It’s New York City, You’ll Never Know Who You’ll Meet

“Oh. My. God. I just, like, walked into George Clooney. George. Cloooooooney!” Rebbecca was so excited she nearly tossed her venti caramel machiato onto my white winter coat. “Aaaaaaaaaaand I got his autograph! Swooooon.”

I looked at Rebbecca with envy. For someone that’s spent 25 years living in and around star-studded New York City, I never meet anyone famous, let alone get their autograph.

Actually, that’s not true. I have “met” famous people. I once practically crashed into Tino Martinez, one of my all-time favorite Yankees, walking to MoMA. Even though my latte splashed on his running shoes, I never thought to ask him to sign the baseball and glove I keep in my purse. My celebrity encounters, like probably most people’s, are generally awkward and typically fall into one of the following categories:

1.Famous People I went to School With — Columbia is a magnet for famous people, but my grade school boasted a few future celebrities… too bad I didn’t get them to sign my yearbook.

2. Famous people I’ve tripped or nearly tripped — Vera Wang, Fern Mallis, and Ronan Tynan of the Irish Tenors would be included in this large group. (A subcategory of this might be entitled “Famous People I spilled Stuff On”)

I was once an extra in a Joan Rivers TV show. My Fanatic fan ways may prevent me from ever having a viable acting career

3. Famous People I could have Met — This list could go on for ages, but my favorite is James Franco. I was a graduate student at Columbia at the same time Franco was getting his MFA in the Columbia School of the Arts. Later, my time at MoMA coincided with his own MoMA appearance. I frequently saw the car that brought him places, but I never once encountered the over-achieving Hollywood Renaissance Man in the flesh. Meanwhile, one of my college fencing teammates not only met him, but had coffee with him. She was thin, blond, leggy and two-faced — some girls have it all.

4. Famous People I Met, but Surely Creeped Out with My Over-Aggressive Enthusiasm — Joan Rivers and Sloane Crosely. My “Oh my god! My mother and I are just like you and your daughter! Except, my mother’s had hip replacements, not cheek replacements, so she can move her face,” and “I want your career, in fact, I want to be you,” were met with fearful eyes that read: I’m going to need a restraining order against this girl.

Famous Athletes I've Met, but Pretend to be one of them...the exception is Evan Lysacek. He's just too pretty.

5. Famous Athletes I’ve Met, but Don’t Ask for an Autograph from because I’m trying to pretend I’m one of them — Given that I’ve grown-up in the company of Olympic medalists and that I once considered myself an Olympic contender, I try to act unphased by their achievements even though I’m in awe beyond awe. The exception to this is Evan Lysacek. I shamelessly had a friend ask Evan if I could take a picture with him.

6. Famous People I’ve met But Didn’t Realize They Were Famous Until I Went Home and Googled Them — Most recent example: at my favorite lounge, the cocktails are pure perfection and staff is family. My friend and I wiggled into an open spot at the bar next to an older gentleman with white hair and a familiar face. The head bartender kindly introduced us to the man, his friend Jeffery. Jeffery asked us if we had tried the cherry garnish — it was the best cherry garnish he’d ever had. Later, after some computer stalking, we found out his friend Jeffery was the legendary Jeffery Steingarten. Iron Chef America groupie fail.

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Friday Night Winter Coat Woes: To Check or Not to Check?

“Enjoy the chilly weather,” a friend said in a text message. “Sometimes it seems I’m the only one who enjoys it!”

“Not so! I love the cold! It saves me blush step when I’m ‘putting on my face!'” I enthusiastically typed in reply.

Getting ready for a summer night on the town has its appeal, particularly in the lack of clothes required...

The late sunset, the empowering “good-bye” to layers, wool tights, and a multi-moisturizer makeup regime — certainly, going out on sultry summer nights has its appeal. But as any girl who has found her foundation dripping down her face and sweat stains stretching to her waist knows, getting ready for a carefree (read: humid and blistering) summer night is no carefree task. The onset of the winter chill is a surprising relief.

“Scarf appropriate” earrings must be considered (you don’t want your chandeliers snagging your cashmere), but otherwise, winter nights on the town are reasonably low maintenance. When things turn frosty, I can use a hairdryer without the extra 2 coats of antiperspirant. I can look to sensible, rugged flat boots for almost all evening occasions. And thanks to movement-friendly leggings with figure-flattering sweater dresses, I can transition from day into night with a mere swipe of red lipstick.

The catch? That whole “coat problem.”

Hats stay on heads and scarves swirl around necks as parts of an ensemble. Gloves slip into pockets and earmuffs into purses. But those long, inflated, element-proof outerwear garments don’t fade into the background so easily.

If you’re lucky to find a lounge with a coat check, problem solved. At most, all you need to worry about is a dollar tip at the end of the night. But make your way to the typical crowded bar, and things get more complicated.

Hats and scarves become part of an ensemble, while mittens and earmuffs dissapear into purses.

I walked into the dimly-lit Keats on 2nd Avenue and took a quick survey of the throbbing alleyway of pint glasses, rosy cheeks, and navy sweaters. “Are there coat hooks anywhere?” my friend asked. Apparently, somewhere at the back of the pub there were small brass hooks triple hung with peacoats and ski jackets. Was there room for her black wool coat among the sea of like-styled black wool coats? Didn’t look like it.

Sometimes, hooks are strategically pinned under mahogany bar tops. Supply is usually scarce. If you happen to find yourself at a bar with back-rest enhanced bar stools, you’re in luck – a built-in coat hanger at your seat. Find yourself at a bar sans the aforementioned amenities and your MacGyver instincts have to kick-in.

