Chivalry on the Subway

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Chivalry has never been my thing. Even when I was little and deeply invested in fairy tale Disney movies, I remember thinking that if I were in life-threatening danger, I wouldn’t want some Prince to come rescue me. I grew up with adults shouting “stranger danger!” to instill crippling fear and suspicion of basically anyone I had yet to encounter in my ripe 6 years of life. So: some dude tells me he wants to kiss me so that a “spell” can be broken? I’ll pass, creep. As I got older and started realizing that “Princes” are usually the ones us ladies need saving from in the first place, Law & Order: SVU became, and remains, my favorite fairy tale of all time.

Nonetheless, aside from the couple of times a year when various magazines declare “Chivalry is Dead!”, I never really think about the term. There was one time a couple of years ago, when I did that insane thing girls sometimes do and went on a first date. I dutifully noted throughout the entire night that he kept opening doors for me. Even if the door was out of his way, like my car door, he would zip around the car and open it. If there was no door, he would step aside and gesture with his arms that I walk in first, flight attendant style. On the ride home I observed, “You open doors a lot” (you can tell how great the conversation was flowing at this point). He asked if that was a problem and I said it wasn’t, it’s just kind of weird because I know how to open a door. And he said, “You’ve just never experienced chivalry like this”. Then I believe I told him that opening someone’s door is polite, not full-blown chivalrous, and he asked me if I was “one of those feminists”, and now we live happily after.

The next time I thought about chivalry was today, on the subway. Now, it should be noted that on NYC public transportation not only is chivalry dead, but so are all rules of human morality, ethics, and decency. The subway is to behavior what Twitter is to opinions: mayhem. So, to put it mildly, I don’t expect much “chivalry” whilst on the F train. This morning I was on a full train, but I boarded early enough to get a seat (such a rare occurance, it almost made me believe in God). Right before the doors closed, a very pregnant woman walked onto the train. Once we started moving I looked at the mostly men sitting around me, who could all clearly see the pregnant woman standing in front of us. “Excuse me, miss, do you want to sit?” As the words came out of my mouth I have to admit it felt odd. I fancy myself a feminist but kind of felt like I was saying what a guy should be saying. I’ve never called another girl “miss”. Before the woman could respond, the guy next to me stood up and proudly gestured towards his seat like a true gentleman… just as my flight attendant date did for little ol’ me. The girl sat down, turned to me, and said, I shit you not: “They open your door but god forbid they give up their damn seat on the subway.”

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I realized what chivalry really means, to me at least. It’s not being kind, or polite, or gentle, or helpful. It’s doing something that puts another person’s well-being before your own, possibly by sacrificing your own well-being, and without the promise or expectation of getting anything in return. So, chivalry is not a guy buying you dinner or opening your door. Trust me, he thinks he’s getting something out of it. Chivalry is altruism I guess… but that spirals into the philosophical debate of the existence of altruism, so let’s let that slide and just get to the bottom line:

Chivalry is giving up your damn seat on the subway.

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My Last Breakup

I had been seeing my new therapist for five months or so when I started thinking about the movie Pretty Woman.

The notion of paying someone in exchange for affection and understanding was unsettling, and yet unavoidable. I was drowning in my newly diagnosed mental illness and the myriad of issues that came with it. I was a shattered version of my former self when I walked into my new therapist’s office.

I knew from the moment I met her that my life was going to change. I can’t pinpoint what it was about her that made me see light after such a long period of excruciating darkness. Maybe it was that, just as Richard Gere looked at Julia Roberts like a person and not a prostitute, she looked at me like a person and not a patient. When I returned to my apartment after our first session I felt a pressing need to initiate lifestyle changes: I bought inspirational posters, made the decision to give up alcohol (I will be two years sober this September), joined a yoga class, and suddenly felt faith in my ability to construct a future. I no longer felt doomed.

I saw her two to three times a week, and told her things I had never even admitted to myself. I began suffering panic attacks as a result of confronting my own reality, and she bought me frozen eye masks, stress balls, and rubbing stones to help ease my pain. Logically, I knew she was just doing her job. Yet, it wasn’t long before I broke the proverbial “don’t kiss the prostitute on the lips” rule by uttering the words, “I genuinely think she loves me”. And I meant it. I am not one that lets people into my heart or my soul or my mind very easily. But my guards were down.

