Saturday, September 17, 2016

8 Before 30

I love lists. To-do lists, to-buy lists, to-read lists, you name it, I’ve made a list for it.  In my desk, there is currently a growing list of food I want to eat in the near future, because I can’t think clearly when I’m thrashing violently Emily Rose style, seized by the satanic hands of Father Hunger. In my purse is a list of songs to sing in my head when I’m on the train, and a list of dead animals I’ve seen by the side of the road leading up to that train. Just kidding, if I had a list like that, it would only have one item: a rat.  Can I just mention that nobody seems to mind this recurring appearance? I’m the only one clutching my chest, gasping for breath when I find myself nearly stepping on its body, mouthing “Oh my God” to let everyone know I am a compassionate human being, outraged by dead rats, and clearly much more sensitive/distinguished than those who simply walk past it. No one cares, and, in the afternoon, on my walk back, the rat is gone. It’s probably the same rat every time. Desperate for attention, he plays dead a couple of times a week, and when the morning rush carelessly walks by (well because they already know this trick and have had enough, cheers) he slowly sits up, fixes his hair, dusts off his knees, and walks back into the bushes. Number of people gasping Oh My God today: One, his list says, Will return tomorrow.

Anyway, following my girlfriend Amy’s brilliant idea to make a list of things to accomplish by the time she turns thirty, and seeing how cool the end result was- thirty fun challenges crossed proudly off her list-I thought it would be great to make a list of my own. You can read about it here, actually. I made the list well over a year ago, and was convinced I would attack it with the same determination with which I tackle my running training schedules and employee appreciation cakes. Nabokov and Hemingway were going to be my dreamy escapes from the harshness of Canadian winters, until I was ass-deep in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged with no chance of ever, ever finishing it. Look, I tried, but despite reading it twice a day, every day, for three months of commuting to the suburbs, I just couldn’t stay excited about a seventeen hour monologue marrying the metaphor of trains with the fickle human condition. 

That said, that year I rented my apartment in a really cool building named after the lead character’s last name, so there. I will finish this book one day, when I’m feeling like re-opening that can of slow-moving worms, but until then, apart from a few pop literature books I read on vacation...

(Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, Jon Ronson's Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries and Lindy West’s masterpiece Shrill) my reading list remained untouched. 

Eight. Eight items have been more or less completed. Looking at it now, I don't know how I expected for some of these opportunities to just present themselves in the span of two years, but here's what got crossed off, and why:

Running that marathon with that awesome finish time is probably my favourite memory from that list. That one I crossed off, fair and square.  

As you can see, #7 is crossed off with a squiggly line which is kinda the way you tell your doctor that you drink "socially" while keeping your foot firmly over the snack-size bottle of Absolut nestled in your purse.  #12 was to see a broadway show, and thanks to my lovely fella, we saw "Once: The Musical" here in Dublin, and I didn't even barf! When the performers were warming up, I briefly thought about leaving (oh yeah, I hate broadway shows) but I'm definitely glad I stayed because it was as genuine and un-campy as broadway shows get. Plus, I had my moment in the spotlight:

And did I grow all the ingredients for a salad? Well, if you're making a salad of basil, parsley and cilantro, then you bet I did! But the reason I'm squiggly-crossing that one off my list is actually because here in Dublin, I've kept my basil plant alive for TWO MONTHS! Two whole months of watering it and clipping the leaves when they get too old (or eating them). It's unreal. Like, guys, it actually fucking grows back. I can't believe it. 
Okay so then there's #19 which is the one where I help my mom with a big project, and that one I definitely did when I organized her move into her new house and moved most of the stuff and I hope that she can't see this part if she's reading this blog but if she is then sorrayyy not sorray. Also, you can read about that in this blog post.
And directly after that one is the one about taking a cake decorating course, which you will soon see is not necessary for me as I have actually become Buddy the Cake Boss. It was Jeff's birthday a few days ago, and I decided that when you are living in a new city, country, and continent, you should opt to bake a last minute secret cake to feed 40 people with ingredients you have never used before - specifically the terrifying F word: Fondant.  Buddy stretches that thing like it's nothing, but even on his show, the pros are always freaking out about the fondant cracking, sweating, peeling off, or just "not cooperating" (what?).  I've avoided it for years and years, opting for the safe and predictable icing scenario....until now.  I don't know what came over me, but I decided to just do it, and without any practice or any idea how to even handle it, I applied the fondant to my cake at 5 am the morning of Jeff's birthday party day. I won't lie, all of Dublin pitched in with ideas. The cake decorating cake store clerk drew pictures of how the fondant should look when it's flat, the grocery store clerk assured me that it'll be grand, the Irish baker tutorial said it would be just like marzipan so don't sweat it...and somehow, the birthday gods came together, and I managed to secretly bake three layers of red velvet cake, ice them with cream cheese frosting, and cover it in the aforementioned cloak of gastronomical terror. And so, when it was all done, before me stood one of my biggest fears, conquered: a steak cake, with marzipan mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots. 

As for the disco roller skating, my very thoughtful guy took me to a disco roller-skating place one day, until halfway through the trip I pulled him onto a bus going to the airport instead, so we could have coffee and watch people travel. No regrets, it was fantastic. We did disco roller-skate anyway, actually, at a music festival this summer…and it was every bit as terrifying as I hoped..

