Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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Steve Jobs, TED and thinking different…

Beach plastic necklace. Crosses made from crate embellished with seed pearls

Today the ether is atwitter with quotes from Steve Jobs to “think different”.

Everyone is encouraging everyone to think different.

(A paradox I think)

The TED movement is based on this Steve concept, in fact TED has branded thinking different with “Ideas Worth Sharing” and encourages people from all over to share their ideas, their ways of different thinking, around the globe.

Many people are asking about my TED talk, “How did you get in? How did you do it?”

To be honest it had not occurred to me until I was invited by TED to share my recent work at their next event in Miami.

The evolution of my relationship to what I find on the beach and what I do with it has been organic and compared to the speed of my previous life on 7th Avenue where a new collection was due every six weeks, it was slow.

Very slow.

Slow is good. Slow gave me more time to think . But, because the thoughts happened over an extended period of time, they no longer feel different. They have become part of who I am.

So when I talk about my passion for beach plastic it does not feel like I think different.

Different may well be in the eye of the beholder and it’s in constant flux.

For instance.

Sixty years ago plastic was a “different” material. It was introduced as the material that would give nature a break because we were depleting wood, bone, ivory etc. Now there is not a moment in our life when we do not interact with it. The entire planet is awash with plastic. Oceans carry plastic particles around like cells in a bloodstream. Plastic has been found in tens of thousands of living species, including us. Single use plastic is no longer giving nature a break, it is suffocating life.

In the past I put my creative work out there, but not the thought behind it. I have always been more interested in the outcome rather than the explanation of the creative process and believe that authenticity resonates on its rightful frequency.  But because my work now has an element of activism I succumbed.

Still

I’d hate to preach. I am not here to make any individual feel guilty. I can inspire but I cannot tell you what to do.

(Corporations, hell yes, I’ll make them  guilty all day long, as well as government and policy makers).

But as individuals we have free will. We are in charge of our own destiny. We can inform ourselves and choose to act. We can decide to  bring our own bags to the supermarket instead of using 20 plastic bags instead. We  can recycle, reuse, repurpose and refuse. We have the choice to take responsibility.

in between the lines

My personal transformation started  in Eleuthera 8 years ago.

On my first beach walk  I noticed,  in between the lines in the sand,  bright flecks of color. My initial thought was how pretty but then I realized these specks of plastic were  not supposed to be there.

By the end of that first walk I had encountered everything that mankind had ever made in plastic.

Crates, chairs, brushes, lids, containers, barrettes, flip flops and sneaker and endless lengths of nylon rope.

Even on this remote “pristine” beach I realized that we live in a man made world.

Being a designer I look at almost everything as shape, color, texture and inspiration and what I saw that day I’d never seen before.

The beach plastic had been tumbled in sand, salt and coral. and was bleached by the sun. It had been in nature for so long that it had taken on a natural patina. Some pieces looked like stone, like little colored gems.

I started picking them up.

My love hate relationship with plastic started in that moment .

Back  home I tried to find out more.

I learned that we each consume roughly 300 pounds of plastic a year of which a mere 7% is recycled and 8 million pieces of plastic find their way into the ocean every day.

What could I do?

I had an ever increasing “collection” of beach plastic in my studio and I started making earrings.

Eventually I had an awakening to the possibilities of this material that was never really owned but had been thrown to the mythical place called away.

To make jewelry was a transformation, not just for me, but also for the material.

Think of a water-bottle top. Does anyone ever feel that they own a plastic bottle top? It just keeps the liquid inside the bottle, right? Which you don’t feel you own either. Does the manufacturer of your water feel he owns that bottle?

Nobody owns single-use plastic.

I like finding weathered bottle tops. They make great earrings, and I love selling single use plastic, beach plastic, into ownership.

If plastic is made to last forever then maybe, like diamonds, it can be loved forever.

I got this comment yesterday:

“Keep cleaning up the beaches lady.. but what are you gonna do with all those balloons with the plastic string ties and can you make something with all the garbage those people in Miami leave on the beaches while you’re at it???”

He does NOT think different!

I am not cleaning up the beaches for him or anyone. I do it for me. Creating beauty with beach plastic makes me happy and by getting your attention I implicate you in the tragedy of our single-use throw-away culture.

I hope I make you think.

Not just different.

Different is fleeting.

But think.

All the time

About everything.

website:

http://www.plasticisforever.net/


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How to prepare for a TED talk with the Seinfeld method….

Almost four weeks later and my TED talk is not online.

I practice my ZEN patience and wonder if:

When one does a TED talk and nobody can see it,  is it still is a TED talk?

As I write this I have not seen myself TED talking.

Still.

I am glad it is over.

Was it fun?

Did I do good?

I did terrible in the dress rehearsal. Like really awful, like I wondered if they could fire me.

It was the clock. Right in the middle of the audience, at perfect eye level, is a monitor. It shows the slides or video that is projected behind the speakers so we don’t have to keep turning around to address our images. Its about 3ft by 18″. But I could not really see  because over my pictures there was a giant fluorescent 13 that took up the entire screen. 13 minutes for my talk. Seconds and minutes passing backwards, like the proverbial bomb in James Bond movies and I was James, responsible for saving the world in 13 minutes.

photo: Ilmar Saar

So.

