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I have very soft pubic hair. I know what you’re thinking, some people hit the jackpot, but I wasn’t born with the genetic makeup to assure I’d one day have a silky bush.  My secret? I started using Fur Oil.

Fur Oil is a conditioning beauty oil explicitly designed for, well, pubes. Developed by sisters Emily and Laura Schubert, along with co-founder Lillian Tung, the oil promises to minimize ingrowns and soften hairs. Fur products, which include a Stubble Cream, a Silk Scrub and an Ingrown Concentrate, in addition to their signature oil are 100 percent natural, vegan, and cruelty-free.  

My Fur Oil arrives quickly and with little fanfare. I was expecting a grander presentation, but it simply comes wrapped tightly in bubble wrap in a small cardboard box, packed along with a postcard, which reads: Our brand was founded by women who believe in straight-forward, beautiful care for every part of the body for every body. Fur products are formulated directly with dermatologists and gynecologists to make sure they are safe and effective for everyone.

Unboxing the tiny round tincture I’m pleased that if nothing else, the bottle will look cool on my bathroom vanity. And speaking of vanity, I want shinier pubes so I shower right away. I shave my bikini line as normal, then apply the oil while my skin is still slightly damp. Fur Oil is best applied on clean skin and should be used every day as part of your beauty regimen for best results. The oil gives off a fresh, spa-like smell with hints of tea tree oil, lavender, and lemon that dissipates quickly. At first, I worry that the mintiness of the tea tree may burn (If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of touching your junk after handling hot sauce or toothpaste, you know what I mean.). I am happy to report that this is not the case; the oil feels light and gives me zero unwanted tingles.

The ingredient list is entirely natural and made from a mix of nine oils. Fur’s website identified the four “key ingredients” as Grape Seed Oil, Jojoba Oil, Clary Sage Oil, and Tea Tree Oil. The four powerhouse ingredients absorb quickly, condition skin, soothe redness and irritation with natural antibacterials, and help prevent ingrowns with their antimicrobial properties.

After one use, my pubic hair feels soft and has a sheen to it.  It’s not like my pubic hair looked particularly dull in the past. (Today in: Sentences I’d never thought I’d write.) But after using Fur, it has a healthy shimmer underneath my harsh bathroom light. I’m so happy with this I decided to try it on my eyebrows too. Fur’s website says that the oil is “for everywhere hair meets skin” so I feel safe in putting the oil close to my eyes (which is only right, considering I just layered it on my genitals). My eyebrows look shiny and perfectly undone without being greasy. In short, I love the effect.

After telling him he has to answer my questions for the sake of honest journalism, my partner confirms that yes, my eyebrows look “good” and that my pubes feel soft.

I’ve used Fur on my pubic hair, eyebrows, and the ends of my hair every day since. My bikini line is staying smoother for longer and my split ends look shiny and sealed.

The only downside is the cost. I have lived a (relatively) long life with product-free pubes and it seems like a big leap to start spending $28 dollars for a two-week 14 milliliter supply. Fur also offers a larger 76-milliliter bottle for $46 that is said to last 6 months and is a much smarter buy.

But will I order Fur Oil again? Furk yea.

“It takes me back to feeling like a left-out teenager,” says beloved Seattle singer-songwriter and new mother, Shelby Earl, when speaking about her recent experiences using Facebook. “Feeling like someone’s relationship looks healthier than mine, or their music career looks like it’s thriving more than mine. In our regular lives, we compare ourselves to other people, but not as readily. We’re not seeing so many people and what they’re up to all the time the way we do with social media. It can make you feel like you’re the one doing it wrong.

Earl weighed in with a post on her personal Facebook page recently. She asked, “On a scale of 1-to-5 (5 being, “like garbage”) how bad does social media make you feel on a regular basis?” She continued,

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that any time I’m feeling crappy for what seems like no reason, if I stop and search myself/isolate the emotion, I find that it’s often something to do with social media that caused the bad feels. Then again, I also genuinely enjoy seeing what everyone is up to and staying connected with people I care about through these channels.

Earl received 50-some comments in response, many of them agreeing with her plight. So, given that spending time on Facebook, and other social media platforms, so often creates unpleasant experiences, why do Earl and so many others keep using social media? Israeli writer and philosopher Sam Vaknin, who recently appeared in the 2016 Vice documentary, “How Narcissists Took Over the World,” says it’s because we’ve conditioned ourselves to do so–and it’s by design. Social media, Vaknin says, exploits an often ugly incentive structure in our psyche, one based on “likes” and little else. This new dynamic then pushes us toward anxiety inside a platform that too often relies on anger for fuel.

And Vaknin is not alone. His theories are supported by many in the world of tech, including former Facebook higher-ups Sean Parker and Chamath Palihapitiya. An early investor in Facebook, Parker spoke at an Axios conference in Philadelphia in 2017, “It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” In December of that same year, former Facebook VP Palihapitiya offered his thoughts to the Washington Post, “It literally is a point now where I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”

While Shelby Earl is not the first artist to bring up the problem in Seattle, she is a respected voice in Seattle’s creative community. Earl, who sells out shows at prominent venues across the country and has played with a myriad of talented musicians, says that using social media regularly leaves her feeling socially and professionally inadequate. She finds herself comparing her career or her relationship to others on a seemingly endless loop. And these comparisons, she notes, are rooted in curated, often two-dimensional exposures that don’t give the full picture of anyone’s real-life day-to-day.

