Monday, December 22, 2008

The Holiday Spirit

WC emailed me from the train:

"A homeless man on my train just gave some change to another homeless man."

She just called me to discuss. We wept.

But now we are both thinking that the two of them were in cahoots.

I feel played. I don't like it.

Happy Holidays!

The Best Holiday Card Ever, from KF's company.

Mysterious, magical, and perfect.

And yes, the little girl in it looks suspiciously like E, KF's daughter!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy About The Holidays

I received this email recently from a friend of mine:

"For some reason this holiday season feels so much more stressful and melancholy than last. I could kick scrooge's ass right now."

The holidays do have a tendency to bring that out.

But for me?

Before I can answer that question, I think I need to look back on my most recent Christmases...

Christmas 2005: Rather than returning to Beijing after my trip to Bhutan with WC, I had escaped for some alone-time to the Banyan Tree Spa in Bangkok.

Christmas 2006: I was with my parents, which was lovely, but the Sociopathic Alcoholic had apparently set a timer to remind himself to send me nasty emails and text messages every hour accusing me of being with other men. Perhaps in a couple lifetimes from now I'll look back on it and be flattered at his estimation of my man-attracting skills.

Christmas 2007: I was with my parents, but this time, my email and phone were wonderfully silent.

Christmas 2008: I will be with my parents, and will bring home two "strays": MG and EA, who will join us for Christmas Eve dinner.

I feel good about the holidays this year. In fact, I think I feel VERY good about it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Call Me Mountain

SL arrives today!!!

I've arranged for a car to pick her up from the airport, have been working since 3AM so I can finish up by the time she arrives, will clean my apartment in a bit, and then hit Whole Foods to stock up on supplies. A quick peek inside my fridge revealed only lemons and condiments.

So, to tally up my visitors from Asia this year:

GC from Beijing in April
MM from Tokyo in May
EH from Beijing in June
MB from Hong Kong In July
LW from Hong Kong in September
HM from Tokyo in September
FC from Beijing in November
SL from Hong Kong in December
KF and her husband from Beijing in December

2008 was the year Asia came to me. I think that makes me the mountain.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"I'm Irresistible, You Fool"

Gorgeous Hunk O' Man (JF) got dumped by his boyfriend over the weekend.

I'm stunned.

He's the most beautiful man I've ever seen naked. (Not what you are thinking. Unless you are thinking that when we lived in the same city and on evenings when he'd take me out dancing to some gay club, I'd go to his apt to pick him up and he was always running late so I'd sit on the toilet seat and keep him company and chat with him while he showered and preened).

He is also brilliant. And funny. And successful. And beautifully mannered. And sharply (but never meanly) witty. And is a clever writer and conversationalist. Sure, yes, he's also terrified of commitment and emotionally unavailable, but I mean really, who isn't?

I have to admit, while I am stunned, it is oddly comforting. If even Gorgeous Hunk O' Man (JF) can be dumped, then it's not so wildly mindblowing that the rest of us can be, apparently, all too resistible.

The Demise of Dating

I had posed a question many months ago when I was busy with my online dating experiment.

"With most endeavors, having a clearly identified goal is necessary, or at the very least, helpful in achieving that goal. But with dating..., can being "goal-oriented" hinder rather than help?"

Very rarely do I get the tingles for someone upon first meeting them. It usually requires a long, drawn-out process of getting to know them within a context where there is no romantic/sexual expectation. Hence, I don't like getting hit on. I don't like pushy. I will run if chased (or hurl myself out of a still moving taxi). This also explains my preference for being the aggressor. For me, repeated exposure to a particular someone within a NON romantic/sexual context is usually necessary for me to develop the tingles. And I have great respect for the tingles; I rarely ignore their call, and their call is absolutely required.

So goal oriented dating simply doesn't work for me. A few "dates" to get to know each other, under the expectation of a possible future relationship (of whatever kind), are not sufficient to provide me with nearly enough data points. I require vast data points before I can even begin to feel TRULY interested in a person. And the vast majority of men out there (unless I meet them in a context of work or friendship) simply do not have the patience to play out that game. Especially in NYC, where there's far easier prey out there.

But then I stumbled upon this article in the NYTimes. "Dating is dated. Hooking up is here to stay."

According to the Op-Ed Columnist, Charles Blow:

It turns out that everything is the opposite of what I remember. Under the old model, you dated a few times and, if you really liked the person, you might consider having sex. Under the new model, you hook up a few times and, if you really like the person, you might consider going on a date.

Oh good grief. Unless I want to raise cats for the rest of my life, I think I might need to entirely change how I operate.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Weirdly Reassuring

From WC:
"I was at the Supreme Ct today. Met Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy. This seems so wrong to say, but the Chief Justice is kinda hot."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


IC and I launched our Girly-VIP-Shopping-Email business last week. Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.

And the vast majority of the items that we highlighted for purchase/consideration were hand selected by yours truly. The whole email business should be renamed: "Stuff C-Belle Covets."

I commented to CL the other day that if anyone should ever wonder what to get me as a present, they only have to go to our website.

So CL summed it up like this:

People can go to your business website to figure out what to buy for you. And if they want to figure out what you are thinking, they can go to your blog. So really, when you actually start dating someone again some day, you guys never have to actually TALK. Unless he wants to talk about himself, in which case, you wouldn't really be paying attention anyway. So you guys can just have sex all the time.

I blinked a few times at the last part of that. He's quite the joker, that CL.

But it got me thinking about a topic I've thought and written about before. Can someone really figure out another by reading their blog?

The answer is a resounding "no." At least in the case of my blog.

My blog is highly misleading. I write about numerous topics that appear personal. But my treatment of those topics is necessarily superficial and overly simplified - there's just not that much real estate in a typical, bite-sized post.

My thoughts/hopes/fears/dreams that are truly vulnerable and hence, secret, are recorded not on my blog, but in my little black moleskine journal that never strays too far from my side. And for every blog entry, there are multiple entries in my private journal.

But CL is still essentially correct. ONLY my moleskine is privy to the layers of the onion that have not been polished and prettified for public consumption.

I suppose this is one of the reasons my gay boyfriend, Gorgeous Hunk O' Man (JF), and I get along so well. We know that there's all manner of vulnerability hidden away under our respective glossy surfaces. So we treat those glossy surfaces with care, and we don't make the mistake of thinking that the hardness extends all the way down. And we never ask each other for access to the mushy soft bits. Not out of indifference. Rather, out of protectiveness for the other.

It sounds like the opposite of intimacy. I have this particular dynamic only with him - where intimacy is expressed by... well... avoidance. And it's because we actually DO know each other - at least well enough to recognize ourselves in the other.

Because sometimes kindness and affection are demonstrated not by peeling the layers back, but by mutual admiration for and gentle treatment of what has been carefully buffed, and a complicit agreement to ignore the rest.

Some Morning Humor

Courtesy of DS:

Greatly Deserved Recognition

SL just texted me on her way from Hong Kong to Singapore. Why was she headed to Singapore on a Wednesday afternoon (her time)?

Because she has been nominated for Best Anchor at the Asia TV Awards!

And since she is a public figure, I think I can safely use her full name.

Susan Li, Bloomberg Anchor, (and my dear friend), is AMAZING.

She moved to Beijing in the fall of 2003 with one objective: to cover the Beijing Olympics. And she did so this summer.

Love it when a plan comes together!

Congratulations, darling, and can't wait for your visit next week!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Small Victories

Finally home after a long day of back-to-back meetings.

The bright spot is that I experimented with posting blog entries from my blackberry earlier this evening, during dinner with some friends. I had written that post, Closing Doors, a couple weeks ago and had saved the draft on my berry.

I feel that I've won a small technological victory.

So it's with no small measure of satisfaction that I sit at my computer right now, with a freshly poured glass of wine.

And perhaps tonight, I might actually sleep.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Zen of Naming Cocktails

FT, at his Bar Veloce in Soho, has two cocktails on the menu: Patience and Fortitude.

Of the two, I prefer Fortitude. Which maps astonishingly well with real life.

According to Webster:

Patience: an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

Fortitude: mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.

Once in a thing, once on a path, execution (regardless of the difficulty) seems overwhelmingly easier than waiting to trigger in the first place.

Difficulty, I can handle. Restlessness gets the better of me, every time.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Tiara Kind Of Day

Woke up blue this morning.

Usually, watching a horror movie, while wearing a tiara, is the antidote. But I found myself, inexplicably, watching Under The Tuscan Sky.

Not sure why I'm in such a sappy mood.

I don't like it.

