Monday, April 30, 2007

Fashion-blogging Wisconsin Avenue: Gucci vs. Banana Republic

Forgive the sacrilege of mentioning these in the same sentence. Focus instead on the waist (and importance thereof).

A recent Gucci window display featured a black smock minidress in the big-eyed, twig-legged style popularized by Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby. The "waist": right under the armpits like the belt on Urkel's trousers, skirt flaring out stiffly below. Even the mannequin has a tough time pulling this off. Most recently, a blousy Moroccan-style tunic appeared with no waist at all. No pants, either.

Across the street, a series of knee-length sundresses and sheaths - some navy, some black, some eggshell or tan. The common denominator: a sash or ruching defining the natural waist. Curves above, curves below.

Far be it for me to give Tom Ford's successor fashion dictates. But I'm compelled to speak my humble mind against the Empire waist. If one is neither a child nor with child, let the baby doll dress go. And if you're not Bob Ross whipping up a landscape for PBS, what the hell are you doing wearing a smock? (Particularly without pants. Bob Ross always wore pants with his smocks - and thank God for that.)

Read more scintillating commentary on the window displays of Friendship Heights... Barneys/Kate Moss Topshop and Brooks Brothers.

* Please forgive the lack of photo. Attempts to capture the window displays resulted in serious glare and photography like a bad art school project. If my prose does not suffice, please check out the wares yourself just steps from the Friendship Heights metro.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fashion-blogging Wisconsin Avenue: Barneys

Sweet mannequin, why are you so blue?

Maybe because you're naked, draped only in a "Kate Moss Topshop Coming Soon!" placard. And now someone attached a Kate Moss cardboard mask to your face. The effect is downright creepy - like Kate Moss' genetic material got beamed up and tragically mingled with that of a blue semi-hostile alien in a Star Trek episode gone terribly wrong.

How can you see? How can you breathe? However, my sympathy extends only so far. Just a few weeks ago, you were wearing Helmut Lang, you lucky scrap of plastic.

I've got to say that your sleek turquoise limbs made those neutral layers of jersey leggings, tunics and tanks really pop. Although capri leggings are a little too "cover it up, errant Rollerblader!" for most women over puberty, generally the goods in the Barney's window displays are wearable. The cropped jackets are jaunty. The puffed-sleeve smocks are smart and artsy. And every so often a bald blue head sports a vintage railroad conductor's cap. Choo choo - what's not to like about that?

But the big question is: When will the US get its own Topshop branch (preferably in DC, preferably close to my apartment) so we can enjoy all of its offerings? The website listed a NYC location, but googling revealed it to be just another Barneys.

* Please forgive the lack of photo. Attempts to capture the window displays resulted in serious glare and photography like a bad art school project. If my prose does not suffice, please check out the wares yourself just steps from the Friendship Heights metro.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Best road trip food ever.

Three beignets in a sack atop a lump of powdered sugar. A praline. A muffuletta as large as my head. Fortunately my rental SUV is a roomy one, as soon my derriere will be as large as my carbon footprint.

Soundtrack of the road...

Now I know why truckers love their white crosses. Driving several hours a day has roughly the same mentally numbing effect as huffing a carton of airplane glue. In such circumstances, Grey's Anatomy sensitive man-rock (e.g. "Fray for Fighting") just won't cut it. Here's what kept me from careening into a ditch:

- The Politicks

- A CD compilation by Gypsy Eyes Records

- Rage Against the Machine, inexplicably emerging on the radio somewhere in Tennessee

- Flipping back and forth between crunk and Christian across the whole state of Mississippi and most of Alabama.

- All those cheesy guilty pleasures you can only hear on rural American radio: Journey, Wham!, Billy Squier, Rick Astley (Never gonna give. You. Up. Never gonna let you down...). And is it just my imagination, or is John Waite looking pretty hot in his duet with Allison Krauss? (Thanks to Motel 6 cable, I caught this new video in between The Deadliest Catch and Who Wants To Be a Pussycat/Coyote/Hairstylist)

Note to radio stations: Even though you are all owned by Clear Channel, please remember that variety remains the spice of life. Next time I'm doing a road trip, I'm declaring my vehicle a John Mellencamp/Beyonce/Akon-free zone unless you move "to the left, to the left" of your usual stack of CDs and mix it up a little. Thank you.

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ARRRRRGHH! (pirates)

I may be missing Jazz Fest, but I was just in time for the New Orleans Pirate Convention.

