Wednesday, July 24, 2019

My Epic Random & Lazy Fashionista Self—Confessions of an Introverted Shopper

S.R. Karfelt, Stephanie Karfelt, travel, writer

There's a brand of clothes on Amazon called Sakka that I've taken a liking to. It's a bit Bohemian and summery, and the price is right. They don't wash easily, and the color fades, but that suits a summer love doesn't it? 

Last fall I was all over PattyBoutik, also available on Amazon. Her tops are longish and fitted. They're also a comfy cotton, unlike the lightweight flowy tops and dresses by Sakka. 

It's easy to be a fan of both brands. They're comfortable and ordering them is easy.

My favorite thing to wear is a pair of ancient Levi's—something so old and thin that you can wear them on ninety degree days and it feels like comfy cotton. I like them with an extra long sleeveless tank top in summer, and a long-sleeve t-shirt in cold months. But I'm trying to step-up my wardrobe a bit. 

Comfort is my big motivator. I've gained weight but feel no obligation to cover my pasty arms. While shopping with a friend she mentioned how tunics hide the bum. I shared my uncooperative fashion nature and admitted I felt no need to hide mine. Sure it used to look better, but if you don't like it I don't really care. Look at your own backside.

It's mine, not yours. 

There's this thing about being female that I just can't get on-board with. You can survive terrible things, become independent and successful in all areas of life, and write books about it—but dammit, woman, why's your arms floppy?

Being strong is what I ask of my body. Can I lift up small children? Can I take the stairs two at a time? Can I pull myself back into the canoe? Maybe not that last one so much very well, but you get my drift.

Despite the super-strength in my massive calves and soft arms, I'm still interested in comfortable clothes that look nice. They make me happy. I'm reading that Walter Isaacson book on Leonardo da Vinci. He liked to wear rose tunics and looked dashing sporting curls. We humans are a vain lot, and not much has changed since his time (he was born in 1452).

I like new clothes for special occasions and sometimes for my travels. In Egypt I settled for cotton t-shirts and capris in olive and stone. They're excellent for climbing pyramids, camels, and into tombs. I thought they gave me a rather Raiders of the Lost Ark look as I dug them out of the bowels of my closet just before my flight. On the way home, I left them behind. Sometimes I do that when I pack light and wear the same things over and over. 

Yes, I literally have worn favorite clothes to death. 

Like you haven't. My favorite white blouse had become one with the desert. It was never going to be white again. Usually when I travel I take a few outfits and shop for something new wherever I go. Last time I went to London, I took my favorite autumn clothes from here in the shire—short suede boots, epic jeans, and my coolest blue plaid jacket. I definitely looked like country mouse hitting the big city.

My London friend said, "Are you wearing that?" when we dressed to go out, giving my AWESOME BOOTS the stank eye. 

When I went back to London a couple months later I knew the rules. It's like in New York City. You can't go wrong wearing all black. You're looking chic now, country mouse.

In Greece I know how to dress, although I've made the mistake of taking jeans in summer. I wear lightweight jeans in the Arizona desert all the time. But it's defense against prickly cacti.

Light flowing clothing is what you want in Greece in summer. Something comfortable in blaring white heat. The summer sun there is so brilliant that it effects my vision. One summer I bought a solid silver bracelet. I like the whiter silver they sell in Greece and pick a new piece each visit. Know why that particular bracelet looked so white? It is white. I didn't notice the decorative white paint until I was on the plane home.

Long ago I used to pack for a trip far ahead. Now I tend to notice that the calendar has rolled into a travel month and I tear through my closet hoping for miracles. The little mall here in the shire has lost store after store, but I race down there full of misplaced hope. 

Shopping isn't my thing, but when I do go through the hassle of getting into a store I buy like it's my job. I might need clothes for other things this year so I stock up. That way I don't have to come back! 

By the time I get home from the maul, all the energy has been sucked from my body. I don't have the strength to look at that stuff again. I throw the bags into my closet. Later I'll pack them for a trip with the tags still on. That's sometimes a problem if I didn't try them on to begin with.

Last summer my workshop trip to Greece was later in the year. But I went to the mall early in anticipation, and because I was running dangerously low on everyday tank tops. Hoping to avoid ever having to shop again I bought one in every color. 

This week I hit Amazon because I've about worn those tops out and even that store has closed now. It's 3:30 a.m. now and I just ordered a couple more tops and a pair of over-priced jeans that reviewers say are so thin they're perfect for summer. How could I resist?

The thing about online shopping that I like best are REVIEWS. Does the dye rub off? Does it fall apart in the wash? Is it comfortable? That's what appeals to me. You'd think I was picking a surgeon I'm so picky about my Amazon and online purchases. I'm not sure it takes me any less time than going to a store. I even impulse buy. 

Yes, since you asked, I could use an agate pyramid!

At the mall I honestly just want to get out as soon as possible. The layout of the stores sucks my life force. I detest the ones that are mazes and force you deeper into the belly of the beast when all you want are underthings. 

That's why I often stick with brands I know and online shopping. Levi's are comfortable, or old ones are. That's again why I wind up shopping online. It's peaceful and efficient and I can find what I need. 

Know what would draw me into a brick and mortar shop over online shopping? Besides if the store carried useful and traditional styles over so much low-quality fluff? Helpful sales staff—that doesn't mean feigned friendliness. Mandatory forced fake enthusiasm from employees doesn't work for me. Sometimes it borders on mania. Customers, like all people, know when you don't mean it. Being polite is enough, being honest is even better. 

