“Time/He’s waiting in the wings/He speaks of senseless things/His script is you and me boys”
— Time by David Bowie
The aircraft was eerily quiet on this trip in from Atlanta. No babies babbling. No toddlers whining. No tourists yapping. The peace I was feeling as I stared out over the Brooklyn Bridge before raising my eyes upward to catch a seconds-long glimpse of the Empire State was greatly needed and grandly appreciated. The silence beckoned me into my own conscience; a place I had been avoiding over the last day or two. Yet once there, and settled in, I heard them – all of them – the voices of the darkened past reminding the voices of the brightly lit future to tell the voices of the confused, frightened, and insecure present that all was going to be okay. That things would be fine and that they had nothing to fear. And as the conversations dwindled, the aircraft shook, the rubber burned, and the wing flaps raised.
Wheels down, New York City. Wheels down, deep thoughts. There are people to see and places to be, and heaven knows I don’t have much time.
“I look at my watch it say 9:25/and I think ‘Oh God I’m still alive’/We should be on by now/We should be on by now/La la la la la la la la”
Friend: “How goes the drive?”
Me: “Cinco minutos.”
Friend: “Okay, heading down.”
Me: “Bring a gun with you. (Pause.) Never mind. I’ll just go ahead and have that heart attack.”
Friend: “No, wait, I want to have one with you.”
If you’ve ever taken an Uber in Manhattan and the drive lasts longer than forty minutes, you can sympathize with the above textversation, I’m sure.
I hadn’t seen this particular person in, well, what felt like EVER, so I was happy that they agreed to a mid-workday scotch with me before I had to head off into the social sunset of GEM Awards weekend. We hit a local bar near their place of work and settled our asses onto the two corner barstools. The building seemed old and the space had that good veteran pub feel to it; lots of wood, tile floors, and several bottles of brown-hued alcohol. I opted for an Oban 14, neat, because I promised my friend Dave Bindra I’d have an Oban 18, but frankly I just couldn’t afford to. Sorry Dave. Everyone has to settle for something other than what they really want once in a while. C’est la vie, amigo. C’est. La. Vie.
The conversation and company left me with a warm, comfortable feeling about how the rest of the trip was going to go. Or maybe it was the Oban. Could have been, but that’s cool, too, because the bottom line is, scotch is great. And once my (hiccup) drinking partner left to head back to the office I stuck around for a quick pinot noir with my new best friend, Millennial Bartender.
MB: “So why do you know so much about sports?”
Me: “Brothers. And, lots of Trivial Pursuit growing up. And I met my husband on a game show.”
MB: “I don’t believe it. That’s not true. Picture, or it isn’t true.”
Me: (scrolling through phone) (scrolling) (now scrolling through Instagram) “Ah, here’s one. See?”
MB: (Looking, in disbelief) “I don’t even know what to say right now. Are you serious?”
Me: “Yup. He’s hot, too. And we made pretty redheaded babies. Oh, and I just got this email an hour ago from Royal Caribbean (showing him email) asking if he and I want to star in their South American cruise ads next month.”
MB: (Looking at me, disgustingly) “You see now… you’re the reason why people hate us white people.”
It’s *so* going to be an awesome day.
“Goddamn, you’re looking old/You’ll freeze and catch a cold/’Cause you’ve left your coat behind/Take your time”
After the painfully long Uber back to my heartbreakingly dismal Marriott Courtyard, I freshened up, packed a purse with NYC essentials (metro card, mints, ID, mace, extra socks) and quickly headed back out to a meetup of jewelry industry women put together by the great connector herself, Liz Kantner.
We arrived at Winnie’s on west 38th one by one. Some of the industry’s most talented designers, marketing directors, and editors had assembled to shoot the shit in a relaxed environment, as we knew that there would be no possibility of in-depth conversation at either the GEM Awards or the 24K gala. I was thrilled to see Cleo of Jane Taylor Jewelry (whom I owe like fifty apologies to – she knows why), Malak of Zaiken, Rebecca of Communique LA, Marla Aaron, Delphine Leymarie, Jennifer Heebner, and Michelle Graff. Thankfully, I would also see three of these women at the following morning’s whiskey breakfast, because my liver and I have a love/hate relationship.
