Exploding Bon Bons

Just after Christmas my friend Karen visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. When asked what kind of candy I wanted her to bring me, I nixed the Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans having tried most flavors when they were in stores everywhere. I was torn between asking for a chocolate frog or upon her suggestion, Exploding Bon Bons. I picked the Bon Bons because I had no idea what they were and I’d had chocolate frogs before.

Just a few days ago I tried my new candy. Now I’m not really sure what I expected, definitely milk chocolate or hard candy. It wasn’t until I really looked at the box that I realized they were orange and pineapple flavored. And I opened them to find they were white chocolate.

Not something I would have picked for myself, if I had any idea what I was picking.

But the box is cool and they pop in your mouth like pop rocks. They’re not nasty just different and I guess since this is candy from Harry Potter I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

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Moments Like Movies – Sisterhood of the Traveling Shoes

There are moments in my past that I’ve tried to emulate something. I’ve enjoyed breakfast in front of Tiffany’s, dressed like a Luna Lovegood for Halloween and wore bracelets with words and phrases that represented Francesca Lia Block novels. Sometimes some parts of stories just hit me certain ways.

And while I was in college I decided to start a sisterhood. Three girls living in three separate states, a triangle of sorts, shared a pair of red Chuck Taylor high tops. We shared the love of a band and the similar appreciation for Francesca Lia Block novels and an enjoyment for the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novels.

At this point I had one met Kate and Miranda hadn’t met either of us in person, but what did that matter? We had similar core values and an equal understanding of what it was like to be a fan. And so, inspired by a book I wrote years back we decided that a pair of shoes would bring us together in ways that simple internet chatting couldn’t.

And besides, it gave us something to do, mail to receive and the mission to have those babies signed. We had rules and a journal to pass along with the shoes, too. This was serious business!

I can’t remember how long we passed around the shoes, keeping them for a month at a time, but they had some pretty good adventures. They came with me to my first days of college, hiked a mountain with me the second day in (not a good idea overall, especially not in Chucks, but I was pretty much forced into the task so I might as well have brought the shoes along, right?) and experienced the floors of multiple music venues.

Two very big adventures brought our shoes to be signed by the very boys we decided inspired this sisterhood so that every day after those shoes were worn they carried a little bit of love from all three girls, and the knowledge they had been touched by our favorite band.

The shoes have long since been retired. They’re in Ohio along with the journal but I hope to see them again someday. I’d like to read what we wrote each other seven- eight years ago. It’s a time capsule in disguise. Maybe sometime we can take them out of retirement for just one night all three girls and their shoes can be together.

Moments Like Movies: Live Music

Miranda, aka The Good Groupie, and I have been friends for years. We renamed each other after characters in Francesca Lia Block novels almost as soon as we started talking (She is Alabaster Duchess and I am Lady Ivory from Girl Goddess #9). It was music that brought us together and she remains the most passionate person I know when it comes to live shows.

In my world, music is the most real form of magic there is. It doesn’t matter who I’m going to see. As my ticket is scanned, the wrist band wrapped around my arm, and I step into the venue’s hallowed halls, I’m transported to another world. One where guitar riffs and drum fills reign supreme. One where lyrics are magical spells, spoken and sung, that wind their way around my body, into my veins and pump right through my heart.

Music is the magic that keeps me alive, so I have no choice but to believe magic is real. If I didn’t, I’d cease to exist.

I started going to shows on a regular basis when I was 18 years old. My friend Mel and I would drive two hours to the big city from the tiny east Texas town where we went to school at the time just to get our fix. Mel introduced me to most of the less-mainstream music I started off listening to, which usually meant we found ourselves at small venues in the sketchy part of town.

On the outside, the city buildings were covered in graffiti and the streets were filled with trash and broken glass. Most venues looked like one good gust of wind would send them crashing to the ground. But once we stepped inside and took our places in front of the stage (usually front row – we were serious about our music), it felt like I was somewhere else entirely.

The thrill of the house lights finally going down as the first band would take the stage always sent butterflies fluttering through my stomach. The din of the crowd excitedly welcoming the opener to the stage would send pulses of energy through my body, and the moment the first song of the night began, everything would turn electric.

