Black Swagger, French Aesthetics– Whoopee I Am in the Center of The Material World As I Think I Know it

Sometimes–not very often–your Manhattan Voyeur takes a deep breath and realizes she is in the best of all places. Standing on the corner of 57th and Fifth Avenues I find myself in the red hot center of the material world.  It’s more fun being a voyeur here than at any fashion museum or display at the Met or faux exciting haute couture show.

Forget Tiffany’s.
57th and Fifth Avenues  photo
The stuff on display in one corner of the first floor of Bergdorf Goodman and on each and every floor of nearby  Niketown are treasures of our earth. Looking at them, touching them is free.

What luck. Of course temptation lurks–buying is dangerous because prices are sky high.

First off, Niketown’s full of customers from all over the world with great and mysterious foreign sneakers and jackets and haircuts but more important to me are the young African-American salespeople with college degrees and street cred. They are all beautifully dressed–no matter what they are wearing, they emanate BLACK SWAGGER. They have great manners. I got high-fived twice today. I’ve watched them for years, and I have worn Nike sneakers and running pants forever.

I love watching the young salespeople.  I love talking with them. I can’t help interviewing them.  Many are working here part time while they attend college. They are the golden ones, their skin color more beautiful than that of beige people like myself.  Wearing Nikes becomes something one must do–imitating them. Indeed our whole culture imitates them one way or another.

african american style photo

At Bergdorf Goodman a few steps away I screw up my courage to walk into Van Cleef and Arpels with its iconic Alhambra jewelry whose resale value is nearly identical to the price you pay in the store.  Wearing the gold Alhambra charm around my neck makes me look prettier. Or am I a retail victim? Will I ever work up my courage to spend the money for the charm? It’s beautiful and a Manhattan status symbol. Am I that shallow or insecure that I need a status symbol? Time may tell.

Still inside Bergdorf’s I walk a hundred feet away from Van Cleef to the Verdura jewelry counter displaying its iconic strong link bracelet said to have been worn by Greta Garbo. I actually bought a vintage bracelet on 47th Street but it was still too expensive and too heavy on my arm. I called it my Donald Trumpette bracelet. I returned it. I miss it.

After watching people and stores in our streets for decades I am amazed that these best beauty spots nestle so close together.

Next to the Verdura jewelry display is the Hermes scarf counter. These scarves are art.  The blazing colors are blinding and the combinations are the best. I bought my first scarf last week. It goes with my pink brimmed hat from J. Crew. I haven’t had the nerve to wear it yet.  To wear it means I am obliged to keep it.

Will I or won’t I keep it?

A few steps toward 58th Street is the Lora Piano display of the finest cashmere money can buy.  During a recent sale I agonized over a black scarf. I never saw anything so plain and so mysteriously splendid.

Who’s done this, who’s plunked these precious things so close to each other? No other department store comes close.

On another sunny day I will stroll over and luxuriate in the man-made beauty at this corner.  And if I get a yen for natural beauty I’ll walk two short blocks to glorious Central Park. In the lake are the turtles sunning themselves on the same rock every time amiably close to a duck fast asleep with its head under its wing.

Photo by j-No

Photo by Jeffrey

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