Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Where am I from?

This whole process of moving 3,000 miles has been quite enlightening. People ask you things like: “Where are you from?”

I've never known quite how to answer that ubiquitous question: Where are you from? I guess I could say I'm from Newark, Delaware. That’s where I was born – but I didn't spend much time there as a kid because we traveled so much. Our first odyssey around Europe began when I was six. Dad moved the family to Europe for a year or so while he finished a novel.

He had a passion for travel, fueled, in some part, by his contempt for American culture. Both he and my mother were English literature professors. My parents had developed a weird arrogance for the way Americans educate children. I remember the glee they shared when yanking us out of school – and lying to the government – to cart us off for years at a time. I guess you could say we were educated at home, well before it was cool to be home-educated.

My father took slides. He loved that ancient Nikon camera, invariably heckling us into posing for carousal upon carousal of slides. The documentary of sorts began when I was six, southern Spain, the Costa Del Sol. Our family moved to a little fishing village called La Herradura (the horseshoe). I remember we arrived at our new home (a villa about to slide off a cliff) to find the cook, Encarna, had prepared American hamburgers. My older sister, Chris, and brother,Russ, and I were thrilled. My mother sat mortified. Dad boldly requested ketchup, fueling her unease.

We were told that we wouldn't be attending the local school because Dad had seen the girls in the village. They didn't wear shoes.

"The kids will turn into peasants," he told my mother.

I didn't even know what a peasant was. So as kids, we'd sit on the floor of the villa diagramming sentences and solving equations in yellowing workbooks. Until that day we realized our parents didn't check up on us anymore. The following morning Nick and I packed our knapsacks – stuffed full of workbooks – snagged a pack of cigarettes, a couple of Cokes, and sped up the cliff to an abandoned lighthouse. There we had the ceremonial burning. The workbooks went unmissed.

Russ and I ran wild, scampering around town placing paper bags full of dog poop on neighbor's stoops and setting them on fire. We constructed stone forts on the beach, hid Dad's slippers, tied up the cook when she refused to give us snacks. My poor sister. She was responsible for trying to control us. I'd often shout to her: "Get off the cross; we need the wood." Russ would crack up. The Loving Siblings. Despite our hideous behavior, Chris would dutifully read aloud from the Narnia Tales, C.S. Lewis, sometimes two to three hours a day – anything to get us to stay still.

Nothing worked.

In those ten years between six and seventeen, I lived in more than 60 villages, towns, cities, islands – different country, different language, different alphabet, different kids.

Right, the kids. My brother and I discovered that the local kids didn't like us much. We wore brand new Levi's and red converse hightops.

The rich Americans.

We were different. It became too painful for us to hang around and wait and see if the kids liked us or not. That's when we decided we would categorically hate them first. We made a pact, a bond: The Don't Fuck With Us Bond. That pact solidified in Corfu when some punk made fun of my brother's haircut and I chased him down the street, whipping the Greek kid's back with a rubber hose. I arrived home with a black eye and a broken pinkie. It was then that the nanny began calling us the Evil Twins. The moniker stuck. We'd become urchins, darkly-tanned hellions roaming the countryside with no chance of becoming civilized.

Until that day, just after my seventh birthday.

I met a grand man called Colonel Stevenson. My world changed in what seemed like a kaleidoscope. He taught me about the impressionists and revolution, abstract expressionists and alcoholism, politics and taxes, methadone and Mozart. We'd walk the steps up the big cliff on the south side of town to his villa and play piano for hours. Mrs. Stevenson – his wife, whom he adored – taught me to take tea. I learned about watercress and clotted cream. For Christmas that year, she gave me a blackwatch kilt. I remember her elegant laugh – as she looked me over in my brother's hand-me-down blue jeans, flannel patches on the knees. She and The Colonel took it upon themselves to make me a lady. Despite my decent pedigree, there became a Pygmalion aspect to it all. I suddenly no longer wanted to be a pirate, like my brother, but, instead, the prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet.

It began one afternoon in July; it must have been 100 degrees out. My mother sent me to town to pick up a kilo of lemons. As I bargained furiously with a woman-in-mourning at the market, a friendly old man with a knobby cane stopped me and asked me why a little girl with such aristocratic cheekbones would speak such peasant Spanish. I stood still, absolutely stunned. Indignant.

