Trying to remember Ithaka

M. bought this dress Monday morning (my time zone) and the rest of my day was spent trying to remember what seemed to have been long forgotten.

I can’t remember the last time I wore this dress, but I am sure I wore it during a chilly evening in the summer of 1997 at a concert in Montemor‘s castle. I remember who was with me and the theory that “villages with medieval castles are always cold” but I could not remember who was playing.

Trying to dig up something that you have forgotten to remember from the pre-internet era is not always easy. I tried to google what I did remember. The same artist was also a photographer who, probably in the same year, had an installation called “I could write a book” at Galeria Zé dos Bois in Lisbon.  Inspired by the famous jazz standard, specifically by Dinah Washington’s rendition of it (1955), the installation featured an unmade bed, photos and diary entries and little notes from the time the author lived, in love, in Tokyo because if someone had asked him, he could have written a book.

If they asked me, I could write a book
About the way you walk, and whisper, and look
I could write a preface
On how we met
So the world would never forget

But I did forget and, as the day progressed I felt more and more irritated at not being able to recall the name. Probably C. went with me to Lisbon so I decided to send an email explaining my quasi existential doubt of the day. He thought it was absurd and called me. He had no recollection whatsoever of such installation he most probably did go but couldn’t remember. We also saw this same guy at Labirintho, I said. Remember that? We went with another friend who got drunk and almost in trouble. Remember that? I even remember where we had parked the car and that we drove away and Cake’s Fashion Nugget was playing. He could not remember anything at all. It seems like we have done really interesting stuff together in the 90s, though.

By 8 pm I could recall some Greek connection and my Google search was “Californian musician, Greek ancestry, living in Lisbon in the 90s”. There it was an article about “the greatest Portuguese talents of the 90s”, about the great “unknown”, groundbreaking talent of Portuguese Pop/Rock and the growing popularity of Dance and Hip-Hop scenes. Finally Darin Pappas, aka Ithaka Darin Pappas aka Korvowrong and the album “Stellafly”, the most powerful and consistent national registry edited in 1997. That might help explain why I seemed to have travelled across the country to hear him even if now it doesn’t really make much sense.

But then again, C.P. Cavafy’s IthaKa is the conclusion that it’s never about getting there but always about the search, as long as you understand what the Ithakas mean.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
 
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
 
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
 
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
 
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

 

I texted the name and sent it to C. “wtf, who remembers that” was the answer. Right.

Now, the material trigger for all this is on its way to another hemisphere and I hope it will continue to inspire random thoughts, impromptu travels, silly theories and becomes someone else’s story.

Wrapped in butterflies

Pour M. F. 

A symbol of transformation into beauty and grace, butterflies carry a special spiritual meaning in Japanese culture as the carriers of the souls of the dead and, in that sense, as the key to unlocking the mysteries of life.

Also a symbol of womanhood and romance, the butterfly is a common motif in Japanese women’s clothing both modern and traditional such as kimonos and yukata.

Both the white butterfly as a symbol of selfless and eternal love and the black butterfly symbolizing transition, renewal, rebirth, make this faux wrap Hanae Mori silk dress one of the most elegant pieces I have owned.  I found it on eBay and remember I have waited anxiously for it to arrive, not because of the possible symbolism of the print but because of its meaning in Mori’s beautiful and feminine designs and because it evoked my first fictional style icon, Maddie Hayes. I was a big fan of Moonlighting and Maddie’s easy, soft and ethereal elegance. In my mind the beautiful silk butterfly spiral would envelop me in the same classic, womanly silky chic.

Over time you realize what you are not, and I’m not the kind of womanly woman that can carry a wrap dress or silk charmeuse pastel outfits, for that matter.

I hope this dress has reached M.F. already, I hope she was thrilled when she unwrapped it and I hope that putting it on will make her feel beautiful and true to herself.

I am true to my identity; I keep trying to be myself. I am Japanese, in Japan there is this beauty by itself which has been nurtured by tradition—fashion is an international language. What I have been trying to do is to express the wonderful beauty of Japan using international language.

