Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stranger Things

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"It's the stories we're after. We love the stories and the artifacts can tell the stories." - Dan Elliott
Estate sales are rooted in kind of a strange concept, if you think about it. The last living member of a household passes away or a family goes into debt, and suddenly, their front doors open to the general public and everything is for sale. Random people line up to poke and prod through the home of someone they've never met before, rummaging through drawers of junk and making offers on things from the dining room table to the soap dish in the bathroom. Now, I have recently become intrigued by estate sales (since there seem to be so many in and around Detroit), and have visited a few this year to try my hand at finding some unique treasures. The selection can be fantastic, but at the same time, I always find myself wondering whose house I'm walking through and whether I'll ever leave behind a trail of things from my own life that causes a new generation of people to stop and think about me.

This past weekend, I heard about a huge estate sale going on in Detroit, a thirty-room mansion filled with clothing, furniture, books, and artwork galore. The sale was run by Cari Cucksey and her RePurpose team, so I knew it was legit and would be worth the drive out to the Indian Village. Brad and I were a little iffy on the route our GPS took us, but once we got through a few burnt-down and broken neighborhoods, this well-known street with beautiful, old houses popped up to greet us.

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Left: Me, waiting in line outside the house during the estate sale. Right: Camera crews set up outside.

The sale was set up to be filmed for an upcoming season finale of the HGTV show, Cash and Cari, so there were a couple things we had to do before entering the house. First, sign a sheet of paper with our contact information, agreeing that the show had permission to use any footage of us while at the estate sale. Next, hold up a white board with our respective names for a happy mugshot, which I'm assuming helps the film editors sort out who's who when reviewing the episode. Then, it was on to check out the house.

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Brad, checking out end tables as possible night stand contenders
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We almost bought this old phone. For Brad, so he could fix it to make it work. For me, because it was cute.
We were lame and kept changing our minds.
I still don't know much about who lived in the house, but I do know this person (these people?) had money! The age and condition of most of the stuff showed that the residents were probably a little older and had a lot of it for years, but it also showed a love of travel, an appreciation of art, and an addiction to clothing (There was an entire room deemed "The Suit Room" and another completely filled with men's shoes. Someone please tell me more about the man behind the wardrobe!).

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Left: A small sampling of the estate's shoe collection. Right: Souvenirs and lamps galore.

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This room was completely filled with original paintings, frames, and other decorative items.
It's amazing how much you can learn about a person's life through the things they accumulate!
Despite the three-story (plus basement) setup, a combination of small hallways and tons of people made for a slightly-confined room-to-room browsing experience. Nevertheless, I did find a few cute things, which are now hanging out at my place and beginning their journey with a new set of owners. Can you tell I have a slight, sympathetic attachment to man-made objects?

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Finds: Juice pitcher (which I've been using to water my plants), cute vase, and little shelf cabinet.
Come to think of it, I still need to dust that cabinet off.


On Sunday, Brad and I found ourselves driving around random neighborhoods after an ultimate frisbee meetup with some friends (I know, I never pictured myself playing ultimate frisbee, either), when we passed by a sign for another estate sale. Of course, we had to swing by.

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Kitchen in the house from Sunday's estate sale. Nothing but gorgeous views of lake and trees out of all windows.
The house was much more modern than the one we had visited in Detroit, and not nearly as full (granted, we showed up during the last hour of the sale). What I found interesting, though, was how many personal items were still left among the boxes of books and board games. Photo albums, birthday cards, yearbooks, and scrapbooks. I've heard of people buying old photographs to use in artwork, but I couldn't bring myself to take anything so personal as these family-specific memories. I couldn't resist, however, taking a peek at what was inside.

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Left: Handmade scrapbook. Right: Inside of a family photo album, filled with pictures from 1967.

It makes me kind of sad to know that these items have gone unnoticed, sitting in discard piles instead of on relatives' bookshelves. Maybe these things are lost, or maybe there's no family around to inherit them--but I like to think that they'll find their rightful owners after the hubbub of clearing out less-meaningful items wraps up, and that the little girl who wrote her name in the front of that album won't soon be forgotten.

Leave it to me to worry about a complete stranger's hand-me-downs.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bay City, Bay-bay

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Jessi and Jared, our guests of the week!

Last weekend, Brad's younger sister, Jessi, and her husband, Jared, drove up from Virginia for their first visit since we moved to Michigan. Jessi and Jared got married last year (shortly after Brad and me), so we're all kind of in that transition phase of young-singles-turned-old-married-people right now. I still can't get over how fast we've all grown up and how we're suddenly in charge of our own lives--but it's nice being able to share aspects of that journey with people who happen to be in the same boat.

