Accessories after the fact

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‘And ode to those pieces of personality that spice up your wardrobe — and your life’

During the last big ole bad recession, there was a piece in The Times about how handbag sales hadn’t been hurt. Even though they had less money to put inside them, City Ladies were still toting It Bags like that Chanel number with the chains. There were even waiting lists to get Birkins and Kellys.

Well. Having lived and worked in Manhattan for over 30 years, this didn’t surprise me one bit. In fact, I wrote a letter to said Times after reading this piece saying, essentially, that it’s no wonder that accessories are recession-proof. After all, in Manhattan your coat is your car, your shoes are your wheels — and your handbag is your trunk. Yes, they printed it.

Me, demonstrating the Mary Tyler Moore trick: throw a scarf over a turtleneck for instant workplace polish

Speaking of It Bags and speaking of work, I once had a freelance gig at Grey Advertising. The gig paid well but was very boring. It was so boring that I asked for extra work to kind of spice things up. No dice. They wanted me to work on whatever the heck it was and be quiet about it. (This was when Grey had a reputation for work so mundane that headhunters would tell you to take it off your work record — otherwise your resume would have “the stink of Grey.” I mean, this was an ad agency that put posters of their frozen turkey ads in the elevator.)

I’m a fast worker, so I’d do whatever boring project they wanted done, then roam the nabe. On one of my sigh-filled ramblings I discovered a designer resale shop. A really good designer resale shop. This was about twenty years ago, but I still get compliments on the stuff I bought when I was taking Boredom Breaks. A Pucci jacket. A Chanel pants suit with tulle trim. A hot pink boucle Dior number with a detachable mink collar. (Some of these have been “downsized,” mainly because I came to realize that when you wear “vintage” at my age no one gets the irony. They just think you’ve owned that gold brocade Christian LeCroix for a very long time.)

One of the coats I “downsized” to The Child. I had to borrow it back recently. She didn’t mind. Or, if she did, she didn’t let on

One of the things I kept eyeing in that shop was a Kelly bag. Now, if you know anything about the Kelly, you know that it was named after Grace Kelly and is very ladylike and very cool. Also very expensive. This one was also Kelly green. I mean, how cool would it be to own a Kelly green Kelly bag? Well. I did the math: How many days would I have to be “bored Grey” to earn that bag? (That’s how I’d decide whether I could afford something: I’d take the price and divide it by my day rate.)

I started a little negotiation with the proprietress. “That’s a nice Kelly” I said, hoping to hide the glee in my voice. “But I wish it was in a more basic color. LIke black.” To which she replied, “Are you kidding? If you carry a Kelly green Kelly, everyone will think you have a black one at home!” Brilliant. But nope. I didn’t buy it. Which is probably a good thing, because we had another recession around then and my Grey gig dried up. At least I could stop being bored.

A curated selection of things I don’t get bored looking at. Including some handbags on the top shelf

Now I admit to a certain accessorial (is that a word? if not, it should be) obsession. Not only are coats and shoes and handbags practical when your commute involves walking — and yes, even if you take subways and buses, you still do a great deal of walking when you live and work here — they can help you make your clothes work a little harder.

Given a good arsenal of accessories, why you could basically wear the same thing every single day and look different each and every time. The picture at the top of this post is a demonstration of my Wedding Outfit. I swear I’ve worn that same pale green dress to dozens of weddings. I just change the jacket and the shoes. And yes, some of the weddings have the same people in attendance. No one’s noticed. Yet. Though I suppose I should spring for something new for The Child’s Real Wedding in August.

Same dress, different wedding. I have no idea who those people are, tho they could have easily been at one of the other weddings too

Yes, I love accessories. Bags and shoes and coats and scarves and jewelry. Heck, I even treat glasses as accessories. I have frames in red and blue and black and tortoiseshell. They transform a look — and hide the bags under my eyes.

