THE FASHION WORLD’S FREAKY GENIUS
THE AMAZING LIFE OF
PAUL McCARTNEY A Rare and Surprising Interview with the Legend— On the Beatles, Acid Trips, Kanye & More
Heal Your Head
THE BEST WAY FOR MEN TO (REALLY) GET HEALTHY
Maya Rudolph Fred Armisen Lucas Hedges AND THE
NBA’s New Kobe
This December our annual Men of the Year issue comes to life, with a GQ shop in L.A., exclusive events, and live interviews with some of the best and brightest of the year.
DECEMBER 7 & 8 • LOS ANGELES JOIN US • GQ.COM/GQLIVE
GQOCT ON THE COVER Photograph by Collier Schorr. Styled by Jason Rider. Suit, $2,695, and shirt, $425, by Giorgio Armani. Watch, his own. Hair by Benjamin Muller using Redken. Grooming by Susie Sobol at Julian Watson Agency. Produced by Mary-Clancey Pace for Hen’s Tooth Productions.
Note to Lucas Hedges: When your future’s this bright, don’t forget your shades.
Why settle for October’s tired standbys—football, candy corn, pumpkin spice—when you can rejoice in fresh takes on fall’s timeless classics? Like the perfect JEAN JACKET (P.50) , which one staffer (and longtime denim virgin) finally splurged on. Or like any of the pieces from the latest, waviest line of WATCHES (P.44) we put on Crazy Rich Asians standout Henry Golding. We introduce you to future NBA superstar JAYSON TATUM (P.39). And we explain NATURAL WINE (P.52), which—maybe you’ve noticed—is suddenly everywhere. Jamie Lauren Keiles dumbs down her SMARTPHONE (P.62) to see if it makes life better (or just more complicated). And Jason Zengerle tags along with West Virginia’s Democratic senator, JOE MANCHIN (P.64) , who’s hoping to survive November’s election as a member of a dying breed: a political moderate!
Sweater, $1,295, shirt, $795, T-shirt, $345, and pants, $1,195, by Lanvin. Shoes, $895, by Ermenegildo Zegna Couture. Socks, $3, by Uniqlo.
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PAUL McCARTNEY bares his soul—and some Beatles secrets—to Chris Heath (P.70) .
Jaya Saxena hangs with LUCAS HEDGES (P.80) , who’s got three starring roles (and three chances at Oscar nods) this fall. Jesse Barron details how post-Maria PUERTO RICO (P.90) has become the preferred hangout of America’s 1 percent. Our experts address a question too long ignored: How can we be MENTALLY HEALTHIER (P.94) ? John Jeremiah Sullivan worms his way into the brain of totally out-there fashion designer RICK OWENS (P.106) . Moving in with a partner is complicated—so we got FRED ARMISEN and MAYA RUDOLPH to un-complicate it (P.112) . And Sean Flynn reports on an unexpected effect of global warming: melting glaciers revealing long-buried bodies in the SWISS ALPS (P.118) .
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Warning: Not all couples will be this good at cohabitating (and co-bathrooming). Robe and hat, vintage. Her jumpsuit by Bottega Veneta.
P H O T O G R A P H
P E T E R
Y A N G
R H E A R D AT G Q
AUGUST 21, 2018
No context, no mercy
“I’M NOT A CURMUDGEON—I JUST HAVE STANDARDS.” SAM SCHUBE deputy style editor
The Latest News from the Monthly, the Daily, and the All-the-Time-ly World of GQ
THE TWO AMERICAS
In our September issue, Ted Cruz described two Americas. They agree on one thing.
Our September issue, starring Chris Hemsworth, may have caused some fatalities on Twitter.
Field & Stream America
Juergen Teller x GQ When you want to make Rick Owens look as Rick Owens as possible, you call in noted fashion photographer Juergen Teller (page 106).
—RACHEL VORONA COTE
JAYA S A XENA
Ignoring not only work, but my actual husband and children to swoon over what a good father he is—S
Jaya is a writer based in New York City. She covers entertainment, broadly, and Lucas Hedges (page 80), in particular. She is also the nation’s premier scholar on the mercifully extinct liqueur Qream. See below.
I’d be the Martha to Chris Hemsworth’s George anytime—IRA MADISON III GQ actually publishing these photos of a bespectacled Chris Hemsworth is the meanest thing anyone has ever done to me—MARY SIROKY
What was your first word? “Cat.” What were the first words you were proud of? I started freelancing by writing about Qream for The Hairpin. Qream was a weird non-dairy pastel liqueur Pharrell made and started marketing to women. Usually I can’t even look at things I wrote three months ago, but I still think most of those pieces are funny. A Kidz Bop–esque cover will play every time you wake up for the rest of your life. What will you choose? “Trap Queen,” hands down. They make it about baking pies!
Oh my God Chris Hemsworth in glasses will be my cause of death—KATE One cannot. There is no peace to be had now. GQ has committed an act of psychological violence
“Juergen approached this historic summit as only he would: by shooting a bunch of the photos on his camera phone. What a legend.”
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen on the subway? There’s a lady who plays “Girl from Ipanema” on the melodica, except she plays every note for the same length, so it has no melody and is sort of eerie.
GQ PHRASE OF THE MONTH
The documentary of your life has a lot of B-roll of you doing this... Eating a lot of cheese despite being lactoseintolerant. It builds suspense.
Exclaimed when an idea is so flawless that it must be immediately put into action
I AM THE PAULRUS (See page 70.)
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Ship It DEFINITION:
PAUL YOU NEED IS LOVE
FOR OUR PAUL MCCARTNEY COVER STORY
Which song lyric do you always misremember? I forget the order of Just go ahead nows and That’s what I said nows in “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors.
If Chris Hemsworth were your boyfriend he would, on the night you decide to watch “Nanette” for a second time, arrive at your apartment armed with homemade mashed potatoes, your favorite wine, the coziest blanket, and tissues infused with aloe vera.
MEET PAUL MCCARTNEY, BASSIST AND SINGER FOR THE BEATLES —JAY WILLIS
EX AMPLE: “We should do a guide
to Bali so we can all go to Bali.” “Ship it!”
WHEN I’M (OLDER THAN) 64 —CHRISTOPHER COX
PAUL’S BOUTIQUE —JIM GOMEZ
I L LU ST R AT I O N : LO U I S E Z E R G A E N G P O M E R OY. C E N T E R P H OTO G R A P H : © J U E R G E N T E L L E R , A L L R I G H T S R E S E RV E D. TO P R I G H T: A L A S D A I R M CL E L L A N .
Miller High Life
Hey Handsome! We know that caring for your hair, skin, and beard isnâ€™t easy, but you always look and smell your best. If youâ€™re a grooming junkie, and want to sample the product first, then sign up for our Try It Program. Just fill out a grooming profile to qualify.*
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The NBA’s Next Mamba
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ST YLIST: KELLY MCCABE. BARBER: JULIUS GUTIERREZ . GROOMING: TASHA REIKO BROWN AT EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS.
F i x
He dunked on LeBron, helped lead a storied franchise deep into the playoffs, and can call Kobe his own personal Yoda. But the most exciting thing about emerging Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum? The kid’s just 20 B y C L AY S K I P P E R Suit, $2,580, by Prada. Shirt, $442, by Wacko Maria at Union Los Angeles. Earrings throughout, his own.
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W H E N J A Y S O N T A T U M got in trouble in elementary school, it was often Kobe Bryant’s fault. Teachers weren’t thrilled when the Celtics breakout star would sit in class and watch YouTube highlights of the Mamba. “The older I got, the more they understood that I was going to be in the NBA,” Tatum tells me, grinning. “I mean, school was very important. But I needed to watch basketball.” All the more surreal, then, that he says this in L.A., the day after the Lakers legend generously decided to mentor the young Celtic, a rare one-on-one workout between longtime East-West rivals. And what was Professor Vino’s advice for his new student? “Shoot every time,” he recalls. “Pass if you have to. But if not, shoot it.” If Tatum plays the way he did to cap his ﬁrst season in the league—putting on one of the greatest rookie campaigns
↑ Coat, $1,495, by Boss. Sweatshirt, $595, by Fear of God. Shorts, $450, by Just Don. Sneakers, $110, by Nike. Socks, $8, by American Apparel.
← Coat, $2,495, and jacket, $298, by Polo Ralph Lauren. Pants, $85, by Nike.
in playo≠s history and leading the Celtics to within minutes of an Eastern Conference title—that “me ﬁrst” (and second, and third) Mamba mentality just might turn him into the NBA’s next great killer. After all, he’s armed with a Kobe-like arsenal of skills: a deadly jumper, balletic footwork, a see-youlater ﬁrst step. Even on a team with Kyrie Irving, Tatum has emerged as the bedrock of Boston’s future. See: Game 7 of the Eastern Conference ﬁnals, where he put LeBron James on a poster. Not bad for a guy whose ﬁrst-ever NBA shot was blocked by James, in a rookie debut during which, Tatum says, he was “extremely nervous” and more than a bit starstruck. “Early in the season, when we played LeBron or the Greek Freak or Golden State, right before tip-o≠, I would just look at them,” he says. “Like: This is my life. Damn. I’m 19, right next to KD, getting ready to play basketball.” Now he’s 20—and dunking on them. Which just goes to show: You have to shoot your shot. clay skipper is a gq sta≠ writer.
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, PRECISIONIST, and
,are trademarks owned by Bulova. 98B315. BULOVA.COM
TOP ROW, CENTER: NICHOLAS THOMPSON; MIDDLE ROW, LEFT: SATYA NADELLA; BOTTOM ROW, CENTER: FEI-FEI LI
Join WIRED for a behind-the-scenes look at techâ€™s top companies and startups. Tech and culture collide in a unique collection of weekend events. A day of ideas and innovation from the WIRED icons who are shaping the future.
TICKETS ON SALE
T h e F i x
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→ HOT CHOCOLATE
Brown dials and bezels put a masculine spin on rosegold watches. The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean is for both real divers and secret-agent wannabes—it even has a helium-escape valve. (Who cares if you never take it into the ocean? Helium-escape valve!) The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph is the watch that haunts the dreams of guys who know the dollar-to-Swiss-franc exchange rate on any given day. And the rose-gold Rolex GMT-Master II, with an iconic “root beer” bezel, is a brand-new configuration from The Crown that has watch nerds going nuts. 1. Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean $11,200 2. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph $38,300 3. Rolex GMT-Master II $36,750
Arm Candy The watch world is going off, thanks to a late-breaking wave of new designs and highly anticipated comebacks. Here’s how to find the right one for you, featuring expertise from Hollywood’s resident enthusiast and next great leading man, Henry Golding, who’s got a few gems in his own collection B y S A M U E L H I N E 4 4
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THE GOLDING HOUR Henry Golding had a plan. A vague plan, but a plan. The BBC travel-show host and classic-film buff would land roles in a few short films, learn the ropes of acting, and hopefully sneak into a feature flick by his mid-30s. Then director Jon M. Chu called him about auditioning for the lead part in Crazy Rich Asians. “Sometimes life throws
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you a shortcut,” Golding says, in a British accent that sounds like wealth and manners. “Either you take it, or you continue the way you were going.” After stealing the summer as suave Singaporean scion Nick Young in Hollywood’s groundbreaking blockbuster—his very first acting credit—he appears in Paul Feig’s suburban psychothriller A Simple Favor,
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as Blake Lively’s slightly caddish (though no less suave) husband. He’s so smooth both onscreen and in person that his impeccable taste in watches isn’t exactly shocking. Golding’s first luxurywatch acquisition was the Cartier Pasha Moon Phase he’s wearing here. Now he’s collected half a dozen elegant timepieces, including a Tudor Black Bay his
wife gave him for their wedding and an Omega Seamaster DeVille he wore in his big-screen debut. His latest pickup? A Cartier Tank he wore to the C.R.A. premiere. “Even if I had numerous zeros added onto my worth, I would still choose this watch over a lot of things,” he says. His watch-buying advice? “You don’t have to go crazy,” he says. “You just have to have a sense of
P H O T O G R A P H S
style. Your style. You don’t have to be paying tens of thousands—find something that really expresses who you are.” So what’s financing Golding’s next piece of wrist heat? He’s coy on the James Bond rumors— but get used to hearing them. He’s got the looks, the voice, and, most importantly, the watch.
samuel hine is gq’s assistant style editor.
B R A D
T O R C H I A
STYLIST: JON TIETZ. GROOMING: HEE SOO KWON USING MALIN+GOETZ.
T h e
Suit, $5,965, by Ermenegildo Zegna Couture. Shirt, $265, by Z Zegna. His own watch by Cartier. Ring, his own.
S I G N AT U R E S TA C Y A D A M S C L O T H I N G NAVY CAMEL VESTED SUIT BURGUNDY FLORAL PRINT DRESS SHIRT BURGUNDY/BLACK POLKA DOT TIE & HANKY
S TA C Y A D A M S BALEN MONK STRAP SUEDE GROUP C A R G O / / I N D I G O / / TA N
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← THE DRESS WATCH TO OWN
The villainous combination of black and gold sets these timepieces apart from standard formalwear embellishments. Patek Philippe unveiled the mean color combo for the 50th-anniversary version of one of the most elegant designs in watch history: the Golden Ellipse. And the new 38-millimeter Panerai Luminor Due is slim enough to tuck under the sleeve of your tux.
4. Movado Ultra Slim $695 5. Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse $30,850 6. Hublot Classic Fusion Ceramic King Gold $13,200 7. Panerai Luminor Due $15,700
↓ IT’S NOT ALL BLACK & WHITE
There’s no Pantone color of the year coming out of the Alps’ artisanal-watch labs. But all of a sudden, our favorite watch brands are making shiny slate-gray dials. These three feature slim silver cases and tonal
croc straps. It turns out the Swiss are not above a subtle swerve.
8. Montblanc Star Legacy Moonphase $4,200 9. Glashütte Original Senator Observer $10,700 10. A. Lange & Söhne Little Lange 1 $34,000
→ OUR KIND OF SPORT BAND
Though most collectors wouldn’t dream of dunking their Jaeger-LeCoultre in the pool, plenty of sleek luxury sport watches have aquatic origins—so if you
want to, go right ahead. Rubber wristbands also provide a bit of deep cover for your high-end horological spending habit, making even the most expensive timepieces look downright casual.
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11. Breitling Superocean Héritage II $4,560 12. Longines Legend Driver $2,400 13. Baume & Mercier Clifton $2,250 14. Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox $7,750
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RECOGNIZE THIS WATCH? Golding insisted that he get to wear his own vintage Omega Seamaster DeVille in Crazy Rich Asians. “I wanted something that would really ground my performance,” he says, “something quite subtle, with history and that
kind of classic Hollywood style.” Though the DeVille is an iconic dress piece, it’s Golding’s daily driver: “It’s my go-to evening watch, but I even wear it out and about in shorts and a T-shirt. It’s just beautiful.” (You can get yours from a good vintage-watch dealer for under $3,000.)
↑ “PEPSI” BEZELS ARE BACK
Earlier this year, at Baselworld in Switzerland— the Super Bowl of horology—sister brands Rolex and Tudor stole the show by introducing two new models with the famous blue-and-red “Pepsi” bezel. The Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master II is already an O.G. collectors’ favorite, and the update— with a special Jubilee bracelet—is an instant classic. Most of these watches, unfortunately, are spoken for, but the Tudor Black Bay GMT can more than tide you over till your local watch guy calls you with good news. 15. Rolex GMTMaster II $9,250 16. Tudor Black Bay GMT $3,950
Jacket (price upon request) by Giorgio Armani. Sweater, $265, by Vince. His own watch, Omega Seamaster DeVille. Ring, his own.
Does the best California wine have to come from Napa? If you want to taste the best California wines, find Napa and head 200 miles south to JUSTIN Vineyards in Paso Robles.
ÂŠ 2018 JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery LLC, Paso Robles, CA. All Rights Reserved. JUSTIN and accompanying logos are trademarks of JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery LLC. JV1807185-05
Exceptional from every angle.
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Where Do I Begin? One Man’s Modest Quest to Finally Get Stylish
Staff writer Clay Skipper’s step-by-step makeover
There’s a spectacular photo in my childhood home of my father and elder brother (then a toddler) wearing matching jean jackets on a New York street corner. I was born not long after it was taken, and despite 28 years of wanting to live up to the timeless cool of that image, I’ve yet to pull the trigger on a denim jacket of my own. I knew the look was legendary. But as a guy whose Spotify is littered with acoustic covers of Top 40 hits, I’ve never felt like I had the edge required to wear one. So I called denim expert Simon Miller, Citizens of Humanity’s men’s design director, who told me that his love of the fabric stems from the fact that it “wears with us,” looking better— and more like something I can pull o≠—over time. I hit New York’s SoHo to shop. I started at Acne Studios, ﬁnding a jacket that wasn’t too boxy and hit just at the top of my pants. It was 100 percent cotton, no stretch, meaning it would wear in all the right ways. I tried it on, and for maybe the ﬁrst time in my life, I felt more Harley than moped. But it was $420. I decided to keep shopping. O≠-White’s “Exaggerated Denim” jacket was too conceptual—and too $845. An artisanal Japanese coat
with gigantic gardener’s pockets was too out there. I needed something more in my lane—normal bro, ever so slightly elevated. So I hit Levi’s, where I gravitated to a traditional trucker jacket in a lighter blue wash. It didn’t ﬁt quite as well as the Acne jacket— a bit looser in the shoulders and through the arms— but then I remembered Miller’s sage advice. “It’s never gonna ﬁt absolutely perfect,” he’d said. “I’d concentrate on making sure that you get a really classic, cool style and a nice beaten-up wash.” This was…exactly that. So I did something crazy and bought it. I haven’t worn it yet. But when I do—with pants of a di≠erent fabric, since Miller advised against denim on denim—I’ll probably think hard about that Acne jacket I fell in love with. Maybe that’ll be disappointing, conﬁrming that I wasn’t jean-jacketworthy in the ﬁrst place. But if you’d told me that one day I’d be wistfully daydreaming about a Swedish jean jacket, I would have spit out my High Life. Call it growth. Either way, I’m ready to get my denimed-out dad and brother together to update that photo. Maybe after a quick stop at Acne.
↑ Rule one of the jean jacket: Simple is best. A.P.C. $290
THE ARCHIVAL UPDATE The grunge-era designer’s line is under new direction but still turning out low-key classics. Helmut Lang $435
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Levi’s—and just as often Levi’s $90
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The Perfect Denim Jacket
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NEW MUSEUM ® CLASSIC PERFECTION UPDATED. AN ICON OF MODERN DESIGN. MOVADO.COM
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It’s all the rage! It’s funky! But does it actually hold a candle to the old-fashioned fancy stuff? Yes. (And it’s a lot more fun.) Here’s how to get the most out of natural wine
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But you can choose to switch to GEICO.
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Some discounts, coverages, payment plans and features are not available in all states, in all GEICO companies, or in all situations. Boat and PWC coverages are underwritten by GEICO Marine Insurance Company. Homeowners, renters and condo coverages are written through non-affiliated insurance companies and are secured through the GEICO Insurance Agency, Inc. Motorcycle and ATV coverages are underwritten by GEICO Indemnity Company. The GEICO Personal Umbrella Policy is provided by Government Employees Insurance Company and is available to qualified Government Employees Insurance Company and GEICO General Insurance Company policyholders and other eligible persons. GEICO is a registered service mark of Government Employees Insurance Company, Washington, D.C. 20076; a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary. ÂŠ 2018 GEICO
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There’s Already a Natural Version of Every Wine You Love
It’s Not Going to Fix Your Hangover, But It Might Help
Natural wine is, to put it bluntly, confusing as hell. So we asked Pascaline Lepeltier, managing partner at the restaurant Racines NY and longtime advocate of natural wine, for some advice. Like: What’s the best pick for my aunt who loves Chardonnay? “I would recommend a Chardonnay with nothing added,” she says. “Whatever you like as a more traditional wine drinker, you can find an alternative everywhere in the world.” If you’re feeling timid in the natural-wine space, start with what you know you like.
Yeah, natural wine is easier for your body to digest—but that doesn’t necessarily make it a hangover-free superfood. With more conventional wines, “you may have some reaction to some of the additives, and yes, you also have a reaction to a very, very high level of sulfur,” explains Lepeltier. “Natural wine tends to have the pure alcohol transformed from fermentation—your body is more suited to process it. And they also tend to have lower alcohol content.” So yes, it’s easier to drink—but that doesn’t make you invincible.
into wine the same way I’ve been into movies: I think they’re great, but I’ve never put any energy into understanding how or why the good ones are good. I hate an oaky Chardonnay. I understand why cheap wine is bad. I’ll always take the wine pairing to avoid making a decision. I’ve only ever been a casual, somewhat naive fan. Occasionally, though, that fandom turns into sheer obsession—you know, like watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall and then spending the next ten years telling strangers at parties that it’s our culture’s greatest musical comedy (which it is). Over the past few years, nearly every bottle that has had me maniacally typing its name into my Notes app has been a natural wine, the trendy class of booze that is as close to pure fermented grape juice as possible. There was the cloudy prosecco that tasted more like an ultra-funky sour beer than the stu≠ that people make spritzes with. There was the magnum of white wine that tasted like stone fruit rubbed into limestone and sprinkled with sea salt that I rudely hoarded at a friend’s birthday after my ﬁrst sip. And then there was the glass of Partida Creus’s Sumoll, drunk at some restaurant party, that turned my formerly tepid feelings about red wine into fanaticism. It tasted like electric juice, not hefty like your dad’s favorite Cab or boring like a certain type of “light” red. (I’m a cretin, and I like things that taste like something.) That red wine has turned into The One, the wine I dream about when planning a dinner party or sitting at a less-than-exciting bar wishing I were drinking something better. It represents all the best stu≠ about natural wine: It’s surprising and highly drinkable, not the sort of thing you have to think about too seriously or pair with, say, beef bourguignon. And it’s fun as hell. So while some curmudgeonly skeptics—and the GQ sta≠ has a few of them—are quick to write o≠ natural wine as a crunchy fad reserved for people who use eco-friendly deodorant, we’re here to show you the way into this funky new world where there are fewer hangovers (well, maybe), prettier labels, and fresher, brighter ﬂavors. I’VE ALWAYS BEEN
The Only Vocab You’ll Ever Need
← Ditch that fusty bottle of Napa Cab and swap in a bright Partida Creus red.
Ask your local sommelier about the natural wines on their list and you may be fumbling for Google Translate to figure out what they’re saying. Here are the four words you actually need to know to understand what you’re about to drink. —BELLE CUSHING
This carefree technique has become a genre in its own right. Technically speaking, pét-nat is made when a wine is bottled before the fermenting is done, so it takes on a spirited fizz as it finishes up. It can be made with just about any grape, can be hazy and cloudy or clean and refined, and is casual by definition. Popping the crown cap off a bottle is a party trick that says, “Hey, I like bubbles, but I’m also chill.”
Nearly all wines contain naturally occurring sulfites, but natural-wine makers argue that adding any extra can dull the wine’s vibrancy. Producers of low-sulfite vintages add to them only “as needed”—perhaps a bit at bottling to keep them stable—while sulfite-free wines go completely unadorned. Some say fewer sulfites mean fewer hangovers, but that’s for you to determine for yourself.
Biodynamics is a set of farming principles that considers the vineyard as a self-sustaining ecosystem—imagine if the word “organic” went to Burning Man and became obsessed with the phases of the moon. Levels of commitment range from bio-curious to so deeply committed that you bury a cow’s horn filled with manure in the ground. Either way, the lesson is simple: Treat your grapes nicely and they’ll make nice wine.
The most used word to describe natural wine, “funky” can be both a polite euphemism for “fucked-up” and a compliment. Most often, it refers to the barnyard smell of the yeast Brettanomyces, or “Brett,” which is pleasantly earthy in small doses. Like funk itself, faults (like Brett or vinegary, volatile acidity) are subjective. If a wine smells like a garage, decant it for an hour and the gassiness will blow off.
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What to Eat with Your All-Natural Grape Juice VEGETABLES
Sommelier Dana Frank, owner of Bar Norman in Portland, Oregon, says that natural wines play particularly well with vegetables. “There are all of these really wonderful, savory natural wines that have an earthiness to them, and I think they’re such a nice complement to everything from carrots to red beets to kale and squashes, things like that,” she says. GRILLED STUFF
The next time you’re outside grilling, instead of cracking a beer, try a bottle of natural wine. “I really like natural wines with things on the grill,” says Frank. “It can be anything, whether it’s vegetables or seafood or meat—I just love the smoky, charred notes with natural wine.” RAW STUFF
WHY I’M SWAPPING OUT MY CRAFT BEER FOR ORANGE WINE A confession: I never really ﬁgured out how to drink wine. I never learned what “oaky” actually means, so I show up at dinner parties with bottles I’ve never tasted. When I heard friends talking about orange wine, I ﬁgured that it, too, would pass me and my sudsy beers by. Then I tried it and discovered that orange wine—the result of white-wine grapes fermented with the skin on—was the drink I’d always wanted: punchy and strange and a little bit like a sour beer that tripped and
fell in the mud—less craftbrew bro than medievalFrench scholar. I went to The Four Horsemen, the natural-wine bar in Brooklyn owned by erstwhile LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, to learn more. To oversimplify, orange wine is like reverse rosé. Instead of turning a redwine grape into something pink and bubbly, general manager Amanda Spina explained, “you’re trying to get more tannins from a white wine.” This, I realized, was my wine cheat code.
Instead of gambling on, like, a super-tannic Bordeaux, I can default to orange. It’ll be a little o≠-center, and it’ll work with just about any meal. (“Orange wine is a really safe bet for a dinner party,” Spina said, as it both cuts through fatty foods and pairs with lighter stu≠.) Of course, it’s not that simple; not all orange wines look or taste the same. And I’m sure that, someday, I’ll be sorely disappointed by one. But until then, I know what I’ll be bragging about at the next dinner party.— S A M S C H U B E
Jeremiah Stone, the chef behind New York City restaurants Contra, Wildair, and Una Pizza Napoletana, loves how natural wine complements crudos. When you’re eating what he describes as “uncomplicated food”—think raw oysters, fish, scallops, or beef—you want wines that are “easy to drink, where you don’t know you’re finishing a bottle.”
HOW DO I FIND THE GOOD STUFF?
ISABELLE LEGERON, M.W. Founder, RAW WINE Fair
Natural Wine Is Less Predictable— and That’s a Good Thing The “natural” in natural wine means that it’s not a mass-produced item designed to taste the same always and forever, thanks to a cocktail of additives. “The first time you have a glass of this wine, your body feels something different—you taste something naked,” Lepeltier says. Which also means that your first natural Pinot Noir from Oregon will likely be much different from your second. Embrace the element of surprise; it’s part of the fun.
When I go to a wine bar—one of my favorites is 40 Maltby Street, in London—I go for the list. But I also go for the people who work there. My first questions are: What do you recommend and why? Why do you like this wine right now?
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Yes, You Can Judge a (Natural) Wine by Its Label
WHO IS MAKING THE GOOD STUFF?