He asked me if I was American.

I said yes.

He told me I was giving Americans a bad name.

I called him a plebeian, in English, by the way.

He insisted we share a lemon soda at the cafe, to hash it out. I told him he had aristocratic cheekbones, too. So, what was he doing in a peasant, fishing town? He explained that villages like La Herradura were havens for the Brit Dodgers – a term he graciously defined: over sixty-fivers who spent exactly six months and one day out of England in order to avoid what he explained to be the unforgivably cruel and unfair British tax structure. More importantly, he explained, the climate improved his arthritis.

We became fast friends.

Everyday at noon, I'd slip on my red-patent-leather clogs and clunk down the stone steps from our villa, onto the beach, and into town. The Colonel and I would meet at Cafe Pinata and sip expensive brandy. He taught me to play poker. And I was good.

At nine, I could whip his ass at five-card draw. We played for pesetas. He'd front me twenty, and rarely win them back.

The Colonel's wife would occasionally walk down the cliff and join us. I was told she was the best ballerina who ever lived. Sometimes The Colonel would ask her to prove it: she'd extend her arm straight out, horizontal to the floor, for more than ten minutes at a time. Stone still, not even a shudder, no shakes, at age 71. "She's still got the old touch," the Colonel would proudly pronounce. Once she brought me a photo of a bronze statue outside of the Ballet Conservatory in London. It looked like a bronzed Degas. The ballerina in the statue; it was her.

So the two of us – The Colonel and The Kid – everyday, like old comrades, would take over Cafe Pinata. The proprietor once commented that we looked like two soldiers, plotting to overthrow the government. We'd shout for more brandy and lemonades. We'd battle about cheating, and laugh until we got cramps.

I started washing my face and wearing dresses.

His arthritis slowly went away.

To be continued …

Thursday, April 24, 2008

THE BIG MOVE TO LA. What was I thinking?

I thought uprooting my life, moving 3,000 miles, meeting new friends (which I am TERRIBLE at) I thought it was all going to be a snap.

It hasn’t been. When I was in my early twenties – things were different. I don’t know, I could just MOVE. No worrries.
I had moved to Manhattan to work at Lazard Freres & Co., an international investment bank. I was to be one of six banking analysts in the mergers and acquisitions department. The partners quickly assigned me to the International Banking group – cross border deals – because of my diverse background.

Every other week, I'd push off to Dallas for a few days. A partner and I were taking a chemicals company public there (82% of profits came from polystyrene – like no one knew that styrofoam would become obsolete? Hello?).

I was then assigned to a deal in London: two partners and I were asked to fend off a hostile bid – a British shipping company, a Lazard client, had been hit by the monstrous Swedish shipping company, Stena AB. We were sent to run the defense. I hated defense work. It was so reactive – swerving and dodging bullets. We'd scramble for weeks to find the cash (or a friendly buyer) to top Stena's bid, the obvious way to woo shareholders. We'd just manage to raise the bid – after three grueling weeks. Stena would top it the following morning. No sweat for them, but it was back on the treadmill for us – always a losing battle. The pressure was excruciating before I found out the partners refused to get me taken off the Dallas deal. Lazard was weird that way; the firm hired only six analysts a year, while Goldman Sachs, First Boston and the other sweatshops would hire, literally, hundreds. We were perennially short-staffed. Analysts did everything from run the numbers to sometimes run meetings. No infrastructure, whatsoever. The partners liked it that way – fewer mouths to feed.

Life went something like this: Three days in London, two hours at Kennedy, one day in Dallas, a two-hour layover in Kennedy, four days in Stockholm, four hours at Heathrow, two hours in Newark, two days in Dallas. After a few months, I'd memorized every flight, the time each flight departed, which carriers sucked, which airlines had the best wine selection, which flights always had open seating in First Class.

I worked mostly for the man who headed up the international banking unit, Robert Agostinelli. I ran the numbers. He did the talking, seducing clients with his mesmerizing charm. He was a bean-counter from upstate New York done good. I think he'd even managed to marry French Aristocracy.

"Leverage up, Katie, Leverage up." That was his philosophy on life, he'd explain. I'm not sure I ever really understood what he meant. Often times the clients had no idea what he was talking about, either. They just loved him. And so did I.

