Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Who Have Arrived in Heaven

A Visit to the New Yayoi Kusama Exhibition

While the rest of Gotham was in full-blown exodus mode for the Thanksgiving holiday, we decided to treat ourselves to a really magical exhibition by the queen of polka dots herself, Japanese octagenarian artist Yayoi Kusama. Here we are waiting our turn to get in. You can see we dressed for the occasion. And like surgeons entering an operating room, we and fellow visitors had to don surgical booties to enter the installation in order to maintain the highly polished floor's mirror-like finish. They don't really go with our look, but it's the holiday season, and we're of good cheer.

Below, that's us with our doppelgangers in the installation of dotted, colorful stalagmites and stalactites. (Kusama herself has referred to them as phalluses.)

The exhibition has two so-called Infinity Rooms, which use that wonderful mirror trick that makes your view seem endlessly repeated. We heard that the line for the other Infinity Room, which looks like a star-filled sky on a cloudless night, was an astonishing three hours long. Happily, if incomprehensibly, the line for the room of polka-dotted phallic symbols was infinitely shorter. Small groups were ushered in for a strictly kept one minute limit, but what a minute! You can see from the two photos that colors changed constantly. We wound up standing on line three times to try to figure out optimal photo locations. Doing all that in sixty seconds takes drill team precision.

Kusama's latest show, "I Who Have Arrived In Heaven", is featured in not one but three David Zwirner galleries, with three contiguous addresses, in the shadow of the High Line. With high ceilings and oooooooodles of space, they are the perfect location for her work.

Avid readers might remember we covered the opening of her show last year at the Whitney Museum. Designer Marc Jacobs collaborated with Kusama on a divine collection of dotted shoes, handbags and clothing for Louis Vuitton and even wrapped the entire 5th Avenue flagship store in large polka dots.  (We are still crestfallen that we could not each take home one of the many wonderful Yayoi dolls from the stupendous window display.)

Here is Valerie shaking her bootie! And of course, we incorporated lots of polka dots into our wardrobe selections in anticipation of the event, and in honor of the maestra. Spies diligently synchronize their watches and check their coordinates; we check our wardrobes. Valerie characterized her look to Jean quite simply as "I look like I've got measles." You get the picture. Speaking of measles, the cover of Rizzoli's book Kusama features her self-portrait study in dots.

In the next room, Kusama appears to be preaching an apocalyptic message, but she actually singing a lullaby-like song, with the translation in subtitles.

That's Jean in the center. We were allowed to photograph, but not to use flash, which made for very interesting results.

We strolled through the two other galleries to view a series of square-shaped paintings in Yayoi's instantly recognizable colorful style.

Valerie getting up close and personal with one of the paintings.

Jean working her monastic look.

Valerie's outfit was strangely color coordinated with EVERY Yayoi painting.

Jean thought the pattern in this painting looked like the pathways in an ant farm.

We walked over to Chelsea Market and stopped into The Tippler for a Thanksgiving-eve cocktail.  Valerie selected the 'Killah Beez Kneez", but asked the waitress to take out the vodka and substitute prosecco.

Jean opted for a lovely cocktail called "Pina Envy" with tequila and pinapple, asking the waitress to take out the bitters. (And of course NO ice!) Perfect way to head into Thanksgiving.

What We're Wearing:

Valerie is wearing an unlabeled vintage black felt hat with dots added for the occasion, black and white polka dot earrings inherited from Jean's mom, velveteen polka dot coat by Cattiva, purchased from Sunset Boulevard, rayon polka dot scarf, black and white polka dot gloves, polka dot wrist bag by Baggalini (discovered by Jean on her travels), Betsey Johnson pants, polka dot umbrella (and boots?) by Shed Rain.

