Friday, March 31, 2006


Pretty Lady has been inspired by the stylistic perfection of one of her colleagues to advance an unsupported, purely subjective personal opinion: Polo Shirts are a Blot. Either a Blot, or a Blight, take your pick.

I realize this may fill the hearts of many gentlemen with dismay. This is not a personal attack. It is simply that Pretty Lady felt she finally must speak out upon an issue that has been oppressing her psyche since junior high school. The Polo Shirt is the single least sexy item of clothing it is possible for a human being to own. To don a Polo Shirt is to instantaneously acquire the sex appeal of a paper doll, in Pretty Lady's warped perceptions. Particularly if said Shirt is knit of that crusty sort of acrylic-polyester knit that resembles industrial-grade carpets. The soft cotton Ralph Lauren kind is marginally superior, but it still makes Pretty Lady shudder.

Rugby shirts are okay. Pretty Lady can't exactly say what it is about stupid, thick little collars on would-be sports shirts that gives her hives; tightish elastic piping on short sleeve cuffs makes her equally queasy. No doubt this is a holdover from buried associations having to do with private school, buttressed by one or two unfortunate freshman-year dates with computer-science majors. However, she doesn't think extensive psychotherapy is likely to make any difference at this point; the fact is, Pretty Lady loathes Polo Shirts. So there.

So, then, what should a gentleman wear? His options are so limited!

Well, Pretty Lady herself has always been partial to the Mid-80's Demi-Punk look, due to associations equally arcane, and which got her teased in the mid-90's by a boyfriend who, unfortunately, had known her since the mid-80's. "You like guys to dress like Torvald," he accused her, acutely. Pretty Lady had to confess that he'd nailed it. We never really get over our first love.

Not that Torvald's aesthetic was anything spectacular. His look was basic and easy to achieve. Jeans: well-fitting, without any labels, flares, drainpipes, stone-washing, patterning, embroidery or other rot; weathered and torn by excessive use and honest washing, never purchased that way in the store. T-shirt: black, white, or the occasional thrift-store find bearing a cryptic legend such as 'Deer Camp Minnesota, 1979.' Flannel shirt, unbuttoned, in your choice of red or blue plaid. Converse All-Star Hi-Top sneakers, in any color you choose.

(In latter years, Pretty Lady has come to prefer a set of well-worn, good-quality, heavy work boots to the Converse. The Converse just became Too Trendy For Words, and their level of quality has consistently declined. In fact, she's not even sure if real Converse are made anymore. Does anybody know?)

(Never mind, she Googled them. They're still there, without the star, and boy do they look silly.)

The more creative types can get away with such things as cut-off army fatigues, secondhand high-top Doc Martens with blue shoelaces, odd and colorful vests, striped button-down shirts with the sleeves torn off, odd and colorful ties (as long as they are never worn with anything resembling a suit), hats with the brim bent back and stuck full of pins, strings of wooden beads, and patchouli. If you are one of these types, you already know it. If you don't know, don't try it.

Never wear a baseball cap unless it has never borne the legend of a baseball team, and the brim has never been worn facing forward.

Now, mind you, Pretty Lady has never said that gentlemen should not clean up. On the contrary, "he'd clean up nice" is high praise in her home town, and in Pretty Lady's opinion, modern gentlemen don't clean up nearly often enough. As long as they don't don the dreaded Polo, there are many options of clean, from Architecture Casual to Frack. She will now enumerate a few of them.

Aforementioned Architecture Casual: Black or white T-shirt, of higher quality than the T-shirt mentioned above; scoop neck, heavy-weight cotton. Pleated pants. Interesting belt. Footwear that does not too closely resemble that of an Italian gigolo.

Professorial: Chinos, slightly tattered blue button-down shirt (never white. Shudder), frayed tweed jacket with patched elbows, scuffed wingtips. This costume is best worn with a sense of knowing irony, and is not precisely sexy, but it's better than a polo.

Rugby shirt and bermuda shorts: only to be worn if one has the legs of a soccer player.

Needs-Must Business: Never wear an American suit. Americans cannot make suits; few Americans can wear suits. Those stiff, square serge things give Pretty Lady the screaming horrors. If you must wear a suit, for goodness' sake go to Savile Row and get a real one, or else go to Italy and get some Clothes.

There is nothing more horrifying than the sight of a gentleman who has been forced by economic desperation into dressing 'corporate' for the sake of low-level temporary employment. Pretty Lady has little advice for these hapless souls, except to pack a T-shirt in your backpack and change into it in the office bathroom at 5 PM. Try to get away with Architecture Casual, at the very least.

Frack: Dinner jacket and tails, black pants with black satin side stripe, pleated white button-down shirt, white tie, cummerbund. Black dress shoes shined to mirror-hue. Cufflinks. Viola case. Oops, betraying another personal preference, there.

Under no circumstances may a gentleman ever wear a pair of pants which expose any portion of his gluteal cleavage, by accident or on purpose, at any time. I do not know how to make myself clearer.

In conclusion: for those of you out there who are still confused as to matters of masculine attire, Pretty Lady directs you to the Dandy's trenchant and informative discussion of drag, complete with illustrations. She has only to add that despite whatever her abovementioned mid-90's boyfriend may have wanted to think, when she attends a party dressed as Humphrey Bogart, she is most definitely in drag.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

You had to remind me

Ah, darlings. It just goes to show, you can't always predict what you're going to write about next. I had all sorts of tidbits saved up for you, about Cousin Spiro's miraculous epilepsy cure, Cousin Margaret's Tamayo-esque paintings, Cousin Will's potential for hitting it off with Pretty Lady's best college friend. But no. You had to get her going about why she has no place to stay in Paris any more.

