Holding Close Those We Love

This Thanksgiving I will be with Steven's family in Rhode Island, which is lovely. The food & company will doubtless be stellar, and hopefully there will be a chilly walk on the beach.

I can't help missing the seat of most my Thanksgivings: the Big Red House, by now covered in snow and almost sickeningly picturesque. All day will be spent cooking, then an early dinner, and afterward an old Heywood tradition: the reading of Capote's A Christmas Memory, which makes all of us cry like complete sops. Before the vagaries of life and loss set into the story, a search for the perfect Christmas tree figures prominently, which prefigures our own Christmas tree hunt the next morning.

This year the prime players are dispersed between Rhode Island, Nebraska & somewhere in Colombia, or missing altogether. Three characters are gone, two dogs and one man, but the dogs have been gone for years. Gene left only this year.

Without him we will never have another Big Red House tradition, the fireside reading (or, more often than not, recitation) of The Cremation of Sam Magee. That I could do without, I suppose, but I will forever miss our late night talks about topics running from Emily Dickinson to his childhood to the latest show at the Art Institute.

His son, one of my oldest friends, is having a quilt made out of Gene's fantastically worn clothes, by another extremely old friend who sews beautifully. When he described the project, I immediately thought of the quilts of the Gee's Bend, which are made from the homeliest, most worn bits of clothing and flour sacks and anything else that was laying around. They seem to me the perfect marriage of affection to utility, built of humble parts that take on a certain transcendence, not unlike a Thanksgiving dinner.


Character From the Past: Archie Teater

During their life in Jackson Hole, my grandparents met countless Western eccentrics, but perhaps their favorite was the painter Archie Teater. His first canvas was cut from the covering of a shepherd's wagon. Given that he was a player in so many of their stories of their times in Jackson, it was a little shocking to find out that he was known elsewhere:

"At the time of his death, he was one of the country's best-known western landscape artists. He had had one-man shows in New York City, his paintings had hung in shows in the Metropolitan and other museums, as well as in U.S. Embassies around the world, he had been featured in articles in Better Homes and Gardens, Cosmopolitan, Flair, Ideals, Look, and Quick Magazines ...

... and his paintings were in a number of important private collections, including those of Averill Harriman, Lawrence Rockefeller, Godfrey Rockefeller, George S. Amory, Bennett Cerf, Henry P. Cole, and Mrs. Charles de Rham. Yet, following his death he fell into almost total obscurity, so that today he is largely known only by those who own his paintings and the now rapidly disappearing coterie of people (centered mostly in Boise, Idaho, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming) who knew him and his wife personally."

My grandparents hung theirs over the organ in their living room -- it is large and reassuringly blunt, a thankfully unsentimental view of the Tetons as seen from the banks of the Snake River. Mostly grey, deep black-blue and only faintly green (though more than half the canvas is filled with trees), all held within an exquisitely carved cerused oak frame. My Uncle Tom keeps it in the den of his lake house, and I always visit it when I'm home for the holidays.

Anyway, Teater commissioned a house by Frank Lloyd Wright in Idaho, which is the only house by Wright in the state. I would so love to see it:

I need friends with Frank Lloyd Wright houses; I'd even settle for just one. You'd think having grown up in Chicago I would have at least one FLW association, but no.

I'll end with one last stolen memory: my father and uncles (swept up in the cowboys & indians mania of the '50s) watching in wonder as a vast rolled canvas was unfurled across the floor of my grandmother's living room. It was considered Teater's great masterpiece, an almost monochromatic view of Custer's Last Stand in blue, covering more and more of the moss-green carpeting. I know the exact color, because somewhere my parents have the Dunbar sofa everything was matched to, still covered in its original moss green raw silk.

But I wonder where the blue Custer is?


Movie Night, anyone?

Louis Malle's Black Moon is beautiful and strange, and I couldn't stop watching it.

