Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


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I Don’t Want To Go Outside

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I don’t want to go outside. It’s too hot, ten minutes is the max before sweat starts pouring down my back and I feel faint. But it’s not that, the heat is superficial compared to the chaos around me. Our small suburban neighborhood, one of the few left on the beach that is still of mid-century proportions – small lots, small houses, parents pushing baby prams, pulling dogs, unsupervised toddlers riding bikes down the middle of the street, self-appointed seniors in safety vests waving at cars on short-cuts to slow down.

But they are all inside too. Post Irma. Post evacuation.

The only ones out are the county cleanup crews and Jewish families on their way to temple, walking to the other side of Surfside, across from Saks at Bal Harbour Shops. It’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah. They’re all dressed up in their best togs and move with determination, as if nothing can stop them. Nothing has changed. As if they are not picking a path through brown mounds of devastated nature that have been dragged out of each and every yard, into the street to be collected by whom? To be taken where? Is there enough to make us a new planet? I wonder. I fantasize.

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Inside, at my computer, I wage war with my landlord and his Baby Huey property manager. They say that disasters bring out the best in people, adversity brings them together. Not so with our landlord, all the way in Hawaii, acting like we’re annoying guests who overstayed their welcome and now have the audacity to ask for things like boarding up the house — why should he protect our possessions? How about trying to protect your 2.5 million property? I ask, but since the house did not blow away, this seems like a rhetorical question to him. Hindsight, as always, being the argument of the obtuse.

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I drained the pool. I sucked the hose like I was stealing gasoline, and funneled the green, slimy water into the lake behind the house. This worked until the level of the pool was lower than that of the high-tide bay. Science I thought, wishing it were a scam and I could blame the Chinese. The remaining water sits about a foot deep, a putrid breeding ground for mosquitos. When I ask what the owner wants to do about this and the 60ft tall palm tree that is top heavy with coconuts and leaning dangerously over the fence, Baby Huey writes me e-mails the likes of Trump Tweets:

“… don’t create extra work and problems [for us].”

 Seriously?!

The girls, back at school, after the Irma-Cat5-coming-right-at-you and YOU WILL DIE news flashes, the closures, evacuations, cancelled flights, power outages, are asked by their teachers “did you have a nice vacation?” I guess some of them follow their students on social media and our escape to Milford looked too idyllic by the Miami-Dade criteria of hurricane evacuation anguish.

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Oh Miami. It’s not even October and you’ve already worn me out. I count the days to June, when I can leave and not come back. Never live through another hurricane. Never again be told that I’m a bummer when I bring up climate change during a dinner party while water floods the streets below us.

Never again feel like a stranger, a misfit in a place that is alien to me in its upside-down culture of Whatever. Where gravitas and context and consequence are the lexicon of Debbie Downer and her tribe of party poopers. Where everything I try to do feels like grasping at a hologram as people shake their heads and say: “What did you expect? This is Miami! Why don’t you just let it go. Life’s a beach, just have fun.”

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But the sand on the beach burns the soles of my feet. The ocean water is strangely warm and filled with hurricane debris and plastic – bags, cups, straws, lighters, bottles – and surfers are coming down with nasty infections. Two more hurricanes passed by Miami Beach, a few hundred miles out in the Atlantic. Barbuda, Dominica, St.Maarten/Martin, Tortola, St.John, Vieques, Puerto Rica, Cuba, the Keys and Houston lie destroyed. People are homeless. Cultures gone…

I don’t want to go outside.

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Beyond Miami Beach…

As Advised by Great White Dog

I find myself annoyed. Am I annoyed with Miami? After eight years of living here?

Much has happened in that time. We lived here during Obama’s his entire presidency. When we arrived there were many unspoken agreements that had shaped the local culture over the twenty preceding years, from the wild-west eighties until the crash of 2009. “As long as we are having fun” was one of them. Being serious was boring. I was called a Debbie Downer at a dinner party, when I talked about water in the streets as a result of climate change (that BTW, had made every guest late for the party). Don’t get me wrong, I like having fun, but my idea of fun is  different from dressing in skimpy but expensive designer clothes, drinking outrageous cocktails, clamoring around celebs and music so intense that the only possible interaction is taking selfies with your “friends” (while hoping for one with that star).

