Lately it seems everyone is under more stress than usual. I don't discuss politics publicly but think we all need some fun to take our minds off depressing news. For me (and some of you) fashion is an answer.
I found two pieces recently which I love individually. Wasn't sure if they'd combine well, but figured I'd try and see. Here's the result.
This may be my favorite dress ever. I found it at a thrift-store in Portland this week.
It's an authentic vintage piece from the 1960's in real silk with a liner. It has an embroidered collar and cuffs. Best of all, it has ruffled sleeves! The sleeves slay me.
Oh, and the color... pink! That's so Ally.
The dress cost more than I usually spend but (1) I was on vacation and (2) I had to have it. Had to! I picked it up, put it back, picked it up a second time, put it back and then ran to grab it before leaving the store. Has that ever happened to you?
That says it all, doesn't it?
Maine is a wonderful place full of natural beauty and few people. Portland is its biggest city yet the place is smaller than my suburban hometown. I explored it Saturday and will definitely return.
Portland has a surprisingly youthful vibe with lots of cool places on Congress Street. The city is lauded for its vibrant food-scene; it is second only to San Francisco in restaurants per capita. Everywhere you look there's another restaurant. They are extremely diverse: I saw Cajun, East African and various ethnic cuisines, along with a vegetarian place where I got a delicious lunch (chives dumplings, asparagus tempura). A clueless patron near me got angry the waitress wouldn't serve him a lobster-roll. "That's not meat, is it?" he insisted.
Not all the food is haute. The famous "Italian hero" was invented in Portland in 1903. Portland and Maine consider the sandwich to be their pride and joy. I tried it at the site of invention, a deli called Amato's (named after sandwich-creator Giovanni Amato).
Portland has lots of good shopping in vintage and vinyl-record stores. I found a delightful pink dress from the Sixties which I'll display here soon. As I bought the dress, a macho male cashier tried to bond with me over motorcycling (I was carrying my helmet). As I was leaving, he asked: "That dress for your woman?" Life is full of awkward moments...
Ripe acorns, when they leave home, fall and hit the skin of camping tents. Plummeting onto that taut surface, acorns sound exactly like drumbeats. Sitting in my tent this weekend, I was treated to a percussion concert, conducted by the wind. It was rapturous.
Motorcycle-camping is, I discovered, fun. Arduous but fun. There's less comfort but you adjust to the hardships and even take pride in the effort. Making a cup of tea in the morning isn't flipping a switch; it's a 15-minute ordeal that starts with building a fire from scratch. Drinking that tea is satisfying because of the effort required.
Being in woods, especially at night, is calming. Quiet is punctuated only by sounds of nature (e.g., the splash of a jumping frog). Civilization's noises are conspicuously absent. I liked the quiet. After this positive experience I'm going to incorporate camping into my future motorcycle-travels on a regular basis.
There is, of course, a learning curve. An experienced camper advised me to bring tiger-repellant in case of an attack, but I spotted no wildcats. I guess, as Pee-wee Herman famously said, "there are some things they don't teach you in school."
My next motorcycle trip will combine two fun things -- camping and good food. On Friday I'm riding up to Portland, Maine; on the way there, I'm camping overnight in a state forest in Andover, Massachusetts (Harold Parker State Forest).
Portland was named the "Foodiest Small Town in America" by Bon Appétit magazine. It has also been featured in The New York Times as a superb food-destination. Portland is the biggest city in Maine and has the greatest density of restaurants of any city in the country. It's where foodies go to eat. :-)
The only scary thing about the trip is the weather -- the forecast is thunderstorms. Riding a motorcycle and pitching a tent in the rain will be rough but I'm gonna go anyway. Sometimes adversity makes the most cherished memories. Wish me luck!
It's inspiring to see humans travel over 200 mph on a motorcycle. And watch them lean so deeply into curves that their knees scrape the road. It's inspiring to see people face and meet a Herculean challenge. That's why I went to the racetrack this weekend.
I saw Superbike racing displaying the best riders in the country. The experience is palpable as engines roar like beasts and bikes zoom by in a blur. It was a wonderful trip with beautiful weather and good company.
I was joined by Charlie, an old family-friend who rides a Honda Valkyrie. Charlie is full of stories and humor, the perfect travel-companion. We rode five hours to southern New Jersey to reach the track.
Days like today are not only fun, they make me want to become a better rider.
P.S., I actually took the first picture above. Isn't it amazing? One of my best ever, I think.
I love vintage pieces with retro-styling. I found this 40-year old dress in a thrift-shop, hiding behind a pile of boring clothes. The wide feminine collar and interesting skirt-pleats attract me, as does the color and fit.
