Tony Greenberg is also reached at www.tonygreenberg.com or here
"What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful." - Sappho
Not long ago, I was taking a shower in a beautiful woman's home. A close beautiful woman's home. For those of you who know of my existence, this revelation is, I know, shocking. Actually, even being there was a bit stressful, given that this Santa Monica-bound beach hound travels to New York more often than to Hollywood.
But to the point, as I groggily peered around my friend's shower, I saw at least 25 products that promised to defy age, remove wrinkles, add fake sun, block real sun, delete smells, add smells, straighten hair, curl hair, nutrify hair, kill hair, add (body to) hair, remove cellulite, reshape what's under the cellulite and, I'm pretty sure, create small miracles by invoking some deity or another.
All told, there might have been $1,000 worth of goops, goos, tools, salves, soaps and more, with all their attendant belief systems and unsubtle claims of transformation, wedged into every cranny and nook of this shower. It made me wonder how soon Cash for Gold will start a new division for your unused RéVieve. At $600 a bottle, surely there's a market, at least on late-night TV.
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius
Soon enough, though, I snapped out of my reverie and started doing what I'd come there to do, inspired by this bounty of possibility. I scrubbed and dubbed, washed and conditioned, nutrified, anti-oxidized, vitamin enriched, non-GMO-modified, plumped, whitened, de-wrinkled, body-fed, sun-blocked and fake-sun-applied, de-cellulited and reshaped and age-defied and yes, called in the miracle-working skills of at least a couple of minor demigods. In short, I was once again the same curly-headed 19-year-old Antoine Greenberg I see in my mind every morning when I wake up. Ah youth, the divine physical manifestation of my ever-ebullient self.
Except, of course, as looked in the mirror, I wasn't my French alter-ego boy, once again. As I got past my dismay, I got to thinking about whether all that scrub and dub was worth the time, effort and (somebody's) money. Would I have been just as well off to break out my old favorite, Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Magic Soap -- one pronounced as a natural GHB, for a quick shave, shampoo, and scrub, and then moved on to the rest of my day?
Beauty is not caused. It is." - Emily Dickinson
Spurred further by this holiday season of wretchedly excessive giving, I began thinking about what we really need in this life. Newer doesn't automatically equal improved. More complex doesn't necessarily equal more useful.
Dr. Bronner's is a great example. For a mere eight bucks at Trader Joe's, I get a quart bottle that offers "18 in 1" different uses. It's massage oil, a cleaner of dentures and diapers (hopefully not at the same time), a car wash, an aftershave, toothpaste, laundry soap, a concoction for facials and shampoo and yes, I even use it for soap. Making Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps even more magical, the bottle labels even educate me. Depending on the bottle, I get Kipling and Longfellow, Thomas Paine, Confucius and Mohammed, and of course, the good doctor's own Moral ABC, should I ever need an ethical alphabet.
I love this stuff. Forget swilling an '82 Montrachet, racing a Ferrari on Mulholland, Alba truffles, or enjoying OOO vegetarian caviar. I wont live without a little Doc's in my day, in at least a couple of its different uses. (No diaper or denture washing yet, thank you.)
"Simplicity is the peak of civilization." - Jessie Sampter
Doc Bronner's is just one mere example. My kitchen favors the simple too, nowhere more so than with my favorite tool, invented by Denis Papin, the pressure cooker. Replaced by a hundred or so Cuisinart and Breville one trick ponies that clutter my precious counter, be gone.
Now don't assume I found a way to replace my Rancilio, my conical burr grinder, Blue Bottle mix and tamp box with my divine steam bath above.
With it, I can make green beans in 3 minutes, potatoes in 8, artichokes in 10, gourmand cauliflower zuppe' with red pepper coulis in less effort than my magical mystery time machine shower tour. What a glorious tool this is! Yet pressure cookers have slipped into disuse, haunted by ancient steampunk nightmares of exploding pots and scalded babies. Instead, people roast the heart of their food with a microwave, thinking it's better and safer to zap away what makes their food healthy, filling and fulfilling.
"Simplicity in character, in manners, in style; in all things the supreme excellence is simplicity." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Meanwhile, people are giving each other ludicrously obscure kitchen tools and appliances, to fill needs they didn't know they needed. We've got knives just for herbs, four different kinds of juicers for various vegetation, margarita makers by singers, grills by aging sports stars and incessant random stuff. It's a fast track to credit card debt, overflowing kitchen cabinets and useless, endless narcissism.
A buddy traded in his rocket ship Mercedes Benz SL 65 for a Smart Car and transferred his vanity plates, which still read, "SL65BLK," to the new chariot. But the importance was stepping toward the simple and the sublime.
"Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough." - Charles Dudley Warner
It's time we do the same during this nervous economy's tentative holiday season. I know it may seem patriotic to buy everything not bolted down at Wal-Mart. But really, we can simplify our lives a lot, shrink our carbon footprint and still look great, feel great and do amazing random acts of kindness. We won't be buying some gizmo built by overworked assembly lines half a planet away. We can focus on issues that matter for here and now. Like energy ROI in Amanda Little's new book, Power Trip.
Instead of getting soaked in the cosmetics or the appliance aisle, here's a different kind of soaking everyone should consider: Wash your face, and your soul free of the lies, luxury and excess, the obnoxious belief systems we've let drive our decisions, our nature, our values. Even a few small steps forward could make for a very happy holiday.
Trust me, there isn't a woman out there who would look that much better by spending more time on herself than it takes to steam an artichoke, or to washing her hair and clothes in some of the good doctor's soap.
"Nature has a great simplicity and therefore a great beauty." - Richard Feynman
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