That electricity would slowly build with each band – contained, but growing more intense with each song until the headliner took the stage and with their first note, it would explode and my whole world would be colored by the melodic tones of guitar strings and piano keys, backed by the thunderous crashing of kick drums and china cymbals and fed by the pulse of the bass lines.

As the candy-colored stage lights shone on my face, every last note, lyric, ‘ooh’, ‘aah’, and breath would flow through me like it was my life blood. The lines of every song would echo through my body, filling me to the brim with a buzzing so intense, I swear I got high off it.

In those moments, nothing else mattered. The world was perfect, I was happy, and the magical power of music swarmed around me, picking me up and carrying me off into a beautiful oblivion.

I got addicted easily, and I found myself filling my calendars with tour dates rather than homework assignments and project due dates. The intense happiness I experienced at shows could last for weeks at a time. When I was searching for something to fill me and make me feel whole, music filled a void in my heart and in my soul. It made me feel complete. It made me feel alive.

Nearly 10 years later, I still go to shows at least 2-3 times per month. While that intense connection I used to feel has lessened some, it isn’t gone. Not by a long shot. I don’t think it could ever be forgotten. It’s too much a part of who I am. It’s why I’m constantly scanning venue calendars and local band’s websites, looking for my next catharsis through notes and lyrics.

At 18, I wanted so badly to believe there was something magical in this world that could be truly good and pure; something that could transform me into the girl I didn’t know but wanted to become; something that would carry me through the hard times when there was no one else to turn to.

And music, true to form, like your soon-to-be favorite band falling in your lap by happy accident or a song that perfectly describes the feelings you can’t put into words coming on the radio exactly when you need it, I didn’t find the magic I sought.

It found me.


Moments like Movies: Cupcakes, Dress Up, Fiction and Besties


(weheartit)

Penny Rose was named for a character I created in 2003. Penny was based off the song Penny & Me and the idea of Penny Days was also born. A “Penny Day” is a day that makes you feel the same way the song Penny & Me always makes me feel – magical. It makes me stop and remember to appreciate the beauty in life. When Penny & Me is playing, I automatically feel that way. When inheriting this nickname, Penny was given super powers that include, but are not limited to, coming up with ways to make real life magical. You can read her Things I Love Thursday lists right here.

When I was younger everything seemed magical – as I’m sure it does for many children. Magic could make five dollars feel like a fortune, turn a stick into a sword and a box into a castle, and send out mysterious GPS signals so that Santa, the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy could all find your exact location. But as I’ve gotten older that magic has become depleted. Maybe its part of growing up – you know you are an adult when sticks are just sticks and five dollars hardly buys lunch let alone cover your car payment and rent.

So where do you find magic when it’s not peeking out at you from ever corner? When I asked myself this question I pulled out a sheet of paper and my colorful gel pens and made this list.

Where little Penny found her magic
Making potions with kitchen spices
Dress up and make believe
Children’s books
Best friends

When I sat and looked at my list (covered in doodles by the end of this exercise) I realized none of the things I found magical as a child have really changed… the thing that changed was how I evolved that magic.

Now don’t worry, I’m not twenty something sitting in my kitchen with a bowl of water and bubbles from the sink sprinkling cinnamon and dried basil to cure my Barbie doll’s cancer while I’m fully clad in a pretend wedding dress and a playschool hard hat… remember that the magic grew with me so I am a little more socially acceptable and a lot less crazy than that mental picture I just shared with you.

My magical potions have evolved into fantastical sweet treats. I traded in my water and soap bubbles for flour and sugar (I still use the spices of course!) and even though my baked goods can’t cure cancer (yet…) there is nothing more magical than pouring wet and dry goods together, mixing in a lot of love and a few wishes, sticking it all in the oven and watching it transform into something that makes tummies grumble. If you are looking for a little grown up magic and some little kid fun – tie back your apron strings, break out some sprinkles, and mix up some of your favorite flavored cake batter and give someone who never smiles a cupcake; then watch the fireworks go off in their eyes.

