Friday, January 26, 2007

Real Again

The gin cocktails and Cosmopolitans at “Gramercy Tavern” beat the camp Kool Aid. We “Pearl Girls” know that much. And our clothes and style have become a hell of a lot more interesting (not to mention there’s simply more fabric); “Missoni” knits, snug jeans, “Marc Jacobs” flounced black skirts replace our “Gap” short shorts and tiny cotton tanks (come to think of it, the men might have offered us more free cocktails in our previous style incarnation…). The drinks and the clothes help to establish our new “station” in life, “station” being a much more palatable, refined word than “place” or “position” (the former and the latter rife with sexual implications). The Junior League wouldn’t like that. But, when you have 12 years to catch up on, where do you start, what do you highlight, what do you omit?  If you were given the chance to delete the embarrassing, the hurtful, the botched paragraphs from your life story, would you do it? Would you choose to tell a safe, forgettable, impressive tale?
Tea in Recoleta with the widowed Argentines… Kissing a sailor in Capri… “This little wine bar on a side street near Rue de Vernueille serves a breathtaking Margaux by the glass…” “Candace took a sip of her champagne, smiled and told me that any female narrator under the age of 30 was bound to be labeled as…” I throw my head back and laugh.
Yeah, I bragged and spoke of my travels and people I don’t really know and then I waited. I couldn’t wait to hear what she would toss my way. Oh, God, wait, she’s being honest? Heartbreak and failure, mornings in med school that begin at 4 a.m. and end 32 hours later, nights on bed with the “Food Network” and fried chicken?
There are friends who want the rough copy—not the red-lined, notes in the margin, edited version of me—but it’s just so hard to discern who these friends are nowadays. I feel like I’ve streamlined, becoming a jacket cover blurb of my former self. New York, sink or swim, baby! Put the best, Manolo-clad foot forward even if you can’t afford them and you’d prefer to run around in your stinky, year-old sneakers.
“Balthazar” at midnight with French fries and water—no more red wine—and I’m “me.” Lord, it’s sad that it takes the witching hour and a “Pearl Girl” to make me real again. But, it does and I begin to write the real chapters of my life on that bar stool and she reads them and likes them and asks for me to tell her more.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Pearl Girls

We had just been kissed. Alcohol didn’t figure into our lives. The “future” was the Homecoming Dance and a city named Paris we didn’t know and wading in the river, wondering what lie ahead. Our gaze was up, up and out, rosy, we never looked down. We didn’t pay any mind to the “V’s”—the submerged rocks that created eddies of white water. In our sandals, we ran through the shallow water, oblivious, not yet aware that the things you don’t see can kill you. The jagged edge in the middle of the stream doesn’t compare to what lies beneath.
Steinbeck set the course of our friendship: “Canary Row,” “Tortilla Flats, “The Pearl.” Our rusted little cabins were named after his works. Quite a literary setting for two fourteen year old girls from the American South, don’t you think? It suited us just fine. We were friends of a different sort, the “Pearl Girls.” That’s what happens when you’re dropped in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains, accepted at face value, not obliged to talk about family drama or what kind of car Daddy drives.
The friendships, and days, are simple and full.
Twelve years (168 bottles of wine, loves won and lost, 2 semi-careers, 15 rounds of Brie, continent hopping, innumerable lonely Sundays) later, she visits me in New York…

Saturday, January 13, 2007

He Grew Up

A little bit about last night…
We celebrated everything at a one-room Mexican joint barely bigger than my apartment. She wanted somewhere in the neighborhood, he didn’t care—just so long that it was a break from pasta and red wine. He was in town from Rome.
The friends chose. We set our sights on ‘uncomplicated’ and ‘real’—the former being the converse of their relationship, the latter explaining why it finally worked. The room was small and warm and for the longest time we were the only customers. Hot pink and white-checked table cloths, cool metal chairs, salty chips in plastic baskets, saucers of thin, piquant salsa. Margaritas were small and $5 and, for once, she was good. Hers was nothing more than lime juice, water, sweetener.
She’s pregnant, newly engaged (yes, in that order) and luminous. Everything has come full circle for her. It’s beautiful. You see, she’s 39 and didn’t think it would happen. But she’s made me realize that things can and do work themselves out—at God’s pace, not ours. He put his arm around her (the Italian, not God), both weary and excited from the flight and the news and spoke of their bambino. They talked about him trying to give her a “very, very good Christmas gift” and that it had worked. “Made in Italy” should be stamped on the baby’s bottom, we joked. April means a wedding at St. James-by-the-Sea and then to find an apartment together in Milan. She insists on a washer and dryer for the cotton diapers and an air-conditioner for the hot months. They’ll have a Virgo baby and it feels to be a boy. She speaks in hushed tones with the waiter but I can hear her; she wants her mole sauce on the side because she read somewhere that chocolate is bad for the baby. So dear (and probably wrong).
I’m proud of her, of them, and that she didn’t put up with his nonsense and left him when she needed to. He came back, across the Atlantic in his time (or God’s time) and became a man. He grew up. They’re having a baby and a life together.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


joan1.JPGA good night includes Joan Rivers… and 80’s trannie club kids, sequins, cabaret numbers, gratis bubbly. Thanks, Michael Musto, for the book party (and 2-hour photo op). If only I could enlarge this picture so you could see just how fabulous Joan looks at the ripe ol’ age of __ (insert guess here).
She’s failed–daughter’s estrangement, husband’s suicide, canned talk shows, bankrupt business ventures–and she’s survived. I respect that. At least she stuck her neck out there and tried. Can you say the same? Can I?
“What?! Joan Rivers? I bet she was rude, am I right? Was it scary lookin’ that plastic surgery marvel in the eyes?” Mamma shrieked into the phone.
“No, she was very sweet and I respect her life stor–”
“The family’s not going to care about that. Now tell me about the collapsed nostrils and implants…”
Ah, yes, of course it’s about those cheekbones and that nose and the vast expanse of taught, creaseless skin. Say what you want, her neck looked beautiful to me. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Discipline, Discomfort… Kid Leather Boots

I haven’t written about me and the city in so long I hardly know where to begin…
The weather, fantastic. Was it really 70 degrees on Saturday, Broadway warm and breezy?
My friends are delightful as ever, one after the other gleefully announcing that their boyfriends and husbands delivered late Christmas gifts—babies. Yes, all the lady friends are enceinte and tragically unable to share a bottle of “Hitching Post” with their twenty-something neighbor. But, I’m elated for them (and wisely stockpiling my booze money so I can afford birthday gifts for all the Virgo/Libra babies comin’ to town).
The boots in that Madison Avenue window have gone on super sale. I can finally afford to channel Catherine Zeta-Jones, circa “Zoro,” in black kid leather and jaunt over to “Payard” for my ritual post-shopping indulgence—a pistachio macaroon and an espresso, tight.
That’s my superficial January. My reflective January—the one that makes me consider my mistakes, my clean breaks, my desires, my regrets—is a little more complicated. Is it possible to start anew? Do I need to reconfigure my dreams in order to make them more attainable? Are we all making grand promises in the month of January simply to mitigate the previous year’s failures? Or, can some of us (read: me) really stick to our favorite maxims, the ones typed out and tacked to the refrigerator between our First Grade school picture and a “Tiffany’s” jewelry advertisement?
“Discipline is remembering what you want.”
“In life, do not run away from discomfort.”
Here goes nothin.’