Monday, May 25, 2015

Frizz in the land of the frisør

More substantive posts to come, but in the mean time, here's what you're getting:

I know one shouldn't care about things like this. And normally, in my older-end-of-Millenial adulthood, I do not. But my hair looked awful the entire time I was in Norway. Which is, again, a stupid complaint - I was in Norway! In Scandinavia for the first time ever! It was gorgeous! There were fjords and mountain goats! But somehow appreciating the rest didn't stop me from caring about this.

And in fairness, my hair did look unusually terrible. What happened was, not checking bags plus packing light more generally meant that rather than the usual set-up (the right shampoo, conditioner, hair oil, and then, if feeling decadent, hair iron), I was using a "normal"-hair-oriented 2-in-1 that the CVS in town happened to have in travel-size; a very old container of Frizz-Ease, a product that for whatever reason stopped working for me a few years ago; and the occasional hotel blowdryer. Then, on top of that, there was the weather - the daily rain that would stop every so often, but there was always just enough mist that whatever smoothed-out or vaguely ringlet-ish situation I'd achieved (mid-century starlet waves, for the occasional fleeting moment) turned into frizz. And by frizz I don't mean curliness, kinkiness, or any other hair texture one might Embrace. I mean the classically middle-school result of using the wrong hair products for one's hair texture. The last time my hair had looked this terrible was probably when I was 12.

What didn't help matters was that the women of Norway didn't appear to have this problem. Around me, as my hair grew frizzier and frizzier, packs of Norwegians would pass by with long, glossy, hair-commercial hair. Because our society so often defines beauty as Scandinavian-looking-ness, I suppose, the percent of women who resembled supermodels beyond just hair was substantial. Or maybe just felt substantial, because I was so keenly aware that my own hair wasn't having its finest hour, and was selectively not noticing the women who weren't Uma Thurman to my Janeane Garofalo. That said, in Bergen there was this amazing poster I should have taken a picture of, in front of a hair salon, with a photo of the same young blonde model, a Before and an After. The Before showed her with long, straight Marcia Brady hair, and the After with a light-haired version of what my hair was looking like on the slightly-less-misty moments of the trip.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The grand (supermarket) tour

Hello from sunny-ish Norway! My husband and I decided to visit not-just-Belgium, and are making use of the fact that we'd already crossed the Atlantic to see a part of Europe neither of us yet had. We arrived in Bergen on the Norwegian national holiday, which was a bit of a concern because it just sounded like everything would be closed, but it turned out to be the best possible time, given that the entire town (aside from us and a few other tourists) was in traditional dress. A woman we met in our hotel lobby, a fellow guest who'd come for the big event, explained to us that everyone gets one of these outfits at confirmation (a Christian bar/bat mitzvah, I'm led to believe), and you wear the one from your mother's hometown. (What, I wonder, is the traditional dress of Brooklyn?) Men, meanwhile, were in these amazing felt (?) vests, shorts (?), knitted socks, everything incredibly involved. Outfits included special shoes. Everyone was waving a flag. Even the dogs had patriotic ribbons. According to the woman in the hotel, who is the ultimate authority as far as I'm concerned on all that was going on, Norwegians are nationalistic but not militaristic - a relief when all these young boys marched down the street bearing what looked like, but presumably weren't, arms.

Predictable observations: The fjords are beautiful - more so, even, than I would have guessed. The people are very, very blond - a man working at the tourist-oriented fish market asked us where we were from, guessing France, then, when we didn't respond, Italy and Spain - the obvious white-people-with-dark-hair assumptions in Europe, maybe, who knows. And everything is really, really, really expensive. A casual cafe sandwich or salad will be something like $25, anything in a restaurant-restaurant maybe $40, so what you have to do (unless you're paid in this currency, I suppose) is to shop at a supermarket... which is also expensive, so the thing to really do is purchase half the contents of a Belgian supermarket (packaged waffles, waffle cookies, chocolate, bread, and, less successfully, sliced cold cuts) for the price of one Norwegian cafe snack and just eat that for your entire trip.

Unpredictable, for me, was that Norway and Flanders aren't interchangeable. I'd just sort of assumed, being a provincial American, that Germanic-language-speaking Europe was all basically the same culture. It's hard to articulate exactly how these places are different, but it does seem they are. See also: New Jersey is not Texas. People do not march through my husband's hometown in Belgian traditional dress. There was once a thing where everyone in the main square was dressed as a circa-Liberation US soldiers, but that's something else entirely.

Belgium, meanwhile, did not have fjords, but did have family I hadn't seen in ages, as well as (as hinted at above) amazing food, coffee, and beer, the last of which they were (of course) giving out samples of at the supermarket. It was a new (?) beer called Waterloo, and the display included a life-size Napoleon cardboard cut-out with a space where you could put your face and pose for a photo which (of course) I did.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

A brush with the famous

There isn't that much to do in the part of NJ where I live, but today there sure was something - a dog show! With poodles! The toys were very early in the morning, so I didn't actually see them, and the miniatures were... one dog, which I suppose must have won that competition. But the standard poodles, my goodness! That was the show to see. (Photographic evidence in the usual place.) The dogs themselves were pretty spectacular, and then whoa, a celebrity poodle-handler! Westminster winner Kaz Hosaka was there, which maybe isn't all that surprising if he lives in Delaware, but watching him in action, it's clear he's some kind of poodle-handling genius, which, as someone who is not that, I find impressive.

The dachshunds were adorable, but I didn't get any good photos. The cutest of the bunch was a longhaired miniature black-and-cream that some woman was holding in one of the tents. How it rated in terms of breed standard, who knows. There were also very nice and fox-like shibas, but only in crates - didn't see them compete!

The show itself was part typical NJ-area fair (fried food and gyros), plus opportunities to buy exquisite grooming equipment, including something called a "competition table." It turns out you can bring your own non-show dog if you're just going as a spectator, which would have been good to realize, maybe, but Bisou would have probably found some way to break the concentration of her hairspray-coated counterparts.