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.
Homeless, aimless and unemployed, I appear to be in gypsy mode once again. But that doesn’t mean I’m going go overboard with baubles (overbauble?) and dress like a schizophrenic costume shop refugee a like I did in 2009. This time I’m taking the high road (well, only clothing-wise. The low road has WAY better bars).
For the past six months or so, I’ve cooled it with my accessory obsession (obsessory? accession?) (sorry) (not sorry) and stuck to a look comprised mostly of dresses and shoes. There is a get-up-and-go simplicity about it, and it’s given me the opportunity to downsize my wardrobe into a travel-friendly two-bag affair. However, I seem to have only collected a variety of short floral dresses and cowboy boots and now I look like I’m wearing a Jamaica costume.
Something must be done, lest I end up an action figure. I can see it now: a displeased plastic frown from juggling my miniature suitcases while trying to find my tiny boarding pass. My haircut comes pre-experimented on by little kid scissors, and if you look in my luggage, there are seven more outfits exactly like the one I’m wearing.
I have approximately one more month in Tucson before I’m truly floating in the wind. Now is the time for reinvention! So stylistically, I’ve decided to embrace the vagabond life in a Kathleen-Turner-in Body-Heat homage to the 1930’s via the 1980’s.
Confused? Good. So am I.
Whilst thrifting in Flagstaff, AZ with my mom, I came across this pattern:
The masculine/feminine silhouette balance and the monochrome simplicity made me weak at the knees, and better yet, this (view B) is one of those easily thriftable looks. A pair of high rise pleated pants can be easily made into shorts with minimal sewing skills. Just cut a couple of inches longer than intended, then roll up, tack down and press. Wear with a brown belt over a simple silk tank and then throw on one of those ubiquitous oversized white button downs and roll up the sleeves. Top with a wide brimmed hat or a pair of big earrings, adopt a breathy voice, and you’ll win/break the heart of almost every character ever portrayed by Michael Douglas.
Want to embody a modern, monochrome Carmen Sandiego, but avoid the Polly Esther Fabrique? If you’re not me, you could try the actual high road and achieve this look with new clothes!
above photos via fashion gone rogue
And if you want to get just crazy high on the high road (at least as far as scoring points with yours truly is concerned), be sure to check out what may very well be my last Tucson fashion show on July 20th. The theme of the night is “future primitive”, and even though I appear to be doing “vintage modern”, I’m sure I can rationalize it all somehow. In keeping with my current approach toward life in general, the best plan is…no plan?
I wonder how I’ll manage to pull this one off.
Alas! Catastrophe has struck, wholly and without mercy.
Amber and I have been forced to abandon ship and fly home.
Our darling Taco Yacht is still being held hostage in Satan’s Transmission Shop. We’ve had to crash in various cheap motels and camp in leaky tents during Bible Belt downpours. We’ve been taken in by distant relatives and sustained ourselves on beans and rice and cheap beer.
Somehow we managed to preserve most of our dignity, in the form of wardrobes that oddly caused the locals to assume we were foreigners. (Last week a helpful forest ranger directed us to a campsite that “never gets overcrowded, even on the Fourth of–our holidays”.)
As Morale Officer, I tried to keep spirits high by pointing out the bright side of any given situation, beginning every other sentence with, “Well, at least” but as the days flew by and we hovered there as Smoky Mountain ghosts, the open road seemed further and further out of our spectral grasp.
Finally we received word that two weeks later, the yacht still had another week in “repair”. With dwindling savings and heavy hearts, our gentlemen sent us off to safety as they prepared to face whatever lay ahead.
And what lay ahead, you ask? What lay ahead two hours after Amber and I said our goodbyes at the airport in Nashville?
THE YACHT WILL BE FIXED THIS AFTERNOON. That’s right. It seems that Lucifer’s Trannies is only able to fix your vehicle by the time it could be considered bad news. It’s possible, of course, that the old myth of women being bad luck aboard ships is true. Or perhaps the Taco Yacht was jealous of us? Or perhaps Rian and Ryan meticulously planned every detail of this fiasco in order to finally star in their own buddy comedy, and Amber and I somehow missed the little winks they exchanged as everything fell into place? We may never know.
