Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lady, I'm sorry.

I'm on the train in NY. If I remember correctly, it's the 4 heading downtown.

There's plenty of room on the train as it's not rush hour, but there are no empty seats. I'm standing right in front of the doors, floating between the two vertical metal poles. Sitting in the 2-seat cove, just on the other side of the metal pole, are a couple ladies probably in their late 40's or early 50's. I'm gonna say late 40's. I think they were talking about cats.

Across them is a smattering of other people, some seated, some standing. Guys and gals.

Now, sometimes a train conductor is smooth, and probably has a good deal of experience under his/her belt. It's like you're riding a cloud - a loud, dirty cloud, with breakdancers or a mariachi band. OR you get the conductor who is: A. brand new, B. has restless leg syndrome, or C. doesn't really give a shit.

When you have this kind of conductor, great things happen. People suddenly get inappropriate with their neighbors, faces fly into bodies, bits and pieces touch each other - all things that justify yelling "STRANGER DANGER!!"

On this lovely day, we have the latter of the 2 conductors, and he/she is getting trigger happy with those brakes. Instead of a smooth stop, it's a haphazard, jerky jolt, that's more like a mechanical bull ride. There is no finesse with this one.

I'm gonna be honest, and say I should've been holding onto that pole, but it's filthy and I generally don't hold on unless I have no other choice. So I'm just standing there, trying to keep myself upright while the spazmatic conductor hits the peddles.

Here's when everything goes wrong: at an instant, the train lurches forward, brakes screeching, and my arm flies out to grab the pole and save me from disaster. Unfortunately the lady sitting next to the pole is leaning forward, and my hand goes slightly past the pole.

She's wearing a baseball cap, and my hand perfectly flips the cap off her head. Not a big deal, except her hair is attached to her cap.

Ahh fuck.

The cap and her hair goes flying backwards, and lodges between her back and the seat. She's scrambling around trying to find the thing with the train still jerking, finally standing up to find it on her seat. She puts it on crooked, and it looks like a bad 80's wig for the lead singer of a hair-band.

I feel awful and gush apologies while trying to keep myself upright. She's clearly embarrassed, and that asshole driving the train is tapping the breaks to the beat of his AC/DC tape playing in his Sony Walkman.

I look away, trying to make the situation go away, and find everyone sitting opposite in tears fighting back the laughter. Red faces, sweating, hands over mouths, bodies twitching with suppressed laughter. They're all staring at me. I see this and immediately fight back my own outburst of then-inappropriate laughter. Quick, look at the floor.

The train finally gets to the next stop, again with no finesse. I'm not sure if this was their intended stop, but the whole side of the train sprints onto the platform, and immediately burst into cackling, howling, screams of laughter. Like a volcano of laughter just erupted after decades of building pressure.

This is the train version of getting hit in the nuts with the football. That lady's hair was the nuts, my hand the football. For my part, I'm sorry mystery lady.

But fuck it's funny when someone gets hit in the nuts.

MissMe Fall/Winter 2010

Check these on billboards, wild postings, Elle's 25th anniversary issue, and more!

Monday, October 18, 2010

British Airways: a love affair (not)

Mediocrity. I hate it.

If you're doing a job, do it right. I don't care if it's packing grapefruits or building bridges, do your fucking job.

Somehow, the airline industry doesn't seem to subscribe to this school of thought. Mediocrity thrives. Actually, complete failure thrives, and occasionally you get something mediocre, IF YOU'RE LUCKY.

Everyone has rough times flying, and with all of the security issues it's become a nightmare. I travel frequently, and can say without question that the overall quality of service has become complete shit, and the airlines use any excuse they can to shirk responsibility.

My latest story of joy and sunbeams begins with British Airlines, flying in and out of London. I'm flying for a job and traveling with the hair stylist I'll call J.

First rule of flying is never put anything valuable in your checked baggage or it WILL get stolen, probably by baggage handlers. Don't believe me? Go here:

Once it's gone, the airline will have you fill out all kinds of paperwork and provide receipts for everything you packed, only to offer around $300, which may or may not cover the cost of the bag itself. Unfair? Take them to court.

