Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shortstack Lightning


My friend Michele has had desks thrown at her in her former job as a New York City public school teacher, so I trust her when she tells me how a parent might handle the whole deciding-what-to-be-for-Halloween thing with a child.

“You ask, ‘What’s your dream?’” she tells me.

Groan.

No wonder I was so freakin’ confused when my mother dressed me up as Aunt Jemima when I was in 2nd grade.



Already I had issues surrounding female-ness, hating my stupid Malibu Barbie because she was blond and tan. I pulled her long, shiny hair, ripped her head off and drowned her in the bathroom sink, feeling so bad because she was at least two things I couldn’t be. One of us was the monster, and she didn’t look like she was about to ‘fess up to anything…



So you can imagine how bewildered I was when my mom stuffed a pillow under my nightgown, burnt a cork and rubbed it on my face, and handed me a bottle of maple syrup and a wooden spoon. I loved pancakes, so I definitely identified with Aunt Jemima a lot more than I did with Malibu Barbie. I can’t imagine what I must have looked like standing next to the princesses and ballerinas in my class at Most Holy Trinity. I wanted to be a ballerina or a princess, too, but it looked to me like you had to be small and graceful. Besides, breakfast was my favorite meal and I ate too much anyway, so it made some sense that I would portray an overweight lady who used food to express love. And had an unlimited supply of gooey maple syrup.

A few years later, when I did get to design my own costumes, I mixed flour and water and green food coloring and slapped it all over my face. Pretty!

And yes, I know there’s also the issues of respect and diversity. Can you imagine if some white girl came into school today dressed as Aunt Jemima? But this was the late 70s, in a conservative small town where complacence and consumerism and ignorance were BFFs, and Aunt Jemima was a fictional character you saw on commercials who made everyone feel safe and happy in carbed-out bliss. Do they still even make that brand of syrup now? And what about Mrs. Butterworth?

The thing I’m wondering is where she got the idea in the first place. Maybe that was a common costume when my mom grew up in 1940s Queens? I actually did an image search for “Aunt Jemima Halloween costume,” and check out this reveller from the 2006 West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnival:



The best part is that last February I finally got to wear my tutu, in a costume I designed for a student performance for my jazz class. It was hot pink and black, accessorized with ripped tights and a belt with silver chains and skulls. It made me really, really, really happy. And dang if tutus and crinolines—for adults, in a retro-80s sort of way—didn’t start showing up in store windows that spring.

Music to take off and put on the mask by


Friday, October 15, 2010

Are You Ready, Boots?



It’s fall, y’all! No longer do I feel like a tepid dumpling (boiled, not fried) stirred in the sticky, sweaty pot that is summer in NYC—nope, the Big Apple’s crisp and pie-eyed now, and instead of the sloppy slip-slap of flip-flops, you hear the wham-bam of boots, boots, everywhere.

I was perusing Shopbop the other day, which offers many opportunities to partake of the latest trend in bootwear—thigh-high, dark, sueded-leather. Maybe I just have to see them on, but in the product shots, all boots, no legs, they look almost inelegant, something you’d wear to go clamming. Or use as a discreet but flexible container in which to throw your pocket change. Or plant a topiary.

Nevertheless I do like this trend, but for gentlemen rather than ladies:



I’ve slobbered over Dave before, and with good reason. Who’s the first male coworker that pops into your mind? Now imagine that person wearing crotch-high boots. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, you gotta admit it’s a tough look to pull off. Thanks, Dave.

Thigh-high boots are a natural fashion fit for cats as well:



Yuppers, it’s Puss In Boots, or Le Chat Botte if you’re a French bulldog.

I can’t believe I never read Charles Perrault’s fairy tale of a devoted cat who commits all sorts of crimes just so his master (not likely they called them “pet parents” then) can bag a babe and rise to power. The best part—and here’s the lesson, as far as I’m concerned—is that he didn’t just stumble across these boots or borrow someone else’s (d’oh, they wouldn’t fit), but he asked for and received them. Magic is there for the making and taking, and that’s something I don’t ever want to forget.

One of my most magical boot stories took place during my senior year at Connecticut College. Our artist friend Katie asked a bunch of people to help her with her final project. She envisioned a variety of different performance pieces, including some meditating and chanting on stage and people in those body sacks body-rolling to whale songs. I’m making it sound hokey, but it totally wasn’t—it was screw-you fun and radical for the time and place. We ended the night dancing on stage to “We Are Family,” which sounds so lame and tame now, but trust me—for college students in the 80s, it was so reverse chic it wasn’t funny.

Anyway, me, Sheila and Danielle choreographed a piece to “These Boots Were Made for Walkin.’” (Again, very ahead of our time—this was before whatever movie made it popular again and whatever band covered it.) We wore super giant brazeers over tacky house dresses and combat boots. Our friend Sanja gamely stood on a ladder in his underwear, representing the man we were walking all over. There was shimmying and hair dryers, and our bras were stuffed with big-a** grapefruits from the dining hall. At one point we were supposed to remove them and throw them at the audience, and God love me, I was so excited to do it I threw mine on the count of 7 instead of waiting for 1.

Sorry, guys, I totally ruined our citrus surprise—my timing’s way better now, I promise. But in spite of my premature evacuation, there was definitely magic there. And Katie, I don’t know if you can hear my typing in heaven, but shit, girl, you were so ahead of your time.

Music for changin’ when you shouldn’t be samin’

The choreography and hosiery rock hard here:



How have I never heard this before?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hey, Good Lookin'


A couple of weekends ago I took a 5Rhythms workshop held at the Merce Cunningham Studio. The space was nuts—I swear it must be situated right smack at the crossroads of some cosmic ley lines; it was like the studio was a divine drug addict shooting up an endless supply of shakti. I’ve not been to many places in New York City that felt so infinite and ego-less, bigger than all the baggage its visitors might be able to carry in…including my own freakin’ wheely cart-full.

During a break I perched myself in one of the giant windowsills, where I found an important note that someone had left, oh, just about 5 years and 6 months earlier. See above—It says (sorry if my photo sucks), “I just don’t know what I’m looking for./LB 5/12/05”

Dang, LB! That is, like, a real big one. Can anyone answer that for sure?

Well, maybe if you were the person who dropped these purple drawers on West 12th street:


I passed these at least 10 times over the course of the 3-day workshop, and kept thinking I should take a picture of them (why, Pune, why?!), but I kept forgetting to bring my camera. Imagine how happy I was to find they were still there on the last day, when I finally remembered it. I’m glad I did, because this photo serves as a visual reminder that sometimes it doesn’t do much good to find what you’ve lost. I mean, if these were your underwear, would you retrieve them after they’d been lying on the sidewalk for a minimum of 3 days? Would you even trust that they were yours? (P.S. Read my friend Brenna's blog for an excellent post on underwear.)

Anyway, LB, I actually went back to my journal from May 12, 2005, to see if I was looking for something then, too. No, not really. I was happy because I got new shoes. I was writing while on the bus, and overheard a lady who “couldn’t stand the smell of tuna and said so.” It’s not like I was complacent or especially satisfied, though. “I need to get my ass in gear,” I wrote. “Which gear would that be?”

Music and video for those who hide and seek

Don’t think you’ve got the time to stop, look and listen? Just do it anyway. As Elvis says, “It’s alright with me,” and it’d probably be OK with Mary Tyler Moore, too:



Was LB looking for love, be it spiritual or carnal? Here’s what a fellow seeker sez about that:



And by the way, LB, if you still haven’t found it, maybe this little clip will help. If a mouse can dance, so can you. Me, too.