Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Happened To Hello?

This should be required reading.
 I was lucky enough to get to spend some time with my best friend last week. It’s a rare occurrence since we live 1004 miles away from each other (it’s those extra four miles that really hurt). She’s married and has a sweet little girl now, so she and I took the little munchkin with us out for breakfast. The kid really likes toast. It makes her easy to please. We had a lovely breakfast. I wish we could eat breakfast together every day. It was a diner so we paid on the way out. She paid first and then headed out to the car to start getting Little Miss Toast in the car – naturally that takes more time than buckling in an adult – leaving me alone to fend for myself. Was I attacked by bacon? No.
            “Is that your daughter?”
            “No, she’s my friend’s.”
            “Oh. Do you have any kids?”
            “Are you married?”
            “Why not?”
SERIOUSLY BUDDY?! Just let me pay for my breakfast. At that moment, an animated vignette was playing out in my brain where all of the diner’s dinnerware was flying off the shelves at this guy’s head. How inappropriate was that interrogation? He didn’t even know my name! It was almost as offensive as the bad posture, pushed out gut, beckoning of the “AW When are you due??” question. NEVER ask a woman when she’s due. NEVER! THREE times(!)I’ve been asked if I was pregnant. And they were all in the course of a month, and once even by another woman. No folks – not pregnant – JUST drinking too much. I think the response I gave to the woman was “Uh, actually, I’m just fat.” Ludicrous.
            Similarly, women who are actually pregnant seem to have the issue that their own body becomes public property. People they don’t know and will never know all of a sudden believe it is their God given right to fondle these women’s tummies. Baby belly molestation, I say. What are they to do? I’m sure what they want to do is smack the bejesus out of these strangers – scream “Get your hands off me! I’m not a petting zoo!”
            It baffles me that in a society where people have lost the ability to converse with strangers there still exists this over the line inappropriate social interaction. How do we get back to the basics? “Hi, I’m Bob. What’s your name? Nice to meet you.” Little kids know how to do this. What is wrong with the grownups? I met a really polite homeless person in Chicago. His name was Tony. He hadn’t forgotten any of these formalities. I stopped to give him some money and look him in the eyes (as I suggest you do every homeless person you encounter – please acknowledge their existence. They’re not invisible). We had a short chat, but it began with “Hi, I’m Tony. I’ve been homeless for two years. They call me Tony the homeless person. What’s your name?” Was that difficult? No. Then he called me an angel, which was sweet and unnecessary. The conversation ended with “Bye. Have a good day!”
            Miss Manners would have approved. The conversation had a beginning, middle, and an end. People should talk to one another. I don’t understand why everyone’s so afraid to interact with strangers. We have more in common than we let on. I just wish that there would be a little bit of propriety in the interaction. Does it need to be taught by the parents? Can people find it somewhere else? I remember one client at Ferragamo who told me that he had beautiful feet and that it ran in his family. The customer is always right and sometimes you just have to smile and nod when the occasional oddball goes off on something like that. He really got out of line though. His son was with him, whose name I can’t remember. We’ll call him Jake. “Jake, show her your feet! Show her! Take your shoes off!” Oh man, I really don’t need to look at your teenage kid’s feet. Please just buy the shoes and leave. He was taking his socks off. “Do you want to touch them? Aren’t they lovely?” Yes sir, they are nice feet. No, I do not need to touch them. What is wrong with you? What is wrong with people? Could we take a few steps back and at least pretend to be civilized?

