New Year's Eve, 1968. I would like to point out: my grandmother's basement, the location of this party (recognizable by the wood paneling) had a very low ceiling. I am perplexed as to how some of those high hairstyles survived the night.
Grandma enjoyed visiting her friends in Las Vegas, and they would find big adventure driving around seeing the sights and playing the penny slots. Here she is somewhere in Nevada, and she was apparently delighted by the sight of the covered wagons. Never mind the fact that the street was still under construction, judging by the visible dirt road. And let's all take a moment to appreciate the jacket.
I'm not sure what's going on in this photo, but whatever it was I AM sure the Palmer House Hotel was never the same after.
Grandma is on the right. I think the guy to her left is her brother, Buster?...on the far right is her husband, my grandfather who died before I was born. Look how they carry themselves, with such confidence and looking so great. It really was the golden age of American style.
I've been to Paris a few times, and whenever I am there I obsessively take photos of bits and pieces of the city. The top image is Ritz Paris, the famed hotel where I stayed on one of my trips. I liked the shadows on the building.
The second, less-interesting photo is the entrance to the Rue du Passy stop on the Metro. The building behind it is where I lived when I worked there as a model. Every day I would walk down those steps, grinding my teeth as I summoned the guts to go through another day of work and still retain a shred of self-confidence. Entering that Metro station, walking down those steps, was like crossing a line of battle. I was thrilled to be there, working, but...it was a lot to deal with mentally.
The apartment itself was the best part--I wish I had some good photos of it. Rue du Passy is in the 16th arrondissement, which is a beautiful area. Originally I was supposed to live someplace else--that first place was an extra room living with an elderly woman, but when I showed up the first day she called the agency and said she didn't want me there because I didn't speak French, and also she thought she was going to die soon. So, my agent told me to just leave, and I moved in with agency owner's brother. He, too, was elderly, and he had a home-care nurse come every day to do something behind closed doors; I never found out what specifically was wrong. It didn't matter. He was nice, and we'd watch old movies together at night. I was the only model with the agency to have my own bedroom, so I lucked out.
This was my agent, Paula, a wonderful woman from Lebanon who would hug me every day and call me "mon petit Dan." The guy on the left was another model with the agency. Obviously it was dark so this is a terrible photo but I loved Paula and this is my only photo of her. That night the three of us went to dinner and saw the Australian movie "Love Serenade." Paula went to only English-language movies, because she said "French films are SHIT." I couldn't tell you anything about the jobs I did, but I remember that movie night like it was yesterday.
These are two of my friends--the guy on the left was from Ohio, and the guy on the right was from Wales. Our main source of entertainment was going from party to party, where of course we weren't technically invited, looking for free food because we were so poor. Usually all we found was free champagne, which we drank like it was keeping us alive. Although the Ohio guy actually worked a lot doing catalog jobs, and those pay really well, so I think he had money and was just going along for fun.
In the middle is my grandmother, maternal side. She was the most genuinely happy person I have ever known. She taught me how to gamble and how to decorate even the simplest of meals with a sprig of parsley.
Grandma is in the middle of this photo. Back in the day, her basement was the site of countless parties, complete with Crock pots of assorted dips and music for dancing. People drove in from far and wide for her parties and had loads of fun, despite the body language of her friend on the far right, although I can't imagine how anyone could exist with that magical hairdo and not be consumed with utter joy. And need we discuss the liquor? Nothing needs to be said about that. Just take a look at the dainty glass that Dearest Grandma is holding, although I'm not sure why it is covered in a protective net.
It is every renter's worst nightmare: my building has been sold.
I have lived in this apartment for over 7 years, with no lease and never an increase in my already-inexpensive rent. Had it not been for this apartment, I would not have been able to afford going back to nursing school. It's a dump but it's home.
Without having final word of what is going to happen to all of us, I nonetheless began the process of cleaning out my closets, which have collected the memoribilia and detritus of years of life. In the back of a closet, way up high on a shelf, I found a box of photos that I apparently stashed there for safe-keeping, and then completely forgot about it as is usually the case with such well-intentioned ideas.
