Saturday, May 30, 2015

Maud Frizon Evening Pumps

My Right Foot
One morning in the fall of 1981, I received a call from my fiancé, now my wife of 33 years. She was at a photographer’s studio engaged in a fashion shoot for Town & Country magazine, where she was an editor. “What size shoe do you wear,” she asked, and I replied “Eight and a half.”

“Great." she responded, "Get down here as fast as you can.” 

It was good news, since I was struggling with ad copy I had to produce as part of a test to see if I had what it took to be a copywriter.

Either the male “foot model” hadn’t shown or he had the wrong size foot, or various men's evening pump designers had sent over the wrong size. When I arrived at the studio – I no longer recall the name of the photographer – I was quickly dressed in tuxedo trousers, red socks, and size 8.5 black "alligator" evening pumps.

The female foot model was already in place and my job became holding on to her in various poses, while the camera was aimed at our lower legs and adorned feet. My fiancé was present for the entire shoot, which took a couple of hours while I had to hold on to the model who I recall as being quite attractive above the shins as well as below. It was a lot more fun than writing ad copy about Dunlop tennis racquets.

When the shoot was over, my fiance’s boss decided that the appropriate compensation for my trouble was the pair of pumps and dinner for two at Mr. Chow’s on 57th Street.

The photo shown above appeared in the magazine some months later.

The pumps actually did not fit all that well, so I had to use inserts so that they didn’t flop around too much. But, with the metallic strip at the heel, they certainly stood out; I still occasionally wear them, although I’m no longer called on to wear evening clothes as often as I’d like.

It turned out to be my only modeling gig. The copywriting people, by the way, told me to forget about it; in retrospect, they couldn't have been more wrong.

We've never been back to Mr. Chow’s.

The Baaahhhd News About Cotton "Sweaters"

Made from Plants
Thinking about a Father’s Day present for dear old dad? Allow me a word about cotton sweaters. Don’t.

A proper sweater is made from wool. For the last twenty years or so, my own preference has been for merino wool. Merino sheep understand what it takes to provide just enough warmth, elasticity, and breathability in an age of  global warming. They also provide us with an ability to wear lightweight wool in an office, at home, or in a restaurant during winter when the heat is on, without swelter.

In my youth, Shetland was the way to go, but these sweaters are too bulky to wear beneath the less generous cuts of contemporary tweed jackets, blazers and suits. Also, the same natural ability to retain body heat during late autumn tailgating with Penelope will roast us when we attempt to wear them indoors.

Cotton “sweaters”, and this means cotton-linen, cotton-silk, and cotton-wool as well, are really sweatshirts. Cotton sweaters lack elasticity; stretch them and they remain stretched, which means you must buy them a size smaller and practice a kind of sweater alchemy to get them to consistently fit right. They also do not hold their color as well as wool does. If you wash and spin dry them, they will fit more or less properly for a day or two, but, over time, they will fade. If you dry-clean them, you are what used to be called a ninny.

I have experimented mightily with cotton sweaters with all the best intentions. I’ve had two bulky cable-knits, which, not surprisingly, made me look bulky. I currently have four J.Crew sweaters made from various cotton blends – navy, black, taupe, and light grey(shown above). All of them are useless; they don’t even drape properly over the shoulders. They are limp, dull pretenders.

I wear a merino crew neck sweater nearly every day for eight or nine months of the year in cool/cold weather, with light wool charcoals and corduroys: in warmer months, with khakis and, on occasion, with shorts. My attempts to substitute cotton in warm months has failed and left me with the quandary of what to do with these shapeless, pathetic “things”. Why would I pass them on to the less fortunate through Goodwill or another like-minded institution, further adding to their misfortune?

By all means, wear cotton shirts, trousers, jeans, swimsuits, sneakers, TOMS, polos, socks, ties, and boxers, in oxford, sea island, pima, seersucker, madras, pinpoint, canvas, twill, poplin, and more. But, skip the sweaters.

Listen to your inner-sheep. "Sweaters made from plants are a baaahhhhd idea."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Prada Pair: Oh, Sole-a-Mia

Even those who know me well will be surprised to learn that I have not one but two pairs of Prada shoes. I’m not really a Prada kind of guy – and don’t possess a Prada type body for their clothes. But, when it comes to shoes, I can be seduced by the most unlikely soles.

    I bought both pair on a whim, and also on sale at Prada’s Fifth Avenue shop while on a lunchtime stroll from my nearby office. It was a particularly tumultuous time in my corporate career, which is saying something, since I worked at a famously tumultuous company that was always merging, acquiring, or being acquired. Plus, we spent far more time competing internally for favor, jobs, budget money, and, well, just because.