Yes guilty, my initial blogs were all about those parties. As an outlet for my culture shock. And, after years of working in NYC and living in Milford, PA with small children, these parties were so alien, so different and took me so far outside myself, that it felt like something I needed, in the way that getting really drunk sometimes feels like a healthy dose of vitamin C. It wore off fast, the so-called glamorous lifestyle, one that I had always walked away from, in Amsterdam, Paris, London and New York. It just isn’t me. I like to drive myself hard and if I don’t accomplish stuff I set out to do, I get depressed. I do not dream of retiring, shopping and sitting by the pool for the rest of my life. I need to be heard and seen and not for gossip and what I wear. So when the party dust settled I got to work on being relevant in Miami, no matter what it took.

It took a lot… I gave it my best… I feel depleted… I can’t say I conquered and I’m kind of over trying (… plus I’m getting shit done in other parts of the world).

And yes, I realize it’s not all about me and I’m not alone. Three months into 2017 and this worn-out feeling is a national depression. Up and down the East and West Coast we aspired to be part of a wave of hope that Obama brought with him. One that I saw as a way to change and save Miami, with talks of rising sea-levels, an ocean full of plastic, recycling and up-cycling, the right for all kids to an inspired public education such as DASH, affordable housing instead of 20% occupancy in condos and private homes worth billions on Miami Beach, air-conditioned year-around.

But if it felt like I was swimming against the stream over the past eight years,  I am now swimming into a Tsunami. Will the already lavish parties get even bigger and crazier as the 1% feels empowered, emboldened in their greed and need to flaunt it, with Miami Beach as the perfect stage for competitive one-percenting? Living less than a mile from Sunny Isles, with its six Trump Towers, and the highest concentration of Russian investments in recent years, Russia’s unabashed imperialism is palpable. And after the cuts to environmental protection, the NEA, healthcare, public transportation, education, housing and human and women’s rights, what will happen to the other group, the full-time residents and working class whose statistics show that Miami’s income disparity is one of the largest in the country?

Yet it is all about me. Also. About what I can give and do and how I will spend the next twenty years of my life optimizing who I am, what I have learned and how I can reflect this back on generations to come. In another year the twins will leave for college. I will be free from the school calendar, driving and feeding and other hands-on mothering. I look at them, and how they act and feel, and I remember being seventeen and practically jumping out of my own skin with impatience, anger even at being told what to do by teachers, parents, the system. The nervous restlessness that I now recognize for what it is in my girls – their booster engines filled with ambition for their future and need for autonomy, propelling them forward. As I see this in my daughters I recognize it in myself, four decades older than they are, but the impulse is the same, I am getting ready for another shift.

So I am annoyed at Miami. Or I am just annoyed. I am practically jumping out of my skin with irritation at the status quo, and like a very old teenager I’m going to use this urge to amp it up some and get more shit done…

(But maybe not in Miami).

 

Links to projects elsewhere:

PORTFOLIO SITE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Waiting for Obama

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EARTH DAY IN THE EVERGLADES

“The miracle of light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slowly moving, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades. It is a river of grass.” – Marjorie Stoneman Douglas

President Obama spent Earth Day in the Florida Everglades, flying in the face of global warming denier Governor Rick Scott (R) and his mandate that bans the word “climate change” from the Tallahassee government dictionary.

After two hours of waiting in the heat, humidity, bugged by flies and the stench of porta-potties, the program announcer must’ve been as dopey as I was and his nonchalant introduction came after Obama had already stepped onto the freshly-cut grass. Mentally unprepared for the skinny man who casually crossed the lawn as if he was on his way to a neighbor’s picnic, I was almost disappointed, but as soon as he got behind the Presidential insignia Obama appeared to expand into his presidential stature and gave a strong speech that was full of sound bytes designed to create ripples (but not storms) in tea party cups. When the president said: “climate change can no longer be denied. It can’t be edited out. It can’t be omitted from the conversation,” it was clear who he was targeting, and he continued to speak specifically to Florida: “because in places like this, folks don’t have time, we don’t have time — you do not have time to deny the effects of climate change. Folks are already busy dealing with it. And nowhere is it going to have a bigger impact than here in south Florida. No place else.”

