I Feel Good

Like I knew that I would.

So relevant. The same tile dude who did the Oyster Bar did the Admissions Hall on Ellis Island.
So relevant. The same tile dude who did the Oyster Bar did the Admissions Hall on Ellis Island.

Tuesday was strenuous mainly because I left the apartment at 5:00 am. I’m always afraid I’m going to oversleep on these early morning flights so sleep comes in fitful, 20 minute spurts. I might have got an hour in.

I was exhausted all day but started to snap out of it as we made our approach into La Guardia. We were close to touching down when the poor guy in front of me accidentally hit the call button.

I’ve seen this before and I think at this point in the flight only the lead attendant can get up to answer it. Usually it comes with a school marm scowl or some other kind of pissed off passive aggressiveness.

He was signalling her that it was a mistake and was apologizing profusely. She came anyway and was understanding about it. With a flourish that reminded us we were only a couple of miles from Broadway she exclaimed, “thank gaawd everyone is okay.”

The urban energy hit me the minute I was off the jet bridge. That chip on their shoulder, make you wrong effort New Yorkers do to engage you. At first it seems rude but then you realize there’s not much behind it. It’s just a nervous form of high anxiety communication that comes with population density. I think it’s been proven in lab rats.

On the bus into Grand Central there was another reminder why I love New York. A boy sprawled out on the seats in front of me listening to his iPod. He looked Russian (the island is crawling with Russkies), so languid and luscious. In any other city he would be a standout, in Manhattan he’s kind of the norm.

The Chrysler Building. I always wonder if the blue panels are original, they look like a 1960's remodel.
The Chrysler Building. I always wonder if the blue panels are original, they look like a 1960’s remodel.

Walking down 42nd Street to the hotel there were more appealing boys. Arabs, Europeans, Jews, Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Asians–they all had this wonderful give that ethnicity wasn’t the most important thing about them. When I think of all the cultural and political strife around the world the solution just seems so obvious to me: homosexuality. Or at least the way I practice it.

My hotel was a Westin I’d stayed in a couple of years ago after they’d just taken it over from Leona. It was kind of a dump back then but it now had the full brand treatment: heavenly bed, heavenly shower, and hellish room service prices. With my last ounce of energy I decided to go out to eat.

My new friends, the Pemaquids of Maine.
My new friends, the Pemaquids of Maine.

I walked over to the Oyster Bar for dinner and a cocktail. I enjoyed my Manhattan so much I had a second one. After overtipping I walked back feeling toasty and nice. Sugar and spice.

Sleeping was not a problem but forcing myself out of bed Wednesday morning took some work. I had coffee, checked my bag and walked 20 blocks to Barneys. The temperature was a “feels like” 17 and even with gloves my hands froze.

I took my time perusing the merchandise, and the warmth, on all eight floors. I was drawn to things like a gray wooly mammoth Givenchy sweater vest with fluorescent orange trim but realized it was probably not age appropriate.

The real prize at Barneys was the clerk on the first floor. 6’3″, sexy in his skin-tight black sweater and pants. His head was shaved and his skin had a natural gleam, no makeup. But I would swear on a pair of Marilyn Miglin Super Sweepers he was wearing false eyelashes. They were so long and so black it was like he wanted them to look fake. And they did, a stark contrast to his handsome face. Kind of an updated version of Louise Nevelson.

The find. At $560 I'll wait and take my chances at the season ending clearance sale.
The find. At $560 I’ll wait and take my chances at the season ending clearance sale.

Over at Bergdorf’s I spent an hour in home furnishings then I crossed the street to the Men’s Store. I loved a Matisse-like cutout beach shirt that was too expensive. There was also a pair of Tom Ford red velvet high tops that were stunning. Even at half price, too much.

I did end up buying a couple of shirts at 75% off. On the walk down Fifth Avenue I also picked up a Warhol dance step t-shirt for $10. In essence my mission was accomplished, I had something tangible to bring back with me. The real treasure, however, was just the thrill of being in Manhattan.

Cobwebs vanquished, I’m ready to get on the good foot.

What's not to love? Bergdorf's window.
What’s not to love? Bergdorf’s window.

Previous: Clearing the Cobwebs
The complete saga, From the Beginning

Clearing the Cobwebs

As we endure the interminable wait for the ending of Mad Men, I think of Peggy and Don and all the things she has learned from him. Personally, the only finale I will be satisfied with is his complete subjugation to her. But, of the many tricks she’s learned, my favorite is that they go to the movies when they need to clear their heads. Me? I prefer to go to Bergdorf Goodman.

My affinity for the store dates back to the late 70’s when my finances were in such shambles no store in their right mind would issue me credit. Bergdorf’s did and I accepted their card as a cosmic sign that I belonged.

Shopping there leaves me with a feeling of exhilaration. Most stores hit you at the door with displays that say “you don’t know what you want but THIS IS IT!!!” Bergdorf’s approach is more “we got it, you figure it out.” It’s this process of discovery I enjoy. Plus the quality is so good it’s pretty hard to make a mistake.