As far as dress up and make believe, I no longer have a small toy box full of costumes – now I have an entire closet full them. It took years of musty vintage shops and hit or miss thrift store treasure hunts to create my style but it was well worth it. I guess I never realized magic lived in my closet because my clothing doesn’t feel like dress up anymore – it feels like me. But its not at all strange to see me out and about in a 1950’s inspired sailor outfit or a candy cane striped jumper and a red wig, so I suppose it looks like dress up to most onlookers. I’m sure many fashionistas would tell you that clothes can make or break you but I think clothes can convert the regular and mundane into the enchanting. Take a day and dress as a Russian spy and see if it doesn’t make you feel mysterious and seductive – my bets are that it will and those feelings will vibrate from you and bounce off of every person who crosses your path until you start wondering if it is really a regular Tuesday or if you woke up in a James Bond 007 film… if you’re not into the spy look try mimicking your favorite movie, song, or book – inspiration is everywhere!

 

When all else fails I have books. Even if I think the magic has run out in every other aspect of life; fiction has always been a staple for me because it opens doors to new lands and times where anything is possible and good always conquers evil – the way reality should be. Books are probably the most constant magic in my life. When I feel like my optimistic energy gauge is flashing red I pull out a book and read – it’s like an instant shot of happiness. I’m not sure what to tell people who don’t enjoy reading because I give them the same look as people who tell me they don’t like chocolate, the look that says “Has hell frozen over? Am I dreaming? Did you really just say that?” so if you are not a book lover you are on your own because I would probably run into a burning library to save my favorites. My go to magic guides include (but are not limited to) Francesca Lia Block’s Dangerous Angel series, Holly Black’s Tithe and White Cat Series, Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, and Classics such as Catcher in the Rye and East of Eden.

Now that I’ve listed the magic I find fun every day and the most constant, let me tell you about the most powerful magic you can find – the magnetism of friends. We meet people every day and granted some of them are blind to magic but every so often you will meet someone who can open your eyes to the magic that you hold inside of you. You meet this person and you create sparks of enchantment that flow between you and when you catch those sparks together you can dole them out as you please. With them you can even make five dollars feel like a fortune, turn a stick into a sword and a box into a castle, and send out mysterious GPS signals…

Magic is a renewable resource if you know where to look. So put on your rose colored glasses (the ones that the whole world keeps telling you to take off) and see the world for what it really is – a truly enchanting place!

Moments Like Movies: New York, New York

I’d like to start off by letting you guys know that this is the very first guest post to MelanieKristy. After an e-mail request for her words on magic, my best friend Sarii (or Sarah, for all you more normal people) accepted my offer. There are some things in life that are hard to just understand, and there are some people in your life who you know will automatically understand. Sarii is one of those people who, when I thought that maybe I should have a few guest posts from other people I know who appreciate the magic of real life and the way that our love for fiction fits into reality, she was the first person I thought to ask because I knew that she gets it.

I have no qualms about admitting that, for the most part, I live in a fantasy world. As an only child whose mother was – at the time – married to someone most people didn’t want their children around, I spent most of my early childhood in the company of Disney princesses, superheroes, and approximately 30 Barbie dolls. That’s not to say that I didn’t have friends whose houses I often played at, and I also spent a great deal of my formative years with my grandmother (and sometimes cousins who were around my age), but suffice it to say that if I hadn’t quickly learned to immerse myself in the make-believe of movies and television and books, I would have been a very lonely little girl. I spent more time in Oz with Dorothy and under the sea with Princess Ariel than I did interacting with real people, at least before I started elementary school.

Perhaps it’s because of this that, to this day, I’m more likely to buy a satchel like the one Veronica Mars carried, headbands like Blair Waldorf’s, Charlie Kelly’s pajamas, or Turanga Leela’s complete space captain’s uniform than I am to show the slightest bit of interest in anything worn or owned by the people who portray those characters. Another good example of my continued dedication and attachment to fantasy is my car: I bought a convertible Beetle because Barbie has one, put a giant Batman emblem across the back window, and named it Elsa after one of Indiana Jones’s love interests; my previous cars were named Shadowfax and Sting (after Gandalf’s horse and Bilbo’s/Frodo’s sword), and Bessie Lou: The Wheels of Justice (a reference to Conan O’Brien and the Justice League of America, respectively). I will use any excuse whatsoever to combine my name with that of a beloved character – Sarii Potter, Sarlock Holmes, Scarlett O’Sarah, Sariadoc Brandybuck and Saragrin Took, and Princess Sariel, just to name a few. All but one of my five tattoos declares my love for a celebrity or fictional character, ranging from Elvis Presley to Sherlock Holmes.