Day flight on Air Force One tomorrow with the President. We’re going to # ActOnClimate.” He was instantly torn apart by retweets that called his plans “more like a way to pollute in style.” But what could he do? Nye was Obama’s personal scientist and warm-up act, providing that selfie-with-star moment for the hardworking officials, to which Nye submitted himself with all the blasé enthusiasm of a modern-day celebrity.  read the rest of the article here

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Biebered

Everything happens in Miami. Just as I’m not looking. Like last night Justin Bieber drag raced below my bedroom window (relatively speaking on the scale and probability of the entire universe, so don’t start outing me with comments that it was several blocks south).

He was nabbed by the Miami Beach police and resisted arrest. They say. But thats what they always say. If you’re not falling into their arms yodeling that you’re sorry, they write on your arrest form that you “resisted arrest.” Hey Bieber was lucky that they didn’t tase him with their favorite gotcha toy ( used on young males of any color, tourists included).

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This happened at 4.13 am (note the 13 and not 10 or 15, that’s one sober cop) and by the time America brushed its teeth and poured its milk into its cereal a mega media story had been launched.

Baby Bieber’s mugshot was on every TV channel, every tweet, FB post looking like someone had told him it was a shoot for Teen.com, or better still a casting call for a cute new lesbian on Orange is the New Black. Smile! And hysterical news casters (inc. the likes of Anderson Cooper) came in their panties analyzing what could possibly have led to the downfall of the young role model to millions. Psychiatrists, lawyers, political analysts and weeping fans were interviewed and their conclusion was, with much head shaking: Bieber suffered from “Impostor Syndrome” and it was merely a cry for help! And where were the Bieber parents? Really, and how could they let this happen?

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Meanwhile Bieber sat in his cell (surrounded by Miami clubbers arrested at LIV for trying to enter the VIP zone) and wondered where his friend God was. After all the credit he’d given to God for his success, tagging him in every tweet, had God really forsaken him in his hour of need? His much needed need to act his age and gender and be invisible while racing a rented Lamborghini on Miami Beach, while just a tiny teensy bit intoxicated?

God? God!

I bet God didn’t even notice. I mean as soon as God focusses his attention on Miami Beach, like sits on a cloud somewhere over South Florida, he sees nothing but yellow (or red) Lamborghinis driving @ 60mph. And when he bothers to zoom in (think Google Earth or Godle Earth),  he sees young testosterone pumped up with performance enhancers like alcohol, codeine and pot (he calls it marijuana, and planted it as an afterthought late on day six, and only for medicinal value) and too much time and money, everywhere.  Like Everywhere. Especially at 4.13 am.

So I imagine God shrugged, made a mental note to send the Devil a text later, asking him to go easy on the young Bieb, and turned his attention back to Chris Christie.

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Meanwhile, we, those who live in Miami Beach, smile and shrug the shrug of knowledge. Like man eats man’s face off? Like tasing a teen artist to death for tagging graffiti? Like a celebrity arrested for acting out? Of course! What do you expect? This is Miami!

And when I drove home last night, yes along Pinetree Drive enjoying its 15 minutes of fame (paparazzi are still hanging out – you know, for when time goes backwards and they’re the first on the scene), I looked over at the trophy wife in a black SUV right next on me. As per habit we stepped on it, raced for the orange light at 41st Street, speedometers hitting the 56mph mark, and made it, perfectly timed, just through red.

What?

What do you expect? This is Miami!

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Stupid Model in Paris is now available on Amazon :

http://www.amazon.com/STUPID-MODEL-Paris-Barbara-Vries-ebook/dp/B00HZ1GH8Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390686886&sr=1-1&keywords=stupid+model+in+paris

 


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Don’t Tase the Messenger

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photo: Heather Bozzone

If Channing Tatum is the poster child for Abercrombie then Israel Hernandez is the poster child for Miami Beach.

