Sunday, April 30, 2006

Advice for attending the Cherry Blossom Festival

Ride your bike. Take antihistimines. Bring Kleenex. Skip the boxed lunches, and go straight for the Haagen-Daas.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Canines in the feeding trough

As well-traveled, richly experienced, and psychologically perspicacious as Pretty Lady may be, there is still one thing she hasn't figured out. Perhaps the gentlemen among her readership can enlighten her, although she suspects that few of them are the type which perplex her. Feel free to offer an opinion; ladies too.

Why, then, are the most openly non-monagamous, self-righteously philandering, womanizing rat-bastards of the male species the ones who throw the MOST petulant jealous tantrums?

Pretty Lady can't figure it out. She was thinking, today, of her old friend the Cuban Expressionist. (Poor Cuban painters. Pretty Lady knew most of the representative ones in New York at one point, and none of them seemed to have realized that Abstract Expressionism was over, say, fifty years ago.) She was pondering again the sad fact that he never did get the bee out of his bonnet, and she has no idea where he is today because of it.

The Cuban Expressionist was the closest thing Pretty Lady has ever known to a professional gigolo. He charmed his way out of Cuba, across Russia, France and Mexico, scattering illegitimate offspring like manna. Drifting along behind him was his common-law spouse, a little engineer named Maria, adoring the ground upon which he tread. He was careful to keep her mostly under wraps, leeching quietly off her steady income while he played the role of unattached swashbuckler in public.

Pretty Lady met him when he fetched up against a friend of hers in Mexico. She avoided him at first, because his accent made her nervous; he talked too fast and swallowed all his consonants. Also, Pretty Lady's friend was a domineering and territorial personality. It was wise not to get in her way.

However, New York City is the Holy Grail for any serious artist, and eventually both Pretty Lady and the Cuban ended up there. The Cuban arrived about six months before she did, but it frankly did not occur to her to call him. When at last the mutual friend came to visit, and he discovered she'd been in town for three whole months, he was monstrously aggrieved.

"Why you no call me?" he demanded.

"I can't understand your accent," Pretty Lady replied, honestly. "It's worse over the telephone." (This is true. The prospect of having a conversation on the phone in a foreign language with a virtual stranger always makes Pretty Lady break out in a cold sweat. Much is communicated with facial expression and hand gesture; the naked phone is a formidable instrument.)

"Okay," said the Cuban, and proceeded to pester her forthwith.

Those were interesting days. The economy was beyond dreadful, and both Pretty Lady and the Cuban were in the position of having to cadge odd jobs at every turn. The Cuban was both a spiritually generous individual, and had no sense of shame; he dragged Pretty Lady all over town, in pursuit of any tenuous opportunity to sell a painting or earn a buck. The 'friends' he introduced her to were all ladies of semi-elevated social status, who all squealed "Mario!" and looked narrowly at Pretty Lady as though she were an adder in the thicket. Pretty Lady was careful to present a buddy-like and non-territorial aspect.

Eventually, Pretty Lady and the Cuban developed the notion of starting a small joint enterprise, selling original erotic artwork on the sidewalk in Soho. Pretty Lady provided transportation, the Cuban supplied carpentry and engineering, and both of them spent their days drawing like fiends. On weekends, they met on the pavement before dawn to stake out territory, then took turns defrosting in the café until the tourists arrived, around eleven.

Watching the Cuban in action was an ever-enlightening experience. He flowed with a steady stream of patter that, by rights, ought to have got him arrested, but instead brought him an onslaught of business. "Hey lady, lady, lady, come buy. Oooo, erotica, yes? La, la, hey lady." And the ladies would giggle and come over for a look.

Now, whenever engaging upon a career of seduction, it is paramount to understand one thing; affection is mandatory. Nothing is ever accomplished, nothing is ever communicated, without a genuine appreciation for the object of one's predations. Mario appreciated women, all women. The women sensed this, and responded to it. The trouble was, once they realized the appreciation was universal, they tended to get testy.

Mario told me that once, when he had an opening in Mexico City, he invited all five of his girlfriends, because he didn't want any of them to hear about it later and get their feelings hurt. When one of them noticed just how many other women were casually grinding up against him as they passed, however, she got jealous and threw a glass of red wine all over the exhibit. "It was my mistake," he said. "I shouldn't have invited them."

Pretty Lady, meanwhile, was largely immune to Mario's coarser charms. This was partly due to the fact of having recently emerged from a 'relationship' with one of Mexico's more notorious operators, and not wanting to go through that ever again. Also, her good friend was a member of Mario's harem, and there is a strict code of non-interference with previously established social groupings, among honorable Latino womanizers. Also, Mario's common-law spouse rather attached herself. It would have taken a spawn of Satan to knowingly make that lady's life more miserable than it was already.

Also, good heavens. By virtue of her 'buddy' status, Pretty Lady was privy to more of the sordid details of Mario's life than anybody. This man was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Good Catch. He was entertaining, darling, sweet, adorable. But gracious. Pretty Lady would have to be a much bigger fool than she is. She was about ready to settle down, and not with anyone remotely resembling Mario. She believed that Mario understood this implicitly.

But then she met the Angry Atheist.

