Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Love New York

No, I haven't been to New York lately, but my best friend just zipped down there from Toronto for a day. And why? For a concert, of course. She's a super grounded, calm person, but for a concert with greasy, sloppy musicians clad all in black and pants so tight you can almost see exactly how they arrange their privates, there's almost nothing too crazy that she wouldn't do. Granted, thanks to her obsession we got into this awesome party in June, but I'm just sayin' - the girl would probably miss my wedding for what she would consider an amazing, exclusive concert.

So she asked me the night before what she should do in New York since I love the city and she would have many, many hours to kill before the event starts. Naturally, I was baffled that she'd ask me because what I would consider fun is almost the opposite for her, but I appreciate that she wanted my opinion, despite the fact that she seemed almost delighted to refute every single suggestion as soon as I said it.

I told her that if I only had a day in New York, I'd spend it in SoHo looking at expensive things and befriending salespeople, which is exactly what I did in March when I went down to Manhatten for a job interview. Happiness is sauntering down streets lined with wrought-iron buildings and interesting stores, you know - see why I'm so happy in France?

According to my journal entry entitled "Kirna Zabete Smells Weird," these were the highlights from my day in SoHo:

Balthazar Cafe
Right off Spring St subway station there's this cute little bakery attached to a restaurant called Balthazar. I saw the word "boulangerie" from across the street and it drew me like a bee to honey. The bakery/cafe part of it was teensy, which made the place look a lot busier than it actually was. I ordered a Hazelnut Cocoa thinking it would be a hot chocolate with perhaps a shot of hazelnut flavour in it but alas, I think it was coffee. I also ordered a "pain au chocolat" because it was on the menu, and it was handed to me with a "Here's your chocolate croissant" by someone whose eyes clearly communicated, "Here, you pretentious cow." The cashier had a French accent so I asked him, "Etes-vous francais?" Turned out he was a fraud! I thought it was hilarious. Why was he feigning an accent? Commitment to the atmosphere of the restaurant, maybe.

Kirna Zabete

Apart from Jeffrey New York, this was the one place I was totally worked up to see, because I've read about it in my fashion books before. I must've asked almost 10 people how to get there after getting out of the subway station but no one could tell me! But it wasn't suprising once I actually made it there because it was not special at all. I was completely UNDERWHELMED. Firstly, the place smelled funny. Secondly, the interior design was really lacking. Sure, they had very expensive products, but it was decorated like any old store at the Eaton Centre. The displays didn't tiltillate me or make me ache that I can't afford any of it. Thirdly, their salesgirls sucked. When I walked in there, there was a guy dropping off his resume there. He explained that he was actually an opera singer (he even broke out in song) but he needed a job. All the girls were very nasty about him after he left and I thought, is that really necessary? I mean, there must be a ton of people like him who went to NYC with big dreams and couldn't make it. But everyone needs to survive somehow. And there's never any reason to be rude. I felt really bad for him. So yeah. Not worth visiting, everybody.

I liken it to a more sophisticated version of Urban Outfitters - perhaps an Urban Outfitters for an older crowd. Filled with interesting clothes and cool knick-knacks. I especially liked the small selection of books. I enjoyed myself there.

Vosges haut chocolat
A super fancy chocolate-cafe kind of store. Beautifully decorated and upscale, with a number of fancy kinds of dark hot chocolates you can drink. But what caught my attention was the collection of odd chocolate bars. There was a Thai one, with curry and coconut milk in it. There was a Japanese one with wasabi, ginger and sesame. There was even a white chocolate with olives! I wasn't really interested in eating or drinking anything in there, but it was cool.

Kiki de Montparnasse (!!!)
Oh my God, it was such an experience being in this store. If only I'd been gutsy/rude enough to take pictures of the interior! It doesn't seem right to call it a sex store, exactly, because that would denote crassness and vulgarity, two things that don't apply to this shop at all - but it was a store that sold all kinds of interesting things that have to do with sex. I've never seen anything like a lot of their products before. Sex is an art there.

A very sultry version of Besame Mucho played in the background. Walking inside, you'd think at first that it's a lingerie shop, because there are these gorgeous displays of lingerie that can only be desbcribed as art. Super ornate $700 panties, crystal-encrusted nipple caps and tassles... Then you walk in and see all the toys and books, then there's a beautiful showroom at the back with more lingerie. The dressing rooms are particularly sumptuous - trying stuff on there must be such a pleasure. They are huge and surrounded by this lush curtain.

But the toys! I consider myself pretty cool about things, not easily fazed, but those toys made me all agog. There were cock rings made of jade that, the sign read, could double as necklace pendants, that could cost over $3000 depending on the size. They were graduated, of course, because jade doesn't stretch. Being Chinese and seeing jade on babies and old ladies all the time - well, let me just say that I would never have thought of using jade this way. There were also cock rings that were strands of pearls - obviously more for decoration than for the normal purpose of cock rings. There were paddles covered in croc skin (I love croc!), glass dildoes displayed like art in shadow boxes on the walls, $5 single condoms individually wrapped in fancy paper boxes, massage candles that you melted and then poured on someone, which would then work as massage oil, these incredibly heavy metal things that I was too afraid to ask the purpose of... My God, it was so overwhelming to the senses.

It was one of the most beautiful stores I have ever been in. The decor was truly breathtaking. Plus there were these really pretty salesgirls that were as kind as they were gracious. Everyone who ever goes to New York absolutely must see this store!

Plus I went to this fake sample sale that was strangely reminiscent of the "sample sales" at school, except the clothes were real. But the change rooms were actually an open changing area, so shopping there wasn't a particularly dignified experience.

I had so much fun looking at beautiful things and schmoozing up sales people today. I also learned some smart tricks - a gentle, sweet boy who worked at the Steve Madden store told me that if I ever need directions, the hot dog vendors can tell you where everything is. And in New York, you don't just get street meat - you can also get shwaramas and falafels and fresh candied nuts and all other kinds of cool food off the street.

Plus I loved that I was going to all the actual flagships of companies. I went into a couple, thinking that I'd seen their retailers in Canada before, but here were their home stores! But I wonder how many flagship areas one city needs - there were all the high end stores that are also on Fifth and Madison avenues.

I'm really going to miss the warm weather here - it's above zero and there's no hint of snow on the ground. I was perfectly happy in my leggings and ballet flats, and it was totally warm enough for me to stand on the sidewalk outside on Greene St to do my makeup (I walked into Prada, took a look at myself in the mirror and made the horrible realization that I forgot this morning). I was told that there were really only two big snow days here.

Am totally besotted and enamoured of this place. Must move here, even if it's just because it's warmer!

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