We were quite a team – speeding around town in radio cars – cell phone to cell phone – planning the next 48 hours. I was his lackey – his flunky – doing all the shit work that no one else wanted to do.

We'd bemoan the workload, trash The Morons at Lazard, discuss the stupidity of our colleagues, and bust on clients. God, how we loved to insult them. We gave each client a different Code Name: The Idiots, The Dufflebags, The Dandruffettes, the Imbeciles, The Ignoramuses, The Dimwits, The Simpletons, to name a few. We'd use the Code Names instead of the company's name in elevators, on cell phones, in restaurants – because this merger business was so, so secretive. The firm had already had one insider trading scandal; it didn't need another. So everything was written about, and spoken about, in Code.

I'll never forget the silence that befell a meeting with Agostinelli, the top guns at a British steel company, and a pack of lawyers. There we sat, the Knights of the Roundtable. In front of each man lay a navy blue plastic covered dealbook, "Lazard Freres & Co." printed in gold on the bottom right corner. Ago (as I called him) began the infamous pitch, gesticulating madly with a Cuban cigar. As he demanded, everyone at the table turned to the first page: PROJECT NINCOMPOOP, read the title, in gigantic, bold, black capital letters. Ago shot me a look. I met his eyes. Whoooops. Short meeting. Ago didn't care. He knew I'd been working on about 45 minutes of sleep. There was a hell of a lot more business to nab. We fled the meeting and headed over to Blake's to split a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. They won. We lost. Next.

It was the eighties. We were just kids, jogging through airports in Ralph Lauren suits, dragging laptops, dealbooks, and The Wall Street Journal – usually unread. The work was grueling, detailed, anal, brutal. We were the analysts. Personnel called us The Resume Kids. I did it for the so-called glamour, Manhattan, and mostly because everyone else wanted the job. Twenty-one years old, earning $42,500. And that was before my $35,000 bonus that year; the firm had had a bang-up 1988.

My first day was exhilarating. Investment Banking. Wall Street. Wow.

But a few weeks after that first day, I'd find myself wandering around the office with the clothes I'd worn the day before. No food, except a little General Tao's chicken that some exhausted vice-president had left in the conference room. Sleep deprivation became a huge issue. Depression was a close second. Sometimes we'd sleep under our desks. Sometimes we'd order $200 of sushi at 2:30 a.m. and whoof it down with sixteen-ounce oil cans of Foster’s flanking our keyboards.

We'd blearily stare at spreadsheets, checking each other's work with HP-12C calculators. My office mate once ended a 48-hour marathon by hurling a Toshiba laptop into the window. The window exploded. The laptop bounced on the carpet. Despite the $8,200 bill, he didn't get fired. The partners understood. It was laborious drudgery. They'd been there.

Cut to the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The London-based General Electric Company makes a hostile bid for a Lazard client. The client wants to fight. The phone rings. "Katie, it's work," says my sleepy roommate. It's the partner who heads up the Investment Banking unit, he so much reminded me of Frankenstein.

Sorry to phone so early but, a big client has been hit, can I go to London with two partners and a VP for a few weeks to run the defense? We chose you because of your strengths (right), your brilliance (barf), your work ethic (yeah, right). It should be quick, Katie. (sure). If we scared them off, I could be home in four days for Thanksgiving. Terrific. Thanks for helping out. By the way, could I leave for the airport in about an hour? The 9:00 a.m. Bullet. I'll get Kathy (his abused secretary) to call you in a ticket. Concorde (bribe) waiting for you at the counter. We know you'll do a great job. Yeah. It's tough – Thanksgiving and all. Thanks a lot, though, kid.

I stuff a few suits in my hanging bag and whoosh, I'm off. Car service. Concorde. Taxi. I move into Claridges. Every morning at 7:00 a.m., a car picks me up and takes me to work. I'd return to the hotel every night at 10:45 (15 minutes before Room Service quit). As the gentleman behind the desk handed me my messages, I'd nod and smile: The Usual. Fifteen minutes later I'd hear a knock. Dinner: Salmon mousse with aspic and a bottle of 1985 Meurseault.

Each night, every night, for five months.

