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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hurricane Katrina: The Lite Version

Ten Year Anniversary. Visits from Commanders-in-Chief Present and Past.

Across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, we experienced a lite version of Katrina. We were with a few neighbors in the library of a Catholic High School a few blocks away. The then mayor was upstairs in the language lab with her Spanish teacher husband.

We were there for two (three?) days. The plumbing went out after the first day.

Several members of our group walked through streets filled with downed trees and downed wires to report back on the condition of everyone's houses. The whole area smelled like gas for a few days. No power, no phone service, and even after the streets were cleared, no gas.

Within a few days, the Red Cross came with food. We lent our neighbor, who owned a generator, a window ac unit, and he let us sit in an air-conditioned space for an hour or two a day.

The second pic is the during, the view from the library; the rest are afters. The elegant woman in the orange windbreaker is our neighbor, Ha, now 95. She still looks like  a model on all occasions. The car with the doll is the work of our wealthy neighbors. And that's our house! Luckily, it is an old house, very strong, so the trees only made a hole and did not destroy the entire house.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Jacqueline de Ribes Cocktail Dress: How to Sell?

From my downscale shopping in Paris in June . . .
to upscale shopping my closet


 Many years ago, I acquired a Jacqueline de Ribes dress at one of my usual venues. I knew the name--probably from reading Vogue in the 1980s. (My memory was a veritable storehouse of miscellaneous info. Alas, not so much for recent things).  The dress had lingered for many months unsold. So I finally bought it. 

There's no size in it, but it fits Miss Em. She doesn't want it, not having a J de R lifestyle.

I first tried to sell it a few years ago. I had read that Didier Ludot, the famous Parisian vintage couture shop, was having a LBD show. I emailed a pic  and asked--in French that was corrected by Mr FS--if they would be interested. As usual--no reply.

Yesterday, I picked up an Architectural Digest from the FREE BOX at the library. Newest issue. I discovered that The Metropolitan Museum of Art is having a J d R show, featuring both her own designs and the chic stuff she wore (People with that caliber wardrobe don't follow the Kondo decluttering program--or I guess they love everything). 

So here's my question: how do I sell it? And for how much? It's the twin of this one, offered for $950 on 1st Dibs.

Thanks for any advice. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Shopping in Paris: A Shallow and Boring Post

Miss Em told me that we should have two email threads: one for travel/art and one for shallow concerns. This is a shallow post: shopping in Paris, summer 2015. We were also in Berlin and Amsterdam, but did not buy anything other than food and drink.

I had prepared for shopping in Paris by looking at the Monoprix site. I was--sort of--interested in some slouchy pants (Eileen Fisher type, 20 euros) and some knit linen pieces (also Eileen Fisher-esque, 20-25 euros). I was planning to wait for the sales near the end of my stay.

Shopping was jumpstarted, however: after a stressful delay and dash for our connection at JFK, we made it...but our luggage did not. AirFrance offered us 100 euros per person for necessities. Of course, this involved saving receipts and sending in paperwork after return.

Wearing our scuzzy clothing for a day after arrival (luggage showed up after 3 days) encouraged us to take up the offer, even though I tend to distrust such offers, having been burned many times before. In we went to Monoprix where we each spent a hundred euros: Mr FS on some jeans and a linen shirt and a hairbrush and me on the slouchy pants and some linen pieces.  We still haven't gotten the money back (though it is supposedly en route, after many hours on the phone...usual bureaucracies).

Two weeks later, les soldes began and everything we bought was 1/2 off. So I bought ANOTHER pair of slouchy pants and some scarves. Miss Em arrived and we bought her some things too. She's been in Serbia longer than anticipated and her clothing is in rags.

Our only other shopping was at a nearby market (rue de la Convention--not a fancy area). We got Miss Em a vegan bag  for 35 euros (how I hate that term) that closely approximated a leather bag she saw in Vienna that was 300 euros. The seller was the quintessential French man. He said to Miss Em (add heavy accent) "I would like to give you a kiss. Not a French kiss, because your parents are there." 

At the same market was a vendor where there were a zillion people. Miss Em and I investigated: Spanx! Miss Em and I joined the fray and got some bras for 10 euros (not sexy ones, comfy ones).

Then we started a fray of our own. In a big vat of assorted tee shirts (2 for 5 euros!), I spied a Majestic tee (these sell for around 90 euros). I started searching. A French woman behind me saw what I had and said to her companion: "Majestic!" Then they started frantically searching. Suddenly, we were surrounded.

Mr FS asked Miss Em what was going on. She said proudly "Mama started it." Miss Em decided she didn't like the Majestic so we put them back. 

I had a nice chat with two women at the market. The first was French: she practiced her English; I practiced my French. I asked her if one could bargain at the market. She said non. Then I spoke to a French-American woman who seemed to be a Spanx addict. She had an extremely-plastic-surgeried face, a rare sight in Paris--at least at the places I go. She also said that one could not bargain at the markets.