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The quickest way to know whether you’re getting a great natural wine? Check the importer on the back label. We asked Jill Bernheimer of Domaine LA to recommend the best importer for every taste—whether you want something highly funky or distinctly classic.— B R E T T E W A R S H A W
Yeah, It Might Smell Weird... But Don’t Send It Back “The idea that natural wine tastes like horse shit, that all natural wine stinks—that’s a misconception,” Lepeltier says. Yes, there are some that smell like a farm; the pinch in your nose comes from that “Brett” yeast. That’s normal! It doesn’t mean your wine is bad. But you can find a whole slew of natural alternatives that smell more like, say, the cliffs overlooking a seaside villa in Positano.
LEE CAMPBELL Wine consultant
The modern natural-wine movement has its roots in France, in Morgon in Beaujolais and in the Loire Valley. But right now I think one of the most exciting places is Spain. Throughout Catalonia, we’re seeing natural wine 2.0: Laureano Serres and Joan Ramón Escoda are making really beautiful wines there.
LOUIS/DRESSNER SELECTIONS 1
Think of it as the Nike of natural wine: well-respected and easy to find. “They’re one of the bigger, [most] important, first importers of natural wines,” Bernheimer says. While it leans more traditional in its choices, you can still find some funky stuff.
NATURAL WINE IS THE LATEST GREAT EXCUSE TO GO TO PARIS... Anything set against the gray, well-heeled backdrop of Paris becomes a cliché, but this one is true: The wine just tastes better here. (It’s ﬁve euros a glass, and you can drink it outside.) Paris feels like the origin and also the vanguard for vino—like Nashville for country music, only in better-tailored pants. Here, cool stu≠ and classic stu≠ co-exist in an elusive realm of good taste. There’s
Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, which could be any
other sidewalk bistro if not for the cult wines rotating on the slate. And the young Déviant, which would be infuriatingly scene-y—okay, maybe it is—if not for the wine list. Raisin, an app for tracking natural wine, lists tastings and events, so check to see if there’s a winemaker salon happening while you’re in town. Stop by a wine store that doubles as a bar (like Vignes or Septime La Cave) to see where the wine bar in your city got all its ideas. Beware the two-euro swill. There’s bad wine in Paris, too, just like there are bad
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baguettes. So it helps to have a guide: Make tiny wine bar La Buvette your ﬁrst stop and take owner Camille Fourmont’s advice on where to go next. Pick up a bottle to go at her favorite caviste, the packed-to-thebrim Crus et Découvertes, and take it and some plastic cups to Buttes-Chaumont Park before digging into a plate of boudin noir (a.k.a. blood sausage) and a bottle of sans soufre Syrah down the street at the bistro Le Cadoret—which, like this wine, and Paris, manages to feel new and old at the same time. ...AND IT’S AN EVEN BET TER EXCUSE TO GET OUT OF PARIS
The restaurants and wine bars of Paris can be so distracting it’s easy to forget that the wine itself is right down the road. Rent a car and grab some croissants; two hours later you’ll be tracing the path of the castles of the Loire toward the farms and converted garages where the greatest producers of Loire natural wine are toiling as if no one in
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New York is swooning over their latest release. (Take note that there are no party buses here, so spitting or hiring a designated driver is necessary.) If winemakers in this area of the Loire make natural wine, chances are it’s because they tasted the work of Thierry Puzelat at Clos du Tue-Bœuf; this is your ﬁrst stop. Next up is his acolyte Hervé Villemade, who makes his elegant vintages out of a warehouse plastered with wine-fair posters that you might mistake for rock-band memorabilia if you didn’t have a glass in your hand. Follow the Loire River to Catherine and Pierre Breton of Domaine Breton in Benais, ﬁnishing up at Agnès and René Mosse’s Domaine Mosse in SaintLambert-du-Lattay. Once a year, Villemade hosts an open house with all the naturalwine makers in the vicinity. Someone’s shucking oysters, another dude is tending to a pig on a spit, and the wine is freshly poured for you by Villemade himself. After a few glasses, you’ll be clamoring for your own poster.— B . C .
If you’re into the weird stuff, look for Percy. “They’re working with microproducers on the very avant-garde end,” Bernheimer tells us, calling their wines “obscure and culty.”
If you’re making pasta for a hot date or just feel like trying something Italian, check out this importer, which “works with some of the best Italian natural producers,” Bernheimer says.
THREE BOT TLES WE LOVE
La Boutanche Gamay, $20
Weingut Maria & Sepp Muster Sauvignon Vom Opok, $25
Andréa Calek A Toi Nous, $22
AVAILABLE AT TOM FORD BOUTIQUES, TOMFORD.COM AND SELECT RETAILERS
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My cell phone was running my life. So I tried my best to hack it into submission
Smartphone Dumber from work and sit on the couch and play on my phone for an hour, ﬁrst catching up with the tweets of the day, then scrolling through my Instagram feed, then reading over a couple of last e-mails. My goal, I think, is to wipe my brain clean, to indulge in some lazily social form of chatter. But once all the notiﬁcations have been cleared and all of the tweets have been read, I ﬁnd some demented part of my brain is still empty. So I return to the cycle, opening apps to diminishing returns, until I’m knee-deep in photos of big synthetic butts and footage of teenagers fondling slime and updates from people I’ve never met— an endless feed refreshing itself, over and over again. I am supposed to want to give this up. I go around telling friends, “If I got rid of my phone, I could ﬁnally learn Spanish!” I read countless articles online promising no-fail hacks for unplugging. I don’t have much faith in these hacks, as nobody I know has ever succeeded in cutting down on their screen time. But what if unplugging was really as easy as discovering one weird trick? Then the only suckers would be those who didn’t try. So I decided to try, starting with the most dramatic hack and working backward. I sent away for a $150 Light Phone, a handsome, credit-card-size burner. It routes calls through your regular number, letting you keep in touch, but only barely: The current model can’t send or receive texts. As a result of its overwhelming ON MOST DAYS, I COME HOME
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dumbness, it sat on my desk, contacting nobody. I rarely use my phone as an actual phone, and I can’t say I’m looking for a reason to start. Light Phone 2, out next year, will add basic tools like texting and alarms. Maybe by then I’ll be ready to get truly dumb. Next came ﬁlter apps, which temporarily block your most abused websites. I tried SelfControl one afternoon, only to learn that blocking Twitter on my computer all day made me double down on it with my phone at night. The app felt punitive, and restricting my phone made it feel that much more tempting. I needed a less extreme solution. Where black-and-white thinking failed, I turned to gray—that is, switching my iPhone to grayscale mode under the assumption that Technicolor screens are too pleasurable. My ﬁrst days were a constant stream of gags, jokes about The Wizard of Oz and daguerreotypes. After the initial novelty wore o≠, I found the results to be pretty impressive. A grayscale phone is functionality without fun. Gray Twitter was as
thrilling as a Casio watch. Porn was still horny, yet somehow more artistic. I still wasted time, but I wasted much less. Over the course of a week, I didn’t learn Spanish, but I did burn through a classic novel and got out of the house for a couple of runs. The hack had restored a more humane order, giving my o≠-line hobbies a ﬁghting chance. The disappointing thing was that I found I did not want this. I’m a real slut for petty forms of numbness: vibrating chairs in mall concourses, disaster movies starring The Rock, slot machines, Thoroughbred horse races, the heft of the X-ray cape at the dentist. When I come home from work, I crave easy oblivion: ﬂashing alerts and endless feeds and shallow, undemanding forms of social validation. Unplugging hacks can work, but the question is: Do you really want them to? Harder than actually getting o≠ my phone was admitting to myself that I might not want to. jamie lauren keiles lives in Queens, New York.
I L LU ST R AT I O N : S I M O N A B R A N OW I C Z . P H OTO G R A P H : A N TO N STA R I KO V/A L A M Y. P H OTO I L LU ST R AT I O N F O R E D I TO R I A L P U R P O S E S .
B y JAMIE L AU REN KEILES
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The Last Holdout
He’s a lonely Democrat in deep red West Virginia. Senator Joe Manchin is also the last of a dying breed. A moderate. A nice guy! Now, in these not-so-nice times, he’s fighting for his life. And somehow both control of Congress and the future of his party hang in the balance
Democratic senator Joe Manchin at this summer’s West Virginia State Fair.
B y JAS ON ZENGERLE
in Trump Country 6 4
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A SUMMER THUNDERSTORM HAD OPENED up on Charleston, West Virginia—
coal-black clouds rolling in from the west, flashes of lightning streaking the sky—but Joe Manchin paid the foul weather no mind. In a small office he keeps in the state capital, the Democratic senator leaned back in his chair and contemplated a tempest of an entirely different nature: Donald Trump. “I mean, we do get along,” Manchin said of the president, almost as much to himself as to me. “We get along. And there’s things he’s done that I like and support, okay? And there’s things I would love to help him with and make him better.” Soon Manchin stopped speaking to me—or himself—and began addressing Trump. “ ‘Mr. President, these Democrats are not all that bad—just because we have a D by our name,’ ” Manchin said. “ ‘It seems like you’re the president of the Republicans. I want you to be the president of all of us. You’re my president.’ ” If that sounds to you like an unusual sentiment to hear from a Democrat these days, it’s worth noting that there aren’t many Democrats quite like the senator from West Virginia. After Trump’s shocking victory in 2016, Manchin was perhaps the only member of his party willing to express optimism about what lay ahead. “I don’t think Donald Trump is far to the right,” Manchin told me a few days before Trump’s inauguration. “I think he’s pretty much centrist—a moderate, centrist conservative Democrat.” Manchin marveled about how willing Trump seemed to be to listen to others (in contrast to Barack Obama, who, Manchin told me, “didn’t seem like he had any empathy for anyone left behind because of a policy and his desire for social changes he wanted”). “We couldn’t get through before,” Manchin said. “You can get through to this guy.” Eighteen months later, despite all the evidence to the contrary, he stubbornly stands by his assessment. “Every time I’ve hung around the president, he is always much more comfortable trying to work something in a bipartisan way,” Manchin told me this past summer. “He tries to do the reasonable thing, the responsible thing.” As for why that attitude hasn’t been reﬂected in the White House’s legislative priorities or his public rhetoric, Manchin could only speculate and make excuses. “I think the political people around him or whatever have gotten him to believe we don’t need to be bipartisan,” he o≠ered. Trump’s tax-reform package, which provided huge, permanent cuts to the
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wealthy but only modest, temporary ones to the middle class, was a perfect example, he said, of Republicans upending Trump’s moderate intentions. “The president told me point blank, he said, ‘Joe, it’s not gonna be a tax cut for the rich and the wealthy like me.’ I said, ‘That’d be great.’ His handprint wasn’t on that bill. It was all Paul Ryan.” (Manchin voted against the tax-cut bill). About the only time Manchin expressed any annoyance over Trump was when I asked about the president mocking Manchin for hugging him so much. “He’s grabbed me more than I’ve grabbed him, okay?” Manchin bristled. “Anyway, there’s no hugs. You know how guys do the man bump.” It’s hard to know for certain whether Manchin genuinely believes the kind words he has for Trump. It could be that Manchin—bogged down in a ﬁerce campaign to keep his job—just can’t a≠ord to get too crosswise with a president whose approval rating is 62 percent in West Virginia, the second-highest of any state, after Wyoming. That’s his sister’s theory. “I guess my brother Joe has to stay political,” Paula Manchin Llaneza told me, “but, ohhhhhh Lord, it’s embarrassing.” As a political creature, Manchin is a rare breed in these hyper-partisan times. A self-described centrist, he’s been a thorn in the side of fellow Democrats since he arrived in Washington, in 2010. During the Obama years, he routinely clashed with the White House and then Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid; under Trump, he’s voted
with the president more than any other Democrat—backing the White House on everything from Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination to a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “I told [Trump], ‘I’m the only thing that keeps you bipartisan,’ ” Manchin says. But Democrats also know they need Manchin. Though it was once reliably blue, West Virginia is now so solidly crimson that Trump notched his widest margin of victory there, beating Hillary Clinton by some 42 points. The state has become such tricky terrain for Democrats that Manchin nearly didn’t run for re-election this year. In January, he had to be persuaded by Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer and a handful of others in the party who staged an intervention. Manchin’s odds of keeping his seat weren’t great, but without him on the ballot in West Virginia, the Democrats knew they didn’t stand a chance. Manchin’s GOP opponent this fall, Patrick Morrisey, has very little going for him, aside from his party a∞liation— which, in West Virginia in 2018, might be enough. He’s a ﬂesh-and-blood version of the “generic Republican” pollsters are always asking about. Morrisey was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey. After an unsuccessful 2000 congressional run in the Garden State, he moved to Washington, D.C., to work as a health-care lawyer and lobbyist. He later bought a home in Harpers Ferry— the touristy town in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle—and began commuting the 90 minutes to Washington. In 2012, just a few months after being admitted to the West Virginia bar, and with his wife and stepdaughter still living in the D.C. suburbs, he was elected the state’s attorney general. What he lacked in local roots and charisma—“He looks like a bowling ball with a bad haircut,” complains one Republican strategist—he more than made up for by having an R next to his name on the ballot. And Republicans are banking that that R—and Trump’s support— will be enough to elect Morrisey this November. Polls have given Manchin a slight edge for most of the year, but as Election Day draws near, the race will be one of the most watched Senate battles in the country. As the GOP adviser Liam Donovan puts it: “Manchin’s seat is primed for the picking.”
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But the race is about something more than whether Manchin stays in the Senate. In a way, it’ll test the fundamental nature of our politics—and might just reveal how broken they’ve become. For ages, Americans focused their political attention close to home. The only truly national election used to be the presidency. But that’s been scrambled. Voters now set their political compass almost entirely on national issues. And as a result, more of our elections—whether for county commission or Congress—now hinge on matters that have little to do with where the votes get cast. As the political scientist Daniel J. Hopkins notes in his new book, The Increasingly United States, our politics have become nationalized. At the same time, the parties have homogenized: Republicans tend to be just like other Republicans; the same goes for Democrats. This means that today there are fewer places where bargains can be struck between lawmakers, and fewer politicians even inclined to try. We frequently mourn the passing of the lions of the Senate—giants like Ted Kennedy and John McCain, who reached across the aisle in acts of grandiose legislating. But we overlook the disappearance of another once essential species. We forget the mortals of the
Senate, leaders eager to wheel and deal in order to address their parochial concerns. They were the ones, as much as the giants, who made Washington work. Manchin is a vestige of that old order, someone more interested in doing right by his constituents than in being on a national political team. On Capitol Hill today, that’s made him a lonely ﬁgure— and an oddly ruminative one. A few weeks before that stormy afternoon in Charleston, Manchin was in Washington, hustling across the grounds of the Capitol when he stopped abruptly. With his broad shoulders and labored gait, the 71-year-old Manchin resembles a long-retired professional athlete, which he might have been were it not for the knee injury that ended his promising football career as a quarterback at West Virginia University. As we paused suddenly near Constitution Avenue, I worried that maybe his knee was acting up or he’d succumbed to the heat. But no, something had caught the senator’s eye. Gazing out into the middle distance, he began to study a Capitol grounds landscaping crew toiling in the afternoon sun, blithely tending to the grass. “Some days, I just watch,” Manchin told me in a near whisper. “People riding a lawn mower—I envy ’em so much.” There almost seemed to be a catch in
his throat. He appeared thrilled by their industriousness, their unimpeded productivity. “Not a fuckin’ worry in the world,” he continued. “Put the earphones on and let ’er rip.”
to the Senate, in 2010—after a couple of terms as West Virginia’s governor—Manchin promised himself that he’d never “go Washington.” It’s a point of pride that, from a real estate perspective, he’s managed to keep that promise. When the Senate is in session, Manchin lives on a houseboat that he keeps anchored about eight miles south of the Capitol. He’s christened his ﬂoating home Almost Heaven—which is how John Denver describes West Virginia in “Country Roads.” He daydreams about the possibilities that living on a boat in Washington present. “I can untie the ropes and away I go,” Manchin says. “I can go right to the front door of where I live in West Virginia.” He concedes that such a trip would be tricky—and it might take him two to three weeks to reach his home on the Kanawha River in Charleston. But what’s important, he says, is that he could do it. That spirit of possibility feels rare in West Virginia. In the public imagination, the state is a backward, beaten-down WHEN HE WAS ELECTED
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place—its mountaintops removed in the heedless pursuit of coal, its towns and hollers awash in guns and opioids. That can be more stereotype than reality, but there’s no denying the state’s problems and pathologies—from its dying coal industry to its nation-leading number of opioid overdoses and deaths. It’s a state whose best days often feel behind it. “It’s a tough place to be from, and it’s a tough place to make things happen,” says Nick Casey, a former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party. “God bless Mississippi, because if it weren’t for them, West Virginia would always be at the bottom of everything.” The cultural gulf between Washington and West Virginia is vast, but geographically they’re pretty close. As a result, Manchin’s Senate o∞ce in D.C. features a stream of constituents dropping in, often unannounced, to say hello. Manchin doles out hugs and schmoozes with as many of them as he can, listening to their concerns. “We’re retail government,” he explains. “It’s customer service.” The other parts of being a senator, though, can sometimes seem tricky. One day last year, I was with Manchin as he rode the subway car beneath the Capitol to vote on the Senate ﬂoor. A few minutes earlier, Barack Obama, in one of his ﬁnal acts as president, had announced that he was commuting Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence for leaking classiﬁed information, and one of Manchin’s aides broke the news to the senator. Although Manchin serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, it was clear from the befuddled look on his face that he had no idea who Manning was. “Bradley—uh, Chelsea—Manning was the Army private that downloaded a bunch of information in Iraq and then gave it to WikiLeaks,” the aide explained. “That’s treason,” Manchin said, still no closer to knowing what his aide was talking about. “Yes, sir,” another aide went on. “And while he was in prison, he had a sexchange operation.” Manchin’s e yes ﬂashed with recognition. “I thought that was the one that became a girl!” he shouted. “That son of a bitch!” He slammed his ﬁst on the subway car’s seat. “And we’re letting him out now because he’s docile?!” The aide tried to explain Obama’s rationale for the commutation—that,
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unlike Edward Snowden, Manning had served time—but Manchin, still hung up on the gender-reassignment angle of things, wasn’t listening. “Jesus,” he fumed. “His mind! He’s still got the same mind!” Even when Manchin’s in the right, his lack of understanding can hobble him. One day in May, he was headed to a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing where Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin would be testifying. On matters of trade, Manchin favors protectionist policies to place tari≠s on Chinese goods.
“No, no, no. We’re not going to hit you,” Manchin begged o≠. “We’re going to ask you to explain the di≠erence of where the president’s coming from and your role in it.” “I don’t understand,” said Mnuchin, now on the o≠ensive. “What’s your point?” Manchin fumbled around, asking about tari≠ numbers and ZTE. Mnuchin began lecturing him about trade policy toward China. Before long, he was the one questioning Manchin. “Have you been briefed on the security issues
“Donald Trump comes to me,” Manchin says. “Everybody comes to me: ‘Oh, just be a Republican, Joe.’ ” He’s been frustrated with Mnuchin—“a balls-to-the-wall free trader,” as Manchin calls him—who persuaded Trump to adopt a gentler tack with China. Barging into the anteroom where Mnuchin was huddling with his advisers before testifying, Manchin walked up to the secretary. Then, leaning toward Mnuchin like Lyndon Johnson threatening a recalcitrant senator, Manchin o≠ered a blunt warning: “I’m gonna hit you on the China stu≠ today.” “What are you going to hit on?” a clearly startled Mnuchin replied. “We’re concerned about the changes,” Manchin told him. “What are you concerned about?” Mnuchin said. “We’re concerned about the technology,” Manchin said, referring to a reported Mnuchin-supported move to lift sanctions on a Chinese telecom ﬁrm called ZTE. “What-what-what, speciﬁcally?” Mnuchin stammered. “Well, from the things where the president was going, doubling down on the tari≠s,” Manchin said, betraying a wobbly handle on his argument. Sensing his interlocutor was perhaps no expert on the matter, Mnuchin regained his composure. “Did you understand what the deal is before you hit me?” he shot back.
on ZTE?” Manchin said he had. “How recently?” Mnuchin practically taunted him. He assured Manchin that there was nothing to worry about from a national-security perspective. “I think that’s the most important thing,” Manchin said meekly. “Everybody’s on the same page,” Mnuchin reassured him. “Okay, good,” Manchin said. “I hope everything goes well. I’ll see you in a little bit.” The senator left the room and then turned to an aide. “Well,” Manchin said, “he seemed defensive.” of certain international issues might bedevil Manchin, the concerns of his constituents consume him. One morning, the receptionist in his o∞ce patched through a call from a West Virginian who needed some help. A station agent for Amtrak, the man had recently been told that his job in Charleston was going to be downgraded to part-time because of declining train ridership. The man wondered: Could the senator do anything? Manchin peppered the station agent with questions, plunging deep into the weeds of the West Virginia rail system. Had track repairs caused delays? How was baggage checked in Huntington as compared with Charleston? (continued on page 123) THOUGH THE DETAILS
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superstar Stormzy, Nile Rodgers, and naturally, Stella McCartney.2 Performances like this are often as perfunctory as they are intimate and select—a few new songs to promote the project of the moment, a couple of old ones thrown in to sweeten the pot, and everyone can go home having had their special moment. But that’s not the Paul McCartney way. He and his band play for nearly an hour and three-quarters: new songs, Wings songs, early-period Beatles songs, later-period Beatles songs, peppered with lots of nostalgic between-song chat; luxuriating in the history he has created, even as he continues to extend a life beyond it.
as well use it. In August 1969, during a brief break from one of their ﬁnal recording sessions, the four members of the Beatles were photographed in mid-stride on the London crosswalk a few yards from where they were working.1 The studio, the street, and the album whose cover this image would appear on, all share the same name: Abbey Road. Ever since, fans and tourists have been lining up here, day in, day out, blocking tra∞c as they duplicate this photo. And so when, around lunchtime on a sunny day in July, one more man re-creates that iconic scene while his daughter ﬁlms him, it would be nothing in the least unusual. Except that, on this occasion, the man doing so happens to be one of those original four walkers, following his own distant footsteps. Paul McCartney is 76 years old. Today, he is on his way to the studio where most of the Beatles’ records were recorded, as well as a fair few of those he has made since, to play an invitation-only lunchtime concert. All of this—the concert (which, it now being 2018, is for Spotify), the video from the crosswalk (which, it now being 2018, swiftly radiates around the world from McCartney’s Instagram), and plenty else in the surrounding weeks—is to drum up excitement for a new Paul McCartney album called Egypt Station. If you imagine that by now McCartney might have reached the point where he would relax and look back with cozy satisfaction on his life’s achievements,
pure pleasure of it, happy to let it slip out into the world and ﬁnd its own audience…well, then you’re already very wrong about both who Paul McCartney is and who he ever was. One of the ﬁrst things McCartney will say to me when we meet is “I’m still very competitive,” another is “Do you know anyone who doesn’t have insecurities?” and those are barely the beginning of it. A dominant but wrongheaded myth of the modern celebrity era is that great fame and success changes people. There are ways in which it sometimes can, of course, but what is far more notable is that we are who we are, and that—no matter how much fame and acclaim and money and experience are added to the equation—we tend to change very little, both for better and for worse. At the other side of it all, more often than not we discover ourselves to be who we already were. That’s one of the many subjects McCartney will reﬂect upon in a series of conversations we have over these weeks—conversations that will sometimes turn out to be far more intense, and ﬂat-out weirder, than you might expect. Right now, though, he has a concert to play. A raised stage is set up in Abbey Road’s studio 2, and a couple of hundred people stand in front of it, more than a few of them familiar faces, these mostly consorting with one another in a cluster on the right-hand side of the room, among them Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Kylie Minogue, J. J. Abrams, Amy Schumer, British grime
1. In the photo used on the Abbey Road sleeve, Paul McCartney is out of stride with the other three Beatles, and is also the only Beatle barefoot. These chance details would later be taken as principal pieces of “evidence” for a conspiracy theory that still inspires a signiﬁcant literature to this day: that in late 1966 the real McCartney had died in an accident and that at the time of this photo he had been replaced by an impostor who has played the role of “Paul McCartney” ever since. (He didn’t; he hadn’t.) 2. McCartney’s photographer daughter Mary, who shot the crosswalk moment, and his son, James, are also here, as is his wife, Nancy.
Before we take a seat, he walks to the window; down below, Londoners are spread over the lawns in the square, eating and sunbathing. “Welcome to my world,” he says. “This is where we stand and look at all the lunchtimers.” Years ago I used to work close by, in my ﬁrst real job, and this square was a place we’d sometimes go in the middle of the day, so—as much as anything to cover the oddity of standing here staring out a window with Paul McCartney—I mutter to him about how in the past I’ve been one of those people out there, lounging on the grass. “Have you?” McCartney says evenly. “I haven’t. I’ve walked through, but I’ve not had the luxury of lounging. Probably not a good idea.” We sit side by side on a sofa to talk. As we do, McCartney periodically reaches out and touches my shoulder to add some kind of emphasis to whichever point he is making. When he faces me, behind him is a rather disturbing sculpture in black leather of a wrestler wearing a balaclava. “I use it to intimidate people like you,” he says when I ask about it, then adds that actually he usually hangs his jacket over it. It is not so di∞cult to get Paul McCartney to talk about the past, and this can be a problem. Anyone who has read more than a few interviews with him knows that he has a series of anecdotes, mostly Beatles-related, primed and ready to roll out in situations like these. Pretty good stories, some of them, too. But my goal is to guide
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McCartney to some less manicured memories—in part because I hope they’ll be fascinating in themselves, but also because I hope that if I can lure him o≠ the most well-beaten tracks, that might prod him to genuinely think about, and reﬂect upon, his life. And so that is how—and why—we spend most of the next hour talking about killing frogs, taking acid, and the pros and cons of drilling holes in
“Talk about: Pinch
I suggest that nonetheless there must have been a moment, back in his teens, when he began to imagine. “I think with Elvis appearing I did think, ‘It’d be good to get a bit of that,’ ” he concedes. “And John was thinking that, and George was.3 When we got together, we sort of started to dream that. It was a bit of a far-o≠ dream, and it was just a dream. It wasn’t anything that we really ever thought would turn out to be more than that.”
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McCartney’s father was the kind of parent who had impressed upon his son the need to buckle down and get a job. At school, McCartney says, he was advised to think about going into teaching. That didn’t feel so great to him. He had a di≠erent fantasy, but one that in its own way shows a kind of eccentric pragmatism at work. The young Paul McCartney imagined himself as a long-distance truck driver— in particular as a truck driver fueled by a deep Catholic faith, a faith far stronger than the real McCartney had. “Just driving forever, going on these long journeys, full of faith in God and the world,” he says, remembering how he had felt back then. “To me, that would be quite good.” Thinking of all this leads McCartney to explain, unbidden, that his actual faith, such as it is, has always involved cherry-picking from di≠erent religions the parts he felt were most valuable. “I mean, Saint Francis of Assisi was my big favorite,” he says. “And I turned out to be for animal welfare, animal lover and nature lover. But the picture of him in the Bible sitting on his throne-like chair, birds all over him, and rabbits, and they’re all interested in him—that was magical to me.”
