It was July 2001. My Aunt B. was showing my family around New York City. One morning after breakfast, she proposed we go to Chinatown. We took the bus from Harlem and had lunch in a Burger King on Canal Street. Then she she walked us down an alley into a purse store.
"What kind of bag do you want?" the woman behind the counter asked. Louis Vuitton's and Chanel quilted shoulder bags hung from the ceiling in bunches like fruit. This concept of "knock-off bags" was completely foreign to us. We didn't even know buying them was illegal.
"Kate Spade," we said. We knew exactly the model, slim, multicolored shoulder bag that could fit our wallet, keys and Lip Smackers. The woman sold my sister and I nearly identical types. We came back to Mobile, Alabama and showed them off to all our friends.
"But where's the tag?" one of them asked. These knock-offs were so bad there wasn't even the signature white and black "Kate Spade" tag.
"You can get them with tags?" I asked, embarrassed that I'd missed the key part of the sale.
"Yeah," said our New York savvy friend. "you just ask for one and they glue it on with a hot glue gun."
Despite it's blatant tackiness, I carried that purse everywhere. Eight years later I'd move to New York City and have a house full of Kate Spade stationary, dishtowels and jewelry. My favorite piece was a wide, red gold bangle that read, "London Calling" bought in honor of my last-minute trip there in 2011. Walking into her stores was like being understood. The hemlines were modest, the styles a little 1950s with the right amount of color and quirk. I saw an interior design article with photographs of her home. I pinned them as inspiration.
Unfortunately I can't write about death with the same fluidity that I write about my life. My words feel really insignificant and staring at a cursor makes me feel debilitated. I could never write enough. I could write for 20 years and it would never be enough.
When I started writing this Weekly post, I realized how everything that happened was clouded by the shock I felt about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain's passing.
In brief: Saturday and Sunday went by in a blur. I cooked Alistair a homemade bolognese and we watched a film. Sunday I took him to the Cloisters and on a walk through Fort Tyron Park. Monday I had my bi-weekly writers group, preceded by an al fresco snack at Chanson (I had a Paris Brest eclair. Alistair, who is half French, scoffed at this, but it was delicious.)
Friday morning I got messages from everyone asking me if I'd heard the news. I looked at my Twitter for confirmation because it was the only app that would load fast enough. The first Tweet I saw was from Samantha Brown, a travel show host that had a feud with him for laughs. She had written "Dear God no." That was all the confirmation I needed.
When I think about Anthony Bourdain I remember how much I wanted to be him. Before every trip I take I watch his show (either "No Reservations" or "The Layover") for inspiration. Before heading to Las Vegas I watched his "Fear and Loathing" episode and was introduced to my muse: Hunter S. Thompson. (Most people don't know this, but I cure writers block by reading "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Its the only thing that can open me up and get me out of my box.) In that way, Bourdain and Thompson occupied the same space in my mind. I saw them as aspirational characters, on another level of self-awareness and irreverence and honesty. By some odd coincidence, they ended their lives in the same way.
Friday evening I cried a little.
Saturday morning I woke up at 8:30. The super and his assistant arrived at 10, and began work on the dead electrical outlet and the damage from the leak. The super pointed at a photo from my sisters deb ball (my dad in costume de rigueur, everyone else in ball gowns).
"Family?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said sheepishly.
"You have a beautiful apartment," he said. It was all Alistair's doing, he'd come by a few times and revamped the place. "You have baby?"
"Oh no," I said. Then touched my stomach, maybe I was bloated. I asked if he had a kid and he took out his phone to show me a picture of his daughter in a white dress, presumably as a flower girl, smiling.
They couldn't finish that day, because all supers take a lifetime to make a small repair. I took a nap, then dressed and hopped the train downtown. My sister was doing standup comedy and this was her biggest gig to date. I sat alone at a back table with a family of strangers. My sister was hilarious, the crowd really loved her. She made a joke about Kanye that almost brought them to their feet. I heard a table of bros in the back say, "this girl is good."
I left and walked south on Eighth Avenue just a block west of Times Square. The area is part of the usual tourist footpath, lined with chain restaurants, slow walkers, corporate hotels. I thought to myself, New York is best in the summer.