Friday, April 18, 2014

Uptown Girls

Did you ever look forward to date night with great anticipation, maybe a mani-pedi-blowout-mimosa prep schedule with an awesome play list rocking out in the back ground, as you pick out a new outfit/pair of shoes/new accessories combo for a fun night out?  Yeah, me neither. 
Our last date night went more like this:  Saturday morning Rob gets the 6:30 AM train out of the Seventh Borough to get to the Metrotech/Barclays office (2nd borough) for some 8AM project.  I’m baby wrangling, waiting for my mom to get to my house, after probably also taking a 6:30 AM bus herself so I can get to work for 9AM, even though, yes, it’s Saturday.  Rob picks an outfit he can both climb around server rooms and grab cocktails in.  I pick an outfit that 1. Fits the baby bump 2. Not too fancy for a Saturday in the office and 3. I can sit next to my husband while he grabs cocktails and I get like 8 seltzers.  Then everyone puts in a full day of work.  Rob kills time wandering around the city, while I’m killing in effigy my ‘Singapore Problem’ at work (I’m sure that will warrant its own blog post at some later point in time when my Singapore Problem finally and officially gets laid off).  The benefit of working these occasional Saturdays is that I get an additional vacation day in return, and the company buys lunch.  The drawback of eating lunch (or breakfast or dinner or drinking any non-clear fluids) these days, is that this baby bump has increased the general surface area of the body where it’s very easy to spill food on yourself.  And undoubtedly I do.  So most of my outfit was black, to avoid advertising any food stains (though I did spend a day at work in a black outfit last week with a nice residual dollop of Greek Yogurt on my shirt).  Mmm strawberry banana!
Finally we brake out of work and head uptown on Lexington Ave.  Typically full of office-worker buzz on the weekdays, the pedestrian flow on Lex has become a slow, disorganized parade of tourists, more tourists, and what I’d call local tourists (Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Borough and beyond neighbors in commutable distance who descend upon the city with no real sense of purpose, other than for food, entertainment, sporting events, or worse yet, pub crawls).  So we hang a left on 57th street to cut west and the tourists haven’t really subsided but at least the sidewalk of this very wide and busy thoroughfare are grand and can easily accommodate the masses. 
I realized that I hadn’t been this far uptown (and 57th street is really not uptown at all) in a while.  Actually I’d walk along 57th quite a bit because it was the starting point of the express bus route back to Bay Ridge in the 2nd Borough.  A coworker friend of mine lived on 2nd ave in the 50’s and we’d leave work in Long Island City, cross the Queensboro Bridge (59th Street Bridge / Edward I. Koch Bridge – he never lived in Queens??? I never got that reference) by foot for some exercise and chit chat when the weather was pleasant, then she’d walk to her apt and I’d walk over to the Express bus and go home.  These days I do much more shopping at Babies R Us and Stop and Shop than the luxury brand stores on 57th Street, Louis Vuitton and Dior make Coach and Ralph Lauren look rather down-market, but they all represent.  I have some Ralph Lauren stuff myself but I bought it at Lord and Taylor with mad coupons and on savings-pass weekends.  I’m not a brand-name junkie but I do check other peoples’ stuff out here and there.  Right now my job and commute are so male-dominated I don’t get any good fashion exposure.  I do not work with metrosexuals.  Someone once described my job as non-sexy finance.  I’d say that’s true.  Occasionally the guys in the office would get into a pissing contest over who has more Ferragamo ties, but this was the rare event.  I’d say 99% of accountants are frugal, financially conservative individuals and the other one percent are in jail. 
We all project an image, whether intentional or not.  This is why I could never work in fashion, probably never even hack it in retail.  In non-sexy finance, you just have to look professional.  And as the weather warms up and the baby bump grows, I’m interpreting that definition more and more loosely.  But that’s short term.  In non-sexy finance you do cross paths with those in Sexy Finance and those with good fashion sense, and those who are bling-y and name-brand junkies.  People may say I have no fashion sense and I wouldn’t argue.  I am by no means a luxury brand junkie.  I don’t believe in high-end cars because cars are just depreciable assets.  Besides, a Lexus is just a Toyota engine with nicer interior appointments.  Though one time a (real) Rolex-sporting, Upper East Side co-worker once said to me, “But Liz, you live in Scarsdale”, and I say, bitch please, I live in Eastchester (but not according to my zip code), and she’d say, “But Liz you grew up on Shore Road”, and I say, bitch please, we rented a rent-stabilized apartment 30 years ago (but zip codes don’t lie).  Maybe I’m a bit of an address  snob, but you know what they say, location, location, location.  What it all comes down to is that really I’m just a cheap, clueless, fashion-less preggo who gets all her ideas from two stylish co-workers and two buddies on Pinterest.  I’m just waiting for Target to get its credit card security back in place so I can go back to shopping there.   
