Friday, March 30, 2018

Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name

Oliver leaves Elio.

I was late to all of the Oscar nominated or buzzed about films this year and have been catching up. It was, in my estimation, a good year for movies. This one, "Call Me By Your Name," devastated me and brought to surface memories that when called are as fragile and raw as it appears to be for Elio here in this frame from the movie as he clutches at his throat because, obviously, his heart has moved there and no words are expressed as Oliver climbs on to the train to leave Italy. Leaving him behind.

When I first saw the movie, I was distracted. I saw the novel that the film was based on in the store and picked it up. It wrapped around me and made me feel like I was writhing in deep, warm, sea water- drowning, but quite alive at the same time. The novel moves beyond the film in time, so I read the ending twice. In the same day. And as soon as I had the chance, I watched the movie, alone, for a second time and am left wondering how many times it will take to the point that I can't watch it anymore.

Sometimes, movies, small, quiet ones, capture me and hold on through several viewings until I am able to walk away from them. When I first saw Parker Posey's "Broken English," I watched it on three successive evenings. One, I love Parker Posey. Two, a Frenchman was involved. And three, a trip to Paris ensued. The quiet of the film allowed for the character, Nora, to explore the general malaise that she felt and the disappointment in not fulfilling what she thought was to be her life by the deadline that many of us impose upon ourselves. Nora's inner dialogue that runs through the movie could be what goes through mine on any given day. Nora figures it out. And lucky for her that the figuring had something to do with a Frenchman and Paris. If only!

Another small, quiet movie that I got caught up in recently was "Sophie and the Rising Sun," which was set in a beautifully filmed South Carolina circa 1941. Sophie is adrift, without family or opportunity, and crabs to make ends meet. She is an artist and paints the gardens that are prolific in her small town.  A Japanese-American man comes to town under mysterious circumstances, and Sophie is drawn to him. Theirs is a bittersweet story- two vagabonds who do not fit into the lives that have been given to them. Fortunately, the sun rises and they find each other. The cinematography is stunning. And their quiet passion is heartening. I watched it three nights in a row.

And now for Oliver and Elio. I know this scene at the train station- leaving, separating, not knowing if or even when they'll ever physically be in the same place, understanding that emotionally, they'll never part. Their youth and the overwhelming surprise that love could take over every cell in one's body makes for the perfect storm of joy, grief, and wonder. It reminds me of the boy I loved, love, who would take me to the airport after heady days of wandering around his city, each other, in quiet and not so sure how to be together. On leaving, he would buy me magazines and gum, stick a twenty in my pocket, and my heart would swell one hundred times its size, catching in my throat blocking words. I wonder about the people who would sit next to me on the plane and how they felt about having this huge, blubbering heart sitting in such close proximity. Of course, this may be why this film resonates with so many. Who hasn't had their heart swell so large that words could not express its feelings. Oh, Elio. And Oliver ... I'll certainly watch this film again ... and again.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Serena Williams

Vogue February 2018
Perhaps, the cover of Serena Williams for Vogue would have more appropriate for March, not February, so as to celebrate Women's History Month. Clearly, she is representative of what has become the real struggle for women today- balancing a career and family, especially when one's career is at its pinnacle and the baby comes, and for Serena, changes the game for Serena's continued dominance on the tennis court. How can a baby not change the psyche and certainly, the body of an elite athlete. The wonder will become not how many grand slam titles Serena won before now, but how she won them after when she's had to regroup, retrain, and figure out to be selfish in her pursuit while being selfless in her new role as a mother.

The key to her and what is provocative to me is this from this article: "'I remember ow stressed I was about getting to Grand Slam number eighteen, tying Chrissie and Martina," she says. "I had lost every Grand Slam that year. I was in the U.S. Open, and Patrick [Mouratoglou], my coach, said, 'Serena, this doesn't make sense. You're so stressed about eighteen. Why not 30? Why not 40?' For me, that clicked. I won eighteen, nineteen, and 20 right after that. Why would I want to stand side by side when I can stand out on my own? I think sometimes women limit themselves. I'm not sure why we think that way, but I know that we're sometimes taught to not dream as big as men, not to believe we can be a president or a CEO, when in the same household, a male child is told he can be anything he wants. I'm so glad I had a daughter. I want to teach her that there are not limits."

