Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Religious Weekend

Yummy sofa at ABC - thick, textured linen and piles of down and feather.

A beautiful simple wood chair.

Pillows galore.

The weekend was one religious experience after another. It began on Friday afternoon at Barney's. I haven't been to Barney's for, maybe, 28 years. When I went way back then, I was working in fashion - so Barney's was Mecca. Of course so was Bendel's and probably Bergdorf's. I had only been back in New York once since then - about three years ago to see the Chanel exhibit at the Met.

Now, I live here. Lee took a teaching job (old news by now) and here I am. Happy as a clam. Lee spent the weekend in North Carolina working with his dissertation mentor and my sister, Holly, came to NY to hang out with me. She is also a designer so we have many things in common. Clothes, food, and design. That is what we are about!

On Friday, we walked down Madison and ended up at Barney's. I was a fashionista in my 20's. I was enamored with St. Laurent and Chanel (I bought one St. Laurent coat in 1979 on a huge sale at Dayton's Oval Room - I still have it and wear it!) I was a designer and seamstress and HOW these clothes were made is what interested me. After perusing the hat and bag area and coveting no less than 4 hats and 5 bags each, but with prices over our weekly incomes, we passed on the purchases. We made our way to the second floor where designer clothes hung elegantly and sparely on curving rods. First....Nina Ricci. Unbelievable. Holly and I wanted at least 4 of these pieces and the bill would have topped $20,000. But gorgeous, understated, silk, 20's inspired tops and dresses. Quiet elegance. Next was Yves St. Laurent. Amazing sleeves. They actually are cut like a human being's arm - slightly curved forward. It takes a great deal more fabric(thus costing a great deal more) but actually fits the human form. It was so beautiful. Then on to Prada - and the exquisite laces.

What was most pleasant is that no one made us feel like we shouldn't be there. We were casually dressed in jeans and boots. But no one bugged us or watched over us. We browsed freely. I think in NY the sales people are taught not to judge people - you never know who has money but happens to look like a homeless person today. So here's my snobby part - Lee asked me how it compared to Neiman's in Minneapolis. My response? "It makes Neiman's Minneapolis look like a Walmart." Unfortunately, I'm not kidding. Then again, now that I know that is Sarah Palin's new shopping spot, it all makes sense.

Then on to ABC Home on Saturday. Wow. Just one inspiring floor after another, filled with delicious linens and pillows, lighting and furniture - from lucite to naked woods, hammered metal and old painted chests. It is my newest resource for my clients.

Saturday night we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Whirling Dirvishes of Turkey - okay - unbeliveable. It was like being a mouse in the corner of a Turkish market in 1400 and watching the dirvishes pay tribute to the Beloved. All based on Rumi's poetry, the Sufi poet from the 13th Century. It was quite beautiful to see the way they crossed their arms over their hearts before they whirl. It is the same way the children at the Waldorf school cross their arms over their hearts while they say their morning verse - a ritual of reverence.

Followed by mussels and shrimp and salad at home courtesy of Holly's culinary talents. And sitting at the dinner table until 11:30 while we talked and laughed and talked and laughed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

"The times they are a'changin." - Bob Dylan

Just a moment ago, I looked for the sixteenth time today at the NYTimes website - it is my homepage when I open the web. There was a photo of a gathering of people with a lovely domed building in the background. It was clearly a political rally. I read the headlines. "Candidates Vie for Pieces of Changing Map." I clicked on it to read the piece. It was a rally today in St. Louis, MISSOURI - historically a fortress of Republicanism. But today, there in Saint Louis, 100,000 (that is not a typo! so there, Sarah Palin!!!) people gathered to see Barack Obama. It took even his breath away. Here are the words from the Times, (that most elite of the elite East Coast newspapers!)

Even Mr. Obama, who can wear self-possession like an overcoat, seemed taken aback. “What a magnificent day the Lord has made,” he said. “And thank you for being here today.”

I just started to weep. I was touched by his instinctual proclamation of faith. I realized that we are going to get the change we need. I realized, too, how tired and sad I am from the last eight years. Weary. Just weary. So I read it and wept and then thought...thank god, "the time's they are a'changin."

Because, frankly, if they weren't, I am in the mood for another '60's revolution. I am just melancholic and bored after 8 years of George Bush and the nut case evangelicals and war mongerers and liars who have been at the helm. I'm toast - and that is why I am crying. For hope. For the audacity of hope.

So, here's a little Bob Dylan for you - from 1964. (Not all the lyrics, but the most compelling for now.)

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Things on My Mind

At the entry of Wyeth Home - SoHo. I liked the little leather benches.

Unbelievably cool chaise - for only $27,000 it can be yours.

How different this part of the city from my Upper East Side 
- East Village one end of the street.
The other end of the street - East Village - new high end condos

Report from Minneapolis:
I'm back from New York and life in Minneapolis is slightly discombobulating, as my mother might say. First, it is very quiet here. Now, as my son points out - that is normal. New York is not normal in the amount of noise that permeates life there. Ok. I get it. All I'm saying is, it is stunningly quiet in my neighborhood. It is lovely, really. But, I'm a little slow in feeling at home in my quiet apartment with no one to talk to or drink coffee with. Work is good, though. Work is good.

