The Lobbyist: Sunset Beach at Shelter Island

The Lobbyist is a division of JBLY that specifically handles reviews of hotel lobbies and hotel bars.  If you’ve got a good suggestion (or, preferably, a bad one) for a place I should visit, please send me an email at jennyblovesyoudaily@gmail.com.

When your private plane can’t get you to Saint Tropez for the weekend…

If you’re one of the lucky thousands who gets to escape New York City on any given summer weekend, you might get to drive in traffic along the 27, hop on a quick ferry ride across the river, and pull into the gravel parking lot of Andre Balazs’ Sunset Beach hotel.  Part European wet dream, part ice cream parlor schmaltz, Sunset Beach is home away from home, if home is a magnum bottle of rose, a bunch of over-tanned Italians, and a garage full of Range Rovers.*

When:

This Memorial Day weekend, Eva and I, armed with her boyfriend’s black on black on black on black on black Mercedes Benz, left my modest Greenpoint neighborhood at 9:30 a.m. and arrived in Shelter Island some multitude of hours later on account of a prattling GPS system that paid more attention to announcing our preparation to bare left or right than getting us on the right road.

Once on the ferry to Shelter Island, our cares flitted away on a breeze like a drunk bird that had forgotten how to use its wings and drowned horribly (and blissfully happy) in the river.  Fuck you, New York City!

Wear:

Overpriced caftans, animal print Alaia sandals, bathing suits that can’t get wet, pink shirts, nose jobs, nice watches, white pants, white pants, more white pants.

Seen:

Eva and I saddle up to the bar, waiting for her boyfriend to arrive so we can go to dinner.  With my third eye and women’s protective intuition, I sense the boys across from us about to go in for the kill.  Wait for it…

“Do you want me to take a picture of you girls?”

He has an Irish accent, which would generally make up for a whole host of shortcomings if it weren’t for the fact I’m holding a FlipCam towards Eva and filming her when he asks me this.

“I mean,” I begin, “it’s not really a camera.”

“Here, give it to me.  I’ll take a picture.”

“It shoots video,” I say again, handing it to him anyway, persistent, unresponsive monkey that he is.

He points the FlipCam towards us, doubly confused.

“Yeah, you see,” I say, reaching to take it back, “it can’t take pictures.”

This awkward exchange serves as our introduction to him and his friend, who has just returned from the bathroom.  They are amiable in a way that most men are when they are trying to get your number or get in your pants.  Unfortunately for them, their whole operation is shut down upon the arrival of Barry, Eva’s boyfriend.  I, being the third – and very single – wheel, am forced to make small talk about what airport one flies into when visiting Calgary and the wonderful hot tubs of the Banff Springs Hotel.

This is the most in-depth interaction I will have with random individuals for the rest of the weekend, unless you count being dance-raped at 2 a.m. by the DJ who will not remember me the next morning.  The remaining days will be spent watching strangers (emphasis on “strange”) from afar, as though a visitor in a zoo without bars.

Being the most removed Hampton of the Hamptons, Shelter Island seems to me to be the most kid friendly.  There are children everywhere.  Beautiful children with mothers furiously fighting the stubbornness of their DNA and ravaging effects of time.  The incongruous vision of these women aging horribly and their staggeringly gorgeous children feels almost as painful as looking at before-and-after pictures of Bridgette Bardot.

The men don’t seem to be nearly half as vain.  They proudly display graying hair on their tan, tough-as-rhino-meat chests.  Their guts protrude as though badges of gluttonous honor, evidence of years spent indulging on foie gras and after dinner cheese plates.  That being said, there were a handful of presumably taken men one would consider home-wrecking for.  Go figure.

Heard:

Whatever the de facto, self-appointed DJs played on the beach (two men who looked like they missed the Jersey Shore by a few hundred miles); curatorial “Let’s just relax, shall we?” music that would certainly be Hotel Costes approved; children crying for ice cream; children crying from lack of sleep; the “Oh, my gaaawwwwwwdddd, I haven’t seen you in forever!” of friends and the “Charlie, don’t do that” of mothers.

