Quiet, order, and above all, beauty. I love paying a visit to the enchanting, curated world of the Meg Cohen Design Shop at 59 Thompson Street, a quiet block in NYC’s SoHo. Light-as-air scarves, wraps, and dresses mingle with irresistible vintage finds in an array of intimate vignettes. And they really are finds—matchbox cars, La Dolce Vita–worthy sunglasses, Crayola-colored pottery—rediscovered and brought to light by this artist’s eye.
The visual merchandising, while not obvious to a visitor, nevertheless prompts one to roam the shop, lighting on luscious colors, soft textures, and witty graphics. I never walk in without finding something I must have, a monogrammed tie clip with my initials (coincidence!), hand-painted note cards, a near-transparent linen scarf. A Japanese visitor arrived before me and bought all the penny peanut bags. Take a tour.
The Engineer was a man born in 1918, during the Great Flu Epidemic, who grew up during the Great Depression, and reached manhood just before the Second World War. He met his wife at the Murray Hill Ski Club in Buffalo, New York, when you had to climb up the hill, step by step, before you could ski down. They were married during a snowstorm in the Winter of 1942, and later that year he was drafted into the Army along with most of his peers.
He was trained by the army to be an instructor who trained others in the maintenance and repair of planes. He was honorably discharged at the end of the war. He went back to work in the steel mills of Buffalo till he had the opportunity to go to the University of Buffalo and get his degree in mechanical engineering. He kept working in the steel mill, while going to school, to support his wife and first son, born in 1947.
Upon graduating Magna Cum Laude, he literally beat the pavement for a job, and landed at General Electric, moving his young family from Buffalo to Schenectady. There he was assigned to a new category of engineering, then in its nascent stages, as nuclear power, used to run submarines, was developed to create power for electricity. Swords into plowshares.
The work would eventually take him and his family, which had grown to include another son and a daughter, to northern California with many of his fellow engineers, as this new industry was being established in the Bay Area along with companies like Lockheed and Hewlett-Packard. He and his fellow engineers settled into a life of work, home, family, as other organizations and institutions arose and grew to support this new life—like the PTA (the Engineer was the first president in his community) and church (he was invariably elected the Senior Warden on the Vestry).
He had kept all his tools from his previous jobs when, as a teenager, he worked summers with his father as a house painter and a carpenter. He could build anything, out of anything: a brick bench in a perfect circle, a lanai to cover the porch, a walnut box so perfectly assembled you couldn’t see where the planes were joined. The tools were numerous and covered a pegboard wall in the garage above a workbench that he had also built. The handles of the tools were solid wood and smoothed by the oil from his hands. The pliers were solid metal and heavy. His oldest son once asked him, after yet another neighbor stopped by to borrow a hammer, screwdriver, and pliers, why no one else on the street had their own tools.
The Engineer was always prepared. The Engineer could fix virtually anything. The Engineer was my father. I am the Engineer’s Daughter.