More fundamentally, at the age of 26, I still believe with all my heart that the good guys will always win in the end, that the prince will always rescue the princess and keep her safe and love her forever, that somehow every person and every story will get a happy ending. No matter how much evidence life loves giving me to contradict every bit of that, my head will never get my heart to truly doubt those things. It’s a gift and a curse in pretty much all the ways you’d expect.

I love to travel and, as you can probably imagine, the older I get and the more say I have over the trips I take, the more my adventures have revolved around the things and people and places I’ve come to love from the stories I adore the most. I’ve been to Disney World four times and finally met Princess Ariel the summer I was 25 (and proceeded to cry like a baby); I went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter the first two days it was open and drank so much butterbeer in The Hog’s Head and ate so much candy from Honeydukes before riding the rollercoasters that I sincerely thought I was going to puke all over Hagrid’s hut; I’ve visited Boone Hall Plantation and discreetly rubbed my hands all over the green velvet portieres in the library, although it was Twelve Oaks in “Gone With The Wind” that was based on Boone Hall and Scarlett’s dress was made from the drapes at Tara; I’ve been all over Savannah looking for the bench from “Forrest Gump” and then flat refused to have anything to do with it once I learned it had been moved from the bus stop to some museum – sacrilege!; I’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard and burst into tears of excitement when the taxi drove past a certain beach on the way to Edgartown because that’s where Alex Kintner was killed in “Jaws”; I’ve been to Planet Hollywood in every major city I’ve ever visited just to admire the sacred relics of what may as well be my religion; one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life was traveling to Washington, DC to see the Ruby Red Slippers only to find out that the Smithsonian was closed for remodeling, but I was somewhat consoled by the death car from the movie “Bonnie & Clyde” and a giant dossier on Hannibal Lecter being displayed in the Museum of Crime & Punishment.

But nowhere I’ve ever been even comes close to the heartbreaking wonder and magic of New York City.

MelanieKristy (whom I’ve always called Mellii, because that’s what Scarlett O’Hara calls Melanie Wilkes) and I began planning our grand adventure in December of 2008, almost immediately after she came to visit me in South Carolina and we’d had an epic adventure to the southernmost point of Georgia – yet another trip based on our mutual infatuation with fiction, although this particular journey was to visit a plantation from a book we’d co-written ourselves. Following the equal-parts-tremendous-success-and-mind-numbing-failure of that excursion, we decided that what we really wanted our next trip together to be was a three-day, two-night pop culture bender in New York City. I admit that being from a small town in the Deep South I had my hesitations about throwing in my lot with the dirty double-crossing thieves, rapists, and murders that populate the Sodom and Gomorrah That Never Sleeps. Needless to say, this hesitation dissipated the second I glanced at my movie shelf and titles like “Enchanted,” “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” and “How to Marry a Millionaire” jumped out at me; it also helped when I remembered that I don’t live in the 1860’s, or in a pulpy detective novel.

We spent almost nine months planning every second of this trip, and more than two years later I still have every specially-labeled email we exchanged in the process. It probably goes without saying at this point, but to Mellii’s credit and in defense of her sanity, I was the one to plan everything out to the last detail, minute by minute, so there wouldn’t be a single thing we wanted to do that we’d end up having to miss. If you’ve ever been to New York, you’re laughing at me right now and I fully forgive you for that, as I now know as well as anyone that it’s only a fool who truly believes they’re going to get more than three or four things done in NYC on any given day. However, I’m still so proud of us that there were very few things we planned to do but didn’t get around to: pancakes in an Alice In Wonderland-themed restaurant, cupcakes from a bakery featured on Sex & The City, the Statue of Liberty, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex that was then featuring special tributes to Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and John Lennon.

