I just finished reading Gloria Steinem's biographical My Life on the Road (incredible book, I urge everyone and anyone to read it asap-- but this isn't a literary column here so moving on)... She wrote a chapter called "Surrealism in Everyday Life" about random moments that occurred during her travels, and if I may borrow a leaf from the great lady's book, both literally and figuratively, I will attempt to do the same here. As Gloria puts it, you can't make this stuff up:
I. Jan 5, Home: When you just happen to open one of the sales-hawking emails that made its way to your inbox, and find your own face staring back at you:
II. Jan 7, Rome: Working 20 hours straight on a photoshoot gets pretty surreal pretty fast. Over the course of a whole day and nearly a whole night at the Valentino headquarters in Rome, dimensions begin to blend and consciousness to warp (in the afternoon, the staircase between dressing room and photo studio which that morning you took at a sprint now feels like Mount Everest to your weary legs; during the dinner break you realize you're understanding most of what the Italian dressers are saying around you— you can’t speak a word of the language, of course, but after so many hours in their midst they're not surprised when they hear you chuckle at jokes they make and act on plans they discuss without their having to translate. And about that lens there clicking and flashing in your face at three am…its a bird, its a plane, its superman?)
III. Jan 8, Rome: On your way to the Fiumicino Airport in Rome you're still not sure where in the world you're flying to. The options are London for a show or New York for a shoot. You tell you're Roman driver that your agent might call his phone when she gets a decision— but he doesn’t speak any English and your miraculous Italian superpower of the previous night dissipates as he ignores call after call coming in and you chew your fingers helplessly. Once inside the airport and restored to the bosom of wifi—god bless her— you find there is still no decision and so you stand at the mid-point between gate G7 (New York) and E10 (London) texting madly until G7 starts boarding and you choose to go with old G’ cause you still haven't heard from that scoundrel E. Home is generally the safest wager to make when it comes to international flights and unpredictable results. G7 proved steady and true, and 48 hours later saw me shooting forJapanese Vogue.
IV. Jan 11, New York: At a studio on the lower West Side, there was a nice glass water dispenser in the kitchen— that on closer inspection held a billowing, purple 'siamese fighter' fish in it. The device was clearly utilitarian, now turned decorative. I pointed this out to the team to guard against some unsavory beverage accident, but apparently not everyone was in the room: later that day the photographer’s assistant emerged from the kitchen just swallowing the last dregs of a glass of water and asking why on earth there was a jar of fish pellets on the counter? Unfortunately we had to tell him, between peals of laughter and shrieks of horror, what it was he had just imbibed, and assure him that unfiltered fish-tank water was probably bursting with all sorts of nutrients and vitamins that a traditional diet doesn't provide. I’d like to imagine we started a new fad… Out with the Fish Sticks, in with the Fish Sh*t!
V. Jan 12: Waking up to hear that a bomb went off in Istanbul and killed ten while I slept peacefully in my bed. A basic suicide bombing, a norm… What kind of surreal reality is this we live in that the murder of innocent people is so epidemic, and hatred so persistent? This war of terror is surreal by its very existence, and it's also now everyday life.