"The most beautiful things in the world," uttered the overweight, brown unicorn, "are the most useless. Water lilies and peacocks, for instance."


Exopat Silicon Baking Sheet, I Loathe Thee

Don't be seduced by the cookies in the picture! Though they might be mystical cookies, as it appears that they are levitating.

There are few things that I despise, but French silicon would have to be one of them. Exopat baking sheet, blech! If I could remake the world, it would mostly be the same as the world we know, but a few things would be missing: war, greenhouse gases, moths (I'm tired of mending sweaters), and Exopat silicon baking sheets.

They're slimy no matter how carefully you clean them, impossible to scrub, impossible to dry, and completely unnecessary. What's wrong with just using butter on plain old metal baking sheets? I'd rather wash a nice metal sheet any day. I can't touch one of those Exopat things without recoiling in horror at its fleshy, oily texture. It's like adolescent skin.

And I'm utterly convinced it's giving us cancer. Cancer from cookies: what a bittersweet, backhanded way to go.

Are you reading this, Steven, il mio animale domestico? I love your cookies, but the cleaning crew wants to know if you must use that thing to make them. Can't you just put them directly on the lovely, austere Dow Metal baking sheet we bought last week?


Sir Edwin Lutyens on the Moon

Did you know the moon is black? I discovered this last year when my brother came to visit me here in RI. We visited the RI Statehouse (basically across the street from my apartment), which is lovely and sort of falling apart. Big McKim, Mead & White mess. What does this have to do with the moon? Well, the whole Statehouse is full of precious tchotchkes, including a sliver of the moon encased in a lucite cube. And it's black, very very black. My brother Andy (who, truth be told, is a knowitall) was shocked I didn't know the moon was black. Apparently it is, and blacker than anything on Earth. It's simply blasted with so much light from the sun that it reflects white. Or yellow, depending on our smoggy atmosphere.

Gigi Gatewood, Mare Basalt

I would like now to talk about Sir Edwin Lutyens, one of the greatest designers of the last couple hundred years. My vote for the most beautiful eulogy to the death of the English Empire would fall squarely on the work of Lutyens, whose cottages and municipal buildings were portraits of the English as they would most like to be seen. He rendered the English class system sweet and small in Queen Mary's exquisite Dollhouse of 1924:

For whatever reason, I think he's most often associated with a certain chalky white (maybe all those limestone facades), but he loved black and used it judiciously in his interiors.

And once, years ago, I saw an image of his own dining room, painted a fantastically flat and deep black. All corners were freed from the reality of their geometry, and the relatively small space was rendered endless. I knew then and there that I must have a black dining room, which remains an unresolved desire.

But given the supposed extreme black of the moon, I think the only thing to do is smear the walls of my black dining room with moon dust. And that is why I would like to be an astronaut.


I am NOT in London (though it would be nice) ...

... and I have NOT been held at gunpoint (which would not be nice).

If this makes no sense to you, be thankful. My identity was stolen today, through my gmail account, and about one million and three people I know and love and were extorted for money to get me home and safe, using a ludicrous story cooked up somewhere in Nigeria. If you received any emails from me in the last 24 hours, please simply disregard them. Thankfully, it appears that I have regained control of my account.

I will keep you, faithful readers, abreast of all developments.

yours, Nick

ps. Here's something charming to look at: Chau's finished costume --

Let's Look at More Fur, Shall We?

I have to admit this was not my intention. Today I had the grand ambition to do a post on my desire to clothe myself in the stellar wardrobes of 1950s Westerns -- well, specifically The Searchers -- but my search for stills was thwarted, and I have yet to take pictures from the DVD myself. But let's pause and look for a moment at the lovely Martin Pauly from said film:

I'm a big fan of his look throughout the film, his ethos I guess. And the actor, Jeffrey Hunter (who went to the same Wisconsin HS as Anna ... separated by 60 years) may be the boy for whom the word "strapping" was created. Long story short, those images will come, and I've found something else to show instead. I'm very into the raccoon fur coats that have been popping up everywhere, but especially the comprehensive coverage in Ivy Style (a bit fuddy-duddy, I know). But look at these -- they're so absurd I might have to buy one, or mine the Heywood attics when I'm home for the holidays. Apparently they enjoyed two periods of popularity in ivy circles -- one in the 20s, and again in the 50s. I think I would have enjoyed carousing through both times, smug and snugly warm in one of these:

with my buddies ...

