Saturday, June 20, 2009

Slim and I just looked at an old convent that's for sale in our area. We can't afford it, and realistically, when it takes us six months to get up bookshelves, there's no way we're remodeling a 20-room mansion, much as I like the fantasy. But, wow! I guess the order didn't have the money to remodel, so the place still has a ton of detailing, albeit with some depresssingly crummy fixtures etc. to say nothing of the tons of debris scattered all over the back yard and the basement where the two elderly caretakers lived. Oh, and the water damage. But. Parquet, stained glass, tile work, moldings say nothing of the general wonderful haunted air and the sheer embarrassment of rooms. By the fourth floor I'd long since run out of imaginary uses for all of them and had decided to run a boarding house, instead. Dream, a girl can do it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our local library is not good. Yes, they have Jim McGreevey's The Confession, and for some reason a lot of the Criterion Collection, but of the paltry selection of books (half in Spanish, although at this point there aren't many Spanish-speakers in the area) there's next to nothing one would want to read. Certainly not the biography of Richard Wagner I foolishly hoped to find on my first visit. By chance, though, they had one book I've always wanted to read: the recent book of a certain beauty editor who's long been a bete noir of mine on grounds of smug preciousness.

Well, I read it. I expected to be filled with self-righteous, enjoyable rage the whole time, but in the end I was just depressed and bored. It's a memoir of working as a beauty editor, with tips and such interspersed throughout. And I guess I should have known what I was getting. But the unthinking veneration of skinny as god, of youth, of conventional beauty, was for some reason surprising to me; this woman works for a magazine that's known for having a bit more of a "common touch" than the average fashion-mag, and I guess working where I do sometimes you forget that it's supposed to be tacitly understood that everyone wants to drop ten pounds and look like a model, which attitudes I'd understood to be so hopelessly recherche that no thinking lady would ever admit to them, even if her thoughts tended in that direction. This writer's column always bothered me because I found it tone-deaf; reading the book, that didn't make me mad anymore, just sort of depressed. And what was I doing getting worked up over such silliness, anyway? I now understand that she and I are such wholly different people with such a wholly different set of values and assumptions that there's really no point wasting the equilibrium. Probably should have realized this some twenty years ago, but narcissism runs deeper than we like to admit! (Mine, anyway - I don't want to fall into that pernicious "we all feel this way but I'm honest enough to say it" brand of irrefutable smugness than so bedevils first-person essays.)

On Clothes etc.

After a few bad experiences, it's occurred to me that the best reason to get one's hair "done" is the wealth of hairpins that results. I was going to have to buy some, and now I have at least two packages' worth in the tray on my dresser. The other night, I went to a fashion event. As I was getting my hair cut, I figured I'd have them put it up for me too, as I have no skill in these matters and I figured having groomed hair would make me feel a bit more confident. Fool me once: both times, the hairdresser has ended up making me look like either Kate Winslet in Titanic or some kind of pre-Raphaelite trailing romantic ringlets. I always smile through my horror so as not to dent their evident delight, and then, as soon as I go, end up trying to pin up the various curlicues and strands, and looking slightly worse than usual.

I've long since determined, since no one asked, that in dressing for a fashion event there's no point trying to be really chic: you can't compete and you'll only feel self-conscious. Unless you're some sort of wildly creative exhibitionist. much better in my opinion to try to get away with as little as possible. No knockoffs, no carefully hoarded splurges: vintage is the name of the game. Or, in this case, fake vintage: a 30's secretary dress from "Stop Staring" purchased at a shop in Richmond, and so odd and nifty as to confound all. (Indeed, Lynn Yaeger admired it.) I wrote about the party here, so I won't say too much except that, fun as the people-watching was, at the end of the day you're at a party where you know no one and, more to the point, no one is interested in getting to know you. I learned quickly, too, that it's apparently not comme il faut to compliment another lady's dress, as I received a very cold snubbing. I asked the security guard if he wanted me to bring him some water or an hors d'oeuvre and he looked at me like I was crazy. After that, there was nothing for it but to stand around looking alternately insolent and roguish.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fruits of Victory

Just went, (in full business costume) to that library on the alley in SoHo across from Old Saint Patrick's to hear a talk on the Woman's Land Army by author Elaine Weiss, who besides giving a very fascinating presentation, was one of the nicest people I've ever met. As inquiring minds know, and thanks to Ms. Weiss, the WLA was a highly progressive institution and involved some of the most prominent suffrage and temperance activists of the day. Then too, it was highly fashionable among a certain subset of society girls to slum it patriotically for a summer or so, and it's no coincidence that their uniforms were designed by the finest couturiers of the day - and were they ever spiffy! Bloomer overalls, no less! They were the subject of any number of songs and poems - both light and serious - including one with lyrics by P.G. Wodehouse and music by Victor Herbert. (Ended up expressing my devotion to MacDonald-Eddy scores to a woman from the Victor Herbert foundation, but then of course I did.)

