Phyllis Stine discovers St. Barts is like walking naked through Balthazar

Dec. 27: Dear Diary. “This will wipe the smile right off your face, Phyllis Stine,” Ian Schrager calls to me.

Having met by pure coinkydink (that’s Miss Porter’s speak for coincidence) this dawn on the American Airlines flight from Kennedy International Airport to Sint Maarten, Ian offered me a ride in his chartered prop from Sint Maarten to St. Barts. He’s in the front row near the pilot. I’m in the back. We’re coming in for a landing soon. I look up from the January Town & Country , where I am just reading that “landing in St. Barts airport is, for most travelers, the worst part of the trip.” Holy Rashomon . They aren’t kiddin’.

You see, despite myself, I’ve never been to St. Barts. This is my first trip. It was the habit of Mr. Stine to drag us to Telluride for the holidays. The only compensation? Wearing white fox in whiteouts. But we don’t have Mr. Stine anymore, do we? To recap. Having resolved last New Year’s to master minimalism, did so. Got rid of all trappings, including Park Avenue and Mr. Stine, chief executive-not-so-extraordinaire. Living at the Carlyle now and divorcing accordingly. Let all executives quake in their Loeb shoes in anticipation of my settlement. The spouse has risen! Landed! Whatever. (Make note: Send Lorna Wendt Hermès-whatever from Hermès boutique in St. Barts.) What does he need all that money for anyway?!

To land, the prop plane drops. No slow descent, dear diary. My stomach’s in my Kelly bag. Because of tricky island winds, the plane swoops over a mountain and drops illogically onto the runway plowed into volcanic rock and I’m, like, dying. But we don’t die. We deplane: Ian and Rita Schrager, their daughter, the housekeeper, and my dear friends Mr. Salt and Mr. Pepper, fictitious names for real characters, with whom I am taking a house this week.

The good news: The St. Barts airport is a tropical shopping center with an airstrip. J’adore that. But it’s hot. Hate that. Mr. Salt and Mr. Pepper go off to secure the car and meet the man from the real estate office who’ll lead us to the house. The Schragers’ housekeeper is detained because-who knew?-some nationalities need a visa. Kelly Klein lands in a private plane. One of her traveling companions, an Australian polo player from Palm Beach, is detained, too. It’s very chic to be detained at the St. Barts airport.

A host of ghostly suntanned rich men with lighted cigars and cellular phones-and the bleached blonds (boys, girls) who love them-slosh about wondering if their special express packages have arrived. It’s a holiday. What’s so important in all those air-delivered packages? I remember from the Telluride trips: les médicines . Overnight mail is how rock stars and whomever receive their drugs worldwide when they travel. Oh, please. Who else would tell you these things?

Can’t get a straight answer from the clerk at duty-free shop if the Fracas perfume is the old strain or the new.

Meanwhile, the child psychiatrist Dr. David Shaffer, married to Anna Wintour, furrows past in a four-wheel something. They’ve taken a house again. The art director Raul Martinez is shopping for his household, which includes photographer Steven Meisel. Will we see Steven Meisel in a bathing suit? Here’s Alan Grubman and Tony Shafrazi. I’m in Chanel flats, clutching a too-purple TSE cashmere turtleneck and still waiting for Mr. Salt and Mr. Pepper when (1) Veronica Webb and Russell Simmons drive by and (2) Stephanie Seymour and Peter Brant drive by and (3) I get it: St. Barts will be like walking naked through Balthazar.

Midnight: Desperately need sleep. Can’t. Terrorized by lizard climbing on the cathedral ceiling. The hours pass. The lizard crawls. Try to relax. Tell myself small lizard is harmless. Listen to assortment of meditative tapes- The Artist’s Way, The Language of Letting Go -but bubkes. (That’s Yiddish for a lot of nothing; I used to be Jewish, then I got a Christmas tree.) Finally, the solution: See lizard; think handbag.

Sleep comes. Dream about why Jackie wore pink.

Dec. 28: J’adore the view! Awake to find lizard skedaddled. Draw blinds. See sea. The villa with the bedrooms is separated from the main house by a lovely pool and terrace. The house is built on a mountainside over the sea. The deep blue sea! Like so many sapphires toiling for a young girl’s future, I’m thinking. The question is: to sunbathe or not? What is the likelihood skin doctor Pat Wexler is lurking in these parts?

Applied one-piece black Norma Kamali bathing suit and Ferragamo pareo, old straw Adolfo sun hat, new Chanel sandals in the style of Adidas slip-ons, and Clarins S.P.F. 15, with S.P.F. 30 on certain surgical scars here and there and, always, just between us.

To the kitchen. The servant problem. ” Bonjour, madame !” I sing in the direction of Attila la Bonne, the maid. “Do you know the way to Hermès?” Grumble, grumble. Doesn’t know.

Lunch poolside with Mr. Salt and Mr. Pepper. Drive in something called a Mini-Moke, a rattling golf cart, over treacherous mountain roads to safety of Hermès in the village of Gustavia. Town like something out of the Wild West but with parrots in the trees, big boats in said sapphire sea. Cartier cowboys. Banana tans. Everything toujours expensive. A copy of yesterday’s New York Times for $6; smallish hotel rooms at the trendy Taiwana Hotel about $2,000 a night. We see (think naked at Balthazar): Crown Prince Pavlos and Princess Marie Chantal of Greece, Adam and Samantha Kluge Cahan, Alexandre von Fürstenberg, Sandy Gallin, Larry Gagosian, Donald Batchelor, Deborah Norville, Karl Wellner, Harvey Weinstein, and, last but not least, Sean (Puffy) Combs, whose entourage of affluent African-American compatriots, seen in sultry, sophisticated splendor all over the surf and turf here, has so rattled the confidence of certain rich white men in same said surf and turf, they have taken to calling the music man: Puffy Cohen. It makes then feel better.

Whatever. Was attracted to beige cotton jacket with Medusa buttons cut in the Levi Strauss style at Versace boutique. A bargain at $400. While trying on jacket, little hummingbird flew into shop. “It’s Gianni,” I whistled. Shopkeepers not amused. Grab broom. But, catch me, I’m felled at Hermès. Swooned through door but was kept out of main merchandise room by a blood-red rope put up so a high-roller named Marty Richards, of the Broadway show-biz Richardses, could shop! Phyllis Stine, shopper scorned! Before committing violent act, was heavily sedated.

Dec. 31: Come to from heavy sedation. Saw the new year in on the Virginian , the yacht formerly owned by John Kluge, chartered for a Caribbean cruise by Peter Morton. Understood this is the height of jet-set splendor. Fireworks. More yachts in harbor than seagulls. Kissed Mr. Pepper at midnight, Rose Tarlow and Richard Meier, too. Even Jasper Conran. Couldn’t reach Mr. Salt.

Went to bed relatively early. Lizard on ceiling again. Thought handbag, but-first New Year’s resolution probably impossible to keep-tried not to think Hermès.

Phyllis Stine discovers St. Barts is like walking naked through Balthazar