Much grace so elegance wow
And lastly, of course, there was the adventure of getting my driver's license. After a month of lessons with a man named Barry who giggled when I said fuck, and weekends of being an unbearable human being around my loved ones who offered to supervise me while I yelled "I'm not ready for Bank Street!" and "Parallel parking is not necessary in this country!", I passed my G2 test, on the first try. Very proud of that, and embarrassed for the person I was in the weeks leading up to it. Anyway, moving on...

Today is just a few days before my birthday, and I can confidently say that I will not complete my 30 Before 30 list, and the reason that I've written about it here is that I can confidently say that this is the first list I will not complete, in my stash of testaments to my OCD.  Even though part of me wants to bite into a brick, a much bigger part of me is kinda like let’s see what happens. I mean, let’s see what happens when I don’t accomplish a set of crazy goals. Let’s see what happens when, instead of running myself ragged just for the momentary satisfaction of crossing off an item, I let myself have a relaxing few days (nay weeks) and enjoy not worrying about it.  Maybe it's the Irish lifestyle rubbing off on me, or maybe it's the acceptance that the things I did complete have been pretty fantastic, but I think I'm okay with being human, this time. 

And if on September 26th I wake up and I’m still alive, despite that list glowing venomous red with a thousand little Outlook reminder flags, if the sun still shines (well as much as it would in Dublin anyway), then maybe that’ll be the new me: Alisa in her 30s, who’s comfortably nerdy, spends some (most) weekends eating pancakes and watching reruns of Home Improvement, gets along best with old people, and doesn’t always cross every item off the list. Let’s see.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dublin and Me

Hello, do you have brewed coffee? Brewed. Brewed. It’s like…when you run beans through a filter. Nope, not like an Americano. Okay, that’s fine. I’ll have an Americano.

It’s Alisa.

Alisa. A….L…..I……S……A.

Haha, no, I can’t help push Trump out of the elections. I’m Canadian. Actually, I’m from Ottawa. It’s….like…do you know Toronto? It’s kinda beside that. Yeah. I like Drake too.

I’ve been living in Dublin almost 6 months now, and I’m just now admitting that there is no way to concisely organize my thoughts into one short and coherent blog post about my experiences, so I might as well just bite the bullet and talk about the part that’s been sort of the parchment paper lining the uhh muffins of my Irish…adventure. I’ll try to fix this analogy later.

Bull Island, just a few minutes from our apartment

Lovely Temple Bar and basically I'm going to just put random pictures into the rest of this post to counter the seriousness of it..

The paragraph above is what I find myself saying almost on a weekly basis, or whenever I decide to be brave and venture outside the realms of Dublin’s fascination with espresso-based beverages, and it sort of ties into what I’m about to tell you, because what I’m about to tell you is what I’ve discovered so far about my identity here in Dublin. Before coming here, I never realized what it meant to be Canadian, and I never really felt Russian, or Estonian, or Canadian to begin with. Once I learned English in grade school, life in Canada sort of became all-encompassing, the only way to live, and, year after year, I gathered the inevitably naïve perception that “life’s like this”, in the immortal words of Dame Avril Lavigne. Then I moved here and found myself making shifty emoji eyes at everything, like Waaaaaait a minute, why did the post-man make that joke? Haaaang on a second, how come women aren’t as important as men here? (more on that some other day, yikes) and Hooooold up, I’d like cream for my coffee and it…doesn’t exist in this country? (This is, sadly, a fact). Most importantly, I’ve found myself extremely self-conscious of my accent and my general demeanor.

All this needs is an inspirational Instagram quote. Something about the road less travelled or w/e

At the risk of making a ridiculous generalization, I’ll still say this: there is a much greater sense of femininity among girls here, much to the dismay of my “what’s good fam?” greeting, often met with disgust/shock. I can’t remember what the fashion trends are in Ottawa (could I ever? BURN.) (This is the kind of thing I’m talking about that is met with a polite slow clap in this city) (But she burned herself! Tell me how that’s not next level..) (etc.) but in Dublin, you are not a proper lady if your eyebrows aren’t penciled in, your jeans a very flattering high-rise, your tops of the cropped variety, and your hair gorgeously long and healthy. Dublin girls love to wear what’s in style, and dress like their age, if not slightly younger. This of course leaves me and my sensible attire looking like a middle-aged divorcee, which, frankly, I take as a compliment. Yet, I’ve come a long way in these past six months. In the beginning, realizing that my non-Irish accent makes people look up from their newspapers and slant their glasses down to get a closer (disapproving?) look, I became very self-conscious. At first, it was the pause of the bus driver’s hand over the steering wheel upon hearing my (basically) “one ticket downtoon, bud!”, then it was the cashier’s horrified stare as I counted and re-counted the identically-coloured cent pieces in my trembling hand, holding up a line of eighty million frustrated customers. Without even speaking, I felt like all eyes were on me, and not in the “who’s that girl” kinda way, but like if my ass was on fire or if I had covered my face in human turd. I think the last time I felt this way was when I was learning English, armed with a bizarre lexicon of half French half Russian. I thought the days of being different were long behind me, but here I am again!

Sometimes if you're at a pub you can get a little room to sit in, and it comes with a cozy little lamp, candle, and flowers..