The last time Pretty Lady was in Paris, she was all over the place. Some of the journeys she endured--well, I'll not even give you the itinerary. Suffice it to say that she was in Transition, she was Confused, and she was always Catching Flights to Somewhere Else, having nowhere very permanent to stay. It was dehydrating, to say the least.

Particularly dehydrating was that last 50th anniversary celebration at the Frenchman's parents' house in the South of France, in midsummer. Well, it's hot down there in August, and what with the coffee, and the Pastis, and the wine, and the wine, and the wine, and the brandy, it's a wonder she didn't collapse right there. Then toward the end of the day, the Frenchman's younger brother, the groovy one, with whom she had planned to bunk on her 24-hour layover in Paris before flying back to San Francisco, sidled up to her and said, "I hope you're not planning to stay with me or anything. Our apartment is being renovated."

Pretty Lady had become mistress of all situations by this time, very fortunately. She drifted over to the Frenchman, who, due to labyrinthine plane logistics, was flying direct from Paris, and said, "We need to call Herve."

Dear little Herve. He was always so glad to see us. Pretty Lady forgets which trip it was, that she and the Frenchman extended their jet lag for four days, crashing at Herve's; we arrived, whacked into the Pastis, had a snack, and passed out for four hours. Then we awoke, had more Pastis, went out for Moroccan and much wine, came back, fooled around, and passed out. Four hours later we did it all again. And again, and again, and again, blissfully regardless of daylight. Such memories.

But I digress. Herve was the dearest soul, utterly unfit for the vicissitudes of twentieth-century life. He ought either to have been a medieval monk or a promiscuous major domo. His psyche was fragile. Once he married a lady who successfully deceived him into thinking she was a fashion model and a high-salaried executive, when, in truth, she worked as a temporary secretary. Ultimately they divorced, for reasons unrelated to identity-related deceptions; when she returned to the apartment to collect some things, she found him in the back closet, in a fetal position. He was hospitalized for a time, and when I made his acquaintance, seemed more or less stable.

However, upon this last, impromptu Parisian visit, things with Herve were slightly bleak. He had been laid off from his software engineering job some months earlier, and was deeply unmotivated to seek another, given the fact that he loathed twentieth-century technology with an abiding revulsion. His beloved girlfriend Anne-Elvire, the daughter of the Ivory Coast consul-general, had long since left him, being, truth to tell, somewhat out of his league. When Pretty Lady arrived on his doorstep with ten hours' notice, she was not only warmly welcomed, she was the only thing on his schedule.

Herve was ever the charming host. He escorted her to a lovely corner restaurant, and became confidential over the wine. "I am a weak person," he said. "I just don't have the will for this world."

Well. Pretty Lady was not having any of that. She took him back to the apartment and made him watch "Groundhog Day." She practiced her newly acquired spiritual healing techniques on him. She impressed upon him the fact that "Groundhog Day" is a literally truthful movie; suicide is No Way Out. She requested him to contact her, to see if the spiritual healing had any effect. She didn't make any promises, she was just curious.

A month later, the phone rang. Herve sounded much better. In fact, he sounded high. "I don't want to say that it had any effect, and I don't want to say that it didn't," he declared. "But I went to Amsterdam. I spent a thousand dollars on drugs and prostitutes. Then I rediscovered faith." Soon dear Herve was getting up at 6 AM to do push-ups, before going into the streets to Do Good. He signed up for a retreat at a local monastery. Pretty Lady stopped worrying about him.

Two years later, Pretty Lady's phone rang again; it was the Frenchman. She and he had long since parted ways, on excellent terms, due to irreconcilable temperaments. (He wanted to motorcycle around the world; she wanted to sit very still in one place and achieve enlightenment. They wrote each other letters of recommendation, and are friends to this day.) Pretty Lady was thrilled to hear from him, but there was a catch.

"He put all of his papers in order," said the Frenchman. "He cleaned the apartment, he wrote his family, then he took an entire bottle of pills. My cat died, too. It has been a sad Christmas."


So, my friend, in answer to your question, "What are your beliefs, if someone is a Christian and they commit suicide?" I must reply--how could God love darling little Herve any less than I do?

Pretty Lady's wise cuñado once said, "Suicide is like, when you are standing by a cliff, and you think, 'I could jump off,' and something in your brain says 'nah, don't do that'. People who do it are just missing that little connection in their brain. It's an accident." Pretty Lady does not think it is quite that simple, but she knew Herve. He needed people. He needed them to be around most of the time; single life in a one-bedroom apartment in an anonymous city in the twentieth century did not provide this. She wishes he had remained at the monastery, but alas, he did not. She still misses him, every time she thinks of Paris.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

To the lighthouse

UPDATE: The gentleman is better, and has deleted the post written in extremis, which is why you cannot follow the link. I have updated the link to include merely the gentleman's general blog direction, which is worth checking out for many reasons.

First of all, Pretty Lady has not been in jail, she has been on vacation. Thank you all for your concerned letters; five days computer-free has made her a New Woman. Family Gossip to be forthcoming.

Second of all, Pretty Lady had a rather disturbing letter in her box this morning. She knows her fan base; you are all wonderful people. Please go to this gentleman's blog and offer him some comfort.

I keep thinking about suicide. Yes I know it's the easy way out.... that's the point. It's easy. Life is hard... The older I've grown the more disgusted I have become with our species. When I walk beside the super highway I see the thousands of pounds of junk tossed out the polluting cars. I ask myself why don't people care? ... Since I'm not confined by religions "judgment after death", death seams like a good option. I am ashamed of mankind and what we are doing to the life on this planet... Then it dawned on me, why I want to join mr. bush and the Christian war on the axis of evil. If I go through the training required to become a storm trouper, I will become an army of one. I will lose myself. Myself is the only thing that keeps me hear. My individuality. I want to become a solder so I can take the easy way out. Stop thinking, stop creating, start destroying.....

