Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Under-the-Radar Clothing Event" . . . Designers Circus in Allston

President and Ringmaster of the Designers Circus in Allston, Kathleen O'Neill—long time fashion designer—decided to bring her stash of designer contacts together under one roof. Rather than following the normal retail model, Designers Circus offers only what it calls selected "shopping days" on Saturdays and Wednesdays. In the case of this Spring 2012, there are only 7 days and four of them have already passed! March 31, April 4, and April 7 are still remaining. But then their Mother's Day Sale starts up again on April 25. You'll have to check their website for other sale dates.

The Circus offers Contemporary Boutique Women's Clothing in sizes 2-18 at 50-80% off retail prices. Kathleen writes that her Designers Circus is an under-the-radar clothing event, a sample sale, a warehouse sale, a pop up store, and an experience in "social shopping" all in one. The fitting room is just that, one room. Women try on things in the one large room very much ala Filene's Basement or Loehman's, but the similarities to those other places end there. Kathleen fills her racks with one-of-a-kind treasures you won't find in a standard department store.
 Much of the dramatic costume jewelry (Kathleen is wearing one of the pieces) you'll find at the Designers Circus are made by local artists. One jeweler, Louise Loewenstein of Zip Bling Jewelry, uses zipper parts to create dazzling chokers. If you look closely at the necklace below you'll begin to recognize the common shape of the bottom part of a zipper.
 Being of lean pocket book these days, I was happy to find a $10 rack as well as many items that had been deeply reduced. Here is a detail from an Guatemalan jacket with bone button I purchased tonight for under $50. It's perfect for adding some spring colors to my wardrobe while the air is still cool.
If you like the unusual, the flowing, the colorful, and the sleek, you'll find it all at the Designers Circus at One Braintree Street, Allston MA, or if you're closer to Maine, you can take advantage of the Portland Event Sale Days of Designers Circus at 58 Fore Street, Portland ME.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What matters when color goes away in the middle of a black out?

On Friday, three days after the Back Bay Blackout, electricity had been restored, but there was no fresh dairy in the coolers at the local CVS on Massachusetts Avenue.
The prompt I used with my Wednesday night writing class was “what matters?” from Pat’s Schneider's
book, Writing Alone and with Others. She is the founder of the Amherst Artists and Writers method of creative writing that I have been teaching since 2004. Here's what I wrote that was inspired by the blackout in Back Bay Boston as a result of the explosion of two transformers on Tuesday night at 6:30 that left this part of the city in darkness for over 2 days. Take a look at the YouTube video I found on line the morning after the explosion. I've tagged it on to the end of this blog post.

What matters more? The crunch of a corn chip or the creamy mush of a mashed potato?
 What matters is the pesticide count. How much poison are you willing to chew and swallow. What matters if you’re in a third world country is not the pesticide, hormone, whatever count but whether or not you have something to eat.
Today (Wed. 3/14/2012) I walked block after block through the streets of Back Bay in search of a restaurant. It was after 2 and I hadn’t even had breakfast. All the restaurants were dark. All the windows dark. The traffic lights dark. Policemen in day-glow green/yellow jackets and black pants directed the traffic by hand motion and whistles and the bags and bundles people carried were crumpled, recycled ones since no stores were open. I did see a few people with their coats on, huddled inside locked restaurants by the plate glass windows. Probably employees who hadn’t known they’d spend the day waiting for the lights to come on.

As I walked the dark streets I imagined how easily our lives could change without electricity. All that food rotting in coolers and freezers. Even Whole Foods was closed.

Money, ATMs. Nothing functioned. No commerce. No classes. No conferences. What matters? What matters is the difference between temporary and permanent. We don’t live in a war zone, but we could. Finite interruption vs. infinite or permanent absence of what we’ve always known and taken for granted. A vibrant culture plunged into darkness. What’s the phrase? Not amenities, but roads and bridges, utilities, water? Infrastructure.

And then I ask myself if there's another lesson here. What matters in the middle of an emotional storm is to ask: finite or infinite? Temporary interruption vs. destruction.

What matters? That I can see the lines on this note pad. That I have the table on which I rest my feet, the light to see how the orange clementines—soft, round and dimpled—dance with the orange fabric draped over the fainting couch to blend with the terra cotta metal frame that holds up the table and how the color of the frame blends with the terra cotta tone of the rug and picks up the same color in my scarf. How these small details matter and yet they do, especially in contrast to the dark streets of Boston. Dark, even in broad daylight. A darkness that people on another side of the world live with without any choice. 

For me on that day I had a choice. I kept walking and ended up at the Yard House near Fenway Park. On its third day of operation, it had escaped the black out fate and was up and running with a great menu. (I ordered the lunched size angel hair pasta. It was as good as anything I've enjoyed in Italy.)

Today I went to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and asked how people coped when the lights went out. 
Lots of food got thrown out. Dry ice was brought in. In the case of WF, refrigerated container trucks arrived on Tuesday night to store salvageable food. 

Without a TV on Tuesday night I was able to get online and was appalled by the number of people who commented with their annoyance that the TV news alert about the explosion had made them lose time watching Jeopardy! I guess unless you have a visceral experience of being in the middle of a crisis you just can't get how it's effecting others. It's just another temporary interruption. Finite.

Here is a YouTube video that captured the black smoke in the area:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring forward in spite of yourself

There's something called "muscle memory" which is supposed to stay in the body even when you've forgotten to exercise for weeks. That old routine is just waiting for the right conditions for you to get back to it again. These crocuses have some of that as they muscle through the dry, colorless detritus of winter. Even though we didn't get much snow, we sure got a lot of beige. Cracked, dried out dull leaves and grasses. Fields and fields of them as far as the eye could see for months now. But this weekend we turned the clocks ahead and today's temperature expressed its muscle memory for spring so much it almost felt like summer. Even though there might be one last blizzard hovering in the clouds to dampen our spring days, it's surely going to be short lived especially if it comes in April.