Friday, October 31, 2008

My desk at night.

"All beautiful things belong to the same age."
Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Autum Arrives

Fall has come to the Farmers Market, with mums

and pumpkins.

It was cool and crisp today. I love the cool, crisp weather of Fall. It reminds me of school -- high school, and running on the cross country team over hill and dale in New Hartford, New York. And it reminds me of college -- McGill, and being back in Montreal which I loved. I always liked the clothes involved with going back to school -- woolly sweaters and corduroy pants, and I had a great tan color corduroy blazer which came from Rudy's, the legendary men's store in Herkimer, New York. Fall has a kind of innocence to it, the feeling that life is full of hope and anything can happen. No matter how long I am out of school, Fall always brings for me the feeling of fresh beginnings.
My container garden is still going strong on October 29, and that's a beautiful thing.

Home Again

Gee, I haven't added a post in a while because I loved seeing that picture of Paris, below, at the top of this page, but it's time to update. We're home again after our great trip. Here is Rose in the bedroom on the new chair.

and Bell in the living room.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Paris, Part 2


I said below that I wanted to visit Dries Van Noten's store on the Left Bank, so we hoofed it over. The little shop is on the bank of the Seine in kind of a funny spot with no stores around it. It's a beautiful interior glowing with colors and velvets and Oriental rugs. No menswear, so the shop girls were a little cool, but no matter, we plunged in.

The women's clothes were amazing -- jewel-tone silks and prints with flourishes of tiny colored sequins embroidered on in swirls. Really beautiful clothes -- clothes as art. Dries goes his own way and doesn't follow trends. A guy appeared from upstairs - tall, dark, thin, wearing a white shirt, black v-neck sweater and black kind of pantaloon pants -- they fanned out in the middle. He said the Dries Van Noten men's clothes was sold in the department stores, Le Printemps and Le Bon Marche.

Time for lunch. We walked down the busy Ste. Germain to Les Deux Magots, the great cafe where Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway hung out. Delicious food and fantastic people-watching on the street.

Fortified by a ham and cheese omelet and a little pot of coffee, I decided to head to Le Bon Marche to see the menswear. TD opted out of this expedition. It's a beautiful old Belle Epoque store with an open center atrium that soars up for three floors. I walked through the men's department and passed a guy at a counter wearing a beautiful silk scarf, gold and brown and blue, and I thought, "The French have such great style. Where would you ever find a scarf like that?" I turned the corner into the Dries Van Noten collection, and there was the scarf, hanging on the wall. It was by Dries. And, dear reader, I bought it. I love it and I haven't taken it off since.

The next day we went to the Musee d"Orsay, a tremendous museum in an old train station. Ted and I have been there before. I like it even more than the Louvre. If you go, start at the top because that floor has the most amazing Impressionist paintings, one after the other. In the afternoon, we had a drink at the Hotel Costes, a fashion crowd hang-out. The ground floor is one big bar area made up of little rooms and an outdoor atrium. The rooms are decorated with velvet furnishings, oil portraits, and on each table a tall candle stick and candle, very deluxe Edwardian. It must be magical and seductive at night.

One morning we met up with our New York friends Bunny and Dan Gabel for coffee and a croissant. Every time they are in Paris they go to Sainte Chappelle, the royal chapel on the Ile de la Cite in the center of Paris completed in 1248. We had tried to get in but it's very small and the line was too long.

We went back. The line wasn't so bad; all the bags have to go through the x-ray machine. You go in single file and climb up this tiny spiral staircase round and round until you come to the open doorway at the top and enter into this:

Holy moly. Unbelievably beautiful. The chapel is really all stained glass windows that fly up. It's called the "door way to heaven," and it's hard to believe that this was built in 1248. Only the royal family attended mass here, and I guess that's why they had the French Revolution? Fortunately it still stands. On a sunny day it's like being inside a jewel box. The vibrant colors -- blue, red, green, yellow -- are deep and rich. You could sit there all day. A Vivaldi concert was scheduled for that night so we bought tickets -- Bunny and Dan had done that too. When we returned that night it was dusk so light was still coming through the colored windows but as the concert got under way, they faded to black. The concert was wonderful, lively, intimate. It was such a great pleasure to hear the music in such a beautiful space.

Ted and I were on the Metro a lot in Paris; I love the Metro. It's so easy to get around. You don't even have to understand a language because the signs are so clear. The stations are clean, bright, and big, and trains are quiet, fast and frequent. They come every few minutes so there are never the crowded, pushing New York situations. In general, in Europe, I found the people to be very polite. No one is cutting you off or cursing at you, as can happen in New York. Sometimes in New York you take your life in your hands just crossing the street when turning cars are coming at you. In New York I recently had the experience of walking from the curb to the door of the bank and within that space not one but two people, a man and a woman, rushed ahead of me to cut me off at the door and get into the ATM line first. I didn't see that in Europe. In fact, I saw the opposite a couple of times when someone was being cut off, and they said to the offender, "Apres vous," "after you," as if to say, "If you want want to be lowly go right ahead because I have higher manners." With all of the people riding bicycles in Amsterdam, I did not see one confrontation. Europe was not hard and mean. I am not a big fan of hard and mean. Polly Mellen once said to me, "You have to be a good person." Yes. Good and kind is better. You bring back a certain grace, and that's what Europe meant to me.

