Monday, November 30, 2009

One Lavish Way To Find The Perfect Little Black Dress

Well, I did it. I replaced the Little Black Dress That Couldn't with the Little Black Dress That Most Certainly Could.

First there was Miss Blumarine. Just too dang short for the over-50 and too dang worn for anyone else. Enter Ms. Lhullier. Purchased in exigency, worn in regret.

Exeunt Ms Lhullier. Au revoir, mon amie. Tu ne me manqueras pas.

But wait, what's that I hear? Who is whispering seductively in Spanish? Oh, Mr. Rodriguez, I've been waiting for you. Thank you for arriving before I develop dowager's hump and can no longer fit your siren curves.

So. Once upon a time I needed a new little black dress. I know, by now, that I require structure, sleeves, classic materials. I know, by now, to do research on the Internet. I looked online all around. And, on the Barney's New York site, (40% off sale on selected items today, if you are so compelled) I found this.

"Aha!" I thought, "Good design, private label, equals luxury bargain." And off I went to Barney's New York. In San Francisco. Which begs the question of why isn't it Barney's San Francisco? Do they think we feel the words "New York" add style? Have they talked to anyone in California? At all? But I digress. (The most compelling word in the English language, digression.)

Small lobby, Barney's. Elevators at the back of the store. Rather like those old New York emporiums, Bergdorf's, etc. Up. You can see almost everything on the women's designer floor from the moment those elevator doors slide open. Find a saleswoman. Explain that you want the Barney's private label dresses. Wonder if you feel a faint chill of disdain. Remind yourself about impunity.

Try on the dress. It looks awful. Hostile pleating. Oh well. Best laid plans. But since we're here....

Try on on Balmain, Balenciaga, Gaultier (twice), DVF. Break into loud guffaws, snorting to the salesperson, (you've been passed over to an important guy, sensing wallet blood, male, gay, fabulously stylish, both discrete and reassuring), "I AM JUST TOO FAT AND TOO OLD FOR THIS!" Tell him you have been in denial. Tell him, laughing, that you didn't realize things had gotten to this point.

8 dresses later, pull on Narciso. Feel the click of yes. (You know that click?)

Sleeves, check; structure, check; cashmere-wool blend, checking it twice...

Realize you don't really mean that you are fat*, just that you certainly aren't willowy any more, and you, most of all, aren't 20. Or 30. Or even 40. But that, at 50, the Narciso dress locates every bit of your current appeal and says, "Uh huh."

And, since the dress is in fact a present, receive confirmation that the atmospheric price is within lavish budget and take your purchase home. Where you will pull it out as soon as you walk in the door, just to look. And again, for Thanksgiving, and probably Christmas parties. For Christmas dinner, and New Year's. Any time at all you travel to Manhattan. Uh huh. New York City.

*I'm not "fat". But, being female in America, I sense the possibility, always hovering nearby. The right question is, fat compared to what?

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David Hockney's iPhone Paintings Are Almost Too Beautiful...

OMG. You must look at this.

David Hockney's drawings on his iPhone. The New York Review of Books.

I'm so thankful for artists.

Thank you, Helle Jorgensen, of the only crochet works I can countenance, for the link.


What Do High WASPs Really Think About Mr. Ralph Lauren?

So how DO High WASPs feel about Ralph Lauren, anyway? Lisa was good enough to write me and ask my opinion.
Do you feel that Ralph has cheapened things for you? Things that were inalienable rights that are now marketed to the masses that haven't a clue as to their origins but fork over the big bucks for a sense of 'belonging'?
Yes, well, Ralph was bound to come up. He's inescapable. Let's cut to that ever desirable chase. We admire the man, loathe the brand, and buy the clothes on occasion.

Is that a surprise? Maybe not. Let me expound. Ralph Lauren whacked the American dream out of the ballpark. Through the goalposts. A hole in one. You know Don Draper? Mad Men? What Ralph did Don would have killed for. See an emotional need, a longing of the imagination, attach it to stuff that not only wears out but has a half life of 18 months, and find a way to manufacture low, sell high. Ta da!

My father's family made cheese. Then found their way to Wall Street. Financed a railroad or three. My mother's family preached in Western Massachusetts. Then built a pipe and valve company. We like enterprise. You go Ralph.

The brand? The sheer mention causes my father to shudder. Literally. Close his eyes. My mother would most likely dismiss the idea with a shake of her head. As she straightened some books on the counter.

You see, Ralph is good at what he does. Repellently good. Take any of those ads where a family sits on a lawn. Some kind of gathering. A mansion implied or visible in the background. A BIG lawn. In any one of those ads, probably 35% of the message, the visuals, the models, hits home. While the other 65% makes us want to run screaming from the room.

Yes, the family is generally slender. Hair is generally healthy. Khakis are apt to make an appearance, along with something navy blue. Something else will be monogrammed, most likely something silver. The lawn is, in fact, large. Or the deck, which overlooks the pond, the bay, the ocean.

But our children are just as dirty as anyone else's. There is just as much chocolate in the corners of our mouths. Someone is divorced. Someone has failed dreams. Someone else sold liquid nitrogen to semiconductor companies. That family fortune does run out if you do too much lounging around on lawns in blazers. Most importantly on the sartorial front, the only crest you are going to see is intaglio, on a ring, around the patriarch's finger. And he will readily admit that it's specious, having been invented in the 18th century. Was not forged for a Celtic warrior from the fens. Or glens. Or whatever. We really don't put crests on our clothing anymore.

Everyone else should feel free to wear what they will. I don't feel something that was mine has been appropriated. Only that something real has been made into a cartoon. These things happen.