I had a nice encounter with the Spanx-guy. He was unsure if I knew the difference between HAUT (tops--10 euros) and BAS (bottoms--8 euros). He asked me in French and English. Then I said in my perfect English: "My English is better than my French." I followed with the same sentence in my faulty French and received many compliments.

Since the exchange rate was so good I did take a look at Longchamp le pliage bags (78 euros vs $150 back home, even cheaper on the ugly summer sale colors) but decided to get a lower cost per wear on the one I already own.

That's it! There are ecstatic posts all over the internet on how cheap Hermes and other luxury brands are for US travelers now. Still, the thought of schlepping back a bunch of stuff gives me pause. I find shopping abroad a stressful activity in any case. Besides, I always want to start saving for the one really big ticket item on my list: plane fare for the next trip.

Do you shop when you travel?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Wonderful Book You Might Not Have Heard Of

There are good books and there are great books and there may be a book that is something still more: it is the book of your life. If you’re quite lucky, you may at some point chance upon a novel which inspires so close a kinship that questions of evaluation (Is this book better than merely good? Is it some sort of classic?) become a niggling irrelevance. Luck has everything to do with it. For the sensation I’m describing has its roots in a poignant, tantalizing feeling that this marvelous new addition to your existence, this indelible Presence, has arrived by serendipity. Anyone who cares seriously about fiction eventually will get around to The Brothers Karamazov orMadame Bovary or Pride and Prejudice or Moby-Dick or Don Quixote, and if you’re somebody whose closest literary attachment is to a book of this staple sort, the satisfaction you take from it will not be graced by the particular haunted feeling of good fortune I’m talking about; you will have, instead, the assurance of knowing that your keenest literary pleasures were preordained. One looks differently on the book of genius that, even in a long bookworm’s life, one might never have stumbled upon.
This is from Brad Leithauser's introduction to Independent People by Halldor Laxness.  Ive been meaning to recommend a few books people might not have heard of (and to elicit recommendations for books I might not have heard of). 
Like Leithauser, I picked up Independent People by accident, though not, as he did, on a hiking trip through Iceland. No, more prosaically, I picked up the book at a library sale. I had never heard of it. I was enticed by the publisher (Vintage Books) and the remark by Jane Smiley on the cover: I love this book. It is an unfolding wonder of artistic vision and skill--one of the best books of the twentieth century. I cannot imagine any greater delight than coming to Independent People for the first time. 
While you are reading it, you might wonder what makes it so great. It took me a while. Often, I felt like I was trudging through this long book, much as the main character trudges through life. All will become clear on the last page.

 An interesting sidenote: The novelist Ann Patchett opened a bookstore in Nashville. 

In an Atlantic article, she mentioned that she did not like the name--Parnassus Books--suggested by her partner-to-be. She had always fantasized about owning a bookstore called Independent People--"after the great Halldor Laxness novel about Iceland and sheep." 

Well, in honor of Patchett, I'm not going to link to Amazon! Buy it from an independent bookstore or do the frugal thing and check it out of the library. My library doesn't own a copy, but they would buy one if I requested it. I really should as a service to other readers in my area. 

Do you know of any books you might never have heard of?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Farewell to Thredup and Others

Thank heavens my semester is starting up soon! I want to return to thinking about the beauty of literature and how best to convey it...


Last spring, I wrote some positive things about the new and newish resale sites. I even have another positive post that I never got around to publishing.

Just as well: the bloom is off the rose. Twice has been purchased by Ebay. Luckily, I had used my credit, but I witnessed a mad scramble among those with credits to use up.

Tradesy has gotten very expensive. Most of the items seem to be listed by professional resellers with access to outlet stores. I have no problem with that, but the prices are generally high.

Thredup: The worst for last? The site announced a lowering of prices last spring. As far as I can tell, the brand I like--Eileen Fisher--is about 50% HIGHER than it was last spring. I did buy one thing recently though: skirted leggings. I paid the $6.00 shipping fee on top of the listed price.

The thing is: I ALWAYS wear an S in Eileen Fisher. The item I bought was listed as an S. It is an EXTRA SMALL PETITE. That's two mistakes. I am probably not going to return and pay the ridiculous restocking fee. So look for these on ebay one of these days..

I emailed and await their response. I expect the typical customer service: you are welcome to return for credit blahblahblah. But I doubt I will order from them again. In fact, like the Swedes in Beowulf I have a long memory. So I will add Thredup to the list of brands and stores that I don't buy from. 

I think this is a message from the universe to USE WHAT I HAVE. OK. I'll try to listen.

Have you used (as seller or buyer) any of these resale sites? Have you had any excellent experiences?