Sunday, July 26, 2009

Women be shopping

Today I went to the mall to amuse myself. First I went to the Pinnacle strip mall on the west of the highway to try out the fancy stores I heard were there. Unfortunately, the owners of said stores are apparently devout Christians and will not even employ other people to work their shops on Sundays. They (both of them) did look like they would be good places to shop in, though, on an unholy day.

So I went to the other side of the highway where the Promenade mall is. I was complaining (to myself of course, since I am always alone) about how terrible the choices were - Dillard's, Forever 21, Banana Republic, that's it - and yet somehow managed to do over $300 worth of damage.

The reason I woke up desperately needing to shop is because last night I started a new book from the library: The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende. This is what it says about Esteban Trueba, when he moves to the country:

"The first months, he kept his promise to himself of always bathing and changing his clothes for dinner, as he had heard the British colonizers did in the most distant hamlets of Africa and Asia, so as not to lose their dignity and authority. He would put on his best clothes, shave, and play his favorite opera arias on the gramophone. But little by little he let himself be conquered by rusticity, and came to accept the fact that he had no calling as a dandy, especially since there was no one to appreciate his efforts... He was slowly becoming a barbarian."

I was gripped with fear by this passage and probably had nightmares and definitely woke up desperately needing to buy new clothes. So I went to the gym (clothes need to fit, after all), spent an hour by the pool reading fashion magazines (no better accessory than a tan), and proceeded to buy all sorts of flowy and flowery things I don't need but that Vogue and Bazaar assure me are timeless. Except that it's Sunday so for the next 5 days all I can wear are black pencil skirts and pressed button-downs.

It was a fun day, though, because in honor of the book passage I dolled myself up entirely inappropriately for this town (probably appropriately for anywhere in AR). I wore a VERY small white linen Alberta Ferretti dress that I bought at a consignment store in Paris (not sure whether it's supposed to only remain under things), a beige striped summer cardigan to hide the see-through-ness of the dress/slip, multiple gold necklaces to aid in the hiding, fabulous sunglasses, brown 40s-inspired heels, and my newly-bronzed legs. It was great, even though I've had to sit with my feet propped up for the last 2 hours at home to soothe the pain of those heels. Things are SO FAR from the parking lot here. Which is why the natives wear sneakers and athletic shorts.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Coming to America

I've found a new site called TownMe.com that is supposed to be a little like Yelp for the towns too small/insignificant to be included in a Yelp/Citysearch/Menupages/etc. What it offers in addition to (and more interesting than) restaurant and activity listings is statistics on each town.

So of course I looked up Rogers, AR, my new homebase, and this is what I found:

Rogers: 94% white, America: 79% white
Rogers: 1% Asian, America: 3% Asian (so much smaller than I though even for the whole nation!)
Rogers: 0% Black, America: 13% Black
On the bright side, 18% of Rogers inhabitants speak Spanish at home in addition to English, vs 10% across America.

No sure as to the accuracy of these stats, but their other listings seem pretty correct: Arby's, Chili's, more chain restaurants, Borders, Barnes & Nobles, more chain stores...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Julia Sugarbaker

I am kind of loving the South - full of southerners with the best one-liners ever.

Today I had dinner with a new friend I met at Starbuck's - her, the friendly southerner, introduced herself out of the blue to me, the shocked New Yorker. We were talking about past relationships (in general terms, of course, this is only our first friend-date) and she goes: "I'm always careful because, as my momma says, 'love is blind but the neighbors aren't.'"

Pure genius, and particularly entertaining when said in a proper drawl. I'm just waiting to pull together a group of real southern lady-friends and make my own Designing Women-style life.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Customer Service

I've just learned which retailer has the best customer service. Hands down, Saks Fifth Avenue. After I received my most recent order (I bought myself birthday gifts, naturally) they sent a survey link to ask for my feedback. Since they were offering to put my name into a drawing for a $100 Saks gift certificate, and times are tough, I responded.

I complained that the Tory Burch clutch I had ordered was not as it seemed in the site's photo. The photo made it look less horizontal than it really was, so I didn't check the dimensions and it arrived way too horizontally long for my height. I explained that in my survey response yesterday and this morning I received a PERSONALIZED apology email from a senior customer service agent. To top it off, she spelled my last name correctly with the proper capitalization and spacing.