Jean is wearing an Amy Downs hat; Comfy USA dotted skirt; Uniqlo dotted leggings and t-neck; Kyodan jacket; charm necklace; vintage bakelite rings; vintage eyeglasses; mid-century aluminum wire earrings; black leather cross-body bag from street vendor; polka dot iPhone case from street vendor; Calvin Klein reversible shawl collared monk coat; and customized platform Dankso clogs.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


a documentary by Sue Bourne

Like us, independent film producer and director Sue Bourne (a woman of a certain age) does not believe in growing old gracefully, and in her newly released documentary, FABULOUS FASHIONISTAS, she proves that we can face age head on with style, vigor, wit and enthusiasm. Sue got together six active, accomplished women in the United Kingdom, all from very different backgrounds, and ranging in age from 71 to 91, to shatter the common myths about aging that so many of us (including those of us over 50) have been hoodwinked into believing. Do we have your attention? Good. Here's a preview to whet your appetite:

We first met Sue Bourne back in 2012, when Fabulous Fashionistas was little more than an untitled gleam in her eye.  Following its television debut in the United Kingdom, we contacted Sue again to talk to her about the finished product. It's about soooo much more than fashion. We're delighted to be able to share the full documentary with you, too.

To see the entire 50 minute video while it's still available on line, click on this link, then hit the four angles in the bottom right corner of the video and it will expand to fit your screen.)

Watching it left us with a few questions, so below is our interview with Sue about the making of Fabulous Fashionistas.

Sue Bourne, director and producer
of Fabulous Fashionistas

IFs: What is your most important personal takeaway from your interactions with these six women? Has your experience making this documentary affected your approach to your own future, or opened your eyes to anything that was hidden before?

SB: I set out to make this film because as I get older I am looking for role models to show me how to make the most out of life. I was looking for people to show me how to live the next thirty or even forty years of my life. Women who were refusing to be invisible, who were squeezing the pips out of life and doing it with style, attitude, spirit. And joy. Women who were having fun and loving life. That was what I what I set out to do … and those were the type of women I went in search of.

So in terms of what my personal takeaway was from the six women – each and every one of them gave me something different. I think the film I ended up making is the sum of its parts. I don’t think I want to be any of the women per se. But I definitely took something from each of them. And what they had to say about life. The prism I went in through, however, was fashion and style – I think without that door to go through I probably would not have managed to get a commission from anyone to make the film. There are so many wonderful inspirational, feisty intelligent older women. But not so many of them are also stylish and fabulous visually. By making that one of my criteria I think that was how I managed to get the commission to make the film – it meant the film was also going to be visually fun. And it meant I had to find women who were refusing to be invisible not just in their attitude and the way they lived but also in the way they looked and dressed. I think it was this element that made the film exceptional. These six women had an average age of 80 but they did not dress or look like little old ladies.  I think that is what grabbed people’s imagination. That is why they all seemed to think the women and the film were “inspirational” – because they defied expectations.

I am not sure the film so much changed my approach as it reinforced the way I was already thinking. I set out to find role models for my future, and the future of my peers and the next generation. And I think these six women are the pioneers for us to admire and follow their example.
Sue Kreitzman in a dress of her own design,
featuring four panels of appliqu├ęd molas,
 and matched with sneakers

IFs: You say that your six interviewees have also benefited, for example, in terms of invitations to go places and appear in public. Have you seen any other effects on them?

SB: I have just come back from a trip to Ireland where we took part in a Q&A session about the film. I went with Sue Kreitzman who is one of the Fashionistas from the film. This was the first time I had really been out and about and it was amazing to see how people reacted to Sue. Everywhere we went people nudged each other and recognized her as “the woman from the film”. People came up to her and congratulated her, thanked her for being inspirational, for giving them courage to change their style and their attitude to aging. Again and again they used the term “inspirational”. It was like being with the queen in terms of public recognition.

All six women tell the same story of public recognition and almost adoration. Jean and Bridget have been asked to do all sorts of different photo shoots, to take part in catwalks, to come along to all sorts of different events. Jean says that in Bath where she lives there are queues of people outside the shop she works, thanking her, bringing her presents. Same with Bridget. Lady Trumpington now has a fan club, and a blog called “Ten Things I Love About Lady Trumpington.” Sue Kreitzman has been invited to blog for the Huffington Post. In all my years of making films – and I have made a lot of them – I have never really had a public response like this. Every day there are emails, letters, phone calls about the film. It really is astonishing.  Have they been affected – of course. Jean says she cannot believe at the age of 75 that her life has suddenly been totally turned round. She cannot believe the adventures and the fun she is having.
Jean Woods, in a Top Shop dress.

