From the monthly archives: "August 2011"

Masha  

Winner of 2011 Solas Grand Prize Silver Award for Best Travel Story of the Year

Two women, one skirt, and an untold story.

The first time I met Maria Konstantinovna, she was wearing a black leather skirt. It was Italian, brand new, and it was mine.

Masha, as I would come to know her, was a dejournaya in Moscow. Women like her sat on every floor in every hotel in the Soviet Union. They performed a range of duties—they served tea from a samovar that simmered behind their station. They ordered your phone call to America and came to wake you if it ever went through. They even washed lingerie and t-shirts, leaving the latter folded like fine envelopes, whiter than they ever deserved to be. They also handed out your room key with varying degrees of suspicion, charm, or ennui, and if you wanted to leave it for safekeeping, collected it when you left the floor. But allegedly, the real purpose of these hall monitors was to observe your comings and goings on behalf of the security apparatus of the Kremlin.

Available here >


One Day, Three Dead Men

Oh, Russia

The concierge told me it was the hottest June day on record in Moscow. In front of the National Hotel, the air was thick with a million floating seeds from the poplar tree. The Russians call it “summer snow,” and in the heat, the white fluff stuck to my neck, shoulders, and legs as I drifted through the streets of the city I once had known well but now, barely recognized. I was back in Russia after a long absence and after three days, I was still hopeful I would see what I had traveled all this way to find.

It was a homecoming of sorts. Twenty-eight years had passed since I first traveled to the then-Soviet Union. I had arrived there in June of 1982 with Mom, Dad, and a brand new degree in Russian Studies. I was a wide-eyed Cold War baby who had spent the last four years reading deeply—very deeply—into the tortured Russian soul. It had been an obsession since tenth grade, when I won a school essay contest. I have no memory of the topic, but I do recall the prize: a collection of novellas by Dostoevsky. It beats me what a fifteen-year-old public school cheerleader found in The Gambler, but I began to devour those dark tales, and soon began to study Russian during weekends and summers.

Available here >

 

Princeton Alumni Weekly, April 2008

The Contender
On Rejection

I did not remember the roses that came to our door in Holder Hall until many years later, when a woman who had been my neighbor there reminded me that I had not been handed one that evening in February 1980. I did recall the excitement in the courtyard and the chill of anticipation. Of course, I remember the sound of my heart hammering in my eardrums. At the time, I did not realize something that today seems obvious. At 19, I was still too young to recognize the urgent beat of wanting something way too much.

Read the full article >

O the Oprah Magazine

When Kimberly Anyadike was little, her heroes were superheroes. “I’d see Superman or Wonder Woman flying on TV and think, ‘That’s so cool!'” she says. “My brother and sister and I would tie towels around our necks for capes and run around the house jumping off the couches and banisters. Every year I would ask Santa for a jet pack.” In an after-school program at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum in Compton, California, the 12-year-old took a spin in a single-engine Cessna 172. Midflight, she was thrilled when the instructor handed her the controls. “Afterward my mom asked if I wanted to take flying lessons, and I said, ‘Yes!'”

Read the full article >

Small Breasts

Easy Living UK, March 2011

I have always had small breasts, and was generally content with them.  Over recent years, though, at every cocktail party, some woman who used to be as mammarily challenged as I suddenly appeared with a firm new pair, and a visible preference for snug tops.  I found myself increasingly abandoned on a flat-chested desert island with the few remaining oddballs who stubbornly refused to go under the knife.  I began to think, am I crazy?

Do I really want to go through life as a flat facsimile of a woman?  How lovely it would be if, for once, words like ‘curvy’, ’voluptuous’, or ‘shapely’ could pertain to me.  This  could be an easy fix.

Instead, I made peace with my breasts.

The fact is, that life is stacked against the small-breasted these days. Walk into any lingerie emporium, and if they don’t laugh you out of there, they insult you with the consolation prize. Many stores do not even carry small-cupped bras, and if they do, they are unsexy, seamless, elasticized little numbers. Recently, I ordered some bras online – balconnet style, the kind I used to buy in France when most women in the world still had their own breasts, and many of them were small.

