SEPTEMBER 1993 - 2/2
Thurs. 16: I buy a four-drawer file cabinet on sale so I can sort my berets by size and I start cutting new berets for the upcoming season.
There was something that nagged me particularly about my last interview at the Slavit's office. When Leonard had asked me about the second operation at St. Clare, and what the operation was for, he had looked at me in such a strange way... and now I understood what this look meant: he wanted to see if I believed what I was saying but now it hit me: repositioning some pins, that meant that Dr. Nailor had not screwed them in straight maybe, but did this make a new operation necessary, really? Was it going to hinder the healing if the pins were not absolutely perpendicular to the bone? Of course not. Then the operation was not necessary. But then why had he wanted it? Why had he put me through the ordeal, and the anxiety that preceded the ordeal?
I checked my file. I had one "operative record" for the procedure in the emergency room on May 23rd where I had been put briefly under general anesthesia while Dr. Nailor reduced the dislocation, that was the one that the TA doctor had said twice, two years apart, that the copy was so dark it was almost illegible, and one for the operation of May 29, but no operative record for the procedure of June 6th, about repositioning some pins.
I called someone at the records at St. Clare hospital and asked for a copy of the operative record of that date.
The lady at St. Clare says she has checked all the record and has found no report on the procedure of June 6th. But neither my attorneys nor the TA doctor nor the TA attorneys ever mentioned that they didn't have the document. The only thing the TA doctor whined about was that the operative record of May 23rd, a one page document, was too dark. BERETS
All day I work on my hats. Now that I know what people like, which in fact is nothing fancy, and now that I have improved the technique to the point of perfection, I have bought expensive fabric: a 35% cashmere and wool blend that drapes beautifully,in black, red, dark green and a midnight blue that is to die for. I really love this color because it is almost black yet not quite, it is a very mysterious color that is softer and more flattering than black. I'll also make red-and-black berets, with the red side sandwitched between the black headband and the black top. All these cashmere hats I'm going to line them with silk dupioni and they're going to be very, very classy yet unassuming.
I'll line the black with purple, the midnight blue with burgundy, the red with grey, the green with pale mauve and the red- and-black with a red, black and white plaid.
I'm not going to work with Tonia anymore. Now I am certain that all the stupid mistakes that she made and that irritated me so much were deliberate. For instance, early into our collaboration I had brought her three grey hats and three black hats to assemble, and she had assembled grey with black, which I noticed only once I was back home. I had had to climb back to her fourth floor apartment and ask her to disassemble and reassemble the hats correctly. She had sworn that she had not noticed because the light was dim, and I had had to believe her because the only alternative was that she had done it on purpose, to slight me, but I didn't see any reason why she would sabotage the work. After all I was paying her decent money that was all tax free.
Then she would rip the two pieces of fabric apart and I was concerned that this would make the pieces loose their shape and make them fray at the edge. And during the whole winter season she had kept making mistakes that made it necessary to disassemble the hats, but she always said that it didn't bother her one bit to do it. But she knew that it bothered me.
So this time I knew I couldn't count on her. I couldn't take the chance that she ruin the expensive fabric. For whatever reason she messed the work on purpose and I didn't want to deal with her bad faith, get stressed out and delayed because of her "mistakes" an pay her for getting on my nerves. So I organized myself to make the berets entirely on my own and finally, if I had to count the writing of the slips I wrote to keep track of the work I brought her and the money due, the trips to her apartment, the explanations and all, the time spent was shorter when I did it myself, and I had no hassle and no money to pay out for the work.
Besides, the money I paid her, she insisted to keep it off the books otherwise she would no longer be eligible for welfare, and I couldn't deduct the expense from my income, and in the dead of winter, it had amounted easily to $100 per week if not more. But I made it clear from the start to Mark and Winsome that what I paid them would be on the books and I asked for their Social Security number. They obliged since they had other work.
Now I remember a telephone conversation I had with Sophie where she had asked me about my new business. Her questions had not been so much about what I was making and selling. I could have spoken enthusiastically about my creations and felt frustrated that she did not inquire about that. What she inquired about was my organization. She wanted to know how many people worked for me and if I paid them on or off the books. I said I paid them on the books, why would I pay them off the books if that prevented me from deducting the expenses? I had not said that Tonia was the exception. So maybe she had gone behind my back and arranged, through an intermediary, to turn Tonia against me.
And to think of it, even Mark, Daphne and Winsome had, at some point, botched the work I had given them. These three were finishing the hats, which required more skill than Tonia had. Their job was to sew on the headband with the little "Voil…" leather label slipped in, and put the drawstring in. I had found them through an ad that I placed in the lobby of the Bretton Hall at B'way and 86th street.
The first job I gave to Winsome, she returned the hats with lots of what looked like bits or white african hair sprinkled all over the hats. I didn't dare to tell Winsome what I thought the stuff was, because she is black and she does have some white hair. But I had to mention the problem to her and tell her to be careful but she said that the particles didn't come from her, maybe from the woman who assembled the hats. Yet I was sure that when I got the hats from Tonia there was nothing on them. The stuff was clinging to the wool and it took me a long time to brush it off. And if I mixed the "contaminated" hats with other clean hats, the stuff might spread to other hats. A nightmare in perspective.