Mario was invited to the fateful weekend upstate, which shifted everything. It was quite a houseparty, jammed with bohemian artist types, and fraught with subtext. Surprisingly, the common-law spouse decided to come, and was miserable. Mario flirted outrageously with every female on the property, except his spouse. This was duly noted and excoriated by present company. It was to Mario's extreme detriment that he had yet to understand the niceties of American Puritan moral heritage. In all of his previous countries of residence, such behavior is noted as a sign of virility and elevated social class; in America it is frowned upon.

Pretty Lady, meanwhile, was stalking the man who seemed, at the time, to be her dream come true. (More fool she.) She challenged the Angry Atheist to a left-handed arm-wrestling match. Not intending to humiliate him; she is wiser than that. But Pretty Lady can give a fellow a run for his money, with her left hand.

The arm-wrestling match turned out to be one of the highlights of Thanksgiving weekend. This being a bohemian houseparty, there was more than one video camera in circulation. All of them emerged, once Pretty Lady got the Atheist in an arm lock and he realized his victory was by no means assured. People were circling; people were shouting. When Pretty Lady finally conceded defeat, the Angry Atheist was hurting.

"Woman!" he exclaimed.

Mario was Not Happy.

Pretty Lady did not think to wonder, at the time, why Mario was suddenly swarming all over her, asking for a backrub. Nor did she particularly think about it when he stole someone's camera and trained it on her for much too long a time, when she got dreamy and started spinning to some excellent trance music. But she was a bit perturbed when, for no apparent reason, the Angry Atheist suddenly stormed off to his private room and didn't come out for the rest of the weekend. She thought things were going so well.

On the way home, after Mario and a subdued spouse were dropped off in West New York, Pretty Lady's best friend offered an observation. "Mario sure was running interference, there."


After about two months' more of stop-and-go, Pretty Lady and the Atheist, were, regrettably, an established item. When she called Mario to give him the news, buddy-to-buddy, he sounded a little chokey. She joshed him about it. "Jealous? You? Come on. Get over it." Really, she thought he was joking.

Evidently not. The lady at the Cuban center (Mario only screwed her once; it was brief and he didn't even kiss her, she complained) reported that Mario was in a state of the sulks. "Pretty Lady has a boyfriend," he announced, gratuitously. Pretty Lady still figured he'd get over it. After all, sex is sex; Mario had sex with everybody. What matters one lady more or less? And the friendship was the same as ever.

Only not. Not by Pretty Lady's choice, of course; when she opened a little gallery in the Atheist's building, naturally she offered Mario a show. He accepted with a minimal amount of grace, and tried her patience sorely with his uncharacteristic reticence and irresponsibility. By the time his show came down, Pretty Lady honestly didn't care if she never saw him again.

Many months later, she ran into him downtown. "Maria had a baby," he reported, gloomily. "Es un poco dificil, la vida." Hmph. As if he'd had nothing to do with it. Pretty Lady applauded Maria's resourcefulness, particularly in getting her mother imported from Cuba and installed in their basement apartment. Mario, pushed to the wall, dumped her at last and moved out. Pretty Lady's friend reported that he'd been through a depression and lost a lot of weight, but seemed to be coming out of it.

So, insightful gentlemen all, what is this about? Pretty Lady is not so narcissistic that she thinks it was Love. She knew a passel of the Cuban's mistresses, and a lot of them are just as awesome as she; he left them all without a trace of regret. She doesn't think it was Ego, completely--any man who hits on every woman he meets, must get turned down more often than not. Another Cuban artist thought it might be 'celos de cariño,' jealousy of friendship; this could be the case, but why, then, would he eradicate the friendship?

Pretty Lady confesses herself stumped.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Darling William

Pretty Lady notes with disapproval that some of you have been hanging out on her site in her absence. Much as she enjoys being a hostess, there is no excuse for remaining chained to a keyboard in weather like this.

There has been an Underground Film Screening, starring Jake and some other insignificant filmmakers, at a charmingly unpretentious place in Chinatown.

Free popcorn was served, and the intermission was enlivened by some truly disturbing nuclear-warfare-preparedness films from the nineteen-fifties.

(It is no wonder our elders are, for the most part, paranoid and irrational. They were brainwashed into thinking that painting their houses would save them from nuclear attack. I kid you not.)

Then, today, a visit to the William Wegman Retrospective was bracketed by long walks with cameras, through the springtime. Pretty Lady was so impressed with dear Mr. Wegman's videos (she watched them ALL, laughing maniacally) that she left him a sketch in his guest book.

Then Jake departed to go meet Another Woman (a very charming lady. Pretty Lady is hoping to get him happily unloaded one of these days) and Pretty Lady indulged in her semi-annual guilty pleasure; trolling the sale racks at designer boutiques on Fifth.

Pretty Lady is somewhat abashed to report that although the pale-blue, floral silk designer mini-skirt was waiting on the rack for her, right where God put it at 60% off, she didn't stop there. She moved on to a brand-new locale specializing in Young Local Designers, made fast friends with the owner and an aging actress, and somehow came away with some items that were neither within her budget nor on sale. She does not know how this could have happened. The weather must have gone to her head.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Good morning

Pretty Lady was just awakened by a thunderclap so large and so near that it set off all the car alarms on the block. She emerged calmly from the loft and went to the windows to ascertain whether or not a bomb had hit Manhattan. Preliminary evidence seems to suggest that it was, indeed, thunder; there is rain, there is grayness, there is no large plume of black smoke anywhere about that she can see.