Here is a sample menu from the Wellesley Training Camp:



Boiled rice with dates
Top milk
Buttered toast
Coffee with cream


Roast Beef, brown gravy
Pittsburgh potatoes
Buttered green beans
Grape tapioca
Lace Cookies


Creamed corn
Graham bread
Prune ginger bread
Russian tea

(On the 'way home, a guy was playing some kung-fu handheld game so loudly that I switched seats. And then my new seat-mate was playing some game loudly too. The blood, it boiled.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Couple Months Ago

...a guy on the street took my pic. for a Williamsburg street blog. I ran across his card recently, and here I am! I think I was buying Slim some undershirts (what we used to call wife-beaters before Cosmo eradicated the term from the lexicon. Kowalskis, then. Or did he wear a tee-shirt?)

Dear friends,

Have you spent much time in the garden at MoMA lately? Some friends and I had an (exorbitant!) iced coffee there this afternoon, and it was really lovely...Physically pretty, well laid-out, all that stuff, but more to the point filled with a neato range of New Yorkers, many of whom seem to have come, mit reading matter, just to take the air and spend time with themselves. I speak, as if it needs saying, of an older generation of art patrons, whom one imagines live somewhere nearby, itself unthinkable.

(Along similar lines, the class of '49 was the highlight of last night's ten-year high school reunion. Gowns by Yumi Kim, since you didn't ask.)

El. hit town for the occasion, among other things, and I celebrated with a taste of Tangier Island - yeast rolls and potato salad from the Hilda Crockett Chesapeake Inn recipe pamphlet, plus Cook's Illustrated extremely labor-intensive and frankly ludicrous oven spare ribs. I'd rate the meal a 6.

We hit the "Renegade Craft Fair" in Williamsburg, which was not remotely renegade but did involve hundreds of whimsical items with "villain mustachio" motifs.

Then today we saw GK4 Former Fiance for brunch and he had villain mustachios.

Ended last night at the home of some bohemian acquaintances. There was a lot of dancing to African music and some whiskey drink with muddled orange and a delightful upstairs neighbor and Waugh enthusiast with whom I hit it off, but then it was high time we left, so that's just what we did.

As ever,


Monday, June 1, 2009


As of this writing, I have found my favorite versions of chocolate chip cookies,* lemon squares, and bran muffins **, but pound cake still eludes me. And obsesses me. Because the pernicious thing about pound cake is it's a lot of work, and ingredients, and cake if you're not happy with the results. I have an inkling that cream cheese pound cake, while far from classic, may be the horizon I've been looking for. Unlike Cook's, I make no pretense towards objective perfection - I like things too moist and creamy for many tastes - but like everyone I am seeking my personal grails.

Other things I seek to replicate pre-death:
Orange syrup sponge from Le Loir Dans La Theiere (a moist orange cake soaked in fresh orange syrup, with a butter icing)
Date-walnut brownie from Murray's cheese (even if it does require a convection)
Applesauce cake from 2nd Floor Coffee Shop, U of C, actually made by the maddeningly expensive and closed-mouth S&S Dessert Bakery. (Impossibly moist appleasuce bundt - no nuts or raisins - with a hardish penuche glaze, which component I've actually sort of replicated.)

If you have any leads, you know where to find me.

*Double the salt and halve baking time for my idea of perfection.
**I like the ones from Beat This!


Drink-mixing, like free jazz (counterintuitively) and the prose of Henry Greene, is something that eludes me. I like Lillet. And I like to be given something based on the specifications "gin, strawberries and cucumber" at a fancy bar, if I must go to one. An email I received claims this drink is "the Megan Fox" of cocktails.

First Class Punch:

1 1/4 oz Three-O Vodka

1 oz Domaine Canton Liquor

1/2 oz agave nectar

1/2 oz fresh lime juice

1 strawberry

4 basil leaves

In a mixing tin, muddle the strawberry, basil, and Agave nectar. Add the rest of the ingredients, shake very well with ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with a strawberry

Make of this what you will.