Here are more pictures of Paris:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Paris, Part 1

Ah, Paris. If you love beautiful things, then going to Paris is like climbing onto the mother ship. Everything is amazing looking: the architecture, the art, the people, the streets you walk down. The buildings of the city, or least the center of the city, are all the same style and color -- creamy limestone with grey roofs. There are no colors or billboards or neon to distract the eye -- just cream and grey and trees and sky and the Seine River. It's like a medieval city. It's a city as a work of art.

We took the train, with our friends Bunny and Dan Gabel, from Amsterdam to Paris.

Ted and I went to Paris a couple of years ago and loved the Marais, a charming neighborhood filled with art galleries, book stores and cafes, so we found a small hotel on-line in that area. This shot is from our hotel room.

On our first day we went out to visit the Grand Palais, the huge Belle Epoque exhibition hall, but it was closed so we went to the Petit Palais, a smaller museum across the street. But nothing about it was small. You get the feeling that they threw it up in the nineteenth century to offer more exhibition space, but it is spectacularly beautiful, with vaulted architecture, immense windows and painted ceilings. As you can see here, the display cases and the book store at the end are made of clear plexiglass so as not to obstruct the view.

There was mounted an exhibition of fashion photographs by Patrick Demarchelier, with his photographs mixed in with the permanent paintings. I think Patrick Demarchelier is good photographer but honestly I think I would have preferred just the paintings. I like old paintings, what can I say.
In the museum was a little cafe so we had lunch outside in the circular garden which was filled with giant tropical plants, an exotic combination. Over head, garlands of gold metal leaves looped around the circular terrace. It was quite a sight.
At night, we hung out at a famous, old, tiny Marais bar called Au Petit Fer a Cheval, the little horseshoe, named after the shape of the marble bar. One night we asked the bartender to recommend a restaurant and he sent us to a place where his friend was the "cooker," the chef, and I had a delicious beef bourguignon
We had a couple of glitches; we went back again to the Grand Palais but couldn't get in because the line was too long, the Musee de la Mode (the costume institute) was closed until November, and the Picasso Museum was closed for renovation. No matter, we just moved on to the next thing. Traveling is all about adjustment; no complaining or negativity. My friend the Reverend Donna Schaper says, "Light and lively. Move nimbly." When disappointing things happen, you try to leap over it. It's a good attitude for life, and for traveling.

Here are more photos:

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Ted and I are back from Amsterdam and Paris -- we had a great, beautiful trip. We went first to Amsterdam with New York City friends and neighbors, Dan and Bunny Gabel, and Don and Joyce Healy, and their adult children Brian and Mary Healy, wonderful traveling companions all -- interested and interesting. We had all gone, a larger group, together to Amsterdam in 1987 to celebrate the 50th birthday of our beloved friend Gerard Mutsaer. Gerard died, three years later, on Jane Street in New York City. We went now to visit Gerard's sister, our dear friend Ton, who lives in Amsterdam, and to remember what would have been Gerard's 71st birthday.

Ted and I had the great good fortune to stay in Amsterdam with our friends the Hoflands. Ted had met Dick Hofland through Gerard on Jane Street and now we are close friends with Dick and Jeannette and their teenage sons Tom and Dirk.

We took the red eye from Newark Airport, and when we arrived in Amsterdam the following morning, Ted and I walked, jet-lagged and bleary-eyed to the Van Gogh Museum. Wow. Beautiful. All those Van Gogh paintings on one floor create in the end a powerful meditation of a truly singular artist. But what a sad story. Vincent Van Gogh was untrained as an artist but his brother Theo encouraged him to paint, probably recognizing the genius. But Vincent suffered from epilepsy and depression and in the end he shot himself in the chest. The artist died two days later with his brother Theo at his bedside. Six months later, Theo died. Of course, Van Gogh's paintings changed the course of art history.

We traveled through Amsterdam almost completely by bicycles provided by the Hoflands. Everyone in Amsterdam rides bicycles. In the city they have wonderful bike lanes in the streets and it's a breeze to get around, along the canals, over the bridges, through the parks. I love bicycles -- I'm a bicycle boy -- so I was in heaven. I liked seeing the beautiful girls dressed up in high heels on bicycles. It's how the Dutch stay slim and fit! My favorite time riding was at night when the canal houses were lit up so we could see inside.

The next day Dick Hofland took us all for a ride on his big boat through the canals. There is no better way to see the old Dutch houses, all with different crenelated roof tops, then from the canals.

