I will cause a scene, in this Hudson Newsstand if I do not find a copy of the most current issue of Vanity Fair; yes Queen Elizabeth the Second in the blue suit with the corgis cover of Summer 2016 issue; no the 90 years of Marilyn Monroe Special Collector’s Edition does not count. In fact it is an insult. Do you hear me blue polo clad Hudson Newsstand worker of Terminal 4 in the Phoenix Skyharbor Airport, this rage is not meant for you - in fact I’m incredibly sorry for even thinking these things while looking with you, I empathize with you as a fellow service worker, were both stuck in this capitalist quagmire and all I want to do is look at a little excess and outrageousness and I know it’s counterintuitive to the cause but self-care is really complex and stupid but goddamnit I am full of rage. Rage meant for Hudson News Group and potentially Conde Nast and Advance Publications Incorporated. I need this issue, for this flight, I need this issue after this week. If I cannot get it I will cause a scene. I will, oh I will.
I don’t know the date my first issue for Vanity Fair- saying it makes my heart flutter- but I remember how it felt It didn’t have a rough cover like Esquire. I love Esquire though, for teaching me what cashmere masculinity feels like, the power of chunky vintage watches and the necessity of a cast iron skillet. Because of Esquire, I will always wonder what Steve McQueen smelled like. Mhmm, Sigh. As opulent as Esquire can get, it can never hold a Waterford Crystal candelabra to Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair, so thick and glossy, like what I imagine you feel like after three hours in a corset.
I remember folding it, making it conducive for column reading, wrapping it in my coarse minimum wage hands, my greasy fingers smudging the delicate type, leaving marks on both me and the page reminiscent of cigarette ash. I was broke, but I was Lauren Bacall. I didn’t have time, cash, or energy, but I was Bette Davis in Now, Voyager post sanitarium.
Magazines have always been this way for me; totemic, holy iconography, both sacred text and indulgence, a sources of culture, education, sophistication, great markers of time, something to eagerly await, and potential masturbatory aides once my brother started receiving Runner’s World.
My mother used to bolster every Christmas stocking with a magazine she felt best encapsulated your personality, your hopes for the next year and proof that she actually listened to you on grass sweat stenched traffic labored rides home from soccer practice. She transformed from adolescent nemesis to adult eternal best friend the first time she gifted me a copy Bitch Magazine. Well played Karen.
Rolling Stone was a mainstay of my older brother and my cultural diet, a source of camaraderie. Prime, earlier Taibbi -Tyeeebe tieahbi, I dunno I’ve never said it, just read it- was perfect for stoking the nascent almost-Marxist totally-angst riddled maelstrom that would be Middle and High school; Rage Against the Machine had broken up and gotten back together and broken up again, anything was possible.
National Geographic not only enriched my childhood but was the foundation of my super avant garde teenage mixed media career. Juxtaposing a small Russian boy playing violin on a train next to a sleeping lioness, riveting. It was a lot of gas mask clad men in fields of flowers, real personal and political and gritty and real. Everything I felt I needed to express existed within an index-finger wide gold frame. I thumbed through silent and stunning images and words. I butchered them the best way I could, finding my own place.
Magazines followed me to Chicago. I mean I moved here to be an ARTIST (hand flourish). I carried my ratty old security blanket of National Geographic's through airport security, and picked up vintage Playboys and Sunset Magazines along the way. I was cheeky and critical. I stayed up late on weeknights drinking screwdrivers and crafting collaged postcards, sketching wildlife, doing whatever the hell I wanted because I now made my own official adultish mistakes.
The first apartment I lived in after the dorms was with a 34 year old actor/insurance contract auditor who had over 115 houseplants; he subscribed to OUT and the Advocate and Details, I think- which if you forgot, was GQs more slightly less closeted cousin. He was responsibility incarnate. He could keep things alive, had his day job and his art, had enough money for subscriptions and gave himself time to read. He had stacks of his magazines, dating back at least 3 years. He knew where he was going to be next year, what the last year brought him. He could reference and corroborate how many White bare torsos we saw in print in 2009. Super diverse OUT.