Something else that I now realize is a Canadian thing, is politeness. I can count the times I’ve been pushed on the bus in Ottawa on one hand. Most of the times have been catalogued in news alerts the likes of “Passenger spotted allowing himself onto bus ahead of man clearly waiting before him. Avoid Bus 85 Hurdman until further notice. Police are investigating.” Here in Dublin: LOL. It doesn’t matter if you are a girl, woman, not sure yet, growing into yourself, pregnant, old, sad, cold…the minute those bus doors open, anyone who feels they wanna get on that bus are gonna walk immediately in front of you and get right on. The first few times, I just stood there, dropped jaw billowing in the wind. Then, I got used to it. One time, I was like lol when in Rome! and tried to do it to someone else but felt horrible at the last second and let the other person on first. I don’t think it’s because I’m a good person, I think it’s because it’s absolutely fucking mental to be any other way.  An idea: if you get to a bus stop and someone is already waiting there, let them on the bus first.

Sometimes the view is surreal and makes you wanna go swimming but it's cold so
I think that, as with anywhere else in the world, you get some great people and some not-so-great, so again, I can’t say this is just the face of Dublin, but this happens every time I take the bus, so get at me bro.
Another thing I’ve learned about Canadians and myself is that we are polite but reserved. Here, everyone’s always trying to get up in everyone else’s life. Business tends to run on a more personal level (have you ever been called “love” by your tax representative?) and the distant conversations we struggle to maintain in Canada, like “How are you/Good, thanks/Great weather/Yes” go the lengths of “Doing the groceries, are ya?” or, what I personally heard today as I reached for MY FIRST piece of sample cake: “Don’t eat it all, now! Hehehe!” from a man who reached for TWO pieces of sample cake. As with a lot of things though, I’ve grown to like it. It’s strangely comforting to have someone heckle you, especially when you’ve been alone and talking to yourself all day.

Okay just wait until I tell you about the desserts here 
 It seems that, in order to have the efficiency and steadfast hunger for betterment of life, you need to be on your toes, the way Canada is. Being laid back and casual and cute (in many, many ways that I won’t attempt to squeeze into this blog post) the way Dublin is goes hand in hand with, well, the inevitable fact that Ireland seems to be behind on a few things, from their concern about taking care of the environment (it’s quite rare to see recycling bins outside) to their general understanding of customer service, except for at Permanent TSB, my new bank - you should hear them talking about how much they want to serve me better. That customer service is on point man. I almost have to whisper if Jeff’s around (“Yes I’d like to hear more about your online services. Just don’t call back on this phone. You know my other number.”) (JEFF I AM KIDDING). 
I’m proud of Canada and of getting to tell people that I’m from the city that’s kinda close to Toronto, and that I like Drake, and that I’m here because I’ve always wanted to try something different from the life I’ve grown used to. I still feel like my ass is on fire some days, but nowadays it’s for being my usual self, like kissing random people on the cheek (Is that an Irish thing? I don’t know but I’ll do it anyway and see what happens oh my god no. It is not an Irish thing.) and asking a finance manager if she is the overlord of the finance floor (I meant overseer, which in itself doesn’t even fucking make sense.)
Despite everything I’ve written here, you can’t compare Dublin to Ottawa, and you shouldn’t. You can’t compare being Canadian to being Irish in an effort to understand who you are, because, at least so far, who I am seems to exist separately of my nationality anyway. I won’t lie that part of my (this is your cue to pull out your sword and wizard cape) quest was to understand myself better, and while I’ve gotten a better understanding of what it means to be Canadian, who I am is not limited by language or accent. A that’s what she said is a that’s what she said, no matter what time-zone you’re in, baby.

What's long, hard and prickly? Just a shrub I guess

Sunday, January 24, 2016


I took my first trip alone to Europe many, many years ago, and as I sat in the airplane seat on my way back to Canada, I held this little piece of paper:

It was my horoscope, which I had found in a newspaper at the airport that morning.  My knees shook as I took it out of my pocket again and again, re-reading what I was sure was a sign of destiny. 
Don't fear change.
I had loved Europe, from the chaos of the un-street-signed streets of Milan, to the night I spent alone in the middle of nowhere in Spain (one of the most important nights of my life), to the cheeky allure of London. I loved Europe, and I loved Dublin the most. At seventeen, my dreams weren’t yet thwarted by the notion (or the façade?) of responsibility and I decided, reading this horoscope, that I was going to move there.  As I got home, and as the days and weeks went by and real life crept back in, moving turned to maybe I could just travel for a while to maybe I could just go on vacation again for a week or so to maybe someday I’ll see Dublin again.  That was twelve years ago, and the dream of leaving everything behind was tucked far under job contracts and hydro bills that made up the pile called Adulthood. Still, I kept the little horoscope. 

Over the past year, I started writing less and going out more (thanks Drake!), and feeling generally uninspired by everything I saw, from the streets around me to the things I used to love doing. Then,  one day, something truly horrific happened: I ate a Suzy Q maple-bacon donut and thought (if you squint a bit while reading this it won’t hurt as much) whatever.  I think I just stopped caring. Around that same time, I took an unexpected trip to Dublin, and there, against all odds, in the most unexpected way, I found inspiration again.

This time, on the way back home, I didn’t let real life creep back in. Instead, I applied for a visa, bought a one-way ticket, and emptied out my savings account. 

I’m moving to Dublin next month!

I don’t know what I’ll do there, or when or where I’ll work.  I’m not sure of anything Adulthood-related, really, and that’s exactly what I want. Luckily, I’ve located the nearest donut shops and I believe, from my extensive research, that there is an endless collection of exciting yogurts in every grocery store, so that’s settled. I can’t wait to walk down streets I’ve never seen before, to watch people laugh at Irish inside jokes, and for the day everything starts to make sense. Although, with my favourite person waiting for me there, I think it already does.

