Saturday, April 23, 2011

Two Shoes

Thanks to Ms. Casey, my English teacher from 9th through 12th grades (her motto was: "All educated, literate people know this!"), and my generally brooding nature, while shopping for shoes the other day and contemplating which pair to settle on, I thought of "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

You see, I am at a crossroads of sorts. Not that the choosing of shoes would determine my next step, so to speak, and seal my fate--the shoes being on clearance and non-returnable--but in the midst of (kind of sort of) job hunting, anticipating interviews, awaiting the assumed desire of a positive outcome or bracing myself for the expected rejection, I am secretly harboring dreams of taking the road less travelled by. Certainly commuting on Highway 4 during rush hour is most definitely NOT the road less travelled by. And creating my own path, however meandering and impractical and unrealistic, will almost definitely lead to many sighs in the future.

But back to the shoes. So I had on one foot an "interview" pair: black and sleek and with enough of a heel to exude that extra boost of measured confidence; on the other foot was a "mom" pair: suede loafers that were comfy enough to wear to the park and during endless trips to the grocery store...pretty much identical to two other pairs that are sitting in my closet--stained, permanently embedded with sand, reassuring when I slip them on but also annoying in that sandy-shoes way. It was a decision that I resented having to make, and yet it was painfully obvious that I had put myself in the position of standing there at the shoe store, choosing to make it. And now high school physics came to mind, and I felt like a ball of potential energy just seconds from shooting off a cliff (What have I done? I don't even like heels! Why am I doing this?) and conversely like a steady stream of inertia moving continuously and comfortably yet uncertainly (This is natural. This is easy. Is this all?).

It turned out that the decision I made was the best choice of all. I know it is because instead of buyer's regret I am still euphoric and scheming to buy every single pair that I can afford, in my size, in every color (easy to say even for a brooder like me as the shoes only come in tan, black, and gray--my favorite colors after navy blue). I chose the path that for me is most definitely less travelled by. I stepped out of the clearance section and straight to the pair of trusty leather oxfords that caught my eye on the way in. I would stop asking the shoes to define me, stop letting the anticipation of the future define me. I would define myself.

Uh, oh...and now the line "and miles to go before I sleep" keeps repeating in my head....

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Maybe because I'm listening to Brian Eno, and Brian Eno (plus David Byrne) were playing today while I was at the always-inspiring Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics (you know it's a place you'll love and cherish forever when they have tons of gorgeous prints, knits, wools, silks, velvet, furry-monster fabric; vintage patterns; lovely quilts and quilters everywhere; highly-knowledgeable teachers and assistants; a purple, paisley restroom; and a sign behind the counter that reads "Unattended Children Will Be Given an Espresso and a Puppy"), but this image--this landscape comprised of Danskin tights-clad legs lined up simply and beautifully--leaves me pondering space, existence, the weight of our bodies, rest, change, growth, time, movement, beginnings and endings and all the stuff that happens in between.

I've been mulling over how to adequately describe the impact that this image has on me, but sometimes (most of the time) the visual speaks for itself, and words simply fail. All I can do is list the many impressions and memories that flood into mind: Gudrun's emerald-green stockings in Women in Love, holing up with classic tomes in a small apartment in a foreign country, old blue tights, dozens and dozens of leotards, a cozy studio in Germany, Greek tragedy, lost worlds, walking across Canal on a wonderfully warm night, seeing the familiar in the abstract, making friends with a stranger, becoming soulmates. I can't seem to get past the individual impressions and episodes to find the unifying thread in all of this. Perhaps the thread is the experience itself, of being triggered into recalling a slew of events and emotions that are forgotten...but matter.

Okay, yes--I should turn off Eno, but now that I've managed to not make any sense but at least got to post this amazing Danskin poster, I'll end with a few more images also found in the book Dance Posters (which I am sure--cliche as it sounds--"found me" in the overflowing treasure box that is the Russian Hill Bookstore; not to imply that I am one of those treasures, but you get the idea). Anyway, I felt compelled to share them because I am currently obsessed with costumes and costume design and costume design blogs and the idea of costume designing, which is kind of exciting.

Mark my words: I am going to make this Siamese unitard/duotard!


Feet in five positions by Edward Gorey.

A "modern" foot.

Tableau from a piece based on Aesop's fables. So right and so wrong.

I love this poster for the same reason that I love Richard Serra sculptures and ipad billboards (damn marketing to my demographic!)...subtle simplicity manifested larger than life always works on me.

Stunning American Ballet Theater dancer and costume.

All images from Dance Posters by Eleanor Rachel Luger, Simon and Schuster, (c) 1979.

Friday, April 1, 2011

In Character

I heard Norwegian Wood on the radio today, and as it always happens when I hear this song, I was transplanted back to my fourteen-year-old self locked away in my upstairs bedroom with a boom box, lying on a green shag rug. (Sadly, it was not the seventies.)

Although the song is more bittersweet than angst-y, the overpowering sense of lovesick regret and anguish conjured up brings to mind these slightly disillusioned, slightly disturbed girls on film, and I realized that some of us never fully outgrow our awkward, frustrated, outcast teenage selves. I know I haven't. (And if or when I do, who will I be without the scar tissue from my past?) One of the things that I love about vintage is that the ever-present but buried past is brought right up to the surface and reinterpreted. There's something empowering about acknowledging and putting our stamp on what was. In a very personal, quiet way, I think that wearing my vintage cords or a dowdy old blouse is a statement of subtle resistance to the way things are--even to the way things were, maybe--and a small assertion of the fact that we all proceed to live our lives with varying degrees of trauma and arrested a good way, if that's at all possible.

Can clothes really do all that? I think so. And at some point, it's liberating to grow up and shed off the many schizophrenic layers that once defined and confined us--the teeny bopper, the grunge, the hippie chic, the skater, the prep, the goth, the mall jammer, the hipster--and accept that who we are isn't determined by what we wear. But at another point, it's a comfort to see those phases as an evolving expression of self, and to know that we are always evolving...and that the need to fully express ourselves never goes away.

(Photos: Molly Ringwald as Samantha in Sixteen Candles; Winona Ryder as Charlotte in Mermaids; Ally Sheedy as Allison in The Breakfast Club; Faye Wong as Faye in Chungking Express; Gwyneth Paltrow as Margot in The Royal Tenenbaums)