Most interesting to me was the conversation I was eavesdropping on while Adam, my very adept masseuse, was attending to the knots on my upper back from our place on the beach.  Apparently, Chelsea Handler, Andre’s current girlfriend, was standing on the balcony above this man, in full view of the entire parking lot, stark naked.  This man had seen Andre and Chelsea arrive yesterday in his seaplane.  Gossip!  Yum.

Eat, Drink, Be Merry or Whatever: 

Disappointingly, there is no kale or birdseed on the lunch or dinner menu.  Sigh.  Brooklyn, sometimes I miss you.  There are, however, plenty of things in French that I do not understand.  (What the hell is carre?)  If there is one thing I do understand, though, it’s that the artichoke frites are goddamn delicious.  Pair these decadent greaseballs with a cold glass of their tasty rose sangria (how all sangria should be prepared from this point forward), and you’ve got yourself a perfect, well balanced, $30 snack (plus gratuity).

The Lobbyist Rating:  4/5 Kate Mosses

This place is like the ACE Hotel for rich people.**  If you’re a rich person, you’ll find it charming and casual chic.*** If you’re not a rich person, you will find Sunset Beach to be a price gouging horror of uber Euro depravity.  But life, my friend, is all about perception.  And for the sake of this review, I will rate this place as though a rich person (and not the relative poor person that I am).  Four Kates it is!

 

 

 

 

 

* Said with no amount of judgement.

** If I had to pick, I’d go for the ACE, which goes to great lengths to infect their locations with an enviable, eclectic aesthetic.  (Also because I’m poor.)  Unfortunately, the ACE hotel is too busy being hip in places other than the Hamptons.

*** Once a run-of-the-mill beachside motel, this place really is still, well, a roadside motel, only with bug-free beds, clean linens, a plash of orange paint, and a $500 price tag.  Tre cute!

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The Lobbyist: The Yard at Soho Grand

The Lobbyist is a division of JBLY that specifically handles reviews of hotel lobbies and hotel bars.  If you’ve got a good suggestion (or, preferably, a bad one) for a place I should visit, please send me an email at jennyblovesyoudaily@gmail.com.

It’s time to take this show outdoors, kids.  Summer is here and you know what that means?  The Yard at the Soho Grand is open for business.  The Yard is not so much, well, a yard in the traditional sense as it is a generously proportioned alleyway that they’ve paved, tented, and landscaped.  Throw a few sexy white curtains suspended from wooden beams and a cute bartender shaking up $22 margarita and voila!  You’ve got yourself a chic little hotel bar.

When:

We descended upon the Yard on the Friday night of Memorial Day weekend.  The crowd was sparse and became increasingly so as we inched past 10 p.m.  I attribute this to the fact that most people in the market for the aforementioned $22 margaritas were en route to the Hamptons.  I imagine once the weather really starts heating up, the tolerance for overpriced drinks in an outdoor sweat lodge will increase correspondingly, even for those who can’t afford it.

Wear:

Beetlejuice-inspired spandex pants (for men and women), artfully ripped tee-shirts, leather boat shoes in camel, jeans and button-ups, dresses that should be shirts.

Seen:

“WILL YOU TAKE A PICTURE OF US?!”

I am assaulted by not one, but two tiny girls who scream this at me as I unsuspectingly open the door to the restroom.  “We’re not from here,” they profess openly.  The statement seems like an unapologetic apology meant to let New Yorkers know they know everyone sees them coming a mile away and they don’t give a shit.  I take a picture of five brunette Carrie Bradshaws, each one of them in a lyrca mini dress anchoring itself to the underside of an ass cheek.

Afterwards, I watch the five girls stumble (literally) to the Yard and lean against the bar, vying for the attention of the blonde bartender with the Roman nose and the curly mop of hair.  Out of the five girls, one is in the worst shape.  She braces herself as she walks in between their table and the bar, her legs dragging uncooperative feet stuck into a pair of nude high heels two sizes too big for her.  Her face contorts as she slowly propels herself forward, as though furiously manipulating the surface of a Rubik’s cube and not the previously simple task of walking.

Expectedly, the fashion crowd is present tonight, in all its various forms.  You have the smoking models, the guidos paying for the drinks of the smoking models, and the creepy guys who will probably tell you they own a modeling agency in the hopes that it will get them laid.  There are also a handful of fabulous young gays, too fabulous and too gay* to hold the door for my friend as she walked from the Yard to the hotel restroom.  Whoops!