The paper on some of the photos is begging to disintegrate, so I scanned them all to share with family. Some of them are far too marvelous to not share with the ones and tens of people who read this blog, so I'll post them for all to enjoy. The first is below. I'm on the left. Apparently the same love that people have for pugs or other such odd-looking creatures is what my mother felt for me. And God bless her for it.
"Is everything okay? Do you need something? Do you need me to come down there?"
"I will come down there if you need me to--"
You're coming in a month for graduation.
"I know. I'm just saying..."
Well...besides graduating and having to find a job, my landlord just told me he sold this apartment building, and we all may have to move.
I know. It's the worst timing.
"When will you have to move out?"
We don't know. The new owners haven't said what they want to do with the building. But everything around here is being gutted and refinished so they can convert them to condos and vacation rentals, so I presume that's what they'll do with this building, too.
"What about Gurdy?"
What about him?
"Where will he go?"
He'll come with me. I presume the new owners don't want a cross-eyed, agoraphobic cat.
"Oh, good. He's so sweet."
So I just have to hope I can get a job before they make me move out.
"Well, you don't have that much stuff. Moving won't be hard."
I'm throwing away most of my furniture if I move. Most of it is junk. There's no point in paying to move Ikea.
"And you can get rid of some of your clothes."
"You have waaaaaay too many clothes."
I'm sorry, what?
"Can you hear me?"
I'm not sure. What did you just say?
"That you have too many clothes?..."
Oh my God. Mother.
I'm NOT getting rid of my clothes.
"Think of how much easier it will be to move if you don't have--"
If I don't have what? My favorite velvet tuxedo jacket?
"Your favorite velvet tuxedo jacket? Do you have a less-favorite velvet tuxedo jacket?"
Yes. I have two. No! Three! Two black, one grey.
"When was the last time you wore them?"
Last night, in my dreams. I'm not getting rid of them.
"Okay. But then, why do you need two pairs of green chinos that are exactly the same?"
Wrong. One is J. Crew, one is...not J. Crew, I forget. Doesn't matter. They're totally different.
"But you wear shorts and T-shirts every day. Why do you need all those clothes?"
Because I like them. It's like people who live in New York. They never go to The Met, but they feel better knowing it's there.
"Well good luck fitting all of it into the trunk of your car."
For a reason unbeknownst to me, there are wild peacocks running around Miami.
Should I describe them as "feral"? Were they once pets? Obviously they were brought here, since they are native to Asia somewhere.
I was stuck behind a very patient man in an enormous truck, who waited patiently for a family of appx. 10 of these birds to cross the road, chicks in tow. What are baby peacocks called? I could look it up, but I prefer to live in mystery for a little while. I also wish I could've figured out why they were crossing the road, so at least I could have that answer, being that they are so closely related to chickens.
Their "call" sounds like a woman screaming. At first I thought the truck had run over one, and it was wailing in agony as it died. But no, it was fine. As beautiful as they are, I don't think I'd want to be surrounded by the sound of people screaming in horror around my house every day.
Nevertheless, they are beautiful. They are also very calm. I tried to look as alluring as possible, so one of the males would take interest in me and fluff up his plumage. But I guess I wasn't their type. No show for me.
Reading paper magazines is so fun. Hipsters who read everything on their phones are lame. Look at this apartment complex in Japan! It's little houses stacked on top of each other! I want to live in a building just like this. Japanese neighbors optional.
Then the caffeine kicked in and I couldn't focus on the words on the pages. So I looked around.
This lady sat next to me and smiled the entire time she was there. Just sat there, smiling, listening to something on her iPhone. Was it a funny radio show? Perhaps a recording of The Moth on NPR? Maybe she liked my socks? I'll never know. But I loved her sitting by me, making our little slice of co-inhabited life a bit happier. Keep smiling, lady.
There is a yoga studio next door to the coffee shop. Between classes, women in brightly-colored tights flood in and out of the hipster hangout, spending several minutes getting the perfect soy milk/turbinado sugar ratio in their drinks.
The woman on the right took, no joke, 4 minutes. The woman on the left was faster, but maybe she has some kick in her step because of what she was wearing: she had a visible thong line near the waistline of her pants. There is no way I can believe anyone can achieve inner peace while doing yoga with a thong strap riding up into the nether-regions like that. Get some granny-panties, lady.
Then these three sat down behind me.
