Sunday, January 01, 2006

that Crate & Barrel feeling

Xmas in NY part 3. Walking around the Americana shopping center in Manhasset I took note of how New York's demographics contrast with California. California has several distinct strata -- Hispanic, Anglo, Asian, and a sprinkling of everything else. New York is characterized by "everything else", but if I had to be more specific I'd say European and Asian, as broad as that sounds. In Manhasset I got the feeling that the entire staff of the UN and their families had spilled out for some holiday shopping. In Tiffany's it seemed like Latin America's best families had flown in to exchange a few items, while outside Brooks Brothers Asian men smoked in the freezing cold. I've always liked Manhasset, and this shopping center and I go way back. It wasn't always the emporium of high-end fashion that it is today. It used to be more practical and populist, with a Newberry's and a movie theatre and a bookstore. I liked it then and I like it now, although now there's not so much I would actually buy. I don't need or want that many clothes, and I don't wear jewelry. The whole place stinks of "bourgeois globalism", if I'm allowed to coin such a term.

The high point for me was Crate & Barrel. First of all, they sell useful things that are also aesthetically pleasing. It's a large store at the western end of the promenade; it's been there forever and therefore takes me back to the earlier decades of my life. As I've said, Manhasset exudes this vaguely intoxicating, uplifting feeling of comfort that is a synthesis of multiculturalism and bourgeois security. On a spiritual level it's very powerful, because it's tantamount to the hopes and dreams that all people have of a better life. Crate & Barrel possesses this spirit in a very pure form. I definitely felt it when I saw a well dressed Indian man looking at napkin rings. The sense was, "you've made it, now you can treat yourself to napkin rings".


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