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Rogue Henna: Did Somebody Say Rouge?

So I’m having a birthday soon. Real soon, actually, now that I think about it. Only seven sleeps! And I’m halfway to a milestone birthday, *mumble*-something years old. My Mom asked me today what I want for my birthday, and there’s always the usual – clothes, yarn, fabric. A pony. An all expenses trip to Europe, ha. Thanks Mom! Just kidding of course… but hold that thought about the birthday wishes.

Hi world, I can see you now… note that hair colour!

Seriously though, my Mom has had another recent good point. My hair does need some attention. I gave my fringe a trim tonight so I can view the world again. Which is admittedly useful. So score one for Mom. Bonus: self-trims are free! Another Mom-point – the silvers are, ah, making a comeback, shall we say. Even I can see it’s getting out of hand and Something Must Be Done.

I do love going down to Toni and Guy and letting them massage my scalp and clip long layers into my thick mane. My hair is nothing if not thick. Maddeningly thick. And it has a natural curl that the length manages to keep under control, otherwise… well, let’s not even go there. I’m feeling unfaithful to my lovely stylist people down there for even thinking about this, but I’m wondering if I can combine a couple of ideas:

♥ My long held desire for dark auburn hair.

♥ Henna – a way to have fun with colour without all the synthetic chemicals.

Brilliant combination of ideas, no? I think I will try to put them together this weekend in time for the birthday festivities. Because it’s always a good idea to make an effort to look presentable ahead of the inevitable birthday photos. Yes Mom, I’m talking to you. I want the dark auburn hair for my birthday, the non-toxic way. And that pony!

I’ll let you know how things develop, but I foresee a trip tomorrow to Lush. Where I will acquire the Caca Rouge Mama. Aptly named because I will need to conscript my Mama to slop henna on my head with great abandon, then wrap that sucker up in plastic wrap overnight and check out the results on Sunday morning. Hey, I could be auburn just in time for Sunday’s vintage listing party and my birthday! What fun.

x Rena

PS – And yes, I’m fully prepared that I may only get some reddish highlights given my dark hair… do you have any henna experiences that you’d like to share?

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Blood Alley, Judas Goats and Sushi: A Typical Vancouver Saturday Afternoon

High ceilings overhead at Waterfront Station, Vancouver, Canada.

I emerged around lunchtime at Waterfront Station in Vancouver, with its dramatic heritage ceiling overhead keeping me dry from the fitful rain outside. I was off on a Saturday afternoon mission to find vintage fashions in historic Gastown. Outside, some of Vancouver’s oldest buildings loomed in the mist.

Along Water Street with its cool furniture shops. Note frolicking hipsters to right.

West Cordova Street leaving Waterfront Station and heading East to Gastown.

Vancouver is a very young city, as far as cities go. Founded in the 1880s, Vancouver is so new that it barely clings to the west coast of North America, the Pacific Ocean lapping its infant shores. I should say, Vancouver is a new city to the British colonials, Chinese and South Asian immigrants that first settled here in the late 19th century, but certainly not to the First Nations peoples who had villages along its shores for millennia. For the recent arrivals, Gastown was Vancouver’s first neighbourhood proper. Locals marvel of the antiquity of the area, while European visitors smirk at the newness of it all. When I was in London, the Victorian house I lived in was built in the 1850s – older than Canada’s existence as a nation! Age is relative.

Gastown’s famous steam clock belching steam before the quarter hour.

Boulet Western boots, a must for cowboys and cowgirls the world over. I have a pair myself.

I wandered deeper into Gastown on my search, walking a familiar path. Gastown is an intriguing place, a clash of the downtrodden have-nots bordering the area on Vancouver’s notorious East Side, and the yuppie gentrification of upscale developments. Amid all this, there are some amazing indie and discount shops, mod furniture stores, art galleries, and night clubs taking advantage of the usually low rents. Gastown is never boring.

Blood Alley. One of the scariest places in Vancouver.