We High WASPs are not alone in the ravaging path of capitalism and its camp follower, Miss Brand. Other cultures suffer their private stuff to be used in the sale of foodstuffs and dry goods. I remember commercials for some spaghetti sauce or other, presided over by a stereotypical Italian mother. Aunt Jemima was even more egregious. And let us not forget Irish Spring.

High WASP food, until we discovered cooking, has never been worth selling to anyone. What were they going to use, images of little tow-headed children smiling at their Libby's Corned Beef Hash on cook's night out? High WASP great-aunts doling out overcooked frozen peas? And since we can hardly even say the word "smell", much less admit that we might, I don't think deodorant soap was a good promotional niche for our type.

I guess we got off easy. And, that said, some of what Ralph puts out, I like.

Most likely not these...

But this...

However, I never have worn and nor ever will wear a polo shirt with a little guy on a horse prominently featured over the breast. My apologies, but my family played polo. Lot of horsy stuff.

I know, this is really for events. But it could have been polo.

Only recently did my father sell his horse after decades of dressage. Under these circumstances, wearing that polo player feels wrong, wrong, wrong as an emblem of anything. Even when those old horsey trophies in the cupboard are now surrounded by 5 cheap identical vases, originally sent full of Ecuadoran roses via 1-800-Flowers.

*BTW, none of this applies to his house goods. Which Tickled Pink And Green shows us how to honor:).

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday Morning at 8:40am

There are some good parts of getting old. Surprisingly, it's not old lady hair, sore hips, or sporadic visits from the Forgetter Fairy. She's the little critter who waves her wand at crucial moments, leaving you open-mouthed, searching for the memory you could find with ease on that other day. That other day that you can't remember either.

No, getting older is good because it allows you to understand this troublesome thing called wisdom. A construct surrounded by myths. When I was younger, I imagined wisdom bestowed itself like grace. Like sunlight on a winter afternoon, pale gold, slanting, faded. Broken by leafless trees.

Nope. Wisdom means knowing more than you knew you knew. (That was really clear, huh?)

Wisdom comes from plainly and simply doing the same things over, and over, and over again. In time, patterns emerge. You say, "Oh, I see!" You won't even know what you know until you know it.

Wisdom doesn't read itself into your mind like a book. It wanders in and waits.

23 years ago I was pregnant at the first Thanksgiving in the first house I ever owned. The Forgetter Fairy doesn't even attempt to mess with with my memory of the pregnancy test. In those days a little tube would turn pink. Funny how you can doubt the meaning of pink those early mornings when you hope. But pink was pink. Something wisdom also teaches you but I was not wise then. Only happy.

Come Thanksgiving, two weeks after my debate with pink, I wanted to make sure that dinner would be eaten with things that glittered, and clinked, and settled. I had more than enough plates, glass, silver. Except. My father had handed over one of the sets of family china, lacking a gravy boat. Fancy silver gravy spoon, monogrammed with initials of some generation or other? Yes. Somewhere to put gravy? No. What to do? The china pattern, (Lenox, trivial but just as true) had been discontinued. Fortunately, classic white plates with gold banding reinvent themselves through the decades. I found something similar.

To get the gravy boat by Thanksgiving I had to go to Macy's shipping facility in San Francisco. I drove up to the Potrero Hill section of the city. Felt like the middle of nowhere. Walked into the customer service entrance. Around the corner from the loading dock. Looked more like an auto body shop than anything to do with gold banded gravy boats. Walked up to the window. Yes, there was a window. Gave the woman my information. When she handed me the box, I just couldn't keep my secret any longer. "Thank you," I said. "This is my first Thanksgiving. And I'm so excited - I'm pregnant."

"Oh honey, congratulations!" The woman was happy for me. She smiled broadly. Added some words on my future, on how children were a blessing. Those I do not remember. Only the feeling of joy, the smile on her face and clearly on mine. Saying this astonishing thing out loud. Dirty white paint on the walls and service window counter. The shape of the gravy bowl. I said my goodbyes and drove back home.

I tried so hard, when I was young, for perfection. I didn't know that some things are given to you perfect in their native state. And perfect doesn't mean perfect. Wisdom is lit by sheer accumulation of knowledge, pinpoints of knowledge, fireflies in a New Jersey summer. It's an understanding of just what in those little stories of your life was truth. What matters. I didn't need to try so hard.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

LPC Is At "Souris Mariage" Today

Today I am over at Souris Mariage. The charming and artistic young woman from Good Mouse, Bad Mouse is getting married. She asked me to talk about wedding registries. Today I am saying things like, "I recommend you furnish the life you will lead. Rather than collect goods. Life is short. We have to eat, and over the years you will be putting a lot of food into your mouth. With any luck people you love will be eating with you. Maybe around a table, maybe at a kitchen counter. Buy plates for those moments." Which is rather relevant on the eve of Thanksgiving. I will be back at Souris Mariage a week from today, to give my thoughts on just which plates, glasses, forks, and tablecloths are apt to be required. In a High WASP way, bien sur. For some reason, when it comes to household furnishings, we are fond of using whatever French we know. I'm going to blame Julia Childs.

Again, thank you all for the wonderful stories in the Rowallan giveaway. Much appreciated. I will be off tomorrow and Friday, so have a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful holiday. Back next week with more Little Black Dresses, India voyages, and possibly the High WASP position on Ralph Lauren. A bientot.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How To Give Away A "Keep"

First read all the comments under your giveway post. Be profoundly cheered by a flock of adventures almost like birds in the sky.

Then ask your daughter to help write a list of all the entries to make sure nothing falls through any cracks. Go to the mall thinking you will buy place setting cards from Crane to write names on but then realize that they cost $1.00 apiece and you need a total of 115. Debate the purchase anyway because it would be fun but the Sturdy Gal is whispering in your ear so buy a roll of Tiffany blue wrapping paper and proceed to cut slips and write out names.