Sometime in late April, I saw the Manhattan skyline, stepped into my apartment with five British Airways cardboard boxes full of the clothes I'd bought at Harrod's – on Lazard (my secretary Fed-Exed me Donna Karan stockings). Eleven milk cartons of mail met me at the door, plus five months of telephone messages. Two of my four roommates had moved out. I said hello to the two replacements. They nodded. The damage at Claridge's had been about seventy grand.

Thanksgiving? Be home for Thanksgiving? Hell, I didn't even catch Easter, not to mention Christmas.

Why was it so easy back then? Why is it so difficult now – maybe we get more set in our ways? But lets just say I’m lonely out here. It’s self-inflicted, of course. The people I’ve met in LA are lovely. Perhaps I’ve just lost the inability to reach out.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Feng Shui Part 3

The final installment – the final, final shoot of the Feng shui series.

Kartar arrived at 11 in the morning – clip board in hand. Renato arrived shortly thereafter with his cameras, lights and fantastic personality (and patience!)

OK. The house was supposed to be metamorphosized – well, not completely. I can show you some pictures of the house and how it's coming along. And a whole bunch of pictures of ME!

But you’re going to have to wait for the whole story when we air “Feng Shui Home & Office” … set to launch June 1.

Don’t forget to mark the date on your calendar – you won’t be disappointed ;-)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My Feng Shui Part 2

OK. Our Feng Shui expert, Kartar Diamond, had agreed to consult with me to basically tell me the low-down on how to create an “Energy Continuum” in the house. To find the Chi – let the energy flow – using wood, fire, metal & water elements, as well as a whole host of other factors, including my birthday year!

Now it was time for us – my mom and I – to execute on her directives (or suggestions as she chooses to politely say!) We decided to move the furniture and move it in.

You saw the pictures of my mom and I shopping in the blog above. As I already mentioned, she is the Rambo Special Forces of shopping. At one point we were in the furniture warehouse district of Culver City and she had me carry an aubergine (red eggplant) colored velvet dining room chair out of the store and at least 100 yards down the street into another store to see if it matched the chocolate travertine marble table. The funny thing was – here I am walking down the side walk with this voluptuous purple chair – and no one even blinked. I guess the throngs of interior designers couldn’t be bothered. Bottom line: we bought the chair and the table.

Then we bought the chocolate brown leather and suede two seater with the ottoman and a green velvet chair from Z Gallery. For some reason, we decided it would be a fantastic idea for Carlos and I to actually drive to the Z Gallery warehouse to pick up the furniture. I suffer from the disease of instant gratification.

So Carlos set off on Friday morning in his friend’s pickup. We tied the three gargantuan pieces on to the back of the truck with TWINE, mind you, and NO TARP. There was that moment on the 405 when I thought we were going to lose it all. We had a double chair, another double chair and an ottoman strapped inside the back of the pick up truck.

Long story short – we made it, baby. Barely ;-)

At one point Carlos blurted out with a grin: “Kate, we look like a Mexican family trying to the cross border – with the eleven children hidden in the back and grandma and grandpa hiding in the glove compartment – all our worldly possessions in the back!”

What I failed to tell you was on that same day three different sets of delivery people arrived at the house in one day.

After struggling to get the pieces through the front door, Carlos took off the FRENCH doors off and we got the objet d’arts in.

Stay tuned for the third installment of the My Feng Shui Part 3, for even MORE drama!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Feng Shui Part 1

The LAUCH of my new show “KateInLA” … set to happen on June 1st … will be a two-part series on Feng Shui.

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. The “guinea pig” house that we’re transforming into a Feng Shui sanctuary will be my house – my new home here in Los Angeles – West of the 405.

As some of you loyal readers may remember, I moved here on March 1 and the process was, on a good day daunting, on a bad day traumatic.

It all began on that fateful day in question – March 1. I have some vague memory of two bulky men pulling up in an 18-wheeler and quite literally dropping every single possession that I own into my house here in Santa Monica.

After they pulled away from the curb my journey began. Let’s just say it’s a heck of a lot easier to move out of a house than into one.

My first move was to sit in the middle of the living room floor and burst into tears. Then I looked at the stack of boxes and promptly had a panic attack. Then I called Juan my house man and Carlos my contractor and begged for help.