Heard:

Bruce Springsteen remixes, Creedence Clearwater Revival, conversations about the “best salads at Cipriani.”**

Fair Warning:

I came here last summer on one of the hottest days of the year and I can say one thing is for certain, there isn’t much of a cross breeze.  Being stuck between what is essentially three of four tall buildings comes with its pitfalls.  Mainly, the greenhouse effect that hovers between the white-painted bamboo on one side and the brick on the other.  Also mainly, the sweating that ensues.  If you come to the Yard during the day, be prepared to drink your Pim’s Punch looking as though you’ve been dipped in Vaseline.

Lobbyist Rating:  4/5 Kate Mosses***

 

 

 

* For the record, I love gay people.  Also for the record, I think all people, gay or straight, should hold doors open for the people just behind them.

** Verdict: Artichoke and Parmesan salad.

*** Kate Moss, in my opinion, is pretty much representative of what I look for in a bar.

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“On the road again?”

The de facto granddame of ________ Street is already awake, wearing a polyester jacket and a navy beanie, tending to the trashcans.  To her right is the apartment with the Homer Simpson sticker in the window.  I’M HAVING A GOOD DAY DON’T MESS IT UP, it says.  Just below it, the planters filled with dirt and fake plastic flowers.  I’m not sure, but I’ve always assumed this is her apartment.  It seems appropriate.  She’s sort of insane.

“Yep!” I chirp, and keep walking briskly towards the subway entrance, secretly thankful she withheld her sartorial commentary this morning.  “So you’re going for the flight attendant look,” she once mused in a way that sent me spiraling into an abyss of self-ridicule and doubt, having just been – in my estimation – ridiculed by a woman who wears tracksuits and, for all I know, does not have hair.

This is what I like about this neighborhood: people keep tabs on you, even peripherally.  I’m not wholly anonymous and unimportant.  I like that this is the woman to talk to if I want to find out what the hell goes on around here.  Like that time there was a bucket of blood spilled on the sidewalk, evidence of a carnage I had been sure had been fatal.  I imagined stabbing, a terrible fall, Polish gang violence.

To find out what had happened, I asked Old Tracksuit what happened.

“My friend,” she said, in her ancient New York ancient, “He was just standing here, right here and blood just started shooting out of his leg, ya know?  Blood vessel burst, just right here.  So much blood.  You wouldn’t believe it.  And we called the ambulance and they came to take him away.  All the blood was in his shoe.  A huge amount of blood.  And the EMT goes to throw the shoe away and my friend, he thinks he can use it again!  Can you believe it?  Don’t throw it away, he says.  He was in very poor health.”

I didn’t eat for a few hours after this story.

Back on Broome Street – the location of my overpriced, renovated, formerly-a-piece-of-shit tenement apartment where an old man named Salvatore paid $380 a month until he likely died there – the only person who kept tabs on me was the perverted handicap Chinese man who would chase me down the street in his wheelchair, shaking a tin can yelling, “Hi, dollar, dollar, dollar!”

I don’t miss that time.  I certainly don’t miss that place.  And I fucking love Greenpoint.

It’s only 6 a.m. and the street is the color of morning sky, everything imbued with that bluish, new quality that only lasts a matter of minutes.  The wet cement sidewalk, the surface of leaves, the sides of buildings.  Blue.  All of it.

I catch the train right on time and move swiftly to the next, where the doors open and our train sweeps up construction workers and day laborers like dust bunnies.  The man across from me flips through a free morning newspaper with dirty fingernails.  His shoes are covered in a fine layer of concrete dust, yellow and gray.

The rest of the train sits with their eyes closed, likely regular sufferers of overwork and anxiety-induced insomnia.  They sit with their heads tilted back, mouths open like dying fish.  The person next to me – a man or boy I cannot tell – is buried in some invisible slump beneath the hood of a red sweatshirt, waiting until some invisible mechanism inside of him tells him he’s arrived at his destination.  Pavlov’s Commuter.

I get off the train and wait for the elevator and while I’m waiting this random guy stands next to me, says something like “You’re beautiful” which I politely acknowledge and then ignore until he says, “You a model?” and I say “Yeah.”  I look forward again and all I hear is him say, “Still?”  We get into the elevator and stand side-by-side, basking in the silence shared between eight other strangers.