On Saturday, we decided to spend the day shopping and gallivanting around Bay City, a place none of us had been to before. We started the afternoon with lunch at Wanigan's, a popular sandwich shop with awesome food and lines out the door. It must have taken a half an hour to get our orders, but the yum factor was well worth the wait.

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Wanigan: "a floating kitchen with supplies and a picnic table to give lumberjacks a place to eat"
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The menu was handwritten on chalkboards that stretched across two walls.
A bit overwhelming for indecisive people like myself, but fun nonetheless.
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My sandwich: "Adam and Eve on a Raft" (Turkey, thuringer, muenster, cheddar, spinach, sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, Greek dressing, and deliciousness on a French roll. Mmmm.)
With full bellies and a summer-like day waiting for us, we waddled drove to Saginaw Bay for a walk in the sand and water. The recreational area was a little flooded from all the storms that came through the day before, but the warm air and bright skies distracted from all of that. We made our way down to the beach, pulled off our shoes and rolled up our jeans, and let our toes sink into the spongy beach shore.

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That way. Go that way.
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Brad and Jessi, water-walkin'. Like brother, like sister.
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Beach jumping. Well, beach jumping and Hulk-impersonating, whatever you wanna call it.
Next up was shopping, and back to the city. We found Bay City Antiques Center (a treasure of a store that's basically an entire block long), Espresso Express (a coffee shop decorated from floor to ceiling with posters and records), and St. Laurent Brothers (a candy and nut shop where we bought various chocolate-covered things). 'Twas a delightful early evening.

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Bay City Antiques: Printing blocks, violins, and kitchenware . . .
. . . I'm thinking of doing more home decor shopping in places like this.

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Espresso Express: That's the wall. And the ceiling. Not exaggerating a bit when I say they were completely covered.
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St. Laurent Brothers: Mmmm. But I couldn't spend $15 bucks on some Hershey-covered Lay's.
I got a white chocolate bunny pop instead.
Now that spring (or summer, as it actually seems) is here, I'm really excited to go on more weekend ventures again. Do you guys have upcoming plans yet, or have you already started your spring vacations--in Michigan or elsewhere? Let me know! I am likely to steal the best ideas, but promise to give credit where it is due. :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Quest for Newsweek

Today's story revolves around this.
So, this is the post I planned to write yesterday, detailing to you the magnificent details of the latest issue of Newsweek. I fully anticipated a 1960's theme and lots of Mad Men glitz  to take over my afternoon, causing me to drool into the crevices of the very keyboard that I'm using to type to you all right now.

Well, those plans, as far as--you know, working out and everything--they changed a little.

Weather-wise, yesterday was gorgeous (again). I wanted my copy of Newsweek, so I decided to just walk to a nearby drug store to get a copy. Seventy-nine degrees, sunny, and crosswalks. Very doable.

Well, I got to the drug store, and they didn't have it. Okay, not a huge deal; I was getting some exercise, and it was only the first store on the list. Attempt number two: stop by the gas station on the way back.

No. The gas station didn't even sell any magazines at all. What kind of convenience store sells snacks and liquor but doesn't have any reading material? Okay--they had a few newspapers, but I'm not counting those.

So, I walked back to the house and hopped into the ol' automobile, navigating myself to another nameless drug store (that may or may not start with a "C" and end with an "S"). No Newsweek there, either. But rest assured--if you're ever in a pinch and need a Fantasy Baseball issue of Beckett, you know where to go.

By this point, I was getting a little annoyed. I whipped out my trusty iPhone, searching Google and Waze for any book store at all that may serve my magazine fix. Turns out that since Borders closed last summer, there are no real book stores left in town, and the nearest Barnes and Noble is a trip down the interstate and at least 20 minutes away. Forget that. I headed to Kroger to try my luck.

At Kroger, I briefly skimmed the cash register news stands before heading to the magazine section in the middle of the store. My eyes darted left and right, searching for those white block letters encased in the all-too-familiar red title box. Then, I found it right there in front of me. Newsweek. With some big-headed guy named Dave looking up at me.

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What the heck, Kroger?!
For a minute, I thought that maybe the Mad Men issue wasn't supposed to debut until next week . . . or worse, maybe I had missed it entirely. I resorted back to my lifeline of a phone and double-checked. Yep, March 19th. I wasn't crazy--some people just didn't know to switch out old magazines, apparently.

I left that insane mecca they call a grocery store and went even further down the road to Target. Target's got a good magazine selection--they should have it, right?

Heh. Foiled again.