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's Fashion Friday!: A Highbrow Nose

           All joking aside, I don’t like to toot my own horn. Now I am really chuckling to myself
on the inside since I am sitting in an airport on my way home from an audition where I did exactly that. What I mean is that I am at heart a fairly modest person. So, when I tell you I could sell someone his own foot it is because that is a fact, not because I am bragging. (I must also interject that I wouldn’t do that, and that is one of many reasons I am no longer in the luxury retail business). That being said, I can’t remember the last time I was out-charmed at my own game. No one has “sold” me anything in a long time, that is until this past Sunday.
Eau Lente Eau de Toilette 50 ml $88
            Chicago is one of my favorite cities. I love walking around near the river and the Wrigley building – the architecture is so much different that what you see in New England. I had passed over the river and was walking north, and I was hot. Of course, it’s me, so, I knew the location of a small mall-like building where I could pop in for some air-conditioning (and a walk through Nordstrom). I don’t usually stop in the fragrance section because I already have a bunch of fragrances that I wear and like. (When I found some allergy medications that allowed me to wear them without sneezing or getting headaches it was a pretty exciting day). The Nordstrom on Michigan Ave happens to carry Diptyque, however, and that is not something I can get in Mass.
Limited Edition Minä - Infini $65
"woods, incense, and spices" 
            Some of you may know of Diptyque because of their candles, a cult favorite for years (Isn’t that an odd saying? “Cult favorite.” I don’t think the Moonies used Diptyque candles, and they probably weren’t burning them in Waco TX either. I guess that’s one of those superficial monikers the thinking folk aren’t supposed to overanalyze). People who don’t belong to cults also enjoy Diptyque candles - my mother got one for Christmas, and it has been pleasantly wafting through our family room for months (she’s savoring it). My favorite would have to be the Feu de Bois candle, which smells like firewood. Yankee Candle can take their food-scented candles and eat them. If I want my house to smell like baked goods, I’ll bake something. UGH. Those cake-scented candles are the worst. I feel sick just thinking about them. I’m straying from the path…
            What really swept me in and held my nose hostage were the parfums, and the fact that Michael kept spraying them for me to breathe in while telling me the stories of each one. Product knowledge is a dangerous weapon. When I encounter a skilled seller I must put myself on the offensive – beat them at their own game. I sell the seller the idea of me NOT buying anything, so that I don’t end up leaving poorer. They don’t know what’s happened when I’m done. They’ve played the game right, asked open-ended questions, and done all of the engaging like they were taught, but where is the sale? I have to tell you that I lost this battle. Michael won. Michael won with his charm, and his ability to keep me standing there for at least a half hour, and because these fragrances just smell INTOXICATING. Each one is distinctive and alluring, and not a single one smells like the cheap sorority girl you sat next to at the bar last night.
L'Ombre dans L'Eau solid perfume $48
            I tried on their newest one, Eau Moheli – it was absolutely divine. I can’t even remember what it started as because I am so taken with the light floral scent it faded to by the end of the day. Philosykos, a fig scent, is one of the most interesting fragrances I’ve come across, and not a thing like anything you would find in pedestrian locations such as Target or Home Goods with the word “FIG” printed across it. This was delightfully sweet, and yet not overpowering. It didn’t smell like food, it smelled like sunshine. I also really enjoyed L’Ombre dans L’Eau. These all come in Eau de Toilette, in simple bottles with sketched artwork. There are a variety of sizes for some as well, so people like me, who wish to have many fragrances at their beck and call, can get smaller ones and buy a few. Some even come in solid perfumes to be rubbed on the pulse points. The packaging for such is a near inch in diameter lustrous, black coffer, so heavy in your hands it just feels rich.
            I didn’t purchase any of the prior scents. Michael directed me to a collection of citrus notes we had not yet sampled. These were the pièce de résistance. Citrus is perfect for summer because it’s not heavy. The last thing anyone wants
L'Eau des Hesperides Rollerball $48 - lovely packaging,
isn't it?
to smell in 95-degree heat is an over perfumed 95-year old woman (or the Abercrombie & Fitch store). I was already wearing something at this point, and like I’ve said, I’d been out charmed, so I was going to be purchasing a fragrance without trying it on. This is generally a bad idea, especially for someone like myself who, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, when sprayed with Chanel Chance ends up smelling like a freshly powdered donut. Michael actually sold me the one he liked, L’Eau des Hesperides, and not the one I would have picked, and my arm has been glued to my nose since. Charming AND skilled. If you like to smell good, I highly recommend you investigate the Diptyque fragrances. And since you’re probably going to have to order them anyway, you should give Michael at the Michigan Ave Nordstrom a call.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Hero's Life

Someone get a hose... or actually, maybe just let it burn.