According to Facebook, there were 2.32 billion monthly active users on the site as of December 31, 2018, and 1.52 billion daily active users. Twitter boasts 326 million monthly active users with 500 million Tweets sent per day. Instagram has over 100 million monthly active users. These numbers stagger the imagination, especially when considering these platforms didn’t exist 20 years ago. It may even be the case that you, dear reader, are on social media right now. And if you are a social media user, has this thought ever run through your head? “I should delete my profile…” Probably.

At the outset, social media was sold to the public as a tool for communication and connection. Information is power, we thought, so let’s share as much of it as we can. And if we can achieve this new sense of “closeness,” perhaps all our troubles will diminish. But, Vaknin argues, it’s now evident that social media encourages negative behavior and interactions. And this leads many users to wonder if the platforms are destroying communities, rather than building them.

In a detailed piece released in January 2018, the BBC says that over 3 billion people use social media, about 40 percent of the world. In the report, social media is said to contribute to heightened levels of stress, lowered moods, and an increase in anxiety. The same report, however, noted that social media has some benefits if used wisely. Social media, the report says, is a tool that can help lower depression depending on the type of community one keeps on the platforms. In short, connection to negative responses lowers happiness, while positive reinforcement can raise moods. But can a platform that incentivizes negativity, as Vaknin claims, really ever be ultimately good?

Vaknin, whose work focuses on narcissism and psychopathy, asserts in a recent interview for the documentary, “Plugged-in: The True Toxicity of Social Media Revealed,” with life coach and journalist Richard Grannon, that social media programmers knowingly “built addiction into” their systems. For one, he says, there is no usage time limit. You can essentially chain smoke social media. Secondly, the platforms are built to produce immediate gratification that, when it subsides, causes the user internal frustration similar to withdrawal. As a result, Vaknin believes, social media is a contributor to rising levels of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and, worse, even suicide. This is especially true among young people who have never known a world without it, Vaknin says.

Again, Parker agrees, saying at the Axios event, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” And a 2018 study, conducted by the University of Southern California, found that adolescents exposed to social media see a “statistically significant” increase in symptoms of ADHD compared to their counterparts.

Further, Vaknin says, social media tends to create digital clusters of like-minded people in mediated interactions. It’s purported that these clusters are groups of friends, but in reality, that’s often not the case. Instead, he claims, people interact with “digital renditions” of each other and enough of this behavior can make the user think the digital world is reality. Human interactions, Vaknin concludes, tend to decrease and the user becomes more accustomed to screen-experiences where intimacy is unfamiliar, even threatening.

While it’s clear that millions of people use social media, and that all of this information might sound like a far-off Doomsday scenario, it’s more real than one might like to admit: all over the world, people engage in online communication on social media platforms, regularly expressing hate and anger, even plotting violence. Google the term “InCel” and you’ll quickly find message boards, web pages and chat rooms laden with sexual frustration, racism, and misogyny, all heightened by isolation and incentivized by negative attention.

But is there any going back from a world drenched in social media? For Earl, whose job often relies on it for communication and promotion, the answer is likely no. “I don’t think there’s a very good chance of that,” she says. “Certainly, I know people who are off social media entirely but my sense is that there is no going back from here. I don’t think social media is destroying us, but I do feel like it’s rewriting us. Personally, I would love to take a break from it. But I work in media and entertainment and it all happens online.”

In the end, there are ways to be more impactful and thoughtful on social media. There are worthwhile charities on the platforms that you can engage with. There are new bands to check out, new fashion and art to discover on their web pages. But ultimately for Vaknin, if someone is looking for true closeness or real humanity, social media is not the place to find it, despite what is claimed by the platforms’ CEOs. And reliance upon social media, Vaknin says, breeds connection, but all too often it’s a connection with negativity, addiction, and narcissism, not love and affection.

Striking a balance between luxury and earth conscious travel can be challenging. Travel is a notorious offender when it comes to environmental impact. Long-haul flights aren’t exactly saving the planet but isn’t it true our days are brighter, and more productive after a relaxing getaway? Focusing on sustainable lodging is one way to combat the adverse facets of travel but at these bucket-list-worthy and environment-friendly hotels you can go green around the world without sacrificing an ounce of the glam and comfort.

Soneva Kiri
Koh Kood, Thailand

Soneva Kiri is the epitome of eco-friendly elegance. Arrive on the private island after just a one-hour flight from Bangkok, where a large luxury villa awaits you. At Soneva Kiri, it’s 100 percent luxury meets adventure. There’s a waterslide, private pool, and your own electric golf cart for getting around the sprawling resort. Built with the environment in mind from the start, the villas are made from locally-sourced sustainable materials. Even the sumptuous bed sheets are organic. They compost and recycle water on-site. On top of stellar material choices, Soneva Kiri has a program dedicated to auditing their supply chain for environmental impact.