WC and I met for drinks yesterday afternoon. And I've realized something... we almost always end up crying. It wasn't always this way. It's only the last few years that we've turned into weepy drunks, when drinking together. But then... it's not surprising, is it. Can't live a life without encountering reasons to cry. And we've seen each other through many of them; their memories never do fully fade. Apparently, they emerge on quiet weekend afternoons, when WC and I are sitting on neighboring bar stools, sharing a bottle of a dry white.

"Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game."
- from Under The Tuscan Sky

The cynic in me wants to throw up a little in my mouth.

And yet... isn't that what we all hope for? Even the most cynical of us. Even me.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

2 Girls, 4 Computers

IC and I have been churning out new products with lightning speed.

If we had had a spare moment to question our ability to get certain things done within our specified deadlines, we would have given up before even starting.

But since we didn't have that time, we just pushed on.

There are certain advantages to having known each other since we were 12. Added to that, are the advantages of spending 8 hours a day, 5 days a week together in the same room.

Because when the shit hits the fan and we need to accomplish in a single day what should take WEEKS by any sane measure, we manage to communicate quickly, efficiently, effectively, in a kind of shorthand that is incomprehensible to anybody else.

"The dedicated merchant page, that link, pissing me off. Now or later?"
"Got it."
"And the...?"
"First yes, second no"
Imagine that all day long.

It's ASTONISHING that what we've produced makes ANY sense at all.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Shellfish Is An Abomination

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Is bad that I now have a crush on Doogie?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Postpartum Depression

Giving birth is hard.

IC and I just reached a major milestone for our business.

The last few days in particular have been brutal. But we did it, more or less.

We were too exhausted to be in a celebratory mood. However, we did go to the corner bodega for smokes and a cheap bottle of wine. We turned to each other in the harsh light of the bodega, and if we had had the energy for it, we would have gasped and stepped back. Yes, we looked like we had gone through a war.

Back at my apartment, we toasted each other tiredly and drank and smoked while tracking open rates and click-throughs and fun stuff like that.

IC claimed that this was harder than actually giving birth for real. I must remember to tell N that, once he is old enough for a conversation.

But my terrifying thought? We'll have to do this over and over again, once every two weeks. Note to self, must hire more people. IC and started this entire venture with the goal of running our business while sitting in neighboring pedicure chairs. And we're both entirely irritated that we're not there yet.

So I'm irritated, exhausted, hungry, slightly drunk, and.... and at least two other negative adjectives but I can't get my brain to work at the moment.

But it's done.

Off now to finish the wine.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


WC and I intended to see a horror movie tonight. But it didn't turn out to be one. Twilight turned out to be... sweet, funny, a complete tear jerker, saved from our derision only because there was one gratifyingly violent scene in which body parts were torn apart and ultimately burned.

Different scenes got to us. For WC, it was the scene where the boy (a vampire) lifted his girl (a human) over the stairs because she had a cast on her ankle (a result of the violent scene I just referred to).

For me... it was when they danced. She didn't know how to dance. He lifted her and placed her feet on his. Perhaps it's because I am a daddy's girl myself. That is how I danced for years, balancing on my father's feet.

I turned to look at WC and we were both weepy. Although the wine that we smuggled in and drank out of paper coffee cups might have contributed to that.

WC's commentary as we walked out of the theater: "That movie was so sweet I'm now mad at J (her bf)."

But that isn't what I'm thinking about now. I'm thinking about... vengeance, violence, justice - the old testament kind. I'm thinking of the scene where the vampire tore apart the person who tried to hurt his girl.

It's completely unfair of me, it's completely irrational. I know it. But... even though I would have been furious at the suggestion that I couldn't protect myself, I never forgave the person who chose to be a f*cking poodle when I had told him what had happened, instead of personifying protective fury beyond imagining.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Memory Tells Its Own Story

It's a Beijing sky today.

Cognitive dissonance - I look up at the sky and then look down at street level and am surprised to see street signs and billboards that I can read.

But today, it's not a longing kind of nostalgia, not exactly. It feels more like a... happy secret, that I still remember. Because one day, I know I won't. Those reminders and connections will require ever increasing effort to reach.

Ergo wrote a post on the movie, My Blueberry Nights, and in her review, she wrote that "It transmits frequencies - love, lostness, connection, uncertainty, strength, desire, floating, seeking, loss, alienation, buoyancy, the curious intimacy that you can only share with strangers."

This reminds me of a conversation I had with her recently on the known versus the unknown.

A cursory look at my history and preferences might suggest that I'm addicted to what's new. But that's not how I'm wired at all. I like to KNOW. And I will go to great lengths to hold myself apart until I feel that I do, at least enough. New people and places might interest me, but only in the most superficial of ways. It's knowledge of a thing, person, or place that turns me on.

Every once in a while, I think I should work to change that. Because every once in a while, I read something that resonates with me, like Ergo's words, "the curious intimacy that you can only share with strangers."

But that's not today.

Today, I'm thinking that I need to visit Beijing and Hong Kong before they change beyond my recognition. Before I change beyond their recognition. Both those cities, particularly Beijing, have changed, according to my friends who live there. They tell me that I wouldn't recognize it anymore.

I want to see those changes. Like catching up with a friend you haven't seen in many many years. But despite any pleasure in the "changes," you still look for what's known, for what you remember.

I need to visit before everything actually does change. Because when intimacy and knowledge have been hard fought to win, their loss feels that much greater.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wo Gaosu Ni Zhenme Zuo

Restlessness hit hard again. I have associated the holidays with passport necessary trips for some time now. Just doesn't seem right when "going home" involves only Metro North.

Since PC and I have gotten back in touch, we've exchanged the kind of long rambling emails necessary to catch up on a couple of years of lost contact.

He asked about my life, and in my reply, I asked if it were possible to still feel like an expat, even when back in the country and city of one's childhood.

The cliche will tell us that "you can never go home again," but my objective isn't to indulge in a navel gazing retrospective about nostalgia and growing apart.

Because the reality is, I DO feel like I am home. And that is the problem. I don't feel like an expat anymore.

There are myriad triumphant moments as an expat. As an expat, even something as simple as successfully taking a taxi, or bargaining at a local market, or asking for directions can result in such a high. And as the conversations and interactions become more complex, the feeling of triumph becomes that much greater.

And it's rare that I congratulate myself after getting out of a taxi in NYC.

Although, now that I think about it... perhaps I SHOULD meet Grabby Cabby Guy for a drink. Getting out of THAT taxi would certainly be cause for celebration.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Vacation, All I Ever Wanted..."

The holidays are a crazy time in the world of salons and spas and exclusive boutiques. But I'm in the mood for a vacation. I doubt I'll be able to carve out time for one, but a girl can dream, yes?

Because I need some quiet time. Just me.

I broke the dam, so to speak, on vacationing alone several years ago. And to be sure, going on holiday with someone whose company you enjoy is a unique pleasure. But holiday-compatibility is a difficult thing to find.

I spent YEARS vacationing according to someone else's preferences. I didn't regret it then and I don't regret it now. The trips were always fabulous, I always enjoyed myself. There's no "woe is me" driving this post. I always had the option to state my preferences but at the end of the day, I'm easy. Fun can always be had, no matter the place, the venue, the activity. And there can be pleasure in compromise, because it's the shared experience that matters most in that context.

But what a different thing it was to plan everything myself without having to consult another's preferences.

I've never believed it was important to share hobbies with friends or lovers. Mostly because my hobbies don't really lend themselves to being shared: yoga, horseback riding, reading, playing my piano. But holidays are different.

And sometimes it's the most important thing in the world to give yourself permission to be selfish, from time to time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Me and WC

I've identified my limit: 40 hours without sleep. And then what happens? I hit The Wall.

Actually, it's more of a line which I cross to enter into "not fit for human company" land.

But the worst thing is, even after 40 hours of exhaustion, I slept 4 hours, and then I was done. Not refreshed, not well rested, just... awake.

So I did some work and decided to see what was on TV at 9AM on a Saturday morning. The answer? Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion.

WC and I saw this together and we giggled and howled our way through it.

We were never THAT stupid, but to be honest, we weren't that far off. But that hardly matters. It's the commonality of the experiences that matters.

I think I'll call her now and tell her it's on TV.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

12 Gauge Shotgun

I had a lovely evening last night.

In the spring, on one of my rare departures from Chelsea, I met my cousin for a drink in SOHO and started chatting with the lovely couple that was seated near us at the bar. Business cards were exchanged and somehow we stayed in touch over email. Last night, I saw them again for the first time since that night and it was delightful.