3. A history of the Beatles in 151 words: Paul McCartney met John Lennon and George Harrison when they were schoolboys in Liverpool. An early group, the Quarrymen, evolved into the Beatles. They learned their craft principally by playing cover versions in clubs in the red-light district of Hamburg, Germany, and also in an underground Liverpool club, the Cavern. Ringo Starr replaced their previous drummer, Pete Best, in August 1962, and two months later the Beatles’ ﬁrst single, “Love Me Do,” was released. They were soon the biggest group in the world. After making a series of increasingly innovative records that remain a template for much of what has come since, they split up acrimoniously in 1970. Lennon was shot in New York by a deranged fan in December 1980. Harrison died of cancer in November 2001. Since the Beatles’ split, McCartney has mostly made records as a solo artist but also, between 1971 and 1979, with his group Wings. 4. For the record, McCartney actually qualiﬁes his insect-care policy to me very precisely. “[I] rescue ﬂies,” he says. “But mosquitoes [I] will kill, because they’re attacking me. So, you know, I have my parameters.” 5. When McCartney was growing up, British citizens were required to do National Service, a compulsory 18-month enrollment in the military, usually starting at the age of 17. Ultimately, National Service would be phased out just in time for McCartney to be able to avoid it.
This—McCartney’s reverie about Saint Francis of Assisi—o≠ers me a convenient opportunity to bring up an unusual and discordant moment that has stuck in my mind ever since I saw it mentioned long ago in the semi-o∞cial McCartney biography Many Years from Now. Once I do so, our discussion—as you will now see— will head o≠, unstoppably, in a series of improbable twists and spirals. Perhaps surprisingly so, given that my initial question is about a phase McCartney went through as a boy in Liverpool in which he would catch frogs and kill them. “Yeah. I still try and block that. Because I’m now devout animal welfare, wouldn’t kill a ﬂy.” 4 But can you remember what that boy was, and why he did what he did? “Yeah, I remember exactly why it was and what it was. We used to live on a housing estate called Speke, in Liverpool, just millions of houses, right on the border of woods and deep countryside. So I did a lot of that, went out in all that. But I was very aware that I would soon be joining the army, because all of us were called up for National Service.5 I was probably about 12, I was looking at being 17, which is kind of looming—it’s going to happen fast—and the one thing that I thought is: ‘I can’t kill anything—what am I going to do? Get a bayonet and hurt someone? I’ve got to kill someone? Shit, I’ve got to think about that. How do I do that?’ So I ended up killing frogs.” What would you do? “I do look for rational explanations—I do think, you know, kids are cruel. Kids swing cats. I was from Liverpool—you do that kind of shit. It’s dumb, it’s mean, it’s horrible, but you do that kind of shit. What is it? You’re trying to toughen yourself up? I don’t know. But I did. And I used to go out in the woods, and I killed a bunch of frogs and stuck them up on a barbedwire fence. It was like a weird sort of thing that I kind of hated doing but thought: ‘I’m toughening myself up.’ I remember taking my brother there, once, to my secret place. And he was just horriﬁed. Thought he had a nutter on his hands. And probably did.” Did you think he’d be impressed? “I wonder. I don’t know. He’s just my younger brother—I showed him what I was doing. I think he was horriﬁed, but I think I was, too. It was a dark thing, but no darker than a lot of stu≠ that was going on on our estate. It was just my way. I remember very consciously
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thinking: ‘You’ve got to learn to harm things because you’re a sissy. So you’d better get in some practice.’ ” So I guess that prompts the question: Did it stand you in good stead? Or was it a terrible thing? “I don’t look back with pleasure on it, but I just think, you know, kids are mad. I did a lot of mad things when I was a kid that just maybe came with the territory. Stole things. Did all sorts of little things that little kids on our estate did. It’s all part of that weird thing of growing up. A lot of it I just don’t think about anymore, but suddenly something like that will come back and I go, ‘Shit.…’ But it was a little bit of a tough world, you know. Liverpool was no fairyland. We’d make catapults and put serious quarter-inch elastic on it from fan belts, and then you’d get a leather pouch, and you would put a fucking big, good-sized rock in there, and you would ﬁre them at each other. Look back at it and you go, ‘Shit, lucky I never killed anyone.’ But it was a relatively tough world. Speke was quite a rough estate, and you were getting mugged and beaten up. You learn to be a runner.” And now when you think about being that boy, inside your head are you thinking, “Yeah, that’s just me, and then a bit of shit’s happened since then,” or are you thinking, “Wow, that was a di≠erent person”? “That is one of the things that intrigues me about a life. I just have a general sort of feeling of: I’m here now talking to you and this is this bit of life, a little while ago I was getting divorced and that was that weird bit of life,6 and before that I was living 30 years and raising a family with Linda,7 that was that bit of life, I’m now married to an American, Nancy,8 lovely girl, that’s this bit of life. And so if you keep rolling back, you go through Wings, you go through the Beatles, and then you get back to this wild territory which is youth, when you weren’t famous and you could get stopped in the street, or you’re in school and you were being abused—not in a sexual way but just in teachers being the mad nutcases they were and having that control over you and you had to go along with it. So there’s so much stu≠ been going on, and then I roll back before that, and I’m a really little kid. And I can almost feel that I remember things from my birth. I don’t know if this is true, this is probably just pure speculation, but I have a vision of a sort of white-tiled room, and chrome clinical instruments, and
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, p u e k o s r s b e s n e ı l s t u a e b B e h e t h t e v n a e s h o e t W h y “ t a g w n i y l l u n a s t o e o e t m h a t as was lıke w t ı f o side es, so that he residue Beatl ache. And t lame.” hearthat I was to b was t
6. McCartney had a very public and rancorous divorce with his second wife, Heather Mills, in 2008 after nearly six years of marriage. (They have a daughter together, Beatrice, now 14.) 7. McCartney’s ﬁrst wife, Linda Eastman, whom he married in 1969, died of cancer in 1998. 8. McCartney married his third wife, Nancy Shevell, in 2011. 9. This ﬂight of fancy is only slightly spoiled— or perhaps, looked at another way, enhanced—by the fact that DNA’s double-helix structure was actually discovered in 1953, when McCartney was 11 years old.
the clanking noise of those things on chrome trays…” (McCartney stops himself at this point and o≠ers a commentary in the third person—“Come on! Is he crazy or not?”—before continuing.) “That couldn’t be me being born, could it? What I’m saying is, to me it’s a vast panoply of a wonderful legendary tapestry, life. There’s just so much in this story, and it’s still going on, it’s still changing, it’s still evolving. My feeling is that as long as I’m managing to proceed through it with some sort of pleasure, then that’s always been enough. Sometimes it’s been more than enough—it’s been vast prizes, vast satisfaction. I couldn’t really describe what it is, but it’s just time stretched out and all these millions of little occurrences that have happened, and that’s me. So yeah, I’m still that little kid. I really do still feel embarrassingly like that, because I know how old I am, and I look in the mirror, I see how old I am. It’s this ever changing thing, and I sort of vaguely ﬁnd myself quite satisﬁed with it. I wouldn’t say totally, because that’s Valhalla. That’s asking for possibly too much. But, yeah, I have a lot of good things going on in my life and I generally have a pretty good time. And I feel amazed by all these things, you know. I mean, in the ’60s, when we were tripping away, I remember once in London taking acid and going through the trip—you know, all of that, as anyone who’s ever taken that shit knows what I’m talking about, just the whole intense vision of what the world is, other than how you see it normally. And I remember at the height of it seeing this thing that was like a spiral going up in, in my brain, and it was beautiful colors, like multicolored gems going up this spiral. And then, shortly thereafter, [scientists] discovered the DNA helix. I certainly have a feeling, not only my own birth, I’ve seen my own DNA.” So you’re saying you discovered the structure of DNA before anyone else— you just didn’t tell anyone?
“God, I’m so glad someone’s picked up on that!” 9 He laughs. In that case, I’m surprised you don’t still take it.… “Yeah, well, no, I was with a friend the other day, and the latest thing is microdosing. And he was microdosing.” So have you tried that? “No.” Are you tempted? “Well. I was asked just the other day, and I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve got the grandkids and stu≠. There’s enough going on. I’m okay.’ ” But you don’t rule it out. He smiles devilishly. “I’m not ruling it out.” C CARTNEY
to say that, nonetheless, when he was encouraged to microdose by his friend, “it brought back that feeling of peer pressure from the ’60s,” and this reminds me that out of the Beatles, McCartney was always painted as the reluctant one, the sensible one—and, indeed, he was the last of the four to take acid. “Yeah. I heard it changes you and you’ll never be the same again. I thought: ‘Well, that could be a doubleedged sword.’ You know, we could be ending up in a loony bin, and ‘Sorry, Paul—I didn’t mean to give you so much’ or ‘It was the wrong batch’ or something. I’m very practical, and my father was very sensible and raised me to be a sensible cat.” And when you eventually did take it, were they right? Were you never the same again? “Mmmm.” He nods. “But it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined, it wasn’t a sort of horriﬁc thing. But you certainly weren’t the same again. You certainly had insights into what life might be.” But ultimately you were pleased you did it?
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He nods again. “Mmmm. Mmmm. I often wished it would end sooner.” Thinking about that balance between caution and going full tilt makes me think of what you once said about you and John Lennon and the cli≠ ’s edge. (“John always wanted to jump over the cli≠. He once said that to me. ‘Have you ever thought of jumping?’ I said, ‘Fuck o≠. You jump, and tell me how it is.’ That’s basically the di≠erence in our personalities.”) “Yeah, that’s true. I’m more careful in everything. My dad is a very strong factor in this. He was an ordinary workingclass guy, very intelligent, very good with words, but his whole philosophy was to think it out a bit. So that, that turned out to be my sort of way. Whereas John, you’ve got to remember, didn’t have a father. John didn’t even have an uncle. He went to live with the uncle—the uncle died. His dad had run away. So John felt like he was a jinx on the male line, he told me. I had a father. He was always spouting to be tolerant. Moderation. These were words he used a lot, and I think I listened.” So, to take an extreme example, is it really true that John tried to convince you that you should both do trepanning? 10 He nods. “John was a kooky cat. We’d all read about it—you know, this is the ’60s. The ‘ancient art of trepanning,’ which lent a little bit of validity to it, because ancient must be good. And all you’d have to do is just bore a little hole in your skull and it lets the pressure o≠—well, that sounds very sensible. ‘But look, John, you try it and let me know how it goes.’ ” But was he sitting there really seriously saying: ‘We should do this’? “Yeah, but this is the good thing about John and I—I’d say no. And he knew me well enough that if I said no, I meant no, and I’m not frightened of being uncool to say no. And I wouldn’t go so far as to say, ‘You’re fucking crazy,’ because I didn’t need to say that. But, no, I’m not gonna trepan, thank you very much. It’s just not something I would like to do.” And do you think if you’d said yes, the two of you would have done it? “Who knows? I don’t think so. I don’t think he was really serious. He did say it, but he said all sorts of shit.” Did he really come to that meeting near the end of the Beatles and say he was Jesus Christ? “I don’t remember that. I think I would have remembered that. He was the kind of guy that could do that.
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10. Trepanning is the process of drilling through the skull to the brain. At various times, people have advocated the beneﬁts of voluntary trepanning, though mainstream medicine considers these to be, at best, spurious. 11. In 2007, Peter Blake, the artist responsible for the sleeve, pointed out that actually the Hitler cutout Lennon had asked for was made, and can be seen in the session outtakes. 12. Before our previous meeting, McCartney had just returned from a short holiday on the island of Ibiza. He shares with me a convoluted theory he subscribes to whereby instead of retiring (“which I don’t fancy at all—I’m just having too much fun”) he takes multiple holidays to spread his retirement time out between his ongoing work. (When I point out that he really doesn’t need to justify any of this, and that he would have every right to sit on the sofa for the rest of his life if he really wanted to, he retorts, “Yeah, but you’d get a sore arse.”) 13. McCartney mentions that when the Beatles ﬁrst started out, John gave him a guitar solo and he totally blew it, after which he decided he’d never play lead again, and adds that he has only really started again in the past ten years. (This may be true as far as playing live. For evidence that McCartney has long had an impressive ability to do so when he must, see the original one-man studio version of “Maybe I’m Amazed.”)
“I thought sit down awe might actual McCartnend write a song,”ly working w y says about turned ou ith Kanye. “It an ‘ingredt we were creatin ient pool.’ g ” I don’t remember him actually ever doing it. I mean, on the Sgt. Pepper cover he wanted Jesus Christ and Hitler on there. That was, ‘Okay, that’s John.’ You’d have to talk him down a bit—‘No, probably not Hitler…’ I could say to him, ‘No, we’re not doing that.’ He was a good enough guy to know when he was being told.” Did he have a rationalization for why it was a good idea to put Hitler on there? “No. It’s a laugh. We’re putting famous people on the cover: ‘Hitler! He’s famous!’ And it was like, ‘Yeah, but John, we’re trying to put heroes on the cover, and he’s not your hero. Winston Churchill’s your hero, John.’ He was a big fan of Winston. So he was just fucking about. That was John. He was very witty, very wonderful, and would like to push the envelope, and it was entertaining to be around someone like that. These are cool people. But you can’t always do everything they suggest.” 11 NE OF MCCARTNEY’S
several homes is in the English county of East Sussex, close to the south coast. Nearby, he also has his own recording studio, situated in an old windmill on top of a hill with bracing views out over the sea. Right now, everyone is mingling around its tiny kitchen. McCartney, who is just back from a holiday in the Greek islands with his wife, 12 listens to a ticket-sales update from his British publicist, Stuart Bell, for some big shows he is playing later this year. “ ‘Sold out,’ best two words in the English language,” McCartney tells me. Come now, I say, there are others. “When you’re about to tour, there aren’t.” He reconsiders. “ ‘Stark naked’ is even better.” McCartney leans over a table laden with vegetarian sandwiches and snacks, lifts a corner of the clear wrap o≠ a plate of co≠ee-cake slices, and tries to extract a segment so that it will look as though he hasn’t. “I’m going
to not have this,” he declares, mostly talking to himself. “I’m going to so not have this that you won’t even see me not have it. There we are. See!” A few minutes later, he holds a pink rose under my nose—one he has just picked from the bush outside, a rose that is o∞cially called the McCartney Rose. (Smells pretty good.) He then points to a 3-D printout of his head someone sent him from Brazil that’s sitting on a shelf next to a smaller ﬁgurine that I can’t quite properly see. “I’m really embarrassed by this,” he says. “Especially as it’s alongside Mozart.” “I notice,” observes Abe Laboriel Jr., the drummer in his band, “one head is a little bigger than the other.” And so the midafternoon break goes, until McCartney straightens up and suggests to the others, “Shall we go and play some more?” There is also a shed-like outbuilding on this property—not a big one, but just big enough for McCartney and his band, crammed together, to rehearse in. That is what they are here to do today. You’d have to be completely immune to the past 55 years of music history, and to Paul McCartney’s pivotal role in it, not to be somewhat mesmerized by watching him, just a few feet away, rehearse his way over several hours through 30 or so songs. Mostly, they are re-familiarizing themselves with old favorites, which they generally try to play as closely to the original records as possible, but they’re also still ﬁguring out a handful of new songs, and occasionally they throw in fairly obscure cover versions—for instance, “Miss Ann,” a song from Little Richard’s ﬁrst album that the Beatles would sometimes play in their pre-fame days. There are moments that seem even more surprising. When I walk in at the beginning of the rehearsal day, they are in the middle of a long instrumental jam, one that seems very loosely based around the verse chords of the Wings song “Letting Go,” during which McCartney noodles and solos on electric guitar 13 at great length in a way that you never
really see in public, as though he’s in a slightly more prim version of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. In between songs, McCartney keeps up an almost constant onomatopoeic babble of yelps and whoa whoa whoa’s that seem to be for no one’s particular beneﬁt, like an engine idling; during the songs, he’ll do occasional leg kicks, and at one point during an instrumental break in “Coming Up,” he actually starts pogoing backward. It’s hardly cool, but these kinds of moments, ones that can seem a little cheesy and over-eager in front of an audience, feel very di≠erent inside this room. As part of a private language of selfexpression and enthusiasm, they seem sincere and touching. The most striking moment of the afternoon comes, though, when they rehearse “A Hard Day’s Night.” They breeze through a version of the song, and then McCartney has a question, a surprising one given that he has played this song live in public at least 205 times.14 It is about what happens at the end of the ﬁrst verse. McCartney, who is playing his famous Höfner bass, wonders whether he is supposed
to stay on the G or move up to the D. The band debate it back and forth without coming to a ﬁrm conclusion. When McCartney says, “What did I do?” Brian Ray, one of the band’s guitarists, suggests that they listen. And so they do. Someone quickly ﬁnds the original recording, presses play, and suddenly I am watching the surreal sight of Paul McCartney, 76, standing there in a small shed in the south of England listening to Paul McCartney, 21, performing the same song 19,816 days earlier. By the time the song reaches its middle eight— when I’m home, everything seems to be right—McCartney is mouthing along to the words, as though he’s just enjoying listening to it. Interestingly, the result turns out to be slightly inconclusive—they think they can maybe hear a D in there, but it might just be a harmonic. McCartney decides he’ll “just ride through on the G.” A while later, after a climactic medley of the reprise to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Helter Skelter,” which he commits to with full roaring fury, McCartney says, “Okay, I reckon that’ll do it, guys.”
14. Such Beatlesrelated matters tend to be assiduously documented. According to the website The Paul McCartney Project, the Beatles played in concert 127 times in 1964 and 1965. McCartney did not play the song again until 2016, but has played it 78 times since.
↓ coat $2,675 Givenchy sweater $1,175 Brunello Cucinelli t-shirt $350 The Row
On his way out of the room, he says, as though to no one and everyone: “We play way too loud. We don’t
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in the o∞ce McCartney keeps upstairs in his windmill studio. I want to take him back in down the paths he ﬁnds most familiar. Sometimes I fail in this, and sometimes I don’t really mind failing, though it’s fascinating to me not just that McCartney often gravitates to certain kinds of Beatles stories anyway, which is maybe understandable given that it is probably what is usually expected of him, but that in doing so he often o≠ers ripostes to slurs that haven’t been mentioned in the present conversation. For instance, at one point today, even though I also never ask about this, I will suddenly ﬁnd that I am listening to McCartney agitate about his angst around the circumstances of the Beatles’ split—still, it seems, a tender issue: “One of the sadnesses for me when the Beatles broke up, the only way to save the business side of it was me suing the Beatles, so that was like a total heartache. And the residue was that I was to blame. I was ‘the one who broke the Beatles up.’ And so I spent quite a bit of time—you know, still doing it—to sort of say: ‘No, I didn’t. John wanted Yoko, so he said we’re leaving the Beatles.…’ But because of that suing incident, the word got out that I was the baddie. And the worst thing was: I kind of bought into it. My psyche sort of said, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no… Yes!... No, you weren’t.…You were!’ I really wasn’t, but if everyone thinks you were, then maybe you were.” But mostly I divert him to less discussed moments. There is all kinds of lore about the very early days of the various Beatles, pre-fame, and how they bonded and learned from one another, and McCartney had spoken about most of this endlessly, but there is one scenario that McCartney doesn’t tend to get asked about—for reasons, I suppose, that may become obvious, though he seems pretty comfortable when I do bring it up—a scenario that seems to give a strikingly vivid, spirited, and human insight into the essence of who these boys ﬁnding their way into manhood were. “What it was,” he explains after I have prompted him, “was over at John’s house, (continued on page 124)
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When he was just 18, Lucas Hedges pulled a stunner of a performance in Manchester by the Sea. Three years later, he returns with Boy Erased, in which he confronts the question: What exactly does it mean to be a man? JAKE JONES
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Big in the ’90s Dior put style-minded guys in skintight jeans a decade and a half ago. Now the denim move is the über-’90s Kids-like silhouette (classed up here with a striped turtleneck).
jacket $2,850 Canali turtleneck $850 jeans $750 sneakers $930 Dior Men
Bucket List Leave it to Prada to take a relic from the golden age of gonzo journalism and turn it into the hat of the season.
t-shirt $260 (for pack of three) Prada at Mr Porter hat $330 Prada
Jean Genie Trainspotting isn’t a great source of lifestyle inspiration, but it’s still fertile ground style-wise all these years later.
jacket $2,650 jacket (beneath) $990 sweater $1,250 Valentino jeans $90 Levi’s shoes $1,100 Dior Men
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Make It a Double The double-breasted suit was once the hallmark of Wall Street rainmakers, but now the DBâ€™s boxy, drapey silhouette makes it the flyest way to wear tailoring.
jacket $3,325 sweater $1,425 pants $830 HermĂ¨s shoes $490 Ovadia & Sons
Itâ€™s Hip to Be Square Few brands have taken statement-making fashion in 2018 as far as Balenciaga has. Case in point: these exaggerated roped shoulders.
jacket $5,400 turtleneck $1,050 Balenciaga
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on Mc r r n Ba ga e a ss y K e J b y B ion t ra t s
THE 9 0
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known as Cocktails and Compliance—so called for mixing alcohol with tax advice— was thrown on a Friday evening in May, in a warehouse turned art gallery in Old San Juan. The host had kept his guest list conﬁdential: It contained the names of hundreds of ultrawealthy mainland Americans who’d moved to Puerto Rico, primarily to avoid paying taxes, most of whom were reluctant to advertise that fact. More than 1,500 mainlanders have established residency here since 2012, when the island rebranded itself as a tax haven, and the annual Cocktails is at the center of their social calendar. At a high table, polishing o≠ a bourbon on the rocks, sat a compact man in his 60s wearing a black T-shirt and black suede loafers, no socks. This was Mark Gold, the Florida-born kingpin of tra∞c-ticket contesting. Gold has attended Cocktails and Compliance every year since moving to Puerto Rico in 2016. “I was looking at di≠erent tax havens,” he said, “Andorra, Lichtenstein, Monaco. But the problem is, you have to give up your U.S. passport. When I heard about this, it was too good to be true. But it’s real. I live in paradise. I live at the Ritz-Carlton. I drive my golf cart to the beach club for breakfast. Then I go to my sunset yoga class on the beach.” A waiter o≠ered to replace his drink. “Why not?” said Gold. Only seven months had passed since Hurricane Maria laid waste to the island’s power grid, and one month remained until hurricane season returned. A reliable estimate placed the death toll at 4,600; 11,000 still reportedly lacked electricity. Residents were showering with pots and plastic cups. In Manhattan, a federal judge was trying to mediate between the various hedge funds that held billions of dollars of the island’s debt. Every so often the MIT-educated governor went on television to extol the virtues of austerity. In San Juan, the recovery had been notably uneven. Brand-new shopping centers abutted hotels that looked arsonized; tra∞c lights stared dead-eyed into the street; FEMA was shuttling relief supplies from the waterfront to staging areas. Inside Cocktails and Compliance, however, the atmosphere resembled the aftermath not of a natural disaster but of a corporate convention, with people who usually saw one
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another in the daytime gradually succumbing to alcohol and dim lighting. From the valet station, guests had entered a red-carpeted freight elevator, where bartenders poured them sangria. There were reasons to raise a toast. In 2012, Puerto Rico had passed two laws intended to make the island a “global investment destination.” Act 20 allows corporations that export services from the island to pay only 4 percent tax. Act 22 goes much further: It makes Puerto Rico the only place on U.S. soil where personal income, capital gains, interest, and dividends are untaxed. In order to qualify for Act 22, individuals must prove to the IRS that they have become bona ﬁde residents of Puerto Rico, without “close contacts” on the mainland. (Most native Puerto Ricans are not eligible for the exemption.) At the party, I heard about a man who had lost his tax-free status because the IRS smoked out a wife back in Dallas. I asked Gold, 63, whether his wife had moved along with him. “Now, this is where the colorful-character shit comes in,” he said. “My third wife, she’s 25. She was in college. I told her, ‘Babe, you gotta go to college in Puerto Rico, I’m really sorry. We have this opportunity that I cannot pass up. You can stay if you want, but if you stay, we gotta get divorced.’ ” Though the law requires him to spend at least 183 days a year on the island, Gold claimed he spends closer to 250. “Soy boricua,” he said proudly—I am Puerto Rican. who have relocated are not quite Forbes-list billionaires, who have access to more complex tax strategies than leaving town; they belong to the middle class of the ultra-rich. They are new-money people who might not have their congressman’s cell-phone number back home but THE MAINLANDERS
From left, restaurateur Vittorio Assaf, investor Robb Rill, and leftist politician Rafael Bernabe.
who wield inﬂuence here in Puerto Rico. “Back in the States, I’m just one of 300 million voters,” James Slazas, a hedge-fund quant, told me at the party. “Here I’ve already met a lot of the key players.” Seated nearby was Harry Dent, the best-selling ﬁnance writer, who established residency in Puerto Rico two years ago. Dent’s latest book, Zero Hour, foresees an imminent “economic winter season” that will eclipse the Great Recession, due in part to the shortage of consumers occasioned by the bottoming out of the birth rate in 1973. (The happy prospect of the boomer generation hurtling toward decrepitude makes him bullish on the health care sector, however.) Puerto Rico appealed to him because it was cheaper than Miami and o≠ered excellent small airports. He also got to keep his American citizenship, though he had to give up his right to vote for president. This last bit didn’t worry Dent in the slightest. “I could give a ﬂying fuck,” he said. “We’ve got a civil war going on. Red versus blue. We’ve got 4 percent unemployment, and I feel safer being here than in Miami or New York. The world’s going to shit, and that doesn’t mean Puerto Rico won’t go down further. But they are already way down. Our bubble hasn’t even burst yet.” Behind him waiters circulated silver trays of golden phyllo ﬂorets. A giant artwork on the wall showed a slave on a tobacco plantation, emerging from a background of gold leaf. A little after eight o’clock, a tax consultant named David Marshall Nissman strode to the front of the room, where a lectern had been set up. Nissman used to be the U.S. attorney for the Virgin Islands. Today, he helps wealthy clients parry audits, which tax exiles regard with abject terror. To comply with Act 22, Nissman said, it all came down to what everyone called “making days.” If you spent fewer than 183 days a year on the island, the feds could recoup all the taxes you hadn’t been paying. The good news was that there were a lot of ways to obey the letter, if not the spirit, of the law. There was the “one minute” rule: A single minute on the island counts as a full day, as far as the IRS is concerned. You can touch down your Learjet, get a receipt at the airport Starbucks, then continue on to the Virgin Islands for dinner.
