Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Art and Perspective

Regular readers know that Valerie had minor foot surgery recently. The doctor prescribed complete bed rest and leg elevation for the first two days, and extremely curtailed activity for the next twelve. The first week, this was really easy - rest is a rare luxury to be savored - and Jean was away on vacation the first week anyway, so there were no temptations.  By the second week, however, plans were percolating.  After all, the foot seemed to be progressing rapidly, Jean was back in town, bloggers always need new cannon fodder, and we had been wondering when we'd get a chance to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Punk show again, unobstructed by a gazillion other people.

A quick look on the Met's website confirmed that wheelchairs were available, so the deal was sealed.  Off we went!  We agreed to meet at the information desk just inside the main door.  (As it undergoes renovations, the Met is even looking a bit punky!)  Jean was able to bound up the majestic stairs you see here.  For Valerie, who took a taxi to avoid the staircases down to the subway and the standing wait for the bus, it was very much 'I don't think so'.  She took the Met's side entrance and an elevator, and in no time at all we had procured a wheelchair.

Well!  One's perspective on the world certainly does change from a wheelchair.  Not to say you can't see the entire mannequin, but this is what's at eye level.  They ARE great shoes (love the lucite soles!) but looking at everything else involves some craning of the neck.  We should confess here that photos were not allowed in the Punk show, but wheelchairs, with their armrests and upholstered sides, allow a little camouflage.  Just don't forget to disable the flash or you'll blow your cover.  If you have an accomplice wheeling you around, she can stand between you and the vigilant guards and create a distraction so you can get your shot.

We did actually ask a guard for permission to photograph graffiti that had sprung up on the styrofoam walls since our visit on the day of the press preview.  We have a mole in the museum who informs us that the set designers knew the styrofoam would be a magnet for graffitists.  There were never any signs posted ("Please add your graffiti here"), but no graffitists were deterred, and we saw a lot of clever drawings that we would dearly have loved to show you.  Sad to say, the guard told us that not even the graffiti could be photographed.  And since it was all in the guard's line of sight, we were prevented from carrying out our subversive plan.  Could we add our own graffiti, we asked, still hoping to do something un-little-old-ladylike.  No, said the guard, they had put a stop to that some time ago. SIGH....

When we were little girls and wore stiff petticoats that stuck way out, ridiculous little boys liked nothing better than to try to pull up the whole kit and kaboodle to sneak a peak, the temptation being too strong to resist.  Little girls then had to spend a lot of time defending their dignity and honor by slapping the little boys away and slapping the buoyant petticoats back down.  Really, who comes up with these ideas?  (By contrast, what little boy would think to pull up a shift dress?)

The view from the wheelchair briefly transported Valerie back to childhood, to a mid-century little boy's favorite vantage point.

You can see how a shift dress, even on Audrey Hepburn, lends itself far less to little boys' thoughts of gleeful mayhem.

From there, on to other parts of the museum, where we were allowed to take photos, as long as we disabled the flash.  Above, what young people are now calling a 'selfie'.  No way we could both fit in unless Jean bent down or Valerie stood up.  Valerie has a look of utter concentration as she tries to imagine the best angle at which to photograph; Jean has a look of childlike impishness as she tries to mirror Warhol's Before and After. Finding ourselves in the modern art wing, we happily wandered through.  Jean gets extra special credit for reading all the texts throughout the journey, since Valerie couldn't.  Jean was a great guide, stopping as long as necessary, and choosing great points of interest.  Valerie found maneuvering the Met wheelchair easy and interesting, but life was made far easier when Jean did all the pushing.  Aside from once or twice nearly gashing a couple of visitors' shins (wheelchairs are longer than you think!), she soon became a champ at navigating.

Here Jean looks positively beatific (haloed, as you see) in front of a Kenneth Noland piece.  Having lived in the same apartment building as Kenneth's daughter Katy (now an artist in her own right) when she first moved to Soho, Jean has a nostalgic affinity for Kenneth's paintings.

The perennial question: how do we define art?  Here, Rothko's Still Life with Bootie.