For me, dressing in pretty clothes is transportation to a happier place. A land where I can explore and express myself. Does it do that for you, too?
On Friday I'm riding down to South Jersey to watch professional motorcycle racing: Superbike and Supersport competition for MotoAmerica. The races will be held at New Jersey Motorsports Park -- which, coincidentally, is the racetrack where I took my FZ-1 a while back. During those sessions I hit 140 mph and leaned deep into curves, but my feats were nothing compared to what pro racers will do on their top-of-the-line racebikes. They'll exceed 200 mph and drag their knees at incredible lean-angles.
There are ten pro competitions this year and South Jersey is the closest one to me. What many people don't know is that races are more than just racing; they're wild parties with vendors, beer-gardens, cool t-shirts and fans who love to talk motorcycling. It's fun just to be there. Plus, there's visceral thrill from the thunder of race-bike engines screaming at their limits.
Yes, I'll bring my camera. There WILL be pictures!
The best musician I've even heard, whom I was privileged to see perform in concert during the Seventies, is Roy Buchanan. Informed music-fans and scholars recognize Roy as one of the most-accomplished guitar-players of all time. In fact, in the Seventies he was often called"The Greatest Unknown Guitarist In The World."
Roy could make a guitar sing. And weep. And make sounds you never expected from strings. During the concert I heard, I was amazed to my core. Not only was his playing virtuoso, it was so full of emotion. Overflowing with bombastic emotion. You react to something like that; you can't not react.
Rob was born in 1939 to poor parents in Ozark, Arkansas. His father Leroy was a sharecropper; his mother Minnie "worked as hard as a man." Roy's first exposure to music was Gospel in church. He later fused that influence with blues, jazz and ultimately rock. He ended up making rock-n-roll but with depth rarely found in that genre.
During the Fifties and Sixties, Roy performed in obscurity, usually as a session-man behind more famous musicians. His talent was sought out by other performers and he taught many guitarists how to improve.
Asked by a reporter why he's so skilled, Roy said it's because he's "half-wolf." :-)
During his career, Roy made 12 albums. They don't capture the true magic of his performances. Fortunately, however, PBS did a one-hour TV special on Roy in 1972 called "Introducing Roy Buchanan -- The World's Greatest Unknown Guitarist." It's free to watch on YouTube and can be seen below.
Sadly, Roy died young at 48. After drinking, he was roughed up by cops and found hung in a jail-cell with bruises on his head. The authorities called it suicide but Roy's family and friends don't believe that.
Roy lived a life worth paying attention to. His musical talent transported me to another place.
Those of you who've been around the blogosphere for a while may remember Megan. She and her sister Nora had one of the most entertaining blogs for many years. The blog was named Two Birds.
I loved that blog. The outfits were amazing and the personalities of the bloggers shone through like bright stars. I enjoyed the blog up until it ended exactly two years ago.
Fortunately, Megan, Nora and I are friends on Facebook so I've been able to stay in touch with them. I follow their lives with their families and children. Nora moved to California while Megan is still in Minnesota.
Three years ago, I went to Minnesota and meet four bloggers: Megan, Nora and Beth (who all lived in Minneapolis then) and Ashley who lived several hours north in Duluth. (Ashley now lives in California.) I had a blast that trip. I realized that Megan and Nora are two of the sweetest women on the planet. They were sooo nice to me. They have the kind of warm personalities that makes you hope you can be their friends.
Since my trip to the Midwest, I've seen Nora again when she came to New York. I hadn't seen Megan again since she remained in MN and I haven't been back there yet. I was thrilled two weeks ago when Megan contacted me and said she and her hubby Chris will be visiting New York this weekend. I make sure to carve out time to see them and today I ventured into Brooklyn (Fort Greene) for brunch with one of the Two Birds.
Megan remains one of the nicest people I've ever met. She's so sweet. The three of us ate, chatted and had fun. Chris is (as Nora told me) a charming guy. Smart, genuine and kind. He and Megan make a beautiful couple.
While only here for a few days, Megan and Chris are doing a whirlwind tour. They walked a marathon-length exploration of the city and hit many highlights: museums, theater, etc. That's the way to see New York.
In advance of their visit, I did some investigation. I convinced Nora to leak secrets from Megan's youth, like how Megan was in The Green Onion Band in high school and that, in fourth grade, she made a huge paper-sculpture of a roadrunner. You wouldn't believe the shock on Megan's face when I asked her about these things!
It wouldn't be a fashion-blog post without comment on clothing. Megan put together an adorable outfit with the cutest leather vest. Chris impressed me with a fabulous shirt. That boy has serious shirt-game. :-) Megan's hair looks different from last time I saw her and is very attractive.
Best of all, these two gems are nice people. I'm happy to have them as friends.