Downtown comfort stuff

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October 22, 2002 // UPDATED 1:32 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Julie Swenson
Julie Swenson

In tough times, roasted squash in your tummy and free moisturizer on your face can chase a bit of the blues away

There's no getting around it, these have been sad days in our country and especially here in Minnesota. snipers, Russian hostages, and plane crashes have produced a cloud cover that's tough to shake. My productivity is laughable. My clients all wonder where I am, and I'm surviving on a steady diet of Zoloft and large iced lattes. These are the days when you wake up and, for a second, believe yesterday was a bad dream and everything is ok now. Then I really wake up and want to go back to sleep as soon as I can.

The only solace in my little world right now is the Chanel counter and those little squash they sell at the Farmers' Market. The squash are tiny sweethearts when you bake them the way the Asian farmer who sells them told me. Even through the accent, I heard it right: 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees with a dab of butter and a ton of brown sugar in the middle.

For me, the squash are the prefect reason to turn my back on CNN long enough to put things in and take things out of the oven. The comforts of baking are almost as sweet as the comforts of the Chanel counter.

There's a secret section at the Chanel counter in the Downtown Marshall Field's that shouldn't be such secret. It's a nook off the counter where you'll find an old-fashioned Hollywood mirror with the big make-up lights, and you'll sit in a big shiny black chair. It's all set aside for preferred customers. Forget blowing your credit rating on make-up to become a preferred customer. If you show up on a cloudy afternoon, you are a preferred customer, even if you've never bought anything Chanel in your entire life.

So I took some time out to consider moisturizer options for my face. Jonathan, my personal Chanel consultant and new best friend, said, "You are one of the lucky ones, you have Chanel skin naturally."

It was weird at first to take such sage make up advice from a man. But a man who wears just a little mascara and knows the difference between Clinque's Clarifying Lotion and Chanel's Aqua Mousse is a man I'll trust with my face any day.

I asked how much for the liquid foundation, the most important piece of your make up wardrobe, and he told me, "Fifty dollars."

I didn't hear him right. "Do you mean 5, 0 or 1, 5?" I asked.

He smiled and repeated the figure. He went on to say something about plant pigment, hydrating or something. I was in sticker shock. A

bottle couldn't be more than a couple ounces, four at the most.

I wouldn't even spend $50 on a whole bottle of wine.

Jonathan wasn't fazed in the least. He said, "If it's a priority, you'll spend it. I just want you to try it today."

He really seemed to be genuinely happy that someone showed up. He made me feel welcome and beautiful. And all he asked was that I talk cosmetics with him for a bit. It was a welcome relief from the last 48 hours I had spent watching CNN and baking squash. I ended up spending a lot less than $50. But I was still treated like a real princess, and Jonathan's kindness at the Chanel counter did a lot to brighten a cloudy day.

As I made my way home to continue my CNN vigil, I walked back past the Chanel counter. There was the Asian farmer, the one with the baking tips, getting a sample. I said hello. He said he needed lotion; his face was rough from the cold. At least I think that's what he said.

Anyway, the sight of Jonathan and his new customer fussing over the Chanel products made me proud to be a Minnesotan. Where else would a depressed writer and a new immigrant farmer both feel comfortable at the Chanel counter?

When she is not spreading happiness all over her face, Julie Swenson ( is also owner of Abbas Public Relations. She does not write about clients in this column.