Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day In The United States

"As Americans commemorate Memorial Day, the culture has come a long way in celebrating the warriors, whatever one thinks of the war."

Human societies, despite our enviable enthusiasms, despite the processes we establish and the sheer amount of stuff we make, are just not perfect. Not even close. War, poverty, disease, oppression. Don't worry, I know that's not wisdom. It's just context. Because I believe in my heart that each person is perfect in their nature, and should be cared for in life, and mourned at death. No matter ideology, we can remember those who died in battle, those who mourn them at home, and those who return changed by what they went through.

I remember my step-uncle, who came home from Vietnam troubled, and am sorry for his family. I am sorry for my father's losses, his father and brother both dying in World War II when he was, as they say, just a boy. I would have liked to have known them both.

I consider myself a patriot. A liberal patriot. And I am committed to that position. I come back from travel every time so fond of our country and what we try to stand for. On Memorial Day, and I have to say this, I hope so devoutly that we can as a society and a form of life, move past the need to end eachother's lives.

I understand that those who fight can be heroes. They are all braver than I. I also hope that our concept of heroism continues to widen past armed conflict. Until then, for anyone who has ever fought or lost a loved one to war, it's Memorial Day. Let us remember.

Quote from Al Hunt, via Joyce Lau.
Image commemorating the Battle of the Bulge, where my uncle fell, from Dog Company's flickr stream.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Green Hills Of Wiltshire, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:24am

I am in terribly good spirits.

It's supposed to be sunny this weekend. In Northern California, by this time, we've usually entered a season of uninterrupted blue skies. But it's been raining when we would have expected sun.

I plan to go to the nursery and buy herbs to plant. I am sure I am too late but I don't care at all. I like the process of walking the just-watered paths of nurseries before the sun is overhead, laying newspaper in the back of my dowdy RAV4 to carry home my plants, and pulling on new gloves. Maybe flowered ones. Sturdy Gals like to garden above all else.

And my son landed in Buenos Aires yesterday. First reports are cheerful.

I imagine you might say to yourself, "Enough with the abrupt announcements of overseas travel!" Sorry. I think I mentioned he wanted to spend the summer in Argentina, in comments, in the post where you all gave me such good advice about his possible path to making a living. Maybe I misremembered. That happens these days. In any case, he's studying Spanish and Argentinian literature this summer. And living the life of a young man in Buenos Aires. Go Piglet. Yes, I call him Piglet sometimes. Not his favorite nickname, but mother privilege applies.

I love it when my kids have a space in front of them threaded with opportunity. Maybe not a moment to choose or even know the way forward, but I imagine green hills that almost certainly have paths, somewhere, to the other side. Or chalk horses.

New to me is this. Someone else paid for his summer. A Princeton alumnus created a fund, in my son's department, for kids to learn languages. Feels like a step in which he funds his own creative adventures. Go Piglet.

As I said, I'm in good spirits. Jet lag is gone. Sun is shining. The birds are very loud. I hope you all have wonderful weekends. For those in the US, have a good long weekend, kicking off another summer.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why Do They Call Paris "The City Of Light?"

Why do they call Paris the "City of Light?" All cities have light. And dark, for that matter.

Another look at the neon signs and people on a 5eme Arondissement street at midnight.

I have a theory. I believe that we may shut down our perceiving faculties in the face of too much beauty. Paris is unrelentingly beautiful. It's only when the light changes that we actually see, provoked by surprise. The city reveals itself, particularly.

Apparently the real answer is that Paris was the first place to adopt street lighting. Well. So they say.

Sunday morning I was intent on showing my friend the Sainte Chapelle. We walked over a bridge. The sun came out.

We walked up into the 2eme etage.

And out, past sandwich carts, and Notre Dame. Some clouds passed by.

Back in Belgium, I think my suitcase was a little sad. The light is a little more routine, in Belgium. Good thing they have red trains.

Images: me

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Eating In Paris Is Not Like Eating In Other Places. Some People Talk To You, Some People Don't.

For those of us who like to feel we've snagged the best of the best, eating in Paris can cause Street Fair Anxiety. You know the street fair fear of Not Finding The Best, or, Settling For The Not So Good? Wandering from booth to booth not knowing where to stop? Oh. Maybe it's just me. In any case, a similar feeling can accompany trying to figure out where to eat in Paris.

