staying in, drinking coffee and brooding

I usually don't converse with my coffee mug. Its job is to hold my coffee and not leak. My job is to make the coffee, pour it into the mug, and drink it without dribbling. Both jobs require full attention. I usually use a plain white "skinny" mug made by a company called RepeatRepeat. The diameter is smaller than that of most mugs, so less coffee is exposed to the air and the coffee stays hot longer.

But these made me smile.

I found these mugs at Nylon.

While they're the wrong size for me generally, this morning (post the first 2016 presidential election debate) it occurred to me that more than one of them expressed how I was feeling during/ immedicately / the morning after the debate. Woosh, did I need a giant cup of hi-test this morning!

Informal poll - none of that software that tallies things up and loses the winner's email address - this is not a contest.

But tell me - would any of these cups have been the one you grabbed this morning?

Of course you may have more than one-- no rationing. Yet.


Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; 
nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; 
nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

I will not live in fear.
I will greet hate with love.
I will find cheer in despondence.
I will find joy in the sunrise, peace and courage in my heart,
and I will seek always to cherish my country with honor.

welcome! hope you brought helmet or hard hat, pads, compass, gps app, tinder, magnifying glass....

At some point in 2011, the State of New York allowed people who were renewing their driver's licenses to do the renewal by mail or online, with no eye test. A driver's license is good for ten years, but the possibility that one's eyes might have changes within 10 years seems to have eluded those chosen to govern us. This is why we so often see cars starting to cross an intersection come to a squealing juddering stop - someone else was coming straight at them and clearly didn't see them.

Actually the last time I had an eye test at our Department of Motor Vehicles, the tester waved her arm at the wall behind her. "You see that chart? with all the letters?" I allowed as how I saw the chart. "OK," said the tester, and she initialed my form and sent me forth to wreak terror on innocent pedestrians and fellow drivers, although only on the days when I forget my glasses.

I find two more recent developments even scarier. The "local geography" section of the exam to get a taxi driver's license has been omitted. I believe this was done on the grounds that when a passenger who wants to get to, say, 86th Street and Madison Avenue notices that the cab is getting on line for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and is at a point where there's no turning back, the passenger's anger and dismay will communicate an error message to the driver. Live and learn.

I recently got in a cab to go to Kennedy Airport from Manhattan, and the driver asked me if that was the same as JFK Airport. Then he asked if I knew how to get there.

After a brief discussion of roadways he'd never heard of,  he told me I should turn on my phone, download Google Maps and have it play the directions to himHe said he had the app on his phone, but the words were too small.
the road to LaGuardia Airport
And the latest - English is no longer required. The  NewYork City taxi driver license test is to be given in your choice of 7 languages. Although since the test won't require you to know where places are, or what is uptown, does it matter what language you don't know things in?
In terms of communication with passengers, I think it's great to have multilingual drivers. People come here from all over the world. N bèlantre! But what about reading street signs? What about understanding the instructions from the passenger? What about asking for help when lost? What about reading Google Maps? In Paris, in Berlin, cab drivers tell me they're required to pass an English test.

Anyway I would suggest that if you're planning to visit NewYork, and I hope you will, you need to take some sensible precautions. The title of this post exaggerates a little. However, in addition to the usual don't accept drinks from strangers, don't shop at a "going out of business" store, keep your purse tightly closed, I suggest that if you're nervous about getting into a vehicle under the control of a possibly vision-impaired non-English-speaking driver who has no idea where to take you, you might get to know our bus system. It's easy. And the bus drivers know where they're going. (ok, don't take a bus to our airports, that way lies madness. Don't fly in or out of LaGuardia, and grit your teeth and take a cab or a car service to Kennedy).

By the way, the reason for the recent loosening of requirements was to make becoming a cab driver more competitive with becoming an Uber driver. They don't have any exam at all.

Ellie: lessons in gallantry

Eleanor O'Connell Decret

Many of you will have heard that Ellie has lost her last battle with ALS.

Ellie was tough, wily, manipulative, opinionated, difficult to please, enthusiastic, hopeful, capricious, fey, and utterly charming.

Ellie didn't flinch. Ellie held on.

While I was fussing about the placement of a shoulder seam, Ellie's feeding tube detached.

I was annoyed that "my" perfume was discontinued and then brought back "updated" with synthetics and smelling like drugstore hairspray. Ellie breathed through a respirator and prayed to get through every night without a power outage.

