1. Soap, Boxes
We burn a lot of Nag Champa at Moustache; and by a lot, I mean a lot. Something on the order of 8-10 sticks a day. It’s one of those smells that is in my memory ineffably associated with New York. For as long as I lived in Manhattan I had my lady outside the K-Mart on Astor Place I’d go to, but she was one of many, and the air around there was gorgeously pungent with it. We have a lot of people say the same thing about our shop, how they can smell it before they can see it, which does a heart good. So I was crestfallen when the only shop I’ve found to sell it in Hong Kong ran out. But as they say, when one door closes, another opens: searching the shelves for a suitable substitute, I found this little box of amazing:
In other cities this might be commonplace; for me in Hong Kong, it’s a revelation. And not least because it’s free from animal fat, since Ellis is a vegetarian and it’s not always so easy to find vegetarian soap. It got me thinking how much I love soap, and more particularly, how much I love soap boxes- not the type you stump on, though apparently I like those too (since what else is a blog?), but the type you buy soap in. In fact, I have something of a box fetish, and am always stashing them away for an occasion which almost never occurs, but which today at last has:
This is from the Scandinavian Shop in Williamsburg. I have about six more boxes that I was going to post before I realized that it made me seem kind of crazy, so I only include this my favorite (it floats! you can shave with it!)
And this, which is not a soap, but one of my all time favorite boxes. What’s inside: a large tea bag to turn your bath into an Onsen. I love it, but it does have a very distinct sulfur smell, so it’s not for those who like their baths to smell like “Fresh”, the crazy bath bomb store.
This page of communist-era Chinese packaging comes from a fabulous book called Made in China two friends gave Ellis and I for our birthdays. Not only is it a fabulous book, it’s a very nice segue to the next item on my list:
2. David Hockney, Made in China
We’re big fans of David Hockney and have stacks of his books, but this has got to be the coolest one. Written on a 1982 trip to China by the poet Stephen Spender with illustrations and photos by Hockney, it’s a fascinating document of a country on the verge of complete reinvention, one now reaching its apotheosis as Shanghai girds up for the World Expo in just a few months. While it’s undoubtedly been a most welcome reinvention for most Chinese, it’s kind of sad what’s gotten left behind.
In that vein, some more from Made in China.
On that note, I had a customer come in to the shop a few weeks ago- a Swedish guy who had grown up in Hong Kong now living in Beijing that told me about this shop there called Lost and Found that traffics in this stuff, which does a retro-loving heart good.
When I was a very young kid, one of the first hints that I was perhaps a bit different from the other boys my age was how intensely I lusted after a pair of my sister’s navy Keds.
Like old episodes of Dallas and Knots Landing, I’ve never really been able to get them out of my head. I did see a pair last year at United Arrows in Tokyo, but they were in Suede, which just didn’t seem right. Plimsolls, it seems to me, should, by definition, be made from canvas. They look super on everyone who wears them, from the cool kids in Brooklyn to girls in the schoolyard to David Hockney to Hong Kong construction workers, on whom they are as ubiquitous as those tan lace up boots are on their American counterparts.
One of the smaller tragedies of our era is how totally eclipsed by the crazy modern sneaker industry these dear old shoes are: I love a good pair of expensive shoes as much as the next guy, and who am I to judge if you prefer a pair of Nikes to a pair of brogues, but I do love how democratic the plimsoll is, and I think it would be a funny and stylish if everyone wore them instead of their Adidas, Assics, Reebox and New Balances, kind of a protest against too much stuff…
4. Pyjamas, Protests
Which brings me to this last bit, from this morning’s South China Morning Post:
The last apartment I lived in in New York was on University Place, dead in the middle of the NYU campus. It was a real fad that year for college kids to stroll down the road on their way to Dean and Deluca in their pyjamas. I found it really annoying at the time. The thought of banning the daytime wearing of pyjamas in an effort to clean up the city, though, strikes me as absolutely ludicrous and has caused me to reconsider my previous position. So I’d like to propose a small sartorial protest of daytime pyjama and plimsoll wearing from now until April, when the Shanghai Expo commences. Obviously, this should be at your leisure, as wearing the same thing every day for almost three months would be boring and impractical. But think how comfy you’ll be. If you need pyjamas or plimsolls, stop by Moustache- we’ve got both. That’ll show ’em!