After leaving Tucson last summer, I spent the rest of 2012 willfully unemployed and drifting from coast to coast and back again. The thirst I had to peer into America’s windows had been left unquenched by the Taco Yacht‘s untimely demise, and since the sampler platter lifestyle requires nothing much besides mobility, I continued on my quest to do not much of anything in lots of different places.
Before I began a ramblin’, I had certain visions of high fashion travel. In these daydreams, I was always perfectly coifed or topped with a smart vintage cloche. My two darling little bags were light as air and held everything I could ever need.
I kept my fastidiously chosen clothing rolled in neat little complimentary hued fabric burritos to prevent wrinkles and owned one pair of the most comfortable heels ever made, which never broke and went with everything. I was always on time to catch my train. I never spilled coffee down the front of my dress or in my own shoes. My back never ached. I never got caught in a subway turnstile because of my frayed luggage or locked out of a subway turnstile with my frayed luggage inside. My daydream was dreamy.
Cut to reality. Nothing is in soft focus, unless due to smog. I, frizzy of hair and weak of arm, am running in a pair of slippery boots to catch a bus that might not be the one I need. Three of my unwieldy bags are bursting with clothing I don’t like, one is stuffed with shoes I haven’t worn in two weeks, and the needle from the sewing kit in my purse is continuously stabbing me in the hip. I call upon my spirit animal, the mule, for guidance. He does not hear me.
I’d spent months like this, stressed and exhausted and always in transit. I realized at one point that I’d been wearing the same pair of jeans and grey sweater for a week straight. I didn’t care about fashion anymore. This may sound like a frivolous non-problem, but when I use the word fashion, I don’t mean it in the consumer sense. The issue was not that I didn’t feel like shopping or perusing clothing catalogues, but that my sense of self expression was faltering. I was exhausted. I didn’t feel like creating. I didn’t feel like myself.
The problem wasn’t exhaustion, though. It wasn’t that I missed my friends or that I was carrying too many suitcases, and it wasn’t even my extreme lack of funds. Sure, these things were frustrating, but there was something else wrong, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe I just wasn’t cut out for vagabonding? Even though these aimless couchsurfing spells I’m so prone to are something I crave, I seemed to be terrible at them. I would always set out expecting to feel the freedom of the wind at my back, and instead end up filled with existential crises I couldn’t solve.
After nearly six months of ritual sacrifices to equus mulus, I decided to attempt a sort of settling down. I made it to LA, acquired three different jobs, and started spending a lot of time with my new best friend, The Bus. Now I have a guaranteed place to lay my head at night (after I spend several hours with my best friend), and I can even afford lunch sometimes! But I have to wear a uniform to work, and I’m constantly trekking from my house in Highland Park to my jobs in West Hollywood to a certain gentleman’s residence in Marina Del Rey, hefting clothes and shoes and my laptop back and forth and running to catch a bus that might not be the one I need. So not a lot has changed.
HOWEVER. Something new does seem to be happening. A stirring in my loins, if you will. (Will you? Please?)
It came upon suddenly during a rare day off last week. I was at my new house, unpacking my rediscovered decorative and literary treasures that my mother was kind enough to bring from Arizona. Surrounded once more by these relics, I felt for the first time since last Spring, a sense of calm. This room was mine. For as long as I wanted it. Mine to fill with mementos, create art in, read and play music in. The wall to wall closet was mine to fill.
I’ve finally figured out what I was lacking during my travels. It is a specific luxury, but not in the monetary sense. It is the luxury of solitude, of stillness. Of comfortably closed eyes. Though it is a thing that can be touched on in many places (on a blanket in the grass, on an evening jog), to truly be enveloped in it one must have a sanctuary. A place to be alone with complete jurisdiction over one’s surroundings. A solitary peace. Without that, how do we have the chance to reflect? To appreciate? To daydream?
Solitude is definitely attainable on the road, but room of one’s own (if I may borrow that phrase from you, Virginia), is the greatest luxury I can currently imagine. Mine may be void of furniture, my books may be stacked on the floor, I may be sleeping on nothing but a folded in half memory foam pad, but I feel a calmness there. I finally have a place to set down those heavy, frayed bags at the end of the day. And that is nothing short of heaven.
I write this as a tribute to the Atlantic City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. My thoughts are with the East Coasters I love, those whose magic paths I crossed, those strangers whose eyes have ever absently caught mine for a brief still moment, those Alley Cat Allies cats who live under the boardwalk.
Atlantic City and I have always had an unspoken romance.
And one sided.
But after twenty-nine years of daydreaming, I awoke October 20th in a cushy queen bed in the Trump Plaza Hotel with a mighty hangover and fuzzy neon memories of the night before, of Atlantic City’s seedy streets unobscured by an underbelly.
