This is much delayed. Everything has been much delayed, and here’s why: ex-patriate inclinations arose, and I ducked out to the UK for about a week.
I was blessed last time I was in the UK (March 2011) to meet a couple of wonderful girls who have proven to be great transcontinental friends, and we in turn introduced each other to our respective social networks in spite of minor cultural differences such as what to call a lift/elevator and disagreement over the merits of marmite (sorry, it’s gross). But after scoring a ticket to the Deerhunter-curated installment of All Tomorrow’s Parties, I ended up in a chalet at Pontin’s—a circusy, somewhat dilapidated British version of Club Med on the south east coast of England—with five of the loveliest girls imaginable, each possessing her own facets of badassery, beauty, and sweetness. Our chalet sported four different accents (American, Londonite, Spanish-English, and Australian) and as many styles of bangs.
We meditated to Steve Reich’s orchestral therapy, bounced to Black Lips like we were in a dirty Atlantan basement, sang along to Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” alongside Bradford Cox, and stood in delightful awe of Verity Susman’s cosmic Star Trek: The Next Generation-inspired feminist musical tome. We found our way to the front row for Deerhunter’s performance of Halcyon Digest on our final evening together, smiling at the twirling, glassy opening notes of “Earthquake.” And there is something so special about being with other lovers of music when Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place” comes on while you’re sharing ciders in an unfamiliar place.
I also spent some time in London, where I explored overgrown graveyards, urban animal sanctuaries, and—needless to say—a fair number of pubs. I wish I’d had more time there, but the time I did have was spent well.
There are still so many places on my to-go list: Iceland, Greece, Japanese forests, Norwegian fjords, Madagascar jungles. But I’ve been blessed to move around a little bit, and the more I do, the more I feel like a strange, morphing, shining human being on a big, big planet, and not just a housecat licking my fur and collecting the occasional mouse. I feel everyone I meet, every sight I see, every sky I look up at tracing my eyes, sculpting my nose, massaging my brain.
I’m moving to LA for a month and then New York in September. I don’t know what stamp each will leave on me, but I’m already imagining LA putting a little flower in my hair and New York putting a little bit of subway dirt behind my ears. I don’t know how long I’ll stay. I just want to jump in and swim, swim, swim until my legs are tired and I find my next shore.
Allow me to shill.
From the age of 14 onward, I was in a constant battle with the seemingly omnipresent 2-3 zits that have always been trying to set up shop on my chin or below my nose. Like an endless game of Whack-a-Mole, I’ve struggled to obliterate them with pretty much every anti-acne face wash or cream on the market, always with unremarkable results. Proactiv? Yeah, right. Mario Badescu’s Drying Cream? Boo you. Even a prescription sulphur face wash ($23 a bottle with insurance, $96 without) offered limited results. I had a routine of using thick concealer and foundation every day on these areas of my face in efforts to combat the boorish teenage brat living in my pores.
Endlessly envious of and mystified by my friends who didn’t wear a single smear of makeup and somehow still had glowing, uniform skin free of miniature pus volcanoes, I resigned myself to “bad skin.” Whatever. I was just grateful to avoid Accutane, which makes you have eyeless alien babies or whatever. Assured by mainstream beauty brands that I had oily skin that needed to be blasted with industrial-strength salicylic acid day and night, I never moisturized (didn’t want to aggravate the oils!), piled on the chemicals, and strove for that just-scrubbed taut feeling in my face as often as possible.
Then, this past Christmas, I received a gift of some of 100% Pure‘s products, including its Mint White Tea Cleanser. I scanned the ingredients list and noted that many of the ingredients were actually plant, fruit, and vegetable oils. MY NEMESIS. But regardless of my aversion to that vowely word, I started using it (it smells nice, which is my primary criteria for any bath or beauty product) and developed a routine. Every night, I just gently rubbed it on my face with my fingers and splashed it off with lukewarm water, and once a week I used it with my Clarisonic Mia.
Within a week, my existing zits were gone. My skin was softer. There was no “taut” feeling, but instead one of balance, peace, bodily serenity. I almost completely stopped getting blackheads and no longer felt the need to constantly pick at my skin in the mirror. I hadn’t had a zit in four or five months. And then finally, the other day, I went out in public without any concealer or foundation, which I never thought was possible.
