Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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Harvey Fucking Weinstein

A fictional vignette set on the night of Tuesday the 10th of October.

At the home of fashion designer Donna Karan, Gaby hands her mother a cell phone:

“It’s uncle Harvey,” she says.

“I don’t want to talk to him,” Donna says. She turns away. She has been crying.

“Tell him yourself,” Gaby says.

Donna takes the phone. She hesitates, wondering whether to press End or throw it across the room.

“Don’t Mom,” Gaby says, “it’s my phone.”

“Hey,” Donna says.

“Can you come over?” Harvey is on speakerphone.

“You’re kidding right? How about a thank you first?”

“Your stocks are up you know?”

“Jesus, they are?”

“Gun stocks went up last week, after the Vegas shooting. It’s a fucked up world darling.”

“I don’t give a shit about DKNY stocks.”

“Come over. Georgina left me. I learned it from a People Magazine news alert.”

Donna looks at her daughter for help. Gaby shakes her head – NO.

“There are reporters outside. I can’t do this right now.”

“I’ll send a car. Use the back door. I need you. I’m alone. God knows what I might do.”

Donna ends the call and hands the phone back to her daughter.

“Do it already,” Gaby says under her breath.

 

Harvey is in a hotel suite. The TV is on in the background. Pictures of Paltrow and Jolie flash across the screen. The sound is off. He is wearing a large white bathrobe wrapped around his huge frame. There is a knock on the door. He gets up, a white tie drops to the floor and the robe opens. He is naked underneath. Holding the two pieces of fabric together with one hand, he opens the door.

“Put some fucking clothes on,” Donna calls from the corridor. “Jesus Harv, what is WRONG with you.”

“Oh come on, I’m not gonna jump you.”

“That’s not the point, it’s just so fucking inappropriate right now.”

“Maybe it’s appropriate. I’m comfortable this way. Who fucking cares.”

“At least put this around you,” Donna enters the room, picks up the white strip of fabric and hands it to Harvey. She ends up putting it around him herself, adjusting the large robe as if he’s a model in one of her shows. He puffs on a large cigar, blowing the smoke sideways, away from her.

“There,” she says almost maternally. “Now I need a drink.”

They sit down across from each other. Donna picks up the remote, flicks through the channels and stops at National Geographic. She pulls her legs under her and rubs her face. Harvey too is rubbing his large head.

“Fucking idiot asshole,” she says and looks up at him. “I thought you’d stopped this shit when you married Georgina. What were you thinking?”

“It’s what we do.” Harvey shrugs. “Trump did it. Look at him – our President! He flaunts it and they love him!”

“The press doesn’t love him. New Yorkers don’t. Our friends don’t. Anyway since when is Trump your role model?”

“It’s the reason men achieve. In movies, fashion, business. The money. The fame.”

“What is?”

“Women! Sex!”

“Not for me! Imagine me groping and propositioning every male model that walked in for a casting?”

“Don’t say you haven’t thought about it?!”

Donna looks right at Harvey who has a semi-erotic smirk on his face. She shakes her head.

“I’m not here to talk dirty with you. And no I haven’t. It’s not how we think.”

“WE?”

“Women. We may look at a hot guy and joke about how he makes us feel, pretend we’d sleep with him, but I don’t know any woman who would force herself on a young, sexy guy the way you did with these poor girls.”

“Poor girls?! I made their careers! Gwynie, Angie! I gave them everything they dreamed off! I never hurt them! Some of them got a million bucks just for showing their tits and watching me – you know– for a few minutes!”

Donna looks disgusted.

“Stop! You’re a pervert. A creep. I had no idea it was this bad. None!”

“I’m not proud of it.”

“You just don’t think it’s a big deal?”

“Everyone did it. Or at least tried. What about dear old Sydney Kimmel? And Warren Beatty?”

“Beatty stopped years ago, and he was hot.”

“And I’m fat and ugly.”

“You abused your power.”

“Power is all I’ve got. No girl wants to fuck me!”

Donna studies him. He is too large for his chair, as he sits slouched with his legs spread, a big cigar between his thick lips. One chubby hand stroking the kind of beard that looks good on Clooney and Beckham but fails miserably as an attempt to hide his pock-scarred face.