Pretty Lady has already given this gentleman some advice which is between ourselves; she is opening up the forum to the rest of you. If you have something wise to say, say it. If you become needlessly abusive to a soul in torment, be forewarned that Pretty Lady (and her brother) will Hunt You Down.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Texas has begun sending undercover agents into bars to arrest drinkers for being drunk, a spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said on Wednesday.

The first sting operation was conducted recently in a Dallas suburb where agents infiltrated 36 bars and arrested 30 people for public intoxication, said the commission's Carolyn Beck.

Being in a bar does not exempt one from the state laws against public drunkenness, Beck said.

Don't y'all know that native Texans drive better when they're drunk? They pay closer attention.

By a happy coincidence, this benighted backwater is where Pretty Lady will be spending her weekend. She had no idea conditions had deteriorated to this extent. The next thing you know, they will be doing house-to-house searches for illegal weapons. What Is The World Coming To.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Letting go

God take all the dusty summer days
Salt-beautiful and hot
and line them up along the road
for him to walk in once again

A world he knows...
It is a little-known secret that Dr. Solomon's 'Stentialism class was the Best Place to meet Hot Guys. Not only that, but the ridiculous little satyr threw regular keg parties, so as to get the undergraduates tipsy, thus more likely to overlook his platform shoes and gold medallions, and succumb to the allure of the Famous Philosopher.

Pretty Lady never cozied up to Dr. Solomon, but she really enjoyed the parties. Dozens of lovely boys in architecture haircuts, all getting Nietzchean, was her idea of earthly bliss. The class was a senior-year luxury, an exercise in hedonistic self-indulgence. She certainly didn't take it for the credits.

But then, Pretty Lady has always been in her element at keg parties. For some reason the boys get bolder after a beer or two; Pretty Lady gets loquacious and jazzy. If she doesn't end up doing a thrash-belly-breakdance, collecting a circle of gawpers, she collects a circle anyhow, just by yammering off the top of her head. Obnoxious, she knows. I do apologize.

Dr. Solomon's keg parties, though, were special. They were generally the prelude to a set of discrete and extended adventures which lasted until the wee hours. These adventures all blend together--Pretty Lady can't quite recall where one begins and the other leaves off. They were populated by various earnest, drunken philosophers with whom she rarely consorted during daylight; she once considered writing a surrealistic play based upon them, but gave it up. The characters were not sufficiently developed.

Be that as it may, Pretty Lady has always had a soft spot for a curly head. During each of these notorious parties, she would gradually become aware of a certain catlike set of curls, Lurking. As the beer flowed more copiously, the curls would lurk closer. At a certain point the Lurker would Be There, and he, Pretty Lady, and the Lurker's pet person (usually named Eddie) would go wandering over the universe, discovering strange and fabulous things. Oh, those evenings were glorious.

The Lurker, it transpired, was a devotee of Jack Kerouac. "On the Road" was his idea of the artistic lifestyle; ergo his fascination with guys named Eddie. He hitchhiked. He would hang around with homeless persons, just to get a feel for it. He was awfully cute, in a stray-kitten sort of way. Pretty Lady felt an overwhelming desire to take him home and feed him, so she did.
Sweet as the earth
As the river with rain
God take all the damp summer nights
Cooling his bare arms again
Over the semester, this became an unvarying pattern. Pretty Lady and the Lurker never hung out together, while sober; after his requisite two-beer approach-quota had been filled, she used to tease him about it. He would merely shrug. He was a receptive soul. At one point, Pretty Lady wrote a mildly sentimental poem, entitled 'Cat in my room'; at another point, Pretty Lady's sister found the name 'Lurker' written in the dust on her computer screen. Her sister found this unworthy and erased it. Pretty Lady doesn't remember doing this, but she probably did.

On one occasion, her sister was most uncomfortably dragged into the story. This particular evening, the Lurker's pet person was, unfortunately, the Guy Who Understood Nietzsche. It is a fact that fools do not know they are stupid. The Guy Who Understood Nietzsche had developed a fixation; he had Figured Out Nietzsche, he was the only guy in the world who had, and nobody would listen to him. He made a special office visit to tell Dr. Solomon all about it, and the Dr. had not been satisfactorily impressed. So all evening, over and over, he regaled Pretty Lady, Eddie, the Lurker, and anybody else in the vicinity with the news that Nietzsche said that God was Dead, that Man is truly God, and is responsible for his own Ultimate Destiny.

It is a testament to universally instilled Southern manners that nobody ever told him, "Shut up. You're an idiot."

At any rate, Pretty Lady dropped by her apartment around three A.M. to feed her posse, forgetting that her sister was there, writing an English paper from hell, that evening. Her sister said later that it was like something out of Dante, battling with that miserable paper for her abusive, egomaniacal English professor, who had decided to turn her into a Great Authoress by pointedly excoriating every word she wrote, and have us drunken lunatics show up in the middle of it, with the idiot spouting his Nietzchean visions all over the place. Pretty Lady's sister is a very patient person.
God take all the damp summer nights
And lay them down like playing cards
Across the table of the sky
And sit and play a game with him

Far into the night...
Once the semester was over, of course, Pretty Lady only saw the Lurker by happenstance. Happenstance was the Lurker's modus vivendi, and Pretty Lady was fine with that. She never even knew where he lived. She had a lot of other interests.

