Sunday, July 25, 2010

Birthday Girl

Valerie says: I know some parents who take each of their children out of school one day annually to do something special with that child alone. The child gets to decide what they’ll do, and siblings are not invited. I love this idea. What a child learns in a day of undivided parental attention can be equally as important as anything he or she will learn in a day of conventional schooling. What that is is hard to define, but I suspect we would all benefit from spending a day (a month! a year!) attending to the indefinable in our lives.

I have my own special day – not surprisingly, my birthday. (birthday hats from If it’s a weekday, I always take the day off. The thought of working on the one day a year I can really call my own is distasteful. (I did work on my 23rd birthday. I was clerking at Waldenbooks. I wore a tee shirt with a single right side spaghetti strap(with no brassiere, because it was expected back then), and on the flesh not covered by a strap I wrote the number 23 in glue (in my best penmanship), and then covered the glue with gold dust eye shadow. I had to work, but I celebrated as only the young and heedless can. (What WAS I doing with gold dust eye shadow in the house?!)

I knew my 2010 birthday would be low key. I was (am) still recovering from foot surgery, so there was no question of doing anything physically challenging (like Bonnie Townsend, shown here skydiving last week on her 90th birthday!). I DID want to spend it with a friend, and who better than Miss Jean, who cleared her schedule to be my substitute parent.

The night before The Big Day, I finally realized that I wanted two things: to start with the inimitable mango margarita at Tabla, and then take a train to Brooklyn, where I had many childhood birthdays. I once lived only a ten minute walk from the Brooklyn Museum (photo by, so the plan was to have a margarita, see the Warhol and fashion shows at the Museum, stop briefly at the Botanical Gardens (photo, and make our way back to Manhattan.

(Jean says: As Valerie's birthday approached and she didn't have her usual battle plan, I began to get jumpy. I quizzed and coaxed and was positively thrilled and relieved when she finally made up her mind and picked stuff I really wanted to do too.)

When we arrived at Tabla and ordered our drinks, our adorable waitress asked us why the hats. Jean responded that they were in honor of my birthday. (Really, we wear hats just because, but birthdays are more plausible when one is quizzed for a reason.) This was great strategy on Jean’s part, because our waitress brought us a birthday gift of two miniature watermelon mojitos to try. (Jean says: Tabla's mango margaritas are frozen with a Slurpee-like consistency and a vibrant orange color. Since they are "seasonal", we have to get them when we can from late April through September. I was sorely disappointed in the Metropolitan Museum's version which paled in comparison. Once we'd ordered and our margaritas arrived, we cracked up when the complimentary mojitos arrived. The subway ride to Brooklyn was a blur. Luckily, Valerie was a native and could navigate on auto-pilot.)

Before the drinks arrived, Jean presented me with the wonderful card of two ancient twins. We don’t look much like that yet, but we’re working on it.

Jean had another surprise up her sleeve – or rather on the tip of her tongue. Between these two surprises, I was just about falling off the edge of my seat with laughter. Jean has transitional lenses, and in the sun she looks like a famous TV and movie character. On her tongue, she had inscribed the sign of Vorro. (Jean says: Valerie's birthday is always a celebration. I'd had a blueberry popsicle at the beach the day before that turned my tongue blue. I remembered a line from the film "Badlands" with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek in which he murders her family and they take off across the prarie on the lam. Sissy's character talks about writing letters with her tongue on the roof of her mouth. I figured writing the letter "V" for Valerie's birthday on the roof of my mouth would be tough to show off - without a tongue depressor and a flashlight! So, I took a magic marker and wrote a big "V" on my tongue. Only later when I saw the photos did I think that I looked like the revolutionary character in the fantasy film "V" - who also sported a Zorro-like hat, cape and mask. The look on Valerie's face when I stuck out my tongue was priceless. It was a blast. It lasted all day.)

Well (reprises Valerie), we wound up at the Brooklyn Museum of Art (as it’s now called) rather later than we expected, and probably happier than we expected, too.

On our arrival, we made the obligatory stop at the gift shop. This is always good strategy, too. It gets the shopping part of the trip off the agenda right away so you can focus your full concentration on the art. More than once we’ve left our gift shop visit till the end, and have been rushed out or, worse yet, have found that the gift shop closes before the museum. A trip to the museum is like a great dinner, and the gift shop is the dessert. Who said “Life is short: eat dessert first”? That person knew that museum gift shops can sell out of The Thing You Want, or can close early.

Then up we went to see the Warhol exhibition where, again, we stopped to see the special array of tantalizing goodies before setting about the serious business of looking at art.

