Heavenly fashion at the Met Gala

What a difference a year can make. Or perhaps I should say: what a difference a theme can make. The fashions from last night’s Met Gala “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” were far more interesting than those of 2017’s, when the high profile event honored Rei Kawakubo, the founder of Comme des Garçons, with “Art of the In-Between.”

It’s remarkable how rapidly those fashions became stale: last night I looked over the photo galleries from 2017, and was reminded of how boringly celebrity guests interpreted the theme. It seems that many women were intimidated by the designer’s structural looks, and chose to cop out with pretty but plain dresses that would have could have been worn to a wedding.

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Vogue’s boring photos of the fashions from the Met Gala 2017. From left to right: Lupita Nyong’o in Prada; Serena Williams in Versace; Gwyneth Paltrow in Calvin Klein by Appointment; Mary J. Blige in La Perla; Lesley Mann in Chanel.

Why did so few of the guests choose a design by the honoree, Rei Kawakubo? Some say the fashions are not easy to wear. Here is an example of her clothing. What do you think?

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Photos from Elle.
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Photo from the Newstatesman.com

Rhianna was one of the few guests who famously wore a Comme des Garçons design, renewing her unrivaled reign as the Best Dressed at the Met. And she’s at it again this year, with her Pope inspired look at the Catholic-themed party , which was held last night at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

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Cnn.com

It seems that more than a few celebrities were shamed into respecting the theme this year, interpreting the Catholic theme both politically and playfully.                                               Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 3.56.15 PM.png     Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.08.17 PM.png  Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.01.08 PM.png

Lena Waithe in Carolina Herrera; Pheobe Waller-Bridge in Christopher Kane; and Mindy Kaling in Vassilis Zoulias. “You can be the king but watch the queen conquer,” Kaling posted on Instragram. Photos from Cnn.com

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Religious iconography. Greta Gerwig in The Row; Janelle Monáe in Marc Jacobs and many others; Katy Perry in Versace; Zendaya in Atelier Versace. Photos from Vogue.com

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Fancy headgear: Christian Combs in Dolce & Gabbana; Cardi B. in Moschino; Amber Heard in Carolina Herrera. Photos from Vogue.com

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Trains, trains and more trains: Lily Aldridge and Rosy Huntington Whiteley in Ralph Lauren; Ming Gi in Prabal Gurung; Sarah Jessica Parker in Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda; Diane Kruger in Prabal Gurung. Photos from Vogue.com

The fashion worn at this year’s Met Gala was certainly over the top, and sometimes even irreverent, making it all the more fun to examine! I hope that the celebrities who are lucky enough to have an impact on the corture of the day continue to use the Met Gala as an opportunity to really push the envelope. And thank you, Rhianna, for always setting the bar very high.

 

Mompox

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When my friend and I traveled to Mompox in 2010, we knew it was unlikely that it would be an easy trip. Santa Cruz de Mompox (or Mompós) is a town in the north of Colombia, nestled between the Magdalena river and the Pozelo swamp. It was founded as an important colonial bridge to transport wealth between the port of Cartagena and the South American interior, but since Colombia’s independence Mompox has relaxed into the sleepy and remote town that my friend and I were lucky enough to visit. The Liberator, Simon Bolivar, said of Mompox, “If to Caracas I owe my life, to Mompox I owe my glory” (It was in Mompox that he recruited many of the soldiers who he led to liberate Nueva Granada). Conversely, novelist Gabriel García Márquez said “Mompox doesn’t exist. Sometime we dream about it, but it doesn’t exist.”

So does Mompox exist? Indeed it does. It took us a few bus rides and a ferry to get there. We found beautifully preserved colonial buildings, quiet riverside restaurants and friendly filigree artisans constructing the jewelry the town in now famous for. On our way out of town, my friend and I decided to brave the land route we had heard about. Mompox did not have a bridge until 2015, but they were preparing for construction during our visit with a bridge of dirt. Unfortunately, the frequent flooding of the region made the bridge crumble under trucks and cars, and the day we were leaving a bulldozer tumbled into the water and a transport truck threatened to do the same. Our taxi wouldn’t cross, so we walked across and met a taxi on the other side. Later on, our bus was stopped by the fires of a protest and we had to walk ahead a little farther, but that’s a story for another day.

Samba Journal: Intro

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When I was living in Barranquilla, I was hungry for exercise. I was unfamiliar enough with the culture that I wasn’t sure what classes I would like, so I just lazily didn’t take any. Of course, nightly dancing helped me stay limber, but I probably consumed as many calories in beer and aguardiente as I worked off.

When a friend came to visit, she brought me four workout DVDs: Quenia Ribero’s samba workouts. My roommate and I tried one (Afro Reggae!) some steamy afternoon and we were immediately hooked. Quenia’s charisma, along with the new dance moves that we could employ that very night at the corner dance party at La Troja, was a winning combination. I worked out with Quenia’s DVDs for the rest of my time in Barranquilla.