“Oh boo-hoo,” she says, “you had Georgina. You got two lovely kids. You got it all! You’re a sick fool and now the whole world knows it. And NO – ONE is EVER going to feel sorry for you.”

“I don’t give a shit about pity. But really? You know that they all showed up looking sexy and seductive? They wanted me to want them. Right? But they do not want me! They want to be the next Marilyn – so every man in the world… and I could make that happen for them. All they dream of are teenage boys jerking off to their fucking pictures. And I have that power! But because I look like the fucking BEAST in Beauty, I am called a sexual predator when I ask for some jerking off in return. Ironic no?”

“You hate women.”

“Perhaps. They never liked me.”

“You really do.”

“It’s bewildering. Like you said last night.”

“I don’t even remember what I said. Exactly.”

“You said a stupid thing.”

“Thanks. I was trying to find a way to defend you, for Georgina and the kids. I love them.”

“You don’t love me. “

“No Harv, right now I don’t love you.”

“You never loved me, you never even liked me. You tolerate me because I’m Harvey Weinstein.”

“I can’t believe I said what they say I said.”

“You better own it.”

“It’s so not me. Everyone knows that.”

“No they don’t. Right now the insatiables are tearing you apart. It’s the perfect companion story to my debauchery. The fashion designer enabler! Like the madam! Everything you’ve ever done, for women, for kids, New Yorkers, Haitians. Forget it. It’s all been erased. You are the bitch that sold out women. Welcome to Hollywood baby.”

“Hollywood?” Donna looks puzzled.

“Georgina believes Hollywood pits women against each other. But it’s just how women are. You’re just as competitive as men, but your hierarchy is unclear. We fight it out honestly, man to man. There are no illusions; it’s all sport – the winner wins. You bitches just pretend to support each other, but really all you do is compete.”

“Bullshit! I am a woman’s woman! I went out of my way to hire only women. I paid them well. I loved working with my all women teams. We did great stuff together. That was what made Donna Karan the brand! When I sold the company I opened Urban Zen, gave money to Hillary, Planned Parenthood, I started women’s labor incentives in Haiti. Health Care programs for low income families here in the City, everything I did was for women and their families!”

“No one cares about that now! You sold your women out. You said they were asking for it — for sex with me!” Harvey laughs. “..and here we are — thinking we’re both champions for women…” He laughs harder.

Donna weeps. She drinks down her wine, gets up for a refill and starts pacing.

“You and I are NOT the same. I am angry! Furious at what you guys create in the name of the female sex. The way YOU portray us! And then we all need to live up to that warped idea of us! I was so fucking pissed at that DKNY dog-walking commercial with that Gone Girl actress.”

“Emily Ratakovski, is her name. Cute girl.”

“It was NOT MY WORK! That bra has MY NAME on it, and yet I have nothing to do with that branding. NOTHING! I don’t even know who ran that campaign.”

“I thought the ad was cute.” He takes a suggestive drag on his cigar and readjusts his robe.

“CUTE!? I no longer design the ‘cute’ shit that is out there with my name on it. I designed for real women twenty years ago! Working women! Not girls. Not grown women who want to look like sexy young girls. Not girls who want to prove that they have a positive body image of themselves by walking down the street undressed. Or post nude pictures – look at me, look at me, how I love my body — my body is better than yours.”

“Instagram is one fucking competitive shit-show of hot women trying to out-hot-body each other… but I can’t touch them!”

“No you can’t. Different thing. It’s complicated but it’s different.”

“Not to me. Not to men. Men think it’s all for them.”

“Well, get with it. That’s the depressing part. It’s for ourselves and each other. Not to get laid. I almost kill myself with daily yoga so I look fit, I’ve had nips and tucks and lifts and it all hurts and goes south anyway and I wish I could just stop. Believe that it doesn’t matter. But I can’t. I need to feel young to feel good. And feeling good is all about looking good. For me. In this bloody business. Fashion…. and also in your fucking films.”

“So move to your beloved Haiti.”

“I might. It’s great. For that reason, perhaps. Also. When I am with people who have so little, are so positive, so loving, I don’t even look in the mirror. I go days without thinking about myself. My age, my saggy arms, my wrinkles. And yet I feel sexier there than I ever do in New York.”

Harvey stares at her.