** side note - a friend checked a bag of equipment (that they wouldn't let him bring on board), from LA to Chicago, stopping in Vegas. He got to Chicago, his bag didn't. He got a call a few days later from Vegas Police saying they found his bag in an alley, and he can claim the bag and miscellaneous clothing if he shows up in person. No equipment.

I digress.

So all of my camera equipment and computer equipment comes with me on board. Getting through security varies from ridiculous to rectal exam. J unfortunately can't bring her bag on board - it's too large, too heavy, and has all kinds of tools that could be used to hijack a plane, like curling irons and bobby pins. We check her kit and our 2 bags of clothes, then cross our fingers.

3 bags checked, 2 arrive. The 3rd never left LA, and clearly won't make it for our connection to Paris.

This is J's clothing. Thankfully her kit arrived, but apparently she'll be working naked, as her clothing don't fly out till the next day, missing 3 flights with no explanation. Thanks a bunch BA.

Flying home is worse. I'm exhausted after fashion week and shooting, and I'm sick from rain and no sleep. All I want is to sleep on the plane.

I go to the BA check-in kiosk and it spits out some error ticket, saying I have to go across the terminal to a customer service desk. When I get there they tell me I have a ticket, but no seat.

What the fuck??

I show the guy my email confirming my seat, and he just smiles and nod, with a dull look on his face. Actually it was a mix of dull and smug. Smull. He had a smull look on his face.

He repeats: I have a ticket, but no seat, and this flight is oversold. He's gonna see if he can squeeze me on the plane.

What kind of horse shit is this??? SQUEEZE ME ON THE PLANE???

The airlines don't care. Period. With BA, when you select a seat, it's just a request, not a reservation. God forbid I actually want to sit in the seat I selected when I bought the ticket in the first place. You pay for a ticket, but now BA makes you pay EXTRA, to confirm your fucking seat!

How does this happen?? Will they start charging for fresh air and a seatbelt too?

I can't wait to go to a restaurant, pay for a sandwich, and have them deliver a turkey leg because I didn't pay extra to confirm my sandwich.

Or maybe I should buy a ticket to a JayZ concert, then be thrilled when they switch my ticket to Justin Bieber.

I end up getting a seat in the back, right next to the bathroom, where all of the large old people bump into me while doing their strange plane exercises or frequent trips to the baƱo. One guy who looks like ET, with a blanket over his shriveled head, does repeated trips up and down the isle, leading me to wonder if he's sleepwalking. The stewardess is about as pleasant as a rhino with a hemorrhoid, and the final icing on the cake - on my one trip to the bathroom, I find someone's teeth on the bathroom counter. Yes, teeth.

So, to recap: If you want to have your luggage lost, your seat snatched out from under you, ET bumping into you all flight, and teeth in the bathroom: FLY BRITISH AIRWAYS.

Otherwise, I recommend getting some rollerblades, flippers, and a snorkel - it will be far less painful.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No shocker part 1 - African dance class

It's no shocker that every time I'm in Paris, I (re)discover an abundance of artistic and cultural activities that are just part of the Parisian lifestyle.

Two things have been stand-outs so far. The first is an African dance class, which blew my mind.

I went with a dear friend, who I will refer to as "F", and she goes to this class regularly.

It's appropriately held in a building which is entirely dedicated to dance, movement, capoeira, yoga, etc. There's a central courtyard where people sit and talk, or eat food from the health-conscious cafe, and the building stands 4 stories all around you. It's cobblestone in the courtyard, and vines and ivy growing along the building walls. It feels like it's been here for a long time, and is more of a dance academy - this is serious business.

At least 7 classes are going on at once - Flamenco, Tango, maybe another Flamenco, some Yoga, and other stuff I couldn't see but could hear. We walk up 2 or 3 flights of stairs and into the appropriate room. It's humid, smells of exercise, and has well-worn wood floors that have seen years of blood sweat and tears.