Did you miss it? Look again. Blood Alley. There’s a name to grab the attention. Locals say that it was originally named Blood Alley because of all the butcher shops that used to line the street decades ago. The street would run with blood by the end of the day’s work. If that wasn’t gruesome enough, Blood Alley Square was the venue for Vancouver’s executions when capital punishment was still viable here. Today, Blood Alley is better known for its trendy upscale eateries like Salt Tasting Room and Judas Goat. By the by, a Judas goat, in case you were curious like me for an explanation, is a goat that leads others, especially sheep and cattle, to the slaughterhouse, while the goat’s life is spared for its deceit. I guess there’s a reason why Cake wrote that song about sheep going to heaven and goats going to hell.

Typically mysterious Gastown alley. Anything could be going on down there.

After finishing my secret vintage mission, I was hungry. Not quite able to afford the pricey restaurants above, I moved on via Skytrain to Granville Street. There, I enjoyed some of the cheap sushi eats that Vancouver has to offer thanks to its large Asian population. Yum!

Delicious cheap sushi, avocado and wild salmon.

Feeling refreshed, I headed out onto Granville Street, also known as the Granville Street Entertainment District. Granville Street has been enjoying a facelift over the past decade or so, transforming from its seedy old self to something glossier.

Granville Street on a bustling Saturday afternoon.

But even poor Granville Street isn’t free from the hand of gentrification.  Conspicuous by its absence and currently replaced by a large hole in the ground, is an old building that stood at the corner of Granville and Robson.

The hole in the ground and old facade.

Rumour has it that it will be yet another condo tower. Part of the old facade still stands, doubtless in an effort to lend the new building some vintage street cred. How ironic that they’ve gutted the old girl and now try to tart the new gal to look the part of the old. Blood Alley and Judas goats indeed. Authenticity doesn’t seem to matter here. It’s like buying a new shirt that’s been made to look vintage – it’s missing the point entirely. There’s no backstory, no tangible history or testament to time. It’s totally out of context.

As for that vintage clothing I mentioned earlier, you asked? No, I haven’t forgotten. I promise to share my finds with you tomorrow, so please visit again!

x Rena

The Comfort of Things

I love things, I really do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hoarder. But my love of things certainly overflows into vintage, and it’s how I ended up as an archaeologist in my day job studying material culture. What I find fascinating is not only the object itself, but especially the story of that object.

If you love stories about things, I have a great read for you from a couple of years ago called ‘The Comfort of Things’, a series of anecdotes of 30 ordinary people and households living on the same London street. Daniel Miller,  an anthropologist, interviews them to find out their relationships with objects around them. What do they find meaningful? And why? If you’re curious to read the book review from The Independent, you can find it here.

I love vintage because of the story each item holds. I may not know about the former life of each vintage object that passes through my hands, but I know that it has at least one story. I’m intrigued to know who loved each thing, how they used it, where it’s from, what that thing made them think and feel. I don’t get the same feeling from new objects. It’s that relationship with the item and its mystery that I find fascinating.

Vintage pull toy dog available from samjams3 on Etsy.

Looking back, there’s a couple of items that I had that held special meaning for me. As a child, I had a wooden pull toy dog exactly like the one available here in this photo. How I loved that thing! I dragged it everywhere, up and down the house wherever I went. I was completely nuts over animals and wanted a dog (or a pony!) in the worst way. I wonder now where it ended up. I hope that it found a good home that loves it as much as I did.

In our house, we have textiles hand woven by my mother in her village of origin in Greece, a nod to another time when women stopped going to school by the age of 12 to start preparing their dowries for their future married life. We have these cherished textiles safely tucked away, folk art and an heirloom both.

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A PowerBook G4 just like mine.

What will be the new vintage of the future, I wonder? Will my beloved Apple PowerBook G4 make it to the 20 year mark? I’m as emotionally bonded to her as the toy dog in the above photo. We’ve got miles, with at least a couple of moves back and forth from the U.K and trips to numerous countries together. Not a day goes by when I don’t use my computer. Archaeologists do talk about the archaeology of the future, with computer archaeologists studying us, and about future archaeologists studying the Oil Age, a time back when we used gas and drove around in cars with internal combustion engines.

Vintage 60s floral day dress available from TheVintageDesignShop on Etsy.

But some of the most compelling vintage objects in my opinion are fashion items. I think it’s so personal as fabric lies against your skin, you can’t help but wonder. What was life like for the woman who wore that 50s or 60s dress all those years ago? What were her dreams? How did she feel when she put on that dress? Do you have anything that makes you wonder too?