Perfect Day (2008)

Lynn Yaeger

For as long as I can remember, I've spent my weekends trolling the aisles of upscale stores and antique shows, gazing at objects that offered solace in a chaotic and often unlovely world. In the last several weeks, when people sought comfort at makeshift vigils, I found myself, as usual, drifting to my old friends, even if their windows were stripped of merchandise and full of flags. So it's no surprise that, despite the horrors of the recent past and the horrors to come, my perfect day still begins with me staring up at what is one of the most breathtaking sights in the retail pantheon—the ceiling of the main floor of BERGDORF GOODMAN (754 Fifth Avenue, 753-7300).

Photograph by Sylvia Plachy
The uniformed doormen may be gone, the penthouse apartment the Goodman family inhabited long replaced by a beauty parlor, but that ivory and pink plaster wedding-cake ceiling is every bit as resplendent as it was in 1928, the year, smack between two world wars, when Bergdorf's opened.

Since it's my perfect day, I'm wearing something splendid yet raffish, something that could have cost $10 or $1000 and that gives me the air of a faded Italian movie star. I whisk myself up to Bergdorf's fifth-floor café and settle in for a pre-shopping snack. Ordinarily, I'd order the chicken and watercress salad with low-fat vinaigrette, an unappetizing plateful of scraps, but if we've learned anything recently, it's not to take small pleasures for granted, so I go for the calorie-stuffed chicken, avocado, and bacon sandwich instead. Lunch over, I look around the Voyage department (overdecorated, overpriced, undersized cardigans from England), then take the escalator—brutally cut into the walls of the old girl a couple of decades ago—to the third floor, where the weary saleswoman in the Eskandar department (underdecorated, overpriced, oversized cardigans from England) eyeballs me warily, remembering, maybe, the times (surely not more than three? five?) I've bought and returned one of her charges. I swan around the floor, past Dolce and Demeulemeester, Gaultier and Ghesquiere, gazing at myself in every mirror. And I look divine!

At PRADA (724 Fifth Avenue, 664-0010), a half-block away, there's the new fall line to examine, though this year's cartridge bag—an item that has lately taken on a whole new connotation—is, for obvious reasons, nowhere near as enthralling as last year's much wept-over red gladstone. "Hello, Lynn!" shouts the saleswoman, a pert blond who used to work in the antique jewelry department at ABC Carpet and knows me from the days I visited a 19th-century diamond bird at her counter a couple of thousand times.

Photograph by Sylvia Plachy
Next stop is FENDI (720 Fifth Avenue, 767-0100), and here the staff is pretty excited to see me because I'm carrying a Fendi bag, and they're probably thinking, "Ooh la la, she was a sucker once, maybe she'll buy something today!" Unfortunately for them, my Fendi, a tote strewn with glued-on paper flowers so nutty everyone thinks I defaced it myself, was purchased at the Fendi outlet in Woodbury Common at a spectacular discount. (Gee, wonder why nobody bought it at full price?)

If I'm not exhausted, and I'm not, I walk up Madison Avenue, taking in all my personal landmarks—the $1000 enamel baby-shoe charms in the window of AARON BASHA (680 Madison Avenue, 935-1960), the fairy-tale dresses at MORGANE LE FAY (746 Madison Avenue, 879-9700), the loden hunt clothes at BERETTA (718 Madison Avenue, 319-3235). I reach into one of those plastic boxes that dot even Madison Avenue and extract a free copy of this week's Dan's Paper, the bible of the Hamptons, since I have an imaginary house in Montauk and like to keep up with the neighborhood. I'm considering trekking up to EDITH WEBER (994 Madison Avenue, 570-9668), a jewelry store so fancy they once sold George Washington's ring, but I'm dying for coffee, and it's hard to just grab a cup in these parts if you don't want to go to one of those bistros full of tiny ladies with pickled faces. Luckily, there's the VIAND COFFEE SHOP (673 Madison Avenue, 751-6622), a pleasantly squalid dump (no bathrooms) across from Barneys. Though I'm alone, I explain to the counter guy that it's my perfect day, and he lets me have a little table instead of making me sit at the counter. At the last minute, I order a slice of cherry pie and—why not?—vanilla ice cream. Then I open my Fendi, pull out Dan's Paper, and dream of happier times ahead.


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