“Victorian Chick’s Meditations on Jewelry as an Element of Style and ‘Appurtenance’ of Self” (Second Guest Blog on Bicoastal Brunette) with Note on Why New Yorkers Feel Superior

Not all my jewelry, but my most worn pieces minus a matching pendant to the white and yellow gold peridot earring/pendant set from J for our 3rd anniversary of meeting.

Not all my jewelry, but my most worn pieces minus a matching pendant to the white and yellow gold peridot earring/pendant set from J for our 3rd anniversary of meeting.

The security breach with SSL on IOS 6 delayed posting of the guest blog I finished two weeks ago. My email was down both on the phone and computer as a result, and I didn’t realize that Samara Lipsky had written me back with a draft and a few changes.

Of course, this didn’t persuade me to update to IOS 7 because I am inherently stubborn and resistant to change of a technological sort. Also, I’m all about aesthetics over performance, even with cars. As long as a car doesn’t break a lot and drives reasonably well, the only thing I care about is if it’s pretty and in my price range. I don’t speed and I drive in LA with traffic: what do I care how fast the engine goes from 0 to 60 as long as I have enough pick-up to change lanes? As I wrote on my first Bicoastal Brunette guest blog, quoting Annette Bening as Virginia Hill in Bugsy: “Looks matter if it matters how you look.”

So I hate the look of IOS 7, and when we repaired the problem, the Apple guy urged me to update but said I didn’t have to. J was disappointed, hoping he’d force me to (or lie about its necessity), but the overworked sole guy at the Genius Bar just said it would be better if I did. “It would be better” is not an incentive sufficient to overcome strong resistance. (I’m not fond of the Apple store of Santa Barbara because it’s understaffed; in a “city” of 220K, they employ one “genius” on a Monday.)

I blogged about Bar Ama on Saturday, but didn’t mention that I bought my first piece of clothing from Nordstrom in nearly three years on my way home. I also bought my first pair of new shoes (not secondhand) in two years, not counting the Ariat riding boots I lived in last trip to the city. These are from Aldo and they were 20% off. I was impressed both with the high quality leather and classy style (not a big horrid platform with 6 or 7 inch heel of the sort favored by women who wear “sausage dresses,” that is, tight Forever 21 mini-dresses which should never be worn by anymore over 21 and never by anyone of any age over a size 4).

Aldo. Originally 90. On sale for 72. Buttery leather and yummy smell.

Aldo. Originally 90. On sale for 72. Buttery leather and yummy smell.

Friday I met a new friend for a lovely lunch on the Sunset Strip at Caffe Primo and stopped for a glass of wine and flan at Le Petit Four on the way home. (For new readers, my hyperlinks for restaurants link to my Yelp reviews). Friday was a stunning day and because it was still Spring Break, I had no traffic in either direction on Sunset. That night I had dinner with my parents at Sam’s by the Beach. With Wilshire, it’s my favorite restaurant of its kind my parents eat regularly. They have a special ravioli every night and I’m glad the server nudged me to try it instead of the vegetarian crepes which sounded phenomenal but he reluctantly admitted wasn’t his favorite dish on the menu.

10153794_646642642037465_71226582_nSaturday I had brunch for the first time since 1996 (!) at Coogie’s Malibu with my wonderful cousin and her family from Ellensberg, so it was a short trip packed with fun, friends and family.

It was sunny but a bit cooler on Thursday when my friend and I ate at Bar Ama. I’m always shocked at how deserted downtown is when people are not out for lunch, and I got some great pictures I will post in another blog. I love downtown. It’s a nostalgia trip for me: a walk (or drive) through the landmarks of my parents’ illustrious legal careers, much of which took place there.