She doesn't remember how much later it was, that she ran into him at a Killer Bees concert in midsummer. Pretty Lady was rooming with a lady named Diana, who represented her own archetype; she was truly a goddess of womanhood, and usually had two or three fellows on the string. She and Diana would hang out with Leila and Jim, who were virtually married, and the standing joke was--what is Pretty Lady going to perpetrate, this evening?

(Single girls--this is an occupational hazard of hanging out with married people. You become the Topic du Jour.)

That evening, the Killer Bees were smashing, and the Lurker was overjoyed to run into Pretty Lady. The night was hot, the Bees reggaed, and at some point in the dance, Pretty Lady and the pretty catlike boy wrapped round one another, and didn't let go.

Friends, this is not the story of a one-night stand. If you will believe me, nothing happened. Pretty Lady and the Lurker stayed wrapped for five or six hours; they wound up on a couch somewhere, listening to 'Stairway to Heaven' and snuggling into the middle distance. At about 5 AM, the Lurker drifted into sleep, and Pretty Lady tiptoed home.

Again, she doesn't remember how much time went by before she saw him again. It could have been six months, it could have been a year. Pretty Lady was done with that college business by then, and was wrapped up in applying for scholarships to study in Rome. (She didn't get them.)

When she did see him, he burst upon her like the sun had risen. He was glowing. "Pretty Lady!" he yelled, pounding across the pavement. "Hi! How are you! This is my girlfriend, Cathleen! She's from California!"

At this point in the story, Pretty Lady's less perceptive girlfriends say, "awwwww, darn." But No. Not at all. Cathleen from California was adorable, and just what the Lurker's inchoate soul required--a sweet young sprite from the magical land of California, where Jack Kerouac used to hang out. And it was evident from the Lurker's attitude that not only was he showing off his prize--he was thanking her.

Because that night of the Killer Bees might very well have started something; that something would have been Hell. Both Pretty Lady and the Lurker knew it. She could have done anything she liked with him after that, and what she did was nothing. Why would she? Who wants a pretty boy on a leash?

This is why this story is not about a one-night stand. It is a short, silly, Nietszchean love story. It is a story about letting things be as they are, and knowing they are perfect.

--lyrics by the tragically defunct band, Glass Eye, currently unavailable in print.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Star recognition

Pretty Lady doesn't see too many currently acknowleged stars in her daily runabout, really. Once she ran into Drew Barrymore in an elevator at the Whitney; she experienced a strange disconnected feeling, as though she were being rude, but could not remember why. "I know that person," she thought to herself. "But there's some reason I should not say hello. What could it be? Did we have a fight? Is she mad at me?"

Sweet Drew never stays mad at anybody, I am sure. A friend of Pretty Lady's once worked as a gaffer on one of Drew's movie sets; she introduced herself to everyone in the vicinity. "Hi, I'm Drew," she would say. "We're making a movie."

That, my dears, is Class.

However I have gone astray. As I mentioned, I do not run into current stars; I discover future ones. This evening I went to hear one.

This star, Tara in fact, is the former roommate of my best friend. During the entire time my best friend was rooming with her, I knew her only as that messed-up girl who did not pay the bills. Seriously, she didn't seem to know how to pay bills. My friend would give her some money, and a week later the phone would be cut off. If she was given a deposit from a sub-letter, she would spend the entire amount on beer. She was like a child; a damaged, clueless, helpless child. I do not know how my best friend put up with her. In fact I do not know how Tara survived, from day to day, at all. Her time appeared to be spent in noodling with electronic keyboards, drinking heavily, coughing, and rearranging her toys. Literally, her toys. The living room was full of them.

My friend, though, is not quite of this earth. She has always been spiritual and more than a little ascetic; I have known her to camp for years in a room the size of a broom closet, with almost no possessions, and hostile relatives of men she was dating, living right next door. Last year she left New York perhaps forever, to become enlightened at an Academy in Wisconsin. I miss her sorely, but it is best for her, the radiant sprite. I certainly never thought to see her roommate again.

Then lo, I wandered into a club one evening, to hear my neighbor Henry sing. Henry was passable--competent and adequate, as was his friend Roger, the dear boy. I sat at the bar and nattered with Roger's actress friend, and it was all very neighborly. Then Tara took the mike.

I had a college professor who heard Janis Joplin sing, in a high-school auditorium, sometime long before nineteen-sixty-seven. The professor said of the experience, "This plain, mousy looking woman in a peasant skirt walked onto the stage with a guitar. Then she opened her mouth."

Friends, it was like that. I cannot possibly describe it. Tara opened her mouth.

You can't leave me, I'm unsteady
I'm lovin', lovin, lovin', lovin' life...
Oh. My. God. The damage, the smoke, the coughing child, all were part of it; it was as though the muse were burning off the tar at the bottom of her lungs, and the orphan in her soul. Her voice echoed off the rafters like Jesse Jackson giving a speech in the West Mall. It thrummed up and down the spine with the pathos of a thousand ruined lifetimes. She was an order of magnitude Other than her sweet friends and supporters, Roger and Henry.

I sought her out after the show, of course. "You are truly gifted," I told her. She seemed surprised. I do not think she knows it.

It is quite likely that none of you will hear of Tara from the mainstream media; I give her an 80% chance of rapid self-destruction, and an only 20% chance of rapid public self-destruction, a lá Janis. But this evening my neighbor Henry invited me again, and oh, did I go along. While Tara was singing, there were some young girls sitting alongside of me, chattering and giggling. After a withering glance or two went unheeded, I approached them; indeed, I approached toweringly, and touched them upon the knees.

"Girls, you need to know that this is probably one of the most talented artists you will ever get to hear, live," I said. "You need to shut up."