I was sad that my last pair of real Joan and David shoes were beyond repair. Ellie got around in a wheelchair or was carried.

I bitched about airport lines. Ellie dealt with slow-moving ambulances.

Ellie was born into a quirky and apparently at one time monied family in Texas, raised on the Southern California coast, was the mother of a beautiful daughter, prayed when frightened as we all do, argued with God as many of us do, moved to New York, moved to France, divorced a man who stopped loving her, married a man she never stopped loving, cherished (and fought with) her friends, loved (and fought with) her family,  and was at all times fierce and loyal and true.

you can learn more about Ellie at her blog, which is still up as I write this,

on fixer-uppers and fix-ups

this post isn't about construction and renovation. It's about what might or might not happen when some algorhythm or some person introduces you to someone they think might be perfect for you, with maybe a little help. Or not.

An example. At a wedding, the best man - one of those guys who's not a relative but a version of that guy who seems to turn up at every family gathering - introduced me to the dashing older brother of one of the groomsmen. We talked, we danced, we nibbled, I watched in awe as he smoothly traded place cards so he could sit with me. He was witty and charming and didn't enumerate his early decision college acceptances - this last having been the lengthy and only topic of a match someone had made for my friend Bernadette a week earlier.

Time came to stand around a decorated car and shriek and throw confetti, and my father started muttering about beating the traffic. When Pop was thinking about beating traffic, you could pick up the vibes from across a crowded room. Or stadium. Or arena. Or a mid-sized state or country. I got up to leave and my new crush walked with me to my parents, where he shook hands with them and otherwise demonstrated manners. Pop did not believe in asking personal questions at casual meetings - "it gives them false hopes." Of what? "That they might think someone finds them interesting."  So as the young man helped me on with my coat (yes, that long ago) he asked for my phone number, then oh so romantically scribbled it on his palm, and asked where we lived. I told him. He frowned at me as if he was thinking hard, and then shrugged. "That's too far," he murmured. I froze and while I blinked he disappeared.

Of course I reported this peculiar event to my parents, and Pop surveyed the field and was soon seen holding a frightened and no-longer-quite-so smooth young guy by the upper arm. As we headed for our car, Pop announced that there was only one reason that anyone couldn't travel miles to see his daughter, and therefore Pop had told him that if he showed up anywhere near me he would regret it. I steadied my voice. "What reason would that be?" "He's on parole," said Pop. "And now point out the jerk who introduced you."

Fix-up stories, misbegotten introductions - everybody's got 'em. Jess got a call from a woman she had never met, who said she was a second cousin of Jess' mother's and had a cousin on the other side of the family who was perfect for Jess. Whom she had never met, people!. - the urge to fix-up has no boundaries. The guy was a doctor, a widower, a doctor, tall, a doctor, not yet bald, kids but they were over 21 and lived kind and productive lives out of town,  enjoyed sports and travel... of course there's always a "but--" most people wouldn't consider this a problem, BUT I thought I'd mention it -- both his first two wives were institutionalized ..." Jess thanked the cousin and kept her distance.

Linda is a realtor. She made a date with a guy she met on line, and at the last minute decided that no matter how good the guy sounded, she just couldn't do this. Just not ready. Before she canceled, she asked her colleague Amanda if Amanda wanted to go. Amanda - same height, hair & eye color, works in same office - thought, well, why not? If things click, it'll be a funny story. If things don't, well, still a funny story. Well, the girls are still laughing. The guy was the janitor in the building the girls worked in. So everything he said about his job ("real estate"), his interests ("collecting antiques"), his personality ("clean-cut") .... was sorta true, only not true enough.

And Rosie. Graduated with highest honors, came to the big city, good job, good prospects. Her mother warned her that the nephew of one of their neighbors was going to call her, and she should feel free to ignore the fix-up attempt because mom's instincts told her that if this guy was as wonderful as his aunt said, at age 30 he wouldn't need his aunt's help. Rosie found that she actually liked chatting with him, enjoyed meeting him after work, liked going places with him. One evening she actually went to his apartment with him. The apartment was a small studio on the second floor front of a large building on a major crosstown street - this is NYese for you can't open the windows, noise, dust, car & bus pollution. The apartment was furnished with a futon, milk crates, motel towels, frat house beer mugs.

