Friday, July 29, 2011

A New York Minute

This is where the junk was piled up on the street.
The other night I was walking home down West 15th Street in Chelsea. As I got near our building I saw that in front of the building across the street where Susan Sarandon lives was a big pile of junk out on the curb for garbage pick-up. There was furniture and books and bags heaped up on the sidewalk. My heart leapt a beat. Who knew what treasures awaited? There were already a woman and a man on the scene and they had a station wagon car which they were filling up together. I approached the mass of junk and immediately I spied in the middle a shelf stand made of bamboo with three wooden shelves. I love old bamboo things which look antique and Asian at the same time; they remind me of 611. The woman was going through stuff but she didn't seem interested in or hadn't noticed the bamboo stand. In black Prada monk straps I stepped carefully and quickly through the bags of junk and plucked the bamboo stand out of the middle and slipped it under my arm. The woman looked up. "That's nice," she said. "Isn't it?" I said.
I ran across the street to get home with my find. A taxi cab pulled over on the side and the man in the back of the cab yelled at me, "Be careful! Do you want to get hit by a car!" I looked over and it was my friend Mario Buatta in the back of the cab paying his fare. I was surprised to see Mario there, in front of my building, because he lives on the Upper East Side, but he gets all over town. He got out of the cab and we had big hellos. I hadn't seen him for a while and he looked good. He said he was going to a party for the Lycée Françias or some such thing in a building a few doors down on 15th. "What is that you've got there?" he said and I explained. He nodded approvingly. "Put it next to a chair with books and magazines on it," he suggested. "You'd pay some money for that in a shop on the Upper East Side," he said, "You did good." The ultimate compliment from a great American decorator.

When I got home I washed it off with soap and water. Here it is in the apartment. We don't really have room for it anywhere, but we'll figure it out. Or move! It looks like someone tried to paint the bottom of it green, but with a pile of magazines or books on the shelf, no one will see that. When TD came home he said he loved it.

I love the price.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Head First

Victoria Baran wearing a fascinator made by her sister Vanessa.
Through the post came a photo of a hat that my friend Vanessa Baran, who is a stylist, made for her sister Victoria to wear to a wedding in Pennsylvania. I would love to see someone wear that at a summer wedding. Well, it's not a hat actually, it's a fascinator which is a term we here in the United States became familiar with during the wedding of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. A fascinator is like an old-fashioned cocktail hat. It doesn't sit on the head like a regular hat but instead is attached with bobby pins or a strap. Decorative and amusing, it's meant to complement an outfit at a dressy occasion.
Vanessa explained to me that she and Victoria had gone hat shopping in Soho, but everything was quite expensive. "We're not going to do this," Vanessa said to Victoria, who is a senior associate at Robert A. M. Stern Architects. "I will make you a something."
Vanessa started with a small form shaped like a yarmulke. "I paraded all through those notion shops on 38th Street," she said. "I knew what I wanted but it was hard to find. I was thinking of a garden with three different kinds of flowers but then I found the pink feathers which matched the peony."
"I didn't have a wig form so I made it right on Victoria's head with a glue gun. We were supposed to leave the house at 1:00 so I sat her down at noon to proceed along with our project. It was really touch and go but it gave me great inspiration." Vanessa attached the fascinator with an elastic strap and since has added a pretty ribbon. She plans to make more under the name Fascinators by Baraness, and can be found at
When I met Vanessa many years ago she was working at Vogue, in the research/fact-checking department I think. We went one Christmas to a party at her apartment on the upper west side which had a long terrace facing the Hudson River. She had decorated a big Christmas tree with birds of paradise flowers and small clear plastic bags filled with water and gold fish which sparkled as they swam among the white Christmas tree lights. It was a jaw-dropping sight, I'll tell you that. Now Vanessa works as a floral and props designer:

I love a girl who can create a hat one hour before the big event; she is doing her part to make the world more beautiful.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Farmer's Market in July

Straw hat
I just love this time of year. I wish it was summer year 'round. Do you think we should move to Florida? The Union Square Farmer's Market is now in full swing and we are just back from our Saturday morning trip to stock up on vegetables and flowers.

From the west side, we cut through Union Square to get to the Durr's flower truck on the east side. Pale, poetic variegated hydrangeas are now blooming in Union Square; you know I'm a fan of hydrangeas.