Israel was handsome, young, beachy (see above far left), worked in the fashion/model biz, a boarder, an artist and an entrepreneur who was launching a line of skate boards. He was only 18 years old when he was tased and killed by Miami Beach police. He still wore braces.

photo: Heather Bozzone

photo: Heather Bozzone

Miami has been working hard on re-branding its image over the past few years.

It introduced Art Basel Miami and Design Miami to give the city a hipper, cooler, younger image and get away from its drug violence, retiree, Cage aux Folles party image of the nineties. Starchitects have been brought in to build international press-worthy public buildings like the New World Symphony by Frank Gehry, 1111 Lincoln and the PAMM ( Art Museum Miami) by Herzog deMeuron, and  several more headline grabbing buildings  by Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Richard Meyers are in various stages of construction.

Part of this revamp has been the creation of two different creative districts; the Design District and Wynwood. During Art Basel Miami these are the two “new” areas of Miami where millions are spent on international publicity. Wynwood is the  area that is brought to the international travel market for its “world class galleries that represent young local artists.”  To illustrate this the city and property owners, inspired by the success of Keith Haring in eighties Soho, “give” abandoned and other buildings over to graffiti artists to use as large and free canvasses to express themselves fully and freely. These buildings look like abandoned warehouses somewhere near Detroit airport before, and a lot more interesting after they have been made over with multicolored spray cans in the hands of aspiring Banksys.

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Wynwood as a celebration of local graffiti talent is a must see destination  headlines scream all over the world in their travel copy on Miami.

Even in the luxury branded Design District the main investor and developer of the area, Louis Vuitton, brought in graffiti artist Retna to express his art on their facade, which opened with all the champagne and red carpet A-listers that are expected from Miami and this French luxury brand.

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Shepard Fairey, he of Obama poster fame, did many walls at Wynwood’s Central block – The Wynwood Walls. When a Banksy mural  was stolen from a London neighborhood it predictably showed up, all thousands of pounds of concrete, at a Miami art auction house.

Are you getting my drift?

Miami is touting its graffitied walls  like they are the fucking Eiffel Tower of the American south!

So.

Where does that leave young, ambitious Miami artists?

Guess what platform, canvas, form of expression, medium, they use….

Guess who encourages them to do so by GIVING them walls, by rewarding them with money and fame, by honoring art school students with Awards of Excellence and Most Promising?

The City of Miami and its developer buddies!

And guess who did not get the memo….

Their own pumped-up police department!

So.

Lets get back to Israel Hernandez. Beautiful, talented, ambitious, kind, young and a bit naive,  willing to please in order to succeed Israel Hernandez. He was trying to be everything we, parents, expect our kids to be. Everything the creative culture tells our kids to be. Including just a little bit reckless. A little bit on the edge. A little bit challenging.

Israel Hernandez tagged an abandoned Mc Donalds on the corner of 71st and Collins. I know it well. Its next to my local ATM machine. It has been graffitied and tagged and vandalized over the past year. He left a small R for his street name Reefa.

The Miami Beach Police caught up with him and tased him. He died soon after.

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Our culture needs kids like Israel Hernandez. We need them to remind us what it is to be young. To make a difference. To be noticed. Did we not all at some point stand up to authority and held the mirror in its face?

Come on Miami, look in this mirror now, and take responsibility for the life of this young and promising young man. Miami YOU set the bar. You held up the carrot. You cast the die by glorifying graffiti and its artists. So why keep quiet now, when your own police tases and kills your messenger? The messenger you recruited and sent out there… the messenger you need to send your new cool brand identity out into the world.

Come on Craig Robins,  Matti Herrera Bower, Robert Wennet, Goldman Properties, Carlos Gimenez, Jorge Perez, etc. Do the right thing. Speak up, speak out. Get the memo of your plans for Miami’s global marketing out to everyone, including the MBPD. Start an art endowment in Israel’s name…

Do what it takes to recognize Israel as a child of your own….

Link to video with interviews with two eyewitnesses

art for Slap by Jane Simmons

art for Slap by Jane Simmons

‪#‎ripreefa‬   #‎justiceforisraelhernandez‬ 

Footage of protest/rally on Saturday August 10th from 1-5 at 71st & Collins.


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Miami Beach Stands its Ground

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This week Florida is the new Texas. The state Americans love to hate. But what does that make Miami?