They quailed. I listened in peace.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Superfluous material

Much as she dislikes matching fabrics, Pretty Lady was forced to don the black velvet pants with the brown velvet top this afternoon. Furthermore, the pants appear to be a size and a half too large, just like all her other pants these days. It appears that the new yoga teacher is quite literally kicking her butt. Perhaps it is time to cash in that Christmas gift certificate.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Face value

Pretty Lady never really dated any drug dealers. So vulgar. White Jaguars should not come with gold hubcaps.

She never dated her roommate either, those halcyon days in the ghetto cottage. He was so much Not Her Type that when he opened the door to interview her, she nearly turned right round again. Chiseled profile, indeed. He looked just like all those perpetually drunken fraternity scions, who used to take pot shots at her friends from pickup trucks, for fun.

But the cottage was, indeed, halcyon. Gracious, bright, airy rooms, original mahogany panelling, farmhouse kitchen, wood floors, stained-glass built-ins with fireplace, claw-foot bathtub. Palm trees in the front yard, rose garden and goldfish pond out back. Giant avocado tree by the kitchen window. One might have fallen into a wormhole, for all the desperate ghetto outside the picket fence. Really it was quite surreal, and all for $375 a month.

So, when faced with a decision between passing up paradise and rooming with the patriarchy, Pretty Lady did the only thing possible; she sat him down and made him talk. After two hours she concluded that despite his face, he would do. The next two and a half years passed in perfect amity. Men are quite easy to live with, the simple souls.

At first, Pretty Lady regarded her roommate as a study in sociology. Listening to the murmurs in the next room, she felt she was eavesdropping on Normalcy. His girlfriend was a stick-thin former ballerina, with a husband in Italy; when she returned to her husband, the roommate was both heartbroken and broke, the poor fellow. He took a job bartending at the Mission Rock, and drowned his sorrows in lesser stick-thin women with ticking biological clocks.

Pretty Lady soon realized that her roommate had no idea that he looked like the patriarchy. He regarded himself as simply a nice guy, and didn't see why others shouldn't as well. Unfortunately, living where we did, people had a tendency to knock him randomly over the head with beer bottles, in order to get at his wallet, and generally just because. Whenever this happened, he would wake up on the floor of a phone booth, rub the bump on his head, and wobble on home. He really was a good sport.

He was clueless about women, however. One weekend he took a trip with a stick-thin woman, and came home depressed. "She's not April," he opined, and that was that. Unfortunately this particular woman was not only not April, she was psychotic. She soon began showing up at odd hours of the very early morning, returning videotapes that had been put through the microwave. Pretty Lady came across a letter she'd written; "I should have known nobody would want to marry me," it declared. "I'm such a mess." Pretty Lady has mercifully wiped the rest of the document from her memory. It was painful.

However, she now knows what the patriarchy thinks, when he receives a letter like that: absolutely nothing.

A few weeks later, Pretty Lady answered a knock on the door, round about dusk. On the doorstep stood a scruffy black gentleman whom she did not recognize. "That yo' man's truck out front?" he inquired.

"It's my roommate's truck," she replied. "He's not my man."

"Well, some blonde chick paid me thirty bucks to slash the tires. Now, I ain't gonna do it, but I wanted to let you know. Some folks out here, she got five hundred bucks, they'll kill 'im."

Pretty Lady privately believes that the gentleman was looking for a payoff, but he was disappointed. After all, he wasn't my man. She did, however, warn her roommate.

He took it decently; he called the police and the psychotic blonde chick, she confessed and wept copiously. He declined to press charges. They even remained friends, and he was eventually invited to her wedding. Really he was a remarkably nice guy, if a bit thick.

Because one must always be aware of How One Comes Across. If one is a television actress, one must learn to handle paparazzi. If one is white, chiselled and living in a ghetto, one must learn to beware of beer bottles, tire irons and desperate women. This is not racism or sexism, it is Facts.

Meanwhile, Pretty Lady experimented with veganism, inadvertantly lost twenty pounds, and was mildly alarmed when her roommate caught her round the waist one day and called her "honey." She was quick to put a stop to that. Nice as he was, she requires Intellect.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Pretty Lady is so tired this evening, she cannot think. So she will simply post one of the most gorgeous photos she has ever seen, and leave it at that.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

San Francisco Nights

Even at the time, Pretty Lady knew those days were numbered. So fortunate she was, to be dating a French Software Engineer, in San Francisco, in the middle of the tech boom! Though Pretty Lady's days were harried, her nights were sybaritic. Once she made it up the hill to the Penthouse in North Beach, such meals! Such a view! Such carryings on!

(Pretty Lady recommends that every girl date a Frenchman, at least once in her life. Then she will understand the way women ought to be treated. The trouble is, it makes you finicky ever afterward.)

And Pretty Lady, fool that she is, almost passed him by. "Not my type," she sniffed, at first. "Too Nice. Too Normal. Too mechanical and bland." But her hand knew better. Every time the phone rang, her hand fetched the phone of its own accord, without Pretty Lady's conscious permission. Thus when the Frenchman called, inviting her skiing in Tahoe, she accepted in spite of herself.

Thus it began.

At this time in her life, Pretty Lady was a busy girl. What with two part-time jobs, two free-lance careers, and full-time vocational training, she was juggling so many tasks and appointments that she had to schedule 'teatime' in her day planner. She never slacked on her gardening, workouts, or farmers' market cookery, either. With all of this going on, she always arrived at the Frenchman's penthouse looking as though she'd stepped out of Godey's (being in a rather romantic stylistic stage at that point) and the Frenchman never suspected a thing. At least, he seemed to assume she'd been lounging around all day, filing her nails.