Hanae Mori

Who’s the audience

1.
Peony silks,

in wax-light:

that petal-sheen,

gold or apricot or rose

candled into-

what to call it,

lumina, aurora, aureole?

About gowns,

the Old Masters,

were they ever wrong?

This penitent Magdalen’s

wrapped in a yellow

so voluptuous

she seems to wear

all she’s renounced;

this boy angel

isn’t touching the ground,

but his billow

of yardage refers

not to heaven

but to pleasure’s

textures, the tactile

sheers and voiles

and tulles

which weren’t made

to adorn the soul.

Eternity’s plainly nude;

the naked here and now

longs for a little

dressing up. And though

they seem to prefer

the invisible, every saint

in the gallery

flaunts an improbable

tumble of drapery,

a nearly audible liquidity

(bright brass embroidery,

satin’s violin-sheen)

raveled around the body’s

plain prose; exquisite

(dis?)guises; poetry,

music, clothes.

2.
Nothing needs to be this lavish.

Even the words I’d choose

for these leaves;

intricate, stippled, foxed,

tortoise, mottled, splotched

-jeweled adjectives

for a forest by Fabergé,

all cloisonné and enamel,

a yellow grove golden

in its gleaming couture,

brass buttons

tumbling to the floor.

Who’s it for?

Who’s the audience

for this bravura?

Maybe the world’s

just trompe l’oeil,

appearances laid out

to dazzle the eye;

who could see through this

to any world beyond forms?

Maybe the costume’s

the whole show,

all of revelation

we’ll be offered.

So? Show me what’s not

a world of appearances.

Autumn’s a grand old drag

in torched and tumbled chiffon

striking her weary pose.

Talk about your mellow

fruitfulness! Smoky alto,

thou hast thy music,

too; unforgettable,

those October damasks,

the dazzling kimono

worn, dishabille,

uncountable curtain calls

in these footlights’

dusky, flattering rose.

The world’s made fabulous

by fabulous clothes.
Couture

Mark Doty, 1953

An ill fitting week

I wore this dress on Monday and the whole day I felt as if was in disguise. I thought I looked like a twenty first century flapper when I checked myself in the mirror before leaving the house, but the minute I got to work I looked as if I had borrowed the last available dress left in someone else’s closet. And that someone definitely didn’t  have a lot in common with me. I didn’t buy this dress. It was a gift from my mum who probably never abandoned the hope that, in the right outfit, I would look like a pretty girl. This dress is too pink for me, it’s either too short for me or I’m too tall for it, I am also too old to pull something like this off. Not being a mother myself, I am left with a daughter’s perspective on this strange relationship that sometimes infantilizes me in order to, so it seems, avoid confronting the inevitability of time.

Mondays are never easy and I have a horrible cold and the medication is making me feel like I’m living underwater and the weight of every single thought is too much to even consider taking any kind of action.

TUESDAY

I bought this jacket in Vietnam in November 2014. A text message received while I was in Hanoi let me know that my great aunt had died. I was there for work and alone and while I can’t really say that I have always depended on the kindness of strangers, I have found that sometimes, strangers make the best friends and know exactly what to do and how to help.

Stray people brought together by chance

WEDNESDAY

I have a weak spot for chinoiserie and I absolutely adore these pants. I think I bought them some twenty years ago and they have never made it to the error category.

I felt a lot better today. After work we went to Java, the usual hang out before theater, for dinner. The TV was showing the aftermath of the Westminster attack. The coffee shop was crowded and we are all seating at an uncomfortable closeness. The gentleman next to me is wearing a brown jacket and turns his head often in my direction. Maybe he’s getting irritated at the proximity. No, he starts talking about the news. I try not to engage. I studied political science and I have no idea how to comment on the historical, sociological, or political contexts of what we are staring at. I find it difficult to rationalize barbarity. He’s British. He goes on about foreigners and political correctness. For twelve years he served in the Royal Navy, like his father before him. His eyesight started failing. He’s now a civilian. He was born in Cornwall and grew up in Scotland, now he lives in Manchester because he can’t afford to live in London. He’s been in Portugal for two weeks on vacation, this was his last night. He’s wearing a black t-shirt with some very graphic expression of discontent written in Afrikaans. I’ve never been a big fan of clothes that are too explicit in doing your talking for you. We have to go, the play starts at 9. He says goodbye kissing our hands and thanking us for the company and patience. Whatever was said, I realize I missed that accent and the blue eyed frankness I have lived with for four or so years of my life.