We New Yorkers are still a bit jumpy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ruthless scrutiny

Someone Pretty Lady had never heard of until yesterday has kindly taken it upon himself to decide what is wrong with her:

Pretty Lady finds herself in a quandary not necessarily of her own making.

There is an old saying that if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always gotten.

What seems to be missing in her equation is an element of intuition. Of course, things would go so much more smoothly for her (and, indeed, all women) if only she could spot the "fractured psyche" before being taken in by the "enormously high intelligence, (and) a habit of thinking outside the box".

Mercifully, we learned long ago to spot the more egregious flaws in the psyches of those women with whom we have come in contact.

Pretty Lady is excessively humbled. That some random stranger would have figured it all out, just like that! My, my. No intuition! That's her problem. She'll get on top of that one right away.

Of course, Pretty Lady is just being disingenuous. Lack of intuition has never been her problem. Rather, she suffers from an excess of intuition, coupled with an overloaded sideboard of creative empathy. It is no accident that she seeks out those souls with dramatically damaged psyches; it is merely an excess of misplaced spiritual generosity, as well as a certain amount of hubris, which has led her to immolate her heart upon the altar of the Tortured Genius. It has been a mistake. She freely admits that. However, she cannot honestly say that it was one she regrets making.

Because, darlings, we are all broken. If we were whole we would not be living here, hurling curses and remedies every which way but homeward. We would be in a state of Uninterrupted Bliss, which, judging by the website of this self-styled 'master,' is not within shouting distance of where he's hanging. Thus, after measured scrutiny, she respectfully declines to accept his advice.

No, Pretty Lady rejects the notion that flawed persons are, by definition, unlovable, and should be sussed out and ruthlessly avoided, except when one pauses to generously harry them with unsolicited advice. There are different ways to love people; Pretty Lady has a tendency to love unwisely and too well. Recognizing this tendency is the first step toward curbing it. Pretty Lady's habit of ruthless self-scrutiny has finally led her to the obvious, and she is grateful.

Because if a person is to live life with integrity, one must sooner or later look oneself in the mirror and ask, "Tell me. Am I a complete asshole?" Pretty Lady has asked herself this question many times. In days long past, the answer was sometimes "yes." She modified her attitudes accordingly. In latter days, the answer more frequently has been "no, not really. Hubristic, ambitious, idealistic, complicated, unnecessarily confusing, at times. But by and large, this person is someone who works very hard at loving. So, no."

Pretty Lady feels that it is generally much less productive to ask this question of other people, since other people are not within her realm of control. She even declines to suggest that they ask themselves this question. The ones who have the least to fear from the answer have already asked it, and the other ones are beyond her reach.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Infinite recursion

The Rabbitslayer has taken a break from being a genius long enough to send a photo:

I am glad to see the young man is getting his Vitamin C.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fetching the Dictionary

Pretty Lady is delighted that her fan base tends to be Persons of Quality. She feels that she must be doing something right, to attract such a number of earnest ladies and gentlemen, desiring to become better ones. Thus, perhaps, she is preaching to the choir when she hauls out the dictionary, for a precise definition of one of the most under-considered words (in her opinion) of both the current and previous centuries.

integrity n 1: an unimpaired condition: SOUNDNESS 2: firm adherence to a code of esp. moral or artistic values: INCORRUPTIBILITY 3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided: COMPLETENESS syn 1 see HONEST ant duplicity 2 see UNITY

Pretty Lady's extensive personal experience has led her to the empirical observation that if you haven't got this, you're screwed. Pretty much.

The important thing to observe, as you are contemplating the three sub-definitions of this deep and mysterious word, is that all three of them apply equally, in consideration of character. One must be, at the same time, sound, incorruptible, and complete. Also honest. Do not forget honest. One must first be honest with oneself, before one can be so with others.

But hang all of this philosophical exploration. What you really want to hear is the juicy details of why Pretty Lady didn't marry any of those jerks.

Much has been made of Pretty Lady's Terrible Taste in Men, but little consideration has been paid to the details of this terribility. Pretty Lady has one Achilles flaw--she can't STAND being bored. She requires a partner who keeps her on her toes. She prefers the company of one curly-headed anarchist who traipses the hills of Mexico with random blonde women, airily spinning theories of psychology and social philosophy off the top of his head, to a truckload of Wealthy and Upstanding Echo Chambers. This is NOT because she has an abiding interest in anarchy, or hiking, or compulsive womanizing; she just needs to be intellectually challenged. To be Predictable, with Pretty Lady, is to be Toast.

So Pretty Lady went from the Social Activist S/M Bondage addict, to the Emotionally Abusive Buddhist Monk, to the Curly Headed Womanizer, to the Angry Atheist. All these men had three things in common--enormously high intelligence, a habit of thinking outside the box, and a fractured psyche. The third element was what torched the relationship. One cannot relate wholly to another person when one is busy avoiding oneself.

This does not have to be so.

