One night, in a bygone era, the Oscar de la Rentas gave a dinner party. And at that party, the following exchange took place:
Swifty Lazar, the famed literary agent, turned to the great Diana Vreeland (then-editor of Vogue), and said:
"The problem with you, dollface, is that your whole world is nostalgic."
D.V.'s response: "Listen, Swifty, we all have our own ways of making a living, so shut up."
And then she punched him right in the nose.
Now, you might think that this was a rather extreme reaction, but if you ask me, it was perfectly justified. For I, like Diana Vreeland, am an incurable nostalgist, and life is very difficult for this particular breed of creature these days. We can barely keep our noses above water, what with all of this IMing and texting and Blackberrying and podcasting and uploading going on. We have to fight hard to preserve our sepia-drenched outlooks.
So I would have hit Swifty Lazar too, just to take a stand.
To be fair, I guess that I enjoy my iPod as much as the next person, and I do keep a blog, which is an undeniably contemporary diversion. Even ole' D.V. admitted to the advantages of living in the age of penicillin.
But for all of the advantages of modern, whirring uber-connectedness, there are many instructive, old-fashioned rituals and pleasures that get lost in the shuffle or rudely shunted aside.
D.V. penned a renowned column titled "Why Don't You ...?." As an homage to her, and as an non-combative celebration of the useful applicability of nostalgia, I would like to introduce my own occasional column, titled: Let's Bring Back ...
Here is the inaugural offering:
* * *
Let's Bring Back...
Hats on men. A man in a hat just looks so cool. Not to mention polished and confident.
Record players. Preferably one in a leather case. There is something truly wonderful and evocative about a record popping on an old player.
Manners. A conspicuously missing entity these days. Suddenly it's perfectly acceptable to tap on a PDA throughout dinner or let the lobby door close on someone carrying heaps of grocery bags. Emily Post would be crying into her hanky over this sorry state of affairs.
And on that note ... discreet voices. Oh, how we love to shriek into our cellphones, and make sure that everyone in a restaurant knows every detail of our fevered little lives.
Handwritten thank-you notes. Thoughtfully written ones, too...not just the usual dull laundry list of the gifts received. By the way, I received an absolutely beautiful handwritten wedding invitation last week, and it was such a joyous departure from the usual bland beige nuptial notices that clog the American postal system.
Crudite platters. I'll admit that this is eccentric of me, but they're just so Jackie Kennedy, circa 1961. Excepting, of course, those bloated, gummy canned olives. Those can be left happily in crystal candy-dishes of the past.
Road trips. Cross-country, Kerouac-style. With a dog in the backseat.
Old-fashioned hotel lobbies. These clinical, gimmicky Ian Schrager-affairs crawling with headset-donning staffers give me the creeps. And makes me long for a gin-and-tonic. Check out: the Baron Hotel in Aleppo, or the American Colony in Jerusalem. Or the courtyard at Chateau Marmont. That's the way to do it.
Fountain pens. Oh, and scented inks, too. Divine. I was particularly gratified to learn this past weekend that lemon juice makes an excellent invisible ink, which 'appears' when the paper is held up to candlelight.
Lipstick. I'm bored to sobs of that ubiquitous sticky gloss. Let's bring back old glamour. Old Hollywood knew what it was doing. Red, please.
Libraries. Public ones and personal ones. Along with those lovely bookplates for the front covers, the ones that say: This Book Belongs To ...
Lunch ... as opposed to brunch. The former is so much more dignified. Why would you want to see anyone before noon on a weekend anyway?
Good posture. Next time you walk past a manicure salon, peek in the window at the women getting their nails done. I'll bet you a million bucks that they're all sullenly slumped down in their chairs, as though they'd been shot.
World-tour honeymoons. Banish the sluggish, clichéd resort retreat.
Manual cameras. With black-and-white film. Particularly good on the Kerouac-style road trip. A Pentax K-1000 takes all of the wretched passivity out of taking pictures. And they won't just sit there blobbily on your hard drive afterwards.
Sunday roasts. In which you invite your family and friends late in the afternoon. This is a particularly nice ritual if you happen to like your family and friends.
Bright white tennis clothes. Because they just look so damn fresh.