Saturday, February 12, 2011

All The World's A Stage

We all play certain roles in our lives.  We figure out what our parts are and what the requirements are for playing those roles successfully.   I think this happens in almost every aspect of our lives, but especially  in our professional lives, because those of us for whom our work is important, spend more of our waking hours working than doing anything else.

For example, the person deeply afraid of public speaking can learn to become good at it, with enough focused effort.  The shy person can learn to put on a different persona in order to be effective in the spotlight and can become better and better at it.    And different circumstances and different audiences can require assuming different roles with different "rules of interaction."  We play a certain role with customers, yet another with employees, yet another with employers, etc.    Even in our personal lives, there might be certain kinds of relationships in which the specific rules of interaction are clear in our minds - especially in those relationships where compartmentalization is easy, maybe even preferred.   And of course, it helps when the respective roles and appropriate rules of interaction are equally understood and accepted by everyone involved - then there's less room for misunderstanding and confusion and becomes almost like reading from the same clearly defined script.

But then there are some circumstances and interactions that involve emotional vulnerability.   This is a different beast altogether.  Because in that context, there is no "role" to assume.  There are no clearly defined "rules of interaction" to follow when we are emotionally naked in front of another person.  Some of us are simply horrible at this, or we have been too hurt to trust, so we revert to what we are accustomed to and we try to impose compartmentalization anyway, or we try to apply a certain set of rules of interaction even though it isn't appropriate in that context, or is a set of rules that the other person doesn't understand or doesn't want to accept.

I think this explains how some people can be highly inconsistent across the different aspects of their lives - how someone who might be good at being a friend, might be horrible at being a romantic partner.  Or how some of us who are rockstars professionally, can be complete disasters when it comes to our personal lives.  Or how someone who is a great parent, might be a less than ideal spouse, etc.  We all make choices about which roles we are willing to work hard at until we succeed at playing them.  The context is critically important.   So it's actually impossible to say that we truly know another person, especially if we've only ever seen him/her in certain contexts, if we've only ever seen him/her playing certain roles.  Change the context, and you might be very surprised by that person you once thought you knew so well.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Old Age

Another birthday, another word momentarily "lost" if not for the help of google.

I forgot the word "autopsy" the other day. Given how addicted I am to crime shows such as NCIS and Bones, it is completely bewildering.

More bewildering, I remembered that "necropsy" refers to the post-mortem dissection of non-human bodies (animals, not aliens). I had a vague idea that the word I was trying to remember might rhyme with necropsy, but that didn't help. I had to turn to google.

Thank god for google. Something has to counteract the effects of amyloid plaque that is commonly thought to cause Alzheimer's.

Jeesh - when writing that above sentence, "amyloid plaque" leaped up easily and effortlessly from the murky mess that is my brain. Yet "Alzheimer's" required some concentration to catch.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lost and Found

When looking for something lost, the place to start the search is where you think you saw it last. My go-to repository for lost things is usually my fridge. Nine times out of ten, my remote control is found on the eye-level shelf, next to a jar of capers.

But what if you lost it so long ago that "where-did-I-see-it-last?" is not a viable search strategy? Then it's a no holds barred search. It's process of elimination. Not here, not here, not there, oh maybe - no, not there.

And what if what you lost is pretty big... such as, say, yourself?

What does process of elimination look like in this context?. I am not like this person. I am COMPLETELY different from her. And THAT person? Ugh. NOTHING in common. I would NEVER make the choices she made.

Not so long ago, I once wrote a post in this blog (in relation to the movie Lost in Translation):

"And I firmly believe it's demonstrable of a fundamental failing in one's character to see only what is alien on the surface instead of what is familiar beneath."

This is an apology sent up to cyberspace, for the discernible lack of generosity and graciousness on my part toward certain people who only peripherally walked in my world.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


There are some things you only see and hear clearly in those moments when you are alone. And only recently have I had enough solitude to look and listen. And the result? After many many months of silence, I feel as though I have something to write again in my terribly neglected blog.