Nothing like a surgical bootie, by the way, with its fenders and bumpers and accoutrements by Ace, to ruin ANY outfit you can possibly imagine.  Anyone who can photograph themselves looking great in booties and bandages, please send us a photo and we'll post it.  Jean also pointed out that Valerie was walking like a duck, so booties and bandages are contraindicated for the stylishly-minded on multiple levels.

After cruising past the Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns, we took the elevator downstairs to a small one-room exhibition called "African Art, New York and the Avant-Garde". Above, Brancusi's Sleeping Muse, which was reminiscent of the traditional 19th century African masks also on exhibit.  Taken from the wheelchair perspective, you do miss a few of the angles. As you can see by the location of the label, reading text is also a bit of a challenge from a wheelchair.

Obviously, some inventors have already considered the wheelchair perspective issue and have developed elevating wheelchairs like this one:

And that's just one of many interesting alternative wheelchair designs that can be found online, each with a different specialization.

Getting a bite to eat at the Museum's cafe is always a treat.  With very high ceilings (20+ feet??) and floor to ceiling windows, the space gets a lot of light.  Looking out onto Central Park, one gets a view of a vast expanse of grass, with birds and squirrels appearing and disappearing, and an occasional runner zipping by.  Above, you can see some of the array of 1970's era safety pin jewelry Jean wore in her own little personal homage to Punk (two safety pin necklaces and a safety pin bracelet, barely visible).

Valerie is also decked out in giant safety pins.  Here she shows off the requisite Punk show tchotchke (that's New York-ese for "souvenir", and pronounced CHOCHkuh): miniature spiked Vivienne Westwood shoes.  Vaguely, vaguely remind you of anything?

Valerie actually stood up (with the help of her trusty polka dot cane) when we were approached by Dennis (not shown, taking picture) and his adorable daughter Audra. We figure she must have liked our hats, because her dad brought her over to meet us.  It turns out that Audra is a Ford model!  Look for her in an upcoming Tommy Hilfiger ad!  (Parenthetical lesson learned from this: never never never take a picture with sunlight in the background.  When will we ever learn?!)

We had a great day, learned that a little immobility doesn't mean you have to stay home, and Audra was the icing on the cake.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


As soon as we can (Sunday?), we're going to report on the Dandy exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design. In the meantime, if we've piqued your interest (hopefully we have), click on the link to read about Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion. It closes August 18, so if you don't live nearby, make your plans now.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Do the Right Thing

Readers who go back a loooooong way will remember that Valerie had neuroma surgery on her left foot in 2010.  (For those who don't remember, or would like to take a stroll down memory lane, click here to read My Left Foot.)   The surgery worked out so well - that is, no more pain in that foot, and the additional bonus that she no longer had to wear GREAT BIG FAT STUNNINGLY UGLY shoes - that a few weeks ago she had the same surgery on the right thing.  Uh, foot.  (See right thing, above.)  The neuroma on the right foot was not as bad, but when enflamed, as periodically happened, it felt as though the infant steely-toothed Alien was inside trying to gnaw its way out.

John Hurt knows exactly how this feels.

As you may know,  part of coming prepared for surgery includes having a responsible adult to take you home when you're all groggy, right?  Here's Valerie's responsible adult, below, photographed in the waiting room.   Extra special credit goes to Valerie's responsible adult for meeting Valerie at 6:30am so they could show up exactly at the hospital's specified 6:45am arrival time (you know - so you can fill out all the forms, answer all the questions and put on the silly clothes) to be ready for the scheduled 7:30am surgery.  (Jean would like to remind everyone that one of the advantages to wearing dark glasses is being able to catnap in the waiting room without drawing attention to oneself, unless of course, one is a snorer!)
And here's the patient herself, showing off the right thing in question.  Valerie shows many signs of being prepared.  She's got her cane from last time, so she can hobble away from the hospital; as instructed she's wearing clothing that's easy to put on and take off over a bandaged foot; and stashed away in a nearby bag is her black surgical bootie from last time.  Waste not, want not! She is also wearing no foundation, lipstick or nail polish. That's so they can monitor your color on the operating table. Black toe nail polish may be fun, but during surgery is not a good time for your doctor to have to wonder if something has gone terribly awry. Valerie's instruction sheet indicated that makeup can be a doctor-patient decision. We'd love to know what patients try to negotiate for, and what doctors are inclined to allow.
Surgery was initially scheduled to take place in the same hospital where the left foot was done, but things happen, and at the last minute, the date was changed and along with it the venue.  This turned out to be a wonderful plus, because instead of a large impersonal place with a million people, security guards and rules, rules, rules, we were surprised and delighted to find ourselves in a little boutique hospital that must have once been someone's turn-of-the-century townhouse.  Here's the marble spiral staircase and checkered marble floor,
a view from the base of the staircase to the starry skylight,

