I had so much fun with last months “What I Can’t Live Without” feature that I decided to do a monthly column spotlighting my favorite people and some of their favorite things! This month’s 10 Things list is shared by Nuri McBride, a lovely friend with whom I share many passions and common interests, and whose enthusiasm, insights, and support have bolstered me immensely in the past year, with regard to my creative projects.Nuri writes beautifully and extensively at her own blog Death/Scent, which explores the fascinating world of fragrance & funerals. She is also a Contributor at Death and the Maiden.
I adore books (print, audio, and to a lesser extent, digital) and I could not live without them. Some of my most beloved authors are Neil Gaiman, Pablo Neruda, Umberto Eco, Michael Ondaatje and Margret Atwood. If I had to recommend a book from each it would be, in order, Anansi Boys, The Capitan’s Verses, The Name of the Rose, Anil’s Ghost, and a tie between The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace. [Bonus: I listen to Neil Gaiman read Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol every December while baking gingerbread men. I highly recommend it for a chill afternoon.]
A lot of people write off comics as juvenile and banal but there are amazing things going on both art and story wise in comics these days and nowhere more than at Image Comics. Who would have thought a publisher started by illustrators that founded a venue in which creators get to keep their copyrights would produce such diverse and interesting stuff? #sarcasm My favourite titles are Fatale, Pretty Deadly, Saga, The Wicked + The Divine, Sex Criminals, and Chew.
I think Sarah and I bonded over our deep psychological need to smell like the Queen of Sheba. Picking one favourite out of my 300+ smell-babies would be impossible. However, I find myself reaching for Incense Avignon (Comme des Garcons), Incense Pure (Sonoma Scent Studio) Gypsy Water (Byredo) and Carnal Flower (Frederic Malle) the most these days.
I am a taphophile and I love to stroll in a good cemetery, it’s my happy place. You can learn a lot about a town and its people by visiting the local graveyard. Wherever I go in my travels there is always a day devoted to the nearby cemetery and I enjoy visiting the old and forgotten little pocket cemeteries of 20 or so graves that are tucked about my city. Some of my favourite places of rest in the world are Abney Park (London), Bonaventure Cemetery (Savannah), The Old Jewish Cemetery (Prague), South Park Street Cemetery (Kolkata) and the Cross Bones Graveyard (London)
Skincare is super personal. My run-into-a-burning-house-to-save-it holy grail cream is Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream, but when Sarah Elizabeth tried it she hated it. I think 90% of skincare is knowing what your skin needs and giving it that and nothing more. As such I am not loyal to brands but to ingredients yet the one brand I use the most for both face and body is Avene. Avene is a French pharmacy brand hailed for its gentleness and sensitive skin preparations. Yes, I am one of those bougie women that spray their faces with Eau Thermale water and I swear by it for my last step in cleansing. I love their XeraCalm A.D Lipid Replenishing Cleansing Oil in the shower and follow it up with the Lipid-Replenishing Balm to keep my skin silky. Their Antirougeurs Mask is great if you find your face gets dry and inflamed. I use a touch of the Cicalfate Post-Procedure Cream on recovering skin from a cut or acne breakout to keep scaring at a minimum. I would also recommend their Mineral Mattifying Facial Sunscreen because it is SPF 50 and doesn’t break me out.
Stories of Strange Women
Oh podcasts, they save me on long bus rides and when I’m out walking my dog and people want to talk to me. What would I do without them, be forced to speak with people! I’m a big fan of Oh No Ross & Carry, Sawbones, and Welcome to Night Vale but the podcast that I feel not enough people are listening to and they should be is Stories of Strange Women. As a strange woman myself it makes me happy to hear the Hurley Sisters, interviewing other weirdos about the circuitous paths and interesting lives they lead. I find it very inspiring.
So, most people don’t know this about me but I’m a huge table top role-playing nerd. It’s a form of collective story-telling that both requires and develops advance social and communication skill like empathetic listening, conflict negotiation, and improvisation. This idea that all D&D fans are shut-in young men with no social skills is nonsense. Sadly, getting my party in the same room on a weekly basis with jobs, partners, and babies is a tall order these days so I satisfy my craving for the theatre of the mind by watching Critical Role (available on YouTube, Twitch, Project Alpha, and as a Podcast). Critical Role is a show with professional voice actors being professional dorks. It’s my lunch date almost every day, and it makes me happy. I recommend starting with the second campaign.