My parents married in 1966 at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, where my father ran, swam and lifted weights at lunch for decades and I worked out the year I volunteered at the Christopher Commission in 1991. (My name’s on the report as assistant to the executive assistant or something like that, but really it should have said filing and coffee girl who flirted with the boys from Peat Marwick, none of whom would touch the daughter of Robert and Andrea with a ten foot pole). Here I am in New Orleans in the summer of 1991 in the Christopher Commission era wearing my first pair of Persol sunglasses (the “cat eyes” model).321356_476872745681123_646802700_n

I thought I was cute enough at least to justify a kiss after cocktails at Steppes (no one carded me, particularly not in a suit and 4-inch heels), but one of the Peat Marwick guys would walk me to my 1988 Tercel in the garage and shake my hand or pat me on the shoulder.

Mom was U.S. Attorney when Dad was a federal bankruptcy judge toward the end of my elementary school years.

The US Attorney and her bankruptcy judge husband, circa 1980. I was 8.

The US Attorney and her bankruptcy judge husband at a fake casino on vacation, circa 1980. I was 8.

Of course to a 6-year-old, there is little more wonderful in life than Hawaiian Punch. I remember all their secretaries fondly, but I think I still love Carol the most because she made me that yummy sugary drink–from concentrate kept in the fridge of the kitchen–at the U.S. Attorney’s office. It was the only office Mom ever had with a shower, but I don’t think she ever used it. She seemed not keen on the idea of my taking a shower and I was a docile, easy kid so I didn’t force the issue.

Dad practiced law in Los Angeles for 48 years and my mother officially retired just two years shy of that at 72.  They met at 9107 Wilshire Blvd in a building on the border of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood whose exterior is unchanged. Mom was the office manager working her way through UCLA Law and Dad was one of the ten lawyers in four or five baby firms she managed. Kate Mantilini, one of the first restaurants in LA famous for its “power breakfast,” is next door. Mom worked eight years by LACMA (the AG gig) and Dad spent the last years of his career in Century City, but most of their professional lives were spent somewhere between Bunker Hill and Olive.

“Power breakfasts” are (or were) a bigger thing in LA than New York and at places like Kate Mantilini, it’s entertainment industry folks not lawyers except perhaps an entertainment lawyer meeting with agents. Gordon Gekko thought “lunch was for pussies.” I’m not sure how Oliver Stone’s fictional emblem of Wall Street excess in the 1980s would have felt about the power breakfast. But given the market opens at 8AM, I doubt he’d think much of it. But I remember in the last decade of Mom’s career, she had quite a few working breakfasts both in downtown and Beverly Hills. (She’s too cheap to go to a fancy breakfast or brunch at the Pen, but she raved about her breakfast for a week so maybe I could cajole her to go for a private Mother’s Day breakfast.)

A fundamental difference between the culture of Biglaw and finance in LA and NYC is the hour at which important decisions are made. New York lawyers start late (often as late as 9:30AM) and end late. You can’t get ahead without schmoozing (or hustling) clients at dinner, which is one reason men–and childless women–tend to do better. They’re at a natural advantage because whereas in LA, a Biglaw woman can leave at 7PM or 7:30PM and then fit in a couple hours after dinner, a New York lawyer who doesn’t socialize after work simply can’t bring in the same business that a lawyer who wines and dines clients can.

It’s no longer socially acceptable to drink at lunch. The “two martini lunch” of the 1960s and 1970s was mostly over by the 1980. Lawyers I know 60 and up in LA tell me it’s exceedingly rare for someone to have even a glass of wine, much less a cocktail, at lunch unless it’s a birthday or a special occasion. But New Yorkers drink more than Angelenos, at least in the professional class. Manhattan is a culture of alcohol in ways I don’t think LA is for the middle-aged.

In part, it’s the stress of living in a place where $10,000 rent with $3000 maintenance (aka HOA dues) is par for the course in certain parts of town. New York yields the greatest of rewards but also demands the greatest of sacrifices.  Alcohol takes the edge off a hard-driving lifestyle. Life in California, even in LA or San Francisco, which are hard-driving compared to most of the state, is chill.

