Now that I think about it, Alexandra Penney perfectly embodies the theme of this issue, IN SEARCH OF THE NEW NEW AGE. Her parents didn’t speak to her for five years after she wrote the international best seller HOW TO MAKE LOVE TO A MAN, in 1982—that was after she worked as an editor at VOGUE and GLAMOUR and before she became the editor of SELF (during which she invented the pink ribbon symbol for breast cancer and raised millions). Along the way, she was constantly searching for that elusive thing called creative satisfaction and began painting and taking photographs. But if you Google this departures contributing editor, you’ll find her name most often linked with that of Bernard Madoff. In a series of very raw blogs for THE DAILY BEAST, Alexandra became last year’s poster girl—or in her case, the poster woman of a certain age—for the verb Madoff’d.
In February HYPERION will publish the provocatively titled THE BAG LADY PAPERS: THE PRICELESS EXPERIENCE OF LOSING IT ALL, about how she was wiped out of a lifetime of savings—every last cent of her hard-earned dollars from magazine editing to working at a Manhattan fish market (almost forgot that stop along the way)—and how she’s determined to climb her way back. On page 12 of the book, Alexandra writes about the day she learned that IT WAS ALL GONE: “I check out a few more sites that pop up after I search for ‘self-inflicted death.’ I learn that, unfortunately, it takes a while to cross the Styx to get to the otherworld, such as it may be…and cyanide, which is used in making jewelry, seems to work best and is speediest. I love jewelry, especially pearls, so this link to the chemical that could end it all seems to reflect perfectly the irony and absurdity of what is happening to me. Before I can find out more, the tranquilizer takes over and, mercifully, I pass out.” But by this September, the unsinkable Ms. Penney had not only written her book (fingers crossed for another best seller) and arranged for a gallery show of her photographs (“After Madoff”), but the two of us—she with cameras, I with a laptop—headed on safari to a camp called Zarafa, in the Selinda Reserve of northern Botswana. She proclaimed it a once-in-a-lifetime experience—something she knows all too well.
While Alexandra may be the perfect embodiment, it was an e-mail from writer-artist Michael Hainey that really drove the point home. He and his girlfriend had found bliss, he wrote, of a very different kind on a forgotten coastal stretch of northern California. Sometimes called “that old hippie highway,” the road snakes its way from Big Sur to just north of San Francisco through teeny time-machine towns, untouched, authentic, un-glammed-up.
IN SEARCH OF THE NEW NEW AGE may seem slightly woo-ey, a little bit pretentious, but it’s not an idle pursuit as we look to 2010. Even the BLACKBOOK for this issue, subtitled GET HEALTHY, GET WELL, GET REAL, looks at all sorts of new, unexpected mind-body experiences, from a medical spa in Switzerland to a new generation of diesel-powered cars. And our GLOBAL Rx FOR THE TRAVELER has most everything the modern globe-trotter needs to know about leaving home informed and well prepared for the worst—as well as less terrifying emergencies like jet lag, cuts, scrapes, and stomachaches.
So for now, I wave a nostalgic goodbye and embrace what I hope will be a very HAPPY NEW YEAR.