When my brother turned 16, my father said he'd buy him a car. Then Dad got that same look Buckley used to get on Firing Line just before he took Janie Liberal to the mat. My grandma calls it "the Irish crazy eyes."
"Any car you want," he added.
In the few seconds it took my brother to respond, my mind raced through more car possibilities than the Whopper did nuke codes in War Games. Would my brother go for the obvious and take himself straight to the nearest Beemer dealership? Or would he opt for a classic, like Mr. Johnson's mint-condition '66 Mustang convertible on blocks down the street?
My brother got a broad smile across his face, and with diamonds in his eyes replied, "I want a 1981 Cadillac Seville."
Later he explained, in his own way, why.
"Tanya, that car was built for drugs. It's filled with lights and compartments, and even the compartments have lights!"
He got the car. The seats in it had been rigged by the previous owner so that they were permanently reclined. It was a fastback with an all-leather interior and tinted windows, known to us as "daddy's caddy." To our local police department it was known as "the pimper."
I drove my brother's car. Once. Mine was in the shop and I took it down the titty-bar/pornshop strip downtown. For the first time in my life, bums waved at me. A wino who was halfway through the crosswalk ran back to the corner so I could roll past.
That was my brother's dream car.
I have a feeling it's probably also Ari Goldman's, the fortyish Israeli emigre who owns Exotic Rentals and employs a German wolf named "Wolf" as muscle.
Wolf's got Lamborghinis, Porsches, Jaguars, Hummers, Bentleys, Corvettes and motorcycles. A Ferrari will run you around $800 a day, while the comparatively effete Mazda Miata is $130. The Benz is, as always, wedged conservatively in the middle at $350. Renters must be 18 years or older. Cash deposits and payments are accepted, "no questions asked."
Ari's slogan is, "Every man wants one, and every woman wants a man with one."
So why don't you skip that NYU Gender Studies class one sunny Tuesday afternoon and do some fieldwork? Head down to Exotic Rentals, put the Ferrari on Dad's "only in emergencies" gold Amex and slap Ari's hairy Israeli ass on the way out.
Cast-Iron Furniture Urban Iron 246 W. 18th St. (betw. 7th & 8th Aves.), 646-486-0925
Located in an airy storefront in Chelsea, Urban Iron sells the work of five Mediterranean artisans who specialize in both wrought-iron furniture and mosaics. The wonderfully named Sammy Kebbab, the store's proprietor, recently moved to New York after opening the original Urban Iron in Paris.
Urban Iron's best pieces are the simplest ones, which utilize the Muslim design language of geometric repetition. A spectacular living-room set in the front showroom, for example, is a stark, linear construction covered with off-white linen cushions. Sitting on the pieces is an adaptively comfortable experience: a little stiffer than I'm used to, but rejuvenative nonetheless, much like sleeping on a futon.
Urban Iron, which will custom-design merchandise upon request, is packed with goodies for the sybarite as well: box-like daychairs filled with pillows, conjuring up the not-unpleasant sensation of naptime in the playpen; intricately wrought headboards that unexpectedly flute at the ends; a series of smaller knickknacks for the iron aficionado with little cash to spend.
The furniture is less successful when it deviates from the easy Mediterranean style that provides the store's inspiration. One chair evinced a vaguely 17th-century s&m torture-rack quality?maybe it was the iron tassel that dangled like a threat from the back of it. Another set was made of a sort of airbrushed-looking laminated iron that's the kind of tacky that's still a couple years too new to settle into the solid kitsch it's destined for. The squirrely circles that extended from the furniture's arms evoked a frozen water sculpture or a bit prop from Peewee's Playhouse, and the seat cushions were a strange orange color.
Propped up on the sides of the walls and in the back of the store are meticulously rendered mosaics made from various materials: marble, what resembled malachite and some ceramic from a building torn down in Algeria, Sammy's native country.
"See this imperfection, and this one, and this one?" Sammy says, pointing out several off-tiles in a tabletop that looks, from a distance, like a magic puzzle. "They're from the fingers, and we wouldn't ever correct them because they give uniqueness to each piece."
Iron furniture, at least in the United States, is the stuff of outdoor patios and of midwesterners loyal to their Moroccan Magic decor (scrims, deep cushions, windcatchers), so it's interesting to see this stuff tarted up and marketed with an "exotic" angle for use inside city apartments. Ultimately, Urban Iron's success will depend on how well this money-buys-organic premise plays out with its clients: She's a darkpeachfuzz producer who eats meat for esthetic reasons and he's a semi-gorgeous, semi-successful Semite with a dollop of hair in front of his face. And such people, of course, tend to pay for their luxury imports by the imperfection.
Flowers for Your Mother www.marthabymail.com
If your mother's at all typical, she likes getting flowers, and especially?no surprise?for Mother's Day. For those of you who are tired of the offerings at your local florist, but want something more than the $10-per-dozen specials that the corner bodega peddles, there are great flowers available from Martha Stewart's web concern. The queen of fetishized domesticity's rounded up all her editors and assistants and taken a trip to the Aalsmeer flower auction in the Netherlands, where she's chosen a whole range of flowers: amaryllises, hyacinths, tulips, carnations, oriental lilies, daffodils and?as if that weren't enough?13 different roses, in everything from russet and peach to pale-pink and konfetti. Point and click your way toward ordering whatever bunch of flowers you think will compensate for all the shady tricks you've pulled on your mom since last Mother's Day, and you're all set. Then all you have to do is wait for delivery.
I'd select the bunch of 25 roses if I were you?it runs $52. If you want to get her a really huge bunch, the kind she'll brag about to the in-laws, then 50 stems will set you back $98. I was pleased to learn that Martha "personally selected" all the flowers featured on the site, and I was even happier to find out that the flowers arrive with closed buds, in order to maximize their vase-lives in maternal kitchens. The site also specifies exactly how to care for the flowers. (One teaspoon of sugar and two drops of liquid bleach per gallon of fresh water in the vase apparently does the trick for most.)
Actually, the site's got an entire subsection devoted to Mother's Day, under the "Holidays" heading. One screen proffered a bunch of appropriate gifts, but I was partial to the pashmina wraps and scarves I found. Why not start Christmas shopping now? The wraps ($425) and scarves ($198) are all handwoven and hand-dyed.
My mother appreciates a cup of tea, however, so after poking around under the "Cooking And Baking" section, I found some nice teas in a box. They ran the gamut from Earl Grey, Russian Country and Smoky Lapsang Souchong to green teas like Genmaicha and Sencha. The box of eight teas contains 20 filters, a tea glossary and brewing instructions.
All flowers are shipped FedEx Priority Overnight. Shipping and handling costs depend on the cost of what you're ordering. If you're still not into e-commerce, you can call Martha at any point, 24-7, at 800-950-7130.