    I had eyed these shoes for a while on previous strolls, but could not get over the list prices for even one pair. The idea of having Prada shoes appealed partly because I had a new, young dynamic boss who was kicking you know what and not bothering to take names.

    She had surrounded herself with a group of adoring young managers, and I was one of the few remaining holdovers from a previous “regime”. It was also a time during which I learned to practice  meditation in my private office each morning, as a way to cope,  and bought a scooter that I rode around the corridors to meetings. Even I have to admit that the scooter thing was more than a tad ridiculous.

    Having a pair of Prada shoes seemed like just the right touch. The brand said that I was a little more contemporary, but the cap-toe style, especially the black pair, denoted a serious side. Corporate with a bit of an edge, so to speak, and a far cry from my buttoned-down, bow tie days.

    But, which ones should I get, black or brown? The brown, with its glove-like leather, was far less structured. Plus, they had the trademark red heel mark. The black ones were shiny-stiff, close to being patent leather. Both had rubber soles and a very flat heel.

    In the end, I bought two for the price of one. I distinctly remember the look of surprise on my wife, the DG's, face in our old kitchen when I returned home that evening. I don’t recall her being impressed with the “on sale” argument. My youngest daughter didn't say a thing.

    As with some relationships we simply cannot say no to, this one was a mixed affair. I still love the idea of having these shoes a dozen or so years after purchase. It’s the reality of wearing them that hurts. “Literally”, as that daughter, Ginny,  would say today.

    The browns have practically no arch support and require inserts that make the right shoe too tight. The black are still stiff and hurt after a couple of hours of even modest walking. With both, I get back pain. They are like those marvelous Italian sports cars of the 60s with beautiful lines and sweet purrs, which spent most of the time in the shop, not on the road.

From the black box
    Still, these are things of great beauty. Sometimes I admire them while contemplating a day with them on my feet, and might even put them on before abandoning the idea of walking around the city in them as being totally impractical.

    Maybe I’ll get around to sending them to Miuccia Prada’s fellow countrywoman Paolo Antonelli, Design Curator at the Museum of Modern Art. But, not yet. My head tells me not to ever wear them again, but my heart can’t quite let them out of my life.

Vicky Rogers McEvoy, Still at the Top of Her Game

    At the dawn of the open tennis era in 1968, teenager Vicky Rogers walked onto Wimbledon’s fabled No. 1 Court with her partner Roy Barth for their match against defending mixed doubles champions, Billy Jean King and Owen Davidson. Although she lost that day, you can still hear the youthful pride as she recalls  “actually playing really well, and being relieved at not being embarrassed.”

    At Bournemouth that summer, she took a set from future Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade (1977). And, in singles at Wimbledon she got to the Third Round where she lost to Shirley Brasher, which she describes as “disappointing, since I had beaten her a couple of weeks before, and I had such a good draw.”

    Once ranked as high as third nationally, and a finalist in the 1967 Under 18 Nationals on grass at Philadelphia Cricket Club, Vicky will be inducted into the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame at Beach Point Club in Mamaroneck April 24.

    She grew up in Rye; her father, Frederick, was a lawyer and mother, Janet, became one of Rye’s first women City Council members. In summers, she and her three siblings spent their days at Manursing Island Club. At age 9, Rogers McEvoy played in a tennis clinic led by John Vinton, who coaxed his young players with free Cokes from the snack bar if their shots hit his target. She won a lot of free Cokes.

    Her parents supported the rapid development of their daughter’s tennis. After ninth grade, she left her family and Rye Country Day to attend The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, California. There, she took full advantage of the endless summers and continued to improve, playing in the fiercely competitive California junior tennis circuit. Along the way, she met her great friend and fellow-player Val Zeigenfuss and many others. La Jolla native, Karen Hantze Susman, who won the Wimbledon singles title in 1962, became her hero.

    At that 1968 Wimbledon, she recalls getting paid a whopping £50 stipend, since she was still an amateur, and exchanging her player’s tickets for a flat in London, a far cry from today's rich professional payouts.

    While she was fulfilling her tennis dreams, another dream developed. Returning home, arguably at the top of her game and poised for more court success, she left it all behind, confidently telling her parents that she’d decided to become a doctor.

    When asked about her decision, Vicky said, “I found myself as a player being an entertainer; it was one-dimensional, and I wanted to do more with my life; it wasn’t the way I wanted to go.”

    A self-described “all-or-nothing person” and armed with the discipline and problem-solving skills cultivated through her tennis career, she became a pre-med student at Hofstra University.