The local government could be accommodating as well: In 2017 all Puerto Rican tax exiles got a 117-day “award” due to Maria. A Puerto Rican–born lawyer specializing in Act 22 compliance, who asked for anonymity to speak about his work, told me that he no longer represents clients seeking to relocate because “people were taking advantage.” He described a prospective Act 22 recipient saying, “ ‘I’ll take my private jet and ﬂy down; then I’ll take my boat and go somewhere else. They won’t know.’ ” As Nissman warned against exactly such behavior, a slim man in a black blazer and jeans sat nearby with his hands folded in his lap. Robb Rill was the host of Cocktails and Compliance and the glue at the center of the tax-exile community. During the party, he observed his guests like an anxious football coach hoping a rowdy busful of athletes will refrain from mooning the highway. And that was at the beginning, while people were mostly sober. The open bar kept serving during dinner and through the lectures. Neckties loosened. In the middle of my interview with Mark Gold, Rill stopped by our table to caution him, “Once it’s in print, it’s in print.” This warning, of course, made it inevitable that Gold would demonstrate its wisdom. During a presentation on the Trump tax plan, Gold shot up his hand: “Is it true that we can now write o≠ the purchase of a jet in one year?” “No, no,” said Rill, almost inaudibly. But it was futile. All the pent-up energy in the room, stiﬂed by the minutiae of the SALT deduction and the income-sourcing rule, unwound itself into cheering and applause. “That is exactly the image,” said Rill, “that we are not trying to portray.”
in Florida and made his money in private equity. In 2011 he and his wife, then a securities trader, went looking for tax havens. At ﬁrst they settled on the Virgin Islands, selecting a house on the edge
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ROBB RILL GREW UP
DURING A PRESENTATION ON THE TRUMP TAX PLAN, ONE AUDIENCE MEMBER SHOT UP HIS HAND:
“IS IT TRUE THAT WE CAN NOW WRITE OFF THE PURCHASE OF A JET?” of a cli≠. The house turned out to be a metaphor: Immediately after they found it, a dispute with a local o∞cial blew up their plan. A Google search led them to Puerto Rico and Act 22, and by 2013 they were here. Rill invited me to his o∞ce for a “healthy yet delicious meal,” and I parked on a bright afternoon at an o∞ce building behind a Starbucks. Rill is 47 but looks younger, with his hair pulled back in a bun and a goatee framing a pale, tapered face. “I was one of the ﬁrst ten people to actually move under Act 22,” he said, taking his seat in a red-walled conference room. “There was literally nobody here.” His accountant, Jorge Kuilan, sat to his left, wearing a paisley shirt and a cryptic smile. Rill wanted to convince me that the acts were an economic boon to the island. The “tax hacks”—as he called them—created jobs for Puerto Ricans, like Kuilan. (The acts together have created 12,000 new jobs, according to the government, out of a total workforce of 1.1 million.) Rill’s 20/22 Act Society, the organization that hosts Cocktails and Compliance, also funded relief work after Maria. On weekends, he rescued street dogs; he had opened a shelter for them, on an old farm several miles outside the city. “We’re trying to break the stereotype,” he said, of “a bunch of rich guys ﬂying in on their private planes, helicoptering into their private walled resort.”
As he spoke, his personal chef entered the conference room. She was carrying plates of branzino, lentils, zucchini, and mushrooms, prepared—Rill explained—according to the principles espoused in a dietary manual called How Not to Die. Page 135 counsels the reader to drink hibiscus tea; Rill sipped a crimsony liquid from his thermos. “This may all be ridiculous,” he said, “but if it’s true, I’ll be healthy forever. It’s an asymmetric trade, the kind of trade I like.” As a rule, tax hackers in Puerto Rico live in one of two neighborhoods. Single people favor the beachfront in Condado, which has easy access to hotel bars and nightclubs. Married people like the Rills prefer Dorado Beach, where the Ritz-Carlton runs a hotel and residential enclave. In Dorado, the couple bought two units and combined them. “I’m told I have the largest condo on the island,” Rill said. “I’m in 8,000 square feet.” (The acts used to require that mainlanders buy property, but like most of their requirements—including a stipulation to employ ﬁve local residents—it was erased by subsequent revisions meant to entice more wealthy people to relocate.) Rill was emphasizing his footprint because it demonstrated his investment in the island; no “close contacts” on the mainland for him. “Some people I know have tried to play fun and games,” he said. “We don’t want the schemers here.” Rill assured me that I would ﬁnd more people like him. I did ﬁnd a few. Lauren Cascio, 30, moved to the island six years ago. There were incentives here she didn’t have elsewhere, like a tax credit for manufacturing and the ability to hire from an incubator for Puerto Rican– born engineers. She’s raised her two children here while starting a company, Abartys Health, which sells data-management software and employs ten local engineers. “Everyone I employ is Puerto Rican,” she said. “I live a Puerto Rican life. I’m not ‘making days.’ ” I asked whether she believed everyone should have to hire locals in order to get the exemption. (continued on page 128)
From left, the devastation caused by Maria, which made landfall in September 2017; the Ritz-Carlton in Dorado Beach, set to reopen on October 1.
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How To Be
Healthier We all go to the gym. So why not treat our minds like temples, too?
A MAN’S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGICAL FITNESS
I L L U S T R AT I O N S B Y M A X L Ö F F L E R
Signs That Your Head Might Be Hurting
You may have accepted these common symptoms as just part of life. But even if they don’t require professional help, they might be worth attending to Stuff We’ve All Experienced
CAN’T GET OUT OF BED
T H E R E WA S A S I M P L E experience I had as a boy—one most boys probably have—that does a lot to explain the trouble American men have with talking about and understanding their feelings. Somewhere along the way, another kid in my class, let’s call him Timmy, made it very clear that no matter what my progressive teachers said, our playground abided by the guy code—a law so fundamental it deined not just the social hierarchy but the fabric of the universe. Timmy did all that with a simple turn of phrase after he took the ball from me: “What, you gonna cry?” Forget that I was actually better at football than Timmy. Forget that he’s now a functioning member of society. None of that matters. The message that goes right to the lizard brain and stays there, wreaking havoc in all sorts of ways, is that emotions, especially ones that might be perceived as weakness, are not welcome in public. Is that why 75 percent of suicides are men? Or why men overdose on opioids twice as often as women do? Not directly, of course. There are other factors at play in those stats; you’d have to trace back through the maze of contradictions that we call masculinity. But it does help explain why men struggle to realize that mental health is actually something to care about. Something to be actively maintained. We all know the basics of keeping our bodies intact. So why is it that we have no clue about how to take care of our brains? We wanted better answers: not big theories but real advice from the experts on how to improve things in our heads on a daily basis. Turns out there’s a lot we can do.— B E N J Y H A N S E N - B U N D Y
AVOIDING SEEING FRIENDS
Depression or anxiety
Probably anxiety—also could be PTSD
Attention deficit disorder
CAN’T GET OFF THE PHONE WANT TO BANG HEAD AGAINST WALL
Why Is It Still So Hard for Men to Talk About Mental Health?
If It Persists, It Might Be...
Could be nothing—or a clinical addiction
A Short Guide to Fighting the Winter Blues
Building blocks for mental health from Norman Rosenthal, M.D., author of Winter Blues and the guy who discovered seasonal affective disorder
There is a world that doesn’t rise to the level of major depression—what we call the spectrum of subsyndromal depression. Low energy. Just getting out of bed in the morning and not really hitting your stride. Dragging around during the day. This can leak over into the cognitive area, where your thinking isn’t as eicient and efective as it normally is. Things aren’t lowing. You have a vague sense that you’re not at your best. You just aren’t 100 percent. Maybe you’re at 85 percent. For those of us functioning at a very high level, a loss of 15 percent is very substantial. The question is, what are the things you can do to make it better? I made a list for myself of positive habits. First: Get enough sleep. Start
of the day with good food—avoid highimpact carbs and animal fats. Exercise. Very important. Meditate. It adds the extra dimension of exercising not just the sympathetic nervous system but also the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that relaxes us and makes us feel good. Build relationships with supportive people, people you can turn to. Find meaning in your life: It is diicult to grind away at a job in which you don’t have a purpose. Give back. That’s another way of inding a meaning. It makes you feel good. Like “Wow, I made somebody’s day better today.” Lastly, of course, traveling to sunny places in the wintertime is always nice.
How I Broke Through the Stigma of Seeing a Shrink I T ’ S H A R D TO T E L L your parents you’re in therapy. It’s especially hard if your parents are Chinese immigrants. When I mentioned to my mother I’d started seeing a therapist, she looked at me skeptically, then deadpanned, “You know we don’t believe in that.” It didn’t matter that by my late 20s I was so depressed I had all but stopped sleeping. As a rule, my family doesn’t discuss matters of mental health; it’s not a lack of caring or compassion but a protective logic to think of emotions as things to be repressed—no one can hurt your feelings if you don’t have any! I got where it came from. Their parenting tactics were inﬂuenced by a Confucian upbringing and the ﬁerce survivalism cultivated by living through the Cultural Revolution before escaping to the U.S. But it’s not just Chinese immigrants. Studies have found that Asian-
Americans are three times less likely than white Americans to seek out professional psychological care. Some of that has to do with language barriers and access to mentalhealth resources. But according to Xiaojue Hu, a psychiatrist at N.Y.U. Langone Health who regularly treats Asian-American patients, “Culture deﬁnitely plays a big role.” She explains, “Asian parents tend to be authoritarian in how they raise children—ﬁlial piety, do this, do that. Your feelings get invalidated in that kind of upbringing.” The irony didn’t escape me: The cultural stigma that keeps Asian-Americans from seeing a therapist is often the very reason they should be seeing one. Thankfully, a therapist likely has good advice about how to talk to your parents about your therapy. Mine suggested that I download a chart of emotions arranged in a
YES, YOU CAN HACK YOUR BRAIN “Our brains are continuously being hacked— by the media, by everything around us. At the end of the day, write down three good things that happened to you, calling attention to positive features that tend to fly under the radar.”—Richard Davidson, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Healthy Minds
color wheel. At ﬁrst, it felt a little dumb, childish even, looking at a picture on my phone every few hours and asking myself how I felt. But as I practiced identifying my feelings—often somewhere between helpless and confused—I realized getting in touch with them could be more direct than I ever imagined. And maybe that would work on my parents, too. On a trip home for the holidays, I took a walk with Ma, and while she recounted the latest political intrigue sweeping through her choir group, I just told her exactly how I felt: “It makes me feel hurt and sad when you ignore the fact that I’m in therapy.” I blurted it out. We stopped in the middle of the path, staring at the ground. Ma quietly said, “I understand,” and we continued on, back to safer, non-emotional dramas. But I was overwhelmed by feelings of agency and validation. My parents, like all parents, just want the best for me. But at a certain point, you know what’s best for you, and I knew I needed to talk to someone about my mental health. Fittingly, it took therapy for me to explain that to them.— W E I T C H O U
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How to Take a Real MentalHealth Day
The NBA is leading the way on mental-health awareness for athletes. Case in point: The National Basketball Players Association made William Parham, Ph.D., the first-ever director of mental health and wellness. Here’s what he’s up against
Americans are terrible at taking mental-health days. We are great, however, at thinking up excuses for not taking mental-health days. You want to be reliable. You don’t want your boss to think you’re a head case. You don’t want to be seen as weak. One recent survey suggested that employees who receive paid time of used just over half of their allotted days —it was estimated that 705 million vacation days went unused. Even though many companies ofer “personal days” along with vacation and sick days, employers are not required to give workers mental-health days. They should be: Taking a day of to decompress can ease stress, halt burnout, and increase productivity and creativity. GQ prescribes one per iscal quarter. Here’s how to make the most of yours. TAKE IT MIDWEEK Taking a midweek personal day will give you time to put your afairs in order so you can fully enjoy your furlough, and it will feel more restorative than tacking on another day to your holiday trip. USE YOUR DAY AS A REWARD, NOT A BREAK If you take a mental-health day when you’re at peak stress—say, in the middle of a project—you’ll spend the day angsting about all the work you have left to do when you come back. Wait until you can sink into your couch, untroubled by anxieties. WAKE UP WHEN YOU USUALLY DO Sleep is for weekends. Wake up when you’d usually get up for work and do all the things you don’t usually have time for in the morning. Make French toast, exercise, or read one of the New Yorkers you’ve been hoarding for when you “have time.” LEAVE THE HOUSE This is management-sanctioned hooky, so make it Ferris Bueller– special. Go out into the world and wander the vacant streets. Go to the ice cream place where the line is usually too long. Go to a matinee and enjoy a silent theater.
7 ...And what to do if you have a panic attack, according to David H. Rosmarin, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Anxiety and assistant professor at Harvard
Everyone Has Baggage, Even Pro Ballers F O R M E , there are only two questions on the table: How many pieces of baggage do you have? And what’s packed inside? In a society, men, speciically, pack it in. “Be tough, be strong. Don’t emote.” And when you add the dimension of celebrity, that’s even more incentive to keep things packed in. Because you don’t want to show vulnerability. There’s a perceived weakness in your game. And then when you put on a layer of race and ethnicity and all those other sociopolitical factors, you really have the incentive to keep it down and manage it. Given that, it’s even more phenomenal that men in the NBA are playing at the consistent level that they are. What you’re really looking at is untapped genius. There’s even more that can come out of each of them.
How Much Anxiety Is Normal? EVERYONE GETS ANXIOUS— BUT THERE’S A LIMIT TO WHAT ONE PERSON CAN TAKE If anxiety is causing a person signiicant stress or getting in the way of their functioning, then we recommend that they get some help. It really is that simple. One in ive Americans in every given year has a full-blown anxiety disorder. STIGMA IS THE NUMBER ONE BARRIER TO GETTING HELP People feel embarrassed that they have the anxiety, and then they don’t want to deal with it. And then they don’t deal with it, and it gets worse. And eventually they get depressed. Then they don’t have the energy to deal with it. REDUCE ANXIETY BY EMBRACING THE WORST If somebody worries a lot, we schedule “worry time” for two minutes once or twice a day. Worry to the max. In their mind, they have to fully embrace the possibility that they’re afraid of. Yes, you
might get cancer. Then you’ll be alone in a hospital room. No one will come visit you. You’ll lose your money. It’s not fun to think about! But the more willingly we accept our lack of control, the better of we are in terms of anxiety. It doesn’t take a lot. We’re not talking about therapy for a year. THERE IS ONE WAY OUT OF A PANIC ATTACK A panic attack is fear of fear itself. People start by feeling physically uncomfortable. They feel their breathing being restricted or some muscle tension coming on and they interpret those symptoms as dangerous, which is a false interpretation. Their heart rate spikes. And then they have more to interpret as dangerous. That’s the cycle of panic. It happens in a manner of minutes. So what we encourage people to do if they’re having a panic attack is: Don’t ight it. Just let it ride. Accept it. Let the panic wash over you. It’s very, very hard to do. You see why you need a therapist.
8 You’ve written that social media is structurally humiliating, that the user is subordinate to third-party advertisers. The strange thing about social media as we know it is that what you experience is that you’re connecting with other people. But the underlying reality is that there’s some third person whom you’re not connecting to who’s paying for the whole thing, and that person isn’t paying to connect with you but to modify you. That’s really weird. People might not realize that’s the setup, even after using the platform. But what they do feel is this creeping unhappiness. For most people most of the time, using social media has a negative e≠ect, where they start to feel various negativities in their life that they don’t feel when they get o≠ it. Those can include: general dysphoria, inability to be happy, social anxiety, irritability. By the way, those are the same emotional issues that come up with people who have other types of addictions.
Get Your Head Out of the SocialMedia Vise Jaron Lanier, author of Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, on why Instagram, et al., are bad for mental health
It can bring out your inner troll as well. There’s this general feeling of the whole world getting darker and the online world being sort of ﬁlled with horrible people. I just don’t buy that. I think what it is is when you put normal people in this setting, it brings out the worst in them. I can give you one interesting example. We’ve certainly seen the worst in Donald Trump being brought out, but think of Elon Musk. Here’s this guy who runs this big company and he’s accomplished all this stu≠, and suddenly he’s falsely accusing somebody who’s rescuing kids trapped in a cave of being a pedophile for no reason at all. That’s not him talking— that’s his Twitter addiction talking. That’s an example of someone who’s having the worst brought out of them. I just don’t think he would have gone there if it weren’t for his addiction. I just don’t think that’s who he is. Is it possible to use social media without feeling like shit? Not the current generation.
That’s what the technology does. That’s like asking, is it possible to use heroin well or be a healthy gambler or cigarette smoker? Let’s take cigarettes: You know they’re bad for you, but if you have a few every now and then, it’s not so terrible, right? There are always some people who smoke cigarettes who don’t su≠er health e≠ects. It’s just statistical distribution. I’d prefer to never have to judge someone else and say, “You shouldn’t do this,” because I want to live in a society where we leave each other alone. It’s just that once in a while there’s something that’s really causing mass destruction and it demands that we speak out, and this is one of those things. Public cigarette smoking is incredibly rare and mostly illegal, but it used to be incredibly common. There were people who couldn’t imagine that transition could happen. It’s just one of those things where ﬁnally there was enough reasonable argument that, like, look, this is stupid.
LOAD-SHED YOUR STRESS Being stressed out simply means that the demands you face—emotional, professional, etc.—are greater than your resources, greater than your energy. Reduce those demands by delegating tasks or by taking them off your plate altogether. Bolster your resources by taking a walk and getting an overpriced coffee.
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How to Silence Your Inner Critic Everyone deals with that voice. You can’t eradicate it. But you can keep it in check with these techniques pioneered by Phil Stutz, M.D., psychiatrist and co-author of The Tools
MAKE THAT NEGATIVE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD SHUT THE HELL UP You start out judging somebody else. But eventually the judgment is going to turn back around, and it’s going to attack you. It’s like a beast in the basement that we don’t want to allow to come out. “Radical acceptance” is the antidote to judgment. Imagine you’re suring. You can’t possibly know the size, shape, or speed of the next wave. When that wave does reach you, you want to react to it as if it’s perfect. You’re delighted. In other words, after something happens, you have the ability to relate to it as if it’s exactly what you wanted. Then it doesn’t matter what happens.
9 KICK-START YOURSELF BEFORE MAKING A BIG DECISION Our whole culture is looking for magic. A job, a degree, a girlfriend that will take you to a better place. If you’re trying to make a big decision, irst put yourself in motion. That’s “dynamic evaluation.” Sitting there, holding your dick, trying to igure it out, is a disaster. If you make a decision when you’re depressed, you get it wrong because you’re looking for the decision to change you. That’s not how life works. Change yourself irst, then decide. Someone asked Picasso “Is there such a thing as inspiration?” and he said, “Yeah, but when God comes down, he better ind you at work.”
PUSH THAT “B” DAY INTO “A–” TERRITORY When you’re exhausted, your physical body becomes an obstacle. The less energy you have, the less you’re going to engage in the world. Visualize 12 suns in a circle maybe ten feet above your head. Even if you don’t believe it, just do it anyway. Past those 12 suns is a world where nothing is missing. It’s an entranceway into a realm of ininite energy. Say “Help” to these 12 suns. They’ll start to spin counterclockwise, creating a vortex that will suck you up. The size of your body will change— you’ll expand, and the bigger you get, the more energy you’ll have.
Each Marriage Has Its Own Mental Health M A R R I AG E I S A mental-health crisis. A whole country of people are walking around in a mental state they don’t totally understand, with a whole bunch of symptoms they don’t know how to treat. It’s like everyone having diabetes (of the mind) without knowing it. Because they don’t really tell you when you’re growing up about being married. You couldn’t have understood, anyway. You exchange the rings and have kids and you’re 40 and you ﬁnd yourself in a foreign land and think to yourself: Oh, so this is what marriage is. You may love it there in marriageland, but as with boarding a bus for which the destination is written in Turkish, you probably didn’t have any idea where you were going. You just pull into the bus station and think: Ah, so now I am in Gaziantep. (Gaziantep being a Turkish city and also a metaphor for marriage.) And the strange thing about Gaziantep is that the only other person who lives there is your husband/wife. Which is mostly great. Because they’re your favorite person. But you can also get lost in this city, and the only person you can ask directions from is your spouse. And giving you perspective in your own marriage isn’t really your partner’s job. That’s why everyone should see a couples counselor. Even if you haven’t yet opened your spouse’s computer to check the weather and discovered an extensive e-mail chain negotiating the price of your murder.
11 How to Help a Friend in a Crisis Tips from Nancy Lublin, founder and CEO of Crisis Text Line, which handles 4,000 text-based crises a day
YOU’RE NOT A THERAPIST Don’t worry about having the solution. Concentrate on just being a friend. “It might not be ‘Okay, here’s how I’m gonna get out of debt and stop cheating on my wife,’ ” says Lublin. “Those big things, you’re not gonna solve in ten minutes. Come up with a baby step.”
Why? First of all, therapists have so many tricks to get you out of the patterns we all inevitably fall into. Here’s an example: Repeat back to your spouse what they just said—an exercise that not only makes that person feel understood but, when you have the words in your own mouth, actually gives you a tremendous sense of compassion for whatever cockamamy shit your spouse was trying to tell you. (Maybe not so cockamamy!) But the tricks are secondary. What’s vitally important about the experience is twofold. First, getting comfortable with the fact that your shit will never be worked out. Talk about a mental-health imperative: Getting people to understand that you can’t be ﬁxed, that your spouse can’t, and that your
relationship can’t, should be an initiative undertaken by the National Institute of Mental Health. You’re never going to ﬁnally and deﬁnitively beat into the head of your spouse that one point that you’re sure will solve everything. Because she’s she and you’re you. I once interviewed the great Hollywood nuptial sage Je≠ Bridges, and he told me that there is really only one ﬁght in a marriage, and that’s: Why don’t you truly understand what it is to be me? And no one will ever really get that. So yeah, forget it. Which brings us to the second thing. The point isn’t solving your problems—it’s connection. In my experience, you walk out of that o∞ce and you’re connected, which is a salve for everything, a source of beauty, and why you’re in Gaziantep in the ﬁrst place.— D E V I N F R I E D M A N
QUIT BEING YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY Yes, a few drinks at the end of the day might take the edge off. But the next morning, even if you’re not full-on hungover, you’re slightly less sharp. Same goes with staying up all night to work or bingeing on junk food. You’ll always have to pay interest on all forms of short-term relief.
DON’T TRY TO MITIGATE THE PAIN Your instinct when a friend comes to you is going to be to highlight all the reasons their life is great. Don’t do that. “You have no idea what the battle is that they’re ighting in their head,” says Lublin. “The irst thing you’ve got to do is just validate it.” KNOW THE PROPER TERMINOLOGY Gathering data from millions of texts, CTL has learned certain words are more efective in de-escalating than others. Tell them they’re smart, brave, or impressive. Don’t ask “Why do you feel this way?” which sounds accusatory. Instead ask “When did you start feeling this way?” LEAN INTO THE DISCOMFORT Approach these situations with an expression of care and a direct question: I care about you. Are you thinking about harming yourself?
A Cure for the Common Rage Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger, on how to deal with anger and resentment
P E O P L E O F A L L di≠erent racial and ethnic backgrounds are being exposed to su≠ering inﬂicted by a deeply iniquitous economic system. People are working really hard and are still unable to have a modicum of stability, a sense of wellbeing, contentment. It’s all so rare, all so elusive. They’re struggling for poorly paid and precarious work with few protections, sometimes no health insurance, taking on huge amounts of debt, multiple jobs. This is placing unprecedented amounts of stress on everything that makes us human—growing up in a family, raising a child ourselves, sending our children to school, bringing them up in a relatively
13 How to Handle the Sunday Scaries
It’s not the most dire mentalhealth scenario, but it might be the most common: a Sunday hangover that becomes an existential crisis. MEDICATE With ibuprofen. HYDRATE Obviously. EAT Comfort food that doesn’t make you sick. Extra points for cooking—an accomplishment!
healthy environment. All these things have themselves become so di∞cult. That is underlying so much of the frustration, so much of the anger, that many people feel. Of course, that anger is di≠erently expressed. The alarming rates of depression, suicide, the recourse to drugs—the indicators of mental health are so dismal. The election of Trump is only one of the many symptoms of a kind of breakdown. If anger cannot ﬁnd any political direction whatsoever, people resort to various private means of elevating their state of frustration and anger. Some of this anger, let’s not forget, expresses as domestic violence.
EXERCISE In a limited fashion. Maybe just hit the sauna. SHOWER Another obvious one that people sometimes forget. SLEEP A nap is the best escape hatch out of any hangover. SMOKE WEED But only if weed relaxes you. Paranoia is bad! WATCH Something meaningful to quiet your aching spirit.
Any political action undertaken with anger or resentment as the dominant emotion is bound to fail. The challenge before any kind of progressive force is to convince large numbers of people who feel so disenchanted, so full of despair at the world they live in, that they’re keen to vote for people like Trump. There’s no way you can write o≠ those people. They have very signiﬁcant numbers. If you want to persuade them to vote for a di≠erent future for themselves and their children, then you need to set aside whatever anger and resentment you started out with and you need a di≠erent language and a di≠erent tone altogether. Once you have made an honest and accurate diagnosis of the problems we face today, the solutions suggest themselves. It is to move toward a society where human needs are emphasized over abstract economic growth, over the proﬁt imperative, over this imperative to constantly consume and to throw away things that you’ve owned and to buy new things. This kind of madness—which is also a kind of addiction, an escape from the central su≠ering of one’s life—has to be questioned and challenged. — A S TO L D TO B . H . B .
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The Minister for Loneliness Is In
A study in 2016 found that loneliness is a health risk. So we asked Tracey Crouch, the UK’s Minister for Loneliness, what’s happening and how to make people feel less alone
Why are people lonelier now more than ever? It isn’t necessarily that people are more lonely now than ever before—it’s just that we’re talking about it. And I think that we are in the loneliness debate where we were in the mentalhealth debate ten years ago. What was the impetus for tackling this now? Over 65 years old, yes, people may feel lonely, but it is 16- to 24-year-olds who are feeling it more acutely. They are the most digitally connected. Young professionals are moving from around the country into London for their dream job. They work incredibly hard, they love their job. But when they leave work, despite the fact that they’re in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, they feel acutely alone. Virtual connectivity is no replacement for real connectivity. We know from research studies that we’ve done that the impact of loneliness on your health is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. What can people do to feel less lonely? What I ind difficult from a men’s-loneliness perspective is there’s quite often the assumption that you can say to a guy: Just go and join a football club. That’s what guys do. Actually, quite a lot of guys don’t like sport. There are lots of network opportunities for women, both digital and otherwise. For men in the older generation, we have a brilliant example: Men’s Sheds [editor’s note: places for men to hang out and make stuff]. It does end up being targeted at people of retirement age, though.
Quick Solutions to Everyday Office Sturm und Drang You know that moment at 4 p.m., when your blood sugar is crashing and the walls of your cubicle start closing in? We asked everyone at the GQ offices for their unscientific yet highly effective techniques for getting out of a low-level corporate brain funk
Climb the stairs in your building for no reason other than to get your blood flowing.
Find an empty room, lie on the loor, collect your thoughts, think about dinner.
PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE AND TAKE A 15-MINUTE WALK. RECALL THAT THE WORLD OUTSIDE YOUR HEAD EXISTS.
Learn a breathing exercise—in the nose, out the mouth—and get high on oxygen.
