Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bringing Home the Birkin

I love biographies that read like fiction. Bringing Home the Birkin (by Michael Tonello) is full of crazy anecdotes from a man who uprooted his life, moved to Spain and then decided that he could make a living by selling everything Hermes on eBay. A real entrepreneur if you ask me.

At first, Michael hooks you with his naive ignorance of the most coveted Hermes handbag. As his story unfolds and he becomes well-versed in everything Birkin (with help from his eBay friends)his bold and courageous personality lands him at the Fauborg store in France with his first (of too many) Birkins.

How did he do it? How could someone from a small town in Massachusetts get himself thousands of Birkin bags when so many women and men have been on the Hermes waiting list for years?

You'll obviously have to read his book to find out his Birkin buying "formula", but let's just say he had to drop an insane amount of cash to get the sales associate to even look at him twice to then drop another insane amount of cash to get what he actually went into the store to buy.

Every page of this book is full of hysterical encounters and a running tab (thousands of dollars just thrown about with the motto of , "Spend money to make money") that made my stomach turn with nerves and a twinge of envy. Most importantly, I was given the opportunity to transport myself to some of the most beautiful cities all over Europe. This got me thinking about my completely valid and totally realistic dream of moving to my own little city in Europe and finally starting my wonderful life as a glamorous and artistic ex-pat.

Reasons For Why I Dream About Moving to Europe:

1. Italy:
a. Hot Italian sex
b. Perfect my Italian
c. Eating all the gelato that boot can hold
d. Meet a sexy Italian man and live happily ever after

2. France :
a. Acquire a kick-ass job as an art conservationist at one of the museums in Paris
b. Become an artist
c. Perfect my French
d. Meet a sexy French man and live happily ever after

3. Spain:
a. Become a food critic
b. Move into an amazing Dali-inspired apartment with a beautiful terrace overlooking a gorgeous view
c. Meet a sexy Spanish man and live happily ever after

4. Greece:
a. Live in Santorini and become a volcano observer
b. Get fat on feta and tomatoes
c. Meet a sexy Greek man and live happily ever after?

I think you get my drift.

However, like every story that is filled with decadence and materialism, fiction or non-fiction, the person eventually has what Oprah likes to call an "A ha! Moment". He realizes that $8,000-$35,000 handbags could be the be all, end all of a person's life, but that it certainly wasn't going to be the case in his. When he first moved to Spain, after leaving his beloved P-town in Massachusetts, his need to make money was what propelled him to work with one of the most coveted handbags in the designer world. As his story progresses, this need consumes his life. But things like those are ephemeral, fleeting. You can lose sight of the important aspects that kept you going way before you had that perfect pair of shoes or that bag that everyone wants.

But even with the lesson learned, I think I'll book my next trip to Epcot Center in Disney soon and maybe catch the 6 train down to Chinatown for my own adventure in the world of designer handbags.

Very Superstitious

"...The way to succeed was to believe you wouldn't, that only someone convinced of failure had a chance of success." Julian, from Matrimony pg. 103

When your friend says "I'm so happy there is no traffic on I-95!" and all of a sudden your car is crawling in bumper to bumper traffic.

When you're having a barbecue in the summer "Weather Channel said there was a chance for rain, but look how sunny it is!" and then the clouds roll in.

When you go for an interview and you're thinking, "Man, I did great!" But you don't want to say it out loud because you know that will jinx it.

It is there when you knock on wood, or throw salt over your shoulder. Superstition and luck are interlaced in your everyday life. Whether you're aware of it or not. It may be unnatural for you to sit there and hope for the worst. Weird even, to think that you'll fail so that you don't. However, even though I try my hardest to be positive, I have that voice in the back of my mind saying, "Don't get too excited. Don't want it so bad. Just be cooooool!" (Is it just me? Oh man, that would be embarrassing).

I liked walking through the development of Julian's artistic self-esteem in this book. We meet him when he's starting out in college, taking his first Creative Writing workshop. With the necessary encouragement from his professor, he accepts his lot as a writer. We are with him when he struggles through his writer's block. We celebrate when he finally finishes his novel and is confident in himself and his art.

