Thursday, September 16, 2010

AttaCHE Bags, CHanel, et les CHameaux

When I bought my beautiful Cadillac, I felt that it would be discordant to have my black nylon “attaché” bag lying on the iced-coffee-colored leather upholstery in the back seat, so I bought the perfect beige leather bag from the Levenger catalogue (they bill themselves as selling “tools for readers,” but I always think of them as more “tools for writers”), which has been my daily companion ever since. (The look I was striving for was what I think of as "CEO": a gorgeous leather attache case, a pair of gray suede gloves, and a crisp Wall Street Journal carefully folded in thirds.) I used to get tons of compliments over that bag (which that catalogue no longer sells anything comparable to anymore), but now (110,000 miles later on the Cadillac, which is still more or less pristine, thanks to a rebuilt engine and transmission by my expert mechanic and a new gold vinyl roof and new upholstery on the driver’s seat), the bag has become pretty thrashed. It’s stained and loose and floppy instead of tight and some of the trim on the edges has worn off, but it’s certainly still serviceable, perhaps more than ever. I can’t say that I treat it as carefully as I did before (which in a terrible way makes me think of something written by Zora Neal Hurston about the black man Tea Cake beating his woman because she wasn’t as pretty as another one), and in a way I kind of have my eye open for finding a new one.

But I’m anything but fashionable these days like I used to be when I was younger; it’s almost like “what’s the point,” with this body that’s as used and scathed as the bag I was just talking about. And one thing I have basically stopped completely is wearing cologne, when only about as recently as a decade ago I had a virtual wardrobe of cologne. That is to say that there was “daily going to the office cologne” and “weekend lying about cologne” and “going to brunch cologne” and “incredibly elegant going out on special occasions cologne”. There was even “hmmm yummy ‘voulez vous couchez avec moi?’” cologne. But now, it’s whatever soap I had just used in the shower and a rolled-on splash of Aubrey “E Plus High C” deodorant that I buy at Whole Foods. Does that even have a scent? Let me look at the label…gee, I guess it does, the first ingredient is rose water. So that’s what I am doing nowadays, going around smelling like rose water and sea kelp? (Or olive oil.)

But I’m not immune to marketing…in fact, I am extremely susceptible to it, especially when such experts as Chanel and top film directors and fragrance and color and packaging and language experts get together. Such as here: directed by Baz Luhrman. What’s to not like? Paris, Istanbul, ancient European train stations, the Orient Express, a sleeping compartment at night, ferry boats on the Bosphorus (if you had ever seen the movie Steam, you would be in love with Istanbul), two gorgeous people shown to great advantage surrounded by gold and skin tones, French accents, and (I’m guessing here) Billie Holiday. Might as well pierce us through the heart with a steam roller, but I love it.

Who knows why exactly, but, those marketing experts and my susceptibility again, this very much caught me:

I think maybe because I am drawn to woolen navy blue coats (let’s say like a peacoat, although I do not actually have one, because I happen to live in an almost always warm climate), despite the fact that the model is not actually wearing a peacoat, or maybe it’s the French accent again, or a somehow magnetic shade of blue that is almost black, but only a glance at this advertisement made my think I should go back to wearing cologne again, and that this cologne ought to be the one. It’s all about image, of course…I had NO idea what this cologne smelled like, but, peculiarly, that didn’t even seem to matter (although to a rational person, that seems to be the only pertinent thing, and to the rational and practical person, no fragrance whether you liked it or not would be worth $59 a 1.7 ounce bottle…would it?).

As it happens, my Visa bill was coming due and my Visa card is a Macy’s card, and you can pay your bill at the store. Also, I desperately needed a new pair of shoes, so I decided to go to Macy’s to pay my Visa bill and buy the shoes I needed. I was looking for something extremely comfortable that I could wear to work, so they had to be casual but look acceptably dressy. Regular dress shoes were feeling like a torture from the Spanish Inquisition. However, Macy’s had nothing that was close to what I wanted, so I figured I would try a regular shoe store elsewhere in the mall.

In walking through Macy’s to get to the rest of the mall, I happened to walk past the men’s cologne counters, and remembering the Chanel Bleu ad, I thought I would try a tester. I found the tester, sprayed a tiny amount of cologne on one wrist and rubbed both wrists together. To be honest, I did not like the scent at all. It seemed to be kind of similar to several other popular colognes, but lacked a certain “beauty” that I was hoping for. Well, I’m no expert on fragrance, but this one just didn’t seem to be “me”. Oh well, as I said, I wasn’t wearing cologne these days anyway and now I could save myself from spending $59.00.

I found a shoe store, Clark’s, that had the perfect “comfortable, casual, but looks good enough for business wear” shoe and they were even on sale, so I ended up buying two pairs of the shoe I liked, one in black and the other in brown. I had been helped by both a female sales clerk and a male manager, so they both were at the counter ringing up my sale and they both began to gush over my attaché bag (that hadn’t received any complements in quite a while). They were saying things like “that’s a classic,” “gets only better with age,” “very handsome and appealing,” and I was quite pleased to come away both with some wonderful shoes that I could wear and with so much appreciation for my bag.

Now that I had my shoes, I walked back through Macy’s so that I could pay my bill. Since Clark’s had been on an upper floor in the mall, I was now in an upper floor in Macy’s, a women’s clothing domain I had never entered before. I found a likely sales clerk who cheerfully handled my paying of the Visa bill. She also took the time to gush over my attaché bag, saying pretty much the same things that the clerks at Clark’s had said. Again, I was quite well-pleased by this, but also rather surprised.

