Monday, October 05, 2009

If You Can Make It There, You'll Make It Anywhere

Dear Blog Readers: I report on my NYC 16-hour turnaround trip to see Jude Law's Hamlet. Take a moment from reading my letters to FBI Director Mueller, Congressman Bill Young, Senator Grassley, and the Secretary of Education to share my turnaround trip to NYC to see Jude Law's Hamlet. My baby daughter took me to the airport for a 7:45 a.m. Delta flight.

Have a bunch of children like I did, feed them, diaper them, take them to the dentist, walk them to school because they are afraid of the barking dogs,, wrap their Christmas presents, wash and iron their clothes, make a ton of breakfasts, dinners, and lunches, and you, too, will have raised airport transportation.

Having had no breakfast, I bought a sandwich in the LaGuardia airport ($9.90) and coffee ($2.20). I don't know how poor people survive in NYC: everything is so pricey. I sat at a little table with a couple my age overlooking the runways.

I would talk to a post, so we chatted. The guy said he was a "health worker." I said, "What kind?" "Doctor," he explained. He said he and his wife had moved from England to Canada. He asked if I were English, and I said my parents had been and asked "Why do you ask?" He said I looked English. I told him that everybody in the Old South looked and were English because they fled when Cromwell and the Roundheads beheaded Charles I. Charles I deserved to be beheaded. I would have joined the beheaders if I had been living then. Charles I is the type who would be a ROSSAC functionary had he lived today in Tampa.

The doctor said that greedy doctors in the US were a big factor in the overpriced health-care system; he said the fees they charged astonished him.

The wife was a quiet, pretty, gentle woman who added inarticulate assent to everything her old man said. She was the old-fashioned model of wives. They are passing into cultural history as we speak.

The doctor revealed that he had just had a quadruple bypass, having had a heart attack on the treadmill.

"Make peace with your genes," said he." They are your destiny."

I said I was on good terms with my double helix and knew I would die of a stroke or heart attack because when the family historian, Cousin Shirley, and I tour the family cemetery in Burnt Fort (burnt by wicked Yankees, of course), I will ask, pointing at a headstone, "What did he die of, Shirley?"

"Stroke, honey." Shirley will say. "He just upped and fell dead."

So will I.

I spent about a hundred dollars on three cabs. The toll into the city from LaGuardia adds $5.00 I flagged one at LaGuardia and said, "Take me to Bergdorf's on Fifth Avenue near the park."

Nobody is poor in Bergdorf's. The customers are mostly rich women looking for something to spend their pocket money on. The women look terrific. When you see their husbands lugging briefcases on the street, they look like hell. Pay-your-own-way-ladies has not emerged in Bergdorf's clientele.

It used to be that all the clerks in Bergdorf's were all these blonde, Anglo types with hair up in aristocratic buns and nose up in the air.

A few years ago, my husband and I were going back home after a cruise to the Far East, and I insisted on stopping at Bergdorf's. I entered to see a dark-haired young woman behind the counter of this flossy handbag station I like to drop by to see what's new. I said to her, "Aren't you Hispanic?" She nodded. I said, "I am so happy to see some ethnic variety in the salespeople."

This comment so delighted the lass that she ran screaming to the other counters to repeat my remark. Even the sprinkling of remaining blonde and bunned Anglo sales women laughed at her jubilation.

And what does a person go to Bergdorf's for? Shoes, of course. You can't get good shoes anyplace in Florida. Flip-flops and man-made soles are about it. You also go to see all the beautiful things that spread out before you. We all need beauty in our lives.

I now am reading a book about Louis XIV. He invented elegance in its entirity: in food, in interior decorating, in everything. If you go to Paris, prepare for streets and streets of beautiful architecture. Every administration feels an obligation to add at least one exquisite building to the city.

Louis XIV bought thousands of pricey swans for the Seine simply for the panache of these exquisite creatures on the river. A lot died of the pollution. But enough toughed it out, adapted, and multiplied. They are still on the Seine. The police don't let people pester them.

I like Louis XVI's mind. He made France the country with a franchise on elegance. He would have loved Bergdorf's.

I headed to shoes like a lemming the minute I stepped through the door.

Bergdorf has met the economic downturn and given it the finger. Last year its shoes started at $565. This year they clock in at $665.

Then I went to the Chanel salon for the fun of looking at the prices. You know that classic little suit of Channel's with the short, no buttons jacket? Know what the price tag was for it? Try $6095. Don't you love that $95 fillip?

Skirts: a mere $1500; blouse: $1200.

Fortunately, I am too chubby to look good in Chanel. You have to be both thin as well as rich for Chanel. Chanel herself was as skinny as a snake. You, too, must be rib-cage-showing thin
to wear her clothes successfully. She took a Nazi officer as lover during the occupation of WWII; the French never forgave her. I think they were right. But they still bought her clothes, and women of the world do today if they have the money.