No shoes are allowed, and everyone piles their sweaters, water bottles, and other items against the far wall. 3 African men enter and set up their musical instruments: one has a wooden xylophone which is clearly hand made, another has 2 round hand drums sitting on their sides on top of one another, and the third has a stand-up conga drum. He sits in the middle, and is clearly the leader of the group. He's also missing one of his nostrils, which I find fascinating and distracting.

The actual leader of the class enters - she's a fit early 40 something lady, with brown wavy hair, light olive skin, thin black cotton yoga pants, and a big smile on her face. She reminds me of a slightly shorter Catherine Keener. Who loves to dance.

Catherine gets everyone to find space, which is significantly difficult with the number of people present. It's not a huge room, and you only have a few feet in any direction before you're on top of someone else. Most of the class are girls of varying ages, and there are a couple young boys and 2 other men - one could be Richard Simmons' brother, the other looks like an English professor.

We start with warm ups, and the musicians play an appropriate beat. It's all improvised, but works organically and seamlessly. It's beautiful.

By the time the class is in full swing, there's chanting, hair flying all over the place, and an incredible, soul-shaking drum beat. Catherine introduces a new series of movements and the class duplicates. It's difficult at times, but everyone is free to express themselves as they please. It's like a physical form of emotional therapy. All those times you wish you could "dance like no one is watching" and shake like a fool - there's a class for that.

I loved seeing Catherine and her interaction with the leader of the drummers. The guy without the nostril.

She would lean in and give him high fives on the beat, as they, and the class calls out melodic chants of African origin. It was truly a spiritual expression. And they had such great mutual respect and love for each other.

The class lasts an hour and a half, and by the time it's finished, everyone is thoroughly soaked in sweat, their souls purified, and their bare feet worn. I have a huge grin on my face, and I still can't believe I went to an African dance class, in this incredible Academy, in the middle of Paris. And how cool that these drummers have found a forum in which to utilize their talents and make a living.

It just goes to show you, no matter what you love to do, if you follow your bliss, you can make a living doing it.

If a one-nostril African drummer can be the beating heart of an awe-inspiring dance class in Paris, there's nothing you can't do.

But this is one of those awesome activities and resources you wouldn't know is there, unless someone shows it to you. And you would never think to participate unless a friend encourages you. So thank you F - you exposed me to something fabulous and inspiring, and unique, and I'll dance next to you any day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Harlem Haircut

I wrote this one a few years ago, but didn't have a place to post it. Here's my story of adventure and pride:

A Harlem Haircut - my experience, by Mike Rosenthal

It all starts with a moment of inspiration.

No, I take that back; it all starts with my hair getting to an uncomfortable length. By most peoples' standards, it's still far shorter than what they're used to, but not as short as I'd like. And not as clean. I digress.

In LA, I have a spot where I get my haircut, every week. It's a modern day barbershop, with music playing, walls covered in magazine tears, and gay hair stylists with tattoos. It's a fun place to spend 30 minutes every week.

But I'm not in LA, I'm in NY, and I want to get my hair cut at an old-school barbershop in Harlem. My friend Thomas lives in Harlem, near 125th street, so we both decide it's a good idea and a moral imperative to get our cuts at the local barbershop. At 11:30 I make the trek north, and meet Thomas at the corner of Lexington and 125th St, arguably a 'sketchy' part of town. The corner is a circus of activity - a large group of people sit on a pile of shopping carts, some with hair nets, others with showercaps. It looks like an urban bazaar - a large selection of items that appear to have been salvaged from the garbage are now arranged for sale on the sidewalk. Items include: 1 bra, VHS tapes of Jean Claude Van Dam, an NFL jacket for an 8 year old, a Tshirt that was used as a mechanic's rag, and a great selection of bootleg CDs of neighborhood hip-hop hopefulls.

We stroll past the outdoor swapmeet, and nearly walk past the barbershop - it's that small. There are probably 4 people standing outside, blocking the entrance, but when they find out we want cuts, the gentlemen inform us that they are in fact the barbers and are quick to claim us as their patrons, hereby preventing the other barbers from stealing our business.