It was then that I realized I might have to give in and drive to another town to find this needle in a haystack. So, I went to Northville, the nearest town that doesn't give me a headache when I think of driving to it, and went to the only bookstore that showed up on my GPS. One shelf of random, non-Newsweek magazines and a shot-in-the-dark attempt at another CVS, and I was done. I had already used up the rest of the gas fumes that were left in my car, it was hot outside, and I was tired. Time to go home.

Never mind the fact that my phone died while I was driving and I'm still not great at navigating from town to town--the trip home, in rush hour traffic, took more than twice as long as usual.

Blargh.

Finally at home, I took a little rest, and soon got a call from Brad about dinner. We decided on spaghetti, and since it would be quicker for me to swing by the store, I headed back into that crazy mess of an afternoon to find some ground beef. I went to Wal-Mart this time, using the trip as an excuse for one last effort at finding my coveted Newsweek.

Okay. Let me see if you can guess where this is going.

This is what I saw when I got to Wal-Mart's magazine section:

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Two different issues of Newsweek--last week's and the issue from the week before.
Someone's playing a very cruel joke on me.


And that, my friends, is called a sign. In other words, it was time to give up.

Of course, I understand that not every store carries Newsweek, or that Kroger and Wal-Mart may not have had the opportunity to re-stock their shelves, or maybe even Newsweek was running a little behind on their deliveries this week. I get it. But maybe next time, I'll assume that a March 19th on-sale date means . . . anything other than March 19th. Or that retailers underestimate their consumers' demands for intelligent magazines.

Or maybe . . . just maybe . . . I'm not crazy, and I really should be able to find a high-profile magazine the day it goes on sale in a major metropolitan area. And maybe we still have a few uses for all those bookstores that are closing down, after all.

Friday, March 16, 2012

M.I.A.: Lady of the House Edition

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This week, Brad went driving all over creation for a work trip, so I got to try my hand at holding down the fort by myself. Preparing myself for a lonely week of twiddling my thumbs, I surprisingly emerged from the past few days as a busier-than-usual version of myself. Quick run-down: trivia night with friends on Tuesday, birthday celebration for my friend, Kat, on Wednesday (the reason I made those delicious blue velvet cupcakes you see in the photos above), and a visit from Brad's sister (Jessi) and her husband (Jared) last night. Thank goodness those two showed up a little early, because with all the tornadoes and storm warnings going around, I was getting a little fidgety being by myself.

Of course, there were a few grand solo moments that I pulled off this week, including my famous nail-polish-bottle-dropping-at-the-Target-cash-register incident (see pink fingers above) and my sudden urge to make casseroles and buy sandwiches for one person (no hungry husband in sight), leading to more leftover boxes than will fit into our refrigerator. Luckily, Jessi and Jared are here now and Brad will be back soon . . . so someone can at least help me finish the leftover cupcakes.

A beautiful weekend is outside calling my name. What will you guys be doing the next few days?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sun Day

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Today was beautiful. The was shining, the wind didn't go all "Auntie Em" on us, and I'm pretty sure the temperature got up into the sixties. I didn't check, but that's what I've determined based on my internal weather-mood gauge (read: warm weather = happy Jennifer).

After a morning filled with church, turkey sandwiches, and watching really stupid movies on TBS, Brad and I decided to go for a walk along the lake. Gorgeous afternoon. For the past couple of months, the lakes were frozen over, which was a really awesome sight . . . but it's nice to finally be able to walk up to the water's edge again without worrying about falling through the ice. The water was the bluest I've seen in ages, and we even made a new friend in the form of some type of canine retriever. Thank goodness the little swimming enthusiast didn't shake his fur off when he ran out of the water to greet us.

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Brad, pretending to make an effort for the camera. I think he's tired of being the model in all of my photo shoots.

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Walkin' in my fluorescent white, pediatric walking shoes. Nike for all strides of life, baby.
You know that wonderful warm air smell? It makes you want to take a nap in the grass, dip your toes in the water, and invite everyone you know over for a cookout. Unfortunately, all the best hot dog stands aren't yet open for the season, but I still made Brad take me to Sonic for a foot-long coney and tots. We sat outside while we ate, and I pretended like it was late June instead of early March.

I know Southeast Michigan will probably flutter between sun and ice fifteen times before the next season actually stabilizes, but it's nice to see that we're so close to being able to spend our afternoons and evenings outdoors again (Snow, you're magical, but you've kind of fizzled out your welcome for me. Come again for Christmas. Just--please, don't sneak-attack us all).

