Monday, June 24, 2013

Culture Potato

Is it possible to increase the amount of adventure, exoticism and sophistication in your life while barely stirring from a supine position?

Why yes it is.

On June 7th, I handed in my manuscript to my editor at Random House and lay down to rest my eyes. When I sat back up, it was two weeks later. 

Below, five culture-enhancing things I discovered during my experiment with sloth that require little or no energy expenditure whatsoever:

1. Bellocq tea (HERE).

 You can buy it online (unless you live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn or Los Angeles - they just opened a tea atelier at the Restoration Hardware in West Hollywood).  For me, the real cult appeal lies in their exotic blended teas, so fragrant and steeped in history and meaning. If you are a fan of French teahouse Mariage Frères, then you are in for a treat with Bellocq.

Just listen to these descriptions:

No. 12, Le Hammeau -- in their words, "Manon of the Spring meets Marie Antoinette after a stroll through l'Orangerie." 
Lemongrass, verbena, rose petals, lavender, mint, sage.

No. 40, Charleston -- created for "the cultivated yet bohemian spirit of the magnificent gardens at Charleston, the country residence of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant."
Ceylon black tea, red poppy petals, chamomile, lavender, blue cornflower petals, natural floral essence. 

No., 52, L'Etoile de l'Inde -- inspired by "barefoot late afternoon monsoon showers."
Dragonwell, jasmine silver needles, petals of passionfruit, rose, marigold.

And how can anyone resist No. 42, Little Dickens, a chocolate-kissed Rooibos blend with soothing mint and cinnamon for children (and adults too)?

2. André Leon Talley on Youtube (HERE).

I love Vogue fashion editor André Leon Talley. His swiftness with a bon mot, his predilection for wearing capes and robes that require the yardage of curtains, and his unapologetic eccentricity make him a near-mythical figure to me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Well, did you know that last month he spoke to a roomful of Oxford undergraduates about his life and legendary adventures with Diana Vreeland, Andy Warhol, Halston and all those crazy nights at Studio 54?

Oh yes he did.

3. Trader Joe's Beurre Meunière Popcorn (HERE).
(Okay, this one's a stretch, but here I go.) 

It's the popcorn of Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau and Ernest Hemingway -- or so I like to tell myself. With its distinctive Gallic taste of brown butter, lemon, parsley and thyme, it's la belle France in a bag. Try to restrain yourself to one serving. D'accord?

(Trader Joe's Popcorn Beurre Meuniére HERE.)

4. Brasil '65 with Wanda de Sah and the Sergio Mendes Trio (HERE).

Because the sultry jazz-funk beats of the Sergio Mendes Trio will lessen the pain of summer humidity. Because even though you probably don't speak Portuguese, Wanda de Sah's emphatic croonings tell you all you need to know about life and love. Because music is sonic architecture and listening to it makes your brain cells dance.

Yes, the entire magazine is fantastic, but it's the countless person-to-person interviews with writers like Ernest Hemingway, Rebecca West, P. G. Wodehouse and countless others that are really the precious gift. 

Read them to get for style inspiration on getting old:

"Her hair was white and short; she wore beautiful rings. She was wearing a bright and patterned caftan when we first met, a loose blouse over trousers the second time." (From Rebecca West's 1981 interview)

Read them for tips on decorating:

"At the far end of the room is an armoire with a leopard skin draped across the top. The other walls are lined with white-painted bookcases from which books overflow to the floor." (From Ernest Hemingway's 1958 interview)

"A spacious and high-ceilinged room, furnished in the Edwardian taste. One’s attention is caught by a massive carved wooden mantelpiece of elaborate structure holding blue china in its niches." (From E. M. Forster's 1953 interview)

Heck, read them for sheer joy:

Interviewer: Do you have any definite projects or ideas for the future?
Truman Capote: Controlled extravagance.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Large Was His Bounty, and His Soul Sincere*

(Lisa Borgnes Giramonti, 6/19/13. Artwork made on computer with Bamboo Splash.)

*Title taken from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray, 1751.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Are You Brave Enough to Fail?

  “They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed
that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.
They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable,
nor did they really talk about it being excruciating.
They just talked about it being necessary.”

~Brené Brown, from her Ted Talk,
The Power of Vulnerability

(watch it HERE)

(Virginia Woolf at Monks House, her home in Sussex, England, undated. Via.)

Vulnerability is the key to everything.

It's being willing to let go of who you think you should be and be who you are.

It's putting yourself out there.
Despite the odds.
Despite the discomfort.
And despite the voice in your head.

It's doing what scares you not because the process is necessarily enjoyable  (It's hard. I'm tired. I don't know how. They'll say no.) but because you don't want to leave this earth not having tried.

It's being brave enough to fail.

On Saturday I went to a memorial service for a neighbor. He was 91 years young and had a great life. One by one, his oldest and dearest friends stood up and gave the most beautiful, heartfelt and erudite speeches. I sat in the back and felt this growing nagging feeling that I should go up there and say something too. Because he was the coolest guy. He knew everything. He'd been everywhere. The week before he died, he was studying German verbs and advanced physics for fun. 

But I hadn't prepared anything. And speaking in public makes me nervous. Because who I want to be isn't necessarily who I am.

Writing from your sweet spot is one thing. You can edit. You can delete. You can go over every word with a fine-tooth comb. Speaking from your sweet spot is entirely another.

So I sat there. 
And sat there.
And my heart was pounding.

And then finally when it was asked if anyone else wanted to speak, I raised my hand few inches and somebody saw it. So I went up to the podium.

And I was super nervous but I took a deep breath and plunged ahead. And I stumbled over my words a few times but thought of how much I admired Oliver and kept going. And I told a couple of stories about how funny and brilliant he was and how proud he was of his three children and how much I was going to miss just sitting in his kitchen listening to him. 

I think I got my point across. I hope so.

And then last night I discovered Brené Brown's TED talk. (If you have time, watch it. It's really that good.)

My admiration for my friend Oliver gave me the courage to be vulnerable.

What about you?
Is there anything you're brave enough to fail at? 
If you're lucky, there is.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin