Once More into the Bleach

It’s funny that when we truly want to make changes in our lives it’s often easiest to start with our hair.  As part of this little Steampunk project of mine, for photos and such, my hair is going to go through a multitude of styles, colors, extensions and probably a few wigs so I don’t end up bald from all the experimentation.

My locks have already been through a lot of changes, so at this point I’m pretty fearless in the hair department. In colors, I’ve been dark brown to platinum blond. And one time for a brief but hectic couple hours, a mauve-violet due to a “one step too quick” process to go from blonde to auburn. But again, I’m an artist, and after a quick call to the folks at Clairol, I was able to mix one more color in to end up with a more “normal” deep chestnut brown. I liked the violet actually, but I am certain it wouldn’t have flown at the conservative investment firm I worked for at the time. I’ve used Sun-In, Henna shampoo, colored hair spray, Clairol, L’Oreal, and Garnier colorants. And the cheapest, the Clairol Balsam works as good as any other. I’ve also had it temporarily green, orange and pink for various corresponding holidays. And gold hair spray makes blond hair look freakishly awesome as I found out the one Halloween I decided to be Evita, the Madonna styled version of Eva Peron.

As I child, my siblings and I all had natural platinum blond hair. And because we were broke, playing outside was the cheapest entertainment my parents could afford, so we were deliciously tan to boot. We made the “tanning mom” look white. My younger brother and I inherited a little more of the Native American genes, so we had dark eyebrows and long black lashes, which once prompted a note from a grade school teacher to my mother that she shouldn’t be putting makeup on child so young. After a brief explanation of my Polish and possibly Cherokee (wasn’t really sure what tribe my great grandmother was from) heritage, I was able to attend school looking like a petite debutante way before the modern day kiddie pageants. Those long lashes are now blond tipped with a couple greys, but I have yet to use a fake pair of lashes; volumizing mascara is usually enough for me.

Unlike my lashes, my hair needs help in the volume department. I’ve had spiral perms, hot rollers, flat and curling irons to add body to my bone straight hair. I’ve also used mousse, hair gel and some obnoxiously expensive root lifter to give my tresses some height.

And the lengths I’ve had run the gamut from hair so long I could sit on it to so short that I was mistaken for a boy at the “all girls skate” at the local Rollercade. I guess my squeaky little voice that sputtered “but I’m a girl” when pulled over by the skate guard was convincing enough that I could keep skating with the other little ladies. But I was kind of traumatized; I haven’t had it that short since, and don’t plan to unless I’m either suffering from a disease or I am so close to death that I don’t care what I look like. And the whole debacle started when I got gum in my hair and my mother let my older sister, barely into her preteens, cut my hair.

Needless to say that never happened again. I even cut my own hair now, although I’ve ventured into some interesting styles. I let a former hairdresser cut my coif into a deep Vidal Sassoonesque wedge a few years ago, and I dyed it red to boot. The best part was no one at the day job recognized me for about three days. The invention of MTV coinciding with junior high was a match made in experimental hair heaven. I had at different times: a long fade, braids (but I have yet to do cornrows), semi short hair with a rat tail (I was still a little traumatized after the Rollercade incident so it wasn’t super short, but I almost had the longest tail in high school, 2nd to only one of my besties), a new wave mullet (thank you Duran Duran and Adam Ant for the inspiration), heavy metal big hair perms and Madonna’s tussled mess from Like a Virgin. We had so many video hairdo look alikes in high school we could have went on tour. Michael Jackson’s jeri curl, Billy Idol’s spikes, Salt n Pepa’s fades, Cindy Lauper’s multi colors, Sting’s bleach blond and Robert Smith’s black hedonism on his head all wandered my alma mater’s halls.

But back to my hair, I’ve used all kinds of contraptions in my hair. Fascinators, buns, Hairdini’s, Topsy Tail, French twist combs and sticks, headbands, pony tail bands, Bump-It’s, banana clips and claws that looked like your hair was being held hostage.

I like how all these changes affect my mood. Blond is summer sexy. Red is passionate and smart; I dye it red to match my fiery personality I always say. Brown is earthy, intelligent, steady and sometimes boring.  If I am in a period in which I need to focus, brown it is.

About 3-4 years ago, I decided not to be so hard on my hair and went back to my natural dark dirty blond and just let grow long, earth mother style. Then I’d started a pattern of a slight highlight of blond in the summer, auburn in the fall and brown during the winter. Different colors require some makeup changes but it’s so worth it. Red hair makes my eyes pop with a greenish turquoise. Brown allows me to do a smoky eye without looking like I just got punched or overslept with my makeup still on from clubbing the night before. Blond, well it makes my eyes look bluer and the lashes and brows pop again like they did when I was a kid. With the advent of this new Steampunk adventure to quote the appropriate Blondie album, I decided it was time to go “Once More Into The Bleach”.

I was also inspired by Gwen Stefani of No Doubt. Those commercials and her “4 in the Morning” video got me going back to blond. Plus, its summer and I like to swim so any other color would just wash out in the pool. I wisely knew this would take a couple steps and months. So one late May evening, the colorant went in and the blond goddess of my teens and twenties came out. But my hair grows enviously fast so after just four weeks, the roots also came out.  I was ready to go even lighter anyway. Now I am very close to that little tan girl I was over 35 years ago. Like RuPaul, I’ve gone “Back to My Roots” and I am loving every minute of it.

Tea Time and the Naughty Vicar

I’ve always been a bit of a Britophile, enjoying what the UK delivered to the US especially in terms of music. Many of my teen years were spent listening to the biggest British invasion since the Beatles during the 1980’s. My walls were plastered with Duran Duran posters and all my friends had their Brit favorites: Billy Idol, The Police, Culture Club, Wham and later New Order and the Manchester Rave scene. I wanted desperately to go to the UK and eventually spent two months in the Fall of 1990 going to school and living in London. I developed a fast friendship with a nice neighbor in my flat building and we had some interesting pub nights. I experienced some culinary errors and delights, especially chips (fries), and since then I’ve preferred eating them with mayo. I’ll touch more on this adventure another time, but it was during this experience that I was converted from drinking coffee and diet Coke to tea. Many Steampunk and Victoriana adventures talk of tea; mine included.

So I am here to sing the praises of tea. I had discovered Earl Grey in London, but essentially went back to the standard Lipton or whatever we had around the house upon returning home to the States. I then graduated to flavored bags, blueberry and the like and my mom turned me onto Celestial Seasonings. After working seasonally for a gourmet wine and cheese shop, I discovered loose leaf teas from Republic of Tea but at the time it was a little cumbersome and expensive. As I started my Steampunk journey a few months ago, it seemed proper to include my love of tea. I wanted to know more than just a few snippets from Dr. Oz about the benefits of tea. I was ready to become a tea connoisseur.

I had seen the local London Tea Room on several lifestyle shows and knew that this would be the obvious place to start. I thought I would just drop in, so I checked the hours on their website on a sunny Saturday and was pleased to find that they were having a tea class and tasting later that very week. I am lucky that they are just a few blocks away from my apartment, so I zipped on over and signed up. The staff was warm and the atmosphere was pleasant. I was starting to get the tea joneses.

This trip turned out to be a little two-fer; I stopped at Levine Hat Co. about a block down the street and found a nice Steampunkish fedora for 50% off and very affordable, the only one left, size small for my undersized melon. I went home feeling blessed by little Victorian cherubs.

When the class day arrived, I was ready to learn, mini notebook in hand and thirsty for tea goodness and warmth despite the blistering heat outside. There were about a dozen ladies who gathered promptly at 7pm at the London Tea Room. Each of us had a small cup and Tea Catalogue at the ready. The proprietors of this lovely establishment, Jackie and Anna began by educating us on the history of tea.

A brief recap here: all teas come from China, and like wines, they are affected by region, weather/climate, harvesting, and how it’s served. It spread from the ancient tea gardens to North East India. Around 700-800 during the dawn of the Samurai era, the elaborate tea ceremonies began. Tea became appreciated for its medicinal and calming benefits.

At this point in the history the tasting fun began. Anna began serving us varieties of teas in betwixt Jackie’s history and explanations. We passed around wonderfully delicate plates of the freshly steeped leaves. We tried a Jade Cloud first; it had woodsy, a spinach like smell, but tasted wonderful with no bitterness. Jackie continued by telling us that tea had become common in Britain via Indian trading posts, informing us of the botanicals of the tea bushes, about oxidized and non-oxidized teas, and how processing plays such an important role in what quality of tea you get. I don’t want to dip too far into detail here, other than to say that these ladies really know their tea and basically what you get in a grocery store tea bag is crap. They purchase the highest quality teas from organic and ecologically sustainable tea estates from reputable buyers. I have no idea how they ended up here in St. Louis, MO, but I at this point, I am sure glad that they are here.

We continued listening and tasting. We tried a White tea that was pink in color, little drier and sweet. Next was an Oolong which honestly smelt like um, the “happy weed” so to speak, but was rich in flavor and is well known for its health benefits. An Assam, the highest grade of tea followed; it’s often served with milk and honey and is a good variety for coffee drinkers. But it was the last tea we tried, the Cinnamon Plum that instantly transported me to what a Dickensian Christmas must have been like. It was sweet and spicy and my horrible Midwest allergies were soothed.

Jackie and Anna then opened the floor to questions.  We learned a bit more about steeping, why tea is better than coffee (on a caffeinated level, coffee will spike quickly and drop while tea has its own natural time release) and that tea actually can quench your thirst. For attending the class we were given a good sized sample of their Parisian Breakfast blend and also offered a 10% discount.

Enter the Naughty Vicar. As we perused the Tea Catalogue and the lovely display of pots and cups, this tea caught my eye. I decided I really didn’t need another cup or pot so I took a sniff of this tea. I had to have it. As I write this, I am sipping on a heavenly, relaxing blend of black teas, blackcurrants and vanilla that is widely believed to be an aphrodisiac. Although I am not inspired to call my boyfriend in the middle of the night for a little snogging, I am definitely in love with the Naughty Vicar and will be back to the London Tea Room for more.

If you happen to be in my fair city, you can visit them at 1520 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103 or you can order teas online www.thelondontearoom.com. Cheers!

*Just a note-I originally was going to post this on Friday July 20th, but the sad events in Colorado prompted me to blog something more fitting. For at least every other day posts, please “Like” my Facebook page The Countess.

My Steampunk Project Has Begun and What’s in a Name?

The writing begins…

Welcome to my first blog on this creative journey. I’m a multi-media artist; a creative entity and a force to be reckoned with. The cogs in my mind run 24/7 and I sprout ideas like lilies in the spring. Right now I am in creative cycle so strong I churn out something new every day now.

I write, sing, draw, sculpt, paint, dance and more. I practice/teach yoga (in the Iyengar style), have played instruments, written lyrics, rapped in French, earned a black belt in karate and I’m a trained weather spotter for the National Weather Service. I do some crazy workouts: I’m into hooping, the aforementioned yoga, Insanity (yes the crazy Beachbody exercise on crack workout), kickboxing, step, funk/hip hop and Zumba/Latin flava. Halloween is by far my favorite holiday; the opportunity to dress up and be someone else for a while is delightful.

I am a continual student. I’ve got a bucket list a mile long and I intend to live it out until my very last breath. I have a day job and my regular “thing” which is a totally different artistic vein; one that I am very good at and I enjoy immensely. But as always, I need to grow and I’ve found an outlet, a theme if you will, where I believe it will all come together.

I’ve wrapped a lot into this Steampunk Project because it inspires me. What is Steampunk? It is very loosely defined as the Industrial/Queen Victorian era with a lot of science fiction and fantasy. But Google it and see what you get. There is a lot of cool things and people out there. As I described some of the writing and my lead female character development to a relative, she came up with a response that made me laugh, “like a dirty Mary Poppins”. Indeed.

Everything will tie together in individual projects of which I will update with pics, writing, and blogging through my Facebook page, The Countess; I’d love it if you’d please “Like” my page. I am lining up a group of collaborators to create some beautiful works and maybe a little mayhem along the way. I hope to culminate it at some large event that I can truly share it with everyone because I have always believed that art should be shared and gifts should not be wasted.

I’ve already fashioned the first costume which started this whole adventure, have the complete outline of a Steampunk/Victoriana trilogy mapped out with some chapters written, and have several artworks in process. My living room is starting to look interesting if not somewhat messy. And my first outside adventure is tomorrow evening. I’ll be sure to share it with you.

So why the Countess you might ask? It’s in the genes, literally. My aunts are digging into this a bit more and I’ll certainly blog about it in detail later as details develop. The lore goes that one of my great, great (?) grandmothers was a Polish Countess and the castle she lived in is still well and open.  This abbreviated tale here is certainly an adventure in itself. She married the Count and had a couple children. She left the Count and Poland (with the family jewels no less) for America and opened a bar in Chicago. What is murky here is further muddled after that. So the geneology research will continue. Fascinating, eh? A lot of Steampunk fans, creators and purveyors of a yesterday that never happened take a new moniker. I thought this would be a good one, The Countess. A little smart, a little blue blood and a little mysterious; a great way to start.

Release the hounds, adventures abound and fantasy awaits..care to join me?

Please Don’t Blame the Fantasy or the Dreamers

I was going to write a completely different post today, but the tragedy in Colorado has commanded me to write something different. Today in the early morning hours, a murderer ended the lives of 12 and seriously injured over 70 people. I am not going to mention this hideous creature’s name as almost everyone knows that this sick bastard is getting off on all this attention. I sincerely hope that the police have him in isolation; denying him anything but his basic right to an attorney, but especially any access to the media that would feed his paranoia and insanity.

I am sincerely sorry and express my grief and condolences to all those who have lost friends and famiy members. This criminal attempted to steal things we all deserve; a moment to get away from it all, time to fantasize, escapism, and dreams. While I know that many will point out that fictional violence will propagate real violence, I hope that this will not stifle those that create Science Fiction or Fantasy entertainment. Comics, games, movies, graphic novels and books allow people to explore worlds and themes that make us laugh, cry, and aspire to be something different. Maybe even a hero. In most of this entertainment, good almost always wins over evil even if our hero or heroine is a little fractured or imperfect in other ways.

Real violence is never the answer. Having heard someone get shot and killed was not high on my list of things I wanted to hear before I die. But that’s exactly what happened to me last summer. I believe in the right bear arms, but there is in no need for assaulting people without provocation. Everyone should have the right to self defense. I know responsible hunters and gun owners; they are as repelled by this massacre as much as anyone else I know. Guns don’t kill people and neither does fantasy.

The irony of all this is that people who engage in healthy dreaming, fantasy and role play are actually less violent because the escapism these activities provide allows people to blow off steam, to relax, and most importantly be social. Almost all of these shooters in violent incidents are loners.  And this man’s fantasies were obviously from a brain that did not function like most of us. This was a sick, sick person.

So please don’t blame the fantasy, creators and entertainers. And certainly don’t let this incident kill your dreams.