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Björk, Vulnicura, & Paddington Bear

Bjork&Paddington

The other day Lulu and I joined some friends to see the movie Paddington Bear in Brooklyn. I had planned to blog about the adorable young bear from Darkest Peru and his antics in another great destination, LONDON, but I got sidetracked as you will soon see. The movie was enjoyable, and turned out to be a whimsical, perhaps unintentional way to promote travel to London.

While waiting to enter the theater, there was a hushed excitement between the adults. The singer Björk was on line several people behind us, also waiting to nab good seats to watch the film.

“Björk?” I asked with doubt. “The ethereal musical artist from Iceland? At a kids’ movie in Brooklyn on a Sunday afternoon, waiting in line with us ordinary people?” That seemed implausible.

Sure enough, it was she. She ended up sitting two rows in front of us, presumably with her daughter. After leaving the movie, I remembered reading a headline recently on the music site Pitchfork about her as “The Invisible Woman.” This could not be further from the truth, of course, and after a quick search on my phone, I discovered just days before she had released a new album.

Yesterday, as I prepared to hunker down for the record-breaking-snowstorm-that-wasn’t, I skimmed the New York Times and on their “suggested listening list” for their snowed-in readers was her new album Vulnicura. I bought it, and looked again for that Pitchfork interview to read. (So worth the read, I’ve included the link.)

I learned that her latest album is yet another musical triumph, in her long history of influential work. But to my surprise, it is also a very personal album, as she sings painfully about the dissolution of her relationship with the artist Matthew Barney, the devastation to her family, and her loss.

One particular paragraph of this article, written by Jessica Hopper, stood out to me:

“As much as this record is about him, it is also about Björk returning to herself. In motherhood, one quite literally becomes a vessel—a role that often continues postpartum. The young family takes precedence, and ambition takes a back seat; a mother can become the net around her loved ones, their needs veiling her own. It is the natural exile of domestic life. And it is a strange and powerful thing to imagine that one of the most singular vocalists in modern music could lose the tether, just like any of us. But here, Björk opens up about coming back to music from such a scene, filling her house and her days with loud songs.”

These lines were like catnip to me. And it altered my perspective on Björk and her music, as subjects we relate to as individuals tend to do. I always admired her as an artist, her music, even as an actress in her incredible role in the 2000 film Dancer in the Dark. But reading about her as a mother coming back to her identity, after mourning the loss of love and the death of her family which she valued dearly– well not only was it familiar, but it also humanized Björk as a person.

Death of her family. She actually uses those words in the song “Family.” Death sounds like an extreme word to use, but I knew that exact feeling of mourning over family lost, with which I grappled for the first years of Lulu’s life.

So this album hits close to home. But other than the powerful lyrics, the music itself is a beautiful mix of grandiose strings and eclectic electronic beats. At moments the music sounds heroic, at the same time the lyrics can be heart-wrenching– an intoxicating combination. And to give an idea of its orchestral impact, she will be performing in March at Carnegie Hall here in New York City. Carnegie Hall, that marvel of acoustics! I hope to sit in that audience and be transported by hearing her perform live.

An explorer bear who takes himself halfway around the world for adventure, and an artist whose recent creativity was inspired by changes to her identity after loss and motherhood. Who knew a Sunday afternoon could bring two random subjects together, yet both so near and dear to my heart?

Vulnicura is now available on iTunes.

Paddington Bear is now in theaters.

Mambukal Mountain, The Philippines

Waterfall at Mambukal Mountain from Travels With Lulu on Vimeo.

As we are nearing the official start of winter, my mind is brought back to Southeast Asia, specifically to the Philippines. It was deliciously hot when we visited last winter– which inspired me to armchair travel today back to Mambukal Mountain.

