Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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Fashion flash-back > from London to Calvin Klein NYC to Milford…

barbi and her spring 1983 collection...

Twenty-four years ago I moved from London to New York.

I moved because my (financial) partner closed my business. He closed my business because my PR, a Buddhist fashion personality called Lynne Franks, told him that I would never amount to much. That he was wasting his money. She had called a meeting with him behind my back. Two days later he broke the news.

Her motivation? She was a struggling fashion PR wanting to break into big corporate (like damage control) PR, he had just sold his corporate PR company for millions. It was just selfish politics. I lost my business, he lost his respect for her  and she closed her business a few years later, just around the time when I launched CK at Calvin Klein and, for a fashion nano-second, amounted to something in the eyes of the groovy international fashion PR.  A case of divine justice? Or karma? For what it was worth.

Anyway. After her Machiavellian move I moved to New York. A good move. I loved New York. I got a great job, then another great job. And then the super-job: Design Director at Calvin Klein as the designer hired to create a collection that would compete with DKNY and I came up with CK.

CK Jeans 1992

That first year in New York I sold my flat in London and put a deposit on a loft in the Duane Triangle, Tribeca. In 1986. Imagine! My only view, I was on the 2nd floor, was of the World Trade Center, like I was David and there, looking up, was Goliath. I thought it was cool, after all I was New York!

BUT.

Every Saturday night the building behind me had an all-night disco in the basement. The music would pulsate through the walls up and into my bed and I’d have nightmares about my heart. Like it’s beat was off and I was dying. Came June, I decided to rent a house on Shelter Island, and  after one summer of spending the weekend outside Manhattan I was hooked. I needed green. I needed space. I needed acreage. I craved the Ralph Lauren country life-style.

So. I looked in the NY Times weekend real estate section*. I noticed: “Two farm houses on 20 acres, pond, streams, pasture – $185,000.”

Do-able, I thought. Desirable, I thought. But where the hell was Milford PA?

That Saturday morning I got in my GMC Jimmy, blue and white, with lift kit and oversized wheels (don’t ask – I was into being a cross between Thelma and Louise) and drove out to the Delaware Water Gap.

*Explanation: I was living in my Tribeca loft but I could not buy it. I had a mortgage lined up for months, and every few weeks I had to “renew” it and pay another $2300. My building did not have a C of O. It was owned by Meile Rockefeller and when she added the penthouse she had added 13″ over code, so fuck her, that Rockafella, the city was not giving her permission to sell. As a result I could not actually purchase my loft. In fact it felt I’d never be able to buy unless Meile decided to chop a foot off her penthouse, which, according to her, was like chopping a foot off her own body.

Those two farms on 20 acres had been renovated and had shag carpet everywhere. On the floors wall to wall, but also between the fake hand-hewn beams and on the toilet seats.

I passed.

But.

Back at the realtors office I spotted, between pictures of lake fronts and A-frame skiing cabins, this: “1790 historical farmhouse. 12 acres. Streams. Close to town. Needs TLC.”

TLC? Perfect, TLC was me!

That one, I said to Debbie the realtor.

No, she said. I’m not going there.

But it sounds perfect.

Trust me, she said.

I want it, I said.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you….

So. The house was rented by a drug dealer. A guy called Jo Monaco. He had a German shepard that attacked our car mirror as soon as we drove up.

Jo yelled from the porch: “Didn’t I tell you to call first!” “I did and you didn’t pick up!” Debbie yelled from the car.

Still. We looked around the place. The dealer’s gun collection was on one wall. It looked huge and scary to me, recently arrived from Maida Vale, London.

His shag carpet was old. His shower was a porta-cabin. Still. The paneled ceiling whispered that real hand-hewn beams were hidden, as well as a 200 year-old  fireplace. I couldn’t see the stream but I could hear it.

But more than anything, I heard my future.

the hidden beams and fireplace

I had, what I call, a future memory.

And based on this future memory I placed an offer with the owner of the drug dealer’s house. (Ten years later Jo was arrested for killing a cop in Staten Island,  sexual abuse and child pornography, he’d been hiding out in my house, they nabbed him a few years later, sent him to Rikers where he eventually died.)

Maybe the house had egged me on to set it free.

then and now

And I did. I loved my house. I love my house and my house loved me.

I am here now. At the old English kitchen table that I brought with me from London. Writing this Ode to my Home.

the old kitchen table

The house where I brought future husband the weekend after we met and where we made love for the first time. Where we explored and learned about each other, away from everything else.

Where I came a few weeks after Iona was born and where my mother first met her first grand child.

Where I came with Kiki and Leila as babies,when life, after 9/11, became almost unbearable.

Where husband and I decided to settle down by moving out and adding 3000 square feet that included studios for both of us and bedrooms for all four kids.

the old and the new

And, as you know, then we moved to Miami.

