Let’s Go Somewhere That Doesn’t Exist

Let's Go To, thoughts

I finally managed to organize and label a stack of photos I’ve had with me for years. They’re what’s left of my life in several states back in the US and in some cases the only evidence of certain moments that occurred before the net.

The exercise was the result of another exercise: I decided to write my Will & Testament. For no reason in particular, I just wanted to have one. I don’t have “much” in terms of material possessions, and I was surprised that my pictures played a very big role in the document. I am leaving some of them to people (should I be the one to go first) and that was a profound thing. It’s like the literal passing on of a memory, entrusting something we both love with its survival in mind.

I won’t share those here, but there are two that I felt like sharing. I feel like they connect to what a lot of people may be feeling. It’s been such a hardass bunch of days…put mildly, I know. I have no soothing words or sage wisdom. Sometimes, all one can give is an emoji, so… ❤

If you’ve got pictures to go through, go through them. Go somewhere that doesn’t exist anymore, and take a vacation. Appreciate what maybe you didn’t at the time. The present, while powerful, is optional.

These are things I want back. I’m not sure why I lost them, and I sure as hell know this lockdown is making them near impossible to retrieve, but I hope that in whatever world rises out of this one, I can get them back.

This is from a thai restaurant here in London. I was out with my inlaws and my husband for dinner a couple of years ago. It was warm out. The place was full, and so we were sitting at one of the outdoor tables. I was … somewhere else. Thinking about the plot of a book I was trying to write, and subsequently destroyed, but that’s another tale for another time. I remember I was feeling really crappy, though, and kept spacing out. Just watching things around me. And then this arrived! I love Thai iced tea. The waiter had just poured the milk over the top and gave me the glass with a spoon wrapped in a napkin. I stared at this glass for a long time. It reminded me of Hubble’s view of Jupiter. It reminded me of Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain. It reminded me of how fucking beautiful the simplest thing can be. I want the feeling of wonder in the everyday back.

Fifteen (!!!) years ago, I was trying out life on the left side of our great map. My therapist and I were working on ways to get me to reintegrate myself into the world after many years of trauma. One of them was to experience nature on my own. Drama queen that I am, I didn’t just go to my nearby park, or do a weekend hike in the mountains. No, no — I rented a car and spent five days driving around I-25 and I-40, hanging out with my beloved deserts of New Mexico and northern Arizona. For being a born-and-bred New Yorker, I have a spaghetti western love for the desert that I can’t explain. I wanted to see all the parts of it I still didn’t believe existed, even though I’d driven through it plenty of times before.

I hadn’t been to the Grand Canyon. I hadn’t seen Meteor Crater in Winslow. I hadn’t hung out with desert truckers and tourists from other countries in lonely rest stops. And I hadn’t seen the mystic miles of Sedona, where spirits roam free in the red earth. I got to do all those things on that trip, and this photo was the first one I took when I got to the holy grail of my journey. I took photo after photo of the same thing, because I couldn’t believe it. It was as big and silent as God. I felt like I was looking at time itself. I felt, and I felt, and I felt. It was wonderful. The world was big again. I want a sense of a big world back.

Let’s Float!: Adventures at Floatworks

Let's Go To, new experience, nice things

Gifts have a way of coming back to you. A few years ago, I gave my husband a gift certificate to Floatworks in Angel, following a period of prolonged stress at his job. Now, during a period of prolonged stress for me, he gave me a gift certificate to the same wonderful place, where he frequently goes to chill out.

I use the term “chill out” loosely here — it’s a whole lot deeper than that. In a foot of water full of Epsom salts, one can discover a whole new body, and a whole new soul. Welcome to floating.

Image result for floatworks angel

This post is for those of you who’ve never tried it before, and are a little nervous about the whole thing. The idea of isolation tanks can easily conjure up some not-nice feelings — who likes the idea of not being able to see, hear, or feel anything? Well, it’s not that kind of deprivation. You are safe, comfortable, warm, and by yourself, and normally you float naked, although some prefer to do it in a swimsuit or swim trunks.

For max effect, go naked. It’s just you and the tank.

When you arrive, you’re greeted by the warm, friendly staff. You check your shoes at the entry and then go to your room. Every room has a pod as shown above, and a little shower area for you to clean yourself before and after the float. The water and air inside the pod is set to your surface body temperature, so when you get in and float, you don’t feel the difference between your skin and the water. You have the option to leave the lights on, or if you want to go for the full, in-the-womb experience, turn the lights off, and float in the dark. You can also crack the lid of the pod if for whatever reason you feel too warm. And of course, if you have any problems, you can call for assistance using a button inside the pod.