Amber and I had ventured into the World’s Favorite Playground the evening before. On the drive I told her of my unfounded longing for AC, spurred only by an early childhood love of the song Under the Boardwalk by The Drifters.
It’s such a lazy summer song, but the tone in the chorus sounds like a warning.
UNDER THE BOARDWALK.
It sounds dangerous, like a gang straight out of The Outsiders is standing waiting for you, and as you approach, they all draw their switchblades in time to the word “WALK”. Either that or a shark’s fin is circling you in the sand.
But really, the song isn’t about much. You’re out of the sun, having some fun, and making love while tourists walk overhead, which I suppose is dangerous in its own way. I always loved the simplicity of the scene it evoked, and saw it in pastels. A girl in gingham, eyes closed, lips parted. Her hair in perfect pin curls. Her lover is tanned, handsome. Tiny stripes of sunlight from between the boards above them dash across bare skin. They are holding their poses like mannequins, softly awaiting a directive that will allow them to resume their caresses. But this is my daydream, and I want to pause it here for eternity, let nothing change, let these lovers never part, let the sun never set.
So basically I figured that in Atlantic City, it is always the 1950’s.
This assumption, I’m afraid, faded upon our arrival. We piped the song via youtube through the car stereo on repeat, 2012ing the shit out of it as we pulled into one of the multilevel parking structures at Trump Plaza.
What followed was several hours of sensory overload: a flurry of flashing lights, dings rings and bells, cheap drinks, free drinks, giant buddhas, racist slot machines, hot wings, felafels, more drinks, walls of dollar bills, fountains, strippers, and so much more.
As we walked arm in arm down a windy street, a gentleman suggested his friend “get those girls”, to which his friend replied, “Dude, I don’t have any money.”
I had a secondary modern daydream of winning big on the penny slots, maybe buying us a couple of diamond rings, but alas, at our best we cashed out with $.04.
So upon waking the next morning, I resigned myself to the fact that Atlantic City’s boardwalk is, just as I was told, a quainter Vegas with a real beach. At least now I knew. At least I was no longer living a lie.
We made our way down to the hotel pool, where we swam and discussed Singing in the Rain and the nature of love vs. self-preservation. At some point during this conversation, it became the 1980’s and we smoked imaginary Virginia Slims as we gazed out at the ocean through the floor to ceiling windows.
We glanced around and decided it was the 1920’s as well.
Venturing out onto the boardwalk in the October sun only fed our time travel greed, and by the time we made our way under the boardwalk to snap some photos, the fact that we were youtubing the song again was inconsequential, as the 50’s had overtaken me. A singular iPhone was no match for this desaturated seaside dreamland.
As if to show us we were doing something right, the song came on of it’s own accord minutes later, streaming through the House of Blues speakers as we stood beneath them, and I soaked up my little present from the universe. Not a week later, a Spanish-language version blessed my ears in a NYC taqueria, and last night in Marina del Rey, CA, a live band played the song as the reunited Taco Yacht Pleasure Crew gobbled down several metric tons of seafood.
Yep, I finally made it to LA. And as long as The Drifters surprise serenade me weekly, I’m going to assume that I’m right where I should be.
You, dear reader, must of course be familiar with Amber’s wanderlust. She’s been to (and lived in) an absolutely disgusting number of places, places that take on only the most movie-cliched cartoonish appearance in my daydreams, with a few unlikely details added, courtesy of my strange imagination.
Q&A With Myself Q: What’s Chicago like, Jamaica?
A: Everything has a silvery-gray tint to it, and everybody stays inside except for one attractive couple, who may or may not be Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston circa 2006, walking everywhere montage-style, holding hands and smiling at each other without speaking. The montage soundtrack is just the sound of wind.
Ok, so I know nothing about Chicago, but that’s not to say I haven’t traveled at all. I’ve been to some choice North American locales: New York, New Orleans, Miami, Vancouver, Puerto Penasco in Mexico, and pretty much everywhere in California…I even made it to London a few years ago. But apart from a few trips to Los Angeles, I haven’t gone ANYWHERE in the last two years. Which is why, friends, I am beyond excited to join Amber, her man and her man’s main man for a long anticipated cross country voyage from North Carolina to LA next month!
Q: What do you mean “voyage”, Jamaica? Do you actually think there is a body of water that stretches across the states? I know you haven’t been to the middle of the country, but I can assure you that it is indeed made of land. You did make it through grade school, didn’t you?
A: Don’t get haughty, get yacht-y! Our vehicle of choice is a transformed 70’s taco truck that has been formally christened “The Taco Yacht”. See below:
Besides the obvious value the paint job lends, I especially like the crown detail over the door (actually a rock-climbing practice implement), and how the front end has the profile of Mickey Rourke. And notice how little space it takes up in a normal parking spot? Can you say cozy? I also think I spy a ladder up the back for easy roof access (that’s what she said…?), so I imagine many a Midwestern sunset viewing in my immediate future.