The play is a Portuguese – Belgian co-production spoken in French, Portuguese and Flemish with subtitles in English and Portuguese. I like the set and love the wardrobe when Anna Karenina is the woman inhabiting them and their actions. Still, it’s difficult to focus on anything either than the text. Forty years apart in Lisbon and Antwerp two couples fall out of love, question the normal life people manage to live and read Anna Karenina in French. One of the characters hasn’t read it. He actually thought about reading War and Peace but there were too many pages.

How she dies. It’s not supposed to be about this particular written death but about how literature changes or makes us change our lives. So the author says in a number of interviews.

But she did not take her eyes from the wheels of the second car. And exactly at the moment when the midpoint between the wheels drew level with her, she threw away the red bag, and drawing her head back into her shoulders, fell on her hands under the car, and with a light movement, as though she would rise immediately, dropped on her knees. And at the instant she was terror-stricken at what she was doing. ‘Where am I? What am I doing? What for?’ She tried to get up, to throw herself back; but something huge and merciless struck her on the head and dragged her down on her back

 

THURSDAY

Last week there was a promise of an early Summer that has vanished during this week as temperatures dropped some twenty degrees and the news reported closed schools because of the snow. Not in Porto. I miss my second ballet class of the week and go to a conference on culture and citizenship. Friends and experts come together to pay tribute to the Poet. To Poetry. There’s a painting exhibition in the room. There’s this painting, A homage to Gaugin, it’s called, and there’s this amazing figure of a woman that could also be a man painted in the warm colours that live in Tahiti. It keeps me  from listening to most of what is being said.

FRIDAY

A lavender morning turned into a cold rainy afternoon. I took half the day off to seat at a open rehearsal of Macbeth at the national theater. They only started rehearsals on Monday so this is still the table-work phase of reading and exploring the text and the characters. There’s an English literature professor and expert in Shakespeare who has been invited to talk about the play, and the text, and the differences between the English original and the Portuguese translation. And there he was, academia at it’s very best, rethorical mighty with all its seductive power. And the words go on for five hours and I don’t feel tired or bored. There’s nothing more fascinating than being the witness to personal passions. Not to me, at least. The catastrophe of getting exactly what you want in life. Those who choose to loose everything and those who do. The fantasy of being whole and the prison it creates. And Sartre who could be very pedantic but also very intelligent.

We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does.

In 2012 I did a course on Shakespeare at the University of Oxford. This was how I fell in love with Macbeth. My final essay was on the question of agency. My somewhat lazy conclusion stated that “Macbeth’s hamartia is not his ambition, as this is a character flaw, but his miscalculation of the personal consequences of assassinating Duncan and the inner torment that leads him on a murdering spree in the frantic desire for peace of mind. It is this tragic error that ultimately transforms his life in an empty mockery”. I’m often surprised and ashamed when reading what I have written.

SATURDAY

On Saturday I decided to revisit the rive gauche intellectual in me, ratty cashmere sweater and all.

Saturday is flamenco class day. I decided not to miss this one and take me and my cold for another session of trying to emulate Lola. It is not an easy, if at all possible, task to be a Lola. Either a fictional or a real one.

The rest of my Saturday is spent doing adult stuff, washing, and supermarket shopping, and other uninteresting errands. I sold a white Betty Barclay jacket. It’s going to Boise, Idaho.  At the end of all this I go and see Ana present a book on American cuisine. I’m only there for moral support. Cookbooks are basically useless at my house.

It took five songs of the weird (I like to think about it as eclectic but I suspect it’s just weird) driving playlist on my iPod to drive home:

Everybody knows

The famous blue raincoat

For once in my life

Girl, you’ll be a woman soon

Guilty

wp-1490479384225.jpg

I suspect rive gauche intellectuals didn’t care much for glitter ballet flats. Shoes off. I’m not going out, I decide that watching This Property is Condemned on TV is a much better option.

