May 20, 6:30 A.M. C’est moi , dear diary, c’est moi : Phyllis Stine. Sorry I haven’t written much lately, but I’ve been blue. Haven’t been read much, either. I mean, how many months have I been making these journal entries? Sharing my feelings about fashion shows, estranged husbands, Helmut Lang and the spiritual life? Offering useful advice. Service, as the magazine ladies say. Who told her readers what to do on St. Barts when you see a lizard crawling up your rented villa wall? (Don’t panic. Think handbag.)
But do I get a book contract? No. Who gets her diary published? Some Brit. This vanilla-topped London character named Bridget Jones. As in Bridget Jones’s Diary , by Helen Fielding. All the rage. Why is it the only people getting anyplace in this city are the British?
Well, what about me, fellas?! I’m a princess, too.
9:05 A.M. Consume half-bottle of Rescue Remedy. Calories about 2,100, as Rescue Remedy has brandy base, I realize too late. Drift off. Come to and remember have rented smallish cottage in Southampton for summer. Let the estranged Mr. Stine pay. What does he need all that money for, anyway?
Call and order car with driver, consume one Chocolate Honey Peanut Balance bar, 200 calories, and pack three Louis Vuitton suitcases with, mostly, Marc Jacobs and Isaac Mizrahi pieces. Pour myself into tan corset by Isaac and camouflage-theme Nike rubber sandals with Velcro straps.
11:05 A.M. Not sure what to think when 15-year-old son of my neighbor here at the Carlyle hotel, where I am still residing in divorce purgatory, gets into elevator (a) wearing almost the same outfit as I am and (b) reading a book called Hermits: The Insights of Solitude , by Peter France. Hands me the book.
“Oh, it’s O.K. I’ve got The World of Interiors and British Elle Decoration ,” I say.
“No, take it,” he insists.
And George Hamilton’s in the lobby again.
12:15 P.M. Stuck in traffic. Read decorating magazines.
12:17 P.M. Can’t live this summer without Eero Aarnio orange-and-white ball chair and flat weave Turkish kilims. Ohhhh, 70’s revival!
12:18 P.M. Remember having actually lived the 1970’s. Memory includes several unfortunate rashes, an Ultrasuede sofa, a Farrah Fawcett shag haircut and a Yorkshire terrier named Wheatberry. Might live without 1970’s revival after all. Help!
12:20 P.M. Only at exit 34. Calories 1,600, as have polished off rest of Rescue Remedy and one raisin bagel. Try to engage driver in conversation. Let’s see. If you want to be an interesting person, act interested. Ask driver if he has house in Hamptons. He doesn’t.
12:27 P.M. Reading choices are (a) the book on hermits, (b) Lillian Ross’ Here but Not Here , or (c) interview with Yohji Yamamoto in Elle Decoration . Prefer the shade of farm-stand-tomato red on cover of British book about hermits and open to page 86, a chapter about ornamental hermits.
Who knew? Apparently, during the second half of the 18th century, sophisticated people were torn between the sensibilities of solitude and sociability. “So they employed people to be melancholy on their behalf,” I read in this book. The English gentry built gothic grottoes, summer and winter hermitages on their estates! A summer hermitage was a simple affair with a floor paved with sheep marrowbones placed upright and an owl stuck on the roof, whereas a winter hermitage usually was lined with wool, or some other warm substance, mixed with moss. Who else would tell you these things? The gentry member then advertised for hermit. “A reward of 50 pounds a year for life to any man who would undertake to live seven years under ground without seeing anything human; and to let his toe- and fingernails grow with his hair and beard, during the whole time,” is an actual advertisement published in a late 18th-century periodical. The ad promised meals, a chamber organ, books, but no newspapers, as hermits who took newspapers did not inspire confidence in the 18th century.
May 21. 9 A.M. Sleep in rental, on my own Pratesi linen, of course. House needs handsome hermit. Profusion of morning glories outside would be nice. Calories 185, which is very good as have eaten only one small apple and a tablespoon of beluga-high protein, low fat-since yesterday.
9:30 A.M. Put on marine green Abercrombie & Fitch ribbed cotton tank top and viscose cargo pants from Fendi. Chanel sandals. Drive leased Mercedes sports coupe to Mecox Gardens on Montauk Highway. Attractive blond Mecox Gardens staff member is enthusiastic about my interest in 18th-century ornamental hermitages, but has bad news about morning glories. Apparently, they require direct sunlight. As rental summer lawn exists in heavy shade of large tree where chic lap pool might improve both esthetic and property values, decide to make arrangements to remove tree, build pool. The secret of making these quick decisions is teaching yourself how to speedily amortize big expenses. I practiced at Hermès.
9:40 A.M. Literally bump into famous interior designer Jeffrey Bilhuber and insist he come see my wannabe hermitage.
10:05 A.M. Well, the dear boy is loaded with ideas for fixing up a summer rental. “The goal is to clarify what’s here,” he says. “Edit. Add color. Summer is about color, not monotone. Hang a flag on the porch. The American flag is an extraordinary piece of design.” To remedy the chaos of the bookshelves, “turn the bindings to the wall. You see the endpapers, which become more visually interesting. Picked this idea up from Halston, who did the exact same thing 15 years ago when he rented a fisherman’s cottage in Montauk. Do it all yourself, Phyllis Stine. Use your hands. It’s summer! It’s the weekend. Happy-hands fun!”
10:30 A.M. One hundred calories, another spoonful of beluga. Through kitchen window spy summer neighbor. A gentleman of such beauty and a Bentley parked in the driveway. He seems to be alone. How to effect introduction? Maybe these interior design magazines I brought from town would be useful?
10:35 A.M. Three hundred calories. Two spoonfuls of beluga and seven Altoid breath mints. Change into yellow Prada skirt, Marc Jacobs cashmere tank, Manolo Blahnik grosgrain flats. Cross lawn. Ring bell. He answers. Warren Beatty! Johnny Depp! Peter Jennings rolled into one! Introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Phyllis Stine. I think we’re in the same boat. Just two mature adults setting up house in summer rentals. Thought you might like the new World of Interiors .”
“Come in,” he says, voice as deep as he is tall. Hands the size of the Titanic . Gold Rolex. Be still my heart.
“What’s your name,” I go. Walk in.
“Cyrill Killuh,” he answers.