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Monthly Archives: February 2009

“what does ‘wanderlust’ mean?”

i get this question posed to me like a zillion times a day. it perplexes me, simply because i think, “uhhhh, break it down….wander…lust…the lust to, well, wander?” but then i fight the devilish urge to be snarky, and i gently explain, “well, its meaning is the ‘desire to travel’,” and i then get comprehensive nods of understanding, as the question asker is usually someone who is, in fact, traveling, hence, they realize that they, too, are wanderlusts. (german tourists in particular are awed that i used this word to name my shop, as its origin is from the german and a word i guess that is used frequently in their homeland. i’ve had a variety of explanations of its meaning in their language, from “skiing and hiking” to something about a national poem/song using this word. i even once had a woman insist i was a travel agent and kept asking me to change her bus ticket, and she kept looking at my computer to see the progress i was making in the changing of her ticket…fortunately, i had a german-speaking friend here who was able to explain to her that i was indeed NOT a travel agent, that would i NOT be working on the rearrangements of her holiday, that in fact i sell dresses–“see? look around this store!”, said in german–and directed her to a real agent right down the street).

so while ‘wanderlust’ may not have been the simplest and most obvious of words to select in the naming of my business, ‘wanderlust’ is who i am, who i aspire to be. and while i am loving living in siem reap, i am feeling the itch, the desire, the need, the urge, to move and journey and go and see see see. like a junkie in a frantic search for their next fix, i am feeling this overwhelming panic that there’s so much out there that has been untouched by my own feet, unseen by these eyes.

i want to sit on the banks of the ganges river in india for an entire day. i want to arrive at sunrise, and sit folded on the ground, with a pack of smokes at the ready and maybe a ziploc stuffed with plain naan tucked into my bag for an afternoon snack, and look out all day at the life, the motions and the movements, that enters into this frame, my frame. i want to see for myself how this river, this huge and instrumental conduit to living and surviving in india, is essential, powerful, meaningful in every day existence. how it provides a highway, a means of getting things to and fro, how it’s the home to rituals and rites and passages. i want to see the pyres and the bathing and the washing and the swimming and the living and the dying and the working that occurs in and around this river. i do not want to leave my perch until sunset. i want to be still for hours and have the movements and motion and chaos swirl around me. i want to be in this. in it. i want to do this.

to travel the silk road from start to finish. to see and understand and acknowledge how east met west so so long ago. how noodles became pasta and how fashion moved from just protecting one from the elements to something more ornamental and emotional and betrayed our innermost feelings. how multicultural the world became because of this road, i want to be on this road and walk down it, walk right down the center of it, through the villages and mountains and rivers and lakes and puddles and forests. i need to see for myself how art and color and languages and materials and knowledge traveled and moved and became shared , how things melded into each other, transformed themselves into something different, a conglomeration of ideas and thoughts and inspirations. this road, this critical journey into the world we live in now. i want to do this.

to take an unairconditioned bus through the parched landscape of southern africa. to witness animals in their habitat, to see them living and working and fighting and in constant motion whether mankind is there to witness it or not. to see for myself that things happen without the infusion and involvement of the human race, to know that the world spins and revolves in spite of itself. i want to see this. i want to do this.

i dream of nepal, the colors of the sky, the blueness that defies description. of the hills and mountains of laos. the middle east and all its strange sounds of language and music. jordan. jordan. i want to come and see you, jordan, can i please? the souks of tunisia, i want to come hide in your shadows, explore your mysterious darkness and light. i want to light oil lamps to illuminate the desert while i am camping in gobi, before i lay back and watch the sky light itself up with it’s very own lamps. i want to come across handmade batiks in kenya and learn how to do it, stick my arms elbow deep into natural dyes and squish fruits and roots under my bare feet to create new colors. i want to hear traditional folk hymns sung in the native dialects of indonesia. i need to do a cannonball into the dead sea.

“what does ‘wanderlust’ mean?”

i am the definition.

i am wanderlust.