SUNDAY

Daylight saving time began at 1 AM. Outside it still looks like Winter.
I go to the only cinema we have downtown, one of the two movie theaters that is not a multiplex. Popcorn free zone, what a bliss. The movie is Aquarius with Sonia Braga. Two and half hours lost, gone forever. Such a grand actress deserved a much better movie. Great soundtrack, though.

I get home to this

 My next door neighbour is a sweet Lady.

References

Tolstoy

Tennessee Williams

Aristotle

The Wharton School –  a critical house tour


Pictures representing life and action often grow tiresome when looked at over and over again, day after day.

There are but two ways of dealing with a room which is fundamentally ugly: one is to accept it, and the other is courageously to correct its ugliness.


Where much pattern is used, it must be as monotonous as possible or it will become unbearable.

Plain shelves filled with good editions in good bindings are more truly decorative than ornate bookcases lined with tawdry books.

Not only do mediocre ornaments become tiresome when seen day after day, but the mere crowding of furniture and gimcracks into a small room intended for work and repose will soon be found fatiguing.


The money spent on a china “ornament” in the shape of a yellow leghorn hat with a kitten climbing out of it would probably purchase a good reproduction of one of the Tanagra statuettes or a plaster cast of some French or Italian bust.

That cheap originality which finds expression in putting things to uses for which they were not intended is often confounded with individuality; whereas the latter consists not in an attempt to be different from other people at the cost of comfort, but in the desire to be comfortable in one’s own way, even though it be the way of a monotonously large majority.

It is one of the misfortunes of the present time that the most preposterouly bad things often possess the powerful allurement of being expensive.

Wharton rallied against the “black art” and “dubious eclecticism” that was the house decoration of her day. Thick curtains, dinner tables covered in velvet, bric-a-brac of the era, and “a great deal of gilding” were, in the mind of Wharton, totally out.

I still haven’t found the perfect velvet curtains for the living room.

References

Edith Wharton by Design

Lapham’s Quarterly

Exposure

“No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself.”

In Retrospective, a cinematographic year without the scent of time. I have accomplished nothing. I kept zapping.

References

Haruki Murakami, After the Quake

Byung-Chul Han, The Scent of Time

So this was Christmas

Last year Christmas was at my parents’ and I showed up extremely overdressed in a 70s brocade hostess dress. That was the movie in my head.

Since my grandmother and my great-aunt died, Christmas was put on suspension until it somewhat became unimportant and almost meaningless.

This year, my parents decided to go on holiday so for me there was no family dinner, no dressing up. It was grand.

On the morning of the 24th I followed the Butcher’s Brass Band through downtown Porto.

Butcher’s Brass band from Stella on Vimeo.

In the afternoon I visited a friend who ended up spending her Christmas in hospital. I don’t think she actually wanted to see people.

I only managed to meet by best friend for coffee after 5 p.m. We had to go to the train station, everything else was already closed. There’s a nice franchise place pretending to be real where you can have all sorts of complicated caffeinated beverages. There’s a lady with a little blonde girl sitting at the table next to ours. The little girl smiles at me and I smile back. She gives me a raisin. I thank her in French and her grandmother is happy she can ask for help with the tickets. Our French is not good but seems to work. I give the little girl a tissue printed with cats. She looks happy and tells us she has kittens at home. They’re from Belgium and are traveling to Aveiro to spend Christmas with the little girl’s uncle and his family. They leave.

loios

We go out to  check the fancy Alumia project “created to bring a new light into the Historic Centre of Porto and celebrate its 20th anniversary as World Heritage.” It looks much better on the website. At least the installations we managed to see. You can never believe what you see in photos.

statement
This is the one I was looking forward to see because I do spend a considerable amount of time looking for walls that make a statement. By artist Tiago Casanova the tiled wall stands where the ” Fernandina Wall” used to stand, by creating a visual barrier, it “evokes reflection over freedom and timeless building of social and economic walls.” I spent most of the year looking for walls with statements.

make-porto-podre-again

 

Still, it’s nice to walk on empty streets.

xmas

We had dinner at home. Not the traditional Christmas dinner, just nice and only for two. I watch old Hitchcock Presents episodes. Only one is about Christmas. I’m waiting for midnight to open my presents but I remember that when I was a kid at my grandparents we used to wait until Christmas morning. I decide to do that instead.

