Friday, December 26, 2008

New Doors to Different Worlds

Emily Dickenson once said, "My friends are my estate." If that is true, well, I have a whole island in the Aegean. With pool boys serving margaritas.

One of the nicest things about friends is that no one is holding a gun to their heads to make them hang out with you. It's usually by choice, when they brave cross town traffic to meet you for lunch or accept your invite to an early matinee of Sex in the City, or listen to you whine for the sixty-seven millionth time about the latest dumb ass thing your spousal unit did with power tools and some duck tape.

Which also means, no one holds a gun to their heads when it comes to gift giving. In fact, the whole event of friends giving gifts can be a mighty intriguing free for all of fun that has nothing to do with need and everything to do with, well, let's just say, your friends are not likely to look around your home and note: "Gee, I've been over here fifty gazillion times this past year and Bob still has the same set of hand towels out in the guest bathroom. I bet he could use some new ones by now."

Oh no. A friend is the least likely of any individual in your life to buy you anything that comes from anywhere even remotely in the vicinity of Linens 'n' Things. Unless, that is, Linens 'n' Things recently started selling tequila.

So I would love to know: what material object(s) did you receive this year from a friend that either:

A. Made you really, really happy.
B. Puzzled the hell out of you.
C. Made you laugh.
D. Made you rethink your self imposed ban against re-gifting.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright

CD cover courtesy the amazingly talented K9.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my blog homies!
You make my days infinitely richer and more interesting with your humor, intelligence, creativity, and 'tude.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cry Moi a Freakin' River

On second thought, don't. Because I'm sick of it. When did We the People begin to shape shift from our former independent, resourceful incarnations into some of the biggest cry babies in the universe, seeking not to take charge or responsibility but, instead, to place blame? Oh, I know. Musta happened sometime around:

I'm sure you all have seen this clip: a Miss Tiffany Sydell, stranded at the Seattle airport for the last three days, gives the news camera a tearful accounting of her ordeal:

"This is going to be our third night on the floor with no pillows, no blankets, no nothing! They should be held accountable . . ."

I've been stranded in airports several times. There's nothing worse. So I feel Tiffany's pain and that of thousands of others like her. But, Tiffany, just who do you propose should be held accountable? Last time I checked, snowstorms were an Act of Mother Nature, not Congress.

Grow a pair, will ya?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Was I the Boxer or the Bag?

Notes from a 13-hour, 856.89-mile trip across our nation's belly.

1. Love's Travel Centers are to modern-day road travel what Stuckey's was to travel when I was a kid. Only with grittier bathrooms. This is the kind of place where there are cigarette burns on the toilet seat. But I guess there's an upside to that. If you crave a little leg exercise after 4 bazillion hours in the cab of a Dodge Ram 2500 (ex cuze ay Moi, 1500), nothing gets the blood flowing back into the quads like squatting to pee. Then again, as my good buddy and intrepid traveler Wicked Thistle always says, "Go ahead and sit down already. There's nothing you can catch from a toilet seat." Hmm. I wonder if she's willing to cross stitch that on a pillow for me?

2. The largest cross in the Western Hemisphere sits on the south side of I-40 just outside of Groom, Texas. About two miles before you get there, a huge sign alerts you to its existence, proclaiming it's one of life's great miracles, and oh, by the way? Don't forget to stop by the gift shop, y'all! I, however, beg to differ. One of life's great miracles is having survived a 9-hour slog through pea soup thick fog starting at the hills of the Ozarks on down through Tulsa to the edge of Amarillo, all without sacrificing one's life to the underside of an 18-wheeler.

3. The wind never stops blowing in Oklahoma. Never. Ever.

4. Whether holding the remote to the television set or to the satellite radio, the homo Sapien male is, indeed, singularly incapable of remaining on any one channel for longer than a nanosecond. The only tune I got to listen to in its entirety was Pearl Jam's "Yellow Ledbetter," a song so lyrically cryptic it makes "Blinded by the Light" sounds like a nursery rhyme. Baby, make me cry.

