Now I feel vibrant in black.
From Skagway, Alaska to Apache Junction, Arizona, Los Angeles, New York, Londonderry in Northern Ireland, Arnatveit in Norway, New South Wales Australia and beyond. My stories and errors have travelled further than what I have in 2015.
Heartbreaking pasts and unchanged futures
2046 is one of my favorite movies of all times. It’s beautifully photographed, the wardrobe is divine and it leaves you with a permanent sense of longing and missing the future. I bought this dress on eBay and I was totally convinced that I could attain the sort of elusive elegance portrayed by Wong Kar Wai.
I’m not a movie critic of any sorts and even though I spend a lot of my time watching movies, I related to them primarily through an aesthetic involvement, I want to get lost in them. This particular movie mirrors what seems to be my most pervasive attitude towards life. Somewhat aimless, seldom focused on the outcomes, but always looking forward and enjoying the journey.
Is a dress that important? Having been on stage (not metaphorically) more than once, nothing makes me more aware of the character than the wardrobe that lets me understand what story I’m supposed to be telling.
On the other, the metaphorical stage, having the right props for the day’s performance always seemed to be the most enjoyable way of making the journey., transforming ordinary activities into moments of filmic fleeting beauty.
Every passenger who goes to 2046 has the same intention. They want to recapture lost memories because nothing ever changes in 2046. Nobody knows if that’s true because nobody’s ever come back.
My favorite travel souvenirs are vintage clothes. Every time I travel I try to make a list of vintage stores to check in the city I’m visiting.
This House of Branell dress was not bought on a trip but because of a trip. Mainly. I also have a soft spot for gold lurex and could not resist the fact that I could own a dress by the same designer house responsible for Grace Kelly’s engagement dress. I used to be a big fan of Princess Grace when I was a kid, I still recall my eleven year old self writing a diary entry on the car crash that killed her because I felt truly sad about her death.
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Buy Royally Engaged – 1970s gold lurex shirt dress by House of Branell
The main reason why I bought this dress was that this is a House of Branell for Gus Mayer dress. Founded in 1900, the original Gus Mayer department store was located on the corner of Canal and Carandolet Streets in New Orleans. I think the building now houses a CVS pharmacy where I bought a purple umbrella in August 2012.
New Orleans was one of those “bucket lists” trips; I dreamt of going, I fantasized about living there and riding streetcars up and down said Canal Street and finally made it there on a spur of the moment unplanned week long vacation thanks to last minute deals on airfares and booking.com. I still have to make it both to Mardi Gras and the Jazz Festival ( my bucket lists keep growing).
I was in New Orleans in August and that probably explains why I managed to stay at the Royal Sonesta for a fraction of the normal price; not everyone enjoys extreme heat and humidity which seems to be my favorite kind of weather. Still, for a week, I enjoyed New Orleans on my own, which undoubtedly contributed to a very intense and emotional experience of the city, I was even serenaded by Jay-Ray & Gee who sang Chuck Berry’s Nadine to me on Royal Street in the rain, just after I bought the purple umbrella.
Everything I experienced during that week, from daydreaming at Maskarade, to walking the corridor to Preservation Hall, to the aftermaths of Katrina in the form of an exhibition at The Presbytère, to entering William Faulkner’s house, to the beignets at Café du Monde, to the cooking lesson and cemetery tour and the very special music tour with a group of tour guides, to the delightful accent and politeness of everyone I met to the simple fact that “going home” for a whole week meant heading to 300 Bourbon Street, all this made me buy a gold lurex dress.
In a way, it embodies all the feelings of longing to go back and the wild plans of ditching normal life and reinventing myself as an apprentice voodoo priestess or a sultry Jazz singer and having my own luxurious fern covered balcony.
Time to let it go because, as with so many of my errors, it does not fit me as gloriously as it will a curvier lady.