Dark & Dreamy Cooperative Board Games
I believe firmly that Monopoly is the worst game in the world. Not only does it promote ruthless land speculation by the 1% it also has shitty game mechanics that will lead to players getting eliminated long before the game is done so only the person that wins really has any fun. Isn’t Capitalism a hoot kids? I much prefer cooperative games were the players must work together. These games make sure everyone has a good time right and you might actually learn something about your friends. If the game is artistic and a bit spooky even better. While not a true co-op game Dixit is a magical card game everyone should have. It requires you to think empathetically about how your other players would interpret dream-like images. Mysterium is like Clue and Dixit had a baby in a haunted house. Betrayal at House on the Hill starts off co-operative before one of the players is revealed as a defector and you all need to battle against them and their unclean legions. If you like games with a lot of chance, the dice rolling Elder Sign is a personal favourite as is its big bother (we are going to be here for 5 hours minimum) Arkham Horror, both set in the Cthulhu Mythos.
Butter London Eye Gloss
When it comes to makeup I’m a cream kind of gal. Cream lipstick, cream blush, cream highlight. I don’t really use powder and maybe that’s why I’m so crap at doing my eye makeup. But I always look cute in Butter London Eye Glosses. They are pudding-like shadows that go on beautifully and blend out great with just your finger. Plus, they stay put and don’t feel sticky. I throw on some liner and mascara and I’m done. Spark and Oil Slick are my go-to shades.
The Films of Guillermo Del Toro
There are some creative people that just make the world a better place, not because they dress it up in ribbons and bows but through their stories of monsters and devils they show us something of ourselves and make us better people. That’s how I feel about Guillermo Del Toro’s work. Unlike some other directors beloved for their fantasy settings that are all style and no substance, Del Toro is using fairy tales to process the trauma of war, the terror of patriarchal love and the inhumanity of institutions that turn men into monsters. I highly suggest watching the Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth back to back as they are set in the same world just a few years apart and are part of an eventual trilogy based about the unprocessed trauma of the Spanish Civil War. Crimson Peak and the Shape of Water feel like precious jewels to me. Also, I adored the novelisation of the Shape of Water which delved deeper into the characters and the themes of the movie. You should read it.
I have a confession: I’m a little bit obsessed with celebrity shopping, and the things famous people purportedly “can’t live without”. Amongst other outlets which probably report on such crucial issues, NY Mag has a recurring column about this very thing, and from this I can find out what kind of stuff that notable individuals such as Salman Rushdie or Tituss Burgess or Rupaul love– from the luggage they travel with (and they all seem to have an opinion on luggage) to the superior $50 toothpaste they use, or even learn that they buy bulk Shirataki noodles (ew!) and Crystal Light (really??) and Glade plug-ins. Wow. I mean, what’s the point of even being rich if you are still buying Glade Plug-ins?
I remember thinking, when I was younger, that I wish someone would ask ME what I couldn’t live without. At the time it was this horrifyingly green, kiwi-flavored gloop from The Body Shop called “Born Lippy”, which apparently they still sort of sell, but at a deep discount; probably because it’s really gross and no one ever buys it anymore. It turns out that in the span of time since that initial musing, no one, ever, not even once, as asked me what I can’t live without. Can you believe it? Super rude, right? To be passed up for such a thing?
I decided I’m not waiting any longer, and I’ll share with you right now the ten things I love and can’t live without (in no particular order). Take that, NY Mag! One day you’ll be sorry that you overlooked this lady and her goldmine of interesting stuff!
2. Dermalogica Ultra Calming products. I know I’ve mentioned this several times before, but it’s taken a while to find something that (mostly) works for my skin, and works mostly consistently. Somewhere in my mid-30’s, my skin went from being slightly oily but mostly well-behaved to very sensitive, easily irritated, and red/inflamed and kind of a pain in the ass. I’ve found a few things over the years that seemed to work well…until they didn’t. The Dermalogica line is one I have been using for two years now and seems to do the best job that it can.
3. Vanity Fair high cut briefs. I have the occasional fancy bra & panty set, but for the most part, my unmentionables are not something I need to be bothered with. I want black, I want bulk quantities, and I want to reach into my underwear drawer in the dark and know that every time I am going to get exactly what I want. I also sometimes want to go twenty days without going laundry, so I buy A LOT of these things at once.