5. At about 4:30 p.m. in the middle of December on a middle-of-nowhere stretch of I-40 somewhere near the border of New Mexico and Texas, just after a sudden downpour as the sun begins to shimmer through the swirl of bruise-colored clouds, all that lonesome beauty will sting your eyes and suck the air right out of your lungs.

5. Fudkin' squirrels follow Moi wherever I go, even on famblee vay-cay.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Back Soon

On vay-cay.

(In the interest of journalistic integrity, however, I must confess: I am NOT on this beach in Belize.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Only One Cook in the Kitchen Por Moi

Do you think my lust for Top Chef Season Five contestant Jeffrey is way too obvious? You know, like picking Ginger over Mary Ann, Pamela Anderson over Meryl Streep?

I can't help it, though. There's something about a blond who surfs and cooks that's just, well, the whole enchilada plus puffy Cheetos. And margaritas on the side.

S.B. thinks he bats for the other team. Just 'cause he pretty? I don't think so. EmmaK prefers the Euro Boys. Sure, the Italian is a charmer in that way only the Italians can manage without making you roll your eyes (Except the other Fabio. The other Fabio is just plain ol' cheesy.) and Stephan has that icy Teutonic simmer, but no. I think I gotta go with the All American boy from Niceville, Florida.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Coulda Been a Killer if I Only Had the Right Shoes

You know what I think we need to do with our dumb ass car companies? Send 'em to rehab. Because, like any other addict behaving badly for their drug, they've got to hit rock bottom before they can begin to stand back up. Pull the plug on their bailout and let 'em sink or swim. They're so smart? They're so innovative? Then they should prove it. Just like. Any other. Business.

Yes, I know people's jobs and lives are on the line. But how is the proposed robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul solution going to be any less detrimental to our economic well-being in the long run? Better to rip the band-aide now than to let the wound fester for decades.

Besides, these jerks fail? Don't you think auto companies who DO know what they're doing will jump at the chance to open plants here and avail themselves of all that free floating talent? Ability, after all, hates a vacuum.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pretty on the Outside

If you think that fashion regularly reaches heights of such ridiculousness that Mount Everest looks like an anthill in comparison, you should try reading fashion writing. If you can call it that. Reflecting a style an editor friend of mine likes to call "high hysteria," much of it centers around imparting short, pithy lil' nuggets of insider advice on how to trick your hair into shiny sleekness despite the humidity or learning how to deftly manage liquid eyeliner in the pursuit of the ultimate Sophie Loren eye.

And just in case you don't get the urgency of it all, an exclamation point (or three) always, always punctuates the end of every sentence. Fashion editors live for the exclamation mark. And alliteration. Alliteration rules.

The nose glows? Banish shine forever with these five fabulous tips!

How to rock the Bettie Bang without looking like you just graduated grade school!

High heeled patent purple booties make a sizzling statement for fall!

But this is nothing compared to "serious" fashion writing. Especially when it emerges from the keyboard of one Ms. Plum Sykes, the woman I most want to bitch slap with an overstuffed Birken bag, she's just that irritating. Each month, she dutifully grinds out 1,500+ words for Vogue on fashion-related subjects as diverse as mastering the brooch (really!) to searching for the perfect long-sleeved dress. One can see why editor Anna Wintour hired Sykes, for both women possess a similar air of rarefied self-satisfaction. But Sykes isn't really a full on bitch on wheels. She sort of fell into her roll of Park Avenue Princess. "Oh that? The trust fund? Pishaw, I barely even know it's there!" Even worse are her attempts at humor, which are laughable but only because they make her seem even more cluelessly smug, as witness this strangely Leave it to Beaver-esque opening of the aforementioned article on long-sleeved dresses:

There are three things a woman really needs at 38: a husband, at least one child, and a dress with long sleeves, which, I have discovered over the years, may be harder to come by than the husband. I found two potential husbands in the space of four years—and married one of them. But in all that time, I found only one really good dress with long sleeves, despite looking for such a frock just as diligently as I looked for the husband.