Once again, I am headed through security, where I hand some TSA employee my passport because I lost my driver’s license the last time I went to California.  I’m waiting for the day someone tells me I look nothing like my photo anymore.  You’re too old, they’d say.  Too old.  And then I could tell them to fuck off, that I’m still attractive in an aging sort of way.

This interaction will never occur.

Still, I think about it.

This is likely where all the problems in my life begin and end.

“On the road …

Aside

Super Moon Super Freaks

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“Who makes your bag?”

“This bag?”

He points to the canvas tote covered in black scrawls, little drawings of fashionable things. 

“Yeah.”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I got it at some Mulberry after party,” I say.

He moves to sit next to me.  I do not recoil or shut him down right away because he has an affectation and a slightness of stature that I most often associate with homosexuality.  As boys go, they’re as safe as it gets.

“So would you say you’re a fashion insider?”

“Um, I guess?”

The truth is, even though I’ve been modeling for over a decade, I’ve always felt very much on the outside, a hazard of feeling as though I never “made it.”  No one gives a shit about the working models.  I’m not walking runways and shooting campaigns, a fact that has lodged a fairly substantial chip in my shoulder. 

And who the hell says things like “fashion insider” anyway?

“Who makes your jacket?” he says.  “This is lovely.”

“It’s Stella.”

“It’s got a very Jil Sander thing going on,” he says.  “The way they’ve tucked the shoulder in like that.”  He touches the top of my gray coat.  “Though they wouldn’t have done the double lapel…”

This is the part of the conversation where I can fairly assume that this man, who introduces himself soon after as Darren, is most definitely gay.

Darren used to be a fashion stylist – hence his familiarity with less mainstream labels and quality tailoring – but had since moved into directing fashion films.  “So-and-so said I was single-handedly changing the way people interacted with fashion,” he tells me.  “What I’m doing is very new, very different.  No one is doing videos right now.”

Correction: Everyone is doing videos right now.  I feel like I’m in an office and not on the subway, getting pitched by some twat to provide funding to their “new and exciting” company. 

Darren talks with a precocious intensity that leaves no room for interaction.  He drops names in a way that feels forced and unnatural, but the names he drops are obscure enough that I have to assume he’s legitimate in some sort of way.  His Darren-ness barrels towards you and all you can do is nod your head and try to laugh and sometimes get a word in edgewise.  He is friendly in that lunatic type of way, one that you can mistakenly interpret as well intentioned.  If you’re not careful, next thing you know you’re BFFs with the male equivalent of Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female.

“Do you smoke weed?”

The comment comes out of nowhere, nestled between Point A and Point B in a fashion conversation about some “famous” makeup artist named Lisa Mason who he’s working with and the meetings he had today about getting funding for the video he’s putting together.  The supermodels are on board, the cinematographer, the creatives.  They just need the cash.

“I mean, not really.”

“If you have time, I’m going to smoke some weed on my roof if you want to come.”

I tell him I’m in a rush to get on the IKEA ferry to Red Hook for a dinner party.  “It leaves at 6:20,” I say, pointing at the digital subway clock above us reading 6:15.  “I’m going to have to run to the pier.”

“Oh, you’re going to miss it for sure.”

When the train arrives at Wall Street, Darren says “follow me” and we run in between slow-moving pedestrians until we are out on the street.  He keeps running.  “Come on,” he says. 

Darren is able to keep a decent pace, whereas I am struggling eight steps behind, choking on the unfamiliar exertion of running in real life, not on a treadmill.  “I should have kept my gym shoes on,” I joke, my Proenza Schouler cutout booties providing little practical advantage on these city streets.  Darren bounds like a 5’6’’ gazelle in black slacks and a black blazer, his black on black Converse making no noise against the pavement.

While we’re running, he tells me to take down his number and call him.  “This is the truest way I’ve ever started a friendship,” he says, following the red flagged weirdness with the eight digits of his phone number.

As we wind our way quickly through the Financial District, I can’t help but think I’ve never gone this direction to the pier before.  I don’t remember it being so complicated or far away.  Darren keeps making quick turns in front of me, disorienting me further.  “Do you know your way around here?” he asks cryptically, as though making sure I don’t know what he’s doing.  “Not really,” I laugh.  Because what I think he’s doing is getting us lost.