Another time Winsome made the stitches so small that the ultrasuede band was likely to be cut through since it is not a woven material and I had to tell her. How could an experienced seamstress make such small stitches with a layer of thick wool, a layer of ultrasuede and a layer of lining? And then once I arrived when she was finishing a hat and she cut the hole for the drawstring to come out only after she had finished stitching it. I had shown her all the different steps, and even if I hadn't, common sense dictated that it was easier to cut the hole before the second stitching. She showed me how she did it and I saw her pierce the ultrasuede with sharp scissors and she said with finality that that was how she did it.
As for Mark, it was with the topstitch that there was a problem. Last summer when he answered my ad, I had given him summer hats with the request that he make the topstitch the same color as the terrycloth and I had given him the matching thread. But so much for a decorative effect: the topstitches were of irregular length and he explained that the "dog" of his sewing machine didn't work properly. Also he insisted in using a serger to stop the edge of the terrycloth half-lining, and he used white thread regardless of the color of the lining, and it gave the hats a factory-made look, which was the opposite of the desired effect. What I wanted instead was a zig-zag in the same color as the lining but I could never bring him to do as I asked.
With the winter hats, once he stitched the headband wrong side out, and said that he couldn't tell the right from the wrong side when in fact the difference was obvious. "You have to tell me." he said. Another time the thread on the topstitch was broken but he had finished the hat without fixing it so that when the lining was in place it was no longer possible to repair and I considered the hat unfit to be sold.
And while they were doing these things that irritated me, doing the opposite of what common sense dictated after presenting themselves as experienced with a sewing machine, they always acted happy to see me and treated me politely and with a certain deference, although I didn't act like I was the boss. I behaved like we were all engaged in a fun occupation that might become successful and profitable for everybody. Since I had found what people wanted early into the winter season, my sales had been good most of the time, and when they weren't good, it was because they were excellent, except during the full moon when people were not in the mood to buy. So I had good reasons to be enthusiastic. I was always careful to pay Mark and Winsome as soon as I owed them around sixty dollars so it would never be painful for me to pay them. I brought them the work and came to pick it up, they never had to ask for their money, I was not exploiting them, I behaved towards them the same way I wanted any boss to behave towards me and look what happened.
Probably Sophie had felt justified in ruining my relationship with the people who helped me on the grounds that I was paying them off the books. Never mind that my business hadn't gotten off the ground yet, that the first winter season was a trial run and that I was just trying to organize the manufacturing process and the timing. No, I paid people off the books, and because of that she was entitled to ruin my business. And she had the nerve to write to me how sorry she was that I had "been forced to abandon my project" and lament the fact that people in the USA didn't acknowledge and welcome "persons of value" as she had imagined. How more hypocritical can you be?
By the way, Sophie, the money with which you bought your house, it's money off the books, right? And who are you to play the Social Security cop?
So after all it was not only Tonia but also Mark and Winsome who had been turned against me. DAVON
And Davon too. I have seen him a lot of times in the street since I gave him the beret he asked for, and every time he was wearing a baseball cap. So finally I asked him to return it to me, as well as the winter beret which he never wore either. He brought me back the summer beret and said that the winter one was stored with all his winter clothing and he couldn't get to it.
When I first thought about Davon as a child who might be interested in helping me and make a little money, it was because I thought he was a beautiful boy with almond shaped eyes and he looked bright. Plus what he would do would be more interesting than bagging groceries at the supermarket. If it had interested him, I would have made sure to get information about child labor law, and I would have made sure that everything was allright with his mother. So he came once and I asked him to cut the drawstring from the big spool, and to print my trademark on leather with the rubber stamp, and he did fine. But there was a kind of awkward feeling I could not explain.
At the end of one hour, after he had done both tasks I asked him if he tought he would like to do it again and then it would be a little job for him and I would pay him. He said yes, he liked it and would like to do it again. I said that he would have to talk to his mother about it, and that I would see her myself and introduce myself to her, which I did. She said it was OK with her, gave me her phone number. I was a bit surprised that she didn't ask me any questions about myself, just to make sure that I wasn't a weirdo and that her son wouldn't be in danger with me but she didn't ask any questions.
I called a few days later. Davon's mother picked up the phone and she called her son. Davon said in a lazy voice that he didn't feel like coming (we live on the same block), he was watching an interesting TV show, but he said I could call him the next day. The next day when I called he said in the same voice that he wasn't feeling well.
I understood that it wouldn't work out, but I was saddened that he had not had the guts, the minimal guts to say no to my face when I asked him if he would like to do this work. Instead he was using some kind of adult hypocrisy. He was acting like a coquettish woman, playing hard to get and putting me in the situation where I depended upon his whim, saying by his attitude "You need me more than I need you". That was disgusting, particularly coming from a child of eight. This was last winter.