Realizing that there are too many slips of paper to fit into your silver bowl, retrieve the large glass piece from the cupboard, fill it with slips, and mix them up.

Close your eyes. Reach in and mix some more. Grab a slip. Then make your daughter take a picture of your hand in the bowl. Keep your eyes closed. You ask your daughter to turn all the slips over so only blue shows. Because you are picky like that.

Then, eyes still closed, turn over the winner. Tada!

Feel briefly embarrassed that you have terrible handwriting, but put that aside and wish Plus Size Bride a big congratulations!

So hooray! Congratulations! The CSN stores representative will be getting in touch! Please email me with the contact information I should pass on! Now I will go figure out how to do this again. Or something similar. Thank you all so much for participating.


Monday, November 23, 2009

The Quickest, Easiest, Most Delicious, Last Minute Brussels Sprouts Recipe In The Known Universe

Pancetta, lemons, brussels sprouts, oven, 15 minutes.

Or, in a slight expanded version,

1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 lemon, cut into quarters and then into paper-thin slices
Kosher or sea salt and freshy cracked black pepper

Preheat the over to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toss the brussels sprouts, olive oil, pancetta, lemon, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium baking dish. Roast on a baking sheet (so as not to trap moisture, thereby steaming your little crucifers) until the sprouts are brown and tender, about 15 minutes.

Serves 4. (To serve 24 you will need some more baking sheets....)

This recipe (except, of course, the parentheses) is from the The Rose Pistola Cookbook, by Reed Hearon and Peggy Knickerbocker. Rose Pistola is the restaurant that invented roasting. Well, not really, but it opened in San Francisco in the mid-90's and has been roasting things ever since.

Happy Thanksgiving cooking to all.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Morning at 8:23am

The weekend before Thanksgiving. Kids coming home. Steel myself for them to be flying through the air. Laundry done, clean sheets on the beds. Plumber scheduled for Monday to fix a broken toilet. All that's left is a clean floor, ham, and bananas.

Had to let that sink in for a minute. No, we do not stuff our turkey with ham and bananas prior to eating it off the floor. Sorry, far too much of a traditionalist in the Thanksgiving department for ground level dining. But the boy child likes breakfast burritos, which mean ham, along with potatoes, eggs, tortillas, cheese, and salsa. I'm apt to have the other stuff already in the refrigerator - ham requires special purchase. The daughter likes bananas. I have deep-seated problems with banana texture, that would prevent me from eating any even if I liked the taste. But buying fruit one doesn't much like is the least of maternal sacrifices.

Truth be told, I never have thought of it all as sacrifice. It has always seemed to me that no matter how much I gave, I got more back. Like I got the good end of the deal.

Have a great day in the produce aisles everyone. Don't you just love the brussels sprouts that are still on their stalks? Like little Martian plants have come to grace our tables.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Luxury Coach To Ajanta And Ellora, India, 1982

The fountains weren't running at the Ajanta Ambassador. I don't blame them one bit, in retrospect.

I planned to spend an entire three months in India. And I mean PLANNED. It was that or waste a lot of effort on going to a faraway foreign country just to sit in hotel rooms with bad sheets, feeling panicked.

I have always made my way through the uncertainties and ambiguities of life by planning. Runs in the family. My youngest sister is known, affectionately, as Plannerina. Although she says kid #3 has finally put Plannerina to rest. But I digress.

I took guidebooks to India. Fodors and Let's Go. I thought about every step of the trip. And now I was in Bombay. With time on my hands. I had at least three or four days before film industry interviews would begin. The caves of Ellora and Ajanta were on my list. Or Ajanta and Ellora. Either way.

Somehow, and I do not remember how, I found a tour to Ajanta and Ellora. Via luxury coach. Let me say simply that words do not always mean the same thing in foreign countries. Even when they are ostensibly words of your language. The tour took us from Bombay out to the caves, one night on a bus, a hotel to shower in and have breakfast upon arrival, a day at the caves, and then another night back on the luxury coach to Bombay.

Oh take pity on a child. Even now I shake my head at my own optimism. Realizing at the same time that optimism can be a very good trait, especially for adventures. I got on the luxury coach, which, in this case, turned out to be luxurious enough even for a slightly spoiled young America. Sat down in my seat, a very nice seat, as it turned out, next to a middle-aged Indian man. And proceeded to have a violent allergic reaction to something I had eaten. Which caused me to itch all over, sneeze violently, and break out in hives. Hard to breathe. (This allergy was to become so serious later in life that the last time it happened I believe I almost died. But this was early days.) There was really nothing I could do about it that night but endure. So I did.

The attack passed. However. Right about the time when my throat opened up again, and I understood that I would probably live, I also understood that the man in the next seat wasn't squeezing my leg by accident. I twisted, I turned, I got annoyed, I tried to give signals that I was not appreciating the attention, I gave up. I moved to the back of the bus and sat down in the last row of seats against the back. Where I bumped around so violently that I could not sleep at all.

I arrived at the Ajanta Ambassador in a state of complete temper. As a 25-year old, on occasion I resembled a teenage girl. Not exactly the most gracious of species. The shower helped. Air conditioning helped. Breakfast really helped.

My knapsack. For daytrips. Completely impractical, but sentimentally valuable. Loaned to me by my boss at the time.

Off we set. The caves of Ajanta and Ellora were built by Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains between 200 B.C. and 700 A.D.. Carved into the side of a cliff alongside a river in the plains. Not even a grumpy baby Grande Dame could fail to put aside small annoyances, the wish for cold water, the discomforts of luxury coaches, in the face of this.

Like most of my trip to India, Ajanta was hot. Very hot. The sun was so bright I had to shade my eyes. Almost hard to see. But there were caves. And statues three times my height. All carved before my culture was much of a twinkle in some wild Saxon's eye.