We turned up Madison Avenue and passed more and more boutiques and high-end small shops, no Target, no TJ Maxx, just the name brands you see in fashion and beauty magazines, or names that pop up during Fashion week (Armani, Hermes, Helmut Lang, Valentino, Carolina Herrera),  that I recognize only because I read a lot and get into watching the red carpet on Oscar night, and nothing to do with my shopping prowess (which is nil).  Fashion, shoes, accessories and hand bag/luggage shops started to phase out, while shee-shee bakeries, coffee houses and salons became more prominent, as we got deeper into the East 60’s and then low 70’s and the area became more residential over all.  I was jealous of this area not for its zip code or fancy bakery bags chock-filled with a spring rainbow of macaroons, but just for its simple pedestrian nature.  I miss rolling out of one’s apartment and grabbing a coffee along with completing a morning’s worth of errands fully accomplished on two feet.  No cars, no parking lots, no meters, just fresh spring air and the adventures you can find with two feet and endless miles of paved sidewalks.  Of course my early evening daydream was helped by not having the little man in tow, because when you are two everything is a fascinating distraction.
Forget you! You macaroons and blingy peep-toe shoes worth more than one month’s mortgage payment, this was date night, and not just like Liz and Rob get a meal without needing a highchair or a drop cloth for our third wheel, we were off to the Carlyle Hotel to see Alexa Ray Joel!
The Carlyle would totally blend into its UES neighborhood as any other pre-war apartment building, if not for its modest, art-decoish marquee on Madison Avenue.  We entered on Madison and got lost in the corridors for a bit.  Where were the doormen, this is a hotel, no?  So we left and went in the 76th street entrance where we found a proper front desk attendant and asked for Café Carlyle, which of course was past some uniformed elevator operators and some bar-like seating.  It was not a grand hotel with a cavernous lobby, it was a building with proportions of another time, elegant, by no means disability-compliant, and buzzing with early Saturday night diners.  The Café Carlyle was a tiny room, with tables on top of tables, a small stage with mics, a piano, keyboard and cello, and in the back a small bar that fit six, tops.  We had a small square table, three rows in, though basically we were the last row before the bar.  We sat side by side and next to our table was a support beam covered in black fabric.  It was tight seating.  Tight.
But the people came and the café filled up.  Rob had some wine and I ordered a champagne that I nursed all night, long after it lost its fizziness.  I ordered a salad of sliced heirloom tomatoes, followed by sea scallops with asparagus and risotto, chased down by a lemon tart.  Rob had steak and mashed potatoes and cheese cake.  The food was definitely overpriced but then so was the neighborhood, but it was good food.  Sometimes you go to a hotel for the bar, but never for the restaurant.  My compliments were to the chef.
Seats kept filling up, and as it turned out, all of Alexa's shows were sold out for her two-week run. We wondered if Alexa’s very famous dad was going to show up.  Pay for Alexa, get Billy, two Joels for the price of one Joel (well when a tomato salad costs $20, for four slices of tomato, not four tomatoes), say hey, throw the frugal accountant a bone, no?   
We were literally on top of the table in front of us, and I hoped some really short people would sit there, but no, it was reserved for supermodels.  Especially one tall, fashionable, beautiful supermodel named Christie Brinkley. 
We didn’t get dad, we got mom, Alexa’s mom, and her entourage of some very metrosexual guys, and Minnie Driver, and a music critic guy who kept talking about Marisa Tomei's current stint on Broadway, and Alexa’s publicist, in addition to Christie’s son who may as well be a model, and another woman who was apparently a big artist and/or interior designer who recently did Christie’s (new?) UES apartment/townhouse(?) and of course all her Long Island properties. 