The coffee shop by us was opened, we have coffee and go for a drive. The day is sunny and bright and the sea has a beautiful silver reflection. We drive the long way to get to my brother’s for lunch. Everyone is paying attention to their phones and Whatsapp family group to have news of the baby waiting to be born. Poor kid, having a birthday at Christmas. It will never be about him.Conversations jump from being in labor to newborns to faith and DNA and genetic manipulation.

casablanca
Back at home, the marathon of classic movies is still on, Gilda, The King and I, Casablanca, 8 1/2.

The Washington Post news alert tells me, at 11.31 p.m., that George Michael has died. I look at the screen in disbelief. Yes, I’m sure that 1914 and 1939 were much worse than 2016 but this year just seems to be wiping out history as I knew it, taking talent away, leaving a selfish sense that yes, no matter how much you pray for time, you just see your youth disappearing.

I remember the first brand new car I ever got, a dark blue Wolkswagen Polo with a CD player that eventually got stolen. The guy at the car dealer gave me “Listen withouth prejudice” so I could drive away with music.

listen

The new baby held on until 5.30 this morning. I guess he just wanted his own day.

This was Christmas. It’s over. We don’t do Boxing Day in Portugal

 

 

 

Festive

Obsessed 

I am a walking cliché, a woman obsessed with shoes. Last time I counted, I had (have) 248 pairs of sandals, stilettos, Chuck Taylors, biker boots, ballet flats, ankle boots, platforms, wedges, brogues, kitten heels, slingbacks,pumps, Doc Martens, dance shoes, cowboy boots, peep-toes, combat boots and Mary Janes. I do not own flat moccasins and espadrilles. I find them depressing.

Although this is not in any way comparable to  the million dollar collections or to the “shoe estates” of the infamous former first lady or the famous romance novelist, I am aware that the sheer number alone is ridiculous. All the more so because I do not live in some kind of mansion  with walk in closets and custom made shelves, I live in a two bedroom apartment with tiny built in closets.I do try and make the most of the generous space available  under the bed  and have transformed my pantry into a micro walk in closet for coats and shoe boxes.

 

“And her old Uncle William used to say a lady is known by
her shoes and her gloves.”
― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

I have no original explanation for my unoriginal love of shoes. I admire their sculptural.even architectural essence, their autonomous quality.  I admire them as objects, as affordable art. My obsession did not start with Carrie Bradshaw and I’m not even a huge SAT fan. 

I still have my first pair of shoes. My mum had them bronzed. I suppose this was a “thing” back then. Or maybe there’s a hereditary explanation for my obsession. Other shoes did not survive the passing of time.

I remember having little red clogs and triple buckles mary janes and outrageous beige fringed suede boots that my fourteen year-old self thought would work with just about anything. I wore blue velvet shoes across the snow in New York to go to the opera, I have walked miles in New Orleans in bejeweled black sandals that “died” this year during a night visit to the museum of contemporary art here in Porto. I’ve walked barefoot in Johannesburg after the strap on my fancy Sergio Rossi flip flops broke. For my first paid internship I got paid in over the knee black patent leather boots. My choice.

I do not have Manolos in my collection. I have a pair of black Laboutins filed under the category “so special”. They have never been worn. Porto is one of those charming cities with cobblestone streets. Fatal for high heels. This year, for my birthday, I got gold and silver Terry de Havilland peep-toe platforms. Ziggy Stardust shoes.

I don’t know if ” good shoes take you to good places” but, even when you don’t take them anywhere, they can make you feel you could actually get wherever you want.

