Monday, April 28, 2008

Knoxville Living

My friend Vicki turned me on to the Travel section of Bust magazine (, which offers a wide selection of shopping, eating, and general living suggestions from its readers. Just go to, click on the Travel section, then type in your city. I'm putting this out there for all the friends of mine who will soon be heading out to new and exciting places. It's good to know what's fun and worthy when moving to a new place.

That having been said, does anyone have some helpful information for me regarding Knoxville Tennessee? I'd be grateful.

Here's what I'm looking forward to the most - something called the Great Rubber Duck Race, which occurs annually in August. For $5, you can purchase a rubber duck that will race other ducks down the Tennessee River. Seriously, that's my kind of town:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Terror of the Wedding Dress

I blame television and films mostly for the fact that I thought shopping for a wedding dress would be about champagne and glamour and my mother's eyes welling up at every turn of a swishy gown. But alas, there was no champagne nor glamour, though my mom did tear up a little and I ended up bawling in the car. Mind you, I did not bawl because of the beauty of the whole experience. I bawled because it is all so very stressful.

Imagine: a room full of a zillion white dresses. Now: choose one. Mind you: it must be perfect. This is your wedding day, after all and you only get one of these (God willing).

Bridal shops are dirty and low and stinky. This is my opinion and I am using those words both in the literal and metaphoric sense. Sales staff are either unavailable or pushy; the dressing rooms are either too small or embarrassingly cavernous; and the other brides shopping are spiteful rather than generous. It is a strange, strange thing.

All that having been said, I did find a dress. This was after three or four harrowing store experiences and one meltdown during which I really should not have been driving for the safety of all others on the road. My mom and I were driving down 44th Street and we passed by yet another bridal shop, one that was not on our schedule/radar. Let's do it, I said through tears. Maybe they have the most magical and perfect dress.

One frightening u-turn later, lo and behold, we find that they did. The store was full of beautiful dresses and sales people who gave us just the right amount of attention. I found my dress after one day of shopping for it, but I waited to purchase it to be sure. One day, despite how painful, did not seem long enough. But it was. I went back and it was still the most magical dress in all the stores.

And so above is a picture of the beading alone. If I included the whole dress, my fiance would destroy me, so the beading is here for your viewing interest.

Lastly, a word of advice about local Grand Rapids shops:

1. Avoid Kim Kriner's whose sales people are not only disinterested and annoyed, one of them is also remiss in her use of deodorant.

2. Despite what the commercials tell you, you will not love David's Bridal. There is a reason their dresses are so cheap. There is no construction to them whatsoever. When we walked in, we were interrupted by an aggressive woman who asked if we had an appointment. (An appointment? At David's Bridal?) She proceeded to generously give us an appointment and we were forced to walk around with a sales person who told us they wanted to create the whole look. Um. No. It's my wedding. I get to do that.

3. Bridal Gallery on 44th is very, very good. As is Bridal Espinosa on Plainfield.

4. Don't listen to anyone who says it's going to be magical. It probably isn't. It's overwhelming and stressful and full of desperate searching through a mountain of white. Breathe. Drink beforehand. Breathe.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Perfect Mixed CD

Giving any sort of present is problematic. It suggests we know someone is some way. And not just that we know them, but that we might be able to predict what they would like that they do not currently have. Who hasn't received that cardigan from a well-meaning mother that is a color we would never put near our skin and of a cut that is meant for a woman who is well beyond even her soccer mom years? (Insert clever analogy for male readers).

Some mixed cds are the equivalent of that: compilations of music I would never put near my skin and definitely not cut for me. So when I make them for friends, I try to do the opposite of that. I want to give them something they don't have, but something that will complement who they are and will fit into their cd collection.

What's important as far as I am concerned is not the content. Gone are the days of trying to express my emotions to someone via the mixed tape. I'm a writer and a fairly direct person. If I want to tell someone how I feel, I'll use my own words. What is important is transitions, pacing, arc, and a powerfully snobby aesthetic. Access to a very large collection of music is also helpful.

Here is the double-disc playlist I recently created for a friend who is turning 33 (this very day! Happy birthday, A!), and yes, I did put Dolly Parton between Jay-Z and Roy Orbison. It works better than you might think:

1. Wasted Days and Wasted Nights (Freddy Fender)
2. Dedicated Follower of Fashion (The Kinks)
3. No Matter What (Badfinger)
4. The Passenger (Iggy Pop)
5. Beautiful Girls (Sean Kingston)
6. Lucifer (Jay-Z)
7. Jolene (Dolly Parton)
8. Working for the Man (Roy Orbison)
9. Stand (The Bees)
10. Amsterdam (Guster)
11. Publish My Love (Rogue Wave)
12. That Time (Regina Spektor)
13. I Feel It All (Feist)
14. Girl Least Likely To (Morrissey)
15. Holland, 1945 (Neutral Milk Hotel)
16. Is This Love? (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah)

1. Put a Penny in the Slot (Fionn Regan)
2. Song of Our So-Called Friend (Okkervil River)
3. On a Great Lake (Chris Brokaw)
4. I’m Lonely (and I Love It) (Future Bible Heroes)
5. When Your Mind’s Made Up (Glen Hansard & Markita Irglova)
6. Little Sister (Rufus Wainwright)
7. I Believe in a Thing Called Love (Edson)
8. I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever) (Stevie Wonder)
9. Michigan (Ambulance Ltd)
10. Four Seasons in One Day (Crowded House)
11. Vincent O’Brien (M. Ward)
12. Honey and the Moon (Joseph Arthur)
13. Dry the Rain (The Beta Band)
14. Sugar Free Jazz (Soul Coughing)
15. Days (Elvis Costello)
16. For Today I’m a Boy (Antony & the Johnsons)
17. Mix Tapes/Cell Mates (Rocky Votolato)