Pamela Harris

Posts in the Books Category

Stay in Your Lane August 25, 2013

I just finished this freelance gig and am bone tired. I used to crew on low budget features which meant 5 a.m. call times and 6 day work weeks and I loved it, working without a break for months if necessary. This job had a mind numbing quality, a repetitive sameness with no end in sight where you come in every day and do the same thing with little variation. When I couldn't sit there for another second I'd do book runs , but I'd also cruise around and take the temperature of the place. I was working for a large white collar corporation and it takes a ton of cogs to keep it moving. In this environment the jobs are very defined if your not the bosses bosses boss and the 'stay in your lane' mentality as a friend perfectly put it is paramount to thriving here.

What I liked about the job is it got me out of my life for just long enough to see what I'm doing with fresh objectivity. I also got to learn new business practices and apply them to what I do. Stepping away from my routine lets me see and burn out any dead wood I might be sitting on. Plus, given it was a publishing house, I got to rebuild part of my library and meet interesting people. This job made me very grateful for what I do and I can't wait to dive back into my routine tomorrow with Joe, with the dog and with my work.

Pitbull Monday on Tuesday April 23, 2013

I'm very happy that people are signing up to follow my blog. Yesterday's post took precedence over Pitbull Mondays; it was hard to write and when I finished it I just wanted to get it up there. For quite a few years I've been working on a book about my past and addiction and getting clean, and quite a few people in my life, especially some of my professional relationships, don't know my history. Or I don't think they do, yet I could be way off since they know my work and the themes that run through it. Yesterday's post put it out there and what was nice was, after I posted it I didn't think much about it. I've come to accept my history for what it is - simply my history - and I'm no longer attached to the story of my past. My past is the past, my present the present and I wouldn't have what I have today if I hadn't had what I had then.

Everyone thinks their dog is the prettiest and greatest and will get into the best kindergarden and maybe be president but mine really is and will be. She'll chase a ball now and a week ago wouldn't. She learned big dog moves by playing with big dogs and is trying them out now at the dog park. The weather is warm and she won't come in the house, so getting her upstairs has become a royal tug o'war. Our next door neighbor is Claus Oldenburg, the artist who has a show up at MoMA, and his front door and garage has become her favorite poop spot. It's like the dog is leaving him a congratulatory gift and all I can say is Mr. Oldenburg is very cool when he sees me bent over cleaning his driveway.

Henry Flynt February 22, 2013

A friend of mine sent me a link to an artist he discovered named Henry Flynt. I never heard of the guy and looking around I found this invite from 1961 inviting people to hear music at Yoko Ono's house. The list of people performing is incredible, but what's more fascinating is how they all must have known each other. This is why I love technology: what museums used to do - show me 'x' across a room from 'y' in a way that lets me make associations - is now what the internet does. I can research almost anything and surf my way into far out ideas and connections. Granted, online content is still fueled by humans, but hopefully science is working hard to change that.

Not My Mother's Jewelry December 7, 2012

There was once this blue chip art dealer who used to schlump around her home in a frumpy house coat and slippers while wearing a million dollars worth of jewelry. She was my idol.

My thing with beautiful jewelry started after 9/11 - literally, days after. I was roaming up Prince Street looking for nothing, simply getting out to get out of my home and head. The wind had changed direction and my neighborhood was filled with a smog of white ash and the few of us out wandering stopped for brief hello's even though we didn't know each other. After a few blocks I was ready to turn around and absently stopped outside a jewelry store, Reinstein Ross. In their window they had postcards of their jewelry leaning on tiny stands, showing dainty and carefully made gold and beaded rings and bracelets, and I just stood there, staring. Their jewelry was charming and sweet and, maybe because of how little it meant in the big picture it suddenly meant a lot.

Over the next few years, if I found myself midtown with time to kill I'd roam into Bergdorf's and look at their jewelry counters, then walk down Fifth Avenue and bang out Tiffany and Van Cleef's windows. I still do that and once in a while I even go online to look at what's coming up at the Sotheby's or Christie's jewelry auctions. What I've discovered is I don't envy or covet or lust for these things; it's more, there's something about the perfection of beauty that lets me clear my head, shake out a demon or two, let my thoughts mindlessly roam.

I'm quite happy flopped on the couch, fishing around in my pants for nothing in particular, Joe sitting next to me mining a pint of ice cream as we stream tv episode after episode like a couple of crack heads. When I'm on a deadline, like I am now, I become a real bore since all I can think about or see is the thing I'm working on. Zoning out on a tv show or a Lorraine Schwartz bracelet is the pause that lets me reset.