Despite the bad rep that New Yorkers have outside the island, we are a friendly bunch. Sure, sometimes it can be attributed more to nosiness than friendliness, and/or it might be an inevitable side effect of living in a crowded city (I have trouble writing that last bit with a straight face. NYC is hardly crowded after Beijing and Hong Kong), but regardless, we are a talkative, friendly bunch. Especially in a bar, with a couple of drinks already tucked away.

Of course, many of us are freaks. So rarely does a friendly chat at a bar turn into a real friendship, or even an invitation to additional "sightings."

But sometimes, it is glaringly obvious that the people you are talking to, are LOVELY. And that's not something that happens every day.

They are going to Westchester on an upcoming Saturday to run around the countryside with shotguns. Now don't get the wrong idea. This isn't a common activity in their world. And I have been invited.

I am so excited I can barely sit still. I've gone skeet shooting only once before, flaunted a badly bruised shoulder afterward, and loved every second of it.

It is practice for when I am old and perched on an Eames Lounge chair, clad in Prada, wearing Chanel N°19, chain-smoking through a foot-long cigarette holder, and taking shots at all the ugly fat people I see with my 12 gauge.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chanel N°19

It's not even 6PM and it's dark dark dark.

This only surprises me because somehow I completely missed summer.

I'm taking a short break from work right now and listening to my favorite movement from my favorite symphony: Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, the Largo movement.

I remember the first time I heard it - at music school. My string-instrument friends all played in the orchestra so I went to a performance. Students, you say? You are probably imagining something awful. It wasn't professional, certainly, but re-tune what you are no doubt hearing in your mind's ear. Their performance was surprisingly good. So much so, that I remember "forgetting" where I was. Instead of sitting on the edge of my seat out of nervousness for my friends on stage, I sat back and closed my eyes.

If you've never listened to it, do.

It's beautiful. It's complex overall, simple in parts, and sweet and triumphant and sad and wistful and happy. I listen to it frequently, but most especially in the winter. Maybe because it was winter when I first heard it.

I have this belief that innocence has a surprising ability to remain untouched. (Of course, I'm precluding all manner of dark innocence robbers from this statement). For example, you can tell a dirty joke - if it's understood, then you were hardly the one to mar that particular innocence. If it's not, well then, it's not, and innocence remains.

I was always a voracious reader. I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on. Which meant that as a small child I was reading books that would be considered shocking for adults. (Let's ignore the fact that my parents' library contained such variety). But what didn't make sense to me, simply didn't. And it was only upon rereading those same books when I was much older that I thought to myself "WTF?!?"

But this piece was different for me. And I'm not relying on memory here. I read it in one of my old journals the last time I was visiting my parents. When I first heard it, I was 14 years old. And I wrote, later that evening, that listening to it made me "feel... grown up, as if I had been in love - not just having crushes. And that being in love hadn't always gone well. And although I was sometimes sad, everything was still... ok."

Yes, laughable. Nothing is quite so pretentious as a young teenager.

But the thing that struck me as I was rereading that journal, was that I WAS struck. Not just because the music was "pretty" or "sad." It made me think outside myself and my experiences to date. Which I suppose all art is intended to do. So maybe it's just me, and that during a certain period of young adulthood, I had a surprising ability to remain unmoved, untouched by what happened around me. Except for the first time I listened to this piece of music.

Oddly, I'm now thinking of Chanel N°19. It had me at the first whiff. But I've never worn it because I decided that I wasn't yet complex and interesting enough to do so.

But maybe one day, I'll wear it and go to the symphony and see if listening to a world-class orchestra performing this piece makes me think of being absurdly young, as if life were just about having crushes and playing my piano and reading books I don't understand.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I saw Damage when it first came out in the movie theaters in 1992 and I was left unmoved. My personal review of the movie mirrored the following review I found this morning from The New Yorker:

A middle-aged British politician (Jeremy Irons, looking and sounding alarmingly like Boris Karloff) falls in love with his son's girlfriend, a mysterious half-French beauty (Juliette Binoche). The screenplay-by David Hare, from Josephine Hart's sensationally stupid best-seller-aims to create a sense of tragic inevitability out of a banal infidelity story: what it achieves is lethal predictability. For almost two hours, the movie alternates joyless, desperate (but tastefully lit) couplings with painfully awkward family gatherings; then somebody dies and everybody's sad and it's over. Director Louis Malle has played artistic sugar daddy to Hart's shallow little novel-provided a lavishly appointed flat for a story that isn't worth a cheap motel room. Also with Miranda Richardson (who is dreadful), Rupert Graves, Ian Bannen, and Leslie Caron.

-T.R. -Terrence Rafferty
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker

But 16 years do not pass without some change in perspective.

Rather like when I read Madame Bovary for the first time at the age of 16. I HATED it. I didn't consider it to be Flaubert's "most important work" and I thought Emma was whiny and foolish and weak and naive - certainly not a signal of a new dawn of feminism.

It was only when I reread it MANY years later that Emma became more believable to me, and I softened slightly to feel more sympathy and understanding.

And while my change in opinion surprised me then, it shouldn't have. People change. Perspectives change. The lines we draw for ourselves and others change.

There's a purity and simplicity to black and white. But without all the shades of gray, where's the fun?

I've decided to read Madame Bovary yet again. I wonder what my reaction to it will be now.

à plus tard

The car service just came to pick up FC.

Her visit was entirely too short, and I miss her already.

Safe travels, FC! See you next in Beijing!

It's Not How You Play The Game

Solex has a new addition - a pool table.

Friday night, when FC and I were there, we teamed up against FT. And we won. All three times. Did I mention that we won? Yes, we won, me and FC.

Of course, we did cheat, with a total lack of subtlety.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shopping For Others

FC brought me two shirts as gifts from Beijing, from my FAVORITE shirt store, Art Of The Shirt. One in particular struck her as something that I would wear. Her exact thought was: "I can see C-Belle wearing that!" But then, upon leaving the store with her purchases, she thought: "Hmm. Is it because I HAVE seen her in it?" (I do have a very similar shirt - purchased from the same shop - but since it is getting so worn from repeated washings, it is PERFECT timing for a replacement! Thanks, FC!)

But I digress.

I've been spending an extraordinary amount of time lately in the humidor rooms of various cigar shops.

I enjoy the occasional cigar myself, but it's been years since I've purchased them, because I never buy them for myself but only ever as gifts.

I had forgotten that I enjoy the ritual of cigar selection. Length? Ring gauge? Color of the wrapper? (Factors affecting or suggestive of the body and strength of the cigar).

There's also a sense of intimacy inherent in choosing a cigar as a gift.

It's less personal than choosing perfume or cologne. But it's more personal than say - choosing a tie. When I buy a tie for a man, the purchasing decision is based entirely on what I find pleasing to my own eyes.

With cigars... you have to think about the recipient, make some guesses, and sometimes be surprised that the man whom you thought would prefer a full-bodied cigar actually prefers something smoother.

But I suppose at the end of the day, the calculus involved is no different from what should be employed in buying ANY gift for ANY person. So many gifts are given without that specificity of thought. Or are more reflective of what you want to say about yourself, as the gift giver, rather than reflective of focus on the recipient.

Of course, mistakes can result in humor, immediate re-gifting, or even insult. But when you get it right... that's a pleasure in and of itself.

An Island

Thoughts of Asia never seem to be far away.

With FC in town right now from Beijing, and SL coming for a visit next month from Hong Kong, the winter of 2008/2009 is starting off with a strong Asia focus.

And just the other day, PC found me on facebook.

December 2005, I spent 10 days at the Kamalaya Resort in Koh Samui, Thailand. I didn't want to go home for the holidays, but I needed to get out of Beijing. And I was hungry to just be alone. An Iyengar yoga retreat in a gorgeous resort fit the bill perfectly. Besides, I was going to meet WC in Bangkok (en route to Bhutan) later that month so getting a head start to Thailand made sense to me.

It rained every single day I was in Koh Samui. It should have been dreadful. It was perfect.

My days there were reassuringly well-ordered. I started every morning with yoga in my room, had a lovely breakfast by myself, followed by 4 hours of yoga with the other participants. Then lunch with the other yogis, followed by yet another yoga session in the afternoon. A spa treatment, then dinner - sometimes in my room, sometimes in the dining room. There was never any pressure to be with other people.

I'm not sure if everyone who was there went there for the same reasons I did - in search of peace and solitude - or if somehow it was obvious that I needed to be apart.

I made two friends while there, despite myself.