With a motto of, “No News, No Shoes,” the resort encourages guests to reconnect with nature and immerse themselves in the pristine jungle surroundings. And it’s never been easier to put away your phone and embrace a greener lifestyle when you have access to everything from private snorkel tours, and waterfall hikes to a chocolate room and an open-air cinema right outside your door.

LimaLimo
Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Set high in the stunning Simien Mountains, this boutique 12-room lodge’s dramatic views alone make it worth the visit — not to mention the rich wildlife that includes gelada monkeys, hyenas, and ibex. The buildings on the property are constructed using rammed earth, which is a technique for constructing foundations, floors, and walls using natural raw materials such as earth, chalk, lime, or gravel. At LimaLimo, eye-catching wood and thatch is used prevalently. When it comes to preserving our planet’s water source, LimaLimo has ensured each building has its own rainwater harvesting system. Energy comes from renewable sources, and wastewater is recycled and reused. But that doesn’t stop this property from feeling chic and modern via its clean and simple design aesthetic.

The lodge has no internet, which encourages guests to take a complete break from the outside world. While activities do include champagne breakfasts and luxury picnic lunches, visitors are also encouraged to connect with locals. Guests can head to rural Ethiopian villages to absorb traditions such as a coffee ceremony, or to take part in the Pack for a Purpose initiative — helping bring essential medical care to remote villages.

Islas Secas
Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama

Opened in January 2019, this unique property spans 14 volcanic islands outside of a protected marine park with unmatched diving and snorkeling adventure. With just nine luxury guest rooms spread across the verdant landscape, three-quarters of the archipelago have been left undeveloped. The exclusive new retreat, built from certified sustainable wood, combines old-world elegance with laid-back beach vibes and allows guests to take part in once-in-a-lifetime experiences like whale watching, swimming among bottlenose dolphins, and spotting the Coiba Island howler monkeys.

Incredibly, all of the property’s energy is powered by a large solar array, and all food waste is composted and reused as fertilizer. They also reuse wastewater for irrigation and are working to eliminate all single-use plastics. Travelers will want to take part in the Naturalist Tours that Islas Secas offers, where a knowledgeable guide can highlight the diverse wildlife found on the islands.

Six Senses Fiji
Malolo Island, Fiji

Surrounded by cerulean waters and sugary white-sand beaches, Six Senses Fiji is a tropical paradise featuring private pool villas and residences that range from two to five bedrooms. Guests can take a dip in their own private plunge pool, enjoy the waves with a PADI course, or visit a Wellness Village for spa treatments and yoga. Consistent with the Six Senses brand, the Fiji resort seeks to offset its carbon footprint wherever it can. This luxurious property is home to one of the largest off-grid solar installations in the Southern Hemisphere that uses Tesla batteries. In another effort to cut back on waste, visitors are also provided reusable glass water bottles, and the resort has created its own Recycling Corner.

Here, guests can spend the perfect day island hopping and enjoying the sea breeze. The property’s restaurant takes on traditional Fijian food with modern touches, using organic, locally-sourced ingredients, including many from the property’s herb garden and farm.

Inn by the Sea
Maine, USA

This charming coastal getaway located in close vicinity to Portland, Maine features artfully decorated suites. The rooms include full kitchens, oversized bathtubs that practically beg for bubbles, and private outdoor decks and balconies with ocean views — all of which guests access using green recycled paper key cards. Inspired by its natural setting, the Inn gardens are a designated wildlife habitat and home to a myriad of local animals.

The room amenities are not only all-natural, but also made in the U.S, and their sheet and towel program helps fund habitat restoration for animals like rabbits and monarch butterflies. The delectable on-site restaurant, Sea Glass, sources fresh, local ingredients and produce from nearby farms. Don’t miss out on trying the famous Lobster Tacos.

Professional card counter, David Drury, began his career calculating odds and beating casinos because of a little “divine intervention.” Dury, a regular churchgoer, had picked up a few card-counting tricks from books and was instantly hooked. Not long after, a friend from church started a high stakes blackjack team.“What are the chances?” Drury says. Dury joined, honed his skills, and since he’s flown the country, stayed in suites, and bet thousands of dollars of other people’s money. For a time, he was even known as one of the “most notorious card counters in America.”

Photography Trevor Boone

Drury, who plays in a popular band in Seattle called Tennis Pro, and is an accomplished short story writer, says the lifestyle of a professional card counter is a grind. It’s not often glamour or glitz, despite the fact he might take a casino for thousands in an evening.

“If you’re good,” he says, “you soon find out that it’s not a matter of just walking in and winning every night. The swings are brutal. Like any job, you have to work hard at maintaining your narrow profit margin, play perfectly, and put in the time.”

With a mop of grey-brown hair, Charlie Brown smile, and kind eyes, Drury, now in his early 40s, is as unassuming as any who’s played a hand of 21. But sitting at a table, he’ll give a dealer a fake name and play in ways that win but draw as little attention to himself as possible. Nevertheless, he’s been walked out of 300 gaming rooms and experienced the ire of casino management and security personnel alike.

“Many of them have backed me off multiple times,” he remembers. “About 30 casinos have ‘trespassed’ me, which is to say that if I go back, they have legal precedent to arrest me. Once or twice a casino manager has kicked me out red-faced, yelling with shaky hands. Once a woman in management tried to physically bar me from leaving the casino like she was a linebacker so that they could interrogate or intimidate me further.”