Rosie wondered, "Am I that shallow that I'm contemplating dropping this guy because I hate his apartment and if I spend one more minute here, I'll scream?" While she was thinking this, he explained without having been asked that he was aggressively saving for a down payment on a condo, which would only appreciate in value and then bla bla bla  cornerstone of fortune in real estate. Rosie never heard the rest of the great financial plan, she was on her way out the front door. She decided that if she couldn't experiment with shallow at age 23, when would there be a good time?

So ultimately Rosie got married and had a lovely family and a darling husband who adored her as much as she adored him, and a house that they fixed up the way they liked it, and she worked part-time as a well-paid consultant for her old firm and the kids actually got college scholarships, one an academic fellowship, one for soccer.

And then her darling husband got a terrible disease and died. Oh, let's skip the details, of course they're awful. You've probably guessed that her phone started ringing - as she said - before the ink was dry on the check to the undertaker - this was an old-fashioned expression of Rosie's mom's, Rosie had of course charged the whole funeral and related expenses to get the miles. Rosie hung up on the fix-up calls, deleted the fix-up emails.

A year or so later, she ran into the guy she'd fled when she was 23. They had a nice lunch, splitting the bill. They agreed they'd both grown up and wouldn't even mention that last evening. Etc., etc., etc., and one night he asked her to dinner at his place. Of course, you guessed it - he was still in the same grim studio, with the same grim "home accessories."

"Oh, my," says Rosie, "love what you've done with the place..." and heads for the staircase because the elevator's out of order. After all, being shallow had led her to a wonderful life with a wonderful guy, for a while at least, and obviously this evening was a sign that she could now have a wonderful life on her own. For a while, at least.

Marie Kondo listened for a while, but couldn't stand it any more

I thought I'd see if I could assemble some of my little groans and moans into one cohesive issue, and then discuss that cogently and maturely. Or at least without whining. Like most good intentions, however....

Upon reflection, the issue, properly phrased, might be this:

The Effect of Climate Change on Closet Space
 in an Already Crowded Urban Area
 with Particular Attention to Factors 
of Weight Control and Inaccurate Size Labels.

Naturally I left Ms Kondo's name in the post title, because clickbait.

So, first, weight. Mine fluctuates, and I deal with it the best I can. I don't have a live-in trainer, and my past has left me with a number of physical consequences, which I also deal with the best I can. And where I live there are four main seasons. Actually so far this year, we've had a couple of those seasons more than once. We also recognize lesser, or assistant, seasons like "resort," "holiday," "back to school." We celebrate pre-spring, pre-fall. Oh, and what about the transitionals. These are all ill-defined and fluctuational. This is why someone who does not have a financial interest in the merchandising of clothing or in closet organizational gadgets or in diet foods and programs needs to head the team that studies the effects of climate change on closet space. I'll try to hold back on expansion until the study is published.

The easiest way to start making more closet space would be to have a giant throw-out session, the kind where you mutter to yourself I wouldn't want my family to see this if they had to clean up after I was mashed by a truck... leave, shoulder pads! Begone, leather micro-mini (Mom's? that was Mom's?)  So the idea of a closet cull in the here and now has some appeal. But it needs an identifiable  stopping point, or one will find oneself shopping again (how could I have tossed that blue silk shirt that went with everything?)

So what does one realistically need for the day-to-day, month-to-month? Let's start with pants. For winter I need pants in black, gray, taupe/olive - definitely. Plus there are "Electives": wine, dark green, navy, tweed or plaid, in winter weight (wool, lined); then spring weight (cotton, silk), summer weight (light cotton, linen, lighter colors), fall weight (see spring, add corduroys). Add dark jeans and white jeans. Snappy white linen pants. Work requires work attire, social events require whatever may be called for, and hanging out with Himself calls for anything from LBD to silk pants and dressy top to jeans and tee, to - whatever. We toss into this algorithm this year's Usual Size, this year's Usual Size plus one, this year's Usual Size minus one, this year's Optimistic But Marked Down Size, this year's Realistic Goal Size, and this year's Dreaded Emergency Larger Size. You do the math.

there was going to be a picture of the closet
interior here, but it was really really depressing