Later in my car driving home, I was marveling over this sudden approval over my poor worn out leather bag. At both places where I had a personal interaction, the sales people really loved it. Suddenly as my hands were turning the wheel of my car, I caught a whiff of the Chanel Bleu that was on my wrists, the fragrance now resting on its “final note,” which, by itself, was actually something that I really liked. Then I realized it, that’s what had to be it, it was the cologne that had been causing all this positive reaction to my bag. It must have seemed that I was (suddenly back to being) “fashionable”. That’s what I was thinking then. But then later, I read a review of the cologne by a fragrance expert, who defined the final note of the scent as “suede”…in other words, some kind of “leather”. So now I see that what must have been happening was the final suede note of the Chanel Bleu on my wrists was as if my attaché bag, itself, were sitting there broadcasting its presence and its “leatherness”, very much like if I had obtained from a car manufacturer that “new car smell” (which is NOT the same thing as the kind you can get at the car wash), anyone sitting in my car very well might start gushing over how beautiful my car is, despite the fact that it now has a mileage that has gone beyond 100,000 miles! Fragrance really is a powerful force.

So I guess I am kind of back to keeping one eye open for a new bag, although I haven’t yet seen anything that is anywhere near as nice as the bag I already have. Such as these in the pictures that follow, I don’t like them very well because they have the messy complication of all those buckles and straps. Mine closes perfectly with just one elegant metal oblong device that fits through a slot in the flap and turns from horizontal to vertical to lock it closed. One flip of the fingers does it.

I DO love the marketing idea of these bag ads, though, where they show their bags in use at exotic places around the world. I just happened to think that these camels in these photos are so damned cute, the way they curl up their legs when they are resting. Why aren’t camels appreciated more? I mean, for sure these are as cute as kittens all curled up on a pillow, aren’t they? Yet think how hard they work. They deserve their rest, sweet things. I wish I could pet them; does anybody ever pet the working camels?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Super Model Ash Stymest

I guess I will dare to go out on a limb, here, and say that as a super male model, Ash Stymest must represent something quite different from what we ordinarily expect. I really do like him, but the question is why? I don't think he is particularly good-looking; he is young and all, but compared with some others such as Paddy Mitchell or Luke Worrall, or let's really be unfair and throw in somebody like Francisco Lachowski, guys who are "swoon down on your knees WOW", I don't think Ash Stymest has the same effect. He doesn't have a really great body. Yes, he is at least lean, very lean, but if he has any muscles at all it is because he plays around and is hyper-active, skateboarding, dancing, or just plain won't sit still. But I doubt he has touched a weight or entered a gym, which means there's no conscious effort toward his body, he just sort of has this natural body that is sexy and appealing for no discernable reason other than he just doesn't worry about it, but instead enjoys it without concern.

One of course notices his tattoos (maybe with like, maybe with dislike), but on the whole, those are more of a distortion to the body than an enhancement, I think. I do LOVE the way he says "tattoo," though; I wish I could write it in the International Phonetic Alphabet, but the way he says it is a kind of a lightly skimming over something like "taddauw" but said so appealingly that it almost makes ME want to get one too (and that's saying the nearly impossible). I think tattoos would be truly wonderful if you could walk up to a person with them and ask him about them. I mean, really LOOK at them and get their story, not quickly glance away as if the person were badly crippled or had a horrible disfiguring disease. Maybe Ash Stymest is a person with tattoos that make him look dangerous and tough, and yet you aren't afraid of him.

And honestly, as much as he is photographed, are they ever having him wear any kind of clothes that you would actually wear (although you maybe kind of wish you COULD wear, but only he can and you can't)? This means that you are yearning toward a world he lives in, and you can, when you realize that he seems to making it up himself as he goes along (I think he would be the first one to say this). If he can, you can.

I also imagine that he is kind of unhealthy (although of course I could be wrong, he could be almost Mormon in his pristine personal habits for all I really know), smoking, drinking, taking risks, there are probably drugs in there somewhere, all of which means that he could be eventually wearing out in a painful way, youth doesn't remain immune forever. But then, if so, he's also living in a world you are curious about but don't want to subject yourself to the danger of. So you watch him, instead, and enjoy its reflection.

I think what it is, is that he is a nuclear ball of energy. You never know what he is going to do, and probably neither does he, but he'll do it anyway and that lack of inhibition is powerfully magnetic. I don't think we could possibly stand him for long as lover or even a friend (we're not up to it), he would wear us out or send us screaming to the quiet comfort of a padded cell, but we would like to PLUG INTO him for a moment, but the most we could stand is what we get from a photograph or a video, a three-minute experience, or a two-dimensional one. The full-on experience of Ash Stymest in person would probably burn us out as if we touched a live power line. Does anybody know, does he have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or are all his human contacts like balls rolling around in a pinball machine, good for a quick bump, but then they've got to skitter away (or he does)? If he has some loved one, I'd love to see what they look like. I imagine hair as frizzy as a Troll doll and if you touched THEM, you'd jump back from the electric spark as if you had spent the last half hour shuffling along a thick carpet (whereas they're the one who has all the residual energy).

In short, what Ash Stymest shows is that you don't have to be beautiful in any tradition that anybody knows, you don't need to work out, groom yourself, count your calories, live in crippling moderation, worry about a future you have no control over, or follow anybody's irrelevant rules. You only need to be yourself without inhibition, regret, fear, social approval, or higher authority. How wonderful it is that a person who seems totally free can be a super model (that is, a representative for others), and that may be Ash Stymest's greatest power, that he is dissident and dissidence is exactly what we need, all of us, even those in power.