Friday, March 25, 2011

Fun With Furs!

This morning the Missus came downstairs carrying three fur coats, all tangled up in a heavy bundle. I knew of course she wanted them put into cold storage for the upcoming summer, so I took them from her and off I went to our local furrier.

Compared to finicky matrons who handle their furs with such delicate care, I've always admired the casual way the Missus treats her coats - as rough and tumble as the minks and leopards themselves in the wilds of nature. The jumble of furs piled next to me there on the car seat consisted of two sables and a lynx - easily approaching a half-million bucks in value, if not more.

While repetition and boredom can be a big part of my job, on this particular errand I was looking forward to the trivial and entirely unnecessary scandal I was about to create. Sure enough when I walked into the exclusive women's salon and headed toward the fur department, heads turned and eyebrows lifted. You see, I was looking a little rugged this morning with a miserable hangover, unshaven, tangled hair, and ratty old Levis to boot. With the irreverent bundle of furs I was carrying, I knew very well I gave the appearance of some strung-out hoodlum trying to hock some goods from a house I'd just knocked off. No proper fur hangers, no "breathable" cloth bags. Just a half mil of exquisite furs, all plopped down there on the counter.

I'm almost afraid to tell you there was a drizzle this morning, and the coats were slightly damp. But so what? You think a mink or a leopard, or a glamorous lady hailing a cab on Park Avenue never got caught out in the rain?

So anyhow, the patrons in the store and the newer clerks looked dismayed as I had expected. But the manager, a wise old dear who knows that furs need not be pampered, was as pleasant as always. I handed her my card and said, "We glazed them last year, so just cleaning and storage." (The Missus doesn't believe in glazing too often - nor do I, for that matter. I can use the ancient technique of cleaning furs with corncobs as good as anybody else. But when given the option, it's always better to let a professional do it, right?

With this unnecessary drama being accomplished, on my way out I paused to thoroughly examine a $20,000 lady's leather jacket, just to aggravate the clerk who had given me such a scowl when I first walked in. I don't know why I'm like this - just a mean streak I guess. But unjustified arrogance always grates on the nerves.

Then having thoroughly annoyed the clerk and my task complete, off I went just in time to catch McDonald's breakfast special - the Sausage Biscuit for $1.00 - back to reality.

Thanks for stopping by tonight.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Do Rich People Pee Outside?

Whoa! What a crazy question. But I'll jump in and go along.

As best I can determine, the fun of peeing outside seemingly crosses both socio and economic boundaries. When the Mister and Missus come home late at night, she dashes for the house but the Mister goes directly to his favorite tree.

I was outside one night with the Great Danes and accidentally interrupted him. But he went about his business and mentioned "What an amazing moon we have tonight". Never mind he was drunk and no moon in sight - except maybe his.

Miss Helen and I worked in a five-star hotel once where the general manager would take his young son out to the balcony of his penthouse apartment and teach him how to pee into the bushes below.

But I honestly don't think this is a gender issue at all. In fact, I have some female-gender friends in Colorado, the out-doors type, who can go behind a tree as good as any guy!

As an experienced traveler on four continents, I think America is the only country on earth that forbids peeing outside, with fines and jail at stake. What's that all about? Something to do with our Puritan background, I guess.

In any case, to those asking this hysterical question, I hope the answer's been fun and somewhat informative. I certainly had fun writing it!

Thanks for reading and stopping by tonight,


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Miss Helen Might Be Coming!

I don't mean to disturb you tonight with personal issues, but I have this huge problem in my otherwise ridiculous life - my dear friend Miss Helen might be coming for a visit.

We once worked in a five-star hotel together, the Mansion On Turtle Creek, when I was exploring and working my way across the country, and she was undecided about what to do after graduating SMU in Dallas - a school for rich little brats and an absolute hotbed of social rest.

I knew her late mother and father, a Senator in Mississippi, and for many years we've shared all the joys, successes, loss and pain that life has to offer. She's currently a consultant at the World Bank in Washington. But consulting in what is the question - my best guess is teaching developing countries how to safely uncork a bottle of champagne. She shows up at all the yacht races in Newport and Sydney. And postcards from a climb up Machu Picchu,  Bali, or a tossed-off weekend at The Phoenician in Scottsdale are not uncommon.

When we first met and were comparing travels, I mentioned a very remote isolated beach in Greece called Pelekas, on the western island of Corfu. Few travelers (except for weary, broke students from northern Europe) know about this unique spot. But Miss Helen instantly replied, "I've been there!"

I was shocked, a little annoyed, but enamored at the same time - an explorer and traveler after my own heart. And we've been friends ever since. I listed her as a reference when first applying for this current job with a billionaire family. The Mister and Missus (on speaker phone) actually spoke to her, and the Missus said to me later, "I wouldn't mind meeting her someday."