Usually when I'm working like this I don't go out much, but this week I said yes to everything. I had a concert, a quiet dinner, a dinner party/game night, a birthday party (great drag queens), a lunch and a book party. My friend Pam shares a similar love for jewelry and she invited me to the book party because it was being held at Verdura, which meant good jewelry ogling.

Pam first needed to make a pit stop at Taffin, James de Givenchy's jewelry showroom, a jeweler high on my ogle list. By the time we got there most of his inventory had already been put in the safe, but he led us around his showroom before the rest went in. I found myself staring into a glass dome that held an exquisite diamond bracelet that had half-inch long bronze colored eggs hanging from it. The eggs were elegant, studded with tiny diamonds, and I couldn't figure out what they were made out of. He took the bracelet out of the case and fastened it onto my wrist and surprisingly, despite the size and number of eggs, the bracelet weighed nothing. I looked closely at the eggs, still not able to figure out what their material was.

"It's an AK47," he said.

"You mean the gun?" He nodded. "You're repurposing AK47's?"

"It's a new material I'm working with." He pulled out a 4-inch egg, also studded with diamonds. Small squares of metal overlapped to create a surface that stayed cool despite my hand being around it. Maybe I was cool to it; magnified to this size, the egg felt like a grenade. It got me thinking about a piece of jewelry's history, how it moves from hand to hand, auction house to auction house, mother to daughter, friend to friend, father to son, the meaning it imbues and embeds and carries. James de Givenchy seemed quite respectful of the material, and though I later read about this collection being an agent of change and of being about new possibilities, I got the sense that he had removed it's history and was in the process of simply making the metal his. Is that what we all do with history?

After Taffin we went to Verdura and once Pam said her hellos (she does PR for a publisher) we wove through a few rooms, ogling this and that. I love Verdura's old-school cuffs and jewelry from the '40's, especially the over the top tacky pieces. Verdura I would pile on, and as the rooms got more and more crowded that's what women were doing. I've never been to a book party where guests were that interactive with their surroundings, but then again I've never been to a book party that was catered like this one was. Whoever did the food was killer -- fried sage leaves, yellow pepper mousse in parmesan spoons, salmon wrapped in crepes with chives, filet with a red pepper coulis, arctic char on a puree of fava beans -- all of it bite-size and beautiful. After Pam and I had our eye fill of jewelry we found a nice couch to sit on where waiters brought tray after tray of these gorgeous little snacks, and since no-one else was eating our couch became food central. I stuffed my face and would've knocked over a few Gulf Stream socialites to palm a few more of those sage leaves if I had to, that's how good they were. After an hour I was ready to go home, as was Pam, and though the waiters were sorry to see us go we happily rolled on out of there.

Scooter Pie November 27, 2012

Last week I was cleaning out folders and found an old drawing I did in college of a riderless horse. The horse was saddled up and waiting, its head hung low. The image made me think of me and my dad, way back when I was twelve. When my mother and sister would fight we’d head for the end of the driveway where he'd smoke and I'd hang around next to him. There we'd be, the both of us, saddled up and waiting.

Back then, after my father moved out, two months after I bought my first pack of cigarettes, he moved back in. My parents started going out six nights a week and though I barely saw my dad something had changed. He was quieter, more mournful, distracted. “Want to go play Skee-Ball?” I’d ask and he’d point into the ether, toward a phantom somewhere he had to be. My mother was in a great mood from their non-stop whirl of dinner parties, but with him I was feeling left out. Was it me?

My sister Shelley was also out and I was left with huge chunks of time in an empty house. I was halfway through the sixth grade, still a straight A student, and I’d study, practice my cello, write in my journal, read and smoke.

Late one afternoon I tucked my cigarettes into my sock and went for a ride on my bike. I had been so caught up in school I had forgotten the pleasure of cruising the neighborhood. I pedaled to the end of my street then zigzagged onto the next, past the Craft house. The Crafts had just bought the White's house, a neat extended ranch that was cocooned by perfectly manicured shrubs. I hadn't met the Crafts yet but knew they had a bunch of girls and a boy and one of the girls, Janet, was only a year older than me. As I slowly rode by a voice from a back bedroom said, “You're a Harris, right?” I stopped and tried to see who was speaking to me.

"I’m Janet. Your sister's cool. Come in the front."