Naturally, I don't rush out to buy new every season, or even to replace. Would I get rid of something just because it doesn't fit now? Life has taught me that what I throw out or give away this week, might very well fit next week or next month or next fall. And might in fact be desperately needed. If I dispose of something, I'll only have to replace it, sooner or later. And replacement these days leads, dangerously, to cheap fabrics and shoddy construction. Another consideration: allergies and intolerances to certain chemicals and various skin conditions narrowly limit the choice of fabrics, soon to fabrics that will be found only on the wives and girlfriends of Oligarchs and similar. Is this hoarding?  Hoarding is an ugly word: how about "this is why I stockpile"? Better? How about an example? At a time in my life when even knowing that Paul Stuart carries clothes for women was, um, above my pay grade, I found a sale. I bought a pair of ivory-colored raw silk tailored pants. I have treated the pants carefully, because that fabric simply isn't being produced any more. Its contemporary substitute is inadequate and may even self-combust. So you can be sure of this: I.Am.Keeping.Those.Pants. And whenever they happen to fit in an appropriate season, I might be wearing them.

OK, have the above reflections given you enough time to come up with a number for the pants collection? Are you ready to consider tops? Skirts? How about jackets, blazer and other? I'm a jacket girl, raised to believe that the third piece completes the outfit, and so - I have jackets. When Browning wrote of his Duchess, "She had a heart too soon made glad," was he thinking of a flirtatious noblewoman, or of me trying on another jacket?

And so, where has all of this left me?

Determined to streamline at least something, and hence I have resolved the following:

No more plaid shirts. I really have enough. I should donate some.

No more pink or pinkish sweaters. I've actually succeeded in giving many of those away. Now, of course, lately we are seeing a lot of pink, so work on this resolution has slowed. Still, I'm too well-raised to ask for them back.

No more salmon-colored anything. Repeat: I am not a lox, so I will not dress like one.

No more pea jackets. I love 'em, I just have enough to stock a small and (mostly) chubby naval force.

No more rain jackets - I'm already way oversupplied for the few times a year when I might make good use of one, but really, if the weather is wet enough to cover your top half, shouldn't the rest of you be kept dry as well? Same goes goes for short raincoats, which differ from rain jackets only by (1) price and (2) half-hearted attempts at teeny skirts.

No more purchases of red, white and blue and no more bleu, blanc, rouge.
they run a little small
I even have patriotic sneakers, thanks to Target's collaboration with Superga. This is because a substantial section of my closet is taken up by the components of outfits appropriate from VE Day (May 8) through Memorial Day through June (D-Day, also in June I recall the famous speech of Gen. DeGaulle, an ancient recording of which my cherished lunatic French teacher would play at top volume every spring, while across the hall in desperate competition the 8th grade Latin class would chant Veni vidi vici. The Latin teacher hated noise of any kind and was generally bad-natured, but also was afraid of Mademoiselle, so he didn't attempt omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est.) 

And from June we run into July 4th and its surrounding long and getting longer weekend, July 14th, the Liberation of Paris in August, Labor Day, break for Hallowe'en, finally Veterans' Day and the starry tanks, the stripey shirts of varying necklines and sleeve lengths, can rest until the following Spring. So although patriotism and love of country continues year round in the form of hopeful feminism, the color scheme takes a rest. Interestingly, these items and their accessories don't wear out, but the collection increases year to year. A critical mass has accreted and I don't want to risk adding one more neutron. Or micron. Or whatever it is.

A subset of this resolution is : No more striped tees. I really, really have enough. I should really donate some. Except of course that they get a lot of wear on patriotic holidays - striped shirt, red hoodie, jeans; striped shirt, white linen pants, navy blazer. etc etc.

The more discerning of you will have perhaps noted that the word "shoes" hasn't yet appeared. (except of course for those sneakers, which are event wear?) Perhaps it would be more practical, in terms of decision-making, to table the question of shoes.

And of course to table the question of coats and jackets. I'm thinking I might feel up to considering that topic in cooler weather. Right now it just seems like a North Pole fairytale - coats? parkas? woolly accessories?
North Pole fairytale
(hot weather treat)

the weeping Pleiades wester, and discounts fall galore; Fred views the Cloisters collection, shirts, pants, scarves

This is not the first time scaled-down printed versions of the tapestries on view at the Cloisters (NY) or the Cluny (Paris) have found their way into contemporary fashion.  I think this is a good thing. The scarf below is a vintage treasure, ahem.
Anne Klein. Herself.

Quick report on the August meteor shower, which around here means a flurry of birthday discount codes and coupons of varying durations.

People seem very grumpy at Anthro. I've had a pair of grey leather booties on preorder since forever. An example of my renowned saintly disposition is that I didn't cancel the order when they refused to add on the birthday discount.

