Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ring Out the Old Year!

What a way to toast the end of 2012! Champagne with a handsome man on the balcony at Ralph Lauren overlooking the Rhinelander mansion. What's not to love, right? We rang out the old year in style.

Hang onto your hats! There's so much to tell you about.  Here's the scoop on what we've been up to:

On the Saturday before Christmas, we went to the Whitney Museum's newest American exhibition "Calder to O'Keefe" and were dazzled by the video of Alexander Calder's circus on the 5th floor mezzanine. You must see it! They have a large number of the handmade figures on display, and they only bring them out every few years. The strong man in his leopard loin cloth and the knife-thrower with his exotic assistant were among our favorites. As the title implies, there were other fabulous art works there as well, but, children at heart, we couldn't help liking the um - adult toys - best.

In the Whitney's shop (we always have to linger lovingly at museum shops), this is what we found!!! NOUS!  (That's MOI, twice.)  In the Advanced Style book, for sale on a table front and center.

So does that make us museum pieces? (Surely we're old enough!)

We then went to the Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue and 71st Street. This gorgeous building, built from scratch to look like one of the Gilded Age mansions in the neighborhood, is the flagship women's store. Opened two years ago, it houses both the women's and home collections.  We especially love the photographs and illustrations that grace the walls throughout the store and up the grand staircases. (Shamefully, we recognized many, but identified few.)

We were thrilled to see our pal David Calle before he left for the holidays, and more thrilled still when he offered us a glass of bubbly. (Raise your hand if you remember when we first photographed David at the Yayoi Kusama opening at the Whitney.) The spectacular Rhinelander mansion behind us, Ralph Lauren's flagship men's and children's store, is the real McCoy.

Was it the hoards of last minute holiday shoppers or just the champagne kicking in? When we got to the top floor at Donna Karan, while Jean was drooling over the gorgeous accessories, Valerie made herself at home. (No, it wasn't the last minute anything, or the champagne. It was just the irresistible photo op in the way cool furnishings!)

Not all the Christmas season windows were about Santa and snow and beribboned boxes. The deep red leather lips at Emilio Pucci were a show stopper in the center window along with a pair of large, lashed eyes. One window had a set of lips cut right down the middle, so it could be placed on a corner.  Very surrealist. We just want to know who gets the lips when the window display changes!

Also on our route was the cloth toy plane above (let's call it soft sculpture, a la Claes Oldenberg) at Loro Piana. Doesn't this make a nice change from cold metal or brittle plastic? This is something a little boy (-- or girl -- we're not sexist) could take to bed and cuddle! In the background, it seemed a shame to cut out the perfect gifts for the traveling man in the gray flannel suit: matching gray sleeping mask and gray neck rest.

Did we mention that we saw author Tom Wolfe out and about looking quite dapper, window shopping in his caped coat, perpetual white suit and two-toned spectator lace-ups?

Before we could chase after him, fate intervened. As we looked down at the sidewalk in front of Etro, Valerie spied a purple wallet flat out on the sidewalk in front of us and retrieved it.  In it were a young woman's driver's license, Amex card and bank card. (Unsurprisingly, the money was already gone.) Jean first called 311 to connect to the local New York City police precinct who told us they would "inventory" it if we brought it in. We then called American Express and were transferred by their concierge to a gentleman who took down our contact information. Within minutes, they had tracked down the young woman's mother, who only lived a few blocks away. When she called Jean on her cell and offered to come meet us, we were in Calvin Klein, where Jean was swooning over shoes that she'd seen in photos of the runway show. To rescue Jean with all haste from harm's way, we said we'd drop off the wallet since we were just around the corner. Being good scouts, we delivered it to the father who met us in lobby on his way to walk their dogs. Kudos to Amex!

Here are the black patent Calvin Klein platform shoes Jean came perilously close to buying. They have a wonderfully sculpted sole.

And here's Jean with the kind of smile that makes her look as though she's already bought them.

The next afternoon, we met in the lobby of the Bowery Hotel for a brief Christmas eve get-together. In the lounge are roomy club chairs and sofas around a big hearth, complete with a blazing fire, right out a 1940s English (or faux English) movie. The decorated tree and turn of the 20th century lighting added to the festive atmosphere.

