Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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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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The making and premiere of One Beach, the movie…

Q and A at the premiere of One Beach

Last Spring I got  that  e-mail

That uber message we look for in our otherwise boring Inbox.

The one that says:

We have been following your work with beach plastic pollution, we love it, would you be interested in being featured in a movie we are planning?

Delete?

Not me!

Looking for a hidden sales message? Like the next line would say: If you take part in this short questionnaire  you too can be captured on film.

You bet! I did not trust it. I proceeded with caution.

It was not until I had spoken with all the makers of the film, the creative director Sean, the producer Michael, the director Jason and had signed a non-disclosure with Barefoot Wine (to keep it all hush until the premiere, hence no previous mention here at BDM) that I became excited.

They wanted to shoot in Eleuthera, where I find all my beach plastic, and so I sent them the  limited  list of places in Governor’s Harbour. Three low-key hotels, Cigatoo, Pineapple Fields and Coco Di Mama, and a handful of rentals that have 5+ bedrooms.

They chose Squires Estate.

Squires Estate, Toad Hall in foreground, Main Russell House beyond...

I had always wanted to stay there, ever since it had been restored two years ago. Alastair and I even looked at the main house when it was on the market. Its a dream property, on the hill, a 120 year old Victorian House, overlooking Cupid’s Key, walking distance to Club Med Beach – the most beautiful beach I know.

They booked me for four days early June. Two travel and two shooting.

“Bring your tools and your favorite designs, we’ll do the rest.”

If the camera added ten pounds then it was the time for a diet.

I did a two-day fast, a nine-day shake/powder regimen and swam a million lengths of the pool.

I departed, lithe and pre-tanned.

First to arrive, I chose the ground floor bedroom of the main house because it was the most private, like a mini wing, overlooking the pool and the Caribbean sea to the west. Everything was new, done by an Italian designer with exquisite taste, who’d mixed old with high-tech, quirky with traditional.

I got my old red truck from the garage.

I was already happy.

A few hours later the crew arrived. Curt, Sean, Jason, Michael, Scotty and Tyler.

Six surfers from California.

Had I died and gone to heaven?

OK. Yes! I am happily married. I’m a mother of three. I’m not young as such.

But hey, I’m still a woman!

lunch at the Beach House

I had an eery feeling –  after  years of being a service-driven mother, feeding, cleaning, chauffeuring, organizing and wondering  (within the safety of my own head):

What about me?

A dawning sense that maybe someone (who can hear beyond the safety of my own head), had been listening, that somehow I had been good enough, that getting attention was actually allowed when you try your hardest to be a good wife and mother and employee and world citizen…

And I let go.

Snap.

This was  going to be about me (and my obsession with beach plastic) and it was OK.

Those six guys were awesome, I don’t know much about them beyond those four days, but they were easy going, considerate, creative, charming, talented, professional and funny, so funny…

They made it possible for me to be me. To do my work, make my stuff, tell my message without ever making me feel self-conscious or insecure. At least three cameras captured me at work for at least 24  hours. It felt natural. It felt great. I felt beautiful. They helped me believe that what I was doing was worthwhile.

I wanted it to last a bit longer.

Last shot, left to right, Tyler, Jason, Barbi, Curt, Sean, Michael and Scotty

Still, we dispersed. They went on to do the next “innovator”, Tim in Australia, and I was just a tad jealous.

But I mainly felt empowered. Things were falling into place. back home I was asked to apply for the Miami TED talk. I went on my teaching trip around Eleuthera.

*

Last night I saw I Don’t Know How She Does It with my three daughters. I had read the book at a time when I identified with the author, when I was the overcommitted mother of three little girls who felt she had to do it all, or else…

Leila wanted to know if I had ever felt like Kate did in the film.

You mean, like, I Don’t Know How I Did It?

Kiki and Leila @ 2 years, by barred stairs in Milford.

My daughters are now eleven and fifteen. I asked if they remembered when I was the Mother with a Career in NYC.

They don’t!

They don’t remember that I went to Hong Kong for two weeks over Christmas when they were six months old, nor being in day care at age two because the latest nanny had disappeared without trace while I worked on 7th Avenue three days a week (living in Milford,PA). They don’t remember my equivalent of  Kate Reddy’s bake-sale angst amongst the zealous fundraising stay-at-home mothers of the Homestead School.

Its great to find out that it it did not matter. That they are fine. More than fine. That I can forgive myself for those perceived shortcomings, that getting off the fashion merry-go-round to have more time at home with them was a good choice too. That feeling out of it and disconnected and fat and dumb maybe was just a cocoon, a small, limited space, where the next incarnation of me could shape itself.

Of course we always are exactly where we should be.

This is easy to see with the gift of hindsight, like looking at an old photograph and wondering why you did not really enjoy the way you looked back then.

When I first saw One Beach I felt that I was exactly where I should be in the big picture of life.

So.

Thank you all Barefooters for making this possible.

Jason Baffa, Scotty and Tyler for making me look good.

Michael Pizzo for producing and Curt O’Brien for setting it up.

Sean O’Brien for his creative foresight and green spirit that gave birth to the idea of One Beach.

And of course the entire Barefoot Wine team in California and New York that worked so hard to pull it all off in time for the premiere in NYC  last week.

We were all there.

In New York.

The team that made One Beach and the people it featured, called The Innovators in the film.

Kevin Cunningham, a surfer from Rhode Island who incorporates beach plastic in making surfboards from recycled materials.

Richard Lang and beautiful Judith Selby Lang, the king and queen of beach plastic, fell in love on their first date while combing Kehoe Beach for plastic debris. They incorporate beach plastic in their art from installations to photography and jewelry.

Left to right: Stephanie Gallo, Kevin Cunningham, Sean O'Brien, Barbara de Vries Jason Baffa, Judith and Richard Lang, Elizabeth and Anne. Lying in foreground is Tyler from Smash.

We watched the first screening together, wept at the end, and were all amazed at the synergy between us, four people who have never met, in three different parts of the US, who collect and work with beach plastic and whose dialog and message has evolved in an eerily similar way without ever speaking to each other.

We also had beach plastic envy as we drooled over pieces in each other’s collection.

The premiere was at the Helen Mills theatre in Chelsea, with a live feed to our own Facebook app where over 5000 people had signed up to watch the film and subsequent Q and A online.

Sitting in the director’s chairs, below ground in NYC, taking questions that Tyler, our MC, received on his Ipad from Facebookers all over, had a surreal sense of opportunity, the feeling that when we  all connect we can make a difference.

Below is  the One Beach film, which we hope will help raise awareness of beach plastic pollution. Numbers just released estimate that six million tons of what becomes “marine debris” (non organic material that does not break down) enters the oceans every year. One Beach has a positive message, it is upbeat about creativity and possibility, but none of us have the illusion that just  selling up-cycled beach plastic into ownership can significantly reduce what washes up on our beaches every day with every tide and every wave. We want to connect to people through beauty, and our message is to for everyone to reduce our plastic foot print (300 pounds per person every year) NOW by saying no to single-use plastics.

Tip: Start with refusing bottled water and plastic shopping bags, relatively easy steps, then pick an alternative material every time there is a choice…

Here are Sean’s pictures of the making of One Beach in Eleuthera:  link

Sunset from the pool at Squires