I know I’m a snob, but I also know how to do things on a budget. Who else do you know who had an apartment in Nice that sat on the Mediterranean for a month for eight hundred bucks? Yes it was the size of an airport bathroom but I can still say I summered on the Côte d’Azur. It’s all about how you present things. I like to live a bit better than my budget allows, so I have to find ways to maintain my illusion as a lost prince from Monaco. I get cheap wine glasses that look expensive. I use beauty samples instead of buying bottles of pricy creams. I drink wine out of a box and water out of the tap. I am a luxury budget queen. There’s nothing quite so rewarding as somebody complimenting your absurdly fashionable shirt and saying, “Oh this? Cheers. Found it at Goodwill. The ladies pajama aisle is a gold mine.” The admirer will look befuddled that you would go to such a place because you look like you might have got it on Rodeo Drive. I thought I had reached peak thrift, but I was wrong. Turns out there’s an even cheaper Goodwill, readers, there is a GOODWILL OUTLET. You read that right. I didn’t believe it was real when a friend told me about it. She went on about these things she had found and how it was all ninety-nine cents per pound. My jaw hit the ground at the thought. Shortly after I found myself at the entrance of the Outlet with my friend who also preaches the Goodwill gospel. I could hardly believe what I saw. In what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse, huge bins were overflowing with flotsam and jetsam. There was no rhyme or reason to the collections. Cups were interspersed with nurse smocks and so many dresses and pants and an astonishing amount of corduroy. I lost my mind a bit and spent a whopping seven dollars. But I found some gems. I now own a massive sweater with a millennial saying:
and a stunning pink shirt made of one hundred percent silk that I’m going to rock this summer, and a jacket with subtle snakeskin embossing, and then a bunch of old records. Oh it was fabulous. You have to roll the cart on a scale! Will be back for sure.
Even I’m rolling my eyes at this one, so bear with me. I love ALDI with an all consuming passion. If I could marry ALDI, I’d be on my way to the chapel as I type. Aside from the fake Cheerios and the awful flatbread pizza, everything is flawless at my favorite grocery store. I had long accepted them as my culinary savior but I never thought I would lose my mind over a pair of socks. For some reason, all of my ankle length socks have disappeared. I honestly don’t know where they could have gone. I keep buying them and they keep vanishing. I am firmly convinced my washer is sending them down the drain. Is that a thing? Only explanation I’ve got except for a ghostly prank. And that wouldn’t be too shocking at my house. Anyway I needed socks and I was about to splurge on some from Bombas, a sock company that creates socks so comfortable that they’re a religious experience. I wear them out whenever I have a pair. I never knew that socks could be quite so comfortable. (I’m in a pair right now, reader, and my feet are so happy!) Last night at ALDI, I saw a set of socks for sale for a little over six dollars. I wasn’t going to do it. I was not going to buy clothing at a grocery store. But I did it reader and I don’t have any regrets in the world. They’re so nice! The fabric is thick and cozy and my feel feel almost as pampered as they do in my outrageously overpriced ones from Bombas. I really can’t get over it.
If there’s one thing that I love, it’s the architecture of the Antebellum South. I think plantations are sumptuous and gorgeous, and I oftentimes dream of buying a crumbling one in Louisiana and restoring it. With what money, I don’t know. I just imagine someday I will have money to do these things that I dream of. One day before I die, I will sip a mint julep whilst lounging on my expansive patio that overlooks an allee of live oaks drowning in Spanish moss. I’m glad the Old South is dead and all, but I do love those houses. The first book I ever wrote took place in one. When I look back on Terrible Miss Margo now, I can’t help but see all the ways that I could improve it. One of these days I will get around to rewriting it and actively seeking publication. But this post is all about the divine Nicole Kidman in The Beguiled and not my failed literary career. When first Nicole (whom I worship) saw the trailer and she whispers to a petrified child, “Bring me the anatomy book,” I shrieked in delight.
The movie never came around here, so when it was finally on Netflix, I requested it and let the DVD sit on my coffee table for a few months to mature. I’m terrible when it comes to watching movies. I will happily sit and watch three to fourteen episodes of Reina del Sur, but I have an awful time bringing myself around to watching a ninety minute film. It’s illogical. But I finally managed it. The film is slow and gorgeous and half the time you’re not entirely sure what the purpose of it is other than looking sumptuous, but that is frequently true of Sophia Coppola films. Nicole Kidman is the owner of a girls’ school that is housed in a plantation during the Civil War. She has a number of young women as her charges, and she spends her days getting them educated and tidying up. It’s quite peaceful until a Yankee soldier played by Collin Farrell is found wounded in the woods while one of the girls is foraging for mushrooms. They decide it is their Christian duty to get him well again so that they can turn him over to their Confederate troops. Inevitably and bizarrely, he manages to captivate most of the girls and they all kind of fall in love with him. This propels the plot, which meanders tediously for the middle third. But at the end, when they decide that the soldier has to die, my god it is fabulous. And there was such a bizarre connection to that book I wrote a million years ago, that I think my jaw was bruised when it hit the floor. In my book, Miss Margo decides that it is her Christian duty to reeducate a preacher, and so she immobilizes him with water taken from a vase of lily of the valley. This is a natural poison that she uses gently to knock him out. In The Beguiled, Nicole’s character makes a meal with deadly mushrooms to kill him. I was gasping in delight, reader. It’s well worth a watch for the costumes and sets alone. And Netflix has their copy back now, so you can finally get a turn.