But there is one accessory I haven’t collected and am decidedly not in love with:

Nope, it’s not the hat. I love that trapper hat. It’s the mask. Even tho I did get that one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it’s definitely not going on any curated shelf

New York City. March 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let there be light

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‘Just make sure there are dimmers’

I’ve written before about how people who like to keep stuff are invariably married to people who like to purge. Well, same deal with light.

Those who prefer a soft and lovely ambient glow are sure to be paired with those who insist on lights so glaringly, wincingly bright you could perform cataract surgery at the dinner table.

Dude Man’s favorite kind of lighting: ceiling cans, only turned up to eleven

Maybe it’s because he actually was a cataract surgeon that Dr. Dude likes his lighting so, well, megawatt. But I bet there are plenty of you out there who are married to doctors, lawyers or even Indian chiefs with similar taste in luminosity.

It’s just one of many funny things about marriage. And another reason I am so gol-darned happy here in the Ken & Barbie House. Just as I am grateful for the pocket doors sealing off its teensy-but-separate bedrooms (See “Why Dude Man’s Not Dead”), I am happy about my ability to dim as low as I want to go.

I can also have a bathroom light that looks like a giant diamond. Not to mention a framed lipstick-print watercolor. And (in the photo at the top of this post) a disco-ball ceiling light

Speaking of lighting, remember that character on Seinfeld called the Soup Nazi? He was the really crabby food-cart vendor who, if you didn’t place your order just right, wouldn’t give you your soup. (Oh, and speaking of Seinfeld, I saw Larry David on my walk this morning. I almost stopped to ask him what the heck he was doing on the East Side.)

Another thing I saw on my walk this morning. And no, I don’t want a dimmer on that forsythia

Well, there’s another New York Institution that was featured in a Seinfeld episode. It’s called Just Bulbs. (Forgive me for not finding that episode for you. I’m already a day late with this story and time’s a wastin’.)

Anyway. Just Bulbs is to lightbulbs as the late lamented Gracious Home was to basically everything. Gracious Home had bedding, they had pots and pans, they had candles and paint and placemats and gadgets galore. In fact, when she was little, The Child and I played a game called “Stump Gracious Home.” We’d go in and ask for, say, a sink strainer. And the Gracious Home Greeter would lead you to a whole wall display of them.

Well, Just Bulbs is like that, only with bulbs.¬†They have every single kind of bulb you can possibly imagine, even the teensy ones that go inside your car’s glove compartment. (Does anyone really keep gloves in there?)

I don’t know what happens in the Just Bulbs Seinfeld episode, but I can tell you about an actual episode I witnessed there not long ago.

One of my adorable glam-girly lamps needed a new bulb. (The crystal one with the beaded shade.) So I marched on over to Just Bulbs. There was one other customer ahead of me, who was clutching a big ole ginger-jar lamp.

“Do you have any lamp harps?” she asked.

In reply, and with an expression befitting the Soup Nazi, Mr. Manager pointed at the illuminated sign over his head. Which read, of course, “Just Bulbs.”

“Do you get that a lot?” I asked when it was my turn. He responded with a world-weary Larry David-esque sigh. Then went to get me my bulb.

After which I went home, screwed it into my pretty little lamp — then promptly dimmed it.

Me. Happy as a female clam with my Glam Girl lighting. Dimmed, of course

New York City. March 2022

 

Lean on me

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‘Another Dog Day Afternoon. Er, Morning’

One of the nice things about the Ken & Barbie House, teensy though it may be, is its proximity to Central Park. Every morning I’m here, I roll out of my itty-bitty bed, tie on my sneakers and go for a walk.

That’s when I like the Park best — in the mornings when pretty much the only people there are the ones walking their dogs. Oh, there are the crazy runners and bikers, but they’re on the road. On the paths, it’s the dogs who rule.

The doggie brigade leaving my building this morning

They run around tossing balls to their masters, doing high jumps over the fences, terrorizing the squirrels (who just laugh at them), and gleefully sniffing each others’ butts. Continue reading

Coming out of the closet

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‘Doing a Marie Kondo. Kinda.’

