So far, no real snow to speak of. What will this winter be all about, I wonder? Will the federal government’s shutdown define this moment in time? Will this be the winter of the strange Oscar Awards? Will 2019 be the Winter of Mrs. Maisel? Can we expect a Snownado or a Polar Vortex? It’s too soon to predict and change is way too constant at this point. Which leads me to this week’s 5 Items, for which I’ve taken a slightly different approach. This week I’m sharing the five things I own which elicit the most compliments from strangers. (Compliments= pleasure, for those who didn’t know.)
Our guest this week is the funny (in a dry way) and insightful writer Alexandra Styron, photographed below. She has written a new book called Steal This Country. http://www.alexandrastyron.com/book/steal-this-country
1.) My leather jacket. This is probably my very favorite garment of my adulthood. It was designed by my friend Charles Nolan as part of his first named collection, and I bought it at the opening of his boutique at Saks Fifth Avenue in 2004. (I met Charles through my dear friend Andy Tobias, and their relationship was a true loving partnership.) But let me tell you about this jacket. It has Charles’ signature cuffs — long and stylized, and the leather is pebbled. The jacket is perfect. People have stopped me to talk about it, to see where they can buy it. Someone even wanted to borrow it to bring it to a tailer to copy. Once I almost lost it in the trunk of a rental car in California. And once someone nicked it at at a reception after a memorial service. (It was a group effort to get it back.) I get it; it’s a great shape. It dresses down what’s too precious and dresses up a sloppy pair of jeans. This jacket has been everywhere with me. The leather is starting to crack, but I love it so much, I will not give it up. Charles died in 2011 after a brutal return engagement of cancer. I miss him and am grateful that I have so many souvenirs of his talent and memories of our time together.
2) Debbie Lewin gave me these socks after we went to see “Call Me By Your Name” together. They are brightly colored with images of peaches. (Get it?) I think because my usual sock wardrobe veers from solid navy and black all the way to solid grey, these socks get a lot of praise at the gym, the backstory notwithstanding.
3.) My eyeglasses. I have spent almost my entire life trying not to wear eyeglasses. My mother noticed that I squinted at the tv when I was very little, and took me to the ophthalmologist. Next thing I knew, I understood what “leaves” were — not blobby areas of green, but individual, unique fronds or blades, with their own networks of arteries. I didn’t know I couldn’t see until I could. I spent my young years fearing blindness — not for any logical reason, but because I thought my vision would get worse and worse. (Spoiler: it has.) . In any case, as soon as I was able to wear contact lenses, I did, and I felt my life changed for the better. No more 8th graders asking me if I were blind on a daily basis. I did suddenly have a ridiculous appetite for sunglasses, but at least I could buy cheap ones. Now that I’m — I think I have something caught in my throat — years old, I find I need reading glasses too. So having lost a dozen of those, I had this pair made with light blue lenses and guard them with my life. People seem to like them. Or else they are being super solicitous.
4.) My Dad’s watch. When my father died in 2007 he left each of his three children one of his wristwatches. I don’t wear mine every day. It’s too precious to me to wear to the gym or just to do errands. But when I have it on, I’m thinking of my dad; I still think of this as his watch. It’s a great size for my wrist (too big, but very good visibility.) I miss my father every day, whether I’m wearing his watch or not.
5.) You can tell a lot about a man from his watch. Here is Robert Mueller in a basic Casio watch during a 2013 hearing. That watch tells me he’s a sportsman and not a fop. Here’s to allowing Robert Mueller to finish the job he started.
And now here are five things from my guest this week, Alexandra Styron. Al, as she likes to be called by her friends, is the mother of two teenagers, and still somehow manages to write, and teach, and edit, and be a great wife, daughter, and member of a powerful tribe of siblings. The daughter of the great American novelist William Styron, Al’s memoir, Reading My Father, enjoyed particular acclaim.
1.) Seltzer Water - selt·zer . /ˈseltsər/
definition: soda water.
medicinal mineral water from Niederselters in Germany.
I think I owned the very first Soda Stream seltzer maker. I am obsessed with seltzer and drink it all day and night. I really (really) like wine and look forward in a possibly unhealthy way to a glass or two in the evening. But I don’t think wine is keeping me alive. Seltzer definitely is.
2.) Tui Na: If you live in New York, you’ve probably passed a Tui Na joint in your neighborhood about a hundred times. They’re the little Chinese massage places that look super sketchy and dot every other side street. Do yourself a favor and go inside and ask for a massage. But only if you like to be tortured, in a good way. Tui Na practitioners are insanely good massage therapists. They find the spot that is bothering you, and then they beat the crap out of it. Sometimes I think the masseuse down the street from me in Park Slope is going to break my neck. But she hasn’t yet, and I usually get up from her table feeling like a new person. (P.S. like nail salons, they’re very cheap, so tip well!)
3.) The New York Times : Paper Edition: We still get the paper and I still read it cover to cover every morning (well, to be honest, since 2016, I spend a disturbing amount of time on the front section and usually toss the rest). Frankly I don’t know how anyone reads the paper online. What are you supposed to read first? What’s above the fold and what’s below? And where are all the weird human interest stories that leaven the bad news? The paper hitting the stoop often rousts me out of bed. Marital rule: whoever gets downstairs first gets the front section.
4.) Edith Wharton: She was such a modern, funny, wickedly observant writer, you can’t believe she was publishing around the turn of the (20th) century. Her novel, The Age of Innocence won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1920. She was the first woman ever to win that award. Try her; you might like her!
5.) Shorty: Three years ago we rescued a Pit Bull-Bassett Hound mix named Shortcake, aka “Shorty”. I know it sounds hyperbolic but she is actually the cutest dog who ever lived. (See above.) . Everyone in our family is unreasonably fixated on her (actually I can . hear my husband downstairs talking to her right now). I don’t love her more than I love my children — I really love my children! but still……