They assailed us on the streets at sunset, these swashbucklers. A few even took over the horse and carriages usually reserved for sedate tours. I should have seen it coming. I ate gumbo next to two of them earlier at the Gumbo Shop. But I thought they were just harmless Goth punks.

But then the pirates took to the streets. They didn't rape and pilage - the night was young, after all - but they did leave beads in their wake.

Pirates...not just in Silver Spring anymore.

Screw Atkins - New Orleans cuisine

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Beyond Beads...New Orleans Fashion

Liquor isn't the only vice that will drain your wallet in this city - exquisite sundresses, jewelry, hats and all sorts of modern Southern delicacies with a European twist can be found throughout. If that black draped Balenciaga blouse at United Apparel Liquidators had been my size, I'd have been $150 poorer yet not felt a twinge of pain. (We northerners need you, UAL - please open a Washington branch!)

(Does New Orleans style include include crocs? you might ask. Well, not exactly at the boutiques. Crocs are plentiful at the souvenir shops, displayed among the plastic dog poop, Elvis bobble heads and "I got Bourbon faced on shit street!" t-shirts.)

Help New Orleans rebuild. Support local merchants.

Because many businesses are not web-enabled, or are a uniquely in-person experience, you will have to visit. This is highly recommended.

- The master French Quarter directory
- Cafe Beignet , yumminess for dining in and take-out.
- New Orleans Tours Once you're dolled up and properly fed, explore and learn some history. The "Ghosts and Vampires" tour will creep you a fun Bauhaus-meets-Ken-Burns kind of way, of course.

Now for pirates...arrrrrr!!!

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

French Quarter Architecture Porn

Random sidewalk charm...

Continue your New Orleans journey...

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Stay classy, Bourbon Street!

Continue your New Orleans journey...

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Holy @#$%^, it's a bayou!

Somewhere after the Mississippi/Louisiana border, solid soil gives way beneath the highway and one begins to notice swampland on both sides. Then a few shoreside houses emerge. Then Bubba Gump's shrimp boat is all but floating beside you. Pretty much, you're driving on stilts at this point.

More stuff I wish I'd been able to photograph (from the road and elsewhere)

- The truck outside Ole Miss with the Dave Matthews sticker next to the "W" sticker

- The wedding party having their photos taken right in front of me at the the historic hotel lobby in New Orleans. (Yeah, it'd be rude to snap a few photos of my own. But wow do they look sharp.)

Soundtrack of the road...

At this point, it's all about adrenaline...

- The Replacements, "Bastards of the Young"

- That omnipresent Gwen Stefani/Akon song (woo-hoo, WOO-hoo)

Continue your New Orleans journey...

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Now I enjoyed the "Mike Hammer" series as much as the next person, but there's something that just's not right here...

Continue your tour of the glorious South..."

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Walkin' in Memphis...

...yes, two feet off of Beale...

"I want to see more of Memphis, please..."

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William Faulkner lived here...

No, not really. But he could have, since it's right outside Oxford, Miss.

Directions to his old home, Rowan Oak, were as cryptic to me as his novels are to thousands of freshman lit students nationwide. I drove further down the winding road, stumbled upon a rickety porch, two grizzled old men, catfish and rusted sundry auto parts.

In its own way, this sighting itself paid homage to the man whose characters inspired the great Onion headline, "Ask a Faulknerian idiot man-child."

Take a walk in Memphis...

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Kentucky/Tennessee: Things I wish I'd been able to photograph from the road...

- The water tower with the air-brushed giant horseys outside of Lexington. Why the long face? Weather was gray and drizzly.

- In Tennessee, the "Adult Videos and Toys" sign on one side of the highway, the 10 commandments on the other.

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Loretta Lynn loves capitalism, baked goods and big plastic buffalo guarding the front of the store...


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On the way to the Wild Turkey distillery...

I encountered a railroad crossing, blinking lights, a traffic backup, yet (for half an hour) no train - keeping me from my drink, but immersing me in this wholesome Kentucky neighborhood instead.

Loretta Lynn loves capitalism

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Things I wish I could have photographed while driving…

- The sign for Mount Negro, Western Maryland. Didn’t the landmark-naming department get the memo?
- The gi-normous power plant that greets you at the Kentucky border, like driving into an Ayn Rand novel

Wild Turkey, baby!

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West Virginia, late afternoon (wish the Internet could capture the fresh mountain air)

Southern splendor - the highway views...