Mambukal Mountain is on the island of Negros Occidental, outside of Bacolod City. We took a long drive through the Philippine countryside to arrive from Bacolod. The landscape was a rustic blend of rice paddies, skinny palm trees, tall fields of grass, and brooks of murmuring waters. The cars and buses we passed wore brown layers of dirt from driving along unpaved roads. Children sometimes roamed the streets in flip-flops, dressed in sleeveless t-shirts and worn gym shorts, or in neatly pressed Catholic school uniforms. Multiple people piled onto bicycles. It was a welcome contrast from city life, either the urban chaos we witnessed in Manila or what we live daily back in New York. The quiet foreignness of it all made it a soothing drive.

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When we arrived to Mambukal, we discovered a deep dive into nature. The surroundings are filled with lush tropical vegetation and flowers. Seven waterfalls beckon, although with Lulu, we only made it to see about three (to see all seven, the climb to each was more challenging than the next.)

And considering what I learned previously about the country, mostly about its congested capital or its spectacular tropical shores, discovering this abundant mountain, tucked away in a quiet pocket of the Philippines, made for an extremely satisfying day.

If only I could trade in these upcoming frigid days of winter, for the hot, sweaty, challenging climb to the 7th waterfall of Mambukal Mountain…

A Louis Vuitton Scooter & the Unpredictability of Life

DSC_1623See this scooter? This beautiful, never-been-used, Louis Vuitton-branded scooter from the turn of the century? Meaning, circa 2000. I was working at Louis Vuitton at the time, heading the PR for North America. We were asked to create a Louis Vuitton scooter for the lead character of a little movie in the making, called Zoolander. They wanted Ben Stiller’s character to ride around in an LV scooter. So if I recall correctly, after receiving our request in the Paris office, they custom-made 5 of them. (Mr. Blue Steel did not end up using it in the film though, unfortunately.)

It was a crazy time then at Louis Vuitton, endless launches, countless events, new products newly designed by Marc Jacobs. I remember working around the clock. Six months alone were spent day and night working on a massive Classic Car Show that took place in New York’s Rockefeller Center. I lived downtown then, 40 blocks away. Days leading up to the event, we stayed in hotel rooms midtown just so we were that close to Rock Center and the work site. We had booked Aretha Franklin as the headlining entertainment act, and threw an incredible party where the skating rink sits.

Somewhere in this time frame there were also store openings on Fifth Avenue, LA, and San Francisco. And fashion shows in Paris. I had to be everywhere organizing U.S. press. I look back and can only attribute my energy to youth and passion. I loved my job, I loved fashion, and I loved to work. I also had nothing else going on in my life, but that–and a relationship with someone living in London that was quickly going sour mostly due to my A.D.D. Somehow I still found the time to entertain other potential lovers who didn’t even live in New York.

But back to the scooter.

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My boss gave me one of the extra scooters that winter as a token of gratitude for all my hard work. What am I going to do with this? I thought. I might as well keep it and store it away. I just might have a daughter one day who will want to use it.

This is nearly 15 years later. I now have a daughter. I am a freelance writer. I write about travel. I have no idea what the latest trend is for F/W or S/S 2015. And I now look around my apartment, my world, and feel like all the things I accumulated in my years in fashion I no longer have use for. I have started a closet purge, and I found this scooter again. Do I keep it? I have a feeling there is someone in this world who would appreciate it, far more than me, and far more than my equally other-minded daughter. At the age most preschoolers are already fussy about what they wear, she couldn’t care less about what I dress on her in the mornings.

There are three things today that I desire in life, more than anything I could have envisioned all those years ago.

1. To write books.

2. To travel.

3. To encourage an intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually abundant life for Lulu.

None of these involve the things I thought so very important back then. I am the same person, but my priorities have decidedly changed. Who would have ever guessed? I was so married to my work then, and thought my future as a mover and shaker in the fashion world was clear. After all, it had been all I ever wanted, ever since I was 10 years old.

If only I could give this luxury designer scooter to my 10-year-old self.

Have you changed so drastically from who your younger self thought you would turn out to be? What was the change, and what was the shift in priorities? If so, please share in the comments below…

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul