20. Bringing Home the Birkin

My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag
by Michael Tonello
started 4/27 finished 5/5

I have developed quite a handbag fetish in the last 5 years or so. When I was in college the main goal was to somehow get a Lo.uis Vuit.ton purse, and my boyfriend at the time was able to come through with that one (Thanks, Todd). Then maybe ten years later I wanted a Coach purse, and my friend who worked at a department store at the time was able to help out in the discount department (Thanks, Melody). In between those purses and after that, I carried a succession of manly, but attractive backpacks and totes bought mostly from the G.ap. They were big and had lots of pockets & compartments and because I don’t have a car, I carry a lot of stuff and they were perfect.

But then the purse market started to realize that there were a lot of women were like me and they started making purses bigger and bigger, with lots of pockets & compartments and they were attractive and still feminine. I started to take notice. The Grandaddy(Grandma?) of them all is the Hermes Birkin bag.

Michael Tonello stumbled upon them by accident. A successful business owner and hairdresser, Tonello decided he wanted a geographical change in his life. When a friend offers him a job with a new company he was starting, he moves to Spain. As luck would have it, the friend doesn’t get the financing he needs and now Tonello is jobless and in a multi-year apartment lease in Barcelona. To earn some cash he sells a Hermes scarf he only wore once on e-Bay. The response was so immediate and lucrative that he begins buying up scarfs all over Europe and reselling them on e-Bay to customers in the U.S. (where most of the designs are no longer available).

One of his regular customers lets him know that if he can get his hand on one, she would be very interested in a Birkin. See, you can’t just walk into an Hermes store and ask to buy one (as Tonello would soon find out). In most stores they aren’t even on display and if they are you will be told that they are reserved. If you are lucky and connected, you can be placed on a waiting list and maybe get one in 2 or 3 years. Always up to a challenge, Tonello was able to come up with a system that netted him lots of bags for resale by traveling to Hermes stores all over Europe and even South America and Japan. He sometimes enlisted the help of others and even wrote a small field guide to the different type of Hermes employee that you will encounter and what strategy to use to ensure success.
Humorous and at times touching this is a good compliment to the Simon Doonan book,
Eccentric Glamour and Deluxe.

19. Enlightenment for Idiots

by Anne Cushman
started 4/20 finished 5/3
Perfect world Toni would get up at 4 a.m every morning to meditate and do several Sun Salutations to energize her and prepare her for her day (which she would navigate effortlessly with no stress).
Real life Toni rolls out of bed at 5:20, hops in the shower, throws on clothes, puts her hair in a ponytail (that’s it; thank the Goddess for dreadlocks!), and is out of the house at 5:50 to catch her train. (Although real life Toni got up at 4:30 this morning, not to meditate, but to watch the weather ’cause a couple of tornadoes was rolling through. She was able to get out of the apartment at 5:45 only to find a man asleep in front of the door across the hall – he explained that he was waiting for “Mr. Johnson to come home.” Whatever, I told him to remain out of the tornado and kept stepping.)
So, I said all that to say, that I read a lot about yoga and especially enjoy fiction that revolves around the subject. You can read all of the how-to and yogic philosophy books you can but novels give you insight into how people fit the practice and theories in their everyday lives. Cushman, a real live yoga teacher, spins the tale of Amanda, a first year yoga teacher and freelance writer. She writes mainly for a series of books “for Idiots”, similar to the Dummies guides. Her editor, wanting to cash in on the current yoga craze going on in the US, assigns her to write a book for the series on Enlightenment, naively thinking that it is something that you can achieve in a few months (it took the Buddha, like, forever!). Amanda, eager to end a back and forth relationship with her “boyfriend”, takes her up on the offer and heads to India to do her research.
She crosses the path of an bi-polar, celibate, expatriate named Devi Das and soon they are going from guru to guru to find the meaning of enlightenment. Amanda soon finds out she is pregnant by the man she has tried to put behind her and the trip takes on new meaning.
Just like the character Mara in Stuck in Downward Dog, Amanda finds herself at a crossroads in her life, as many of us do. While some turn to drugs, sex, food and other dangerous escapes, these characters are able to use their existing yoga practice to look within and find the answers and redemption that they need. One reviewer on Amazon.com called this book “Bridget Jones Diary meets Eat, Pray, Love”, and I couldn’t agree more.

