Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Best Thanksgiving Ever

It is 1986, and my parents have decided we are going to spend Thanksgiving and my sister Jessica's third birthday "Up the Mountains..." - family-speak for visiting a tiny house near Dushore, Pennsylvania, that my grandfather's father built at some point "back in the day." The house has a gas stove, water from a well and an old fashioned wood-burning stove in the living room heats its four rooms.

We came to this house often when I was a child. I remember it's wood-paneled walls, it's room full of beds (with one set of bunk beds) and then the "master bedroom" where my grandparents would sleep. I remember sitting on the ice-cold toilet seat when first arriving late at night after a long drive from South Jersey, trying to ignore the copious piles of mouse poo. The first thing we always had to do was clean up a bit.

That year my family had gone up on its own. No grandparents. No cousins. Just the six of us. With our costumes.

That year, my mother decided she was going to dress us up as Pilgrims and Indians. Two Pilgrims. Two Indians. Jessica, whose third birthday was that week, and I were dressed in folksy regular clothes on Team Pilgrim. Julie and Jackie, however, won out in the costume contest that year. My mom took faux-fur and made them little tunics, put bands of ribbon around their heads, hair in braids, and stuck a feather in each. Oh god damn. There is a photograph of this, but I'm not sure I can bring myself to post it without the express written permission of certain members of the clan.

One of the (many) problems with this house in the mountains was its distance from civilization. Excellent when you were looking for solitude and a break from busy work schedules, but not so awesome when a winter storm knocks out the power and you're stuck going down to the creek with pails, breaking through the ice and bringing back 33 degree water.

I'm pretty sure we had power on Thanksgiving Day, but I do recall climbing into the family van and schlepping to the metropolis of Tonowanda or Tamaqua - I'm pretty sure they're mostly the same - and having Jessica's 3rd birthday party at Burger King. There were paper crowns involved. We saw a Star Trek movie. Star Trek IV, the one with the whales.

Yet, in spite of a lack of electricity and fetching water from the creek, that Thanksgiving stands out as one of the most fun we ever had, even though I think I was pretty pissed at the time about having to dress up like a freakish Pilgrim and pose for photos. Maybe I was just jealous of the furry Indian costumes.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

La Beauté

I have a confession to make.

I have a $90 night creme.

I had gone into Bloomingdales on the way to see my dentist (who has thankfully moved to the Rockerfeller Plaza area) and I had fallen victim to the one-two punch of the very effective Chanel saleswoman and my own longing for porcelain-clear skin, devoid of wrinkles and blemish free.

If you've never been to the Cosmetics and Beauty section of Bloomingdales, it's as overwhelming and perfumed as you think it is. Bright lights. Sample sizes. Lipgloss in every shade of pink you could imagine, and very aggressive salewomen in neat black suits. They are impeccable. You are not. Your presence in the Bloomingdales beauty department means you know you are not. You are easy prey.

About five years ago I had bought a Chanel night creme - Age Delay Nuit it was called - that was like taking a cool drink of water on a hot, dry day. I had gone back looking for the same, not with any serious intent to buy, but really now. Who was I kidding?

Oh Chanel, how you upgrade!

The product that I had known and loved back when really I had 25-year old perfect skin had been replaced by one called Beauté Initiale. It was light and pink and the word geleé suit it to a T. Unfortunately for my slightly-older, somewhat dry skin, it wasn't as rich as the other one the saleswoman had lovingly swabbed onto my cheek. The Précision. Oh, it felt like she had wiped whatever they used on Mount Olympus onto my face. Only goddesses had such sweet smelling, oddly satiated skin.

I tried to feign indifference. To pretend I was weighing my options. It took everything I had to resist the coordinating eye creme. I had some from before. (Which I threw away upon arriving at home, realizing it was in fact five years old and had traveled with me between five apartments.)