This is the last post about fur for a long time, I promise.

Also, even though they're basically over and will doubtless be this generation's bell-bottoms in the closet, if I were to buy one last pair of vaguely expensive fitted jeans it would be these:

Gotta love Robert Longo tributes! Great styling. Props to People's Market. What is the tie that binds all of this together? Vanity, I guess ... and reference.


Movie Night, Anyone?

I'd like to recommend you see this:

But I recognize that this is not everyone's cup of tea. If urban cowboys are more your thing, may I make a suggestion? It was the only X-rated film to win Best Picture at the Oscars:

You'll never get this out of your head, or want to ... real perfection:


I Think I'm really a Caveman

I'd like to get a little rant out of the way. I'm fed up, and have to put my two cent out there.

I'm guessing this view won't be popular (nor will the silly things I fawn over in this post), but nothing is worse than exotic animal print. Cheetah, tiger and leopard. Nothing worse. Sorry, Elsie de Wolfe, but the age of leopard upholstered footstools has passed. I just wish I could get everyone else to agree with me. Could anything be more repellent? And frankly kinda matronly, at this point ... no offense to the matrons.

I'm a big fan of real materials.

That bit of pontificating out of the way, can I blame this passion for all things furry and tack-studded on my family history, and exposure to cowhide upholstered facades at an early age (alla Wort Hotel)? Whatever the cause, I love incongruously furry objects. I lust for a German tornister ...

And would gladly join Oppenheim for tea in porcelain glazed with Chinese gazelle:

So imagine my delight when Steven and I found this at the Scituate Art Fair:

Wait, what's that? Is that an ... NH?!? As in, Nick Heywood?

But why, oh why, did the condition have to be soooo appalling? I almost broke down and got it anyway, but it looked like something wicked had been chewing on it, and the whole thing was kind of mangy. But oh, I'll never forget what might have been. I think it was probably from the first or second quarter of the 19th century, and I would guess that it's covered in pony skin, but really don't know.

Reminds me of one of my favorite passages in Diana Vreeland's incomparable memoir, DV, where she talks about how she used to strap a chest covered in reindeer hide to the back of her Bugatti (before the days of the integrated trunk) for picnics. The past really was better. Or look at this fantastic seating around the perimeter of an auditorium at the University of Aarhus, in Denmark (my apologies for the reflection):

Or altar stool in one of architect Gunnar Asplund's chapels at the Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm, covered in sealskin:

I feel the need to clarify here. All of these animals have been dead in excess of 50 years, and I see no point in burying their skins to make a point ... and I think they're pretty. I feel I should also say that I only care for skins used in an extremely tailored way: not at all into the millions of cowhides with irregular edges thrown all over the floor of wannabe modernists, with some Charlotte Perriand (oh, sorry, LeCorbusier) chaise -- faux-edgy is a sad thing, especially when the idea is 60 years old.

Geez Louise, I'm bitchy today. Sorry guys.

Though I must admit I'm into this staircase, and I can't for the life of me figure out why, except that it's in fawnskin, which I haven't seen before. I kinda love it:

Ugh, maybe I hate it. I'm torn.


From the Wort Hotel to the Standard: Wyoming Teaches NYC

I ran across a post on an obsessive diy project that's right up my alley -- here -- I adore copper, I adore penny tiles, and I'm pretty sure I like this too:

It's in the Standard Grill at the Standard Hotel in NYC ... and though I definitely applaud the ingenuity of the designers, I feel compelled to point out a certain precedent dear to my heart: the Silver Dollar Bar, of the unfortunately named Wort Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Why trade in copper when you can have sterling?

