I’m having a truly banner day. I went to Jeannine’s to celebrate my new ring, a Diamond Nexus Labs Thursday “eSteal” I bought this morning. My FB aunt wrote that I must not lollygag (not her word but that’s what she meant), deliberate or agonize about this “bargain of a lifetime.” It was 75% off (2370 to 599) and there was only one–a 5–the size of my fourth
fingers on both hands.
I had finally collected enough to buy the Oasis eternity band, which I had been eyeing for over two years, when I saw this come up this morning. Yesterday I went to Silverhorn, our beautiful boutique jewelry store in Montecito I could never afford barring a bestseller or other unexpected windfall, to get sized and learned that the 5 carat would be far too large for my hand. The 1.98 works better on a delicate and petite hand.
I have blogged about this company about which I feel so passionately. They sell fine synthetics, about 15% the cost of mined diamonds. Now, don’t get me wrong. If had money, I would not abstain from jewelry for green or political reasons. My boyfriend bought his ex-wife the most extraordinary ring. She had always said she wanted a ring from a “conflict free” country. Of course, when she opened the box and her eyes popped back inside her skull, she didn’t stop to ask: “Is it conflict-free?” But Diamond Nexus Labs, based in Franklin, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, happens to be a green company.
DNL does not sell zirconia. Zirconia looks like zirconia and diamonds look like diamonds. Zirconia doesn’t fool anyone, whereas fine synthetics set in white gold fool Jewish Upper East Side jewelers wearing yarmulkes. That pretty much says it all: if a UES or diamond district Jew wearing a yarmulke needs goggles to discern they aren’t real, they look like real diamonds. Our jewelry appraiser for Grandma’s jewelry, which sat in a safe deposit box at Wells Fargo for 19 years following her death in 1993, is a nice blonde ex-Pali High surfer with a boyish face and a great head of hair even pushing 50.
This handsome man with all the requisite GIA certificates loved my tennis bracelet and only when he donned the goggles, did he detect a scratch. Similarly, the Cathy bangle for just 145 from the Lorian Platinum line (their low-end line of platinum/sterling alloy rather than white or yellow gold like the bulk of their catalog and retail store merchandise) fooled the jeweler at 61st and Lex when I went in to have them strengthen the clasp. When, finally, the bracelet continued to fall and lose stones, DNL happily replaced it. (The problem with the Cathy had been noted on the reviews and I am positive they have rectified this in the design center.)
Beyond the beauty and the environmental soundness of jewelry from DNL, every single person who works there (two are now Facebook friends) are so cool and understandably passionate about the product. Very few women will ever be able to afford jewelry of this beauty, sophistication and quality (the 4 Cs). I have been eyeing the Oasis eternity band, a fishtail cut which is “free-standing,” unlike the more matrimonial “channel setting,” which really belongs on the hand of a married not unmarried woman, for over two years.
I finally got set to buy it when I saw this eSteal and I couldn’t resist. I asked my older female friends on FB, the ones who adore and buy real jewelry, what they thought and they all gushed over the Oasis band. My grandmother, the Jewish one of course, adored jewelry. She was, as I wrote on a blog about poverty and my somewhat controversial views on the subject of money (controversial because it is quite unfashionable to admit on Facebook or in public that being poor sucks and often mangles a human being to the point that successive generations suffer profound and complex psychological repercussions), the baby of ten children in a Jewish tenement. All nine of her siblings were born in Hell’s Kitchen but she was actually born in Philadelphia, before the family moved to California when she was quite little.
She and my Russian Jewish immigrant grandfather, who came to America at ten with his two brothers and fathers (leaving the mother and sister in Ukraine, never to reunite), were young and very poor when my father was born. By the time he was in junior high, they were lower middle class to middle class. They lived in the “Borscht Belt” by Fairfax in LA, which is still heavily Jewish. Dad attended Los Angeles High School when it was still predominantly white (and somewhat Jewish), but his best friend in elementary school at the still-standing Carthay Circle–Leroy, whom he called “Reroy”–was black.