And this on deciding what to wear on the picket line during the screenwriter's strike (if you can call adapting one of the most badly written pieces of chic lit in the history of the universe writing for the screen):

I wake on picket day to chilly gales and big, fat, icy raindrops. I glumly resign myself to wearing a Burberry trench and nasty J.Crew Wellingtons with dogs printed on them. I’m about to leave when Delia Ephron, Nora’s sister and a fellow writer, calls to wish me luck on the picket line. “I made six new friends,” she yelps. “It’s the best party in New York right now!” Newly insecure, I immediately change into a brand-new gray merino-wool Martin Margiela turtleneck sweater and chunky high leather boots from Veronique Branquinho. Some warmth is provided by my sharply tailored Alexander McQueen fur-lined suede jacket with enormous hoops of fox fur at each cuff. The look is fashion girl meets snowbunny.

Here, Plum is given the perfect opportunity to endear herself by creating some sharply realized, self-effacing social commentary – maybe even, perhaps, a farce – and what does she do? She misses the boat by a mile. Snow bunny? How about dumb bunny.

Then there's the kind of fashion writing that isn't admonishing, isn't insulting, isn't even, when it comes right down to it, understandable. This kind of writing falls into a category I like to call: art-school-affectation-meets-the-five-martini-lunch. In other words: WTF?

Take this sample from Missoni's Web site describing their spring 2009 collection. Don't get me wrong. I adore Missoni, a venerable Italian owned and operated manufacturer of some of the finest knits and sports wear in the world, and I would give anything to be able to afford one of their iconic "zig zag" dresses. But when it comes to describing their vision? A picture should be worth a thousand words.


Instead of this:

As in a kaleidoscope of futuristic aero-paintings, whirlwinds of colors, designs and shapes respond to new rules of perception. Rhythm and speed tell the story of a new beauty in a world that is dynamic, three-dimensional, energetic, vivacious, creating a mood that is contemporary, extravagant and unexpected. A conscious path of elegance that beautifies that which cannot be changed, giving power to the imagination and evoking grace and seduction. Electric frequencies of color . . . mechanical elements inspire embroideries.

But no one, and I mean no one, can craft more Baroque crimes against the English language like the admen and women shilling perfume. One of the best of the worst is French niche perfume house, Kilian. Click on their Web site and you are immediately taken to a blank black canvas which succinctly and charmingly asserts that "Perfume is a messenger who opens a thousand doors in the memory." Fair enough. But instead of leaving it at that, they go completely off the deep end and proceed to describe each and every one of their juices in the most purple prose imaginable. This one-liner for their Prelude to Love perfume, for instance, simply boggles the mind:

A splash of crimson blossoms across the cheeks and hearts beat wildly, a refined yet bold bouquet of the noblest citrus soothes and refreshes mounting sensations of exhilaration.

Is this an advertisement for perfume or the latest Harlequin Romance?

Not even the normally down to earth Estee Lauder is immune to the power of the hysterical pitch. Lauder's ad for its newest perfume, Sensuous, starts off harmlessly enough:

Estee Lauder Sensuous was created to evoke the warmest, most feminine side of a woman. Her softness. Her confidence and grace. Her strength.

But then things just get silly:

You are luminous. You are real. You are Sensuous.

As opposed to what? Dull and opaque? Immaginary and surreal? Floating in outer space?

Still, given that when all is said and done, I probably make about two cents to every perfume writer's dollar, where in the heck do I sign up? After all, this morning? I spritzed myself with vintage Shalimar and I swear, I was immediately whisked away to a far off, exotic locale where illicit love affairs unfold like silken sheaths under diamond studded velvet skies redolent with the heady scent of exotic blossoms and forbidden fruit.

