September is so interesting because we sort of back into it slowly, and then as fall overtakes summer, our pace quickens and life gets busier. At least that’s the pattern I’ve seen the last few years.
I’m thinking about patterns — not of wallpaper (which I adore) or carpets, but of the calendar. I can always count on surprises, but often see patterns emerge. Here’s one: It feels like friends from out of town start coming to New York all at once, and I suddenly am juggling a lot of going- out-nights in a row. Do you have patterns like that? Or my weeknights will be jammed, but I have no plans on the weekends, which is fine too, and a throwback to when my exhibits™ were small, and I spent the entire weekend with them. As I organize my datebook, I am excitedly thinking of the friends I will get to see soon, a pleasure in itself.
On to my list:
1) Paying my bills. I just went through a huge stack of bills. No, that’s not the good news. Most of the bills are for monthly payments: health insurance, tuition, credit cards, phone, a doctor or two. There are usually some boo boos within the pile, requiring annoying phone calls to robots. (If you’ve stood on the street outside my building, I’m the one who was repeating “Representative!” in an impatient staccato.) But, much like having worked out or having been to the dentist, when it’s over I feel virtuous. I love the stack of envelopes I take to the mailbox when I walk Henry. It makes me feel independent.
2. Old treasures. This is an evergreen item. My significant other found a zippered bag in one of our storage bins, and though I had packed this suitcase myself, I had completely forgotten about it. It had two old wristwatches that I love, and many souvenirs of my wardrobe from eons gone by. Funny that I say my look hasn’t changed since I was 14. It hasn’t. But my accessories have. (I still have no idea where the necklace of tiny colored pencils came from. I swear!)
3. Speaking of old, I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately. When I read that the famous New York women’s store Henri Bendel’s was going to close (not just the New York flagship, but 122 branches in malls around the country), I couldn’t stop thinking about the original Bendel’s store, a showstopper of a place on west 57th Street, diagonally across the street from the old Rizzoli Bookstore. Forgive me if I’m lecturing to the choir, but 57th street — once the heart of Midtown Manhattan, was the most exciting street of department stores — one offs — the only Bendel’s, the only Bergdorf Goodman, (Bonwit Teller was there too, though for sure they had a branch on Newbury Street in Boston, and Best & Co. was on 56th street.) Now it’s a stretch of top-of-the-market condominiums.
Okay, but where’s the good news in this? As we churn always towards progress, (whatever that is), a dose of nostalgia feels good. I casually wrote down some of my memories about Bendel’s on Facebook*, and it generated not only dozens and dozens of comments but for a few days it felt like a community.
Facebook post below:
* I'm sorry that Bendel's is closing down forever. I'm sorry that the shopping experience that once made midtown Manhattan so exciting has changed for good. But the old Bendel's on west 57th was the great version of this department store -- filled with tiny shops on the ground floor (stationery on the left; hosiery to the right, and a giant cosmetics department beyond that), and was rather fashion forward for its time. If you bought something there, you knew you wouldn't see it all over town. Once my mom and I shared a taxi in the rain with another lady who was leaving when we did: Happy Rockefeller.
As I've been reading the pre-obituaries, I have learned that Bendel's brought Chanel to the US, hired Andy Warhol to design and draw for them, and was an influential retailer in a slew of ways.
I watched Burt Bacharach buy a present for his wife Angie Dickenson there, I saw Grace Jones shop there. I had my first eyebrow shaping there. I bought a grown-up Stephen Burrows cocktail dress there right after college, and used to get my hair cut there for years. In the era of the 70s when department stores were kind of fussy, Bendel's was cool.
Mr. Henri Bendel, the grandson (I think) of the founder of the store lived in the same building we lived in. I believe he founded (or brought to America) the Belgian Shoes that some of us love so much.
Everything is different now. Thanks for the memories.
4) SALT IN MY COFFEE. Some of you know I tout the benefits of sprinkling a little table salt on my coffee grounds before I brew coffee. I’m not just a “coffee achiever” (anyone remember that slogan?); I’m a coffeeaholic. I make coffee every morning, just so. I use a blend of two different beans, and I’m generally a pain about it. One morning while Exhibit C was in high school, her best friend had slept over and asked me why I didn’t use salt. She said she assumed everyone did it; it was a family habit. Salt reduces coffee’s bitterness. I swear it does. I haven’t made coffee without salt for at least four years. You will thank me.
5) Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to mention Robert Mueller in my blog and pod? One day, I might not have to; but I might still want to.
Go forth my friends.
Until next time, stay dry and act natural.