Thank you to everyone who has been so amazingly supportive as I tearfully bid farewell to my downtown apartment and eventually, to all of you.  I don’t know when I’ll be back, but it’ll be with you in mind. Thank you to my bosses for adamantly offering me ridiculous job opportunities to tempt me into staying – I will think of you when I am splashed by a bus going through a puddle or something equally as dramatic. Thank you, my readers, for laughing about Ottawa with me. Thank you, Ottawa, for being so funny.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Three Fourty-Four: A Marathon

There's nothing like it. Not love, not money, not good news, not great memories. Nothing comes close to the feeling you get when your effort pays off. You can't explain it, and in a way it's inherently selfish: you look at yourself and share your pride with yourself, and yourself only.
I was raised to believe modesty is the only way to be an upstanding member of a (freshly post communist) society. Russians do not encourage. Pride goes hand in hand with guilt, and I grew up with my parents enthusiastically pointing out everything that could ever be wrong with me. Luckily I got you back, mom, through the art of the written word! Who's laughing now?

I ran my first marathon in October. It's been three months and I've only now gotten the nerve to write about it with the pride it deserves. But today I thought enough is enough, it needs to be said: I fucking killed it. If it had come easily, if it had been something that happened by chance, I wouldn't bother writing about it because nobody likes a bragger. It did not happen by accident. I gave up my summer, my weekends, my sleep, some friends, and any sense of physical comfort. I broke a few toes, lost a few nails, and came embarrassingly close to fainting on a number of occasions. I wanted to stop, to skip runs, I wanted to give up more than I would ever admit. I didn't feel the running paying off, I just felt weaker as every week went by. And then, Toronto came. And then it was time to just do it, and I felt the same way I did three years ago, when I first thought about running. I was so nervous I put my mom and sister in a separate hotel room from mine. Anais suggested I get race gear because no matter what happens, I'll always want to remember my first marathon, so I got this one.

I couldn't find the 4:30 pacer so I decided to start with the 3:30 and let myself fall behind.  I didn't feel the first 15 kilometres. They just flew by, song after song, mile after mile, with no breaks or walking.  It was only at the halfway point that I realized my legs had started to shake. 15k later I knew I was in a new place. I had never run longer than 26km and I didn't know how my body would react to this new distance. This is what makes me nervous: the uncharted part. Still, I didn't stop, aside from slowing down to have a power gel. "I figure once we hit 35k, we're in the clear!" a Rastafarian man wearing head-to-toe neon green walked up behind me, eating a gel of his own. Perfect, I'm hallucinating, I thought. I mumbled something incomprehensible akin to "good luck" or something, and we both laughed and began running again.

I could no longer feel my feet in the last 5k. The pain had become too much to process, so I counted on what I memorized as a running stance, no longer sure of how fast I was going. I remember the 41km mark. The numbers ceased being numbers and it stopped being a countdown, but was something my body had decided was a continuous treadmill of pavement. And then..the finish line.  All I hoped was to not fall before hitting it. I remembered my silly goal of 3:55 that I talked about in the blog post I wrote while training.  It couldn't be that fast- I had fallen behind when my knees started to kill - but I knew I would be happy with whatever I got, as long as I just didn't fall. Hundreds of people high-fived us as we ran the last kilometre. I was sure I would cry, but all I did was thank them again and again, gasping for those last few breaths that would get me there so I could finally stop.  Just finish. Don't fall.


Three motherfucking fourty-four. 

Did I cry when I saw this? No. It's been months and I've been waiting to have that moment where I realize how overwhelming it was to see myself beating any goal I could've ever imagined. I thought I would be overcome with a mental slideshow of how far I've come, but I've felt nothing aside from an overwhelming shock. I'm still in shock, months later. 

230 / 1313 in my gender. 50/ 236 in the 25-29 category.  1:46 half-marathon time. *enter every Kanye song that has ever existed* Turns out the Hansons Marathon program really works. It kicks your ass, it's hard as hell, but it works. It helps you endure the pain, it helps you stay strong, stay light on your feet despite feeling every pound hit that pavement for the last few miles. It helps you push the pain aside, and isn't that what you have to do, not only in running but in life? Just keep going.

Running with hypothyroid can be tough.  My body wants to be slow, with my metabolism constantly playing tug of war against the supplements I take to counter it. It's a constant struggle to run faster, run lighter, to persevere despite the voice that tells me to just sit this one out. What screams louder than all that is effort. Effort is what got me here, bragging my ass off, and I stand behind it. Effort has no emotion. It doesn't care about your excuses. It just is or it isn't. You train, you see results. Effort will never let you down. I'm proud that I've felt it, I'm proud to have found the formula, and to have found that it's actually very simple: do it. In a sea of catchy sayings and quotes that are supposedly meant to inspire but don't hold weight in the real world, this is the absolute truth.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year, Old You!

