A Last Chance Power Drive

Every Sunday a number of older men congregate by the local coffee franchise with their custom vintage cars. They sit in their beach chairs and talk about…cars. They relish in the passers-bys’ compliments. Magnificent machines.

Back in LA I remember a similar crowd would assemble at the Bob’s Big Boy in the Valley, and of course these were the zenith of car collections. It all started there didn’t it – the custom car culture that Tom Wolfe wrote about so wonderfully in his book The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. 

The men assembled this morning were a good-natured bunch, sitting in the hot sun, basking in their handiwork. I asked to take some pictures, and they were happy to oblige. One of them said, “But not of us! Some of us may be wanted men!”

As I left and headed towards the water to enjoy beach activities, I was thinking about these men and their cars. I imagine they are of the age that would have made them eligible for the Vietnam War. I wondered where the next generation of vintage car enthusiasts will come from, or if they are a dying breed.

Times change. The car, the open road, Detroit: the realities and dreams that those words conjured defined America – its industry, fantasy, music, and spirit. America was “the car.” No longer. GM, Ford, Chrysler were either dismantled or bought by foreign car companies. Today, the association is indistinct.

When I was a kid my father went through a phase of collecting British cars: Aston Martin, Alvis, Jaguar, Bentley. They were exquisitely made – the day of the hand-made car has definitely departed – but they were temperamental to say the least. Unreliable would be a better word. We used to joke that our place was where British motors went to die. No one but my father drove them, that is if they started,and they were stick shift, which we all learned on but abandoned for the convenience of automatic. What a shame! Eventually those beautiful dreams were donated to charity.

Collectible cars may be moribund, but romanticism remains. The lure of the open road still beckons with all its promise and possibilities. I hope that never fades away.

 

So drive on. The road is waiting. You’re gonna get to that place
where you really wanna go.

Say hi to Bob for me…and be free.

Clare Irwin

 

 

Beauty’s Baker’s Dozen – II

Beauty on a Budget 

Trader Joe’s Baker’s Dozen Best Buys for Beauty:*

Trader Joe’s is a California-based company of alternative/organic/health supermarket stores that can be found around the United States. We first heard about Joe’s some years ago, when a neighbor introduced us to a delicious breakfast cereal that they sell. Then a couple of years later a good friend radically turned us on to the really fun stuff – Trader Joe’s cosmetics/beauty/bath aisle! Since the editorial staff frequents the store regularly, we decided not to keep our favorite things to ourselves any longer. So, we’ve compiled our Baker’s Dozen Favorite Trader Joe’s beauty items for your pleasure.

 

Avalon Organic Botanicals – Therapeutic Lavender products:

It’s a lavender love-in!!! For the price you can’t do better. Avalon offers excellent quality, and uses pure lavender essence extracted from flowers grown in northern California. This is a company that puts out a variety of outstanding products at reasonable prices. The Lavender Therapeutics line contains organic lavender; calendula, which is an orange/yellow flower, related to the marigold family, that is great for skin and hair – ancient people, and modern ones too, steep the flowers for bathing and skin care; chamomile which has soothing and healing properties, and the lavender line of products are also enriched with lots of vitamins for extra goodness.

1The Therapeutic Lavender Bath and Shower Gel is a must. Rich lather, great scent and it leaves no residue or film. Great for all skin types including very sensitive skin.

2The Therapeutic Lavender Nourishing Shampoo is perfect for all hair types. Leaves fine, limp hair with a lot of body – you’ll feel like a bohemian millennial Breck girl.

3. The Therapeutic Lavender conditioner is excellent, rich and creamy. We did find that it works best for non-color treated, less dry hair – for color treated hair our staff found that an additional intensive conditioner was needed. But for all you “normies” out there this conditioner is perfect.

4. To round off the lavender line, we also love the dark green, apple shaped pump bottle of Lavender Glycerin liquid soap for washing hands. In our household (and other staff members) there is one pump bottle by every sink.