By high school, they were okay, solidly middle class, and after her returned from WWII in 1945 and began USC Law on the GI Bill, they owned a beautiful home in Silverlake. He lived at home during law school in a little apartment in their house so the 100 dollars from the GI bill (worth about 2200 a month now) was a generous sum which allowed him to live quite well during law school.
By the time Grandma and Grandpa divorced in the 1950s, for all of 500 dollars because my father and his partner in a small firm handled their divorce and explained to them that they could either behave like mature, rational, civilized adults and not have to work for the rest of their lives, or be complete idiots and give all the money to the lawyers and go back to work for a living, they were well-to-do.
They owned a beauty salon frequented by stars like Carole Lombard and my great-aunt Jean, whom everyone called Beans for no reason I can discern and to whom my father was very close all his life, was Lombard’s manicurist. They also owned some beauty supply stores, as I remember, before going into industrial real estate. Grandma’s second husband, who died before my birth or in my first few years of life, was Dick Olson, the son of the freethinker governor of California, Culbert Olson. He was a well-to-do businessman, so by the time Grandma hit middle age, she was in a position to buy jewelry (or more precisely, haggle for it with the fierceness of the shrewdest of businessmen). Grandma was a graduate of the 8th grade only but her business instincts and skills rivaled a that of a Wharton M.B.A.
So Grandma was into jewelry. She gave me jewelry for Christmas and my birthday on more than a few occasions, including a tiny circular pave diamond earring, a small and diamond and ruby pave heart pendant, .25 carat studs and a gold locket of hers which I still have but rarely wear. Grandma was secular, like Grandpa, but she gave money to Israeli charities and had some Torah scrolls and plates on the walls from the charities she gave to during her later years. She never celebrated Chanukah and neither did we. We are, in a phrase I stole from a Yale School of Drama grad with whom I connected a month or so ago on Facebook, Christmas tree Jews.
My grandma was a difficult, tormented woman but she did love us all, however bizarre was her way of showing it.I was eventually cut out of the will after my breakdown in Christmas, 1990, the only freshman in my residential college at Yale to get 4 As, no minuses, and then just collapse in LA after all the exertion and emotional stress of that term away. Her words in my father’s estate sharing agreement incorporating her sentiments were cruel and painful to hear, but Dad never told me until two years ago and my brother and sister generously agreed to cut me back in. She felt, during my time in psychoanalysis, that I was a horrible, evil ingrate to have resentment of any kind at my parents, the only of my father’s children to be schooled privately and live a life of comparable privilege in my youth and teen years. My friends were industry and corporate law kids and we were the least well off among the vast majority my childhood friends’ families.
I remember vividly going to her apartment in West Hollywood on 8558 Holloway Drive, just off the Sunset Strip by Doheny. It was an overcrowded but always immaculate one-bedroom apartment into which she crammed the contents which later filled her charming two-bedroom home on 395 Carmelina Drive in Brentwood (on the corner of San Vicente). She moved to the apartment in the late 1960s, when my parents moved into her two-bedroom house north of Sunset off of Doheny Drive, not in a position to buy a home on the Westside because Dad gave his house to his ex-wife.
They paid her back of course but she didn’t really need the space anyway as a widow with almost no friends due to her almost eerie similarity to Ellis Grey on Grey’s Anatomy, minus the brilliant surgeon piece. However, West Hollywood in the 1970s and even early 1980s, wasn’t upscale, trendy and gay. After a bad robbery close by in the early 1980s, Dad made her move and buy a house in Brentwood, lovely but not large (1750 square feet at most). When she still lived on Holloway, I would go for sleepovers and when she bought me a present, she’d hide it in the apartment and play the “warm/cold” game. Grandma had a flair for the dramatic (to say the least) and she’d feign shivers one would expect a resident of Siberia, or Minnesota, to experience in the dead of winter when I strayed further and further from the box she had carefully tucked under or behind a piece of furniture.