I have been thinking of baroque music, specifically, of counterpoint.

Most generally, counterpoint is multiple lines of music each of which are different and independent but sound "good" when played together.

When music students study "species counterpoint", there are myriad rules to follow - specifics of how melodies are resolved and so forth. It's an exercise involving highly defined structures. And one of the most overarching "rules" is that the focus is on the individual melodies and the interaction among them rather than on the harmonies produced when played simultaneously.

But when independent melodies are played at the same time, it's inevitable that multiple notes will sound simultaneously. And those vertical elements are chords - harmony. It's impossible to write simultaneous lines without producing harmony; it's impossible to write harmonies without producing a horizontal "melody." Finding a good balance between the two dimensions (vertical and horizontal) is one of the hardest things to do when writing counterpoint.

Put it this way, it's hard enough to write ONE beautiful melody. Now imagine writing multiple beautiful melodies that all sound good when played together.

This is one of the many reasons Bach is so brilliant. His counterpoint doesn't merely find a good balance between the harmonies and the melodies - it is a profound synthesis of the two dimensions. The individual melodic lines remain beautiful and complex and fascinating, and yet all together, the harmonics are rich and produce a beautiful "line" in and of themselves.

I can't help but think of how this could be applied to personal relationships. It's all too easy for one melody to dominate, and the other melody to get simplified to the point where it becomes mere harmonic "back up". And that can be beautiful too. But it's not counterpoint. The beauty of counterpoint lies in the interaction of independent melodies, each beautiful and worthy in its own right. Counterpoint requires discipline, adherence to a myriad of complicated rules, and... grace. But I hope, not the genius of Bach.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hills and Boulders

I feel like Sisyphus. It's deeply wearying to constantly go uphill.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Yesterday was shocking - both Farrah Fawcett AND Michael Jackson?

Death makes us look back. So here's something from 1985...

I'd write more, but MomVee already did it, and better than I could.

Exit stage left, moon walking.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nouveau Cabaret

The Last Cigarette (me, SK and the fabulous FM) will perform again at Veloce Club on Thursday, July 9th. Sorry folks, it's already sold out.

But why Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water", you ask?

Simple. FT, who owns Veloce Club, has requested it. Mostly I think for the sheer hilarity of watching us try to sing it.

Now try to imagine a breathy sex kitten version of it. OR, to compound the ridiculousness, a cappella? I know. Who WOULDN'T want to see that?!?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Our first "press" mention - in Makeup Loves Me. Obviously, I think she is brilliant and insightful.

If you haven't bought a Luxe Now gift card for someone in NYC (such as ME, for example), hurry up and do so.

Friday, May 22, 2009


There has been discussion buzzing around the girl-talk circles.

We all value certain things about ourselves. Sometimes those things are not even necessarily "positive." And we all want to be valued for those things.

"A" values her independence, her force of will, her biting wit, and her formidable strength.

"B" values her "evil brain," her ridiculousness, and her inability to conform even when she is trying really hard to.

"C" values her beauty and sophistication, her unwavering ambition, and her commitment to following through.

"D" values her discipline and talent, demonstrated in the various things she has worked hard to do well.

So what happens when they perceive that they are valued by others for entirely different things... or for things that only represent the tiniest bit of what they are? Or for illusions? Or for traits that almost ANY other woman can embody?

There's a question I can't stand when asked in the context of relationships: "WHY do you love me?" I wholeheartedly dislike being asked that. And I rarely ask it. Seems to me that's the sort of thing that is best volunteered, not solicited.

But sometimes you want to know if you are SEEN. And doubt, while it can dissipate over time, can also grow until it blocks all else. The Girls have all been recounting various relationships that have ended because this particular doubt couldn't be tamed. The sociopathic alcoholic stalker - well, that may not be the best example because he is a sociopathic alcoholic - claimed to love me. But what he "loved" was my appearance and my attention. Everything else was actually a flaw or value neutral in his perspective. All that I am (all that we ALL are), and what he valued was that he thought I was "pretty"? The Fabulous SL has doubts because her man's ex is someone for whom she has no respect. I know what you are thinking, why worry about his ex, for god's sake, get over it. Give him a break, haven't we all slummed at one point or another? But I understand how she feels, I get it. If he once valued this woman, what does that say about what he values, in general, and specifically, what does that say about what he sees and values in SL?