Jean caught me admiring this Andy Warhol soup can shopping bag as if it were a shirt. She then forced me to stand there helplessly as she bought it for me. I think it’s fabulous, and it was a fabulous gift. I’ve already unpicked the base, and just have to shorten the sleeves.

Then we went to see the American High Style exhibition. We fell in love with two pairs of shoes by Steven Arpad. Both have sculpted wooden soles. Here they are. I think they were samples and were never worn. It’s hard to imagine the sculpted wood holding up to the punishment of actual wearing, but they’re still wonderful to behold. (Jean says: Somebody ought to buy the rights and reproduce Arpad's shoes. They were absolutely spectacular. Beautifully made and artfully designed, they were like mini-sculptures.)

The Brooklyn’s fashion exhibition was not as well advertised as the one at the Metropolitan, but I liked it better. (1949 Adrian, at left; 1955 Charles James at right.)The only curious thing about the Brooklyn show was the display of one of Queen Victoria’s dresses (probably not too different from the one shown here). Actually, I was happy and interested to see it, but we (us, not the Royal We) do wonder why a dress worn by the Queen of England was displayed in a show called American High Style. (Jean says: Judging from the dress, Queen V was only about 4 feet tall - and about 3 feet wide.)

And here’s Jean beside a dog mannequin in a good Republican cloth coat. (Jean says: Prior to the show, I hadn't really thought about dog clothing as particularly American. The exhibit had a great doggie-jacket and matching leash and collar, displayed on an adorable faux canine.)

By the time we left, my poor feet were crying for mercy. I imposed on Jean’s good nature by asking if I could give my feet a massage before we made our way to the subway. Jean asked if I could do that someplace where there would be less of an audience (what, MOI, be discreet??), so we walked over to the entrance of the Botanical Gardens. They were already closed, and relatively free of passersby. I gave my feet a rubdown, then cooled and cleaned my hands with the wet wipes I always in my bag. Afterward, we took this photo of Jean in front of the handsome gatework. (Jean says: I managed to kill two birds with one stone - Valerie got her foot massage and I got to check out the entrance to the Botanical Garden.)

I include this photo with trepidation, as it brings out all my worst features. Anyone would think I’d stolen a rhinoceros from the Museum and hidden it under my dress. And what is that thing that looks like an arm, except much wider? Hey, wait - could it just be an optical illusion - a trick of perspective? Jean, ever thoughtful, suggested the words voluptuous and reubenesque to describe me here. Or she could have said curvy, as in Real Women Have Curves. But we all know what these are code words for, right? (Jean says: My lips are sealed.)

Before heading back, we stopped for a few more photos. Jean was inspired by this gargoyle to once more make the sign of the V. (Jean says: The art in the subway stop was terrific. One last photo op before jumping on the train and heading homeward.)

I had a fabulous birthday (what Jean called an “event-driven birthday”). I almost can’t wait for the next one! Or for Jean's!

Jean is wearing a vintage straw matador hat from G. Fox & Co. (Est. 1847 Hartford), a black top by Bisou Jeans under a Top Shop black and white knit tank top, St. Vincent skirt, Alexander McQueen high top black patent Puma sneakers and Moss Lipow specs.

Valerie is wearing an old Kokin hat, second hand black linen dress by Joan Vass, tank top by Fluxus from the semiannual East 4th Street flea market, white cotton leggings by Capezio, Arche nubuck shoes, Mexican silver bracelets, rubber and metal earrings from the dearly departed 26th Street flea market, a teeny weeny button with a woodcut version of Munch's The Scream, and a rhinoceros underneath.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Brave New Perspective

Sometimes a girl - or a woman of a certain age - just needs a new perspective on things.

Did you know that the average American gets two weeks' vacation per year, and the average Australian gets six? As does the average Swiss and average German, and probably the average Frenchman and Italian. Jean and I took stock of our year, and discovered, to our great surprise, that in two weeks the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas blog will have its first anniversary, and we have yet to take a vacation from this enterprise! Geez! Even monthly magazines combine two issues annually so they only have to publish eleven, and not the twelve you might think they do. The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas need to take a good look at the six week model, and not the two week American model or our very own no week model. So today, in the spirit of il dolce far niente (the sweet doing nothing), while Jean is on a literal vacation with her Sweetie, I'm going to put up some stuff I like, but stuff I don't have to think too much about. A busman's - or rather an e-publisher's - holiday.