Or maybe it was just the waffles burning in the toaster?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Balls to Ya Daddy, I Ain't Never Comin' Back

I recently had the supreme pleasure of seeing this vehicle in the flesh. I dribbled. I drooled. I had visions of myself, all Frye-booted and Mad Max serious, screaming around town in it, burning dinosaur bones to the tune of 2.5 mpg and AC/DC's "Back in Black," leaving Mustangs and Miatas and those goofy jacked up neon green Hondas impotent in my wake. I did some quick, basic math. Without pen and paper, even, calculating how many shoes I'd have to forgo over the next fifty years in order to afford it. Estimating how long a girl can survive on Costco hot dogs, Wonder Bread, and Keds.

I know. This car is so totally inappropriate in this Brave New World of stump-shaped, corn oil fueled transport. It's like an AK-47 when all you need is a pocket knife. It's a floor length black silk Balenciaga with a slit up to there when the invite says office casual. But let's face it folks, the Smart Car just doesn't have the same elan. The Smart Car is Beta Male. The Dodge Challenger? Alpha all the way, baybeeeeeee.

You know what other car tingles my tummy? The Chevy Camaro. Perfection, regardless of the year – 1969, 1979, 2009. I don't care. They all have muscle.

Now you tell Moi, so I don't feel like such a Republican: what car would you thumb your nose at the environment for?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Look to the Cookie

I spent one entire day this weekend baking, including a big ol' batch of biscochitos. Head on over to Moi's Baking Blog, The Undaunted Baker, to check 'em out.

Now excuse me. I need to go run around the block.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Circle of Life

One of the best things about blobbing is this: you "meet" people on the blobs who introduce you to ideas, places, and things you otherwise would have la dee dah-ed yourself in a navel contemplating stupor right on by.

Like these:

Right now, in my closet, reside four pair of boots (oops, make that five), including a beloved pair of beat up cowboys it's going to rip my heart out to try and replace when they finally do the final dance of destruction, which, with any luck and the talents of my long-suffering cobbler (is that still a word?), won't happen until long after I'm dead, cremated, and scattered over Neiman's.

But these. These! I didn't even know I wanted them until The Pirate emailed me a month or so ago and told me she'd just scored a pair at Dillards for some fifty bazillion percent off and now they were hers, all hers! Hmmm . . . I thought. I don't have a pair of Frye Harness Boots . . .

Then two weeks ago I was placing an order at Amazon for a couple of novels I've been wanting to read. You know how when you go on Amazon and on the home page they welcome you by name AND include a short little list of books/CDs/perfumes, etc. that they think you'll be interested in? This time, Nina Garcia's The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own popped up. And it was only, like, a few bucks, so I tossed it in my cart.

Yesterday, basking in my post-Thanksgiving feast glow, S.B. in his chair watching the LSU/Arkansas game, Ivan snoozing in the sun, I tucked myself in for a long afternoon of do-nothing-but-read-on-the-sofa and, well, read the entire thing. And there, on page 94, #33 on Nina's list of 100, was, once again, the Frye Harness Boot.

Now, before you think I just run around drinking the fashion Kool-Aide from every corner lemonade stand in existence, know that there are a few things I have managed to avoid over the years that Nina also heartily recommends. Like caftans. And red lipstick. And aviator sunglasses. I'm a big girl. I totally grok to the difference between fashion pushover and to thine own self being true, I don't care how absolutely funny and charming Nina's writing is (And it IS! Who would have thunk it? You should go out and purchase the book for the lively writing alone, regardless of whether you are barely able to make it out of your pajamas and into a pair of Levis each morning. For instance, when extolling the virtues of having at least one A-line dress in our closets, thus speaks Nina: "Eat, ladies. For we always have the A-line.")


The question becomes: do I need a pair of Frye Harness Boots or do I not? I would be helping the economy, you know. Frye has been around since the mid 1800s and is one of the few American owned and operated shoe making operations in existence. No Chinese melamine in them soles.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What Can a Poor Boy Do?