I can identify with her coming to the realization that she needed to focus beyond the immediate goal of achieving someone else's record when her conditioning, practice, and dominance suggested that she could far surpass the records. And she did. But her limits ... I suggest that we have put 'man limits' on us when we need to determine what the limit or expectation or expanded goal should be based on what it is to be a woman in the pursuit. Raised in the era when the movement took a real hold on society, I was raised to believe that I could do anything that a man could do. The only limits that I had were socio-economic, which is another argument, but I was able to achieve, within my group, anything that the boys did. I suppose that was the first step, but as time moves forward and more girls are are doing just that and surpassing them in many ways, I think that it is time to stop comparing ourselves to boys and work it out for ourselves as girls. And girls alone. Not the same as boys.  Or better than boys. As we are.

Serena is the greatest. And now, she'll show us how great she is as she climbs back to the level of play that she beat everyone with. I expect that this period of her career will be her biggest challenge and her greatest.

Monday, March 26, 2018


Elle March 2018

These are the best pages in a rather standard issue March edition. Miss Coco is soooo fash-on at only seven. Her parents own a vintage store in Japan's Harajuku district, so Coco has been raised in the store, which to me seems only fitting that she has absorbed the vibe of her playpen to make a distinct statement of her own. My sister's eldest children, in particular, were raised in their physician father's office and want to be doctors themselves, so why wouldn't this tiny tyke not take on fashion as she lives among it. As customers noticed Coco's bold choices, her parents created an Instagram account for her which now has 432,000 followers. Noted in the article that part of her success is in the Japanese's own obsession with 'tiny houses, tiny food, and toddlers in tiny versions of Oscar gowns.'

My youngest niece is now nearly 14- about twelve years ago when she must have been about 2, we traveled to  Lake Louise, Canada. On a snowy afternoon, grandma and I stuffed her in her red snowsuit for a walk around the lake. She was quite confident and navigated the snow packed path well. Along the route, two young men, who were Japanese, stopped us and asked if they could take her picture. I didn't mind, and she was unaware. Of course, huge lenses came out and they 'snap, snap, snapped' her like fiends. It was so strange ... but my niece was adorable and her dark hair was cut similarly to Coco's here. My niece also had beautiful, slightly coco tinted skin that was flawless. I supposed at the time that the guys thought that she looked like an anime character. Because she did ... look like an anime character.

Of course, little Coco here is beyond that ... 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

God Awful Small Affairs

Driving home late on a Sunday evening, the radio played a song, "Persephone," by the Chicago band "God Awful Small Affairs." I liked it. I liked it so much that I was able to remember the band's name and song title forty-five minutes later when I arrived home. The DJ of the new music hour, found the band on Sound Cloud, where I was able to find them. The band lists themselves as 'femme-fatale space rock,' and I saw somewhere that they also identify as folkish. I like the sound, but my thought isn't so much about them as it is about radio.

A week ago, I happened to catch the last broadcast of The Loop, a rock station staple in the Chicago market for more years than most would imagine, before it moved to a Christian rock station. I was surprised by this as I had not read anything about the sale, new ownership, or change of format previous to listening to the last show. And since then, I have read that many radio stations in this market and across the country are struggling to continuing to make it. Apparently, the various and assorted platforms for streaming has severely impacted the economic viability of traditional radio. The country is getting Pandora'd. And, to me, that is bad news. I don't mind listening to streaming radio ... I have friends who regularly listen to this or that band station. The choices pulled to support the selection of one band makes sense and is easy to listen to for a couple of hours.

But how will one find NEW music?

I still listen to CDs in my car. When I get an album, okay ... CD, I listened to it over and over so as to get to know it. In the fall, I was heavy on repeat of LCD Soundsystem. And when U2 released "Songs of Experience" on December 1, I've not listened to much else for 3 months. It was just a matter of time until I would be comfortable enough to pull away from that one CD to see what else was going on. I moved to the radio. And I don't listen to one station ... I listen to many. I'm always looking for the next obsession, I suppose. When I did this, I found God Awful Small Affairs. This band doesn't have a release, except for the seven songs on Sound Cloud. How would I have heard of them if not for the radio program that focused on new music/sound that was sent in by local bands.