What I found interesting, is that writers don't feel like writers until they get some kind of recognition. Could it be a chicken and the egg thing? What comes first, being a writer or getting published (which then makes you a writer?). I kind of like what Julie's husband says about this in Julie & Julia. He tells her that she was always a writer and just because she wasn't published or recognized yet, that didn't change that important fact.

But then again, maybe I just want to believe that because then even I can call myself a writer?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bon Appetit!

I had a movie date with my mom on Thursday and I went to see Julie & Julia.

First, I must say that Meryl Streep is a genius. She goes from Devil Wears Prada to Mamma Mia to Doubt to Julie & Julia. Is there a role this woman cannot do?

Julie and Julia (the movie) was entertaining. The Julia parts were funny and endearing. I loved the relationship between Julia and her husband, Paul. They met later on in each others' lives, but they were meant to be together from the start. The love is palpable and original. It was a testament that love is out there for anyone and it can come into your life at any moment. A scenario where "better late, than never" is definitely fitting.

It was a little weird seeing Streep and Stanley Tucci as lovers, after seeing them work together in Devil Wears Prada. It was hard for me to really get that out of my head during the movie, but they are both such exceptional actors that it was easy to appreciate their performance nonetheless.

Amy Adams was very good too, but the Julie in the movie was a little different from the Julie in the book. A bit darker and a tad more self-pitying. Now, I must admit, I love to read; but like the Standardized Testing people know, my Elementary school English teachers know and my friends that I force to read books in my none-existent book club know --- my reading comprehension kind of SUCKS. But reading comprehension aside, I don't remember Julie being so sad and cranky. High strung and stressed, yes. Maybe the Julie in my head is like the Julia in her head? Sweet, quirky, and supportive. Happy that she is doing something that she loves regardless of the challenges.

Just another reason why I like books better than movies. I can create my own version of the characters in my head and they can be as nice or as mean as I want them to be. However, this time the Julia in the movie surpassed even my greatest leaps in imagination. She was charismatic, optimistic and a real spit-fire.

I think that what I liked the most about the juxtaposition of Julie and Julia was that even though they were different, they were still similar in a way. Both women inspiring to cook, to love, to live, to commit to a project until the end; both igniting something from within.

AMBITION: Find my life's "bread and butter".

Oh, and read My Life in France by Julia Child (with Alex Prud'homme)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dear Diary,

When I was younger I kept many diaries. It was there that I would go to write out my frustrations and exclamations about the day. These were private "I hate it when..." or "I have a crush on..." notes that I know would never be read by others.

Unless you take one of your journals to a Girl Scout overnight at an aquarium and some, let's just say, nosy girls decide to read it (Ok. It was not the smartest idea to bring it along to the overnight, but you live, you learn.)

Now, imagine those naive, overly dramatic, pubescent entries being read by millions of people?
That is what I kept thinking when I was reading The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel. Florence Wolfson, the original diary writer, had kept a daily account for five years in a red leather diary gifted to her when she was 14.

Some entries were full of typical teenage angst, but more often than not I would forget that I was delving into the mind of a girl. Ahead of her time, the Florence from the diary would have been at home in the 21st century. She was an artist and a writer. An independent thinker who did not worry herself with judgments from her peers. I admired her for surrendering to her desires. And it didn't hurt that the New York she described kind of reminded me of what I think Paris is like. Art and sexuality rounding every corner.

What I enjoyed the most was Florence's passion. When you're young, the world is like a blank canvas, waiting to burst with the life you choose. I don't think it's a secret that I am aspiring to be one of those artistic types (lots of fine arts classes in college, but I still can't shed my obsessive need to be organized). But I always have that nagging feeling, "Yea you like to do all of this, but are you any good at it?" I was thinking about this while envy crept in, when Lily Koppel said something that stopped me, "My feelings of uncertainty about whether I had it in me to become a writer, my striving for recognition and search for love, connected me to the young woman of the diary (pg. 277)." I felt relieved. I wasn't alone in my self-doubt.

At 14, Florence was fearlessly reaching for her dreams and succeeding. I really don't think my blubbering diary entries about my mother's injustices of the day or my boy crush of the moment were sprinkled with poignant advice or enticing sexual encounters when I was 14. I think I was still into the Spice Girls, so the only thing you might have learned from reading my diary would have been awesome lyrics or French curse words (they couldn't be Spanish my mom understood those).