I parlayed Banana Republic rewards, promos, and birthday tribute into BR's version of the Military Jacket, which is the same color as the JC pale beige/stone/canvas Downtown Field Jacket. The cut of the JC jacket is slightly sharper, but the collar is finished with tape in a color that's not quite the same as the rest of the jacket. They managed to get dyed-to-match tape for the other colors, so this is just a miss. The one at BR seemed a little nicer, I preferred its make-believe tortoise buttons to the shiny metal on the JC jacket.

the Banana version

the J.Crew versuib
It arrived, it fits, and guess what? I ordered the JC version as well.

The JC version seems to be in good supply on the web and in local stores (I shop on the web in the middle of the night because I have other things to do in the daytime) - but for some reason the jacket is traveling to New York by oxcart from Southern California. Annoying because I want it to arrive before the return date on the BR jacket.

Of course once I'd committed my JC birthday gift to testing the jacket, my JC rewards arrived over the weekend and boy was my face red! I had about convinced myself that my spending was way down. Mmm not so much. On the other hand I may be one of the better dressed at the apocalypse.

I have to admit that my first thought upon seeing the Bird of Paradise and Midnight Unicorn prints in a Times ad was Finally! Something to wear if Farley shows up! Because the longer it goes between visits, the more worrisome Farley becomes. Farley is one of a small group of school friends from years back - school as in 3rd grade, and he's the one whose adventures are the most amusing, although perhaps not for him. Farley has appeared in the blog a few times....

Anyway my second thought was the disaster I'd had last winter when I tried to buy a Drake's pocket square in a version of this season's unicorn print. The fabric was completely see-through and was so stiffened with sizing that it couldn't be worn at the neck, which was where I wanted to wear it.

So with that background, off to the store.

People are having different reactions to the fit of the pieces in what I will call the JC Cloisters Collection. The SA told me that the BofP shirt runs small, advised sizing up, and called for a larger size than the one I was holding. Twenty minutes later it was clear that there was no larger size in the store, no one felt up to calling around for a stock check, and I'd have to try on the one I was still clutching. It was a little loose and floppy at the shoulders, perfect at neck and chest, and yes, I do have a generous bust. The very bottom button didn't button. The fabric was perhaps not quite as nice and drape-y as, say, the silk French Hen shirt or the silk navy/red Hearts shirt, but I didn't find it see-through and the collar was correct, by which I mean not floppy and not overly stiff. Not worried about that bottom button. Found the shirt extremely appealing. So BANG went the rewards.

Styling suggestions:
     (1) pants.
     (2) skirt.
Not at the same time. There's a lot of wine-colored stuff in my closet. I dunno, it just accumulated. I'm also thinking about the pale beige suede skirt for dressup.
     (3) if anyone is asked to be in a holiday pageant the shirt would go very nicely with sequin or velvet shorts. If anyone is thinking of asking me to be in a holiday pageant, please reconsider. Now.

I didn't try on the pants in either design. The fabrics are of the same weight and hand as the tops, and the designs are of the same scale. Not lined. However - big however - as we know every garment fits every body in a different way. I saw another customer trying the pants.

Do not buy these without trying them on in front of a mirror, and making very certain that you are OK with the way the unicorn's horn or the bird's bill is pointing. Just sayin.

That (BofP) beak recalled the above Wildfox shirt. Do not pair them.

As to the scarves, the long narrow one in BoP is an awkward size for me. A smaller lady might have some fun with it as a sash or as a floppy bow tie. The measurements weren't given when it was on pre-order, so I was curious. It's 4 feet long by 3 inches wide. To me, that's gift wrap.

There's a 20-inch square scarf in the unicorn print, I might go back for that one.

I found the Unicorn pajama top to look like, um, a pajama top with big floppy shoulders. Tried a smaller size. It looked like a pajama top with big floppy shoulders and a tight middle. So I guess I'm not meant to have it.

Finally, I tried on the JC Avery pumps, the tweed with medium blocky heel. Gorgeous. Only I learned that I have lost weight on one of my feet. Just one. Or perhaps someone with an extraordinarily wide right foot tried on that shoe before it was offered to me? Or perhaps a manufacturing blink?  In any event, happy with the blouse. If things work out this fall, I'll wear it in Paris and stand in front of a tapestry and graciously accept compliments.