“Actually … Haiti is the only place I still feel sexy. Worthy. Real. Myself.”

“You sound like Georgina,” he sounds bored.

“Why?”

“You know what Donna? I’m tired. I’m totally fucked. I lost everything I’ve worked for my entire life, so I don’t really give a shit when or why you feel sexy. When any woman feels sexy.”

“All you care about is yourself.”

“That’s right — I’ve earned it.”

“ A lonely place Harvey, I can’t help you there.”

“ I never asked you to.”

“No, I did that all on my own. Three off-the-cuff, inebriated sentences, and MY reputation of 30 years is down the toilet. All for the least deserving man in the universe. And all I want to do is talk to Stephan. He’d know what to do. You didn’t deserve another marriage. But I loved him. I was faithful. I thought we’d be together forever. Then he dies! So now this one is on me and me only. And I have no idea what to do. How to be in this gotcha world – I try but it’s all too much and I miss him.”

Harvey yawns. “Goodnight Donna. Thanks for stopping by.”

“Goodnight Harvey fucking Weinstein.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

This is a piece of satire that reflects my sense of the culture that created these two  “fallen icons”. I have met them both. I interviewed with Donna in 1999 and saw her socially in the Hamptons and Miami. She is a loving, open woman whom I truly believe has done a lot to support and help modern women. She lost her husband to cancer in 2001. He was her champion and partner. I don’t know why she said what she said this week, or how she meant it, but I have no problem cutting her some slack. Weinstein however…

I have my own Harvey Fucking Weinstein Story.

In 1989 a British actress friend insisted I go out with him. I don’t know if she was trying to ingratiate herself, I don’t know how he’d treated her. I do know that he introduced her to Woody Allen who subsequently used her in Husband and Wives. She told me he was a bit of a groper, but that she’d warned him to keep his hands off me. Ha!

It was to be a drinks and movie date and we met at the Bemelmans Bar. First thing he said to me was “I promised Lysette I’d keep my hands to myself.” Nevertheless I kept peeling him off me over cocktails and then he fell asleep within the first ten minutes of the movie. Relieved, I left him there, snoring loudly, and skipped out.

Lysette and I laughed about it and he never mentioned the date to her again.

Years later I was in an elevator with him, my husband and a glam crowd at a film award ceremony for Richard Gere. Liam Neeson had just smiled at me so I felt feisty. From my corner of the elevator I said loudly, for everyone to hear:

“Harvey! The only date that ever fell asleep on me!”

He glared at me. He was furious.

 

 

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Beyond Miami Beach…

As Advised by Great White Dog

I find myself annoyed. Am I annoyed with Miami? After eight years of living here?

Much has happened in that time. We lived here during Obama’s his entire presidency. When we arrived there were many unspoken agreements that had shaped the local culture over the twenty preceding years, from the wild-west eighties until the crash of 2009. “As long as we are having fun” was one of them. Being serious was boring. I was called a Debbie Downer at a dinner party, when I talked about water in the streets as a result of climate change (that BTW, had made every guest late for the party). Don’t get me wrong, I like having fun, but my idea of fun is  different from dressing in skimpy but expensive designer clothes, drinking outrageous cocktails, clamoring around celebs and music so intense that the only possible interaction is taking selfies with your “friends” (while hoping for one with that star).

Yes guilty, my initial blogs were all about those parties. As an outlet for my culture shock. And, after years of working in NYC and living in Milford, PA with small children, these parties were so alien, so different and took me so far outside myself, that it felt like something I needed, in the way that getting really drunk sometimes feels like a healthy dose of vitamin C. It wore off fast, the so-called glamorous lifestyle, one that I had always walked away from, in Amsterdam, Paris, London and New York. It just isn’t me. I like to drive myself hard and if I don’t accomplish stuff I set out to do, I get depressed. I do not dream of retiring, shopping and sitting by the pool for the rest of my life. I need to be heard and seen and not for gossip and what I wear. So when the party dust settled I got to work on being relevant in Miami, no matter what it took.

It took a lot… I gave it my best… I feel depleted… I can’t say I conquered and I’m kind of over trying (… plus I’m getting shit done in other parts of the world).

