Sunday, October 29, 2006

Daylight Savings

I used to somewhat look forward to daylight savings. It was an event that often worked in my favor. When I was in college, it gave me an extra hour to finish that paper or study for a test. When I was newly out of college and exploring my new home of San Francisco, daylight savings gave me an extra hour to spend out and about experiencing city nightlife. And don't forget that glorious feeling of being able to sleep yet an hour longer without the guilt. I still didn't like that it got darker earlier every evening, but the perks that came along with it made it seem not that bad. I should also mention that living the west coast also tended to soften the blow. I don't ever recall it getting dark at 3:45 p.m.!

But fast forward a few years, and daylight savings is practically giving me hives. You see, now I live on the east coast, where it does in fact seem to get dark at 3:45 p.m. in afternoon. The changing of the clocks also serves as a harbinger of what is to come--wintry, cold, miserable days. I'm older now, and getting to spend an extra hour on Saturday night drinking doesn't bring the same thrill anymore. I'm much more likely to be in bed by 11:00 p.m. now.

And now, due to my job, I'm afraid that I will won't see the sun again until April. I leave the house at 6:30 a.m. and often don't get home until 5:30 p.m. or so. I also never leave the building once I get to work. Minus a few moments in the morning when I am too sleepy to care, I predict long, depressing days lighted only by office quality fluorescent overheads. Goodbye sun, hello Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

I better start searching the Internet for sun lamps and discount trips to Aruba.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Berk's in Harvard Square

When I was a Massachusetts high school and college student I tended to favor fuzzy sweaters, patched jeans, and I must admit, accompanying fuzzy hair.

I was still finding my own personal style, but I did love to shop. Harvard Square was my shopping Mecca, and I loved the shoe store Berk's most of all. If I remember correctly, it was even where I bought my first pair of Doc Martens! I could always count on Berk's to provide me with some stylish, yet comfortable shoes (minus that Doc Martin purchase--but hey they were cool and stylish for ladies back in 1990).

My taste in shoes and hair products has become more sophisticated over the years, but I still love Berk's. And why shouldn't I? Just as my style has changed with the times, so has Berk's. Case in point: Berk's now carries a small, but well edited, collection of reasonably priced clothes.

The collection consists mostly of basics--designer jeans, American Apparel shirts, and Tulle jackets and sweaters. Although it's not the kind of place you would go looking for that perfect party dress, it's definitely the place to go to fill out a wardrobe. And if you are like me, you have a lot more use for a great fitting pair of jeans and a sweater than a $300 silk dress. But that's just me. I'm much more of a Cambridge gal than a Newbury street gal.

I highly recommend taking a peek at both the current shoes and clothes.

I did note on my last trip there that they even still carry a good selection of Doc Martens. Sure brought me back, but I'm also sure glad that I've since figured out how to successfully defrizz my hair--well, most days at least.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Politics of the Fryeburg Fair

I went to the Fryeburg, Maine fair earlier this month. The fair has existed in various forms for about 150 years. Founded in 1851, it started out as a place for Maine farmers to show off their best agricultural and bovine specimens.

Speed up to the year 2006, and the fair now has it's share of commercial kiosks that ply mops, dream catchers and hot tubs, but it still continues most of the traditional events such as a skillet toss, harness racing, and ox pull contests.

The best parts are generally the demonstrations: How to hook a rug, dogs herding geese as they would sheep, flower arrangements and maple sugaring to name a few. And don't forget the food. In a period of about three hours I ate one Italian sausage, eight fried dough "nuggets," one maple sugar ice cream cone, and some french fries.

Unfortunately, I arrived on the last day of the fair this year and it definitely had a bit of the "party is over" feel to it by the time I got there. The 4-H kids were packing up their poster boards that they had lovingly decorated to inform us city folk about the complexities of goat raising, there were two for one sales on everything from baby rabbits to belt buckles, you could tell that the smiles were becoming a little forced on all the staff.

Tired as both we and the rest of the fair goers and staff were, there were still some amazing moments. As we were heading back the car, we stopped by the main demonstration area. The place was packed. And why wouldn't it be? It was the tractor pull finals! Mullets and Black Sabbath t-shirts were the fashion of choice, along with John Deere hats and plaid shirts. We decided to mull around a bit and waited for the opening ceremonies.

They opened with an oral history of New England tractor pulls. Interesting, but not that compelling. Then, a woman who sold tickets at one of the fair gates, got up to sing the national anthem. She stepped up to the mike and belted out one of the best versions of the song I have ever heard. It was clear, unsentimental, and heartfelt. Men stood and placed their caps over their hearts. Women quietly sang along to themselves. It was getting close to sunset, and the light on the red and orange leaves the served as the backdrop to the event was lovely.

There was no political rhetoric, there were no professional photo opps, and no thought of all the recent political scandals. We were all simply listening to a woman singing about a place that she loves. And we were agreeing with her. If I had done a poll, I would guess that I vote differently than most of the other people in attendance. But in that moment, it didn't matter. We were all brought together by a shared hope and caring for our country.

I want this country to return to its best intentions, and I assume in their own way, so did everyone else around me that afternoon. We may differ in how we think our country should go about it, but my hunch is that having moments like these can only help.

Monday, October 02, 2006

the skinny on fashion

For many women, fall means it's time for new clothes, new trends, and a new look. However, I've found that when one lives in Boston, it's difficult to get a sense of the annual fashion trends. I usually appreciate Boston's more laid back approach to fashion and trends, but there are some times during the year (fall being one of them) when I wish we were just a little more fashion forward.

The high number of professors, graduate students, and preppies here keep us from taking any trend too seriously. The professors get rewarded for looking as unfashionable as possible (if you have time to think about clothes and style, you can't be taken seriously). The graduate students are too preoccupied and poor. The preppies are wearing the same clothes they wore in boarding school 15 and 20 years ago (wearing new isn't very frugal--and why buy when you can pillage your grandmother's Maine summer cottage closet?). It seems Boston chooses not to do fashion, at least not enough of us to make much of an impact.

I got to thinking about all of this because I saw a woman wearing "skinny jeans" today. Skinny jeans, the fashion magazines tell us, are an integral part of this season's "new silhouette." I've been seeing them in magazines, reading a few Web site articles about both their merits and drawbacks, and have seen them in a few stores. But up until today, I had never actually seen them on a real live human being.

I will refrain from commenting on whether I like this new look or not (mostly because I'm not sure yet--this woman could pull them off pretty well, but I'm not so sure most people could), but this fashion forward sighting once again reminded me how I miss the vibrancy and fashion risk taking of other cities such as San Francisco and New York.

I like fashion, but I don't think many people would call me a fashion risk taker. And even though I will probably never own a pair of skinny jeans (whether I live in Boston, New York, or San Francisco), I miss being around people who do. I miss being around people who take fashion seriously and have their own strong sense of style (trends or not) even more so.

Yes, fashion can be frivolous, and yes, there are many other much more important things to worry about. I fully agree that one has to be careful of putting too much stock and effort in trends and shopping. But when done well, fashion also makes wonderful street theater, can make life more pleasurable, and most importantly, makes you feel good about yourself.

Here's hoping that Boston denizens decides to take the fashion plunge. A whole city may thank you.