a close-up of the stained glass rosette at the top of the dome,

and let's just throw in the ornate gilt metal detailing at the base of the staircase.  If you studied architecture, and know if this has a highly specific name (something exotic, like plinth, or pergola), let us know.  (We know it's not a plinth or a pergola.  Those are just examples of exotic words.  At least they're exotic to us.)

After filling out all the paperwork, Valerie was led away to the Silly Clothes room.  Here she has documented, in a mirror, the gown without a back (now, really - isn't that silly?  especially at her age?), and one of the little blue foot things.  There's another similar picture taken without flash, but with flash Valerie seems to be holding the Hope diamond, rather than a digital camera.  That seems more appropriate in a Gilded Age town house.

So one minute she's on the operating table, joking with her podiatrist and the anaesthesiologist, and making sure they're going to do the right thing and not the left thing; and then, as far as she can tell, the next minute she's being escorted back to the Silly Clothes room, where she can put almost all her regular clothes back on, except she has to keep the brand new black bootie, Ace bandage (unseen), and stark white sock that she woke up with.  In the boutique hospital, they spare you the indignity of wearing the very bad hospital hat (you know - that thing that looks like a shower cap) - or if not, they take it off before you wake up and accidentally see how you look in the mirror wearing a very bad hospital hat.  The anaesthetic was amazingly light.  Valerie was warned she might wake up or hear people talking during surgery, but as it was she just awoke when her name was called, and sat up. Way cool!

Regretfully, we neglected to check our watches, but this after photo might have been taken as early as 9 am.

Jean, again above and beyond the call of duty, escorts Valerie back home,

and, having seen her charge safely back home, goes off to spend a full day at work!  (Jean says there is absolutely no truth to the rumors that the pope announced her beatification along with John Paul's.)

Having the same surgery twice might be comparable to having your second child.  All parents say they take a gazillion pictures of the first baby.  First minute, first kiss, first pic with mom, first pic with dad, first sleep in crib, first car trip home, first washing, first hair, first clothing, first solid food, first tooth - okay, you get the picture.  And then they have the second child, and there are half as many pictures because now the parents take everything for granted.

Similarly, while the first surgery was documented well enough to be archived in the Library of Congress, there are far fewer pictures of the second surgery.  Been there, done that.  Below, a perfunctory picture of the swaddled foot, with Ace bandage and super clean white sock open at the toe.  Yes, those are bruises on the second and third toes, and the fourth toe has its own swaddling cloth.  Just to show we're not making this up.  There were two days of mandatory bed rest, round-the-clock leg elevation, and cold compresses - actually, bags of frozen peas - every 20 minutes.  Then there were twelve days of really minimal activity, more peas, and foot elevation as much of the day as possible, but there has never been any pain at all, and Valerie is thinking of donating her meds (prescribed and purchased in advance to avoid hassling after surgery) to Rush Limbaugh.

Below is the mandatory shower photo, with the style-free plastic boot (saved from the last surgery) that must be worn to prevent infection.  One unexpected consequence of showering with the boot is decreased water consumption.  The very tight rubber opening of the boot (not shown here) is super at preventing water from entering, but since the boot is three years old, Valerie worried that it might have begun to lose its resilience.  Whenever she can, she stands with her right leg bent on the edge of the shower, but when she can't (when she was to soap down her left leg, for example, and has to stand on the right leg), she turns the shower off.  This way, there's no chance that water hitting the rubber opening will eventually let in a drop or two, since there is no water coming down.  It's been an inadvertent lesson in the efficient use of water.