If a picture is really worth a thousand words, I figured a headstand would make a nice start to the entry. By the way, all, I just had my vkxmzphlth birthday a few weeks ago, so if you think you're too old for this or that, maybe a different perspective is just what you need. (Actually, right about now, with the economy down the loo and a third of the Gulf of Mexico gone from blue to brown, we might all need a change in perspective.)

All pictures taken by Jean who, it should be noted, came close to trying a headstand herself, but decided against it with good reason. When my skirt goes up (um - down), it reveals nothing; Jean, not having been a boy scout, was not prepared for the occasion (because she had grave doubts about it, and was not planning to join me), AND was not prepared to show - well - if YOUR skirt went up (or down) around YOUR head, what would YOU not be prepared to show?


I mug it up for the camera. Nothing up my sleeve, as you can see.

Starting position. Does this butt make my backdrop look big?

Ready for lift off.

Mission accomplished, albeit under cover.

Safe landing. I only held the pose for a few minutes, so Jean could be sure to get a few good shots, but I felt comfortable for as long as I was up there. (Oodles of years ago, I took yoga from a fabulous Indian teacher, whom I knew only as Datu, and his second in command, Norman Sjoman.)

Skeptics will say 'Yeah, but is it HER under that thing, or did she hire a body double?' (Yes, I hired Nicole Kidman's body double.) Just kidding. So I did it one more time, but without the skirt. (Remember the old U.S. policy vis-a-vis Russia? 'Trust, but verify'?)

Mission accomplished again. When surfers say "Tubular!", they mean awesome. When I say tubular, I mean Hey, wait, where's my waist? To be a bit fair, I'm wearing one of my favorite outfits, cotton and lycra leggings under a cotton and lycra dress. They're a bit bulky when worn together. Anyway, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

(Skirt by Luna Luz, by the way; sleeveless dress and leggings by H&M.)


Second thing I want to do is introduce you to Lara Knutson, whom Jean and I met at Cooper Hewitt's garden party last week. Lara was wearing a FABULOUS matching gray necklace and bracelet. To me it looked like knitted featherweight paper, but when I inquired about it admiringly, Lara informed me that it was glass, and her own design. This is a recent picture by Lara of her friend Kathleen Scully wearing the necklace (or several necklaces together???) and bracelet. Lara told me both are now available at the Museum of Modern Art, so when I stopped in yesterday (to buy a new make-up carrier, as my poor little Le Sportsac bag, spotlighted in our earlier posting, Old Bags' Old Bags, is rapidly going to object heaven), I looked for them and tried them on. Lara has made tiny magnetic clasps for them, and the entire effect is wonderful. They're not on MOMA's website, alas, but if you're in New York City, stop in and check them out. I guarantee you've never felt anything like this - at least, not in the glass family. It feels like wispy cotton cord! Better still, as Lara showed us in the dusk at Cooper Hewitt, the material reflects light, which must make it absolutely stunning by candle light. (And perhaps a good thing to wear while cycling at night?) Both are VERY reasonably priced, too, and look great - just like in the picture. Early Christmas shoppers, take heed! For more information, have a look at the June 19, 2010 entry of Lara’s blog; click on the photo above for a better view. (No full disclosure necessary here, by the way. The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas are not being paid for this. We just like Lara's creations, and wish her much success with her great product designs.)


Lastly, I thought you should see this video, which was sent to me by Greer. It opens on St. Stephen's Basilica, a church in Budapest with a grand, sweeping plaza, blissfully free of cars (image from Google Images). Then it shows a cutaway of the plaza, and an incredible automated parking garage hidden underneath, with capacity for some 700 automobiles, ingeniously stacked. Wouldn't it be great if we could have something like that here in the United States, to leave our streets free and open? Have a look! The whole video is about five minutes, with voice-over in English. (This has not been verified with Remember, it's our vacation, and we get to be lazy.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bakelite Boogaloo

Jean says: On June 6th, Valerie and I road the rails to Yonkers, to the Bakelite Show at the Hudson River Museum. Although we talked about going for weeks, little procrastinators that we are, we waited until the closing day to make our appearance. It was well worth the effort. [Valerie explains: Well, we were too frozen chicken, so to speak, to attend the February opening, much as we wanted to, and by the time the weather warmed up I was immobilized by my surgery. So yes, we were procrastinators, but not entirely without reason.]

We met at Grand Central, purchased our tickets, posed for photographs and hopped the Metro North train to boogaloo to Yonkers. The tracks go right by the new Yankee Stadium and then head northward, hugging the riverbank. [With regard to posing for photographs, Valerie adds: Grand Central is a Gilded Age delight for tourists, and we, being nearly Gilded Age ourselves, added not a little to the atmosphere, and stimulated tourists to further photographic frenzy.]