But I am here. Now. Inspired to write this as I hoosh for our new renters. The fridge, the pantry, the drawers,the laundry room,  I finally scraped the “Energy Guide” sticker off my ten year old dryer, and even moved the female nude (my favorite painting, which I bought at a Lambertville gallery) because it makes me feel exposed somehow.

tits and toy soldiers

It is here I want to return, eventually, maybe just husband and I, older, wiser, calmer, to write and paint and design and Skype with our kids all over the world.

It is here that I still see many, many more future memories…

overlooking the stream

dinner party room

new living room

all photos of the house by Erik Freeland

Architects of the new addition: Smith and Thompson Architects


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Tutus and burkas are forever…

 

whoops too short

 

At eight this morning Iona called from school.

“Mom, you have to bring me jeans, my short shorts are too short.”

Hello! When I saw her at 6.30 in the kitchen I thought she’d forgotten her skirt. But, this being a common thought, it slipped away without becoming another sarcastic remark, we were late for the bus, I hadn’t printed her essay nor sick note, panic ensued and my opinion on dress code was forgotten by the time we met up in my (still dark at 6.30) car.

Yes, DASH has a dress code. Its tolerant, but does require a certain amount of body coverage.

So.

At 8.45 I arrived, bagged jeans in hand, and told the dear woman at reception that my daughter had been nabbed by the DASH fashion police and here I was; bringing her Burka.

Don’t you hate it when a good joke goes to waste? It was a case of flat ears.

Now rewind 12 hours to 200 yards across the street from DASH at the Moore building in the Design District, 5- 10 pm yesterday evening.

Burka’s crossed my mind then too.

I was there selling tutu’s. My original princess-dress tutu’s.

(I don’t mean to confuse you, yes-yes I work with beach plastic now, and not tule).

But I confused myself. I mean what was I thinking when my friend Francesca told me about a giant sample sale fashion event called Sassy City Chicks?

Fate, I thought.

Tutu* destiny calls, I thought.

*Aside – I keep a “past lives storage unit” in Milford, across from ACE hardware. Last summer I was getting two tutu dresses from my previous Baby Gordon collection (in storage for ten years) for friends with brand-new baby girls in their lives and, in an inspired moment, thinking that Miami was the perfect market to get rid of my tutus once and for all (those princesses in the making) I UPS-ed two boxes down to our candy land bachelor pad.

 

my chic display for young miami princesses...

 

Little did I know that  the crowd of childless  Sassy City Chicks Fashion Bashers had come for the DJ, the party atmosphere with free Smirnoff Vodka while they had their nails done, carried no cash, nor checks, only credit cards (which I did not take) and had about fifty dollars to spend on themselves, which went to an instant gratification piece of bling and not a Christmas tutu for their favorite niece.

 

tutu or bling? that was the question...

 

I took one look at these girls’ heels, cleavage and legs and thought:

I may as well be selling burkas.

Like pastel baby tutus or black burkas @ Sassy City Chicks Fashion Bash = wrong demographic!

 

Miami trend: two drinks, one for each hand. Predicament: how to shop...

 

Still, I sold six pieces. I only lost thirty-five dollars. I had free Vodka. I hung out with Francesca, who oozes Italian style, and we bitched about the fashion Chernobyl going on around us.

 

Francesca = effortless chic...

 

I met a few cool young guys who do cool young things.

I got to stay out late by myself.

But, when I left the building and had to step over the passed-out body of a young woman lying in her own vomit, I decided to put my tutus back into storage for another ten years…

 

the fashion apocalypse

 


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Ten things you can do in Miami that you can’t get away with anywhere else in the US of A

OK

So…

I didn’t do my 22 laps today. I did homework. I prepped beach plastic. I made dinner. I edited. I had a Martini (or two) …

Then suddenly I had a window, so I went down to the pool.

I did my 22 laps. Or was it 32?

Let me tell you; after those martini’s it was soo easy. It was actually fun! And pretty! Prettier than I’d ever noticed before. The palm trees lit from below swaying in the wind, the lights from the apartment buildings across Indian Creek, the slice-of-a-moon rising, the last contours of a pink sunset…

I swam like a fucking dolphin!  I would have leapt if I  could have!

I wondered if I’d burned the same amount of calories as when doing the same, only sober.

So politically incorrect though. No?

I mean I’m from the north. And from Holland. Swimming laps while intoxicated? Bad mother! Bad, bad mother! Bad temporary single parent!

But.

Hey.

This is Miami.

So while exercising intoxicated I thought of all the things you can do in Miami that you can’t do anywhere else in the U S of America….

Like:

1. Sex rules without boundaries #1 – Cross a busy intersection wearing nothing but a red sparkling Brazilian bikini (thong that is), on Friday evening Sabbath in the center of the Jewish quarter, 41st and Pinetree Drive… You go girl! (It wasn’t me, I wouldn’t dare).

2. Safety? Up yours! – Do a U-turn, in a SUV, in the center of a three-way-zebra crossing during  blinking-light school hours with uniformed kids pulling their Zuccas on every black and white stripe  (I don’t do this, it drives me nuts).