Try a session on the meditation app Headspace. It takes like three minutes.
REMEMBER: THE WORLD ISN’T FAIR! If someone wrongs you, obsessing over it only gives them more power. Even worse, it wastes time. Letting go might seem like capitulation, but it actually returns the power to you. You get back all the time that would’ve been wasted. Use it elsewhere.
The Promising Future of Ancient Drugs Novelist Reif Larsen in conversation with Konrad Ryushin Marchaj, former abbot of the Zen Mountain Monastery, who is now studying shamanism and the healing power of ayahuasca
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REIF LARSEN: We are living in a cultural moment of psychedelic exploration, where Silicon Valley executives are attending exclusive ayahuasca ceremonies and drug-aided introspection is an experiential commodity. What’s behind the resurgent interest? KONRAD RYUSHIN MARCHAJ: In my mind, the most immediate and concrete reason is the availability of solid scientiﬁc data. There is evidence that psychedelics can be used in treatment of various mental and emotional illnesses—PTSD, depression, addiction, obsessivecompulsive disorder. Then there is research into the spiritual beneﬁts of these medicines, generating interest with the general public while adding respectability and assuring safety.
RL: And yet the method of taking
ayahuasca remains...unsavory? KRM: Essentially, you drink a pretty nasty-tasting brew. RL: Is there a process to ﬁnding a reliable and talented shaman? KRM: I am starting to push the notion that there are no shamans in the West—not in the same way they appeared and functioned in indigenous cultures around the world. In the West, we have mediators, facilitators, psychonautic psychotherapists, all prepared to gain status from ministering to others. And cash, of course. The best way to ﬁnd a guide is still word of mouth through people you trust. Even then, like with therapists, the guide should be checked out, tested, observed. They should have no problem with that, if they have integrity. RL: Is there any concern about losing your mind? KRM: Not to be clever, but the whole point is to lose your mind. The concern is about ﬁnding your way
BE NICE, FEEL BETTER It’s counter-intuitive, but you actually have to focus on another person—any person on the sidewalk will do. In your mind, silently, wish them happiness and relief from suffering. That’s it. Now try the next person who passes by. And the next. Feel that warmth? It’s corny, but it works.
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back and keeping some continuity with the experienced enlargement or revelation. It is like point A and point B are connected through thousands of pathways. Normally, in our pedestrian mode, we use three or four of these pathways. Plants work rapidly (meditation works much more slowly) to release the other pathways. Yes, this can be scary, but it shows us how we censor and restrict the richness of reality. If you accept the cascading down rapids, all is cool. If you try to drop more and more anchors, that action itself is fear-generating. RL: But can ayahuasca actually relieve su≠ering and bring clarity? KRM: Nothing relieves su≠ering other than permanently releasing our confused state of self-clinging. Nonsu≠ering is the underlying condition. Ayahuasca can precipitate ego-less experiences by taking the patterns of conventional self-organization o≠-line. These can be overpowering and deeply moving, clarifying in terms of presenting another way of being—or non-being, as the case may be. A glimpse of clarity may appear. RL: I think many see psychedelics as an e∞cient tool? Like a phone app? KRM: We have really perfected the narcissistic orientation of the individual. Very few people have the internal resources to take deep, supervised dives into the nether regions of the psyche. The motivation is more opportunistic—not dissimilar from how Buddhist meditation in the West became a mindfulness project. We are amazingly proﬁcient at commodiﬁcation. Yet even as we think we are using the plants in a deliberate fashion, steering their interactions toward speciﬁc destinations, we are being a≠ected in ways that are not visible to us. The plants make you feel larger connective frameworks. They allow you to experience your sense of self as more communally connected, less solitary. The hunger for that is insatiable these days. For a depressed person who is collapsed on a narrow looping of the mind, psychedelics release the constraints. For a couple stuck in patterns of repetition, it allows for defenses to drop and a new vocabulary of feeling and touch to appear. For organizations, it introduces communal creativity. In a way, the plants are bringing true connectivity back online.
In the winter of 2011, my wife, Isabel*, discovered a lump in her right breast. Her irst reaction was to rage about how long she’d spent in the waiting room before seeing the doctor. Mine was to punch the wall. Our daughter, Georgia, was then 5 years old and our son, Leo, almost 4. We wanted to protect them—not only from whatever was going to happen but also from our fear and anxiety about it. But how could we promise them that everything was going to be all right when we didn’t know that ourselves? The irst weeks after Isabel’s diagnosis were illed with near daily appointments: blood work, bone scans, ultrasounds. Everything moved in unbearable slow motion. One night, after the kids had gone to sleep, I broke down in Isabel’s arms. She was the braver one, but I knew I couldn’t do this to her. When I was only a little older than Georgia, I had seen a child psychiatrist. I trusted him deeply, which mattered, because I needed his help immediately. I called him the next day. In our conversations, Dr. Bellow and I focused on Georgia and Leo and what they needed to feel safe. We talked about what Isabel and I needed, too: Like how when an airplane is in trouble, they
17 Your Kids Will Inherit Your Mental Health tell the parents to put oxygen masks on themselves irst. Georgia and Leo knew us like the ancient astronomers knew the night sky, and already they saw that something wasn’t right. Georgia wouldn’t allow me to read to her; she wanted her mother. Leo, who had been diaper-free for more than six months, began wetting the bed for the irst time in his life. Dr. Bellow said that kids had higher rates of depression and anxiety when their parents didn’t share a cancer diagnosis with them. “Kids are ininitely adaptable, and they will accept whatever happens as normal,” he said. “Answer their questions. Always tell them the truth. But don’t talk about the future until you get there.” Isabel and I convened a family meeting around our kitchen table one Saturday morning in late March, a week
before her irst round of chemo. We told them that Isabel had an illness called cancer. It wasn’t because of anything they’d done, of course, and none of us could catch it from her, like a cold. She would be getting medicine for it, and the treatment was going to take a few months. We didn’t tell them that Isabel was going to lose her hair or that she needed major surgery. We didn’t tell them that her illness was lifethreatening. Dr. Bellow had said that if the kids wanted to know more, they would ask. Did they have any questions? We braced ourselves. “Why are you telling us this?” Georgia asked with some irritation. She was already on her feet, edging toward the television. Leo said, “Can I have a yogurt?”
Over the next few weeks, they did ask questions, often thoughtful, probing ones. But neither of them ever asked the one we feared most: Is Mommy going to die? After her double mastectomy in October, Isabel was bedridden at home for more than a week, semiconscious and heavily medicated. The pain, she said, was “a hundred times worse than childbirth.” Tentacles of plastic tubing twisted out of her bandages, draining blood into plastic bulbs that we had to drain several times a day. To me it was like something out of a horror movie, but Georgia and Leo barely seemed to notice. They hugged her, and she pretended it didn’t hurt. Seven years later, Isabel has recovered, even if she has never quite regained the energy the chemo leached away. We both struggle to remember the events of that year. Until very recently, we’d never talked about them with Georgia and Leo. One day this past summer, Leo, who’s now 11, saw a photograph of Isabel during her illness. “Why doesn’t Mommy have any hair?” he wanted to know. We explained. He said, “Mommy had cancer?” — N AT H A N I E L P E N N
*Names have been changed .
Last Thing: Get Up 15 Minutes Early Give yourself unstructured time to move slowly in the morning. Beginning the day with a panicked rush to leave the house sets you up for more stressful reactions throughout the day. Also: Leaving 15 minutes early mitigates your chances of experiencing road rage. It’s science.
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He smiled again. He’d been joking, of “No,” he said, “but I did see a painting that
“Serious this time?” “Yes,” he said. There had been a special
Rick Owens, the American-born designer known to his fans as the Lord of Darkness. And he was dressed: like Rick Owens. Long black coat. Tall black boots. Long black hair. The slanting early-evening sun lit his face. I should mention it was uncommonly gorgeous in Paris that day. It was wintertime, but the day was a little telegram from spring. Light glinted o≠ golden domes. Giant clouds were letting big shafts of light through. Owens put on his sunglasses and looked out at everything, as if Paris were a farm he was glad he’d been wise enough to purchase. I should also mention that I’d been late to meet him, there at the Petit Palais, where he was going to show me his favorite paintings. Late enough that the museum guard wouldn’t let me in. (“But I need to meet up with a friend inside!” I told the guard. “Ohhhh”—he made a sad face—“ton ami!” ) I walked up to Owens already apologizing. But it seemed he’d forgotten our appointment entirely. He smiled sweetly, looking, if anything, slightly abashed to have been caught enjoying himself like that, in an unguardedly sunny way. I explained the whole catastrophe and he laughed. I remembered I’d brought a present for him, a red wooden fountain pen made by a company called Lamy. Owens is married to the famous art- and fashion-world ﬁgure Michèle Lamy—the couple have been at the heart of avant-garde Paris for more than a decade, ever since they arrived here from Los Angeles. I ﬁgured they’d both be delighted by the coincidence of the name. “Yeah,” he said, not smirking but sort of politely half smiling, “this is the ﬁrst thing that comes up when you type that name into Google.” He handed the pen back to me. He actually handed it back to me.
Dutch artists. “I saw this incredible ru≠,” he said. He pulled out his iPhone and showed me a portrait of a woman sitting and several close-ups of an extraordinary white garment she was wearing. A dress made of what appeared to be thousands of folds of white muslin, cinched in so tightly at the waist it appeared, at just that zone of her torso, to have become a corset. The dress exploded at the neckline into this ru≠, which had captivated Owens. “I’ve been doing a blob thing for a while now,” he said. “Bulges and blobs.” It was true. Many of his latest pieces seemed to have grown tumors. The clothes had swallowed their own fanny packs and wore them like deer lumps in a python. They were futuristic, but from a Rube Goldberg future where we had to turn absurd to survive. He zoomed in on the ru≠. Detail, revelatory, glorious. Its drapery was almost indi≠erent, scarf-like. It was sensual. “I want to take that and damage it,” Owens said. At that moment, three kids came running up the stairs, straight toward us. Two young women and a guy with short dreads. There were a lot of steps, so we watched them running for a while. The guy had a French accent but spoke idiomatic English: “Rick, man! Rick! Can we get a picture?” “Sure!” said Owens. It was as if he’d just bumped into an old friend. Somebody handed me a camera. The picture would be
better, the kids explained, if I were to take it. I took a few. The kids wore wide, bright smiles. “Thank you, Rick!” Then they ran o≠. “Should we go?” said Owens. He was looking o≠, down the steps. The black car that drives him around was suddenly parked there. It had pulled up closer than it seemed like cars could pull up, almost to the foot of the steps. There would have been something Batman about it even if Owens had not been dressed like an extremely hip androgynous Batman. We descended the steps together— he in boots and ﬂowing coat, I in my pants and whatever—and climbed into the car. People were watching. I wondered who they thought I was. His brother-in-law. Driving through Paris, crossing bridges, smoothly and quietly making sharp corners on narrow streets. How did he feel about the fame thing? Did it bother him that he couldn’t go out and walk around like a normal person anymore? “I don’t really have to deal with it,” he said. “I’m not that kind of famous.” “Really? But we’d been on the steps for, like, 30 seconds when those kids came running…” “Oh, well,” he said, “I guess that’s true. Okay, sure, when I’m out in the city, people every so often approach me and say nice, positive things. It’s not hard to live with.” His speech rhythms remain American and Californian. There’s even some dude in his voice—not surfer-skater, something more evenly toasted. He has never learned French beyond the tourist level, despite having lived in Paris for almost 20 years. He is up-front and undefensive about his bad French. “When we ﬁrst came to Paris,” he said, “it was immediately essential to have a team of people around me who could really communicate well. We couldn’t a≠ord for me to fuck up. So I had a bubble around me. And it’s been there.”
In a career spanning over 50 shows, these are some of Rick Owens’s most defining runway moments.
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Rick Owens’s wife and muse, Michèle Lamy.
“So why come to Paris at all?” I asked. “Is it that you have better resources here? More highly skilled people?” “No.” “Or for business reasons? The ‘fashion economy’?” “No,” he said. “It’s the poetry. There’s just a poetic weirdness to the fashion here that doesn’t exist anywhere else. There’s a sense of abstraction and almost Dada. There came a point where, to be the designer I wanted to be, I had to get smarter. And the stu≠ you see here is just on a di≠erent level. ” I stopped by Owens’s store in the Palais Royal, near the Louvre, and saw the eerily convincing waxwork of him that stands near the counter, staring impassively, wearing a macho skirt. Later, in his workshop, I asked Owens to try to remember the ﬁrst time he’d taken an interest in a piece of clothing. He closed his eyes for a second. “I wanted jeans when I was 12,” he said. “My mom bought me polyester jeans. I looked at them and thought, ‘These look di≠erent. Something’s wrong.’ ” “Did she not want you to have denim ones?” “She considered jeans trashy,” he said. I was eating his mother’s cookies. Concepción Owens—Connie—had ﬂown to Paris to visit her son and had airmailed hundreds of them to him before her arrival. (“If I didn’t make her ship them,” he said, “she would carry them in her suitcase.”) Owens’s father had met her in Mexico, where he’d taught English for a few years, and they had eventually settled down in Porterville, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. In Mexico, as a young woman, Connie had worked as a seamstress and learned how to cut patterns. She must be numbered among Owens’s ﬁrst fashion inﬂuences, although the transmission seems to have been indirect.
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THE NEXT DAY,
The cookies were great. I ate about 12. Owens ate none. He is healthy and looks as he enters his late 50s as if he were a decade younger. His hair has perhaps thinned slightly, but he keeps dyeing it coal black and wearing it long. He made a movie of this, of his selfdyeing process at the sink, and posted it on the web. It is beautiful. He’s a beautiful ghoul. His face is Cubist; it has planes. He is Spanishlooking, as in Galician or Catalan, but maybe I thought that only because his face is Cubist. He said he takes a 45-minute nap every day at about one in the afternoon. He won’t schedule ﬂights if they interfere with it. Owens describes growing up in Porterville as fairly stultifying. He underwent “the whole cycle of being raised in a very controlled way and reacting in my teens by going out of control. Alcohol and drugs. Very ﬂamboyant and extravagant.” And then he moved to Los Angeles, where things got full freaky. First he attended art school (Abstract Expressionist painting), then he went to trade school (sewing and patternmaking), then he took a job at some sort of sweatshop, making “cheap fashion knocko≠s.” Along the way, he transformed himself, and the city transformed him, into (in his own words) “a skinny white vodka-swilling goth.” It was in L.A. that he met a person who was destined to become, after his mother, the most important woman in his life, a creature as sui generis as he. I don’t know quite how to tell you who Michèle Lamy is. She’s an elf witch priestess. She’s an unacknowledged legislator in multiple cultural spheres. A$AP Rocky calls her his “fairy godmom” and creative mentor. She is scary and sexy and nice. She is married to Owens. Who is bisexual. I mean, he is Owens, but... Anyway, they are in love. That’s getting ahead of the story, though. The question of what happens when they are in bed together is one to which a person might respond, “God
Spring 2015 Spring 2016
only knows!” But God could never be tacky enough to peek and might not understand what He would see if He did. Lamy had moved from France to L.A. in the 1970s, and in 1996 she had opened a restaurant there, Les Deux Cafés, so named because it was made from two buildings joined together, a jazz club and a Craftsman house she’d had transported to the site. You entered through a back parking lot on a dingy stretch of North Las Palmas. The place became so hip it was credited by an L.A. city councilwoman with having brought ﬁlm and post-production studios back to Hollywood. Lamy danced there for her customers sometimes. When she was the right kind of drunk. When she felt like it. Was it there, at such a moment, that Owens ﬁrst saw her? He isn’t sure. Owens’s L.A. years were alcoholic and smeared. “I was a sloppy, bitchy drunk,” he said. “I was mean. I hate that. But I was.” There is much he can’t recall. It got to where he needed two shots of vodka to get out of bed in the morning. He woke up under a freeway overpass. There were three-day blackouts. He was more than once near death. He would often “lose the car.” He said, “You know, it’s funny, I still have dreams: ‘Oh fuck, I buried a body there...’ or ‘Oh, my God, I ran over somebody there...’ I mean, for all I know...” It wouldn’t be correct, I don’t think, to say that Lamy stabilized or “tamed” him when they got together. She had her own wildness. But she was less self-destructive and knew how to pull them both back from ledges. He’d never been in a real relationship before. “Put it this way,” he said, “I’ve never broken up with somebody else.” “Meaning you were never close enough to somebody that breaking up was necessary?” I asked. “Right,” he said. “Then, at a certain point, I felt like, ‘Someone is missing in my life.’ And somehow I had enough self-preservation in me to realize, ‘I need this.’ ” Before she became his wife, she was his boss. That’s what people don’t know about Lamy. The one thing she never talks about being is the thing she most was: a French
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fashion designer. In 1983 the Los Angeles Times reported that Patti Davis, daughter of Ronald Reagan, was wearing Lamy, including a T-shirt “with seams that show on the outside.” In 1987 she grossed $6 million in retail sales. It is strange that you can read about her for days and nights and never see this mentioned, that she used to do what Owens does now. That she gave him his ﬁrst real job as a designer. That she inﬂuenced his approach to design in a visible way. Owens didn’t tell me this, and I doubt he’d agree, but my sense is that in some subtle and complex way, they negotiated a shifting of power over the years. Possibly it was done without speaking. She waned so he could wax. No, not “waned.” She evolved. As did he. But if, as people used to say, behind every great man is a great woman, it’s also the case that great women will sometimes ﬁnd men to work through, to broadcast through. They moved in together, into a weird cluster of buildings across the street from Les Deux. Owens’s description of the decor was also the best description I’d ever encountered of his aesthetic sensibility. “It had age marks,” he said. “Paint peeling o≠, linoleum that looked like dark marble. Super-gorgeous curvy felt-covered couches. Big mirror. Long, beautiful gray wool curtains. They had a murkiness. In the bedroom there were these felted wool blankets hanging in the windows. There were gates in the back that led out to the alley. Hollywood Boulevard was really sketchy then. There was that outlaw vibe we both loved.” He made the place his studio. For some time the freakiest L.A. freaks danced through the rooms. Owens worked like a maniac every day, forging a style that was part dissolving luxury, part elegant sleeping bag. There had been punk-chic before, but these clothes freaked people out (they still freak me out)— and they were truly chic. Owens could make his models look like untouchable queens (he had not done a menswear line yet), then transform them, in as little time as it took to do a backstage outﬁt change, into damaged alien alley rats with vacant eyes and distended torsos. Critics had a hard time saying which was more seductive, the damage or the divinity. But to have a designer so authentically low—not European but
American, not New York but California, not L.A. but small-town, not diamonds and tans but tattoos and nose rings—go so high, so experimental? That was something new. One of his earliest designs, from 1994, was a nylon T-shirt that had a row of beads sewn into the fabric of the sleeves, such that the beads themselves were not visible, only the lumps they made. Wearing the shirt, you looked like you were sprouting an exoskeletal spine on each arm. Little move, much e≠ect. Emphatic, strange, skillful. And people noticed. Rock stars and movie stars started wanting to wear his gear. But it was all the opposite of overnight success. When he had his ﬁrst serious runway show, he was almost 40. That’s 140 in fashion years. When he won his ﬁrst big award, he told reporters he felt “like a vampire.” The energy in L.A. changed when Owens and Lamy got robbed at gunpoint one night. The robber ripped all of Lamy’s rings o≠ her ﬁngers. “And she wears a lot of rings,” Owens said. “We were never comfortable there again.” They moved the next day, into the Chateau Marmont, where they stayed for a year. “You must have seen crazy shit there,” I said. “I was the crazy shit,” Owens said. He got sick of drinking. He was among the genetically fortunate who wind up hating it more than they love it. He had always been using it, to get somewhere. When it stopped moving him forward, he switched channels, opting for something closer to straight-edge, still hedonistic but saying yes to life. To life and darkness. E V E N I N G O W E N S took me to the Owenscorp showroom in Le Marais, where the collection that he had just debuted at Paris Fashion Week was hanging. It was the ﬁrst time I’d been that close to fashion in the raw, examining choices as if they could still be undone. At ﬁrst I was mostly appreciating the colors, the palette, which Owens said came from a horror-movie poster: “It was a werewolf movie from the ’30s. I saw it on iTunes. It was a perfect blend of white with that orange and just the right amount of that blue.” Owens, in discussing this collection, had tended to talk it down some. “I’m very critical ONE
of this collection,” he’d said, “because there’s a suspicion in me that I phoned it in. I didn’t invent anything new. It was extending. I’m repeating myself, because I’m not that complicated.” I maybe knew what he meant. The collection was more subdued than some of his other work, but it also transmitted a deep, clear intelligence. Nothing was boring. Nothing seemed done indi≠erently. Above my head, on a large video screen, the runway show in which these pieces had ﬁrst been shown, days earlier, played on a loop, so I could turn my eyes up and see what these clothes looked like on human beings. That was the most impressive thing. The draping. Owens has long been revered among fashion aﬁcionados for his draping. It was one of the things he’d mentioned when I’d asked him why the ru≠ in the portrait at the Petit Palais: “The way it’s draped—it’s kind of Amish and kind of voluptuous.” Draping is about the body. The reason Owens is able to get away with the strange distortions and even deformities that mark his clothes is his underlying feel for the human shape, for how far is too far in a given design. When he goes too far, you know he meant it. I should mention: the way the employees’ faces lit up when we walked into the showroom! Rows and rows of them sitting at long black tables. Staring with rapture. Hunger. Pride. Also a kind of fear that made them glow. They were like instruments whose highest strings had just been plucked. I lost count of the number of people he introduced by saying, “She’s been with me since…” Often the person’s job had changed over the years. I met one woman who worked in sales, and Owens said, “She started o≠ modeling for us in L.A.” This was true of a surprising number of folks—that they had joined the team during the California days. After a few minutes, Owens announced that we were going to look at a new jacket he had made. A man named Giulio met us at the top of the stairs. He was slender, with long brown hair just touched by gray at the sides, and had a face of extraordinary beauty, ﬁneboned and feminine. “Giulio has been with me since 2001,” Owens said, “since I was just manufacturing, not doing shows.” We walked down a hallway, past a series of empty rooms. Natural light spilled in from small windows high above. We came to a space with a giant mirror. Giulio took a jacket out of a bag and held it as Owens slid into it, looking for a moment slightly vulnerable in the way men always do when somebody else is dressing them. The jacket was long—it seemed to elongate his torso, shorten his legs. Had there not been something perfect about it, a person might have thought it was cut “wrong.” As it was, it looked elegant. It had weird beauty. Partly I say “weird beauty” because those are my two favorite words to use together and
I said it had been gentle yelling. “I think about aggression a lot,” he said. “I’m always careful about it now. But I’m also conscious that sometimes you need to bark a little bit.” OWENS
evidently will be until I go to my grave. Partly I say it because Owens himself had done so, the day before. “I’ve always resisted rules based on bigotry or superstition or convention,” he’d said. “What I’m doing is I go, ‘I think this is weirdly beautiful, don’t you?’ Let’s think about other versions of beauty that aren’t so clichéd.” While Owens scrutinized his reﬂection, Giulio stood behind him taking phone pics of his back. He would take a couple, then hand the phone to Owens, showing him the one perspective on the jacket that Owens couldn’t get. Owens didn’t like it. The jacket, I mean. He was dissatisﬁed. He was making grumpy faces. “See this pucker under the armpit,” he said. I looked. I did see it. “They took away too much,” he said, “and not in the correct way.” He and Giulio started to reminisce about another tailor who had been better, who wouldn’t have made this mistake. Owens made Giulio try on the jacket. Giulio’s smile became sheepish but remained beautiful. “I like it better on you than on me,” Owens said. He looked down at Giulio’s boots. “Are these new? They look great.” Giulio gave a noncommittal answer, like he couldn’t remember when he’d bought them. “Some people have shoes from a few years ago,” Owens said. “I don’t like looking at them.” I asked if that happened often, that he would run into people wearing his clothes
and ﬁnd he didn’t like their style. “Every so often,” he said, “I’ll be at a party and get introduced to someone and think, ‘You’re wearing my greatest regret.’ ” Owens excused himself to preside over a sta≠ meeting. When it was done, and as everyone was going home for the day, Owens pulled aside one employee, the ﬁrst person I’d seen who wasn’t wearing Owens. Owens made introductions. Turned out the man was in charge of distribution in a major Asian country. Owens stepped forward as though to speak with him more privately, and I retreated back to a nearby bench. Owens changed his body language. He put his hands on the man’s shoulders the way men sometimes do when they want to assert power. “[Man’s name],” he said, in what sounded like a philosophically quizzical tone, “how come we’re not big in [major Asian country]?” It seemed clear to me and, I believe, to the man that what he’d meant was “Why the fuck is it that despite the large amount of money I pay you, my brand is not doing as well as it might be in [major Asian country]?” More muttering passed between them, not angry but stern. Owens removed his hands. “Thank you, Rick,” said the man. “You always have good words.” Then he quickly left. Owens sat back down. “That was me yelling,” he said.
“I catch myself thinking, ‘What do people want from me?’ I have to force myself to say, ‘No, what do I want?’ ” Later, when asked what kind of art is moving him lately: “Land art.” Asked why: “You see somebody reaching for something bigger, leaving their mark, and it looks heroic. But there’s this slight melancholy. Because those artists are dead.” When asked what he thinks about when he’s designing: “I’m thinking of my life. I’m thinking of the way I live. I’m thinking I want Brancusi to wear one of my dresses while he’s making a piece of art. I’m thinking of Brancusi. I’m thinking of Eisenstein drawings. I’m thinking, ‘I like the way that looks.’ ” Why, all those years ago, did Owens give up painting for fashion? “Clothes are about codes. That’s what fascinates me most.” Asked what goes through his mind when people see his freaky pre-collection runway shows and say, “But who would actually wear this?”: “I don’t know if I really mean it to be worn. The commercial stu≠ in the end is going to be what deﬁnes me. The runway shows are a fantasy. That’s me projecting. And the stu≠ that’s the furthest far-out gives value to everything else.” The instructions he gave to the AfricanAmerican albino male model who walked for him at New York’s Fashion Week in 2002, the year he won the Perry Ellis award for emerging talent: To walk extremely slowly and to wince with each step. On the inevitability of climate doom: “That’s ﬁne. Aren’t we supposed to turn into gas? We’re not going to last. Do we think we’re supposed to?” On the #MeToo movement: “Of course I stand with the women, and anything I say is going to be wrong, but...it has made me think, ‘Wait, I forgot, life is really crude, a lot of crude machinations, a lot of crude urges.’ People act like we’re more high-minded and sophisticated, and we’re kind of not. Do we think we’re entitled to live without misbehavior? There’s an element of malice that is part of the way things work.” (He’ll probably take shit for this online. I’m almost hesitant to quote it for that reason, and because I had baited him into giving an opinion in the ﬁrst place. I include it because it was the only thing I heard anyone say about #MeToo during those months that I’d never heard before.) The next thing he said: “I’m disturbed every time I look at The New York Times and see ‘[expletive].’ (continued on page 127)
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LET US NOW
Cohabitate STARRING MAYA RUDOLPH
& FRED ARMISEN
Peter Yang Michael Nash
Important Things Youâ€™ll Want to Know Before Moving in Together
LET US FIRST BE HONEST... LET US NOW
YOUR LIFE IS ABOUT TO
James Joyce once sneered at Jesus of Nazareth for having never lived with a woman because it was, in Joyce’s words, “one of the most difficult things a man has to do.” Now, that’s a prickish thing to say, but it’s also true, and women could say it about men, too: When you first move in together, it will be an inevitably bumpy transition out of full bachelorhood. (Trust me, it’s for the best.) Here are some things you should expect so you can surpass even the Son of God.—Drew Magary
Not living in a
Surprise: You’re essentially
YOUR ONLY PRIVACY
You shouldn’t be afraid to need
bachelor pad will be amazing
will now be in the bathroom
If you have to be asked to do a chore, YOU’VE
or to ask for it
I have no idea how I survived in such squalor. When I lived alone, there were clothes and boogers EVERYWHERE, and I thought that was good living! While sitcoms and beer ads like to take shots at scented candles and throw pillows and other accoutrements of young coupledom, it’s genuinely nice to live in a place that has fresh stocks of toilet paper and doesn’t smell like nightclub barf.