We toured. I had remembered how hard it was to transition again and again from dark to light, from hot to cooler. But my notebook also tells me that a guide had us all wait outside one of the carved chambers. He went inside with other guides. They chanted. I remember now. Standing out in the white sun, a courtyard enclosed by decorated walls of statuary, men chanting in caves.

I'm embarrassed my notebook also shows I wrote about loud air conditioning on the same page. Everything I say is as truthful as I can make it. As best I can remember. I don't know if it matters.

Then we saw the sleeping Buddha. Carved in stone. I remember, at the time, I was not impressed. So what? A Buddha. I'd seen pictures. So what? He was long, and lying down. But now, looking at the Buddha's face, I think I missed something. I was very, very young. Pretty scared and trying to replace my fear with all kinds of inner commentary.

I made it back to Bombay uneventfully. If being 25, and alone, in India, in 1982, can be said to be uneventful. We humans have a remarkable capability to reset normal.

Have a wonderful weekend.


And In Further Important Mad Men News....

Remember how we all voted for her?

Pretty dang fun. Go here to read the official Mad Men interview with her. Clicking on the image above will take you to her sister Hollister's site - where I found the announcement.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Luxury Hotels, St. Regis San Francisco.

I love luxury hotels. Hmm. Maybe not a sign of extreme discernment. But I don't know if its one of those "Duh!" kind of things, or whether some really don't care for the atmosphere. Wouldn't want to presume. So let's assume we are talking about a quirky predilection.

Given my preferences, I'm lucky to have stayed in a fair number of these places. The Lake Palace in Udaipur, St. Regis in Shanghai, Intercontinental in Prague, The Helmsley Palace and 60 Thompson in New York. The Peninsula in Chicago. Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. The Beverly Hills Hotel with my sisters for my 50th birthday. Where we all slept in one room with a trundle bed. Oh, and on the 82nd floor of the Shanghai Grand Hyatt, known locally as the Jin Mao. Neon on the horizon. The Four Seasons on the Big Island. But I am losing my train of thought in dreams of walking barefoot through hibiscus.

These days I'm less apt to splurge carelessly for a night, or nights, of grandeur. But, I can still sit in the hotel bar with some friends. And have been known to do so. Welcome to the St. Regis, San Francisco.

Zebrawood paneling. Low seats in colors like sage. A mural.

And a chandelier over the the bar itself. What? Haven't you always wanted a chandelier to accompany your Junipero gin martini? Sauvignon Blanc? That peaty Scotch?

I don't keep company with zebrawood on an every day basis. Nor chandeliers. Not even murals, although I suppose the wall marks left by kids bumping around might sort of count. But I can stash a green Waiwera water bottle in my bag. Take it home. Kind of like beach glass, if you will.

Confession. Even though I had paid in full for that water I felt a momentary High WASP pang of, "Is this OK? Am I allowed? Really?" as I walked out the door. A wave of preliminary blushing about the neck of the bottle sticking out the top of my already embarrassing Louis Vuitton. Sometimes you have to follow the signs of beauty past decorum.

Me, last week.
The Perfect Hotels
SF Photorama
Me, this morning.

And It Comes In Pink, Too.

Giveaway here. Rowallan jewelry "keep" or other nifty things from The keep, BTW, also comes in pink. For my preppy blogger friends:).


Have disabled comments here to make sure they are all in one place and nobody gets lost. Here the stories of adventures are amazing.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Rowallan Jewelry "Keep"

Privilege is giving away something to make your travel more, well, privileged. And in our tradition of deconstruction, you can define privilege however you like.

But first, the story of this giveaway. I had been contacted by more companies than made sense. Always fun, secretly thrilling and all that. But they wanted me to promote things like orthodonture, or Russian diamonds, or gypsy pendants. Didn't seem to make sense. Then the kind people at CSN Stores got in touch. They run This did make sense. Especially since I planned to start writing about travels.

However, I didn't want to give you all anything without testing it first. So, I bought one for myself. I wanted something that a) could hold my watch, some earrings, a necklace, and maybe even a bracelet, without damage b) would fit into my carryon for those times when I had to check a suitcase. This Rowallan "keep" as they call it, is so cute I want to feed it and let it sleep at the foot of my bed.

It's tough to travel with jewelry. Without a good case, necklaces tie themselves into knots from which they cannot be rescued and earrings say goodbye to their mates never to return. And, if you check luggage, heaven help the poor soul who entrusts her *precious* to the recesses of the baggage system. Confession. Jewelry does bring out my inner Gollum.

Rowallan, to make this sweeter, is a Scottish company. They make things for Queen Elizabeth. Yes. The Grande Practical Dame is enthralled by the click of the hardware alone.

One of you can win this "keep." Or, if you prefer, you can choose something else at Anything within an $80.00 limit. I know, isn't that generous? Please just do one or several of these things. As I understand it, I'm following the giveaway protocol. If I'm wrong, please let me know. Immediately. Or I will have nightmares when I find out I was inappropriate.

1. Comment below. Tell me the most interesting place you have ever traveled to. Interesting being loosely defined. One chance.
2. Either remind me you follow Privilege already or sign up to follow now. Two chances.
2. Post about the giveaway on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter. Social media of choice. Let me know you have done so. Three chances.
3. Go dance naked in the rain. Four chances. Um, I think I'm kidding there.

On Sunday of this week, November 22nd, I will pick a winner at random. Either I will figure out the random number generator, or I will put slips into a bowl. Probably a silver one. For fun. I don't think they make silver random number generators.

Here's to presents, large and small. I hope to have others for you as time goes by.

Note: I also picked CSN because they are large and reputable. (I'd be OK with small and reputable.) They want me to tell you that they have sites like Mattresses too. I just couldn't figure out a good way to give anyone a mattress. Have you ever noticed that it's one of those words you better not say over and over again?