It was some solace that I carried my biggest handbag as substitute for a suitcase, a giant Chanel bought 20 years ago. Know what the very same bag costs now? $3000. I felt smug that I had got mine twenty years ago so cheap. I have a collection of old Chanel bags hung around my bedroom for panache. Chanel bags (le sac) never change. Never. My old bags adorned the flossy Channel luxe bag corner of Bergdorf's: new but the same style exactly. I may have a fortune hanging around on nobs in my bedroom. It's comforting to know that you have money put away, invested in old Chanel handbags against hard times.

My time ran short. I had to get to the theater for Hamlet. So I accosted one of those guys in the Chanel salon and asked him, "What floor is Escada on?"

Wearing an Italian suit, Gucci loafers, and a perpetual sneer, he shrank back in horror and gazed at me down his nose, "Madame, we don't carry Escada!" as if it were Salvation Army retreads.

"I mean Escandar, Monsieur Les Sacs," I spat back at the fashion snoot.

He brightened and responded," Sixth Floor."

I had to visit my Escandar buddy Jan, head saleswoman of Escandar. I have been buying from her for years. Jan is petite and skinny with a mop of greying hair done up in a top-knot twig on the top of her head--not the back, but the top. Jan has a flawless sense of cutting-edge style laced with daring and wit. She always looks terrific, draped in some Escandar combination in dead black head to toe.

I got away with only one Escandar tee-shirt. Escandar tee-shirts are things of beauty not to be sneered at for their plebeian origins. First of all, they are silk and linen and cut with generous opulence so that they hang so beautifully that you just want to sit down and boohoo for joy when you put one on and look so good in it. Even if you are as ugly as a toad, these Escandar tees make you look good.

To make curtain on time, I tripped out of Bergdorf's, having had my tee and shoes shipped to save taxes. Yes, I said shoes.
Can I go to Bergdorf's and come out without at least one pair of shoes? Louis XIV would understand. I hailed a cab went to 43rd Street.

This Hamlet was a matinee and packed. Every seat taken. New York supports the arts. The Bay Area supports tractor pulls.

Jude Law lives a disreputable private life, impregnating bedazzled women hither and yon--not admirable conduct at all. I am going to send the boy--now pushing 40-- a box car of condoms.

But on the stage, Le Law transforms into the magic persona of the beauteous Prince of Denmark. He does it so well with such authority over the words, such elegance of movement, such masterful elan, that he makes the rest of the quite skillful cast look inadequate.

First of all, Jude Law looks like Hamlet. Hamlet couldn't have been more than 20 or 21 years old. Remember, he has come back for his father's funeral from Wittenberg, a university town. Horatio, Hamlet's school buddy--"Show me that man who is not passion's slave/And I will wear him in my heart's core,/ Aye, in my heart of hearts"--is Hamlet's sole friend in the play.

When Horatio arrives, Hamlet asks, "Why make you from Wittenberg?"

Horatio responds," I come for your father's funeral."

Hamlet says, "Nay, for my mother's marriage." Horatio says, "Indeed, it did follow hard upon" (two months after her husband, the King, died).

Mr. Law is tall and thin and muscular with a whippet sized waist. He slouches around speaking the lines and looking and sounding just swell. The costumes for the cast are earth tones in some neutral styling that suggests The World, Anytime.

Appearance aside, it's when Law opens his mouth and says Shakespeare's lines that he is splendid. He projects beautifully so that you can hear him even in the rear of the theater, where I sat. Many of the actors could not reliably project their lines so as to be clearly heard as could Law. The women had particular difficulties.

Law brings a suppleness of pronunciation and movement to the role that looks princely. He dominates the stage when he is on it, even overshadowing the ghost of Old King Hamlet, the usual sceen stealer.

I am glad I saw this performance. It's one of the best I have seen, and I have seen all that have played on Broadway for years.

Play over, but only one curtain call: New Yorkers are a tough, savvy audience. Nobody enraptures them easily.

I had a hard time flagging down a cab for the airport heading home. It was six o'clock when the drivers are either going home or chauffeuring cabs full of passengers going home.

I finally got a cab; I thought a woman drove it.

"I'm so glad to see a woman driving a cab," I chirped.

"I'm not a woman," the driver said. "I am a man."

"Well, how was I supposed to know?" I responded. "You have a mop of big hair, so I thought you were a woman. Take me to LaGuardia."

"You know how much that costs?" he inquired, mistaking my Southern accent for a hillbilly who didn't know how pricey cabs are in NYC.

"It's about $35, and I'm good for it," I responded.

Talking with cab drivers is one of my favorite things to do in NY. They come from all over the world. They are sophisticated men even if mostly uneducated. Some are erudite. It's nothing to see Spinoza with the page turned down on the seat beside a cabbie.