So I have loved jewelry since I was a little girl. My mother, as all my friends know, is beyond frugal. She doesn’t wear real jewelry other than her wedding band and whatever Grandma left behind or gave to her. She dyes her own hair with CVS product. Only this month, at the age of 72, after a life of insane hours at work (which normal women would channel some of for non-second hand clothes, non-costume jewelry or shoes), has Mom bid adieu to Supercuts.
But perhaps the clearest indication of how much I am in the realm of material objects not my mother’s daughter, but my grandmother’s descendant, is this: Grandma’s Burmese ruby and diamond eternity bands (set in platinum), along with a tremendous three-stone vintage cut, graduated drop pendant, sat collecting dust in the safe deposit box at Well Fargo for nearly two decades. This is simply inexplicable and incomprehensible to me. There were several of rings, none of which I would wear as they are gaudy, yellow gold and just weird. Dad is going to give me one small yellow gold band with two inlaid diamonds as no one in my family has such delicate, dainty bone structure. It’s a 4.5 and fits on my fourth finger perfectly. She also had a solid yellow gold cigarette case and Audrey Hepburn gold cigarette lighter.
I have finally ordered my V2 electronic cigarettes to wean off my beloved American Spirit Yellow, which I’ve whittled down to half a pack a day (at least in California; I smoke more in NYC because I am allowed to smoke in the apartment, a joy which simply cannot be described to a non-smoker). But I would never use the holder as I cannot be trusted to keep hold of two dollar plastic Bic lighter. But what a beautiful object!
Every morning, then, I find on my email or ticker, the Thursday e-Steal. I have a pendant from a couple years ago I never wear as my sterling silver snake chain bought online for 15 or 20 bucks broke in early 2011 and I have not replaced it. I think it’s the “Fly Away with Me,” and it’s a good-sized stone in a bezel setting which appears in many of my pre-2011 Facebook pictures. It was 125 down from 275 or so. This morning, I saw “right hand band” and melted. I could not pass up a ring of this quality (even synthetic 2730) which I knew would serve me for the rest of my life. I can leave it to one of my two nieces, the one quite petite in bone structure, or if she grows a lot, to someone else with dainty hands. I am delirious with joy!
So over breakfast at Jeannine’s, a goat cheese and veggie frittata with a Mimosa, I basked in the glow of my vintage-looking band, channel setting and just under three carats, when I spied a beautiful, slender woman of 30 or so with light brown hair and a baby girl so beautiful I truly melted as she walked her awaiting for the food. I went up to them (the father arrived shortly thereafter) and told her that I am not of the “every baby is beautiful school of thought.” No. Babies are just like children and adults. There are beautiful, average-looking, and not good-looking babies. I told them my father’s view which I also reject: all babies are funny-looking and all of them look the same. That’s simply false and I argue this point with Dad on a regular basis when we’re out doing errands together.
But I told the parents that this baby (of whom I got only one photograph from far away, not wanting to be rude to ask for a close-up) was so precious I could hardly contain myself as I gazed on her perfect little face. She doesn’t yet have much hair but she had a little white and pink band around her head, with white tights around her chubby little legs and dancing blue eyes. I knelt down and told her how beautiful she was and she started to coo, smile, gurgle and giggle so perfectly, it was all I could do to keep from asking to pick her up out of the stroller and hold her through the rest of their breakfast. They were overjoyed at my approbation of their little angel, a joyful and delightful baby.
“Thank Heaven for Little Girls” from Gigi, the Maurice Chevalier movie my father owns and watches regularly, was destined to become a hit, regardless of the song, by virtue of the universal truth it records: babies are objectively wonderful. Whether this objective wonderfulness translates into wanting one 24/7 (at least without a nanny, which I would never under any circumstances ever undertake, another ruthlessly honest, unfashionable and brazen view for which I have taken flak on Facebook and elsewhere) is another matter. But babies on a limited basis are simply among the best things in life.
I think the (admittedly widely tagged) FB picture I have posted in two years which got the most response was the picture of the German shepherd mix eyeing the chocolate chip cupcake of a darling, blonde little girl of four at Lenny’s Deli last week.