While casinos frown upon and tend to ban card counters, there is nothing illegal about it. “Casino security,” Drury says, “can generally only forbid a professional from playing a specific game, offering, say, slots or poker as a replacement. But to avoid being ousted, a player must keep his ‘tricks’ hidden from the casino.” Famously, the actor Ben Affleck recently tried his hand at counting cards in a Las Vegas casino — and did rather successfully — but was so obvious about his tracking that he was removed from the table. In fact, Drury wrote an article about the occurrence for the Blackjack Apprenticeship, and Affleck reached out to him to fact check.

Photography Trevor Boone

“Card counting requires a lot of ducking the spotlight,” says Drury, “so that by the end of the night I can take it by rights. [From the beginning], I could sense in myself I was not going to be stopped. I didn’t want to just tinker, I wanted to dominate. I didn’t just want to join the team, I wanted to win more than anyone.”For Drury, the game was never about getting rich. It was about the thrill of winning and working

with a team toward a common goal, beating something that was so fortified that hardly anyone turns the edge.

The money part is thrilling, obviously,” he says, “but I found out I mostly just love beating the game day in and day out. I play one-dollar tables the same way I play multiple hands of thousands of dollars each. The lifestyle is fun to talk about at parties, but the truth is that when I am staying at a fancy resort casino, I can’t sleep in or bring myself to order room service because I know there are tables downstairs waiting to be crushed.

While so much of the process can seem nefarious, and Drury must take precaution for his safety, he also has many fans, some of which are the police officers and security directors paid to block his path. “Once three men in street clothes chased me up a parking garage stairwell,” he says. “But it turned out they were police and after making sure I hadn’t done anything illegal with my casino chips, they asked if I could teach them to beat the casino too.”

Photography Trevor Boone

Today, Drury teaches card counting techniques and is writing a book on his experiences. He also appeared in the 2010 documentary, “Holy Rollers,” which focused on his church group of professional gamblers. And while gambling may not be the first thing one thinks of when they consider the church, Drury says they are indeed connected.

“There is something about living life in the margins that feels related to faith,” Drury explains. “Not quite safe, fielding questions that don’t always have easy answers, paying attention as opposed to feeling smug. The heroes of the Bible were penitent, faithful and trustworthy, but they were also mystical, dubious and off-putting. The Pharisees always seemed confused as to why Jesus wasn’t squeaky clean like them, and his response was that if you are so concerned with being squeaky clean, you’ve missed the point.”

The apothecary is back. With a focus on natural remedies and local botanicals, apothecaries are popping up everywhere and are using plant-based alternatives to fix everything from skin woes — to headaches — to low libidos.

“If you dig deep enough into your own lineage, there’s plant medicine everywhere,” Max Turks, founder of Roots & Crowns Apothecary in Portland, Ore., says. “It’s part of the fabric of being human. It’s only in the past 100 years that it’s gone behind a veil because of the industrial revolution and the pharmaceutical industry.”

Apothecaries are trendy right now, like many things that resurface after a long absence. But the three apothecaries I interviewed for this story, Roots & Crowns, Blendily, and Sabia, transcend trend. Each store is at once modern and ancient, like the beautiful vintage rugs that hang from the walls of Roots & Crowns where I am spending this sunny March morning chatting with Max.

Max wears a black sweater and layered necklaces, one which reads “Aquarius” in delicate gold script, and is standing behind a polished stone counter. I feel calmer just being in her presence.

What apothecaries used to be is the medicine places of the town. What people don’t realize,” she says, “or maybe they do, is that pharmacies are literally the modern apothecaries. Unfortunately, it’s so far removed from what it used to be, but apothecary is medicine.

Blendily

The day before I had a phone call with Ivy Chaung, founder of Blendily, a skincare kitchen offering “all-natural skincare, bath and body care, and herbal remedies handcrafted with fresh, organic, and wild ingredients.”

In 2012 it was uncovered that Johnson & Johnson had the formaldehyde-releasing chemicals quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin in their baby products; Ivy had an infant daughter at the time. This was the news that prompted Ivy to pivot career paths, formalizing her education in aromatherapy and natural product formulation, and becoming a licensed esthetician. “I was pretty alarmed because [my daughter’s] first bath in the hospital just minutes out of the womb was with this baby wash. It’s an immensely popular product, even now,” she says.

I think what was most upsetting was that formaldehyde wasn’t listed in the formulation itself. I had a lightbulb moment. This can’t be how it used to be. I realized everything you[use to] groom yourself can be handmade, the ingredients can be botanical-based and understandable.

Sabia Apothecary

Not all modern apothecaries make their own products on-premise. Sabia Apothecary curates an inventory of high-quality products, many of which utilize local ingredients including myrrh and rose petals in the Royal Rose Honey Mask, and Inventive Organics Environmental Cleanser, made using ginger, grapefruit, and tea tree oil.

Sabia Apothecary began as a “sleepy neighborhood herb and essential oil shop” in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Austin in 1994, Katie Day of Sabia Apothecary tells me. “A husband and wife team had a passion for natural healing and body care that they manifested in the brick and mortar Sabia.” They changed ownership in 2004, and have grown to include various skin, hair, and body care brands as well as ingestible wellness potions and a full spa service menu.

