• Parisian Time Capsule

    Style | Culture  

    I have this recurring fantasy where I fly home for the holidays, pull-up to my childhood home, and fish my bags out of the trunk amidst a light snowfall. The warm glow in each window a flickering neon "vacancy" sign after a long stretch of flight delays. Floating into my old room, it's exactly how I left it in 1999. The plastic trophies, acoustic guitars, foosball table, love notes, and trading cards—all waiting for me like old friends. Here, the 17 year-old me never ages, immune to the years, months, and days. Weezer's Blue Album is on compact disc while My So-Called Life reruns (I secretly wanted to be Jordan Catalano) flicker on my television. Time just…stands.

    The reality was something different altogether. While I spent the entirety of my boyhood under one roof, my little brother took up squatting before the Sharpie could dry on my college boxes. The shrine of my adolescence brought low in a single afternoon. Hardly tragic in the moment. But, as the years pass, the nostalgia cakes thick like the old dust that should have donned such an alter. The museum of a suburban adolescent left only to exhibit in the recesses of a thirty-something's fading memory.

    Imagine the relapse of my golden age syndrome when the “Untouched Paris Apartment Discovered after 70 Years” news broke earlier this year. Abandoned during the second great war, the opulent flat belonged to the granddaughter of the late Parisian socialite and actress Marthe de Florian. She fled for the south of France to avoid the Nazi raid. She’d never return.

    The discovery came at the hands of her executor after she died in 2010. Under lock and key since 1939, rent diligently paid, and left utterly untouched, the 9th arrondissement flat is literally a Parisian time capsule. A stuffed ostrich, lavish heirloom furniture, Persian rugs, and a scad of oil paintings were among the inventory taken. Among the gems unearthed from the strata of dust, a Giovanni Boldini oil on canvas portrait of Marthe de Florian that later fetched 3.4 million at auction (a record price for the 19th century Italian artist). However, the real find lies inside the love letters exchanged between Boldini and his subject. That's what time capsules should be, as rich in secrets as it is with possessions.

    Dec 15, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Happy Halloween 2014

    Culture  

    Oct 31, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Happy Fourth!

    Culture  

    Jul 4, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Exploring Istanbul

    Culture  

    Travel.
    Often.
    Stay wild.
    Explore.
    Just go.

    "The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."

    —Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp

    Last minute travel might be one of the greatest pleasures in life. One day you're on your couch channel surfing and the next, you're on a plane to Iceland, waking up to someone else's sun. It's magic.

    I recently indulged in such an adventure...to Istanbul, though. Iceland will have to wait. "Istanbul in the summer" happened to be number 67 on my 101 in 1,001 list (a short-term bucket list of sorts—101 things to do and places to see in 1,001 days). That means I'm practically obligated to say "yes" when a list item presents itself. That's how the list works...you get to say "yes" before you talk yourself out of it.

    The minute we land it’s off to the old city to explore the Grand Bazaar. Truth be told, the Grand Bazaar—said to be the world’s oldest shopping mall—lives up to its moniker. Much of the space is devoted to knockoff designer goods you can find on Canal St. To get to the interesting stuff, we mine deeper into the center of the Bazaar in search of the Old Bazaar, a maze of antiquities, objet, and Turkish rugs nestled in the heart of the Grand Bazaar.

    Locals have been setting up shop here for over 550 years. We spend the better part of an entire day getting lost in the labyrinth of side streets and alleyways. At a particular quaint jeweler's shop, my eyes light up at the sight of some sterling silver cuffs. Inspired, I scoop them all up.

    The rugs in Turkey are simply breath-taking. Rich in history, craftsmanship, and beauty, buyers from all over the world descend upon the rug shops in the old city in search of antique pieces (rugs over 100 years old). It is not uncommon for these rugs to start in the thousands of dollars. After drinking more than enough apple tea than we both can handle, a little shop outside of the Bazaar called Noah’s Ark catches the corner of my eye. Curious about the name (I mean, Noah’s ark is said to have been found on Mount Ararat in Turkey), we duck in.

    A gentleman welcomes us immediately with a smile as warm as the Turkish sun. In typical fashion, he offers us tea, a seat, and his name. He goes by Hamza…and he discreetly discloses with a wink that only tourists opt for apple tea. We nonchalantly opt for the locals’ cup of tea. His English is very good…so good in fact that his jokes and timing are spot on. Turns out he spends six months a year in the States hocking his carpets to the well-to-do. We spend the next several hours in conversation about Turkish rugs, their provenance, their significance, and most importantly, their beauty. At some point in the evening, a bottle of Jack Daniels makes its way out (as well as some chocolate). All the trade-secrets come spilling out like a busted piñata after two or three pours. The Tennessee whiskey eventually seduces Hamza into sharing his own story of his nomadic childhood and his subsequent journey to Istanbul at the age of 14. I’m loving this guy.

    While we certainly hit the highlights of Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar, and Sultanahmet Mosque over our six days in Istanbul, it’s the moments and relationships we share with the locals we meet that will travel back with us as souvenirs of our time in this vibrant city.

    Jun 3, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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  • Ernest Hemingway

    Style | Culture  

    As significant as his writing was, Ernest Hemingway is remembered just as much for the life he lived beyond the page. Everything about him was oversized—war service in Europe, big-game hunting in Africa, all-night benders in Paris. Hemingway embodied a full range of traditionally masculine experiences few others have. He even had a dictum that summed up his approach: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk.”

    His appetite for adventure only persisted later in his life, which ended tragically in 1961. If Hemingway’s literary output slowed during this final postwar decade, his celebrity spread far and wide.  He wrote dispatches on bullfights and marlin fishing for popular magazines, and was the subject (sometimes willing, sometimes not) of numerous awed profiles.

    Hemingway, in this final act, produced the smash hits The Old Man and the Sea, which earned him a Nobel Prize in 1954, and his Parisian memoir A Moveable Feast. Meanwhile, the legend of his manliness grew. While on a big-game safari in East Africa, he stunned the public by surviving not one plane crash but two. Rather than kick open a door that had been jammed shut, in spectacular fashion, he head-butted it to escape the wreckage.

    "He always looked great, as if he’d slept a baby’s sleep in a soundproof room with his eyes covered by black patches..."

    The look that ‘Papa’ Hemingway sported in these up-and-down years of late middle age was the iconic one that comes to mind when we think of him today: straight, medium-length locks of white hair and a healthy silver beard. This is not the trim, mustachioed younger man who penned The Sun Also Rises—but it’s the look that hundreds of Hemingway fans replicate in a remarkable lookalike contest that takes place every year in Key West, Florida.

    The graying Hemingway wrote from his house in Cuba, where he was most productive during the morning hours. Ever the man of action, he tended to compose standing up.  No matter how much red wine he’d downed or unruly conduct he’d modeled the night before, a good night’s rest seemed to cure all. He “always looked great, as if he’d slept a baby’s sleep in a soundproof room with his eyes covered by black patches,” one of his sons later recalled.

    Nevertheless, personal hygiene was an afterthought. Hemingway’s third wife, Martha Gellhorn, described him as “one of the most unfastidious men I've ever known.” The thing he cultivated best of all, perhaps, was an image of done-it-all manliness. ‘Papa,’ a nickname often assumed to have attached itself to him later, was oddly one the author chose for himself while in his mid-twenties. But it was in these final, bearded years that it truly stuck.

    * Originally written for Kiehl's Men's Wing.

    May 13, 2014 | Permalink (0) View/Leave Comments

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