A Case For the Lowbrow

"Bonjour! Voilà, le French hat; voilà, le french fry!" says Carrie Bradshaw, surprising Mr. Big with a McDonald's dinner.

This is really terrible to admit, but I have a dirty secret: Sometimes I like adding a spot of Coffeemate's hazelnut-flavored coffee creamer to my coffee in the morning, which totally makes me feel like a suburban soccer mom. And it's actually really bad for you–it's not even made from real milk or cream–but I weirdly enjoy how it turns my cup of joe into a dessert-like treat. 

I also love Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup, plain and simple. I keep a stash of them in the pantry for sick days, for when I don't feel like cooking, or for whenever I'm craving a bit of nostalgia. A friend once recommended that I try Progresso instead for the heftier chunks of chicken and vegetables, but I could never. Campbell's soft bloated noodles, swimming in a salty, yellow-tinged broth, touches my heart in a way no other canned soup can.

"A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika," Diana Vreeland said, "We all need a splash of bad taste–it's hearty, it's healthy, it's physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I'm against." I wholeheartedly agree. When things are too curated or hoity-toity, it lacks a certain verve. There's no life-force, no energy, no vibes. It doesn't feel real. That little splash of bad taste is the key ingredient to your special sauce. 

My friend Bill was shocked when I told him that, if I were to eat fast food, I'd indubitably choose McDonald's over In-N-Out.

"I don't get the fuss over In-N-Out," I said, as we were strolling along Santa Monica Boulevard, "I honestly think it's overrated. Their fries are terrible! McDonald's fries taste so much better."

"But In-N-Out uses fresh ingredients," he pointed out.

"OK but, brand-wise, McDonald's is chicer. It's more couture. Trust me."

"But the whole point of In-N-Out is that you can customize your order."

"But their menu is so limited. At McDonald's, I can get a McChicken sandwich–or the Filet O' Fish!"

"I can't believe you're saying this."

"But it's true! If I'm going to be downing thousands of calories, I'm going with McDonald's. It's the Chanel of the fast food world."

 

 

The Definition of a Huckleberry Friend

One of the many iconic scenes in Breakfast at Tiffany's is when Paul Varjak tears himself away from his typewriter upon hearing the strumming of a guitar from his downstairs neighbor Holly Golightly. Normally dressed to the nines, this quintessential New York party girl is seen perched on a windowsill, pared down in a sweatshirt and jeans with a towel wrapped around her head, stealing a contemplative moment to herself as she croons "Moon River." There was one line from that song that stood out merely because I had no idea what it meant: "My huckleberry friend." For years, it hung in my mind. I searched Paul Varjak's relationship with Holly Golightly for the answer. Theirs was a mutual adoration laced with innocent flirtation; there was a certain playfulness that freed them from being neither friends nor lovers. What was between them was open to interpretation. It was beyond definition.

Everyone should have a huckleberry friend at one point or another. It is an experience that showers your life with magic for as long as it lasts, whether it be for a couple of weeks or a couple of years. The after-effects, however, last for much, much longer. I met my huckleberry friend at the very end of a dinner party uptown in 2008. He introduced himself just as I was leaving. His eyes contained big, blue floating orbs that were at once angelic and impish. Although we'd never met before, I felt a curious kinship with him. He began inviting me over to his apartment, just to talk over tea or cocktails. I always felt deeply insecure that I wasn't interesting enough for him to want me as a friend, but the invitations kept coming anyway. 

His tastefully appointed studio apartment was more like a private parlor in which he could host the people he liked–and he wasn't fond of very many. He served his tea and cocktails on a silver tray with proper china and glassware. The tea was always either loose jasmine tea leaves from Chinatown or a sachet of Lipton tea; the cocktails were made from old, long-lost cocktail recipes that he had scribbled down on a notepad. He had undeniably good taste and was more than happy to impart his opinion at any given time. He convinced me that white jeans were chic all year-round and that I should sometimes wear sunglasses with prescription lenses indoors just for fun.

In the beginning, I had written him off as one of those flighty, fabulous people that say "Let's do something" and never do, but he proved me wrong. He was reliably available which allowed us to develop rituals around each other's company. He'd meet me at Citarella to keep me company while I grocery-shopped. We had dim sum lunches in Chinatown on random weekday afternoons and ordered the same dishes every time. On Sundays, we'd stroll through the neighborhood and top off the afternoon with a strawberry ice cream sundae at Lexington Candy Shop. With him, every moment was crystallized into a charm.

Years ago, after a particularly heated fight with an ex that left me in tears, I called him because he always knew how to cheer me up. He invited me over to his apartment for a little tea and sympathy. I made the walk down Park Avenue that winter’s evening, with a big fox fur hat on my head, clutching the front of an oversized gray wool coat closed with a gloved hand. My nose, pink; my eyes, puffy. Crashing into his sofa, still upset, I recounted the argument with bewilderment and confusion as he poured hot water into a pair of mixed matched teacups. He pulled out a small, clear plastic dessert box from his mini fridge. “I bought you a slice of pumpkin cheesecake because girls like sweets," he said with a shrug. He cut the wedge in half and placed my half on a zebra-patterned plate with a red rim. 

That night, he decided that the ultimate pick-me-up was to go dancing at Beatrice Inn, the louche subterranean West Village hot spot which has since been closed down by authorities. We hurried down the steps and pushed our way through the dark crowded room. With our drinks in hand, he led me up to the black and white checkered dance floor where we danced the night away, brushing shoulders with everyone around us. Then, there was a change in tune. I recognized the opening notes and the beat. It was Roxy Music’s “More Than This." 

I could feel at the time, there was no way of knowing...   

"We have to dance to this song," he said, turning his baseball cap backwards and holding out his hand. “Will you dance with me?"