Gus Mayer photo via Louisiana Digital Library; all other photos are my own
Ms. Berta used to own an antique / vintage store at Galerias Lumière in Porto. Now reborn into a beautifully retro gourmet, design space quoted on most
tourist and “what to do in Porto” guides, these galleries opened in 1978 as one of the first shopping centers in Porto. Most of us growing up in the 80s remember the space as a movie theater with two cinema rooms (A and L). The cinemas closed down in 1997 and are now a parking lot, others businesses, like the store that sold all sorts of collectibles from coins to stamps to postcards and pocket calendars slowly died.
I started going to Ms. Berta’s store when I was in high school, which means I was mostly a window shopper kind of client until I built up the courage to get in and graduate into the browser / snooper kind. I was fascinated by the antique jewelry and lace gloves but the first thing a managed to buy from her was a 1960s handbag that I still own. This coral beaded jersey was bought on the last month or so before Ms. Berta closed her shop for good. I remember the day, I remember fragments of the conversation and that she had a friend and her grandson with her. Sadly I don’t remember the exact date. This was the first time I understood buying vintage clothes as creating bonds. It was her jersey. She had had it made for her and was letting it go. A piece of someone’s story that, unfortunately, faits a little too big on me. I’m also ready to let it go.
Sometimes you don’t need to go anywhere to travel
One of the most fascinating things about selling online is imagining the places where the people that have bought my clothes live and what kind of story is the one they are writing for themselves. I do not stalk my clients and actually have no idea of who they are apart from their name and address. In my mind what could or should be a simple commercial transaction, it’s like making a new friend. After all, someone is going to receive a little paragraph of my personal story.
Last week I sold my Versace Jeans “commedia dell’arte” shirt, it was part of my loud, take it all in, coming of age in the 1990s. It should, by now, have arrived in Apache Junction, Arizona. A full week of obsessing about this new wonderful name, of trying to picture what it must be like to live in this geometric promise in the shape of a city nested at the base of a Mountain called Superstition. For someone living in a small country, in a city where houses seem to support each other so they don’t collapse, the allure of the vast and harsh American West exerts all kinds of dreams of freedom by the way of shedding all constraints of a somewhat constrained life in a place that sometimes feels like a small box rather than a city.
The simple act of wrapping a shirt, getting it ready to be posted has triggered all these images of free space where the sky is as close to you as the ground beneath your feet, it has made me imagine what it would be like to drive down Superstition Boulevard and end up somehow at the Barleens Arizona Opry. My commedia dell’arte shirt is having a new life on a stage that in my mid is as grand and dramatic as it deserves.
I told this story to a friend and she said that it must a be sign of where I need to go next…
1- Elvis memorial chapel
2- shirt detail: mine
3- Superstition Mtn. (public domain) 1970s
DeGrazia Foundation, Reggie Russell, Buehman, Dick Frontain, Thomas Galvin
4- Welcome to Silly park by Xnatedawgx
When I was a kid I wanted to be an archeologist. Because of this I spent hours improvising excavation sites with sofa cushions in my father’s office and fantasizing about going to Egypt, while my apparent natural vocation was nurtured by history books I was not old enough to understand. I did not become some sort of post modern female Indiana Jones (Lara Croft had not been created) but finally made it to Egypt for work (totally unrelated to my childhood fantasies) in 2008.
I was in Alexandria for a conference for four days feeling as excited as the kid who had fantasies of breakthrough discoveries that would forever alter the understanding of history. I did discover a common history and felt small, humbled, ecstatic and privileged for having the opportunity to walk to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina every day, to wander inside, to imagine how the Ancient Library of Alexandria might have looked, to stare in awe at full reading rooms and the bookcases still longing to be filled.
Apart form a small bronze Egyptian cat statue, this was my only souvenir, I don’t even know what happened to the photos I took (I do tend to loose digital photos) but when I found this caftan yesterday, I’ve realized I don’t actually need the photos, I can still feel the incessant wind and the warmth and the blue, I can still remember talking to three small kids who wanted to have friends in different parts of the world. Better than a photo and it sure beats a magnet.