A lot of couples live together as a kind of pre-marital test, to see if they can handle living together before making everything official. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s already too late. This is it, baby. Even if you two end up HATING living together, what are you gonna do, move out? You’d still be on the hook for your lease. Better to spend the next 60 years wallowing in dysfunctional misery.
Especially in the early days, having a sex roommate can be exciting. But there will be new spatial and privacy considerations. For example: Once upon a time, masturbating in bed was very fun and relaxing. That doesn’t happen anymore. No, now when I have to do the deed, I secretly excuse myself to the toilet and get it over with as fast as I can. Where is the romance? I ask you.
There are dirty dishes in the sink, and you are supposed to inherently know they must be washed rather than having your lady friend harass you to do it. I can tell you that this kind of household ESP takes roughly, oh, I dunno, ten years to acquire. But as with any superpower, it’s worth it.
You are entitled, and encouraged, to carve out space for yourself to go exercise, or walk, or grab a quick bite to eat. Then you can come back to your place refreshed and ready to engage. When couples fail to do this, they unwittingly foster resentments that can last a lifetime. So don’t do that. Go eat a taco alone instead. Your one true love will thank you for it.
LET US NOW
original painting of the Six months before my bathtub-ﬁght scene from boyfriend was set to move OUR STUFF Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in with me in Brooklyn, and a massive My Neighbor I took a short-term job in Los Angeles. We decided he should live in Totoro poster. The art I enjoyed was already the apartment while I was gone and start hanging—a large Edward Hopper print, a copy of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith moving his stu≠ in. When I came back three months later Slaying Holofernes, and a Tintin poster—and with one very quintessential L.A. memory of the clash of styles was startling. a model taking one bite of a meatball sandSo we talked it out and both realized that wich before throwing the rest away, I walked in order for it to truly be our place, we had to through our apartment like a Jane Austen make concessions for it to feel like a home. character whose main talent is “remember- He isn’t totally in love with my framed print ing.” I admired the tiny kitchen. I nuzzled of a woman gruesomely beheading her rapmy sofa. Then I walked into our o∞ce and ist, and I don’t feel particularly moved by found myself face-to-face with a hideous new his painting of Pee-wee Herman, but both addition: a teal three-eyed Garﬁeld clock that are prominently displayed because compromise is literally what love is. And if you did not work. need to know the time when you’re over, “Hmm,” I said casually. “What is…this?” “A clock,” my boyfriend replied. “I love it.” look for the teal three-eyed Garﬁeld clock; Turns out he had a ton of “art” I’d never I put some batteries in and it works now. noticed, most notably a three-foot-long —Nicole Silverberg
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Learn to Fight When you live together, it’s very easy to stumble into arguments. You say something innocuous—that you’re kind of over Chrissy Teigen— only to find out it’s extremely divisive, and now you’re both locked in a fight to the death, defending opinions you didn’t even know you held until they were challenged five seconds ago. Which is why every couple needs an argument kill switch, a phrase that you can whip out when you feel a clash brewing. It says, “We disagree, but this fight is not worth it.” In my relationship, our argument kill switch is “Okay, sure.” The phrase is a quick exit ramp. Say my boyfriend and I are watching Killing Eve, idly chatting about dog ownership. Suddenly, before either of us knows what’s happening, we’re arguing about whether to let our dog sleep in the bed. (We don’t even own a dog.) No matter how furious I am at my boyfriend on behalf of Salami (hypothetical dog), if he comes in with “Okay, sure,” we can both go back to drooling over Sandra Oh. Nothing on earth provides more immediate relief than a timely egress from a squabble that you weren’t that invested in, anyway. When you uncork an “Okay, sure,” it swiftly martyrs your pride in favor of peace. These days there is ample opportunity to argue your point and back it up with Quinnipiac polls. Make your couch a safe space.—Sophia Benoit
You are entitled, and encouraged, to carve out space for yourself. Your one true love will thank you.
track jacket $2,300 Gucci turtleneck $890 Ermenegildo Zegna Couture track pants $1,550 Gucci his own sneakers Adidas ON HER
suit Zimmermann shoes Manolo Blahnik THIS PAGE
jacket $895 Ovadia & Sons sweater $345 David Hart pants $360 Ovadia & Sons shoes $775 Jimmy Choo socks $17 (for three pairs) Gold Toe ON HER
dress Ulla Johnson shoes Manolo Blahnik
LET US NOW
DO CHORES SPONTANEOUSLY (WITHOUT OUR NEW HOUSE-SPOUSE HAVING TO ASK US)
LET US NOW
REST IN PEACE (TOGETHER!)
pajamas $600 Olatz loafers $1,295 Christian Louboutin ON HER
coat leggings gloves Dolce & Gabbana bodysuit Fleur du Mal grooming by kim verbeck for the wall group. her hair by takisha sturdivantdrew for exclusive artists management. makeup by molly stern for starworks artists. manicure by alexandra jachno using chanel le vernis nail colour. set design by faethgruppe.
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LET US NOW
LET US NOW
LET US NOW
Sleep Together Compatibly
SHARE OUR VICES
I’m a warm person, but I like to be cold when I sleep—my dream man is amphibious, even corpse-like, to the touch. It’s difficult enough to find a mate whose personality meshes with your own, let alone one whose body temperature and preferred sleeping temperature are compatible with yours. If you, like me, require frigid temperatures to sleep, the prospect of sealing yourself into a feathery coffin with another hot body—who at any given moment may also be farting or flailing around in their sleep—is unsavory enough to discourage dating altogether. Enter the two-duvet system, popular in Scandinavia (where even hotel rooms feature a pair of spotless white duvets laid out on each bed) and among happy, well-rested couples of all nationalities. For a long time I operated under the assumption that a couple must enjoy physical intimacy even in slumber, but now I know better. Real intimacy is feeling secure enough with a partner that you can give them a good-night kiss and forget all about them for the next six hours, temperate under your own covers. Embracing the two-duvet system doesn’t mean you’re careening toward a teetotaling, sexless, separate-twinbeds lifetime together. It just means you know what you need to make your relationship sustainable.—Lauren Larson
Despite her young age, I believe Jazmine is my wisest friend. When I told her that I was nervous about moving in with my partner, she reassured me: “It’ll be an adjustment, but it will be ﬁne and eventually fun.” She added, “But deﬁnitely buy a poop candle.” Idiot that I am, my ﬁrst thought was that she was suggesting something lavender-scented molded out of artisanal fecal matter. But no, what Jazmine meant was a candle—any candle will do—that can be lit in the event of an evacuation of the secondary kind. Cohabitating well is ﬁnding ways to be as considerate as possible, and what’s more accommodating than neutralizing the worst smell your body can be responsible for? Plus, a candle is far more e≠ective than any aerosol spray. It’s not just an aroma cleanser but a signal from afar, one that prevents you from having to say, “Wow, I just went all Jason Statham on the toilet. You might want to wait a sec.” And really, what’s more considerate than that? Your partner sees an ignited candle and knows exactly what crime you’ve committed. In its own quiet way, the candle says, “I love you, farts and all.”
In the early days of a relationship, you attempt to craft the likeness of a keeper, even if you can exist on a diet of Dumpster Iron Chef dishes when you’re alone. Cohabitating takes a sledgehammer to all that. Before my wife and I lived together, it was easy to present my best self. If we didn’t eat out, we’d cook for the common good. ¶ But sooner or later, you get exposed. Once, when she was out, I whipped up an old bachelor favorite: the corned-beef-hash burrito. I turned on Lost (when we are alone, guilty pleasures are merely pleasures) and went primal. She came home early, of course, and caught me like a wolfman standing over my kill, flecks of corned-beef hash falling from my mouth as yolk drizzled from my fingers like blood. I did not seem like someone any person would want to start a life with. ¶ She just laughed and said ew without malice, but after that Big Bang Theory–worthy mishap, I cleaved a way forward.—Alex Siquig
Let your true
It ain’t that
We all have unsavory tastes. We like weird stuff. It makes us happy. It completes us. There’s nothing wrong with that. Own your nastiness. Own your culinary turpitude. The way to emancipate yourself is to quit being coy and tell the person you love that you also like eating digestible rubbish.
You are gross. Giggle about the fact that you should never be allowed into any restaurant featured on Chef’s Table, and that’s something you can live with. Having a sense of humor disarms and deflates needlessly defensive urges.
You are two people who have decided to anger two sets of parents and live in sin; chances are that your partner has secret indulgences, too. The moment I learned my (future) wife was obsessed with Arby’s was the moment I knew everything would be okay.
LET US NOW
Consult Experts THE
For more advice, we turned to the pros: Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph. Having repeatedly teamed up on Saturday Night Live, the longtime friends and collaborators now take their partnership to the next level with the new Amazon series Forever, in which they play a married couple who decide to shake things up by taking a ski trip before everything gets weird.—Scott Meslow
What’s the first big thing a couple should buy together? Rudolph: A new couch. No one has moved in together and been like, “I have this great couch. Let’s drag it from my old roommate’s apartment. You’re going to love it.” How do you avoid snapping when your partner has been hogging the bathroom for an hour? Armisen: Multiple bathrooms. That is, like, the make-or-break of all relationships. What unexpected life changes should you be ready for? Rudolph: Be prepared to go vegan. At some point, one of you is going to try out a new diet, and the other one is going to have to go along with it if they don’t want to be a dick.
Should silverware face up or down when you put it in the dishwasher? Armisen: Up. Because when they’re down, they just sort of get hidden, you know? Oh, my God, I sound like I run my house like a military operation. How do you stop an argument from escalating? Armisen: I used to be passive-aggressive, stay quiet, thinking I was being a real hero. But I've become better at expressing myself. If there’s something I disagree with, I’ll say my piece. And then I’ll drop it. Rudolph: If you can resolve something before bed without letting it hang over you in the morning like a dusty fart cloud, do it.
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Theiler found the bodies is called Tsanﬂeuron, which in a mountain dialect translates to “ﬁeld of ﬂowers” and which, according to local legend, is what it used to be. There are several stories of how a meadow became a slab of ice—a miserly shepherd might T H E G L AC I E R W H E R E
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JA N T H E I L E R H A D N E V E R found a body, let alone two, poking out of the ice. But he was not particularly disturbed. For one, they clearly had been there for many years: The style of the boots and the bottle suggested decades. And everyone knew people have gone missing on this mountain, especially years ago, when the ice was much thicker and crevasses much deeper. There was even a plaque bolted to the monolith at the edge: marcelin et francine dumoulin, it reads. decedes accidentellement. le 15 aout 1942 . More to the point, it was more common than one would imagine for long-dead bodies to surface in melting glaciers. Almost exactly a year earlier, in July 2016, the remains of a German skier missing since 1963 were found on a glacier in eastern
THE REMAINS FOUND LAST YEAR— A N D T H E T E L LTA L E B O OT S A N D B OT T L E , DECADES OLD.
OPENING PAGES: MAAHOO STUDIO/STOCKSY UNITED. THIS PAGE: COURTESY OF GL ACIER 3000.
In the middle of the summer of 2017, a tower holding a ski lift above one of the intermediate trails had drifted slightly out of position, which was neither unexpected nor uncommon because both the tower and the trail are built on a glacier, and glaciers move. It does not matter that the ice has been tamed and groomed and that snow buses haul people across it to a monolith tottering at the edge: Beneath the surface snow, the glacier is constantly in motion, ﬂexing and ﬂowing with such force that anything on it, or under it, or in it, is going to move, too. Usually the movements are imperceptible. Like stop-motion photography, the shifts and lurches aren’t apparent until the frames are played back at speed. In 22 years working on the glacier, Theiler has seen the gradual but dramatic changes, the way it recedes year after year, the summer meltwater outpacing the winter snowfall. The slab creeps across a little less of Les Diablerets, a massif in the Alps of western Switzerland, each year, the blue-gray of the edges swirled like a tide pool on limestone slowly exposed by the seasons. Theiler needs the big machine to nudge the tower back in place, the 34-ton Caterpillar parked near the bottom of the run. He drives one of the snow buses across the glacier, big treads churning through the midsummer slush. Ahead, in the light of the late afternoon, he sees a dark patch that hadn’t been there a few days before. He thinks it looks like mud. The treads claw forward. No, it isn’t mud. Too lumpy. Rocks, Theiler decides. But how odd, he thinks, a clutch of black-brown rocks materializing at 2,600 meters, and tightly clustered, as if they’d been deliberately arranged. He crawls closer in the bus. There is white space between some of the rocks, a background that makes the outlines clear. The ﬁrst rock is long and narrow, until Theiler realizes it isn’t a rock at all. It’s an umbrella. He gets out of the snow bus. He sees a bottle made of dark green glass, and it is lying across the toe of what appears to be a woman’s boot. A few inches to the right, there is another boot, the bottom facing him so he can see the hobnails hammered into the sole. Long black appendages leak out of the boots, twisting down into the ice; they’re covered in woven wool hose, so ﬁnely preserved he can make out the pattern. There is another boot, too, a man’s, sticking straight up, sole to the sky. And in the middle of those boots is a lump, which Theiler recognizes as a head. It is a deep, leathery brown, the color and texture of a ham left too long in the smokehouse, but he can tell it’s a head because it has a face. The eyes are sunken and the cheeks are drawn, but it is obviously, unmistakably, a face.
have brought a curse upon the place, or the Devil himself might have frozen it out of spite—but the speciﬁc origin isn’t the important part. Those tales were ﬁrst told hundreds of years ago, when the western tip of Switzerland was poor and life was a struggle and there wasn’t much to do at night except look at the stars and make up reasons to explain the apparently unexplainable. That not everyone heard the same story is not surprising. The important part is that all those stories end basically the same way, with the glaciers atop Les Diablerets being a place where devils and demons cavort and the damned do their penance. Once upon a time, this would have been perfectly obvious. Terrible things came from the high mountains. Walls of snow thundered down in the winter, burying cows and crushing chalets and smothering peasants. In the summer, rocks tumbled from the peak, sometimes even cascades of limestone collapsing as thick and fast as a winter avalanche. And always there were noises, bangs and creaks and snaps. Those were said most often to be the devils at play, hurling stones at the monolith, a huge and curious rock more than 50 meters tall and seemingly balanced on end. Cartographers call it the Tour St-Martin, but no one else does. It’s the Quille du Diable, the Devil’s Bowling Pin, a target for supernatural games of skittles. There were lights, too, in the passes and at the peak, which were assumed to be lanterns carried by the unholy. Those lights, in the retold memories of generations, burned especially bright on a September night in 1714, right before tons of the south face of Les Diablerets fell onto the village of Derborence. A priest came from Ardon to pray away the evil, and counted the dead and destroyed: 14 people and 55 chalets. Years passed and eventually the mountains were climbed and charted, mostly by Englishmen on holiday. No one ever saw any demons, but that hardly mattered, since demons typically wouldn’t show themselves to mortals, anyway. Or maybe they weren’t real. But so what? Snow still exploded down the slopes, and rocks still tumbled into the pastures below. Did it matter if they were tossed by demons? The mountains were still a wicked place.
Switzerland, near the Italian border. The year before that, two Japanese men who tried to climb the Matterhorn in 1970 were found far down the mountain. In 2012, the skeletons of Johann, Cletus, and Fidelis Ebener turned up on the Aletsch glacier, 86 years after they vanished. And Theiler couldn’t know it yet, but a month later a German hiker last seen in 1987 would be dug out of another glacier in Valais, the same canton where he found the two bodies at the bottom of an intermediate ski run. People have been disappearing on glaciers for as long as people have been walking on glaciers. And for most of human history, they were simply gone, vanished, entombed in a hopelessly deep, dense river of ice, carried away by a slow, grinding current. How many, no one knows, because that number is lost to time. For a benchmark, though: Since 1925 (when records ﬁrst began to be kept), almost 300 people have disappeared in Valais alone, though not all, of course, on a glacier. And maybe none of them would have ever been seen again. Except then the world got hotter, and the glaciers got smaller, thinning and retreating, and now, after decades, centuries, millennia, they’re slowly surrendering the dead. This is not peculiar to Les Diablerets, obviously. Glaciers all over the planet are receding at alarming rates, some more than others. The thaw is catastrophic, and global. According to one recent study, the glacier atop Alaska’s Mount Hunter is melting at the fastest rate in 400 years. Colombia’s glaciers have thinned by a third since the mid-1990s and are on track
Even in the summer, thunderheads can gather quickly in the east and drag over the peaks, and fog can descend fast and viscous. The e≠ect is utterly disorienting, every landmark erased, no spatial cues, not even footprints, to conﬁrm that you’ve turned one way or another. The visible world restricts to inches, which is a dangerously short distance at 3,000 meters. It was more dangerous eight decades ago, or ten, or a thousand, when the glacier was still massive, a wide, fat sheet deep as a frozen lake, gouged with cracks 30, 40, even 50 meters deep. One step in the fog could easily be a step into oblivion. Which is what most likely happened to the mummies at the bottom of the intermediate slope. Seeing as how no one was in immediate peril, Tschannen waited until daylight to contact the authorities. Police from Valais choppered up with chain saws and a crew to cut a big block from the glacier, keeping the bodies encased until they could be thawed and examined and positively identiﬁed. But everyone had a pretty good idea whom they’d found. The clothing and the artifacts—the bottle, the cowhide rucksack, the watch still shiny in the pocket of the jacket still on the shoulders beneath the head—suggested these people had died decades ago, probably around the time of the last great war. Their names might even be the ones on the plaque bolted to the Quille du Diable. Les Diablerets is a place of legends and stories, and Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin were one of them.
“It can happen,” Bernhard Tschannen said about finding the bodies. “In the mountains, sometimes bad things happen.” to disappear entirely in 30 years. In the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, two-thirds of the glacial mass could be gone by the turn of the century. And Glacier National Park in Montana—which was named for the 150 or so glaciers once there—today has fewer than 30. “The rate of change now in the mountain glaciers is already faster than anything we see in the geological record,” says Joerg M. Schaefer, a climate geochemist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “They just ﬂy back. And it’s accelerating.” As they melt, the ghosts of the past are returning, and the present is that much more haunting. W H E N H E F O U N D T H E B O D I E S , Theiler called security at Glacier 3000, the company that runs a resort on Les Diablerets, and security called Bernhard Tschannen, the CEO. It was a Thursday evening, July 13, 2017, and Tschannen was at a birthing class with his wife, who was seven months pregnant with their ﬁrst child. Tschannen stepped outside to take the call. The security o∞cer told him a worker found two bodies on the glacier. “Are they fresh?” No, he was told, they appear to be mummiﬁed, and thus quite old. But it was an obvious ﬁrst question. “It can happen up here,” Tschannen told me later. “In the mountains, sometimes bad things happen.” Indeed, even now, when the glacier is a playground, there are warnings on the mountaintop. “Weather conditions can change rapidly,” a sign outside the gift shop says in three languages. “We invite you to be careful and to follow marked tracks. Be particularly careful in the event of fog or snowfall.”
the bodies were extracted from the ice, Marceline Udry-Dumoulin was in her garden in Chandolin, one of seven hamlets that, together, make up the village of Saviese. She was 79 years old but robust, still tended to her vegetables and ﬂowers and cane fruits. Just before lunchtime, her husband, Ali, told her someone wanted to see her. She wasn’t expecting visitors, but she wasn’t in the habit of greeting anyone in her gardening clothes. She hurried into the house, changed into a bright blue dress printed with white ﬂowers, pulled her hair back, put on her lipstick. She wore a gold cross on a chain. Two people were at her front door. Journalists, they said, from a Lausanne daily called Le Matin. They’d learned that two mummiﬁed bodies had been found on the Tsanﬂeuron glacier, and while there had been no positive identiﬁcation, they cross-referenced the known details with a list of people who’d gone missing. “We think they found your parents,” one of them said. Marceline was quiet for a moment. Then she whispered, maybe to herself or maybe out loud, Dieu merci. Thank you, God. She was at once happy and ﬁlled with a great sense of peace. “It is like a wish,” she said, “ﬁnally coming true.” For 75 years, she believed her parents were frozen on the mountain, buried beneath the ice and the skiers and the snow buses. But she never knew, not for certain, because their bodies were never found. Marceline was 4 years old when her parents disappeared. Her father, Marcelin, was a cobbler, and she remembers how, when his youngest son was 18 months old, her father would rig a hammock in his workshop for him and sing while (continued on next page) T H E M O N D AY A F T E R
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he stitched and hammered. It was a lilting melody with a martial cadence, and she still knows all the words but not the name. The marching song, she calls it. She remembers, too, another song, one he sang to her, about a vacher who looks after the cows in the meadows. It’s slow and mournful and lovely when she sings it, because it’s about how lonely the vacher is, high in the pastures for months at a time. Her father would have known that song, would have been partial to it, because he understood the vacher. The Dumoulins, like many families, had a cow or two, but they did not tend them. But as president of the local dairy association, Marcelin would check on everyone’s cows once a year. He could follow the pass that the cows took, the Col du Sanetsch, but it was easier, or at least shorter, to go up the mountain and across the glacier and straight down the other side. By the summer of 1942, when he was 40 years old, Marcelin had made that journey, eight hours each way, at least ﬁve times, and always alone. That year, though, he decided to take his wife, Francine, who was 37. She was a teacher and every summer before had either been pregnant or nursing an infant—she had had eight children, though only ﬁve boys and two girls were still alive. Marcelin and Francine left Chandolin on Saturday, August 15, 1942. That was the Feast of the Assumption, a holy day that most of the villagers took as a holiday. They planned to be gone only one night, so they packed a light meal of bread and cheese and a bottle of lemonade. Sunday evening came, and Marcelin and Francine did not return. Nor did they appear on Monday. On Tuesday, Marceline saw her aunt, her father’s sister, dressed in black and crying, and she did not understand why, not just then. The villagers tried to ﬁnd the Dumoulins for a few days, then tried to recover their bodies for more than two months. There were reports that a heavy fog had settled on the glacier at about ﬁve o’clock that afternoon, and it was assumed Francine and Marcelin had fallen into a crevasse. Searchers spread out across Tsanﬂeuron, and they roped down into the deep cracks, 30 meters by one account. But no one ever found a trace of them. It was as if Les Diablerets, playground of devils and demons, had spirited them away, as if the mountain was still a wicked place. “I can’t stop myself from seeing here a punishment for all the numerous profanations of the Sabbath and the festivals that come at this time,” the local priest wrote back then. “Unfortunately, it’s often the innocent who pay for the guilty.”
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The Dumoulin children were split up among relatives and friends. Marceline and two elder siblings and her baby brother lived with her aunt, the one she’d seen crying. For four years, her aunt dressed the children in black, as was the mourning custom in a very Catholic village. (Due to the deaths of various relatives, her aunt wore black for 15 straight years, including on her wedding day.) Some of the crueler children told Marceline her parents jumped into a crevasse rather than feed all those mouths. But mostly there was sympathy, seven children orphaned by the mountain. Years passed. The siblings drifted apart, never as close as they would have been under one roof. But no one ever forgot. Marceline’s brother Eugene became a priest in Madagascar, but he returned in 1957 to say a Mass at the base of the Quille du Diable, on an altar made of snow adorned with a cross made of snow. Another brother, Candide, searched the massif for years. “They were lost in this glacier, so they’re somewhere here under this massive wall of ice,” he told a ﬁlm crew in 1983. “I come here often to try to meet with them, to ﬁnd them. Because from where they are, they speak to me.” Marceline rarely went to the glacier. The Mass in ’57, yes, of course, and twice more over the years. She lived a perfectly normal life, married to a man in Chandolin with whom she raised three children in a house with a view of the vineyards terraced above the valley. Still, she never stopped searching in her own way. She is a woman of deep faith who believed God would someday deliver her parents if He saw ﬁt, and as a demonstration of that faith she followed the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela. It took her ﬁve years to ﬁnish, walking only a portion at a time, until ﬁnally, in 2013, she reached the end, where, in her joy and relief, she prayed only for God to ﬁnd her parents. And now He had. “Mom and Dad will ﬁnally have a burial,” she told the reporters. “For the funeral, I will not put on black. I think white will be more appropriate. This represents hope, which I never lost.”
