Monthly Archives: January 2010

End of an Era: Levinthal's Closes

Despite the fact that I grew up on the west coast, my childhood summers were spent mostly in Philadelphia (if you’ve been reading this here blog for a while, you know this). My mom, sister and I would pile in my grandparents’ apartment and spend three or four weeks eating out, going to the Jersey shore and doing our back-to-school shopping (financed by grandparental generosity).

One of the stores I always looked forward to visiting on these shopping treks was Levinthal’s. Located just a block from the apartment, we simply called it the handbag store. I rarely left Philly without some new item from them (and throughout the rest of the year, my grandmother regularly patronized their designer counter).

In the eight years I’ve lived in Philly, I’ve stopped in at least once a month and nearly every purse, wallet or suitcase I’ve acquired over that time was from Levinthal’s. The shopping experience there was an old-fashioned one. There were always two blue-smocked women who would help you as you shopped. When you made your selection, they’d write out a bill of sale on a carbon-paper pad in pencil and walk you up to the cash register, where one of the male owners would ring up your purchase. I imagine that the experience of shopping there was unchanged from the time the store opened in the mid-forties.

Two weeks ago, I walked by and caught sight of their going-out-of-business signs. I went in to peruse the heavily discounted merchandise and have one final wander around this beloved store. I didn’t buy anything, but before I left, I stopped briefly to offer condolences to one of the owners. I tried to express how much the store had meant to me, without monopolizing his time or sounding like a crazy person.

I’ve been trying to acquire fewer things, so there’s less need in my life for a dedicated bag store. However, I will always be sad that Levinthal’s isn’t in the world any longer.

My job is not my life

Ten days ago, I wrote a list of things I wanted to get done, so that I’d feel accomplished and productive in this fresh, new year. And then I was promptly sucked into a black hole of work. Living has been put on hold, as I’ve spent all my useful hours propped up in front of a MacBook, writing, copying, pasting, editing and testing a new version of Philadelphia’s official tourism website.

Thankfully, the site launched today, and while my co-workers and I still have a whole lot of work ahead of us, the extended days (as well as the practice of eating all three meals at my desk) seem to be coming to an end. For this, I am grateful, as I’ve come to the realization that as things stand now, I am one of those people who lives for the moment when she can finally leave work and pick up her “real” life. It’s been hard, not having much time to check in with that side of my existence.

Please understand, I have nothing bad to say about my workplace. It is not a perfect environment, but after five jobs and spectrum of bosses, I’ve learned that every place of employment has its own unique quirks, joys and dysfunctions. You learn how to manage the frustrations, appreciate the good stuff and do the things you truly love during the off-hours. And until I figure out how to make those jars and canning pots generate some revenue (beyond lining them up on the sidewalk and asking for a handout), I’m happy to have a job that typically allows plenty of time for those love projects.

If you’d like to see what my department and I have been working so hard on, please click here. I’m hoping you’ll be impressed. Please do recognize that this site is still a work in progress. Some of the sort/search functions aren’t working as we’d like and there’s more work to be done in bulking up content and photography. But all that aside, we’re quite proud.

The List for 2010

My friend Val believes in the power of the list and since a particular conversation last year at SXSW (on a roof deck, when we ate all this beautiful food), I’ve been a believer as well. I have a little notebook that I use for my lists, but in recent days, the only things I am able to cross off the this are the day-to-day, mundane tasks. I continue to carry the larger items over from one list to the next, rewriting them weekly, but never quite getting around to them. So I thought I’d post them here, in the hopes that some level of public accountability will be added incentive. So here we go…

  • Clean out the storage unit. It still holds the carpet remnants from when my grandparents replaced the wall-to-wall when I was seven years old. It must go.
  • Deal with the Indian blankets that I found in the hall closet, moth-infested, right after my grandmother died (nearly 8 years ago). They’re in the same plastic bags we threw them into as we prepared the apartment for her memorial luncheon.
  • Get that damned undercarriage rattle on my car fixed.
  • Replace the broken cart in my dining room.
  • Organize recipes for a Fork You cookbook.
  • Retile the bathroom and replace the vanity (the drain is badly rusted).
  • Mail two boxes of pictures and video tapes to my family in Hawaii (they’re all of them).
  • Replace the light fixture in the kitchen.

I think that’s it for now. I’ll be back to this list on occasion, for updates, additions and the blessed satisfaction of crossing things off.