The train ride along the Hudson River is scenic and relatively short. With the exception of the young man at the front of our car who spent about ten minutes shouting into his cell phone, describing to a buddy his previous evening's escapades in excruciatingly graphic detail, the ride was lots of fun. In thirty-five minutes we arrived at at our destination. (Note to the file: This trip would be spectacular in autumn when the trees are changing!)

I was thrilled when Valerie appeared in a black and white ensemble wearing fraternal twin black surgical boots, coolie hat and what I affectionately refer to as her "Wilma Flintstone" necklace of small boulders. Shortly after we took the rude cell phone caller to task, we arrived at our destination. [Valerie notes: I tip my very broad hat to the caller. Immediately after we pounced on this poor unsuspecting young man for a performance that could have rivaled any of Ethel Merman's for sheer lung power, he cut his call short, which puts him miles ahead of most cell phone callers.]

Like a pirate "armed to the teeth", I was dressed for the occasion, sporting a selection of some of my all-time favorites from my bakelite collection. I combined a black Art Deco bakelite necklace with two forearms of multi-colored vintage bracelets, red bakelite and resin rings and graphic black and white plastic earrings.

I love all things bakelite. My first piece of bakelite jewelry was a black cameo that belonged to my maternal grandmother. Bakelite was what my mother described as "costume" jewelry. Savvy readers will remember that the cameo on a black bakelite necklace was featured as #6 in my "Twelve of our Favorite Blings" year-end blog entry. The good thing about bakelite jewelry is that it withstands both heat and cold and both moisture and arid conditions. Although thin vintage chains do occasionally break after up to sixty years of wear and tear, the larger pieces are amazingly durable (so far, at least).

I wear bakelite on a daily basis. I have a large square black bakelite ring with a carved criss-cross design that I purchased in Soho at least 25 years ago and wear constantly on my right ring finger. (It is visible in both "armload" photos. Click on photos to enlarge.) About ten years ago, Henry Grossman, one of the dealers at the NYC indoor flea market at the Garage on 26th Street, found matching earrings in Paris and brought them back for me. Although after a quarter century of slamming it into things, the ring is still intact, I live in constant fear of the day it chips or shatters. So much so that when I found its twin over a decade ago, I purchased it and tucked it safely away as insurance against that rainy day. Then, I found its other 'twin' in clear plexiglass and ...

I began collecting bracelets, necklaces and rings about thirty years ago, when you could still pick up a decent bracelet at a yard sale for $5 to $10 and a hand-carved gem of a bracelet for $30 to $40. I am shocked to see identical versions of my bracelets on e-Bay and the internet with asking prices ten times what I paid for them. [Valerie interjects: Do I detect the merest hint of smugness hidden in this apparent lament for bygone days? Is this the Jean version of Captain Renault in Casablanca, who was "... shocked, SHOCKED to find that gambling is going on in here!"?]

Back to Jean: FYI: The Brooklyn Museum has some selected bakelite items for sale in its ground floor museum shop. (All I can say is that I'm glad I started collecting before prices became so astronomical.)

[Valerie, getting her snarky on, says: Readers, did you ever wonder how the price of bakelite - a mass produced plastic - got so high? It has to do with the singlehanded embezzlement of $7 million from a high profile law firm by a member of their accounting staff. Read about it in this New York Magazine article. By way of full disclosure, I should add that I own probably FIVE pieces of bakelite. Not because I don't love it, but because I failed to get on the $5-10 gravy train, and later refused to compete with the above-mentioned law firm accountant, having no way myself to embezzle $7 million. SIGH. Life is so unfair.]

The Hudson River Museum is a very pretty facility (modern concrete building attached to a Hudson River-style stone mansion) in a striking setting (overlooking the Hudson) coveniently located (only a three block walk from train station through a park). Here's Valerie at the front door, flaunting that orthopedic footwear sans cane. Isn't it a shame she's so shy and retiring?

We are keeping our eye out for future shows there. One major drawback, however, is the fact that there is no food on the premises and there are no stores or coffee shops or delis within walking distance or on the way from the train station. There weren't even vending machines at the museum or on the train platform and the station was closed on Sunday afternoons. With the park with grassy hills surrounding the museum, picnic lunches should be the order of the day. [Valerie sticks 'er oar in: Having said that, though, the boom boxes at the bottom of the grassy hills were completely audible to us at the top of the hill. So if you're going for a quiet picnic, don't. Or bring your own music to drown out others'. Or bring your ear plugs.]