Now when I began this quest, I had a certain image in my mind - a barbershop playing some old jazz or hip hop, some crotchity old men inside complaining about today's youth, and a good old fashioned trim and shave. Electric clippers on the top, and I want the straight razor shave with the hot towel, the banter, and all the character of Harlem.

Inside is pandemonium, which is funny as the entire shop is no larger than 200 square feet. In the back are 3 ladies getting weaves and the 3 stylists applying the weaves. In the middle is a man getting an 80s fade, a baby with no shirt and sagging pants, and a pile of African drums sitting 4 feet high. I think the drums take up half of the floor space.

The two guys up front immediately begin to argue. The closest to the door has claimed me, and the guy second from the door isn't happy about this. He's already at work on Thomas's head, which bobs back and forth from the jutting, haphazard stabs with the electric clippers. It looks anything but comfortable. Thomas's barber, who's name I can't remember but I'll call Stan, insists that he's a professional barber, and that he offers a higher quality of service than the others. The other barber, MY barber, is appropriately named Mike. No joke. So Mike tells Stan that he has more refined skills, and is in fact not a barber but a hair stylist - he has copious amounts of style. They then proceed to rattle off the names of famous people who have sat on their chairs - Mr. T, Ol Dirty Bastard, Three Six Mafia, to name a few..

Mike's chair opens up, and it's my turn to get the royal treatment. I repeat my request for electric clippers on top, and a good shave of the face. He emphatically tells me I'm going to get the best service ever, from the best "international hair stylist".

I say "do you have any idea what you're doing?" ...and then out loud I say "great."

I sit in the chair, and he begins to buzz my hair. I asked him for a "metal 1 and a half", which is the guard that gives me my desired hair length. He pauses, clearly confused, and says "oh don't worry, I know which one is right for your head". I worry.

He picks through a small bag of guards, pulls out a plastic red one, and goes to work. Oddly enough, it's actually the right size, and I'm starting to have more confidence in Mike - maybe he really is an "international hair stylist". The haircut goes well - he has good form with the clippers, and seems to cut everything evenly. Thomas's guy is talking loudly on the cell phone while he finishes cutting hair, and at one point he even leaves the shop to talk to someone outside, leaving Thomas in the chair.

So the haircut is done, and it's time for the shave. Now, I've never done this before, and the only frame of reference I have is what I've seen on TV and in the movies. I picture a man with a waxed moustache, a white apron, bald head, and a razor sharp enough to split a hair in half. Instead, I have a sweaty, loud, "international hair stylist" with a pack of disposable razors, not even Bic. He reminds me of 'Tyrone' the homeless guy from "In Living Color". I'm already in the chair, he's already applied the shaving gel with his fingers - I'm committed to this now, but I'm starting to regret it already.

Mike proceeds to tell me how he's going to shave down first, with the hair, then up against the grain to get a good smooth shave. It all sounds good in theory, and he goes to it.

Everything goes well until he gets to my neck.

Somewhere along the way, the shaving gel has disappeared, and now he just uses a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol. He forgets to go with the grain on my neck, and goes straight to against-the-grain. With each stroke, my eyes tense up, my face squirms, and my neck cries in agony. This is not going to be good.

A few painful minutes later, my neck is good and bloody, and the neck muscles hurt because there's no headrest, so my head has been flopping around.

Now it's time for the recovery, and Mike tells me (nervously) that this isn't a big deal, and always happens a little bit. My neck looks like a scene from a horror movie, bleeding profusely. MORE ALCOHOL, Mike thinks, and sprays me down again. OUCH.

Then he takes the brush covered with talc, and brushes that on. My neck is now a strange mix of blood, alcohol, and talc. It's a talcahol mess.

About 15 minutes later, he gets the bleeding to stop enough to get me out of the shop, but my entire neck is powder white from the many applications of talc. It looks like I ate a powdered donut with my chin. I hand him the whole $17 for both spa-worthy treatments, and head home.