Q: Immediate, huh?
A: Well, we embark toward our departure point in Jacksonville, NC on June 6th after meeting at the Phoenix airport. At the bar, of course. From Jacksonville we have a loose route “planned” through Nashville, Chicago, Omaha, Salt Lake City, Lincoln CA, then down the coast to Los Angeles.
Q: So this is a fashion blog, right? Aren’t you going to ramble on about what you’re bringing with you, or…?
A: I’ve already set aside most of my intended wardrobe, since I’m moving out of my house and into, well, I don’t know yet. I’m winging it this summer.
Q: That sounds very irresponsible.
A: That wasn’t even a question. Look, I’ve got it all under control, okay?
Q: You answered my statement with a question.
A: That wasn’t a question either! We’re getting off-topic. Where were we? Wardrobe!
As you all know, I’ve been extremely fond of chiffon lately. Chiffond? So first I’ll be packing several breezy tanks. This will be great for variety because I can easily change my look by putting on a different undergarment! You don’t get sick of looking through a car window, do you? Sure, the glass is always there, but the scenery changes! In this scenario, if my shirt is the glass and the scenery is my bra, then my skin underneath must be the universe as a spinning cd encompassing everyone’s beliefs and making them all true or whatever that skeezy mustachioed dude at the bar a couple of weeks ago was saying to try and impress me at the cost of his own profundity.
Q: Who’s off-topic now?
A: I apologize. I promise to post my packing list when departure is imminent, but for now I still have a rather daydreamy vision of the trip ahead. It normally would be as vague and absurd as my Chicago fantasy, but thanks to the internet, we’ve been able to research such roadside attractions as the impossibly racist sounding Pedroland Park and the fancy astroturf and pvc pipe detailing at Spencer’s Hot Springs, along with various state parks, weird shrines, and OMG SO MUCH THRIFTING.
Think of it as the sequel to the Painfully Hip Road Trip:
PHRT2: Return to the Revenge of the Mysterious Curse of Thriftown USA
You read that right. More plot twists than I have conversations with myself.
To say this month so far has left me over-stimulated would be a massive understatement. It’s gotten to the point where if a unicorn waltzed up to me in a pair of vintage YSL pumps and started doing a shockingly accurate Philip Seymour Hoffman impression, I would say, “Yeah, that looks about right” and then take a nap. So woosh, just like that, my friend Nico invites me to his ‘rents empty beach house in San Diego for some R&R. “I am so there, I’m already there,” I say. I’m in desperate need of some ME time.
It’s been decided. I’ve found 3 of my most favorite (and most comfortable) swimsuits to date in the last few months. So I took it as a sign that I should go ahead and spend one month this Autumn on the island of Oahu, land of coconut breezes, misty rainforests, overpriced milk, and my favorite gay couple. So I’ll definitely be putting my swimsuits (here is the first) to great use, since lounging on the beach eating stolen coconuts with Bradley will be all I can afford to do.
I am beginning to be mildly over the tribal print trend, but it’ll be totally be a go in swimwear for at least the rest of the year. Perhaps the colors are a little, “Body Glove SS1994″ but I’m having this total mid-90s throwback phase right now and I think I like it. This monokini can give me an awkward tanline anytime. It fits well, stays put, and, get this: you don’t have to peel the whole thing off when you need to pee!
Have you ever purchased a garment that managed to change your entire outlook on life? A garment so wearable, functional, comfortable and versatile, you can barely bring yourself to remove it? I went from moving myself to the desert, in denial that temperatures below 40F exist, to hanging out in Iceland and Lithuania in late fall for fun and not even bothering to complain about the weather. This little coat by Merrell is responsible.
This is me after being stranded overnight in a heinous snowstorm in a convertible with no heater. I am not even kidding. Yes, I may look a tad bit FRAZZLED, but I am miraculously ALIVE.
It’s not just the cute toggle buttons that make this coat amazing. It is the warmest thing I’ve ever sported, but it is also breathable, and compact enough to fit in my backpack or drape over my bag while shopping. It has deep, numerous and hidden pockets for passports, bicycle keys, train tickets and stolen pub coasters. It even looked chic with the $14 mall dress I bought at the mall to meet a Lithuanian president in.
I am in love. Copenhageners say that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. I am starting to believe them.
Know what else I was a genius for bringing to Europe? These little numbers from MustHaveShoes:
Supplemented with some amazing arch supports (from Foot Petals), these boots were perfect for miles and miles of walking. They were warm, but low profile in the suitcase, gave me jusssst enough height to feel slightly more Giselle-like but still be comfortable, and melded seamlessly with every outfit I brought.