 

Tea Tree Oil Products – Desert Essence and Trader Joe’s:

Say tea tree oil three times fast!  We have all heard about and know the origins of this superb and amazing all purpose natural antiseptic oil from Australia. Here are three products that Joe’s sells that are A-1.

5. Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash with Organic Tea Tree Oil and Awapuhi (Hawaiian white ginger). This face wash is incredible; it has a clean healthy scent that’s just divine. It’s perfect for all skin types and we find it really works well for problem skin or skin that has occasional breakouts. Read the back label, this product contains an interesting mix of ingredients. We find that in the winter it’s an excellent liquid hand soap for all the germy hand exchanges one is forced to have, and it’s great for avoiding colds – the minute we walk into the house after being out the first thing we’ve all gotten into the habit of doing is washing our hands with this liquid soap.

6. The Tea Tree Oil Facial Cleansing Pads are great, especially in the summer heat and grime. We find in the winter they can be a little drying, but in the hot, humid, warm weather they’re fantastic to swipe over your face and neck after you wash – you’d be surprised to see what is still left over on your poor pores. Again its fresh clean medicinal qualities are all skin friendly and healing.

7.The pure and original product: 100% Australian Tea Tree Oil – a truly great discovery. The pure oil is so versatile; use it for pimples, bites, add it to your bath. As a general antiseptic like peroxide and rubbing alcohol, you should have a bottle of tea tree oil in your medicine cabinet.

8. Desert Essence Blemish Touch Stick. This is the all time finds of finds for those of us who get pimples. The magic roller ball is so effective you can practically delete your dermatologist’s number from your phone. It has saved more than one of us on the staff a trip to the doctor.

9. Trader Joe’s own Tea Tree Oil bar soap. The Tea Tree Pure vegetable soap comes in a pack of two and lasts a good long time. It has a mild, fresh, clean fragrance that won’t conflict with any perfume you may apply. This soap is perfect for all skin types.

Trader Joe’s Savons (that’s soap) and other bath products: 

Trader Joe’s makes several milled in France soaps called “J’adore ce savon.” There’s orange blossom, lemon verbena, etc.

10. Our favorite, quelle surprise, is the Lavender South of France bar soap. For the price it goes a long way, and it rivals the fine creamy quality of much higher priced boutique soaps from places like L’Occitane – not that we don’t just love their products, but a lot of us are on beauty budgets. This scrumptious bar of pale blue soap contains Shea butter, so it’s kind to dry skin. Always have it stocked along with Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil bar soap so you can alternate them.

11. Celtic Lavender Scrub exfoliator – We love this product. It’s got an ancient Druid princess bath ceremony quality to it. Packed with Celtic Sea Salt, lavender oil and marine goodies from northern waters, this scrub is a great pick-me-up, especially in the dry winter weather. It leaves a nice light, delicate, sheath of lavender moisture on your body. This excellent scrub comes in big tub that will last you a long time. Several of us on the staff also use the Celtic Scrub in our bath. When we don’t have time to do a long pure salt bath, we take a nice palm size scoop of the scrub with a little bit of the Lavender Bath and Shower Gel, run the bathwater, and voila a rejuvenating experience!

12. Grapefruit Chamomile Shower Gel Scrub is from Trader Joe’s Zen product line. The grapefruit smells so good you may want to eat it, but don’t. It’s a gel AND an excellent exfoliator – it seems summery in fragrance and feeling, but that’s just our imagination, use it all year round. It’s a perfect exfoliator to use before applying a self tanning cream or spray. The scrub is lovely and gentle, not sandpapery like some exfoliating products, and it does the trick. Again, a large amount (and you don’t need much each time you use it) at a good price is a deal.