The Frenchman rarely left his Penthouse. During his first few years in the Bay Area, he informed her, he actually drove out to his cube in the Valley every day, but once DSL was invented, why bother? The Frenchman woke up when he damn well felt like it, usually around noon, and sat and programmed until he felt like stopping, anywhere between 9 PM and 5 AM. Pretty Lady had no problem with this; having an aerospace engineer for a father, and a mechanical engineer for a brother, this seemed to her to be a masculine thing, right and proper. Boys do their fabulous, unfathomable things off in their rooms, and every now and then they emerge, proudly bearing something miraculous, like an assault rifle, a web browser or an A12. We pat them on the heads and continue making dinner. Such is life.

You see, girls, the masculine mind is rather like a mining drill. It takes the bit of linear logic between its teeth, and pulverizes everything in its trajectory. Nothing along its path can be deflected or overlooked; no crucial semicolon within fourteen thousand lines of code, no millimeter of deviation on the drill press, no hairsbreadth of torque on the delta wing. The woman who gets between a man and his gadgets, or his pet theories on the nature of political systems, is headed for disaster. One does not butt logic head-on with a man--within the ten degrees or so of his line of sight.

This same man, of course, is utterly incapable of figuring out when to start the potatoes, the chicken and the asparagus respectively, so that dinner is on the table at 6:30--uniformly hot, neither overcooked nor raw. Women are naturally responsible for the other three hundred and fifty degrees of perspective on the world. That is how our minds are made.

It has always been this way. As a child, Pretty Lady loved the "Little House" books; actually, she still loves them, and in times of extreme stress she can be found behind a shelf in the children's department, rereading them. Recently she came upon this passage:

Pa drove the wagon out onto the ice, following those wagon tracks. The horses' hoofs clop-clopped with a dull sound, the wagon wheels went crunching...All around the wagon there was nothing but empty and silent space. Laura didn't like it. But Pa was on the wagon seat and Jack was under the wagon; she knew that nothing could hurt her while Pa and Jack were there...

In the night a strange noise wakened Laura. It sounded like a shot, but it was sharper and longer than a shot. "Go to sleep, Laura," Ma said. "It's only the ice cracking."

Next morning Pa said, "It's lucky we crossed yesterday, Caroline. Wouldn't wonder if the ice broke up today. We made a late crossing, and we're lucky it didn't start breaking up while we were out in the middle of it."

"I thought about that yesterday, Charles," Ma replied, gently.
Dating this lovely Frenchman gave Pretty Lady the opportunity to practice being just like Ma Ingalls, with the added benefit that the Frenchman appreciated it. His friends did, too. Upon one occasion, the Frenchman proudly repeated Pretty Lady's comment on his motorcycle skills; "I don't get frightened when you pass on two-lane highways at 115 mph, because I know you're such a good driver," she told him.

"How elegantly tactful," said the friend. Of course he kept the two-lane passing to a minimum, after that. Frenchmen are such intelligent darlings.

In fact, this Frenchman was such a wonderful fellow, that Pretty Lady was actually able to negotiate with him on important issues, such as the scheduling of weekend ski trips to Tahoe.

"Would you like to go skiing this weekend?" she would ask, of a Wednesday.

"I don't know. Let's be spontaneous," the Frenchman would reply.

Pretty Lady would take a deep breath. "Let us make a decision now, dear," she would say. "Because I would love to go skiing with you more than anything, this weekend, dear heart," she would explain. "But if we do not have plans, my telephone will ring. It will ring many times. This ringing will be my clients, asking to book appointments. It will be my best friend, wanting to have lunch. It will be my classmates, wanting to schedule a study session. And if I do not have concrete plans with you, my love, I will say 'yes' to all these people. By the time Saturday rolls around, it will not be possible for us to go skiing any longer, at all, at all. We will no longer have the option."

"Ah," said the Frenchman. "I see. Let us decide to go skiing this weekend. I will book the hotel."

See how easy this is? I told you Frenchmen were bright. You really should try them.

Pretty Lady has a lot of female friends. She is not trying to prove anything by telling you this; she is not subtly letting you know that she is not one of those loathesome females that see every other woman as a source of potential competition. She is just saying that she knows, intimately, a lot of very intelligent women. Just about all of these women have had trouble choosing a 'career.' This is not for lack of talent or interest; on the contrary, all of these women have so many talents and interests that deciding among them is an impossible task. Should she be a fashion designer, an event planner, a stockbroker or a nurse practitioner? Should she be a mother, a farm wife, a personal chef or a writer of fiction? Every option seems too scrumptious for words.

The men, on the other hand, rarely seem to have these concerns. Pretty Lady's cuñado, for example, is an Architect. He spends 90+ hours per week utterly absorbed in Architecture. Her brother, as she has mentioned, is the most committed and automatically self-disciplined mechanical engineer, possibly, on the planet. Her good friend Jake is a photographer-archivist-videographer, but then Jake accuses himself of being female.

Pretty Lady is going to get wildly stereotypical, here; she anticipates that many people will get their knickers in a twist about it. She is going to essay the daring notion that women's and men's brains work differently. Women are good at juggling twenty feats an hour; we multi-task, we interdisciplinate, we integrate, poeticize and maunder. We keep the complex world in balance. This talent is absolutely crucial when one is birthing, feeding, educating, and housing a family and a farm; we have minds which leap naturally and easily from crying infant to cassoulet to poem in progress. We are elegant. We Handle It All.

Men, on the other hand, Forge On Ahead. They pack the wagon and trundle it across the lake into the Dakota Territory. They build bombs and racing automobiles. They are, really, quite splendid.