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Soundtrack of the Road…

Somewhere in the Daniel Boone Forest, radio reception faded, and out came the stack of CDs collected from random shows about town and from friends and relatives far cooler than I:

- Madeleine Peyroux mixed tape

- World music via Minneapolis

- Middle Distance Runner

- Shane Hines and the Trance

- Andrew Tyler
(blonder than I am, voice like Al Green, sings at Iota Wednesday open mic frequently)

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“Sweet Mother of God, what have I gotten myself into?”

Usually this thought flickers through my mind near the beginning of a trip, most recently in October when the pilot announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re beginning our descent into Johannesburg.”

It’s also usually the portent to an exceptionally good trip.

This time I gasped when I took the keys to my rental, a 9-seater Ford Explorer. The compact car I’d reserved had been swapped out last minute. I imagined the gas this beast would suck from DC to New Orleans. I imagined me, a small-car girl, taking out half the state of West Virginia trying to navigate it.

The employee at the desk explained: “There was a big run on cars earlier in the week, people flying in who needed to drive down to Virginia Tech.”

License to complain immediately suspended. (In an unrelated note about this tragedy, a request to the media: Please, less focus on the shooter, more focus on the 32 victims whose remarkable lives were cut short.)

As I roll into the hotel, I discover that my vehicle is among the smallest on the road.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Tour of Southern Transgression...

begins Wednesday and lasts for a full week of down-home goodness. I will be driving from DC to New Orleans, on the way stopping in Lexington, Memphis, Birmingham and Asheville, NC. If wi-fi spots are readily available, I hope to blog from the road.

West Virginia, Mountain Mama (and all of that)...

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New York City (here pictured - random art in Chelsea): So cool, so very cool...

Other good things: Trailer Park Lounge, free wi-fi in Bryant Park, the 11 p.m. Amtrak (Plan B after missing the Chinatown bus)

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Corcoran (Wash., DC): Furniture Porn
Before Ikea, there was Marcel Breuer. And before Martha Stewart Living, there was Art de Vivre.

How influential were the years 1914-1939 to design? When your eyes wander across the clean lines of today's decor - and don't catch on Scarlett O'Hara's drapes or chair legs carved like gargoyles - you have the Modernist movement to thank.

But furniture's not all on display at the Corcoran's extraordinary Modernist exhibition. There's art (cubism, futurism), politics (Soviet collectives), war (Hitler), fascism (pre-WW2 Italy), architecture (Fallingwater, Le Corbusier), fashion (Claire McCardell), literature (George Bernard Shaw), cutlery, manufacturing, sport on film (Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia and clips of naked gymnasts, blocked by the silhouettes of male art students). Even the performance-art precursor to the Robyn Hitchcock Balloon Man video (or the Teletubbies - it's open to audience interpretation).

Get a good night's sleep. Eat a hearty breakfast. And take in a slice of history.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

SoCal: The Seven Wonders of Calabasas

Whither Calabasas, you may wonder? It's a small stretch of well-appointed earth tones in the San Fernando Valley - and also the site of last weekend's US premiere of Trade Routes, a very good indie film made in Bulgaria.

Wonder #1 of Calabasas: All the Bulgarian audience members huddled at the bus stop for a smoke break. Town ordinances restrict smoking "within 20 feet of any other live human being."

Wonder #2: The ten cop cars I saw during my 48 hours there, protecting this affluent community of 20,000+ from crime (and smokers!)

Wonder #3: Celebrity sightings! My dad personally spotted that tatooed guy from Blink 182 in a sweet 70s muscle car. (He's a hip guy, my dad.) According to Wikipedia, Calabasas is also home to Marcia Clark, Hobbit extraordinaire Sean Astin and the members of Incubus.

Wonder #4: Silicone implants that defy nature. Apparently now you can transform your rack into an immovable shelf, upon which you could successfully balance a parade of Hummel figures if so desired. Particularly attractive on women over 50.

Wonder #5: Strip malls that elevate the concept of strip malls. No dollar stores and head shops here - only boutiques with Creed perfume and $500 Belgian t-shirts.

Wonder #6: The tasteful outdoor stereo speaker. Sort of surreal to hear music emanate from a rock.

Wonder #7: All sunshine, all the time. Sooooo relaxing...I cannot imagine a drop of rain falling on this rarified oasis or a cloud sullying the view. The city council must have paid off Mother Nature well.

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