Read this book, it is surprising and unique. And maybe go through your old diaries, censor what you must, because you never know who will get their hands on it and make it into a best-seller.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is this your first time??

My first literary tryst was in the first grade, with a dark humored and captivating lover known to the masses as Roald Dahl. His flirtatious pages beckoned me from behind the yellow book cover with the petite and brilliant Matilda waiting to be met at the precipice of what would be my long journey into full fledged bibliophilia (actually I consider myself more of a bookworm, than a bibliophile, but that doesn't really roll off the tongue does it? "full-fledged bookworm-dom", "bookworm-ia"? Well, you get the point.)

It was my first time experiencing a kindred connection with a character who came from the inner workings of someone's mind. I read and re-read those 140 pages every year until I was 11, intrigued by the young girl intoxicated by her love for books.

In retrospect, I can say, this book was full of what we in the '90s liked to call "girl power", but that wasn't what drew me to those well-thumbed pages every year. It was that I could put myself in Matilda's shoes. I could identify with her need to gobble up every book in sight. She was this small frail girl who had no fear. And I was super jealous that she read ALL the books in her library!

Back to the point... I know I had a point in here somewhere....oh right.

Nowadays, I get made fun of for choosing chick lit as my #1 go-to genre, but it isn't the predictable storylines that get me to go to that brightly colored table at the bookstore. It's that one character or scene that I can identify with right from the first chapter and it stems from the first time I saw myself in Dahl's pages.

The saying goes, "Don't judge a book by its cover", but you also have to remember: Don't judge a reader by her book. I read the classics, I know the serious best sellers, and the hidden gems that only the true "literati" know about; but reading isn't about rattling off facts from those "impress-your-friends" books. It is about fulfillment. For some it is intellectual. For most, it is just catharsis. It is that human nature that begs us to find a healthy way to renew and revitalize ourselves.

From the moment I stepped into this world of words, I couldn't look back. Stories only go forward, there is a beginning, a middle and an end. There are never regrets, just well placed challenges and kind hearts to help you along your way.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

To blog or not to blog?

As I was sitting on the LIRR train, reading another "book turned movie", I thought about all the books I've decided to read just so I could go to the local Loews, pay $12,000 and get completely disappointed when the movie didn't live up to my imagination. So many times, the silver screen isn't big enough for the imaginings of the author and it is just a complete disaster. (Read and then see "Nights in Rodanthe", you'll know what I mean).

It was then that I made my decision to enter the blogosphere. My brain had been turning around the idea after I had finished reading "Julie & Julia". Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that "Oh my God, I could become famous just like Julie Powell, get a book deal and then make a movie!" It was more, "Hmm...sitting down and writing the great American novel seems a bit daunting right now, but blogging about stuff? I might be into that."

That is when I started badgering my friends:
"If I were to write a blog, what would it be about?"
"Would you read my blog?"
"Are blogs stupid?"
"What do you think about writing a blog _________?"

Then when that was too hard it went to:
"What should my blog name be?"
"What should the title be?"
"No, that's a stupid title."
"No, that's a stupid title!"
"No, that's a stup....HEY! Where are you going? I need your heeeelp!"

I definitely wanted it to be about books, because (un)fortunately while everyone else is out going to bars and living the life of a normal 20-something-year-old, I like to cozy up under my self-knitted afghan and read. (I don't really have a self-knitted afghan, not for lack of trying, it has more to do with my inability to knit something harder than a scarf -- ask my friends, Christmas circa 2007. I just thought it would add a touch of crazy cat lady that you guys would appreciate.) But I digress.

My ideas ranged from writing about books turned into movies, to writing a blog titled "A Year in the Life of a Bridesmaid" while incorporating my book du jour. Anyway, I just wanted to start writing. So many people just jump in, not caring whether you're going to think them egotistical for writing about themselves everyday or getting up on their soap box and telling you why their opinion is right. I'm here, just wanting to share my opinion about life, love and books and hoping I'll have some readers who will learn from me, but most important, people who I will learn from too.

So here I am, no project in mind. Just a hope that the world is still a good place where strangers can learn a little from each other one post at a time :)