Her apology was so amazing that now I feel bad for complaining. Except that the clutch really did make me look way too short. And it would have been better if she had also sent me the $100 gift card.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Food baby

I am living in weight problem heaven or weight problem hell, depending on how you look at it.
There is food everywhere.

My office has a donut club, so every Friday morning we have donuts for breakfast. My office also has daily tastings of products we're thinking of selling in the clubs. Friday it was
guacamole and churos. The day before it was frozen mac and cheese. The day before that was the brownie semi-finals. Which means we're all looking forward to the finals which I'm sure will be even harder to resist.

The office cafeteria, or as we employees call it: The Carnival, is no better. In the morning it sells biscuits and sausage or egg sandwiches, at lunch it serves pizza and burgers, and in the afternoon there's a rotating snack offering of items like hot pretzels or corn dogs. The real deal, though, are the drinks - $1 gets you an enormous Big Gulp-sized styrofoam cup that is refillable for free soda or sweet tea all day.

As if that wasn't enough, thanks to the dedication our company has to charities, there is always some kind of food sale going on - cakes, more donuts, more burgers... it never ends.

On top of it all there's the restaurant selection in the area - Chili's, Hardee's, Wendy's, Andy's Frozen Custard, Cracker Barrel, Outback, PF Chang's; then for fine dining there's a handful of heavy pasta places and a Ruth's Chris (does that qualify for "fine dining?"). There's a Japanese restaurant, thank goodness, but it's more habachi meat than sushi/sashimi.

Half disgusting, half intriguing...


I'm having a hard time determining whether I really want to try this or am about to vomit - baking cookies on your dashboard:

http://www.boingboing.net/2009/07/17/howto-bake-dashboard.html

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Poem of the Day

This is thanks to Nicole, who sent it out this morning. Now I am in love with it.

by ruth l schwartz:

Important Thing

I've always loved the way pelicans dive,
as if each silver fish they see
were the goddamned most important
thing they've ever wanted on this earth --
and just tonight I learned sometimes
they go blind doing it,
that straight-down dive like someone jumping
from a rooftop, only happier,
plummeting like Icarus, but more triumphant --
there is the undulating fish,
the gleaming sea,
there is the chance to taste again
the kind of joy which can be eaten whole,
and this is how they know to reach it,
head-first, high-speed, risking everything,

and some of the time they come back up
as if it were nothing, they bob on the water,
silver fish like stogies angled
rakishly in their wide beaks,
-- then the enormous
stretching of the throat,
then the slow unfolding
of the great wings,
as if it were nothing, sometimes they do this
a hundred times or more a day,
as long as they can see, they rise
back into the sky
to begin again --

and when they can't?

We know, of course, what happens,
they starve to death, not a metaphor, not a poem in it;
this goes on every day of our lives,
and the man whose melting wings
spatter like a hundred dripping candles
over everything,

and the suicide who glimpses, in the final
seconds of her fall,
all the other lives she might have lived.

The ending doesn't have to be happy.
The hunger itself is the thing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Gourmet gas station

So since I moved here fellow immigrants have been telling me about this "gourmet gas station" where they apparently have specialty items. Needless to say I ignored them and privately mocked them.

But with an hour to kill today not far from the GGS I decided to give it a try. It turns out they were all right and I am, going forward, doing ALL my grocery shopping there. It looks like a gas station from the outside but on the inside it's like a miniature Dean & Deluca (I chose the comparison carefully - it's not as fab as a Fairway or as over-assorted as Whole Foods).

They don't carry anything organic (no surprise), but I did find and buy these essential staples:
  • blood sausage (imported from France, bien sur)
  • illy coffee
  • Fage yogurt
  • assorted spices/sauces by the likes of Barefoot Contessa, D&D, etc
  • my fave Rao's vodka tomato sauce
  • thai peppers
  • stinky goat cheese (unfortunately, no stinky camembert - too much to ask)
  • saucisson sec
They have many many more things which I wasn't able to buy because they would go bad, and it was hard to part with them. (Even knowing that I'll be back in only a few days.)

Out of the 9 people on line with me to pay only one other woman was taking advantage of the selection - the rest were there to buy cigarettes and looking a little confused.