The table was set for 10, and Minnie was very tactical in picking her seat so that she would not be hugging the support beam like we were.  Everyone respectfully saved the best seat for Christie.  At first I thought I was so close to these people I could hit them with a dinner role if I tried (which I didn’t) but really, we were so close, I could eat off their plate if I wanted to.  Minnie got the $20 tomato salad and had rose champagne.  Christie was drinking something that looked like a margarita and had the oysters.  Supermodels eat food!  The metrosexuals had hard liquor on the rocks.  The party seemed big on ordering the salmon.  I wanted to tell them the scallops were really good but I wasn’t at their table.  I was on top of their table, but technically not at their table.  The publicist ordered a cheeseburger and slipped the Matri D no less than $20 even though the whole table was comped.  My husband was jealous of the cheeseburger, despite having a steak, this is how he rolls.  It’s date night at the Carlyle and not McDonald’s drive through!!!!! 
I totally eavesdropped on their conversations.  Everyone talks about Billy.  Billy.  Billy.  Billy.  Like he’s the absent friend, and not the vile ex-husband.  That was nice.  We’re seeing Billy in 6 months at the Garden, but I kept that to myself.  There was much talk about the Hamptons, Christie’s son’s experience in college, a prior performance of Alexa’s which involved the Carlyle evicting a very, very drunk patron, and whether Minnie should spend less time in the UK and more time in NY (everyone though so, but Minnie seemed undecided).  Minnie looked very much like herself on TV or in movies, but she was very tall and seemed to look very dramatic with very little makeup.  She had a bright red Channel bag but the rest of her outfit was simple, elegant New York Evening Black.  That’s totally what I was going for, but in my round state and penchant for yogurt stains, I was just happy I slapped on some eye shadow and mascara that night.  Christie looked fabulous for being 60, and had a black dress with a black and white polka dot scarf.  She looked like she was always smiling, her face and eyes were really bright, she was upbeat, friendly and pleasant, she was the proud and beaming momma. 
I was totally ecstatic that I was sitting in such proximity to beautiful, fashionable and famous people. And the show hadn't even begun.  When Alexa graced the stage, in her pale pink sparkly gown and matching boa, she came out belting her own version of Ray Charles' "I've Got a Woman".  Undeniably, she looks more like her dad than her mom, and she's got the musical chops of her dad too.  Maybe she won't gain residency at Madison Square Garden, but the clubby, cabaret venue of Cafe Carlyle was definitely her forte.  In between each song, she'd offer some background, some jokes, loungy chit chat and kept good command of the room.  She sang some original songs, which I though seemed laden with some residual teen angst or unrequited love, they were not melodic nor happy.  When she was belting out songs, she sounded like an old soul, rich and weathered, and when she sang more higher-pitched songs, she had like a squeaky, Carol Channing-type of quality to her voice.  She probably has had the best musical education genetics can provide.  Her exposure and repertoire spanned the gamut.  She covered Ray and Stevie Wonder, she covered Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale", she dedicated "On the Sunny Side of the Street" to her mom, she sang her own music, she played her own keyboard, she was quite versatile.  She even talked about her dad's love of hymns, the influence that has had on her, and that he has an organ in his house (I'm picturing like a massive church organ in the middle of a living room).  When it comes to hymns, I'm thinking of "Ode To Joy" or the "Battle Hymn of the Republic".  She was thinking "Loch Lomond", and then sang it with a bit of a Scottish brogue (you know this one, "You take the high road, and I'll take the low road, and I'll be in Scotland before you").  I never thought of this as a hymn, but rather a drinking song reserved for the inebriated portion of a funeral.  But what do I know, my dad is not Billy Joel.  
Alexa closed out the show without her pianist nor her cellist on stage, just her and her keyboard, and a very natural "Just The Way You Are" by papa Joel.  It was an interesting show, because I could sing the Billy Joel set list blindfolded and backwards, but you never knew what Alexa was going to throw out there, or how she was going to arrange it.  And going to a concert in such a small venue felt unique, and special, like I was invited to a private party, with celebrities and overpriced tomatoes and possibly a (tiny) Greek yogurt stain on my shirt.  Did I enjoy it, definitely.  Did I fit in, hey, I live in Scarsdale, the evening was totally in my price range.
Bitch please, it's Eastchester.        

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