At some point, when Darren turns back towards me before he rounds a corner in a way I’ve seen in movies about serial killers, that fleeting moment right before fun and frivolity takes a brutal, bloody turn for the worst, I think, This guy is going to kill me.  I imagine rounding the corner just behind him, where he has suddenly turned towards me and stands with a knife.  I run right into it, this knife, and bleed to death somewhere on Pearl Street.  Darren runs away and I am found by a tourist wearing a fanny pack and holding two shopping bags from J. Crew.

After what feels to me to be ten long minutes and thirteen blocks, I see the East River and the hint of banana-yellow siding of the IKEA ferry pulling away from the dock.  “Noooo!” I moan, slowing my pace in defeat.  I’m going to be stuck here for another forty minutes waiting for the next one.  This also means I will be stuck here with Darren.

As nice as Darren is, he is extremely odd, open in a way that makes me incredibly uncomfortable.  People this eager to engage with strangers right off the bat are people who want something from you, undeservedly.  People like Darren are the ones you are meant to be leery of.

We walk to the edge of the pier and sit down next to what Darren tells me is a work of Chinese art.  It’s a sunken pit at the edge of the pier, a circle of metal in which the sloshing water of the East River churns inside, momentarily trapped.

I don’t remember what we’re talking about anymore.  I just want the ferry to come quickly.

“As a straight man in fashion…”

What?

Straight?

I’m sorry, come again?

Darren continues speaking, having already purposefully dropped the I Fuck Girls hint in an act of The Boy Doth Protest Too Much.  This man clearly likes boys.  What straight man has to clarify his straightness to a girl?  The fact that he even mentions it likely means that his intentions are to fuck me, despite the foot and a half disparity in our respective heights.

“Sometimes I wish I were bi-sexual,” he says soon after.  “The men in this industry are so beautiful.  There’s this hair stylist so-and-so.  He’s forty years old and beautiful.  When you look at him, it’s like poetry.”

This man genuinely thinks he’s straight.

I’m beginning to realize Darren took me down an extra two or three streets to ensure that I would be here with him right now on the pier, having this conversation.

He asks me about my writing, what I am doing with it, what I am interested in writing about.  I say something about my books and essays and music journalism for fun and I swear to God, I think he says, “Do you write sexually?” and then says something else right after, so that I feel as though I’ve imagined it. 

The conversation has been peppered with such oddities for the last ten minutes.  I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable.  Meanwhile, Darren has taken out his canister of weed and begun playing with it for no reason in particular. 

Despite evidence of his creepiness, Darren is fairly interesting.  He lived in Ethiopia between the ages of two to three, spent time in London, eventually ending up in Ohio or somewhere bleak.  I think his parents must be Egyptian or Middle Eastern in some capacity.  He has buttery olive skin, a prominent nose, thick hair shaved close to his scalp.

His real passion is opera.  He’s classically trained.  “But I can’t start singing until I’m 35,” he tells me.  Apparently, whatever happens in the interior of person isn’t substantiated until them.  “What defines you on the inside,” he describes it as.  Fashion is what he’s doing in the meantime.

“I’m getting a little bit cold,” he says, getting up from his place on a bench.  “You sure you don’t want to come back and smoke?”

I tell him I’ve got a dinner party.

Darren starts talking about Le Baron and how he knows the manager or something stupid.  He tells me I have to get there early to get in.  “Even if you’re tall and beautiful, that doesn’t mean anything.”  Then he tells me about how one time he saw this famous model, Annouck, standing outside.  “They wouldn’t let her in,” he says.  “And I was like, Don’t you know who this is?”

“Is she the one with the little mole?” I ask, not knowing what else to contribute to this stupid conversation.

“She’s got a real pouty mouth,” he says.  Three steps later, he follows with, “She’s always taking her clothes off.”

There have been far too many sexual references over the course of the last thirty minutes to make me comfortable in the slightest.  I don’t know what his game is or what he wants.  I do know that after he leaves this pier, I will not be seeing him again.  Had he not “helped” me get to the ferry, I would likely be in Red Hook right now, having conversations with real friends who I already know whether or not they need to be wrapped up and placed in a padded cell. 

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