At 8 minutes I thought.

As I was talking my dress rehearsal TED.

I thought. 8? 13 minus 8? Thats is 5 minutes done. Is that all?

Seriously, I did math while I was still speaking. Isn’t it amazing? The gymnastics of which the mind is capable.

Then I worried. Could I fill those 8 minutes?

I lost my train, my momentum and I blanked.

Bluh.

Mouth and head full of cotton wool.

Bluh.

Nothing came to mind. Nothing came out.

Nada.

Was I stupid?

I had felt really stupid late August when I had written my entire talk and started practicing. Almost 2000 words. I did not really memorize, which, as I was told by both husband and Gina from TED, was a bad idea, but I did have an order and a rhythm for what and how I would TED talk.

Besides I had a 13 minute multi-media show which played behind me.

Not that I would talk to slides.

Like manually click them.

I hate that format.

“Oh, and here we have me, at the beach, finding my beach plastic…”

Too much like those family vacation slide shows of our neighbors that my parents sneered at as ever-so bourgeois.

Anyway I was stupid when I started working my TED.

Unable to memorize anything more than one paragraph.

I got advice from everyone.

Do it in the mirror. In the car. Film yourself and play it back. You will be fine, wing it, you  know your stuff , just make it up as you go along…

Right.

I felt so dumb that I bought Gingko.

I almost overdosed on Gingko.

I still felt stupid. I am too old I thought.

I have an old brain.

Then I worried about what to wear and I felt shallow.

I had my roots done, but did hair dye kill more brain cells?

I told husband who was still in Milford.

I had not seen him in weeks but he was coming to Miami for my talk.

He sounded sharp, bright and cheery.

“Not to worry, you’ll remember when you’re up there.”

Hmm.

Then I remembered.

(Yes, at least I did remember this!)

The Seinfeld Theory.

Do you remember?

Put to the test and proven in episode 143.

My problem?

Husband was away. But husband was coming to Miami three days before my talk.

That would give me enough time to clear my mind.

And he would love it.

As soon as he arrived I started clearing my mind.

Wow, he said. This is great. I should stay away more often.

The next morning I practiced my TED and could remember four minute spans. I had two days left to dress rehearsal, three to actual night. That was four to five mind-clearing sessions.

It so happened to be our 21st anniversary.

An excellent excuse for siestas. Back rubs. Jacuzzi’s and what may ensue…

By Monday morning, driving back from Iona’s school, I remembered my entire TED in exactly 13 minutes. What had been the big deal? I could do it backwards…

But then.

There was the clock.

The unknown factor.

That screwed me up.

“Its why we have dress rehearsals,” Gina said. “Now go home and forget about it. Do not look at your speech again. Relax. You’ll be fine tomorrow.”

I did relax on Tuesday the 13th of September. I had a pedicure and told husband I was having a nap at 2pm.

Afternoon delight, he hummed rather absent mindedly.

But happy.

Afterwards I confessed that I had been using him.

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“You know, the Seinfeld Theory?” I hinted.

Wha’? he said.

You know that episode where George thinks lack of sex makes his mind sharper and he feels smart, then Elaine  uses this abstinence method  but she becomes more stupid. So she begs Jerry to have sex with her  just so she can clear her mind.

You know? No? You don’t  remember?

Nah. I don’t think so. What day is it again? shall we go and see a movie tonight or something…?

Yeah, something!

 


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Back and Doing the Other Miami…

I’m back.

From pastoral Pennsylvania to crazy Miami.

To the bachelor pad which is being de-bachelored by turning the “pool” room (as in shooting pool with your mates at 3 am, after getting home from the Wall without scoring)  into a third bedroom for the twins so they can do homework, hang out, bicker and sleep behind a wall (instead of the exposed upper mezzanine).

Tiesto mural in pool room will be preserved

Of course this was to be done in the ample two months that we were away and of course it was started on the Friday we returned. So now we neither have an office (pool room) nor a bedroom for the girls since everything from one room is piled in the other.

But thats OK.

They say they will be done by Wednesday.

They say.

They said they’d be done by now.

But I’m not bothered. There are bigger problems.

Like school uniforms.

Maybe one has to be genetically programmed to deal with procuring kid’s uniforms. Maybe I’m too hippy-dippy Dutch to even think about universal clothing for creative kids. See I always look to blame myself first (Have you noticed? Do you do that too? I wish I were a bit more Teaparty, and blame everyone else. Like only everyone else all the time.), still I was proud to have gathered, at Woodbury Common (Like/Love), four khaki bottoms that my trendy twins would deign to wear to school, and one pair of black pants that may get them sent home (while the color is right, the fit will be deemed too sexy, which in this city of underdressed exhibitionists is paradoxical but don’t get me started, I already wrote that blog.)