I didn't want it to be said that I had made him work for nothing so I bought a good quality sketch pad and two "Black Beauty" pencils. He had said that he liked to draw. I phoned him shortly after Christmas to tell him I had a little present for him and to come and get it. When he came there was an extremely uneasy atmosphere. The thought that he might complain that I had molested him sexually came to mind. After all there was news of this kind constantly in the media, so I made it quick. I gave him the sketch pad and the pencils while staying at a safe distance from him and made it clear that I had nothing else to say to him, except to ask him to show me a drawing he was particularly proud of and he said ok but never showed me anything.
In all our few exchanges, what had bothered me, I now realize, is that he seemed always to have an idea on his mind about me that he didn't want to speak about. A hidden agenda.
And in the brief space of time, about nine months, he had grown in height but had also become fat and bloated so that his eyes almost disappeared between his cheeks and his eyelids. Instead of being the agile boy I had first admired, he had become sluggish and pathetic. I had seen him run and it was pitiful. To make mattters worse, he was wearing the fashionable attire, pants that are so baggy that they make an accordion at the bottom and cover the shoes, and several sizes too wide at the belt so that they constantly fall off. So I saw Davon run slowly, heavily with his legs apart, his sneakers unlaced, holding his pants and I was heartbroken. What had happened? And from the day he returned the beret, he no longer said hello, he looked away from me as soon as he saw me.
Go fill an application at the Human Rights Commission regarding sexual harassment by landlord for the years 91 and 92.
Fax to Me. Laurent:
As it was agreed last July, please send me the sum of FF100,000. Considering the delay between the agreement and the acting on the agreement, I'm asking you to put this sum at my disposal at the BNP, 499 Park Avenue New York, instead of paying me by check as I had asked initially.
Since you make up all kinds of problems to prevent me from obtaining my share of the house in Brittany, I am asking you to pay me this sum as an advance on the settlement of the estate.
I am perfectly aware that my mother has always acted to prevent me from having the slightest degree of independance, and particularly financial independance, and that all the difficulties you have caused me since the opening of the succession are proof of it. However I have no duty to sacrifice myself to appease my mother and her feelings towards me should have no bearing on my rights.
I am informing you that I know my rights, that I have reached the end of my patience, that I shall not tolerate any more bad faith on your part, and that if the money hasn't been put at my disposal by October 20 at the latest I shall have no alternative but to file a complaint against you with the Conseil Sup‚rieur du Notariat and other agencies.
Furthermore I am informing you that some business is keeping me in New York and that my return to France is impossible for an undetermined period of time.
I receive this letter dated 9.23: LETTER FROM ME. LAURENT
The apartment in Paris is still available as you required. Do you intend to move in in the near future? If you have delayed your departure for an undetermined period of time, it would be better to rent it and get some revenue from it instead of leaving it vacant with all the risks involved.
Regarding your share of the house in Brittany, do you want us to transfer you the money to New York or should we wait for your return to France? * * *
Sometime this month I met Toshiko at Le Petit Beurre, a restaurant at B'way and 105th. I was passing on the sidewalk and she was inside with a man, seated by the window, dressed in very short shorts. She gesticulated wildly to attract my attention. I pretended not to see her at first because I suspected that she, like the rest of the students at Gelabert dance studio, where I took classes in 91-92, had been instructed to mess with me one way or another. But she kept waving her arms and I decided to get inside and say hello to her. Besides I hadn't talked to anybody for a long time, except at the grocery store.
She introduced me to her friend, a toothless man in his fifties. Both were dressed in tennis attire, with a racket next to them. She asked how I was doing, and I said I was busy fighting to get my inheritance, and I told her my exasperation at my mother who was always adding new conditions and forever keeping the money out of reach. To give Toshiko an example, I took her plate of French fries and asked her to take a fry. My intention was to remove the plate out of her reach when she got to the plate but instead she smiled and didn't reach for the fries. Hmm.
Then she asked why I didn't go to Gelabert studio any longer. I said it bored me to tears. I had taken classes to get back in shape after my accident, but now that I was ok, I didn't feel like going any more, it was so bo-ring, there was no change between the first month and the last month, one year later, it was always the same music and the same movements. She said that I had taken the beginners' class but I could change to the next level, it was more interesting, it was faster.
But there was another reason I didn't tell her. I had hoped that among all the women I met there I would become friendly with at least one but none of them had inspired me.
The man had remained silent thus far, but suddenly he started speaking about my problem with my mother. He said that I should apologize to her and then she would be in a better disposition towards me. Apologize? For what? I had nothing to apologize about. My mother was violating my rights, why should I apologize? He said he didn't know but often that was the thing that turned people around.
But I knew too well from experience, because I had apologized a lot when I was a child for things I didn't feel guilty about, I knew that as soon as I apologized, my mother would start to make demands on me, to prove that I was sincerely sorry, and this time she would ask me to return to France and sign away my rights to the Pantin building.
I was beginning to understand that this scene had been set up, and that this man who apparently didn't know me had been paid to give me this apparently disinterested advice. I looked with contempt at this toothless man who played tennis, and at this whorish woman whose shorts revealed the fold of her buttocks. Did they have sex? Did he pay her for it? "What does she want me to apologize for?" I asked, rising to leave. "For being alive?"
[October 1993 - 1/2] [ToC] [Home]