HS, who incidentally, will be in town over Chinese New Year for the NYC premier of his movie, My Beijing Birthday, was absolutely lovely. He was one of the investors of the resort, and an avid yogi himself, and he always seemed to know when I wanted to be alone and when I was in the mood for company.

PC was there with his gorgeous, glamorous wife, F. They lived in Hong Kong, but were building a second home on Koh Samui - just minutes away from the resort.

I contacted PC in January 2006, letting him know that I had decided to relocate to Hong Kong, and he was wonderfully generous in introducing me to everyone I needed to know there.

I look back on that time with wonder. I wouldn't have thought it was possible to make connections with people when I was busy building walls around me.

The walls are still up. A bit thinner perhaps, and more transparent, but they're still there. It should be easier to pull down a wall than to build it in the first place. But apparently, not always.

But while I'm on the topic of building walls...

PC's amazing house in Koh Samui has since been completed. And his recent email to me contained probably the loveliest words known to man: "If you are in the neighborhood you are most welcome. We have lovely VIP guest quarters. Come."

The Stomach, The Expressway To The Heart

I'm not exactly a foodie.

First of all, I'm a grazer. I don't often sit down for a meal; I'm all about interval snacking. And for me, food is primarily a socializing tool, not an end in itself.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good meal. But in the "eat to live" versus "live to eat" divide, I fall squarely in the former. Actually, more accurately, I eat to drink. 'Cause far more than a foodie, I am a girl who loves her wine.

Last night may have changed that.

Six of us went to Momofuku Ssam Bar last night, and immediately following the appetizers, our entire group proposed to the chef. He graciously accepted and sent over steamed pork belly buns to our table to celebrate the engagement.

Have you seen the movie, Ratatouille? About the rat that dreams of being a chef? In the movie, Anton Ego, the gaunt, bitter food critic who loves food so much that he only swallows when he LOVES it, sits down to a meal, prepared, unbenownst to him, by a rat.

And with his first bite, he is immediately transported to his childhood - a warm, glowing childhood with a mother who cooks lovingly for him.

Biting into those pork buns last night produced an emotional response of the same intensity.

It was love.

It was warm, comforting, delicious, decadent, sweet, salty, tangy, satisfying love. It was get-weak-in-the-knees, slide-off-your-seat, love.

We lingered at Momofuku long after our meal was finished, wondering if we could just spend the night there and have breakfast in the morning. We then considered following our new fiancee back to his place and gazing at him raptly, expectantly, hungrily, until he continued to feed us.

We did neither of those things, but we did stand outside the restaurant for a long while, doing our respective "happy tummy" dances out on the sidewalk.

And this morning?

I'm hungry. And fairly certain I dreamt of pork buns.

For those of you reading this post, the chef, Francis Derby, is OURS. So back off.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

This Is The Way It Should Be?

Ergo recently posted about songs that describe how she would like to be in love, and those that describe how she's actually been in love.

That got me thinking about it as well.

Of course, of late, my love life might be best described by The Sound of Silence.

But aspirationally, what would it be?

I went through my iTunes music library, and found and rejected a number of songs that I love to listen to. Basically, the songs I love to listen to describe love as dark and painful, or wistful and filled with unrequited longing, or just plain naughty without any depth. What can I say, I like what I like.

But then I found this:

According to Paul McCartney, "this is the way it should be."

I'm not sure I believe it. Or in it. But it's a nice idea, isn't it?

In the meantime, I'm going to listen to something naughty. Perhaps Nina Simone's I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Little Piece of Home

FC comes into town tomorrow!

I've arranged for a car to pick her up from the airport, my cleaning lady is coming this afternoon, and I am fully stocked with wine and snacks.

My Baby Taylor is excited as well - it will be going to a good home - hers. It just hasn't been getting enough attention since My Love (the 630-scale Alhambra Classical) moved in.

FC and I used to talk to each other for hours a day. Usually at a bar, with our respective cars and drivers cooling their heels outside.

Ah, the good old days.

I no longer have a car and driver in NYC, but I think I can replicate the sitting for hours over multiple bottles of wine in a bar.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Waking Up

There's been something hovering on the periphery of my thoughts, sometimes forcing its way front and center before I shove it back. But the periphery seems to be getting closer and closer to the center lately.

It's not a crazy thought. In fact, probably as normal as you get.

So I don't know what my problem is. Actually, that's a lie. I do.

But it leads me to the point of this post...

Once upon a time, I was fearless. An ex of mine once told me that he wished I were MORE fearful, because then I would be more careful.

But that always seemed so boring, and so counter to my world-view.

But now, the only part of my life where I feel comfortable taking risks is professionally. I suppose that "risk" is somehow mitigated by my confidence that work is one thing I know I can do very well.

And I am, more or less, comfortable in this. Perhaps too much so. I understand my schedule, my priorities are well defined, I exert extraordinary control over the variables in my life. And it's not surprising that I would appreciate order, especially in light of the distinct lack of it a couple years ago.

But now I'm getting increasingly restless. And there's that pestering thought that keeps hovering and becoming increasingly bold.

My instinct is to swat it away.

But the fact that I haven't succeeded in doing so... perhaps the person I used to be is actually still inside me, just biding her time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sex, Sex, Sex

"I've always felt that a happy sex life kills a person's sense of humor about himself remarkably quickly."

- Stephen McCauley

I've been thinking lately of resurrecting my trashy novel. It is November, after all - National Novel Writing Month.

And so, of course, I've been thinking about writing sex.

Elizabeth Benedict, in her book, The Joy of Writing Sex, outlines five principles to follow when writing a sex scene:
1. Sex is not an ATM withdrawal
2. Hire a decorator
3. Your characters don't have to speak to each other, but don't forget that they can
4. You need not be explicit, but you must be specific
5. Surprise me
It occurs to me that these principles apply equally well to having sex. Not that I remember sex, but I think there's a certain fungibility there. And since I'm supposed to have sex next month, I've been reading this how-to-write-sex book and thinking about how it applies to having it.

Benedict divides her book into chapters which deal with different kinds of sex:

  • losing your virginity sex
  • wedding night sex
  • married sex
  • adulterous sex
  • recreational sex
  • illicit sex
  • solo sex

But what's on my mind now is recreational sex - particularly in light of the mandate I've been given to have sex in December. On one hand, I get it. The physical closeness, the endorphin release, having a sandwich afterwards, no emotional demands to counter. It's all good. But I get all of that (minus the first) after a good session on my yoga mat. And I don't have to wash my sheets afterwards.

There's also the pizza argument. Even cold, bad pizza is still pizza. But given my rocky relationship with carbs, I can masterfully avoid pizza, unless it's REALLY GOOD pizza that I really really want at that moment.

But this is my thought... it's what might be inconvenient or deemed "unnecessary" with sex that makes it interesting. And that's exactly what is, for the most part, lost with recreational sex.

Anais Nin said it best:

Without feelings, inventions, moods, [there are] no surprises in bed. Sex must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine.

But now that I've just typed that, it seems like an awfully tall order. And, oddly enough, makes me think of going down to Ray's to get a slice, with everything on it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Too Much Information

When using public toilets, I first lay paper down on the seat and then I hover.

But that's not what I wanted to write about.

PD, bless his heart, did me and my business partner an ENORMOUS favor a couple weekends ago. I won't go into the details because they are too ridiculous, even for my blog (which is saying a lot), but he very graciously helped us out, and his wife, the lovely SD, allowed us to borrow him on a Sunday afternoon.

So dinner is in order, my treat. We'd been going back and forth via email to find a date that works. And then followed this email exchange:

On Nov 5, 2008, at 11:51 AM, PD wrote:

So I take it we're not having dinner on December 7th?


On Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 12:16 PM, C-Belle wrote:


Oh wait. You must have read my blog. *LAUGHING*


On Nov 5, 2008, at 12:26 PM, PD wrote:

Yeah, figured it was a question best asked privately, in case you wanted to tell me that you were planning an *extra-special* dinner for us that night, wink, wink...


On Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 12:28 PM, C-Belle wrote:

"And now for dessert.... ta da!"

On Nov 5, 2008, at 2:40 PM, PD wrote:

The "ta-da" is definitely the icing on the cake.

As for regular ol' dinner, pick some weekday the week of the 17th, so we can give our nanny advance notice to stay late that evening...

It occurred to me that perhaps there are some details of one's life that are not publicly shared, as a general rule.

But then what in the world would I blog about?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Use It Or Lose It

I have received scoldings lately from a number of different friends.

The message has been consistent, however: "Have sex."