The preppy polo tops have to be bought locally since they are emblazoned with the Miami Arts Charter School logo.

lime, teal, white or black with MAC logo

Another bigger problem was getting an e-mail from TED, shortly after arrival, requesting a full run-through of my talk at 1 pm on Wednesday. This Wednesday? This Wednesday!

TED? But I was still on uniforms. Saturday was uniform day on my “what to do when we get back” list. Which also has finish homework with the girls, unpack, get food in fridge, get 2nd floor toilet and phone fixed , you know the drill.

TED!

So while I should be writing and practicing my TED talk, I’m chasing uniforms.

Yes, I’d ordered them online as the school suggested, but got a notice a few days ago that the polo’s would be ready for delivery in 5 weeks!

WTF? Right?

What are the suggesting? Homeschooling for five weeks? I mean the school is clear:

All students and parents have agreed to abide by the school uniform as described in the parent/student contract signed during registration.

Students not in uniform will be required to contact their parent and sent home.

I’m scared!
Ibiley suggests I visit any of their conveniently located Miami stores.
They lied. None of them are conveniently located. All of them are in scary shit neighborhoods that are at least  40 minutes away.

I settled on North Miami and was wise enough to call first, just to make sure they had said polos in stock, but of course got the robot who told me that August is too busy to answer the phone, and tells me to leave a message.

They’re also too busy to answer.

I find out just how busy.

But not till after getting lost in the maze of NE and NW 159th street Drive and Street and Court, at the very place where 95, the turnpike and 539 intersect in a spider-web of flyovers and underpasses and of course the exit ramp that Mapquest told me to use is Closed for Construction.

What?

You are sorry for the inconvenience?

Fuck you!

Why not just post some signs up telling how to get the fuck to Ibeley Uniforms in the industrial park (with one entrance) that I can see from the overpass which points towards the Everglades, at 70 miles an hour.

OK. So.

50 minutes later, and isn’t it amazing how proud those moments can make you (forget about a TED talk), I pull up in front of Ibiley.

Pride turns to nausea in a nano second.

Swarming around the  huge warehouse, are hundreds of people of many colors (none quite as white as the three of us), several  stainless steel quilted food trucks are randomly parked, and something that resembles a long line, made up from entire families (bring the kids, the toddlers, the babies, the grannies, aunts, uncles and don’t forget the neighbors) comes out from the front door into the 95 degree sunshine.

We “politely” battle our way inside only to find many feet of empty shelves and another line that resembles immigration at JFK before Christmas.

Determined (if nothing else) I find 8 tees (4 each), while yelling at the twins to help me. Unfortunately they’re catatonic with the otherness of it all, like in some culture-shock transition from the verdant woods to this urban jungle.

We join the immigration line.

After ten minutes we move close enough to spot a tiny sign over the counter.

We are out of the folowing logo patches. (you buy the tees and pay in line #1, they give you your school’s logo patches, you join line #2, the one outside, and they apply the patches).

Come back on the 28th and we will apply them for free,, it also read. (You’d have to bloody well pay ME to come back!).

There’s no actual list of said missing patches posted. I guess it changes by the minute.

So.

I grab an Ibiley sales girl who looks like she will get really drunk that night.

MAC is not on her list of out-of-stock patches.

I ponder if this is good news. I’m rather praying for an excuse to leave. But it sounds like we will be there for the next few hours. (Could I get into this Cuban/Caribbean/South American block-party atmosphere?).

The girl walks away.

The girl comes back.

“You are at the wrong location”, she says. “MAC uses special embroidery and is only available at our Little Havana store on SW 8th Street.”

We are on NW 167th street.

You have to be from Miami to know what that really means, but imagine flying to London instead of Sydney.

We are fucked.

We leave the line.

We are hungry and buy three sandwiches, and three Cuban drink cans ( sexy looking mixed mango. papaya, passion fruit that taste like water) from the guilted truck.

“Mom, these are the best sandwiches I’ve ever had,” the twins chime, “Yes, at least we got some really good sandwiches out of it.”

They encourage me. (Afraid that I might have a shit-fit meltdown?)

Instead I find 95 South (easy), and head towards Little Havana.

I call husband who is on the porch in PA and tells me its the first nice day in weeks.

@#$%^&* !!

He also tells me to give myself a break.

He often tells me this.

I listen. The only breaks I take are the ones he tells me to take.

He’s good to me in that way.

“You did your best,” he says. “Go home, have a swim, enjoy being back.”

He has a point.

I compromise with myself. I settle on Target, which I happen to be passing, buy the last three (a terrible number for twins) white polo’s and  HP iron-0n tee shirt transfer paper.

I feel clever.

I shall go home, get the MAC logo online and iron it on.

Which I do.

While arguing with the MAC principal in my mind that this is as good as the real thing from Little Havana and that the Ibiley store was completely out of stock (good chance of that anyway, right? Given the odds so far?)

While the trip to Little Havana still looms, since three tees between twins won’t last me the promised five weeks.

They wont even last two days.

And then there is TED.

TED needs attention.

As soon as the girls are in school TED will be my lover.

I promise TED my undivided attention….