I ask Katie what she sees as the role of the modern apothecary and she explains impassioned, “I think there’s something that just feels good about healing your body with plants and nutritional foods if it’s available to you. Our bodies respond readily and synergistically with botanical formulations as we share DNA with plants and are quite receptive to the healing powers of ancient herbs and botanical ingredients. [There is] heaps of this sort of information at our fingertips.”

It seems like every time you turn an Instagram corner, there’s another influencer touting a new natural product that will change your life, or at least your skin. It can be overwhelming. “This is where the modern-day apothecary can step in and provide guidance,” Katie says. “At Sabia, we are not exclusively one way or the other. Most everything we carry is ‘natural’, but there is definitely a wide range to satisfy a broad spectrum of customers.”

Modern apothecaries are a place to come for guidance and genuine connection. Sabia offers “an ambient space where one can come to relax, peruse a curated selection of healthful products, and leave with a bit of new knowledge on how to self-care.”

Natural vs. Organic

I ask Katie, Ivy, and Max to help me unpack the differences between the word “natural” and “organic” and they tell me almost the exact same thing; those words really have no widely agreed upon meaning.

“There is a common misconception that has arisen along with the interest in ancient remedies and natural products; [some people think] if something isn’t 100 percent naturally derived then it must be bad,” Katie explains. “If you want to add dermatologist-developed retinol to your regimen, then by all means! We have the options and offer you educated guidance so you get to decide.”

“I think organic can be a buzzword,” Max says. “Things can be organically grown or cultivated even if they are not certified organic. I’m going to be working with a hemp farmer who may or may not eventually get certified in organic growth, but they are growing organically which just means that they avoid the majority of pesticides, and they work to make sure that the soil’s not depleted.”

Similarly, other brands may be “natural” in the sense that they are free of synthetics, dyes, parabens, fragrances, and other ingredients, but might not have the Ecocert or Certified Organic stamp on the label. Katie says, “we still love them anyway, as this detail does not compromise the integrity of the products we have carefully selected to carry here. We carry several brands from overseas that do not have the same FDA organic standards as American brands but still utilize organically grown ingredients, thus are organic.”

“Natural is fluff word,” Ivy says with a laugh. “It sounds nicer than chemical-free which is misleading in that there are chemical constituents in natural products.” Ivy tells me, to my surprise, that in the cosmetics industry there’s little to no regulation on these words. In the U.S., regulations on the word organic are only for food, so if you see it on a cosmetics label it means some of the ingredients (olive oil, for example) have been through the food regulation process.

I ask Max what can be done by the average consumer who is seeking safer alternatives to everyday items. “The best thing you can do when it comes to ingredients is have a relationship with the source and be able to trust it,” she says.

Ivy tells me that many of her customers come into the shop saying they have sensitive skin, “which is interesting because sensitive skin is really skin that is having a reaction. When you purchase skincare products there are so many ingredients you don’t know what you’re reacting to.” She tries to limit all of Blendily’s products to 10 ingredients or fewer.

Max advocates a similar simplicity in her products. “If you look at the average person’s bathroom vanity or closet it’s full of shit that they don’t even touch. People are amazed when I say you can use this facial serum as a cleanser, moisturizer, even an exfoliant. There is no reason why you need to have a $700 beauty regime.”

Magic

The love Ivy, Max, and Katie all show for plants is a love I envy in its purity and its ability to occupy both the scientific and the mystical.

Ivy describes to me one of the facial oil serums she produces seasonally called Ruby Skies. It’s made by infusing St. John’s Wort into Sunflower Oil to form a blazing poppy red color. “I’m pretty enamored with that product because it gives off a such a beautiful hue. The flower is yellow and if you were to infuse the flower when it’s dry, it wouldn’t give off that color,” she says. “It feels like magic.”

And then the next day, Max is telling me about violets.

I can’t express the joy that I feel when I get to see the first violet of the year. I’m amazed that we get this year after year, it just comes back like a resurgence.” She says. “Violet medicine is often told to be a creative expression. It can be helpful for people who are shy and introverted if they want to open up. I think of how that is such a metaphor for what violets do at the end of a dark quiet season.

“What lessons can you observe from plants?” Max wonders, more to the collective you or perhaps to herself than to me. “These things that seem little but they’re not little and they’re everywhere if you notice them.” She pauses, takes a bite of the breakfast cookie she’s been nibbling on all morning.

“That’s magic to me.”

 

In my local Portland coffee shop recently, the barista asked if I wanted to add a few drops of CBD to my Americano. He spoke in the same flat affect usually reserved for “Room for cream?” Always curious to try anything that promises to make me feel “different,” I ponied up the extra three bucks bringing my total to 2.5 times its normal price.

The CBD itself was tasteless and left a light oily film on the top of my coffee, which was not unpleasant (it reminded me of the oily drops on the surface of hot chocolate sold at ice skating rinks). What followed was one of the most clear-headed and productive writing days I’ve had in months.

