Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Umbrella Stories ...

I remember my first umbrella. It was a bubble umbrella, mostly clear plastic that curved far down, so you stood underneath it, walked inside it, and thanks to the clear plastic, could see where you were going through the clear rain, not veer into traffic or a fire hydrant or something equally painful.

But mostly I remember feeling like such a grown-up, as if a first umbrella was both rain gear and a rite of passage.

As an adult, my fondness for umbrellas waned. They became utilitarian. I opted for an umbrella with a duck-head handle once, but it quickly lost its charm. Mostly I bought basic black. I liked the umbrellas that folded into tiny bundles.

One year, I asked for an umbrella for Christmas. My brother Paul bought me an automatic Totes. Beige.

I was working at the Tribune then. Rick Kogan walked up to my desk on a rainy day and asked if I had an umbrella he could borrow. I handed it to him. "Don't you have a black one?" he asked.

What did I look like, an umbrella store?

Soon after, I was out shopping and bought him the smallest fold-up Totes I could find. Black. Brought it back to the office and tied the clear plastic box it came in with an embarrassment of red curling ribbon. Walked it over to his desk, whumped it down, and said, "Here. It's black. Now you don't have to borrow mine."

He smiled.

Later that year, I received a black umbrella from Bob Hope for Christmas, black with his "signature" printed along the edge in red ink. Bob Hope used to send out gifts to newspaper people. I don't know how you got on the list to begin with, and the gifts didn't come directly to me, but I ended up with them. One year it was a very modern silver letter opener engraved with his signature (someone stole that out of my desk), one year it was a CD of Christmas tunes, with Bob and his wife and all their dogs at the piano (I still have it, unopened).

I still have Bob's umbrella, and my beige one, and a small fold-up black one I bought for a trip to London.

They all bore me.

My friend John's daughter Miye and her husband David (yes, another one) jumped into the brella business in New York City last year, and just the other day opened their own store, BrellaBar ( around 61st and 3rd. The store was featured in the New York version of DailyCandy, and their site received more than 15,000 hits. Needless to say, they're off to a good start in their new digs.

I popped by the site to peruse their wares. Beautiful umbrellas. Really. Most people don't give a lot of thought to their umbrellas, I suspect, but if you find yourself rethinking your umbrella needs, I encourage you to visit Yes, they're somewhat pricey, but maybe if you shell out a couple hundred bucks for an umbrella, you'll remember to take it with you when you get out of a cab the next time it rains.

An actual umbrella store. I should drop Kogan a line and let him know.


Anonymous Doreen said...

Last week as part of the Mercury retrograde "crap" I have witnessed ... I found myself at 6:00 p.m. after a 3 hour Dr. appointment (a WHOLE 'nother story!) looking at a deluge of rain that was sorely needed in Chicago. Sorely needed, but not forecasted (damn you Andy Avalos). I went to the hospital gift shop and found either the long (toooo long) umbrellas that fit nowhere and seem kind of ridiclous to *me* and the alternative ... a pink and white striped breast cancer awareness umbrella. Don't get me wrong - I am all for supporting research for breast cancer (yet another topic to be discussed at another time) but did I want to walk around Chicago with a pink & white umbrella? The umbrella cost 24.95 without our lovely 9% tax. Pink is my favorite color .... Umbrellas really only keep your head and shoulders dry ... but it was a deluge ... I pulled out the credit card, bought the umbrella ... it is a sister to the basic black at home and the red freebie in my office desk ... It's ONLY water!!!!!!! LOL

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Miye said...

thank you for the kudos, Beth :)
You have to stop in next time you're in the cit-ay!
We now are carrying very rare, collectible walking sticks and canes, too. It's vastly becoming a museum/candyland of brollies...PFR! (pray for rain)

12:54 AM  

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