“The Names of Things” by Susan Brind Morrow:
I have never read a book quite like The Names of Things. I oftentimes think that there are a handful of books that could explain my personality. This is one of them. Additionally, people who want to understand me should read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, D. V. by Diana Vreeland, No Room for Secrets by Joanna Lumley, Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice, and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. These are not just my favorite books, they resonate with my soul for some peculiar reason. I feel like I could have written each of them myself in another life, and Susan Brind Morrow’s book is much the same. It is an autobiography like no other that details Susan’s magical experiences in Egypt. They weren’t things that would appeal to everyone, but for me, who would much rather sit with a friend in a cafe on a dusty road beside the Valley of the Nobles or wander the desert than go to a five-star hotel and spend every moment amongst privileged people, her life and her experiences satisfied me completely. If I could ever spend my life wandering amongst the Egyptian people and learning about the origins of words, I would be the happiest man in the world. Instead of doing a review of the book, which was perfection, I would like to just share a bunch of the quotes that made me sigh or gasp and then write them down so that I would never forget them:
The Egyptians around me moved through the cars, picking up at once a sense of the rhythm of each car and almost dancing around them.
I would strain to understand what the men were saying, and understand nothing, and then without effort, began dimly to understand their words, and to speak, so abruptly that it seemed a mystery.
It was not the idea of Egypt, or of Egyptology this time, that drew me there, but Egypt itself. Egypt as raw environment, difficult though it was. I have thought since that the difficult part of it was like a knife cutting away the frozen parts of myself.
When I lived on the road, I found I didn’t miss familiar things or books, I couldn’t carry very much with me. There was instead great pleasure in simply sitting and remembering. I thought of memory as a blanket. I could take a thing out of my mind and handle it as though it were part of some beautiful fabric I carried with me, things that had happened long ago, the faces of people I loved, the words of a poem I had long since forgotten I knew.
I was heading back to Egypt. I longed to go back to Egypt. In the years that followed I went back to Egypt again and again.
I had been coming to Egypt for years with no other desire than simply to be there, but the origins of myth, the roots of words, insistently presented themselves to me.
There was one side [of me] that was eager to go into any kind of danger, and loved nothing more than to sit with a group of strangers, speaking a strange language, in the middle of nowhere.
You sit in Cairo and you see a bowl of fruit, slightly rotten and covered with flies, and yet the bowl, the fruit, the flies all seem to glow in their own soft light.
You must bless everything that happens so that more of the right thing may happen.
I go to Gamal when I need a friend. I can sit with him for hours and say nothing, in a physical empathy in discomfort, sharing an edge of shade in the intense heat, smoking cigarettes, drinking hot tea, and leave with a feeling that I have confided in him all the secrets and difficulties of my life and received a deep, nourishing sympathy. There is a kind of sensuality that is distinctly Egyptian, a surrender that carries one through the harshness of life to the point of exhaustion and then beyond it, to someone like relief.
He was beginning to feel the familiar dread that came with knowing that it would be a long time before he would be able to get back to Egypt again. Egypt was a difficult place, but for us it was a place of tremendous freedom.
I realize as I write these down that these quotes mean so much more to me than they can to you. You can’t fully feel the deep connection I have to Marrow’s beautiful words. But just know that Egypt is more than special to me. I am so tremendously lucky to visit time and time again. I am so blessed to have been baptized by the sand and the intense sunlight. It has made me happier than anything else or anybody else may ever do. Egypt is truly an inseparable part of who I am and what I have become, and this book filled me with such radiant joy. Beyond recommended. Get a copy as soon as you possibly can.
King Tut Exhibition in LA:
I say that I screamed and shrieked and squawked an awful lot on this blog, and that’s normally just hyperbole. But this time I literally screeched after sharply gasping in shock. Reader. I can’t get over it. King Tut is coming back to America! (Well not his mummy or his infamous golden funereal mask, but dozens of items from his tomb!) I never ever ever ever ever thought I would have a chance like this. Oh my god. I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll slow down. In the seventies, there was a fabulous exhibition of King Tutankhamen’s funerary equipment. It was a huge success and millions of people waited patiently in line for their chance to see ancient Egyptian treasures. I wasn’t even conceived until decades later, so I never had that chance. I had to go all the way to Africa to see them, and I’m not at all upset about that. Still, I thought it would have been marvelous to go to the Met and wait and wait in the enthusiastic crowds, and now I finally have a similar opportunity. It’s hardly all of Tut’s golden treasures, but there are several pieces that are going on tour before they are installed permanently at the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo. And of all places, it’s coming to Los Angeles! And of all times, it’s happening when I’m there! I’m ecstatic. Maybe I’ll go on the day of my birthday! Wouldn’t that be just absolutely fabulous? I think that’s the perfect thing to do. Oh it’s going to be a glorious summer. Can’t come soon enough.