Nevertheless, she was my college therapist and I was due to graduate in December. The date loomed over every session as I would study her face, take in her mannerisms, and realize that the safety and security of this person that saved me from myself would soon be gone. We wouldn’t keep in touch on Facebook and I wouldn’t be able to stalk her Instagram… she was a medical professional that I hired to help me. In Pretty Woman Richard Gere says, “My special gift is impossible relationships”. I knew that that was what my therapist and I had: an impossible relationship. I just didn’t know what to do about it.

The months following the “termination of my treatment” were the most agonizing of my life. It felt as though I was hanging off of a cliff and the person who had been there to catch me for a year and a half was suddenly gone. I phoned her off and on in my darkest moments, until I realized I was not Richard Gere, and I couldn’t summon her into my life no matter how hard I tried. She was in Atlanta, I was in New Jersey, and it was over. There was no strut down Rodeo Drive in our future. Our arrangement was finished.

It has been six months since we have spoken, and I impulsively e-mailed her this morning on my way to work. Although I worried it would trigger dormant sadness to reach out, I needed to let her know that after all of this time, I am okay.

And, that my new therapist is great.

The Life of Yeezy

Between truly evil maniacs running for President and an article I read yesterday about employers being able to track their employees’ menstrual cycles (sigh), I was actually relieved that I could distract myself with some harmless drama surrounding Kanye West. Yet, at the same time, I disagree with how the media and most of the world are reacting.

For those of you that aren’t caught up (and have lives): West “insulted” Taylor Swift in one of his new songs by claiming he made her famous, supposedly acted like a diva on the Saturday Night Live set, got in a twitter fight with Wiz Khalifa, and begged Mark Zuckerberg for money prior to claiming he is $53 billion dollars in debt.

People, many of whom are most likely biased based on West’s previous delusions of grandeur and general narcissism, are either judging him, laughing at him, or proclaiming that he needs some sort of mental or spiritual help. However, when you break down every recent incident surrounding West, it all actually makes sense: Kanye West didn’t claim to have made Swift talented, he claimed to have made her famous- which he did when he raised her profile after stealing her microphone at the 2009 Video Music Awards. Just because a fact is difficult to hear doesn’t mean it’s false. Also, the same way we all get frustrated and yell at the people closest to us sometimes, West could have just been having “a moment” on the set of Saturday Night Live; we simply don’t know what was really going on and shouldn’t judge him based on an ambiguous recording. Regarding his Twitter fight with Wiz, the fact is almost everything he said was pretty truthful if you are familiar with the two artists’ music. He shouldn’t have attacked Amber Rose, but he apologized later and I am sure everyone has said regrettable things out of spite about an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. Lastly, admitting bankruptcy and exposing vulnerability is something rare of human beings in general, let alone of celebrities. Especially in the social media age where everyone is portraying perfection, I actually respected Kanye’s revelation.

So, to bring this article full circle- in a world where people running for public office are spewing harmful, untrue, and quite frankly frightening rhetoric, I think everyone can be entertained, amused, or amazed by Kanye West, but passing unfair judgment and hate is probably best channeled elsewhere. And for people pleading that the artist seeks mental or spiritual help- how the hell do you know he hasn’t done so already? He could be in therapy, on medication, or simply doing just fine. If you aren’t professionally treating Kanye West, don’t comment.

Most importantly, The Life of Pablo is incredible, and Kanye’s latest tweet will hopefully put the haters in their place:

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Literary Groundhog Day

I recently went on my post-graduation vacation, and naturally packed every new book that I had been hoarding at school in anticipation of lying by the pool and relaxing (or at least attempting to). Oddly enough, when I got to Florida the only book I had an interest in reading was one of my all time favorites. One that I had read multiple times, during different stages of my life: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger.

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I first read Franny and Zooey in sixth grade, immediately after I read The Catcher in the Rye and fell in love with it. I’m not sure why the former is so much less well-known, but my guess would be that because it isn’t layered in symbolism and metaphors it doesn’t fit into schools’ curriculum. Because I was so conditioned by the education system to only think a book is “good” if there is a green light or a hunting hat that represents greater thematic concepts, I shrugged it off as simply okay, but nothing special.