Note: So much for grand capitalist schemes. To make anyone at any and all regulatory agencies happy, I received nothing in exchange for what I am about to say. Except the chance to do something fun by giving a present. Not even an affiliate link, although I reserve the right to do that in the future if I figure out how and get over my embarrassment.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Telephones, Addresses, Movies. India, 1982

Stories start here

I woke up in a strange country. This should not have surprised me. But strange, by nature, is always a surprise.

I was overwhelmed with anxiety that morning. But so what? I was always anxious, in those days. In my 20's. I was anxious, as usual, sitting on a bed in the Taj Mahal Hotel, in Bombay, in February of 1982.

Anxiety laps me like a slow flood.

I made a to do list for those rising waters. A universal strategy, even in strange countries. "Call the National Film Development Society." India had a government body in charge of developing their art film industry. I had written a letter before I arrived. They had responded saying,"Yes, you may come visit us. " That meant I had to use the telephone. There was one. Next to the bed. It was beige. That didn't help. I had only a vague idea of how to use it. In those days, India's telephone infrastructure was erratic. Odd combinations of numbers required. I dialed. Clicking ensued. I dialed again. Someone said "Hello?" I don't remember any more than that, not what I said, not what they said in return, not how I knew to go find myself a taxi, not how I knew to tell the cab driver where to go. Certainly not how I could be sure that anyone at all would be there when I arrived.

I do remember the cab driver didn't know what he was doing much either. Bombay in those days was being built right under our feet. Streets were changing names. Buildings coming down and going up. Entire neighborhoods becoming. An entire city of becoming. The cab driver had to ask another citizen of the becoming, "Do you know this place?" Show the address I must have written down. Ask, of course, in Hindi. English was common, amongst the educated. Not so common amongst those who drove the educated around. It only makes me shake my head, to realize that India was so foreign to me that a new language barely registered.

I remember next, offices. White walls. Women, in beautiful saris, in charge of the National Film Development Society. Me, young, long blond hair, spectator slingbacks, seersucker suit. A conversation. In which I took notes, they explained what they knew, and schedules were made. Yes, they would take me to see a film being shot in what they called, even then, Bollywood. Mangala, a woman in her 30's who smiled and shook my hand, would meet me in the next few days. I would get a phone call. She put me in a cab and sent me back to the hotel.

OK. OK. Plans were made. Schedules set. To do, done. But I had said I was a free-lance journalist. In my mind, I was not. In my mind, I was a girl. That was also true. I felt like I was telling stories. I thought I was fooling someone. But in the end my article would be published by the Los Angeles Times. In the end, the National Film Development Corporation knew more than I did. In the end, they were right to treat me as though I was real, even though I felt I was hallucinating.

Now I had some time. Nothing scheduled for a few days. I walked out into the city. Down a side street. Every step more information than weeks of my previous life. Imagine marigolds. Imagine marigolds in a city. Hanging in garlands everywhere. Hanging around cows' necks.

I went back to the hotel. I put on my bathing suit and went down to the pool. I lay, in the shade, wearing a bathing suit, on a long pool chair. The walls around the pool were latticed, like the carved walls of the other Taj Mahal. Bougainvillea grew all around. Pink. Very pink. So pink. A waiter, turbaned, uniformed, asked me if I wanted anything. "Madam, can I bring you something please?" "Lemonade. I'll have some lemonade. Thank you." Even strange countries do not relieve one of the requirement for polite. And I sat, by a swimming pool, under a blue sky. I drank lemonade. Bells rang, intermittently, on cows outside in the street.

Images, from slides, India, 1982, LPC
1. A film billboard. In fact I believe this is from the South of India, not Bombay. But time is the enemy of exactness.
2. The Bombay train station. A kiosk.
3. Bougainvillea. On the walls of the hotel swimming pool.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fab Over Fifty - New Site Launching

A new site, called Fab Over Fifty, is launching in January. For those of us over 50, or almost 50, or wanting to understand the women-over-50 market, it's run by Geri Brin, a former fashion media publisher. Here's what she says.

Now I’m creating a website by and for every single one of us, whether we raised a family or raised the glass ceiling, dress in designer duds or don’t know Dries from Dior. Called, it will be the place where we can share the things that make us so fab—the shops we love, the creams we swear by, the books we can’t put down, and the wisdom we’ve amassed.

At the moment, she's writing a blog introducing both topics of interest and people who are subscribing to her site. I was quite happy to be included. As one to shy away from controversy, I can't tell you how fun it is to be to be written up, with others, in a post that calls out Anna Wintour. I could never do such a thing, but I secretly admire the audacity.

To be clear, I have no interest in segregating myself in a same-age cohort. I am far too fond of the young, far too invested in the issues and feelings of all ages. It seems, however, that Geri shares my sentiment. I found her via, of all places, A Cup of Jo. Apparently Geri mentored Joanna throughout her career. I can only imagine how satisfying that must of been for both of them, Joanna to learn, Geri to watch Joanna's success, Joanna to support Geri now in her new endeavor. Having something to offer is overwhelmingly the best part of getting older.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Morning at 8:31am

So much has happened lately. I feel accelerated. Which is odd, since I'm not working. But life has its own adrenaline.

Not the least of which is this blog. I'm kind of embarrassed to talk about blogging. Very High WASP of me, I suppose. We want to do these things, and pretend we aren't. But here I am. More importantly, here you are. Welcome.

I was tagged, recently, by the adorable, determined, and effervescent Queen Bee Swain. That's Swain as in coxswain, not as in country suitor. To tell you ten things about myself. Before I start, I tag Mon Avis, Mes Amis. Found her via Maxminimus. She is British wit and verve, he's men's style in the traditional vernacular. Both quite fun. Also Pink Martinis. She introduced me to Sugar Daddy Ken. Need I say more? Now I'm going to conflate the tag (don't you just love the word conflate? So useful.) with my sense that it's time to take a minute and think, just what am I doing here, and to then tell you. So you know. Because things change, evolve, and maps, guides, directions can be good.


