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Winter Breakdown at Ben's in Lee

Nichole Dupont

LEE, Mass. — Now that we are in the throes of winter, and now that our seventh or eighth storm is moving in for Wednesday, we can no longer live in denial. It is winter in New England and there's nothing you can do about it. 

But there are a few ways to make the rest of this endless snowpile tolerable. Perhaps the most important is to break down and invest in some proper winter gear. I mean hardcore Arctic stuff. This past weekend, I came to the realization that we might be buried until April and that I had suffered enough. By suffer, I mean cold feet, cold hands, cold body, just cold, cold, cold. All of this has been cured thanks to a trip to Ben's on Main Street.

Let me begin by saying that the ladies at Ben's know why you're there. They know that you've swallowed your pride and that you're ready to take the plunge, literally, along with the temperature. In fact, when I walked into the place (with a little cajoling from my boyfriend who has been purchasing various warm accessories for me since December) the sales clerk took one look at me and shook her head.

"You need some warmer boots," she said.
I looked down at my unlined, treadless-bottomed Muck boots and grinned sheepishly.

"I need a lot of things," I said.

"Well, at least you have that nice Minus 33 pullover. At least somebody knows how to keep you warm, even if you don't."

My boyfriend nudged me and nodded. I wanted to punch the cocky smile right off his face.


Somehow this was beginning to feel like a makeover episode of Oprah.

I strolled over to the boots, where I found an impressive selection of winter wear for all shapes and sizes. Of course, I had my heart set on Sorels because that's what I always wore before I began unsuccessfully boycotting winter. Unfortunately, they did not have my size in the women's boots (my feet are gunboats compared to my relatively small frame). Before I could even feign a look of disappointment, the sales clerk set a rugged pair of brown and black Kamiks in front of me.

"They're a men's 7, they should fit," she said.

I slipped into the impressive boots and almost immediately my cold toes, which had already suffered from mild frostbite twice this winter, were toasty. I laced up the boots and walked to the counter.

"I'm not taking these off," I said.

"I know, honey. I wouldn't take them off either."

I didn't stop at the boots, either. Tooling around the store, I noticed a rack of SmartWool socks. I was tempted to get the girly striped ones but pride prevented me and I purchased a pair of brown knee-highs. Again, one of the best investments I've ever made. Right up there with the boots, the Minus 33 pullover, and my cowboy hat with ear flaps.

It has been three days since the purchase of the boots. So far, I've only taken them off to shower and sleep. Even when my mother demanded that I take them off to go in her house I blatantly refused.

"No way, not until April," I said.

I am making another trip to Ben's this week, in anticipation of the "big storm." This time I will be purchasing a Stormy Kromer, red and black plaid, and maybe, just maybe, one more pair of SmartWools, the girly kind. Who knows, I may even get myself some snowpants.

Tags: Ben's, Lee, winter      

Madame K. Bids Farewell To Lenox

By Nichole Dupont

Karen Lee, owner of Karendipity, rings in the New Year with a farewell to 30 Church Street.

LENOX, Mass. – For the last few weeks, I’ve been cringing every time someone asked me what my plans for New Year’s were. First, I’d giggle and say, “I’m just looking to get through Christmas.” But then, usually, the question would resurface. The few who knew my plans were appalled, intrigued or just laughed uncontrollably at the stone cold look on my face.

You see, nothing is ever run-of-the-mill in my world, at least in my writing world. And fortunately for me, I welcomed 2011 with others whose lives, like mine, have taken strange turns to lead them to this point. So, while all of you were out enjoying an $85 five course meal on the town, or a wheel of brie and a bottle of Merlot at home, I was reading erotic poetry to a crowd of brightly-dressed strangers while ringing in the New Year with chocolate, music and pasties.

Yes, pasties. Karen Lee, or “Madame K” as she is known at such occasions, hosted a private Burlesque for Books party at her space on 30 Church Street. The Pilates studio was transformed into an underground stage where women (and men) performed high-energy, sexy burlesque numbers while wordy types (some call us starving artists, a.k.a. poets) bore their souls and their shoulders while reading original poetry and slam.

And, of course, there was a naked woman reading an etiquette book. How fitting.

The party was emceed by Marc Zegans, a collector of Hawaiian shirts and the poet laureate for Narragansett beer, and Madame K. herself, who felt compelled to read from a striptease instructional book for the novices among us party-goers.

The evening ended with a strip down to midnight and more dancing and luscious desserts. While no arrests were made, there was a bit of sadness in the evening as Lee announced that she was moving and that this raucous party was her last hoopla in Lenox. No more Karendipity on Church Street. However, in typical Madame K. fashion, she did leave us all wondering at where she would land next (rumors of a reality T.V. show with Oprah’s network and more burlesque entertainment are bubbling to the surface); simply saying that it was “time to move on.”

Kitty reading an etiquette book to yours truly.

Be on the lookout for glitter and sequins in a shop space near you. That will be the first sign that Lee has hitched her star. That and an ever-present crowd of devil-may-care artists, writers and performers looking for a home to call their own.

To Be Continued…

Tags: Karen, Lee, New, Year's, Lenox      
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