River View - Here I am on the patio cum viewing platform between the modern and Victorian buildings.

Hudson River Rear View. Here's Valerie surveying the coastline and looking glam. [Valerie sez: Yeah. Notice how I've reworked the Michael Jackson single white glove thing into my very own single white sock thing. And of course who ELSE is doing the single polka dotted shoe thing?]

Bakelite, a synthetic resin, was invented by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian-American chemist, in his barn in Yonkers, NY in 1907.

Although the museum did include some jewelry in the show (and for sale in the museum store), the show itself focused on the wide variety of uses for bakelite, from industrial (electrical transformers, microphone housings), office (telephones, adding machines, letter openers), home (appliances, flatware, jewelry cases, cigar cases and bar ware) and gaming (poker chips, mah jong tiles, billiard balls, dice and dominos). The show included other phenol-based plastic-like materials too, so there were delicate celluloid boxes, beautiful clear plexiglass-like objects and candy-colored clear objects like lollipop red cocktail shaker handles. There was a short 15-minute documentary film from the 1950's that was wonderfully informative and totally of the period. The museum also featured modern bakelite objects inspired by the original, including a lipstick red toilet seat by Philippe Starck. (Can you spell E-N-V-Y?)

One of the articles published about the compilation of the objects in the show mentioned the fact that neither of the show's main contributors owned that most elusive of collector's items -- a bakelite coffin. Interesting factoid I gleaned from the movie "Savage Grace" featuring Julianne Moore as Barbara, the nymphomaniac wife of the grandson of bakelite's inventor, Anthony Baekeland - that the casing for the atom bomb was made of bakelite!

Here's Valerie in the small garden in front of a beautiful Japanese maple tree and rather ancient mill stones.

Here I am in the garden next to the stone mansion.

We posed for photographs just before a huge storm blew in, complete with driving rain and high winds. Minutes after we stepped inside the older portion, the rainstorm struck. By the time we'd finished our visit, the raindrops stopped, the dark clouds dissipated and we walked back down the hill to the train station.

Avid readers will remember Valerie's comment in a prior entry about how it is forbidden to photograph members of some royal family or other while they are eating. In this photo, Valerie appears to be invoking similar privilege.

Valerie is wearing: designer straw hat purchased in the mid-'90s at now-defunct Weber's outlet store for $4.99; ceramic necklace (much lighter than everyone seems to think) by Peter Lane Clay; black linen designer dress purchased recently at a thrift shop for $20; black metal and elastic cuffs purchased in the '80s at Matsuya Ginza; black and white cotton and lycra striped leggings from Top Shop; mismatched black surgical shoes, from the most recent and an earlier foot surgery. (I wore the second surgical shoe on the right foot because it was the same height as the medically necessary shoe on the left foot, and so was a better match than any of my regular shoes.)

Jean is wearing: Ignatius straw hat with denuded peacock feather; black TALE N 3 dress from the eponymous shop in Milan; assorted vintage bakelite bracelets, rings and necklace; vintage plastic earrings; Dansko clogs and Moss Lipow spectacles.

BAKELITE BONUS: Xtine, a fellow East Vilage denizen and bakelite afficionado extraordinaire, sent us a photograph and missive from the great Nortwest that we just had to share with you. Xtine is a wonderfully unique individual. I don't think I've ever seen her without a fabulous hat -- or bakelite. Instantly recognizable and iconic, she evokes another era. She combines wristsful of bakelite bracelets and either vintage or retro-inspired clothing and footwear. Here we go:

Xtine says:
Hi, Snappy Dressers, Jean and Valerie!
Hullo, Ladies--
Thought you might enjoy this snap of me that my mother took while I was sawing up an old tree for the garden waste on my visit to my parentals in Edmonds, WA a couple of weeks ago.

Sporting my all-purpose, mostly-9th street outfit: City Slicker duster and gingham slipdress over black slipdress by Jill Anderson, hat by Huminska, stripey sox from Duane Reade, booties by John Fluevog, vintage bakelite bangles, mom's workgloves. Saw optional.

Hope you are well. Xtine

Jean says: Valerie and I totally cracked up when we saw her photo and commentary. Her retro-chic approach to gardening is a total hoot. Fluevog shoes for garden tramping and tree chopping! Who'd a thunk it? Next time any of you are in the East Village, drop into Jill Anderson's store on E. 9th Street (between 1st and 2nd Ave.). The owner commissioned a local artist to paint portraits of her favorite customers. As her first customer, Xtine holds the place of honor at the lower left of the grid of paintings, closest to the entry. Check out the clothes too. It's a terrific shop.