The trees have changed here - they are so grand and beautiful. I once heard that Californians think the changing trees are gauche - that the subtlety of the changes in California is so much more elegant and superior.  Well, that is exactly why I don't like (Southern) California. They are just so full of themselves. Like I have any choice about how my trees change. Why don't they just take this up with God? 

Notes from Blogging World:
My friend and fellow Blogger, Ellen - author of "A Girls Garden of Menopause" is a little off her game. She has been hit with a hurricane of forgetfulness and admits to forgetting that she had a blog. Well, I understand and it is nothing to be ashamed of. There are worse things to forget - like, that you have a husband, for example. So, not to worry, Ellen. I suggested she set up a little pill box with the Sunday through Saturday sections and put a note in reminding her to write for her blog. Her blog is very entertaining and I don't want her forgetfulness to get in the way of my entertainment.

A Bargain at Twice the Price:
So back to NY - I went to a shop that a client of mine turned me on to - Wyeth Home. It was in SoHo, had a locked door, and when I walked in was more than surprised by its size. I immediately knew that there might be several things I'd be interested in for my clients and asked if I could take photos to send my clients. It was jam-packed with mid-century Scandanavian (mostly) furniture, a little Nakashima, and a little African. 

They said no photos - they would give me tear sheets for everything. And nothing had a price on it. Ok. So I walk around, take mental notes and then show the shopkeeper what I would like for tear sheets. "I think this is fabulous. I'd like that. Oh, and that. And that wonderful leather chair. Ok....and the lamp. And the little leather bench. Oh, and the chaise! That is just amazing. Ok. I think that will do."

I arrived home, expecting to find the PDF file she had sent with images and prices. It was there, like an unwrapped package. I could hardly wait. I opened it. There were the items I had carefully selected - with pricing. Well, the chaise - $27,000. One of the chairs - $64,000. A set of dining chairs - $14,000 (A BARGAIN!), the table lamp - $2800. One SET of chairs was the original prototype for a designer and the price for the pair was $195,000.  Yes, $195,000.

Do people have the confidence to spend that kind of money in this economy? Go figure. I try not to be judgmental about people and their particular financial situation. I try to just make them happy  - whatever their budget (ok, within reason.) But - whoa!  Can you possibly get $64,000 worth of pleasure from a chair????  

Welcome to New York. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Observations on New York

So, after an official 4 weeks in New York I have a few, very minor, observations. And here they are, list style:

1. More people in NY have darker coloring than in the Midwest, the land of blue-eyed, blonde Scandinavians. Today I was meeting a female parent from Lee's class at a restaurant to discuss a possible design project. Although I had met her once, I had also met 24 other sets of parents the same night, so was not confident that I recalled what she looked like. I asked Lee, "What does she look like?" He replied, "She is dark, attractive, and kind of tall."

Ok. Good. I got it. So I get to the restaurant at 10 in the morning on Madison and 84th and what do you know? There are about 20 women who are dark, attractive and tall. This was a lesson in chauvinism. We don't know what we don't know because we are so oriented to our own little world. In the end, I found her because she was dark, attractive, and tall, AND looking like she was meeting someone she didn't know very well.

2. It is weird to listen to Waylon Jennings singing "Amanda" in our cute little New York pied-a-terre. It is weird to listen to country music in Manhattan, period. Just weird. But I'm going to keep doing it because I like my old country music.

3. Depending on the time of your life, New Yorkers will live in different parts of the city. (I did have a native New Yorker confirm this today!) When you are younger, you like being gritty so you live near the Bowery or in Hell's Kitchen. When you get a little money, you move to one of the Villages or Chelsea or Tribeca. When you have children or need it quiet, you move to one of the Uppers - Upper East or Upper West. I think Upper East is maybe the quietest. I need quiet.

4. New York grocery stores have put a lot of thought into their bags - the size and the handles - because New Yorkers have to carry everything. Normal cheap plastic bags are rare - because the handle squishes together and gets really skinny if you have a heavy bag and hurts your hand. The best bags have a nice, flat wide handle. It is a pleasure to carry the bags from Citerella and Butterfield Market. Most shops have nice, heavy duty bags that would NEVER break. There would be a riot in New York if things were always dropping out of the bottom of bags. And the added benefit is that we can use them for recycling.

5. New Yorkers would no more go out without an umbrella than go out without shoes on. I am clearly not yet a New Yorker.

6. Address is everything. New Yorkers know the city and say things like, "That's a very good address."

7. You can wear almost anything you want in New York - it is a good place to experiment with style because you can be fairly certain that no one will notice you. Or , if they do, they will either think you look chic or you are just bi-polar on one of your binges.

8. New York has a tangible energy. Even when you lay in bed at night, quiet, trying to fall asleep.
Which is why I am up very late watching Rachel Maddow and Hardball and reading my latest, fabulous book, Netherland. (Hint: go get it!)