There are so many good places. Great places. And yet the awful lurks. If Paris offered only mediocre food, we'd feel no anxiety. Just grit our group esophagus and bear it. But how to plan to eat without organizing an entire visit around food? I mean, one can. One can, and many do, plan an entire trip to Paris just to eat well and on purpose. But if you also like to shop, and sight see, and you in particular want to leave room for serendipity, you need an eating strategy that allows for random choice.

Et voila.

You can ensure that you hit some high points by following recommendations from any or all of these sources.
Guidebooks. As long as you pick one suited to your demographic, i.e. no Lonely Planet for the Grande Dame, you should be fine. I like Fodor's, myself. Maybe their recommendations aren't the latest and coolest, but the company makes its living on giving good advice, and tries hard to deliver. Sturdy Gals like that.

Concierges. The role of concierge in Paris is more honorable than in the US. Hotels are less likely to send you to the restaurant down the street that has contributed to someone's coffers. Particularly if you cross-check recommendations with a guidebook, direction received should be useful.

Cognoscenti. Best of all, get advice from someone who lives in Paris or travels there often. If you don't have personal connections, in the US I can also recommend unreservedly, having frequented the SF board for a while. An online set of cognoscenti argue passionately about their favorite restaurants and leave marks of battle we can all follow.
In parallel, you can avoid bad food by staying away from these places exempt from Parisian market forces. The French like to eat and are proud of their country's food. They won't patronize some place mediocre unless absolutely necessary.
Large American hotels. Captive customers at large hotels don't bring out the best in food service.

Chains. Chains draw business via their brand, which can trump actual eating.

Places that show no evidence anyone likes them, i.e. restaurants empty at lunch or dinner. Again, Parisian market forces show you the way.
As example, here's the story of my friend and me, eating in Paris during a long weekend.

Friday Evening, Eating Somewhere Random After A Chef Yelled At Us

The first night, we tried to eat here.

There's sentimental meaning to this place. My friend has 3 boys. Rather physical boys at that, albeit very lovable. Years ago I gave her a charm for her keychain that said, "Rue Des Mauvais Garcons," which is where this restaurant is located.

We tried to eat there after touring the Marais in the rain. They were closed until 7pm. OK. We wandered. At 7pm, no one was there. OK. We wandered some more. At 7:20pm, we could see the chef in the kitchen. The door was still locked. I gesticulated through the glass. He waved back. I gesticulated again and spoke loudly in my broken French. "Are you open?" More hand-waving on his part. Finally, realizing I was not going to go away, he came to the other side of the glass. But did not open the door. He began to wave his hands some more and speak. For the life of me I could not figure out what he was saying. I could see he was Asian, I could hear he was speaking French, I could see his hands waving. All for naught. I was embarrassed about my broken French, and wondered if I were a native speaker whether I would understand what on earth was going on. He never opened the door.

We left. And went and ate at a place that advertised Happy Hour, faced a pedestrian walkway (which I believe was Rue Cloche Perce), and was Full Of People. Had steak, fries, a salad, red wine. Straightforward and delicious. Fantastic hipster watching, always a plus.

Saturday Morning, Eating At A Large American Hotel

The next morning, my friend and I had the buffet breakfast at the Westin Paris, where we stayed. The eggs were cold. It cost 60 euros. I do not think I need to say more and I certainly do not need or want to show you a photo of cold eggs.

Saturday Lunch, Eating At An Historic Tea Palace Recommended By Cognoscenti

We ate lunch, after a lot of shopping, at Laduree on the Champs-Elysees. Laduree is known for les macarons, those multi-colored cookies Martha Stewart has made famous. But Tish clued us in to the fact that Laduree also offers lunch. And a fabulous staircase which you will get to ascend whether you eat upstairs or downstairs, as the WCs are above.

I had a shrimp salad which was, as Faux Fuchsia would say, an 11 out of 10. And a glass of Sancerre. Yum. The greens were well-dried, the dressing citron-y, the shrimp fresh, the wine crisp.

Then we had to go have a nap.

Saturday Dinner, Eating At A Well-Known, Highly-Rated Restaurant Found In A Guide Book And Confirmed By A Concierge

Having recovered from lunch, it was time for dinner. I read the guidebook we had acquired that morning. Found a place that sounded perfect for my friend's tastes. Cross-checked it on Fodor's website. Le Pre Verre. Went down to talk to the concierge. But no madam, Le Pre Verre is always booked, even on the weekdays! Well, just give a call. Yes, of course, it cannot hurt to try. Et voila! We can have a table for two, but only for two hours and then we will turn into pumpkins. Well then.