 Featured photo via Facebook

Back to black

I have a closet just for black clothes. I also have another one for all other mainly dark colours and reds but these never feel so true to myself as black does. I can’t remember why I started wearing just black but for a long time it felt like the most stylish and comfortable solution to the morning rush of getting dressed. Chic, sophisticated people tend to wear black,  so I’m told by a million glossy magazines, books and film imagery.  Apparently, I also tend to look smarter dressed in black.  I can always try to project the existentialist intellectual that lives in me since my teenage years. I grew up during the post-punk, Gothic 80s and have never managed to be Goth even though I still nurture a special admiration for the whole commitment that kind of aesthetics entails. Some of my most glorious errors are a nod to this sumptuous dark world.

Albeit all the experimentation and character creations around my “cinematic self”, I have never been truly convinced that my clothes could become the visible form assumed by the way I chose to define my public persona. At least not in the sort of spectacular, larger than life way I envisaged.

As a spectacular sub-culture, Goth provides a unique insight into the experience of extraordinary “self-authorship” because of the dramatic and unconventional nature of the external self-constructions of individual identity through dress and personal grooming. Whether or not you are drawn to the “dark side of the human heart”, it is almost impossible to remain indifferent to the dramatic manipulation of appearance and the fantastic narrative that accompanies Goth fashion as an illustration of the  extraordinary dimension the stories one writes for oneself can attain, allowing space for the creation of a “historic utopia” as far removed as possible from everyday life.

As superficial as it might seem, fashionable self-construction is not only about “the look”.While designing an aspirational self, fashion “props” allow the individual to construct a personal “bricolage” which gives the access to their extraordinary self via their ability to transform, and in some cases contest conventional social categories through their glamorising discourses (Thompson and Haytko, 1997). While this might not be a characteristic of the Goth subculture alone, both its cultural pervasiveness and the recurring concern with the distinction between authenticity and depth on the one hand, and a fascination with surface and performance on the other, make Gothic a postmodern archetype of “stylistic resistance”. An is this very stylistic resistance that perpetuates its fashionable allure.

Late capitalism produces the desire for an aura that is felt to be prior to or beyond commodification, for a lived authenticity to be found in privileged forms of individual expression and collective identification. For as long as goth seems to answer that desire, it will thrive as an undead subculture: forging communities on the margins of cities, suburbs, campuses and cyberspace; defying constraints on gender and sexuality; and imbuing the stuff of everyday life with the allure of stylistic resistance.

Lauren M. E. Goodlad, Michael Bibby

While Goth as a subculture has not faded away, the increasing heterogeneity in styles and fashion and a world that seems to no longer produce a coherent dominant culture or the cultural values against which resistance might be expressed, have transformed subcultural style in an ideologically vacant performance of over substance (David Muggleton, 2000). The incorporation of a subculture in mainstream society through commodification is not exclusive of Goth but its enduring resonance with contemporary fears, desires and anxieties might have exhausted itself: where once Gothic provided a space in which the dark dreams of the Enlightenment could be realized, now it simply exposes the void at the heart of an advanced consumer culture. The seemingly inescapable Gothic now functions as the perfectly protean postmodern commodity

All of the varied elements that once defined street style are now high fashion’s greatest source of inspiration. At Jun Takahashi’s Undercover and John Galliano’s Margiela in particular, they have been incorporated in dazzling and inspiring ways. But sometimes the embrace of street chic comes across as a mere flourish tacked on to spice a bourgeois brand with a bit of danger, to make a woman with a coddled existence feel a bit more in touch. It is an attempt to buy cool.

By taking the style, trends, dress, music etc of the subcultures and popularizing them so that they lose their exclusivity and gradually become mass-produced commodities made available to all, the mainstream cultural industry dilutes or annihilates specific meanings transforming authenticity in “ready to wear” commoditized lifestyles subject to the same cultural logic of “self-help narratives” and consummerism impulses. Being authentic, as La Agrado would say, does not come cheap and  you are all the more authentic the more you resemble what you have dreamed for yourself . And this is a rare gift.


References

P.S. While I am selling my 80s vintage gothic errors, a part of me is still reluctant. But then I am not sure if “Gothic Chic” is authentic in me.

Radical Authenticity

“Who is it that can tell me who I am?” 