The Durrs now have rows and rows of flowers from which to choose.

Another stand offered these Denver daisies. I like the name of that.

This stand sells lovely lilies. We get a small bouquet pictured in the front and put the single flowers around the house – they smell heavenly when you pass by.

Sunflowers – $2 each, 3 for $5.

Piles of carrots and big radishes in vivid hues.

I'm waiting for the tomatoes to come!
Have a great summer weekend.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Natural Southampton

Perfect beach day (click on photos to enlarge)
Last weekend TD and I went to Southampton to visit my brother Thom and his family. Boy, is that a beautiful corner of the world. The long lanes down to the beach are lined by tall green hedges that reveal peeks of grand old houses. In the village of Southampton, the houses are covered with grey weathered shingles and trimmed in white. Everything is pristine and preserved, picturesque and perfect.
One day I took a bike ride into town. These flower boxes decorate the village streets – I love the combination of the red, white and blue flowers for the Fourth of July.

There were clouds of hydrangeas everywhere.

These are hydrangeas outside of Thom's house. I just love hydrangeas – they are romantically old-fashioned. I think there were hydrangeas at 611.

We took a long bike ride along Meadow Lane which runs along the ocean beach. This is Shinnecock Bay. The landscape reminded me of Martha's Vineyard. It's great that this extremely valuable real estate has not been developed.

A family walked along the little beach there and played with their dog.

Meadow Lane is strung with mansions – Calvin Klein is building a big house there which is right now only a construction site. But this was my favorite house – it looked like an old English stone country cottage smothered with overgrowth.

Further on down Meadow Lane we passed Saint Andrew's Dune Church which is built right on the dunes with the ocean on the other side. It has that similar, charming, English vernacular country architecture. Pretty place to get married.

Later in the day we went to the beach. Spectacular weather.

On Sunday it was a little overcast so we took a car ride through East Hampton to Montauk where we had delicious lobster rolls at a cute and popular restaurant called Lunch. Then we had a quick walk through East Hampton. Here at the Ralph Lauren store, a rainbow of lavender, blue and white hydrangeas welcomed shoppers.

Flowers plus art: White impatiens mixed with modern sculpture at Gallery Valentine.

It was a pretty dreamy weekend, quiet and relaxing. Many thanks to our hosts.
Hope you had a great holiday weekend too.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Liberty in New York State

TD and I marching down Fifth Avenue in the Pride Parade with Judson Memorial Church.
Last Friday night TD and I were sitting on the couch watching live on tv the New York State Senate vote count in Albany on the bill to legalize same-sex marriage, and were elated when it passed. Thanks to our friend Senator Tom Duane who has been working on the legislation for many years and to our great governor Andrew Cuomo who was committed to getting the bill passed, same sex couples can now be legally married in New York, the third largest state in the nation – hooray! I have to say that above and beyond the marriage issue it feels like a validation in terms of equality that I never thought that I would see in my lifetime. It feels great.
On Saturday TD and I walked over to the Stonewall Bar where the gay rights movement began in 1969 with the Stonewall riots when the patrons there fought back against the harassing police. When we walked up to the bar I noticed a tv truck with a satellite dish across the street. TD and I had our picture taken out front by our friend Sherry and we went inside for a beer. I had never been inside Stonewall before – tiny little place with a low ceiling and a long bar. Unlikely spot for the launch of a civil rights movement. By the time we were walking home I was getting emails and phone calls – we were on the NBC Nightly News. You can see us in the background having our picture taken on the clip at about 33 seconds.

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On Sunday we marched down Fifth Avenue in the Pride Parade with Judson Memorial Church. We had to wait a long time to start so I watched some other groups go by. Here is Frontrunners – the gay running group. TD and I were both members, and that's how we met – 26 years ago – so I have a sentimental spot for the Frontrunners group.

Finally our group stepped off into the parade. It is always a thrill to walk down the center of Fifth Avenue and see all the way down to Washington Square in the Village. How often can you walk down the middle of Fifth Avenue?

At 29th Street the members of Marble Collegiate Church handed out cups of cold water and a message:

It was a great weekend in New York City. There was the feeling that justice had been done. I applaud the Republican lawmakers who crossed party lines to give all New Yorkers who love one another the freedom to marry.
Have a happy Fourth of July weekend!