who looks like a good train neighbor. Is anybody talking loudly on a cell phone about something that sounds work-related? AVOID. Anyone traveling with more than one child under the age of 5? AVOID.  Anyone have an actual pillow or blanket with them? AVOID. Try to sit across from someone traveling alone and traveling light. Ideally choose a seat in the center of the car, not too close to the bathroom, and a good distance from the family-sized four seater sections at either end of the car. When you find a suitable seat pull into the little row and get the HELL out of everyone else's way. Now take a really long time to settle in and sit down. Pretend to look for your ticket or something. Only fully settle into the double seat and put your suitcase in the rack when the rest of the passengers have settled down from their own seat searches. Congratulations. This is your home for the next several hours.

Tip #2 - Protecting what's yours**
You have your seats, but now you need to keep them. Both of them. The train is going to make several stops and new people will board. You don't want anyone chirping at you, "Is this seat open?" and then ruining your life by sitting with you in your train cave. I don't care who it is, how attractive they are, and how single you are. You hold down the fort. How do you do this? When the train pulls into a station you need to create the illusion that there is a lack of space around you. Make it look chaotic. Dig through your bag. Just take stuff out and put it back in. Hold your scarf up and shake it and fold it and unfold it a few times. Flail. Stand up and take your sweatshirt off or put it on. Just take up space. If things are real bad, take your suitcase down, unzip and open it, and pretend you need something from the bottom of it. When things calm down and you know you're in the clear, put your suitcase back up in the rack and settle back into your train cave. I should have prefaced all of this by telling you that it's very important that you are not asleep when you pull into busier stations like NYC and Philly. Lots of people get on and have no qualms about slamming their bags down next to you to wake you up and burst your train cave bubble. Don't miss your opportunity to protect your train cave. Stay awake. Also, this is where the person across from you who is traveling alone and traveling light comes in. They won't stand up and make a scene, they'll just stay neatly and quietly in their seat, so the empty seat next to them will appear super available. New passengers will opt to sit in their cave over yours. Stay awake, be chaotic, protect what's yours. 

Tip #3 - Let me be "frank" about train cuisine
Buy a liter of water and bring it onto the train with you because hydration is important and train water is overpriced and usually a weird brand you've never heard of. Don't bring anything else. You'll go out the day before your trip and buy some "healthy snacks" to eat. You'll board the train with your Kind bars, Ziplock bags of almonds, bananas, and good intentions, and then you'll smell that someone else on the train is eating a hot dog and it will all go out the window. Train hot dogs. Are so. Freaking. Delicious. $5 and heavenly. Grab yourself two packets of yellow mustard, a packet of relish, go back to your train cave, and enjoy. I always say to my BodyJam classes "where else can we DO this?" because some of our choreography is a little out there. Same deal with these hotdogs. Save your "healthy snacks" for reality. When you're on that train the rules are different, and you need to savor your salty, processed, meaty, mustardy snack. Wash it all down with a real Pepsi swigged right out of a bright blue can. Let out a happy little sigh when you're done. Delicious.

Now, I realize it probably seems insane to devote eight hours of my life to a journey that could potentially only take two or three hours if I flew. But for me there is no such thing as a two or three hour flight. I will start to panic a month beforehand. The days leading up to it I will not sleep. The flight itself will feel like an eternity. I'll absolutely cry before, during, and after. I'll be too exhausted when I arrive at my destination to enjoy it or do a good job at whatever it is I'm there to do. Eight hours on a train where I can nap (except when I'm approaching NYC or Philly and need to protect my cave), write, study choreography, catch up on work emails, read, listen to music, or just sit and think about absolutely nothing is something I look forward to so much. I highly recommend it. I can't wait to do this again and I hope you'll try it, too. Throw some glitter. Make it rain. Enjoy the train.

*I wanted to explain my reasons for not just sitting in the quiet car, which is a car that forbids cell phone use and really noise of any kind. The quiet car needs to take a deep breath and calm down a little bit. Quiet car people are scary. If your phone vibrates, if you say "excuse me" as you pass someone on your way to the ladies room, if you open your Pepsi when you're eating your hot dog and the can makes a noise, they will growl at you. It ruins the relaxing vibe of the train. AVOID.