“Our normal sensation of self is a hoax, or, at best, a temporary role that we are playing, or have been conned into playing,” Alan Watts

When I was about 10 sitting in class the girl sitting behind me pulled me back to tell me some little secret. I remember that the sudden movement made me feel dizzy and for what was probably a few seconds but felt like it would become permanent, I thought I had traveled outside myself and was experiencing whatever was happening in class from above. I think this was the first time my wild imaginative child mind came to the conclusion that I couldn’t actually be sure that reality was real.

This experience, coupled with years of being an extremely shy and introverted little girl who spent hours reading whatever books I could find and talking to all the characters that came out of all those pages, resulted in the conviction that indeed the world must be only a stage and  we have our entrances and get to play a character, sometimes even an interesting one, and we have our exits and get to seat in the audience and just watch while others dazzle or scare us or are just unable to make us feel anything with their performance.

Not that I ever read Shakespeare when I was 10. I was never that precocious.

If this was so there was also, I thought at the time, little proof of  my existence and this conviction has lead to the creation of all the different characters that have helped hide, protect and accept myself in order to keep going.  In doing so, I created a multitude of characters some of which did not even get as far enough as the dress rehearsal. Their wardrobe was ready but it never left the archival depths of countless steam trunks and old leather bags. I will have plenty of time to experiment with all that, I thought. I will just get ready for whatever or whomever it  is I might feel like playing . This delusional fantasy has resulted in an “identity superflux“.

It would have probably been easier to settle for “the desirable and permanent order of things”, to follow Polonius advice and be true to my own self, but I never managed to understand how it would be possible to be just one. Facing the plurality of the world how can it be that being singular is enough?

And then you actually Realize that even if most days you still might feel that you are 10, time has passed and there might not be enough of it to stage all the plays you have been rehearsing for. Maybe only a few of us are meant for reality but life doe manage to find all of us.

 

 

References

King Lear

Hamlet

The book of disquiet

Bizarre witnesses

If they asked me, I could probably write a book on my mistakes. Not that it would amount to a very interesting read. But then, I take a long time to admit mistakes and I am not ready to talk about most of them, let alone willing to write them down.

My “Closet of Errors” is an attempt to come to terms with some of those mistakes by honoring them as intentional, mostly because my closet is full of witnesses.

In the Summer of 1992, I went to León in Spain for a paid work placement wit immigrant communities. I used part of the money I got to buy this Junior Gaultier jacket on sale. It was a super sale. It cost me 2.500 pesetas, something like €15 today or, if you are to believe that some online vintage  listings are accurate, €500. This witness still lives in my closet. I think I bought it because it was an unmissable opportunity to own a Gaultier piece (even if it was a little too small and it makes raising my arms a tad impossible) and because, in some way, it resonated with a watching, and loving, “Little House on the Prairie” when I was a kid. I think I haven’t worn it for at least fifteen years but it is not going to be easy to let this one go.

Having grown out of “Little House on the Prairie” and after a few years studying in the UK, my next Gaultier was a nod to Punk aesthetics and an attempt to keep some kind of Britishness with me. It’s now the property of someone living in New York. I though I was ready to let it go because I was selling it someone who would love it as much as I did. I wasn’t and I have the feeling that I didn’t sell it to the right person. I never got any feedback apart from the one in my mind telling me that, even though my unworn wardrobe can be an investment with an interesting return, it’s really not about the money. It is always about the lives I have lived wearing a particular piece, the lives I planned on living when I bought some other.

I planned, or better yet, I daydreamed a lot, and, in the process, started to choose the wardrobe to go with all the fabulous things I would be and for the grandiose life I would live. I have always missed places in time that I didn’t know  and prepared for them. I dreamed of being an aristocratic bohemian in Marrakesh, a flaneur who spent the time reading books and being intellectually brilliant and aesthetically striking.

Our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless tantrum about, the lives we were unable to live. But the exemptions we suffer, whether forced or chosen, make us who we are.

Adam Phillips


I prepared myself to go live in Ibiza and lounge by the sea in never ending parties.

 I was even ready to go dancing at Studio 54.

I got ready to be a rock star wearing silver leather jackets, or maybe be a bass player for Lenny Kravitz in fringed suede pants.

I got ready for all the fantasy going around in my mind. I prepared myself for a life of eccentricity and adventure. I groomed myself to be someone else. In the process, I forgot to get ready for real life.