Le Pre Verre is known for Suckling Pig Poached in Spicy Sauce. Oh dear. Oh dear, dear, dear. Chunks of white, melting pork. Star anise. Al dente strips of some kind of cabbagey green. And a light, light curry-ish sauce with probably lots of cream fraiche. An oxymoron but never mind. If your eyes are rolling back into your head about now, correct response.

Our two hours ran out just as we began dessert and our second bottle of wine. The maitre d' told us he could move us outside to the sidewalk with heat lamps. We decamped. And wound up sitting next to a couple, a little older than I, and talking, until close to midnight, part English, part my broken French. And walking out into the streets like this.

Sunday Lunch, Eating At A Very Picturesque Restaurant Where The Picturesque Grandmother Cooked Disgusting Food

On Sunday I forgot to live by my own principles. We went to see the Sainte Chapelle, and Notre Dame. I asked the concierge where to eat nearby, and he pointed me to the Ile de la Cite. That was a good idea. However, I got possessed by an urge for Poulet Provencal, advertised outside this place. Bad idea. Because no one else was eating.

The cook was a terribly adorable grandmother. The maitre d'hotel a very nice man. But the food tasted like propane. Or some other random petrochemical. Never mind. The walls were old. We had chocolate. One can always find bread. And it was time for the Gare du Nord, and the Thalys train back to Brussels.

Note. Philippe Delacourcelle has a cookbook here. I may succumb. Another note. You can book lunch at Laduree online.

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LPC Is At "A Practical Wedding" Today, Part 2

I am back at A Practical Wedding today for the second and final installation on mothers-in-law. As always, the comments are as insightful as anything I might say. If not more.

In a few minutes, my post on eating Paris will also be up. Good thing I like my whole wheat bean and cheese burrito lunches or I'd be sad, sad, sad right about now.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LPC Is At "A Practical Wedding" Today

To anyone making their way here from A Practical Wedding, hello. If you'd like to know what we're on about, I hope the list of best of Privilege on the sidebar is useful. Welcome.

To all of us regulars, I'm at Meg's place today. Meg is an admirable young woman, smart, brave, sassy. People like her are why us older women are almost glad to have endured our earlier career indignities. Meg runs a great blog/site on weddings, of the sort wanted by independent brides. And she did me the honor of asking me to write something about mothers-in-law. Which, of course, I have approached from the perspective of a mother, since that's all I know about that. And have also posted my favorite picture ever of them as littles.

Should any of you be wondering, "But wait, did Lisa EAT anything in Paris? Or SEE anything other than a lady in purple boucle washing her car?"- yes, I did, and posts are underway. So much more fun than those carousels of vacation slides we put together in the olden days.

Thank you Meg, for the invitation, and thank you everyone, as always, for reading.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Shopping And Style-Spotting On the Rive Droite. Including What To Wear When You Wash Your Car.

It appears, after all, that chic in Paris isn't all that different from chic in New York City. If my limited-data observations are correct, globalization is upon us. The fashionable crews of of Manhattan have their Parisienne doppelgangers. Or the other way around.

Dishevelment rules the hipster crowd, which I experienced, granted, only in the Marais, but still. Girls wear mini-skirts with volume, or tunics and leggings. Color. Stripes in unexpected places. The mariniere makes a statement, with puffed sleeves for that required hipster touch of irony. In the non-artsy crowd, young, beautiful, and tall women wear black and shiny everything, with white for accent. Impeccable shoes, either fiercely high-heeled or completely flat. Dignified well-to-do middle-aged women are well-turned out, curated even, with the hair, jewelry, and jacket just so. No more, no less, than needed. Dignified. That part the French do better than we Americans.

If you go to Paris soon, I can only say, wear what you would wear in a large, coastal, American city. Either black and white, or a tone-on-tone color range that suits you perfectly. If you accent, accent across the color wheel. Burnt orange against your aubergine. Bring cash. And the first day you arrive, buy yourself the 2-3 accessories that call out your name. For localization, as we call it in the software industry. That will suffice for even the most fit-in-with-the-natives amongst us.

For example, the one day we actually shopped on this recent trip, (as opposed to wandering the streets thinking, "My god, it's Paris. It's actually Paris again," or laughing hysterically about the kinds of moments long friendships create) I wore 7 For All Mankind "Ginger" jeans, the pale blue patterned NaraCamicie shirt, black quilted Manolo ballet flats, and a black trench. Diamond studs. After about an hour and a half I was suddenly possessed by the desire to wear a bracelet like this.