I hope they were on their way into a yoga class, because they were in desperate need of a big dose of Shut The Hell Up And Calm Down--they were wound up tighter than the lady who went to yoga in Spandex and a thong--they spent at least 45 minutes talking non-stop, mostly over each other, while saying absolutely nothing. Nothing. For 45 minutes they talked and said nothing. I know this because they talked with full-volume outside voices. Blah blah BLAAAAAAH. And OMG you guys, you would not BELIEVE what their friend Courtney is up to! Would. Not. Believe.
Buzzing from the caffeine, I left and went to a cooking workshop at Whole Foods. The guy prepared stuff with a lot of cilantro, which I believe is an herb grown by Satan himself it is so gross, but he did make one thing I loved loved loved. The recipe is here.
He blended it all in a Vitamix and then poured it on fresh coleslaw mix (cabbage, etc). It was seriously so delicious. I imagine after sitting for a day or two in the fridge, it would be even better. I also imagine the mustard doesn't need to be "raw." Regular mustard should work fine.
I am obsessed with buying bowls and plates. Coffee mugs with the perfect handles are my passion. I will creep through endless stalls in antique malls in the hopes of finding a rusty cast iron skillet that I can strip clean and re-season, slowly and with tender loving care.
My mother is faithful to Fiestware, and I do share her enthusiasm for the colors and the colors and oh my the colors. But I don't tell her I cheat on my Fiesta with other brands. I even (gasp!) keep them in the same cabinet. Although I do keep them on separate shelves. There's no need to flaunt such indiscretions and make everyone nervous by allowing different ceramic gene pools to mix with each other and touch.
I should point out the fact that my love for all things kitchen is ridiculous. I am not a good cook, despite my best efforts to prove otherwise. Other than my few specialties, I can't seem to get the knack for finding recipes that my skills will do justice. I scorch instead of sauté, my baked goods are baked but not good, and I have yet to make a chicken with white wine sauce that doesn't make my tongue crawl to the back of my throat as if it's running away in fear. I'm not dead yet, so I'm not poisoning myself, but my cooking is merely sustenance, not cuisine.
But who cares? Cooking is fun. Try, try again.
Also, my kitchen is small enough that I can stand in one place and just spin around, and I reach all counter surfaces. I have no space for all this junk. I don't have my gas turned on, so instead of using my lovely stove/oven, I use a toaster oven and electric burners (the burners placed on top of the stove, of course). But never mind that. I can accomplish anything a real stove/oven can produce, as I have kitchen gadgets lined up along the span of my counters, tools of every purpose and some of purpose that I know not. The Breadman Pro does make good egg bread, I will say that. But anyway--in terms of cups and plates, I literally have so many dishes that I can't put them all away. Some dishes must always live in the dish rack next to my sink. I can put them into a cabinet when I take something else out from somewhere. I blame the wine glasses, which take up so much space. And I don't even drink wine. (They were a gift! Don't judge me.)
Alas, to the real reason behind this post: we lost a member of our family recently. A Signature Housewares mini-crock jumped from my soapy hands and cracked into pieces, never to hold anything within its perfectly glazed confines again. Seriously, I bought four of these little pots--
--this is one of the surviving siblings--and they are the greatest little guys in my kitchen. I start a big pot of Beef Bourgingnon in my enameled cast iron, but then I divide it up into the four little Signature crocks to bake, and 90 minutes later it's PERFECT. If I use anything else, it cooks and cooks and cooks and it's just good. But these things, I don't know the magic they work beneath their concentric-circled lids, they make everything better. And considering the fact that most of the food I make is barely edible at best, I need to keep running with what works. These pots work for me. I love them as much as any person can love a piece of ceramic cookware.
So imagine my horror at my broken pot. I have searched everywhere for a replacement--the pot I killed was a lovely aqua/turquoise color--and I even went to the corporate web site, but no. Nothing. Can't find them anywhere.
It's an obsession, I admit. But there's a void in my display cabinet, and it keeps me awake at night. I know there's a replacement pot out there somewhere, ready to jump into action and make my sauces and stews.
People still die of AIDS, remember. Our society doesn't talk about it that much anymore but yes, it is still something we need to remember is out there, and need to educate people who think the crisis is over.