There was a time when I believed that Guns N’ Roses, and most specifically its front man, Axl Rose, just might save the world. Or at least rock and roll. In the two-point-five-second-long interim between the decline of the ‘80s Aqua Net bands and the palate-cleansing onslaught of grunge, in slipped Guns N' Roses, who held high for one brief moment the banner of good old-fashioned rock and roll excess. Which, okay, may not have saved the world, but it was still a heck of a lot of fun.

I don’t know if all rock stars need this particular formula to thrive, but it seems to have worked for Axl Rose: one part abusive childhood mixed with one part savant-like I.Q. slowly simmered with one part culturally flat-lined suburban backdrop against which to rebel. Wait out the early teen years and you have a temperament designed to assert itself as loudly as possible in as many ways as possible to as many people as possible. Not as a musician but as a rock star. And if something musically significant happens along the way, well, then, cool.

Which, strangely enough, it did.

The thing about Guns N’ Roses is that it’s members could play and Axl Rose could sing. Thanks to a youth spent messing with his choir teachers, he managed to cultivate a range that could go from baritone to falsetto in the three minutes flat it took him to welcome you to his jungle. Most importantly, though, Axl Rose could front. On stage, he radiated a sibilant, sinewy sexuality of the kind not seen since Mick Jagger and which caused even smart girls in it only for the music (ah-hem) to puddle themselves senseless in his presence. Off stage, Rose was a predictably royal pain in the ass, with a big mouth and requisite misogynist streak, which at first came off as tongue-in cheek (who can forget the hilarious “I Used to Love Her”?), then not so much (his nasty public bitch slapping sessions with Courtney Love, for instance), and then just downright sad given über model and fiancé Stephanie Seymour’s charges of physical abuse.

Still, you couldn’t deny the power of the music. Appetite for Destruction was as near perfect a rock and roll album as it gets and it has never dulled. Admit it. You still grab an imaginary Bic lighter and pump both fists in the air whenever “Paradise City” comes on the radio. The follow up EP, GN’R Lies, was similarly compelling. But by the time most of us got around to both Use Your Illusion albums and survived the full eight bazillion minutes of “November Rain” without going postal on our neighbors, we were flagging. I know I was. Not even a brilliantly menacing rendition of Wings’ “Live and Let Die” could revive me.

Although, I did purchase tickets for their 1992 Stadium Tour, a tripartite effort that included Faith No More and Metallica. Guns N’ Roses outshone them both. The day the music both lived and died for me? A few minutes after midnight, August 27, 1992, when the last notes of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” drifted out into the dark desert skies over Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces.

I haven’t idolized a rock star since. At least not in the same way. Sure, interesting things followed. Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain, for one, but for all their exceptional musicality – don’t me wrong, I’m fans of both – were way too sensitive/serious to be dangerous. Chris Cornell, lead singer for Soundgarden, was probably the most gorgeous man to ever stand in front of a microphone, but at the end of the day he went home to his wife of a bazillion years and their passel of Schitzus. Admirable? Sure. Fodder for fantasy? Uh, no. Besides, grunge had arrived. The world was no longer neon pink or raging red. It was gray. And plaid. The party was over.

Sure, great music has been made since Axl Rose pulled a Howard Hughes at his Malibu mansion, some of it much more sublime than anything produced by Guns N’ Roses. But with the exception of maybe Courtney Love, few rock stars have asserted themselves in the band’s wake. At least none as gleefully over the top, as wild, as downright unbiddable. Even Marilyn Manson comes off as way more corporate-calculated rather than $hocking and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were welcome dinnertime companionship in most of today’s homes, we’ve become that tolerant. No thanks. When I was in high school and I brought boys like Axl home? I wanted my parents to be upset. Not sit them down over appetizers and a nice Cab Sav.

At any rate, did you hear? Guns N’ Roses, who never officially broke up, has finally managed to release Chinese Democracy, a recording that took, what, 14 million years to make? Moi’s prognosis after a cursory listen is, sad to say, meh. Although, I’m happy to report that Axl, despite the persistence of those weird-ass corn rows, remains in astonishingly fine vocal shape.

Still, though: someone, anyone, please. Take me back to paradise city.