I re-read the book again my senior year of high school, because I had a study hall and would often bring any book I had lying around to glimpse through if I had no homework to do. This time I loved the book, but when I read about Franny’s mental breakdown in college upon reading into too many philosophical and religious pieces, I remember thinking how utterly dramatic she was being. “I read texts about religion and philosophy all the time,” I thought, sitting at a wooden desk and surrounded by the same kids I had grown up with, “what’s the big deal?”

I cried while re-reading Franny and Zooey, for the third time, in a lounge chair only days after graduating college. The feelings I had about Holden Caulfield in sixth grade are the same feelings I have about Franny Glass now. By that I mean, the mantra replaying over and over in my head as I turned the pages was: Oh my god, I am Franny.

This experience made me wonder why I often turn to reading books I have already read in lieu of trying new ones. I think it goes deeper than simply wanting to gain a new perspective on the story after accumulating more life experiences. I think there is a sense of safety in reliving a character’s story. When I am feeling anxious, or when my life is in the midst of uncertainty, it feels pleasant to hone in on a story of which you already know the ending. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know where Franny and Zooey does.

Stream of Consciousness…

In honor of getting over 600 likes on the Lace it Up FB page today (!) I decided to propose to my followers a stream of consciousness game I typically play by myself when I’m bored (procrastinating): simply sit at your computer, and start writing a list of all of your favorite movies, TV shows, books, songs, etc. Don’t think about it- just write whatever pops into your head first. Not only is it hilarious to see the bizarre order in which your brain sorts different works, but I often find that books or movies I have forgotten about pop into my head and I can remind myself to revisit them.

Below is the list I just came up with (I separated it by movies/ TV shows/ books). I know I am probably missing some of my all time favorites, but nevertheless, here it is:

MOVIES:

American Beauty (1999) Mena Suvari (as Angela Hayes)

1. Mean Girls
2. The Parent Trap
3. American Beauty
4. Gone Girl
5. American Psycho
6. Seven
7. The Devil Wears Prada
8. Bridesmaids
9. The Wolf of Wallstreet
10. Unfaithful
11. The Holiday
12. Goodfellas
13. Bring it On
14. The Virgin Suicides
15. Clueless
16. Out of Towners
17. Meet the Parents
18. The Bird Cage
19. Zoolander
20. Matchpoint
21. Crimes and Misdemeanors
22. Casino
23. Grease
24. Frozen
25. The Great Gatsby
26. Dial M for Murder
27. Fatal Attraction
28. Rosemary’s Baby
29. It’s Complicated
30. The Social Network
31. Billboard Dad
32. Switching Goals
33. Our Lips are Sealed
34. Burn After Reading
35. Rent
36. Shutter Island
37. Mathilda
38. 12 Angry Men
39. Psycho
40. The Hours
41. Pulp Fiction
42. Inglorious Basterds
43. Kill Bill Vol. 1
44. Kill Bill Vol. 2
45. Trainwreck

TV SHOWS:

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1. The Sopranos
2. Breaking Bad
3. Mad Men
4. The Affair
5. Broad City
6. 30 Rock
7. Inside Amy Schumer
8. Girls
9. Last Week Tonight
10. Real Time With Bill Maher
11. Sex and the City
12. Jane the Virgin
13. New Girl
14. Unreal
15. Scream Queens
16. Gossip Girl
17. The OC
18. One Tree Hill
19. American Horror Story
20. We Can Be Heroes
21. True Detective (Season 1)
22. My So Called Life
23. Summer Heights High
24. Gilmore Girls
25. Curb Your Enthusiasm

BOOKS:

