“I Went to the Stork Club!”

One of my favorite William Inge characters is Irma Kronkite in Picnic.  She’s a school teacher who lives with her mother and every summer, she leaves Independence to go to New York where she studies at Columbia in hopes of completing her Master’s degree.  In every one of the few scenes that she’s in, she talks about the things she did in New York, at one point, excitedly sharing that she went to the Stork Club with a fellow (male) student.  “It was nothing serious,” she tells her friends.  “He was just a good sport, that’s all.”  I love her because I get the sense that her reality is those precious weeks in New York and during her long months in Kansas, she is merely marking the days until her return to the place where she is the happiest, where her life is the richest.

Eric and I have started planning our yearly New York trip and I must say, I kind of feel like Irma.  In the next weeks, I’ll scour the internet for hotel and flight deals.  I’ll make notes about exhibits or shows I’ve read about in New York magazine.  I’ll find popovers with strawberry butter, John’s pepperoni pizza and La Bella Ferrara’s cannoli making guest appearances in my dreams. I’ll remind Michele that we’re going back to Eataly, now that we’ve figured out how best to navigate it.   I’ll Google Earth Manhattan neighborhoods, make a list of streets that I haven’t been to in years, promise myself that this time, for sure, I’ll finally make it to the Cloisters.

I’ve talked about my years living in New York and it’s the only city that I know I’ll always feel like both a local and a visitor, it’s ever-changing and ever-constant.  The New York that Irma Kronkite visited was probably a little different from my New York, or Alicia Keys’ New York, but I’m sure if she heard Alicia sing: “these streets will make you feel brand new,
big lights will inspire you” she’d think, oh yes, that’s where I belong. And she wouldn’t be alone.

Carole

20130821-135526.jpgAs I type this, Eric and I are en route from our mini-vacation in Palm Springs. We had a lot of fun, and a good part or our vacation was spent by or in the swimming pool. The property where we stayed is a boutique hotel, with a gorgeous pool in the center courtyard. We stayed here a couple of years ago and loved it. One thing we noticed, how do I say this delicately, is that the crowd was a little more glamorous last time. Two years ago it was sun-kissed, tone bodied, bikini wearing Hollywood hills types of both sexes and all proclivities. This time, it was mostly pasty European 50-somethings. And that’s why Carole stood out to us all the more.

I’ll call her Carole because at first notice, she reminded me of Carole Radziwill, my favorite Real Housewife. The first time I saw my Carole she jumped into the pool, put on her goggles and swam a few lanky laps then ascended from the pool like the vision she was. Dark hair, a little longer than a bob, silky tan skin. I didn’t know if she was 25, 35 or 45. When she walked away, I watched her go back to her chaise which was tucked away in a more private area in the courtyard. She took out her MacBook and started typing or reading or working on something. 45 minutes later, she put down the MacBook, grabbed her goggles and headed back to the pool to repeat the cycle. I was transfixed, I pointed her out to Eric who said, “She’s Fabulous and that swimsuit is Malia Mills!” And so began our united fascination and shared conjecture with and about all things Carole. Eric thought she was French and I thought she lived in LA, but had only recently moved here from New York. Eric thought she’d once been a model, I thought she worked in fashion writing or was perhaps working on a novel. When we talked more about her over dinner on Monday night, Eric (slightly tipsy) vowed that he would talk to her the next day.

Tuesday morning, I was excited to see her sitting, reading the paper and drinking coffee at the restaurant bar where the hotel set out a coffee urn for the hotel guests. I grabbed my own coffee and my own paper and sat down a few stools down. I hoped that she’d initiate a conversation with me. “Strong coffee, isn’t it?” “Yes it is and hot, too!” Or perhaps, “I see Lee Daniels’ The Butler did well at the box office this weekend!” “Yes, I really want to see it.”
“Me, too.” “Yes, let’s all go see it this afternoon.” Well, that didn’t happen. We drank and read in silence, though for some reason, she did clear her throat several times. I held out hope that Eric would initiate a conversation when he joined us, but he didn’t. “I’ll talk to her this afternoon,” he told me when I quizzed him about his sheepishess.