I know that my nephew is big into seeking out new music on YouTube, but I wonder how he does that? Or has the time to surf it. The car is the perfect place to find it, especially as I live in a big city and always seem to find traffic. Listening to the radio was the activity for the car, and it was the reliable outlet to find new music.

It's a god awful state of affairs ... everything is changing, and I wonder to what good- especially in this respect.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Kobe Bryant's "Dear Basketball"

I didn't pay attention when Kobe Bryant retired from the NBA. I am a Chicago fan. I lived wonderfully through many magical seasons of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. I think that I'm good for NBA basketball after that experience. Sure, I catch some of the games, and I pay attention to what the Chicago Bulls are doing by reading the newspaper. Honestly, my impression of Bryant was never a very good one.

But he won an Oscar for Best Short Animation. I had no idea. I had to check it out.

I teach boys. Boys who dream of bigger and better, but the world seems to have forgotten them and left them behind without any intention of picking them up in the draft ... of life. And that's devastating because I have found them to be so much like any other boys that I have taught in my career who, unfortunately, live a step away from anything that could pull them in. In class, we have just finished reading John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Most of the boys have never read a book in its entirety, and we do have to read aloud to capture the range of levels in the classroom, but the strategies that I employ for students to analyze the novel are rigorous. I taught if for the first time last year to a different group of guys, and I was surprised at the end of the novel when we watched the film version (a treat for having finished the book) when they yelled out when John Malkovich and Gary Sinise first appear on the screen, "We thought that they were black!" And we did talk at length about the norm of racism in America at that time even though it takes place in California, not the South, and they knew that the character Crooks is black and not allowed to live in the bunk for that reason. Though he's not supposed to, Lennie visits Crooks in his room when the guys have gone out because he is lonely. Lennie doesn't know that as a white man, he's not to enter the black man's space. My students know this, but they still identified the main characters as black. They see the struggle and relate to it. This year's group had the same reaction.

Which brings me to Kobe's poem. The Principal visited our class to observe my co-teacher. The kids, as usual, were engaged and dynamic. The co-teacher wanted to treat them because they made him look good. We can't do cookies or much else. I don't want to play an hour of Chief Keef music videos on YouTube, which I could probably do, so I looked to Kobe.

And he was more than I could imagine a Los Angelas Laker to be. He articulated his dream of basketball and the respect and love that he has for the game ... for himself ... so beautifully. The boys hadn't heard of it, which was so surprising as they all follow the NBA and wishfully think that they too could be NBA players even though the odds are against them even graduating from high school, some even elementary school. I've printed out the poem to bring to class tomorrow. Often, I have the boys write their version of the story like they did with the dream that Lennie and George have in the novel. So many of their dreams are not about living off 'the fatta the land,' but getting out of Chicago and being safe. With Kobe's poem, I want them to think about what their 6-year old selves dreamt about ... if they can remember it. Maybe, in recalling it, they can find it again and the strength to conquer the mountain that is in front of them to find their 'fatta of the land' and a place where "I never saw the end of the tunnel/ I only saw myself/ Running out of one," as Kobe writes.

Monday, March 12, 2018

France is Putting the Cork in Wine?

Chicago Tribune 11 March 2018
The minister of health in France is campaigning to point out the health risks of wine. I've nearly spit out my coffee while I was reading this Sunday's paper when I stumbled across this article. So few things in this world today are sacred ... common sense, inclusion, fair and equal ... and the government, a foreign one albeit, wants to suggest that wine is bad. Zut Alors! I need that wine because we've lost common sense, abhor inclusion, and have lost fair and equal in a bombastic political environment that is our country, and we need our wine. Let me correct this ... we need our FRENCH wine. Although, maybe there would be more for us if the French didn't drink as much of their own wine. That's a thought ...