Les Diablerets, up a stairway from the restaurants and the gift shop, there are two peaks jutting up into the blue of a midsummer sky and, stretching from one to the other, a 106-meter suspension bridge just wide enough for two pedestrians to comfortably pass. The view is breathtaking. Below, to the north, is all green valley and high meadow, with the resort village of Les Diablerets in the middle distance. Farther northeast, amid rough hills and low peaks, is Gstaad, and from the proper vantage point, a sliver of Lausanne cuts across the northwest. Dead south are the blue-gray Pennine Alps, where Grand Combin rises more than 4,300 meters into a misty sky. “You couldn’t see that before,” Bernhard Tschannen says. “Years ago, you couldn’t see that far. The glacier was in the way.” A pause. “It was much bigger then.” Tsanﬂeuron—which is the largest of several glaciers on the massif—has shrunk considerably in the past hundred years, both in area and in depth. Since 1960, it’s retreated roughly half a kilometer, and twice that since 1850. As AT T H E T O P O F
it is, Tschannen says, the glacier is losing half a meter in a good year, a full meter in a bad one. Snow falls heavy in the winter, though, and by December there should be ten meters packed beneath the loose powder. When the weather warms and the snow thins, there are hiking trails and the suspension bridge and what’s called the Fun Park, a little sledding slope for tourists who’ve never seen snow. Tschannen points out these things from the Ice Express, the lift that runs down from the main lodge in the summer. To the left of the lift, there’s an alpine coaster—a sort of toboggan run on rails—where a giggling woman in a hijab is pulling hard on her brakes as she descends. One of the snow buses is halfway down a long hiking trail, carrying a load of passengers with more sense than energy. The other snow bus is almost dead ahead, taking tourists on a long loop through the middle of the glacier. Jan Theiler is driving it. “The main point,” Tschannen says halfway down the lift, “the reason people still come here, is to see the nature. The glacier is always here.” It’s 60 degrees on the mountain, and Theiler is working in shirtsleeves. “For 50, 60 years,” Tschannen says, sounding slightly defeated. “Maybe.” Tschannen strikes me as a pragmatic man, a realist, but there’s a gentle empathy to him, too. He seems genuinely pleased that the melting on the mountain—a terrible thing in itself— had brought Marceline Udry-Dumoulin a sense of peace. “If somebody dies, it’s sad,” he says. “But at least now you know what happened.” I look out over the glacier and ask how many other bodies are under the ice. “None,” he says quickly, conﬁdently. He can’t possibly know that. No one can, not until the top of Les Diablerets is only damp limestone. Perhaps there is no documentation of anyone else who disappeared on Les Diablerets, but records go back only so far and Tsanﬂeuron has been there for thousands of years. No one knew, for instance, that a wellarmed and tattooed fellow, who’s come to be known as Ötzi, bled out from an arrow wound in the Tyrolean Alps 5,000 years ago until the ice thinned enough for a couple of tourists to ﬁnd him in 1991. And even if Tschannen is correct, Tsanﬂeuron is only one little glacier in a whole world of warming temperatures. “It’s quite clear,” a police spokesman from Valais told The Guardian last summer, after the German hiker missing since 1987 was found. “The glaciers are retreating, so it’s logical that we are ﬁnding more and more bodies and body parts. In the coming years, we expect that many more cases of missing persons will be resolved.” For all their historical value, for every relieved family, each of those discoveries is still horrifying—not because they are especially gruesome or because they are ﬁnal, deﬁnitive proof of individual tragedies but because they are direct evidence of an epic and existential catastrophe. There were never any demons; the mountains were never cursed. There were just rocks and ice and snow, and people didn’t understand enough of anything. But we do now. See that brownish snow? Tschannen points to a faintly beige patch below and to the right. A dusting of sand from the Sahara, he says, swept up in storms and
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carried on high-altitude winds to Switzerland. And that patch over there, the one sprinkled with something ﬁne and pale red? That’s pollen from an unusually warm and early spring that had all the ﬂowers and trees popping at once. Mostly, though, the glacier is a blinding white, wide and ﬂat and gleaming in the summer sun. Yet in a few places, it’s streaked with turquoise, like brushstrokes the color of a shallow Bahamian bay. That’s where the meltwater cuts to the surface before it slips back under the ice. It reappears at the bottom of the alpine coaster, after it’s washed around whatever lies beneath, then sprays over the edge of the cli≠, ﬁne and frothy droplets that gather into a stream and fall away forever.
came back positive and the mummiﬁed remains of her parents had been sealed in blond caskets, Marceline Udry-Dumoulin indeed wore white, a light cream suit. It seemed the whole village came out, and she greeted everyone, accepting condolences but smiling, always smiling. She truly wasn’t sad. She wasn’t mourning her parents’ death but celebrating their discovery. “Now,” she says a year later, long after they’d been buried, “I know they’re someplace warm.” One month and two days after Jan Theiler found the Dumoulins on the mountain, Marceline went to the glacier one last time. It was August 15, 2017, the 75th anniversary
of the day her parents disappeared. She was with her husband, Ali, and her daughter and some other relatives, and they rode the snow bus to the hole left in the ice where her parents had been cut out. It was a brilliant day, a cobalt sky over the gray peaks to the south. She stood there quietly, looking out over the valley, then into the hole, then into middle space only she could see. She began to sing, softly but clearly, lyrics unspooling from long-ago memories. It was slow and mournful and lovely, a song about a vacher who’s been in the mountains alone for too long.
and my heart are always in my state, so I’m always going to think like a West Virginian, and I’m always going to understand what West Virginia is going through and its troubles.” In recent years, as Manchin has found himself increasingly out of step with his state’s partisan makeup—not to mention the national Democratic Party—he’s ﬁelded numerous entreaties to jump to the GOP. “They all come to me. Donald Trump comes to me. Everybody comes to me: ‘Oh, just be a Republican, Joe,’ ” Manchin told me. His Democratic critics often say the same thing. At a political event in Lewisburg, West Virginia, I asked Charkera Ervin, a Democratic activist, what she thought of Manchin. “I actually wrote an e-mail to him, and said, ‘If you get primaried by a Siamese cat, that cat has my full support,’ ” she replied. “I don’t know how much progress I’m gonna really get out of him.”
His fealty to the Democrats comes from growing up in what used to be coal country, watching a New Deal ethic sustain the citizens of Farmington, who were mostly all Democrats. “Everybody I knew that worked was a Democrat,” Manchin says. “Everybody that I knew that helped somebody was a Democrat. Everybody that I knew that was a Boy Scout leader was a Democrat. Little League? Democrat. Everything. I never knew a Republican growing up in that little town.” Becoming a Republican would be as alien to Manchin as moving to Pennsylvania. And yet Manchin tends to be a lot harder on his fellow Democrats than on Republicans— routinely giving the latter the beneﬁt of the doubt over the former. It’s this, even more than Manchin’s centrism, that infuriates so many members of his party. “He seems to believe that Republicans are on the up-and-up and if he simply sits down and tries to reach a compromise with Senator McConnell, he can get something done,” fumes Jim Manley, a former adviser to Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy. “It’s ridiculous.”
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sean flynn is a gq correspondent.
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Soon he had the facts he needed. “Okay, brother, let me see what I can do,” Manchin said. He hung up the phone and yelled out to his secretary, “Bri, call the Amtrak CEO and say we want to talk to his chief of sta≠! Or him!” No small part of Manchin wishes he could spend his days immersed purely in the particulars of West Virginia. He’s wistful for the time when that’s all he had to focus on. “My worst day as governor,” Manchin says, “was better than my best day as senator.” In those bygone days, he’d invite legislators over to the red-brick governor’s mansion to drink and play bumper pool and to see if they could ﬁnd common ground. Oftentimes they did. But doing that in Washington seems tougher. For a while, he tried to host bipartisan lunches, but they died o≠ due to lack of attendance. Now he has Democrats and Republicans out to his houseboat. “We have a little bit to eat, a little bit to drink, we talk, sometimes we’ll go out for a cruise,” he says. But nothing much ever comes of it. The odd realities of Washington—a place where e≠ort doesn’t often produce results— can be jarring. Especially for a guy like Manchin, who was raised in Farmington, West Virginia, in the ’50s and ’60s. As a child, Manchin never once left the state, and although he was recruited to play football by colleges across the country, there was never any doubt he’d go to West Virginia University. “He didn’t have a choice,” his sister Paula told me. “Daddy wouldn’t let [him] leave.” The idea of going farther was anathema. “He’s West Virginia,” Paula said. “It’s in his soul.” Or, as Manchin told me one day as we sat in his Senate o∞ce in Washington, “I want to be in West Virginia. No matter if I’m here, my mind
Manchin lamented the decline of “civility and trust” in Washington: “The only way we can change it is to say we’re not going to participate anymore in denigrating each other.” During the presidential transition, Trump invited Manchin to Trump Tower where, according to sources, the president-elect o≠ered Manchin the job of secretary of energy. Manchin turned it down because Trump would not have allowed him to pick his own sta≠. Similarly, this year Trump o∞cials felt out Manchin about becoming secretary of veterans a≠airs, which Manchin also turned down. He wouldn’t have been the ﬁrst West Virginia Democratic elected o∞cial to jump ship. Last August, the state’s governor, Jim Justice, who was elected as a Democrat, switched to the GOP, announcing the move during a surprise appearance with Trump at a Huntington, West Virginia, rally. Manchin concedes that if he pulled a similar stunt, he’d be easily re-elected. “It’d be a slam dunk in West Virginia,” he told me. “A slam dunk.”
all Manchin can do is keep extending his hand. In February, he went to the Senate ﬂoor to lament the decline of “civility and trust” in Washington. More than anything, he blamed it on hyper-partisan politics, on Republican senators trying to defeat their Democratic colleagues and vice versa, and the “hostile work environment” that creates. Manchin had an idea—and a challenge—that he thought might help. He asked his colleagues to pledge not to campaign for or give money to the opponent of a sitting senator. “The only way we can change it is to say we’re not going to participate anymore in denigrating each other and attacking each other,” he said. It was, of course, convenient timing, just months away from his own showdown on the ballot against Patrick Morrisey—the outcome of which will serve as a referendum on just how nationalized our politics have become. Today, Manchin all but calls Morrisey a carpetbagger. “I welcome anybody to the state of West Virginia,” he told me, “but I think people have to ask, ‘Pat, why did you come? What job did you take when you got here? Did you come for a career change? Did you come because of B U T F O R N OW,
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family connections? What was the purpose of coming?’ ” I asked Manchin what he thought the answer was. “Well, it had to be for political opportunities,” he said. But it’s no longer clear if the carpetbagger charge has much resonance anymore in West Virginia. “Morrisey is running the same playbook they’ve run against Joe in his last two Senate elections, trying to tie him to the national[Democratic] party, and it hasn’t worked,” says Michael Plante, a West Virginia Democratic strategist and former Manchin campaign consultant. “The big question is: Now, in the age of Trump, does it work this time?” In the meantime, Manchin tries to do what he can to change Washington. One afternoon recently, he decided to propose an amendment that he hoped might protect West Virginia V.A. facilities from closure. It didn’t stand a chance of passing, but he thought it could be useful nonetheless to send a signal. “Everything’s just posturing,” he explained. Manchin was in his o∞ce, practicing his speech to introduce the amendment, when he noticed a voice mail on his cell phone. It was from Johnny Isakson, a Republican senator from Georgia. As the Republican in charge of the Senate Veterans’ A≠airs Committee, it would be Isakson who would shoot down the amendment, but he had a favor to ask of Manchin. Isakson, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years back, was feeling especially tired that afternoon. He was calling to ask Manchin if he would withdraw the amendment so Isakson wouldn’t have to go from his o∞ce to the Senate ﬂoor to object to it. Manchin immediately called Isakson. “I’ll do whatever you need me to do, buddy,” Manchin told Isakson. “You don’t have to come over.” Manchin explained that he would hunt down a Republican senator to shoot down his amendment so Isakson wouldn’t have to trouble himself with it. “You stay right in your o∞ce, do your stu≠, and I’ll make sure someone’s there to object.” Hanging up, Manchin turned to an aide. “Poor Johnny,” he said. “I mean, his health—I’m not gonna have him running back and forth.” A couple of minutes later, he got North Carolina senator Thom Tillis on the phone. “Hey, Tom, can you do me a favor and Johnny Isakson a favor?” Manchin asked. He explained the situation and why Tillis might want to be the guy to kill Manchin’s amendment. “I just don’t want you to be too enthusiastic when you do it,” he said. When Manchin got o≠ the phone, he let out a satisﬁed sigh. He turned to me. “Lemme tell ya, that’s what they don’t do anymore,” he said. “That’s the kind of stu≠, Johnny…” His voice trailed o≠. About 15 minutes later, Manchin would appear on the Senate ﬂoor to o≠er his amendment and Tillis would be there to object so the ailing Isakson could sit it out. Manchin’s brand of collegiality carried the day. And ﬁve weeks later, Johnny Isakson’s PAC donated $5,000 to Patrick Morrisey’s Senate campaign to unseat Joe Manchin. jason zengerle is gq’s political correspondent.
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and it was just a group of us. And instead of just getting roaring drunk and partying—I don’t even know if we were staying over or anything—we were all just in these chairs, and the lights were out, and somebody started masturbating, so we all did.” There would be about ﬁve of them: McCartney, Lennon, and maybe three of Lennon’s friends. As they each concentrated on their mission, anyone in the group was encouraged to shout out a name that would o≠er relevant inspiration. “We were just, ‘Brigitte Bardot!’ ‘Whoo!’ ” McCartney says, “and then everyone would thrash a bit more.” At least until one of them—the one you would perhaps expect—opted for disruption over stimulation. “I think it was John sort of said, ‘Winston Churchill!’ ” McCartney remembers, and acts out the aghast, stymied reactions. I ask whether this ritual took place often. “I think it was a one-o≠,” McCartney replies. “Or maybe it was like a two-o≠. It wasn’t a big thing. But, you know, it was just the kind of thing you didn’t think much of. It was just a group. Yeah, it’s quite raunchy when you think about it. There’s so many things like that from when you’re a kid that you look back on and you’re, ‘Did we do that?’ But it was good harmless fun. It didn’t hurt anyone. Not even Brigitte Bardot.” There is a later moment of intimate intraBeatle bonding that is a little more famous: when, all sharing a room in their pre-fame Hamburg days, the other Beatles kept quiet, listening, while the 17-year-old George Harrison dispensed with his virginity, and then all applauded at the end. “I think that’s true,” says McCartney carefully. “The thing is, these stories, particularly Beatles stories, they get to be legendary, and I do have to check: Wait a minute. I know we had one bed and two sets of bunks, and if one of the guys brought a girl back, they could just be in the bed with a blanket over them, and you wouldn’t really notice much except a little bit of movement. I don’t know whether that was George losing his virginity—it might have been.15 I mean, I think in the end this was one of the strengths of the Beatles, this enforced closeness which I always liken to army buddies. Because you’re all in the same barracks. We were always very close and on top of each other, which meant you could totally read each other.” And that was a big advantage, going forward? “So big, yeah. In music, it made us a very tight band, but as friends it made us able to
read each other. When we were super close… examples being, like, going down the motorway and the van had no air-conditioning and it was bitter, in the middle of winter, and we lay on top of each other, literally. It was the only way we could stay warm. We su≠ered for a while, just shivering, and then someone said: Well, why don’t we…? So we did a Beatles sandwich.” Who was on top? “I don’t know. It would be lovely if I remembered. It warmed us. It was a good idea. But, you know, as I say that story, I question it: Is that just one of my stories? But then…did I meet Elvis Presley? Yes, I did! But my mind is sort of going: Really? 16 I think that’s what happens in life. Some of them, they’re just so outrageous, you think: ‘Was that really true?’ But I try my best to do the true ones.” A while later, I return to the semi-accidental trajectory I seem to have fallen into about changing forms of intimacy as the Beatles evolved, and read out to McCartney a quote from John Lennon, something he said soon after the Beatles’ split, decrying how sanitized the published accounts had been of what life was really like in the Beatles: “There was nothing about orgies and the shit that happened on tour.… The Beatles tours were like the Fellini ﬁlm Satyricon.” In his response to this, McCartney replies to every implied question in surprising detail: “There weren’t really orgies, to my knowledge. There were sexual encounters of the celestial kind, and there were groupies. The nearest it got… See, this is my experience, because I’m just not into orgies. I don’t want anyone else there, personally. It ruins it! I would think—I’ve never actually done it. Didn’t appeal to me, the idea. There was once when we were in Vegas where the tour guy, a ﬁxer, said, ‘You’re going to Vegas, guys—you want a hooker?’ We were all, ‘Yeah!’ And I requested two. And I had them, and it was a wonderful experience. But that’s the closest I ever came to an orgy. See, the thing is, in the next room I think the guys might have ordered something else o≠ the menu. So that would ﬁgure if John was saying, yeah, it was all bacchanalian. I think John was a little more that way, because thinking back, I remember there was someone in a club that he’d met, and they’d gone back to the house because the wife fancied John, wanted to have sex with him, so that happened, and John discovered the husband was watching. That was called ‘kinky’ in those days.” And was he okay with that? “Yeah, he was ﬁne. So I think maybe John experienced a bit more of that than I did. Tell 15. If it was a myth, it was one that George Harrison, not a man known for encouraging Beatle-y myths, himself endorsed: “After I’d ﬁnished,” Harrison said, “they all applauded and cheered. At least they kept quiet whilst I was doing it.” 16. The Beatles met Elvis Presley only once, spending several hours with him on the evening of August 27, 1965, at Presley’s mansion in Bel Air, though—and this is possibly why McCartney mentions meeting Elvis in this context—each Beatle would later have signiﬁcantly di≠ering memories of precisely what took place. For instance, Lennon remembered a guitar jam session with Elvis. In the 1990s, the three surviving Beatles dismissed this story, though a British newspaper journalist who was there maintains that it did happen.
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you the truth, I just didn’t fancy it, that kind of thing. Someone else’s wife? I deﬁnitely wouldn’t want the husband to know. You know, that seems sensible to me. Am I too sensible? I don’t know. Mine wasn’t particularly crazy but it was a lot of fun. And there was a lot of it. So that was good enough for me.” we are back on the sofa in McCartney’s London o∞ce. When I mention that moment in rehearsal when he had realized that he might not be playing “A Hard Day’s Night” correctly, and wonder aloud how he could not know by now, he protests: “People aren’t you, and they don’t experience it. People haven’t written 300 songs. And that’s just with John. They haven’t written…too many songs. So you don’t remember them.” And he points out that when he and his band decided to play the song again in 2016, they realized that they didn’t know what the song’s famous opening chord was. “Nobody knows what that chord is,” he says. “It’s a mystical chord.” As he says this, McCartney grabs the acoustic guitar that’s standing beside the sofa. “We had to investigate it,” he says. “I said, ‘I think it’s this.…’ ” He ﬁngers a good approximation, and lets it ring out. “That’s sort of like it,” he says. “But it’s not.” In the end, he says, they actually had to go back into the original multi-tracks, to analyze it, and discovered that there were a number of di≠erent things being played there, layered. “I think maybe even George Martin might have added something after our session,” McCartney says. I ask him whether it was strange to stand there in the rehearsal, listening to the original record. “No, I wouldn’t say strange,” he says. “It’s fun. Because you just go, ‘Oh shit, what a good group.’ I always think, ‘Wow, what energy.’ There was quite a lot of energy on Beatles things, because we were 20-something, and we were hungry.” On the table in front of us is the artwork for his new album. Its title, Egypt Station, is taken from the name of the painting on its cover, one painted by McCartney many years ago in Arizona. It’s a record that in an alternate universe might have turned out very, very di≠erent: At one point McCartney mentions someone quite unlikely who “did very kindly o≠er to produce this album.” That was Kanye West. Did you think about it? “Yeah. And then I thought, no, I kind of knew what direction I wanted to go in. And I knew that would be very di≠erent from where Kanye would go with it.” Did you discuss with him what that would be? “No, I said, ‘That’s great, wow.’ I’m just amazed that he said it. And then we never talked about it again. It was just a thought that was thrown away. I certainly thought about it and got very excited and thought, ‘That’s something, there’s no denying that…but is it something I want to do?’ There’s the thing. And I thought, ‘Maybe not.’ ” McCartney and West ﬁrst met in 2008 at the European MTV awards in Liverpool: “I’d just gone through my divorce, and I was kind THE FOLLOWING WEEK,
of a little bit raw from it, and I said something to him about it, and he’d just broken up with someone, and he just pulled out his phone and played this great little track—I don’t even remember what it’s called, but it’s one of his famous ones. So I sort of liked him, and I liked this tune. I’m not sure what he was doing there—I think he might have been hanging out with Bono. The other person I met at the same time was Amy Winehouse, walking down the corridor. And I knew she had a problem, and I ended up just saying hi, she said hi, but afterwards I thought I really should have just run after her—‘Hey, Amy, listen, you’re really good, I really hope you…’—and say something that broke through the despair. And she’d remember and think, ‘Oh yeah, I’m good, I’ve got a life to lead.’ But you always have those little regrets. Anyway, that was when I saw Kanye for the ﬁrst time.” Then, in 2014, McCartney received the unexpected message via his manager that Kanye had asked whether they might write together. McCartney said yes, with the proviso that they would tell no one what they were doing, and that if nothing came of it they never would. They met for two or three afternoons in a bungalow round the back of the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.
On Auto-Tune: “You know what? If we’d had this in the Beatles, we’d have been—John, particularly—would be so all over it. All his freaking records would be.” McCartney found these writing sessions, if they could even be called that, a little puzzling. 17 They talked a lot, and McCartney occasionally played a little on an acoustic guitar and a piano. West’s engineer was recording everything, and West was also recording on his iPhone. “I had my bass ready in case we were going to get more serious,” says McCartney. “I thought we might actually sit down and write a song in the way I was used to writing a song—actually craft something there and then. It turned out we were creating an ‘ingredient pool,’ which is how he does it.” McCartney went away thinking that they hadn’t really done anything, even if it had been an engaging experience: “I did leave the session liking him, and thinking he’s a very interesting guy.” When he didn’t hear anything for months, he decided not to even ask, but then results began to ﬁlter back his way. The ﬁrst of these, West’s sparse lament to his mother “Only One,” was reasonably straightforward, but the second song to emerge, Rihanna’s “FourFiveSeconds,” was more of a puzzle. McCartney listened, and liked what he heard, but he had to call up to ask whether he was actually on it; only then did he realize that the ri≠ at its center was something he had played on acoustic guitar that had been sped up and consequently raised in pitch, and that the Mickey Mouse–esque backing vocals he could hear were also him.
It wasn’t a way of working he was used to, but he was happy to see where it went. Did you have to ask someone what “four ﬁve seconds from wilding” meant? “ ‘Wilding,’ yeah,” he says. “But my stepson knew. He’s up with the hip-hop talk: ‘Wilding? Oh yeah, that’s like getting crazy and stu≠.’ ” And then the song became McCartney’s biggest hit single in 32 years. “I mean, Rihanna is something else. She’s cool. So it was a great thrill, actually. I loved it. I feel a kind of privilege that they think I’m worthy of their world. I know I’m worthy of my world, but I didn’t know that they think I could ﬁt.” A third song, West’s “All Day,” brought new challenges. “The big surprise was the use of the N-word,” McCartney says. (Multiple use, too. Forty-four times, to be precise.) Some people around McCartney saw this as a problem—“They said, ‘You can’t be connected to this’ ”—and McCartney suggests that he looked into the issue with some care. “There’s basically two schools of thought: One, that the N-word has been re-appropriated by black rappers and they’ve sort of taken the sting out of it. And the other point of view is Oprah’s point of view, which is that any use of the word denigrates black people, and I can see that, too.” In the end, he decided to go with it. “I thought, you know, ‘It’s urban poetry. It’s Kanye.’ I like the record. I thought he did a really good job on it.” Later, he was also happy when he saw the credits for “All Day”—twenty writers!—and he realized who else had contributed to the ingredient pool. “Kendrick Lamar!” he says. “I didn’t know I was on a record with Kendrick. I’m very honored.” He shakes his head. “I have no idea what he or the other 18 did. But it’s how it’s done these days, and I’m pleased to be part of it. And slightly amazed.” 18 Not everyone, it turns out, approves of Sir Paul McCartney’s talents and reputation being used in this way. The British artist Damon Albarn, best known for Blur and Gorillaz, recently referred to what West and McCartney did as an “abusive collaboration,” and said that when he’d got wind of it at the time, he had sent McCartney a text saying: “beware.” “I love the respect someone like Damon is attributing to me, but I’m not that fussed,” McCartney responds. “If I want to go somewhere else from where I normally go or where I’m expected to go, I’ll go. And if I enjoy it, that’s enough for me. The great thing is, all sorts of hysterical things come out of it. I mean, there’s a lot of people think Kanye discovered me. And that’s not a joke.” 19 17. West’s one substantive comment about these sessions when these songs were released was that he had asked McCartney, “What was pussy like in the ’60s?” McCartney seems amused when told of this but comments, perhaps diplomatically, “I don’t recall that question.” 18. McCartney says that he and West remain in intermittent contact: “I speak to him occasionally on the phone. And mainly texting.” 19. Though McCartney’s assertion may sound like a humblebrag, this may really be so, as in the modern world some of these songs have a far greater reach than anything else involving McCartney. For instance, “FourFiveSeconds” has ten times the Spotify plays of any other McCartney track and more than twice the plays of any Beatles song.
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I ask whether he remembers Albarn really texting him “beware.” “He might have. I don’t remember. But I wouldn’t listen to him. I don’t listen to people.” To illustrate this point, McCartney proceeds to tell me that he recently used Auto-Tune on a song—one that’s not even on his new album— and how he worried for a moment about it. “Because I know people are going to go, ‘Oh no! Paul McCartney’s on bloody Auto-Tune! What have things come to?’… At the back of my mind I’ve got Elvis Costello saying, ‘Fucking hell, Paul!’ ” But then he considered it some more, and what he thought was: “You know what? If we’d had this in the Beatles, we’d have been—John, particularly—would be so all over it. All his freaking records would be…” McCartney demonstrates a version of how he’d imagine a modern-day John Lennon singing in an extreme Auto-Tune warble, and then he gets out his iPhone and plays me some of the song in question, a collaboration with the songwriter and producer Ryan Tedder, called “Get Enough,” which has an emphatically full-on Auto-Tuned McCartney vocal, plenty more than would be required to horrify any passing purists. It also sounds pretty good. “Come on, man,” says McCartney. “You can’t be so straitlaced to not expose yourself to experiences in life.” cut short our ﬁrst meeting in London because he was ﬂying to Liverpool that evening so that the next day he could ﬁlm an episode of Carpool Karaoke with James Corden. Beforehand, McCartney told me that he was a little reluctant to agree to this. “There’s been so many good ones,” he’d said. “I thought, ‘I’m not sure I want to do it.’ ” As he headed o≠ to catch his plane, he still sounded unsure, but his reservations would be unfounded; it will be compelling TV and a huge success. (In its wake, the Beatles’ hits collection 1 will return to the Top 40 of the album chart.) One of the more memorable moments, though in some ways also one of the more puzzling ones on-screen, is when McCartney returns to the childhood home, 20 Forthlin Road, where he had lived from the age of 12 or 13 until when he ﬁnally left home after the Beatles were famous. The illusion, though unstated, in the footage shown is that McCartney had just knocked on the door and the current owner has answered, though it’s not quite clear why, unless she is some kind of fan-stalker, every wall of her home is covered with McCartney photos, nor why she seems to have done so little modernizing. The answer is that this isn’t a home, and hasn’t been for more than 20 years; it is a tourist attraction preserved as a historic site and run by the UK’s National Trust.20 But what is absolutely true is that it had been over half a century since McCartney had crossed its threshold. In the intervening years, he would often detour from the airport on his way into the city when he was showing Liverpool to anyone, park outside, and give the tour from the street: “I’d say, ‘That was my bedroom up there, and there’s the alleyway that leads through the back garden.’ ” He tells me that he hadn’t wanted the bother that would have come with going in, and he’d also worried M CCA RT N E Y H A D TO
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that it might be a bit spooky. “You know, going back to old places is not always a good idea.” Perhaps he was ready. “It was sort of super nostalgia—I’m going, ‘Oh, my God, there… there...there!’ ” Understandably, the TV people kept guiding him toward the big Beatle-y memories, and there were plenty of those, but McCartney says that for him “what was fun was I remembered all the little things. I kept going: ‘Oh, in that cupboard—that’s where we kept the condensed milk.’ ” In the last week of July, a few weeks after his Carpool Karaoke adventures, McCartney returns to Liverpool for two events. This time, he drives himself, as he usually does when he comes home. Partly, it is a Liverpool thing. “I can make turns that other people wouldn’t make, and I know shortcuts and things,” he says. But it’s also a reﬂection of something more general. “I’m just more comfortable driving myself than being driven. I feel like a Lord Mayor when I’m being driven. And I feel like Paul McCartney when I’m driving.”
this latest trip back to McCartney’s hometown is a performance at the Cavern Club. The Cavern, in an underground cellar in the middle of Liverpool, plays a key role in early Beatles mythology: They performed there 292 times between 1961 and 1963. The club is no longer as it was back then,21 but nonetheless the symbolism—Paul McCartney plays at the Cavern!—is potent. Crowds throng the streets when the word gets out, and news of what happens here today travels far and wide. During the show, from the ﬁrst words he speaks—“Liverpool! Cavern! These are words that go together well!”— McCartney e≠ectively plays up to that spirit of event and nostalgia, this time for very nearly two hours. Even when history is being recycled and repackaged, it can still be sincere and heartfelt—and it can still be thrilling to see, too. On the radio immediately afterward I hear the DJ describe those who had managed to get inside as “the 200 luckiest people in the world.” The ﬁrst of the two Liverpool events, the day before, is a much quieter, calmer, and cooler a≠air: a question-and-answer session for the students at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, a school that McCartney helped found in the 1990s in the same buildings where McCartney’s own childhood high school once was. In what is billed as a “casual conversation” (though one that, it now being 2018, is streamed live on Facebook), he amiably answers questions put to him by the singer Jarvis Cocker, many of them about his school days and early musical education, and then a curtain opens to reveal a surprise acoustic performance from McCartney and his band. Afterward, in the dressing room, midafternoon red wine is ﬂowing, and triggered by a question about the recording of the THE CENTERPIECE OF
20. McCartney claims to me that as they left the house, the custodian asked him and Corden to pay the statutory entrance fee, so he did. “I had cash on me,” he says. “It was the cherry on the cake.” 21. The original Cavern was ﬁlled in during some work on the Liverpool railway network in 1973. When they later excavated, all of the original arches were gone, so they simply created a di≠erent club in the same general underground area.