It was a slow-dance. Our faces were close but facing away from each other. The rest of the room faded away. What year is this? Where are we? What is happening? I thought moments like these only happened in movies. I felt like I was falling in love, but suddenly I didn't know what love was anymore. I thought we would kiss, but we didn't. When the song ended, we hopped into a cab uptown-bound. I dropped him off on Park Avenue and rode the rest of the way back to my apartment. 

When Christmas rolled around weeks later, he asked me to meet him in Union Square for lunch. He had a gift for me. It was wrapped in brown paper with a hunter green ribbon. With it, he gave me a tiny white envelope sealed with a messy little blob of red wax. “Don’t open it now," he insisted, “It’s embarrassing." I stuck it in my bag and we went to lunch as usual. When I returned home, I opened the gift, a CD, The Best of Roxy Music. The second track was “More Than This." The card said:

To J:

This is the only present I bought this year that has any meaning.

x E

 

The Myth of the Eternal 24-Inch Waist

Once upon a time, I had a 24-inch waist. It remained that way for years throughout my twenties. A burger and a side of fries couldn't put a dent in my flat stomach. F you, carbs!!! Heh, heh, heh! "Just wait," my older girlfriends would say. I brushed off their warning and considered myself one of those blessed ones with high metabolism and good genes.

To seal the deal and ensure that I would never allow my waistline to grow beyond this most ideal measurement, I had all of my Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Chanel clothing specially tailored to my skinny-minnie figure. These beautiful clothes were practically sewn onto my body. I wanted to be able to wear them forever, thinking they'd seal in my figure for good. 

Then, I turned 29.

I guess your metabolism does slow down. Even I, who foolishly believed that I was invincible to this fact of life, could not escape it. After being lazy about working out for three months, I found myself with fifteen extra pounds on my hands, or, more accurately: on my cheeks, tummy, hips, and thighs. Disastrous reality. It was a new me, alright. So new that I needed an entirely new wardrobe to match. Nothing zipped up.

Those three months off the track equated to nearly a year of blood, sweat, and tears in the gym. I've lost ten pounds and, as I enter my thirties, I'm now between a 25- and 26-inch waist. Those last five pounds will be the death of me, I tell you!

I learned that nothing lasts forever. Whatever became of those clothes? I certainly didn't account for the fact that my sense of style has changed. As for the 24-inch waist? Who knows, maybe I'll get there again. 

 

 

 

Memories of a Former Uptown Girl

This picture of me was taken inside The Pierre and not inside of Sirio. (The actual restaurant was too crowded for a photo-op!)

For a good chunk of time, I lived on the Upper East Side--nearly six years, to be exact. It was a different time in my life. I was working as an account executive at Chanel and walked down Madison Avenue to the office every morning, branded from head to toe. I had moved there after four years of living in a landmark building on a cute block in the West Village.

It was a small universe from 60th Street up to 79th Street, bordered by Fifth and Lexington Avenues, so I knew exactly who I'd likely see on that morning walk. On my way, I'd catch a glimpse of my art dealer neighbor having his morning espresso at Terramare, and, around the corner at the now-closed La Goulue, the charming French maître d' would stop me for a hello and obligatory air kiss. And, of course, the flame-haired saleswoman from Bergdorf with her funky eyeglasses would be hurrying along just a few steps ahead of me.

I moved downtown to Greenwich Village two years ago and seldom make it back to the old neighborhood. Last night, I got a little taste of uptown life again at the opening cocktail party for Sirio, the new restaurant at The Pierre from Sirio Maccioni, the legendary impresario behind Le Cirque fame. The people-watching, as you can imagine, was a treat. There were moneyed old men with pretty young things, grand dames decked out in their baubles, and clusters of socialites looking chic and very... Blonde. You don't come by these sights too often downtown.

Sirio took over what was Le Caprice, a London export, and transformed it into an intimate and sophisticated space, taking design cues from the high style of 1960's Italy. It felt luxurious yet warm and approachable. My favorite element was the chrome-accented bar with a glass case displaying ocean treasures on crushed iced: whole Dover sole, glimmering under the light, and langoustines so fresh their legs were still tickling about.

I was curious about the contemporary Tuscan menu. It made me wonder if I will ever dine here. Life's so different now. I live just a few subway stops away and it feels like a completely different world. It seems that I'm back to being a downtown girl again, but maybe--just maybe--there's still a flicker of my uptown self somewhere inside.

On Being A Paper Bag Princess

A page from Vogue Hommes Internationa

The life of a paper bag princess is a dichotomy, but it's one that's purely circumstantial. It's a momentary fall from grace; a bump in the road. It's that scary what's-gonna-happen-to-me state when you're in-between jobs or when you've just broken up a long-term relationship. Whatever it is, it causes you to do a major financial readjust to the system.

For example, to the outside world, you might be carrying a Chanel handbag (that was purchased at 90% off at a sample sale eight years ago) around town, but, little do they know, because of your strict budget, you make your own lunch at home. Or, you're treated to a fabulous lunch at The Plaza by a friend but, instead of supping at Cipriani's for dinner, you find yourself heating up a can of soup. It's a yin-yang way of life that you've somehow come to accept. At least for a while until you can figure things out.

Try this one for size: I was recently invited to go on an all expenses paid press trip to Gran Velas Riviera Nayarit, an all-inclusive 5-star resort in Puerto Vallarta next week. But, guess what? I haven't secured a job yet! Imagine getting emails asking you to pick your preference of luxurious spa treatments and off-site adventures while you're simultaneously scouring the Internet for jobs. Oh, the irony.

You can't be a paper bag princess forever, though. This is impossible if you're smart and willing, and full of hopeful, positive energy. The coin will turn. The coin has to turn.