As I look back on our humble beginnings, I remember the hope we once had, the glorious optimism. It seems ages ago that we dipped our toes in the Atlantic. I was a different girl then.
But there’s no point in belaboring broken dreams. Onward and upward, as they say. Now to figure out what do do with my homeless self back in Arizona. Receive it!
We have reached (hopefully) our last day of being stranded in Pigeon Forge, TN. Our darling little Taco Yacht has been in the hospital (a field full of broken down vehicles next to a warehouse) getting her transmission replaced for the last four days. Two days before that, we had decided to take a two night driving break at a friend’s rented cabin, completely unaware that the Smoky Mountains were plotting to envelop us for an entire week.
Of course we are making the best of it, thanks to a series of absurd events. Within an hour of becoming yachtless, we were offered discount tickets to Dollywood by a sweet waitress at a BBQ joint.
This resulted in my finally losing my rollercoaster virginity and afterward being able to see the unfortunate expression I will make the exact moment I know my life is ending. My death face is, thank god, forever lost in the Dollywood Database of Horrified Expressions. The only way to see it would be to kill me.
After three days in Baptist Vegas, we decided to escape briefly.
I’m wearing Amber’s amazing Montecristo Sun Hat, a four dollar swimsuit coverup from H&M as a dress, and my favorite comfy lace up boots from St Vincent de Paul in Tucson. Amber is glowing in my Buffalo Exchange dress, Gentle Souls sandals, a vintage necklace thrifted from Phoenix, AZ and the glorious Traveler Hat.
We procured a rental car and drove into Smoky Mountain National Park to reach the highest point in Tennessee. Then we realized we had driven back into North Carolina. That’s right, folks. Over a week on the road and we’re barely a state over. The view from the top was beyond spectacular
All in all, Pigeon Forge isn’t the worst place to be stranded. There is endless entertainment if you’re willing to spend the cash to experience something as awe-full as the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride or the life size replica of the Titanic. Gatlinburg, the next town over, has proved to be much more varied (they can serve booze here) and down-homey. I’m currently drinking too much coffee in a cutesy little shopping center, and was just about to explain how Gatlinburg seems to have a little more heart and might be a little less conservative than it’s neighbors, and then I looked up and saw a confederate flag in the window of the shop next door. It’s definitely time to make our way north. Next up, Kentucky.
Amber and I have so much to catch you up on, we decided to hunker down in this CABIN MANSION we happen to suddenly be staying in and write half a post before more unexpected events occur.
First off, let me try and express our surroundings to you in mere words. I’m sitting in a cozy plaid armchair in the living room of a 100% pine (not exaggerating here, floor, walls, ceiling, cabinets, the inside of my eyelids) three story cabin with a hot tub on one of the decks which overlooks practically the entire state of Tennessee. And considering the number of miraculous and absurd events that have taken place since we began this journey five days ago, when I look up and see a rainbow glowing in the afternoon light of the Smoky Mountains, it seems almost…normal.
I’m certainly not trying to imply that everything has been easy. Far from it. The Taco Yacht hails from 1971, so of course we were expecting a few mechanical problems along the way, but two weeks before setting sail, the engine blew a head gasket. For a brief and terrifying time we thought the trip was a bust, but some magnificent captaining got her back in action just in time.
After that, we thought everything was going to be relatively smooth sailing, but then something happened that made us stop using nautical puns. Amber’s little brother Nik had been suffering from what seemed to be depression for a long time, and then less than a week before departure, she got a call that he had been misdiagnosed. Nik had a brain tumor and was going into emergency surgery. Amber and Rian drove to Sacramento in the middle of the night, arriving at Mercy San Juan Hospital just in time to get miraculous news from the surgeon: Everything went better than they thought possible. By the next day, he was awake and responsive, and just two days later, Nik was sitting up, making jokes, and eating full meals! Thanks to a skilled surgeon and a vigilant, courageous orderly named Chinwe, Nik is currently recuperating at home, only a little over a week after his life saving surgery.