She noticed me. I had seen her in the woods behind the Junior High, near the sixth grade building, but my friends were twelve like me, not thirteen like her. I nervously parked my bike.

I knocked on the front door and waited. Nobody answered so I cautiously let myself in. I entered a foyer that was part of a living room that was empty except for a broken three-legged chair. Maybe their furniture hadn't come yet. A wooden Christ hung crooked on the wall and a tattered Duraflame sat half-cocked in the fireplace. Hot pink carpeting, worn and stained near the kitchen, covered the floor. “Hello?' I said and waited a respectful amount of time for someone to show. No one did, so I followed the hot pink carpeting down the hall. As I passed the first bedroom a little blond girl came screaming out of it.

“Jinx ate Mr. Bubbles and Scooter Pie!” She ran into the kitchen and I saw her scramble over a picnic table and disappear into a room beyond it. Howling laughter came from the bedroom she ran out of and I anxiously looked in. The Craft boy contorted with hilarity as he pointed at an aquarium that had housed something furry, not fishy. My radar said gerbil. A black cat sat next to the cage licking its paws and I hesitantly looked closer at the aquarium. There on the bottom sat a little pile of gerbil paws and tails, with nothing in between. I backed out of the room and hurried down the hall.

Janet's bedroom was the last on the right and I knocked even though the door was open. She laughed at my politeness and waved me in. Though she was only a year ahead of me she seemed twenty with her curvy, bursting flesh, her older girl clothes, and the way she confidently twirled her waist length hair around her finger. She was curled up on a hot pink window seat smoking a Marlboro as she paged through Cosmopolitan magazine. I mentally chucked my trolls and stuffed animals under my bed. Janet waved me over and offered me a cigarette. She could smoke out in the open? She laughed as if reading my mind and held the pack out. I took a cigarette, lit up, and as she went back to her magazine I took in her room.

The window seat was part of a white Formica built-in that wrapped halfway around the room. Every draw in it was open, clothes stuttering to the floor. Plastic pink lip gloss, blush, pale foundation, blue eye-liner, eye lash curlers and mascara fell over the countertop, into the drawers, onto more pink carpeting. Two double beds, one sheet-less, the other a jumbled mess shared a faded dresser covered in sparkly jewelry. Nearby, a large closet was missing its doors and I saw wreckage piled waist high. The clothing rod had fallen down, or perhaps had never been put up.

Who were these people? My room was neat, thanks to my mother. I didn't know how many Crafts shared the bras, high heels, lacey under things and shiny bits that hung everywhere. There was something forbidden in that room, the same forbidden that smoking held. As I tried to make out what a green shimmery thing was Janet glanced at it. "Go ahead. Try it on."

She got up and twisted the green thing into a skimpy top. "Thank you, but that's okay." I didn't want to try it on.

"Go on. If it fits you can have it. It's my sister's."

I didn't want to try it on because Janet was easily a 'C' cup and I was still in a training bra. A training bra that, until a week prior, I had been wearing backwards. (A training bra is like a camisole that stops mid-chest. It’s wider in the front than the back. My pediatrician, Dr. Goldberg, kindly suggested that wearing it the other way around might be more comfortable.)

Janet was still waiting for me to respond. "Really, thank you, but that's okay." She smiled like a cat that just ate a gerbil and slinked back onto the window seat. I tapped my cigarette out. "Thank you for the cigarette."

She looked at me, amused. "See you at school," she said and I quickly exited.

I wasn't ready to process paws and tails, but heels and bras and all that glamour shimmied before me. It’s not that it appealed to me; it was that it existed, right here in my neighborhood.

I rode home and my dad was sitting in the den, smoking. He was dressed to go out and as I plopped down next to him my mother entered, dressed up in heels. My father quickly stood. "You look beautiful."

She smiled her thanks then turned to me. "Did you see your sister?" I shook my head. "Her boyfriend is not to come in this house. There's chicken in the fridge, brownies in the freezer, and please pick up your shoes." My father helped her into her coat and escorted her out. He didn’t look back and wink like he used to, even as I watched him drive away. What was going on here?

I moved to the other side of the couch, into his seat, and pulled a cigarette from my sock. For the first time ever I smoked a cigarette in the den. It felt like what adult must feel like: I'm just smoking in the den with my shoes off, watching TV. I rubbed my feet the way my dad did when he came home and pondered Janet's bedroom. Maybe all that glamour did appeal to me. Growing up was getting interesting. I couldn't wait to be thirteen.