But the dear boys need us desperately, or else they would all be like that fellow who won the Darwin Award; the one who attached a solid-fuel rocket to his automobile and went tearing across the desert, forgetting to consult a map. When they found the remains, plastered up against a sudden cliff, the former brakes were melted to goo.

If this man had had a woman with him, this tragedy would never have occurred--at least, if this man had been French. "Darling," you can picture her saying, "the solid-fuel rocket is a splendid idea, and the notion of trying it out in the desert is exciting beyond words. But dear, I worry. Have you tested the brakes? Did you get a map? What is the terrain like, outside the state line? I know I'm being fussy."

Too many American men, sadly, get testy about things like this.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Harmless recreation

One of the many joys of living in The City is that one can take a nighttime stroll and actually end up somewhere.

Pretty Lady didn't intend to be bad, really she didn't; she had her journal, and her current work of study, in her backpack. She didn't even dress up. But she did have a beer or two. Which was her undoing.

No matter how broke Pretty Lady gets, she can't seem to help buying more music. Particularly when the artist is in front of her, and obviously as broke as she is. She can attest that lovely Jenny Scheinman's discs are well worth the twenty dollars, for two.

Although she didn't buy one of their discs, Slavic Soul Party can always be counted upon for a Good Time. How could they not, with three trumpets, two drummers, two trombones, an accordion and a saxophone? All within spitting distance of your table?

Pretty Lady is afraid she did it again. That tap-dancing gypsy thing. Nobody seemed particularly to mind.

At one point during the evening, Pretty Lady noticed that there were extra drinks on her table; a pint of Guinness, and a glass of good red wine. She hadn't ordered them; nobody around her seemed to be drinking them. She wondered if there were ghosts in attendance.

Then, during a short break, the handsome Mongolian drummer came up and took a long draught of the Guinness. Then he took a large gulp of the wine. Then another pull on the Guinness. Then the wine again.

Pretty Lady has tried many, many things in her life, but that one surprised her. It seems counterintuitive on a lot of levels.

One of the odd things Pretty Lady thinks about, when getting philosophical in the shadows with good jazz and wine, is that experiences do not feel complete, to her, until they are shared. Of course they are impossible to genuinely re-create; they are so multi-textured, so unique to the time and mood and season. But Pretty Lady has her camera and her pen, and she continues to try.

Monday, March 06, 2006

How to Stay Young

Today the light catches in squares
Flutters, intangible
Precarious, was I
trying to climb the stair?
No--just get somewhere
Pretty Lady was out dancing recently, with a group of wonderful friends and acquaintances. At least, Pretty Lady was dancing; her friends and acquaintances were out with her. Pretty Lady can be like that.

At one point, late in the evening, Pretty Lady was conversing with the younger brother of a friend of hers, and casually dropped the information that she had been pursuing her current profession for, well, eighteen years. The sweet young gentleman was sufficiently flabbergasted, to blurt, "Either you started when you were three, or you look really, really young."

Gauche, perhaps, but charming.
We begin
By counting the fractions
between full and empty
and half full
Truthfully, she doesn't like to brag, and up until that evening it had not occurred to her to wonder about such things. She is deeply fond of the poem, 'Desiderata,' which includes the line 'Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.' Grace and surrender are two of her very favorite things, so she doesn't often worry about aging.
Do I have to die
to be born?

Then bury me now
Fasten me down
Bury me now
Here in the ground
However, particularly after watching the Oscars yesterday evening (congratulations, beautiful Reese! I was cheering aloud!) it occurs to her that people might, just might, be interested in knowing How She Does It. Before going out and spending their retirement incomes on face-creams advertised by Andie MacDowell, that is. So.

Pretty Lady's Prescription for Prolonged (but not eternal) Youth

1) Do yoga.

2) Like your life.

3) Love as many people as possible.

1) is, of course, self-explanatory. Consult your local yellow pages for a studio near you.

2) perhaps requires a bit of elaboration. "Liking your life" does not mean "evading your responsibilities." We cannot all lounge on beaches in Tahiti our whole lives. The beaches would get crowded, and we would all get melanomas.

However, we can be careful about choosing which responsibilities to incur--and in re-examining those responsibilities ever so often.

For example, one's job. Doing mindless, pointless, unproductive tasks day after day will make a person grow droopy black pouches under the eyes. Fluorescent lights cause depression, and have been anecdotally linked to pancreatic cancer. Off-gassing from industrial carpeting does terrible things to the complexion, as well as to the lungs.

Am I making myself clear?

Nature abhors a vacuum. If you are working at a profession you loathe, you are wasting your life. Retirement age is far too long to wait; by the time you get there, you will not only have the complexion of a walnut, but the soul of one, too.

"But I need the money," you say. Piffle. Pack a lunch, save up, start your own business. Don't bother Pretty Lady with the details.

How do you choose when to lay it all down?
How do you choose when to drown?

Then, of course, there is 3), which cannot be underestimated.

Pretty Lady cannot at all understand people who hang out with those they dislike. Don't they know that spite, malice, envy and distrust create those deep, vertical creases at the edges of their thinning lips? Also those loose wattles at the neck and jawline, also rheumatoid arthritis? One would think that vanity alone would prevent such tragedies.

Pretty Lady's world is made up, largely, of four categories of people: those she loves, those she loves a lot, those she loves inordinately, and those she avoids. She still usually loves the people she avoids, but they got spiteful with her, and, sadly, she had to let them go. Her deepest source of guilt is those people she loves inordinately--she feels that this is terribly unfair to those people she only loves a lot, but it just happened that way. If it is any consolation, she tends to have more dramatic fallings-out with the inordinate set.

