“Abruptly the poker of memory stirs the ashes of recollection and uncovers a forgotten ember, still smoldering down there, still hot, still glowing, still red as red.”
- William Manchester
Midsummer is at it’s peak, which means the whole of New York is vibrating with an expansive, White-Nights kind of energy in anticipation of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.
As such, the mood down on the street outside my new, sun-drenched sublet in Astoria is decidedly celebratory: fireworks crackle from the rooftops every night, tracing luminous arcs across the Manhattan skyline, while feverous, pressure-cooker days give way to long, incandescent evenings. Beyond the East River, the Great Metropolis smolders like a glowing ember.
I have taken to coming home early in order to watch the sun sink. To crack open a beer and feel the last heat of the day leave the floorboards. From my 6th floor view in Astoria, I might as well be looking at New York from across the North Atlantic; maybe it’s the neighborhood, maybe it’s the time of year – these high-holy-solstice days can’t help but have an impact – but for me there’s something very Old World about the whole experience.
I find this reassuring.
I tie the whole thing together with a couple of products that are befittingly Old School – or, at least, Old School for me.
Firstly, I open a special channel of memory with Voluspa candles in two of my favorite scents, Baltic Amber and Amber Lumiere. The effect is sweet and heady, like warm incense but lighter and cleaner, modern and suitable for the home. Combined with the acrid, faintly-sulfuric scent of these long kitchen matches, they make the whole room smell unquestionably like summer.
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including travel sizes, and are probably readily available from a number of boutiques all over Manhattan (though, as a relatively recent (re)transplant to the city, I have yet to determine exactly where all of these boutiques are). I got mine at the Anthropologie on West Broadway, though you can also browse a more complete list of retailers here.
Secondly, I don the appropriate outfit (which, to be fair, I was already wearing this day):
The skirt is one of those high-low numbers (short in the front and long in the back), bought several seasons ago before we all knew how on-point they would become; the bandeau and the belt the same. All together, the whole ensemble gives the impression of being a dress – an illusion I often attempt, as I am unusually short-waisted and a size zero on top, which means it’s a rare occasion that I am able to buy a dress and avoid tailoring.
(I did alter the skirt here; nothing drastic, I simply had the waist taken in by an inch or two to create a cleaner line and reduce “paper bagging” when worn with a belt. The amount of wear that I’ve gotten out of it makes a good case for tailoring on the whole, even if the garment in question isn’t particularly costly. After all, investment dressing doesn’t have to imply “designer”; simply invest in something you like and apply the proper tailoring, and it will last for seasons – if not years.)
This particular alteration came courtesy of Gassane Tailors in Austin. (Speaking of old-school, these guys are the real, masterful thing; add them to your address book if you live in Central Texas.)
But I digress. For me this outfit is an absolute staple, one of those total no-brainers that always makes you feel a thousand-and-ten-percent and never fails to illicit a cascade of compliments from friends and strangers alike. I wore it so many times last summer that I was bored stiff of it when the fall finally arrived, though now the heat is back I am thrilled to find that it once again feels totally and completely fresh. I almost wish high-low skirts hadn’t become so popular, so that the outfit might never become passé…
But anyway, on to the next:
Thirdly (and finally), I enjoy a crisp Baltika, purchased from the Euro Market down the street and thrown into the freezer for a few minutes before opening for optimum chill.
There’s something encouragingly typical about beers like this, something about their Old World ubiquitousness. Like the Solstice, the upcoming Independence Day, and my outfit, the taste feels like returning to the baseline – a cultural zero-hour, a finger on the pulse of the universal status quo, the beginning and end of all things.
Along with the setting sun and the increasing sweetness of the burning candles, the total sensory experience is a potent one – light and thick all at once. For a moment, I travel down that aforementioned sensory channel in my head and emerge as I might have been in another life, traipsing through some dark forest on the shore of the Baltic Sea. I can taste salt and earth…some caviar and mushrooms would really tie the room together…
(Too bad all of my amber jewelry is in storage, or I’d share it with you here. There are plenty of new pieces purchased while visiting family in Lithuania with my Grandma Helen, along with a few heirlooms that my Great-Grandma Vera brought over on the boat…)
But that’s another tale for another time. Don’t mind me. Right now, it’s best to drink while that Baltika is still cold.
į sveikatą, friends, and all my love – to health, to life, to everything.