The trip has been officially dedicated to Nik. Hopefully he’ll be well enough upon our return to join us in LA for the most triumphant 4th of July since 1776.
Truly, life is short. We know this, but we still get caught up in our little dramas, in our routines. We forget. We deprive ourselves. We waste hours on Facebook. In that vein, the Taco Yacht Pleasure Cruise has a very specific assignment: LIVE. We have all agreed that for the duration of this trip, we will eat the best food, drink the best beer and make the best (the worst) puns ever.
And if “truly living” means getting stranded just outside of Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for a week, so be it. A full update is coming your way tonight. Until then, hopefully this will keep you satiated:
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.
Q: What are you implying?
I have a confession. Deep breaths. I can do this.
Okay, so you know from my previous post that I can’t keep my hands off a pair of haircutting shears, or if I can’t find those, fabric scissors. Or hedge clippers, in a pinch. And okay, I have a thing for extremes. Why just wear a gray skirt when I can wear a gray skirt with gray tights, a gray top, a gray knit cap and gray peacoat?
It’s called eccentricity, ok? It’s adorable. I’ve been told by people who’ve only just met me that it’s adorable. And for the most part, I agree. But here’s the thing. While I do consider my complicated, over-thought tendencies part of my charm, there is one thing I know I must stop doing, and therein lies my confession. Here goes.
I have a dangerous habit of piling on accessories until I almost drown in them. It’s hard for people to look at, I know this. It’s confusing. It’s loud, and I don’t just mean visually.
“Why are you wearing a dozen cowbells, Jamaica?”
“…Cause they match?”
I was lucky enough to have a mom who let me wear anything I wanted to school, even if that meant sixteen layers of statement pieces per outfit. Since those days I’ve mellowed out a little, but I long for simplicity (and a little color, for that matter!), which is why when I went to visit Amber in Los Angeles last weekend, I meant to dress like this the whole time:
photo via fashiongonerogue
Instead, I foolishly gave myself only 20 minutes to pack, during which I tossed all my “special occasion” pieces (none of which can be worn together) into too small of a bag and didn’t grab any basics. This left me with no choice but to borrow Amber’s clothes, so perhaps I’m smarter than I give myself credit for.
Next time I pack for LA, you and I are going through the process piece by piece. I know that sounds like a threat, and that’s because it is. We will follow Amber’s packing advice, and strive for a barely accessorized cohesive look based on an idealistic vision of myself as a dewy, carefree, pastel-crop-top-wearing ingenue.
photo via fashiongonerogue
In the meantime, I’m vowing to follow Coco Chanel’s famous “take off one thing before you leave the house” advice three times every morning. Restraint is not something that comes naturally to me, but I can learn. After all, I used to hate beer and we all know how that turned out.
This was the second time in my life a best friend had announced to me that they were sorry to tell me but they were suddenly moving to Hawaii. Oh hell, no. Bradley and I had developed a friendship which was way too pure for this goddamn world and its …weather. So I invited myself to visit him and his exceedingly blue-eyed boyfriend, Jonathan in their heavenly studio loft in Chinatown, Honolulu.
For 2 months.
They didn’t say no.
Friendship! We swam with sea turtles, rope-swung, hiked towering watertrickles, drank mai tais on premature afternoons, crashed infinity hot tubs at sunset, buoyed ourselves in the warm and silvering dusklit Pacific, and turned a bottle of wine and a dirty concrete slab overlooking moonlit freighters into our own personal loveseat… And we were so good-looking!
But mostly, we opened a vintage boutique (rather, Bradley and Jonathan opened it while I pretended to be right about everything), Barrio Vintage, a concept pop-up. What a dream! Leather, cashmere, Gucci, Dior, preposterous prices….
Quite literally speaking, it was paradise.
Then Rian Flynn came and shit got real:
Continue reading The Unrepentant Tourist – Barrio Vintage, Honolulu
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?