Funny how that message has evolved over time. A year ago, I was under strict orders NOT to have sex without prior Board approval. Apparently, it was a decision I was not allowed to make on my own.

Now my friends, in the deathless words of a Nike advert, are yelling at me to "just do it."

I think it's because I've been talking about cats too much.

But in my defense, I've been BUSY. I schedule time to pee once a day, for chrisssake's.

IC and I took a quick break from our work day (during which I pee'd) and she followed me around before finally standing outside the bathroom door, earnestly telling me that it is "ok to be a ho-bag."


So, to take the pressure off, I have informed everyone that I will break the fast in December. (November is just entirely too busy). MM's comment: "December?!? What about TUESDAY?"

I even set a date. December 7th. It's on my calendar. With whom, you ask? No clue. I feel like one of those women who plan their weddings to the nth degree while leaving the name and face of the groom as a "TBD."

IC then engaged in her favorite activity - she made a list. I heard her muttering under her breath as she wrote in a name and then immediately crossed it out: "No. He's just not worth your vagina."

And it's for that last quote that I had to write this post. Of course now I'm wondering what kind of google traffic I'm going to get on my blog. I suspect people who stumble upon my blog while looking for porn will be sorely disappointed.


During dinner last night, SK and I merrily went through our song lists, and she gave me advice on how to order my set. I was all ready to order my songs based solely on key, but SK pointed out that I should think of which songs I would need to be fully warmed up to sing. So then I started putting all the more vocally challenging songs in the second set. She then pointed out that during the break, I would cool down again. Ah. Her far greater experience in solo vocal performance is SO handy.

And then, a bottle of wine later, we reached the maudlin stage of the evening.

I'm homesick for Asia. But my nostalgia isn't just centered around a place. It's centered around a time. But that doesn't quite tell the full story.

I committed to DC, when I moved there so many years ago from NYC. I committed to Beijing. And then to Hong Kong.

But when I returned to NYC two years ago, I never COMMITTED to this city. I know why. It just felt so much like home that I felt I didn't have to make the effort.

Perhaps I need to unpack my ever-ready suitcase. That would be just a small gesture, but even the smallest gestures can have meaning, yes?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sentimental Journey

One of these days I have to make a pilgrimage to my music school. It shouldn't be that difficult, it's in NYC, for cryin' outloud. I should be able to find a random Saturday when I have nothing else to do.

And it would make me happy.

Thinking About Things...

I've been trying to blog, but I keep getting stuck.

So I switch from one keyboard to another. It's been a lot of Schubert lately. Specifically, this:

I figure if I play it enough, eventually certain things I've been mulling over will become clear...

Sex Toys

What is it with men and whips/crops?

Halloween night, I was smoking a cigarette with a friend of a friend, on the sidewalk, watching the denizens of the lower east side walking by in costume. I commented on the whip-wielding technique of a passing dominatrix (I've taken a few whip classes, which I think now entitles me to provide knowledgeable criticism).

With surprise and not a little hope, I was asked, "Are you a professional?"

It took me a couple heartbeats to understand what he meant. "Er, no.." I then had to explain that my whipping experience was not of the black leather/lingerie clad variety, but rather of the smelling-of-horse and usually covered in dust and/or mud kind.

Far less sexy. In fact, not sexy at all.

I find this interesting. I have never been titillated by instruments of pain. But then, I find myself more excited these days by color laser printers. 'Cause Kinko's now OWNS my ass.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Have Suitcase, Will Travel

I feel that old restlessness again.

I always have a suitcase packed, and it's beckoning again.

That's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Night Walking

I had forgotten how much I enjoy being outside at night.

Walking at night, driving at night... and doing these things alone, satisfies something in me.

I haven't done these things in a long time, until recently. (I don't count walking back to my apt. from my neighborhood bar/restaurant since a half a block can hardly be called a "walk").

When I lived in Hong Kong, regular insomnia combined with jetlag from constant travel meant that I pretty much stopped sleeping. And during the wee hours of the morning, I would walk. Perhaps I was extraordinarily lucky, or perhaps Hong Kong really IS that safe, but it never felt dangerous. At 3AM, it was quiet. Streets usually packed with bustling people are peaceful at that time.

When I first moved back to NYC, I kept up that habit. But common sense and caution overrode desire and I stopped.

I've resumed my walks lately. Not at 3AM though. I pick a "safer" time. So it's not exactly the same, but it's good enough. Some might tell me that I should get a big dog to accompany me on my walks. But since I prefer to be ignored by my pets, that's not an option. Besides, if I want a high maintenance animal in my life requiring constant reassurance and attention, I'd get a man. Preferably one with access to a color copier.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


ALL I think of is Beauty.

Specifically, salons and spas and shopping.

Funny when enjoyable activities become WORK.

But at any rate, I am now familiar with almost every high-end salon and spa in NYC. Most are in my company's network now.

Should anyone reading this need a recommendation, ASK ME.

I'll ask you to answer a few basic questions:

1. preferred neighborhood?
2. price point?
3. preferred ambiance?
4. where do you shop for clothing/accessories?
5. what's your style: Rock 'n Roll grunge? SOHO chic? Art-scene hip? Park Avenue? Gossip Girl?

SK thinks I should formalize this service and call it: "e-Hairmony"

High Risk Activities

 Got this email from WC last night.  I don't think any commentary is necessary.

They found a dead guy on the toilet in the men's room at work today. Had a heart attack trying to poop.

Sent from my wireless Blackberry Handheld Device

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

On August 4th, 2008, I knocked over a full glass of diet coke all over my MacBook. Sparks flew (I shit you not), my computer made a dreadful sound replete with death, and it powered off.

I immediately flew into action: I flipped it onto its side, took out the battery, dried everything as best I could, and prayed.

And then I promptly made and missed multiple appointments with the Apple Genius Bar. I had had horribly depressing conversations with various people at Apple over the phone. Talk about doom and gloom. Out of pure cowardice and avoidance, it was just easier to stick my head in the sand.

So I've been using my back-up computer the last few months - an obsolete iBook with sticking keys and insufficient memory.

This morning I went on and looked at the new MacBook, and went weak in the knees. Pure, unadulterated DESIRE consumed me.

Which, of course, led me to think: now that I covet something else, it probably means my diet-coke soaked laptop should start working again.

So this morning, I dusted off the battery, inserted it into the laptop, plugged in the power, and pressed the "On" button.

Long story short, here I am, typing on my resurrected computer. All my files are intact. The battery isn't holding a charge at all (am hoping that just means I need a new battery), but everything else is behaving beautifully.

Now, if my stalker were to get me that new MacBook instead of useless pieces of expensive jewelry... I'd still ignore him but at least I'd keep it rather than continue winning Best Daughter of The Year awards from my mother.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

C. Kirk

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

I wish that I, too, could be Galadriel.

But oh well.

I suppose it's not even that surprising.   IC told me just the other day that I often speak in ALL CAPS.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Life Aspirations

I have two:

1. By day, to write trashy novels
2. By night, to be a lounge singer

My sexless trashy novel will never see the light of day. But my second aspiration might just be achieved - at least for one evening, if SK has anything to say about it.

Mid summer, SK told me that she wants to do a cabaret night sometime in November, starring herself, VH, and me. I immediately enthused about the idea and then promptly forgot about it until she came over one evening last week for wine and girl-talk and reminded me about it.

VH, if you read this post, consider yourself reminded as well.

Since SK is appalled by my karaoke song choices, she wrote up a list of songs for me and told me in no uncertain terms that the list is non-negotiable and that I will have to learn them.

Not only does SK know music, she also knows my voice. So her choices for me are spot on. I did try to be helpful by volunteering my karaoke favorites - all of which she rejected out of hand by telling me, "what you like to sing at karaoke and what you can actually do justice to don't have much in common."

True enough.

So we sat at my little kitchen table while she searched for various songs on youtube, muttering to herself, and I sat opposite her, drinking my wine, swaying along to whatever she was playing on my computer, and pretending that my remote control was a mic.

What do we need to make this cabaret night happen? I'll make a list:

1. a pianist
2. mics/speakers/piano/assorted other equipment
3. a venue
4. a date
5. an audience

But for now, I'm off to download Whatever Lola Wants from iTunes.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

B & B


I've never been much good at it.

In the periods of time when I do achieve it, it's never because I sought it as my goal. Instead, I back into it, as an unexpected side effect of sheer obsession, and my tendency to multi-task my obsessions: work, yoga, riding, music, books.