**Just to clarify because I love Amtrak so much, if the conductor makes an announcement that the train is sold out and all seats are needed as you're approaching the next station, you must abide and just hope the person who joins you in your train cave is only with you for an hour or two. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Everything Is About To Be Amazing

I think a lot of us occasionally allow our happiness to hinge on an accomplishment, event, material possession, or relationship. If I get married I'll be happy. When I'm 10 pounds lighter I'll be happy. When my squat weight is 10 pounds heavier I'll be happy. When I get a raise I'll be happy. If I have a kid I'll be happy. If I could just have that black Vinyasa Scarf from Lululemon, then I will really be happy (this one's personal and it's a toss-up, that thing really does fill me with joy.)

Now, I know this is not true and that happiness comes from within because that is what people like Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Gilbert and Danielle LaPorte tell us on social media. But I'm starting to question them, because I'm pretty sure that today's breathlessly-anticipated grand opening of the Boston Public Market will literally change my entire life. I will finally find true and complete happiness simply because I will be the kind of person who shops at a public market. Everything will become amazing. 

I'll immediately lose my horrible junk food habit. People who shop at public markets don't eat Cool Ranch Doritos purchased at the store in their office building lobby. I'll have fresh flowers on my kitchen table at all times. I'll have an heirloom tomato sprinkled with sea salt for dinner after I make eye contact with the person who grew it while I pay cash for it because I'll become responsible and actually go to the ATM. The lighting in my apartment when I eat that tomato will be perfect. I'll always be prepared for guests with something unique and locally grown and when they ask me where it's from I'll casually tell them the life story of the person or animal responsible for it. I'll never be late for work again. I'll have a beeswax candle in a mason jar because it's less toxic than the Glade apple cinnamon candle I've been forced to put up with for years. My hair will be shinier. I'll wear a real, clean outfit to go grocery shopping at the market over the weekend. I'll wear a real, clean outfit everyday. I'll actually go grocery shopping. I'll smile at tourists when they walk slowly and aimlessly down my street and ask them if they need directions and welcome them to the neighborhood because I'm super calm and happy from taking the yoga classes offered by the market. I'll absolutely drink 8 glasses of water a day and get 8 hours of sleep a night. I will never be drunk again because the wine and beer and cider purchased at the market wouldn't do that to me. I'll feel fine about the $22 cheese I buy weekly because it's high-quality so I'll need to eat less of it and it will last WAY longer. Yes. I'll be a person who has a small wedge of cheese and that's enough. I'm satisfied. I swear. I don't need the whole wheel. The girls who make the gluten free fresh pasta available at the market will be my Facebook friends. We'll drink tea in the fall at some point.  I'll make big green salads in big beautiful wooden bowls. I should buy some salad servers. Handmade ones. On Etsy. 

Okay, I'll stop. In all seriousness I think this is an enormously exciting addition to my city. I love where I live. I love the people who live here and who make and grow beautiful and delicious things. I am so excited to now be able to experience them under one roof all year long and to support their businesses. Here is a list of the vendors if you care. Everyone come shop. But not all at once I'll get annoyed if it gets too crowded. Wait. No. Scratch that. People who shop at public markets don't get annoyed. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Is Not A Dress Rehearsal

I  keep waiting and waiting and waiting to write my first post on this THIRD iteration of Runaway Shopgirl. Waiting to find someone to help me with template design and jazz things up a bit, waiting to think of a significant topic for my first post that would set the tone, waiting for it to occur to me what I want that tone to even be. I have seven draft posts started and left to rot in my queue. The oldest is from over a year ago. It was about Mayor Menino. It was pretty good. But none of them have been right. So I've just left it blank.

I realized today that I approach a lot of things this way. I wait until things are just slightly better than their present state to actually do anything. And a lot of the time that leaves me very stunted.

I'm not going to take that yoga class I really like because my yoga pants are old and I won't feel fantastic enough. My feet also look terrible and if any of those perfect yoga swans so much as glances down at them I'll disintegrate into shame tears. Staying home.

I'm not buying a food processor even though I need one to make half the things I like to eat because I live alone and I'm not married. Only married people who have registered to receive a food processor as a gift should have one. (Really, Ann?)

I'm not going to actually decorate my apartment or hang anything on the walls because this just isn't ideal. I don't REALLY live here. I'll just store my belongings here with no semblance of order until my real, beautiful, perfect apartment falls into my lap. THEN I'll actually settle in and make it a home.

My grandmother had this big yellow button in her kitchen for a little while when I was a kid that said, "Enjoy your life. This is not a dress rehearsal." That button was not wrong. This is it. This is my life. This is my apartment. This is my marital status. These are my yoga pants. Those are my feet. And this is my first blog post on my third try at having a blog.