For the uninitiated, CBD (Cannabidiol) is one of over 100 chemical compounds which comprise the marijuana plant. The compound most commonly associated with marijuana is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and THC is what gets people high. Because CBD won’t get you stoned, it’s an intriguing option for anyone who is seeking relief from a myriad of symptoms but is uninterested in a lofty conversation about how the fuck tunnels are actually built…man.

I recognize that I am particularly susceptible to psychosomatic effects: I once drank salad dressing mixed with ketchup and thought I was drunk. To make sure the effects I was feeling from the CBD coffee were not in my head, in the figurative sense, I corroborated my experience with other CBD coffee enthusiasts, and spoke with Dr. Benjamin Caplan and Brooke Alpert, RD and licensed holistic cannabis practitioner, who is also New York City-based author of “The Sugar Detox.”

Generally speaking, for most people taking CBD, it seems to have a calming effect,” Caplan founder of the CED Foundation says, “It doesn’t seem to counteract other effects of caffeine.

Caplan, explained further, “there is literature supporting CBD’s action as a strong anti-inflammatory agent; it can help inhibit some of the major cascades of inflammatory cells, essentially muting components of the body’s alarm system. There is also evidence that, for some patients, CBD can reduce seizures, quell pain from arthritis and muscle spasm, reduce nausea, quiet nerve pains, and help lower anxiety. With consistent use and informed consumption, [CBD] has effect as an antineoplastic agent, supporting a cell’s ability to detect faulty or cancerous activity, and promote its self-destruction.”

Alpert says, “in my practice and in the research, 10 milligrams tends to be the sweet spot for most people to feel a positive effect from CBD.”

In addition to speaking with Caplan and Alpert, I wanted to glean multiple experiences from the general public to weigh in on the effectiveness of CBD in our daily lives — since you know, I have the ability to cop a buzz from salad dressing.

Before discovering the CBD coffee fusion, Emma Stapp had cut coffee entirely, feeling that it worsened her anxiety. “I truly love the taste and the ritual of [coffee], and though I’d try anything to ‘cure’ my angst, abstaining from coffee also didn’t seem like the forever solution. Adding CBD to my coffee seems to not only take the edge off my caffeine jitters and allow me to keep coffee in my life, but it also set the stage for a calmer day ahead.” She now uses CBD to combat everything from crippling panic attacks to first date jitters.

Stapp has been in therapy for over 14 years and has tried a variety of prescription medications, acupuncture, massage, Kava, meditation, yoga, running, mindfulness techniques, and dietary changes to manage her anxiety. CBD is now her preferred method for anxiety relief thanks to her newly discovered coffee and CBD ritual each morning.

“Both CBD and caffeine are known to interact with our natural cannabinoid system, boosting certain aspects, such as attention and focus, while, subduing other neurotransmitter systems,” Caplan tells me.  “Some animal data has shown us that cannabinoids, including CBD can interact with animal memory tasks. When caffeine has been studied alongside CBD, it has been shown to have a protective effect on memory.”

John*, a male in his 30s, says CBD in his morning cup of coffee makes his work stress more manageable. He drinks a CBD coffee and almost immediately experiences a calming effect. He notices he sweats less on his commute, which is a symptom of his easing anxiety.

Elena* found CBD coffee at a coffee shop in the West Village of New York City, and now brews her own at home each morning before heading to work. She notices a clearer head at the office, sustained energy, and an easier time focusing on complex tasks.

“I recently went off anxiety medicine I’ve been on since I was 12,” Elena told me.  

CBD has been a big part of that transition. It makes a noticeable difference for me and I’m much more comfortable taking it than a pharmaceutical that has all kinds of side effects.

Realizing that my brain loves the way I feel from CBD coffee but my wallet does not, I went online and purchased the exact same unflavored CBD tincture that my coffee shop uses (the brand is Gron) for $50. Now I add it to my coffee at home whenever I remember, which is seldom, because my brain doesn’t function well without coffee. A real catch-22. At least the bottle looks cool on my counter.

Lavender is aromatic with a hint of floral undertones, but it can also be an overwhelming flavor. When done right it’s a treat for your senses. You know some of the classic combinations: lavender and berries, lavender and sage, and lavender and dark chocolate.

This deliciously robust take on hot chocolate is a delight any day of the week or season of the year. Whether as the perfect pick-me-up at the beginning of a busy day, or the ideal midday beverage when you are hankering for something sweet, the Feliz Lavanda is a satisfying accompaniment for any occasion. With added ice cream, and a dusting of cocoa powder, it’s near indulgent without overdoing it.

While this recipe makes one serving, double it and share it with someone you love. Even better, make a batch big enough for a few cups each, lay out all the toppings, and let friends build their own. Lavender is known for its laundry list of benefits for mind and body; such as relieving nausea, headaches, and anxiety. Cocoa is packed with antioxidants and is great for a healthy heart. Just as the Aztec emperor Montezuma II used cocoa to revitalize himself, you can too.

RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon dried lavender
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons maple syrup
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream

Directions:

In a small pot, combine milk and dried lavender over low heat for three minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for an additional two minutes. Strain the milk back into the pot and warm over low heat. Pour the lavender-infused milk into the mini food processor. Add cocoa powder, maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Blend on high for 1 minute. Pour over ice cream. Serve.    