I had to throw away a pair of shoes today.

And I mean I had to — the soles were literally peeling off. And, since they were a pair of boat shoes I got for maybe 12 bucks at the Bass Shoe Outlet back when there was a Bass Shoe Outlet here in Amagansett (now a Jenny Kayne or the Pink Chicken; I haven’t been to either) I didn’t bother researching whether the soles could be replaced. I just tossed them into the gaping maw of the “Non-Recyclable” bin.

Now, these vintage babies also had their soles peeling off. But they could be saved

The other closeted item I tossed was a pair of Horrible Fleece-Lined Jeans. Trust me; they were one pair of butt-ugly jeans. Too high-waisted, too acid-washy and somehow too baggy and too tight at the same time. The fleece lining was all clingy and polyestery; these pants literally sparked when you pulled them on — and I don’t mean they “sparked joy,” they just sparked.¬†

No, these aren’t the Horrible Fleece-Lined Jeans. These Eighties–Era beauties are much more attractive

So, Good riddance, Horrible Jeans! I did put them in the Used Clothing Donation bin, though I can’t imagine anyone being desperately cold enough to wear them. Continue reading

Why Dude Man’s not dead

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‘The crucial importance of a room of one’s own’

What with fun City events like birthday parties and opera performances and colonoscopies, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Ken & Barbie House. I was there digging its leafy wallpaper and garden views all last week, in fact.

Me, snuggling into a birthday gift amidst the leafy wallpaper

It’s less than 500 scare feet, but this clever little hideaway has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. When I get a chance to show it off, like the other day when I ran into Barbara and Danielle and Ann (hi neighbors!) in the lobby, I often point out that I am awfully glad the place, though small, is not a studio.

K & B floor plan. We still have each and every one of those precious walls

“Here’s my husband’s room,” I say, “and here’s mine.” Oddly (or maybe not so oddly), if my guest is a woman — a woman who has been married for at least ten years or so — she never suggests “knocking down that wall to join the bedrooms.” Oh no. She just smiles and nods. Maybe looks a tad wistful.

“If The Dude and I had to live in a one-room studio, he’d be dead and I’d be in jail.” is my comment while sliding open the pocket door leading to my private little lair.

Added perk of a room of your own: any light fixture your little heart desires

Oh, it’s not that I don’t absolutely adore Dude Man. I do, I really do. And he is, actually, quite easy to get along with. For a man.

Look! He’s even pals with TR. (Note companionable man-spreading)

But there’s something about a man — a man “around the house,” as they say — that is just not, well, peaceful. Continue reading

The time crickets ate The Dude’s shoes

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‘”Eat or be eaten,” or so they say.’

So last time I told you about how We Whitmores were recruited to help save some purple martins from starvation. The martins were huddled in their gourd condos out at SoFo (the South Fork Natural History Museum, founded by Idiosyncratic Family Friend Andy), having been caught in an unseasonable cold snap during which their regular flying-insect food supply was grounded.

We rescued them by tossing crickets into the air — crickets which had been bought in bulk from a pet supply place. Overheard: “Do we have more crickets coming in?” “Yes, 1500 are due tomorrow.”

 

(At which point I’m picturing chirping boxes being unloaded by a quizzical UPS guy — or maybe just crickets, 1500 strong, marching en masse up to SoFo’s front door and volunteering for duty.)

Anyway. Martin Man, who directed our feeding efforts, would put a big ole Teddy Grahams container full of crickets into a freezer for seven minutes to stun them, after which we would throw them into the air (Martin Man used a slingshot) where the hungry martins would chomp them (you could actually hear their birdie jaws snapping) mid-swoop.

One weakened female got her crickets via cute kid and tweezers

Now, in case you’re feeling sorry for those crickets being eaten, let me share a story about how they’re not all that, well, innocent.