10 Things You Might Not Have Known About LPC's Blogging. Because I Didn't Know Them Either. Or, I Knew But Hadn't Acknowledged. Because Being Human Is Complex.

Why am I doing this?

1. I have always wanted to write stuff that did not involve trying to sell anyone anything. And have people read it.
2. I lost my job and I have time to fill.
3. You all are funny, intelligent, quirky, enthusiastic, well-traveled, creative commenters who keep providing me with new thoughts and insights.
4. Taking pictures and making photo collages is fun. Like the part of kindergarten that I liked where they put scissors and construction paper and glue on the tables and let you have at it.
5. Life is short, and noticing acutely as you live is the only way I have found to make it go more slowly.

What am I going to be doing here? In order of focus.

1. Writing about style from the High WASP perspective, in clothing, in accessories, in travel, in houses, in careers.
2. Telling stories as honestly as I can, with disclosure of any personal complexities. Constructing and deconstructing.
3. Telling the particular story of my trip to India. Most likely every week. But I can't set a day, some Mondays are different than other Mondays, often Tuesdays vary quite a lot.
4. Blurting out how much I love my children.
5. Sustaining occasional moments of rapture about this, that, and the other thing. Whatever that other thing happens to be.

But, wait, there's more. (No Ginsu knives.) But, inviting you all to guest post, hosting giveaways (yes, really, just wait). Also showing pictures. And thanking you. Really, most importantly, thanking you. Where are my manners?

Thank you. Thank you very much.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

High WASP, Meet Steampunk.

I've been noticing, over the past few months, several things both remarkable and related. Maybe even a trend. I've seen references to "steampunk", as a fashion, nay, a life style. Words like artisanal, handmade, workshop, applying not only to cheeses. Wedding invitations in the style of old saloon slash rock 'n' roll posters. Even the love shown my dear Mulholland Brothers bag and its turn of the previous century air. I kept thinking, hmm, hmm, hmm, this is something.

Well, today the New York Times concurs. The late 1800's are where it's at.
"As with home design, where curio cases, taxidermy and other stylish clutter of the Victorian era have been taken up by young hipsters, many of today’s popular men’s styles have their roots in the late 19th century."
And it's not just the men.

Bloggers say it best. Audi at Fashion for Nerds tells us what "steampunk" is, and goes it one better by wearing a corset to work. Hollister Hovey and her sister wear old-fashioned military-style coats in Prague. Purchased at Forever 21. James, at secret forts, shows image upon image of men making bags and shirts by hand. Turns out that "indie style," (here I point you to east side bride, and etsy of course) may not fall too far from the nostalgia-for-earlier-eras tree. The, we don't like machines, nor glitz, nor foreign manufacture, tree. That one.

Audi. In a corset. You go girl.

Ironically, just as we leave behind our own turn of the century excesses, we fall in love with workaday artifacts of an earlier Age of Innocence. And so, I suppose, my little hunt for a buffalo plaid shirt was perhaps just part of this larger wave. A wave heading towards mainstream America, by the way. Watch out for suspenders. Wait, I mean braces.

Today, as Duchesse was so kind to point out in a comment here, Robert Redford's Sundance Catalogue is offering us this rendition of a vintage Woolrich jacket.

Now that the jacket is real, and not a fantasy of an earlier, simpler, woolier day, do I have the same urge to acquire? Or was I, are we all, hipsters and traditionalists alike, channeling a zeitgeist that cannot, in fact, provide the imagined comfort?

I read the Times article this morning and started this post. When I came to finish writing later, I saw that both the steampunk site, and Hollister, had already taken note. OK. Compelling sub-groups are excited. Are we?

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Getting Away For The Weekend, Nonchalantly

When I have to get on an airplane, like all of us, I hunker down. I get out my battered Hartmann rollaway, from the days when wheels on suitcases were still new. If it's a short enough trip to take just one bag and a purse, I put the laptop into a protective sleeve and slip it into the zippered compartment on the outside of my suitcase. Everything I need to access without fuss goes into my purse. My big purse. I buy water, magazines, gum, in the airport, and carry them on in the plastic bag from purchase. No one enforces the two bag rule on a flimsy white plastic sack.

If I am going for a long time, and need to pack so many shoes that my suitcase can't fit the laptop, or traveling internationally, where by the time I clear immigration my bag will be on the carousel, I check the Hartmann, and carry a laptop bag and purse on board. Not to mention the white plastic bag. It's quite handy.

That kind of travel is all about managing inconvenience. Sometimes, of course, I fall prey to the desire to look like someone with resources. Which can lead to designer goods battling each other on my person. But for the most part, I'm practical. Get to the destination without wanting to strangle myself, my fellow travelers, or whoever compelled me to make the trip in the first place.

Weekend travel is a completely different beast. Delicious. Constraints of convenience do not apply. And, when freed from convenience, style runs wild.

My weekend suitcase is from Mulholland Brothers. I like to throw it in the back of my car. The sound it makes hitting the trunk floor is so satisfying. I like the leather, brass hardware and latch, old fashioned shape. And, I confess, I like to look like I can afford my hotel. We have already established my flaws. Why on earth do I care what the bellhop thinks of my suitcase? Who knows. The thing is, this was a present from someone who has made their peace with my weaknesses. Suitcases, luckily, last a long time.