And yes, I realize it’s not all about me and I’m not alone. Three months into 2017 and this worn-out feeling is a national depression. Up and down the East and West Coast we aspired to be part of a wave of hope that Obama brought with him. One that I saw as a way to change and save Miami, with talks of rising sea-levels, an ocean full of plastic, recycling and up-cycling, the right for all kids to an inspired public education such as DASH, affordable housing instead of 20% occupancy in condos and private homes worth billions on Miami Beach, air-conditioned year-around.

But if it felt like I was swimming against the stream over the past eight years,  I am now swimming into a Tsunami. Will the already lavish parties get even bigger and crazier as the 1% feels empowered, emboldened in their greed and need to flaunt it, with Miami Beach as the perfect stage for competitive one-percenting? Living less than a mile from Sunny Isles, with its six Trump Towers, and the highest concentration of Russian investments in recent years, Russia’s unabashed imperialism is palpable. And after the cuts to environmental protection, the NEA, healthcare, public transportation, education, housing and human and women’s rights, what will happen to the other group, the full-time residents and working class whose statistics show that Miami’s income disparity is one of the largest in the country?

Yet it is all about me. Also. About what I can give and do and how I will spend the next twenty years of my life optimizing who I am, what I have learned and how I can reflect this back on generations to come. In another year the twins will leave for college. I will be free from the school calendar, driving and feeding and other hands-on mothering. I look at them, and how they act and feel, and I remember being seventeen and practically jumping out of my own skin with impatience, anger even at being told what to do by teachers, parents, the system. The nervous restlessness that I now recognize for what it is in my girls – their booster engines filled with ambition for their future and need for autonomy, propelling them forward. As I see this in my daughters I recognize it in myself, four decades older than they are, but the impulse is the same, I am getting ready for another shift.

So I am annoyed at Miami. Or I am just annoyed. I am practically jumping out of my skin with irritation at the status quo, and like a very old teenager I’m going to use this urge to amp it up some and get more shit done…

(But maybe not in Miami).

 

Links to projects elsewhere:

PORTFOLIO SITE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Waiting for Obama

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EARTH DAY IN THE EVERGLADES

“The miracle of light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slowly moving, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades. It is a river of grass.” – Marjorie Stoneman Douglas

President Obama spent Earth Day in the Florida Everglades, flying in the face of global warming denier Governor Rick Scott (R) and his mandate that bans the word “climate change” from the Tallahassee government dictionary.

After two hours of waiting in the heat, humidity, bugged by flies and the stench of porta-potties, the program announcer must’ve been as dopey as I was and his nonchalant introduction came after Obama had already stepped onto the freshly-cut grass. Mentally unprepared for the skinny man who casually crossed the lawn as if he was on his way to a neighbor’s picnic, I was almost disappointed, but as soon as he got behind the Presidential insignia Obama appeared to expand into his presidential stature and gave a strong speech that was full of sound bytes designed to create ripples (but not storms) in tea party cups. When the president said: “climate change can no longer be denied. It can’t be edited out. It can’t be omitted from the conversation,” it was clear who he was targeting, and he continued to speak specifically to Florida: “because in places like this, folks don’t have time, we don’t have time — you do not have time to deny the effects of climate change. Folks are already busy dealing with it. And nowhere is it going to have a bigger impact than here in south Florida. No place else.”

Day flight on Air Force One tomorrow with the President. We’re going to # ActOnClimate.” He was instantly torn apart by retweets that called his plans “more like a way to pollute in style.” But what could he do? Nye was Obama’s personal scientist and warm-up act, providing that selfie-with-star moment for the hardworking officials, to which Nye submitted himself with all the blasé enthusiasm of a modern-day celebrity.  read the rest of the article here

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Biebered

Everything happens in Miami. Just as I’m not looking. Like last night Justin Bieber drag raced below my bedroom window (relatively speaking on the scale and probability of the entire universe, so don’t start outing me with comments that it was several blocks south).

He was nabbed by the Miami Beach police and resisted arrest. They say. But thats what they always say. If you’re not falling into their arms yodeling that you’re sorry, they write on your arrest form that you “resisted arrest.” Hey Bieber was lucky that they didn’t tase him with their favorite gotcha toy ( used on young males of any color, tourists included).