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The Proustian Popcorn Pan

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‘My brain explodes with salty, fluffy memories’

I mentioned last week that my One and Only Mom was moving to new digs. All went smoothly, thanks to Only Sister Laura and Oldest Younger Brother Scott, who wrestled furniture and wrangled boxes.

Heck, they even unpacked, which in my experience (most recently with our dreaded downsizing, which you can read about in ‘The Tunnel at the End of the Light’) is way way worse than packing.

Boxes ready to be unpacked in the Ken & Barbie House. (Note that I only show my own unpacked boxes)

Mom to OYB Scott while putting things away in her new closet: “I need to go shoe shopping.” OYB Scott to Mom, after opening box containing literally dozens of pairs of footwear: “Um, what about these?!” Mom: “Well, I like shoes.”

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Youngest Younger Brother Doug, while not present for the Unpacking, played a big part in Mom’s Move too — he was one of the Intrepid Ones who sorted and boxed and toted the stuff from her Seaside apartment. (You can just glimpse him taking a much-deserved Baseball Break in the photo at the top of this post.)

A better view of Doug as he and Mom take a Scrabble Break

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And now for something completely different

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‘Trying desperately to distract myself from thinking of tomorrow’s (gulp) shot’

Last week I promised to come up with something fun today, in spite of the fact that it is Injection Eve. (For those of you who didn’t read last week’s post, here it is, but basically it’s me whining about having to get a steroid shot to help me deal with herniated discs. To say that I am “nervous” would be like saying Trump is “unpleasant.”)

“Please fill out one form per body part” Um, okay

Other than filling out forms and sweating bullets, there’s nothing more to be done to prepare myself for this procedure. So I’m just going to try to distract myself by thinking of nice and/or silly things. Like being at my Mom’s 90th birthday celebration last year, which was both silly and nice.

Two of my very favorite women: my Mom and my Personal Child

Speaking of nice things to think about, just try not to smile and/or “awwww” over these little guys. (Yes, I made those sweaters. And already posted pictures of them. But now you can see how much better they look with cute babies filling them out.)

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The tunnel at the end of the light

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‘I’ve changed my mind about Swedish Death Cleaning’

The Peterson half of me is very put out with the Henry half — blaming those French forbears for allowing drawers to fill, shelves to overpopulate and closets to clutter up.

Why, it must have been the Henry side of my brain that foolishly ignored the call of Swedish Death Cleaning back in 2018 when this book came out:

Premise: Get rid of your stuff now so your kids don’t have to deal with it after you’re dead. Suffice it to say that it is not a comic memoir

I even wrote a piece pooh-poohing this phenomenon, called “Out with the Old Year, but not out with the Old Stuff. Yet.”

Oh, silly silly me.

Those of you who read my stuff regularly — bless you — know that we’re downsizing, and that I’ve had two sweeps of movers come to remove things from the Old Apartment. The first time was when all my most beloved belongings got purged by the Stagers. (See “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for heart-breaking details.)

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As my Favorite Sister says, “The only way I’m leaving this place is toes up!”

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‘Only she doesn’t say “toes”‘

I’m really sorry I didn’t do a post yesterday. (This apology is for those of you who count on and eagerly await my Tuesday missives. Bless you.) But I have a good excuse.

Where I am resting in the photo at the top of this post: our new “Eames Chair.” It’s a reproduction; so sue me. Have you priced the real ones?

Yesterday the guys from Big John’s Moving came to move our old-apartment stuff that’s too big to fit into the Ken and Barbie House. (Which is pretty much everything we own that hadn’t already been “disposed of” by the stagers — see ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ for tales of staging woe.)

Ready for you, Mover Guys! The tip of the iceberg, box wise

Three intrepid (but, oddly, not really very big) guys showed up promptly at nine. Then packed, trundled, dollied, and hoisted unwieldy furniture and sundry boxes all morning then drove the load out to Amagansett.

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