Why, I cannot tell you. I never wear accessories beyond the required shoes and bag. Some signal from the passing crowd told me to up my fripperies. But I couldn't have heard the call from here, on my sofa in Northern California. Hence my recommendation to bring cash and buy locally. Which wouldn't be a hardship, now would it?

My friend and I began our day of shopping on Rue St. Honore. This woman was washing her car. I always dress in purple boucle to wash my car. You?

As Tish has told us, everyone is wearing Repetto ballet flats. E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. Here's what the Repetto store looks like. Why purple is making a repeat appearance below I cannot tell you. I believe we should call it plum and pronounce a trend.

And, from Repetto's website, the objets de desir themselves.

I liked the turquoise two-tone quite a lot.

But abstained. Paris requires no purchases to enjoy. The day was beautiful, sun shining and window after window sparkling. Gaudy looks dignified, in enough light.

We walked quite happily, past the Place Vendome, the Opera, and some boulevards, until finally we committed the Great Faux Pas. The big false step. Tish warned me. I knew. And still, like those movies where undersea monsters nab unsuspecting scientists, we fell into the Galeries Lafayette.

I planned to show my friend the ceiling, above, and exit right away. We found ourselves, huddled in a corner hours later, sweating and trying on trench coats. Luckily some vestige of sense remained. A benefit of middle age. "I'm ready to go." "Yes, let's get out of here. Now." We skedaddled as fast as we could. Stopped by Moda de Andrea, as per Tish's recommendation, to look at what was discounted. Lovely stuff, nothing for us. That was it for shopping. Time to eat.

If a day passes when your only challenge is how to get out of a cavernous and maze-like department store with faculties intact, that's a lot of luck and a lot to be thankful for. If all you lack is a bow-tied pearl bracelet, hallelujah. If the sun shines, even better. Merci beaucoup aux esprits de Paris. And to everyone else for forgiving me my fading French.

Me. Except Repetto shoes from here and the bracelet from here.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jet Lag Is The Devil, Or, Saturday Morning at 6:27am

It's Saturday. I returned from Europe Tuesday night. I'm still jet-lagged. Jet lag is the devil, whispering dark thoughts in one's ear and blowing smoke into one's heart. It's almost like losing a self, what with inexplicable surges of appetite, energy, despair, irritability. What with not knowing what you can begin or finish. What with the compelling pull of naps at odd hours and consciousness at 1:30am.

You might think I'm exaggerating. I grant you that. But the way I felt this week took me back to when my kids were babies waking me up in the night to nurse, or just to see me and hear my voice. My daughter didn't sleep through the night until she was 2 1/2. I had gotten happily pregnant with my son just as my daughter turned 2. Then my son decided not to sleep through the night until he was 2. So in all, I had 30 consecutive months of sleep deprivation, 3 months of late pregnancy sleep, followed by another 24 months of sleep deprivation.

6 weeks after my son started sleeping through the night I woke up one morning and realized I'd been suffering from mild psychosis. If there is such a thing. That I was, in fact, a different person than the sleep-deprived self I'd inhabited for 57 months. An infinitely more cheerful person. One who could jump out of bed with enthusiasm, make a plan, carry said plan to completion, and enjoy feeling tired at the end of the day. Completely different, due only to sleeping an entire night without waking up.

Which leads me to wonder whether our selves are both more fragile and more rooted in the basic systems of being than we might suspect. What with electric lights, and airplanes, and thoughts that can be typed out and sent to everyone in the world who cares and even some who don't, the modern sense of self is probably both more expansive and less durable than it used to be. It's possible that happiness is in fact 80% enough sleep, enough to eat, enough exercise, and only 20% all the other stuff we chase.

Of course, this could be jet lag talking. It's a tricky devil, with a real gift of gab. Have a wonderful weekend. I will probably be napping and trying to eat a lot of dark green vegetables.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Privilege[d] Guide To Paris (for not too many euros...)

In case we were at all confused about the city in question:).

My trip to Belgium and Paris was a surprise. This meant that I did not have time to gather all of your suggestions in advance. My best friend prefers the spontaneous. This meant that I was not sure what we were going to do until we did it. I'll post the trip report, as it actually happened, next week.