But of late, everything has taken a backseat to work. Work has colored my every impression. I study my friends and internally assess their value to me in a work context, and categorize them into buckets: so-and-so's tastes and habits are perfectly in line with those of my ideal end-user so I should study them closely, so-and-so might be potential colleagues/partners/employees when I can afford to pay them what they are worth, so-and-so has contacts that are valuable.

But specifically, I have been obsessed with "sales" and the ability to persuade, to manipulate, to persevere, to overcome objections, to engage. I see people on the street handing out flyers and I wonder how much they get paid and, if they are attractive and personable (usually they aren't), I wonder if I should hire them. I have developed an informal and highly politically incorrect algorithm for assessing potential employees.

I have been thinking about Beauty.

SK laughingly pointed out that what was once a deeply interesting hobby of mine (spa treatments, facials, mani/pedis, hair cuts, fashion) has now become my business.

But because IC and I are too busy still to fulfill our dream of running our business from neighboring pedicure chairs, we sit around in my apt., furiously bent over our computers, often gesticulating loudly into our respective cell phones, with our hair untidily piled on our heads, faces bare of makeup, wiggling our unpedicured toes (although now we wear socks since it is getting colder), and talking about how we ARE beauty.

Occasionally, we see the humor in this.

But of late, we have realized that we need to step up. We can't just look neat and tidy and washed on the days when we have meetings. Since we work with salons and spas and exclusive boutiques, and since I spend the vast part of everyday in the above establishments, I should really have the Best Hair Ever and The Best Clothes Ever.

So, to achieve both Beauty and Balance, here I sit, typing at my computer with a mud mask on my face and deep conditioner in my hair.

Not sure if that's really the most effective way to achieve either of those goals. But hey, it's all about baby steps.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Is Your Bottom Recognizable?

Not unlike my Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree, my blog has been suffering from neglect.  But I thought I'd begin to address that with this quick little story, courtesy of MM:

Bank robber foiled by her bum

An alleged bank robber was busted in Germany after a witness identified her by her ‘unforgettable’ backside.

Police say Sandra Meiser raided a bank in the town of Norf south of Düsseldorf. She threatened the bank staff with a gun and got away with some 15,000 euros.

A witness to the attack said the woman had a‘very large’ backside and ‘powerful thighs’, reports website.

Weeks later one witness saw what he believed was the same bottom right in front of him in the queue in the very same branch. He called the police, who arrested the alleged criminal on the spot.

Police found a ski mask and a gun in Meiser’s jacket. She now faces up to 10 years in prison.

The 61-year-old witness was rewarded for his memory with a 5,000 euro cheque.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Girl Talk

Would you travel across multiple state lines for a little nookie?

This was the question posed during a recent girl talk session.

EA: I’m so over hauling my ass across state lines (or multiple state lines) for nookie.

MM: I'd haul my cookies across state lines for quality nookie. Hmm okay let me qualify my statement. I'd haul my cookies across state lines for the following:
-seriously quality nookie
-a lovely meal (prepared FOR me, not BY me)
-decent Champagne
-a hot bath drawn for me, preferably in a jacuzzi tub, with candles
-i'm flex on what the candles smell like
-i expect multiple episodes of aforementioned quality nookie
-and more of it in the morning
-followed by a shower in which my hair is washed for me
-coffee delivered bedside is a lovely, lovely thing
-so is fresh-squeezed juice, although that is far from required
-and if there's another round of nookie? and I need a second shower? yeah, whatever

Is this fantasy? Apparently not. After a quick poll, apparently there ARE men who draw hot baths for their women and place glasses of perfectly chilled white wine next to the tub, or leave hot coffee on the bedside table in the mornings...

Seems like fantasy to me.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Nausea? Must Be Love

A lifetime ago, I met a guy at a party, stole his drink right out of his hand, couldn't stop staring at his mouth, and for two weeks afterwards, felt nauseous and had a stomach ache.

I spoke to him again recently and promptly spent an hour afterwards on the phone with SK, throwing up in my kitchen sink.

SK's comment? "Nothing says 'love' like nausea."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fickle, Forsooth

I'm in love. With whom, you ask? Who has captured my heart? Who has made all other men seem like rubbish? Who, by the sheer strength of his tweed-clad presence, has in fact wiped all other men from the face of planet, from the whole of the space time continuum like an army of enraged Daleks? Who?


He's brilliant, luv.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Love Letter

I've missed the Olympics.  All of it.  

Despite all my best intentions, my TV, when turned on, was never turned to the right stations.  In fact, my only experience with the Olympics has been via FC's video blog casts - some of which were picked up by the BBC.  Check them out here.

Watching FC's video blogs has filled me with longing for Beijing.

But the drama and spectacle of Beijing during the Olympics doesn't satisfy that longing; that clean, prettified Beijing with usable toilets and freely available toilet paper isn't MY Beijing. 

My Beijing is dirty and crowded and inconvenient and the heart of it is only accessible to those who know it well.  

As I write this post from my kitchen table, a glance outside my window shows me that the morning sky is overcast.  It's the kind of overcast where you can see shades of blue here and there, which makes me think that perhaps the sun will burn through the cloud cover in a few hours.  But right now, that sky reminds me of Beijing.  

My first week I was there, I remember ducking into a western type cafe - something along the lines of an upscale TGIFs, right across the way from The China World Hotel in the Chaoyang District.  I ordered a drink (with great difficulty) and then took out my journal.  I remember writing that homesickness for my life in DC was ever present, and that when I was still, I could feel it fluttering with increasing strength around me, looking for an opening.  So the solution was to stay in motion.

The first time I met SL (she was a friend of a friend and was first introduced to me over email), I was in a taxi and had arranged to pick her up in Sanlitun.  Despite the bitter cold, she was wearing open-toed sandals because she had just gotten a pedicure.  

KF, even though I had met her only once or twice before, gave me a birthday present, with a note that made me cry and feel that Beijing could become home.

GC and I met at a happy hour and it turned out that we had mutual friends there, but she and I connected before that was made known to us.  She caught my eye with the way she threw back her hair and commanded the attention of every heterosexual male in the place as she made her way through the bar.  

EH and I bonded over long talks over lunch and wine about our personal lives, about work, about feeling somehow misplaced as expat spouses.  And of course, over drunken kickboxing exhibitions at parties at her place.

I met FC while on horseback in the grasslands.  Our bumpy conversation went like this:
"You like horses? So do I!"
"You like to sing? So do I!"
"You do yoga? So do I!"
I had been worried that I'd make friends with people just because they could speak English.   Now I laugh that I spent any time at all worrying about that.

Movement characterized my time in Beijing.  At first, to run from loneliness, and by the end, because I knew my time there was drawing to a close.  And while by objective measures my memories of Beijing should be dark, they aren't.  I cried the morning I left, driven to the airport by KF's driver, who parked his car and helped me with my bags and stayed with me until he couldn't go any farther.  I tried to tip him, but he refused to take it, instead just patting me on the arm and saying, "Zai jian."

I don't need to see Beijing dressed in all her finery and freshened up with a sparkling new makeover.  I loved her before.  Because with her, I got to do what I love best - move

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Online Dating Retrospective

Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

I had what will be my last of my online dates this week (barring any unexpected mind changing, or any highly improbable eventualities such as Viggo M. and Nathan F. suddenly joining

I wish that my last dates were blogworthy, but they weren't. Nice enough guys, but no tingles. Likewise, nothing atrociously bad/funny happened. It was enough to make me almost miss Rock Lock Guy. One of them tried to impress me by telling me that he had a washer dryer in his big house. Which actually almost did impress me, but the operative word is *almost*. (Although SK thinks I should have given him my dirty socks to wash.)

And I've decided against joining the dating service, It's Just Lunch.

I think I'll just leave it in the hands of The Universe. Because as SK points out to me, The Universe, while it has poor listening skills, DOES deliver, if with a time lag. And perhaps It has known that the timing has never been right. Even if It had delivered Viggo M wrapped in a shiny bow to my doorstep, I would have just rolled my eyes and been forced to call a friend for a consult. And that's ridiculous. A consult? Regarding what to do with Viggo? Like I couldn't figure that out for myself?

I'll just have to find something else to blog about.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

Woke to this song cavorting through my mind. Not a bad start to the day.

And today is a perfect day for a party with the girls! Must remember to download Like A Virgin from iTunes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Virgin For One Year

Somewhere, John Irving is wincing.

The year is almost over.

I never explicitly told myself that I needed a year apart.   But now that it's almost over, I find myself acutely aware that I have invested something in that artificial construct of One Year.  

I expect no difference.  Rarely does the world look different to a person on January 1st, or on their birthdays.

