Sunday, October 6, 2013

Finding Beauty Where E'er I Go

The seasons are in their transition, as is the political, sartorial and culinary climates of New York City. Soon, the fig tree that I walk under every day before I round the corner to my home block will fade away the scent of ripened mashed fruit underfoot with the autumn rains. The leaves tempt me to harvest for experimental pickles and dolmades. I must acquaint myself with its Jewish owners so that I don't feel like a vandal plotting to pick the fruit under cover of darkness next summer. They obviously have more than they ever care or want to pick for themselves. I guess for now I will have to be content with spritzing my Fresh Fig and Apricot parfum when the air has a familiar chill...

When the weather starts turning, I get more creative. I re-stock my spices that have been put to good use throughout the year, but also bring out the more traditional ones for cold weather cooking- cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice for mulled wine and cider, pumpkin and squash-based foods. I raid the wild overgrown sage bush in the backyard, visions of crackly buttered sage in soups, roasted meats and hair vinegar rinses. I devote more time and budget as I can to roving the Brooklyn and Manhattan Farmer's Markets, checking off the staples- garlic, onions, plus varieties of apples and pears, farm eggs, dark leafy greens and a colorful pile of root vegetables with the highest vitamin and mineral content. This year, I have fallen in love with legumes all over again, and intend to put lentils through the recipe wringer along with some unusual grains, like amaranth and millet. At some point soon, I will buy my $7-$8 bunch of fresh eucalyptus to decorate, disperse the annoying closet-and-cupboard moths, and eventually serve as fragrant and potent inhalants for my seasonal sinus colds.

It was with this inventive spirit (and tormenting autumn illness) that I found myself in Tribeca yesterday, aiming to take mental and visual stock of items at my favorite health food store in Manhattan, Bell Bates. Imagine my deep confusion and sadness when I happened upon the raised steps, only to find a garishly incongruous Hallowe'en display inside the wide-open doors. Costumes and gimmicky ads included. Not a spice in sight. Mind you, I do consider myself a fan of Hallowe'en, since I have always liked to play dress-up and explore the deeper and darker side of my imagination since I was a sheltered, restricted child of The Church. But I was not prepared for this untimely assault, October or not. Not at my oft-visited haven for hard-to-find herbs and spices at affordable sampling (and hoarding) quantities! Where will I find a $3.99 4-ounce bag of everlasting flowers to try out a new tincture?? Who else had such an extensive array of seaweed products from more than one brand?? Why, oh why didn't I come in September like I planned to? The girl smacking her gum on her cell phone break outside saw my bereft state and informed me that Bell Bates closed up shop two months ago. The beginning of the summer was  last time I was in there (feeling guilty for buying too many things, but vowing to return in Sept nonetheless). They never mentioned anything in the store, even though I now see online everyone knew about this... People need to know how much of an institution this place was, family-run since 1885... but there is Whole Foods down the block to contend with, so I guess it was inevitable.

I could suck my teeth about that, but I will be positive and highlight the fact  that, call it what you like, WF was my next logical step for consolation. and to some degree, I was consoled. I happened upon a small display in the natural cosmetic section (my secondary obsession, after spices), where a lovely young lady and her older male assistant were rearranging their wares.

Daliia: The Science of Life, was set up to showcase sexy looking kohl eye makeup in vibrant metallic colors and amazing lipstick-style cases with retractable mirrors. My favorite, which I intend to purchase and wear the hell out of, was the Persian Gold Eye-Stick. There were also some natural-based lip stain pens, beckoning for a  pout. Since I have a love-fear relationship with any lipcolor more lingering than lipgloss, I feel confident that these stains are the perfect addition to my regimen. As I mentioned to Dalia, it is reminiscent of a simpler (and yet more subversive) time of the Middle Ages, where young women found inventive ways to have a beauty regimen in spite of strict religious and superstitious social directives. Ms. Dalia herself is a striking lass, all dark wavy tresses and a slightly classic ancient-beauty look to her. Although I was fighting a heavy disposition in my despair over Bell Bates and my sinus headache, I found myself talking to Dalia for about an hour about her line. I love that she is an independent gal touting "Ayurvedic Couture", and I tip my invisible fedora to a young person like myself who obviously values ancient ways with a fresh new delivery. She is doing something my grandmother did, my mother always dabbled in and I aspire to do a little bit more every day. There are very few artists, designers and purveyors of beauty that I feel compelled to mention in my blog as a direct inspiration and promotion, but I will say thank you to Dalia and Daliia, for giving me a ray of hope that all is not lost in this larger, ever-changing metropolis; that perseverance and creativity are still rewarding traits when one daydreams and fantasizes about a different way of life.
One small independent institution may have bowed out, but in its wake, may many more can and will crop up. And I will find them, and speak their name with a smile upon my lips, and a Persian gold rimming my eyes!

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