Wings’ album Band on the Run in Nigeria, a destination chosen pretty much on a whim, McCartney gives a captivating account of their adventures and misadventures there, including a blow-by-blow account of how he and Linda were mugged when they ignored local advice and tried to walk home in Lagos after dark. His storytelling culminates in the tale of an evening where he ﬁnds himself in a place way out of town and way out of his depth and way out of his head…and then Fela Kuti’s band start up and play this hypnotic keyboard ri≠… and McCartney found himself just weeping. “That music, I’ll never forget it,” he says. “I can still remember the ri≠.” This climactic declaration sounds like a rhetorical one, but it is not. At that, McCartney goes over to the corner, where there is an electric piano, plugs it in, and—an improbable collision of time frames and history; the 76-year-old in the upstairs room of the building where he once went to school, remembering a piano ri≠ that made him cry 45 years earlier in Nigeria—Paul McCartney starts playing exactly what he heard on that night long ago. It starts with a simple but insistent repetitive pattern being pounded out, a motif that then, in a release of tension, relaxes into some more expansive, much jazzier chords. In other words, it doesn’t sound like anything you’d expect to hear Paul McCartney play. one day that you’re a Beatle. Think about how you might decide to handle that for the next 50, 60, 70 years. Even when you have the talent and the ego and the drive, success is always some kind of a surprise, for no one can ever imagine exactly how it will be when it does arrive, and even less so what it will bring in its wake. When we see someone famous behaving in all the di≠erent ways that they behave, much of what we are seeing is someone continuing to work out how to deal with that surprise. It’s the lifetime job they never realized they’d applied for. The public face that McCartney has tended to push forward is of someone who, even given the extraordinary circumstances of his life, is some kind of genial everyman. It’s a good blu≠, and there may be some truth to it, though the more time I spent with him, the more I glimpsed other McCartneys—ones much weirder, or more fragile, or cockier, or harder, or needier, or nerdier, or more eccentric, or more playful than his advertised persona— and that made sense to me. Because I think it’s probably taken all of them to do what Paul McCartney has done, and to work out how to be who he is, as the glorious surprise of the life he made for himself has continued to unfold. In our very ﬁrst conversation, Paul McCartney alluded to how, when he was starting out—in other words when he would be striving to invent a future for himself, night after night after night, in places like the Cavern—he never intended any of this. It was never supposed to mean this much—not to everyone else, not to him, either. “Earn a few bob, get a car, pull some birds, but you suddenly realize,” he said, “there is this thing that’s happened.…” IMAGINE RE ALIZING
chris heath is a gq correspondent.
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You know how they do that, print ‘[expletive]’ instead of ‘shit’ or ‘fuck’ or whatever? For us still to be so squeamish and indignant about human behavior.” On online comments about his work: “The Internet has erected this mob of opinions that can be very conservative, not politically—or not necessarily political—but status quo. You see how quickly everything devolves into aggression, people debating prosaic things. How the loudest dominate. I do know this: There are a lot of people out there I’m delighted to be o≠ending.” On his own success: “The genie is out of the bottle. I’m never going to be niche again. I’m commercial establishment. I would love to be weird and unattainable again. That’s what I wanted to be—to live in poverty but be like Giacometti.” On his asocial tendencies and increasing avoidance of parties: “I forgive myself for not being more gregarious. The funny thing is, when I decide not to be, I’m not shy. But I’ve eliminated that whole world. At a certain point, I had to ask myself, ‘What’s of more value?’ I have my partners, my business partners. That’s my comfort level.” On the possibility that the main reason he can get away with avoiding parties is that on any given night he and Lamy are hosting a totally fascinating dinner party that’s probably as close to an 18th-century salon as Paris comes these days: Nothing, because I didn’t ask him this. In my head it had sounded rude or something. On whether the name he’d come up with for the new collection, Sisyphus, had anything to do with the word “sissy”: “Well, it’s funny you say that, because I did for a while refer to the men’s and women’s collections as Sissy Men and Sissy Women.” Did it, then? “No. I was thinking of King Sisyphus.” But why was he thinking about King Sisyphus? Was it related to a sense of frustration with this moment in history, a sense of utopian urges played out, perhaps? “I was thinking about decline—ecological decline, political decline.” Also: “My father had recently died. We hadn’t spoken in a couple of years. He’s the one who decided to stop talking. I was thinking about him, about his aggressive, eccentric genes. I see it in myself: judgment, cynicism.” was, in his son’s words, “an aggressive man who needed to dominate.” He grew up in Atlantic City, met Rick’s mother in Mexico, and moved to California in J O H N P. “J A C K ” O W E N S
the late ’50s. There, in 1961, they had Rick, a Scorpio baby who received the middle name of Saturnino. His ﬁrst language was Spanish. Porterville, a farm town that lies on the dried-up bed of old Tulare Lake, was not an artistically promising place to grow up. But artists grow up in their heads, and Owens’s head had working materials in it. Jack imposed on the self-described “overly sensitive” boy an eccentric program of cultural home-schooling, having him read certain classical authors, showing him Japanese prints and drawings. Led Zeppelin the boy discovered on his own. Jack worked in the county welfare department. Four decades he spent doing that. And as is the case with many people who have that job, he mainly interviewed men and women applying for beneﬁts. My father-in-law held the same job for about the same number of years. You’re basically sitting there being lied to and scammed by people all day, people you want to help. It’s not their fault. Our welfare system is set up so that oftentimes only lying will get you the things you genuinely need. But it takes a toll on the psyche. “It embittered him,” Owens said. “He was very mistrustful, which added to his cynicism.” Owens returned to the subject of his father many times during the days we spent together. The things he said usually contained a mixture of anger, ruefulness, and love. It was interesting to read back through my notebook and see that on almost every page, there would be at least one sentence about his father. The death was recent, is. The shadow vast. His father, I came to feel, had been a kind of anti-muse. Everything Owens had done was a direct strike against his example. But of course, like all anti-muses, he was also a muse, every bit as much as Lamy. Some muses we worship; others we have to destroy. “He was an intellectual bully,” Owens said, “looking for a chink in people’s value systems. He was charming. He’d gain your trust, then say, ‘What do you think of abortion?’ He needed to have the discussion, he needed to analyze it, he needed to really be thorough and have footnotes.” An obvious issue between the two had to do with sex. Jack Owens had major problems with homosexuality, and sexuality, and his only child was complicatedly queer. “My father brutalized me—not physically. Except once,” Owens said. In the tradition of great American autodidactic cranks, Jack started writing letters to the editor. Or perhaps I should say letters to the editors. Of the Porterville Post and the Porterville Recorder. To whom he addressed multiple screeds against “Gay liberation ideologues” and other agents of moral turpitude, such as the Porterville Public Library, which insisted on subscribing to and o≠ering for its patrons’ enjoyment copies of Cosmopolitan, “which has become pornographic,” Jack Owens wrote. He advised concerned readers, “See Red-Hot Read, an ongoing feature....” Reaching out about this matter, he had contacted “an assistant librarian, the librarian herself, her supervisor, the mayor, the City manager, the vice mayor, and as many local churches as have an e-mail address...” Despite this thoroughness, “my posts are simply ignored.” He invited like-minded citizens to “accompany me in going into City Hall” and “confront those responsible.”
The ﬁrst time Jack saw one of Owens’s shows, in 2003, he told his son, “I couldn’t believe all those people were interested in coming to see you.” He died in 2015, at age 95. Owens shook his head. “I expected him to ﬁnd some level of serenity,” he said, but he never did. Eventually, “things changed, and I developed a stronger voice than his.” D I N N E R C H E Z O W E N S - L A M Y , at the Place du Palais-Bourbon. In case the overlapping names are confusing: The Petit Palais is the museum, where I showed up late; the Palais Royal is where the store I visited is located; this was the Place du Palais-Bourbon, where he lives. A California vampire moves among palaces in the city of light. You enter a black gate and ascend a gigantic marble stairway. It’s dark. At the top of the stairs there’s an aluminum door. You advance upward, and an assistant, in black Rick Owens, shows you inside. The building used to be the Socialist Party headquarters. Owens and Lamy said the interior had been “nasty” when they’d ﬁrst moved in. Everything cluttered, gunked up, wallpapered, paneled. They stripped it. The staircase led to a spacious, blown-out interior: open, stark, coldly warm, like light during an eclipse. At dinner, I sat next to Lamy. She smoked cigarettes constantly. Many of the mini-biographies one can read on the web or in magazines include the claim that she was born in Algeria or has Berber blood. This is without merit— she’s from the Jura Mountains, near the Swiss border—but her cast and complexion are dark enough to render it plausible. Tattoos on her ﬁngers. Henna in her hair. Stripe of kohl on her forehead. Her body is trim from boxing, so that although she’s close to 75, she has a ﬁt young woman’s arms. Owens had once called her “an old-fashioned saloniste”: “That’s the part she loves—orchestrating.” On the opposite side of the table from Lamy sat Connie Owens, still on the visit that had gifted me with those unforgettable cookies. Lamy and Connie never spoke, that I saw, but I sensed a strange closeness between them. Owens acted very loyal and loving toward his mother. I asked her in Spanish what it was like having him for a son, and she said he was the best son in the world. Also at the table that night was a rapper from Estonia called Tommy Cash. Owens was into him. Tommy had a mustache so faint and small it was like the mustache on the Mona Lisa. He was rocking hipness but seemed open and friendly, too. Tommy’s girlfriend was named Anna-Lisa. She was also Estonian. She talked about how they had basically been a forest people, the Estonians, the last holdout of paganism in Europe. Her face was vaguely like the face of an animal I couldn’t place, possibly a porcupine. “Do you relate to that?” I asked. “Do you feel that you are a forest person?” “Yes,” she said. At one point, I found myself distracted by a large potted plant that loomed behind my seat. Its leaves kept scraping my head and obscuring my vision. Eventually, Lamy summoned an assistant/servant to come and trim the fronds from around my head. Nobody knew the truth about Lamy, you felt—no one but Owens—and
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yet she seemed utterly lacking in guile. You are looking through so much to see her when you sit beside her. The makeup, the rings, the tattooing, the henna, the motions of her hands, wrists a-clatter, it’s all a kind of colorful shaking, but at the very center are these eyes of a color I’d never seen before. Basaltic, but I’ve seen basaltic eyes. These were di≠erent and darker, at least in that light. Gunmetal. They’re the secret of her seduction, that much was clear. By the time you see through everything and ﬁnd the eyes, you’re done. She has seen you. I rolled a joint, and she asked me how I roll them: “What ratio?” I answered, “Ninety-two percent weed and eight percent tobacco.” She told me that if I reversed the ratio exactly, she might smoke one. So I did, and she did. Tommy asked me to take a “family portrait” of him and Anna-Lisa with Rick and Michèle. Owens harangued me as I moved around with Tommy’s phone, trying to get a good angle. “Come on, ﬂow with it,” he said. “Don’t be lazy. Try to feel it.” I moved faster, laughing. “Okay,” Owens said abruptly, “that’s enough.” Later in the evening, Tommy showed us some videos. Anna-Lisa had art-directed them. They were captivating. “I really like the music,” Owens whispered to me at one point. “Listen to the music.” He wasn’t dissing the rapping. He just especially liked the music. And when I tuned in to it, I heard how fresh it was. High-tech but raw. Spacious, deceptively melodic. (Weeks later, Owens invited Tommy to walk for him on the runway in Paris to the accompaniment of an instrumental version of one of his best songs, “Pussy Money Weed.”) My turn came, and I made them watch a dance video I’d been obsessed with, Khaleya Graham dancing to Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” I hope it freaked them out. It may have bummed out Tommy Cash slightly. He may have felt like I would feel if I were to do a reading and then someone were to go up and read some Chekhov. But I reﬂected that if so, it could be useful. Perhaps it would push him. I told Tommy I would put him in my story, and he got very happy and sort of watery-eyed, like, “Life is magical,” even though he was already getting famous. He didn’t need me. Owens didn’t speak much that night, but at one point he said, “Michèle, isn’t John charming?” “Yes, Rick. He is very charming.” “Yeah? Well, he’s a journalist, and he’s going to twist every word we say to his own ends. Don’t forget.” “Okay, Rick.” As we were getting ready to leave, I saw something amazing. There was a long, high hallway mirror, a mirror 30 feet long. Lamy was walking along it, on her way back from the bathroom, and making herself look deliberately ugly. Sticking out her stomach as if she were fat. Lowering her chin as if she had multiple chins. Changing her expression to be sad and heavy-hanging. And walking in a stilted way, with short steps. As if she were saying, “Yes, I could be this. We could all be anything.” john jeremiah sullivan is a contributing writer for ‘The New York Times Magazine.’
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“People here will hate me for saying this,” she said, “but they shouldn’t have reduced the job requirement.” I also spoke with María del Mar Ortiz, a Puerto Rican native who left the island for college and eventually took a job in ﬁnance. A few years ago, she opened We Got This, a concierge-and-lifestyle business that caters to tax hackers. “It’s a big opportunity for me,” she said. Her employees drive men like Rill and Gold, cook their meals, clean their bathrooms, help them furnish a new house. I asked how much of her business was attributable to the acts. One hundred percent, she said. While Rill, Cascio, and Ortiz could speak convincingly about the positive e≠ects of the tax policies, they were not the most ardent believers in Act 22. That distinction went to an independent stock trader I met named Lobo Tiggre. A slim man in middle age wearing silver bracelets and a black beard, he met me for a beer on the terrace at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel. He and his wife had arrived as residents four minutes before midnight on December 31, 2013. “I believe it is my moral duty to minimize my taxes,” Tiggre said, and Act 22 was a legal way to pay the absolute least. Tiggre thought, indeed, that the privilege he enjoyed should be extended to everyone. Some things that taxes pay for, like the police and the military, he said could be supported through voluntary contributions. “If people are too stupid to voluntarily agree to band together and defend themselves,” he said, “then maybe they deserve to be conquered by Attila the Hun.” in Condado hosts a pool party every weekend that is popular with the younger tax hackers. Here the proprietor is Vittorio Assaf, the parodically charismatic restaurateur who made his name and fortune in New York City, opening Café Candiotti, with original paintings by Andy Warhol inside, in the ’80s and establishing Seraﬁna in 1995. He had been lured to Puerto Rico by John Paulson, a hedge-fund manager who’d bought up much of the real estate in Condado. “When John invited me, you know, he was trying to invent Puerto Rico,” Assaf said. (Paulson still lives in New York.) I asked if Act 22 had delivered on its promise of lifting the island’s economic fortunes. “They come all the time, they spend money,” he said of tax hackers. “They buy apartments, they do investment on the island. I mean, I guess it’s fantastic. If they didn’t have these guys coming down, then there would be really big trouble.” THE SER AFINA BE ACH HOTEL
There were bottles of pink champagne in dewy silver buckets, a DJ, an inﬁnity pool. Shimmy McHugh, a nightlife impresario from New York, was at a prime table, chatting with a friend, the Puerto Rican–born president of a water-ﬁltration company. They surveyed the scene. “We lost, I have to say, 80 percent of our good-looking women in the last two years,” McHugh said. “Bad economy, and Maria was the icing on the cake.” For McHugh, Act 22 was essential, an unmitigated good. “See that guy right there?” he said. “Black shirt and khaki pants? Five million a year in the Internet a∞liate-marketing space. This guy has no problem dropping four grand a night.” McHugh’s friend agreed: “For a club owner or a promoter like Shimmy, it’s good. You have this guy at a table, and he’s spending that money, and you have other guys at another table. They start competing with each other.” I excused myself to go ﬁnd a pack of cigarettes. At the liquor store across the street, George Rivera, 29, was working his shift. He knew about the tax hackers but never saw them; they didn’t do their own shopping, as far as he could tell. Rivera earned $7.25 an hour. “I pay 11.5 percent in taxes” plus a 30 percent markup on imports, he said. Yet the island was a mess. The power grid lay shattered, and hurricane season was on its way. “We need taxes from the rich.” Rivera shook his head. It’s like the rest of the U.S., he concluded: “It’s the same shit.” I often heard some version of the following aphorism: “A few percent of something is better than 39 percent of nothing.” Meaning: “The few dollars we contribute in sales and property tax is better than the zero dollars we’d contribute if the incentives hadn’t drawn us down here.” Peter Schi≠, a libertarian podcast personality who moved to Puerto Rico after Act 22, put it bluntly: “Who would come to a bankrupt island to pay high income taxes?” Act 22 was only the latest tax incentive cooked up by the government. The economy here used to run on sugar, and when the price of sugar sank in the 1930s, the island began o≠ering tax breaks to corporations that opened factories here. In the short term, the policy ignited a boom. Workers sewed clothing; StarKist canned tuna; factories churned out paper, cement, and glass. When manufacturing collapsed in the ’70s, the federal government engineered a second boom by enticing pharmaceutical companies to relocate to the island. In 1989, Pﬁzer got $156,400 in tax breaks per employee. By 2004, they were reportedly manufacturing 100 million Viagra pills a year in Barceloneta. But the tax break that supported those jobs was sunsetted by Congress in 2006, just in time for the Great Recession. To sell Act 22, the secretary of economic development met privately with ﬁnanciers in cities across the United States, and the government hosted investment summits in San Juan. At one event, in 2015, Rudy Giuliani gave the keynote address. Bloggers predicted the next Singapore, the next Dubai, the next Hong Kong. Manuel Laboy Rivera, the o∞cial currently in charge of the policy, told me, “The rationale I N SA N J UA N ,
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is these individuals will never consider Puerto Rico in the ﬁrst place, never consider bringing their capital and wealth on the island.” He stressed the importance of “bringing diversity,” people with “all kinds of backgrounds: investment bankers, consultants.” He has never turned down an application under Act 22. Rafael Bernabe, a professor of literature at the University of Puerto Rico and twotime candidate for governor on the Working People’s Party ticket, doubted the new laws would be any more durable than those that had come before: “They can’t think of anything besides new versions of the same policy. ‘Let’s try and invite wealthy people.’ That’s a drop in the bucket. They will hire a few gardeners, create jobs for a few more waiters.” Bernabe suggested that the government has kept the initiatives hidden in gated communities and hotel conference rooms entirely by intention. “Having a little island of a±uence in the midst of this crisis? The more hidden it is, the better. When people ﬁnd out, they will say, ‘Motherfucker, why can’t the government ﬁnd some programs to help me?’ ” “Well,” I said, “they claim a few percent of something is better than 39 percent of nothing.” “If I am a beggar in the street,” Bernabe shot back, “and they give me ‘something,’ I will say thank you. But it would be better if I wasn’t a beggar.” I T WA S G R AY A N D spitting rain when Mark Gold took me out in his golf cart in Dorado Beach, a lush and quiet development of 500 homes, some of which are managed by the Ritz-Carlton, invisible from the main road. Once a coconut and grapefruit plantation, Dorado Beach is now ﬂooded with tax hackers; home prices doubled overnight after the passage of the acts. “The guy I bought my house from paid one point three million,” Gold said. “I paid two point six. My property tax is $4,000 a year. They haven’t re-assessed it since 1957.” “What?” “Mm-hmm. Go ahead and print that. Maybe they’ll ﬁgure it out.” We passed a trio of luxury-apartment towers. “This is called Plantation One, Two, and Three,” said Gold. “That’s where Robb lives. He’s got 8,000 square feet. I guess he needs that for him, his wife, and his dog.” We passed a water park where children were playing in the sunlight. “We’ve got two slides,” said Gold. “The slides are sick, man.” On the drive back toward Gold’s house, we skirted a wide green ﬁeld where a helicopter
was parked—the quickest way to the airport. A woman supervised her toddler, who was playing on the gleaming black machine. I asked Gold, who was not on the island during Maria, how the hurricane had a≠ected the area. “Half the island closed and didn’t reopen,” he said. “Unfortunately the Ritz spa is closed. It was phenomenal. Part of our nature trail, too. It was like a tropical forest. It was hammered.” Even the Ritz hotel itself—where, for $999 a night, the rooms include dedicated butlers—remained closed, though in the aftermath of the storm, when much of the island wanted for fuel and emergency services, a private security force with ﬁrearms protected the Dorado Beach grounds, so nothing befell them. O N O N E O F M Y last afternoons in San Juan, I met Brian Tenenbaum, a real estate developer. Tenenbaum moved here in 2014, looking for distressed buildings to buy and renovate. Starting from the Vanderbilt hotel, we took my rental car for a tour of his properties. “So you see,” Tenenbaum said as we bounced on spotty roads, through glitching streetlights. “Bombed out, bombed out, bombed out, bombed out, bombed out, bombed out, abandoned, abandoned. Here, we’re ﬁxing this up.” Across from the fenced-o≠ waterfront, we saw several blocks of concrete skeletons. These, said Tenenbaum, were a new development project, located where a thousand public-housing units had previously been demolished. The new buildings would hold 200 or 300 larger apartments, some market-rate and some subsidized. “It’s the new model of how you do a≠ordable housing,” he said. We stopped at a white stucco building with rounded colonial edges, azure trim, and a terracotta roof. Tenenbaum’s ﬁrm bought it out of foreclosure—the Puerto Rican owner lost the property during the crisis to a bank, which sold it to Tenenbaum’s ﬁrm at a discount. Tenenbaum would lease the studios there for $1,800. He then took me to Santurce, a central neighborhood built around a wide tree-lined boulevard, to look at his potential pool of tenants. “See how it’s getting lusher and green? This is where my o∞ce is.” Tenenbaum’s lunch date was a scout from a hedge fund who was here to meet with the Puerto Rican authorities about the government’s bond debt. Most of the people who spoke with me for this article seemed unsure of how to talk to a reporter, and it was not uncommon to spend a relaxed afternoon with a person and receive several urgent messages
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the next day. Marc Bejarano, who works at a local start-up incubator, spoke to me on the phone for an hour, then texted to ask if we could “collaborate” on this article because, he explained, “it’ll be hard to write a piece with this subject matter in such a way as to not lead the reader to draw certain conclusions.” This scout belonged to a di≠erent stratum of ﬁnancial player. No sooner had the car door closed than she asked, “Are we on record?” When I said we were, she smiled, touched her sunglasses, and stared silently out the window. I tried to imagine the city through the eyes of this scout and her hedge-fund clients. As soon as I did, Robb Rill and Mark Gold and even the acts themselves began to seem like a sideshow to what was really happening in Puerto Rico. There were forces operating here that had no interest in the property taxes at the Ritz or which pool you swam in on Saturdays. The real money talked directly to the government about the power grid and the outstanding debt, issues that could make or break the entire economy. The acts only reﬂected reality: Government is a business, and its most important customers are the rich. “At some point soon, we’re going to have 10,000 individuals,” José Pérez-Riera, the government secretary who ﬁrst conceived of the acts, told me. “Just imagine the amount of development. This is the beginning of the story, if you will.” As I was driving Tenenbaum through the center of San Juan, I saw something in the middle of the road, green and ﬂuorescing in the afternoon sunlight. I realized it was an iguana just before I drove over it. “Did I hit him?” I said. “Don’t worry,” said Tenenbaum. “Here they encourage you to eat them.” He was right. Green iguanas are an invasive species in Puerto Rico, and the government was encouraging consumption as a form of population control. Introduced as pets, the animals were initially quite rare. Indeed, no one noticed iguanas in the early years: Puerto Rico contains a highly diverse biosphere, in which a thousand new animals could exist for a brief period without anyone paying any mind. But the climate of the island agreed with them, and soon their numbers grew exponentially, until suddenly iguanas were turning up everywhere—burrowing under roads, swarming airport runways, consuming all the crops. The farmers realized they should kill them, but by now it was too late. jesse barron is a journalist based in Los Angeles.
A DDI TI ONA L CREDI TS Page 92. From left: Patrick McMullan/ Getty Images; courtesy of Robb Rill; GDA via AP Images Page 93. From left: Hector Retamal/AFP/ Getty Images; courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Pages 108–109. Bottom, from left: courtesy of Owenscorp (2); Chris Moore/Getty Images; Catwalking/Getty Images (2); Francois Durand/Getty Images; Estrop/Getty Images. Top right: Greg Doherty/Getty Images.
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Paul Suited Up “I think musicians really think about what movements they can make in clothes,” Collier Schorr says of her photo shoot with Paul McCartney. “If you put him in something that feels good to
him, he animates it. It’s like, Whoa. This guy is, what, in his 70s, and he’s moving around like he was when he was a Beatle.” Stella McCartney was also on the set that day, at a beach house in the Hamptons, and watched as her father tried on an impeccably tailored double-breasted suit by Brunello Cucinelli. Before the shoot ended, Schorr had a special request: “I said, ‘Would you mind holding the guitar in a picture?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ Then I said, ‘Well, would you mind playing it a little bit?’ I really felt like I was asking someone for the most precious thing in the world. I was asking Paul McCartney to play guitar to me.” And he did.
suit $5,175 Brunello Cucinelli turtleneck $328 Todd Snyder ring, his own
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Jim Beam Black® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 43% Alc./Vol. ©2018 James B. Beam Distilling Co., Clermont, KY.
Featuring Paul McCartney