IFs: Why did you choose to work with older women, as opposed to older men, or both genders equally? Would you be interested in doing a similar documentary about older men? Why or why not?

SB:  One or two people have said I should make a similar film about men but I just don’t think it would work. I think I could make a film about interesting men who are doing amazing things for their age.  But if it was also about men who were wonderfully stylish as well, I am not sure a) if that would be all that interesting and b) what message that would then be giving. I do have an idea for a film or series of films that I wanted to call THE NOT OLDS – about men and women over the age of 70 who are redefining old age in the choices they have made and the lives they are living. But to be honest, I don’t think anyone would commission me to make that film. It was hard enough getting the commission for Fashionistas, and I think I only got commissioned because I sold it on the style and fashion element rather than it being about inspirational older women – which it was really about.

I do also think that because I am a woman I was just much more interested in making a film about women. Women who were refusing to be invisible. Men are different as they get older – I think they are often very defined by the work they do and when they stop doing that job a lot of them shrink into themselves or some hobby or other – like golf or sailing. Whereas what I am seeing in women is a wonderful sense of freedom and adventure when they hit their fifties and sixties.  They want to go out and embrace the world and all it has to offer and that, I think, is what I was most interested in capturing and exploring.

IFs: Fabulous Fashionistas is getting rave reviews from everyone who sees it. Have you had great feedback from any completely unexpected sources?

The response has indeed been fantastic, universally praising and loving the film. I think it’s been great and encouraging but don’t think I have had any amazingly surprising response. I mean, what’s not to like? They are just great life enhancing women so I suppose I just assumed everyone would love them and want to be like them. What has been particularly good, though, is the way younger people have also loved the film. A lot of the social networking explosion has been led by the younger generation. They say they want to look like that when they get older. That suddenly they can see that old age is not something to be scared of. That in fact, it might even be something to relish and look forward to. But is that response surprising? Not really. I am just delighted that young people too have seen, embraced and loved the film and the women in it.
Lady Trumpington, Peer of the Realm,
and former mayor of Cambridge

IFs:  In five years of blogging on this topic, we have yet to come up with a term for older women that we really like. Did any of your six subjects refer to herself, or to older women in general, by a term that you thought hit the nail on the head?

SB: Not really. And I do think that is a real problem. I don’t particularly like the title we ended up with – Fabulous Fashionistas – but it was the best I could come up with. Channel Four wanted to call the film Growing Old Gracefully, so I had a bit of a disagreement with them about that. I argued – vociferously – that if they called it that no one would watch it. People just don’t watch films that have “old” in the title. I said I did not think Fabulous Fashionistas was a great title, but it was certainly a million miles better than Growing Old Gracefully!

But was it a good title or a good way to describe the women? No, probably not. So I don’t think we have a perfect title or description yet. Which in a way is a sign of what it’s all about. These women are just “not old” in the way they dress, think or behave. They are just themselves. And just fabulous because of that.

Maybe I should just have called it Fabulous. Who knows? But what has happened is that the term has now slipped into the language and people talk about “The Fashionistas”, and everyone now knows what you mean by that. So I suppose that means that the title sort of worked.
Bridget Soujourner, who seldom spends more
than £3 for any of her thrift shop purchases.

IFs: All of the women had very different tastes in clothes, and you showed their wardrobes very clearly, but without making them the focus of the film. Was there any aspect of their style choices that particularly captured your attention?

SB: Some of the women were more stylish and more interested in fashion and style than others. And I liked the fact that that was the case and therefore fashion and style were more or less important in all their lives. That is the case with all women: some are more or less interested in how they look and how they present themselves to the world. What is fun, though, is seeing how you can look great and do it on a budget. I loved the fact that Bridget got all her clothes from charity shops and looked a million dollars.

I deliberately did not choose women who were very wealthy and looked chic because we can’t all afford to do that. We can admire expensive chic but we can’t really relate to it. I love Jean for her quirkiness and her very individual sense of style. Lady Trumpington is never going to be a style icon but I just adored the fact she was so addicted to buying things out of catalogues now, and that she still took enormous pride in herself and how she looked. Again, there is room for all sorts and the broader the spectrum the better.
Daphne Selfe, oldest working model
in England (and what great gray hair!)

IFs: How did you find your six subjects?