13. Kinky Gazpacho: Love, Life, & Spain

by Lori L. Tharps
started 3/13/08 finished 3/20/08

Years ago I read a magazine article that I now can’t remember what it was about. But it was somehow mentioned that Lori L. Tharps was married to a man from Spain and she spent part of her time living there. At the time I had so many questions: Where does an African-American female meet and marry a man from Spain? How do you manage to live abroad? How much money does that take? etc.
I was halfway through reading this book before I realized that this was the story I heard about all those years ago and all my questions were being answered.
As a Black girl growing up in the Midwest in predominately white communities, Lori L. Tharps was used to being the “exotic other”. While her upbringing was pretty normal, being surrounded by people not like her made her quest to find her own identity taking her on unexpected journeys: studying abroad in Morocco in high school, trying to fit in with the Black Student Union in college, and finally another chance to study abroad in college, this time in Spain.
I loved this book. I am a firm believer that we are citizens of the world, and while America is a great country, we should try to see as much of the rest of the planet as possible (my wallet is not on board with idea yet, so we read about it!). Ms. Tharps determination to see the world and open herself to new experiences has changed her life in an incredible way and this book illustrates it.
I recommend this book to all lovers of world cultures and especially to young people in high school or college to show them the opportunities to learn that are out there. And you get a great love story as a bonus!

Recipe for Disaster?

Two weeks ago I met Janie and Joy, my friends from Los Angeles, in NYC to catch the opening weekend of Cat on A Hot Tin Roof. This trip was attempted before last November to see The Color Purple before Fantasia left, but the stagehand strike kept Broadway dark.

This is the picket line that we couldn’t cross. Joy and I were both sick that weekend and spent much of it traveling back and forth to Manhattan in a NyQuil-induced haze. We had fun just exploring different neighborhoods and visiting the Whitney Museum for a Kara Walker exhibit.

So, this trip was planned for a couple months now and of course I waited until the last minute to begin agonizing over what to wear to the theatre. Here, in Atlanta, people seem to show up in anything: what they wore to work that day, jeans & sneakers, etc. But I was raised to dress up when you go to a performance, because it is an event. My current lifestyle doesn’t include any dressy clothes since I only go to work, back home, the fabric store, Target and occasionally the movies. Perfect opportunity to make something new, right?

The first pair of pants didn’t work out. I finally settled on a silk blouse that I could wear with an existing pair of pants. The only problem is that I would have to make it the night before my flight. Guess how that turned out. By 10 p.m. I was exhausted (my normal bedtime is around 8:30 or 9), in tears and cursing my hard to fit body. The blouse is now a UFO (unfinished object for you non-crafty types) and will be finished sometime soon. The sleeves are fabulous, though!

Did I mention that my cycle was on and my hormones were making me extremely bitchy? Ya’ll know I am not like that normally….(crickets)

(Un)fortunately, it was windy, rainy, and cold for most of the weekend and nobody saw anything but my coat and soaked through tennis shoes. We had a great time despite my hormonal breakdown. I can’t remember much of what we did on Friday night, but it involved a lot of rain, 2 meals, and some window shopping.

On Saturday:

  • a stop in at the conference that was the main reason for Joy being there and breakfast where we met a beautiful young student/model from Kenya who is in college in Dallas. She was spending her spring break by herself in NYC, because you haven’t really seen America unless you go there.
  • a fabulous boutique in Harlem where we met a woman who was recovering from breast cancer who asked Joy (who has an almost shaved head) about hat options.
  • a requisite visit to Carol’s Daughter (before their website I used to ask people who were going to NY to pick up stuff for me).
  • the shoe floor at Saks (for the male salespeople as well as the shoes).
  • the play. Fantastic performances by all, especially Anika Noni Rose.
  • some great guacamole (can’t remember the name but it was 2 doors down from our hotel).
  • Janie & Joy head back to Harlem for a little nightlife. I can’t hang that late at night.

On Sunday:

  • the weather Gods gave us a break and finally cleared away the clouds and let the sun shine down.
  • several stops on the subway were closed for maintenance so we found ourselves down by City Hall where a couple squirrels tried to jack Janie for her almonds (the only criminal activity we saw all weekend – the guys trying to sell tokens in the subway don’t count, that’s business).
  • wound up on the street that my celebrity crush lives on (don’t ask me how I know), but dissuaded by Janie and Joy from walking up and down hoping that he comes out of a building.
  • found a quaint (I never use that word) brunch spot with fantastic turkey sausage.
  • walked from Soho all the way back to our wonderful hotel on Park and 26Th.
  • headed to JFK (not my favorite) for our flights home. Maybe Janie and Joy will blog about their adventure.

We had a fantabulous time and are all enamored with NYC and hope to return soon.

Breaking News!

I am actually sewing!

I’m going back to NYC to see Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and I don’t have theatre-going attire. I am making these pants in a simple black wool gabardine.

I am a lazy sewist so I don’t make a muslin or anything. I just take my measurements, match them to the pattern as best I can and pray to the Goddess (and anyone associated with her) that it comes out okay.

Wish me luck!