Counter and Culture

Once the annoyances of work were out of the way, I checked the clock and thought that the line at Swan Oyster Depot might be of sufficient brevity to work with the brevity of my patience. The line was relatively short, but seemed to take a long time. At last, I was rewarded with a stool near the end of the counter:

I ordered crab cocktail, and while I waited for it to arrive with darkly crusty sourdough bread, I watched the ballet behind the counter. One guy was slicing smoked salmon paper-thin, while another cut up a few loaves of that delicious bread and a third performed the esoteric ritual of preparing fresh sea urchin to serve. It’s always busy at Swan’s, but somehow, once you grab that coveted stool and sit down, all the cares of the world disappear and you just feel happy and peaceful. And then there’s the food.

Next to me was a woman with a gumball sized diamond on her wedding finger (and a surprisingly nondescript husband/jewelry donor beside her). The ring almost defied even my jewelry appraising abilities, but I’m guessing ten carats and at least $100,000. Diamond told me it was her first time there, so I asked if she had cash (Swan’s doesn’t take plastic). This momentarily flustered her until she learned that Donor (unsurprisingly) had some. I made some suggestions, which were seconded by the gents behind he counter, and when the bread came, she exclaimed, “I never eat bread, but this is phenomenal!” Everything was “phenomenal”. I’m glad Diamond and Donor were happy, and when I left, I wished them a happy visit. She beamed and patted my shoulder. There I was, rubbing elbows (and shoulders) with the One Percent!

I kept with my modern theme of this visit by heading to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to enjoy their exhibit Designing Home: Jews and Mid Century Modern:

I loved this “Marshmallow” couch by Anni Albers, made in 1956:

I’m pretty sure I could write the great American novel if I only had this desk and chair, designed by Muriel Coleman in 1960, to write at:

I’m not normally a fan of wallpaper, but this “Aviary” paper designed by New Yorker cartoonist Saul Steinberg is so charming that I’d give it a try:

Another very gifted Saul was Mr. Bass, who designed these record covers for Columbia in the 1940s and ’50s:

When he wasn’t doing that, he was designing the striking opening credits for little flicks like “The Seven Year Itch”, “Vertigo”, and “West Side Story”. And when he wasn’t doing that, he ws designing iconic logos for United Airlines, Kleenex, UPS and countless others. You can see more of his remarkable work here.

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2 Comments


  1. Just because one has ten carat rings does not mean they know everything about life, in fact the one percent miss most of the more pleasurable things we the 99 percent take for granted, the beauty and simple things around us. I like these museum pieces, they remind me of my favorite times, the fifties, we called this type of furniture weird then and yet people still enjoy them today.


  2. Best decade ever!

    And good point, as always. 🙂

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