I had made contact with Sue Kreitzman and Bridget Sojourner through Ari [Seth Cohen] and Advanced Style. But my executive producer also had an independent contact with Sue so I would probably have ended up knocking on her door come what may. Daphne is a model who is very much in the public eye so she was always of interest to me. But I would not have wanted an older model in the film if she had been a model all her life. The reason I loved Daphne is that she really was only "discovered" at the age of 70 and it was that element of her story that guaranteed her a place in the film - being discovered at 70 and starting a brand new career really at that age was exactly the sort of inspirational "anything can happen" story that I wanted in the film. So I then set off in search of other very different women of all ages. I don't usually include celebrities if I can avoid it.  I tend to prefer to find the extraordinary in the apparently ordinary. But where do you look for women of 70+ like that ?

I emailed everyone I knew and everyone I could think of, asking them if they knew any extraordinary, stylish, interesting, unusual women in their 70's 80's and 90's. It was a long long hard grind finding them. I talked to countless amazing energetic wonderful women of all ages doing all sorts of interesting things with their lives. Then I would ask them to send me photos so I could see if they passed the "style" test. I needed women who stood out from the crowd. So that really narrowed the field down. British women over 70 are not quite as flamboyant and stylish as some other nationalities. We did all sorts of research to find people - going to local boutiques, to vintage sales, hanging out at the back of Harrods, talking to designers, and anyone else we could think of.  Having asked everyone I knew, I got some help here and there, and then followed up the leads.

One actress was great but not quite old enough. She was about to start rehearsal with a director called Gillian Lynne who was remarkable. So that was how I got to Gillie. Another researcher I brought in was a stand up comedian in her spare time and she did some really useful lateral thinking and research, and that was how we came up with Baroness Trumpington. Loads of women were asked if they would consider taking part and turned us down for all manner of different reasons.  And one of the cameramen I was thinking of working with said he knew a perfect person, and that was Jean. I did not end up being able to work with him but I am eternally indebted to him for putting me in touch with Jean. So it was a long hard slog but I think we made it in the end.
Gillian Lynne, choreographer of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats

IFs: Did any of your six final subjects have to be persuaded, or did they immediately see the value of putting themselves out there as role models?

SB: I spend a long time getting to know people before I ask them to take part in a film. My films are really a sum of their parts, so what is critical is getting the mix right. What I think makes the film work so well is the mix of those six very different women. It took months of research before I felt I had the right mix of stories, and types and variety of people. And while some of them were wary, in the end they all agreed. They had seen my previous films so they also knew they could trust me to look after them well.

IFs: Are there any other aspects of the film that you'd like to tell our readers about?

I think in its quiet way it is revolutionary. I think if you have your own copy you can watch it and listen to what the women have to say. They all say something different and each time I watch I think I take one other thing away from it. I reckon if you watch it once a week it will help you live your life to the full. And enjoy yourself. I don’t normally bother doing DVDs of my films – a handful of people get in touch and ask me for copies. But in this case EVERYONE was asking where they could get a copy of the film. They wanted their friends, their mums, their aunts, their kids to see it. So that is why I have gone to the trouble of making copies available, including US versions. The DVDs are better quality to watch than the pirated versions on You Tube. I think they make great Christmas presents or stocking fillers.

Want to purchase your own copy? Want copies to give to friends? Get the DVD on Sue's website:-

Find Sue Bourne on Twitter
Sue Bourne on location

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wear Your Wedding Dress to Work Day

photo by Jodel M.

One day, Jean and Robin and I exchanged wedding dress stories, and thought it would make a great post. Imagine how hard it is to get three people together, much less three wedding dresses, one of which seems to be in Twilight Zone Storage, where no matter how deep you dig, it just doesn't surface. So, in the first of what we hope might make an interesting series, here's Valerie's wedding dress story, and her mom's.