I wish it was possible to describe the way I felt on the hours-long bus ride from Boston to New York. It was early in the morning and we aren’t morning people, but we were both wide awake and giggling about everything, completely immersed in our own private jokes and the endless possibilities in all the magic we were about to share, the kind of excitement you only ever feel when setting off on a grand adventure with your best friend in the entire world. The 120-something song playlist I made for the journey was full of songs about New York, or from movies or television shows based in New York, and “Bright Lights” by Matchbox 20 was playing when I caught my first glimpse of that infamous skyline. It literally stopped my heart for a moment, experiencing true love at first sight for the first time.

After searching Chinatown for a cab (coming across a funeral procession at one point, made all the more awkward by my absentminded swearing as I tried to maneuver my ridiculously oversized suitcase down the crowded sidewalk), we were whisked away into the very heart of Manhattan. Our erratically-driven-by-a-very-angry-foreigner taxi may as well have been the pumpkin-turned-carriage from Cinderella because every moment of that hectic drive was a fairytale for me, that fantasy made all the more tangible by the fact that we were headed towards The New York Palace. The previous April we had booked the least expensive room in that particular hotel for one reason: on Gossip Girl, which we both watched at the time, it was owned by Chuck Bass.

This seems as good a time as any to mention that I would do everything to Ed Westwick.

By some miracle, we were told at check-in that our room had been given away and we were receiving a free upgrade to one of the rooms in the Tower (as in, a room that would normally cost upwards of $1,200 a night), and that’s about the time that it becomes difficult for me to look back on my memories of New York with any sort of certainty that they’re real, or that they aren’t borrowed remembrances from a movie. A bellhop took our bags, and the exclusive concierge for guests of the Tower called the Brooklyn pizzeria where we had been planning to eat lunch to ensure we had the proper directions and wouldn’t have a wait once we arrived. As it turned out, Gerard Butler and Jennifer Anniston were filming a scene for “The Bounty Hunter” there at the time, so we decided to wander around the city until we found somewhere else to eat. Just roaming around what was to be our neighborhood for the next three days, we happened across NBC’s Rainbow Room, the original Saks 5th Avenue, Trump Towers, the Playboy headquarters, Radio City Music Hall, the Bergdorf Goodman from the original “Arthur” (which I did not go in for fear I’d shoplift a tie, Liza-style, and spend the rest of my vacation in jail), and Grand Central Station. To top it all off, we ended up eating at a bistro set up outside of Rockefeller Center, right in front of the famous fountain with the golden statue of Prometheus.

The only thing that kept me from being so overwhelmed that I dropped dead was a strange amalgamation of feelings: of detachment because none of that could possibly be real, and of destiny because there was nowhere else in the world more perfect for someone like me. It was as if someone had taken my perfect idea of New York City from all the movies and television shows I’d built my life around and somehow created a real live version of it for me as some sort of lab experiment, to see just what brand of crazy I would go.

The rest of our stay was a whirlwind of pop culture magic that I still can’t wrap my mind around. We visited Barbie and the piano from “Big” in FAO Schwartz (we didn’t dance on it because they have people do that in groups, which was too inauthentic), we paid our respects to John Lennon at the Dakota and Strawberry Fields, we had drinks in one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, ate at the diner featured in every single episode of Seinfeld, and spent more time than I’m comfortable admitting running all over the various boroughs doing Gossip Girl-related things, up to and including my getting drunk at Ed Westwick’s favorite bar and trying to climb the tiny tree outside his apartment building until Mellii pointed out that there was a cop watching me.

I ended the night laying on the wide windowsill of our hotel room with the curtains wide open, reading select scenes of The Great Gatsby out loud, replacing the name “Gatsby” with “Westwick,” and ordering $30 room service pizza.

The most exciting, delicious, classy pizza of all times and clearly worth the price.

By far, though, the most amazing, fantastical thing we did during our visit was on our last morning there, when we got croissants and coffees and stood on the sidewalk of 5th Ave eating breakfast at Tiffany’s. To be honest, I had originally wanted to do this purely for the picture-taking opportunities it presented and to be able to tell people I had eaten breakfast at Tiffany’s, but it ended up being symbolic of everything New York City means to me and the feeling that I had been searching for all my life: that you really can be anybody you want to be, even if that person is Holly Golightly. That just because something is fiction doesn’t mean you can’t make it real. That the good guys will always win in the end, that the prince will always rescue the princess and keep her safe and love her forever, that somehow every person and every story will get a happy ending.