Having totally forgotten our agreement not to exchange gifts and make donations to each other's favorite charities, Jean presented Valerie with something they'd seen at the MOMA store but which had sold out -- the Giant Bounce. Not to fear, Jean did donate to the World Wildlife Fund on Valerie's behalf and Valerie donated to Social Tees Animal Rescue for Jean.

The idea of the Giant Bounce is to grasp it by the horns and ride it while bouncing up and down. Below, the Big Bounce unboxed and inflated. What Valerie would look like using it is an entirely different matter altogether! For her part, Valerie was, to use the wonderfully apt English expression, gob-smacked. She'd actually searched on line for the GB, to no avail. It's the rare person who can figure out what Valerie wants - or why. The Hope diamond itself could not have been more happily received. (Although, to be fair, the Hope diamond, sold at Christie's [sorry - we know that sounds cold, but that IS what she'd do with it, lovely as it is, and as astonishing a gift as it would be - particularly astonishing because Jean would have to pry it away from the Smithsonian], would pay off her mortgage and monthly maintenance for the rest of her life, even if she lived to be the oldest person in the world.)

Jean's Bowery Hotel basil margarita (below) was delicious. Valerie ordered a combination of cilantro-infused gin, lime syrup and champagne. The waiter cocked his eyebrow, since Valerie had requested a drink that was not on the menu. Only when she agreed to take responsibility for its failure did he acquiesce (saying that if it worked, maybe they'd add it to the menu). Like the margarita, it was delicious. We would have photographed the tasty and beautifully presented snacks too but unfortunately, we'd already devoured them by the time we'd thought to take photographs.

Days later, despite a snowy, icy mix of precipitation on the Saturday before New Year's, Jean's sister-in-law Maureen joined us to check out the amazing City Harvest gingerbread extravaganza at Le Parker Meridien Hotel.  (City Harvest collects excess prepared foods and redistributes them where needed.)  Forget whatever you thought you knew about gingerbread houses. This show turns all stereotypes on their ear. 
Take for example Baked Ideas' Lincoln Memorial with the president outfitted in nifty baby blue ear muffs, mittens and bow tie.

Butterfly Bakery's Chichen Itza temple was fabulously tropical.

Toji Tower was created by Kyotofu, which we remembered had also provided the baked treats at the recent Pleats Please book launch at Issey Miyake in Tribeca.

The Sphinx was produced by Rolling Pin Productions and Aperitiva Restaurant in Brooklyn.

North End Grill's imaginative Urqhart Castle included the added attraction of Loch Ness, complete with monster.

The piece de resistence of the exhibition was the product of the home team: The chef from Norma's Cafe in Le Parker Meridien created the Hurri-CRANE to commemorate the crane collapse that occurred on the building across the street and necessitated a shut down for blocks around the hotel for several days. (You might remember we photographed the real one for you at the end of October.)

The street scene at the base of the skyscraper captured the whole story -- police barriers, gawkers, taxis, street signs, the works!

Street level and skyscraper in perspective.

The real deal vs. the candy-coated version.

After a tasty lunch in the cozy lounge at Le Parker Meridien (Norma's Cafe was thronged, and the Christmas season wait was forty-five minutes), we headed to MOMA to view the new Abstraction exhibition, where there was another Christmas season wait just to buy tickets and check coats -- and we were on the members' lines! Jean and Maureen take a breather after the show.

Here we are before heading to the MOMA store.  (That's Valerie's fabulous felt fish from Etsy.)

New Yea's Eve seems like a natural stopping point for our lively tale! Come back and see us next Sunday when we tell you how we rang in the New Year. Oh, and do come and see us on Wednesday, too!


  1. I want to travel with you two!! You have the most interesting lives. Love all your posts. What a fun time you must have had. Those platform shoes- oh my!!

  2. I love best the story of the Giant Bounce and everything it says about your friendship - even more than I love the Candy Crane! Happy New Year!

  3. Sooo many things to squeal over in this post - fantastically creative gingerbread structures, the reuniting of a wallet and its owner, Ginormous platform shoes, Tom Wolfe sighting, and the best of all - GIANT BOUNCE!!! Now that's a gift that only a true friend would come up with ;)

  4. I hung onto my hat and it was quite a ride!