Saturday, August 22, 2009

Abdullah Abdullah

Just recently I was wondering, what happened to that dapper man that was Foreign Minister under Hamid Karzai? I will admit that my areas of study are limited and Afghanistani politics is not one of them. (although it should be, given US military intervention in this country.) So although I know absolutely nothing about this gentleman's politics, I am glad that he is back in the news (he is running against his former collaborator to be the leader of his country), so that I can look at pictures like the ones above and below.

I know that it's incredibly shallow, but I love the way this man dresses. And as I discussed here before (see ) there are plenty of world leaders that don't have a clue about fashion. I admit that some may think that there's nothing outstanding about the way he looks. After all, he dresses like a European businessman, an Italian count, a Spaniard emulating British aristocratic fashion. Yes, I will grant you that, but the fact is, he wears it well. The salt and pepper hair, the trimmed beard, the dazzling smile, the English cut blazers (even worn with jeans!), the pocket square, the lace up Oxford shoes!!!!


During my recent stay in Miami I was able to return to a beloved restaurant that I had not visited since I was a teenager, the Cuban institution, Versailles. Like its namesake, this place is a palace, in this case of huge portions of Cuban home cooking. (I had a sublime meal of picadillo, arroz con frijoles, amarillos, and a sugary cortadito at the end, no room for flan, sadly.)

Green polyester uniformed waiters and waitresses, their names embroidered over the breast pocket swiftly served delighted diners their calorie laden meals. Abuelitos in their crisp guayaberas lingered over buchitos of black coffee. Families shared a feast. I almost wept over the multi-page menu, trying to decide between the picadillo, the bistec empanado (which due to its size would always elicit the same exlamation from my father "Ea rayo, eso no es un bistec, es una sabana! - Wow this isn't a breaded steak, it's a bed sheet!"), the pastel de platano y picadillo, or the bistec de palomilla.

The decoration made me wish I could go back and do another doctorate this one in architectural history and / or cultural studies focusing on the restaurant's design. The interior is a 1970s Panopticon, all mirrored surfaces, walls, domes, labyrinthine rooms echoing each other, meals replicating themselves visually as they also proliferate in rapid succession throughout the tables. Chandeliers like the one in my abuela's dining room, glittering in the mirrors. Naugahyde chairs squeaking beneath me, paper place mats bearing the name "Versailles" in a Gothic font.


Fashion Citation: South Beach Edition

The hideously vulgar and sexist T-shirts give you an indication of the agenda behind most tourists' visit: drinking, hooking up, blacking out and or throwing up.

A typical beach to street wear ensemble.

Skintight denim mini-dress

Mannekin designed to mirror visitors' grotesquely silicone inflated breasts and bad platinum weaves.

I've just returned from my first visit to South Beach. Like the wannabe socialites Alex and Simon on the Real Housewives of NY, who summer in St. Bart's because it's cheaper off-season, I hit the area in August. Although I was there to relax, tan, sleep, drool over the Art Deco architecture, visit the fabulous Wolfsonian museum of design and propaganda, eat Cuban food, and shop, apparently the majority of people there visit under the impression that it's the Cancun of Southeast Florida.

This sets the stage for the dreaded accolade of Collective Fashion Citation. There are a couple of schools of thought on trauma. Either you try to forget it and move on, or you go there to process it and move on. I am opting for the latter, forcing myself to recall the fashion, which burned my sight like acid. The aesthetic highs and lows were extreme: beautiful beaches, water, sky, gorgeous Art Deco everywhere, and bad bad bad fashion.

The women were the worst offenders. A plethora of tramp stamps, bedazzled bikinis, triquinis, stripper shoes with lucite heels, mesh dresses, shorts revealing half of the butt cheek, fringed suede booties, white lycra leggings, skintight denim mini dresses, enormous earrings and bracelts worn on the beach, bedraggled platinum blonde weaves drooping and crying out for a hot oil treatment, long toe nails with elaborate French manicures, a male and female couple in matching flowery bathing wear (he with a banana hammock, those were quite popular). A grisly parade of flesh.

The men were either undergroomed - such as the Italians with grave manscaping issues (such as backs resembling the brown shag carpet in Burt Reynolds' bachelor pad circa 1972), or grave over-manscaping issues (Latinos and gays with eyebrows plucked like a 1950s debutante). They either wore miniscule banana hammocks or oversized and long shorts.

The demographic was: gays, Italians, youngish people from the North East (particularly NY and NJ), French, and a smattering of either Portuguese or Brazilians. The Italians made me rethink my former adulation of them as the most stylish beings on earth, with the best-looking men. Tragic.

There was a lot of public drinking at the beach, and itinerant boys approached gaggles of girls in thong bikinis with boob implants and bad tattoos about a great party where, for sixty dollars, they'd be picked up in a limo, taken somewhere to eat a meal accompanied by all the alcohol they could drink, followed by VIP treatment at a club and bottle service which consisted of Grey Goose and plastic cups. Nice. Fortunately, this only took place on the weekends, during the week it was much quieter and the partying was limited to restaurants on Ocean Drive and presumably, in clubs at an unknown location.

I was tucked into bed watching real estate porn - House Hunters International - and turning in early so as to get more beach time in the morning, and stamina to walk up and down as many streets as possible, photographing the cool Art Deco buildings. Perhaps the club hawkers didn't approach my sister and I because I was either reading SEMANA, HOLA magazine's slightly less chic sister publication, or Evelyn Waugh, and she was reading a book about Marxist philosophy. Also, I think nerdy girls with glasses and retro bikinis with major rear coverage are not the demographic they are after!