Read the full article > (and yes, there’s a typo in the published piece. Accidents happen, even with the greatest editors)

 Everlasting Mementos

Easy Living UK, May 2011

It was a sticky Friday night on campus.  The stench of spilled beer was familiar, as was the bass guitar on Brick House.  But many years had elapsed and we were no longer college students.  We had all convened – The well preserved and the pot-bellied, the triathletes and the cancer survivors – to reclaim something.  In preparation, I’d had fresh highlights and a facial, which removed “free radicals” that were apparently eroding my skin and with it , my youth.  It’s the conundrum of the march of time that, inside, I felt the same as I did 25 years ago.

When I spotted my freshman boyfriend, I started through the crowd and greeted him.  I folded into his body by instinct, as if his arms and mine wer aware of our former intimacy.

“You look the same,” I said.

“So do you,” he replied. “Come over and meet my wife.”

Read the full article >

Happiness

Easy Living UK, June 2011

One day in January, the sun appeared.  It’s not so unusual in the rural corner of New England that I call home, where there are an average of 196 sunny days a year.  Except that this winter we have endured months of snow and sub-zero temperatures.  So sun was a big deal.  There was happiness in the valley, and for a moment, in me.  Then the all-too-familiar crept back: the feeling that the permafrost seems to have sapped my sanity and ability to accomplish one meaningful thing.  And what I really need is a jaunt to the Maldives or a carpenter to fix my roof.

How difficult it is to find enduring solace in a moment of happiness, and try to focus on what there is – heat, blankets, healthy children, a fridge groaning with food and a sun in the heavens – rather than what is lacking.  From that morning of bliss, I reverted to being an ungrateful wretch.

Read the full article >

Leaving Sugar

Vogue, April 2011

Several days after I ended my toxic affair with sugar, I went to see David Nathan, M.D., director of the General Clinical Research Center and the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.  I had jettisoned what I loved most in life: refined sugar of every stripe—pastries laden with chocolate ganache, frosted doughnuts, cookies, Kraft caramels, and three-layer coconut cake.

Read the full article >

 

January 21, 2011

In our market economy, businesses fly or they die. We who live in small towns feel it acutely when a store folds, leaving a vacancy both on the street and in ourselves.  And guilt. Could we have done more? Last month my favorite local boutique closed its doors. It was owned by a very young woman, and though I don’t know the circumstances of her closing, I remember when she opened, and my admiration verging on awe for the self-confidence she demonstrated in starting her own business.

So in resuming this column, I expected to write about how a small group of very accomplished women were helping to avoid the depressing and disheartening sight of “Going out of Business” signs. But the funny thing about journalism, even an opinion space like this one, is that sometimes the story you set out to write will change itself for the better. Because it turns out, this is not a story about empty office space, but about the ideas and drive that will continue to occupy it, but sometimes, needs a little coaxing. Which is why, when I sat down with the four remarkable women who comprise the Litchfield-based Women’s Enterprise Initiative (WEI) to talk about their work for our local economy, the group’s founder, Anthea Disney of Litchfield, quickly set me straight.

“We’re not an economic development corporation,” she said, “We’re a group of women who really just want to help other women.”

 

Download PDF

My column for The L.C. about the bad (and good) of houseguests. Read it here:  Download PDF

July 3, 2009

Hike the mossy trails. … Up the road for blueberry picking. … We live in a real-life, year- round coffee-table book up here and that means one thing: House guests.

Litchfield County Times, September 18, 2010

2011 First Place Award, Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Connecticut Journalism.

I wrote this story for my column called The L.C., about Litchfield County, Connecticut. I needed to put words to the pain I felt when my son left home for school. Read it here, or below, or here:  Download PDF

March 1, 2010

 

There is no way of knowing who passes through our hills and valleys on any given day. We’ve all experienced that brief euphoria of seeing a celebrity in our midst—not the bold-faced names who are our neighbors, but rather people like George Clooney, who was spotted one day eating lunch at the West Street Grill in Litchfield. Our restaurants, markets, and hotels are frequently lit up by the renowned, the famous and the notorious.

Less obvious are the remarkable people who visit more invisibly, without celebrity but bearing magic just the same. Those people whom you meet, and in an instant they instant inspire you and even change your life; those people who elevate you, and us, by their mere presence. Evalyn Wakhusama is one of those people.

 

Download PDF