But you all gave me some great ideas, and I didn't want them wasted. After all, some of you out there might be on your way and looking for trusted suggestions. Or, you might like to click all these links and imagine you are there just now, on a Friday as you wait for the weekend. Forthwith, the first edition of the Privilege[d] Guide To Paris. Thank you. And please add, if you like, any additional suggestions in this vein in the comments below.

  • Jacques Genin on rue Charlot in the Marais for mango caramels and tea service - an award-winning chocolatier - Valerie
  • Laduree - Her Preppiness and Tish. In addition to the macaroons currently circumnavigating the Internet, Laduree offers very delicious lunches of the lady type. The 75, Champs Elysee location is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. And gorgeous. Verified by LPC.
  • Le Pre Verre, the Rive Gauche, 5eme - French with a twist of Asia. The suckling pig in a light curry/star anise sauce is good enough to cause unconsciousness. Be sure to walk the nearby streets after you eat. Cuisine gastronomique at bistro prices. Verified by LPC.
  • La Societe, in St. Germain des Pres - if you are looking for trendy, which, in Paris, can be ravishing. Via Tish, again, who knows whereof she speaks.
  • The Westin Paris - large, western, business-oriented hotel, with beautiful and classically remodeled new rooms. Located right next to the Louvre and the Tuileries and Avenue St. Honore. Helpful concierge. With 8,000 Starwood points, rooms can cost as little as $150/night. Verified by LPC.
  • The Hotel Bourgogne et Montana - Boutique hotel on the Left Bank. Prices starting around $300/night. Verified by LPC, but 30 years ago:). Looks to have been well-maintained.

*Note that both Tish and Deja Pseu are professional Paris people, dwellers and lovers of respectively. Deja has a trip planned to Paris soon, as does Mater. I am expecting many photos to extend my trip in my imagination. You should spend some time with them for deeper views. Finally, Duchesse, at, has a guide to Paris for over-50 women you can email her to request.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Antwerp Fashion, Real And Imagined

Antwerpen Centraal. A train station. A beautiful train station. From the era of decorative iron.

Thursday, my friend and I traveled from her small town in Belgium into Antwerp. Antwerp has a cathedral. Antwerp also observes Ascension Day by closing all its stores. Hmm. I saw the cathedral. Beautiful. Hung with an exhibition of Piers Paul Rubens* paintings. More beautiful. I also saw the outside of the Dries Van Noten store, at Nationalestraat 16. Also beautiful.

I thought all Dries Van Noten clothes looked like this.

Like Antwerp weather. Neutral. Functional. A certain austere beauty. Well, Mr. Van Noten has evolved. Jakarta meets Palm Springs. I bet Jonathan Adler loves Mr. Van Noten.

That's what I saw in the window. It wasn't an anomaly. This is what Dries showed for spring.

And the fall.

Where have I been? His stuff is wildly beautiful. (And brutally expensive, but, yeah, well, the window-shopping is free.) The kind of classic to which I am doomed by my genetic heritage, made up in colors and fabrics that make you want to sleep with them. For those of us with Sturdy Gal leanings, Dries Van Noten is Artsy Cousin in a box. Risk-free. Constructed from a luxe set of materials that the Grande Dame would not shun. Not at all.

Despite the Ascension Day store closings, Dries piqued my curiosity about Belgian designers. So let's pretend I saw some other stuff. Let's take some photos from the ever useful Style.Com, and intersperse a few snapshots of the Belgian things I did instead of going into stores. And if those things seem to mostly include food, well, I have nothing to say about that.

Apparently other Antwerp designers we might visit include Walter Van Beirendonck. Off we go to. But on the way to Walter's store we see this.

We take note. McGregor is a European company with the tag line, "New York 1921." Go get 'em J. Crew. Don't concede your sweet spot in chasing Anthropologie. Even Belgium is doing neo-prep this year. Pink and green. We proceed down imaginary streets to find Mr. Beirendonck at Sint-Antoniusstraat 12. Deemed "trash-cool." Well then.

Walter also offers a fairly unique take on pink and green wear for men. For those unable to reconcile their Lily heritage with hipster yearnings.

Now imagine these. Courtesy the lobby of the Antwerp Hilton. Centrally located and quite convenient. Not closed on Ascension Day.

Fortified, we continue.

We would love to visit Oliver Theyskens, but he has moved on to design for Nina Ricci, or Veronique Branquinho, but she has shut down her line. While it's been announced that Veronique has begun to design shoes for Camper, and bags for the classic Brussels leather goods concern, Delvaux, we're going to guess there's no store with beautiful windows in Antwerp. At least not yet. So in our imaginations, we try one last place. Ann Demeulemeester., on Leopold de Waelplaats.