I walked out with a glorious "little brown bag" with a black and white box of really expensive creme, a sample of the eye creme I had shunned (which is still in my bathroom. taunting me.) and a mini sample mascara. The sample mascara had the most unusual, most fabulous applicator brush I'd ever seen. But I'm afraid to go back. On the way out I also got a Bobbi Brown lipstick in Burnt Red and a Cole Haan handbag.

I apparently am afraid of having cavities filled.

My occasional trips to Sephora are usually not as dangerous to the budget. Sephora is about 50 yards from my office. The worlds fastest sprinters could be there in mere seconds upon leaving the elevator.

Sephora has a few things I find myself acutally going to visit. Yes, I visit sample cosmetics.

First place: Anything from Philosophy. While Philosophy is nowhere near as posh as the Chanel creme that shares its shelf in my bathroom medicine cabinet, it has a somewhat hippie, almost spiritual allure. Perhaps because their perfume is both called Amazing Grace and makes me feel like the prettiest girl in the world. To me, it's what pretty girl smells like. I love it.

(Chanel No. 5, on the other hand, is the smell of sexy, sexy woman. A man in my office cafeteria once said it made his knees weak when I wore it to work once. That one is for dates.)

Philosophy also makes cremes, cleansers, serums, and microderm abrasion scrubs and "peel pads". I have two kinds of their shower gel. I have Hope in a Jar. I am a girl-stuff marketer's wet dream.

If it's slightly different and smells like clean girl or promises clear, sweet smelling, dewy skin, chances are I'll spend $45 plus tax on it.

I also have sugar scrub and body soufleé from Om, some St. Ives scrub and Vitamin E lotion. I have several different lip colored light pink lip glosses. Nars. Chanel. Revlon. Laura Mercier. Vincent Longo. My wide array of hair care products is a totaly different story. I <3 Terax.

It's hard to be a girl, is what I've resolved. There's an entire industry out there trying to take our money and sell us lotions that they swear will make us feel better about ourselves. And what if they do? What if using a $90 night creme before I go to bed makes me feel luxurious, beautiful and pampered? Like I think my face is the most precious one on the market and should be treated like a queen's?

Worth every penny.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So much to say, so little time...

So, this past week I visited dear friends in North Carolina, got really drunk, confessed all kinds of sentimental things, had to go on a hungover walking tour of Duke University and had an unsatisfying omelette. For their part, my friends were glorious, gracious hosts who make some fan-f*cking tastic barbecue. Really. I'm not full of hyperbole.

My cat is sitting three feet away purring becuase he thinks there's a chance of him being petted. This is what I think men are secretly like... or is it not such a secret? :)

On a more serious side, there's been some stuff in the media that I really want to talk about but I've been saving myself for a post book club discussion on our latest - Sick, about the health insurance industry and its affect on our health. Health insurance is almost an oxymoron after you read about its history. It cannot be a "business" or it fails to do to what it needs to do.

How can we fix it?

Please do comment if you have any thoughts. I'm saddened and stumped by what I see as failure on all sides, which ultimately hurts us all...


Thursday, November 01, 2007

If Stephen Colbert Designed the New US Passport

I'm pretty sure what he came up with would be spot on when compared to what the U.S. State Department devised for us globe-trotting Americans to carry as they make their way around the world.

I had my first glimpse of the new passport standing in the customs line at the Istanbul airport on my way home from Turkey. Maybe there were 1,000 people in the lines waiting to have their passports stamped. I was next to a group of middle-aged white Americans who were holding out their brand-spanking-new passports and showing each other the garish pages.

They look like what you'd get if you put Epcot Center and a passport into a blender. Each page is more insultingly stereotypical than the one before with lame quotes, stupid pictures of idealized American landscapes, and best of all, a GIANT EAGLE on the page opposite your picture.

The New Republic had an excellent piece on exactly this the other day. Go read it. It's hilarious. Excessively weird, red-state passport, it calls it.

If you don't want to bother, you can still see the new passports here.