According to the article, "President Emmanuel Macron begs to differ [with the minister of health]. Macron reassured his compatriots that he enjoys wine every day with lunch and dinner and that, yes, there is a difference between wine and other types of booze." Whoa. Wine with lunch? Sometimes, I need to have a glass of wine with lunch before I go back into the classroom, but I'm not sure that would be very prudent. Are the French drinking too much wine after all? According the article, the French consume, on average, 3.2 gallons of "pure alcohol" per year; whereas, Americans drink far less at 2.4 gallons annually. I was surprised by this number for the sheer number of beer advertisements that show up on television or are plastered on billboards across the city. I don't ever see the same proliferation of wine ads slapped across the French landscape, thank goodness. But, apparently, the French do not need suggestion to fill their gullet with the perfect way to consume a grape. Vive la France!

In the end, do you know what's really interesting ... Russians consume 4 gallons of alcohol a year on average. No wonder that Putin is nuts. He's drunk.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Mavis Staples

Rolling Stone Magazine 8 March 2018
Mavis Staple is a national treasure.

From the interview: "Then there's "that filthy man in the White House": "I don't see no good in him. And the children, his boys, are snakes, you can tell. It's like Satan is in the White House. The first thing you wanna do is stop immigrants from coming to the United States? He's against women. He treats ladies like nothing. He's worse than any president I've ever seen. I mean, we did John F. Kennedy's inauguration - that's how long I been here!"

I'm with you, sister.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Yacht Rock

Rolling Stone Magazine 8 March 2018
While getting my haircut last year, the stylist talked to me about Yacht rock. He was planning on going to a Yacht rock cover band on the weekend. I had never heard of the expression before, so he explained that it was the category for bands like the Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oats, Kenny Loggins, and the like. I knew who all of those were and heard them play on the radio when I was growing up, but I didn't know that they were a thing. The stylist told me to check out parody videos of the genre on YouTube ... and I did. They are pretty hysterical ... and if you were alive during the seventies and listened to any of the afore mentioned bands, you will know all of the players. I recommend watching with a group of friends and having a good time. Check out the "Yacht Rock HD" videos by Hunter Stair on Phillip Mills YouTube channel.

Here, in Rolling Stone Magazine this week, Andy Greene reviews a new book, "The Yacht Rock Book," which has just been published. He writes: "In the late 1970s, there wasn't a name for the smooth, AM-friendly music made by the likes of Hall and Oats ... But a series of viral videos retroactively dubbed it "yacht rock," as it appealed to a very white, upscale audience and an odd number of songs had nautical themes." The forward was written by Fred Armisen, of Portlandia among other things, who said, "It's amazing this style came to be ... it must take an incredible amount of restraint to play that gently."

I am sitting here sort of musing at the attention that has been paid to this ... the songs are part of the soundtrack of my youth, but I wasn't a huge fan and couldn't tell you that the audience was upscale ... I was just a kid listening to a portable radio. And the nautical theme? I guess that I am going to listen to some of those albums to test the theory out. It just cracks me up.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Robert Plant

Rolling Stone Magazine 5 October 2017
I saw Robert Plant a couple of years ago in Chicago. I have been a fan of Led Zepplin since I was 12 or 13 years old. I had older neighbor girls who I spent a summer with before I started high school. Both of their parents worked, so we spent the whole of that summer listening to albums on their excellent turntable. It was there that I was introduced to rock music: Zeppelin, the Who, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and the rest of the 70's greats. I should say that the one band that made the biggest impression on me that they introduced me to was the Beatles, but that is for another time.

One moment that always comes back to me is the one morning that I walked over in my shorts and t-shirt and Zeppelin's Immigrant Song was at high volume as I approached their screen door. Oh, the sound of it was ... haunting and seemed to come from a far away place where I needed to be. We were deep enough into the seventies that Zeppelin didn't tour very much, but the girls took me to a couple of Super Bowl of Rock events at Soldier Field where I saw Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Frampton during his Comes Alive tour, and Black Sabbath .. among others.