Attention, all you other Snappy Dressers out there! Do send us your comments and photos (to: - we'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Car Crazy - Does this Ferrari make my butt look big?

Jean says: My favorite spectator sport is Formula One ("F-1") car racing. From the time I saw my first race in Brazil in 1974, I have been hooked. That I can't drive a stick shift and have never driven a high performance car (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, Porche, Zonta) is beside the point. The fact that I don't have a 100-mile an hour serve doesn't diminish my appreciation of Rafael Nadal one iota. (Congratulations, Rafa, for your win at Wimbledon earlier today!)

Ferrari is the team I root for. Many of my favorite drivers over the years have worn Ferrari red at one point or another in their careers. Here I am in Montreal in mid-June, posing next to my dream car. (Does this Ferrari make my butt look big?) I'm wearing a Burberry cotton top, Zara pants, my charm necklace and Dansko clogs. The weather was spectacular - low humidity with highs in the low to mid 80's.

Since 1996, two California friends and I have attended 12 races together, along with a changing cast of friends and family members we can cajole into joining us. Greg and David and I have been to Monza, Italy twice and to Montreal, Canada 10 times. A little over 2 weeks ago, we raised that number to 11. It was our great fortune that Ken, a California friend who had previously accompanied us to Canada and Italy, decided to join us for a reprise.

Montreal is a fabulous city and a perfect race venue. Whole streets shut down to traffic, people park their high performance cars (like this Maserati from Ontario) on the street for the rest of us to gawk at, and the City sponsors free concerts and events all over town. Unfortunately, last year's race in Montreal was cancelled by Formula One. Luckily, this year it was reinstated for another several years. There are no F-1 races in the U.S. Years ago, they used to race at Watkins Glen, NY. A few years ago, they tried a Grand Prix in Indianapolis but abandoned the location after just a couple of years. Word is out that Austin, TX will be the site of a U.S. Grand Prix, but since they'll have to build a track, that race is still several years out.

The Montreal race track is located in Parc Jean-Drapeau on Ile Sante-Helene in the middle of the St. Lawrence River and encircles a beautiful Casino surrounded by fountains and man-made lake. Reachable by walking across a bridge from Montreal's quiet, clean subway stop, the island was the site of the 1967 World's Fair. EXPO '67's Biosphere still looms over the race track from another side of the park, to the left of our grandstand.

Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve:
The race track is named after Canada's first great F-1 driver. His son, Jacques Villeneuve, was also a successful driver. This year, banners on the lampposts on the path to the track chronicled the names of previous winners of the Canadian Grand Prix. Here are a few that hold special meaning for me.

Several years ago, when we were staying at the Ritz Carlton Hotel (when Kirsten Hawthorne accompanied us), Sir Jackie Stewart was celebrating his 60th birthday. On the eve of the race, we heard bag pipers marching up Sherbrook. When they entered the lobby of the hotel, Jackie came out of the ballroom to greet them. Continuing to play, they proceeded to march into and around the ballroom while Jackie greeted fans like us gathered in the lobby. After a short period of time, the band marched back out through the lobby and proceeded up the street. Jackie bid us adieu and returned to his guests. Breakfast at the Ritz Carlton is served in the garden which encircles a pond filled with ducklings whose lively antics provide an ongoing floor show.

Peter Revson (of the Revlon cosmetics dynasty) was an Indianapolis 500 and Formula One driver. In the 1960's, he drove with Steve McQueen at Sebring. He was the quintessential race car driver: a rich, handsome bachelor who liked to take risks. He was killed in a practice run for the 1974 South African Grand Prix when his car's suspension failed. Tom Pryce, who replaced him in the race, died three years later in the same Grand Prix. Peter's brother Douglas who was also a racer died in a crash in Denmark in 1967. They are interred together in a crypt in Ferncliff Cemetary in Hartsdale, NY. Peter is the last American born driver to win a Grand Prix race. (Mario Andretti was a naturalized citizen).

Emerson Fittipaldi (known as "Emo") is a Brazilian driver who was the youngest driver (at the time) to win the World Drivers' Championship. He drove for Lotus and McClaren. When Spaniard Fernando Alonso won his World Championship, he unseated Emo to become the youngest driver to win.

Another Brazilian, Ayrton Senna, won the Canadian Grand Prix in 1990. The three-time World Drivers' Champion is widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers of all time. He died in a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix in Imola. Ayrton drove for McLaren. His nephew, Bruno Senna, followed in his footsteps and has become an F-1 driver.