But then...

Sometimes it can't be articulated. Sometimes it's more about timing and "readiness" than about the specific personalities involved. And that's ok, isn't it? At the end of the day, love, like all emotion, is not always rational.

And I suppose that's one reason why we all need multiple people in our lives - whether ourselves, our friends, colleagues, family, lovers. Every person is a mirror of sorts and reflects back different things.

Maybe that's enough - that in the aggregate of the mirrors in your life, your reflection is complete.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mental Masturbation

Earlier this year I was obsessed with opening lines of a novel. And since obsession, like misery, loves company, I dragged others into the abyss with the following email chain:


From: C-Belle
Subject: Favorite Opening Lines Of A Novel

Because this topic has been on my mind lately, I brought up the
subject at every meeting I had today. Who knew that salon owners were
so well-read?

This is what I got:

"Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by
literature." (Anita Brookner)

"All children, except one, grow up." (Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie)

"All this happened, more or less." (The salon owner couldn't remember
the book, but I googled it right then and there - LOVE my new
blackberry: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut)

My personal favorite:

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-
ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate
to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." (Lolita, Nabokov)



From: SK
Subject: Favorite Opening Lines Of A Novel

"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were." (Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell)

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables." (Jitterbug Perfume - Tom Robbins)

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." (Neuromancer - William Gibson)


From: MM
Subject: Favorite Opening Lines Of A Novel

"I had a farm in Africa." (Out of Africa, Karen Blixen, aka Isaac Dinesen)

But I liked Lolita a lot, too.

Also "When you wet the bed, first it is warm, then it cold..." (Ulysses, James Joyce)

"I married for the first time at 37." (Sex and the Single Girl, Helen Gurley Brown)

It's a pain in the ass waiting around for someone to kill you." (Roger Zelazny, Sign of the Unicorn)

Not the most brilliant or literary sci-fi fantasy ever, but a great opening line.
Anyone for "Arma virumque cano...." ??????


From: Gorgeous Hunk O'Man (JF)
Subject: RE: Favorite Opening Lines Of A Novel

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." (Stephen King, The Gunslinger).

Though typically not a fan of the writer of our nation's fast food version of horror, I find this book spare, compelling, and rather disturbing. Interestingly enough, he wrote it in his early days at the peak of his alcohol abuse, which may be another reason I like it so.


From: JR
Subject: RE: Favorite Opening Lines Of A Novel

"Call me Ishmael."

Given my company .... could it be another?


The email exchange then drifted to favorite closing lines, and novels with a "novel within a novel structure," etc. And since my every contribution involved Nabokov's Lolita in some way, MM finally asked me what my obsession with that book was.

I blame The Police and Mr. M, my 6th grade English teacher.

After crushing on Sting, and listening obsessively to "Don't Stand So Close To Me", I went up to Mr. M after class one day and asked him:

"that Police song has the lyric: 'just like that, old man in, that book by Nabokov.' What book?"

And Mr. M whipped out a copy of Lolita (he just happened to have one handy) and pressed it into my hands in a way that would have made me intensely uncomfortable had I already read it.

But it all makes sense now. No wonder I believe love affairs should be difficult, socially unacceptable, and result in someone dying.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Commercial Message

So I've been quiet on the blogging front of late.

IC and I have *finally* launched Luxe Now. Check it out to see what we have been toiling over the last many months. Also, if you are so inclined, go HERE, to our facebook page and become a fan! Do it for me. NOW. Oops, I meant, PLEASE. Rats, I always confuse those two words.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Occasional Ray of Perversity

Ergo and I were discussing our blogs this morning - a topic that we revisit on a fairly regular basis: do our blogs reveal the kind of people we are? Since we know each other both on and offline, we seemed to be the best people to answer this question for each other.

me: "Your REAL quirkiness comes out a bit, here and there..."

