October 31, 2008

Sun streaming on wrinkles

Now the preliminary chitchat was over, and the serious session could begin. The next question was who had recommended him? I mentioned Joan’s name. "Ah, Joan, the English woman." He smiled at the memory. Good, so he had considered her a success.

Third question: "What do you want to DO?"

My husband and I looked at each other. "My face?" I said. It was more a question than a statement. The doctor asked me to stand near the window where the sunlight was streaming in. He looked at my face intently and pulled a little this way and that.

October 30, 2008

Small world, isn't it?

How is it that he spoke Italian? He explained that his father-in-law, also a doctor, was from Corsica and many Corsicans speak Italian. Delos had learned the language through working with patients and working with his father-in-law.

"Whose name was . . . ?" Nando asked.

The answer made my husband smile. He had heard about the father-in-law because he had met the son, Delos' brother-in-law, years ago in the United States, when the latter was pursuing graduate studies in an American medical school.

Small world! Small world! We all beamed at each other like old friends.

October 28, 2008

Language lovers

Dr. Delos entered. It had not been a long wait. He was an attractive, charismatic man in his late 40s or perhaps early 50s -- possibly my age, I thought with a start. He had a thick shock of dark hair, barely lined with gray, and a handsome craggy face. He sat at his desk facing us, while we faced him and the sea.

The first thing to be discussed was what language to converse in. We started in French but explained that we were coming from Italy. "I speak Italian and love to practice your language," he volunteered. "Parliamo in italiano."

October 27, 2008

Sea, view

We were ushered into a simple office lined by bookshelves on one wall, and by windows on the others -- windows that looked out onto breathtaking views of the sea. We sat before a polished wooden desk piled with papers. "Not a bad view," said my husband. I knew he was calculating how many faces it took to pay for a view like this.

"This reminds me of Renzo Piano’s office," I said. I had interviewed the famous architect a few years ago in his studio outside Genoa. He too had a sunlit view over the Mediterranean and a desk dripping with documents, but the feel of the place was different. It was modern, more exuberant, more in-your-face aggressive. The last thing a cosmetic surgeon wants to be is "in your face", I thought, at least until you’ve signed on the dotted line.

October 26, 2008


I gave my name again and the sitting nurse checked a list in front of her. "Are you sure you are supposed to be here today?" she asked in French. I thought of the time I had made a reservation for my family at Alain Ducasse/Louis XV in Monaco, then ranked one of THE best restaurants in the world by the International Herald Tribune, and when we arrived, the maitre d’ had observed the inadequacy of our attire, the absence of headline value in our faces, and inspected the reservations for that evening, before announcing with haughty disdain that our names were not on the guest list. Desolé.

This time we were not to be put off so easily. "Yes, our reservation is for today," insisted my husband, and said our name slowly, in the French way. The second nurse scanned the list again and found us. We were official. A few questions for a file; these were done by computer. Another few questions answered by pen on paper. Then a nod, you may go in now.

October 18, 2008

Through the gate

Although the property was fenced, the wrought iron gate was open and we drove in without buzzing. Just inside there were two signs, one pointing to the Institut de Beauté and the other to visites medicales. "I guess that’s us," I said, pointing to the second sign. We followed its arrow up through the trees to the chateau that had been so evident from the road. Now it seemed almost invisible, tucked away beneath a green canopy.

Here we had to stop and buzz. When the large wooden door opened after we’d given our name, we found ourselves stepping into a marble hallway with a hallway running straight through to a door in the back, and, on the right, marble steps circling up to another floor. There didn’t seem to be anyone or anything moving down the corridor, so we followed the staircase up and to an anteroom with the doctor’s name on a brass plaque. There were two receptionists (nurses?) at a desk, one sitting down and the other leaning behind her.

October 15, 2008

Chateau compound

Not knowing where on Corniche Kennedy the Chateau was located, we stopped to ask a gasoline station attendant, and were told, "Oh you can’t miss it. It is an imposing building."

An accurate observation. The chateau -- or more correctly, Dr. Delos’s compound -- was visible from the road. A belle epoque maison dominated the property; below it were trees and vegetation tucked around what seemed to be other buildings and parking areas. A sign said "Institut de Soin et Beauté", large in size but discreet in wording. It could have been a thalassotherapy centre or a health spa for all anyone knew.

October 13, 2008


Nando and I passed part of that impressive project as we searched for Corniche Kennedy, found after a couple of wrong turns. Just as I had imagined, the Corniche is a wide boulevard overlooking the sea. When we had lived in the South of France, we traveled a corniche every time we got in the car; the Basse, Moyenne, and Grande Corniches are the connecting wires of the Côte d’Azur, and they all overlook the Mediterranean. The French word "corniche" comes from the Italian "cornice", or frame, and the three corniches brilliantly frame the splendid sea view beneath them.

October 12, 2008

An "S" in Marseille?

Another dimension of Marseille is flagged by the fact that Anglo-Saxons spell it with an "s" -- Marseilles. According to a local businessman I had once interviewed, the reason is because there are so many aspects to Marseille(s). It is a port city, a city of history and culture, an industrial power, and its port area and surroundings encompass the largest urban redevelopment project in Europe.

October 8, 2008

About Marseille

Marseille is a two-hour drive from Cannes under normal circumstances. Our appointment at Chateau Sylvaine was set for 12:30 pm. but because we didn’t know exactly WHERE in Marseille it was, we left our hotel at 9:30 am. The autoroute is not twisty and turny because it doesn’t follow the coastline, as does much of the autostrada from Genoa to the Italian-French border, so we arrived in Marseille more than an hour early.