4. Punjammies from Sudara. I have a weird relationship with pajamas. I love the bottom portion, but the top portion feels like it’s trying too hard. Or maybe I feel like I’m trying too hard when I wear a full pajama set. I’m just not that person. I feel like pajama people probably use their planners religiously and are super serious about scrubbing their toliets. Nope, not me! I usually end up wearing pajama bottoms and a favorite, worn-in oversized tee to bed at night, and in a weird instance of actually being interested in a Facebook advertisement a few years ago, I learned of the sari pajama pants from Sudara, a company who has a really good story, and whose products I ended up loving so much that by now I have four or five pairs.
5. While I would not say I am candle-obsessed, I am certainly fragrance obsessed, and ever since moving away from my childhood home (which smelled like an unfortunate combination of cat-pee and cigarette smoke) I vowed I would always have living space that smelled nice. And the Baies candle from Diptyque is the nicest smelling candle I have ever had. “The scent of a bouquet of roses sweetened with black currant leaves” is how it is described, and it’s kinda weird, because I don’t typically like rose-scented items, but this is a fresh, ghostly rose, and if I could only have one candle for the rest of my life, this would be it.
6. Dracula by Bram Stoker and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. There are few few books that I can read over and over and over again, but these two are definitely at the top of the list. The cover art shown here graces the copies I have on my shelf, though I am ashamed to say that the Dracula book I have also contains Frankenstein– and I have never read Frankenstein all the way through. I am especially sorry to admit this to those whom Frankenstein might be on your “I can read this book over and over” list.
7. Interesting jewelry. Ever since I was a small child, dressing up in my grandmother’s costume jewelry, shiny adornments were very important to me. I figured no matter how plain and boring you might feel in the faded Sanibel Island tourist tee shirt that your mother made you wear to school that day, the opal pendant you swiped from your Mawga’s jewel box and which secretly hung beneath the cheap cotton material made you feel glamorous and special, and very, very, pretty. I put it back, FYI. I felt awfully guilty about that. I have a roving eye when it comes to gems and treasures, but some of my favorite artisans are Flannery Grace Good, Chase & Scout, bloodmilk, and Arcana Obscura, and I am rarely without a trinket or talisman from at least one of these jewelers on my person.
8. Perfumes. I realize these itemizations are going slowly going from very specific product recommendations to more open-ended concepts, but as a further to no. 5 on this list, I well and truly could not live without perfumes and fragrances for reasons I have written about here and which I further discuss here. I am always trying new things and finding new scents to love, and here is a grouping of both recent favorites and long-time beloveds: The Holy Mountain by Apoteker Tepe (discontinued), Comme des Garçons ‘Series 3 Incense: Kyoto, Morocco from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and Laveau from Seance perfumes (I know this is a photo of Dearly Departed, but it’s what I had to work with!)
9. A black tee shirt. Or, well, several dozen, if you peek into my drawers. (I write more on this, here.) A black tee and jeans/skirt is my basic uniform, and if I am not wearing that I’m probably wearing a black tunic/dress and leggings. I especially love when my favorite artists produce wearable versions of their creations and I’m always quick to grab one. This tee from Bill Crisafi, however, was a gift that someone else grabbed for me. Thank you, BGF, you know me so well!
10. Honey Crisp apples. Wow, what a boring thing to talk about, right? But I was wracking my brains to think if there was anything I ate everyday, and food is a super important part of any list that I might be a part of, or putting together. And it’s true, I do eat an apple every day. I generally don’t care for fruit because I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Apples, for whatever reason, are the only fruits I can tolerate, and the honey crisp ones are my favorites. I eat them because I figure even if I’m making horrible nutritional choices the rest of the day, well, at least I ate an apple? Also, I read that apples are helpful for those who experience acid reflux, something about them being a good source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and it is thought that the alkalizing minerals may help relieve symptoms of acid reflux. Are you also a boring old broad who suffers from this affliction? Aside from medications (which is really a last resort for me in any situation), how do you remedy this?
Bonus material! I asked my partner what he thought were some of the things I couldn’t live without, and his responses were so perfect. I guess he knows me pretty well.
Art . Aw, man, how could I forget that? Pictured above are some strange florals I just purchased from Becky Munich
Rainy, gloomy days.
Spooky stories. I told him I already listed Dracula and Rebecca, and he was like, “who’s Rebecca?” O_O
Popcorn. YES! This is my anti-apple treat. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Polyvore (RIP). Or sites that let me play with fashion that I can’t afford. Right now it’s URSTYLE
Music. Right now it’s the Atomic Blonde soundtrack, and I’m sure he’s heard me singing aloud I Ran by A Flock Of Seagulls for weeks now.
I’m thinking of making this a regular column and perhaps harassing some of my favorite people to tell me about their favorite things! What do you all think?