The clock struck eight which meant it was time for all of my organs and me to leave for my 8:30 p.m. dinner plans down in the East Village. The weather in New York oddly was warmer than it was in Atlanta, so I put the back window down and stared, blurrily (because I’m too vain to wear my glasses) at the sporadic lights beaming from Stuyvesant Town. I felt… alone. Probably the most alone I had felt in a while. The week had presented me with some not-so-unexpected life turns, and this was the first real moment I had to think about what I was going to do.
I looked up at the big, old, brick towers before me. They reminded me so much of my home. Home, meaning Philly… where as a child I survived the unspeakable; where as a young adult female I made it through the unimaginable. But in my loneliness I concluded that I was as tall as these towers, and as hard as their exterior; that I wore my age as well as they, and that I was in no way ready to be torn down. There was life in me – beautiful life – just as Stuyvesant contains beautiful lives within its walls. I smiled at the lights as I thought of the artists and writers who call the towers home, and I grinned even more widely when I thought of the artist and writer living inside of me. My loneliness turned to rejuvenation which in turn became determination, and for the rest of my ride I thought about how nice it was going to be to have dinner with one of my oldest and most loyal jewelry friends.
The ceiling of Pylos is covered in terracotta pots. The restaurant is small, dark, and cozy, and it’s as legitimately Greek as any place I’ve ever eaten. To be there with one of my closest confidants and biggest supporters was uplifting. We ate wonderful fish and shared a 2008 Megas Oenos Skouras before heading off to our individual temporary housing for the night. I mean, I had a big morning planned, so there was no way I was going to stay out late getting drunk if I had to get up early in the morning to get drunk. Which is the perfect segue into…
Who knew whiskey at breakfast would be so popular? I mean, seriously?! It was a hit! Props to *THE* Ben Smithee for recommending Pershing Square as the place we’d be able to get a scotch on the rocks at 9:30 a.m. All in, we were a group of ten, and what a group of ten we were. Still recovering from a stint at the Boom Boom Room the night before were the aforementioned Smithee, accompanied by his partner at LUXE Intelligence and fellow Aries badass, Dallas Selsey. Seated on my immediate right was the infamous Rick Bannerot (YAY, RICK! WE FINALLY MEET!). And going around the table we had our three gals from the previous evening – Rebecca “can I get a DD up in heyaa?” Moskal; Delphine “WAIT. Let me take a ‘Delphie’” Leymarie; and Marla “I follow the rules and look good doing it” Aaron. There was my friend Jackie Cohen of Timeless/My Story; my wonderfully wonderful Peggy Jo Donahue; and last but not least, (because you can’t have a scotch at breakfast unless you have an official Scottish person at your table) the recently hitched Maeve Gillis of MaeVona. Ho. Leeeee. Shit, y’all. This was one killer whiskey (or whisky – for Maeve the Scot) drinkin’ crowd. And these folks ordered properly, too. The bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey flowed as freely as my swear word usage on this here blog.
Somehow I wound up at the male end of the table. (What exactly makes a table have a male end and a female end? Is one end pointy and stubborn and the other concave and naggy?) I’m not really surprised about it because my life is one big Boy Scout outing these days. But once the brown liquid consumption began, things started getting a little… shall we say… politically incorrect?
“I’m amazed that we wound up with two straight guys with this group of women.”
“You mean three.”
“Oh. Crap. Sorry.”
“So this girl says to me, ‘You’re a really sexy Asian.’”
“Hmm. Funny. I don’t usually like Asians but…”
“Wow, that’s a really racist thing to say.”
“NO!!! NO, YOU DIDN’T LET ME FINISH!!! I MEANT FROM A LOOKS STANDPOINT, THEY’RE NOT USUALLY MY TYPE, BUT I WAS GOING TO SAY…”
“I mean, seriously? You actually just said you didn’t like Asians. I’m going to tweet that.”
“NO! Please don’t. I was going to end my statement with ‘BUT YEAH, DUDE, YOU’RE A PRETTY SEXY ASIAN.”
“You’re dead, woman. No going back. You realize that, right?”