That night we went to the ballet and rode bicycles home at midnight. We had only three bikes so Jeannette sat on the back of Dick's bike. Here she is with a red light (required by law) attached to the back of her white Gucci coat.

On Sunday morning Ton arranged to have an architectural historian take us on a tour of the Amsterdam waterfront where many new modern residences have been developed. In the afternoon I went by myself to the Museum Van Loon, a beautiful 18th century house museum. I got slightly lost on the way home on my bike.

The last night in Amsterdam we all gathered for dinner in Ton's apartment in a canal house with gardens in the back. We sat and talked and then breezed home, past the canal houses glowing with lights. I don't think I'll ever forget riding through Amsterdam at night on bikes.

Here is a slide show with more pictures:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bon Voyage

Ted and I are off tomorrow, on a trip to Europe, first to Amsterdam and then to Paris. We're excited! I'm an American boy but I love Europe. Things are so old and elegant there; it seeps in and you bring back something to your life.
I am packing tonight at midnight, of course, Well, it takes time to take care of the cats and water the plants and take out the garbage and bring up the bike and stop by the doctor because my ear aches but it's not an infection, it's TMJ from stress, whatever.
But I have been thinking about packing, natch. What I pack is basically all blue and grey -- shirts, tee shirts, sweaters, pants, jeans, navy blazer. I can practically get dressed in the dark -- pick anything and it goes together. For traveling I want layers that I can add on and take off depending on the weather and the temperature. If everything is basically the same color, it's simple and easy.
When we get back I will update my blog. Ciao for now.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute

The Costume Institute at the Met has put its large collection of clothing into an online database that you can search which is really fun to browse through. Click on Collection Database and type in a keyword like Chanel of Yves Saint Laurent. Go here.
You can also click on Collection Highlights for access to popular pieces. The beautiful dress pictured above is from Lanvin, 1924; it kind of looks like Dries Van Noten's collection, which I wrote about below, doesn't it?

This dress is from Worth, 1925. Some French designers just last week showed similar designs that are short in the front and long in the back.

This is Callet Soeurs, 1924. So simple and chic, it could easily be worn today.

Last year, Harold Koda, curator in charge of the Costume Institute and an old friend, gave me a behind the scenes tour through the archives. The clinical white doors and drawers of the archive had been opened to reveal the treasures within, including the earliest garment they have -- an English dress from the 1690's, pale floral eighteenth century French and English dresses, Fortuny dresses twisted up into jewel-like knots, the dusty blue hat which the Duchess of Windsor wore on her wedding day. It was very special tour, and it happened to be on my birthday -- a beautiful birthday present.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

We went on a weekend with some friends from our great church, Judson Memorial. We were in Ivoryton, Connecticut, which was beautiful. The weather on Saturday was spectacular -- clear blue vibrating sky and golden yellow leaves shimmering on the trees over head. Wonderful artists, musicians and writers were there, and we had a great time. At night we circled around a bonfire near the lake, faces illuminated by the leaping flames and bodies receding into black darkness. At one dinner I sat next to Bob Thomason. He told me about his three month bicycle ride through Germany. He stayed with families, and said, "Whenever I go on a trip I try to take part in the culture of the place."
He's 80, turning 81.
I said to him, "Where is your wife?" He said she was in Ohio for the the last week campaigning for Obama. Very inspiring people. He said to me, "I'm having a fantastic life!"

Ted and I took a row boat ride on the lake.
My trusty rower.

Friday, October 3, 2008

So I was just standing in Brooks Brothers on Madison Avenue looking at a little book they have at the cash register called How to Raise a Gentleman. To my right an older man in a suit approaches the register and says "Smith" to the clerk, offering his last name for his charge account.
"What is the first name Mr. Smith?"
I turn my attention now and sure enough it is Harry Smith, anchor of the CBS Early Show. He looked good, older than I thought and balder. Tanned. Well-cut navy blue suit.
Don't you love New York?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dries Van Noten

I'm really liking the collection shown this week in Paris by the Belgian designer Dries van Noten (DREEZE van KNOW-ten). I've written about Dries before here -- I think he's great. These clothes are very new looking and exciting but they are also very wearable. So much that you see in the shows is kind of freaky; Miuccia Prada showed shoes so perilously high that models fell on the runway.
These clothes by Dries are modern and simple; it's almost like American sportswear: a tee shirt tucked into a skirt, a button shirt over a long skirt. But at the same time they are very European; you can just picture women in Paris wearing them in the hot summer. The clothes are clean and chic but new and different at the same time; that is the gift of a great designer. I like the unexpected colors that he combines, as if in a color block painting.
This show was held in a tent at the Palais Royal around the Fontaines de Bury. Cathy Horyn at The Times says the silver ball jewelry was inspired by the fountains. Ted and I were in Paris a couple of years ago and visited the Palais Royal, and we are going week! We are going first with some friends and neighbors to visit friends in Amsterdam, and then Ted and I are going on by train to Paris. I'm excited! Dries has a new store on the left bank which I want to visit.