The friend who had a nanny for her dog

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‘Way up on the Upper East Side’

One of the many things I enjoy about living in New York City is the, well, mix of people. Where I grew up in the Midwest — at least when I grew up there — a brunette was pretty darned exotic.

But here you get to rub elbows (and sometimes much much more) with a wide variety of folks. Some of whom live on a scale that can take some getting used to. Like, one day The Child came home from nursery school with this to say: “Mommy, Helen’s mommy has a couch in her bathroom!” Me: “How nice for Helen’s mommy!”

And I once shared Safety Patrol duty with a very congenial fellow mommy who, it turned out, had the same last name as a whole wing of the Metropolitan Museum. (No, she wasn’t named after it; it was named after her.)

My mommy friend’s namesake

And you may recall (from my story “Three, and You’re Under the Host”) that when The Child was attending that Quite Distinguished Private All-Girls School, we were invited to some pretty swell parties. (All the parents, not just us, were invited to these parties. But still.)

This Mingling-with-the-One-Percent also happened at work. Back then, Ogilvy had a decidedly Country-Club flair. Maybe it was because David was, well, David. (He lived in a castle in France, for starters. If you want, you can read about His Ogilvyness here.)

David liked to surround himself with other “Gentlemen with Brains”. (Yes, that was a phrase he coined.) So there was the Account Guy Who Was a Whitney. And the Creative Guy Who Was a Delano. (Which is a flavor of Roosevelt.)

As close as I’ll ever get to a Roosevelt

Yup, the Social Register was amply represented. I remember there was this one assistant account executive who just disappeared one afternoon. His office was empty, his jacket was draped over his chair. But he was — poof! — gone. Turned out he’d gotten a phone call telling him he’d come into his inheritance.

Among these People Who Really Didn’t Have to Work was a  producer on the Dove team. As you may recall, I was a copywriter. So I was responsible, with my art director partner, for coming up with the ideas for TV commercials. The producer was in charge of getting them made. At the time, Dove was in the midst of its “Seven-Day Test” campaign, which, if you are as long in the tooth as I, you may remember. In case you don’t, here’s an example:

I never really understood what Lucille (not her real name) was doing working at Ogilvy — or working anywhere, for that matter. She was married to a Money Guy (my term for anyone in “finance”), lived in a palatial apartment on Fifth Avenue, and had staff.

She had a maid, and a driver, and a cook. In fact, she told me once that she had never been in her kitchen. 

Meet our cook. Yup, I even do the grilling chez nous

Now don’t get me wrong. Lucille may have been one of the One Percent, but she was sweet and kind and generous to a fault. We once worked on a Dove commercial in Chicago in the middle of winter, where we were shooting, for some insane reason, outdoors, and it was Chicago-in-the-middle-of-winter cold. So Lucille kindly loaned me “one of her old fur coats”.

Even after she stopped working at Ogilvy (or anywhere else) she would call up out of the blue to, say, offer us house seats to “Hairspray”. Or invite us to some trendy restaurant. Once we were eating at this nouvelle cuisine hotspot, and I ordered the “lobster ravioli”. A huge white plate decorated with swirls of sauce was placed before me. On it was exactly one “lobster ravioli”. Stephen, her husband (not his real name either), upon finishing his meal, asked “Who else wants to go for pizza?”

Lucille (of course) got her clothes in Paris. Or at this boutique on Park Avenue called “Martha”. (Speaking of Park Avenue, the picture at the top of this post shows me the closest I’ll get to an apartment there.)

Once I mentioned to Lucille that I’d seen her “on Third Avenue the other day” and she said that it couldn’t have been her because “I never go to Third Avenue.” (For those of you who are not New Yorkers, Third Avenue, at least on the Upper East Side, is where the hardware stores, locksmiths, and vacuum-cleaner-repair places are.)

But. Back to staff. Besides the maid, the driver, and the cook, Lucille had a nanny. For her dog. She had this standard poodle named Gerard (yes, that was his Real Name; that dog was smart, but I don’t think he can read), after Gerard Depardieu.

Gerard (the dog Gerard, not the French movie actor Gerard) had not only his own Bear (a stuffed Steiff) to play with, but his own Person too. When you said to Gerard “Go get your bear! Go get your bear!” off he’d go, and come back with his bear in his mouth. Not sure how he fetched his nanny.

Pictured here is the nanny for our cat. Poor Tuna didn’t have her own bear — but she did have this nice Child to play with

Anyway. I’m not sure whatever happened to Lucille. Maybe she’s one of my readers. (Hello out there, Lucille! Thanks again for loaning me your Old Fur!) At any rate, I often think of her fondly when I’m walking up Third Avenue on my way to the hardware store.

New York City. February 2018

Is that stocking half full, or half empty?

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‘The Philosophy of Gift-giving. It’s all how you look at it.’

One of the few times I saw my mother weep was one Christmas when she opened a gaily-wrapped package only to discover that my well-meaning father had given her an electric toothbrush. “It’s the latest thing,” he protested as he tried to comfort her. It didn’t help when he pointed out that it came with different heads, one for each member of our family.

Poor Dad. He was one of those well-meaning people who give gifts that they really want. He loved gadgets; ergo, Mom got gadgets. I think it was the next Christmas that he gave her the electric knife.