Two pieces of Miami Beach news came across my ticker this morning. First the announcement that architect Rem Koolhaas has won the competition for the redesign of the Miami Beach convention center and the other from the City Commissioner, apologizing for the fact that Miami is indeed becoming part of the Atlantic Ocean.

This from the mayor’s office:

I want to let you know that I am working side by side with City Departments to resolve the serious flooding issues that Miami Beach is experiencing … flooded areas, stalled vehicles, flooding at private residences, flooding in construction areas…  the Public Works Department has been troubleshooting pump station operations, clearing of inlets and outfalls, efficient operation of the stormwater systems including  two vacuum trucks working to address stormwater and sewer backups… a Taskforce will see how we can respond better to these flooding situations. ..Do we need more vacuum trucks? This is the type of question that we need to examine… I believe that working together as a community and a collaborative effort we can be better prepared.  

How heartening that the City pledges to Stand its Ground with a neighborhood-watch task force against rising water levels.

“Get out of our hood or I’ll suck and shoot you right back to where yo came from with the super spout of my shiny big vacuum truck.”

COOL!

Bring it on!

And bring on the new 600 million convention center a mere two blocks from the big blue intruder.

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Did they pick Rem Koolhaas because he’s Dutch? After all the  Dutch have been defying water for centuries, building above ground cities below sea level on 30% of their country. Or did they pick him for his celebrity status, this starchitect of all architects?

It was Miami Beach developer Robert Wennett who introduced  OMA (The name of Koolhaas’ firm) to the Beach Convention Center project.

Wennet, a Miami native, is no stranger to complete make-overs. Local lore has it that he, pudgy and ordinary looking, disappeared from the Miami scene for “several years” only to reappear one Halloween night in the guise of an impeccable Marilyn Monroe and anonymously claimed the first prize at Tui Prakech’s famous bi-annual Halloween party.

Next he gave Lincoln Road a make-over by hiring architects Herzog deMeuron to create the 1111 plaza, stores and parking garage that give Lincoln Road renewed urban gravitas. Wennet himself perches in his uber nest atop the garage and swoops down into the plaza with all the flamboyant superiority of a Batman nemesis.

While Wennet may be in it for the prize, Koolhaas is never accused of anything other than pragmatic idealism. During a recent presentation at the Colony Theater he left his Miami audience wondering if he even wanted the job. He did not pitch, he did not try to endear himself, he did not flatter, he simply stated the fact that Miami Beach is an “interesting hybrid” as a beach resort and real city. When questioned he was critical of American culture, and showed little faith whether the IQ of the local population could match his proposed plan.

However…

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“Miami, as we know it today, is doomed,” says Harold Wanless, the chairman of the department of geological sciences at the University of Miami. “It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”

Miami’s bid to separate itself from mother state Florida’s identity as the bigot, racist, dumb motherfucker state, boycotted by Stevie Wonder and liberal tourists, and reinvent itself as the cutting edge, Euro-style metropolis of art and design while slowly disappearing into the Atlantic Ocean certainly makes an “interesting hybrid.”

The best piece of advice for the identity challenged city of Miami and the much maligned state of Florida, where thinking (if at all) evolves from the gift of hindsight, is found in OMA’s mandate itself:

“We think before we do…”

AWDGK1


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The Tassel Room

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Have you ever dreamt that you’re in the bathroom section of Sears and you need to pee and in this dream you convince yourself that it would be OK to go ahead in the Toro toilet showroom model?

Well…

Tonight I went to an interior style book-signing party and a celebration of “12 impeccable years of design, art and luxury” somewhere tucked between Fort Lauderdale airport and North Miami.

The invitation had come by mail and looked like a wedding invite with peacocks and “the pleasure of your company” requested by Ann Getty, John Hall Nelson and  Iran Issa Khan. There is little friends of Iran won’t do for her. Iran is after all the most supportive friend anyone can have and so when Iran beckons friends follow her to the end of the world. Literally.