Floating is nothing short of magical. I had no idea what to expect. I am not that confident sitting in water or swimming, and I don’t like earplugs. But I just went with it, and man, the rewards are still coming to me even days later. You feel completely weightless, but at the same time supported, and this instantly dispels any kind of tension or anxiety you’re holding in your body for whatever reason. The feeling of peace immediately snuffs out any cyclical thinking, overthinking, planning, or other kinds of non-present-moment brain activity. It’s just you, and your breath.

After a while, you feel like you’re about to fall asleep. Yet the curious thing is that you sort of fall asleep, but you sort of don’t; you enter an inbetween space that taps into a very calm, peaceful, unique feeling, which presents answers to profound questions for some. For others, they experience visions, personal insights, or a general knowing that everything really is okay.

I didn’t gain any answers or insights, but I did feel like everything is fine — and it is.

The act of floating triggers a detox process in your muscles thanks to the salts, and helps to loosen knots, pop tight discs and joints, and literally helps you loosen up overall. As what goes up must come down, floating does have its downside of post-float pains. Because your body has deeply repaired and realigned some old hurts and tight spots, the hours after being in the tank can make you feel a little sore or out of sorts. This dissipates the more you float, however. The best way to ensure a quick recovery is to drink a LOT of water. When you’ve had a lot of water, drink more water. Remember, you’ve been lying in salts for an hour! Rest, relax, stay calm and comfortable as long as you can after a float. They’re nice to do in the evenings because you sleep SO much better. Some people, like my husband, prefer to do it in the mornings. The meditative headspace that results from floating helps him engage better with his day, and feel good overall.

A great video about floating and its scientific effects on the body and brain can be found here, from a CBS This Morning report:

When you’re done, you rinse off and have some tea, relax in the recovery room, dry your hair, moisturize your skin, and go back out into the much calmer world.

So, go for it. Book a float at Floatworks or whatever float spa is closest to you. You’ll be glad you did.

Namaste.

Don’t Break Anything at Rare Treasures of the Earth

exhibit review, Let's Go To, nice things

The Rare Treasures of the Earth exhibition opened today at Christie’s here in London. Promising “spectacular fancy coloured diamonds alongside rare rocks and minerals”, you know I had to be front and center at 10 o’clock this morning.

Although it’s a bit smaller than I expected, the exhibition doesn’t disappoint. Upon entry into the space, you’re greeted by pieces up for auction and other specimens for display, including some truly stunning (and big!) tourmaline, quartz, and my beloved amethyst.

“It’s always amazing to me that these things haven’t been ‘designed’, they just come out of the ground. A light from within.”

I overheard someone say that and it’s a sentiment shared by many. The monetary value of gemstones is human made, but the awe that value is based on is as natural as the sun. There’s a mystical quality to such precious stones; a curious balance of natural geometry and refracting light that gives pause to anyone who notices them. Also, the fact that they’re usually hidden underground, in caves or within otherwise “normal-looking” rocks, adds to their treasured reputation.

The irony is that while colored gems and crystals are the true rarities, no stone draws a crowd like a diamond. Naturally, this gem is the focus of the exhibition. Some of the allure of diamonds comes from years of marketing in popular culture (which I won’t get into here), associations with class and certainly with money, but at the end of the day, you just can’t look away from the winking sparkle of a diamond.

Even when it’s fake. (I’ll let you decide.)

The Hope Diamond, Millenium Star, Eureka, and the massive Cullinan are in the rockstar pantheon of diamonds for their sizes, shapes, and rare colors. Story and ownership are the primary tools in the world of gems. Once a skilled craftsperson discovers the stone’s most expressive cut, it changes hands over and over again through time, holding history, legend, emotion, violence — and even curses.

Whether you just want to stare longingly or learn something new, the exhibition has something for everyone. A number of displays go through where diamonds and other gems are typically found, how they are cut, graded, and what DeBeers is doing to keep the business of mining and selling diamonds as sustainable as possible.

All in all, it’s a beautiful and informative exhibition with much more to see than what I took photos of here. Rare Treasures of the Earth is on until 12 November at Christie’s London. (Just don’t break anything like I almost did, when I was inches from walking into a knee-high quartz. It probably would have hurt me more than I could have hurt it, but you never know.)

For more on the how, why, ooh and ah of the world’s most beautiful gems, I highly recommend this Nova documentary:

The Last Act of Harry Houdini is a fantastic show

Let's Go To, theatre review

Stare at that image of Harry Houdini long enough, and something creepy starts to happen. Might you be hypnotized? Maybe, he’s going to see something in you you don’t want him to see. What can eyes so intense, what can a face so stern, have to reflect back at you?

The Last Act of Harry Houdini, a masterful one-man show starring Barry Killerby and directed by Ishwar Maharaj, answers these questions and more through a unique examination of the life and final times of the Master Magician.