Now a few days later, the cuts have healed, the talc has long since washed away. The hair has re-grown on my neck, and the red bumps have settled. Do I regret going to Harlem for a cut and a shave? Not at all. I got to experience a true international hair stylist, and the trip home was possibly the only time I was given ample personal space on the subway. Next time, however, I think I'll find a Dominican for the shave.

Street Style?

I have to say that one overwhelming part of fashion week is the fashion blog explosion. EVERYONE has a fashion blog, and EVERYONE is on the street taking pictures of people and fashion they think are interesting. They say art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder - well some of the beholders are coming off the rails.

I'll give you an example:

I went to this african drum class (yes, african drum class) in the Marais, and walked out with my sweaty gross workout regalia. I was wearing a black tank top, soaked with sweat, light blue nylon exercise shorts, orange socks from the day before, and the easiest footwear to take on and off - my awesome Esquivel leather boots.

I stepped out into the cool Parisian air, and was almost immediately approached by a guy and girl team, telling me in decent English that they're doing a project on street style and they'd like to take my picture. Confused and embarrassed, I agreed, and as the photographer raised his camera he said over and over "great style, great style".


Is this what "stylish" has come to?

I can put together the most uncoordinated outfit - LITERALLY - soaked in sweat, and this is stylish.

People have lost sight of style and the idea of originality. Now, the most obnoxious, unmatched, bizarre outfit is what people aspire to wear. Just look at any of the hipster photo blogs - blue socks, red pants, white glasses, ironic vintage tshirt, grandpa sweater, and shoes purchased from ebay. The funny thing is that people with no real eye for style or fashion are now fashionable by default - their inability to match puts them on top.

I bet it helps if you're color-blind.

In fact, Stevie Wonder would be the most fashionable dude on the block, were he to roam the streets today.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dior SS2011

The Dior Spring/Summer 2011 show was a couple of days ago.

How does one describe brilliance?

The set is a worn boat dock, reminiscent of WWII, and the runway is elevated and rusted metal. The space is late to fill, as everyone rushes from across town through the light rain. Then, all at once, the tent is packed to the gills, with an amazing Paris-only crowd. A guy in a leather-daddy village people outfit on one side, Kate Moss on the other. The press photographers fight and climb over each other to get pictures of Kate, and 2 security guards are stationed, holding hands, directly in front of Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington, shielding them from the hord.

The mass of runway photographers form a hornets nest, each with just enough room for their lens to poke out, some on ladders, others crouched to the ground. They fill the designated space to critical mass. A number of the photographers start yelling every time someone in the front row of seats crosses their legs, or leans forward - any movement blocks their view.

The lights go dark, and all that is lit is the nautical set in the far recess of the runway. The old wooden posts are lit with a dim blue, and the sound of the ocean booms through the speakers as liquid nitrogen is released, instantly turning into a rolling smoke that looks more like crashing waves of water. Fans coax the water along the runway, and between the front row of legs. It's beautiful.

Then the music starts and the show begins.

It's spectacular to me to see so much creativity crammed into one 10 minute presentation. From the clothes, the way the girls walk, the hair and makeup, the lighting, the set, and of course the music. A custom mix booms through the tent, and completes the teleportation effect of the show - I feel like I'm on a different planet. David Bowie's voice is surgically attached to a beat that moves through your body and every piece of this incredible puzzle is so carefully crafted and controlled.

The clothes are too perfect, and too numerous to even touch on. The many girls complete their walk, do the finale, then return backstage as the runway goes dark.

Being a Dior show, so everyone knows there is one last critical piece of the puzzle - John Galliano.

The docks are once again lit, the sound of the ocean echos, and the waves of smoke come to life again, as the music comes back with force. A single silhouette appears on the runway, with the cherry glow of a cigarette. The lights turn on and it's John, taking control of the runway, walking with more attitude and charisma than all of the models put together. He's in full vintage sailor regalia, and his braided pigtails stem from his vintage hat. He walks, stops, hits two poses to an explosion of applause and cheers, then retreats back up the runway to the backstage.

10 minutes of creative concentrate. Beyond inspiring.

And that's Dior - today John returns with his namesake line, Galliano. I'm excited already.