       Taking auditions might be one of my least favorite activities. I find it to be the antithesis of what we aim to do as musicians. It is a completely sterile process – playing a chunk of a piece of music, without any of the other players, behind a screen where you can’t engage with the listener in any way other than telekinesis, and all after you’ve spent an interminable amount of time alone in a room worrying about the five minutes you are going to spend doing what I’ve just described (to the soundtrack of other jerks in other rooms playing their bits as loud and high as possible in an effort to let you know they're better than you), and how those five minutes will determine the course of the rest of your life. No – no pressure. None at all. Just hope that you have worked as hard as you possibly could and picked up a few leprechauns and pots o’ gold on the way to the audition. (Make sure you hide those pots o’ gold under the mattress for when your orchestra goes bankrupt (if you do win the job).
          So, I got to do this again this week. I’m a glutton for punishment. I keep trying. Why? If you figure it out, let me know. Some of us just don’t give up. You do get better at taking auditions, at least, even if you don’t like the process. One of the excerpts I had to play in this audition was from Ein Heldenleben. For those of you not privy to the trivia of the classical music world, I have just mentioned a tone poem by Richard Strauss titled “A Hero’s Life.” The horn parts are really hard (and a lot of fun) and show up on most audition lists. When I play things like this, that so obviously have an image in place, I find that it’s a good idea to put that image in your head before/while you play. IE if you're supposed to be playing music about The Blue Danube, you probably shouldn’t be thinking about Bob Barker. Right? 
            I get ready to play this excerpt. I’m excited because I’ve just played the best version of the Brahms 3 excerpt I’ve ever played in my life. I am excited to continue. I’m thinking HERO. THIS is what immediately comes to mind. On July 4th we have a longstanding tradition of spending the day across the street at my other family’s house for a barbeque. It was a REALLY hot day this year – maybe 90 out at least. So the young girls were in the kiddy pool staying cool and the grownups were all sitting in lawn chairs melting. It was very low key. We had eaten our grilled foods and we had eaten our desserts. No one was moving.  All of a sudden, flames were shooting up from the table with the desserts on it - fallen citronella torch. Uncle Bob and George got up and rushed over to the table and were taking a smother-like approach to it (although, I must say it looked more like bemusement than an actual firefighting “approach”). There was a lot of hand patting and disconcerted grimacing going on. The fire wasn’t actually going away. I would say it was growing. Rose, our six-year old wonder girl, looked over from the kiddy pool, where she was playing with the hose, and jumped up and ran over to the table and calmly yelled, “I got it!” She pointed the hose towards the flames and quite efficiently put out the fire without assistance, while the melting adults in the peanut gallery watched in amazement.
            The rest of the afternoon Rose could be heard whispering things like, “I’m a hero. I saved the day. I saved my dad. That sure was risky what I did. Boy, I’m really a hero.” So, yes, when I got ready to play the opening to Ein Heldenleben, I thought of little Rose putting out a fire. And boy did that excerpt start off going better than I’d EVER played it in an audition. And then I got to the rest in the middle, and I went to come in on the high B flat and it was like I was fat kid on roller skates, carrying a tray of milk shakes, who happened upon a slick of banana peels when I tried to play that note – shit went EVERYWHERE. I finished the excerpt, but all I wanted to do was laugh, and really hard. And I think that the reason I wanted to laugh is because my idea of a hero is a six-year old girl and six year olds fall down! THIS is progress. THIS is having priorities in the right place. Why? Because that note DIDN’T MATTER! It’s just a note, and it was just an audition. What matters is that six-year old girls can put out fires and that we can laugh when we make mistakes. I’m glad that Rose is my hero, a little girl with her whole life ahead of her and the ability to do anything she wants with it. 
            On a somber note, my colleague Rick Menaul passed away suddenly this week. I almost feel disrespectful calling him a colleague, as I have nowhere near his wisdom or experience. I never once saw Rick doing anything but smiling. He had a great attitude about horn playing. He once told me that he thought you should be able to get all of your practicing done in an hour a day. At that point, I was still in high school, we weren’t yet colleagues, and I thought he was crazy. Looking back, I was crazy. He’d already figured it out – there’s more to life than just practicing. HE would have laughed at my audition. I loved playing with him and while it didn’t happen enough, I will still miss him terribly. Today I dedicate my thoughts on living life to its fullest to you, Rick. You weren’t just a great musician; you were a truly kind guy. A rare bird indeed. Such a loss.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's Fashion Friday!: Tom Binns Belongs In the Trash Bin