A thousand words


I love this photo. How amazing that they work and think in all that color.
(Photo from the white house blog.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fast Forward

I just got catapulted into the 22nd century. My AT&T installation date finally arrived after 3 weeks of desperate waiting, and now I am totally plugged in.

I have all channels except for the sports and movie channels coming through HD on my huge fabu flat screen television. I can preview and order videos on demand from AT&T including some NEW movies that have yet to be released in theaters (still at theater prices). I can record up to 300 hours of television through my DVR. My amazing, Korean Samsung blu-ray DVD player connects to the internet and directly to my Netflix account, allowing me to browse my instant queue and watch movies directly from it! It doesn't even need to buffer, the movie just turns on!

AND I finally have my own secured wireless network so I can blog without connection interruptions and get on to my work email! With my AT&T internet account I can also log in to all AT&T wifi networks for free - goodbye Starbuck's card!

It's only 11:30am and this my best day here so far.

Opposites attract

This place is a weird combination of backward and forward. They like country music and blue grass, which (to my potentially unsubtle ear) has not changed in decades, and yet they offer free wi-fi throughout the town square (yes, there is a "town square," no actual address necessary) and their little public library is more advanced than anything I've experienced before.

I joined last weekend and just registered on their website. Besides being light and breezy (instead of dim and dank), they also have a cafe and a station of sensors and computer screens where you can check yourself out. On their website you can not only search for books but also renew things you have checked out, download audio books for limited periods of time, read newspapers, and more.

And according to the automatically-generated email they sent this morning, I already owe them $0.10 for being a day late to return the Before Sunrise DVD.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stranded

I'm starting to feel a little trapped here.

It's costing me $410 to get home for a weekend wedding in August (I'm booking over a month in advance - this is the CHEAPEST it gets). I want to go home next weekend for my birthday but last-minute tickets start at $700 and when I tried to use points I was told it would take 106,000 points to get to NYC from here. I could go to Australia for that many points.

This is going to be harder than I thought. I can give up rest and relaxation to travel to see my family and friends, but I cannot give up $700 for a 3-hour flight as often as I'd like to leave.

On a related point, this morning while walking back from my complex gym to my apt I passed a rodent. I DID NOT MOVE TO ARMPIT USA TO DEAL WITH RATS. That is what prompted me to LEAVE NYC.

In the news

My first reaction to this was: how ridiculous! selling Christmas goods in the summertime just looks bad - it's like strappy sandals below 50 degrees.

But then I thought - how sad that people need to save for over 5 months to buy Christmas decorations for their kids, and that they need layaway to help them save.

Then I laughed when I saw the Walmart banner ad embedded in the article.

(In other news, MC Hammer apparently still performs in public - he's appearing in Chicago this weekend!)

chicagotribune.com

Sears puts out Christmas gear

Stores, Web sites feature holiday decor

By Sandra M. Jones

Tribune reporter

July 9, 2009

It's Christmas in July at Sears Holdings Corp.

On Sunday, while most of America was recovering from Fourth of July fireworks and cookouts, the Hoffman Estates-based retailer launched an online boutique called Christmas Lane at Sears.com and Kmart.com. It also set up Christmas decor shops at 372 Sears stores, including one at Woodfield mall in Schaumburg.

Sears typically waits until Nov. 1 to unveil its holiday merchandise, said Sears spokeswoman Natalie Norris-Howser. But with the recession putting a crimp in spending, the retailer is hoping to attract holiday shoppers early.

"This is the first year we've done the Christmas Lane event," said Norris-Howser. "We're allowing customers to put these items on layaway and pay over time."

Kmart got a boost in sales during the holiday season last year when it promoted a long-forgotten layaway program as an alternative to credit cards. Sears followed suit in November. Under a layaway program, shoppers pay for merchandise in installments and take the goods home after they are paid in full.

The Web page features a drawing of a main shopping street covered in snow and Christmas wreaths and an airplane flying a banner that says, "Free shipping for purchases over $75." The site also showcases cold-weather gear such as snow blowers and electric blankets.

Last year, worried about a slowdown in consumer spending, many merchants, including Home Depot, Kohl's and Walgreens, began stocking their shelves with holiday wrapping paper, trim and trees in September.

The phenomenon, known as Christmas creep, is expected to kick into overdrive this year as retailers fight for their share of shoppers' shrinking pocketbooks.