The cab driver who took me into the city was Greek; so was this guy. The first and I talked about the Parthenon and the Elgin marbles, which Lord Elgin stole so that they now reside in an English museum. Greeks love to fulminate about this outrage. And they are proud of their culture and grateful if you allude to it. They should be proud. All of Western history is a footnote to the 6th-century B.C. Greeks.

I have gotten into knock-down drag-out fights in faculty lounges on this issue of the Elgin marbles. Some argue for the theft by saying that the marbles are "safer" in the English museum. How does that justify stealing a people's cultural heritage? Safe or unsafe, the marbles belong to the country of the people who produced them.

The first cabbie and I totally agreed on that issue. We damned the English and spat on Lord Elgin's memory.

The second mop-of-hair cabbie said he didn't care about the Elgin marbles. I asked him what he cared about.

"Money," he said.

Then he told me he had been married twice.

"What happened to your first marriage?" I asked.

"She divorced me because I couldn't speak English," he said.

"I don't like that woman," I responded.

"Neither do I ," he said. "She wanted to get back together after five years, but I had already met my second wife. So she was out of luck."

"Or lucked out," I thought to myself. This guy was no Brad Pitt.

"I am 70," he announced triumphantly. "And I had a $17 sandwich for lunch." He named the Italian restaurant and its address.

"I am older than you and had a $9.90 for lunch," I said.

"You don't look it," he said.

"That's genes," I said.

Then this old cabbie taught me something I didn't know. He said, "Do you know Thermopolis?"

"Yes," I said. "That's where the Greeks turned back the Persians who came by water in thousands of ships to overthrow Greece."

"You know what "Thermopolis" means in Greek?" he asked.

"No," I admitted.

"It means "'warm,'" he said.

So words like "thermal" and "thermos" come from "Thermopolis."

You can always learn something from everybody you meet if you listen.

I gave him a generous tip. I always do if I can afford it. Cab drivers have only their salaries. They don't have pension plans.

I sat on the aisle seat returning to Tampa. Two Bay Area high school girls sat beside me and talked and talked and talked when I wanted to sleep. I would like to have killed them.

I went back to the kitchen, where the four stewardesses had gathered after serving us a beverage but no peanuts. The airline has discontinued peanuts, for God's sake. I always talk to the stewardesses in the airline-stewardess sisterhood.

"I was a stewardess over fifty years ago," I told them. "And not only did we serve peanuts but filet mignon as well."

I didn't say so, but there was an age limit when I flew, now illegal, and you needed a Bachelor's or a nursing degree to meet the education requirement. Also good legs. The employment interview included raising your skirt to show your legs. Women wouldn't put up with that now.

The dear stewardesses, none of whom would have made the cut fifty years ago, found me another seat so that I could escape the motor-mouth girls.

My baby daughter awaited me as I exited the transit car from airside.

We gossiped as we drove back to her house in Beach Park, where I stayed the night before returning to the beach.

I hadn't had anything to eat since my morning sandwich, so my child gave me a cold chicken breast and a beer. It was delicious. Whatever your child feeds you always is. We sat and talked at the kitchen table while I ate my chicken breast.

I told my youngest child that I had had a great time in NYC. In fact, I told her what I have told you above. lee


Anonymous said...

Lee, Love the trip story. I want to be you when I grow up! Keep posting and prodding, and posting and prodding . .

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how you fly to NY just to see a play and get shoes. That is class.

I bet someone like Candy Olson who thinks she is high and mighty would never fly anywhere to see a play, unless there was someone there who could do her a favor.

Anonymous said...

"Lee De Cesare
I deplore injustice and jump in whenever I see a little person get beat up on."

So do I. Which is why I take exception with this:

"Jude Law lives a disreputable private life, impregnating bedazzled women hither and yon--not admirable conduct at all. I am going to send the boy--now pushing 40-- a box car of condoms."

Three children with ex-wife Sadie. One child with Samantha Burke. Not exactly hither and yon. A very, very good father, has always been seen toting his kids with him around London, even when very small, gets along with and takes vacations and holidays with ex-wife so the children have both together, very intelligent and interesting conversationalist (I cite his recent Charlie Rose interview about Hamlet as just one example)...anyway, I loved your story, you are a very interesting person as well...but I am a person that thinks fair is fair...and you weren't very fair to make such careless comment. I also saw Hamlet in New York 2 weeks ago with 3 friends, all of us from the south as well, and we simply loved it. I'm trying to find a way to get back before it closes.

Anonymous said...

a very well written and interesting article but i take offense to your description of jude law the man. i have met and spent some time with jude at the wyndham theatre in london. he is a man of great quality. great humility, extremely intelligent and a father who spends every waking moment with his children. they are with him now even 'tho he is working extremely hard.... 8 performances a week. trhree and a half hours of text.... but his children come fiirst. please don't presume to know someone based on tabloids. as for hamlet i saw it twice and i haven't seen a performance to equal it in a long long time. he was brilliant in every way...i thing this performance is worthy of a tony.