In the Bay Area, we have great weekend destinations. Right nearby in Napa, the Carneros Inn. A summer afternoon, pool, Sauvignon Blanc, a hamburger, sunscreen, vineyard views. If you're willing to go further down the coast to stay at the most amazing place in the world, the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. Of course, it's crazy expensive, but you can watch monarch butterflies flying 200 feet above the Pacific from your deck, and the vista extends over 180 degrees. Sierra Mar, the restaurant, is open to everyone. These days I just like to look at the pictures.

Don't want to commit several mortgage payments to a weekend away? Me neither, these days. Just over the Santa Cruz mountains, in Half Moon Bay, is the Inn at Mavericks. Mavericks point is where crazy surfers ride really big winter waves. The hotel is just a little place with some bedrooms on the edge of the water. No restaurant, although there are several within small town walking distance. Also seagulls. Fog horns. You can pack your stuff in a brown paper bag and still, come night, sit outside on the deck, small bay waves below.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Finding Oneself In India, 1982

I turned 25 in September of 1981. In February of 1982, I took a 3 month trip to India. My ostensible motive for the trip? Adventure. 25 year olds need no more than that. I hoped to start a joint degree at Columbia University's Graduate Schools of Business and Journalism in the summer of 1982. As it turned out, I was accepted to the business school and not the journalism school. Setting the course for a career I could never have predicted.

In 1982, I had no idea that I would eventually work in the software industry, writing data sheets on Java, Microsoft and embedded programming. Running PR. Engaging with clients who wanted to build web applications. In 1982 I thought I was soon to settle down to a solid and respectable life. So, off to India. The closest I'd ever been to the developing world at that point was Christmas at a villa in Cancun.

I was too much of a High WASP to travel with a backpack. To join the swarms of bearded, beaded young Caucasians seeking enlightenment in the Far East. I didn't think I was after enlightenment. I was, if I look back, searching for some way to prove my bravery to myself.

It was a crusade. And crusades need banners. So I decided to travel through India by train, doing research for and writing an article, or articles, on India's as-yet-unknown-to-the-West film industry. How did I know to do that? I didn't. But I worked at the time for one of the smartest people I have ever encountered, and he said, when informed of my travel plans, "Why don't you write about the film industry? They make more movies than anyone in the world." He was right. So I did.

As I said, I didn't want to travel with a backpack. The Grande Dame shows up when she is least useful. I went down to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and bought a duffle bag. Nylon. Blue. "Durable," said the Hasidic proprietor, standing on the steps that led down to his suitcase store. "It will last you." He was right. It did.

I came back from India in May of 1982. With my duffle bag. You see it above on the floor of my son's room at Princeton. And no, those gym socks didn't make the same trip. I also came back with boxes of slides. Remember slides? However, I now own a scanner. Which, as you can imagine, means that I would like to tell you, here and there, the story of that trip. And some of the clothes I wore. There will be elephants, eventually. And Buddhas. And trains, many people, monkeys. Movie stars. It was a long trip. And I was very young and silly. Which has been known to give rise to stories.

The story will end with me smashing bangles from my wrist. They jangled too much for me to take notes in Columbia's lecture halls. But it begins with this.

The Arrival.

I flew into what was then Bombay on Air India. The moment we landed I could smell the country. It was midnight. We disembarked onto the tarmac, and took a faded bus to the terminal. From there, although I was staying at the Taj Mahal Hotel, flagship luxury hotel of urban India, I thought it best to take another bus into the center of the city. After all, the Taj sits next to the Gateway to India. There was a bus stop.

We drove on a long, narrow road. Complete darkness. To get to Bombay proper we had to pass through slums. Houses built out of movie billboards, upside down letters glittering in the bus headlights. People awake. I saw them wandering, hand in hand. Overwhelmed by so much I had never seen before, I could only focus on the small. "Why are they awake at 2am? Why are they walking?" That's how the brain works, I think, when presented with too much new. Try to solve for something.

By the time I arrived in Bombay, the morning was lighting up. The Gateway to India, a monumental arch, seemed to serve a market function. Anyone speaking English was negotiating prices. I walked into the hotel, carrying my duffle bag. I had packed clothes for 3 months. 3 months about which I as yet knew nothing. For the interviews I hoped to set up with India's film industry contacts, (contacts I had not actually yet made, mind you) I packed a blue and white skirted seersucker suit. Yes I did. A linen shirt. Blue and white Charles Jourdan spectator slingbacks. Yes I did. I saw no pathos in my attempt.

The hotel staff checked me in. But they had put me in the tower, rather than in the old palace I had been expecting. In those days the tower was painted hospital green and smelled of insecticide. I didn't think I could drink the water. I lay down on the bed. I waited, and worried that I could hear cows outside.

I am sure that eventually I fell asleep.

Duffle bag, my son, 2009
Polyvore, imagined memories of 1982

(I hope to tell this story here, in bits and pieces, over time. Not every day. But stories are for the listeners as much as the tellers, so let me know if you prefer I stick to little black dresses and their ilk.)

Saturday Morning at 7:17am

It's November. Temperatures that count for cold here. Heat is on. I have a very loud forced air system, and the sound makes me think of winter storms and winds lashing and windows rattling in their frames. Even though the sky outside is blue and all the plants in my backyard still green.

Who says we don't have seasons in California?


Friday, November 6, 2009

Should The Perfect Wallet Be Stylish?

I can make a fairly serious argument as to why you don't need a stylish wallet. Consider.
  • Your wallet is usually only out of your bag - we're talking women here - for a few minutes at a time. Why pay for 6.5 minutes/per day worth of visuals?
  • When you are using your wallet, you are usually paying someone. If that someone doesn't have much money, the fact that you do might be sufficient affront. If that someone does have money, they probably want more of yours. No point in signaling there's anything for the taking.
  • If stuff falls out of your wallet, due to its stylish design, troubles ensue. Ugly troubles, which require communicating with robots over the telephone.
Buying a wallet is the moment for function over form. Case in point. My mother gave me The Cutest Wallet Ever. A birthday present. Chanel. With an adorable little embossed camellia as the decoration? Discrete logo? Oh yeah. Got my girl electrons flying. Set my teeth on edge with desire. But, too small to hold my hordes of cards. You know, the ones that a) entitle you to spend more than you have b) get prizes for when you have spent more than you have c) remind everyone that you are lucky enough to have medical AND dental insurance.