Ergo: with yours, "an occasional ray of perversity shines through. but you are very subtle. it's your spy geisha thing"

I suppose the big takeaway is that I see Ergo as quirky, and she sees me as perverse.

True enough.

Monday, April 13, 2009


I spoke to a friend tonight, one whom I haven't talked to in a very long time. But we were friends when we were young and absolutely fearless.

And my heart is breaking for her.

I can't write what happened.

What do you do when something happens to break you so thoroughly that you feel you can't even move, can't even breathe? That you don't even recognize yourself anymore?

She doesn't know how to put the pieces back together.

When I was living in Beijing, I was home one night, watching TV. I can't remember the name of the show...

One of the characters was a woman whose husband had left her. She was raging with anger and grief, and wondering why, with her heart broken, she was still alive. Don't you need a whole, functioning heart to live? And despite the betrayal and hate, she still wanted him. But not with her heart, which was broken. Not even with her mind, because she knew that there was no going back. She still wanted him with her legs, her arms, her breasts, her hips, her groin, her hands, her lips. As if her body parts were mindless animals which only knew need and desire and were completely outside her control.

And the worst part of it is, that only describes one part of what my friend is feeling. The other part is... worse.

She needed me to talk about certain things. She needed me to remember and to be back in that place, with her, now.

And so I did.

We all think we are strong. But we never really know, not unless we're tested.

I'm think I'm failing this test. Because while I did what she needed, I desperately wish that I had never answered my phone.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Scent Obsession

A few days ago, MM, who works with perfume, sent me an ad for a newish fragrance (released Autumn 2008) that she thought was "conceptually and olfactorily right up (my) alley."

MM has a great nose - she can identify most perfumes instantly (and understands both their composition and dry-down), she has great taste, and she is an insightful and generous reader of personality.

So I am happy to take her advice, scent unsmelled, and perhaps I'll finally get around to placing an order for the stuff one day soon. It doesn't hurt that a few months ago, when I wasn't obsessing about Chanel 19, I was obsessing about amber and vetiver and leather.

But, obsessions change. Especially perfume obsessions, especially according to the weather.

While it seems like Persephone is still with Hades, I am fairly confident that warm weather will eventually arrive. And with the prospect of summer, quite predictably, I turn back to Shiseido's White Rose. I don't particularly care for rose, as a scent. Or even as a flower. But I smelled it the last time I was in Tokyo, loved it, and in a fit of insanity, decided NOT to buy it.

To add insult to injury, it's pretty much impossible to find in the US. It will have to wait until I am back in Asia.

So until the day I find myself in the Ginza district of Tokyo, it's Chanel 19.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WARNING: Music Geekiness Ahead

Have been singing "Night And Day" - not just singing it, but really trying to figure it out. So I've been listening to it far more carefully that I normally would.

It's unusual for a song of that era. It's longer, for one. Instead of the typical four 8-bar sections, if is divided into 6 sections of 8 bars - with an ABABCB structure (instead of the more typical AABA).

This song has an unusual chord progression as well. And all sorts of lovely crunchy chords such as major sevenths built on the flattened sixth of the key, resolving to dominant sevenths. My favorite part starts with a chord built on the augmented fourth of the key, and descends by semitones before hitting the supertonic minor seventh. Gorgeous.

The only reason I can somewhat do justice to this song is that the vocal melody is a bit unusual - the melody is incredibly simple, with all the notes hovering around the SAME note for the most part, with all the lovely chords meandering about underneath.

After an early dinner with BM (during which we had the first celebrity sighting of 2009 - Dan Ackroyd), I came home and went directly to my piano. It was a lovely evening.

Of course, the most noteworthy part of it was that BM and I both choose to detox and NOT drink tonight.

While I am rather proud of that, I will admit that as I type this, I am sipping a bone dry white, and still humming.