Cocktails and Dinner it said and I was ready. I had a vivid idea of what could be done in a decorating warehouse. Anything! All that furniture would surely become a fabulous set, a styled background for the most over-the-top party ever. I imagined the ambience of every movie Tilda Swinton had ever been in (Orlando meets Narnia meets I am Love). Rampant fantasy settings, dimmed chandeliers, mysterious rooms made up from samples, drapes, beds, not one chair or table alike, random but real, a wonderland that would have me dreaming….

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But.

Expectation will fuck with me every time.

First I drove through the suburban nightmare of Hallandale and Dania Beach, a monotonous six-lane with traffic lights every hundred yards and rush-hour traffic that leaves one brain dead.

I tried to stay hopeful. I reminisced about the final episode of Downton Abbey that lingered in my mind.

Then I drove through a dark landscape of ominous warehouses and imagined Hollywood Studios with the set of Marie Antoinette dedans.

But this was Hollywood FL.

I turned a corner and stopped in front of a very ordinary strip mall with a very ordinary looking furniture showroom.

A showroom, a huge showroom, a brightly lit traditional Miami suburban showroom. It was just that. Nothing more and nothing less. The place where trophy wives go to decorate their plastic Greek Revival home on steroids in gated communities with names like River Highlands, Princeton Pastures and The Governor’s Club  and hope to look the nouveau part with all its Downton, Versailles, Deco Drive, Morris Lapidus, Versace, Shabby Chic, Chinoisery  and Out Of Africa style like gilded mirrors, claw footed tables, deep fat couches with red zebra upholstery, ebony and ivory inlay tables, brocade drapes, satin sheets, bronze and glass coffee tables…  all this inside while a steady stream of red and white lights whizzed by at 80 miles ph on I-95 just yards away.

But regardless, there were waiters with white gloves and trays with bacon wrapped scallops, foie gras and caviar. There were women in Louboutins and Oscar de la Renta cocktail dresses. There were old men in pink slacks, navy blazers and jolly ties, there even was one young gay man in a bright yellow short suit.

The first thing I saw upon entry was a king size four-poster bed made up in traditional dusty blues. The four tapered posts had mirrors that aspired to deco meets Morris Lapidus style.  But at  5″ wide and 6ft tall, these four mirrored  posts would make for very narrow sexy time, I imagined, walking in half dealing with my disappointment the other half busy with this bed – and the kinky couple that might be in it:

He (trying to see himself in the slither of mirror): “To the left a bit, no thats too far , to the right, up a bit yes now I can see, no dont move, well no dont stop completely…”

She: “Shit man, I prefer my mirror on the ceiling and my cuffs on the posts.”

Personally I had a vison of having the 12 impeccable years of design, art and luxury celebration in that bed, with our dinner on trays all together in bedjackets Joan Crawford style. I suggested it to my friends in attendance but every single one seemed creeped out by me.

Like it was me and not the actual place that was creepy.

I mean.

Whats the point of having dinner in a Hollywood FL furniture showroom and act like its the ballroom of the London Ritz?

Fuck’em.

In the end it turned out that it was in the tassel room.

The tassel room was where it was at.  The tassel room was what I’d had in mind all along, the tassel room was the inadvertent VIP room with not one tasseled red rope across the entrance but dozens on the walls. I had tassel room envy as soon as I saw it, but the tassel room had already filled up with women who were wearing tassel camouflage, like  Hermes prints and  feathered, beaded, puckerd, folded and pleated fabrics – it was hard to tell the tassels from the lasses tucking into their steak, asparagus and grilled veggies.

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Dejected, I headed to the lighting showroom and  persuaded one couple to dine with me, once there some thin ice was broken and a few more joined in. But I mean please, here we are dining in a lighting showroom with dozens of ugly wall sconces so why  be ashamed to play with the dimmers? And why not  joke about the brightest bulb in the room?

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After this we remembered that Ann Getty had  a book, but was this not a signing? She seemed to be there incognito, at her own booksigning party where no one ever spoke about a book but it was more of a discovery-like treasure hunt, first you had to find this publication (there was zero promotion, which was almost a refreshing, like new kind of thing) and then, once we found and purchased it, we went armed with her author picture in an attempt to find her and ask in a syrupy voice if she would be so kind to sign it.

And then it was over.

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