You see, friends, the true personality of an individual never adheres to stereotype. The nature of a human is to be deep and contradictory. The difficulty comes in when one attempts to rigidly adhere to a code, any code, while roughly suppressing most of one's psyche, or ignoring it, and letting it atrophy. This is the true reason for those hordes of automatons who parrot the party line ad nauseam, whatever party it might be--Democrat, Republican, Fundamentalist, or "yes, dear." These people are simply too lazy and frightened to think, and Pretty Lady despises them all.

None of these are in present company, she trusts.

No, the trap Pretty Lady has consistently fallen into is to get engrossed, not in the complications of a smart fellow earnestly trying to understand himself, but those of a smart fellow, seriously messed up. Avoidance of one's own deep mental fractures can provide, roughly, a year and a half's worth of fascinating and labyrinthine tangles, before the tape starts its repeat loop. It is not a coincidence that a year and a half is roughly the half-life of Pretty Lady's relationships.

So what to do? How do you tell which complicated, striving young man is worth the effort, and which is a bright but avoidant loser?

Pretty Lady postulates the Occam's Razor:

adj 1: having secondary rank or importance: MINOR, SUBORDINATE 2: having little or no importance or significance 3: marked by or reflective of narrow interests and sympathies: SMALL-MINDED

When Pretty Lady looks back over her life, the first Red Flag has always been when somebody got petty with her. When the Angry Atheist refused to visit her apartment because parking might be difficult, despite the fact that parking was equally difficult (and earlier) in his neighborhood. When the Curly Headed Womanizer walked too fast on the way to the theatre. When the Pretty Narcissist barked at her for folding back the last page of an ancient science magazine. When the Psychotic Ex threw a tantrum because her friends talked about something that didn't interest him.

Pettiness is a sign of avoidance. Because when someone goes nuts over which movie to see, a stain on their clothing, an aversion to feathers, it is never about that. It's about some huge gap in their mental landscape which they are desperately trying to conceal. It's about a deep-seated fear of commitment, an unwillingness to assume responsibility, low self-esteem, poisonous envy, or existential terror. Petty people are dangerous. They will throw you into the jaws of their dragons, in order to avoid slaying them themselves.

Which is unutterably foolish, because then they are left with the dragon and without Pretty Lady, who makes a profession out of coaching people through the basics of dragon handling and slaughter. But one must never equate "intelligent" with "rational."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Alpha Cat

It has been Pretty Lady's long-held view that pet stories, not to mention pet photos, are best confined within the nuclear family. She feels that outsiders are rarely likely to appreciate or understand the nuances of pet personality, and there is nothing she fears more than Being a Bore.

But, in light of recent popular demand, she will break the ironclad rule of a lifetime, and present The Alpha Cat.

Please to ignore the cheap, ugly flower pots in the background; they contain as-yet un-sprouted poppy seeds. Fire escape photo sessions are, of necessity, less than ideal.

Pretty Lady was adopted by the Alpha Cat in Austin, Texas in the summer of 1989. A Mexican vet once asked her what kind of cat he was, and how much she'd had to pay for such a superb feline specimen; she replied, "Simplemente llegó, un día." ("He simply arrived, one day.") The vet declared, "Que suerte." ("What luck.") Yes, indeed.

Astute calculators will remark upon the fact that the Alpha Cat will be at least seventeen, roughly, this summer. Other people's cats generally are showing some signs of wear and tear at such an advanced age, such as big unsightly tumors, urinary tract blockages, gray hair, thyroid conditions, kidney conditions, emaciation, death, and lack of interest in tearing around the house, chasing Brats. (The Brat is another story. We will save him for another, distant, day.) One must note that the Alpha Cat, so far, appears relatively un-ravaged by time.

Pretty Lady has no explanation for this, except that at times she suspects the Alpha Cat of being a Buddha, his consciousness occasionally appearing to transcend the normal limits of space and time. Either that, or he escaped from a genetic research lab at the University, which is not impossible either.

Ordinarily the splendidity of the Alpha Cat's fur and demeanor are difficult to photograph. Magnificent as he is in person, in photos he usually comes out looking like a random, undifferentiated bundle of fluff. Pretty Lady thinks these photos are rather better than usual, despite the ugly flower pots.

The Alpha Cat has accompanied Pretty Lady upon innumerable journeys, both of the mind and the body; he has flown in planes, he has ridden cross-country in trucks, buses, and a Buick (sprawled at his leisure over the seat back, interestedly observing the landscape.) He has acquired numerous dramatic and disgusting abscesses, brawling with oversized raccoons in the ghetto. Once in Mexico, Pretty Lady had to leave him with friends for a few months, and in her absence he went Over the Wall, and hung out in dark corners with the Mexican alley cats. Pretty Lady's friends were forced to perform an Intervention.

In all these myriad adventures, he has always maintained a high standard of politesse, if not always dignity. (One of his favorite postures, particularly in his younger days, was to lie on his back, half-propped against a wall, so that his oceanic stomach displayed itself like Humpty Dumpty's.) When introduced to another cat, he is invariably courteous; he sits upright and peaceful, eyes wide, and psychically indicates the intention, "How do you do. I am the Alpha."

If the other animal is equally courteous, the two of them get along like a house afire. If not--if the wretched creature is psychotic, and yowls indecencies at him, or has the indecent chutzpah to challenge his Alpha-hood, he demonstrates a world-weary contempt for the creature, and takes him out. "Look, I GAVE you a chance," you can hear him thinking. "Shut up already. You bore me."