What happened was
, way back in the '80s, my then-boyfriend and I got this great hankering for adventure. I wanted to learn Japanese, and he, with most of the credits toward a PhD in English, easily wangled a two year contract for a teaching position in Osaka, along with the requisite work visa. His (and soon after my) employer counseled us to get a fiancee visa for me, which would save me the time and money needed to leave the country every six months if I opted for a tourist visa. So in April we flew to Japan with one suitcase and one cat each. After about three months, I was called to the Immigration Office, and was asked rather pointedly when we were getting married. "None of your durn business", I wanted to reply, coming from a country with rather lax views toward marriage. But Toto, we were not in Kansas anymore, and the Japanese, having issued me a fiancee visa in good faith, felt that my boyfriend of six years should make an honest woman of me. They wanted us to set a date.  And so we did: September 1.

In my one suitcase, I had packed a small starter wardrobe for my new teaching job.  I had one smart business suit - which didn't seem appropriate for a wedding - and my favorite dress of the time - a 1950s blue silk dress with matching peplum jacket and belt that I'd found at a Dallas flea market. Its bright colors and padded shoulders fit right in with the prevailing '80s look.   It was several sizes too big for me, but vintage lovers don't sweat those little details.  (There was a huge slab of buckram in the peplum, so starched and so wide - six inches - that I could have served drinks on it.  That part was just too '50s for me, so I spent hours carefully taking it out and restitching the seam.)  I had perfect blue perforated leather peeky-toed low-heeled sandals with a little bow and ankle straps to go with the dress. We went down to the Kobe City Hall, signed some papers, and it was all over in five minutes. I refused to have a ring because all the Japanese rings at the time were white gold, and I wanted yellow.  It could wait.  We kept our marriage a secret from everyone in the United States, even from our parents, reasoning that we wanted to have the real wedding when we returned home at the end of the contract, and who would come to the wedding if they knew we'd already been married for two years?

Here's our wedding certificate, framed by phoenixes and paulownia leaves, traditional Japanese wedding symbols. Decidedly not acid-free paper. I put editing tape over my husband's name (he's a big movie star now and wouldn't like the publicity - just kidding) and over my last name, and as I prepared to upload this I realized it has my birthdate on it, so of course I had to blur that out.

Seven years later we were still in Japan, which never ceased to be an adventure, but the marriage was falling apart. We probably should have consulted an astrologer, or at least a historian. September 1 is a) the anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake, which destroyed much of Tokyo in 1923 (and which is commemorated every year with alarming drills and re-enactments); b) the day Hitler invaded Poland, starting the European side of World War II, c) the national day of Libya; d) the day KAL 007 was shot down by the Russians over Sakhalin Island. What chance did phoenixes and paulownias have against powerful omens like those?

I still have the dress today (detail above) because it wasn't right for Japan's climate, and I packed it away. Ten years ago, the dress was no longer too big for me - in fact I could barely close the belt. Now, happily, the dress is too big again, so I've taken it out of the closet, and decades after I first bought it, I'm wearing it to a completely different job.   I've paired it in the top picture with a little nosegay of chubby yellow highlighters and slim blue felt tipped pens.  The covered buttons are beginning to get a bit thin, but there's more than enough material on the underside of the peplum if I ever decide to re-cover them.  If you think about it, it's definitely an odd feeling to wear your wedding dress to work, but I find I don't think about it.  (If anyone asks: no, I'm not married to my job.  Or if I am, I'm having an affair with this blog.)

Valerie's Mom's Wedding Dress Story

Mom had a really truly wedding, in France, two years after the end of the war (the second, not the first, you wags!). If you've heard any war stories, you know that everything was rationed - everything. Metal was rationed, sugar was rationed, butter was rationed, gasoline was rationed, silk and nylon were rationed (ever seen pictures of women drawing seam lines on the backs of their legs so they'd appear to be connected enough to have stockings?).  You name it - it was all hard to get. Everything went to the war effort. Getting together enough ration coupons to buy material for my mother's white wool suit took some doing. Here's the wedding party, gathered in front of the neighborhood church. My mother was not trying to be fashion-forward by having a short dress. You can see that everyone was wearing shorter dresses as a result of rationing.  Shorter dresses became fashionable, but the origins of the trend were decidedly unfashionable.

It wasn't until I was well into my adulthood - after I'd seen countless movies and tv shows in which a wedding dress was reverently taken out of a closet to pass down to a bride-to-be, or thrown away dramatically as a symbol of a bad marriage - that it occurred to me I'd never seen my mother's wedding dress. What happened to it, I asked her. 'Oh', she said, 'I dyed it navy blue after the wedding', as apparently many brides did back then. 'I got a lot of wear out of it, and when I couldn't wear it anymore, I gave it away.'