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This happened at 4.13 am (note the 13 and not 10 or 15, that’s one sober cop) and by the time America brushed its teeth and poured its milk into its cereal a mega media story had been launched.

Baby Bieber’s mugshot was on every TV channel, every tweet, FB post looking like someone had told him it was a shoot for Teen.com, or better still a casting call for a cute new lesbian on Orange is the New Black. Smile! And hysterical news casters (inc. the likes of Anderson Cooper) came in their panties analyzing what could possibly have led to the downfall of the young role model to millions. Psychiatrists, lawyers, political analysts and weeping fans were interviewed and their conclusion was, with much head shaking: Bieber suffered from “Impostor Syndrome” and it was merely a cry for help! And where were the Bieber parents? Really, and how could they let this happen?

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Meanwhile Bieber sat in his cell (surrounded by Miami clubbers arrested at LIV for trying to enter the VIP zone) and wondered where his friend God was. After all the credit he’d given to God for his success, tagging him in every tweet, had God really forsaken him in his hour of need? His much needed need to act his age and gender and be invisible while racing a rented Lamborghini on Miami Beach, while just a tiny teensy bit intoxicated?

God? God!

I bet God didn’t even notice. I mean as soon as God focusses his attention on Miami Beach, like sits on a cloud somewhere over South Florida, he sees nothing but yellow (or red) Lamborghinis driving @ 60mph. And when he bothers to zoom in (think Google Earth or Godle Earth),  he sees young testosterone pumped up with performance enhancers like alcohol, codeine and pot (he calls it marijuana, and planted it as an afterthought late on day six, and only for medicinal value) and too much time and money, everywhere.  Like Everywhere. Especially at 4.13 am.

So I imagine God shrugged, made a mental note to send the Devil a text later, asking him to go easy on the young Bieb, and turned his attention back to Chris Christie.

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Meanwhile, we, those who live in Miami Beach, smile and shrug the shrug of knowledge. Like man eats man’s face off? Like tasing a teen artist to death for tagging graffiti? Like a celebrity arrested for acting out? Of course! What do you expect? This is Miami!

And when I drove home last night, yes along Pinetree Drive enjoying its 15 minutes of fame (paparazzi are still hanging out – you know, for when time goes backwards and they’re the first on the scene), I looked over at the trophy wife in a black SUV right next on me. As per habit we stepped on it, raced for the orange light at 41st Street, speedometers hitting the 56mph mark, and made it, perfectly timed, just through red.

What?

What do you expect? This is Miami!

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Stupid Model in Paris is now available on Amazon :

http://www.amazon.com/STUPID-MODEL-Paris-Barbara-Vries-ebook/dp/B00HZ1GH8Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390686886&sr=1-1&keywords=stupid+model+in+paris

 


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Why am I Such an Oxy Moron?

Nothing kills a conversation faster than my introduction at a Miami bling party

Meet barbara, she makes beautiful jewelry from trash she finds on the beach…

I get a wan smile of panic, then the introducee bolts to another circle in search of  meeting star people like J.Lo’s derriere masseur, Lohan’s life coach, Madonna’s  Manolo shiner or P.Diddy’s Cuban cigar lighter…

Its OK

Its Miami

It was, last night, the Barton G. launch party of VAULT, his new magazine, held at The Villa, his new Art of Being Social intimate inn housed in the former Versace Pallazzo

boxing ring location

Barton G., a Houdini who, 20 years ago, took Miami Beach and boiled it down, distilled it, infused it, let it sit and then blew its essence out into  a gawdy kitch trippyness  he branded the Art of Being Social, naming himself the master of ceremonies –  the Jeff Koons of party planning.

We went to snoop.

The book GdeV Studio (husband and me) is  doing on Miami had just reached a point of critical mass – the days that Versace fell in love with South Beach, and built his pallazzo from ruins on Ocean Drive among the  locations trucks, NY models, Jewish retirees and crack dealers…

The VAULT launch party was the perfect pretense to have a mosey

While a boxing ring the size of a  cereal box was being lowered from 11th Street into the infamous swimming pool courtyard by a 100 ft crane (for a 3 round boxing match between a supermodel-by-day/boxer-by-night and an I’ll-fuck-your-face-up-bad boxer, which the spoiled crowd watched with as much fervor as if they were watching Jo Biden eating oatmeal) we wandered into the Villa’s inner courtyard and climbed the stairs all the way to the roof, to Gianni’s lair inside the watchtower  strewn with pillows and overlooking Ocean Drive, the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. When Alastair trespassed further he was confronted by what may have been a ghost of nineties security, a  Men-in-Black guard with the charm of Scarface.