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1. Franny and Zooey
2. The Catcher in the Rye
3. To Kill a Mockingbird
4. A Tale of Two Cities
5. Not That Kind of Girl
6. And the Heart Says Whatever
7. The Opposite of Loneliness
8. The Friday Night Knitting Club
9. Dark Places
10. Sharp Objects
11. Nine Stories
12. A Clockwork Orange
13. Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret
14. Fates and Furies
15. The Girl on the Train
16. Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar
17. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
18. Slouching Toward Bethlehem
19. I Didn’t Come Here to make Friends
20. I Feel Bad About My Neck
22. Animal Farm
23. She’s Come Undone
24. 1984
25. The Bell Jar
26. Orange is the New Black
27. The Bedwetter
28. I Like You Just the Way I am
29. Hiding from Reality
30. The Other Great Depression
31. Fastfood Nation
32. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
33. Nobody is Ever Missing
34. South on Highland
35. The Ice Storm
36. The House on Mango Street
37. Forever
38. The Andy Cohen Diaries

Give it a whirl! Let the magic happen…

The Problem With Education

The news lately has been ridden with nonsense. This Presidential election has been so overshadowed by disgusting behavior and theatrics, I have rarely heard or seen a candidate talk about the real issues.

One of the issues I am most passionate about is inequality in our country: inequality in healthcare (particularly mental healthcare) and education are the two issues at the top of my list. I believe education inequality in our country is an epidemic, and so rarely spoken about you would think it doesn’t exist…

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The most valuable resource in receiving a quality education in our country is one thing: cultural and social capital. Capital is the primary force underlying the social world. Capital takes time to accumulate and has the capacity to produce profits and reproduce itself over time. The unequal nature of the social world, or “constraints”, can be explained by the unequal distribution of capital. Henceforth, the unequal nature of education can be explained by the unequal distribution of cultural and social capital.

Economists who say monetary capital is the most evident contributor to unequal levels of education fail to acknowledge this “social rate of return” that exists because of cultural capital. How many books one has read, how many museums one has visited, or how many operas one has seen, are all dictated by social class. One has to read esteemed pieces of literature to be cultured on the works of prominent authors, one has to go to a museum and see pieces of art to be cultured on certain artists, and this embodied capital turns into wealth in the form of exchange with other people. Unlike money, which is a clear indicator of social class, cultural capital is a more restrained benchmark for social class. Although it is up to the individual how much cultural capital he or she acquires, ultimately the opportunities available for accumulating such capital depends on one’s social class. For example, a wealthy individual would have more access to prestigious art galleries than a poor person. Or, a wealthy person might have more leisure time to read than a poor person. In this way, cultural capital is a symbolic form of capital indicating one’s social class and how one was socialized as a child. Families with more cultural capital will raise their children to accumulate more cultural capital. Insofar as education, cultural capital can be identified in the objectified state as books read in English class, languages learned, technology one is exposed to, etc. The product of the conversion of economic capital into cultural capital establishes the value that cultural capital has when exchanged on the labor market.

The accumulation of cultural capital is an investment in one’s future.

One’s membership in a particular social class provides that person with the backing of collectively owned capital. For example- anyone from the famous “Kennedy” family in America is automatically awarded with the credentials that the family name of “Kennedy” has earned them over the years. Exchanges of social capital imply the acknowledgment of a certain amount of homogeneity. Thus, the magnitude of social capital depends on the size of the network of connections he or she can mobilize. Belonging to a particular social group automatically leads to a certain level of a network of connections.

When it comes to education, being a part of a particular social group gains one access to the better neighborhoods, or the better private schools, which in turn leads to better connections when getting into college and ultimately getting a job. There is a sort of domino effect where each level of education builds on the other and is ultimately converted into economic capital with one making a large amount of money in a certain career. Above all, social capital indicates that the value of networking is a pivotal part of education.

The notion of “The American Dream” simply doesn’t exist anymore. An immigrant or member of a minority group can “pull himself up by his bootstraps” all we wants- but he is a victim of a culture with almost no chance of social mobility.

Let’s all stop making memes and start making moves.

Oppressed Majority

Being the esteemed procrastinator that I am, I frequently spiral into the rabbit hole that is YouTube. While this custom typically leads to me obsessively watching every interview Amy Schumer has ever done until 4 AM, last night I actually came across something that moved me.