Tomorrow's supposed to be rainy, but I may just take my Scotch tape (red plaid-patterned) rain boots out for a stroll. Puddle-splashing, anyone?

Friday, March 9, 2012

I can't find the glue sticks.

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When I was in high school, I decorated most of my papers and folders with doodles and homemade collages, creating the perfect visual theme for each subject. In particular, my English binder was adorned in The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf, while every chapter outline I handed in to my history teacher was colorful bulleted in Rose Art markers. My decorative habit was an attempt to make working a little more fun, because let's face it--sometimes, you need a little extra encouragement to get your brain going. Creative expression fuels creative thinking, I suppose. Ah, the vicious cycle.

In college, I had quite a few more opportunities to expand my ideas further outside of the box. I remember one day in particular--I was tired, overworked, and honestly, very fed up with school (hard to imagine, right?). I was determined to incorporate some happiness into the whole "college is stress" mix, so when my media history teacher assigned a paper to our class that afternoon on any topic we wanted, I chose the happiest thing I could think of--Disneyland. And lemme tell you--writing about the media coverage of the "greatest place on earth" is much more bearable than assuming that every assignment has to be . . . well, boring.

Today, I took it upon myself to re-visit my teenage self, organizing a brand-new "inspiration" folder for when I get stuck or discouraged. In this three-ring binder, I've arranged current and potential project ideas, notes for improving on my website (under construction) and this blog, media connections and contacts, and physical print samples and magazine inserts that I think are just dandy. On the cover, I'm working on another one of my famous collages, meticulously arranging printouts of vintage ads and motivational quotes in whichever way I see fit. The trouble is, I seem to have misplaced every glue stick I own, and after searching every room in the house three times, I'm starting to think that maybe gnomes stole them. Since I have to get ready for dinner in a few minutes, I guess those paper images are just going to have to wait to be affixed to this glorious work of art. I may be making a late-night trip to Wal-Mart for some Elmer's, though.

I hope you all have a fantastic Friday evening, and that you find pleasure in the little things in life. After all, there's no rule against using scissors and glue when you're a grown-up.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cheapskate

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Whenever we go out with friends, Brad usually ends up being teased by a few people for his money-saving tendencies. You know--ordering water when he really wants a Coke, or sticking to the sandwich section when a majority of the menu features high-priced entrees. The fact of the matter is, I'm much more of a penny-pincher than he is (despite my unfortunate taste for all things expensive), while he's always quick to let me know that he doesn't mind me splurging here and there for something I really want (being a girl has its advantages). After all, we are saving for a house, and those unnecessary receipts every Friday and Saturday night do add up. Plus, I like water, and keeping bills to a minimum lets us go out more often. Don't get me wrong--you should live your life . . . but don't spend it all in one place.

That being said, I am a notorious shopaholic. My parents have always teased me for my constant shopping escapades, and after a long day at work back in Virginia, I could often be found clacking through Target in my work heels, seeking catharsis as I looked at every single thing in the store. And that's not an exaggeration.

So, how do I afford this luxurious habit? Shopping costs money, which is something I do not usually have a ton of, seeing as I have never been a zillionaire. Simply put, you can see me on any given day browsing clearance racks and discount stores, pushing through tight aisles and giving sideways-glances to rude women who stand in front of me wherever I go. It's kind of exhausting, but finding unique trinkets and rock-bottom deals can be completely worth the craziness that comes with bargain hunting.

One thing I have to say about the metro Detroit area--the shopping selection is incredible. Take the Salvation Army, for instance. One thrift store in an area with tons of people means ten-thousand times more stuff than two second-hand shops combined where I'm from. And despite the larger variety, everything is ridiculously organized. Clothes, jewelry, cookware, baskets, furniture, you name it--everything's sorted by size, type, and even color. And believe me, the time you'll save finding exactly what you're looking for is headache-relief in itself.

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If I ever lose a skillet lid, I know where to go.
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I'm currently addicted to teacups and coffee mugs, but have too many and won't allow myself to buy any more.

Another long-time favorite? Why, Target, of course. While the bullseye-clad chain isn't usually expensive to begin with, I can't pull myself away from browsing the end caps every time I go. And thus, I continue to add to my addiction to inexpensive journals. I'll write in them one day.

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I have quite a collection now. A dollar beats eight when it comes to spending, after all.
And for clothes, of course, I can't forget the magnificent TJ Maxx. I like to drool over clothing and shoes, and with a TJ Maxx in just about every town around here, I'm strongly considering taking a specific tour sometime soon to see just how much textile awesomeness I can fit into one day. Of course, not everything's cheap, per se, but I've gotta say that $40 and $50 tags on designer frocks make me feel a little closer to achieving my dream of feeling like a Manhattan socialite. It's a really good thing I have a fully-working conscience, or I'd have blown all my savings on Calvin Klein dresses by now.