However, it needs to be understood that if Pretty Lady doesn't love you, she doesn't waste her time on you. If she responds to your letter, she is fond of you. If she posts to your website, she is fond of you. If she sleeps with you, takes care of your child, spends four hours on the phone with you, sends a Christmas present, helps you move, crashes on your couch for a month, throws you a birthday party, invites you to dinner, guess what? She kind of likes you, she supposes.

Thus, when Pretty Lady finally notices signs of pettiness, spite, envy and malice against her, in one of those she so adores (it usually takes awhile) she is shocked. Why in the world would these people want to risk their health and beauty by being near her? She is careful, then, to get away as fast as possible, for their own sakes.

--lyrics courtesy of Rosin Coven

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Moping round

Please forgive Pretty Lady's less-than-perky demeanor this evening. Her Glamorous Aunt has just been diagnosed with a rather nasty form of cancer, and she received the news today. Odd that something compelled her to take Grace and Grit off the shelf yesterday evening, and begin a thorough re-read. For those of grounded spiritual constitutions, Pretty Lady highly recommends the book, although when her former roommate's sister was diagnosed with lymphoma, this same roommate took serious umbrage to the notion that any work of psychospiritual philosophy without a Pollyanna ending could contain any seeds of comfort.

In any case, Pretty Lady is proud to report that her Glamorous Aunt is a graceful lady indeed. When Pretty Lady telephoned her in the hospital, to say "I am devastated," her Glamorous Aunt replied, "Yes, it is devastating, for everyone but me. I'm just going along." We then proceeded to have a sprightly conversation about the relative merits of marijuana versus diet pills, for both social and medicinal purposes, and the aesthetic philosophies of wigs versus turbans, with an amusing foray into the head-shaving habits of Hasidic married ladies.

Pretty Lady's parents are rather straitlaced; it is good to have a Glamorous Aunt around, for letting one's hair down.

In fact, this was the very weekend that Pretty Lady and her Glamorous Aunt were to have gone millionaire-hunting in Long Island, before this tiresome diagnosis intervened. Pretty Lady's Aunt's charm is ageless, of course, and she had arranged for a promising Harvard Lawyer to squire the two of us to the theatre, and a notable French restaurant or two. Pretty Lady kept her weekend free for this purpose--and now she is glad of the moping time.

Thank fortune that there is to be a Family Reunion of the half of the family that Pretty Lady takes after, in three weeks' time. She already has her ticket. She looks forward to much drama and gossiping, at her Aunt's bedside, in company with her glamorous cousins, great-aunts, uncles and second cousins once removed. One can imagine that when Pretty Lady's family gets together, we are a riot.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Par example

Mr. Nathan provides an illustration of why rules are necessary:

The Rules women go by, pretend to go by, and wish they could go by piss me off quite a bit.

In fact... I always found it a good rule of thumb to ignore every so-called rule a particular female had.

ZTora is a bit more perceptive:
Richard is an attractive guy and very charming and thus seems to get the ladies with some regularity. That said he is not stupid and targets women who for the most part are stupid or share his enjoyment of wonton meaningless sex...I'd definitely encourage you ladies to be selective.

Pretty Lady is not particularly a fan of either wonton sex or wanton sex--Chinese food is best enjoyed after sex, in her opinion. In any case, selectivity is a must. What most gentlemen, and indeed most ladies, fail to understand is that rules are not an instrument of control; they are an instrument of filtration. Attempting to control, manipulate or change another person's behavior is both futile and pointless. If a person does not have enough sense or education to behave with common decency, we genuinely don't want them.

A very old and dear friend of Pretty Lady's sister recently married the woman of his dreams. After nearly twenty years of dating a series of physically stunning and emotionally fractious women, his chosen bride turned out to be a lady of gentle aspect and mature experience, having already raised two children to adulthood. He declared, "Why didn't anybody tell me that with the right person, it's easy?"

Let me let you in on a deep secret: All these 'rules' are, indeed, useless. They evaporate when the moment and the person is right. All they are is practice; they serve merely as a means of polishing one's social skills, so that one does not utterly humiliate oneself when the love of one's life finally appears.

Thus, when a lady or a gentleman asks, "How do I get this person to love me?" he or she is asking the wrong question. The answer is, "You can't." Love happens of its own accord. All you can do is prevent it from happening, by behaving like a narcissistic fool, treating the unique and loveable souls around you as though they were puppets in your own private theatre.

Pretty Lady finds it nothing short of tragic that many gentlemen harbor the impression that the best they can expect of life is to buy themselves a complacent and attractive young bride, once they have become financially secure. These men are selling themselves terribly short; they appear to honestly not believe that they are loveable. Indeed they are mistaken. Infinitely so.

Mr. Nelson asks, "So, what does a good date look like again?"

Oh, well, of course the world disappears, or else it becomes transformed into a place of magic and mystery. A good date may consist of trolling all the junk shops on Valencia Avenue, punctuated by a cup of indifferent coffee at Macondo. It could be a New Years' Eve party in Montpellier, where your total ignorance of the French language does not prevent you from holding soulful conversations with complete strangers, where prancing in the streets shouting "Bonne Anneé! Bonne Anneé!" seems like the most intellectually absorbing activity imaginable. It could be a twenty-four kilometer bike ride through the desert highlands of Mexico, fortified with a Coke and some greasy slop from the Taco Mobil.

Pretty Lady can give you no directions for how to get there. All she can do is tell you what to avoid, and assure you that the wait is worth it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Inappropriate attire

Please forgive Pretty Lady for being short-winded this evening. The Whitney Biennial opened today, and of course she was obliged to put in an appearance; the show, unfortunately, rather depressed her. She was appalled to see the number of full-length fur coats being worn on Madison Avenue, in thirty-four-degree weather, in bright sunlight. How very vulgar.