A Cymbalta fanny pack? Naomi Fry would cop

The New Yorker dopeness-correspondent talks grail-tier antidepressant merch, fake Israeli Gucci & rare luxury-rehab art

Naomi Fry covers lots of subjects at the New Yorker, where she’s a staff writer, but one topic she returns to regularly is sick jawnage: people who rock it, people who make it, people who cop it compulsively. Shia LaBeouf’s epochal 2018-era fits? She was all over them in real time. The rise of Online Ceramics? Naomi reported live from Shakedown Street. The bi-coastal phenomenon that is Cactus Store? Naomi asked a poisonous African euphorbia the tough questions and came away with the damn scoop. More recently she’s written about the new season of Search Party, interviewed Tom Sachs in quarantine and contemplated the weirdness of life on Zoom — links to all below.

But what about Naomi’s non-professional relationship to dope joints? What role do they play in her civilian life? We wanted to know, so we asked her to tell us about a joint she particularly cherishes. She chose a limited-edition sweatshirt made by artist Cynthia Talmadge … commemorating the quasi-iconic defunct Malibu rehab-facility Promises.

Naomi rocking the fire PROMISES drop-shoulder art at home (with 1-of-1 certified cutester Gingy)

Blackbird Spyplane: You only got this sweatshirt recently, right?

Naomi: “Yes, but I’ve wanted it for a few years. It’s from a show called Leaves of Absence that went up at 56 Henry, downtown, in 2017 — I didn’t get a chance to see it in real life but I saw pictures. Cynthia Talmadge made life-size models of four different rooms meant to represent dorm rooms in four different psychiatric-treatment or rehab facilities. There was Hazelden, McLean, Sierra Tuscon and Promises. Each room had the same furnishings with different color schemes, and she made merch to go along with each one: a sweatshirt, a tote and a mug. Her Promises room was pink and turquoise, very ‘80s Malibu colors — I was like, ‘Wow, this is super cool. I would like to have one of those sweatshirts.’ I emailed the gallery and they were all gone.

“This was a couple years back, but at some point I saw that Cynthia was on Instagram, so we followed each other, and a few months ago she DM’d me and said, ‘Hey, we’re doing another little run of these’ and the gallery very kindly sent me one. Just on the level of comfort, this sweatshirt is so soft, it’s very plush on the inside, almost felted, like it was built for convalescence. At the start of quarantine I was wearing it every day, which was appropriate because I felt like I was in rehab from life.”

Installation view of Talmadge’s Promises “dorm room”

Spyplane: It has a high degree of ‘if you know you know’ to it — unless yr familiar with the Talmadge work there’s no indication this isn’t just a sweatshirt that says ‘PROMISES.’

Naomi: “Which is also kind of cool, because it’s an abstraction — it reminds me of a trashy paperback, like a romance novel or erotic novel from the ‘80s, with a title like SCRUPLES, or LACE. These big, portentous, potentially meaningful words where you’re like, ‘LACE?’ What? ‘PROMISES?’ What does that mean? It could be anything, which is funny.”

Spyplane: Why does Promises resonate with you more than the other sweatshirts?

Naomi: “I was torn between picking McLean and Promises, kind of like an East Coast-West Coast thing. McLean is the William Styron, Girl Interrupted, psychiatric-break / drying-out facility in New England — a more genteel, despair-in-winter type of facility. Whereas Promises is a very different vibe: kind of trashy-L.A., the rehab that Lindsay Lohan famously went to and, you know, she’s been to rehab many times and it didn’t stick. So the sort of place where you go and you don’t necessarily come out sober.

I should say: I have no experience going to rehab myself, and when I got this sweatshirt, I wondered, am I appropriating rehab culture? Like, ‘My culture is not your costume?’ So I wanna clarify that my heart goes out to people struggling with addiction. It’s not a joke to me. It’s more that places like Promises have become so ingrained in our culture and our understanding of how well-known people experience addiction, and the fairly luxurious way they’re able to deal with their demons, however difficult that is.

“It’s almost a rite of passage for certain celebrities, where Promises has become a kind of cultural touchstone the way the Chateau is a cultural touchstone. So it’s interesting to me on that level — and also just that combination of suffering in the midst of beauty and luxury.”

“By the way, the idea of getting merch from a rehab is funny but I’ve actually looked online for merch for the antidepressants I take. I think it’s funny to rep whatever ails you — or whatever’s meant to fix you. I really wanted to find a Cymbalta pen, like the ones doctors get. The grail would be a fanny pack or t-shirt, but I haven’t been able to find one of those yet. I take a generic now, anyway.”

Deadstock pharmaceutical-rep Cymbalta heat

Spyplane: Are you a big rare-joints accumulator?

Naomi: “Not that much — it’s important to me what shoes I wear, but they won’t be rare. I wear classic Vans, Birkenstocks, Doc Martens. And not Docs with glitter and studs — it needs to be the pared-down, ‘essential’ thing. But last week I was like, ‘I need a Graceland shirt,’ and I went on eBay and Etsy and there were no originals — I considered getting a reprint, but it depressed me, like getting a Ramones shirt from Urban Outfitters. So I could go into a rabbit hole looking for an original…

“The flip side is there’s enjoyment in an obvious bootleg. When I go to Israel, where my family is, I’ve bought a Gucci sweatshirt for 50 shekels that’s clearly a knockoff. Back in December we were at this souk in Tel Aviv and there was a vendor putting fake Supreme prints on sweatshirts on the spot: I got one with a melting face of Bart Simpson on it, but I’ve only worn it a few times.

“My daughter loves the Simpsons, though, so she just commanded me to wear it more.

The best Israeli bootleg Gucci hoodie 50 shekels can buy

- Naomi’s New Yorker writing is here.
- She’s on Twitter and Instagram.
- 56 Henry is on Instagram and currently open “virtually.”
- Cynthia Talmadge is on Instagram.

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