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I will be back for you. Yes.
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Only pair. Didn't fit. Otherwise, you would be viewing this picture a little differently (i.e., my feet would be in it).

Finally, there's the Dollar Tree. Now, I know this place can be pretty unsatisfying when it comes to quality and selection, and the employees usually seem to have some sort of cough-hacking plague and/or stories about why they hate their jobs. If you look hard enough, however, you can find some fun stuff hiding on those metal shelves.

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Among my recent Dollar Tree purchases--Sun dishwashing detergent, Scotch tape, and an Alice Sebold hardback.

Then, of course, there's always the matter of questionable dollar store merchandise.

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First of all, can't you get Blistex for 97 cents at Wal-Mart? Secondly, I'm pretty sure I've seen multitudes of this flavor in every single Dollar Tree I've ever been to. I think they're all expired, but am kind of afraid to check.

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I can't figure out which I'm feeling more: excitement, because they made these, or disgust ... because they made these.
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Not in a million years could you get me to put this stuff in my hair. But if you've tried it, I'm dying to hear how it went.

Do any of you like deal-hunting as much as I do? Or are you more willing to pay a few extra bucks to avoid the hassle? I'd love to hear your stories, favorite places to shop, maneuvers, whatever . . . lay it on me. And if you have any suggestions for new places to try, let me know! I know there's lots more stuff hiding out there.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Secrets are Back

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"Draper? Who knows anything about that guy? No one’s ever lifted that rock.
He could be Batman for all we know.
" - Mad Men

March 25th--mark your calendars! Mad Men is coming back to AMC after an extended break, and the Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryces of today aren't letting anyone forget about it.

To commemorate the occasion, I've pulled some buzz-worthy Mad Men tributes, ads, and partnerships that have caught my (and everyone else's) attention recently. So, sit back, and get excited--we're only a few more weeks away from season five, and right now, we're smack-dab in the middle of all the 60's-inspired hubbub.

Newsweek
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First of all, if you plan on being near a magazine stand on March 19th, you may see me picking up the latest copy of Newsweek. In a cross-promotion for Mad Men's premiere, the well-established magazine is releasing a 1960's-themed issue--articles, ads, and all. This nod to the golden age of advertising is sure to catch Mad Men fanatics and ad junkies alike, and it just so happens that I fall into both of those groups. I may just have to pull out a Betty Draper dress and (try to) relax with my magazine while I wait like a crazy person for season five to get on my TV.


"Falling Man" Ads in NYC
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When I turned on the news this morning, I saw a story about some guerrilla marketing tactics in New York that have some people--err, on the edge. As teasers for Mad Men's upcoming season premiere, images of a man falling (through turmoil, as it represents) recently popped up on city phone booths, subway stations, and most noticeably, buildings. While fans will recognize the iconic falling man from Mad Men's opening titles, several New Yorkers didn't get the reference. In fact, due largely to its proximity to Ground Zero, the "falling man" ads have reminded many people of the tragic events that took place on September 11, 2001. As a Mad Men (and creative ad) fan, I understand the shock factor intended in the placement of these panels, but also understand the upset it's caused. I'm also pretty sure that the agency that created these ads probably knew going in that this would happen ... I suppose we're really living in a world where any press is considered "good press."

The same images, however, when placed in subway stations, didn't seem to have the same negative effect. In fact, some street artists apparently decided to have a little fun with the posters:

I'll save you! (Source)

He may wanna try to fall a little more to the left. Heeheehee. (Source)

Banana Republic/Virgin America Fashion Show
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Annnnd . . . the pièce de résistance. Banana Republic's apparently got more to add to their magnificent, already existing, Mad Men line! And get this--to mark today's debut, Banana Republic and Virgin America flew several well-known fashion bloggers to Los Angeles on a themed plane, complete with an in-air fashion show. Bloggers got cool swag, classy cocktails and lobster sandwiches, and a whole lot of bragging rights as pampered passengers. Upon arrival at Banana Republic's L.A. location, guests were treated to more exclusive looks at the new collection, more free stuff, caricatures, you name it. I am so ridiculously jealous right now ... but still in awe of how incredibly cool this idea is.

 
Images, clockwise from top left: Virgin America, Virgin America, Angela Galvez, Banana Republic

Anyone else out there excited for Mad Men? Lemme know if you're doing anything fun for the premiere ... I'll be over around eight.
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