Sunday, March 22, 2015

Walk Away Renee

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a song that I suddenly realized is forever part of my life's soundtrack.  When it came on the radio that day, I was instantly transported to my hometown's Main St. walking with friends, all of us wondering and anticipating, whether we admitted it to each other or not, about our future loves and yes... husbands.  Walk Away Renee is a haunting song about longing and loss, a beautiful piece of music with lyrics I never really understood on those blustery Main St. walks when March winds threatened to lodge grains of sand into our bright eyes.

This past week the fragile songwriter of Walk Away Renee, Michael Brown died.  His group, The Left Banke, recorded it.  I read Brown's most famous piece was based on the unrequited love he had at the time he wrote the lyrics.  That love was Renee, the girlfriend of The Left Banke's bassist.  The day the song was recorded, Renee was in the studio and Brown's hands shook so much he had to record his harpsichord pairing later and alone. The song is about teenage heartbreak so piquant, it can still make me cry.

Michael Brown's talent couldn't survive the music industry but from all accounts he was a gifted and sensitive songwriter - there are many unreleased songs that we won't hear now.  The year "Renee" was launched was star-blessed for music but The Left Banke's baroque pop song was so different for the times with its soaring refrains and melting melancholy .  What is even more remarkable is that Brown was only 16 when he wrote Walk Away Renee.  It takes major heartbreak to understand first love's hardest lesson and he poignantly captured our ardent wish to relive it, only to discover that the things on love's stage are really rather plain and ordinary.  Until Walk Away Renee's last strain, it hurts so good.  Or maybe I don't really know what he's talking about.


And when I see the sign that points one way
The lot we used to pass by every day
Just walk away, Renee
You won't see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You're not to blame

Photo:  a greeting card an old love sent me, 1972.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Daisy Chain

My passion for daisies knows no bounds and I'm spotting the free-spirited perennial on nearly everything around me.  Yesterday I found a vintage silk scarf by famed scarf designer, Vera, peeking out from a basket of books at the junk shop near work.  It's so perfectly beguiling that I can't decide if it should be worn or framed.

Long the maligned filler in grocery store bouquets, the daisy seems to be bobbing its cheerful little head all over the place.  Or am I just imagining now that I'm a convert?  Pinterest has scads and scads of images of 1960's fashion when the daisy adorned everything from plastic ice buckets to Twiggy's headscarf above to rubberized swim caps.  I love seeing them on dresses and recall that a favorite of mine was encircled prettily at the empire waist with grass-green and white daisy rickrack straight from my grandmother's sewing basket. 

I noted that Carolina Herrera had daisies thriving on some of the most gorgeous dresses from her resort collection this past year.  Her flowers are dainty and ladylike with a charming déjà-new nod to the past.  And each with a center of golden sun.

For me, I know it is the retro element that's so appealing. That, and the end of a long cruel winter where I long for the embracing arms of warm sun.  I resisted the daisy juice glasses I found on eBay last week but the Vera scarf was spring's siren call.  And whether it elevates my ancient navy trench  or graces the empty wall above my bed, has yet to be determined...

"Don't you think daisies are the friendliest flower?" ~ Kathleen Kelly, You've Got Mail

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cape Town

When I buy something online, I always like to read the reviews first.  They can tip you off to mistakes waiting to happen.  But most reviews I find, are quite positive.  Best of all, some of them are well-written - even engrossing, and like a good salesman, they have the power to make me feel better about plunking down my money.
Years ago, a local magazine advertised woolen capes for sale on their back pages.  Included with the pictures of the capes were endorsements, née reviews, from women who had bought the capes.  Every month, new reviews would appear and I loved what these cape patrons had to say.  One woman wore her red cape to church on Easter Sunday and the minister stopped to compliment her on his way to the pulpit.  Before too long, I wanted one.
I never did buy a cape from the purveyor in the magazine but one day while poking around an Irish wool shop, I spotted two very pretty ones, a black one with fur trim and a caramel-colored one with a detachable collar.  I tried each on and undecided, bought them both.  It was a splurge but seventeen years later, my capes are still serving me. 
Capes make wonderful early spring outerwear.  In New England, most women are ready to burn their coats in winter's effigy around March 1st but there is still plenty of cold weather left.  Capes bring a whimsical, carefree (and cozy) element without the bulk of a puffy down coat or tiresome lint-ridden black wool jacket.  Wearing a cape instantly gives off airy romanticism.  They are very chic but like hats, one must be brave to wear one.  It will draw attention - others will wish that they too, could pull it off.  Or so I've been told.  Over and over.  For seventeen years.
I am lucky to have a cape that belonged to my grandmother in my collection.  It's a rich brown and tan Harris tweed with leather trim.  I wouldn't be surprised if it was bought it in the 60's after the movie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was released.  Maggie Smith resurrected the cape in that film and it had a little heyday.  Some great capes from then can still be found in vintage clothing shops.  And what's more, they are often in great condition because, well...some women are just not brave.