This many accessories does pose a challenge at the local Public House

I stood at the bar, with a pint of Blue Moon in one hand, my knee-length quilted mauve Burberry in the other, backless stool in front of me, and awkwardly attempted to find a solution. “You could hang it on your knee when you sit down” was one suggestion. Okay, here goes. Before I could take a sip from the glass, my coat was in a heap on the sticky floor.

Why don’t you sit on it? That seemed like a good plan until I wiggled onto the coat-draped bar stool, watching the head on my ale teeter-totter close to lip of the glass. It was then I hooked my heel on the coat’s pocket instead of the stool’s support rut.

The rip was audible and the footprint insoluble. Mild panic.

As I slipped off the stool, my butt sent my coat tumbling to the floor again. To add insult to injury, while on the ground, it had picked up the powdery remnants of a bowl of peanuts. The 5 second rule is a lie. I still had a full pint in my hand. It was too early to retire. I picked up the coat, examined the stool, and proceeded to re-drape my now wounded outerwear. Sigh. The damage had already been done, the least I could do was finish my drink and make sure I had a place to rest my feet.

Twas the Day Before Thanksgiving and All through the Whole Foods

…the villagers were stirring, kids, significant others, and in-laws in tow. There was a feast to prepare and a table to set, flights to be made and cars for roadtrips to be packed.

I’d never seen it before — a supermarket suffering from a hand basket and shopping cart shortage. People stood dumbfounded. Where did they all go?! Where am I supposed to put by butternut squash? Some wives were stalking departing shoppers, helping them unload their groceries in hopes of scoring a vessel for their groceries. Others were in foot races, running to grab the first cart returned to the corral.

Meanwhile, husbands sat in the driver seats of minivans praying a parking spot would come vacant, pretending they didn’t know “that woman” who was about to bat another over the head with her Michael Kors handbag.

A timeless Thanksgiving tradition -- over crowded grocery stores and shopping cart ralleys

Inside, the aisles were packed, but the shoppers unphased. Everyone was on a mission. The line for the organic turkeys swirled around the store. Family teams were passing bags of cranberries like they were footballs and tossing turnips like fastpitch softballs.  It was a controlled chaos, except for the occasional fight over an un-cracked frozen pie crust.

The shopping cart shortage was easily explained. There seemed to be a two per family distribution — one for the children, one for the turkey and trimmings. The children looked terrified. Their eyes bugged, their little hands gripped tightly around the cart’s mesh. They looked at their parents as if they were total strangers. Are these  people diving for the last bag of stuffing mix the same people that read me Winnie the Pooh stories with the funny voices?

The problem with pre-Thanksgiving shopping is that entire families head out to the grocery store. Grandparents are told to stay with the cart — usually deposited in the middle of the aisle — and watch the children, while parents try to double team on the whipped cream and produce.

Having been involved with team sports my whole life, I know that you’re only as strong as  your weakest player.  Bringing along idle shoppers who are told to sit and stay won’t help you get those frozen peas to the dinner table… not to mention the fouls they cause to members of other teams. I was nearly launched headlong into the stack of oranges when an unmonitored toddler cut me off at a corner. Where was that kid’s leash?!

At the end of the day, I give my fellow shoppers credit. No one really lost their cool, and I appreciated the woman who helped me load the Land Rover and chirped a “Happy Thanksgiving!” as she toted away my shopping cart.

“Good luck in there!” I hollared back.

She was going to need it.

It's a race to the checkout line. Watch out ladies, those handbags double as weapons!

What Halloween Revealed about My Sense of Fashion

If you've ever seen me first thing in the AM, you know I don't need a costume to look a fright

Some girls dress up as wenches or sexy police officers for Halloween. I have a personal aversion to skin-tight fake patent leather and catching pneumonia, so I tend to refrain from these options. Other girls opt for ghouls, hags, or witches. If you’ve ever seen me first thing in the morning, you know I don’t need a costume to look a total fright.

When I awoke last Saturday morning, I faced the pressing need to settle on a costume for a friend’s Halloween party. In my right hand I held the riding helmet that I wore in my equestrian days, in my left, a genuine pith helmet, on my bed sat a vintage straw cloche, a stetson, and a wide-brimmed embellished velvet hat. There was a costume to match each accessory… the question was  is it a “Puss in Boots” or a “Dr. Livingston” sort of Halloween?

Whenever there was a skit or film project in grade school, I was the girl everybody wanted on their team. It wasn’t just because I was a control freak who was happy to do the majority of the work if it ensured an A+. It was because I could always costume the cast. Outfit 5 for a Wild  West adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Othello?” No problem. How about a French perfume “commercial” set in the 1920s? Done. For me, Halloween has always been about taking on a new persona. Recently, it’s been about exploiting the eclectic contents of my wardrobe. How many western shirts does one New York gal really need?

For me, Halloween has always been about taking on a new persona... not about skin-tight, plunging necklines

Even in my adult years, my wardrobe remains one deep costume bin.  My closet is a varied but edited mix of styles and epochs — the product of a decade of smart buying and self-defining. “You have your own look,” Mara said to me as we walked through the East Village (on a night sans costumes). She’s a good, straight-shooting friend who has known me since the 4th grade. “It’s not ‘trendy’ or off the rack. It’s fashionable and totally you.”

Apparently, it’s also very Halloween appropriate.

A few days after the bewitching All Hallows Eve, I rummaged through my closet in search of an outfit to take me through a hurried city day with some friends and settled on something easy and layered.

“Going to a belated Halloween party?” Jessie asked as I gave her a hug.

“Huh?”

“Isn’t that what you wore to Brian’s Halloween thing last Saturday?”

Okay, she might have been mostly right… but who says the whimsy only has to come out for costumes?

 

From Dr. Livingston to City Girl in Motion...