    In 1971, she married a hometown boy, Earl McEvoy and moved to Cambridge to attend Harvard Medical School. The couple have four children and two grandchildren. Dr. McEvoy is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Pediatrics at Mass General West Medical Group. She is also an author; one of her titles, “Taming Your Child’s Temper Tantrums”, might have been helpful to the parents of another local New York left-hander, who became a Wimbledon champion.

    As a pediatrician, she recognizes the perilous position of kids today who get into the sport at such a young age. “I worry about children going exclusively into one sport. With tennis, you must commit so early; academics can suffer too.”

    She cautions players against overuse of certain muscles, which can lead to chronic injury. The risk ofoveruse has been exacerbated by tennis’s evolution into a sport where topspin, which can cause problems particularly with wrists and elbows, is dominant and players are continually trying to “brutalize” the ball.
Vicky picked up a racket again in her 30s and still enjoys

playing on grass at Longwood Cricket Club in Brookline. She

recalls learning for the first time how to really “enjoy” tennis as

a social player. Eventually, she began playing USTA senior events. Today’s young players, she believes, could take a lesson from the seniors who are able to remain social and leave the competition on the court. She urges today’s players to "really enjoy the journey; it's a fun game. Work hard, but have fun."

    Her dedication to her game and profession catapulted her to success in both, an impressive combination that that sets an example for young athletes today looking for a purpose beyond the courts and playing fields.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow Job

Vermont evening/photo by author

Once again, we’ve survived Armageddon in the form of a “blizzard” named Juno. By my reckoning, this makes three or four “storms of the century” that we’ve survived. And, we still have more than 85 years to go!

Last night, I received a message from the mayor of the city where I work, basically saying that he was shutting the little city down, and reporting that the county was closing all roads at 11 p.m. Then New York State closed its roads. 

We the people, in our little 10-unit hamlet in Greenwich, CT parked our vehicles up the road in the protected Town Hall garage overnight, illegally, and went home to drink and pray by the fire. There we hovered, hoping our wood would outlast calamitous Juno and that we might see our other friends and loved ones again.

There hadn’t been anything like this in about 11 or 12 months since the last end of the world. 

At 6 a.m. this morning, I could barely bring myself to peek out the window. When I did, my first thought was, “Oh, the storm hasn’t even hit yet.” Wrong. There were about eight inches of snow around, four of which had already been there from an earlier storm, and the winds seemed like normal late January winds.

The local correspondents  on cable channel 12 had already gone into a more understated frenzy mode. A ticker at the bottom of the screen declared that everything was closed, which made one wonder why we don’t just list what’s open instead. The storm’s center passed much further to the east than predicted, and eastern Long Island and central Connecticut bore the brunt. But, a reporter on the ground in that brunt was standing in six inches of snow on an already plowed street, amidst vehicles in driveways that barely needed dusting. 

Does the term “snow job” come to mind?
Real Juneau

The city that never sleeps shut its subways, and the commuter lines that feed it were still.

Another reporter cruising downtown New Canaan, CT. stated that it looked like a ghost town, while the camera showed fairly clear roads and about six inches of snow around. She forgot to say that all the roads were officially closed, the schools were closed, and people were told to stay home or face possible annihilation by snowflakes speeding down from space at 1.5 m.p.h. Duck!

The so-called “Greatest Generation” is passing rapidly now. These are the ones who lived through the Depression and World War II. What do they make of us, quivering while we gaze with gullible curiosity into our…phones? 

Even I can recall the seriousness of air raids in elementary school where we ducked underneath our little desks to avoid being harmed by nuclear fallout. And, one day in October 1962, I went off to high school on 16th Street in New York City wondering if I would ever see my family again, depending on what Comrade K. and President K. did about those Cuban missals.

And, there I was in my Juno-bunker with leftover she-crab stew and a bottle of J&B.

At about noon, the sun came out, and it became increasingly apparent that we would all survive this latest test. The inevitable death, taxes, and Kardashian Tales awaited us.

We have lofty national goals, like making some sense out of healthcare and fixing education. We roam the world making other places safe for democracy. But, I’m beginning to think that we might do better to concentrate on getting this weather thing right, so that a snowstorm can be just that, a natural part of a northeastern winter.

photo by author
The new “content” makers have turned the weather into scripted reality (distorted) TV.
What does it mean when we cannot even tell the truth about the weather out of fear that advertisers will be displeased if we do? And, what does it mean when we continue to pretend that what didn’t just happen really did, so that we will tune in as believers next time?

But, as the Cuban philosopher Ricky Ricardo used to say, “Maybe Juno more than I know.”