In terms of human kindness, let us just say that the Alpha is largely unsurpassed by most humans of Pretty Lady's acquaintance. He has always had the sense of when Pretty Lady has had a particularly horrible day, and on these occasions he takes care to sleep by her head, purring like a factory of sewing machines. During one or two severe break-ups, he performed the role of Feline Dishrag with infinite patience and aplomb.

Pretty Lady is sure she has not come close to plumbing the depths of the Alpha Cat's psyche; she humbly realizes that he is most likely being patient with her. After seventeen years, she hardly knows him.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Hail thee festival day

The phaelenopsis bloometh, just in time for Easter.

Pretty Lady had an Angry Atheist Boyfriend once, who took winter personally. "You know that the world is trying to KILL you," he would say, huddled up in ugly clothes, angrily.

Even at the time, Pretty Lady found this rather disingenuous. It never ceases to astonish her how fragile things such as vines, rosebushes, and the tips of tree branches can weather seven blizzards, and come forth with the laciest of bright green buds in the spring.

Winter is merely God's rinse cycle. It rids us of what is no longer necessary, and is blocking our growth. Nothing worth saving is ever lost.

Blessings to all of you, my darlings, my loves, on this glorious festival day.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

How to Pick a Lady Up

Well. Since the Rabbitslayer seems to be in desperate straits, Pretty Lady will unbend. Generally she frowns upon giving young men advice on how most effectively to misbehave, but since they are bound to do it anyway, they might as well do it with style.

Let it be known that so far in this lifetime, it has proven impossible to pick Pretty Lady up in a single evening. Many have tried; some have gotten as far as second base. But Pretty Lady is a tough nut to crack. What follows is an overview of some general strategies that have (partially) succeeded with her, as well as some attitudes to avoid at all costs.

Pick-up Principle #1: Alcohol is required.

Let us be realistic about this. Much as Pretty Lady abhors drug abuse of any stripe, the fact remains that if a lady allows herself to be picked up while stone cold sober, she is definitely psychotic. Better a hungover Girl Next Door than a knife-wielding freak in your bedroom tomorrow morning.

The thing to do is remember the principle of Moderation In All Things. Two beers will make a lady genial and receptive; five will make her comatose. Two beers is also the proper amount for overcoming any shyness or restraint of rhetoric on the gentleman's part, without making him crude. It goes without saying that date-rape drugs are not only tacky, they will land you in jail for five to seven, and Pretty Lady will be the first to notify the authorities.

Pick-up Principle #2: Physical Activity obviates the need for Deep Conversation.

This is why dancing is such a popular social activity. If one's pick-up target is selected with a certain degree of premeditation, going for a hike or a bicycle ride can prove to be a comfortable icebreaker. Once the two of you have gotten over the initial nervousness of merely being in physical proximity, you can park the bikes at the corner bar and saunter on in for a chat.

Pick-up Principle #3: No Whining.

Pretty Lady hates to harp on anything, but the most disgusting thing she has ever repeatedly experienced is the sound of a male voice getting self-righteously indignant about the fact that he Just Wants to Get Laid. Boys, we know you want to get laid. It's part of your biology. Have the grace to take this as a given, and concentrate on convincing us why we should consider your particular case at this particular time.

Pick-up Principle #4: Be Direct (but with style).

Now comes time to tell the story of the time somebody almost succeeded. Be forewarned that this technique may very well get you slapped, with a lady of other than Pretty Lady's temperament. But only the bold take risks, and only the bold succeed.

Once upon a time, Pretty Lady was visiting Austin on the rebound. She was glum. She was feeling Jaded and slightly Over the Hill. A well-meaning screenwriter friend offered to set her up; Pretty Lady generally avoids these circumstances like the plague, but in a spirit of devil-may-care, she agreed to meet the two of them for dinner.

The other party to the attempt turned out to be a screenwriting police officer from Queens. At first glance, Pretty Lady typed him as "too young. Plus not particularly dynamic." She enjoyed his stories of rushing into the burning World Trade Center before it collapsed, however, and encouraged his notion of writing a screenplay about it.

The original friend, in an extravagant display of unnecessary tact, abandoned Pretty Lady and the police officer early in the evening, claiming motherhood as her excuse. Still feeling that there had been a mismatch, but not entirely bored, Pretty Lady accompanied the gentleman to a comfortable bar on Sixth, where the two of them engaged in some desultory conversation regarding screenwriting and police work.

During a lapse, the gentleman inquired, "Have you ever done anything you were ashamed of?"

Ah! Guilt. The subject of so many engrossing personal struggles. Pretty Lady proceeded to bore the man to tears with a subtle story of psycho-emotional humiliation, which burdened her conscience to this day.

"No, I mean, when you were in college, did you ever, like, experiment?"

"Oh! Well, I've ****************, but I'm not ashamed of that."

The gentleman narrowly escaped spitting a mouthful of beer all over himself, the bar, and the other customers. A contemplative silence followed.

After a moment, the gentleman declared, "I'm just going to say what's on my mind, right now. What's on my mind is that I'd like to take you to a hotel and do a lot of nasty stuff to you."