A few years back, I started to hang out with another set of friends who brought Zeppelin back into my orbit, and I saw the film The Song Remains the Same for the first time. Not 13 anymore, I had a new appreciation for the band, especially Robert Plant. Man oh man. Long before boy bands and accessible kind of girly singers like, oh, I don't now ... Bieber in his young years or a Harry Styles, who were/are cute, but aren't going to do anyone any harm in their masculine prowess. Ah, but Robert Plant ... he may have been wearing a girly, chiffon top in the scenes from the Madison Square Garden concert that is played during the film, but he is a hot, sexually provocative M-A-N. I didn't even see it at 13, but the age I am now .... WOWSA.

So there I am on the lakefront in Chicago to see Mr. Sex, and I was thrilled when he sang Zep. The rest of it? I could do without. He's a tease. And he barks about not going back to the band, and I say nuts to that. If we have to put up with ... oh, the hundred of other acts who should have retired long ago and save themselves the trouble of being has been'd, I think that Plant and Page could still be giving us the opportunity to transcend.

'Tis a pity he's a ... whore, is the Bowie song, but, in this case, he's the anti-whore. And I would like him a little more dirty.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Oprah and What She Knows for Sure

Oprah Magazine August 2017
Oprah was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Monday night to talk about her new film A Wrinkle in Time. Naturally, Colbert was more interested in talking to her about whether she plans to run for President in 2010. She told him that she has a strong sense of herself, or something to that effect, and would know if that was something that she should do. So far, nothing. Colbert pressed and established that he heard that she was waiting for a sign from God. God, if you didn't know, lives in Colbert's studio and is a reoccurring comedy bit. Colbert made sure that God knew that Oprah was going to be on the show, and he showed up to make a plea to her to run for President.

I'm not so sure that running for President would be in Oprah's best interest, however, I don't think that it is a bad idea. Oprah has shown that she can attract a big audience, a really big audience. An audience that Trump could only dream to have. And if I'm not mistaken, hers was an audience that crossed states, color, economic, and every other level or difference that can only be represented by the U.S. I think that she could win with the power of her reach. Her brand only grows stronger ... someone at work thought that it might be a bad idea because it would expose the skeletons in her closet. I laughed out loud and said to the speaker, 'are you kidding me? She's exposed everything about herself on her show, in her appearances, in her magazine, and through Gayle.'

I was sorry that I never saw the taping of her show here in Chicago. But I continue to subscribe to her magazine. I don't love all of it, but there's enough in it each month to keep me interested. I've talked before of the no nonsense advice that Martha Beck gives readers, and I've found favorite things from Oprah's list. And sometimes, at the very end, she writes about what she knows for sure, and this one pictured gave me pause. I've carried it around for over six months. The theme: letting go. The message is not hers, it is Eckhart Toille's, but she brings it out for all of us to see. I'll transcribe the story of two Zen monks for you to consider:

"Tanzan and Ekido ... were walking along a country road that had become extremely muddy after heavy rains. Near a village, they came upon a young woman who was trying to cross the road, but the mud was so deep , it would have ruined the silk kimono she was wearing. Tanzan at once picked her up and he carried her to the other side.

The monks walked on in silence. Five hours later, as they were approaching the lodging temple, Ekido couldn't restrain himself any longer. "Why did you carry that girl across the road?" he asked. "We monks are not supposed to do things like that."

"I put the girl down hours ago," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"

At the time that I read this, I was thinking of someone else for whom this story would resonate. And now, for me, it is a good reminder as I am presently working with a difficult co-worker and that I need to just let go of the stupid stuff that she says to me. But for all of this talk of Oprah running for President, what this tells me is that we have to back off Oprah! She said no, and we need to understand that asking her over and over again isn't going to change her mind. She has said up front that 'she knows for sure.' Let her know for herself. And hopefully, she might just surprise us.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

President Obama

Rolling Stone Magazine 2017
Stay at it ...

I don't stay up late to watch the Stephen Colbert Late Show because I have to wake up early for school, but I watch it Colbert's YouTube every morning, especially the monologues. I, like many others, look to him to find comfort ... soften the blow ... in these troubling, political times. I don't need to explain it beyond that I would think. Not too long ago, Colbert talked about how comedy can get us through this, hopefully, short period of time in our nation's history. He shared that it was his mother that told him that you can't cry when you laugh, and when you laugh you think ... you use your brain. I would rather laugh than cry that is for sure. And through the jokes,  I find that I am able to approach difficult realities with a clearer understanding of what is at issue.