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Top Ten Reasons Not to Break Your Ankle

Valerie's seminar on the advisability of not breaking your ankle

(photo by Andrea P.)

1. Half of your wardrobe will stay in the closet because it doesn’t work with your brand new moon boot. The act of dressing will be like kabuki, a slow, dignified ritual. No more haphazardly throwing things on. Everything has to be planned. The boot enforces order and organization in dressing.

A few things, happily, will naturally complement the boot ... but only if they're black.

Some things won't work naturally, but you can force them with a little ingenuity, a couple of extra hours of spare time, and $20 worth of custom-cut premium velvet ribbon.

In the summer, there just isn't a lot you can do with a monolithic black boot. Here's what happens to a summer dress matched up with a big black boot that's matched up with a black shoe.

You think it might be better to try a red sandal? It's more summery? It matches the dress? Nope. Besides, the sandal is flat, so you'll be limping. Unless, of course, you ask your shoe repairman to add a platform for $45. A lot of my summer wardrobe stayed in my wardrobe this summer, and never got taken out for a spin. Sigh.

2. You will have to put platforms on your shoes (or bring out your ‘70s platforms) so as not to limp in your boot. I took a leaf out of Jean's book and added a platform to what was already a slightly high shoe so it was as even as possible with the boot. It wasn't exactly the same height, but it took a lot of stress off my back.

Longtime readers know that neither of us can wear heels. This was the only other elevated shoe I had. If you've ever had a very special article of clothing (let's say a dress), you might have gotten confirmation from a passing admirer, exhorting you to "wear the hell out of that dress". I can tell you I wore the hell out of these two shoes - these two RIGHT shoes - without ever getting a compliment from a passing admirer.  (Jean's 2 cents:  And forever onward, one shoe in each of those pairs will be more well-worn than the other.  Looking on the bright side, of course, if you have surgery or break each foot or ankle, then it all evens out!)

3. You know that person you avoid going anywhere with because they walk soooooo slowly? And they refuse to walk any faster and you in your perpetual rush find that very frustrating? Once you are in your moon boot, you will be the slowest person you know. Even well intentioned people (insert Jean's name here) will get tired of slowing down for you. (Cardboard and walnut tortoise by Valerie's mom, many decades ago.)

4. You will go bankrupt taking taxis trying to keep the weight off your ankle. Here's a look at one column of one of my credit card bills. I've blanked out the non-taxi entries so you can see how they took over my life. I live and work in the same neighborhood, and go home at lunchtime. Ideally, I took a taxi to work in the morning, walked home (picking up lunch on the way), took another taxi back to work, and then another back home in the evening. Sometimes I waited forever for an evening taxi in rush hour, so I gave up and limped home. (Jean's 2 cents:  I confess I was quite often the beneficiary of Valerie's wild spending whenever we were out together in the evening because she'd insist on taking and paying for a cab.  What can I say?  Rather than trot alongside the taxi, I happily hopped in.  Let the record reflect that I did jump in first, so Valerie wouldn't have to slide all the way across the back seat!)

I got to know taxis pretty well, and was most surprised by the legroom issue. I've never been taller than 5'7", and now I'm shrinking (this is the solemn duty of all older women), so I've never had to think much about fitting into taxis, but having a moon boot gave me new sympathy and empathy for anyone who wears a size 13 shoe. Here was a rare taxi that gave me and my boot room to maneuver in.

More typically, I had to wedge my boot under the driver's seat.

Sometimes I couldn't even get the boot on the floor, and had to ride sort of side-saddle, like good Victorian ladies in their voluminous dresses. What in heaven's name do tall men (with proportional feet) do when they have to take a taxi???

5. You will shop only at the store closest to you. Not at the cheapest or the best or your favorite, and you will buy a lot of products that you are unfamiliar with to avoid walking further. And you will buy the smallest size, because economy size may be good for your wallet, but it’s not good for your ankle.

6. You will twist your back all out of shape, and have to take a hot bath every night so as not to wake up feeling like Quasimodo. The plus side of this is that if you put a chair next to the tub, it's a great way to spend quality time with your cat.

