Love, leather, denim
Typing this to the mellow strains of several new jazz CDs I picked up last week. As readers of my real-name blog know, I finally started teaching this summer and recently finished my first class (they run about four-and-a-half weeks). Related to which, I discovered a little jazz shop down the street where the proprietor will play anything that’s for sale and, the night I bought my new stash, was practically chain-smoking at his desk in-between playing random selections for me from the likes of John Patton and Don Cherry. When I finally escaped from the eerie déjà vu of secondhand smoke my purse held the precious cargo of Coltrane Plays the Blues, the Dexter Gordon record Go!, and Coltrane’s Blue Train. Hey, I’ve had the poster some eight or nine years; might as well buy the album, right?
Wait a minute, you might be saying, how come there’s no mention of men so far? That jazz-shop proprietor was male but somehow I don’t get the sense she flirted much. And you would be right about that, although the warmth of his brown eyes and knowledge of jazz could almost make one overlook his second-trimester girth and the cigarettes. But really, what’s a blog with such reference point as this without the occasional shopping entry? And I’ve had so many bargains lately, I’m hard-put not to brag.
First it was the shoe guy. Because of course, like any well-educated, totally sane New Yorker, I have no less than ten pairs of heels … and that’s not including the boots or wedge heels. And when you wear such shoes on the streets of our stony city, you wear through the cap or sole of a shoe in surprisingly short time. But as with laundry, I tend to store up unpleasant errands like treks to the shoe guy until I’ve cash and a sizeable quantity of that errand. This time there were six pairs to fix, though I left another two at home.
The nearest shop in my ’hood was on a side street one block up from mine, where I reasoned the rates would be less than six blocks up on the main street corner closer to the park. I never got the chance to compare, as the lumbering middle-aged Italian man whose wife frequently had to clarify his English for me made a persuasive case for quality. And really, who wants to trek six pairs of shoes another five blocks just because this Brooklyn native might not do justice to my Charles Davids (newest fave heels, which came with leather uppers and soles)? It turned out my faith and frugality were worth it. The guy fixed all six pairs for $80, charging only $7 to cap heels. But the real miracle was his work on the bowling-style kicks I bought with contract knitting work two falls ago. A big chunk of the rubber around the back of the heel had totally fallen off, but he filled it in so you wouldn’t notice a bit (even dyed the new rubber to match!) and put new soles on both shoes. Impressive work.
Inspired by how much life he put into my twelve shoes compared to the one pair I could have bought with the same wad, I decided to tackle jeans next. Recently I got a kick-ass bargain from Urban Outfitters: high-end Italian jeans that retailed for $200 but were marked down to only $10 at the store where I bought them. I was up to relocating an extra button from the back to the front of the jeans where one was missing … but not to dealing with the way-too-long hem.
That’s when I remembered a Lower East Side tailor whose shop was not far from my first New York tailor, which Dr. Kook the Visionary introduced me to at the close of a very weird Valentine’s Day double date with Fontinator (before he lobbied to get renamed Mr. Fontastic). Dr. Kook’s guy did an adequate job, but not as good work as the other tailor I found en route to a shoe-repair shop in that ’hood.
I didn’t used to be a tailor girl. I simply accepted the clothes I bought and the fit they had — be it good or bad. But then one summer when I regularly binged on the Banana Republic clearance racks at a Scottsdale mall I sometimes passed on the way home from church, I found a dress. That perfectly lovely little black dress a girl has simply got to have. It packs well, it wears well, and when Might-be-into-me Mentor saw pics of me wearing the dress at Bro’s wedding he hinted that I could be his date if he was ever invited to a White House dinner.
But the dress didn’t have that effect the way it fit right off the rack. Sure the price had quite an impact — marked down to that magic $10 from probably $40 or $50 or more — but the fit was not all that it could be. Someone in the changing room suggested I get it tailored. Normally the store would pay for the work but because of the sale I’d have to cover the cost myself. They gave me the name of the woman they sent all tailoring to, who worked from her home some miles from mine in Mesa. She was well worth the trip, though, and an absolute gem who transformed several pieces for me. Just like that I was hooked.
It’s like falling into a crush, really. You meet someone who seems almost fantastic enough that you want to commit some heart to him or her. All it takes is that sparkling eye or flashing grin for you to snip away all yet-unknown flaws and defects which will henceforth be fully denied by you until the burden of evidence contrary prevails … resulting in a potential lover or spouse who fits your ideal like the dimpled golf ball does its tee (note the inherent instability of such a relationship). You might call such crushing a kind of personality-tailoring. (And as I blogged recently, such love-fits can also make you do a little tailoring on yourself in hopes of snaring the person crushed-on.)
But in the real world, parts the tailor cuts away will never reappear. Most of the time that’s a good thing. I sure don’t miss the cuffs I used to turn on my jeans and at $7 for the two pairs he hemmed, I don’t miss the money I spent on his work! And readers if you live in New York, be sure to check out Mike’s shop on Essex just south of Grand Street. He’s right next to a pickle place.