I went to Manhattan yesterday to meet Herb, the purveyor of fine herbal remedy, because even when times are tough, one needs to relax -- maybe especially when times are tough.
I have perhaps mentioned what a sweet guy Herb is, although very, very serious. I don't think I've ever seen him smile.
The last time I saw him, he was wearing a great hat -- one of those trapper hats that turns up in the front and has earflaps that tie and is lined with fur, faux or real. (It's one of those garments that was so uncool at one point that it cycled around to being cool again. I was at V's once and had mislaid my cold weather hat. Mrs. V said she could lend me one, and dug around in the winter hats. She pulled out a trapper hat, an old-school plaid one, and asked, "Do you want the retard hat?" She pronounced it REE-tard. And truthfully, you used to see a hat like that on TV and the movies as a signifyer that someone was slow or unsophisticated. Maybe it was because only someone not-smart would wear such an uncool hat.) With the weather getting colder, my cheapie knit hat was not doing it, and I had in mind to look for a hat after meeting Herb. There's a TJ Maxx diagonally across from where he and I meet.
So after we conducted our business, he asked if I was going right into the subway, which is often the case. My trip each way is about an hour and fifteen minutes on a good day, so I generally don't hang around much. But I said, "I'm going to TJ Maxx to look for a hat. Actually, I want one kind of like yours." He said, "You know where's a great place to shop? Daffy's. I got this hat there, for about twenty dollars. They have some really good bargains there." I said, "I'll have to try that, but I'm not sure where there's a Daffy's." He said, "Come on, and walked me half a block to Daffy's. Then he came in with me.
He asked if I wanted to try the men's department, so I tried a couple of hats there, but the winter hat supply is getting low at most stores and the couple I tried on were too small. So I said, "I'll try the women's department." He said, "Well, I'll leave you here."
It's hard to explain Herb because he doesn't seem warm and smiley, but he's actually extremely sweet and caring and friendly, in a perfectly innocent way. I like him a lot, and I'm really glad to have found him. Haven't had a dealer I liked so well since the late 70s, and that one, Joe, became an extremely close and lifelong friend. (His life, alas, ended about eleven years ago, but that's a sad story for another time. There were actually two Joes I loved dearly who both died too young. The one who sold the herbal remedy was more like Saul in Pineapple Express.)
As far as a hat -- couldn't really find one in the women's department either. A couple of cute ones were too small. (Either I have a big head, or they were sold out of all the big sizes.) And none were really the style I wanted, or another style that was sufficiently close around the ears. It's all about keeping the ears warm.
So I went to TJ Maxx, and even before I was through the door, I saw the hat in the window. Trapper hat, pink with white fur. It fit and it was twenty bucks and I wore it home. Checked out the label on the train, and found it was real fur, rabbit.
I don't have a problem with fur, since I eat meat and wear leather. I'm not too crazy about fur made from animals that were raised for fur, which to me kind of perverts the food-chain thing. But I don't worry for a second about fur and leather from meat animals. Also...well, my aunt has two minks, her own and my grandmother's, and when they're eventually mine, I'll probably have them remade -- if someone can remove the stink of cigarette smoke. She's smoked heavily for maybe 50 years, and has lived in the same apartment all that time, so the place pretty much reeks. Or it did when I was last in that apartment, maybe 20 years ago. She became something of a hermit after IBM early-retired her, after having spent her entire career there.
Animal rights people, especially the extreme ones like PETA, bother me. (This is totally separate from people involved in animal rescue, whom I admire greatly.) I always feel like they have their priorities wrong. Once every single person, at least in this country but maybe in the whole world, is properly housed, fed, clothed and educated, then I'll take up the rights of animals.
Am I a great crusader? Not really. But any volunteering I've ever done, any fundraising or donating, is about bettering the lives of people. (Again, this excludes animal rights/shelters. I give a few bucks there when I can.) I'm particularly partial to AIDS organizations, and used to do some fundraising stuff for Gods Love We Deliver (they deliver meals to homebound AIDS patients). They used to do an annual Dance-a-Thon, where you'd have to have raised at least a certain amount, maybe $150, to get in. And it was a monster dance party. They also did things like walk-a-thons. I've also been known to give ten bucks to the MDA (the Muscular Dystrophy Association, often known as "Jerry's Kids"), mostly because I loved the train wreck that is the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. Maybe I give the money partly because I feel a little guilty about laughing my ass off at the telethon -- not at the heartbreaking stories of sick kids, but rather at the many teeth-grindingly bad acts and performers, and Jerry himself, who gets weirder and crankier every year. My brother and I used to watch the telethon together -- at our separate apartments, with phones nearby, so one could call the other and say "How bizarre was Liza?" or whatever.
Speaking of Liza -- there's someone I know slightly who sets off people's gaydar for miles and miles...and yet is married with numerous children. I'm talking like Big Gay Al on South Park, not Anderson Cooper. (I've seen and met the wife briefly, and it's clearly a for-real marriage.) No one we know in common really discusses it, but my feeling is that there's a lot of headscratching. So I happened to catch the guy on TV tonight, where he was appearing as himself -- on something sort of like a talk-show setting but not quite -- and he actually mentioned "Dorothy" and "the ruby slippers." I imagine he was setting off gaydar all over the country.
(I'm super, thanks for asking!)
Speaking of Anderson Cooper, I met Gloria Vanderbilt when I was working at Penguin (she attended a reading by one of my authors), and sat and spoke with her alone for a few minutes. And with everything she's done and been through, being Gloria Vanderbilt for eighty years or whatever, you what what she talked about? She bragged about her son. (Well, she spoke of him with pride, lets say. She is just as soft-spoken and proper as you would imagine.) I guess moms are the same everywhere. There's a perfect Yiddish expression, which like so many perfect Yiddish expressions, does not have an English equivalent. The expression is "shep naches," and what it means is to derive pleasure from one's children. (Isn't that a lovely expression?) (And yes, it's pronounced with that hard "ch" like "Bach." We are the chosen people who have been chosen to pronounce that sound.) It's something a little different than "bragging about" or "being proud of." Gloria Vanderbilt was definitely shepping naches from Anderson Cooper.