I do not believe that at this point in my life I will be wearing a leather brassiere much. Even if I liked the look, the discomfort is too severe for Sturdy Gals of any age.

Imaginatively shopped out, dreaming of Dries, amused by Walter, and uninterested in Ann, we eat dinner. At De Peerdestal. Ceiling of dark wood beams, tables covered with white cloths, walls roughly plastered. Exactly what an American might predict for Belgium. No mussels, instead we eat langoustines and taglietelle and lick our fingers as Americans will. Take a more delicate approach to the white asparagus in vinaigrette. Drink red wine. Push away from the table.

What's real and what is imagined are often hard to separate. Fashion likes it that way.

*That's what the Belgians call him. When in Antwerp, etc.

Images (because photo credits are not imaginary)
Antwerp Centraal - me
Dries Van Noten store - me
Dries Van Noten coat -
Dries Van Noten pants - me
Dries Van Noten skirt -
Dries Van Noten pants and jacket from runway -
, and here
McGregor store window - me
Walter's tshirt - Walter's online shop
Fries - me
Ann Demeulemeester - Ann D.'s site
Ann Demeulemeester -
Dinner - me

Additional Resources
If you want more about the original Antwerp Six, read this
Those dedicated to serious shopping might want to read about discount clothes shopping in Antwerp.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Back. Uneventful flights, except for the spillage of warm nuts in my lap on the Chicago - San Francisco leg. More words and some pictures to follow. If only jet lag didn't make me feel like I'm on a on a perpetually shifting and not-too-well-captained boat. Oh well, small price to pay for seeing best friends, Belgian greenery, and Parisienne, um, Paris. Talk to you soon.

Monday, May 17, 2010


And I went to the airport, and my flight was canceled, and I got a new flight for tomorrow that avoids the UK, and I took a train back to my friend's house, and I ate some more chocolate and a ravioli that her son was having for lunch, and that, my friends, was that.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The 4th Decade Of Visiting Paris, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:02am CEST

The first time I came to Paris I was 18. Almost 19, given, but still 18.

On my first visit I walked the streets grinning and thrilled. But in those days I was afraid a lot. It was like walking on the side of a steep mountain - at any moment I might fall down an invisible slope. At 53 I'm not afraid any more. Not that I'm anything special - it comes with age. A benefit available to all.

On the other hand, fear has been replaced with a tendency to dither. I caught my thumb in the catch of my cheap umbrella, and found myself at one point, in the rain, looking at Google maps on my iPhone, the screen of the device blurred by both water and a little blood, thinking, OK, this cannot be right. Wondering how to hold the too-small map that I couldn't read, and my umbrella, and my Monogram Vernis (because I can't help but want to keep it dry), all at the same time. Aware that when I was 18 native quickness of reflex would have stood me in good stead. But yesterday the only thing I worried about was that I was dragging my best friend, also now 50, through some dodgy weather in search of a restaurant that might not be where I thought it was.

How funny that in those other days when really I was at less risk, I was more worried. All you young people out there here's what I want to say. You have enormous skills you may not recognize. Sense of direction, good knees, accurate vision, good hearing. Literal and metaphoric. Don't underestimate the basics. Your world is safer than you know. If old ladies can navigate the Marais in the rain, with bleeding thumbs, you can find your way through much worse. Enjoy. Courage, as they say.

Oh, and yes, Paris. It's still here. It's still its encoded, evocative, evident self. I'm only noticing my own history because I'm sitting down. Back out on the streets in a few minutes. The rain has stopped, and I've put my attack umbrella away.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm In Belgium. No Kidding.

Yesterday I flew from California to Belgium. Hello. From Belgium.

My best friend turns 50 Saturday. She lives here. Her husband decided to fly me out for a surprise visit.

San Francisco, May 11, 5:30am.

Philadelphia, May 11, 4:30pm. Did you know they have rocking chairs in the Philadelphia airport? I did not rock.

Brussels, Belgium, May 12, 9:00am. Gateway to Europe.

Small Town, Belgium, May 12, 1:00pm

Apparently bread is Very Important here. We are planning a trip to Antwerp, and then Paris for one day. Home Monday. Extended coverage to come. Now must wander around delirious with jet lag until dinner and bed. Hope you are well.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

How To Build A High WASP Collection Of Thingamabobs For Your House

Doesn't the TV stand wheel in the background add a certain je ne sais quoi? A certain ironic reflection of the snuff bottle's non-sphere? Can you tell I was talking literary theory with my son yesterday? Bwahahahahaha. This'll show him not to get his mom going.