And therein lies the problem. If Miss Helen visits here, she is every bit my employers' social peer! In their presence, protocol and professional ethics demand that I never mix my personal life with their own. I never sit down in their presence and certainly I could never sit with them at a table for dining. It just can't happen in my world.

So what am I to do? Serve drinks to Miss Helen and my employers while I stand there like a butler? This is not an embarrassment for me, don't get me wrong. Miss Helen and I would laugh about it later. It's just confusion among the socioeconomic classes.

Crossing boundaries is very tricky in this job. I'm the butler and servant after all. I'm absolutely sure I can handle this, but can my employers, and things remain the same? That's the question - the consternation.

Thanks for letting me share this tonight, and will keep you updated as to how it goes. Meanwhile, if you have any advice, please let me know.

Good night,

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Personal Shopper for a Billionaire!

One of the most fun things about this job is shopping for the house and the family I work for. The fact that they're billionaires is icing on the cake with a seemingly unlimited budget. I was issued a corporate credit card when first hired, and no matter what I spend, the corporation replenishes the account immediately - like having a magic purse.

Normally I can go through several thousand a month just for food, wine, floral arrangements, and household items to keep the place running smoothly. But if there's a major holiday or important cocktail parties in the works, my credit card balance can shoot up into the tens of thousands. 

Like if I need to order a kilogram of Beluga caviar for a large cocktail party, there goes $6,000 or $7,000 right there. (My heart always skips a beat when I hit the "Add to Cart" button - especially if I need two kilograms, in which case I'm near sweating.)

Imagine what it's like to go shopping for this family and buy whatever you wish - the most expensive array of imported cheeses, the choicest cuts of meats, the freshest shrimp and wild Atlantic salmon, fruits, berries, nuts, expensive deli crackers and chocolates - all without so much as glancing at the price.

The Mister is always grumbling about household expenses. One month when my account topped fifty thousand (it was December and there were several cocktail events in the house) he mentioned that "We need to cut back". When I reported this to the Missus who runs the house, she simply replied, "Things are as they are - don't worry about him, I'll take care of it."

I should also mention that if there's a major event involving the events planner, musicians, tents and canopies, caterers, waiters, bartenders, security and valet parkers - that doesn't go through my budget. This kind of party can hit a hundred thousand or more in nothing flat, and is paid for by the corporation.

When I first started working here all this extravagance took my breath away. But I'm way over it now and just hope that after each party there'll be a little left-over Beluga and champagne.

As always, thanks for dropping in this evening,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tips on Silver Care!

I'm sure you've seen those ads on TV where you dip a piece of jewelry or a silver fork into a liquid and it comes out sparkly clean and shiny, right? Very nice. But honest to God, don't ever do that! Seriously!

Any time you polish silver you're removing a micro-amount of the precious metal itself. When dealing with sterling, you're ok. But when polishing silver plate it's only a matter of time until you polish all the way through the thin layer of silver to the base metal underneath. (We have some silver-plated serving platters here that have been polished so often that the copper metal underneath shines through.) So rule number one, polish as infrequently as you can get away with.

Second, these liquid dips not only remove more silver than regular polish, they can easily destroy the patina (the unique appearance) of the silver object. In our modern culture, old things (except for people) are considered valuable. All the tarnish down in the fine filigree work of a silver object or the handle of a sterling spoon or fork is highly desired and ostensibly (not always) adds to its value. With regular routine polishing you're safe because you cannot remove this deep tarnish or destroy the patina with a simple cream polish.

However, the dips we see on TV can remove all the desired tarnish and leave your employer's precious, prized possessions looking like something shiny and new from Walmart. And you can easily lose your job for this transgression!

With over three hundred silver ornaments, platters, vases, picture frames and objet d'arts in this house (not to mention hundreds of pieces of flatware), the first thing I did when I started working here was to get everything polished and brought up to maximum peak appearance. You can use Wright's Silver Cream, it's good. I prefer Goddard's (not that it's any better than Wright's) but simply because it's a British company and I've heard through the grapevine that Regina uses Goddard's in both Buckingham and Windsor Palaces.

So now I can maintain this peak appearance simply with old-fashioned silversmith gloves. Around here we use Goddard's "Silver Polishing Mits". With these I can walk all around the house, pick up any silver object and handle it gently with these gloves (on a regular basis) and not have to go through the long, laborious process of polishing each and every piece, month after month.

Unfortunately these gloves are very rough on the skin and nails, so you'll need to wear some thin medical-type rubber gloves before putting on the silversmith gloves. Make sense?

That's all I've got tonight. Just wanted to advise you not to ever destroy your prized possessions by dipping them in some unknown destructive chemical you see on TV. I'm not getting kickbacks for product endorsement here - just sharing what knowledge I've got. Silver care is a real challenge in both time and labor. And there's definitely ways to minimize the effort.

As always, thanks for stopping by,