As I lay out by the pool Tuesday afternoon, I wondered if maybe the Carole who existed may not be as interesting as the one I’d imagined. My Carole was by now a fashion editor, a novelist, getting over a break up and desperately missing her German Shepherd Max that she lost custody of in the break up. Her first novel sold “okay” but her publisher assured her that her new book, “In the Swim” was poised to make her the next Lauren Weisberger. Is she ready for the high profile life that awaits her? She’s been having trouble sleeping and she’s taken to watching episodes of Tosh.0 on her MacBook. “Is He Gay?” she asks herself as she slips into a fitful sleep. In her dreams, she is best friends with the effortlessly stylish 40-something gay couple that she’s seen at the pool.

My daydreams came to a crashing reality on Tuesday afternoon when Eric came back to the room. “She’s not French. She grew up in Rancho Mirage and her suit isn’t Malia Mills. She doesn’t even know who Malia Mills is.” He’d struck up a conversation by complimenting her suit. I asked if she seemed bookish, he said she did not.

This morning when Eric and I were eating breakfast, she walked by us. Eric said hi, she said hi. I’d hoped she’d stop so he could introduce me to her, but she kept walking.

I’ll probably never know Carole’s story, Eric did find out her name and he told me her name. It’s not Carole. I thought about telling you her name here, but I know that a lady like Carole likes to have a little mystery.

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Family (and Facebook)

I must give credit where credit is due. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I did not have a lot of contact with my family other than my parents. Because I’ve lived at least 1500 miles from home since I was 22, it’s been difficult to attend family functions like reunions, funerals, graduations, birthday parties and weddings. My cousins would get married and have kids and I wouldn’t even know the kids’ names.

And then about 6 years ago, Facebook entered my life and completely reconfigured those relationships. Even though I still live far away from my cousins and aunts and uncles, I see the pictures of kids and pets and trips that they post. I have a friend that says that people reveal who they are on FB and I must agree. I know who loves to drink wine, who is a choco-holic, who drinks Starbucks, who hates Starbucks, who thinks George Strait is the greatest entertainer that ever lived. All this is not to say that we are all on the same page. Lets just say we did not all vote for the same presidential candidate in 2008 or 2012.

Still, it’s been wonderful to get to deepen these relationships. It was on Facebook that my cousin Valerie sent me a message a couple months ago and told me her sister Tracey was getting married in Vegas and that I should come. And I’ve been in weekly contact with Valerie and Tracey and my other cousins since then. While we’re there, we’ll also celebrate my cousin Susie’s birthday as well.

As I type this, Eric and I are somewhere on the 15, just outside of Victorville. I can’t wait to get to Vegas and gamble and swim and drink and see my family. And on some level, I do feel like I have Facebook to thank for making this happen.

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Where would you go?

fashion straps marais paris HR

Sometimes when I am at Happy Hour with a group of friends or bored at work (which is never, because I always work very hard and the people I work with always work very hard) I like to play a little game called “Where would you go?” The rules are simple. When you get home tonight, you will find a bundle of cash ($25,000) that MUST be spent on a one week vacation and you have to leave first thing in the morning. You can’t save the money or give it away. You must spend the entire amount on your vacation. Where would you go? I love to hear people’s answers. Hawaii, New York, France, Vietnam, India, U.S. road trip, Machu Picchu. I believe the vacation we dream about says much about us. As for me, my answer is always the same, Paris. I’ve never been and have always dreamed of going. Like Carrie Bradshaw tells Aleksandr Petrovsky’s annoying daughter in the penultimate episode of Sex and the City, I’ve only been there in the movies. And television, and books, and Google Earth. I have ALMOST visited Paris a few times, but each time, a plan changes and I don’t go. It feels like I’ve been there. I’ve included the link to a movie called Paris Je T’aime. Twenty short films by twenty different directors make up the movie, my favorite being “14e Arrondissement” about a postal worker from Denver visiting Paris for the first time. It wouldn’t be the gem that it is without Margo Martindale’s performance. And every time I see it, her visit is my visit. We walk the streets, stare at the view from our hotel room, go to the Eiffel Tower, practice our French, and sit on a park bench and eat that really delicious looking sandwich. Watching the movie is a five minute vacation from my ordinary life. The reason I love my little game is it gives me a chance to close my eyes and, for a few moments, imagine myself in an exotic location. So, I’d go to Paris. But enough about me, where would YOU go?