A standoff on the Pallazzo rampart ensued.

Patrolled Versace Villa rampart

The Architectural Critic versus  the Blackwater Mercenary

(Culturally way more interesting than what was going on below in that tiny boxing ring)

I felt a chill and flashed on Alastair being thrown off the roof and me becoming another lonely widow spawned by South Beach debauchery ( Donatella being so much the brand-widow of Versace)

After chest puffing and rank pulling Blackwater won and we descended back down to where the mortals were allowed and found a quiet pocket of civility – a small wood-paneled bar that was deliciosuly air conditioned and served a variety of pink wine and champagne. Only two people had discovered it before us.

Nanci and Louis.

Alastair joked that the palazzo was  ground zero of Miami decadence and Nanci complemented my dress

In typical Miami Beach style, the evening turned on itself.

Degrees of separation were discovered that ranged from Lawrenceville to the Berkshires, high powered careers in NYC,, friends and children and a shared fascination with  life on the beach in all its excesses.

Nanci was interested in my work as an activist designer but then again she was a New Yorker

turquoise monofilament drift rope bracelet

Two weeks earlier I had rushed back from  Eleuthera because I’d been invited to be part of a  Miami Beach sustainable fashion show and award ceremony called Sustainatopia

I had made my “red carpet” dress in Eleuthera and Iona would be my model

But when we arrived it was clear that the event was as awkward as the name suggested

We hung around backstage at the Fillmore for a while but when no one seemed to know about the staging or order of show we turned around and went home. I dont think anyone ever missed us and I’d spared my 15-year-old daughter from an embarrassing cat walk across a vast and empty stage…

I was a bit sad because she looked so beautiful

Iona in the Plastic is Forever “red carpet” dress

But nothing could bring me down from my Eleuthera high and I looked forward to speaking the next day at the Impact Conference, where Pam Longobardi, Cynthia La Grou and I were billed as a panel about Envisioning Alternatives in Social Investing.

What the hell did that mean?

Hadn’t we prepared to each speak about  Driving a New Economy through the Arts, Design and Media and addressing the problem of plastic pollution? John Rosser, the organizer of  the sustainable conference, confessed  he’d  changed our title because he felt he’d  “taken a risk alienating his core constituency on our behalf.”

WTF?

FEAR?

Fear of being too green?

Fear of being too sustainable?

The fear of being unsexy in Miami and being taken for a hippie in this city full of glamor addicts.

But wasn’t he the organizer? If not him then who?

Oh well, for the party after the panel I’d  curated a small show at the Botanical Gardens and about a hundred people came to see…

Pam’s drift web installation in the Banyan Tree

Pam Longobardi drift web made from marine debris. Photo by Myra Wexler

Richard and Judith Lang photographs

red beach plastic tags collected and photographed by Richard and Judith Lang.

My new piece, from neck size to wall size, a large wall installation

rainbow strings of beach plastic

Bucking all sustainable trends like recycling and green design  Miami has turned out to be unexpectedly mercurial

Whereas Eleuthera has been surprisingly supportive and open

Soon I will go north for the summer

But I’m determined to overcome my conversation-killer stigma when I’m back next year …

Beach plastic cross bracelet with grey seed pearls


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Away Is Where It’s At…

A Plastic is Forever pop up shop on Friday the 20th of April was the climax of my three week stay in Eleuthera

It was the welcome party for a weekend of Earthday Festivities in Eleuthera and I was the featured guest with a gallery full of Plastic is Forever – earrings, bracelets, necklaces, scarves, tees, kerchiefs, stationary, and even a pair of pants and a “red carpet” dress.

linen “shipwreck” pants hand sewn with orange mono-filament

I took over the Beach House Boutique which belongs to my friend Jude (she had generously donated the space for the day.)  Usually the shop is a cornucopia of treasures, a feast for the eyes, a trove of endless fashion goodies- something for everyone, but I had planned to strip it down to a white, bare, breezy gallery space. A place where the colors of a new generation of beach plastic would speak loudly to an audience that came from all over to celebrate Earthday in Eleuthera.