And here is what the two feet look like now on a daily basis. (Shown here at their post-op visit to the podiatrist.) The old bootie (you can see remnants of the polka dots that once adorned the toe area) came in very handy.  Valerie has a surgical boot on both feet so they are more or less at the same height to minimize limping. And of course there's something to be said for visual symmetry, too, although the single white sock is... well...  Anyway it's temporary.  And in keeping with the black theme, a little fun with nail polish is in order.

When asked, by the way, the doctor estimated that the neuroma was about the size of an ovoid pea. That's a pretty big thing to have stuck between your third and fourth toe for over a decade. (Jean helpfully points out that it was no coincidence the fairy tale was about "The Princess and the Pea".)

So far so good.  More adventures with feet to come.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Mad Hatter - Amy Downs

Jean says: Addiction is a terrible thing! In the grand scheme of things, hat addiction may be pretty low-down on the totem pole, so to speak, but it does involve a certain level of craving. Although not necessarily life-threatening or illegal, it can be problematic. As with children, one isn't supposed to have favorite milliners, but I must admit that a few are on the top of my list and Amy Downs is probably at the apex. Regular readers will recognize her name since I have a few of her hats in my collection and I do tend to wear them often. (In fact, I'm wearing a red Amy Downs turban in the Bib and Tuck video that appears on our blog's main page.)

We were thrilled on one recent Sunday to get an invitation to an Amy Downs sample sale at Takamichi Salon on the Bowery.  (One via email, and another from someone on the street who stopped us - wearing hats as we were - and nearly insisted that we drop everything and go buy hats.

The sign outside says it all.

Although she used to work and live in the Big Apple, years ago, Amy relocated to the West Coast and doesn't travel East often enough. Here is the lady in question, reconnecting with two of her good friends.

Takamichi is a very modern, smooth cement-floored hair salon on the second floor with a sweeping view of the Bowery, just south of Houston Street. Amy displayed her wares in the front of the gallery. Here's a shot taken from mid-point in the spacious salon. The gentleman in the light suit and red hat is Amy's dapper husband.

The gorgeous Eiko dressed head-to-toe in Mieko Mintz' wonderfully colorful fashions. She accompanied Amy to Japan in the summer of 2012 and her photo appears on Amy's website: Valerie and I first met Eiko at Mieko Mintz' showroom during fashion week last spring.

She looked just as good coming as going!  You can't see them very well in the photo, but Valerie soooooo wants the wonderful polka dot pants.

And this lovely lady is Lynn who also appears on Amy's website and accompanied both Amy and Mieko on the same trip to Japan. We loved her hair, necklace, glasses and shoes.

Check out Lynn's unusual sandals. Don't you just love their simplicity and clean lines?

We've met the lady in the middle on several occasions at New York vintage clothing shows. She has a great looking black wool Amy Downs turban. She brought two of her friends to try on hats and compare notes. It's always great to have a posse. They were having a blast.

Each of them had a second hat they liked and were willing to show off.

Isn't this woman's silver hair gorgeous? The blue in the straw hat really brings out the blue in her eyes.

Out on the street, we met this fan who was proudly showing off her new raffia hat.

Here's the side and rear view of the silvery-grey brimmed hat.

Even the guys get into the act.  This kilt-clad gent (say that three times quickly!) wore one of Amy's caps.

Amy shows at the Seattle Museum of Art which is hosting a Japanese exhibition soon and will feature Amy's hats in its store. She called this her "wedding hat".

We coveted this colorful vintage Mexican skirt worn by one of our fellow shoppers.

Upon closer inspection, she proudly revealed the skirt's secret, hilarious detailing. This is another great reason why we so love vintage clothing.

Remember the bride's hat? Amy dubbed these turbans her "bridesmaids' hats". The origami-style construction lets you fold them flat. At this angle, you can see the large turkey feather detailing in the tulle netting.

The Mieko Mintz and A Uno boutiques in Manhattan both carry Amy's hats. For additional stores in Oregon, Minnesota and Washington, check Amy's website.