23 April 2017

An Afternoon on the Grand Canal

Towering lines of row houses border the narrow streets. Sensing the way to the Grand Canal, we wind our way through the passages. When I see the teal water ahead, I quicken my steps in the direction of the wooden dock. I wear a striped tee shirt over a black A-line dress, the blue lines echoing the aesthetic of a gondolier’s uniform. I sit at the end of the dock, my navy canvas shoes skimming the water. A.C. catches up and replicates my sitting position. The boats on the canal rumble south toward the open lagoon. A driver docks his red vehicle at our feet. We offer to watch his prized possession until his return. He agrees with a laugh and a wide smile leaving the keys in the ignition. The Venetian dashes off in his sunglasses. When he returns ten minutes later, he hops into his sleek boat with the agility of a runner leaping over hurdles. We watch him merge into the line of traffic on the clear water and wonder if an American drivers license is sufficient to rent a boat in Venezia.
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M.J.C.

13 April 2017

Penn in April

The warmest weather of the year arrived on Penn’s campus this week. Many young women misinterpreted this occurrence as a sign to materialize their distastefully-short, summer shorts from the depths of their wardrobes. Benjamin Franklin did not bless the University with sand and a large body of water. Therefore, beach-related attire, including flip-flops, should not be worn on Locust Walk. May I suggest dresses of reasonable lengths as a far superior option? They are effortless and especially minimal when worn in the sun without a jacket or cardigan. 

Penn Summer
M.J.C.

10 April 2017

Excursions to Brooks Brothers

The Brooks Brothers Philadelphia store was the site of my most efficient shopping experience. I had written to our contact T.J. requesting that a few items be placed on hold. A week later, my husband A. and I pulled on the dense, silver, Walnut Street door in hopes that my letter had been received. 

On this Sunday afternoon, L.S., who wore a knee-length, tunic dress and riding boots, retrieved our clothes from the hold closet. She led us to the fitting room foyer that was carpeted in blue and green plaid. Majestic, navy walls bearing the repeating icon of a golden sheep suspended by a ribbon encased us. The framed, vintage American flag with thirteen red and white stripes and thirteen white stars dominated the wall to the right. A. and I took up neighboring fitting rooms. 

We spoke through the slits in our wooden doors. I asked to see the gray polo I had picked out on the person it was intended for, and A. obliged. The charcoal of the shirt complimented his dark eyes and sleek, brown hair. The blue, gingham, A-line skirt I had first seen online and which I now wore complimented my hourglass shape. It would be the most-utilized skirt of the summer. 

We changed back into the clothes in which we had arrived and assisted again by the dark-haired L.S., conducted our transaction at the bar that was the checkout counter. T.J., who had recently entered the scene wearing a blazer, sweater, and round glasses, was wrapping purchases for another customer. As we said our goodbyes, I vowed to request items in advance by writing ahead of future visits. 
My most complicated shopping experience occurred three and a half years earlier at the London Brooks Brothers shop. It was 8 November 2013, the day J.Crew opened on winding Regent Street. I arrived at number 165 shortly before hundreds of celebratory balloons were released from the new store's doors. I wore a few of my favorite J.Crew elements: a navy Schoolboy blazer, a Vintage cotton T-shirt, and a pink, pleated skirt. My chunky, cap toe, Etta heels clicked on the checked pavement as I crossed to the west side of the street. I felt American in the glow of the store’s overhead lighting and in the midst of the music that reverberated between the two levels. Golden balloons, each resembling a single letter of the alphabet, read "Hello London" and bobbed against a black background in a wide window. 

As the spirit of my home country possessed me, I was led in the direction of Brooks Brothers, one of America’s oldest clothiers, at number 150. I crossed back to the east side of the street and entered the open foyer of the shop. I felt myself falling to the floor in slow motion, landing on my hands and knees, my bottom facing the door. Why am I down here when I am supposed to be up there? Why am I staring at this doormat, and when was the last time it was cleaned? A single step that blended into the color of the street was the culprit. I was rendered immobile for what seemed like ten minutes but may have actually been only one. 

Two employees assisted me in seating myself in a chair from which I had a pristine view of the morning traffic on the shopping district’s main street. A man in a navy blazer with gold buttons that matched mine reunited me with my heel that had detached from my foot during the fall. There would be no shopping today. After a fifteen minute rest, I was able to embark on the journey home via the red, number 94 bus. It was Friday, but I did not feel the presence of the weekend as I climbed into my down-filled quilt. My right ankle swelled to the size of a medium melon, and I was confined to my apartment for three days.

M.J.C.

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