My Mom later told us about a Christmas when she was very little — a Christmas when she really really wanted roller skates. There was a largish, heavyish roller-skate-appropriate box under the tree that looked promising. But her Uncle Warren Who Liked To Tease (didn’t everyone have one of these?) kept telling her it was a hair ribbon. Poor Mom.

I’m not sure if this was the Christmas Of The Electric Knife. Or the Christmas Of The Electric Toothbrush

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It’s a small world, after all

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‘It took me nearly as long to get to Roosevelt Island as it did to get to the Amazon River’

I didn’t get his name, but I’m betting it was ‘Tony’. He was the guy manning the gate that lets you into the waiting area to ride the tram back from Roosevelt Island.

One of my besties (hi, Laurie!) and I had spent a most marvelous time strolling around the Island, checking out the new monument to Mr. Roosevelt, the old Smallpox Hospital (where they used to quarantine the poor sufferers, bless their hearts), and even the new Cornell Labs (where they let us in, but only so far in; they have very nice light fixtures in their cafeteria).

Monument to Mr. R. One of my other bestie’s sons really really wants to skateboard here

You can’t go in because it is ‘unstable’ (not that I’d want to), but here is the Smallpox Hospital in all its tumbledown glory

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The Pick-up Artist

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‘The ole Creep-O-Meter gets a workout on the streets of New York’

I bet I still have his business card stashed away in a drawer somewhere. Yup. I was in my twenties, fresh off the ‘boat’, as it were, when I was approached by James Toback, former sort-of-famous writer/director and now much-more-famous sexual predator.

I’m not going to show you a photo of this extremely creepy guy, partly because you might be eating your lunch or something (he’s pretty gross-looking now, and he didn’t ‘present’ much better thirty-odd years ago either, trust me) and partly because I can’t find a public-domain picture of him. If you haven’t seen the news, you can read about his ‘technique’ in the full L.A. Times story by clicking here (Warning; there is a photo of him). 

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So help me God

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‘The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: jury duty in New York City’

Excuses, excuses. This week I’m late because I have to keep chasing a darned turkey out of my yard. Sorry if some of you out there like turkeys in your yards; not me. They leave too many ‘gifts’, if you get my drift.

Anyway. On to this week’s story. Which is about jury duty in New York. Now before you start yawning, let me assure you that it can be pretty darned fascinating. For one thing, they changed the rules a few years ago so that nobody — and I do mean nobody — gets out of serving. So it’s quite possible that you can find yourself killing time doing the crossword in a big ole waiting room with the likes of Madonna or Sir Paul or maybe even The Donald back when he lived in New York (But wait; He still does live in New York. But I don’t think he does the crossword.)

Used to be that you could get out of serving if you had a little kid at home, were a doctor, or owned your own business. (Check all three boxes for The Dude; now that those exceptions have been eliminated, he has to serve and it drives him nuts. He thinks up all kinds of “you may be excused” answers to their questions, like “Yes” to “Do you believe that everyone who is tried in this court is implicitly guilty?” and it just makes the lawyers love him all the more. He almost always gets picked.) Continue reading

“Come as you are.” Or, um, maybe not

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‘Decoding the dress code on party invitations’

Who doesn’t love getting invited to parties? Well, maybe The Dude, actually. He’d much rather relax in his jammies in the comfort of his own home than head out to a party after a long work week. But the last two Fridays in a row have found us helping two Birthday Boys celebrate very Big Birthdays at a couple of very Big (and very nice) Parties.

One of the nice things (aside from the free-flowing champagne and hors d’oeuvres) that we appreciated about these two parties in particular was that there was no dress code. At least, not a dress code that was spelled out on the invitation. I guess the hosts (or hostesses, in these cases) figured that guests old enough to go to a birthday party without holding someone’s hand would be able to figure out how to dress.

Now, me, I love parties. And I look forward to getting party invitations of almost any kind. Including the ones with the little notes on the bottom of the invitation that tell you what to wear.

Should I wrap myself in cellophane like a bouquet from the corner deli?

Or should I make like a rosebush?

Being a dyed-in-the-wool-New-Yorker-of-40-years-and-counting, I’ll probably just don my wear-to-pretty-much-every-party basic black. Maybe I’ll carry a nosegay. Or wear rose-colored lipstick. Continue reading

Just because it fits doesn’t mean you should wear it

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‘When everything in your closet is “vintage”‘

It’s getting to be Spring here (finally), so the other day I was participating in a seasonal ritual particular to New Yorkers (at least New Yorkers in apartments with small closets) — The Switching of The Clothes.

Which is when you dig your Spring/Summer stuff out of storage and switch it with the Fall/Winter stuff. In my case, “storage” is the second closet in The Child’s room. She has never realized that she has two closets; she grew up thinking it perfectly normal that Mommy’s out-of-season clothes lived in her room.

BTW, Switching The Clothes in Spring absolutely guarantees a cold snap. Today, the 9th of May, it is 48 degrees out, and where are my sweaters? Stowed away in The Child’s second closet. Sigh.

But back to the topic at hand, which, I suppose, is Age Comes Out of The Closet. See, in years gone by, The Switching was a pretty easy chore. I’d just grab everything — and switch. I wouldn’t even try things on to make sure they still fit; I’ve been basically the same size my entire Adult Life. Not because of anything I’ve done; I follow no annoyingly virtuous regimen or routine. It’s because I’m (mostly) a Swede. And it’s a well-known fact that Swedes don’t get fat. We shrivel. As we age, we sort of turn into the human equivalent of beef jerky. Continue reading