By Bruce Northam

Posts tagged “New Caledonia

REMEMBER, BEAUTY CAN BE IN THE EYE OF THE BE-OLDER ~

Roman artifact (foot in sandal) in Tunisia

Your originality is your greatest legacy.

As a teenager, I had the privilege of living across the hall from my grandmother, Edith, until she passed away at 101 years of age. We attribute her radiant longevity to three factors: cottage cheese with pears, a daily Bufferin aspirin, and a shot of bargain Scotch before bedtime.

A loyal ally, she didn’t report my playing hooky from school, or the high school parties I threw while my parents were away at our cabin in the Adirondacks. At such parties—my living room transformed into a classic rock-blaring suburban hippie den—my British-raised grandmother would make 11pm bathrobed appearances in our den-adjoined kitchen to fetch and sip that medicinal shot of Scotch. We’d then give her a rousing ovation, as if she were on stage. She then shuffle back to her bedroom, giggling all the way.

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North Africa

Palm strike to forehead: when in Rome, dress on your own. Real style shouldn’t give a damn.While creating North African episodes of American Detour, I featured athletic sandals in a video. Soon after, the sandal theme ran away with itself—becoming a time to ponder masculinity and the art of footwear.

The world over, men and women have their respective roles, as do married and single men. Like most bachelors, I have nearly full control of my wardrobe. When I’m in a country boasting ruins from the Roman Empire (and there are dozens), they seem a fit locale to highlight the crucial wardrobe component of footwear. Slaves to fashion perceive the donning of utilitarian Velcro-strapped sandals as a catastrophic style no-no. Yet, in virtually all surviving outposts of the Empire, every male statue features a Herculean God wearing simple sandals—sandalias, flat-footed Roman shoes tied around the ankle with thin leather strips that omit gender distinction. Why aren’t they cool anymore?

Footwear, like zip codes, now influences with whom you mingle. High-heeled ladies, who won’t give a double-take to any fellow sporting open-toed shoes, tend to flirt with slick shiny-shoed guys. When did contemporary men and women lose sight of the shoes that made and shaped history? Fierce Romans conquered the world in sandals, maybe even with black socks.

What do modern Roman guys think about this? Wait, all they want to do is flirt with flashily dressed American chicks. We’ve got to get back to basics—or create sandalias with laces that go boot-high. Versatile footwear should also be sexy in a world where people in flip-flops can still rock it. Perhaps I’ve taken the footwear metaphor too far in search of a means of helping people blindly crisscross the fashion finish line. If only those sandal-wearing Roman big-shot statues could speak…

“It never troubles the wolf how many the sheep may be.” —Virgil, 70-19 B.C.

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“Don’t age. Mature.” —A New Caledonian antique buff’s advice…after picking me up hitching, but actually swindling me into an hour of yard work.

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Manila, Philippines

A photographer sets up a tripod on a roadside in a dingy, untouristed neighborhood outside Manila, the Philippine city of 17 million. He aims to freeze-frame the charm of an old rusting bicycle that’s leaning against a blue stucco wall flocked by birds-of-paradise. Dozens of elementary students on recess crowd around to watch him vary compositions shot with different lenses from different angles. Halfway through the shoot, one wholly engrossed little boy couldn’t resist asking why he was taking so many photographs of the weathered bike, “when there are so many new ones around the corner?”

(from: The Directions to Happiness: A 135-Country Quest for Life Lessons)

Tunisia: filming American Detour with Lawrence Whiteside