Confession: reading "New Year, New Me!" quotes makes me want to repeatedly get into unmarked vans and hope for not the best. That's right, friends: I have emerged from my two month hiatus of "has she finally eaten herself to death?" just in time to remind you that three years ago, you probably promised yourself that January would be the month you finally commit to eating nothing but lemon-water and sad memories. After day three, you probably fainted and, as your limp body rolled down the escalator like a freshly defrosted turkey, you made a mental note to stop the madness.  Two years ago, you likely made a resolution to be more sociable, finally genuinely accepting that Facebook party invitation from that guy who sends out like eighty a week. You know, that guy - the one you can't remember adding on Facebook. The guy named DJ SteezeOnWheeze, where SteezeOnWheeze was somehow allowed as a last name, and every second word is capitalized, and you want to remove him from your friends list, but you're not sure how you know him and he might turn out to be someone important so you keep him on just in case. This is the guy who 'spins' 'tracks' at that really cool place between the Shawarma Emporium and a laundromat for the homeless, and two years ago, it was time to make a change in your life so you said yes to his next event. The new sociable you paid the $8 to get into that party, bopped your head to those hot-off-the-Serbian-press mashups of Adele and Cotton-eye Joe while dreaming about the $1.49 menu at McDonald's, and later went home unfriending Mr.Steez once and for all. What was wrong with staying home to marathon-watch the Kardashians, anyway?

And remember last year? You said you'd read more, didn't you? You said you'd finish Anna Karenina, but the long words made you want to take lots of naps. You switched to The Secret, but it felt like there were too many secrets as it was. You picked up Garfield Does Sunday, but the phone rang, and you ended up promising yourself that you'd set aside five minutes a day to catch up on that comic with the guy with the huge nose but like, comics are getting so philosophical these days and newspapers are outdated anyway.  Why, dear resolution-makers, would this year be any different? And why try to be a 'new' you anyway? What's wrong with the old you? Do you just not like the old you? What if that's all you needed to change? Look, I'm being a hypocrite here, because I make resolutions left, right and centre. But I stick to them. Why? Because I'm fucking perfect and motivated and disciplined, and also I'm lying because the only time I actually stuck to them was when I went on a raw diet for a month and the time I got so fat I literally had to go on a 30 diet of cheese and meat for people who have zero ambition. Every other year, I've made goals to be more tanned, less hairy, less of an idiot, more of a shopper, less poor, more fragrant, less pizza, more velvet coat hangers. I haven't changed, but I sure have spent a ton of weeks actively hating myself for not having stuck to those goals. Booooring.

My suggestion to you, as we plunge into what will certainly be another year of Oh My God, is to stay exactly as you are. And, if you want to eat a salad here and there, that's cool. If you catch a headline in a newspaper article that makes you wanna learn more about Bulgaria and suddenly you're worldly and kinda look like George Clooney's wife by consequence, great. But lets stop with the all-encompassing promises to radically change ourselves. We've put in so many years building who we are now - lets honour those people, as hairy as those people may be.

I hope you all ate so much Christmas food you considered barfing to make space for more. I hope someone's cat broke their glass ornament, and someone said "If I have to watch Elf one more time, I swear..." and that at least one person sang the Mariah Carey song that is basically the one definitive song of the holidays.

I hope you remembered to love yourselves despite the meat sweats, and that you continue to love yourselves into 2016, because really, New Year, Old You. And that person is awesome.

Also yesterday I fell out of a bus.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Balmain x H&M

Remember many years ago, when I spent the night outside H&M in Montreal to grab some pieces from their collaboration with Versace? After that, it was another night spent waiting for Rodarte x H&M with my poor sister, who tried very hard not to cry as the sun rose to indecently reveal street cleaning cars and the staggering of nearby drunks. And, after that, I promised myself that while I'll endure a little bit of suffering for fashion, I just can't take it that far again. Well, that was before I saw the latest collaboration, hitting select Canadian H&M locations on November 5th: Balmain x H&M. Oh my God.

Photo: h&

Honestly, when I first saw the teasers for the line, I didn't care much for the box cut blazer which, lets face it, can really only be effective when worn with thigh-high boots and pretty much nothing else. And as far as I like to take Casual Fridays at work, I have to stop at my french fry shirt. I just can't find a legitimate use for either of these outfits, so I kinda just shrugged the whole thing off and moved on with my life.

Nope, not for me (photo:

But then, the collection was released, and I felt my stomach drop the way it does when I really, really like something. And that's when I knew I couldn't look away anymore.  And so, with a few weeks to the launch, here are my favourite pieces, if you can handle them.

First of all, there's this show-stopper. I've been waiting for a dress with a plunging neckline for as long as I can remember, and this. is. it. Somebody better invite me to a yacht party soon, otherwise, well no, I don't care, I'll wear it to the food court if I have to.

photo: H&M

Then there's this silk (!!) dress, for when you want to curl your hair and put on the lipstick that's a bit too flashy, and call everyone at the disco Honey, and squeeze your lime slowly into your tonic to the sounds of Abba, and give him a fake number because you're too busy anyway.

photo: H&M

The following two pieces have a stunning structure, impeccable detailing, and just enough punch to be worn with minimal accessories (if any). I love the sinched waist on the dress, and the built-in neck detailing on the top. I would pair both of these with big hair and maybe some solid statement earrings, like the Chanel double pearl studs. Mega-swoon.

photo: H&M

photo: H&M

And if you don't feel like paying $200-$800 for a garment, there are also some really striking accessories that are a little more on the accessible side, guaranteeing your popularity at the next Secret Santa gift exchange. "A mug that says "I AM TIRED"??? Karen, how thoughtful! So, I'm not sure who your Secret Santa is but she left the H&M receipt in the box in case you don't love your BALMAIN scarf, which I know you will."