For starters I needed five sheets of plywood, painted white, to cover the walls, and had located them as soon as I’d arrived in Tarpum Bay. They were stored at the fire station, they were already white, and they were mine for the event, but eventually would end up as the ceiling of a community building. Perfect, no waste, they would be recycled….

On Thursday, the day before my  installation, I drove past the Governor’s Harbour park where Saturday’s festivities would take place. Stalls for local vendors (food, crafts, drinks and community info) were already built around the perimeter and in the middle stood a small hand-hewn stage prepared for the eight consecutive hours of island music  and  speakers.

The white backdrop of the stage looked vaguely familiar. It was made from five sheets of roughly painted white plywood.

Hmm.

Of course I panicked.

But no one else did.

I melted down NYC style. Where TF was my plywood?

Don’t worry man… they laughed…

The next morning between 9am and 12 am ten sheets of plywood materialized. And a jar of white paint. And two brushes. Word had gone out that the lady of the plastic needed plywood…

poster in the Sands liquor store

I was disappointed that the dates of my daughters’ FCA tests in Miami made it impossible  for my family to get to Eleuthera in time for my event.

But.

I was sent three fashion angels… the A-team of style mavens … they arrived from NYC on Thursday night…

Julie Gilhart, Christine Park and Berrin Noorata had planned to spend Earthday in Eleuthera. To help me! After two weeks of lonely nights in my castle I had a house full of women – four sleepovers – I couldn’t believe my luck and they couldn’t believe where they had landed – paradise – a mere five hour trip from Seventh Avenue (same as a trip in the Hampton Jitney to Montauk on a Friday afternoon in July).

We spent Friday hooshing. I laid out the store after the plywood had gone up. Gallery in the front, One Beach  screening room and check-out in the back …

front to back

Julie, Christine and Berrin have worked together for years and easily fell into creating the pop up store.

Together we played shop and it was fun…

Christine hangs the napkin rings

Berrin styles packaging and check out

Julie works pricing

At 3pm a giant inflatable plastic purple foot floated across the deck outside the shop’s window. Barefoot Wine, the sponsor of the One Beach film and the wine sponsor for the event, had arrived for set-up. Erected, right outside my temple against beach plastic pollution, was an inflatable purple plastic palace constructed from enormous Barefoot logo feet.

Hmm.

Those purple bare feet were not walking the One Beach talk. The message about plastic pollution, as in the single-use senseles plastic gifts of purple plastic leis and purple plastic barefoot key rings which were handed-out to our guests, evidently had not trickled-down from Napa Valley to Nassau.

With Miss Bahamas Earth

The welcome party was a hit. Over 200 people attended and we sold a lot of Plastic is Forever pieces.

 

  

 

Eleanor Phillips from the Bahama chapter of  The Nature Conservancy welcomed the crowd, Shaun Ingraham and Michele Johnson introduced  the One Eleuthera Foundation.

I spoke about how Away is Here.

waiting my turn

Wich means that whether we “get Away from it all” or “throw our plastic trash Away”,  Away is the same place – the beautiful beaches of Eleuthera – and how we, visitors, come from societies that litter the oceans. I urged the crowd to take responsibility, on behalf of Eleuthera, the place we all claim to love so much, and  help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans and on the pristine beaches of Away – Eleuthera, Hawaii, Bali, etc.

Shaun Ingraham introduces the One Eleuthera Foundation. Photo: Azaleta Ishmail Newry

The next day Michelle and Craig Symonette hosted the VIP lunch at their stunning home on Twin Coves. VIP indeed, $600,000 was pledged to One Eleuthera and they were off to a flying start. Shaun was beaming when I handed him my, by comparison, measly check, the % contribution to One Eleuthera from the sales of the previous night. I pledged more to come as a % of Plastic is Forever will continue to benefit One Eleuthera.

table settings with the first ever beach plastic napkin rings

Saturday night was party time in Bayfront Park  with reggae, rap and even a Junkanoo…

  

Sunday morning was very wet as a storm passed over the island overnight but Shelby White who created  the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, in memory of her husband, said it was the best gift mother earth could have bestowed on Earthday – rain was what they needed most.