It marks only the passing of time.  But it's as good a time as any to pause and look backwards, and maybe even consider how to go forward.   

And, of course, to have a party to celebrate.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

On Memory

Certain abilities, when it comes to music, might seem almost magical, especially to those who appreciate and covet them.

Perfect pitch, for one.

I don't have the best ear. But with years of training and excruciating effort, my relative pitch became almost... ok. I did well enough in my ear training classes, but that had very little to do with my ear, and almost everything to do with my understanding of music theory - because theory is something readily memorized and learned.

The typical exercise in my ear-training classes was this: our professor would play a short (no more than 8 measures) piece with four distinct lines. For my benefit (since I was the only person in the class without perfect pitch), he would tell us the key that it was in. And then our assignment would be write it all down. He'd play on the piano it four times, ostensibly so that we could focus on listening to each line at a time.

For my classmates, this was the easiest thing in the world. They didn't need to be told what key it was in. They KNEW all the pitches. It was as if someone had just read a short sentence to them in their native language and they jotted it down.

For me, it was as if someone read something in a language I had just started learning. Some of the words I recognized, but many, I didn't. But while my vocabulary was awful, I understood the grammatical rules. So I'd piece it together by what I knew of the grammar... For example, in Japanese, sentences are anchored by the verbs, so I knew that the end of every phrase was most likely a verb. I knew where the adjectives should sit in relation to the nouns. If I heard the word "if," then I knew to use the subjunctive form of the verb. I usually understood enough of the words, here and there, to figure out the meaning of the sentence. So what I produced was grammatically correct, contextually correct, but generally not a perfect transcription. And it would always take me the entirety of the hour-long class to work my way through the assignment - in contrast to my classmates who spent 45 minutes chatting with each other and looking at me fondly because it was due to my slowness that they got their free time.

But what my classmates could do - that always astonished me. As if suddenly they could suddenly sprout wings and fly.

So I tried to understand it. I did enough testing to learn that "perfect" pitch is not always equally perfect. A few of my classmates were extraordinary, they heard and recognized the pitches in car horns, in taps on a wall, in the clinking of glasses, and I tested and verified this independently. Others were limited to overtly musical notes. Others still were limited to the range of notes produced by the instrument(s) they played.

And I questioned them about WHEN they "discovered" their perfect pitch.

And this is what I realized: perfect pitch is memory. They REMEMBER the pitch in a sound and as soon as they learned to associate that particular pitch with middle C, for example, then they KNEW it, and could REMEMBER. It's the same kind of memory that allows the rest of us to recognize a voice. It's not different in kind, only degree.

But while perfect pitch is intimately intertwined with memory, it needs an association, to put it into context. Which I suppose all memory does.

Like perfect pitch, and related to perfect pitch (although not necessarily requiring it), is the ability to play something by ear.

"Playing it by ear" is advice that I both give and receive from time to time. Problem is, I'm horrible at it.

What does it mean, exactly, to play something by ear? Well, at the simplest level, to play without the written sheet music. It requires confidence, knowledge, memory, imagination. I'm not talking about listening to a piece once and then flawlessly replicating it. I'm talking about starting to play something, perhaps with only the beginning of a chord progression, or a snippet of a melody, where you don't know how it will develop, whether it will modulate into a different key, or how it will end. That requires a certain flexibility and a willingness to let things develop at its own pace, its own rhythm, its own melody and harmony.

For most of my life, my preference for and skill in following a plan has generally worked for me, except, of course, when it completely didn't. And so the thought of playing ANYTHING by ear, is more than a little distasteful and even frightening.

But I tell myself, that just as perfect pitch is really just a manifestation of better memory, not different memory, playing it by ear represents greater uncertainty, not a new, absolute uncertainty.

And that sometimes, when the outcome is important to you, you can't try to control it.

Now that's not a novel sentiment. The cliches are plentiful. But rather than quote from Sting's "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free," I'll look to Bach. Because while Bach is famous for the mathematical precision of his work, it is easy to forget that back in the day, Bach was known as a world class improviser. He was the Charlie Parker, the Miles Davis of the 18th Century. It's just that his in-the-moment improvisations have been meticulously transcribed, allowing the rest of us try to recreate at least the playing of it. Of course, codifying that kind of magic diminishes it.  And I know I spent much of this post discussing that it isn't actually magic.  But when it's done right, doesn't it seem to be?  Especially when you remember how it all started, and most especially, when you know you can't ever fully recreate it. 

Monday, August 4, 2008

Requiem For Online Dating

Great loves too must be endured.

-Coco Chanel

My subscriptions to and have expired and I have jumped through the many hoops necessary to ensure that they will not be automatically renewed. is for one month and one month only.

And then I will stop. By the end of August, not only will I have achieved born-again virginity, but I will also be an expert on the tragedy and comedy of online dating.

And then?

Not sure. I feel as though I am about to graduate from some as yet unknown school with a useless degree.

Perhaps I will create and print and display some sort of diploma on my wall.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Olympics Pre-Game

Let's not beat around the bush. My friends are fabulous. FC, EH, and SL will all be covering the Beijing Olympics.

  • Eyee Hsu will be NBC's Beijing Olympics correspondent in Beijing.
  • Fran Chen will be part of the TODAY show's team.
  • Susan Li will be covering it for Bloomberg, in addition to her regular gig anchoring her own daily broadcast on Asian business and market highlights out of Bloomberg's Hong Kong office.

And the pre-game coverage is beginning.

If you are anywhere near a TV on Thursday, August 7th, watch the TODAY show. They will be broadcasting live from the Olympic Green, and with any luck, Fran will get the air-time she deserves!!!

This makes me wonder.... had I stayed in Asia, would I be a weather girl by now? I would have so loved that!

A Clean Well Lighted Place

"Home" is defined in many ways.

Whenever I move to a new city or neighborhood, there are a few things I search for immediately, to make the place my own:

1. a salon/spa
2. a bookstore
3. a restaurant/bar

It's time for me to mention by name a place I love. It feels selfish to keep referring to it obliquely, in an attempt to keep it MINE.

Klee Brasserie

It's Hemingway, Cheers, my mother's kitchen, all wrapped up in one.

Because there are few things more important to that sense of home than good food, good drink, good music, and good friends who not only all know your name, but also your poison of choice - which in my case is a lovely chilled bottle of Quincy.

And when you go, give my best to Lori and Chef Daniel!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Closing My Curtains

From: Delusional Stalker
To: C-Belle
Date: July 31, 2008 04:57:07 PM EDT

Hi baby

Sitting in Atlanta

Flight so, so very delayed

Was in Chicago last night

There was a moleskine notebook for sale in my little honor bar

Thought of you of course

But I pretty much always think of you


I find it interesting that he is apparently having an entire relationship with me, completely without me.

But then, I guess that's what makes him a STALKER.

Pedal Point

The last time I used my passport was last Spring when I went to HK to visit FC. That's a sad realization. I used to keep my passport in my purse, because I never knew if an invitation to lunch on Korean food meant a day trip to Seoul (when in Beijing), or if "let's eat Portuguese!" meant a quick ferry ride to Macau (when in HK).

I know exactly where my passport is at this exact moment because I looked at it, shamefully, the other day. Why shamefully? Because I let it expire. That feels akin to not paying a credit card bill on time, or not stepping onto a yoga mat in a month.

And that last passport-necessary trip was also the last time I entered HK on the resident line. How I LOVED bypassing the long (yet rapidly moving) tourist line! But alas, my residency status in HK has expired along with my passport.

But I digress, as usual.

On that last trip to HK, I had left my old, beaten-up, Prada wedge sandals at the hospital where I was visiting FC. I decided not to even mention it to FC, the last thing I wanted her to worry about was a pair of used shoes. But of course, she found them and sent them to me. The package went around the world several times, collecting far more miles that I have recently, and finally made it to my door over a year later - just earlier this week.

I've been wearing them non-stop because it feels rude not to after all the effort involved in getting them to me. But also in the package was a gift box from Aesop's - my FAVORITE skincare line that I had become completely addicted to when living in HK! (Thank you, FC!)

After many a long day, I would spend entirely too much time at the Aesop's store on Lyndhurst Terrace in HK, smelling everything and rubbing everything I could on every exposed limb (my own, generally).

But I continue to digress.

In the package of Aesop's treats, was enclosed The Unabridged Pocket Book of Lightning, by Jonathan Safran Foer. Apparently, this is a standard enclosure for Aesop. The book opens with a short story titled: A Primer For the Punctuation Of Heart Disease. As the title suggests, the story organizes itself around the discussion of various punctuation marks.