What is the best thing you ever packed for a delightfully impractical vacation?
So it turns out I love taking photos of strangers in adorable outfits after sufficient Heineken intake. The following were taken at the Mount Kimbie show at Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavik.
I’m currently inhabiting Copenhagen, Denmark, land of my family heritage for the first time. A big thank you to Johan, Vivian, Stephen, June and Julie for making me feel right at home here. Copenhageners have fantastic style in dressing and, most importantly, in being awesome.
I think I left my brain in Reykjavik, but I’m attempting to write anyhow. PHEW! Read on, if you please, it has been quite the adventure thus far.
I’m terribly sorry its been awhile since my last update, but you would not believe the trouble I’ve been getting into. You’ll have to excuse the length of this post, as we have a lot of catching up to do! At the end of September, I moved out of my apartment, sold all my stuff at like four rummage sales, and drove off into the sunset. Literally… my bestie, Abraham and I started off my 2 month long journey in a rickety old Volvo without AC driving toward the sun to Los Angeles on the hottest day in its recorded history (115 degrees to be exact). I think it was symbolic or something.
In Los Angeles, on a much nicer day, I did an awesome shoot with the adorable and talented Nicole Hill. The next day we made a sweet stop in the beauteous Santa Barbara and the legendary La Supa Rica Taco Stand. With a bellyful of queso ambrosia, we made our way through the foggy cliffs to the gnarly, dusty dirtroad hills of San Simeon, where our lowly rental Hyundai proceeded to get lost (on our way to a friends’ addressless address). But after some spontaneous car camping, our achey bodies awoke to be offered chicory coffee, bacon, eggs, and a melty cliffside soak in a flame-heated cast-iron bathtub overlooking morning ocean fog.
After some quick but heavy stops in Big Sur, Santa Cruz and Carmel-by-the-Sea, we arrived safely and with relief in stunning San Francisco. A very good friend put us in his cozy murphy bed to prepare our road-weary bodies for a romp around The Haight, Golden Gate Park and a hike up Telegraph Hill. When we returned to our rental after five hours, we found it towed to the tune of $475 for a very slight overlap of a curmudgeon-owned driveway. OUCH. There went our already too measly travel budget.
Not to be defeated, we kept on keeping on. Luckily my sister, her husband and my ambrosial nephew were happy to see us in Sacramento, where we laid low and saved up our resources for a week. From there we flew to Seattle to stay in the hippest apartment in the PNW, with my dear high school friend David and his incredibly welcoming beau, Charles. They put us up in their cozy, Versailles-worthy living room, fed the shit out of us, bought us expensive drinks at a bar straight out of Mad Men, and saw Abraham off to British Columbia and me off to Reykjavik.
Reykjavik! I said goddamn. Nevermind the remarkable architecture, the stunning, hipper-than-thou women (every venue felt like a modeling convention, I kid you not) and the genetically perfect men (who I assume must all share the same talent for kissing via the liquefying way they coo their consonants… unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to sample them all), the mysterious light, and the otherwordly landscape…
The Iceland Airwaves Music Festival alone is worth all the jetlag, chilly wet weather, unpronounceable street names, and undrinkable beers in the world.
Bands of note that broke my brain with their sheer proximity: The Antlers, Junip (I was drunk enough on Heineken to think it was a good idea to climb on stage with them, which, astonishingly, no one seemed to mind), and Dan Deacon. Also? Every Icelander must be born with an instrument in his hand. Amazing.
On our last day in Reykjavik, my dear librarian friend, Barrie was too jetlagged to use her pre-paid horse-riding excursion, so miracle of miracles, she let me go in her stead (steed?)! So I had a very special day galloping through some very special lava fields on a very special breed of Icelandic horse in some very special freezing rain. Apparently, I must have packed an extra brain to blow.
If you need a higher visual/blathering ratio, here’s a slideshow for you: Hit the full screen button in the bottom right corner of the player to zoom.
I am now in Copenhagen, but have yet to see any sights as I have been forced to be tethered to my computer with work stuffs all day. Not complaining though! Tomorrow holds a long walk to through a botanical garden and to check out David Lynch’s paintings at the GL Strand Gallery. Huzzah!
I got a wild hair and changed my mind in the last couple of days, so the rest of my itinerary looks like this:
Oct 18: Copenhagen, Denmark
Oct 26: Berlin, Germany
Nov 5: Vilnius, Lithuania
Nov 11: Brussels, Belgium
Nov 17: Antwerp, Belgium
Nov 18: London, UK
Nov 22: San Francisco, CA
If you’d like to keep up with my blundering escapades in real time, follow me on Facebook.
Tomorrow! Photos of stylish Europe-dwellers. WEE!!!