Magazines also offered a magic beyond what could be held. Magazine writer is the promised job for fringe freaks, weirdos who watch, and study what the living do. People who were fun and mean and liked lunch like Dorothy Parker. Visual art faded from my hands, due to lack of time and conviction and talent, a new dream rose to take its place. I wanted to be Dorothy Parker. I still kind of want to be Dorothy Parker, but hairier and kinder. For someone who never imagined living past 25 from the age 8 to 20, freelance magazine writing held a promise. You could have art and a paycheck along with time to figure all of thiiiiis out, and a false sense of direction created by deadline fueled panic.
I have made attempts at kinds of journalism (extended sigh). Writing, especially for the internet can make you feel less like Renata Adler, and more like Sylvia Plath. Blorch. I never made money but, I gained a lot of experience. Anxiety and bitterness aside, I have a much better understanding of myself, my strengths, and path. Fledgling but present, I am less shaky now in where I stand.
My sister is a doctor, who helps rehabilitate children who have been shot. She is married to a doctor. They have two children, one is bilingual, both children have incredible hair. My brother helps contractors access green tech and finance loans so that sustainable home building is attainable for all people. He is a former crew chief of a Sierra platform helicopter and Naval Rescue Diver. His jawline cuts diamonds. He is married to lawyer who represents children in the foster system. Both of my sibling’s spouses are objectively brilliant and beautiful. In High School both my siblings competed in the State Cross Country Championship meet and we’re Homecoming King and Queen in their respective years. You can trace it back to their childhoods before that too; they have always been immaculate, articulate, and incredibly likeable.
I showered today. Shampooed and conditioned. I finished college in four and ehhhhhhh years. I found a hairstyle that works? This week I lied to a group of 21 year olds on a tour I give, I said I told a co-worker he was gonna catch these hands if he crossed me, so that they think I was cool and tough and funny. It worked.
I am also the one that my family texts when they don’t feel like Googling something. I am the devourer of media, the synthesizer of viewpoints considered odd, or interesting, quirky. I am their Reddit, with less hardcore pornography and racism. I am the road in the woods they and grumpy ass Robert Frost never even knew existed. I am the reason my mother is re-watching the entirety of Game of Thrones to see if it is in fact just a struggle between Little Finger and Varys. I am Varys with all my little birds. I am asked for dispatches from the stranger corners of the night, from the depths of weird, from the realms outside of planning three years in advance and contemplating refinancing. I’m a live wire in a rainstorm, too fun to be a cautionary tale and too broke to be aspirational. And I am so very happy to provide.
Because something in me, doesn’t need a lot to be happy.
Call it nihilism with a shimmering top coat. A foot bath, keeping my plants alive, a semi tidy apartment and a steady supply of curry & booze. Enough time and cash to cook for myself or not worry about ordering out. A little love, a little listening on mine and another person’s part. Someone to care for, care for me too, and confound me. An issue of Vanity Fair. It’s a sense that being alive, still, can be such a luxury. And maybe those moments I give to myself can be something new to look forward to.
Magazines were a sporadic treat in adulthood, something for the trip back to see my family or when it’s been the worst week imaginable. I’m a restaurant hostess and tour guide, my threshold for the worst is high. I thumb through the pages of Vanity Fair and I’m made numb by the surreality. Sordid tales of men squabbling over private island estates, the tragedy of a diamond mining company being unable to sell the world’s largest diamond for a price they thought was fit, celebrities who even when we are told they are having approachable toast and eggs, because they are always having toast and eggs in profiles, are beyond our reach. It’s sublime. The labored smiles of nameless socialites with dizzied concepts of worth hypnotize me, perfume from sample flaps waft up like an ether to my anxieties. I was wrong, thinking to only treat myself to things like this, so infrequently. Believing you’re only sometimes worth beauty wreaks habit on your self-worth, fills you with rage without you even knowing it.
One’s best life is spent attempting to enjoy it rather than devising a plan to burn down a newsstand in the Phoenix Skyharbor Airport. One’s best life is spent knowing you are worth the time and energy of a leisurely read puff piece. After all, right now, Conde Nast is offering a year’s subscription for only 9.99 and they’ll throw in a tote; it’s 12 issues for my multitude. A fair price, and what luxury.