Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pottery Barn... and Malls of Yesteryear

I miss the Pottery Barn store formerly on Newbury Street; it was a fun place to browse, and I'm partial to their baskets, paisley fabrics, and bath towels. I bought everything from a complete set of bathroom hardware to bags of seashells.

Someone keeps giving me Williams-Sonoma gift cards for Christmas and, since my kitchen can't hold even an extra drinking glass, I decided to see if I could spend some of that moolah at Pottery Barn instead. So we drove to the Atrium Mall in Chestnut Hill yesterday. With Pottery Barn, it's safer to see items in person to judge their quality. Often you're fine, especially with tableware and bedding. But baskets and accessories in "silver" can be disappointing.

We knew the Atrium had fallen on hard times but we weren't expecting a ghost town on a Saturday afternoon. I remember when it was the prestigious place to shop, putting Copley Place to shame via chic cafés and live classical music or jazz. How the mighty have fallen. I could count the shoppers in the whole place on my fingers and toes. Almost half of the storefronts are vacant. The only place doing brisk business was Second Time Around, a consignment shop having a 50%-off sale. Anthropologie was so sparsely stocked and empty of customers that they could hold ballroom dance classes on its expansive wooden floor. (Plenty of good sale stuff is still around towards the back, though.)

At Pottery Barn, I found the filing cabinet I had my eye on. I think I've reached an age (actually, I reached it decades ago) where I deserve my own filing cabinet. But, nice as it looked, it was clearly too big to sit next to my desk or to fit anywhere else in our apartment. Plan B was a large wicker basket with a lid. That also turned out to be too big. Plan C is to continue to keep my papers in little ivory Anthropologie shopping bags and a couple of wooden boxes. Economical and trés Shabby Chic, non? Or how about Just Pathetic?

To console myself, I bought this silver-plated, book-shaped frame on clearance:

And then we got the heck out of there, perhaps never to return — I hear that Pottery Barn is scouting for a new location in Boston, and I hope they return to Back Bay. After all, we're getting another Restoration Hardware store, even though almost all the furniture they sell is McMansion-sized and too large for average Back Bay apartments. Pottery Barn sells apartment-sized furniture and would do well again here, I think.

I've been admiring that frame here at my desk. It weighs a ton. I'm a sucker for hefty, silvery, luxurious things. Like antique trays, and like Possum. The frame holds two photos — perhaps I'll use portraits of Possum and his almost-as-handsome twin, Rufus Sewell.

Possum is on the left while Rufus is on the right.
No, they're reversed... I think. Oh, who can tell?

I seldom visit suburban malls. I burned out in my early 30s, when I had an acting gig visiting malls all over eastern Massachusetts dressed as Clara from The Nutcracker. I was part of a promotional troupe for the Boston Ballet's annual production. We acted out a short radio-style play and then posed for photos with kids. 

I was kind of old to be playing a 12-year-old; I got the job because I could fit into a tulle and lace costume that once belonged to prima ballerina Laura Young. I was grateful I didn't have to wear one of the ancient, smelly, full-body mouse costumes instead — except during bitterly cold outdoor tree-lighting ceremonies, where I'd sometimes arrive with Santa in a sleigh, my arms blue with cold as we sat through the carols and speeches. I nearly froze to death while the mice complained they were overheated. Since I was in the role of a child, I was permitted the occasional tantrum; it was a good way to warm up.
If you have (or were) a child born in the late '80s and you went to Macy's or Filene's to be photographed with Santa around 1992, you may also have had a photo taken with smiling me and a tall, morose actor wearing a heavy nutcracker head. We spent so much time cooling our heels in malls between photo sessions, trading recipes to kill the armpit smells of our costumes (What works? Vodka!) and bemoaning our lackluster theatrical careers, that it was years before I'd agree to get into a car to head to a mall again. And I think I'm pretty much done for at least another two years after this Atrium visit. 

Malls: Ugh. Pass the vodka.


  1. PB: I too liked the PB (a coincidence?!) on Newbury - it was a great store to go into and browse and just forget about everything else for awhile. It would be great if they reopened in BB. I last went to Atrium about 2 yrs ago, and it was pretty desolate even then. Haven't been back, and it sounds like there's no reason to go. And, can you give us another clue to help figure out which one is Possum and which one is Rufus?

  2. It's really tough to say... eye color and hair color being the same, along with bone structure and general demeanor....


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