A Bad Influence

I did yoga this morning after a long yoga-drought.

My mat seemed to mock me. Poses that were once effortless were grueling and there was a moment when I thought I would rest in child's pose. But I kept pushing through, and finally my head left the game. And when that happened, muscle memory kicked in... and something else. For the first time ever, with no expectations of success, and in possibly the worst shape of my life, I hit and held "crow" for a full 3 breaths.

Of course once I realized what I was doing, I started THINKING again, and immediately pitched forward and landed on the top of my head.

But that doesn't diminish the feeling of success.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Game Theory

Talking about relationships lately... triggered by the most common trigger for such conversations - the dissolution of one.

But amongst my group, the angle of that conversation that has been most consistent across the last many years is not "why didn't he love ME," but rather, "why didn't I love him? Am I too selfish or unrealistic or cold?"

During the most recent conversation on this topic, I expounded on my take on it - which revolves around relative power distribution.

But first, more background. This particular variation of the "relationship discussion" is about rejecting men who are decent and kind and trustworthy - GOOD men without commitment issues or heavy emotional baggage or other "major" flaws.

Of course, the answer might be as simple as "we didn't love them." But what lies beneath that rather facile explanation?

Since I only remember 40% of what people (including myself) say, it comes as no surprise that I need my friends to recount certain conversations to me. SK and IC have both independently reminded me that they once asked me if I loved my ex-husband. Apparently, I answered, "No, but I trust him."

Putting aside the possible explanation that we are a cold-hearted bunch incapable of loving, why did we not appreciate what we had or could have? Optimistically, I choose to believe that we just haven't yet met the "right" men - specifically, men whose opinions we care about, men for whom we will make the continued effort to make happy, men we respect. (At the end of the day, what we choose to respect, TRULY respect, is highly personal and sometimes inexplicable. )

But to drill deeper, it comes down to power, specifically in the inequality of it. With most of my past relationships, there was no equality vis-a-vis power. I held all of it. And that never held my interest for long. According to SK, witnessing my marriage was like "watching a mountain lion trying to date a stuffed animal."

So if a balance of power is important, desirable, even... that opens up another can of worms.

To quote SK again: "that's when relationships get scary."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Scientific Advancements

I had a revelation of sorts last night. But then, 3AM is the hour of revelatory moments.

The problem with revelations is that MANY are necessary before they "stick."

But I've had this particular revelation for years now. There's a time for velcro and a time for teflon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lost at Whole Foods

Exactly a year ago, giving into the traditions of the date, I wrote Breaking The Fast. Which was quickly followed by Gotcha! when people called, IM'd, and emailed me to express their opinions.

Apparently, the joke's on me, 'cause I found myself lost and confused at Whole Foods just the other day, saved only by WC who coached me over the phone on 1. how to identify a mango and 2. how to pick a ripe one.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Looking From A Window Above

I have been looking out at the NYC skyline quite a bit lately. That's not a view you can get in Manhattan unless you are on a high floor - and my 6 story prewar walk-up building just doesn't provide that perspective.

I mentioned this to SK who informed me that I look out the window ALL the time, even in my apt where the view is just the street outside.

Apparently I like looking out windows. Regardless of the view.

I just wish I had a tail and whiskers to twitch. I'm sure that would enhance my enjoyment of it.

On Truth

The Blind Man and the Elephant

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant~(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation~Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, ~ At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant ~ Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! what have we here?
So very round and smooth and sharp? ~ To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant ~ Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands, ~ Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant ~ Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like ~ Is mighty plain," quoth her;
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant ~ Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most; ~ Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant ~ Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail ~ That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant ~ Is very like a rope!

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion ~ Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right ~ And all were in the wrong!


I prefer to think that each was right. Most things you try to understand are far more complex than an elephant - like people, for example, and standing back to view at a distance doesn't help.

Depending on the time of day, the situation, or the observer, the truth of a thing changes. Or, more accurately, a different truth might be revealed. Especially when standing close enough to touch.