Most retailers generate 20 percent to 30 percent of their annual sales during the holiday season. Sears took in 28 percent of its annual revenue in its fiscal fourth quarter last year.

smjones@tribune.com

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rodeo of the Ozarks

Of course, since my mother packed everything I left in New York EXCEPT my fabulous peach-colored Frye cowboy boots, my first weekend event in Arkansas was one where I could have KILLED IT in those boots.

Nonetheless, my first rodeo was pretty damn fun - and it was on the 4th of July, which made me the most American I've ever been in my life (as an American). And the most Arkansian I've ever been - that's the state flag flying over the stadium (I don't think I've ever known what my state flag looks like).


The rodeo kicked off with "mutton bustin'," which, as the MC explained, is where "we strap our children to farm animals and call it entertainment." Children in faux chaps and bike helmets get on lambs and try and hold on as two other children dressed like clowns jump around to try and scare the lamb into moving fast enough to excite the kids and hopefully throw them off gently. The good pic is from the local newspaper - I think that's the champion in it.




Then David and I took a break from the spectacle to get something to eat (those are smoked turkey legs those guys are chomping down on) and see what was for sale in the stadium (besides fried and cheap cowboy hats, the cutest puppies EVER).



Back in the stadium I saw bronco bucking, bull riding, and lassoing/roping. The roping is pretty ridiculous. A cowboy gallops out at the same time as a little cow and has a few seconds to jump off his horse ONTO the running cow, heave it over on its side so it can't get back up, and tie its front and back legs together.


I couldn't get it on photo, but the lassoing is incredible. For the lassoing two cowboys come out together with a little bull and one has to rope it around the horns and immediately after the other has to rope it by the BACK LEGS. So while the little bull is kicking around because it's been lassoed around the horns the second cowboy needs to somehow lasso it's back feet in a moment that they are off the ground. And they both only have about 6 seconds to do all of it.

Because it was the 4th there was lots of exhibition stuff with overt American symbolism... only to be expected, I guess, and culminating in fireworks set to Neil Diamond's "Proud to be an American" (obvi).


Clearly Walmart was a rodeo sponsor - they literally sponsor pretty much everything (and everyone) in a 50-mile radius.


Of course the best part of the rodeo was the sense of style (kind of the best part of the south in general).




And even in the most southern of places, New York represented.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Woodstock, AR

Saturday, for my most recent failed attempt at finding organic, sustainable produce, I visited the weekly farmers' market in Fayetteville, AR.

Fayetteville, the neighboring university town, is a little bit of hippie-hipster-ism in AR from everything I'd heard, so I was not totally surprised to see this Mighty Wind isht:

video

I was, however, incredibly impressed with this doodad - I am now looking for one, so if anyone knows where to get them...

On the road

This is what there is to see between Chicago, IL and Rogers, AR.









Awakenings

Things I have learned during my first 2 weeks in rural Arkansas:

Arkansas has "midget tossing" (I do not condone the term or the practice, that is just what was told to me - in fact, at little over 5 feet I probably qualify as a participant) and cage fighting. Neither of which I think I can conscionably do this weekend.

At work we have "lactating rooms" and "mothers' rooms." I'm not quite sure what is the difference between the two nor am I exactly clear on the intended purpose of either of them.

There is not a single female physician within 60 miles of me - I would need to drive all the way to Missouri to NOT get my annual check up from a man.

There are no dentists with obviously Jewish names within 60 miles of me in my provider network, and I'm not quite sure who else I can trust with my oral hygiene.

Organic fruit and vegetables are NOT abundant in Rogers, AR, despite the huge presence of abnormally wealthy rural inhabitants and local farms. "Organic beef on the hoof," however, is available direct from the cow field across the street from my apartment community.

There is no Club Monaco in this or any of the neighboring states - I am actually in a place that the middle market hasn't saturated yet. I didn't realize that was possible.

I have co-workers who still proudly display McCain/Palin bumper stickers on their cars - and one who said at orientation (IN PUBLIC) that she was from Alaska and was sad that Palin had resigned from state office.

I might have lactating, republican neighbors, and will certainly have to settle for being groped by a male doctor, but despite it all I've had a good time these last two weeks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Really Manolo?


The original price of these low-brow monstrosities was $665. Only Edina would want these: "It's Blahnik darling, Blaaaahnik."