13. Trader Joe’s Lavender Dryer Bags are, obviously, not directly beauty related, but a great household product. Let’s say they make you feel beautiful, so there’s the beauty connection! They’re kind of like dryer sheets but infinitely better (we don’t like the artificial smell and chemical/oily feel of supermarket dryer sheets). Trader Joe’s bags come in a box of 4. These bags are porous paper pouches filled with lavender buds and flowers. You just stick one in your dryer with your wet laundry, set your dryer cycle as you always do, and your dry clothes come out subtly and gently smelling of lavender. It’s so soothing and calming and good for your well-being. The bags are especially perfect for drying your sheets and towels – the scent of lavender will refresh your bath towels, and the scent of lavender on your bedding will lull you to a restful sleep at night. Now here’s a great tip right on the box: once the scent seems used up and it’s time to replace your dryer bag (the box says they’re good for about 5-10 dryer cycles – depending on your machine, size of laundry loads, etc.), take the old bag, open it up and scatter the buds and flowers on your carpet and vacuum the lot up. The lavender will scent your carpet and your room, and the vacuum cleaner won’t have that mysterious wet old doggy smell (even if you don’t have a dog). Everything is lavender-fresh smelling. It’s de-lovely.

Afterword:

All our baker’s dozen products are cruelty free: no animal by-products are used, nor were any sweet bunnies or other wonderful creatures that we share the world with harmed in making these products. So that’s a good thing!

These are our current Trader Joe’s recommendations – we’ll continue to scour the shelves of this fun store for future great products at great value. Check out Trader Joe’s cosmetics shelves yourself and see what else catches your eye. Depending on where you are in the States (see Trader Joe’s website for the store nearest you), that department can be more or less extensive. We have three stores nearby, and they do vary in what they carry. A friend in the San Francisco Bay area has a significantly larger Joe’s than the three here, but you’ll find what you need in any one of them. It’s a cool company and concept; the store is clean and organized, the staff is young, friendly and knowledgeable, and you can’t beat the prices. Don’t miss their ultra dark Swiss chocolate bars that are top notch – who needs Godiva?  These bars are fantastic and Joe’s cleverly and irresistibly places them right near the checkout counter. You have to get at least one bar. Chocolate is a mood enhancer, so there’s some natural Prozac for you.

Enjoy shopping for all sorts of great herbal, natural, and aroma-therapeutic soul enhancing beauty products. Bring a friend along for the romp. Remember it’s good karma to help other people enhance their life journey, and beauty and bathing are all part of it!

Back on planet Earth:

Okay that’s the end of it. I’m exhausted from reading this over-energized piece of writing. I hope that it was useful. I learned something. It took me longer to photo edit this piece than it does to write a fresh post!

*Note: since writing this article, the names of some of the products may have changed slightly, as well whether TJ’s still carries them. I checked and Whole Foods carries some, and all the companies mentioned have websites where you can peruse and purchase.

Clare Irwin

Baker’s Dozen – I

I’ve been mulling over whether to write this post or not, consulted friends, and as I start this now I still don’t know. Last week, I was in Trader Joe’s and I remembered that I once wrote an article about TJ’s beauty aisle for a now defunct fashion/beauty website: “Trader Joe’s Baker’s Dozen Best Buys for Beauty.” The site went out of business before I submitted the final draft. I dug around and found the article – it’s a bit long and heavy on the lavender and tea tree oil – but informational.

What stumped me most was the alarming note of not recognizing myself in the writing. I sound positively giddy. To be sure, I was writing it for a specific purpose/audience, and it was a number of years ago – at least five. But that wasn’t it, I’ve found writings and “scribbles” from when I was a kid and I see myself. All I could think was, “Who is this woman?” “And, what extraordinary cocktail of drugs is she taking?” The answer is none, so I have no excuses. I’m attempting to recall what was going on at that time, and it’s vague because it wasn’t particularly interesting. I was friends with a girl who normally I wouldn’t be friendly with – we had mutual acquaintances. Anyway, she was…I sound like her in this which really scares me. I can’t remember now, but I may have deliberately tried to channel her “voice” since the audience for this piece would have been girls/women like her. Nice, safe, conforming, aiming to please, nonthreatening…blech. Sadly, or not, I don’t fit this role as much as I may try. I lean more in the direction of say her (right), or this (below):

Now, I am less drawn to the make-up and creams as I was a couple of years ago. Obviously, there are other products at TJ’s that actually may contribute to my health like juices, nuts, fruit, and of course candy (reward motivation system?). The 99 cent greeting cards are excellent too. So, I’ll frequent TJ’s until the farmer’s markets gear up again.