Department stores usually capitalize on trends when a designer spots something new or fresh on the street. Corporate meetings are held and studies are conducted. Tiny, pre-teen Laotian hands are then lined up to do the delicate stitching. After several months preparing the marketing campaign, the shipping of mass quantities begins. The item hits the store to the fanfare of “Look What’s New!” The arty kids see it and think, “oh yeah, we did that a year ago.”

Bergdorf’s feels different. Their production schedule may be just as lengthy but their merchandise always appears unique and challenging. Maybe they are more nimble because they aren’t a chain.

They are also not afraid to take chances (see above re: my credit). The store’s reputation for excellent taste makes them easy to trust. Do I really need a pair of crotchless ski pants? If Bergdorf is carrying them maybe I do.

The Halston note
The Halston note

Whenever I visit I’m exposed to new designers I’ve never heard of. Bergdorf’s knows talent. After all, Halston got his start here. And Jackie was a customer for decades. What’s not to love?

Still it’s hard to justify cross-country shopping when Manhattan is so expensive. If you are willing to travel at certain times of year, however, it can be affordable. Those times would be any of the days in mid to late January.

These two-day trips are completely dependent on the weather and the airlines cooperating. Day 1 is consumed by flying time and zone changes. You no more finish your breakfast sandwich than, theoretically, it’s time for dinner. I often end up ordering the over-priced room service burger at 10:00 pm to conserve energy and fool the body clock.

That energy is needed for Day 2 when you force yourself up at 7 am (4 am California time) to find coffee, shower, and walk over for the 10:00 opening. There’s a five hour window before you need to return to the airport. You can sleep on the way home (maybe).

So, having secured cheap airfare and a very cheap rate at the Westin, I’m going cobweb clearing.



The Jackie Obsession


Low Jackie

Bonhams is only taking some of the higher end items from my collection, less than 5% of the total. They have no interest in the kitschy weirdo things, which are the lifeblood of the collection to me. But there is no money in heart and soul so at the end of the day I’m still going to have to come up with a way to divest myself of all this quirkiness.

I’ ve always been fascinated by the kitsch because it was such a contradiction to how she was brought up. She was a child of privilege, attended the Sorbonne and studied with Bernard Berenson. She became a refined and intelligent woman who was told by her father in law that, in order to win the presidency,  she and her husband were going to be sold  “like a box of soap flakes.” I think of her embarrassment and disgust whenever I see her mawkish image on one of these carnival giveaway quality tchotchkes.

One of my friend Marilyn’s husbands (there have been so many I can’t remember them all) was a pilot for UPS. When he had layovers in San Francisco in the 1980’s he would stay with me. There were two things that intrigued him about my apartment: the lack of a television and the perversity of my Jackie collection.

He did contribute, however, in the form of a cigarette lighter from the 60’s. When he was in the New Zealand Air Force he and his buddies would buy these lighters thinking they were Jackie. It’s not the usual America’s Widow image we’re used to. Still I think we have to accept his word that he thought he was buying Jackie.

I’ve always given it a central spot in the display case. His intent was pure even though his thoughts might not have been.



The Jackie Obsession


High Jackie

Avid readers of this blog will remember my Jackie collection and my angst over what to do with all the ephemera I’ve amassed. A friend has stepped up to help me auction off some of the higher end items. The cornerstone of that part of the collection is a note she wrote to Halston.

Ben and Rags were part of the 70’s Polk Street/Chicken Little’s/Matinee social scene until they moved to New York around 1977. Ben went to work for Andy Warhol. Rags did something too, though I can’t remember exactly what other than laughing a lot and having a good time.

Rags and Ben were close with Halston and his partner Victor Hugo. They partied with them at their Lenox Hill home and vacationed with them out in Montauk. When Victor gave him the Jackie note, Rags immediately thought of my collection. The next time he was in San Francisco he presented it to me.

Jackie’s note writing was mentioned by Senator Kennedy when he eulogized her. “At the end, she worried more about us than herself. She let her family and friends know she was thinking of them. How cherished were those wonderful notes in her distinctive hand on her powder blue stationary.”

We’ll find out just how cherished when the hammer comes down at Bonhams.



The Jackie Obsession


Mission Focus

Four months into this blog about my eviction and I’ve written mostly about my life in San Francisco over the last forty years. When I started it I thought there would be dramatic legal events to report about the eviction process. But nothing has happened. That will be changing soon.

The landlord Vince Young served all the tenants in the building with Ellis Act Notices last February 24th. We were given four months to move before the eviction process would begin. The notice is separate from the court proceedings and in order to fight the eviction you have to refuse to move at the end of the notice period. Most of the other tenants did not want to go through the hassle and were out by June.

My one neighbor Shakris and I had “protected status” so our deadlines were extended to a year. We do plan to fight the eviction and will not be moving out by the 24th.

At the end of February we will probably be served with unlawful detainer papers and the fun will begin. I’m already working on courtroom outfits and trying to find an Acting Coach to help me with my testimony (something along the lines of Lana Turner at the Cheryl Crane trial.)

I met with my attorney a couple days before Christmas and he was very non-chalant about the whole thing. He says we are going to prevail (which could mean a variety of things). But if he’s not worried then I shouldn’t be either.

Stay tuned for more developments and have a Happy New Year.

Next: High Jackie
Previous: Do They Know It’s Christmas?
The complete saga, From the Beginning