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Meet & Greet

I literally do not know how to begin to even discuss the glory that is Sonja (née Vitow…but legally her name is Sonja Robinson Vitow). Sonja recently married her high school sweetheart (Samuel Skeen…so much alliteration), and fellow member of the self-touted group, “The Good Squad” in January, at The Franklin Institute’s Planetarium, in Philadelphia, PA. Seriously though, does it get any more nerdy/hip? This combination of both uber nerdy and somehow alarmingly chic best describes the wonder of Sonja (whose nicknames include Sun Jar, Sun Yi, et. al.)

But let us (be kind and) rewind; how did Sonja and I meet? The short answer is: BANGS. No really. Sonja and I were both members and editors of a literary magazine based at The George Washington University known as Le Culte du Moi (website not updated since 2009). We actually did not like one another, in fact, we had gotten into a few fights. During the thaw of winter hiatus, and upon our return to the first lit. mag. meeting of the semester, we showed up to the event wearing THE SAME OUTFIT WITH THE SAME HAIRCUT. It was a sign from the gods above – the heavens sang, a million angels threw confetti streamers from cumulonimbus clouds, and Zeus bowled a thunderous strike. The rest, as they say, is history. Now we are as inseparable as two friends, who live in cities 230 miles apart, could possibly be (thank you Skype, Gchat, SMS). I was also a bridesmaid in her wedding (which has the high distinction of being the only wedding wherein the maids want to wear and actually REPEAT the wearing of their dresses…and the wedding was PEACOCK THEMED). Clearly her life inspires me use parentheticals overzealously.

Sonja is one of those individuals who is a a multitalented, ambidextrous, pluralistic, amalgam of a person. What the hoohaw does that mean? She speaks French, German, Spanish, and a wee bit of Norwegian. She translates poetry for fun. She writes short stories, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction (See: The Great Boston Molasses Disaster). Sonja is currently pursuing an M.F.A. at Emerson College, and has been published by The Safety Pin Review, The Meadowland Review, and Gulf Coast Magazine, she was event shouted out by the L.A. Times recently; learn more about her myriad achievements HERE.

If I am being completely candid, the only thing that I (possibly) do not like about Sonja is her weird affinity for hockey.


Name: Sonja Robinson Vitow

Location: Beantown (Boston, MA)

Job: Intern at the Boston Preservation Alliance, Graduate Assistant at Emerson College, MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Emerson College

Age: 24 (AND A HALF)

And as part of my ongoing EAT/SEE/SHOP/DO series, Sonja has dreamed up some favorites in her city:

EAT:  “Genki Ya is an amazing sushi restaurant here that serves local and organic products – plus there are three kinds of rice to choose from, and one of those kinds is PURPLE. I don’t care that it’s fast food,  Boloco is amazing for burritos  (although I do covet the shiny gold wrappers of Chipotle) And finally, The Breakfast Club is the best diner this side of Jersey.”
SEE: “You just asked a born-again preservation nerd for her favorite buildings…narrowing this down is going to be tricky. Here are three bullet points but I could literally do a fucking installation on your blog on this topic every week and never run out of material.
  • 1.   The Boston Athenaeum is hands-down the coolest building in Boston (seriously – check out these doors) it’s a private library with an INCREDIBLE collection, a small museum, and they do an incredible, inventive, exotic high tea twice a month each spring. It also backs up to one of the coolest old cemeteries in Boston.
  • 2. The Tea Kettle Starbucks.  I know it’s lame to list a Starbucks, but please understand – I’ve never actually been in this Starbucks (there’s actually one even closer to my office, although this building is only a block from my office). The reason I love this building is because of the antique sign. The tea kettle, which actually produces steam (so cool!) was created in 1873 by Hicks & Badger as a sign for the Oriental Tea Company.
Over the old Oriental Tea Company (now a Starbucks location), holding 227 gallons, 2 quarts, 1 pint and 3 gills. Image by ianslai via Flickr, HERE.
  • 3. The green space in this city is amazing. The Arnold Arboretum is probably the least obnoxious thing Harvard does.  I’m obsessed with about thirty different elaborate rooftop gardens My favorite park, though, is the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, which is a park that runs along one of the busiest streets in Boston, and it’s also a statue garden. Winston Churchill called it ‘The grandest boulevard in North America.'”
SHOP:  “I love Berks. I love Berks all the time, winter, spring, summer, fall, what have you. It is the only place aside from DSW that I ever consider buying shoes. They do Groupons. I love Berks. I also like The Tannery. I hate to even tell you this because it’s so expensive, but they do carry my absolute favorite J Brand jeans, and it’s the only boutique I even remotely frequent, even if the jeans are the only things I’ve ever bought there. Everything else I like is a chain. I love Madewell on Newbury Street. I still shop at Urban even though I’ve been saying I’m too old for like four years. There are amazing JCrew, Penguin and Puma outlets at Wrentham. I would decorate my house in Anthropologie stuff ENTIRELY if I could. There’s a HomeGoods ACROSS THE STREET FROM MY HOME. I shop at Whole Foods and TJ’s and Stop n Shop. I’m uninteresting. I’m sorry. I love you.”

DO: “I am only going to list only one activity here because it’s Sam and my favorite activity and it’s multi-part so here are all the parts:

  • Step 1: Decide you’re fed up with the city.
  • Step 2. Pack up your car with a picnic blanket, a board game, and some CHOCOLATE MILKE (for realsies, you can substitute TEA or BEER or SNACKS)
  • Step 3. Drive to Concord, MA
  • Step 4. Get sandwiches (and cheese and wine and chocolate and hummus) at this shop The Concord Cheese Shop – and browse for a minimum of 30 minutes before you leave.
  • Step 5: Drive five minutes to Walden Pond.
  • Step 6. Find a secluded area (much easier in fall and winter than summer) and have a picnic.”

Isn’t she so transcendental? Traveling to Walden Pond and forgoing the metropolitan lifestyle? 

I feel blessed to be Sonja’s friend. She is extremely generous and makes me wonderful crafts (magnets currently decorating my door). She also is great at coloring books and snail mail. Seriously, we still sometimes correspond via letters, she might be single handedly keeping the USPS in business. She “collects” interesting people, and I can actually say that every one of her friends is unique, interesting, and well chosen. She somehow maintains amazing relationships with a friend circle of 7,860 people. I love her, however (and I don’t mean to start a war of the cities or be galvanizing in any way), she does not like NYC. Can someone convince her to visit me more?! Clearly NYC is the greatest city in America, and if not America, certainly the northeast.

Now everyone go read her work HERE, HERE, or HERE.

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Keren Veisblatt Toledano is a User Experience Designer at Berya LLC. In her spare time she can be found soaking in Epsom salts, admiring copper pots, reading dystopian science fiction or sneaking a slice of lemon into her drinks. Her motto is, “A morning without coffee is sleep.” She lives in Philly with her cat, Cagney, partner, Michael, and son, Josiah.