They arrived the next morning and this is what they saw.

The LAUCH of my new show “KateInLA," set to happen on June 1st, will be a two-part series on Feng Shui.

After getting the place (sort of) in order I scheduled the first shoot with Kartar Diamond – our Feng Shui specialist. She arrived (about three weeks ago) along with my producer, Bob Jordan, our shooter, Renato, my makeup artist, Karen Knopp, and Kartar, herself – looking lovely in a bright orange top!

In the picture above you can see the intricate plans that Kartar drew up while she was in the house examining architecture, the rooms, and more importantly – the Chi. She shimmied around the house in order to see what could be the house’s opportunity for serenity!

Over the next few hours as she studied my home I was so impressed by her professionalism and expertise. (if you want to check out her book it is “The Feng Shui Continuum: A Blueprint for Balanced Living")

Four hours later we were finished shooting the “Before” show. I think we wore Renato out!

Now … my mom had come into town to execute the shopping portion of the project (see former blog TKDATE) … … it was time to shop!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this 3-Part blog to see Mom and I have done to the house … !

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's My Birthday!

Yesterday was my birthday and it began wonderfully! With a knock on the door from these two fellas with the neatest, coolest present I've gotten to date! "It's called Manifest Your Magnificence ... 64 affirmation cards for kids!"

Today's card reads "I am positive -- I see the good in every situation!"

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Close Encounter With a Black Hole

My mom’s best friend is a dentist named Paula. She lives in Claremont, California with her husband, Dan, who is an artist. We went out to her fantastic house for dinner last Friday night when my mom was out here Rambo Decorating my new home. I have not had so much fun nor laughed so hard in a long time. To get an idea of who they are – take a look at Dan’s glasses. He decided the whole blending bi-focal thing wasn’t working for him so he had his optometrist make special glasses for him – the magnifying element flips up.

Paula suggested I attend a lecture on the Black Hole – set to happen last Wednesday at 7:30. At six I headed over to Pasadena to what I thought would be a little lecture at a little auditorium at a little college. It was Stephen Hawkings’ speaking on the Black Hole and it was a zoo! Fantastic!

Since I returned to my lovely home (now Rambo Decorated) in Santa Monica last night, I have been reading up a bit on the life and work of this British theoretical physicist. Throughout my musings, I have run across a number of his famous quotes that are both funny and insightful. He is widely considered to be among the most intelligent people living today. Here is what he has to say...

"Einstein was wrong when he said "God does not play dice". Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can't be seen."

"I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."

"My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

"I find that American & Scandinavian accents work better with women." In response to a question about the American accent of his synthesiser.

"Someone told me that each equation I included in the book would halve the sales. In the end, however, I did put in one equation, Einstein's famous equation, E = mc2. I hope that this will not scare off half of my potential readers."

“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus."

"To show this diagram properly, I would really need a four dimensional screen. However, because of government cuts, we could manage to provide only a two dimensional screen."

"Life would be tragic if it weren't funny."

"The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired."

"Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end."

I got my driver Ricky to take some photos. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

American Film Institute … Short List

Remember my pal Zaq from the Jog-A-Thon? His Mom is one of my best gal pals, which is how I met him.

Long story short, by sponsoring Zaq I met a woman named Patty Meyer – she is a delight – she is also a professor at the American Film Institute. I was thrilled when she invited me to the AFI Conservatory Short List 2008.

I arrived a little early (I’m still sorting out the traffic issues out here!) and found myself sitting in the front row of the second section of the ArcLight Cinemas

As I perched on the tip of my seat, I found myself riveted by the crowd … the people watching could have kept me occupied for a lifetime.

Then I saw Patty! Wow! She’s a beauty – I didn’t recognize her from the gal on the soccer field!

The five shorts were interesting – and all very, very different.

I think I want to go to film school.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Kate Goes Holy in Hollywood!

It’s Sunday morning at 7 a.m. Why is my blackberry beeping under the covers … vibrating by my foot? What could I possibly have to do at 7 on a Sunday morning?


That’s right. My friend Court Coursey had told me about an Episcopalian church in Beverly Hills called All Saint’s Church www.allsaintsbh.org. My brother is an Episcopalian priest so I phoned him up to ask him if he had ever heard of it.
“Kate, it’s one of the powerful Episcopalian churches in America,” he told me with a touch of awe in his voice. Huh, I thought. I’ll give it a whirl.

