Literary Lunacy in NYC (A Multi-Post Story)

Here’s a confession: I have never wept in a drag queen bar. Until two weeks ago, that is.

It happened at the tail-end of a 2 1/2-week visit to the States with Laurent and the kids. We had car, train and planed it from Restigne to New York. After a few days in Shelter Island, it was back to the airport, where we took three planes to Walla Walla, Washington for my family reunion. Then back to New York for a week, where Laurent and I traded off toddler-management while the other person worked.

The Brooklyn apartment we had sublet had only beds and kitchen stuff – no tv, internet connection, toys, etc. – since our host was in the midst of moving. It was also an hour’s subway ride to the center of town, which we hadn’t counted on. The temperature was in the 90s – too hot to stay for long in an in-town playground. And the kids weren’t used to walking long city blocks. So, besides taking them to the Natural History Museum and several films – indoor activities – our only option was sitting around in an empty apartment and watching dvds on my computer. It was pretty hard going.

Tuesday was my first day to myself, and I had a meeting scheduled at HarperCollins at 2:30. I had chosen the clothes for my meetings without counting on the weather being skin-meltingly hot. So the first order of the day was to shop. I needed something for that afternoon, and then a different outfit for Thursday, when I had a morning meeting with my agency and lunch with my agent, followed by a video shoot at the publishing house.

I asked my fashion-savvy friend, Claire, where I should go for one-stop shopping, seeing I only had a couple of free hours and dislike shopping unless it involves paintings or antiques. She pointed me to Barneys, saying that it was pricey but that I would definitely find something. I arrived and wandered around lost for a while, then finally approached a shop assistant and told him I needed a colorful top.

“It can’t be green or blue since it’s for a video being shot against a green-screen, and has to have some sort of sleeves since I hate my upper arms.” He nodded, looking pensive, and then asked what colors I liked. “Well, I usually wear black or grey – dark colors – but it should probably be bright, so maybe red or purple?”

He looked like I had slapped him, and said softly, as if not to shock anyone within hearing distance, “You will find no red or purple this season!!!” “Ok,” I said doubtfully. “Then just show me what you’ve got.” A minute later I was standing in front of a pink cardigan with grosgrain ribbons tying the front. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was some sort of twisted vengeance for my asking for red or purple.

“See, the thing is,” I began, “I’m being interviewed for a book I wrote about zombies. So pink probably isn’t the way to go. Do you have anything more…post-apocalyptic?”

He nodded prissily, as if everything made sense now and I should have told him that in the first place.

“Oh, also, my budget is more around $100 than $2800,” I said, frowning at the price tag and wondering if the pink wool had been harvested with nail clippers from the underbellies of hand-tinted Tibetan sheep fed only on fois gras and champagne.

“You’ll need to go upstairs then,” he responded, no longer looking at me. “You should find something on the top floor.”

I walked out an hour later with a bag containing three black shirts. I had just enough time to take the subway back to the apartment, speed-choose which went best with my gray jeans, brush my hair, and call a cab. I asked the driver if he could get me to East 53rd street in a half-hour. He smiled wickedly, gunned the accelerator, and did a Starsky-and-Hutch peel-out all of the way to midtown.

Thirty minutes later, I stepped out of the car in front of HarperCollins’s forty-floor glass building. Sweating from both nerves and the damp-electric-blanket-style New York heat, I walked through the massive doors with just one tiny prayer to the God of 100% Silk on my trembling lips: Please let me not have armpit stains when I met my editor.

[To be continued…]

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