I love little kids and they love me. My FB mom’s step-grandson, Noah, was a big hit on my FB in February. He’s a beautiful boy, about two-and-a-half years old now. He was more than happy to rest in my arms and I love that picture of us with all my heart because it is precisely the same sitting cross-legged pose with a maternal, ecstatic facial expression my mother has in the large picture which sat in my father’s chamber when I was a baby. I’m about two, naked on the beach in Kauai, with my mother in a bikini (movie star body with Elke Sommer chest) and hair down to her waist in keeping with with the fashion in 1974.
My lack of interest in children has both to do with the money I would want or need to raise and privately school a child in West Los Angeles or the greater New York City area (and I have never had the slightest interest in having multiple children, regardless of the childcare or nanny help at my disposal), and also the emotional and mental responsibility which good parents must take on. Of course, being celibate and in an crippling depression during the prime husband-hunting and childbearing years has a lot to do with my childless state.
Now I’m 40 and as my aunt says, “footloose and fancy free.” Apart from my the ten days a month as a caretaker and companion to my elderly father, I have no responsibilities whatsoever, as Kevin Pollack jokingly says in one of my favorite movies–A Few Good Men–and I revel in it. I have never had a biological clock and I don’t have one now that childbearing years are rapidly drawing to a close.
So Gigi, a rescue at 8 weeks in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, is pure source of joy.The little girl said that Gigi was her “sister,” just as my boyfriend’s son says that Ollie, the kitty, is his brother and that their lab Emma, is his sister. She has a cast on, colored red of course, and she and her lovely Australian mommy were in line while I tried the chopped liver, having New York City withdrawals after my repellent chopped liver at Gelson’s the week before. She wanted a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles: “the one with the LIPS!”
I saw Gigi, patiently waiting outside, and she sidled up to me, revealing her softer than purebred German fur. It turns out, as J wrote when he posted this for me from his iPhone, that “labradors are not the only dogs interested in food.” Gigi did in fact get a bit of the enormous cupcake the mother cut into quarters but I saved the two remaining quarters when the little girl went in for some water and returned with an orange Snapple. I said it was an accident on the thread of comments and J wrote, “Uh huh, it was an accident!”
I stayed and talked to the mother, who just moved from Houston to the Palisades not long ago, and the little girl who was very excited both about her cupcake and the free coloring book from the post office, just down Sunset. I had to get a picture and went to the Saab in front of the Baskin Robbins I went regularly as a child, both with my parents and my caretaker, Hilma. I couldn’t say “ice cream store” as a toddler so I called it the “I Cree Toe.”
For nearly three decades, Dante’s sat next to 31 Flavor. My father still isn’t over the closing of his favorite Italian restaurant on the Westside. Particularly appalling in his mind: it has been replaced with a French bakery and restaurant. You all know Dad’s position on the French, one shared with most WWII vets. Even worse, he thinks it’s a “coffee shop” (not comprehending the sort of industrial chic meets rustic bistro effect at which they were aiming) with exorbitant prices. (My first time there with parents after our reconciliation, I said to Dad, ‘Let’s go to the I Cree Toe!’ He responded, “You’re too old for ice cream, kitty cat. You’ll get a big fat ass! Ho hut.” Thanks, Dad. This is a thing in our family and I have no clue from whence it derives: “Ho hut, had a big butt.”)
When I returned with my phone, she said, “I like your car!” A little Palisades only child (I didn’t ask but I got that sense because I am my mother’s only daughter and only daughter have a very intimate, particular bond with their mothers and fathers) and future Saab owner! I told her that the champagne or gold color was special and that most of the Saabs didn’t come in what they called “parchment.” I added that it is a beautiful car for a girl, particularly in this color and she beamed. The girl said goodbye to me three times and added, “See you later!” Awww!
So there you have it: dogs, baby girls and diamonds. This trifecta can never fail to produce a warm glow from head to toe! I’m off to swim and stretch at the club and will leave off with one final picture from the third gas pump drive-off, which unlike the first two, pulled off a tail light (part of which is shattered but can still be glued back on).