I wonder if Obama watches the show? Or Michelle? On last night's show, one of the guests was Chelsea Clinton. How strange to have a politically poised person speak so clearly and without barb or dagger. Colbert announced her saying that she is the daughter of two people who won the popular vote. That laugh was bittersweet as was the notion that this first daughter would be more effective working in the White House now than her estranger friend, the current first daughter who doesn't command the same respect for the office as Ms. Clinton demonstrated in her eight minutes having a chat with Mr. Colbert.

Stay at it ... I'm sure trying.

Monday, March 5, 2018

La Tour Eiffel

Harper's Bazaar 2017
This photo of the Eiffel Tower is beautiful. I have never seen it enveloped in fog before. It is so seductive. I had to look up what "The Harmonist" is because I hadn't a clue. Another page showed a beam of the tower with a model in a silver satin slip dress with the caption:


It certainly is a mystery. The wrap up could easily have been the dress as nothing else about the pages suggests perfume. Now, many months later, I look at it differently again as I saw on the news that taking photographs of the Eiffel Tower, especially at night during its light show, is illegal. I did a quick check on Google, and it appears that that taking photographs of it is against the law.  It is suggested on the few sources that I read, however, that tourists aren't likely to be arrested for taking a snap. Whew. The last time that I saw Paris, I posted several pix on Instagram- and this video. How can one resist?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Mindy Kaling's Black Pearls

In Style October 2017
I had pulled this out of InStyle magazine last fall and can't seem to find the actual page. I carried it around in my purse for months meaning to write about it, and it never getting done. The story behind Mindy Kaling is that the mother of a friend gifted her the random pearls for which she used to make the necklace that is pictured ... I think. I thought that it was a good idea to make a necklace out of a handful of pearls that someone left behind. I also find the odd white pearl out charming. And I love that the black pearls are of different sizes and shapes. I'm not always a fan of match, so the mismatch is captivating.

I have not seen much of Mindy Kaling lately. I watched The Mindy Project dutifully every week when it was FOX, but when it jumped to Hulu, I sort of lost track of it, which is sort of sad. Although, to be honest, I've lost track of any network situation comedies or dramas as I spend all of my time in Netflix or Prime land. Who needs commercials? And why shouldn't series be more movie-like and bingeable. I don't want to stop after a half hour for goodness sake. I want to keep going and going and going until I've melted into the couch. Well, not really, but sometimes I wonder. I have a really long attention span. And when I happen upon a sitcom on regular tv, I am inpatient for how short it is. I've noticed also that I don't watch my beloved WGN news in the morning anymore. I have sort of stopped because I'm either getting work together for school (my current school is very depressing and can't think when I'm there ... can you imagine the kids who are there and trying to learn? That's the real question) OR I'm catching up on the previous nights' Steven Colbert. I can't seem to start a day without having a laugh with him ... talk about really depressing ... a dark, smelly school AND no jokes about Trump. Goodness.

Network television is dead to me. That's what I'm hearing here.

Postscript: I found the tear out in a pile of papers hidden in a corner. The pearls were given to Kaling from her college friend's mother, who she would visit in Hawaii. They shared a love of beautiful jewelry, and Hai Luen, the mother, would take Mindy to the best vendors and there, Kaling took to black pearls. On her death, very close to her own mother's, she was given the loose pearls that are of the necklace. Mindy says that "whenever I put it on, it reminds me of Hai Luen- and the bond between mothers and daughters."

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lord & Taylor

Chicago Tribune 27 February 2018
Oh dear.

I am a department store girl. Have been since ... well, I think that it all began when I was young and my grandfather would take my sisters, brother, and I to Marshall Field's on State Street in Chicago on Christmas Eve. We would visit Santa, walk through the toy department, and have lunch under the big tree in the Walnut Room. I can just taste the Frango mint pie ice cream pie. At that time, the store was big, old and dusty. The floor boards creaked as you walked from counter to counter looking in wonder at all of the lovely things that could be purchased. 