A velvet scarf! Love love love. 

photo: H&M
And a suede clutch! All jokes aside, I think this might be the piece I end up with. It's so versatile, so simple, and the green can be adorned so easily, yet keeps its place in spotlight by virtue of that shade being just so, so, so cool. It really doesn't care what you think, it just wants to be on your arm.
photo: H&M
And even though I already have a couple of pairs of headphones, how incredible are these? Just perfectly pretentious, and probably more for people who wear fur vests and stuff, but still so exciting to imagine yourself wearing.  Top three songs listened to by people who will buy these: 1.Jamiroquai: Cosmic Girl  2.Dr.Dre: Next Episode 3.The Weeknd: High For This.

I should also mention that Balmain has a really great men's collection this time around as well. If I had a husband who smelled really good, I think he would wear this blazer. I really love how clean the lines are, and that there aren't any garbage buttons or stars or any stupid appliqué or patterns woven into the cuffs as high-end designers seem to love to do. Gentlemen, this is the kind of blazer that tells a woman that yeah, you've done this before. That lapel tho. Damn.

photo: H&M

There are still some pieces that you know are going straight to the Next Day Back of the Store rack, that you'll see someone's great aunt buying for 70% off in a week, but I think that happens with every collection.  Sometimes it's earrings shaped like armadillos. Other times (this time around) it's a one-piece spacesuit and a dress shirt with some sort of communist detailing on the shoulders.

Whatevs, ignore those, because the rest of the line is really, really worth it. Balmain x H&M will be available in select Canadian stores so get that sleeping bag out 'cause it's gonna be another cold night out!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dublin: It's Good Craic (Maybe)

In the last few minutes of his life, Irish poet Seamus Heany’s last words to his wife were “Don’t be afraid”.  I only learned about this while already in Dublin, which is both serendipitous because I’ve been on a real fear-facing kick lately (when I wrote about those things I learned) and unfortunate, because had I known this sooner, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so unbelievably stoned on my flight over.

“Take half a pill, Alisa. Otherwise it’ll be too much and you’ll lose all control,” My doctor likes to joke. “Okay,” I like to joke back, “Half a pill.”  Cue Saturday night and me boarding my first flight and announcing to everyone that “I will take my sedative on the second flight! That way I can pace myself and not fall asleep just yet!”

[By the way, while I don’t have a picture of myself in a coma on the plane this time around, this is basically how I look every other time the ol’ Ativan kicks in. You may remember this one from that trip I took to LA a year ago.]

i counted to potato then i look like this
“We’ll pace ourselves with you,” an old lady answered, tightening her sound-isolating headphones around her head: an oatmeal-raisin covered shut the fuck up. The first flight went as flights usually go: a ridiculously handsome fella sat behind me but quickly got on my last nerve by repeatedly pressing his knees into my seat (side-note: WHAT do people do when they’re pressing their bodies into the seat you’re in? What are they stretching? What do they need? Are they having a mid-flight growth spurt?). “Excuzes me?” he stuffed his inconsiderate face between my seat and the empty one next to me, “Ow long eez delay? I afraid I miss flight to Paris.” As a flight attendant and part-time pilot, I was able to answer his inquiry, and we were shortly on our way. About halfway through the flight, I felt the familiar jolt of turbulence and as I began picturing my loved ones and whispering goodbye, “Last month, it got so hot in Los Angeles that my cousin’s cat Socks lay on her back with her legs spread open,” was graciously divulged to me by a lady with a mushroom cut. A bag of broken pretzels followed shortly.

I obviously upgraded to sit in the Converse section

At the Toronto airport, I saw pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, basically. People ask me why I didn't take the picture from the front and I always say: "Would YOU take a picture of pro skateboarder Tony Hawk from the front?" Didn't think so. For those interested, he ate a ham and swiss sandwich from Tim's. He's so modest.

Air Canada Red, the flight that would take us over the ocean, took a more direct approach and made an iconic withdrawal from the database of My Nightmares, extracting the retch-inducing vision of a fedora and outfitting each flight attendant with its monstrous structure.

You know how sometimes on the first day of school you don’t make friends, and you’re alone, and suddenly find a group of people like this smiling at you, and you walk past them and crawl into a garbage bin instead?

Also, the following is a list of worst things you can ever hear on a plane:

  1. “We’re about to land. Could you please remove your headphones?” Why? What do you know?

  1. “Seatbelt please! Seatbelt PLEASE!” You seem a liiiiiiiittle too interested in that, ma’am..

  1. “Ladies and gentlemen, as we have reached altitude, the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off and we will shortly be passing through the cabin with a selection of-“   WHERE DID YOU GO. WHY DID YOU STOP TALKING. WHAT IS HAPPENING OVER THERE. WHY ARE YOU KEEPING THIS FROM US. SHOW ME TO THE COCKPIT. WE WANT THE TRUTH.

And this is why I took the whole pill, and why consequently, the flight to Dublin was great. After a blissful seven-hour sleep on a Polish man who, upon landing, announced: “Your head was on my shoulder the whole time. It was painful to watch.” (yes it was one of the most mortifying moments of my life, thanks for asking)  and a banana loaf that I only remember eating in theory,  I finally arrived, to the loveliest sight of Ireland in the morning.

