Tag Archives: Luanne Castle

the demise of Lord & Taylor



Lord & Taylor's

Lord & Taylor, New York City; photo by Roger W. Smith


photo by Roger W. Smith

The following is an exchange of emails from today between me and the poet and essayist/writer Luanne Castle, host of the popular website (of which I am a fan)




hi, Luanne

I am in the Lord and Taylor’s department store (great store) shopping for a pair of gloves, and I suddenly thought of your great post about the closing of stores.

Apropos this, see link to NY Times article from October below

“Lord & Taylor Building, Icon of New York Retail, to Become WeWork Headquarters”

by Michael J. De La Merced and Michael Corkery

The New York Times

October 24, 2017

best wishes,




from Luanne Castle to Roger Smith

Ugh, I really hate to hear that (the article’s story). So sad. And what a beautiful old ceiling in the photo you shared. Thanks, Roger.

I watched a 20-year-old movie the other day and was astonished at how rapidly the world has changed in the past 20 years!




from Roger Smith to Luanne Castle

Thanks, Luanne.

I don’t know if you know New York City or have been there.

I grew up in Greater Boston, have lived in NYC since my early 20’s; my wife is a native New Yorker.

I am not a clothes horse (I’m actually the opposite) and I’m not a shopper, but my wife introduced me to Lord and Taylor’s department store and I love it.

It’s located on Fifth Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets, two blocks from the New York Public Library, my home away from home … people come to see the Christmas display in the front windows at the Fifth Ave entrance.

It’s such a nice store to just be in … I will go there on breaks from the library and get a coffee and snack in the cafe … sometimes will do a little shopping or hang around … the staff is so pleasant.

It’s an oasis … my wife and I are so disappointed that it’s essentially closing next year (shrinking from the current ten floors to two).

My wife loves to shop there … she goes on Sundays when there’s parking in midtown Manhattan.

I loved to go Christmas shopping with my Dad and siblings in Jordan Marsh, the main department store in Boston, when I was growing up. They had wonderful displays of toys, such as a big, elaborate electric train display.

We have family photos of my older brother and my sister with the Jordan Marsh Santa — my brother was sitting on his knee … they both have that starry-eyed look of wonderment.

The demise of Lord and Taylor’s is a real disappointment. There is a Macy’s in a mall near where we live; shopping there is downright unpleasant.



— posted by Roger W. Smith

   December 13, 2017




Check out Luanne Castle’s post

“RIP Dreamland”

RIP Dreamland

about the decline of retail over the years as viewed by Luanne through the prism of her family’s experience and hers growing up.


My friend Ella Rutledge commented as follows on Facebook:

Ella Rutledge, December 14, 2017:

You probably know that Jordan Marsh was long ago replaced by Macy’s and the Filene’s across the street has also been closed down. No more Filene’s Basement! I agree with you and your wife about department stores. Japan does them really well, and I used to love wandering through the many floors of beautiful things and smelling the perfume when I walked in the front door. Too bad about Lord & Taylor. [All of the US stores Ella mentions are in Boston, except for Lord and Taylor.]


Roger Smith:

Really interesting input, Ella. I was vaguely aware that Filene’s Basement was gone, didn’t know what had happened to Jordan Marsh (or Filene’s itself). Then, there was the bargain clothing store Raymond’s, where I bought a favorite sport jacket I had forever (wouldn’t fit me now) in college for $19. Interesting about the Japanese department stores. Wish I could visit them. I was in Tokyo once in the 1990’s. Strolled along Ginza but didn’t actually go into any of the department stores with the dazzling window displays, unfortunately.

the absurdity of racial categorizations (a glaring example)


“Race is a construct, not a real thing.” — Luanne Castle, “Memoir and the Construct of Race”

blog post, January 2018

Memoir and the Construct of Race



In a previous blog post


“this isn’t racism?”

this isn’t racism?


I wrote:

… what is white, anyway, and what is black? When it comes to racial categories, that is.

Whites are not really white and blacks are not really black. Were my skin white, I would probably scare a lot of people. … There is such diversity in ethic groupings that it seems nonsensical to me to sort them into ironclad groupings. The groupings were made up by someone or other who manufactured them out of thin air, bureaucrats; they ignore many ethnic groups and sort them almost willy-nilly.




Consider the following news item about Prince Harry’s new fiancée, Meghan Markle.


She was born Rachel Meghan Markle in Los Angeles in 1981 to a white father and black mother.

Her parents — lighting director Thomas Markle and clinical therapist Doria Ragland — divorced when she was 6, but she has said they remain a close-knit family. …

In an essay written for Elle magazine in 2015, Markle discussed coming to terms with her racial identity and how conflicted she felt in seventh grade when forced to check a box indicating her ethnicity.

“You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other — and one half of myself over the other. My teacher told me to check the box for Caucasian. ‘Because that’s how you look, Meghan,’ she said,” Markle wrote.

“I couldn’t bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. So, I didn’t tick a box.”

When she came home, her dad said, “If that happens again, you draw your own box.”


“How Meghan Markle went from minor celebrity to English royalty,” by Danika Fears, The New York Post, November 28, 2017




To me, this story is indicative of the absurdity and the harm done by the present system of racial categorization, and racial categories, existing in the United States.


— Roger W. Smith

  November 2017; updated January 2018




Addendum: I have been thinking about this some more.

Ms. Markle’s seventh grade teacher told her that she looked Caucasian, so she should check the box for white.

All of the news accounts of her and Prince Harry’s engagement noted that she was of “mixed race.”

I know what this is supposed to mean, but aren’t almost all humans a  blend, genetically speaking, of races and ancestors? Someone might say, echoing Orwell, that some are more mixed than others. But how about all the mixing of races and ethnicities from different nations and continents? If Prince Harry were engaged, say, to a woman with an American father and an Asian mother, would the press have taken much note of it?

The government and many institutions such as colleges  and universities think race is important. They require it to be designated on census forms, applications, and such. How is one to keep track of it all? Should everyone be required to submit the results of an Ancestry.com DNA test?




Addendum: See also

“It’s time the Census Bureau stops dividing America”

by Ward Connerly and Mike Gonzalez

The Washington Post

January 3, 2018




‘It’s time the census bureau stops dividing America’ – Washington Post 1-3-2018