Pretty Lady warned you that you might get slapped. Most of the women she knows would slap you, at this point. When she was in her teens and twenties, Pretty Lady would have, too. But after years of whining twerps, passive-aggression, and conflicted, impotent gamma boys, Pretty Lady has finally come to appreciate a Real Man when she encounters one. This doesn't mean he will get away with that; just that it doesn't disqualify him.

"Thanks. No, but thanks," she replied.

"Ah well," he said, and finished his beer. (Note the lack of self-righteous remonstrance in his tone. He's down, but not out.)

On the stroll back to the car, the gentleman casually lifted Pretty Lady off the ground and carried her for half a block, kissing competently. "Can you see where you're going?" she thought to ask. "No," he replied, honestly and forthrightly, as usual. "Can we go to a hotel?"

"No," said Pretty Lady, forthrightly in return. We parked instead. After a couple of hours the gentleman was deposited at his place of residence, complaining wryly of a hard-on, but without a trace of querulousness in his voice. Pretty Lady more than suspects that her best bra was in his pocket, but she will give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it might have fallen out of the car at the reservoir.
Note, again, some key ingredients to this gentleman's style. He is direct, but not crude. He is confident. He knows how to read signals, and amplify them, but he also knows where to draw the line. He respects a woman's boundary when one is firmly set in place. All things considered, I'd have to give him an A-minus. That bra was expensive.

Pick-up Principle #5: Use protection.

Get the prophylactics and have them accessible, but not in a giant open basket next to the bed. Avoid any display that too obviously demonstrates your utter sluttishness of character. Having unprotected sexual interaction in this day and age is sheer madness and stupidity; Pretty Lady would almost be grateful for the advent of AIDS, if only to convince young men that irresponsibility can, indeed, be life-threatening for more than just an abandoned lady and her unborn babe.

Pick-up Principle #6: Be a gentleman.

Refrain from flinging the lady's clothing contemptuously in her face as soon as the act is complete. Do snuggle a bit; do engage in friendly chat. If you'd like to see her again, say so. If this was merely a one-night stand, make that clear at the outset. Do not lie, do not skulk, do not treat the lady like a whore. Leave her with the impression that you have discerned a certain specialness in her soul which you will remember forever, despite the fact that circumstances made it impossible for you to pursue it to completion.

Related Posts:
How to Read a Lady's Signals
Dominance and Submission


The Dandy brooks no nonsense; evidently, the mild-mannered, subtle nuances of my recent treatise on teasing have inspired a True Story of Hard-Core Evil. I am, truly, shocked.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Now playing

This photo could be myself and Jake...

Except that it isn't; it is the Dresden Dolls. Jake gave me the album. I am playing it constantly. Odd, the thread of spiritual affinities winding invisibly through life.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Pretty Lady declares a unilateral moratorium on all things witty, deep, insightful or humorous this week. She is doing her taxes.

The only thing she has discovered so far, after looking coldly and soberly at the amount of money she earned last year, is that there is definitely a God. There is no earthly reason why she should still be alive, and relatively comfortably housed, with heat, clothing, electricity, and a reasonably functional (albeit over 200K on the odometer) automobile. The mysteries of infinite provision are certainly unfathomable.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

That's more like it

Thoroughly enjoyed: 'Stay,' with Ewan MacGregor, Ryan Gosling, Naomi Watts

Notable elements: Most exquisitely intense and creative scene composition, baffling and compelling plot, Great Depth Of Message, profoundly affecting soundtrack. Pretty Lady plans to order the soundtrack, though there is a danger it will depress her. Risks must be sustained on behalf of artistic expansion.

Much appreciated: The fact that the DVD carried no inane commentary about What It Meant or How We Shot This Scene. There was a most delightful and informative interview with the composers of the soundtrack, which drew attention to an art so exquisitely done that you did not consciously notice it at all.

Someone to watch: Despite his embarrassing name, Ryan Gosling quite compelled my attention. He does the Sensitive and Intelligent Youth to perfection. I also wanted to draw his profile, or at least run my finger down it.

Underlying Meaning: The world is, indeed, an illusion.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Severe Warning

Partly viewed: "Prime," with Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep, and some kid.

Verdict: Ack! Ack! Ack!

Confession: I skimmed the second half. Just hopped scenes to get the gist of the plot, and find out what happened, the way one does with particularly bad fiction. It was That Bad.

Details of badness: Wooden, affectless, unimaginative dialogue. Painfully long scenes of people fidgeting. Impossibly, purposelessly contrived plot. Characters without any. Interminable fake sex scenes substituting for substance. The horror.

Pretty Lady felt that it was her public duty to get this information out there as soon as possible. Do not, under any circumstances, spend two dollars or two hours of your precious life on this movie.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Abusing the populace

Just to be absolutely clear about this, Pretty Lady frowns upon Leading People On. She used to think that the loathesome expression 'prick tease' was an invention of embittered, projecting males, who interpreted innocent flirtation as Something More, and were disappointed. Pretty Lady has discussed elsewhere the fact that flirtation, in its proper form, is a delightful, egalitarian social activity which is only tangentially linked to the establishment of sexual liasons. If flirting were the only criteria for being declared a tease, Pretty Lady would have to lock herself in a closet and communicate with the outside world solely by means of knocking on the wall in Morse code. Even then she'd probably find a way to convey a wink or two.