I feel both relieved and pissed. Relieved that something can be done to tame the shrew, and pissed that for well over a decade I’ve been believing that all I need was more salicylic acid, a higher concentration of benzoyl peroxide, something more astringent and powerful. Could companies really be urging us to smear all sorts of bad-for-us stuff all over our faces and bodies? Yes.
So fear not the oil, my friends. It just might be your new best friend.
“Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull, and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul.”
I regret that I didn’t know this song at age 15, for it would have been a song that I obsessed over in my car on summer nights, in my bedroom on January mornings, on the beach at 4am in March, any and all of the above.
“First things first: I don’t want to touch you or convince you of anything. I just want to buy you a large pesto pizza and let you take it home.”
[opening a bottle with his teeth, sliding it to me from at least 4 feet down the bar, and then winking at me when I (hopefully) catch it]
“Hi, I’m John Slattery.”
“In 2013, we exist in a very strange place—our hunter/gatherer instincts are still firing, but technology has given birth to “advanced” populations, so we’ve created factory farming and other unnatural ways of harvesting food.”
“Pop [music] is overproduced—so are processed foods. Pop is like creamsicles mixed with fudge mixed with bacon flakes and genetically modified soy and corn. And it tastes amazing! I listen to pop music all the time, but is it good for me? No. What I’m going to get from a Run-DMC song is going to be amazing. They’re talking about about social inequalities. They’re talking about injustices. They’re singing with purity. It feels like Zeus singing when you hear DMC’s words. Same with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. It’s poetry.”
“One of the reasons I’ve dedicated my life to making music is because I love the way that music affects me emotionally and the way that it affects other people emotionally, and different types of music have the capacity to elicit different emotional reactions in a listener. And I mean, listening to an old Black Flag single triggers a huge emotional reaction in me, but listening to Debussy or Kraftwerk or Donna Summer … Every type of music has the ability to create a really powerful emotional response.”
Monday: a pale or royal blue. Beagles. mixed lettuces. Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes.”
Tuesday: yellow. a common bird, such as a robin or sparrow. Thai curry. lint on a wool sweater.
Wednesday: burnt orange. the smell of Herbal Essences shampoo. The Clash. old books.
Thursday: purple. violin music from diamond commercials. whiskey. scissors. cats.
Friday: white. single-speed bicycles. legs. wedges of lime.
Saturday: mint green. reggae. soft wind. ankles. lots of ankles.
Sunday: gold and pink. gastropods and cetaceans. tortillas. fingers and toes.
It is well-known that mothers are prone to being fond of sales and the acquisition of tchotchkes. For my mother, this urge is enacted at the book outlet at the Menlo Park Library, a formidable golden trash heap of endlessly varied tomes for $1.
Recently, she brought home Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s Perfumes: The Guide. Although I was no wearer of perfume (but neither is she; sensitive Irish skin), she insisted that I flip through it.
I expected to be bored, because after all, how much could there possibly be to say about floral notes and white musk and Indian jasmine? Surely not an entire book’s worth?
But I was wrong. This book is one of the most entertaining and eye-opening reads I’ve set eyes on in years. To Turin and Sanchez, scent is as complex and nuanced as music or visual art, conveying fully sculpted concepts that can be executed masterfully or terribly. In fact, the analyses of fragrances that they find disgusting are often more entertaining than the ones they find ingenious. Mostly, I’m impressed by the authors’ ability to ignite sentiment and curiosity for something I previously regarded as garish and grandmotherly. (Please disregard highlighting below, I had to search through Amazon’s “Look Inside!” feature to find certain passages.)
I ended up becoming so enchanted by this elevated concept of perfumery that I purchased a couple for myself—Hanae Mori’s Butterfly and Lolita Lempicka. As described below:
I’m quite happy smelling like a “terrifically trashy cotton-candy idea”—but I do go light on the spray. To me, this book is a shining example of how engaging, humanistic writing can transform virtually any topic from mundane to magical. As a rambler, I find that idea comforting. And for the record, I like Tommy Girl.
or have any other excuse to wear a fancy white dress as though it’s a perfectly normal, not-creepy-at-all thing to do (any quinceñearas or first communions coming up?), I will either wear…