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9AM, and it’s already reaching close to 90 degrees, 1000% humidity. air so heavy that perhaps only a chainsaw could get through it–maybe. shadows creating some relief, not to mention the can of diet coke within arm’s length on the table. i can feel the drips of sweat cascading down my front, hidden by my black halter dress, custom made by wanderlust, of course. a fringed oversized tassle around my neck swings lightly in the much needed breeze. 

i am staring into the lens of a camera. trying hard not to look boiling hot, sucking in my ever-sagging chin, thinking about –and attempting to emulate–some of the tricks i saw the countless models i dressed on countless shoots in countless locations do. but i am on the alley street. in siem reap, cambodia. flanked by 2 of the most creative, inspired, inspiring men, loven ramos and don protasio, and we’re being shot for a feature for a thai magazine. the story is about creative forces “taking over” siem reap. i am here. and i totally can’t believe it.

loven and don humble me. i feel unworthy of being shot with them, like i am sitting on their designer coattails (don’s would be comme des garcons; loven’s would probably be adidas or some underground, yet-to-be-totally-discovered hipster brand from the lower east side that hordes of people will clamor for within a year once he’s over it and moved on) and trailing along for the ride. they are a force. a real force. like a hurricane, but one that blows into town and you are awed by it’s magnitude and yet this enormous storm only makes the sky look beautiful and romantic and like a andrew wyeth painting and the leaves turnover and unveil their covert colorful undersides and makes the air clear and fresh and the insects sing loud, rhythmic, pretty songs. and this storm causes no damage. it only makes things more gorgeous, calmer, more alive. much more alive.

beautiful strength. that’s what they are.

i always say loven has more talent in his pinkie fingernail than most people have in their entire family tree. he’s an artist, a painter, a graphic designer, an art director, a man of a million ideas. he is the definition of “energy”, of “spirit”, of “goodness”–actually, make that “greatness“. his sense of humor floors me; his enormous internal rolodex of inspirations and thoughts and references is astonishing and god, i just want to steal a few of those ‘cards’; and  his sincerity and generosity are felt within seconds of being near him. i saw him on sunday ‘eskimo kissing’ his son and i felt this overwhelming sensation that i was amidst an ideal human being, someone whom i was extraordinarily fortunate to call “friend”. i look at his gorgeous and loving wife, faith, while we’re chatting and laughing and sharing stories, and i think, “wow. this stuff happens in real life. people have this. they have it.and i am not envious; rather, i am excited to have such people to look up to, to absorb, to emulate, to be near.

don is a person whom i see with cartoonish hearts in my pupils. i remember meeting him and he was wearing polka dotted shorts and gladiator sandals, and i knew that i was in a town that embraced uniqueness and character, and i felt safe. i felt at home in his presence. i told him about an early birthday present that my dear daniel sent me the other day–a much coveted designer item–and don squealed, “i am so happy for you!” and he meant it. he was honestly happy for me. and he came over to look at it and we played with it and we talked fashion talk and design talk and our mutual enthusiasm buoyed both of us to near hysteria. he is a fashion designer who makes clothes i understand in a very very deep way–clothes that tell stories, express emotions, conjure up feelings. sort of like modern history–new ideas done with familiarity, a sense of homey-ness and realness that is futuristic at the same time.  he also curates the swanky art gallery at the ridiculously chic de la paix hotel in town, and he selects the artists with such a vision, from such an honest, supportive place. he is magic.

so, here we were, the 3 of us, being photographed in the overwhelming heat of february in cambodia. and i look at don, wearing his white tee, jeans, a marc jacobs cherry pendant necklace and red patent sneakers, and loven, in his black tee with strong white graphic on the front–most likely screened by him last night; he once told me that when he & faith have dinner parties, he silkscreens personalized, themed table linens to use for the evening–white pants, coveted limited-edition adidas shellcaps and i can’t believe i am with these two. i am sandwiched between them, trying desperately to live up to the standard that they’ve already created here. and i feel so challenged, so inspired, i want to work so hard and prove my value here here here, here in this town, here in this magical place, here in this random thai magazine, here with these extraordinary, phenomenal people.

forces.