What an incredible experience. I parked on the street and crept into a stunningly serene chapel a few minutes late. The Reverend Carol Anderson was speaking. I knew it instantly; she’s a New Yorker. A Manhattanite – her last gig had been at St. James church up on Madison Avenue and 71st on the Upper East Side.

As I settled in to actually listen to her sermon – not hear, listen – I caught the tail end of the first paragraph.

“What is your single purpose in life … your singleness of purpose? Is it your job, money, fame, impact, finding the right person to spend you life with?”

She told the story of watching a movie star (who she refrained from naming – much to my chagrin) walking down the side walk … swarmed by a throng of paparazzi. The femme fatal was on her cell phone … casually gliding down the street, chatting away, as if nothing was happening around her. The leather-jacket clad men and their assistants darting in front of her, flash bulbs popping: through the utter chaos of it all she appeared tranquil – unfazed. (I immediately thought … well she IS an actress.) Anyway, the punch line of Reverend Anderson’s apocryphal tale was the following: “I suddenly realized that this glammed up woman wasn’t actually going anywhere. She was posing for the cameras.”

I’m sure you can guess what’s next. OK, here goes. Where ARE we all going, she asked? How are we choosing to prioritize our lives? Reverend Anderson said something that I’d heard many times before but it hadn’t struck me so profoundly as it did that morning. “Just when we think we’ve gotten enough money, or that perfect job, or hit the top of the heap in Hollywood … don’t we always stop and wish we had just a little bit more?”


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dinner at La Cabana

My mother had one request: To take her to an authentic Mexican restaurant during her stay in LA.

This was the least I could to for my dutiful Mom, who has tirelessly marched through the bowels of the Design District and the Third Street Promenade day and night seeking out everything from the perfect Chinese wall fountain for the corner of the living area to a Vietnamese-inspired English wallboard (or was it English-inspired Vietnamese wallboard?) for the foyer to the penultimate diaphanous sea foam shower curtain for — I was to assume? — the guest bathroom.

I set out to provide her this experience. I contacted Zaq & Co. down the block and discovered I was to take Mom to La Cabana on Rose and Lincoln. I was assured I would open the door to the vision of a woman huddled over a brick-oven fire making homemade tortillas. (“Katie, do you think she makes them with real lard?” Mom asked with a frightening grimace. I don’t know what lard is, I told her, so I wasn’t sure. Is lard bad?)

Mom knocked on the office door and told me she was ready to go.

We walked out the back door and shimmied down the sides of my pint-sized garage to shoe-horn ourselves into the car. Thank goodness I had parked in the garage because it was actually raining. I thought it never rained in Santa Monica. Vroom, vroom — we were off.

We pulled up to La Cabana and it looked terrific. Very authentic.

We entered the restaurant and, sure enough, there was a Mexican woman right out of Central Casting huddled over the brick-oven stove making tortillas (I didn’t see a vat of lard or anything, so it looked like we were safe.)

The food was fantastic and the wait staff no-nonsense. After we ordered, the thick-mustached waiter praised my mom’s Spanish accent and smiled. Then he looked at me, raised his left shoulder and simply muttered, “Eh.”

Check back soon for a blog on Mom’s and my journey through the Helms Furniture District!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

First Brunch in Santa Monica

Every time I move into a new house — about a week afterward — my mom swoops into town to decorate. That is a gene that God just didn’t give Kate Bohner. I am missing that strand of DNA.

It typically goes something like this. She flies in. I pick her up at the airport. We go to some fabulous Italian joint to carbo-load. We return back to the chaos-driven, cardboard-box-filled house to sleep a good eight hours. The next morning we slide on our walking clogs (or in Mom’s case Crocs) and boom; we’re off to the warehouse districts! Here in Santa Monica the decorators call it the Old Bakery. If you check out this Web site, you’ll know why: http://www.helmsfurniture.com/!

We then comb the retail outlets — Williams Sonoma, Restoration Hardware, Z Gallery — no chain emerges unscathed! At the end of it all I throw my mom, Jean, a brunch. Check out these photos!