Like many magicians, Houdini was a man who lived between worlds. Framed by intense love and obsessive darkness, passionate crusades against spiritualists, trouble with his health and the profound affect of his mother’s death, he dressed his search for answers in defiant showmanship. There’s a poignant loneliness to all this which is evident throughout Killerby’s stage show, cleverly using a magician’s favorite tools — light and shadow — to reenact the events that impacted Houdini the most.

He deftly reveals (I won’t!) the secret use of a kiss with Houdini’s wife, and what really makes a seance a seance, in such memorable ways that I got chills imagining what it would be like had the show featured a full cast and stage. The show takes place on a sparse stage and props which anchor it as Houdini’s dressing room, yet also transport it backward and forward through time. Its door is not simply a way in or out of a room; it becomes an area of transcendence. Houdini faces his mortality there, along with the coldness of a society that only ever wanted The Show, and not the truth behind it.

Funny and distressing in turns, The Last Act of Harry Houdini was a real demonstration of talent and skillful storytelling. It was a pleasure to watch.

This year’s Thursday Halloween date afforded us a week-long sojourn into all things dark and wonderful. There’s still time to end our dances with the dead in a glorious way. Don’t miss The Last Act of Harry Houdini‘s final performance tonight at the Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone.

Let’s Go To: Christie’s London

Let's Go To

A pivotal scene in one of my latest writing projects takes place at an auction. It’s not just any auction, however, but a high-end jewelry and art auction. After learning many a bidding term and drooling over the big money auctions like the Liz Taylor one a few years ago, I managed to get to attend an exciting art auction at Christie’s here in London.

For a long time, I thought going to an auction at random on a Friday was not in my near future (unless I went on a Friday that took place in another dimension where I had a whole lot more money). In actuality, auctions are generally open to the public to see the items up for bid, and you can also sit in and watch the bidding.

Another misconception I had about auctions was that people who attended as bidders were supposed to show up in nice suits and dresses. Although you could dress up if you want to, most of the crowd at The Oliver Hoare Collection last week was dressed casual and comfy.

It was fascinating to watch the auctioneer run the auction from an elevated podium as people in the room, on the phone or online placed bids. Some items fetched very little, others fetched a lot — like this Illustration from a Fraser Album, estimated at £40,000 – £60,000 that sold for £87,500.

You’re probably familiar with at least one scene from a TV show or a movie that features an auction. Everyone in the crowd is assumed to be a bidder, and someone scratching their nose at an inopportune moment accidentally winds up being the new owner of something very expensive that they don’t want! In reality, it’s a much more relaxed experience. You register online or in person if you’re going to bid, and pick up your paddle on the day. You show up a bit early and look at the items in the catalog, or on display if they’re being displayed in-house. You also have the option to submit an absentee bid, and of course do everything online via the live stream of the auction.

If you’re there in person, by the time you enter the bidding room and make yourself comfortable, you’ll already have a desired item (also called “lot”) in mind. Or, you might be considering a few different things depending on your budget. When the auction begins, you bid on what you want to. You can raise your paddle or nod to the auctioneer. The staff manning the phone lines will also raise their hand or a printed number to the auctioneer to indicate their client’s bid.

There are a number of auction house staff in the room who support the auctioneer in noting the people interested in a lot. Obviously, some lots will be more popular than others and many paddles and hands and head-nods can happen at the same time! I was amazed by how quickly and elegantly the auctioneer worked with the bidding audience, kept track of bids, numbers, math, and still cracked a light joke here and there. I also really liked the tension in the room during bidding for popular lots. It was hard to know who the winner was going to be and how high people were willing to go.

Probably the most interesting thing I saw were the people bidding on behalf of someone else. A few minutes before his client’s desired lot came up, a man sitting in my row made a call and started having a casual conversation. I found this odd until I realized what was going on — between asking about how his client’s kids were, how their day was going, and what they were planning to have for lunch, this man was raising his hand to the auctioneer as the bids began to fly for a beautiful painting. Clearly, he’d already been informed at what amount to bid up to, and just kept going until someone else made a higher bid. He won a few lots and lost a few, but all I could think about was how interesting a job that must be for him. My Writer Mind was very curious — who was on the other end of that call?

And what did he end up having for lunch?

All in all, it was a great learning experience and a very cool way to see much of what I’d learned in action.

I am so very excited for next weekend, as Christie’s is partnering with DeBeers to put on the Rare Treasures of the Earth exhibition! Curated from private sales, museums, and the endless array of gems and diamonds at DeBeers, the exhibition will feature informative talks and many gorgeous displays. I can’t wait to tell you everything about what I’ve learned after the event.