Barefoot Vogue

I read my first Vogue when I was 7. I was at Dick’s market on West 10th, just up from the intersection of Alma and 10th Avenue. Dick’s served as our family corner store for decades; there was a big customer base just from our household, never mind our friends. I was often sent down with a note to pick up a pack of Player’s Light or soda for G & T’s. I was always happy to take on any nicotine or mixer requests and made myself handy and willing to take people’s cash. Inevitably, they would tell me to ‘keep a little for myself’ and so the ‘chore’ became a shopping trip.

Dick’s had uneven floorboards that could give you deep slivers so you had to pad gently along on the balls of your feet in summertime. It was a  long, narrow building and the smell of Chinese cooking floated out towards the front of the store and mixed with old sugar, dust, and exhaust from the street. There was a shelf for magazines above where the candy was so inevitably you looked up and had a glance. Ours was a family where reading trumped manners so it wouldn’t be unusual for several of my brothers to stand around reading and not buying, but Dick never seemed to get too chuffed about it. It was a little shameful–I’d seen Doyle’s stop mid-sentence to read something and never return to the conversation.  So, I always knew that if I took too long on my cigarette run, I could tell my brother I had ‘started reading something’ and likely be forgiven.

On this particular day, Dick was in the back and the store was empty, the only sound was the hum of the deep freeze pumping away to stay cool in the heat.  I counted out 5 little sweet banana candies which my brother said were so gross and stale but I liked the way I could keep one dissolving slowly in my mouth nearly all the way home. Then a word in red caught my eye above me: it was Vogue. I took it down and started to thumb through it. I don’t remember how long I was there but I heard Dick start laughing behind me suddenly and I threw the magazine up on the shelf and turned to hand over the note, the money, and the bananas. He said, “That isn’t for you! No! Not for you yet, not reading this stuff!” I smiled, like, oops, you’re right but I knew he was wrong. Dead wrong. That magazine was exactly for me. In fact, it was the only exact me thing in my entire world. With maybe the exception of my charm bracelet from Paris my mom and dad had given me.

I don’t remember exactly how long, but it was soon after that I cobbled together enough to buy my first Vogue. I’ve bought every month since. It was such an odd pairing, the pack of Player’s Light for my brother and me holding a Vogue but there was nothing like sneaking off and escaping into the September issue while the sounds of my house faded and Diana Vreeland and Pucci surfaced up and took me to Milan and New York. It became like a last line of defence for me throughout my life: If I couldn’t afford a Vogue then I may as well just pack it in.

This September is the biggest issue yet. They say that every year. They (namely Anna Wintour) literally have rolled out the same campaign since well, I’m not going to tell, it will age me. This year the lovely Lady Gaga is on the cover. I’m sitting down with it now so don’t call, I’m somewhere between Balmain and Chanel.



Filed under Memoir

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