Long ago, my Grandma and Grandpa Heywood owned the Wort, and its loss is a sad chapter in our family history. My father's childhood is laced with Jackson, where the family summered beginning sometime in the early 1950s. There, they rode, fished and hunted, and it was still quite a wild place -- cowboys and indians and all that -- which was great for everyone but my grandmother. In any event, by the early 1960s she had had her fill of cabins and mosquitoes and gutting fish. So they bought the best hotel in town:

Great idea, right? And in kodachrome:

Kinda vaguely reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, no? This is in the distance:

To my grandmother's great delight, there was still a casino in the Teton Room (known locally as the Snake Pit), full of her favorite vice, slot machines. Unfortunately, these had to be secreted out in the dead of night -- gambling was of course illegal and my grandfather was not interested in trouble with the law. But I wish he'd kept one. Here they are in place:

When they bought the hotel, it was still owned by the founding family, and the Worts offered my grandparents another property -- somewhere between 400 and 600 acres of land in Jackson, one of the few parcels not already a national park. They wanted $1000 an acre. This would literally be worth hundreds of millions of dollars today. Sigh. It's now the Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club:

Then in the early 1980s there was a huge fire, and the entire second floor was destroyed. One of my grandfather's favorite tall tales involved the number of coins in the Silver Dollar Bar -- sometimes it was 5 thousand, sometimes 10 thousand -- which were removed to a bank vault for safe keeping. The entire counter, black lacquer and all. (There are actually only 2032 coins.) In any event, tales aside, the fire was a disaster. My grandfather felt a responsibility to the town to rebuild, which he did, but at financial peril that forced the family to sell shortly after restoration.

Long story short -- when I decide to deface currency for flooring, I think I'll go with silver dollars. The real ones. And did I mention the entire facade of the Silver Dollar Bar is upholstered in cow hide? It's actually amazing. More to come.

I'll close with an image of one of my favorite things in Jackson when I was a kid:

Elk horns, naturally shed and collected by boy scouts each year ... though I'm not sure if they still do this. I know there was controversy over whether the antlers should instead be sold to the Japanese for an insane amount of money, as they use them in medicine. I hope not. I love this arch.

Reminds me of this.



This is likely my least manly possession:

...but I couldn't help myself. At first, laying on a dingy jumble at an even dingier flea market, I thought this fan was covered in cigar labels or something equally silly. But then I realized they were letterheads, or monograms from endlessly elegant stationary ...

So many letterheads, so many correspondents! Each monogram carefully snipped from her letters and glued to this odd fan. This young lady (I assume she was young, as so many of the crests are from Eastern colleges) really got around, shall we say. All of these are embossed, and in the most sublime colors. And even better, they're mounted to melting silk.

Who was she, and who were these cosmopolitan correspondents, who wrote her from colleges, foreign hotels, aboard ships (including one battleship), from social clubs and sanitariums? What did they write to each other about? What intrigue? It kills me imagining their penmanship.

Think, a whole social set spread across a fan. Perhaps it was a garish form of name-dropping, to fan oneself with a pictorial diagram of your closest 150 friends (or beaus?), but certainly more appealing than a friend-count on facebook.

I applaud you, mysterious popular girl. Would we have been friends? If I knew where it was, I would lay flowers on your grave, with a heartfelt monogrammed note.


Movie Night, Anyone?

"Is our language so impoverished that we have to use acronyms of French phrases to make ourselves understood?"

"... yes."

There's no living master of the comedy of manners who surpasses Whit Stillman. Metropolitan played on PBS when I was 10 or 11, and I was transfixed. I remember my mother complaining bitterly about how no one ever did anything in the movie, instead just standing around and talking, gossiping about each other. Every time she tried to change the channel I would shriek something like "Philistine!"