Years later, I moved to New York. Part of my settling into a new home is looking for my workout community, and I wanted to continue learning samba, a dance, music and culture that enchants me. Imagine the thrill I felt when I saw Quenia’s name next to a Samba class just a few miles downtown, at the Alvin Ailey Extension.

I’ve been Sambaing with Quenia pretty steadily fir the last 6 years. She is a wonderful dance Mentor and I never regret going to a class. Samba, with its quick steps, open arms and kicks and turns, is an expression of happiness. I love the low thump of the surdu beneath the constant chattering of repinique. I love dancing Samba!

And that is why I have signed up for the samba performance class. We will be practicing every week to put on a show this summer, and I’ll be writing about the experience here.

I’ve already made the point that I enjoy Samba. In my Samba Journal I want to really delve into that love and explore it. I would also like to interview Quenia and hear more about her story as a Brazilian dancer who’s succeeded on her own here in New York City. Hopefully I’ll be able to dip into some of my own experiences living in Rio de Janeiro. I want to bring it all to you!

If you’re too excited and can’t wait for more samba, check out my playlist La Giraffa’s First Day of Spring. Also, I highly recommend Alma Guillermopreito’s book, Samba!. It’s a little old but that was definitely the beginning of my samba journey and maybe it will be yours, too. IMG_5050.jpg

 

The Princess Building

3BBADC7A-9A1E-49FA-9E41-0AB51C1C1344.jpegYesterday was meant to meant to be warm. My sister was visiting and we had big plans: the Cloisters, The Botanical Gardens. Drinks on a patio. Long walks through the city. We did some of this. But by the end of her stay, we still craved a bit more of the fresh spring air that collects in pools above blooming tulip and daffodil beds. We wanted to walk under the blossoms of lilacs and magnolias one more time together, before she flew of to the still-thawing Midwest.

We took the train uptown and got off into a wind of pin-prick raindrops. My sister, optimistic, had worn a sweater and overalls with the sleeves and legs rolled up, and no jacket. She rolled her sleeve down. She rolled down her pants legs. It was too cold. We were back with the winter weather, but now with cherry blossoms falling instead of snow. We had to go back inside, and watch the weather tangle in the spire of the Princess Building from behind a window.

Exploring New York: The High Line

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I live in New York, and as much as I enjoy the idea of our many attractions, there are a few I rarely, if ever, visit. They are simply too popular to enjoy.

A good example of this is the High Line. This park was built above Chelsea on an abandoned railroad spur. The elevated track used to connect trains to the Hudson Rail Yards to the North. Now it is planted with native trees and bushes and offers a really lovely place to walk above the congested streets.

On a nice day, though, it is unbearably crowded. People walking at different paces and in different directions push along under the shadeless sky. Performers, meanderers, joggers, sunbathers, selfie-takers, photographers with their models, Buddhist alms-askers, and food trucks create a impossible mix that is better avoided.

On a recent walk around the West Side, I wondered if I’d be able to get a better look at the Hudson Yards development project from the elevated park. On a cold but sunny spring day, the High Line north of 23rd street was practically empty. And the views of the city were exquisite: the parallel train tracks rising up into brand new skyscrapers gave me a lot to think about. Soon that development will offer a new touristic draw, so I recommend checking the northern section of the High Line before 2019!

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Trash

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Exploring the city, I attended an event during fashion week called 29 Rooms. Billed as an art exhibit, 29 Rooms showcased 29 artists, each with a small room to create an instillation in. At least that is the impression I got from my source. I was mislead.

The line outside of the “abandoned warehouse” curved around the block, creating the perfect visual of exclusivity. We moved quickly, though, and models in paint-splattered jumpsuits hardly glanced at me or my ticket as I headed through the doors and past the free Kind Bar table. The entire event was defined by long, slow lines, though I hadn’t realized that yet when I parted the hanging wall of plastic flowers that housed a perfume advertisement “installation.” The paint-splattered models weren’t effective bouncers, so I was allowed to cut that line without protest. Inside, 20-year-olds in the inevitable wide brimmed hat posed adorably in front of humongous fake peonies. I was to find this in each of the 29 rooms: an Instagram paradise of picture-perfect backdrops. Without a hat or a companion, I was ill-prepared.

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I soon became tired of the farce. It was clear that 29 Rooms was all about getting cute “influencers”-types to post free endorsements for 29 different products on their social media accounts. Casper, Juicy Couture, and Dunkin’ Donuts are among the advertisers. Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March were some of the activist partners that were featured. It was more than comical to me that these kids were willing to 1) pay to create free corporate advertising and to 2) wait for the privilege to do so. In fact, it was depressing. I left after half an hour, overwhelmed by the grime of having been used

I walked past blocks of littered Refinary 29 Haägen Dazs sample cups before I felt free of the cloying grasp of the event. On the Williamsberg waterfront, where a few Brown nannies tended to their white wards, I noticed a cookie crumbling on top of a broken traffic light. A smear of ketchup decorated a nearby lamppost. I wrote in my journal,

“Nothing in that refinery 29 exhibit was as beautiful or impressive as the foam popping effervescence in the greenish brown water. An oblong shadow of a ferry boat and the sun-rays sucked sucked underneath.”

