From California, With Love

I was supposed to fly to New York City last week. In fact, my original itinerary had me landing at JFK on Monday, Oct. 29, right around midnight.

Clearly, no airline was going to deliver me to my beloved Big Apple at the peak of Sandy’s rage, so I rode out the week watching 24/7 storm coverage from my apartment in sunny, serene Los Angeles.

I feel a little guilty about it.

In hindsight, the cavalier jokes that went around the weekend before Sandy hit—like so many others, I predicted the hurricane would turn into “a whimper”—seem so impossibly naive. Of course, we had no way of knowing how immense Sandy would be, nor how merciless. She unleashed her vengeance on million-dollar beach homes and working class condos with equal intensity, and my heart breaks for those who continue to suffer.

The first hint that Sandy was not just any storm came on Saturday afternoon, when I arrived at the Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Boulevard to interview Sylvain Dolla, CEO of Hamilton Watches. He was in town to preside over the 6th Annual Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards, which pay tribute to moviemaking’s behind-the-scenes talents. (There are 10 awards in all, honoring directors, screenwriters, even property masters.)

Harrison Ford presents the Hamilton Behind the Camera Award to Michael Kahn, for Lifetime Achievement in Film Editing.

The brand had flown in scores of retailers and journalists for a three-day weekend culminating with the Oct. 28 awards ceremony at the House of Blues. The organizers had even reserved the lovely Rodeo Terrace at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for a Saturday night party to celebrate the brand’s 120th anniversary. (Although Hamilton is Swiss-owned, it’s got deep American roots. The company was purchased in 1974 by the Swiss conglomerate Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère, the predecessor to Swatch Group, and production was moved from Lancaster, Pa., to Switzerland in 2003.)

Hamilton CEO Sylvain Dolla with presenter Mena Suvari

In any event, just before sitting down with Mr. Dolla, I learned that a number of East Coast–based journalists in attendance were leaving early in order to get home to their families. One watch writer had already flown the coop. The scramble was on for Alysa McKenna, the brand’s PR manager, to rebook their flights.

Still, I wasn’t worried. After my interview, I checked into my totally kick-a** Mondrian room overlooking all of West Los Angeles (I could see the Pacific Ocean shimmering in the distance), and settled in for a weekend of self-indulgence.

My boyfriend, Brian, joined me that night at the Beverly Wilshire, where we toasted Hamilton with gin cocktails. Together, we made our way back to the Mondrian to find a Halloween party in full swing at the legendary Skybar. Clutching the feather masks and plastic “beer goggles” Alysa had picked up for us, Brian and I went back to my room instead. The party raging beneath our balcony was a hilarious backdrop to our hours-long conversation.

A gaggle of award-winning actors, actresses, and filmmakers—including Harrison Ford, Ewan McGregor, Brett Ratner, Paul Dano, and Mena Suvari—presented at the ceremony the following night, setting the stage for yet another evening of unabashed decadence. I admired their poise on stage while pigging out on ice cream sundaes. If my memory serves me correctly, the host, Chris Harrison from The Bachelor, was the only one who even mentioned Sandy.

Monday, as we all know, was another wait-and-see day: I canceled my evening flight to JFK but carried on blithely with my errands.

By Tuesday morning, however, I had begun to grasp the magnitude of my mistake—an image of fire-ravaged Breezy Point, Queens, was my horrific wake-up call.

In the days that followed, I lamely stood by as JCK’s stellar editorial team—led by senior editors Rob Bates and Jennifer Heebner, web editor Daniel Ford, managing editor Melissa Bernardo, and editorial assistant Stephanie Schaefer—proved their talent and commitment with comprehensive coverage of how the jewelry industry was faring in the wake of the storm. Being a passive witness to their hard work, not to mention the searing images of Sandy’s devastation, was utterly humbling.

If it’s any consolation, the vagaries of disasters large and small are not lost on me: Brian and I broke up on Tuesday night—and L.A. is distinctly overdue for a rip-roaring earthquake.