So I returned The Cutest Wallet Ever. And bought this one. Mr. Tod. Brown, pebbled, stitched.

Huge. If it had wheels I could drive it home. Card slots on the scale of Las Vegas. Profound happiness washed over me when I put it into my purse. The anxiety of stuffing cards into too few slots, the annoyance of hunting for said cards, the memory of the damage I did to poor Miss Ferragamo, these defeated the adorable camellia.

Poor Miss Ferragamo

Mr. Tod is cute enough. Soft leather, should last a long time. Travel with me. I'll get over the camellia. Some day.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

The 21st Century Grand Tour, In Which Freud And Jung Come Along.

High WASPs like to travel. My mother, one afternoon, put down the New York Times' travel section, sighed, shook her head, and said, "I don't need to read this. I'll never see Finland again." My father is prone to private safari-type expeditions, to Africa, to Vietnam, and the British Virgin Islands. Well, maybe not safaris in the Caribbean, but cruises involving boats, crews, and few other people.

In our generation, given the state of the once-great family fortune, travel is a little less glamorous. No less compelling. Between us the siblings have worked in London, France, and Shanghai. Studied in St. Petersburg. We've been to most continents, on holiday, on pilgrimage of one sort or another. I'd list the countries but your imagination can probably do a better job.

Why? I don't think it's just the fact that we can afford to. After all, many people with financial resources are happy to stay put. I believe the construct of the Grand Tour is still with us. That, and the desire to poke holes in the comfort of wealth.

The Grand Tour was a custom, originating in the 17th century, primarily English, in which young men graduating from Oxbridge would travel through Europe for several years. Upon their return, expanded cultural knowledge allowed them, we assume, to take their place in society. Needless to say, these Tours involved the usual activities of youth, trysts, gambling, intoxication. The reality diverges from voiced lofty goals. But the Grand Tour became a cultural keystone, embodying the idea that to lead one must know more than one's backyard. Which, despite the colonial overtones, isn't such a bad thought. Even though we, the High WASPs, are no longer the leaders of the Western world.

The 21st century, of course, has added the personal to the social imperative. The thing about growing up with money is that you don't quite know what to trust. You are never sure what life would taste like if you really bit down hard. Blood on your teeth.

So we travel.

I admit, the travel isn't without accoutrements. It's not pure voyaging into a dark night. We think about the right wallet, the right suitcase, what to wear on an airplane. I have come to believe in Purell. My mother has a special travel bathrobe. I like black Pumas with Velcro fasteners.

It would be possible to imagine that portable comforts of home defeat the powers of new places. Having grown up in privilege, it's very easy, as I said, not to know what to trust. To mock oneself for not having really had to fight. To decide that only the most difficult is worthwhile. But that's not a way to make much progress. There are times when you have to relent. To say to yourself, "Fine. If I like belting leather on my rollaway suitcase, fine." As I remember, a durable duffle doesn't get in the way of India. You still have to brush the dust out of your hair at night alone in a hotel room.

Brought up in privilege, and full of nerve-endings, you are apt to feel guilt. You will feel the desire to know what you do not know. You will wish for courage. You will have some. Probably never quite enough. So you get on the train.

This is more difficult than I make it sound. But not unique. I believe everyone in privilege must face the same problem, how to test, and still forgive oneself.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Secret Rebellions Come In Many Guises, Even From Christian Siriano

I want these.

For a secret holiday party rebellion. I mean, a zipper?

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Why Is Shopping At Costco So Difficult?

Costco overwhelms me. Walmart? Never even attempted. This has nothing to do with my recovering snobbery. It's a failing and I take full responsibility.

Oh I can buy, for example, gum at Costco. Something I know I want, with, most importantly, known variance. Constrained choices. I can handle the difference between Cinnamon, Wintermint, Bubble Gum, and Peppermint. Even Fruit, which, of course has no acquaintance with anything that grew in an orchard.

I can sort of handle these kinds of choices. Something I didn't know I wanted, i.e. a cornucopia of holiday skirts for little girls. At least all choices are visible. I can stand in front of this rack and reconcile my kindled desire with the possibilities. Decide, in the end, which one a little girl might like best.

But browsing Costco? Makes my eyes roll into the back of my head. Am I alone in this?

I am convinced that this is why I am a Sturdy Gal. Despite my Grande Dame skills and habits. The Grande Dame? Learned over years of corporate life and Thanksgivings with High WASPs. The Sturdy Gal? Innate.
What? Sturdy and fainting in a warehouse store in the same sentence? How can sturdy people suffer from Stendhal's Syndrome?

Here's my theory. The Sturdy Gal chooses clothing for comfort, not because she has no imagination but because she has too much. Where others look into their large closets with glee, choosing and re-choosing their clothes for the day, we suffer. Permutations and combinations are particularly tough. We like to know that we wear the pink silk cardigan with the gray pants. We don't like to wonder about the possibility of rust with gray, of worsted with woven, of belts over shirts. Belts, for those with too much imagination, go in belt loops. If we have to think about belts over shirts? Over sweaters even? All we can say is, Michelle Obama deserves to be First Lady for her sheer courage in the face of belts.

So the next time you see one of us, flat shoes, no prints, absent any pieces of cloth artistically tied to anything else, remember. Compassion. And maybe find us some goggles for Costco.

A little treatise on High WASP Fashion Archetypes