Archive for September, 2017


September 27, 2017

A while back, I compiled a list of gifts that Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith gave to one another in Just Kids.  I often find myself gravitating towards the gift described in memoirs or books; authors, I’ve noticed, tend to include them as details when they are particularly special or poignant.  Case in point: Jeannie Vanasco’s upcoming memoir The Glass Eye.  It’s not as long as the Smith-Mapplethorpe one, but I still love it (and admittedly it might be longer, as I didn’t do an exhaustive search).

Gifts Received by Jeannie Vanasco in The Glass Eye (different givers)

A small doll from Sicily

colorful barettes

old coins

hangers with illustrated wooden cat heads

vials of sand from Jerusalem

a pair of earrings that looked like pale orange pearls

Twenty books (in one package)



September 19, 2017

This picture from one of my kid’s books looks a little too much like Slender Man for my comfort.



September 15, 2017

I love a good public cat.  What do I mean by “public cat”?  I mean bodega cats, cats that live in museums (like the Hermitage), cats like Larry and Palmerston, who live in Downing Street, etc.  My favorite public cats of all, though, are hotel cats.  Just a brief aside before I tell you about my favorite hotel cat: when we were in Provence this summer, my husband and I went to dinner at a very fancy hotel restaurant.  A number of the diners had dogs with them––including two women wearing head-to-toe designer gear with tiny Yorkies sitting on their laps––and yet, the restaurant had a cat roaming around.  If that was a passive-aggressive move by the owner of said hotel, I bow down to you, sir.

Anyway, obviously my favorite hotel cat of all time is Matilda, of the Algonquin in NYC.  The Algonquin has kept cats since the 1930s, and has had three Matildas (and seven Hamlets, but more on that in a bit).  When I was a regular, Matilda was a very coy rag doll beauty who had her own chaise lounge and would only reluctantly let me pet her.  According to this piece (which, side note, I’m very jealous I didn’t write), Matilda has stalkers… er, fans, who send her rather elaborate gifts:

There was a lady in Japan that hand-made an exact replica of her, two dolls, out of wool. Each strand of wool, strand by strand, she put those in. It looks exactly like Matilda. One is just Matilda, we have her in the showcase out front. And then I have one up here where she has her in a kimono.

But the Matilda I knew and loved is on her way to retirement, and a Hamlet has taken her post!  As per Algonquin’s Instagram:


This Hamlet is one lucky guy!  Agreed that some may find his appearance a bit drab after the glam Tildy, but according to the official Algonquin cat wrangler, he’s a real charmer!  Sad to have missed his inauguration, but Hamlet––here’s to a martini together in the near future.

Wisdom in Folly

September 3, 2017

The first Chelmites could neither read nor write, and the history of those ancient times was never recordered.  It is said that these earliest Chelmites were primitive people.  They walked around naked and barefoot, lived in caves, and hunted animals with axes and spears made of stone.  They often starved and were sick.  But since the word “crisis” did not exist yet, there were no crises and no one tried to solve them.

After many, many years the Chelmites became civilized.  They learned to read and write, and such words as “problem” and “crisis” were created.  The moment the word “crisis” appeared in the language, the people realized there was a crisis in Chelm.  They saw that things were not good in their town.  The inventor of these words was a man called Gronam.  Or, as he is known, Gronam the First.  He was also called Gronam Ox because he sported a headdress with the horns of an ox.

Groans was the first sage of Chelm, as well as its first ruler.  In Chelm, rulership and wisdom have always gone together.  A council of five sages helped Gronam govern.  They were: Dopey Lekish, Zeinvel Ninny, Trestle Fool, Sender Donkey, and Shmendrick Numskull.  Groans also had a secretary, who was called Shlemiel.

One day Gronam ordered Shlemiel to summon the sages to a council.

When they assembled, Gronam said, “My sages, there is a crisis in Chelm.  Most of our citizens haven’t enough bread to eat, they are dressed in rags, and many of them are suffering from coughs and sniffles.  How can we solve this crisis?”

The sages thought for seven days and seven nights, as was their custom.

Then Gronam said, “The time is up.  Let me hear what you have to say.”

Dopey Lekisch was the first to speak.  “There are only a few people in Chelm educated enough to know that ‘crisis’ means a bad situation.  Let’s make a law forbidding the word’s use, and it will soon be forgotten.  Then no one will know that there is a crisis, and we the sages will not have to rack our brains to solve it.”

“Too late,” Zeinvel Ninny interrupted.  “It is true that the old people don’t know the word, but the younger generation have all learned it, and they represent the future of Chelm.”

The Fools of Chelm and Their History by Isaac Bashevis Singer