This 10 minute French film, “Oppressed Majority (Majorité Opprimée)”, tells the story of Pierre, a seemingly mundane man going through his daily routine on a typical day in an unnamed French town. However, in the world that the director Eléonore Pourriat creates, women are in charge. Essentially, traditional gender roles are turned upside down. Women run topless, pee in alleys, and yell sexually vulgar things to Pierre while he rides his bike around town. However, when Pierre is raped at knifepoint by a gang of women, the story takes a dark turn. The fundamental reason this film is so powerful is that the alternate universe Pourriat creates seems so absurd, yet it is really just a representation of our reality, only with men playing the role of women.

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I personally had a visceral reaction to the film, particularly because I have been victim to many of the sexist behaviors depicted in the film. When Pierre is raped, his wife tells him he was asking for it because he is wearing short Bermuda shorts and a low cut shirt. It sounds farcical to associate men’s clothing with sexuality, but for women it is a daily concern. I am constantly hyperaware of how I dress so as not to look too provocative that I will be objectified, but also not too conservative that I look unattractive. This awareness is so entrenched in my identity as a woman that I don’t even step back and wonder why I am scrutinizing my appearance through the male gaze.

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What do you think of the film? Does it accurately depict sexism in our society? Is it too focused on gender as binary? If you are male, did it make you understand women in a way you hadn’t before?

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Why I Was Disappointed in Amy Schumer’s HBO Special

Everyone that knows me well is aware that I have an obsession with Amy Schumer. I have been following her career for years between her Howard Stern appearances, her comedy central roasts/ special/ series, and now all of the other million things she’s been doing since Trainwreck has made her a household name.

I was so excited for her HBO special, Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo, particularly because I remember during one of her first Howard Stern appearances she mentioned that performing at the Apollo would be one of her dreams come true. However, within fifteen minutes I was already disappointed.

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Speaking generally, the most unfortunate aspect of the special was that 90% of the material was regurgitated from either Inside Amy Schumer, her previous special Mostly Sex Stuff, or from talk show appearances. For example, that whole “hot girls in LA” bit was on her show, except she used the city of Miami instead.

I was not only expecting more fresh and exciting material, but I also thought that now that she is a big star and preaches feminism, she would stop slut shaming herself so much. It seemed like the majority of the material was making fun of how much she sleeps around. When, in fact, on Howard Stern she revealed she actually has only had one one-night-stand in her life. I understand that all comics are performers and make up a good portion of their material, but when one’s onstage persona contrasts so drastically with the message she sends on her show and in public, it is troubling to me. In a recent interview she explained that now that she is more famous she is going to retire the “dumb blonde” persona, and her SNL monologue made me hopeful that was really happening. She also made a moving speech earlier this year about how she didn’t have a lot of confidence in college and slept with a guy who used her, but then made light of the same subject in her routine. Although she kind of made up for it when she later described how stupid it is that men think women don’t enjoy sex just as much as they do, I still would love to see a female comic other than Sarah Silverman just talk about something other than sex.

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The biggest issue I had with the special was the beginning: when Amy talked about her body. She called herself fat so many times, and in so many different ways, that I was genuinely wondering if this was the same person who cried when speaking about her body image issues in a video I saw just earlier this week. I don’t know if she realizes that when she (who isn’t fat at all, by the way) calls herself a “tub of lard”, women who look like her, or are bigger than her, will feel bad about themselves. The whole bit felt like a defense mechanism.

And lastly, when Amy was describing how she tried binging and purging to lose weight for her movie, she lost me entirely. I have a sense of humor and know she was joking, but I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for years and it’s truly a disease and not funny at all, and especially not something a woman should make light of. The punch line, that her body told her “no bitch, we keep food in”, wasn’t even funny and didn’t get much of a laugh. I have actually heard jokes about bulimia that have made me laugh, like when Lena Dunham called herself “the laziest bulimic in the world”, but Amy’s definitely didn’t land.

I am not giving up on Amy Schumer yet, primarily because the way she delivers such witty and perceptive social commentary on her show gives me faith in her comical genius. I just hope that fame hasn’t made her lose her creative edge.

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Book Review: “South on Highland”

“I was fourteen the first time I tried stimulants, alone in my bedroom with the door locked and a Sex Pistols CD playing on a loop”.