German Michael Schumacher is a seven-time World Drivers' Champion and drove for the majority of his career for Ferrari. He retired for three years but returned this year to F-1. He has yet to win a race this season with his new team. Somewhere in my travels, I acquired a Ferrari Barbie with a red leather skirt and jacket and black lace-up boots. I always regret not having purchased a Michael Schumacher doll about a decade ago to keep her company.

Finnish driver Mika Hakkinen, a two-time World Drivers' Champion, drove for Lotus and McLaren. Michael Schumacher said Mika was the driver he most respected. Their rivalry was as bitter as it was legendary.

Fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen was also a World Champion. He drove for McLaren and Ferrari. Nicknamed "the Ice Man", Kimi was famous for his ridiculously low-key demeanor.

British driver Lewis Hamilton dethroned Fernando Alonso as the youngest racer to win the World Drivers' Championship. The last time we were in Montreal, we met his dad in the lobby of the Nelligan Hotel in Old Town. This year, rumors were rampant that Lewis Hamilton was actually staying in our hotel.

Twenty-five year old Lewis' latest claim to fame, besides his skillful driving, is the fact that his current girlfriend, thirty-three year old Nicole Scherzinger, is an ex-Pussycat Doll and a recent contestant on the last round of Dancing with the Stars. (Who knew he liked older women?)

For the past several races, we've gotten seats on the hairpin turn because it maximizes the view of the cars. You see them approach the apex from the right, slow down to make the turn and then accelerate up the track to the left. You can see the brake pads glow bright red as they enter the curve, and the roar of the engines as they exit the curve is deafening. Most spectators (including me) wear ear plugs. Between the ear plugs and the air horns, it is a wonder that we are able to yammer at each other as much as we do. I caught this shot of 2008 World Champion and current Ferrari drive Fernando Alonso just exiting the turn on the hairpin. The various teams' engines have distinctive sounds. I swear the Ferraris alternately purr, snarl and growl. The added bonus of our location is that our grandstand faces a jumbo TV screen that provides information on the race's progress in other parts of the track. Since the race lasts about 50+ laps, keeping track can sometimes be a challenge, so the jumbo-tron is a blessing.

Here's a shot of my intrepid compatriots at Saturday's qualifying sessions. High-SPF sunscreen was the order for the day since our grandstand is in direct sun for the entire race. Luckily, our seats were high enough that we got a strong breeze during Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race.

On Sunday morning as we were going to breakfast before the race, I was stunned to run into race driver Lewis Hamilton walking all by himself through the lobby of our hotel - no managers or handlers (or Nicole) around him.
The minute I noticed the famous sideburns, my inner celebrtiy stalker went into over-drive. I (nearly) screamed "Lewis, we love you!" He stopped and spun around. (Stalkers, take note. It is much less intimidating to your targets to say "we" than to say "I"!) I wished him luck and told him he was going to win the race. He beamed, flashed that famous smile, and was off to the track. The boys and I headed in to breakfast and then headed to the track.

Race day weather was terrific. At the top of our grandstand, a group of die-hard Ferrari fans set up their flags and blew their long red plastic air horns, made world famous thanks to recent TV coverage of FIFA's World Cup soccer matches. (Another reason for ear plugs!)

Although Fernando Alonso (in the red Ferrari) was leading Lewis Hamilton (in the silver McLaren Mercedes) in the early laps, true to my prediction, Lewis Hamilton did win the race! (Lewis, Dahling, if you'e listening, I am available to be your good luck charm!)

Here I am at the end of the day in front of the map of the race track. It gives you an idea of how convoluted the track is, even though it is one of the fastest tracks on the F-1 circuit.

Ken, Greg and I pose for one more picture as we were crossing the bridge to head to the subway.

All that racing sure gives a gal an appetite. The train station (Gare Centrale) across from our hotel has a wide array of restaurants. We picked Deli Planet in part because it had a flat screen TV showing the Germany-Australia World Cup match. Here I am flexing my muscles. I am wearing a blue nylon and lycra v-neck 3/4 sleeve reptile print shirt, black Marithe and Francoise Girbaud cargo pants, yellow lanyard and ticket holder, and Dansko clogs.

David, Greg and Ken indulge me with yet another picture while waiting for our order.

Hilton Bonaventure - Mothership Extraordinaire:
Our hotel has a great outdoor pool and wooded landscaped area surrounded by a man-made stream on about the 10th floor. Here I am, taking a break by the pool after Saturday's qualifying session.