However, Pretty Lady changed her mind about the definition of the word 'tease' during the month she witnessed a friend of hers trying to convert a certain young man to her own, rather vague views on the Spiritual Unity of Mankind. This friend was your typical run-of-the-mill size-2 blonde with gigantic green eyes, bewitching smile, tinkling laugh and cheerleader physique. The gentleman in question was a quasi-incompetent academic clerk, on the short side, with a mildly unfortunate (though by no means deformed) facial physiognomy and no magnetic personal, intellectual or social skills to speak of. My friend's conversion technique consisted of cornering the gentleman in the café, gazing deeply and thoughtfully into his eyes, and declaring, "I love you, Berto."

After a couple of weeks of this, Those Who Observed became concerned. "You might want to back off of Berto, Julia," we told her. "He's becoming attached."

"That's ridiculous," said Julia. "I've TOLD him I'm only interested in him as a friend."

Within another couple of weeks, poor Berto had declared his undying love for Julia, and she laughed in his face. He never did get over it. After one failed marriage and another tepid engagement, he still continues to call her, at her home in Oregon from his in Mexico, and make forlorn plans to visit, which are continually rejected.

Pretty Lady had some subsequent experiences with this particular friend which led her to believe that, far from being the avatar she claimed, this girl was Seriously Messed Up. But even at the time she found her tactics to be wilfully obtuse. One has to gauge one's conversion audience. There is a fine line between Mystical Oneness and Emotional Abuse, and this girl definitely crossed it.

So it is with some trepidation that Pretty Lady confesses that yesterday evening, she allowed the Neighborhood Beat to take her out. I know, I know, it's horrible. But over the years it has become easier to throw the fellow a bone every few months and watch him suffer, than it is to avoid him entirely.

In fact it is physically impossible to avoid the man entirely, even though one might think that New York was a big, big city. This is why Pretty Lady has decided that the Neighborhood Beat must be part of her karass; he descended upon her within minutes of the time she first entered the city's environs, and could not be shaken off. He haunts her haunts; he haunts her friends' haunts, he hangs out in the obscure bar her ex-boyfriend took her to to Get Away From People, he stalks the galleries she attends, he pulls up behind her at stoplights and takes things out of his trunk that he's been saving to give to her. He's one of those Old Fellows who Hangs Around. He knows everybody and everybody knows him. Which is not such a bad thing.

However, if Pretty Lady has slapped him down once, she's done it fifty times. The nerve! You must take it on faith that Pretty Lady is so far out of this fellow's league, they'd have to communicate with walkie-talkies if they were ever to get it on; his characteristics are too well known in the community to risk describing him. She has bluntly told him so--as blunt as she ever gets.

"You are Not My Type, Beat," she said, the first time he asked her out. He shrugged and kept trying, with the eternal optimism of testosterone. He kept trying for years. Pretty Lady said no, and no, and no again. Not prettily, either. "You couldn't GET me drunk enough to sleep with you, Beat," she recalls telling him, round about the third year or so. He shrugged and said, "You're adorable."

So Pretty Lady figures the dude must have a serious masochistic streak. At any rate, once her feelings and boundaries have been clearly communicated, Pretty Lady believes that other people's issues are Their Problem.

And strangely, over the years, it has become comforting to know that there is one person who is always glad to see her, however badly she treats him. During the past holiday season, Pretty Lady had a rather difficult week; at the end of this week there loomed a Birthday Party of someone who Expected Her To Be There, even though this person had not attended Pretty Lady's birthday, and indeed had been somewhat snippy on numerous occasions when Pretty Lady set limits. This person appeared to have her life permanently set on Maximum Extract, and Pretty Lady, although generous, was no longer in the mood.

But she didn't have an excuse. Not that one was needed, but Manners are hard to lose, once imprinted. She popped round first to an opening, and had a glass of wine to fortify herself.

The Beat, of course, as ever, was there. Pretty Lady knew some people, and had another glass of wine. When the opening ended and the Beat said, "How 'bout we hit some other galleries, then music and dinner," Pretty Lady said--all right. Whatever.

Perhaps this was a spontaneous act of emotional despair. Pretty Lady was not, and never will be, drunk enough to sleep with him. But she had a strangely good time, bopping around and saying exactly what she thought about the bad art, the stupid galleries, the egoistic art dealers. She enjoyed the a cappella band at the Italian hole-in-the-wall. For once she didn't have to worry about offending anybody; every caustic comment out of her mouth was heralded as an example of peerless wit. An old Italian guy came up to the table and declared, "We have a bet on. I say you're no moah than thoity." Pretty Lady informed him that he'd lost his bet, but that he'd made her evening.

Once cannot use people as emotional Kleenexes too terribly often, however masochistic they might be. Every three or four months is the outside limit. Yesterday evening, though, Pretty Lady decided that she was in the mood for her Yearly Cigarette, and the Beat was the only smoker she knew. She didn't have to look for him; she just strolled vaguely homeward and he intercepted her. The cigarette was menthol, the art was execrable, the Middle Eastern food was excellent, and she got home by 10:30, firmly avoiding an attempted necking.