“Yup. My career is over.”
“Did you know he’s part of that pedophile program thing?”
“WILL YOU STOP SAYING IT’S FOR PEDOPHILES! IT’S CALLED BIG BROTHERS/BIG SISTERS. I’M A BIG BROTHER, YOU DOPE!”
While I wished desperately that “Whiskey Breakfast” could have lasted forever (and props to Josh with Kretchmer for showing up at the tail end), I had “Beer Lunch” to get ready for and needed to find some ice to put on the part of my liver that I had cut out with a coffee spoon so that I could spare it from being tainted. Goodness knows I’d need it by the evening.
Off I went in my chariot of yellow and black to the same bar I met Michael Schechter at just three-hundred-and-sixty-five days earlier. I walked in to find our table the same, our server the same, and my dread the same. Man, I hate beer. I haaaaaaaate beer. But I write this off as my yearly charitable donation and I suck it up for the good of our friendship. Plus, keep in mind that last year’s beer lunch coined the term, “layer of penis,” so who knows what goodness would come out of this year’s, right?
Mikey was late because he has no respect for his elders but that’s okay; I’ve learned to accept him for who he is, which is also why I wasn’t surprised about his excitement at their newest beer on draft called, “More Cowbell.”
“I can only drink a Hefeweizen.”
“You should go for a porter.”
“Nah. Can’t. Too chewy.”
“What about an IPA?”
“I don’t do hops.”
“You’re the worst.”
“Thank you. The hatred is mutual.”
For as masculine as I can be at times, there are moments when I look at myself and think, “Christ, Barbara… stop being so goddamned prissy.” I mean, here I was trying tastes of different beers so that I could make sure I had something that wouldn’t offend my palate the way Gwen Stefani’s voice offends people who are able to carry a tune. And for what? One beer? Once per year? Grow a pair, woman! Toughen up and drink a brew! And why are you ordering the salmon, for God’s sake? Get a burger! And pick up that blood! (Anyone?)
I couldn’t make it through half of my drink, which naturally made my lunch companion shake his head in both disgust and silent glory.
At the end of the meal, I’m sorry to say that no anatomy layers were mentioned, nor was a phrase coined for the year, nor did I ever get that burger. But I’m really looking forward to next year’s, Michael. And thanks again for lunch; always a blast, especially when you pay.
I headed back to the hotel knowing that I needed a good solid three hours to get ready. Yes, that’s what I need. I have a lot of hair, require a plethora of makeup, and use a buttload of “equipment” to get myself into those gowns, and all of those things demand time. Sensing a theme, here? Congratulations. You have a pulse. Now let’s get down to the main reason I made this trip in the first place…
GEM AWARDS 2016
I remember the 2015 GEM Awards as clearly as I remember my middle name. The images of Monica and me getting naked dressed in our hotel room, and of the camaraderie of #PowerTable48 are still wonderfully loud and vivid and in my brain. I was sad to hear that The Daz wouldn’t be making the trip this year but I was determined to make my fellow Vegas Gems and her proud by leaving an impression. That impression started in a small vintage clothier in Atlanta, which is where I found my gown.
Recently I joked on Instagram that I own about thirteen floor-length gowns that I really can’t wear again because I don them around the same damned people in the jewelry industry. This dress was a definite one-time-only wear, and that’s okay, because it served its purpose. It was part Daisy Buchanan, part Alexis Carrington, and part Katniss Everdeen with a touch of Maleficent thrown in for good measure. And thanks to that SEXY ASIAN, Ben Smithee, I had the perfect earrings and ring to match, courtesy of designer Katerina Maxine, and the kind folks at LUXE Intelligence. My shoes and bag were sequins as well, and my makeup smoky and sparkly with a pale lip to contrast the dark eyes. As a last minute decision I went with a tightly pulled back knot for my hair which allowed my jewels to take center stage, because let’s face it, this is the GEM Awards, after all.
My partners in glamour as we entered the gates were the lovely Jennifer Heebner, who was dripping in Tara pearls and opera length gloves; the stunning Michelle Peranteau, who was gorgeous in a full-length black gown and diamond Baume et Mercier watch; and the exquisite Bernadette Mack, who wore a variety of jewels by Alex Soldier and Rina Limor.
