The Beauty Confessional


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Kirghiz government adviser Nurem Urorovitch, a very tall man in a very dark business suit, double-breasted in the post-Soviet style, explained that his country is rich in gold and uranium, food and fibers (including cotton and camel and yak hair), but poor in exportable manufactures (although someone mentioned that “the yak-meat charcuterie has potential”). “What we do have are fabulous tourist and outdoor sports resources,” he said. Make that extreme sports. The big screen was just then showing skiers disembarking from an ex-Soviet helicopter onto 24,000-foot Pobedy Peak (Victory). There are forests full of wildlife (“including the bearded vulture,” Urorovitch said) and vast unpolluted Alpine lakes. Issuk Kul is the local Lago Maggiore: Formerly a top-secret Soviet torpedo-testing range, it’s now a recreation haven, Hal said.

Pointing to a map, Kirghiz Senator Isa Shashenkul Omerklvov invited U.S. investment in a rail line crossing the Tien Shan Mountains into China. “Our trains are falling apart,” he said. What’s more, the Lonely Planet Guide recently called them “grotty.”

What the Kirghiz should export are hats. A Kirghiz man’s hat is called a calpac. It’s sort of a fleecy, white-felt version of the Cat in the Hat topper, only with a Sinatra-style snap brim and no stripes. As they left their conference and walked out of the dark, empty hotel lobby onto sunny Hollywood Boulevard, the delegation’s dark-suited males donned their calpacs and caused dozens of strolling tourists to swivel their heads. It felt like a primal moment in fashion history.

—Marc B. Haefele

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