I’m all for social media. But I hate to see people giving themselves away to corporate advertising. Some good things really are free: Don’t let yourself be tricked into being one of them!

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La Giraffa’s First Day of Spring Playlist

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Mother Nature loves the irony of burying us in 24-hours worth of wet, sticky snow just as the calendar announces Spring. My apartment, though, is a tropical paradise.  Why? Because of music.

I love music: I grew up with Motown and Bluegrass, spent my adolescent years head-banging to grudge and learning to dance with R&B, went on to hip-hop in my young adult years, had a short soca and reggae phase, and now I’ve been pretty steadily stuck on music of Latin America. All of this over the backdrop of my professional musician father’s jazz and classical. This is the simplified version. Now I date a musician who’s band creates avant-garde jazz/R&B fusion. Because of the scope of music I’m exposed to, I think I have pretty great taste.

My boyfriend agrees, and recently suggested I share my favorite songs with the world. So, here you are: the very first La Giraffa playlist. I cheated a bit for this one, because most of the songs were on a mix CD I made for my father years ago. It was such a hit that he’s since made copies for all his friends and the rest of the family.

Here’s the YouTube version:

And here’s the Spotify (which do you prefer?)

A short description: Most of these songs are from Brazil, Colombia, or from elsewhere in Latin America. I lived in Latin America for a few years, and for me Samba is has an almost unbearably romantic sound. And the rhythms of the Caribbean are unbeatable.

This playlist is pretty mellow: all instruments and voice, no electronics, no reggaeton or funk carioca, sorry! That will have be another playlist.

And if you made it all the way to the end of this post, here’s an old video of me pretending to samba in a waterfall. Those were the days!

Photo Challenge: Favorite Place

I love many places. But my favorite place is Martha’s Vineyard. I am rejuvenated there.

I like to be there at any time of year. In the winter there are few people and it is extraordinarily quiet.

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The sunrise at Vineyard Haven

 

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On the way back to the mainland

 

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No dryer– just sun and wind.
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Christmas yard decorations

 

via Photo Challenge: Favorite Place

I’m Still Sick but I Feel Good

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Picture taken from Maia C (https://www.flickr.com/photos/maiac/259132974)

I woke everyone up again last night coughing into my pillow, coughing into the blankets. I get a tickle in my throat at 3:00 a.m. and it won’t let go. I would feel sorry for my Domestic Partner but he is partly to blame: yesterday, both Valentines Day and his birthday, he had the inconsideration to let me stand in the cold rain.

My neck hurts from tense muscles and swollen glands. Inexplicably, my left index finger is swollen, too. I’ve been trying to take care of myself, but night-time comes along and tempts me with too many other options.

Last night, at 2:00 am, I was pissed off. We were leaving a ping-pong bar (luckily tea was on the menu there), my D.P was on his phone, and he was failing to protect me from his friends’ idea to stand in the dark drizzle of Washington Square Park. We gathered around a wet bench, and I huddled in my daily winter costume: a flannel jacket, the collar pulled high to cover my mouth. A man approached out of the shadows, walking quickly into our group.

“What are you guys doing. Hanging out?” His raspy voice invited us to inquire about the good time hang-out facilitators he had to sell.

“We’re eating cookies.” I shut him down and he slumped back into the shadows. The Washington Arch was a uniform blaze of white, a 3-story slab with a mouse hole cut out on the bottom edge. It’s light reflected in the puddles accumulating on the retired fountain.

Later, D.P. and I got off the train at 7th ave to catch a taxi. A homeless man standing by the station entrance asked for spare change. I shook my head, “no,” and looked into his face. He had a disappointed pleading look, a face like a catowl. Cat-owl. Cat/Owl. I remembered the lioness women from earlier that night at the MET, facing the Temple of Dendur, with their smooth black laps. I had wanted to offer them something– they are Sakhmet, the Egyptian deity of calamity and illness. I was hoping they might help me get better (a cough racked my body and echoed through the gallery as I stood there contemplating), and feared they might punish me for thinking of making an offering and not following through. But the guard was watching and I couldn’t figure out how to transfer the dollar bill in my hand to one of the stone statues without getting into trouble. So I held onto my dollar, and worried for a minute about the consequences (another coughing fit. “Let’s get out of here,” D.P. said).

D.P., trying to pacify my funk, stepped into the street to hail a car, and I took that dollar back out. The Cat-Owl man’s hand was dark with grime. “Thank you, sweetheart,” he said. It sounds cliché, but his eyes softened. He and I exchanged a kind wish for one another.

One dollar is not such incredible generosity, but if generosity comes naturally to me (it does) I should remember to always pursue it. I’m still sick, but I feel good.

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Washington Square Park on a happier (summer) day.