10.27.2010

TODAY SHOW ON THE BURNING ISSUE OF OUR DAY: LONG HAIR AND MIDDLE AGED WOMEN. WELL, IT GIVES ME A CHANCE TO DO SOME AUTUMN WANDERING IN NEW YORK CITY

There you have it. I can write my little heart out about climate change or ocean acidification or toxic chemicals in our lotions and plastic bottles, and if I'm lucky I'll get a few dozen comments.

But long hair? An avalanche. Go figure. Of course I'm delighted to have stumbled on such a noisy topic of conversation--any writer would be--but I'm a bit mystified, too, as to why long hair on middle aged women is such a hot button. Well, I guess hair was an important enough subject that it made appearances in Biblical stories. But you would think it was Delilah who lost her power when her hair was cut off.

This morning I went to see my own hairdresser, Joseph, at Salon 74. He is known for his wizardry with dyes, interestingly, but he is the one who told me never to color my hair. I have not seen him in quite a while, of course. He says he cannot understand why he can't convince people to stop using so much shampoo--it dries and ages their hair. The picture of me posted here was taken by my sister after a long walk on the shore. It is only in my real, everyday life in house and garden, (and of course on my blog) that I can go about with my hair unbrushed. I share this picture because of the overwhelming number of comments from Times readers who thought the photograph they ran of the extremely, unnervingly, preternaturally thin-backed woman (with perfectly smooth hair) was me.

I hope this straightens out my image.


As I was in New York City unexpectedly for only 48 hours I had to do a slow love wander; as usual, many treasured moments turned up. First off I found this gate on Fifth Avenue, just north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I had never seen it before, though I've passed by a zillion times. The figures are charming and impeccably cast. The crow is from the La Fountaine fable about the fox, who tricked the old gossip into dropping his cheese. The lettering on the pillars explains that the gates were built in memory of William Church Osborn, 1862-1951. He was once a president of the Children's Aid Society, as well of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.




Heading down to NBC in Rockefeller Center for the pre-interview I went by the IBM building with its soaring garden plaza under glass.


I had just been reading about this small public space in Paula Deitz's excellent new book of essays, Of Gardens, and was curious to see how the plaza was aging. Sadly, the delicate Knoll Bertoia side chairs are gone; the chairs there now are much heavier and they are difficult to move around, which may have been the point, but it is misguided. However the bamboo continues to wave high overhead, and it looks fresh and green and lively.

A couple of men seemed to be in the process of creating new trees; upon inquiry, I learned that they were assembling sculptures by Ugo Rondinone, a Swiss artist, born in 1963, who lives in Zurich and New York City. These wintry trees have a stark presence against the soft bamboo, and they are quite tactile; you want to rub the painted bark, which reminds me of that chalky color on Louis XIV furniture. Several children passing by couldn't resist the temptation. These are ghosts of trees, really, or petrified trees; they might be the ashen remains of a forest after a terrible fire, or a nuclear fallout. I've seen bleached and silvered bark on skeletal trees at the shore, blasted by the sandy winds. These sculptures look like something out of Greek mythology; a god ought to be taking up residence inside each one. Or perhaps they are out of a fairy tale by Oscar Wilde--or my current favorite bedside reading, the bizarre Kurt Schwitters' Lucky Hans and other Merz Fairy Tales.


These trees look proud, but they also seem to want company. They are weird and otherworldly. Actually, they look like they have wandered over from the Metropolitan Opera House, annoyed to have been left out of the new production of the Wagner Ring Cycle. (For my money, the set could have used some trees just like this, rather than the slabs of concrete that looked like they might fall and kill someone. As I watched Das Rheingold I kept thinking about men and their toys. But I digress...) The Rondinone sculptures will be at the plaza for several months. I love that they are arriving just as the Starn twins' Big Bambu over on the Met's rooftop is coming down; there's some strange synchronicity at work.

Wending my way towards Rockefeller Center I passed by this very tall fellow in front of the basketball store; tourists were asking to have their picture taken with him, but when I asked them who he was (thinking of my beloved Sam, who might like a snapshot) all I got were gallic shrugs, eh? Perhaps he was a basketball god. Or a tall man who liked having his picture taken and knew exactly where to hang out.












This being New York City, if you get your head too far into gods or fairytales, you can always get a cold dose of shopping therapy.

I was pleased to see books in the windows of Faconnable, in Rockefeller Center; it gave the clothes a wonderful back-to-school feeling. The look was sort of Love Story grows up, and I was filled with nostalgia for the days when I had to think about an office wardrobe.







Of course I was too early for the taping, so I killed some time in Anthropologie. I like their boho chic thing though I can't wear much of it. But what really sent me into orbit was inside the clothing: the labels. Designers have gotten quite creative about expressing their identities--no more of those understated, nearly anonymous tiles.









These labels look handmade, and have a nonchalant, almost schoolchild charm to them--one of them is made to look as though it were printed on that blue-ruled ring notebook paper of olden days. I love the little tab that says MOTH, looking like a small moth hanging off the collar. Not necessarily what you want in your sweaters, but so what?

Naturally, because I had just spent money on getting my hair professionally blow dried, it started raining as I left the shop to get to the studio. I could feel the frizz begin to puff around my face. When I got to NBC for the pre-taping, things were pretty chaotic. Not surprising, considering how many shows are pre-taping, taping, or post-taping.





Someone was doing something with a cage full of charming, bewildered retriever puppies.


I was snapping as fast as I could--I am past caring if I look like a hick from the country. I've been out of the media world long enough that I am no longer jaded by it; now I see how buzzy and distracting and frenetic and bizarre and fabulous it all is. The producers asked me to sit in front of a mirror and pretend to blow out my hair, which will make my sister snicker. The last time I tried to blow dry my own hair the round brush got so tangled in it that I had to use scissors to release it.

When I left, it was still raining, and I was drained from all the stimulation. I just wanted to trade places with this mannequin in the Prada window; she seemed lady-like, serene and collected, protected from the craziness around her. Well, actually, she seems to be going through life with her eyes wide shut. I like the kiss about to happen behind her. Her hair was demurely pulled into a headband. Very Jim Bond, actually.











I was happy to get back into Central Park, even though the rain kept coming down.


At least I was in the company of real trees, whose moist bark was as richly dark as the fake trees over in the plaza were dustily pale.

At my feet a collage of autumn leaves was plastered to the sidewalk. I couldn't help thinking that it would make a lovely wallpaper pattern. I stopped and stared at the color and variety, and I was struck by how many splendid moments I had during my hectic walk. That made me stop a while longer, and as the drizzle frizzled my hair and dripped off the edge of my umbrella, I breathed in the acrid scent of decaying leaves and felt myself calm down.










Now, about tomorrow's show: if I can only figure out how to bring the subject around to ocean acidification and climate change....Let's see...shampoos...chemicals...washing down the drain and into the watershed...sigh....

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