Above is the opening line of Liana Maeby’s 2015 novel, South on Highland. If that doesn’t intrigue you, then we probably can’t be friends, and also you probably wouldn’t enjoy this book. However, if it does, then read on…

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The protagonist, partially based on Maeby herself, is Leila Massey, a gifted writer who begins to spiral into drug and alcohol addiction. The first part of the book describes how her casual use of Adderall in high school to get better grades eventually led to her snorting the ADHD medication daily, and ultimately to snorting cocaine regularly by her senior year of high school. The second part of the book describes her ascent to success as a screenwriter in L.A., but also her descent into serious drug addiction after she is exposed to painkillers and ultimately heroin at a disturbing drug commune in the desert. In the final portion of the book, Leila enters rehab.

Leila is a perceptive and relatable narrator who simultaneously describes her life with raw sincerity and dark humor. She is paradoxically self-aware and has no idea who she is, which is something that really resonated with me (and I’m sure most other 20-somethings). What I loved most about this novel is that Leila never feels guilty or blames herself for the many mistakes she makes. As my brilliant therapist always tells me: there is a difference between acceptance and approval. Leila’s character is a wonderful example of that axiom personified.

Bottom line: South on Highland is an inventive and heartfelt story about a woman’s search for her identity, with lots of drugs, sex, Hollywood parties, and trashed hotel rooms along the way.

Personal Archives

My favorite thing to do when I come home for a few days is to look through the drawer in my bedroom that contains all of the things I wrote in high school. Sometimes I am amazed at how much I’ve grown as both a person and a writer, and other times I am shocked at how strangely poetic the simple way I viewed life as a teenager seems so many years later.

Tonight as I was going through the stack of papers on the floor of my bedroom,  I found a poem I wrote during my short-lived emo phase in 2009 (either inspired by Evan Rachel Wood in Thirteen, Kirsten Dunst in The Virgin Suicides, or Angela Chase). Other contributors to my teen angst: Edward Cullen had just started stirring up inner feelings I couldn’t quite articulate, I listened to Paramore on a loop, I dyed my hair black with red highlights, and had started memorizing Sylvia Plath’s poetry and reciting it to my family members (we’ve all been there, right guys?). Anyway, here is the poem entitled, “The Pursuit of the Sun”:

I woke up early, to see the sunrise.

My eyes were still tired, as I stood on my porch.

My eyes felt raw, I was blinded by the light.

I went back inside, and fell into a dream,

where my eyes were not swollen, and I saw the sun.

When I woke, I glared out of my window, and saw the moon.

————

The next night, my friend stood with me on the porch,

we had no trouble watching the simple moon.

We decided to wake up early, and watch the sunrise.

The next morning, we saw the tip of the sun,

but our eyes were puffy as we stood on the porch.

Why don’t I have trouble staring at the sunrise in my dream?

We went back inside, we were blinded by the light.

————

The next morning, I tried to resist the light.

It was easier to stare at the moon.

I went back inside, and in my dream,

I imagined myself running into the sunrise.

The next morning, I sat alone on the porch.

It was hopeless; I began to hate the sun- –

————

yes, I began to despise the sun.

How could anyone love that bright light?

The next morning, I wanted to give it one last chance on my porch.

I still hated the sun, I loved the moon.

Why should I strain to look at the sunrise?

I kept the sunrise in my dream.

————

That night, I saw the sun in my dream.

I decided it was impossible to really see the sun,

or the sunrise,

or the light.

But that night, I saw the moon.

I felt comfortable that night on the porch.

————

I fell asleep on the porch,

and had a nice dream.

It was not about the sun, it was about the moon.

I never even thought about the sun.

I began to hide from the light.

I began to fear the sunrise.

————

I miss those times sitting on my porch, looking at the sun.

I now only see light in a dream.

If I only had the strength to reach for the sunrise, instead of settling on the moon.

…well, besides sharing an extremely upbeat poem with all of you, the purpose of this post is to encourage all of you to keep a drawer of writing, art, pictures, etc. throughout your lifetime. I have laughed, cried (just moments ago at a beautiful letter my brother wrote me for my 18th birthday), and found insight when looking through my little drawer of memories. More often than not you will wind up being your greatest source of inspiration.

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