High WASP houses always have a collection of something or other, somewhere. One way to make this happen is to inherit a group of thingamabobs, put together by a family member, and passed on. These thingamabobs might be works of great value, but that's besides the point. Another way is to set out on the hunt yourself, again, for works of great value, or not.

I've got a small collection of snuff bottles. I don't think they're, um, commercially important. The original set belonged to my grandmother. Whether she found them as she traveled with her second husband, around the world, or whether she picked them up in Boston antique stores, I realize I don't even know. I think they are Chinese - except the red one. I bought the red one somewhere, in a faint-hearted attempt to take up the collecting mantle. I failed.

Often one doesn't actually get all the objects in inherited collections. One of my cousins has a similar grouping to mine. I don't even know which cousin it is. But the friends of my snuff bottles are out there. Maybe in Arizona. Another one is in Palm Springs. One year I determined that the fabulous guy who cuts my hair just had to have one for his vacation house. So there it sits. Who knows why? Clearly these are totemic objects, from a clan with mysterious rites. They are in charge, not I.

Amassed collections live a much more purposeful and energetic life, statements of personal interest. You will know a High WASP collection by its quirkiness, and its adherence to genre and era. It will not be a collection manufactured as "collectibles." I realize that some of you reading do not follow this protocol. More power to you. Again, I'm not saying you ought to participate in this cultural folderol. I'm deconstructing, not proscribing.

Reggie Darling, who writes one of most beautiful classic house style blogs out there, collects antique twine dispensers. Tell me these don't make you suck air in between your teeth and say, "Oooh." Or at least feel the delicious quirk of the similar yet different shapes and textures. And those scissors, stabbing? Wowza.

Suffice it to say that if you happen upon an obscure antique house goods category you have taken a grand step in High WASP decorating. And if you want to learn more, just go talk to Reggie and his husband, Boy. Go even if you don't like talking. Darlington House is beautiful.

Of course, not everyone has the time, or the funds, or even the interest to travel hither and thither looting and plundering. Not everyone wants to go to Bonhams and Butterfield's auction house catalogues in search of the perfect glass and silver pickle jar. Not to worry. A quirky collection can be put together with nothing but wit and intent. With nothing but a broadband connection and a hard drive.

To wit, these blogs. Kate, at love you big, introduced me to A Collection A Day. Below, plastic doilies. Close enough to all those wonderful photos of no snowflakes the same, but plastic. For irony, and a little mid-century relevance.

Kate also introduced me to Amassblog. This is from a collection of playing cards that have been used for more than playing cards. How's that for a poem of being?

Collections are a wonderful model for how humans understand the world. The grouped collection has meaning above and beyond its separate items. Yet each item has its own story. Its own narrative, as the critics would say. Quite structuralist. Quite demonstrative of how language itself functions. I may have spent many months writing about this in college. But I really digress.

The thing is, collecting is also dreadfully stressful. I remember 40 years ago calling all the local big box stores, every Sunday morning, for my brother's Hot Wheels. I believe we were looking for a McLaren. With a spoiler. I've never recovered. My father collected art. To this day if we discuss buying art his eyes gleam. The thrill of acquisition, the agony of loss.

The thing is, also, I need my house to calm me down. Especially after all those years of corporate adrenaline. If I were to collect in the real world, I believe I might vibrate at such high speed that one day I'd begin to spin and either generate enough power to solve our reliance on carbons fuels or explode. So, no collecting of stuff. Although I would love to deal with the carbon fuel problem. But, again, I digress.

In truth, I've never even bought anything on eBay. Let my little collection sit in its place, unbroken by increase or decrease, reminding me only of my grandmother's house as it was. While I like the naming of groups (Did you know that a flock of larks is called an Exultation?), we'll leave the actual collecting to you. Tell me. Because collecting stories is another thing altogether.

Twine dispensers by Boy Fenwick, via Reggie Darling
Doilies via A Collection A Day
Playing cards via Amassblog


What Moms Like Best, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:07am

My daughter came home for Mother's Day. Flew all the way from New Jersey to California. Happy mom. Thank you daughter. Son is working hard in college. Happy mom. Thank you son.