This year’s awards were the first to officially focus on watches, nominating Cartier, Piaget, and Roger Dubuis in the category of Watch Design. Cartier took the prize with its North American President and CEO, Mercedes Abramo, accepting. The Media Excellence category showcased the talents of Rachel Garrahan, Kyle Anderson, and Rob Bates, with ROBYYYYYYYYYYY BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATES taking the award despite Kyle’s awesome hair and Instagram following. (By the way, Rob, if you’re reading this… I called it.) And the Jewelry Design Award went to Temple St. Clair (which was presented by Stephen Webster who is seriously in the wrong business. The man is a comedic genius and needs to get his own reality T.V. show. THIS IS NOT A LIE. He’d make millions) who was nominated alongside Sevan Bicakci and Chopard’s Caroline Scheufele.
But the man of the hour (pun totally intended) was WatchTime Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Joe Thompson, who received his Lifetime Achievement Award to a glorious standing ovation. A highlight for me was when I introduced myself to Joe and said “So many people I respect and emulate have spoken so highly of you.” To which he replied, “And I have heard many, many wonderful things about you.”
Clearly he thought I was Hayley Henning.
And speaking of Hayley Henning, let’s give a huge round of applause to the South African red carpet hostess with the mostesss, shall we? That Hayley. Is she not glamour incarnate? My favorite part was when she interviewed her boyfriend as if they were strangers. Freaking adorbs, both of them. Oh, and yet again, MAJOR props to the incomparable Amanda Gizzi and the entire Jewelers of America team as well as Promo House for putting together another spectacular program. Well done, my friend. Well done indeed.
It was fantastic seeing so many familiar faces. Our table (#PowerTable41… we moved UP!) comprised Bern Mack, Peggy Jo Donahue and her bib, Hannah Connorton (a personal fave), Sexy Ben Smithee and his date, Magen Pastor, then came DUCKFACE MISTRESS Wendy Brandes (who dazzled yet again in red velvet), my longtime industry buddy Jay Mednikow, Marla Aaron and her swoon-worthy glasses and Dries Van Noten dress, and, of course, yours truly in all my Dynasty glory.
I was also able to finally meet, face-to-face, the Zeus and Hera of horological journalism, Jack Forster and Roberta Naas, while also sharing hellos with the likes of Marion Fasel and Maria Canale – two of my #50womenofjewelry. But there was one moment for me that happened, that I had not expected and that I won’t soon forget, and that was during a conversation with the AGS’ Ruth Batson. We were discussing Conclave, the present, as well as the immediate future, and when the topic of my blog came up, she looked me in the eyes and said, “What you write is good… keep on writing, because people are reading. People are listening. We are all listening.” And a wave of emotion came over me (and is again as I type the words right now) as I fought back tears so as not to destroy an hour’s worth of makeup application. Thank you, Ms. Batson. I promise you, and whoever is listening… I’m not going to stop.
After a few final pictures on the step and repeat with my Shelby Ruth, the party started to dissipate, and for the second year in a row, our crew headed over to Whiskey Blue where we found our fellow pretzel sisters in the form of Brandee Dallow, Des Hanson, Fran Pennella, Shelly Schulz, Kristie Nicolosi, and many, many others. Since Bern and I had agreed to run three miles through Central park the following morning, I slipped out at about 12:30 a.m. and grabbed a cab back to my hotel.
It was truly an evening worth attending, and I look forward to doing it again next year, deity willing.
“Breaking up is hard, but keeping dark is hateful/I had so many dreams/I had so many breakthroughs/But you, my love, were kind/ but love has left you dreamless”
(Text received at 5:08 a.m.)
Her: “I cannot make it running.”