Lavender Hot Chocolate

Before becoming a renowned cartoonist, Tony Millionaire struggled to find any work at all. But after quitting a middling dishwashing job, he had an epiphany. He decided to go door-to-door in wealthy neighborhoods drawing the manicured mansions to sell to the people who lived there, earning a living one $25 piece at a time. In the winter, though, the drawing work dried up and Millionaire had to scramble to find new income, eventually landing a job as a demolition man.

“The people who had money to spend on drawings lived in big, fancy houses,” recalls Millionaire, now a nationally syndicated cartoonist. “If you have a nice, big old house, the garden comes in perfectly, the roof is fixed, the flowers are coming in nicely. How do you put a period on that? You have somebody draw a picture of it. But you can’t really do that in winter. So, I had to find a job in construction. I used to do the demolition inside houses. I’d tear them down in winter and draw them in summer.”

The grueling grind would become a theme in Millionaire’s professional life. But it was also the path that led him to his greatest creative successes. Down and out, freshly single and a self-identified alcoholic, Millionaire found himself one night at his local bar in New York City, a place called 612. Dejected, he began drawing a big-eyed suicidal bird. It was the birth of his most famous character, Drinky Crow.

“I was sad, depressed, and broken-hearted,” says Millionaire. “I went down to the bar, and I started drawing this depressed little crow blowing his brains out. And the bartender looked over at me and said, ‘Oh, you draw comics?’ I said, ‘Kind of.’ And he said, ‘Draw me a comic, and I’ll give you a beer.’ And I thought, ‘Good God, I’ve got a fucking job. This will get me through the winter.’”

Eventually, more customers in the bar began drawing crows blowing their brains out,but Millionaire remained the sole recipient of beer as payment. Drinky Crows ended up on the bathroom stalls and the walls of the bar. And the owner of 612 loved it. Drinky Crow was the watering hole’s new mascot. And soon, Millionaire didn’t have to draw houses for rich people anymore.

You could say Millionaire was fated to be a cartoonist. Despite a lifestyle and orientation to the world that resembled more skid row than MOMA, art remained thick in Millionaire’s blood. His grandfather and grandmother were professional artists, as was his mother and father. And Millionaire credits their talent and encouragement for shaping his confidence.

“I picked up a crayon and started scribbling and never stopped,” he recalls. “At three, I drew an elephant, and my mother said it was the greatest thing she’d ever seen. She continued to convince me I was a great artist and that’s why I am a great artist.”

At 10, Millionaire told his mother he wanted to be a commercial artist. But she had higher hopes for her progeny.

“She said, ‘You’re going to go to art school, take fine art, learn to draw and learn to paint,’” Millionaire says. “She said, ‘Don’t ever worry about your career, just keep working.’”

As a result, Millionaire has established himself as one of the most prolific cartoonists working today. He’s a craftsman. He doesn’t doodle. Rather, he gets an idea for a strip and bangs it out, creating deep, rich panels with expressive, eye-catching characters. He’s a student of the Sunday papers of the ‘30s and ‘40s, an art form that has all but dried up of late due to vast newspaper cutbacks.

This year, though, he relaunched his popular strip “Maakies”, which originally ran from 1994-2016, online, and has used Instagram to get his work back out in the world. Now he has more readers than ever. His comics are drawn with his lush style and quick wit. But most of all, people love the crass, real-life content — the gut-punch lines — like a crow at a bar with X’s for eyes talking about wanting ice cubes in his Scotch, or a character coming out of jail “impregnated” in 4 places in his head, or another character decapitated.

Millionaire likes to drink. He says he can’t draw without it. He loves drinking and doesn’t shy away from it, subscribing to the Rat Pack ethic that says if you don’t drink, then the moment you wake up is the highlight of the day, and it’s all downhill from there. But, unlike most alcoholics, Millionaire has been able to function both creatively and professionally while drinking— a reality, he underscores, that does not work for most.

“When I was young,” he says, “I learned how to be very drunk. Now that I’m older, I’ve learned to be a relaxed alcoholic and I only drink beer. For me, it works. I sit at night and drink and draw. I can’t draw sober, I’m too aware of everything. Everything’s too serious. So, I drink some beer and feel fine and off I go until 6 or 7 in the morning.”

Today, many of Millionaire’s fans sport Drinky Crow tattoos. Drinky Crow even had his own cartoon show. Millionaire has had many books published to go along with his seemingly endless number of strips. He’s an enterprise, and it was a fortune both destined to happen and that was nearly impossible to come to fruition.

“I can’t stop it,” Millionaire says of his production. “I don’t have a choice. To me, it comes down to what the job requires. That’s why I love my comics. I can draw whatever I want. I don’t sketch, most artists sketch. I get bored doing that. I want my pen to do a thing that I’m planning on. But that just comes from drawing too many fucking houses.”

Isabelle Kohn, also known as “Dear Ibby” often fields questions such as, “Dear Ibby, The guy I’m seeing is so into anal, but I hate it. What should I do?” to “Dear Ibby, All I want to do is wear my girlfriend’s clothes while we fuck …” and even “Dear Ibby, Can I tighten my vagina? Do kegels really work?”