When I left college, I didn't really have a good idea of what I wanted to do with myself. I had to get some kind of job, so I went over to the suburban branch of Marshall Field's near my parents' home where I was living. I started out as a part-time sales associate in the accessory department. I was very familiar with handbags and didn't really care for them much. But I loved the scarves and of all things- sunglasses. The scarves were beautiful, and the store carried a wonderful assortment of vendors. They were slippery devils to lay out in the case, but I never tired of straightening the colors and silk. Sunglasses were a mathematics problem to me. I had so many towers that held them on top of the cases, and the cases themselves to fill. In the early eighties, many of the glasses were very large. One of the best selling vendors was Liz Claiborne, and hers were particularly big. As you can imagine, customers would come through and in trying on many pairs, would upset the apple carts. I loved the challenge of getting them all back in their place. Better yet, I would love when a big shipment would come in of new styles, and I would have to make room for them along with the existing pairs. I think that I would do it now, just one time, for free just to have the satisfaction of perfectly merchandise sunglasses cases.

As you can see, I sort of was a natural at merchandising and was soon transferred to the County Shop, which was a private label that mirrored a Ralph Lauren collection. The buyer, Beverly Miller, was an icon, and the merchandise in the shop was beautifully designed with rich fabrications. I would argue that it was a better fit and as fine as Ralph Lauren product. I would examine the catalog that would be sent to Field's customers for each season for the shop and merchandise it on the floor exactly as shown on the pages. Our sales went up for the department and though I didn't quite see eye to eye with my manager, who was more suburban and I was still trying to crawl out of my college new wave phase, I was noticed by the downtown management and was offered a position at the State Store, the flagship. When I arrived on December day at the height of the Christmas season, I thought that I had died and gone to retail heaven. The floors creaked, the scent of Paris perfume, which was released that year, wafted through the floors, and the people there were fashionable. I was in Juniors clothing, which was like a barn of clothes that I had a hard time keeping on the rounders and 4-squares, but it was exciting.

I worked in two other departments in my tenure as what would become a management position over ten years, and I happily was a part of a large-scale renovation of the flagship store. I left retail to become a teacher, but I never left behind what is the allure of a department store- beauty, bustle, and assortment. But the department store model is dying, and I am so sad for it. Field's is long gone. Macy's may have been something in New York, but as a national chain, it is horrid. When I walk into Macy's and am greeted by that ugly red that they use for everything including their name, I want to ... go somewhere else. They've killed the beauty of great stores. And their assortment is pedestrian. The best department store that I have been in recently has been Bloomingdale's in New York. Oh, they still have it. I didn't get off of the first floor for time, but it was enough to feel satisfied. That store is spectacularly beautiful.

And now, I read that Lord & Taylor is closing two more locations in Chicago. What is a girl to do? Do you know how much I have come to depend on them. Nordstrom's is okay, but their assortment isn't always my desire, and their sales never reach a truly sweet spot for a department store savvy shopper like myself. Granted, if I need a dress for an occasion, I usually go there first. Online. Nordstrom's has an excellent web site. Bloomingdale's seems to be heading the way of Lord & Taylor in Chicago. I haven't spent nearly the time, in store or online, as I have in the past. But Lord & Taylor? Oh, the coupons. Oh, the POS (point of sale ... like 'take an extra 30% off ... oh, that is music to my ears) and a coupon. Oh, I just bought a cashmere sweater there for less than $30. Of course, I know a sales cycle and know when to shop for what at the best price (and with a coupon). And of course, I know that I may have contributed to the demise of the store because I seldom shopped without a sale (and a coupon). I can remember at Field's the first time that offered coupons to customers, I thought ... ooh, this could become a problem. And it seems that it has.

Give the lady what she wants ... we ladies do have more choice in how to spend our time. I must be some kind of spirit ghost for a lady from the past who liked to be dropped off at 111 North State street to be free of her obligations and live, if only for an hour, admiring fine things in a beautiful setting. I wonder if they had a good sales rack then? Or a coupon?