“The door to dreams was closed/Your park was real dreamless”
I took my time getting up since I knew I had a day to myself, which is a rare gift whenever I travel anywhere. I decided some weeks back that I wanted to visit The Met and take in their European clock and watch exhibit called, “The Luxury of Time.” It had been twenty-two years since I stepped foot inside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, the last time I had been there it was with one of my best friends from high school and we got kicked out because we found one of the works in the modern art section particularly… well… “stupid” would probably be the kindest word I could use. I KNOW. I KNOW. IT’S ALL ART and art, by definition, isn’t stupid. But bloody hell, this thing was nothing more than a massive piece of canvas painted one shade of blue. I swear on all that is holy, it was one big blue rectangle. In fact, I think the name of it was actually “blue painting” or something of the like. I sh*t you not, people. This is why I struggle with understanding modern art. You know that thing sold to some dimwit for like eight-million dollars, too, don’t you? Well my friend and I were laughing uncontrollably as we thought of joke after joke about how ridiculous some of the pieces were which naturally meant that eventually we were asked to leave. I remember picking up a crushed Coke bottle near a garbage can close by and saying to my friend, “I just made this. It’s art. I should bring it back to the Met. I’ll make billions.” Oh how we laughed and laughed and laughed…
… then I grew up and realized it was probably not cool to say that I had been kicked out of The Met, which is likely the main reason why it took twenty-two years to get back.
God I hope they don’t recognize me.
Thankfully the art on display in the exhibit I went to see was actually something I understood – or at the very least, have been trying to understand over the last eight months or so – watches.
I won’t go into complete detail here as I intend on writing an entire piece about the exhibit on my new female-friendly watch blog called WhatsOnHerWrist.com (coming soon to a browser near you!) but I will say that it was well worth the price of admission as was the cost of the book I purchased to accompany it. If you’re in the city or plan on being so in the near future, I recommend checking it out, but you have to go soon, because it’s over on March 27th.
So… that leads me to the final leg of this trip, which we will officially dub, “The 10K Club Gathering.”
There was a crew of us who didn’t officially have seats (yet) for the 24K Club’s annual dinner and gala at the Waldorf Astoria, but we had been invited to several of the pre-parties being held in some of the suites up on the 4th floor, so we donned our gowns and tuxes, threw on our jewels and watches, and gathered at Bull & Bear to do our socializing and networking. I had invited along watch journalist Syl Tang, who writes for The Futurist and The Financial Times, because I was leaving the next day for home and had yet to meet her in person. Joining us were Smithee, Moskal, O’Connor, Cleo, Kendra, Barry with Jade Trau, Magen, Aly, and… wait for it… THAT KID FROM RITANI!! In fact, I believe it was he who came up with name for our little “island of misfit toys” group of nomads, which wound up being our running joke for the evening. Should we be the 10K Club? Or the 24 Carrot Club? Or the 42K Club? Needless to say every option turned into a hashtag.
I wore a gold Ralph Lauren Evening dress with a gorgeous golden South Sea pearl necklace and matching earrings by Eli Jewels, on loan to me from Mednikow Jewelers. To say the piece was a statement necklace would almost be an understatement. It was a stunning adornment combining the natural wonder of South Sea pearls with the craftsmanship of talented jewelers and topped off with several carats in bright white diamonds. I felt glorious in it, which is what I was supposed to feel in something of that caliber, and I was sad to have to give it back at the end of the night.
The evening went as perfectly as I could have asked for, and while several people texted me to say that there were no-shows at their table and that I should come up and join them, I decided I liked hanging with our crew, and opted for my spot at the bar instead. Although, I did head up to catch a song or two from Aretha Franklin when beckoned enough times by 24K members. (Oh and hey, just want to send a quick shout out to John Carter and Mary Moses-Kinney for the lovely meal picture they sent me. You guys are rad.)
Before the night was over I did some dancing, some Periscoping, and a little more Prosecco consuming. It was somewhat bittersweet there at the end for a variety of reasons, with the main reason being that New York represents so much in my life; good, bad, and otherwise.
As I watched the mist trickle down from the back seat of my cab, I recalled the many moments that I had just written about here. I recalled them, thought fondly of them, sighed deeply about them, and smiled. And that – that one act alone –is what will keep me coming back year after year after year.
New York, I love you. And I thank you for all that you are and all that you remain to be to me.
“Perhaps you’re smiling now/Smiling through this darkness/But all I had to give was the guilt for dreaming”
“We should be on by now [x5]/La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la [repeat]”