i looked up the word “hope” tonight in my gigantic, ever present webster’s new world dictionary of the american language. (admittedly, i have no clue why it’s the “american” language dictionary, since “whatevs” and “like, you know” are NOT included.) i’ve been thinking all day about hope and what it means to me, it’s significance in the world, in my world, in my heart, in my brain. in my past. in my now. in my tomorrows.

i have always been hopeful. always. i’ve said “i hope, i hope” so many many times silently to dozens and dozens of first stars i spied in a night sky, blew out countless amounts of birthday candles repeating the words “i hope, i hope” in the breath i had left over, repeated it at every altar, shrine, temple, mosque, church, pagoda, roadside crucifix i have ever been to and seen. i’ve hung hope on every hook on every door in every apartment i’ve ever lived in. i’ve glued hope in scrapbooks, photo albums, notebooks; penned it into margins of crusty paperbacks with words inside that gave me back some hope in return. i’ve pinned it on bulletin boards, saw it in art galleries stroked into 20th century oil paintings, on movie screens, heard it in song lyrics. i’ve seen it in shadows, in silhouettes, in that 4PM orange glow of pre-dusk sunlight. i see it often in eyes. hope.  

hope for what? what the hell are you hoping for?

what AM i hoping for? if i hope for something to happen, is that unfair? naive? unrealistic? if i hope for a significant relationship with someone is that just  another dreamy fantasy that will elicit countless eyerolls and deep sighs?

really, i just hope for simple things. uncomplicated things. things and experiences and words and people and relationships that don’t require untangling or fiddling with or a master’s degree in psychology to understand. i just want something easy. not a blow-off, not a it-doesn’t-matter-to-me-i-can-take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing, just a comfortable place to sit. 

an easy chair. that’s what i hope for. an easy chair.

an easy chair is a place where i can just be. just be. where i don’t feel crushed or twisted or in need of a stretch. where ouches are non existent, where nail biting is not allowed. a place that is non judgmental or  free of analysis or where no one is looked at through suspicious eyes. a place to be that requires no explanation, no thesaurus, no i-didn’t-mean-it-that-way-really-i-swear-oh-shit-now-i-am-scared-because-i-can’t-take-it-back, a place where regrets don’t have a home, a place where walls don’t exist. an open space, a comfortable space. a place to sit where i can just be. where i can breathe, and suck in air that feels fresh and clean and clear

i want to sit in my easy chair across from someone who’s in theirs and feel okay in the silence. i want to feel okay in the tumble of words. i want to feel safe in the sharing and the talking talking talking and the unloading and the uploading and the downloading. in the hearing and the listening.  i want to look into this person’s eyes and know that he sees me as an easy chair. i am in my own, but he’s in mine, too. and i’m in his. like musical easy chairs.

(i can understand from a psychological standpoint why people like recliners. i personally think they’re hideous from a design perspective, but i get it subjectively. however, i think ray & charles eames designed one that would suit me just fine. i can visualize myself in it, its supple leather and gorgeous, smooth wood grain enveloping me, as i am sitting in a field/beach somewhere in the sunshine, with an ashtray and a can of diet coke at hand, having a conversation with my hope recipient in a matching one.)

is that a lot? is that the equivalent of hoping for, well, the fucking hope diamond? is this something everyone hopes for? i haven’t a clue. if everyone does hope for this, then why am i still hoping for it? can’t we trade hopes and fulfill the hopes for each other?

all i know is that this easy chair has been on my christmas list for years and years. and i really, really want it.

let me have my hope. i hope i hope i hope for my hope.

i’ve said it a zillion times, but there are very few things i am afraid of. i don’t know why, but maybe it’s because those things that we all fear deep down, like death and divorce and abandonment, have been hoisted onto me throughout my life, and i’ve had to look them directly in the eye and kind of try to stare them down. so other things that instill fear, like the eating of bugs or climbing mountains or flying on airplanes seem so miniscule, such a waste of energy when compared to bigger, more substantial things. (i’ve adorned myself with a tattoo–in vietnamese–that says, “not afraid to live, not afraid to die” for a reason. and if you don’t really fear dying, you certainly can’t be completely frozen by the idea of really living. right? i believe this. i believe it.) so while these huge enormous things still make me shake a little in my flip flops or my ragged chuck taylors, and i find myself in moments of darkness, chewing off the fingernails i don’t really have, worrying about being left again, i also have some weird ability to go directly into things without letting the fear take me over. i don’t let the fear stop me from at least trying.