I wish all of you a happy day of mothers, in whatever way that means something to you. I'm having breakfast at my kitchen counter, waiting for the familiar sound of my daughter's bedroom door opening, and the familiar sound of her bare feet on our wood floor.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

15 Ways To Experience The Best Possible Makeup Purchase In The Whole World

  1. Wander into a department store, cash in your pocket.
  2. Endure torture at the hands of a tall Russian makeup artist.
  3. Buy new makeup you don't need.
  4. Tell your friends.
  5. Gain courage. (Known impolitely, but colorfully, as grow a pair.)
  6. Storm back into Saks, tell Chanel counter lady every detail of your torture and return the cosmetics. Storm with dignity.
  7. When she says, with a look of disdain, "You didn't have to tell me all that," reply, with impunity, "Oh, but I thought you should know."
  8. Take your store credit and walk past every makeup counter, slowly. Explain to everyone you are looking for purple eyeshadow but that you are Taking. Your. Time.
  9. Take your time.
  10. Wind up at Nars, since you already know that Laura Mercier looks strangely orange on your skin, you don't want to experiment with Bobbi Brown, Elizabeth Arden feels like a grandmother brand, and when the heck did Cle de Peau move beyond concealer? And why?
  11. Let the woman of a certain age, your age in fact, apply purple eyeshadow.
  12. Appreciate the fact that she is willing to use the lipstick and blush that you already own.
  13. Appreciate the fact that she lets you buy Dior mascara because you've heard Diorshow, um, rocks.
  14. Really appreciate the fact that Nars costs less than Chanel, which means you get to indulge in some extra, lavender, sparkly shadow for the center of your eyelid. Because one day you might wind up at the Met Ball for the Costume Institute. In which case you will certainly want to own a shadow called Night Fairy. Even if you never go to the Met Ball, the shadow will help you pretend that it's possible.
  15. Tell your friends:). Then thank them.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Products, in case you wondered.
YSL Lipgloss in Golden Praline
YSL Creme Blush in Velvety Peach
Diorshow Mascara in Rich Black
Nars Eyeshadow Duo in Tokyo
Nars Single Eyeshadow in Night Fairy
Nars Lip Pencil in Tonga
Nars Eyeliner in

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Where To Shop If You Have Only 1 Day In Manhattan?

It's possible to spend a week shopping in New York City. Heck, it's possible to spend a entire life shopping there. But what if you have only a very short time? In that case, I recommend you head straight to Broome Street.

Broome Street? Broome Street? Not 5th Avenue? Not Madison Avenue? Not the Lower East Side or the Upper West Side? Yes, Broome Street. In Soho. Where I recently spent only an hour and still came away full of retail endorphins at minimal cost.

Sunday I had a flight out of JFK. The long weekend was coming to a close. Time for one quick foray. And I wanted to see the new Isabel Marant store. Which had been reviewed here, piquing my curiosity. I just love New York Magazine.

A very Balmain-ish jacket...

Luckily the Crosby Street Hotel provided large umbrellas. Out the door and into the rain. Found Marant's store. Wandered in. Beautiful clothes. I tried on some jackets, one in tweed-ish sweatshirt material (no, I am not kidding), and one in black leather with Balmain-ish shoulders. Oooweee. But I don't make impulse purchases at that price point. I asked the saleswoman if I could take a picture. "Oh," she said, "I'd have to ask PR." Well then. I felt chuffed even to be pulling out my camera somewhere that required PR permission. But I put it back.

Out the door and into the rain. Where I spied a familiar sign. Jonathan Adler. He of the fab pillows. I couldn't resist.

And what a fab post-modern spot for your imagined Palm Springs great-aunt this place is. Voila M. Maverick. He styled the showroom for me a little bit, moving a chair out of the way.

I think Adler's on a roll. He offers something for the preppy look, something for the mid-century aficianado, and irony all around. He even has a clothing collaboration coming up with 7 For All Mankind. I bought a candle, as souvenir. I didn't even care what it smelled like by this point.
Nor, apparently, what it looked like, as I own not a jot of brown or yellow furniture.

Out the door and into the rain. Other stores I passed? Alexis Bittar. Famous for his lucite bangles.

Madewell. The J. Crew spinoff famous for $57 skinny jeans.

A MOMA outpost. A MOMA spinoff famous for, well, the MOMA. But they have killer cocktail napkins for sale, as well as posters.

Broome Street. And bring me a present, please. When I go back I'll get one for you.

Isabel Marant via
Alexis Bittar via himself
Madewell via Refinery29
The MOMA Store
The rest by me

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