Here's the scene in the hotel bar on Saturday afternoon. Everyone there - and everywhere else - was watching the FIFA World Cup match between the U.S. and England. There is a reason I don't wager on sporting events. One is that I am a sore loser and the other is that I am impossibly incompetent at betting. It took me forever to figure out which team was in navy and which was in white, so I didn't cheer at inappropriate moments. Unfortunately, the match ended in a tie - zero to zero.

Here is one of the large carp that inhabit the man-made stream at the Hilton's 10th floor oasis. This bad boy measured about 20" long and was a total ham - begging for food.

The Ritz Carlton has nothing on our hotel. ("Yo! We got ducklings too, Dude.") We could see this mother duck and her nine ducklings from our windows. Since the cement sides of the stream were high, I was stewing about how she kept her babies from floating downstream and over one of the many mini-waterfalls. I talked Greg into being Watson to my Sherlock to investigate the situation. We got into the courtyard through one of the restaurant terraces and discovered the ducks had wooden ramps to get out of the water and to get to their food trays. When she heard us coming, Mom shooed all her babies up the ramp and tucked all of them under her body and her wings. (You can see some of the little critters if you look closely.) Not wanting to spook her, we backed off. By the time we got upstairs, they were all back in the water quacking and merrily paddling around. Needless to say, my worrying factor dropped off considerably after our successful reconnaissance mission.

After our post-race snack at the train station, we relaxed with cocktails by the pool.

Dinners on the Town:
Montreal has some of the best restaurants in the world. On Saturday evening, we ate at Joe Beef, which despite its name, also boasted great seafood. Our friend Joao, a Brazilian banker, joined us for dinner in what literally was a garden that produced not only herbs but also spinach and romaine lettuce, peppers, squash and carrots. The highlight of the evening was the bison in the bathroom. Its head was absolutely huge. Needless to say, it is rather disconcerting having those beady eyes seemingly watching your every move.

We were laughing so hard at the bison that one of my companions bounced my camera off the floor, permanently locking the lens in the open position. This was a huge buzz-kill. Being camera-less for me is akin to being lost. All the way back to our hotel in the taxi, we took turns trying to coax it back into the closed position. At one point, one of them pulled rather than pushed the lens and it snapped into position. This is the test photo to make sure it was functioning. I am wearing an Armani v-neck tunic, St. Vincent skirt, vintage red wooden gumball beaded necklace, vintage red bakelite rings and bracelets.

Toque! is my all-time favorite restaurant, hands-down. We have been going there since 1996, starting at its old location. It is our first choice for Saturday night dinner. The food is spectacular. Since David is a wine expert, I take his word for it that the wine list is superb. Here, David is consulting with Samuel, the sommelier, on his choices.

Another reason we love Toque!, besides the fabulous cuisine and service and atmosphere, is the fact that Chef Normand Laprise gives us such royal treatment. (It's so nice to be appreciated.) We've been totally spoiled over the years with tours of his kitchen and wine cellar, and this year was no exception. Here is the master in his element. Unlike those screaming chefs you see on reality TV, Normand is relaxed and calm with an army of staff at his disposal. His kitchen is huge, well organized and spotless. It is an oasis of calm. He is always glad to see us and welcome us back to Montreal. He is a most charming host and his smile makes you just melt. The good news is that he's about to open a new bistro soon, so we'll have a new adventure to look forward to next time. I'm wearing an Atrium turtleneck, Zara black and white striped knit wrap top, Rosebud skirt and a black and white gumball plastic 1960's necklace. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

After dinner at Toque!, we walked around for a while enjoying the lovely evening. I cajoled the boys into a photo in front of yet another red Ferrari.

On Sunday evening, at the recommendation of the lovely Vanya (sommelier for Joe Beef), we dined at La Montee De Lait (literally,"The Mountain of Milk"), a restaurant frequented by the locals. We were obviously the only tourists in the joint. The menu is written on chalk boards on the walls. The breads and cheeses were really great and the desserts were sinful.

Ken and I ham it up for the camera at "The Mountain of Milk." I am wearing a Morgan Le Fay top under a Top Shop black and white striped tank top, a St. Vincent skirt, assorted rings (black bakelite, gold, black resin skull), Ice Pirates chronograph watch with skulls.

Here we are, at the end of the evening on our last night in Montreal. Stuffed and happy, we waddled back to our hotel to pack our suitcases and prepare for our return flights home on Monday.

Home again!
I love to travel, but I think I love coming home more. DeeDee was so glad to see me, she jumped into my bag and would not come out. I had to wait to fully unpack until she got hungry and finally trotted off to the kitchen to eat.

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