Shelby White, #1 on Eleuthera’s best-dressed list with Craig Symonette #1 fun host

The afternoon picnic at Coco di Mama hosted by the Urgo family was a windy affair.

Most people stayed indoors and drank.

Mark from the Leon Levy preserve at the Coco di Mama party

Coco di Mama is by far the cutest hotel on Eleuthera on the usually calm and turquoise Alabaster Bay . It has been my favorite ever since it opened. With the Urgo family as its current owners it is poised to expand to 42 rooms by January 2014, which is great news for the island.

Coco di Mama seen from the sea

By the end of the day, thanks to three powerful weeks and Sammy’s cocktails, I was giddy and somewhat worse for wear.

And sad that I had to tear myself away from Away….


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Columbus Will Come To Check It Out

The MacMillan Castle in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera

I had a restless sleep in my tower. The myth in the village is of course that Gordon MacMillan Hughes’ spirit still haunts his castle. Never mind that he died in Ireland, about 4000 miles from here, a mere practicality the spirit-world does not recognize. I went to bed with my windows open. I needed to hear and feel my first night in the settlement. As soon as the sun went down and darkness settled the town had become quiet. No more children shouting and laughing. No more passing cars. For a while there was the shrill pumped-up engine of one lone motorbike, a rebellious teenager with a new toy I imagined, going back and forth crisscrossing the small streets until he got bored or hungry or his mother finally pulled him inside.

I fell asleep in silence but sudden random noises woke me. First a dog barked, then a woman cried out. I’d drowse off and a lone car passed by or a drunkard sang in the distance. It was too hot, a mosquito had found me, I dreamt that my husband and my teenage daughter were smoking pot together and I shouted is this is what you do as soon as I leave? They laughed at me. Throughout my dreams I wasn’t wearing my contacts so everything was blurry. Only people with very bad eyesight can appreciate this dream, when the powerlessness of our disability becomes full-blown reality.

Just before dawn the dogs started their ferocious chorus. In rural towns all over the world stray dogs herald daybreak before the rooster. Maybe they are the ones who wake the roosters who get all the credit for waking us humans.

I got up and closed my windows, turned on the AC, took a Claritin for the mosquito bites and slept till 8am when the sounds of the settlement grinding into action drifted past the humming air conditioner. A group of girls in crisp white shirts with little bow ties that matched their tartan skirts walked by on their way to the elementary school that lies a few hundred yards from the castle. They played loudly in the schoolyard until exactly nine when all went quiet again. Next I heard the teachers starting class, their voices drifting up the hill and from the roof terrace I could see right through their open classroom doors to the bright turquoise water of the Caribbean.

view from the roof, the settlement, the elementary school and the Caribbean

I made my morning cup of PG tips tea and turned on my shower. It sputtered and a grinding noise came from the pipes but nothing happened. I was not surprised. To expect perfect plumbing at a castle would be unreasonable. I called Metta, MacMillan Hughes’ daughter and the castle’s keeper.

“Columbus will come over to check it out,” she said.

He was short, wiry and ageless. His once-white skin had weathered into almost black and was deeply grooved yet his dark brown hair didn’t have a strand of grey. His  legs were short and bandy, and his back was bent but appeared strong under his dirty white tee that advertised the name of a marine supply store. When Columbus and I crossed the roof to my turret chamber (and shower) he lamented the fact that he couldn’t see both oceans from this highest  vantage point in Tarpum Bay.

“Only you would care,” I said and Columbus laughed like we were both in on some cosmic joke.

Yes I am here and voila, I am Barbi scissorhands.

I arrived at the MacMillan castle yesterday afternoon for my tenure as the Tarpum Bay artist in residence.

I’ve never been an artist in residence before.

I’ve not been a princess in a turret either.

I’ve been a model and a designer and a wife and a mother but never a damsel in a tower in the Bahamas (beats London). Can I handle it? Alone for the first time in god knows how long (sure I’ve been away from my family but somehow it doesn’t count when I have to show up for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a client.)

OK. So.

I just figured out that if I stand on of one of the towers facing the tiny library on the next corner I can get a good enough signal to upload my pictures and first daily blog….