Saturday, November 20, 2010


There are times during the week when I come home, swamped with deadlines and personal projects, and flop onto our massive futon, thinking, “Dear God, I just wish I had time to do absolutely nothing.”

Strangely, though, I am a person to whom the concept of “doing nothing” is sometimes lost. Doing nothing is different for everyone, I suppose. My “nothing” always involves something, but some people really can just sit there and be perfectly comfortable doing that. Occasionally I envy them but I am often too caught up in my own nothing to think about it. I find myself utterly incapable of just sitting there, though I often wish I could—and I find this especially prevalent living in New York. There is just something to do all the time. Anywhere. If you want it you can find it. Sometimes I find that I start to “itch” if I’m not doing anything. I’m worried that if I am not going out and finding “it” then I am not taking true advantage of living here.

But this is simply not the case. Months ago, MS warned me of this very phenomenon. Because there’s so much to do, so many distractions, we have to focus our attention on the things that really matter. Is it so vital that I go to the Union Square Farmer’s Market right now? No, I can go next weekend. Do I have to go to the Guggenheim tomorrow? No, it will be open many other days during the year. Part of living in New York and learning to be a New Yorker is that you have to learn to live here as if it weren’t the city that never sleeps. Sometimes you have to wake up with nothing on the schedule and then go forth with doing that nothing because that’s what normal New Yorkers do. They are not tourists who have to see something every second of the limited time they’re here. Grand Central Station will be here next week, next month, next year and the next ten years—I can go in any of those time segments I choose. There’s no rush.

Instead, occasionally you have to sit in your pajamas all day and read the fashion magazines that have been piling up on your desk and drink your tea and maybe you’ll eventually decide to rustle your bones and jaunt down to the grocery store so you don’t wind up eating stale Cheerios for dinner during the week. That’s it—that will be your day. And it’s okay because that’s the “nothing” you’ve been wanting to do for a while (if you’re me, anyway).

The nothings, no matter what they may entail, are necessary in New York. If you do something all the time you’ll really just burn yourself out. And what kind of a way is that to enjoy living in such a bustling, lively place? It’s better to have the energy to do the things you love than have no energy because you were doing a bunch of things that didn’t matter to you. The “nothing” moments are far more important than we think they are, but unfortunately we only appreciate them when they’re unavailable. So it’s important to have a lazy Saturday, and maybe even a lazy Sunday if you’re feeling ambitious. Because without your own silence, you can’t appreciate the city’s music.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not For the Faint of Heart

At 20 minutes til, I was one of the first people there, but we could not go in until the exact hour. In front of the dingy iron door, more and more women, and the occasional brave man, began to line up as the clock neared 11.

And then, 11:03. A stout, unibrowed man held open the door with a fleshy palm. He wore an army green v-neck t-shirt that danced atop his swollen stomach. The shirt swayed in gust of wind created by the first 10 or so women in line rushing past him to fill the industrial elevator that would bring them to the fourth floor, the location of their long-awaited treasure: the Lutz and Patmos sample sale.

Lutz and Patmos is the child of Tina Lutz and Marcia Patmos, who joined design forces to produce timeless, casual knitwear for all seasons. Together since 2000, Lutz and Patmos created a niche market for both themselves and their customers. However, the two split up after this past Fall collection, each desiring a different path in the fashion world. Now the line no longer exists, so the sample sale was highly sought-after.

Retailers, like Lutz and Patmos, use sample sales to get rid of excess merchandise. Shoppers can purchase near-mint condition garments for a fraction of the original price and when it comes to designer labels this fraction is a significant one.

All of the women in the elevator knew this, and knew that this would for the most part be their last chance to get anything Lutz and Patmos at such a slashed price. The unibrowed man heaved open the elevator door, and a barrage of women walked quickly to the metal doors where the sample sale lay in wait. A cacophony of clacking heels and boots and the shuffling of ballet flats resounded along the hallway.

The sample sale was not in a large room, a room perhaps no bigger than a family living room. The beige walls were lined with silver wheeled clothing racks. In the center of the room were tan cardboard boxes filled with scarves, fur accessories, belts, skirts, tank tops, and silk dresses. On the racks were the famous Lutz and Patmos knits—cardigans, shrugs, sweaters, capelets, dusters, and even knitted fur jackets and vests, all soon to be torn through and flung about by the same women who were making their way down the hallway at that very moment.

Hearts racing, the women practically threw their coats and handbags at the coat check girls and flew into the racks of clothing. It was every woman for herself—if they even had an inkling that they might like an item of clothing, into their arms it went. I was no exception. As I made my way through the first rack, I was particularly charmed by a long red knit cardigan and a silver and grey argyle shrug. I wrapped them in my arms and held onto them for safe keeping—I had visions of Monica on Friends pinning down a woman at a sample sale who wanted her same wedding dress, and I did not want to be that other woman.

When I began looking at the second rack, I found something quite wonderful, however. A jacket of woven navy blue rabbit fur for more than 70% off the original price not only in my size but the last one on the rack. I grabbed it and wrapped it around my arm for security. Nobody was getting near this jacket until I tried it on. Suddenly, I seemed to be infected with the same sample sale fever as the women slinging clothes around me left and right.

Stray, unwanted clothes began piling up on tables, fallen soldiers littering the pathways between and underneath the racks. Clothes covered the chairs where women tried on their finds, keeping them close and in sight. I expected some of them to burst out with an unearthly “My precioussssss,” like Golem in the Lord of the Rings movies, but thankfully nobody did. Instead, they quickly stripped out of their clothes, bras exposed, underwear on display, to jump into the Lutz and Patmos creations and see if the garments were worth the trip to the register, suspiciously eyeing any woman who came near their stash mid-try on.

Yet again, I found I was no better, as I piled my own belongings on top of my stash to mark my territory while I tried my pieces on (thankfully they were mostly jackets so no stripping was required). The two sweaters were okay, but the rabbit fur jacket was exquisite. But did I have the funds to bankroll this garment? I put the two sweaters back from whence they came, holding tightly to the fur jacket, and found a people-free zone near the entrance to telephone my financier (aka my mother).

The jacket was a go. I found a place in the line for the register, which extended the length of the room. Clothes and their women still flew around behind me, but being in the line was a welcome lapse in the chaos. I paid and exited, donning my new rabbit fur coat proudly (and warmly, I might add). I was not a sample sale victim who had their garment of choice ripped from them by a cruel woman in a passionate fashion frenzy. I had bravely protected myself against the masses and emerged victorious with a fabulous coat.

Entering the elevator, the chaos finally stopped. Strangely, I felt my pulse slow down. Sample sales, I realized, were not for the faint of heart.

My precious...