when i decided to move to siem reap, cambodia, i forgot to think about why it might be a scary decision. it never occurred to me to consider lurking menaces hiding behind palm trees or the ever present danger of contracting malaria or dengue. i never went to get vaccinated for anything, never bothered to ponder of what mysterious traumas and dramas could be facing me with this huge step, this massive leap i was taking. i forgot to think about the fact that my heart could be broken here in siem reap, too. i let go of the notions of being abandoned. i just came. i just decided to do it, and did it. it was simple, maybe naive, but simple. i just did it.

and while masked men behind trees haven’t appeared and tropical diseases haven’t struck me down yet, there are other things i have been doing that normally i would be reluctant or hesitant to do, but again, i forgot i was afraid. so i just did it. 

i have found myself ready and open to romance. this is enormous. this is probably the biggest fear i’ve had to confront, the letting go of the devastating disappointment in the dissolution of my marriage, shucking off the ramifications of being struck down and maimed by someone who claimed to love me, someone who made promises and commitments he had no intention of keeping. without really knowing it, or being full aware of it, i’ve been trying to, at least, trying to cut the anchor around my waist, around my heart, the one that holds me down and keeps me afraid, keeps me leery. and i feel ready to put myself out there again, i feel like maybe i’ve grown my legs back. sea legs, yes, still shaky and quaky, knees knocking slightly, but legs nonetheless. 

so yes, indeed, there is someone who has caught my eye and made me feel alive in ways i forgot i could and made me feel ready and willing and able. but i’ve confronted that fear from a different angle by understanding–and doing what i can to accept–that this readiness, this willingness, is not being reciprocated. i’m on a one way street, and there’s pylons in the road and some major pot holes. i bumped into some of those neon cones, fell into a shallow little hole, and i am climbing my way out, band-aiding my cuts and attending to my bruises. i attempted fearlessness, and while i failed at it in some ways, i’m also still walking. i’m getting up. facing fear.

i went camping this weekend. enormous step #2. i am an urban girl living in a rural place. cities are my bloodline, cities fuel me, cities pump me with energy and enthusiasm and excitement. and yet here i am residing in a tiny town where sidewalks don’t really exist and movie theaters are what you create from pirated dvds and a second hand dvd player in your un-air conditioned apartment. so here i go again, forgetting what scared me about the countryside–the darkness, the silence, the “inactivity”. and i went camping with my small little posse here. in fact, i arranged this trip–planned it, greased the right people, organized the food and the beer and made sure everyone knew to bring a mosquito net. it was me. facing fear.

i was forfeiting hot showers and hairbrushes and the general urban standards of living– the living i used to feel comfortable in, the living that i’ve been, well, living for decades. i purposely chose discomfort, i released all the reasons and the excuses and the rationalizations of why i couldn’t do this, why i shouldn’t do this. i was sleeping on a hardwood floor, freezing my ass off, huddled against the chill under various layers of dirty tee shirts and woven straw mats, dreaming of socks but realizing i didn’t want to be anywhere else but on this floor, in this place, in here, with cold feet. i was listening to the sound of water cascading off a cliff, endless streams of the worlds most important resource, it’s asset, it’s claim. hearing some unidentified bird cawing in the distance, the sing-song chorus of some wet amphibians making homes in the gigantic leaves and fauna that is their decor, their nest. looking at a moon fuzzy and hazy in the increasing humid sky, squinting to see if there was a remote possibility that the sky would offer me a shooting star. taking delight in watching monks throw sticks at a huge, slithery snake. throwing myself into icy river water and crawling on slippery rocks to immerse myself under a daunting 3 story high shower. wondering what the hell i was ever afraid of. forgetting about the fear. facing the fear.

