Monthly Archives: April 2009

Scent memory, again

More than once, I’ve ruminated on the power of smell to send a person hurtling back through memories and into a moment of life that is far removed from the one that they’re actually standing in. There was the time with the nectarine, and other when a peach crisp impersonated my grandfather’s pancakes. The scent of the hallway leading to my apartment takes me back to childhood whenever one of my neighbors cooks a pot roast.

Yesterday, it was a cup of tea that sent me reeling. Yogi Tea’s Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut, to be exact. In the fall of 2007, when I was frantically trying to finish my master’s thesis, I spent a couple of days holed up in a one-room cabin owned by an order of nuns, hoping that by removing myself from the distractions of life, I’d be able to finish the thing. I spent those two days sitting on the back porch of my little cabin, wrapped up in a blanket against the October chill, pounding away on my old laptop and drinking mug upon mug of tea.

I established a ritual that I repeated four or five times a day. After my brain started to give out, I’d put the computer aside and boil up a bit of water in a saucepan atop the built-in, two-burner hot plate. After six dunks of the teabag, I’d slowly stir a spoonful of honey in and add a dollop of milk. It was enough of a break to get me to return to the computer and start writing again, fueled by the tea and the ritual.

Over the weekend, I rearranged my tea collection, in the hopes of paring it down a bit and finding some treasures that had become buried under boxes of mint and Earl Grey. While sifting, I found the last remaining bag of Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut in a stack of Masala Spice. I brought it to work with me and brewed it up in my office kitchen. The smell of it just wiped me out, yanked me instantly back to those two days of frantic writing. I could feel the satisfaction of writing in flow and the damning irritation of slippery words. The general feeling of that period of my life flashed by as well, those waning days of grad school, just before Scott and I finally got together, when I was so uncertain of what was next.

New shoes!


Recently, I’ve been on the hunt for some new spring/summer shoes for work. When the weather intermittently started to warm up a few weeks ago, I dug into my closet to take stock of what I had for the coming months. Sadly, the shoes that had carried me through last season were pretty darn broken down, including my very favorite pair of black flats that I got at Loehmann’s about four years ago, before they up and left Center City Philly (why do the great discount stores always leave my neighborhood? We once had a Filene’s Basement down the street as well).

Circa flats

Thing is, I don’t really do heels, so my work shoes have to be cute, comfortable and flat, which isn’t always the easiest thing to find, particularly when you’re trying not to spend too much money. I’ve been scouring various websites, looking for things that might fit the bill and I’ve been coming up unusually short (I normally have fairly good shoe luck too, so it’s been strange to be so stymied).


However, everything changed tonight. I left work a little early to pick up my car from my new mechanic. I trying out a shop at 2nd and Christian as I got tired of dragging myself back and forth from Germantown for repairs and my yearly inspection (not to mention the fact that I’m pretty certain that my old mechanic thought I was a bit crazy). One of the nice things about the location of this garage is that it puts me halfway to one of my favorite Philly Goodwill locations. And when you’re halfway there, there’s really no point in just going home.

Red Pumas

I picked up a random assortment of stuff at the thrift store, including a very nice, hardly worn pair of Joan and David brown flats, for the very nice price of $4. Feeling good about the purchase, I got back in the car with the intention of heading home. Instead, the car seemed to magically steer itself towards the S. Philly Ross. Wandering in, I headed over to the shoe section and found myself confronted with the most amazing selection of cute, comfortable and inexpensive flats. It was everything I’d been searching for. I ended up buying five more pairs, ranging in price from $6.49 (clearance) to $24.99 (a really appealing and comfy pair of Pumas that would have been much, much more anywhere else).

It is such a delight to now have all the shoes I need for the rest of the spring and summer (and hopefully some of them will last through next year as well)!

Toast and ducking neighbors

I used my lunch hour today to run a few errands. In my last 15 minutes, I flew into my apartment to grab some lunch (I hate buying food when I know I have the makings for a wonderful salad in the fridge, all ready to be combined). Standing in front of the elevator, munching a piece of toast, the salad neatly packed into a plastic container, I saw my neighbor Lucille at the far of the hall. Just at that moment, the elevator came and I hopped on, frantically pushing the ‘door close’ button.

The reason I hurriedly ducked my neighbor? That damned piece of toast. You see, it’s Passover, the Jewish holiday during which leavened products are forbidden. While I’ve never been much of a Jew (although officially, by birth I am completely Jewish), Lucille practices and believes that I should too. She’s the one who lambasted me two summers ago when my mezuzah went missing. And I just knew that if she caught me eating toast (delicious, artisanal sourdough), I would be in for a lecture. So I didn’t hold the elevator for her.