When I tell Irish people about how much I love Dublin, my enthusiasm is generally met with a little smirk and often I’m asked what it is that makes me so excited.  I always wonder if it’s because like us (impervious to the beauty of our parks, the Parliament Building, and even the Beaver Tail) they’ve just stopped noticing the things around them, or if they’re just being extremely modest when they act like it's no big deal.  The last time I went to Dublin I was 20, and though the details have blurred, I remembered my time there the way you remember holding hands with someone you had to say good-bye to before you were ready.  I try to describe the way streets look, the way the sun sets against the bridges running through the Grand Canal, the little red doors, the adorable O’ that finds itself in front of almost every name..and nothing really explains why I love it as much as I do, nothing really justifies the butterflies it gives me. I’ve come to the conclusion that real love isn't tangible, and that’s why, when I try to describe Dublin, I sound like I failed grade two. Instead, I’ll just tell you about some of the stuff I did, in a very cool and collected way.

On one of the days, I was invited to a press preview of a film called Brooklyn. It's a story about an Irish girl moving to (of course) Brooklyn to escape the small town where she grew up, where there were no jobs, and way too much gossip.  As we walked out of the theatre, I volunteered my usual film critique, ragging on the somewhat confused acting in the story, which my host was not happy to hear. “It’s about Ireland, Alisa. It just is.”  *collar tug*

Brooklyn Movie 2015 Images

I also played chess with an opponent who decided to cheat by carving the chess pieces into incomprehensible characters. Here I am holding Jodie Foster (post Panic Room) and Kurt Russell. Huh? Whose move?

And what's in his hand, anyway?

I also always remembered to look right when crossing the street, which is basically the most stressful thing you can ever do in Europe.  I think the way traffic works in Dublin is that the light is just  always red for pedestrians and cars don’t have brakes, so everyone just sort of runs, always, everywhere, all the time.  “Amber means you just go” my friend Aaron said. I took his advice a few times and almost got hit by a horse.  Okay so one time, the light turned green briefly, but cars still zoomed wherever they wanted, so whatever.

Of course I hit up Marks & Spencer a few times, not only for their amazing salads but for the donuts I’ve become addicted to through the years.  Fun fact: there is not only a Marks & Spencer in London (from where I dragged two boxes of chocolates and a tin of brandy-soaked fruit cake for my mom) but also in Dublin (where I could’ve bought those things without looking like a traveling gypsy at Stansted Airport).

One of my absolute favourite parts about Dublin is the canal that (I think) divides north from south (I won’t mention my geographically-challenged brain here again). 

Though the majority of Dublin is quiet, there’s an even greater tranquility by the water. It’s like a little blanket in the middle of the city, except don’t sit on it because you will die. I went for a run along the canal one day, and saw palm trees (!!!)…

And a beautifully crafted bridge with sort of Dali-esque curvature…

And at night, the bridges are illuminated in such an enticing way that you feel there’s a party and you hope you’re invited but of course when you get there, it’s just a bridge, but that’s okay because now you’re at a party on a bridge.

 Sometimes, people ask: “Are the streets like in the movies?” And I always answer yes.

Dublin is cozy, inviting, and hard to get lost in, though even if you were to get lost, you’d love every moment of not knowing where you are.  There is a poetry in the way people speak there, and that poetry is extended to the way the sunlight falls between the little houses, the footsteps of ladies running for the bus in the morning, and the way the hands of Irish gentlemen fall on the barrel that serves as a little table for their pints.

You already know how much I love exciting yogurt, and my obsession with scoping out new flavours at the grocery store has recently extended to an anthropological exploration of yogurts across the globe. (What?) Anyway, my all-time favourite yogurt on planet earth is the toffee flavoured kind from either London, or now, Dublin.  Not only does it taste like it should be bad for you (which fine, it is) but they always make it sound so legit.  “Made in West Cork”…I’m practically there with each spoonful! (That’s what she said). Shout-out to the gooseberry variety I thugged out on in London, and also the toasted hazelnut, neither of which I have pictures of on account of eating them faster than the speed of my camera’s shutter. This is mainly while I ate the entire week.

Side-note: why does every city in Europe always have a stand of flowers and this lady looking at me in exactly this way?

Side side-note: About halfway through my trip I made a quick run to London (well I flew there, but you know), well-prepared for the adventure with my friend Jason’s expert cultural knowledge:

When I got there, my hotel room was actually above an old Western salloon which sounds really exciting and adventurous but this was the kind of place where they only had five keys on leather keychains and when I entered the room, the curtains blew violently onto my bed as though they were airing out a recent murder.  The hallway smelled like the inside of an ear, and there was a glistening brown stain on the wall just next to my face. Despite Hotwire promising this was “just like a Hilton”, I checked in with a bartender over the trembling hands of a man working on his eleventh whiskey, brushed my teeth over a public toilet “conveniently located between the third and fourth floor”, and trapped an unidentifiable insect with my passport, before deciding to check out the next day and buy a flight right back to Dublin. London was just as it was last year, except with slightly less sleet and slightly more sad looks on account of a recent rainfall. 