The witnesses to my mistakes that still live in my closet are now stories written on small papers that accompany the items I’m ready to let go or in somewhat bigger posts when they tell the stories of a life that I can’t leave behind. They are the witnesses to whom I am becoming. As Adam Phillips wisely puts it, “we share our lives with the people we have failed to be.” There’s no escaping this, “we are always haunted by the myth of our potential, of what we might have it in ourselves to be or do. So when we are not thinking, like the characters in Randall Jarrell’s poem, that “The ways we miss our lives is life,” we are grieving or regretting or resenting our failure to be ourselves as we imagine we could be. “

Coming to terms with my unlived life(s) has not been an easy process. Sometimes I get the chance to perform one of those imaginary parts for a moment and live out real scenes exactly as I imagined they would turn out. In January 2014, I dragged myself through the polar vortex and went to the opera at the Met. As I should, wearing my, never worn before or again, opera coat. I will most probably keep repeating mistakes and collecting witnesses to those repetitions.

If the unexamined life is not worth living, it’s equally true that the unlived life is not worth examining.

Parker Palmer

References

Dinah Washington,  I could write a book

Adam Phillips, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

New Order, Bizarre Love Triangle

Parker Palmer, Naropa University Commencement Address

 

 

Witness

 

My eternal to do list

One day I’ll stop watching Poirot reruns and start organizing.


I will tame  the chaos after finally putting to use hours of reading “how to declutter” posts.


I will give my closets the professional organizer treatment and end up with a curated wardrobe of classical pieces.


I will stop buying every piece of vintage luggage that crosses my path because I will not need the extra storage space anymore.


I will keep only what is necessary.


And will try to convince myself that minimalism is sexy.


I will stop trying to keep all the things my granddad used to collect.


And after I have managed to strip my life off all the frivolity , I will finally have the time to read all the books lying around.


I have never crossed any item of this to do list. Either because I’m too lazy or too busy procrastinating.


Or because I can’t force my maximalist nature to become something else and pretend I don’t find beauty in the poetry of everyday chaos.

 

 

 

The Poetry of List-Making

Things I do when procrastinating 

I’m  the worst procrastinator I know. I do write do to lists and visualize results and even tried to follow one or more of the popular productivity methods and tools out there and have read countless articles and posts on how to beat procrastination to no success.

Things linger until the last minute because “performing better under pressure” seems  to be my favourite excuse. Things get done but the end result is seldom as good as it could or should be. My flat mate at university used to say I was a “perfectionist afraid of perfection”. This was, of course, only a polite or kind way of stating the obvious. I was, and still am, a typical procrastinator. I avoid what has to be done. I put off projects and beginnings because the optimal conditions are never present, they will materialize tomorrow. Or Someday,  which, according to me, actually seems to be a weekday.

I am the kind of person that thinks I can do it all even if, at the same time, I am pretty sure that I am incapable of doing anything at all. Reading   James Surowiecki’s  article Later – What does procrastination tell us about ourselves?,  I was thrilled to discover myself in one of the paragraphs:

Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination, and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle.

Just like General McClellan, I excel at planning. Realizing – making those plans  “real” – is not something that I feel confident enough to do. I tend to get lost in the wonder of new knowledge and the beauty of concepts. This was never as evident to me as when when I needed to write my PhD thesis. I had procrastinated ( a lot) during the dreaded writing phase of my master’s dissertation but managed to bring myself to do nothing else for a whole month and finish it. After all, the only “procrastination hack” that really works it’s the “just do it” one.

To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing…

Pablo Picasso

Unfortunately it was not that simple while attempting to write a lengthy, “formal document that argues in defence of a particular thesis”. I kept changing focus and approaches and adding material to my reading list and daydreaming about doing something else. One of my plans at the time was to become a découpage artist instead of continuing up (or down) an academic career path and for a few days I devoted myself to upcycling my Aldo wedge sandals into a pair of shoes that maybe Frida Kahlo would use. I’ve never been happier about the results of my action as inaction approach.

You can check the results of my procrastination or even take them home with you, here.