An excerpt:

~ Placed at the end of a sentence, the 'pedal point' signifies a thought that dissolves into a suggestive silence. The pedal point is distinguished from the ellipsis and the dash in that the thought it follows is neither incomplete nor interrupted but an outstretched hand. My younger brother uses these a lot with me, probably because he, of all the members of my family, is the one most capable of telling me what he needs to tell me without having to say it.... Very often he will say, 'Jonathan~' and I will say, 'I know.'
I'll postpone my review until I've read more of it, but what I can immediately say I like is the cross marketing, of sorts. While the inclusion of the book falls more in the category of branding activity - branding Aesop as a smart, intellectual, and hence quirky skincare line, there are shadows of the beginnings of cross and integrated marketing going on.

I'll hold off on commenting on the execution of such, but I thoroughly approve of the idea of it.

And who knows, perhaps tonight, while I soak in my tub scented with the Aesop's bath oil that traveled such a long way to get to me, I might finish reading The Unabridged Pocket Book of Lightning, and then start emailing the people I miss who are a passport-necessary trip away; Or, perhaps those of you reading this, will email me ~

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Falling Down on My Face

Sent to me by Ergo.

A couple observations:

1. The Muppets are BRILLIANT.
2. Feelings is a lot like Für Elise; heard after a long absence, and with a "twist" to the interpretation, you appreciate it anew.

In My Bag Of Tricks

Why is this billed for men? I would LOVE this.

On the Sly, Your Direct Line to Voicemail
A true man about town always cultivates an air of unavailability.

Drawn-out phone calls, getting caught on the line with a "talker," emoting—these are situations that must be avoided at all costs. So allow us to quietly point out a new hush-hush operation that lets you skirt conversations.

Introducing Slydial, a service that allows you to discreetly send a voicemail without actually making a call, and the latest phone gadget in your ample bag of tricks.

The possibilities are limitless, especially if you're familiar with the seductive game of phone tag. Sometimes a check-in is required, but a voice-to-voice encounter will only add drama to a situation that would do better as a slow simmer. Instead of calling directly, call Slydial first and then dial the number. They'll route you straight through to voicemail, where you're free to communicate your unavailability as sympathetically as you can, without fear of a prolonged discussion.

Of course, the service isn't perfect quite yet, and your tag partner may get a "phantom call" when you ring them up (meaning your number will come up on their phone), but it's nothing you can't blame on phone company shenanigans. And when you're finished, you can use the same trick to get out of next week's meeting without getting caught up in too much conversation.

As always, leave them wanting more.

Slydial, 267-SLY-DIAL

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Spin-Cycle

Remember in high school or college, when you read Ayn Rand for the first time and then spent weeks afterwards obsessing about Objectivism and drawing dollar signs everywhere before someone finally turned to you and said, "well, what's so wrong with being NICE?"

I feel that I've been spending whatever little time that is not being spent buried in spreadsheets and powerpoint, doing that all over again.

Except not about Objectivism.

I've been thinking reflections and pictures and mirrors and how they are often not accurate but that the inaccuracy can be both the strength and the weakness of the image. Blah blah blah.

I had a conversation today about a person's fundamental self. And that sometimes, people need to focus on the "just me."

"Just me." I don't know what that means. Aren't we defined by our relationships - with work, with lovers, with friends, with family, with neighbors, with strangers, with conflict, with our interests and passions, with solitude? And aren't all of those relationships critical to who we are?

Any one of those mirrors tell an incomplete picture, so don't we need all of them? And if all those mirrors are removed, what's left? My friend would say that what is left is the "just me." Intellectually, I sort of understand that. There needs to be something there in the first place, something to reflect. But isn't that moot? What value does the "just me" have in a vacuum? How do you work on the "just me" if it's not in the context of a relationship with something else, someone else?

Perhaps I'm stuck in the spin cycle of mental masturbation. Perhaps I don't fully understand because I'm not as wise as my friend; her greater wisdom has been proven repeatedly.

So I'll end this post with a quote. I can't remember exactly where it's from, and I'm too tired to Google it:

"...a river, suffering because reflections of clouds and trees are not clouds and trees."
- Czesław Miłosz

Wh*ring It Up

Keep in mind that I have not communicated with him in anyway. I've been doing my best impression of a black hole.


From: Delusional Stalker
Date: July 27, 2008 6:10:34 PM EDT
To: C-Belle

Can I ax you a personal question?

From: Delusion Stalker
Date: July 28, 2008 7:21:34 AM EDT
To: C-Belle

I was just going to ask if you're seeing someone. Since it's been about a year since we were last connected in any way, it seems likely that you are. I suppose I've been in denial of that. If you are, or have been, please let me know. Thanks.

From: Delusional Stalker
Date: July 28, 2008 8:55:53 AM EDT
To: C-Belle

I know it's none of my business but I would appreciate knowing because obviously I've made myself completely available to you emotionally in the hopes of some sort of relationship and if I'm just one of many options then I need to know that now


Late Friday night/early Saturday morning, I predicted that it would take three days before he started calling me a whore. We're getting very close now...

But the silver lining is, the next man in my life is going to have it EASY (other than the fact that I will cheat on him with Viggo) since he'd be following some great acts - Sociopathic Alc0holic, Rock Lock Guy, Creepy Skincare Product Guy, Fat Outdoor Voice Guy.

But it really doesn't do any good to petition me directly. Any future sexual congress on my part needs to be approved by my board of directors since apparently, I have HORRIBLE taste in men.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Only When Chased...

I've given up the fight against running.

In 2002, I picked up running. Always HATED running, but something possessed me to start. So I purchased running shoes, socks made out of some high tech wicking material, and an assortment of cute running apparel. I ran exclusively on treadmills at my gym (I need to watch TV while I'm running). And back then, the best thing for me to watch was re-runs of Murder She Wrote. I have no explanation for it. It's not like I watch that show when I'm NOT on a treadmill, but I suppose it was just the precise balance of boredom and entertainment that I needed in order to get through the tedium of my five daily 12-minute miles. (Yeah, I know. I'm FAST).

I joyfully stopped running when I was Beijing and settled into a habit of daily yoga and horseback riding.

But now... that same inexplicable urge that got me into running in 2002 has re-infected me. So I've done my usual thing. I've gone shopping in preparation. I was going to use my same old running shoes, since they LOOK fine, but RL talked me out of it. Apparently, running shoes need to be replaced frequently. Who knew?!? I went to and bought the new Nike Lunar Trainers. In black, of course. I chose them primarily because they are cute. And black. Six pairs of wicking socks later, I was ready to purchase the fun stuff - the cute apparel. And I struck gold - the running skirt, with built in shorts and best of all... POCKETS.

I just wonder what show is now going to get me through my interminable treadmill sessions.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Noodling Around

I've been cooped up in my apartment, bent over my computer for what seems like days now without a break.

As much as I get antsy without constant internet access, I needed to remind myself that there is an offline world, so off I went into the Great Beyond (which is defined as anything outside a one block radius of my building).

I had a mission.

First, some background: last night, I was looking for a pen. For some reason, every single pen in my apartment chose the same day to die. I had vague memories of stashing rollerball refills in some box in my bedroom, so I tore through everything in search. I didn't find any refills, but I DID find an old Rotring Series 600 fountain pen with an Extra Fine nib that I had appropriated off my father's desk a couple decades ago.

As far as I can tell, this is a picture of a pen of the same make and model as my own. After some Googling, I can say with confidence that it's the Newton model, similar to the model that preceded it, but without the knurled grip.

It's made of solid brass, with a matte silver finish; it's a HEAVY pen. I rather like the weight, the feeling of substance in my hand.

So this afternoon, my mission was to find a pen/ink store where I could buy ink cartridges, a fountain pen piston converter (so I can use bottled ink with it too, if I should ever want to), and bottled ink.

But I wanted to purchase these things at a store not staffed with teenagers, but with old men passionate about all things related to ink and fountain pens. I wanted both the store and its employees to be old and musty and marked with permanent ink stains. You know what I'm talking about - the kind of place where, if I were to ask an innocent question about Noodler's ink, it would unleash a dissertation of the history of the brand, the advances in waterproofing, and how the "Heart of Darkness" color has a surprising amount of blue and, if you look closely, some green as it dries on the page, but it depends on the weight and composition of the paper. I made up that last bit, but you get what I mean. I wanted obsessive, knowledgeable passion.

I didn't find it - not the passion or the things I wanted to buy (and I had gotten the impression from my Googling that these are not obscure or difficult items to find). I'll try again perhaps tomorrow.