7. If your boot is on your left foot (like mine), you will find it more comfortable walking on the right side of the street. You've probably never needed to notice this before, but the streets of New York are ever so slightly angled, most likely to encourage run-off after it rains. This is genius engineering for city planners, but a nightmare for someone whose leg is already out of balance. The picture below is not retouched. The street really is angled up to the right, which made it great to walk on. Walking on the opposite side of the street, however, would have made me hobble as if I had an arthritic hip. Jean gets a lot of credit for putting up with this little idiosyncrasy on our outings together.  (Jean's 2 cents:  I became acutely aware of a very strange anomaly of the law of averages:  If it was roasting hot, the side of the street we had to walk on was always in the blazing sun.  Likewise, if it was chilly and breezy, we always had to walk on the shady, windy side.  AND we had to walk really slowly ...)

8. Everything in the street becomes an obstacle. In preparation for repaving, the street outside my house was torn up shortly after I broke my ankle. The moon boot is built to protect the leg from any jostling. So it will survive an asteroid crash, but the trade-off is that the leg becomes insensitive to everything. The very slight ridges and grooves that we never notice under normal circumstances become looming threats to the body's delicate balance. Add to that legs of different lengths, and you have a recipe for disaster. The sight below stopped me in my literal tracks. Until the streets were repaved, about a week later, stepping out into the street was like re-enacting "The Perils of Pauline".

9. Velcro. The velcro on my boot was so strong, NASA could use it to fasten an astronaut to the wall of a rocket so she could get some shuteye without floating away. It was so strong, I couldn’t peel my boot open without bending my nails backward. So I cut up little bits of black industrial felt and put them on the end of each tab, as here. And we’re not even talking about the strained relations between velcro and your stockings or velcro and your dress.

10. You will have to wear a boot for what seems like eternity, except in bed. You will scuff your polished floors wearing your boot and shoe indoors, and seriously consider renting a buffer when it's all over. If you do your dishes by hand, as I do, you will pamper your leg by propping it up on a chair to take the pressure off. Sharp-eyed readers will recognize this chair as the one I fell off when I broke my wrist. This is part of its penance.

Oh, wait, sorry - there are eleven reasons!

11. Unless you are at the bus stop waiting for it, you will miss the bus. A lot. Even if it's just across the street, like this one, because you can't run to catch it anymore. And don’t even think about the subway because you can’t get down the stairs and the elevator is closed while they clear away what the last drunk left there. You will have to stop jaywalking and learn to cross only at the cross walk, and only starting at the moment the light turns green. No more sprinting through the yellow light.


First, I am delighted to say that I am in charming company. Helen of Chronic Knitting Syndrome sent me this photo of actor John Hurt talking with director Alan Parker on the program Living the Life, in which he's wearing the very same moon boot. I could also show you pictures of Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Aniston in leg casts, but since that's not quite the same thing, we'll just keep it simple. (Helen has a four star list of great movies on her website, by the way, even if you're not knitting while you watch.)

When I first arrived at my doctor's office way back in August, I figured I had a bad sprain, but one never knows, so I had it x-rayed, and the doctor told me I had chipped it. No big deal, right? Not as good as a sprain, but not so bad. This is what I envisioned, and in my mind's eye, I saw the little chip re-anchoring itself to the bone through the miracle of the really tight boot.

The doctor put me in the boot, and sent me on my way. When I came back two weeks later complaining that it still hurt, the doctor said "of course it hurts - you fractured your ankle." This was news to me. I thought I'd gotten off easy, but in fact I was now one of the Truly Injured.  I had to change my vision, as below. Kind of like the thin lines you see in your dishware. You know that if it ever breaks, it will break along that line, but it's not broken yet.

Those of us of a certain age have noticed that lately the word fracture has become synonymous with break. Is that a euphemism, like powder room? When I was finally declared boot-free, last week, I asked the doctor if I'd fractured my ankle, as in hairline, or if I'd actually broken it, and he said I'd broken it. So the above two cookies are wrong. The cookie below is correct. It wasn't a bad break, and he says the healed area won't be more likely to break again in the future, which is good to know. But if there are any doctors reading this, please, no euphemisms. Call a spade a spade, and a break a break. (Jean asks: May we please eat the cookies NOW?)