Kohn’s sex advice column defies the norm as it’s informative, thoughtful, and often comical.

It was meant to be humorous and helpful at the same time. So much sex information is conveyed with seriousness or alarm. I felt like a more lighthearted approach might make it easier for people to connect with what is often a difficult and confusing topic.

Kohn explained

Sex education is imperative to gaining the knowledge necessary to make healthy decisions about sex and sexuality. It contributes to fostering healthy relationships and managing personal sexual health. Unfortunately, only 24 states and the District of Columbia require sex education. Of those 24, only eight mention consent or sexual assault and according to a study done by Public Religion Research Institute on 12 percent mention same-sex relationships.It’s no wonder that so many adults seek out candid advice from knowledgeable women like Isabelle Kohn.

Isabelle Kohn is a journalist, editor, sex educator, sex coach, and the ingenious mind behind the advice column, “Dear Ibby.” “Dear Ibby” was a unique way of allowing adults who didn’t know whom or how to ask for advice to ask questions about their bodies and desires, or their partner’s. “I’m deeply interested in the mind-body connection, the transformative power of kink, and giving voices to more marginalized expressions of sexuality,” Kohn told us. For readers, the advice column was an affirmation that their questions or concerns were valid and that they were not alone in feeling naive to certain aspects of sexuality, consent, and dating.

Kohn quit doing “Dear Ibby” for Rooster Magazine, but has continued her work as a sex educator. Kohn and Bryn Roberts have started sex-ed pop-up dinners called “Eating Out” where they procure a house to host an intimate, family-style meal. “Oh my god, they’re so fun,” Kohn emphasized. “It’s a hybrid sex-ed pop-up dinner where we plan the menus around various themes like BDSM, aphrodisiacs, anal sex — any sexual topic can be made into a pop-up event, really.” Roberts makes a nutritarian meal from foods chosen specifically for how they might enhance a sexual or sensual situation. During dinner, the health benefits of the meal are discussed and afterwards a workshop around the dinner theme is taught by an expert in that field. A recent BDSM brunch included a spanking and impact play demonstration by Kohn’s mentor, Jamila Dawson, an interdisciplinary sex therapist. “The whole thing is meant to facilitate discussion and help sex-positive and sexually curious people build community and make connections. It’s very educational, but it’s also an entirely novel way to consume sex-positive information,” Kohn explained.

Kohn has also created a safe space for her orgasm classes in the same truly affirming and supportive atmosphere. These classes are open to all genders and orientations, and are completely no contact — with yourself or others. “We go over anatomy, communication, masturbation, self-empowerment, practical skills, toys, and the cultural context in which orgasms take place,” Kohn explains. Although she would like to do more hands-on training one day, these classes are strictly educational.

Creating a safe space for sexual understanding and having instruction that is inclusive is important, Things like communication, consent, and self-empowerment are things everyone can benefit from, regardless of how they identify.

Kohn detailed, “It’s really helpful to learn about your own body and bodies that are different from your own. The more you know, the more effective communication and consent you can have, and the more passionate and intimate an exchange can be. Everyone likes different things, so having a more diverse audience — especially one that feels open to discussing their own sexualities, preferences, and vulnerabilities, benefits everyone.”

“In general, the more diverse your classes can be in terms of gender, race, age, ability level, socioeconomic status, religion, and so on, the better and more valuable education you get.” Kohn explained by giving us a few examples, “There was one class I taught where a cis man had no idea that there was an internal portion to the clit.” Another time, “a femme person was totally floored that you could use cock rings to make someone with a penis last longer in bed,” and “There was another where a guy talked about how he never felt like he had the opportunity to give consent in sexual interactions.” These types of discoveries, and the fostering of open communication around healthy sexuality, are crucial to relationships that are guilt and shame-free.

Unfortunately, not all of those who come across the necessary work that Kohn does are as impressed, but she couldn’t care less. “I block them then never think about it again,” she says. Kohn’s confidence in her own expertise leaves no room for trolls. “The internet is full of idiots and people who get off on trying to make you feel like shit, and I don’t have time for that. If someone doesn’t know me or is clearly coming from a place of insecurity — which most people who troll you are — why would I care what they have to say?” Kohn has even gone as far as creating a handy guide on her Medium account called: “Be The Internet Troll You Wish to See in The World.”

Isabelle Kohn’s career as a sex educator has benefited so many. She has unapologetically written about topics like female sexual pain, which often goes unheard and ignored by their partners and the medical system. Along with Joan Price, a 74-year-old senior sex expert, she pressed the importance of senior sexuality — which gave us all less anxiety about old age and reminded us that “sex has no expiration date.” Whether it is her unique classes, her exceptional writing, or simply her knack for suggesting just the right sex toy you’re looking for, Kohn’s witty sex-positive voice is the kind of transformational cultural awareness necessary for a sexual revolution in the sea of naive or oppressive garbage. “Sex is not a one-size-fits-all game,”

Kohn explains,

It can’t be summed up in a listicle, or understood from a single class alone. There’s no such thing as universal “good sex” because “good sex” means something different for everyone. It’s a completely subjective, beautifully diverse, and constantly fluctuating thing. Navigating it in your own life is all about how to make things work for you, not what other people think works for them.