Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Craft Beers, Sunshine & The Last Gasp of Summer

This past weekend I went to a local craft beer festival. It was, true to form, full of fancy-ass beers, sunshine, crazy-happy crowds — lots of beer will do that to you — and general good times. What’s more fun than wandering around downtown on a lovely summer afternoon in a sundress, sampling tons of beer by companies and breweries genuinely passionate about what they’re doing and more than happy to share?

I really look forward to this event every year since it started: maybe it’s the “craft” aspect of the alcohol, but the meathead/frat guy contingent is pretty nil, the crowd is always good-natured and considerate, and while I’ve never considered myself a beer person, it is fun to sample all kinds of new drinks and find something new. (Last year I fell in love with ciders, lambics and porters; this year I found a few stouts and IPAs I really dug: Stone’s Levitation Ale was a favorite, Kasteel Rouge lambics, and a bunch of beers from a Chicago-area brewery, Finch’s, whose Secret Stache Stout is the closest a beer has ever tasted to a milkshake, to my taste buds at least!)

But what I like most about this craft beer festival is that it’s a perfect way to end the summer, kind of like my weird version of a pagan festival to augur in the harvest season. This summer has been weird and hard and strange, but this weekend I felt like I squeezed in a last ideal bit of it. It had that golden, carefree feeling summer is supposed to have, that sense of honeyed pleasure and abandon — how time stretches before you, waiting to be filled with something easy-going and good. As I ambled about on the sidewalk, my cute little tasting glass in hand, I thought about how life gives you little grace notes to mark the endings, beginnings and transitions of things. I thought about the rituals you make for yourself, about how bittersweet yet pleasurable it is to mark the passages of time — how it makes the past robust and full, the present more rich and beautiful and the future something to treasure. And then I stepped off the curb towards another tent, where I drank a bit of apple-ginger cider and ran off into the golden sunlight. Lightness of spirit had never felt so hard-won.

Not Quite Through the Woods Just Yet

Just when I thought everything was okay after a string of unfortunate incidents — a bee sting, an infection and other tumults — I just got hit with something new. I developed a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotic I was taking for my infected finger. “Severe” means a sudden fever, chills, painful hives all over and my throat and airways swelling up — really, really not good. Like, Whoa, I have to get myself to the ER, stat not good. And just when I thought everything was going to be okay! Sigh. I got a crazy shot to stop the allergic reaction and an antihistamine to control the hives. No major insight here; I’ve wrung myself dry trying to make meaning from ordinary-grade human suffering. I accept it: I’m just a mess.

So I’m going to spend Labor Day weekend completely resting. No writing, no working, no planning, no blogging. Just resting and existing. I hope to spend some of it reading, actually: I just inhaled Karen Russell’s new book of short stories, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, and I thought it was just wonderful, full of elegant prose and antic imagination. (Any story collection with a fable about a stable of horses that are actually the reincarnations of dead American presidents is marvelous in my eyes.) If you have any suggestions of books that have rocked your world recently, please let me know here, and danke! Have a beautiful one, and hopefully we will see each other on the other side. Until then, here are some extra pictures from my rather melancholy summer.

Dog Days, Feline Nights and Weekend Roadtrips

One thing that’s been nice about my busted-up finger is that I’ve been forced to chill out and relax a bit. Which is sad, of course — that it takes me getting hurt for me to slow down and savor the summer, especially in its last gasps. I’m sure that I’ll look back on this summer as one of the strange turning points of my life, though being in the middle (muddle?) of it, I’m not exactly sure where it’s turning towards. Am I spinning out of my axis and into a whole new plain? Spinning my wheels? As I said: I can’t tell. It’s been hard and challenging and anything but idyllic and summery for most of it — but I feel like I’ve grown a lot. I’m making it through the wilderness, to paraphrase that great philosopher Madonna, and I’m actually starting to feel really posi-core about life again, instead of waiting for yet another cosmic-level Major Arcana psychic earthquake to upend my world. I look ahead and there’s love, hearth and home, adventures and yet more love. It feels tested, but it feels true.

Slowing down has let me wring some enjoyment out of summer after all, since I can’t be “productive” and work much. There’s been lots of late summer night dinners, sitting outside on patios over cocktails and candles. And heirloom tomato salads with fresh mozzarella and just-picked basil I’ve lovingly grown on my own front porch since this spring. A nice Thursday night ritual of a lambic beer and a good book. Sitting reading by a pool, though with an eye out for errant bumblebees.

And yes, this weekend, I did manage a nice little roadtrip out to Madison, Wisconsin. Madison was one of the great playgrounds of my adolescence, growing up right in northern Illinois. As a teenager looking to get her kicks, you could go to Chicago, where we’d trawl record stores and buy Doc Martens and go to shows — and feel yourself part of the exciting hustle of the city, so different from my sleepy, staid hometown. Madison was a little different: it was a college town, smaller but friendlier, a tiny bit more rambunctious in its own way. Back then it was a weird blend of super-hippie and Midwestern good times — patchouli and beer. It seems a tiny less granola nowadays, bit Madison is one of the great college towns of the U.S., still — it’s supremely walkable and bike-friendly (there are cyclists everywhere), things are reasonably priced, and it has lots of cultural resources. The main stretch is State Street, which is lined with all kinds of shops: everything from hippie head shops to record stores to book stores to the Soap Opera, where they sell soaps and fragrances galore. (It’s where I pick up any Pacifica stuff I have.)


Look of the Week: The Long Skirts of Summer

Earlier this season I sent a message to my Twitter peeps, asking for a summer alternative to jeans that weren’t shorts. As longtime readers know, I find summer fashion to be slightly torturous. The consensus answer was long skirts, an edict which I happily followed when I wasn’t wearing the same dang pair of cutoffs I usually have on. As it turns out, long skirts were really kind of the perfect recommendation. They’re very elegant-feeling, and if you find a nice silky one, it feels like you’re wearing fancy pajama bottoms in a strange way, which I am all for. I was a little intimidated to wear them because I am just a tiny bit over 5’2″ (that tiny bit is important to me!) and sometimes long lengths can look awkward, but if I wear a sandal with a heel, it works out nicely. That’s my short-girl tip for long skirts!

The clothes above are really simple: the black skirt is just one of my two pieces of bona-fide Rick Owens. It’s really one of the oldest items I own. It’s really stretched-out, but I just can’t let it go because the fabric is this silk-cotton-something else blend and it feels amazing on the skin, and the back has this fantastic quasi-bustle detail, but I am too shy to photograph my arse for the Internet, so you can’t see it. So I had the elastic replaced so I can keep the skirt longer. This black-skirt outfit is very 90s — except I would’ve worn it with combat boots back then. I’m wearing it here with wedge-heel black pump-like shoes, having convinced myself this was a very “Agnes B in the 80s” move.

The pink skirt is from that Derek Lam collection for Kohls, and it’s very light and flowy yet sporty. I’ve worn it quite a bit this season so far; I love it, though the waist is kind of a paper-bag style and that gets tricky. But it works beautifully in motion. Some clothes, you know, just work better in 3-D.