Even in the boot, and even with foam pads inside the boot, my foot moved around a little, so for two weeks the doctor put my leg in a small "wet cast" for additional stability. It was so light that I could still get into my shoes, and made what little walking I did a lot easier and more comfortable. The down side was that I was not allowed to get it wet. The lady below is smiling because the plastic shower protector on her leg works just fine.

Unfortunately, my shower protector, which I'd had since my first foot surgery three years ago, finally sprang a leak. You can immerse a tire in water to find a leak, but you don't get any results when you immerse your shower protector. I only needed it for two weeks, so I didn't want to invest another $30 for a new one (especially when I could invest that in three taxi rides). So I got out the duct tape, and looked decidedly unglamorous when I showered in this:

I live pretty close to the United Nations, so when the General Assembly convened, I knew it would be impossible to get a taxi, or impossible for the taxi to get through traffic, due to the high level of security everywhere. I decided to get a knee walker, so I could roll to work on one leg, and cradle the ankle in the knee walker. I'm not posting any pictures, but you can find them online. I saw a video of a guy zooming around on one, and wondered why my doctor hadn't suggested it.  I had gotten two blocks from home on my knee walker when I hit uneven pavement in the sidewalk, went flying, landed on my left elbow, and was scooped up by two nearby policemen. (My ankle, in the moon boot that will stand up to an asteroid, was unharmed.)  Three hours later my elbow was so swollen my hand couldn't bend enough to reach my face. Alarmed, I ran off to my GP, who x-rayed my elbow and declared it unbroken, but said I had tendinitis and bursitis. I treated it with the old bags of frozen peas method.

Today, aside from making an occasional popping sound, my elbow seems fine, but it was out of commission for a couple of weeks.  (Try getting into a hot bath with one elbow, one ankle, and a shower protector on your leg.)  If you're thinking of getting a knee walker, keep it in your home or in your place of work, where everything is smooth and flat. It's not for outdoors.  (Jean's 2 cents:  Does she ask me ahead of time so I could tell her the knee walker is designed for people who don't have the upper body strength for crutches; that since she wasn't on crutches and was in a walking, weight-bearing boot, it was contraindicated for her; that it isn't designed for outdoor use, especially not on crooked, uneven sidewalks; or that it was not a good idea? Nooooo.  Only after "The Wreck of The Hesperus" does the captain of the ship ask for directions and the weather forecast ... )

When the two weeks in the wet cast were up, I had the Great Unveiling. This was my daily kit and kaboodle for that two week period. Here's the Ace bandage.

It was sort of like the dance of the seven veils, without the dance. Here's a light elastic bandage.

Here's the wet cast. I think its active ingredient was zinc oxide, but don't quote me on that.

Look how slim that left ankle is! (And look how badly those toes need a new polishing!)

The ankle is healing more slowly than the wrist did, and this is to be expected - the wrist was completely immobilized, and bears no weight. The ankle is not entirely immobilized in the boot (since you take it off at night), and the boot allows it to bear some weight. As with the wrist, when people saw me wearing the boot, they started telling me their own broken ankle stories. One young woman told me she was a dancer, and had broken her ankle three times, but she was fine when we spoke. Another told me it was months before she felt completely healed, so I'm prepared to be a bit delicate for a while. In fact, I have developed a slight case of - shall we say - acropediphobia - fear of high heels. (There actually is no word for fear of high heels, but there should be. I asked my friend Ti-Henna, who studied classical Greek and Latin, to coin one for me. Thanks, Miss Ti!!!) I don't wear high heels, but now when I see them I imagine falling in them, and just about swoon.

I am out of the boot, though not quite out of the woods. I now have (on doctor's orders) an elastic ankle brace (similar to a support stocking), and was told to wear a lace-up shoe with it, for stability. The doctor says I no longer need the Ace bandage, but I feel better with it.

One has to have a sense of humor about all this to get through it, so one recent day as I went through my foot dressing ritual, I was reminded of Winston Churchill and his immortalized comment on Russia.

It is a riddle

wrapped in a mystery

inside an enigma

tenderly swaddled in a big red suede Cole-Haan lace-up boot. (Okay, he didn't say that last part.)