When I was a girl, we wore jellies in the summer. Back then, they were pastel plastic shoes that could be purchased at the drugstore for three dollars (or maybe seven, if you got glittery ones). They were uncomfortable—your little toe always popped through the sandal-like part on the side—in the heat, your feet sweat and they stuck to you—but they were cute, plastic, cheap and glittery and therefore all the rage.
Chanel now makes jellies, only they are $150 instead of three. Still plastic, but the glitter has been replaced with the Chanel intertwined C logos and the pastel colors with bright fuchsia, teal and purple. For the bargain shopper, a lesser-known fashion label makes similar jellies for around $95.
It was at this same store that I once saw the apotheosis of Shoe and was properly awed, frightened, delighted and bemused. Gucci this time, $800 for the pair. They looked like those extravagant bedroom slippers stars wore in the 1940’s and 50’s, except that the heel resembled (or actually was) a four or five-inch roofing nail made of some dull silvery metal. The foot bed was light tan leather covered in satin. The rest of the shoe was a piece of clear plastic that covered most of the toes, with a fuchsia poof of marabou feather s that covered most of the plastic. As shoe, pointless. As sculpture, priceless.
At my local shop-with-fancy-Italian-name, I often wander in to observe the hanging merfolk figurines. Six-inches high, made of some polymer, the shop owners have cleverly arranged them in a sort of tropical beach display, with martini shakers, glassware and related tchotchkes. The figurines are made to hang—each has a loop of gold thread—and someone at the shop has a good eye, because the display is almost something you’d see in a modern art installation, only you’d probably be expected to squirt blood on it. All have sparkly, scaly tails. The mermaids' tail colors extend, smooth and glittering, to cover most of their breasts—no stupid shells.
All have perfect physiques, and most are holding cocktails. They are oddly erotic, all together like that, a merfolk 70’s swinger party shifting in the breeze. What pleases me the most is the inclusiveness of the designer: there are blonds, brunettes and redheads; there is a full(er)-figured mermaid with the same sly smile as the rest, holding a martini. The other mermaids are C cups; she is at least a DD and heavier through the hips and fins. There was a gay leather merman, but he has been purchased. As I recall, he wore a black motorcycle cap, black choker and had a thin mustache. He was slimmer than the other mermen. The motorcycle mama, in black leather cap and jacket, with red tail, is still available. There is a handsome shirtless fire man, ditto police officer, as well as a much larger figurine (about 18 inches resting on his coiled red sparkly tail) designed to hold a platter of drinks. The owners have positioned him underneath the hanging merfolk. He is dressed as a Chippendale stripper, with a red bow-tie and groovy shades.
These merfolk please me. I would be more inclined to buy a few and arrange a little Silly Art Installation in my apartment than spend the same probably $150 or so on a pair of Chanel jellies. I’ve had my eye on a carousel horse at a local antique store for years; it’s around $700 and I would be more likely to buy that than the Dolce & Gabana “hobo” bag I saw at the fancy department store.
I read somewhere that anyone with a heart must find the world a tragedy and anyone with a mind must find it the highest of comedy. The human condition is absurd; there’s no getting around it.
I’ll leave you with another of my favorite human absurdity stories. I feel very tenderly about it, so don’t be mean.
Once upon a time, an Englishman on his way back from Singapore got drunk on several large gins in an airport in Switzerland. He asked his companion if it would not be wonderful to play polo on elephants. 25 years on, elephant polo teams primarily from Scotland, England, Ireland, New Zealand, India, Singapore, the U.S. and Thailand compete each year in Nepal. There is even a World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA).
Speaking of Thailand, which has recently become a more significant player in the elephant polo world, imagine, if you will, brusque Scottish ex-military men, former New Zealand rugby players, and assorted American studs playing the same sport as a very special group from Thailand. From the controversial naughty-bits Patpong district of Bangkok, I give you the Screwless Tuskers, comprised entirely of Thai ladyboys and apparently quite popular.