We had both visited Marseille before. It is the second largest city in France, boasts the country’s largest port, and celebrated 2,600 years of history in 2000. An American consulate used to be located here and it was the nearest place to notarize documents and the fastest place to renew passports. The classic joke about Marseille is, "What is the second language spoken in Marseille?" The answer: "French", in recognition of the large Arab-speaking population of the city.

October 7, 2008

Tunneling through

It is a four-hour drive from Busto to Cannes, driving aggressively on the autostrada, the toll highway that runs from the Swiss border down to Genoa, then twists and winds through 115 tunnels between Genoa and the French border. Speed limits may exist but they are rarely controlled, unless you are in a Ferrari or Porsche going 120 miles or more an hour. Nando doesn’t drive THAT fast, but he is, shall we say, an assertive driver. So we shared the driving responsibility.

We didn’t talk much about the pending medical appointment en route. I was thinking about the trade show and the many appointments that awaited me Monday and Tuesday. Nando was planning to visit friends on those days, since the trade show itself was no longer of interest to him. We would worry about Chateau Sylvaine (the name of Dr. Delos’ facility in Marseille) and whatever decisions might have to be made there when the time came and not before.

October 6, 2008

Coming to Cannes

I packed carefully for the luxury goods trade show in Cannes . . . and for the visit with M. le docteur. The jewelry had to be just right -- tastefully conspicuous for the former, not TOO opulent for the latter (otherwise the price goes up, Nando warned me). Clothes had to be smart but not too flashy. As a fashion statement, I can’t compete with the French and Italians who attend this show en masse, so it is best to dress down a bit, not call attention to the fact that my outfits have never seen a runway, much less THIS year’s runway.

October 5, 2008

Fear and furniture

I had a dream about Mom and Dad and furniture from the house of my childhood last night. The furniture was the most meaningful part, though (as often happens in my dreams), I reminded myself while dreaming that there was something amiss, that Mom was dead and it didn’t make sense for her to be IN the dream.

I figure the meaning has something to do with my desire for a home, for sanctuary. But there is no sanctuary these days. A terrorist cell was discovered in BUSTO this past week. And the fear of anthrax is apparently palpable everywhere in the US, especially urban areas.

Fear on a macro level is one thing; fear on a micro-let’s-talk-about-me level is another. We watched part of a television show about facelifts this week. After five minutes my head was light and I wanted to puke. Maybe I will wind up doing one but I definitely do NOT want to know what is being done.

October 4, 2008

The full monty

The rest of the evening, while my husband and John talked puts and calls in the forex market, Nicole described in detail every cosmetic intervention she has had in the last eight years. Dr. Delos’ artistry had been such a success, it seems, that she had gone on for breast reduction surgery, a tummy tuck, blepharoplasty on her eyelids, further work on her forehead, liposuction on her hips, and within the next year or so, bien sûr, she would be doing another full facelift.

Marseille wasn’t the most exciting place in the world for Nicole, so she had opted to do most of these successive operations in Paris. The shopping is better, there is more nightlife, restaurants are top-notch, and Paris is unquestionably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. "But I think I will go back to Dr. Delos for my next face leaf-t," Nicole concluded. "Perhaps John comes also to do surgery for the bags under his eyes."

Was this an omen?

October 3, 2008

By a nose

When we met in the lobby of Milan’s swankiest hotel, Nicole eyed me up and down and said in her clear but rapid French, "But ClauDEEa, have you had a LEAF-T?"

She’s not used to seeing me with makeup, I thought. Thank goodness for the discreet lighting of expensive hotels, I thought. What I said was, "Funny you should mention that. I haven’t, but I have an appointment later this month with someone about that very subject. Dr. Delos in Marseille. Joan K, who lives in Monaco, had recommended him."

"Mais Dr. Delos,” gasped Nicole. "He is the one who did my nose and my first leaf-t. I was the one who recommended him to Joan."

It was my turn to be surprised. "Then you think he is good? That’s a relief. He did a wonderful job with your, um, nose. But tell me . . . does it hurt?"

October 2, 2008


A return fax from the doctor. Oui, ça va. My appointment is set for 12:30 pm on the 24th. The address is on a well-known oceanfront boulevard so I don’t anticipate problems finding it. Nando will accompany me and he has a wonderful sense of direction so I am sure we won’t get lost.

Tonight we went to Milan to have dinner with John and Nicole, who were here on a shopping trip from Monaco where they live. John is an American in his 60s, a self-made millionaire who takes good care of his health and his appearance -- except for his non-stop smoking habit. Nicole, only a few years younger than he, has been his main squeeze for more than eight years. When I first met her, she had a fabulous figure but a slightly hooked nose. Within a year her nose had been straightened and her face was as fabulous as the rest of her.

At the time, John had explained that he (not she) had interviewed a series of plastic surgeons before awarding the golden scalpel. They had both been satisfied with the result.

October 1, 2008

Breathe after burning

The nightmare is over and I am back safe at home. I was there for all of it: in DC when the Pentagon was attacked, across the river from Manhattan on September 12 with the still-burning remnants of the Twin Towers -- like ghost limbs after an amputation -- filling the air with smoke, at Logan Airport in Boston in a situation of utter panic and confusion in one of the first flights to take off from that unhappy terminal.

Right now, something as self-centered and frivolous as a facelift seems like a sugar-coated compensation pill. I tried calling Dr. Delos’s office several times today but the line was always busy. So I faxed them, proposing the date of Wednesday Oct. 24, as I expected to be on the Cote d’Azur for a trade fair the third week of October. You have to keep going. You have no choice.