The brunch culture only took off in LA and SB (except for Easter) a decade ago. But brunch is a big deal in New York and while there are probably a dozen roughly comparable food scenes in America, New York is still New York, and restaurants are the absolute center of social life. Even people living in 400 feet places who scrimp on everything else spend vastly more on restaurants as a proportion of income than non-New Yorkers.

Another reason LA lawyers start early is that by 8AM PST, New York people have been up at work for at least one hour. Stockbrokers in LA live like soap stars or morning news anchors because they must be up when the market opens. On a deeper level, I’ve often thought the sense of superiority East Coasters feel over West Coasters has something to do with being, quite literally, “ahead” of us. (I say “us,” but I feel as much like a New Yorker as a Southern Californian, though I was born and raised in West LA and live in California 9 months a year.)

It also has to do with weather, though this explains only why New Yorkers feel superior to  those in warm climates. Of course, they also think they’re better than Midwesterners, whose weather is infinitely worse. Quite disgusting, in fact, with longer harder winters and summers, but people in the Midwest enjoy low prices on everything in exchange for six months of sheer meteorological misery, so it’s a tradeoff. People in LA and SB are undeniably weather pussies. I can’t believe what my boyfriend considers “too cold” to eat on a patio.

New Yorkers are up and at ’em before a typical Angeleno has stumbled out of bed to pee first thing in the morning and, if applicable, take the dog out to pee or poop. They’re in suits and dresses with brushed hair and clean teeth while Californians are in boxers, pajamas and nightgowns. That’s inherently a position of superiority. How dignified and sophisticated can a person be with bed head, morning breath and the previous night’s mascara unglamorously smudged?

Sinatra famously sang, “If I can make it here, I’ll make it anywhere.” I see the changes between New York in the early 1990s and New York today, so I can only imagine how people there in the 1970s or 1980s feel. But one thing seems not to have changed: New York is hard. Indeed, New Yorkers revel in its hardness (though what choice do they have, short of moving or “giving up” as they’re likely to see it?). New Yorkers feel about the city they love and sometimes hate precisely as Tom Hanks described baseball in A League of their Own: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Just a year or so earlier, Denis Leary said the much the same thing about New York at the end of No Cure for Cancer. New Yorkers regard living in the city as a “badge of honor: “I was in Vietnam? Who cares? I live in New York!”

There is a final and obvious reason New Yorkers think so highly of themselves: nowhere in America do you find the sheer concentration of brains and talent you have in the city. More enlightened New Yorkers are rightfully proud of the city’s ethnic and racial diversity. By that standard, Santa Barbara is subpar.

When I got here, the black population was a whopping 1.8% I think. It’s nearer 3% now and you actually see black couples and families at restaurants, but if you want diversity, this isn’t the town for you. I’ve often written of my shock upon coming to Santa Barbara straight from New Haven and seeing not one black person in my first six weeks other than two black English professors and one homeless man. One professor, a great man, was nearly emeritus and would not have objected to black. The other was a WNBA tall lesbian Marxist and likely would have preferred African-American. (She’s now a labor lawyer in Oakland.)

With these observations about life on the coasts by way of introduction (though I do realize that the East Coast is more than New York, just as the West Coast is more than LA), here is my blog for Bicoastal BrunetteFashion isn’t philosophy, but it need not be devoid of substance. The famous exchange between Isabel Archer and Madame Merle in Portrait of a Lady’s nineteenth chapter has never been far from my consciousness when thinking about selfhood or personal identity, specifically in relation to material possessions or simply, as Madame Merle puts it, “things.”

P.S. The vet said Emma had to drop 5 to 7 pounds and I took that as an incentive to drop the 5-7 I’ve been carrying around in my lower body. In a week, I had three brisk walks at Will Rogers State Park, two swims, and one short high-intensity elliptical workout and session with weights. Since I stopped dancing in the fall, first due to a pulled trapezius from carrying around toddler who weighed about 20 pounds, and then the ankle for which I still haven’t gotten PT, I quit stretching. I’m getting back to that as well.

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