It does bother me to see malls shutting down, and I briefly
reconsider online shopping. I do shop local when I can, but here in the shire that is almost exclusively specialty shops. As always a single trip to the dying mall tends to send me right back online. Even when I go into Victoria's Secret or a local shoe store I often end up ordering what I wanted that wasn't in the store. Business is a matter of meeting economic need isn't it? The onus has to be on the shops and businesses. I dream of a store with quality clothing and useful products that's very different from most mega mall shops. Is it me? How guilty do you feel about online shopping? Any other shopping introverts out there? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

That One Time I Got Stranded on the Island of Skiathos in Greece

Without naming names I can tell you that once I got stuck behind the Disney Electric Light Parade in Disneyland California. As Aladdin flew by on his magic carpet and Cinderella waved from her carriage, the preschoolers I was with fell to the ground and sobbed out the injustices of their lives. Their heartless mother laughed and laughed with zero pity in her heart. 

Don't you wish you could be stuck in Disneyland right now?

Every summer I go to a writing workshop on a tiny island in the Aegean Sea. The workshop is hard work. Getting there is hard work. To get there this year I'll be flying from a small airport in New York to Detroit. Then I'll fly from Detroit to Chicago. After that it's an overnight flight from Chicago to Athens, Greece. Mind you before I leave Chicago I'll have been traveling for twelve hours already.

When I get to Athens I'll stay at the Airport Sofitel. After twenty-four hours of travel it's time to sleep. The next day I fly from Athens to the island of Skiathos. It's a popular tourist destination for parts of Europe. I meet people from England, Germany, and Italy there. 

Depending on my flight from Athens and the ferry schedule, sometimes I spend a night in Skiathos. I like to stay around the port area. I walk along Papadiamanti Street and the sea. It's very touristy with yogurt shops and tavernas. There are kababs of chicken souvlaki, blindingly strong cups of Greek coffee, and places to buy a wide brimmed hat to wear on the ferry. 

Like many towns in Europe the streets are filled with pedestrians but SURPRISE it is a road too so watch out for scooters and vehicles while you shop or use the ATM. 

Usually I stay at the Aretousa, Filoxenia, Hotel Kostis, or Meltemi. Sometimes the stars align just so and after a few hours of wandering the port I can catch a ferry to Alonissos the same day. 

There are slow ferries and fast ferries/hydrofoils. The slow ones are huge and filled with cars and trucks ferrying between islands. I like to slather myself in sunscreen, plop on a hat and sit outside on the slow ferry and watch the sea as we stop by Skopelos (of Mama Mia island fame). Sometimes dolphins swim the ferry wake. 

No matter how long it takes me to get to this point I always know that it's all been worth the effort as the stress of a long journey drowns behind me in ferry wake the color of wintergreen breath mints. 

Eventually we arrive in the port of Alonissos. Gathering luggage and disembarking is chaotic, but this place feels like home. 

The return journey is the same thing in reverse. It's not nearly as refreshing though—leaving is always hard. I get nostalgic, farewell monk seals, farewell to my balcony over the port, farewell writers, farewell Aegean blues, dolphins, tomatoes, and lavender.

Skiathos seems loud and abrasive now, something to be endured after my weeks of floating and writing. But I make my way to the Skiathos airport and drift to my seat at the gate and wait, wait, wait. 

Once after several delays my flight never arrived. Cancelled. My vacation float vanished that quickly. I had a hotel in Athens that night and an early morning flight in the morning. That flight would be airborne before I could get tomorrow's flight out of Skiathos.

I was STRANDED in Greece, TRAPPED on Skiathos. I took it better than those preschoolers at Disney. On the outside.

My hotel in Athens was non-refundable. I'd chosen the cheaper fare. My Greek travel agent took my call at nearly midnight, apologizing though he'd done nothing wrong and booking me a hotel for tomorrow. I tried to call my international airline's 800 number to change that flight home. Those numbers don't work internationally. They're for the USA only.

Around me airline employees began the slow process of re-booking people. There was no quick computer processing. There was literal paperwork going on. People rudely fussed when instructions were given first in Greek, "WHY AREN'T THEY SPEAKING ENGLISH?" This amused me since we were in Greece! Don't blame that comment on Ugly American Syndrome either. I was the only one and I'd lost all hope of going anywhere fast. 

Eventually I was the last person there, still trying to contact my international airline to re-book. I got caught in a loop. I couldn't dial an 800 number from Greece, but I couldn't dial the international number from my American cell phone either. One of the Skiathos employees let me use their phone. I got a new flight to the US leaving in a few days. 

Now I was officially STUCK in GREECE. tee-hee. Let's be real, this is kind of my goal in life. 

Now I had plenty of time, except the lights were being dimmed in the Skiathos airport and employees were leaving. Someone opened their wallet and handed me cash—not vouchers—for dinner. They put me in a lone taxi back to the port area and gave me a hotel to
stay at. That's how I discovered the Meltemi hotel. 

Despite the late hour the port area was in full swing. I picked up bottles of water, dragged my luggage up three flights of stairs to the FIRST floor and dropped into bed. TRAPPED in Greece. I fell asleep watching feet walk up and down the old stone steps outside my window. It was the best night. Ever.

Nothing against Detroit or Philadelphia, but they've got NOTHING on getting stuck somewhere when your flight gets cancelled. Do you feel my joy? Or was that time you got stuck somewhere not wonderful? Dish.