I've been meaning to get going on covering my most recent visit to Bon in Texas, but got sidetracked by Too Many Projects and other busy time-stealing life necessities. Excuses out of the way, I will now address one thing that happened when I was away.
I turned 40.
No, not putting it in caps. I tried not to make a big deal of it, as I don't actually celebrate birthdays, and people are fond of telling me I don't look 40 (keep that coming, I love you), but internally I was screaming in anticipation of what I've always viewed as Official Middle Age-dom.
For a good portion of my life, I've juxtaposed between feeling old and young, and feeling frankly confused. Many of my close friends have been younger than me, and though I never put myself in the position of being the Mother of any group, I find that I'm usually the one who feels achy first, who runs out of steam first, and that made me feel old, even in my mid-twenties. The Tea Queen persona could have aged me, but tea culture has gained a younger following in recent decades, so I'm not bothered there.
Also, in my 30s I started to read up on Introversion vs. Extroversion, and realized that being worn out from hanging out in big groups had little to do with age, and I was not alone in needing to be alone more. The physical aches, well, I don't know. This year the back issues and problematic knee didn't help me feel like a spring chicken, but there's a part of me, mentally, that feels entirely youthful. I still have the "when I grow up" thoughts, and I never grew out of wearing silly hair clips, and other items that I was supposed to move past long ago. I want to be respected for how far I've come, but I don't want to be "past it", either. These concerns asserted themselves into my waking and sleeping thoughts, and I was only too happy to be going out of town, away from reality, when I left my 30s behind.
On a full but comfortable Delta flight, I was pleased to find my route finally had in-flight entertainment. Though I welcome any excuse to catch up on reading, I will always prefer passing the hours on a plane with a movie or two. I found a documentary that proved to be perfect timing for my pre-mid-life crisis.
The image of Iris Apfel lingered in my sub-conscious, but I'd never paused to consider her, or who she was, until Albert Maysles brought her to life in such a vivid and loving way. She's her own woman, without steeping on others' toes or being obnoxious about it. Not that she won't express an opinion, but she won't jam it down your throat. She has the most unique but enjoyable to see style I've ever seen, she's a refreshing kind of New Yorker, she's developed a massive adoration in recent years through museum exhibitions and media coverage, she's nonstop, and at the time of writing, is 95 years old.
I'm not saying Iris will be running marathons or climbing Mount Everest any time soon, but she is living life, using whatever time is given to her, and she's a pleasure to watch. Bonus: she grew up in Astoria, Queens. For this alone I'd like to meet her, to ask what it was like in the 30s?
Does this mean I want to be exactly like Iris? No, though I'd love to possess her haggling skills. I simply like her approach - remembering where she came from, always moving forward, taking delight in childish things - basically spending her later years playing dress-up, and having worked hard her entire life, earning the right to play.
Though I'm still not looking forward to aging, and I don't know anyone who does, watching someone who hasn't given up makes it a little easier to cope with a new mature-sounding decade. And I know some occasions cause for toning down in the realm of apparel, but I love the idea that one never has to truly grow out of who they are. I'm not taking off my silly hair bow!
Also, I agree with Iris Apfel about being pretty. While I appreciate someone telling me I'm pretty (yes, it happens on occasion), I too have understood that getting by looks alone is not wise. I like being reminded that a woman should also be intelligent and creative, and at the same time devoted to the ones they love. Her relationship with her husband, Carl, was truly beautiful. It is sad that he died around the time this documentary came out (so did Albert Maysles, actually. I guess 2016 doesn't have the monopoly.)
So, though I still occasionally say to myself: "What?! Forty?!", my anticipatory gloom faded somewhat during that 4 hour flight, and I had a wonderful time. More on that following.
Finally, I recognize that I hardly covered what was in the documentary, but that's because you should see it for yourself! Only spoiler is that at the very end, there mention of making tea. Full circle, my friends.
Oh, I fully intended to make my book/tea pairing posts at least quarterly, but at least we'll squeeze one in for the year!
I will not hit the 75 mark this year - I'll be happy to hit 50 and probably won't. This is still not terrible, and I've put at least some of my non-reading time to good use: I wrote more, and am still learning Arabic, which is time-consuming, but I'm seeing some progress, so it's worth it! My health was questionable at times, especially in the spring. You'd think I'd get more reading time done when I'm home in convalescent mode, but sleeping seemed to be the thing instead. But no more whining; here's just a few of my reads this year:
St. Marks is Dead: The Many Lives of America's Hippest Street, by Ada Calhoun
The title drew me in, because how many native New Yorkers must have said the same thing? I know I have - and I happened to visit that street in the course of my reading this book, because I wanted to say goodbye to The Sock Man before it shut down. Plus, death was very much on my mind in January - well, all year, but David Bowie...still not over it. Stupid 2016.
Anyway, the street has been through many changes over the centuries, and I'm always eager for New York history. If you are too, and if you're frustrated by your neighborhood's changes, this could be a book for you. Pair a nice Moroccan Mint Tea from Porto Rico Importing Co., or any tea from their St. Marks location - I picked the Moroccan Mint because it's the first thing I bought there in the 90s, before I thought the street was 'dead'.
The Fifth Heart - by Dan Simmons
This was also a tough year for my British fandoms: we were allotted maybe one episode of Doctor Who and Sherlock, and Downton Abbey came to an end. Bonnie is trying to get me into Poldark, and she will probably succeed. The Crown was pretty good, but it took til the autumn to get that, and man did I breeze through it! Thankfully I'm never done with books.
I already like Dan Simmons as a writer, and I get a kick out of writers I follow penning their own Sherlock Holmes stories. I'm not as big on Jane Austen pastiches, which I suppose is because Austen, I feel, is a tidy writer. The story ends when the protagonists marry. Rarely do you need to go further than that - though Death Comes to Pemberley was okay. The Fifth Heart wasn't a perfect story, but it's set during Holmes' 'dead' period, so it's workable. He teams up with the hapless Henry James to investigate a suicide that might not have been a suicide, and we journey with them to America in the 1890s, where we meet other notables (not spoiling this)! and deal with an almost existential Sherlock Holmes. Yes, he believes he might be fictional.
It's not my favorite Sherlock Holmes story ever, but I certainly appreciated it. I'm going to be predictable and pair this with Baker Street Afternoon Blend by Upton Tea Imports. It's perfect for any Sherlock Holmes story, even if it's thousands of miles from Baker Street.
Close Encounters of the Furred Kind by Tom Cox
I can't get enough of Tom Cox's cat memoirs. When my family first adopted Cinnamon, and I was developing into a fully fledged Cat Person, I did what I do whenever I get into something - I read everything I can about it! My late teens are full of Beatles biographies, tea histories, and Cat Books. So many cat mysteries, and travels-with-my-cat stories. Most of these I remember fondly, but some were overly saccharine or corny, and I tend to approach cat books with caution now as a result. Thankfully Close Encounters is neither. The star of the show is The Bear, who I hear is semi-retired at 21, but whose sad, soul-piercing eyes draw you in from the cover onward. Mainly, though, I love a good laugh, and Cox manages to inject humour into every facet of his multiple cats' personalities. I'm going to recommend any herbal, woodsy blend, because read it and you'll understand.