Heroics at CurveNY~ Brave New Brands
By Morgan O’Neill
When I was young and highly impressionable I was seduced by the idea of heroism. I fell in love with the notion of being a hero, with saving the day. Like every other child of the fifties I was there when Superman came to comic book life to save Metropolis and Lois Lane from evil doers. Yet, in spite of Superman’s heroic deeds, there was always something inaccessible about him. Maybe he was just too perfect, too good to be true. I could never be like him. In the sixties, the flawed hero entered my comic book world dressed like a spider with the forewarning that with “great power comes great responsibility.” Even more beguiling was the idea that this flawed hero, an imperfect individual could step beyond his or her failings and achieve something heroic. Peter Parker was average. So am I. He epitomized teen angst. So did I. Maybe there was hope for me.
Lately my obsession with heroes has taken a different turn. I have come to the point where comic book fantasy and compelling fictional heroic stories do not hold a candle to the stories about average folks rising to the occasion, dealing with incredibly intense and overwhelming circumstances and somehow, in the end, overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. Those stories have been recounted in countless books. Lansing’s The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and Valerian Albanov’s In the Land of White Death. Bet you haven’t heard of the last one. It never made the best seller list, but let me tell you, it is an incredible story about perseverance.
In 1912, Russian navigator, Valerian Albanov, not unlike Ismael in Melville’s Moby Dick, joined an expedition that almost immediately was frozen fast in pack ice on the Kara Sea… for almost two years! By 1914 the men aboard the Saint Anna were desperate. Finally, 13 of them, hauling makeshift sledges assembled with sundry ship parts set out across the frozen sea in search of rescue. For over three months they trudged forward, often unaware that the movement of the sea ice in the opposite direction was often taking them backwards. I won’t spoil the story, but what was most amazing is that Albanov, the navigator, kept a diary of the ordeal. He was 31 when he boarded the Saint Anna. The story was written with his own bone-numbing, frostbitten fingers. The next time you face insurmountable odds, think about Albanov, or Louis Zamperni, or Ernest Schackleton and dream about the persistence and fortitude it takes to overcome the impossible.
Now, at the recent Curvexpo at the Javits Center the conditions for survival were slightly different. Bone numbing cold was replaced by classic humid, 100 degree New York heat. That is, of course, unless you were a model walking the chilly air conditioned show floor. And certainly the conditions were not life threatening. I swear the sight of beautiful lingerie models was not the cause of my palpitating heart – I have A-Fib! – Nor was it life threatening. Unless, you think that too much of beautiful lingerie models can kill you. But, again, I digress. What is amazing is to observe the little guys, the newcomers, the upstarts; the individual entrepreneurs go toe to toe with the big established lingerie manufacturers and persevere. It does not take a leap to see the connection between one’s willingness to brave the harshest of natural calamities come what may and the willingness to put one’s entire heart, financial future and reputation on the line to compete with companies that could crush you should they be inclined. Yet, like Schackleton and Zamperini they do. Whether or not the young navigator, Albanov does require you to read the story.