On the flight to Dublin, I met a stunning girl with the most beautiful and beautifully complicated name. Eadaoin (pronounced Aydeen) is doing her second Master’s in London but lives in Dublin, and also does some courses in Belfast.  I noticed her binder said Queen’s University  London, and (okay another reference to my geographical retardation) I thought that maybe she was Canadian.  She told me about all of her commuting (she flies to and from London every week!)  and how much she loves patent law, and that she also works at Chanel on weekends. I asked her if she prefers the caviar grain leather to the saffiano, she said yes because she would get any other leather dirty, and we talked about how boys are creepy in general.  I told her, like I’ve told everyone and their mom, about my terrible crush on Dublin. She told me that it’s meant to be – that I just have to move. I then asked her if she was nervous flying, and she said no, but “I know seven people who died in plane crashes!” at which point I was like:

“So, you feel better because of the statistics, then?” I asked. “Nah, more like cause if it happens, it’ll be so fast, you won’t feel it!” she laughed. And laughed. And laughed.  Thanks Eadaoin.

Meanwhile, this Ryanair hoe..

In Canada, when people hear my name, they don’t hear a word. They hear forks dropping, or the chirping of a locust, or a foghorn. I will forever wonder why Lisa makes sense, but put an A in front of it and it is no longer a word pronounceable by the Canadian mouth.  When I order my coffees here, I spell it out for them.  What I get is Alyssa, Amanda, A, Alicia, or a picture of a swastika.  In London, however, I ordered my usual Americano and when asked for my name, I said it in a half-whisper, too tired to care for what was on my cup as long as coffee was in it.  Imagine my astonishment when I was given this:

It's ALISA bitches

I love that it’s even underlined, like take that
And guess what happened when I ordered a coffee in Dublin? Yep. Same thing.  I didn’t have to spell it out for them. I said it in passing, and it found its way perfectly onto my cup. I’m not sure how else to express a feeling of belonging, but there are very few times in life where I’ve felt truly at home, and this is one of them.

Back in Ireland, I was also privy to these hip n’ happenin’ teenage bedroom signs, which couldn’t be a more literal depiction of how hip n’ happenin’ teens speak. On the one side, you have a perfect depiction of the average Sarah’s nonchalance. On the other, a somber cry for help. Don’t have a cow, man.

 During the second part of my trip, I saw the Spire:

Which is equally cool day and night (and okay I saw it like every day cause it’s so tall):

And ate a pear and chocolate tart at the Queen of Tarts, as per Tyler’s recommendation:

That morning I also had an English breakfast there, and yes, the waitress looked at me with slight repulsion as I later ordered the tart. YOLO BETCH.

I saw a tree that I can’t really explain..

And had the pleasure of meeting a terrible tour guide, who did not believe me that Dublin has a castle (the Dublin Castle):

Who invited me to check out Windmill Lane Recording Studios where he works, where really important people like 50 Cent and Ellie Goulding come to record stuff, and really cool people like me try desperately not to freak out over this wall signed by Ed Sheeran:

The Guinness Storehouse was also something I would recommend everyone sees, if you like learning about how beer is made, and like the history of water and stuff. If you’ve never seen a concept piece of a pint glass carved out of wood, you should absolutely go:

And if you’re still unsure about how a pint glass fits into a person’s hand, this will help:

And have you ever woken up in a cold sweat? If not, this fish on a bicycle (another Guinness campaign staple) will also help:

Carol, I'm comin' home and I want a divorce. (What?)
 And your tour also includes a pint of Guinness which we got to learn how to pour:

Feel free to take a quick gander at the face of the person behind me
Oh, and I also discovered my absolute favourite burger of all time (okay okay after the Burger Lounge burger in LA). I’m not a huge fan of burgers because I find them to be very basic, in general. I mean, I get it: you’ve got two buns and a patty. Maybe some filling. But what you really are, usually, is a predictable combination of these things. Relax, bud, right? Wrong. This burger…the jalapeño popper…has changed my life. First of all, it’s so beefy.  The patty has this rich, velvety depth to it, only perfectly reinforced by the cheddar that oozes between each bite. Did you think that was it? Wrong again. Here come the slices of perfect jalapeño, but don’t worry, if you’re worried you can’t take it, there’s a soft bun to wrap it all up for you and take things down a notch.  I’m man enough to admit that I teared up with my first sixteen bites. It takes a lot for me to care about food, to think something is truly delicious. This is delicious. The place is called Eddie Rocket’s and is not Irish at all (“American fare with exciting new menu additions” they say.) Doesn’t matter. It’s worth it. You know how much it’s worth it? It’s worth it so much that I dragged Terrible Tour Guide there twice in one day.  “I LOVE THIS PLACE” I told the cashier. He handed me a deck of cards hoping that I would leave. Win-win.

you know it!
Feel free to personally message me for locations of this establishment across Dublin. I have memorized them all.

Of all the things I saw, the place I will remember most is not a cliff or stone. It’s a perfectly quirky, seedy little bar called Lanigan’s, where horrifying dolls and monsters decorate each wall and corner.  There is a cage with stuffed birds, bones, and ridiculous signs everywhere you look.

great food, okay?

There are clowns, and puppets, and I think an actual corpse. There are old men with canes and ladies in glitter hot-pants, and couples holding hands having difficult conversations, and people named Mark with teeth falling out of their skull, and there are Irish football matches on TV, and everybody yells when someone scores a goal and then they play a song that makes you feel patriotic for a country you don’t even know.

It’s the sort of place you want to fall into after losing your way in the city. The kind of place you want to discover by chance, or tell secrets in, or where you want to spill beer on yourself and crawl out of in a daze. In a way, it’s what Dublin has come to mean to me: it’s fun, and funny, and unpredictable in the loveliest way, and when you look around at its silly little faces, you want to stay forever.