It’s hot. I’m cranky. I want to complain. I just don’t get Tom Binns. Yeah, okay, some of it’s kind of fun costume jewelry. It’s colorful like an elementary school kid’s clothes after an outing with some finger paint and sidewalk chalk, but am I supposed to take that seriously? They clearly want me to take it seriously with the price tags they’ve attached. It’s like the Pandora nightmare all over again, except magnified with toxic Spidey-Sense endowing chemicals. Take the collection called “Electro Clash Nova.” Clearly, this is not geared towards Grandma. This necklace above is bright and would certainly look most brilliant with a black dress, but you could probably play it down with some ridiculous Lilly Pulitzer number in coral or orange. Would you want to though? Really? After you found out it was $2550?
           Painted pearl necklace. $415. I’m sorry, you did what to a bunch of pearls? You painted them?
Why didn’t you paint some plastic beads? Pearls are natural beauties.
Granted, I am not a fan of the white ones myself. That doesn’t mean you have to PAINT them. And then things just start to get ridiculous. For $1615, you can add a bunch of safety pins and crap to your pearl necklace. I vaguely remember some goth chicks wearing safety pins when I was in high school. That was edgy. And it cost a lot less. THEY were cool. Lauren Comeau, I have no idea where you are in the world, but I'm talking about YOU. YOU were cool.
  Okay, what in the name of all that is
holy is THAT? From the Rokoco Dumont collection for $990. And, please learn to spell “rococo” properly. All you’ve  done, Tom Binns, is ripped off the name of a textile designer in Sydney Australia. In addition to that monstrosity there are three other collections that I would describe as attempts at jewelry for girls who want people to think they are edgy or bad girls. There’s Barricade Babe, which has a barbed wire theme, Last Laugh – sporting imitation shark teeth, and Nophobia – HIDEOUS spider jewelry. Oh hell, I have to show you one of
these necklaces.
           They have a gold nail cuff for $450, but you know what? Cartier did that already (in the 70's). AND BETTER. Sorry guys, you’re not only ripping off textile designers, you’re ripping off The King of Kings.

Really? Prices aside, you'd choose this? Instead of the one below?
Obvious winner.

I saw in the company description that Tom Binns got his inspiration from the Dada movement, but absolutely nothing about his jewelry even remotely makes me think of any piece of art I have seen, Dada or otherwise. It completely falls short on every front. And with those price tags, I don’t know why ANYONE would spend their money there.
           Dear Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Piranesi, if I EVER have any kind of expendable income for beautiful jewels and pretty things to adorn the lovely fingers, ears, and neck I am stuck with for eternity, I PROMISE you, I will not spend that money at Tom Binns. I will take the dollars directly to your gifted sales associates so that they may assist me in glittering myself the F up with diamonds and sapphires galore. Sincerely, SB.