Monthly Archives: March 2008

From the Hook & Eye to High Heels

While I was on the phone with a friend discussing prophylactic mastectomies and the dreaded pigeon-holing of another friend’s book-of-the-moment as a “cancer book,” I ducked into an Upper West Side store to buy a bra. I didn’t quite realize the irony of this until I was waiting online to pay for my purchase. As I was on the phone, I casually flipped through the racks trying to find something to flatter my small “national geographic” chest.

After I hung up with my friend, the older woman hovering around me asked if I would like a bra fitting. I was a little hesitant, since I wasn’t quite sure what that entailed, but remembered hearing stories of woman who had “miraculous” bra-fitting experiences that lead to better cleavage and uplifted decolletage. bra.jpgI unfortunately, did not have such an experience, as I seem to know my breasts better than most women know theirs. The sales associate brought me a selection of bras, which I vetoed one-by-one: “this one has a elastic along the upper part of the cup, it’s going to cut into my chest and squash the little I have to begin with.” Another one wasn’t padded, that’s not going to fly with me. “Too much of a dark nude, I need a lighter nude because I’m pale.” No lace this time around, I needed something for shirts in softer fabrics — what is it with older women and lace? Some stuff was pretty, but an inch away from my wondering if it came with a matching garter belt. I finally dismissed the saleswoman, who left in a huff when I shooed her out as she tried to follow me into the dressing room, insisting on being in there to help me. Umm, no thank you, I’ve been wearing a bra for 14 years, I think I’ve got the hook and eye thing down for myself now.

I walked out of the store with two perfectly decent bras, they weren’t La Perla, but fit perfectly and would be appropriate to wear under tee shirts. After that experience, I felt the need to reward myself with something I liked rather than a necessity. So, like the good woman I am, I headed straight to the shoe store, where toe cleavage, high heels and peep-toes flatter every foot and no one needs to feel self-conscious.

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The Day I Disappeared

Like following the ingredients list for recipes, I am very good at following directions on forms. They always come out perfectly. I think it’s because I find it somewhat soothing and fulfilling to do busy work that requires minimal braincell output, but results in completed forms! Every “i” is dotted, every “t” is crossed. I would have made an excellent paper pusher. But all of my beautiful work went to pot today when the following message kept coming up every time I tried to submit my form:picture-2.jpg. Yup, apparently I no longer know who I am on my forms, let alone in my life. So, I followed the directions. I double-checked my driver’s license, “check.” I looked at my social security card, “check.” My passport, “check.” My Time Out subscription sticker, “check.” Clearly, everyone else seems to know who I am — even Time Warner and Con Ed manage to find me every month, but for some reason, I can’t be found in an online form system that will help me pay for Grad School … hmm … that just seems all tooconvenient.

Revisiting Roots

The weekends I spend out of Manhattan make me itchy, like I need to get back, as if there’s something I’m missing or forgetting to do. It takes me at least a full day to unwind and shove those thoughts into the far recesses of my brain.hookmtn.jpeg

Though I spent most of the weekend working, I did take a break on Saturday to do some shopping and then, when the rain stopped, over to Nyack Beach/Hook Mountain for a walk on the cliffs overlooking the Hudson. I love walking there — it makes me feel like I’m in a Hudson River School painting. I went about a half a mile on the trail before the high winds whipped right through me, making my eyes tear to the point where I couldn’t see well enough to move on. I wisely turned around and shivered my way back to the car.

From there, I headed South on Broadway towards Runcible Spoon to warm myself with a nice cup of coffee. Because of the weather, the bakery wasn’t populated with the usual crowd of colorful spandex-clad cyclers stopping to refuel with a scone or one of “the ’spoon’s” famous morning buns. dcp_2338.jpg

On the way to Runcible, I past some fun local landmarks. The first being the old Victorian house we called, “The Sisters’ House.” Straight out of a scary movie, this creepy old rundown, but gorgeous home with gingerbread detail was owned by The Johnson family since the turn of the century. Alvin Johnson, the founder of The New School, lived in it with his wife and seven children until his death. After that, two of his daughters Astrid and Felicia lived in it together. Astrid was a batik artist and once made a beautiful scarf from my mother (which now hangs in my sister’s closet, when it isn’t holding back her hair.) Felicia became an economist and professor at the New School. She was also a master gardener (the results of which you could only see if you happened to brush aside the wild growth in the front and backyard — my mother called this the ’secret garden.’) When she was in her 70’s, Felicia became the first mayor of Upper Nyack, NY. winning by one vote with her door-to-door campaign. Both sisters died a few years ago and now someone is gutting the house and has wacked the weeds away. In the spring, I’m certain Felicia’s beautiful garden will awaken and finally be seen from the sidewalk.

A few houses away from the Sisters’ is “Pretty Penny,” the former home of the First Lady of Theater, Helen Hayes. My mother knew Helen towards the end ofpretty-penny.jpegher life and I have vague memories of playing in the backyard of Pretty Penny and sitting by the pool. The house was incredibly rundown, as Helen was nearly 90 and not in a state to undergo a home renovation. But, it was still beautiful. Books lined the walls, an Oscar or an Tony could be found sitting here or there. Musty and a little frightening to a 10-year-old, but fascinating at the same time.

Ingrid Bergman sought refuge at Pretty Penny after her affair with Roberto Rossellini came to light; Kate Hepburn played tennis on the court while Helen’s husband, Charles, drank on the porch with Spencer Tracy.

When she was 90, Helen wrote her autobiography, a copy of which sits in my parent’s living room bookcase, the shaky inscription written out to my mother. I remember Helen’s funeral a few months later and the hundreds of people who attended, pouring out of the small Nyack church. A year or so later, Rosie O’Donnell purchased the house, gutted it and returned it to its original splendor. Then, she built a seven foot high wall around it, planted 12 foot tall trees and moved out a few years later to a “compound” off the south end of Broadway, about a mile down the street. Now, all that can be seen of Pretty Penny from the street is the hawk’s nest and the main chimney.

hopperhousefinal.jpgRight before Main Street sits the Edward Hopper House. Birthplace and childhood home of, you guessed it, E. Hopper. Now, it’s a cute little gallery exhibiting local artists and local collector’s art. Rumor has it four-year-old Edward would sit on the front porch with his watercolors, painting the neighbors as they walked by.

Further down Broadway past main street is Carson McCullers’ house. As requested in her will, the house is being used as an artist’s residence. McCullers lived here from the mid-1940’s till her death mccullers.jpegin the late ’60s. It’s a pretty place, set back from the street and flanked by a baptist church and a medical professional building — both somehow fitting for her.

After South Broadway, I head towards River Road and through the town of Upper Grandview, passing “the Storybook house,” a home built in the 1920’s by a couple fascinated with the medieval period (as illustrated by the stone cottage’s design and interior decor.) The husband and wife were authors and so inspired by their home, they created a series of books for children all taking place in the stone house. There’s even a waterfall starting right at the home’s foundation and running down the front of the rocky hillside and into a ravine below.

A few doors down and I pass the home of yet another author, Toni Morrison, whose windows were custom-blown in a pink/orange shade to mimic the dawn and dusk light that comes off of the Hudson. So, no matter what time of day, the inside of her house has a warm, rosy glow.

I continue on down the road and enter into the village of Piermont, warmed from both my coffee and the trip down memory lane, ghosts in tow.