and today, under the blazing morning february sun in cambodia, i mounted a golden horse named geronimo, and took enormous leap #3. i took an english riding lesson. after brushing and washing and cleaning hooves filled with the dust and dirt and the god knows what else of cambodia and saddling up this animal, an animal i don’t necessarily fear, per se, but one i don’t particularly care for, i became friends with geronimo. i liked this being. i opened myself up to something, to him, to this strangeness, to this i-would-never-ever-do-this-in-a-trillion-years, unlocked this chest, this footlocker, inside. and suddenly, geronimo seemed like a proper vehicle in which to ride head first into all the scary things i’ve felt and harbored and made huge with my imagination. i trotted, i galloped. i let the horse lead me while i led it, too. i felt free. i felt unencumbered by all the histories, all the lead balloons that have been tied to my wrists. i let go.

facing fear.

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i’ve decided to embrace heartbeats. things that make me swoon, make me feel alive, make me tingle tingle tingle inside. 

i went to this screening the other day, of a documentary film on a cambodian dancer, a boy who was plucked from siem reap, brought to new york, trained by a russian master on the artistry of ballet. and he became a success, leaping across the stage of lincoln center, stretching at the barre at the new york city ballet school, performing in the nutcracker suite. and while his story was compelling and literally drove me to tears, it was the scenic pictures of cambodia that made my heart jump and flutter and go into rhythmic spasms of overwhelming sensation.

i looked at this film objectively, almost as if i was sitting on my couch on ludlow street, smoking a cigarette, eating a slice of greasy st mark’s street pizza and being drawn into this film showing on PBS or something as i was flicking mindlessly through the channels for something to see. and as the visuals of the cambodian countryside were flashed onto the screen, rainbows of colors and textures and smiles of khmer children, my immediate internal reaction was, “shit, i want to go there.” and of course, within a second, within a beat beat beat of my pulsating heart, i realized i live there, these people on the screen were my neighbors and friends, this grassy  illuminated countryside was around the corner from my little house, that i could practically look out the window of this screening room and see exactly the same thing being projected onto this makeshift screen.

i am there, right in that movie. that movie is my world. that movie is my home. 

and during that ridiculously obvious realization, that silent eureka moment i was having, my dear friend and soul mate sheree turned to me and whispered, “oh my god, we live there. there!” and i felt my eyes well up instantly. oh my god, she was having it, too, this realization, this awakening.

we do. we live there. there there there. here here here.

so upon our exit from the screening room at the very grand sofitel hotel up the street from our houses, we made a pact to live there. live there, live here.

so that night we went dancing. we went to a local nightclub, met up with dine and serguey and shannon and jason, and moved on the dancefloor with multitudes of local teens and 20somethings, who surrounded us, laughing, pantomiming that they wanted us to teach them how to dance. groups of girls swayed their hips, mimicked our “macarena” moves, giggled shyly, swung around us in their glued-together posse. who was happier, who learned more…them or us? a tie.

and today, to celebrate sheree’s birthday, shannon and i joined her at the happy ranch, a little corral not far from my tiny little house in the middle of the madness in siem reap, cambodia. we saddled up some horses and followed lucy, our guide, through the countryside, winding our way over dirt paths and through makeshift little villages, where children, beautiful, achingly beautiful tiny little ragamuffin moppets, ran from their stilt houses to shout, “hello! hello!” and wave frantically at these 4 girls riding by on horseback. we passed little ponds with water buffalo swimming through the muddy waters, cooling themselves from the relentless 10AM sun. a man passed us on a bicycle, loaded down with hay. we stooped to avoid being hit by bouganville branches and clotheslines and swaying low lying electrical wires and potted orchids attached to palm trees. 

we were living in there. there.

and the list of “theres”, our places to live in and inside, our experiences here, there, is growing by the minute. the aerobic dance classes that old and young khmers flock to in some random space out in the countryside? definitely going there. the apsara dance school? yes yes yes, we’re there. the village on the way to angkor wat that is making handcrafted pottery? when? we’re there! sihanoukville and bamboo island and kulen mountain and this village pierre told me about far far from here that weaves ikat by hand? let’s go there. now. now. my heart is already racing. beat. boom. beat. boom.

here. there. here. there. 

this is here. here i am.