Now I have to figure out how to add the article without making this an endless word salad. Help!

Tripped Up & To Be Continued –

                                         Clare Irwin

Okay, it’s done. See the above post “Beauty’s Baker’s Dozen II” for the article where I dost not know my self.

Wiccan – What The….?

In earlier years, my older sister, Christina, embraced a version of Wicca. She was always into something and it was usually intriguing — definitely a free spirit. She went out to California, lived in Marin County (where else?), and occasionally went to college classes. At least that is what she told our parents. She befriended a girl (we’ll call her Helen for the purposes of this writing) who was originally from Brentwood in LA, and who had a glamorous Hollywood upbringing.  When that all fell apart Helen moved up north and that is where my sister met her.

My sister essentially apprenticed herself to Helen and learned the tools of the Wicca craft. It appeared pretty benign, but our mother freaked out when my sister came home to visit full of Wiccan know-how. Our father, a wise man, said nothing which ended up being the most effective way of allowing my sister to lose interest on her own. Christina taught me a few things, but it all seemed like a lot of work — and maybe it was Helen’s own overlay — it seemed pretty paranoid too. I remember Christina took me down to the beach to show me how to do water magic, which is writing an intention in the sand, near the water, and letting the waves “pull” the intention out. In other words, the waves would wash away what was written. And then, well I guess something amazing would happen.

First, however, we had to go into the woods and find the perfect branch or large stick that would “speak” to us. This would be the writing utensil. So, I found myself following my earnest sister walking through the soft pine needles through the woods of our property. Christina eventually found the right one, we got in the car, and off we went to the shore. There, she demonstrated how it was done. I have no idea what the intention was — I cannot remember, but I was standing there watching my sister write in the sand and hopping around like some crazy beautiful cricket avoiding the waves that were coming in. It’s a funny and touching memory — it’s how I think of her to this day: young, tall, stunning in a careless way, and walking to the beat of her own drum.

Christina left me the stick when she went back to California, and I put it in the trunk of my car and forgot about it. Months later, something went wrong with the car and my father brought it down to our mechanic. Yes, we pretty much had a “mechanic in residence.” There were a lot of cars, people, activity, friends visiting, and comings and goings during those happy years in my family home. For some reason my father and Frank, our mechanic, had to open the trunk, and there was the stick looking both neglected, gnarly and ominous. Somehow Frank knew that the stick wasn’t there just by accident — it had some weird purpose — and looked quizzically at my dad. My father just shook his head and said, “Don’t ask.” And Frank didn’t — there were more females than males in his household too, and had learned the lesson, probably the hard way, not to ask too many questions about what sort of nutty things the women might be up to (monkey business my grandfather used to call it). Women! Right?

The car was repaired and the stick stayed in the trunk unused until I think I sold it to a friend, or we donated it. As I was emptying out the trunk, I saw the stick there and threw it out. I didn’t think about it. I just whipped it into the woods, but now looking back it was harshly unsentimental of me. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, they are all gone now — the people in this brief scene — and the way I tossed the magic away makes me realize, in my youthful ignorance, that I thought things would never change. Things would always be good, lighthearted, funny, vital. But, of course, that was not the case.

They are all beloved to me, these people, these places, these memories — and that is the real magic. Not so much some exhaustive ritual or incantation, but the spell that extraordinary people cast, and the spell of the perfect convergence of time, of those people and places, and me.

With Love,

Clare Irwin