By the summer of 1990 I’d started slipping…down that slippery slope of Flusser bespoke. But old habits die hard and even though I’d decamped the 3-button sack coat, hooked center Trad-Ivy mother church in favor of Savile Row fuzzy, I’d always slip back into the pew for an accessory or two.
But let’s talk girls first. I’d moved from Montclair, New Jersey to Old Town Alexandria but found myself back in N.J. and NYC a couple of times each month for a meeting or some other home office command performance. And 1990 also saw me in western New York state for three nights every other week. My company needed someone to manage our pharma business and our five salespeople up there and somehow, they decided that it would be a “developmental” task for an up and comer like me. That’s code for … “Hell, little ADG is single and he probably loves to travel and he’ll get a lot of travel points and…” so there you have it.
The Marriotts…Carrier Circle-Syracuse, Millersport Road-Buffalo, Wolf Road-Albany and the Thruway-Rochester (where I would once again stay, several years later when I was back in graduate school—this time at R.I.T.) became my homes away from home. No offense to those who call these towns home but I couldn’t wait to leave them and return to D.C. And then I met a girl. A breathtakingly beautiful one. In Syracuse. I then found myself staying in Syracuse for long weekends during that winter when anywhere else, temperature and sky color-wise would have been preferable. But this beautiful woman…just out of college…Kelly LeBrock identical twin—lookalike and for some odd reason, she liked me. The things we do amidst pheromonesque moments.
It was a tangle. And a joyous one at that. After the spring thaw and a flurry of Syracuse—Old Town weekend trips, we planned a long weekend with my best friend and his wife in Upper Montclair. We had dinner plans in Chelsea that Saturday night but the Syracuse Stunner and I headed to Gotham earlier for a stroll around. My mind’s eye still has a clear read on her cocktail dress. Manhattan’s mid-afternoon summer weekend emptiness amplified the incongruence of a cocktail dressed woman shopping with me at the old J. Press store. Hell, the fact that she was with me was incongruent…independent of season, time of day or geography.
I miss the old J. Press store in New York. But then again it’s no secret that I live most of my time yearning and wishing and recalling and remembering things that aren’t here anymore. I like patina. The J. Press and Chipp joints were tucked around the corner from the Brethren Brooks and as I ponder their proximity to the mother church, I kinda think of that other room in the back of the magazine shop in my hometown. Standard fare up front, more esoteric, edgy and erotic stuff around the corner on 44th.
And there was a guy who worked there back in the mid-80’s when I started going there and he was still there on that stifling hot Saturday afternoon when I walked in with Ms. Cocktail dress. He was big. Unhealthily so and seemed to be larger very time I visited the store. He had a booming theatrical voice and round tortoise shell glasses—long before the rest of us started wearing them. He sold us a bowtie that afternoon.
My summer Saturday outfit furthered the incongruence. I felt dowdy in my navy blazer, rep tie and seersucker trousers compared to my chic date. “I want you to buy this bow tie and put it on now.” I kid you not; I’d a bought and donned a monkey-suit if she’d asked. And so I did—buy the bow tie. I never had to suit up in any costumes. But I woulda.
I still have the tie. Silk shantung might not a been my first choice but then again, I wasn’t driving the decision bus that afternoon. I was merely a passenger—mightily proud to be along for the ride. I donned the tie and we met up with my friends for dinner. The next day we spent it poolside back in Montclair and my Syracuse Stunner avec bikini was everything my best friend’s wife wasn’t—avec a celibacy inducing one-piece…replete with modesty skirt. The next evening as we packed for the airport, my friend’s wife, in her best Junior League single stranded pearl smile pulled me aside and whispered…“Don’t ever bring that woman back to my house again.”
I can’t quite remember the exact circumstances leading up to the demise of my Syracuse love fest. I no longer had to cover western New York and there was plenty to keep me smitten in D.C. Then one night a year or so later I’m reveling at the Casablanca Ball which was always a blast. I used to go with a gaggle of black tied, evening dressed friends and the marble columned National Building Museum venue made the fun soirée even—funner. “Hello Mr. G.” Yep. It was my Syracuse Stunner…stunning…in sequins. What are the chances? She’d moved to Annapolis a few weeks earlier. News to me. An hour later we extricated ourselves from the Building Museum for less crowded digs.
The next year saw an on again off again flurry of our relationship tries. Then I was set to move to New Orleans for a two-year assignment. And she met a guy that she thought she should marry. I thought she shouldn’t and I wrote her a long letter, pleading with her not to. I received the letter back—unopened. She lives far away now…is on her second marriage and everyone knows the outcome of my nuptialessence. We exchange an email every now and then in sort of a Dan Fogelberg Same Old Lang Syne “woulda coulda shoulda…why didn’t you open the letter” kind of way.
Most of me likes to keep that memory right where I have it…In the old J. Press store on 44th street on an oppressively hot Saturday afternoon. With this woman who desires me and desires me to be in a silk shantung bow tie. Another part of me wonders what woulda happened if she’d opened my letter.
ADG II …with the source notes that motivated this story cited below…
> -----Original Message-----
Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2012 2:30 PM
To: D G
Subject: Twenty-one years ago this week...
“I relocated from Syracuse to Annapolis, MD. As fate would have it, I unexpectedly ran into you my first weekend living there; we had both attended the ball at the Building Museum in DC. Funny the things that stick in your memory...”
On Oct 4, 2012, at 3:39 PM, D G wrote:
“Ah...yes. And C___, the other thing that comes to mind is your lovely, sequined dress that hung in my closet for several weeks after bumping into you at the ball. I think I delivered you back to the Hyatt in Rosslyn with you avec an old pair of my Levis and a sweatshirt. I recall that you looked just as stunning in that outfit as you did when I talked you out of that sequined dress when we got back to my place.”