3. Fun beats responsibility – Send your kid on a two-day field trip with a chaperone, never call her (kid nor chaperone), and then NOT collect kid for another two days (courtesy of my friend F B ).

4. My body is my business – Sunbath topless on the regular (not nudist) beach. I do this when its REALLY quiet (my Mom and I tried it on Shelter Island and almost got arrested….)

5. Get out of my way, bitch – Cut into any and every line, whenever you can, proudly, as if it’s a Mark Jacobs Spring 2011 fashion statement.

6. Spontaneous manners –  RSVP to an intimate  (early-ish) dinner party, not show up, then call at ten, ask if you can bring a friend, eat left-overs and have a fabulous time till the wee hours…

7. Honestly I’m an honest person – Text a hostess to thank for a great dinner party, and write that it was fun only until the moment when she (the hostess/me) made that one stupid comment about…

8. Sex rules without boundaries #2 – Sit by the pool and hear the explicit details of a druggy orgy, as told by three extremely pretty Russian girls, while there are at least a dozen children under the age of seven swimming amongst them…

9. Scary shit is fun any time of the year – Have “Night of the Zombies” on Lincoln Road four weeks before Halloween, where adult men walk around in blood stained T-shirts, drunk, yielding real and churning chainsaws…

10. Sex rules without boundaries # 3 – Have a bus stop sign that says: Still a Virgin? Need Help? call 1-800- etc. on one end and a sign that says “Raped? Need Help? call 1-800- etc.” on the other…

(11 and 12 are added since this post was first written:

11: Have the office of a male and female, boys and girls, modeling agency inside a church building. Yes the Green agency is conveniently located (for recruiting purposes) on Lincoln Road inside the community church building, instantly absolved and blessed with divine credibility. And oh those lucky priests, inside the kids candy store….

12: On Sunday, when the sale of liquor is forbidden in many states including PA, we were give free and rather generous wine samples at the Publix supermarket check-out line at 11am, Halloween day. The man behind me passed “because I have to go to work” and the sexy wine seductress tried her best to persuade him that a bit of wine would do no harm…. )

I’m sure I can think of ten (yes I did) more but I have to get out of this wet bathing suit and call husband back…


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Barbi does Miami, alone…

Ok

So

Here I am, in (on? I always wondered about this) Miami Beach.

One year later…one year after the TB scare and the rashes from the fiberglass chairs.

Like one year ago is when we came down for our nine-month get away…

As in, lets try a school-year away from Milford with its six-feet-of-snow winters when I need a focus-group to determine how to best get from the front door to the car to pick up the kids, where we have crazy neighbors who shoot at eight-year-old twins (or at least try to hit a target that stands about ten feet in front of their neighboring twins) and then try to get the mother (moi) arrested for shoving the neighbor for almost shooting my twins (one day I’ll be ready to blog you that whole story), getting away from having Obama signs stolen five times from my yard, being called a commie for trying to have a library built in town and having to spend at least 1/3 of my life in the car driving for every little  brain fart.

Anyone would agree that these are plenty good reasons to try something else for a while. And as you know, from 12 months of blogging, we did.

WE. I said.

We, as in husband and me and our children, Kiki, Leila and Iona.

So, if you’ve been a faithful follower of this Gordon de Vries adventure, you know that, based on mainly but not solely, Iona’s acceptance into DASH, we went for the second year. A second year in DJ Tiesto’s bachelor pad. Tiesto loves us, despite the fact, or because of the fact, that we’re not bachelors, we dont wreck the place every Saturday night, but instead the “Dutch Cleanser” has moved in, one who occasionally slips into heels and a mini, but still reports every toilet blockage.

Anyway.

I’m here. Kiki is here, very popular in her grade. Leila is here, very popular too, Iona is here, loving DASH.

But where is husband? I’ve been looking everywhere! The closets, under the bed, the garage, by the pool, in the car (maybe he locked himself in?), the fridge, the gym, the jacuzzi?

He’s not here.

He’s in Milford!

Yep, believe it or not, he’s there.

Next to the crazy neighbors, who reportedly are building a moat between them and us, like they’re the bridge and we’re the water  (one day I’ll tell all…)

And I miss him. Husband, not the neighbor.

He’s there because of work. Like suddenly, isn’t it always like that, like you think you’re in the shitty check-out line and you move and then the register in yours breaks and the other, previous, line turns out to have an additional bagger, well this year he, husband, happens to have loads and loads of work in New York. He HAS to be there. Meetings every week. New editors, new jobs, new websites who want him, launches and openings and suddenly New York is where its at.

FUCK!

Like now I’m a single parent without benefits.

Like I go out with my single and divorced girl friends but I don’t get to flirt, exchange numbers, and pretend to be BAD.

I’m GOOD.

I’m so good I bore myself.

Sometimes, when husband calls at midnight on a Saturday night, just when I’ve come home and read his e-mail saying “call me when you get home”, I pretend that I was bad. But, to be honest, I don’t even know how to do this…

So between now and Halloween Barbi does Miami, alone.

waiting...like a good girl...

; )

Do you have my number?