This is one of my favorite scenes, where the cause for UHB is first championed. The acting is wooden at times, and the lighting leaves something to be desired, but somehow it all comes together. Whit Stillman has been in the news a lot in the last few weeks, and I'm not quite sure why, except perhaps that Last Days of Disco was treated to a lavish DVD edition from criterion. I think my favorite of his films may be Barcelona, but in these darkening days and cooling nights, I can imagine no greater pleasure than curling up with Metropolitan, swept up in the deb season of two decades ago.


Ladies: You've Been Slacking.

I think you guys just aren't putting as much effort into your appearance as you used to. Far be it from me to judge, who sports a beard solely out of laziness, but damn. You gals need to step. it. up.

I put together a little collection of images to help you out in the inspiration department. I wouldn't go too nuts at first -- I think you can start off pretty simple. Try putting, say, a stray bambino in your hair:

Pets are handy too. No reason they can't be put to decorative use:

Or flowers from the local garden, or florist at your supermarket can make a world of difference:

Spare furniture can also be put to great use by the resourceful home hair stylist:

And just to make it clear that I know my own sex is not exempt in the slacking department, I'll show you my inspiration image for Winter 09/10:

Nothing better than a fine boutineer and a spring in your step. I'm also ordering a set of chairs matching those in the image, posthaste (What would you term their style? I'm thinking "T. Burton Chinese Chippendale").

All images collected via BibliOdyssey. (I dream of my blog and BiblioOdyssey having a blog baby. It's about the coolest site ever).


Dirty Chairs

Am I the only one who finds these chairs both appealing and a little risque?

When I saw this picture of the White Rabbit Restaurant in Singapore I giggled. Or maybe tittered is a better word choice. The chairs are wearing stockings, for Pete's sake. I can't stop thinking of a footstool that once belonged to Madeleine Castaing that was supported by bared human legs in stockings and heels. I've searched for hours for an image, but it seems to have disappeared into the ether ... the story went that it came from a 19th century bordello.

Actually, I think this whole space has a certain Castaing vibe, or humor. The color, proportion, something about it strikes a chord. The search for the elusive footstool led me down a twisted path, and I fear I went through the entire Christie's catalog of her estate. Nutso, fantastic and awful all at once is all I have to say.

I mean, look at this thing:

An inkwell made from a fox head -- why not? And it sold for like 1100 BPS. I mean, I think it's sort of funny, but whatever would I do with an inkwell our cat Julius would probably try to groom? But maybe I could use it as a bargaining tool ... "Julius, you scratch that chair once more, and that's it! I'm making you into an inkwell!"

Briefly back to the chairs at White Rabbit: Another reason I love this scheme is its practicality: chair legs get dirty, especially in a restaurant. A fast and stylish solution, not to mention easy and cheap to copy.

White Rabbit spotted via an old post on yatzer.com. Fox inkwell via Christie's.


Good Bye, Sweet Flea ...

I adore Fall almost as much as I love Winter, but there are things that I miss in the cooler months: decent spinach, swimming, the Red House. But I miss flea markets most. There is nothing I would rather do than get up on the cusp of dawn and make my way to a dew-covered field, just like this one a few weeks ago:

I'm like a fish to water when surrounded by crap on blankets, spread out on the grass, in the backs of cars. One day I will disappear in a flea market, never to be seen again. People will ask, "Wherever did Nick go?" and Steven will sadly reply, "He ran off with the flea market."

When I make my escape, I will be wearing something like this:

My partner Steven says I look like a longshoreman, but this is utterly practical, my revolutionary costume du jour. Hands free, head warm but not hot, sailing bag stocked with banana and canteen, and enough space to carry everything I can buy before my money runs out. I will forever be grateful to my friend Paul's mom, Jeanne van Etten, for the gift of this bag ages ago.

All I can say is that it better snow a lot this Winter, to sooth this wounded heart until the Spring markets begin.
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