Perhaps this is horrible. Perhaps Pretty Lady will come back in her next life as a 330-lb. white-trash retard with a raspberry birthmark covering most of her face. But there are the occasional moments when everyone needs looking after, and one cannot always be too picky.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

It is not a Blemish, it is a Feature

Occasionally Pretty Lady is unnerved to discover that there are persons in the world whom she has never met, but whom nevertheless are intimately familiar with her doings. This may seem disingenuous, coming from a lady who discusses her private life freely upon the Internet, but indeed she has been so honest partly because she assumes that not many are listening. People in general tend to be quite narcissistic, particularly the ones whose attention one is trying desperately to attract.

And anyway, it is never the persons who peruse her various web identities who so surprise her. It is people who come up to her drunkenly at parties and say, "I admire you SO MUCH!" and she is left wondering who, how, when, where and what has been said in her absence. Then there are the people like her sister's hairdresser, who snag hold of one small incident and immortalize it, when the perpetrators have forgotten all about it.

Pretty Lady's sister's hairdresser was the one who said, "I remember your sister. She was the one who had this humongous zit, and instead of trying to conceal it, she colored it in with black eyeliner and went to a party."

Pretty Lady does not remember any specific occasion when she did this, but it seems likely. She is not averse to a certain amount of discreet make-up, but all that flesh-colored, goopy 'concealment' stuff is not her style. It isn't fooling anyone, and it comes off on Kleenex and pillowcases. "Beauty marks" were popular in the Regency for a reason, and Pretty Lady does not see why she should not capitalize upon historical wisdom. So, for today, she offers the suggestion, in case any bold young ladies care to make use of it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Pretty Lady had literally just finished pumping up the tires on her mountain bike. She had Big Plans for this morning--she was going to bike round the park for her first Spring Round, to take in the blooming, budding trees, the fresh air, and the grass. She then intended to attend a mild Hatha class, stop by the Tea Lounge for a pot of black Ceylon and a sesame bagel, before embarking upon her shift at the co-operative. Then she looked out the window.

That is not a Spring Rainstorm, friends. It is a Blizzard.

Note the large, honkin' white flakes perching upon branches which also bear, or bore, a profusion of white blossoms.

Pretty Lady is carefully avoiding thinking about what this may mean for the garden she planted on her fire escape last weekend; she hopes that it melts off in time to avoid serious damage. In any case her kitchen cannot possibly contain all those pots.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


One of the drawbacks of Spring in the City, particularly when one lives in an up-and-coming area (and it seems that Pretty Lady inevitably ends up in these areas) is the enthusiastic renewal of heavy-duty construction as soon as the weather warms up slightly. This morning seemed particularly unfair; the jackhammers were hammering as of 8 AM on both sides of Pretty Lady's apartment. She doesn't get good sleep processing when the hammers are outside her bedroom window, but when she finally drags herself vertical and finds them in the kitchen as well, she starts thinking about Fleeing Upstate for a few days.

Unfortunately, Pretty Lady has Parted Ways with her friend who owns the mansion upstate. It was a wrench, but it had to be done. Pretty Lady has a new set of rules; she only visits the homes of bona fide Adults. Crashing in the home of a toddler with a car and a credit card had simply become too draining.

Now, Pretty Lady in her time has been a professional houseguest. She doesn't stint; she provides Value for Bedsheets. She has been known to show up with a trunkful of grocery bags and make Indian food and cinnamon rolls from scratch, for a party of eighteen. In the past she would arrive at the Upstate Mansion and, finding it in a state of depression-induced chaos, have the fires roaring, candles burning, furniture brushed, dishes washed, floors clean, laundry spinning, and turkey in the oven within two hours. Her friend the Flaky Heiress would express shame and gratitude in the same breath; "I'll cook for you tomorrow," she would declare.

"Don't you mind it," Pretty Lady would reply. "I like to do this. I am a Compulsive Cozifier."

"You should put that in a personal ad," said F.H.

However, when Pretty Lady entered the kitchen in yoga attire and found a note on the living room door one morning, it was the Beginning of the End. The note read, "The living room isn't such a good yoga studio this morning. The dog had an accident. Smiley Face! --Love, Flaky Heiress."

If you will believe it, Pretty Lady actually felt mildly guilty for failing to immediately enter the living room and clean up the dog diarrhea on the floor, even though she herself owns no dog and is not particularly a Dog Person. This particular dog was in an advanced state of brain cancer, and this was the fact that had induced Flaky Heiress' depression in the first place. However, Pretty Lady felt that a mild, joshing remonstrance was in order.

"You know, it would have taken you about as much time to clean up the diarrhea as it did to write that note," she said. Flaky Heiress giggled at her own endearing quirks.

Two days later, Pretty Lady's back was seriously hurting from dearth of yoga practice. The living room was still an animal latrine. Sometime around noon, while F.H. was still in bed, Pretty Lady finally started in on the diarrhea. She got most of it up, stiff and hardened as it was, but when attacking the cat box she was stymied by lack of a litter scoop.

"Flaky Heiress!" she finally called. "Where is the cat litter scoop?"

"Don't clean it up, I'll do it," said F.H., sleepily, from her chamber.

"Just tell me where it is," said Pretty Lady.

"There isn't one. I know how to do it. You don't have to clean up the cat shit."

"My back hurts, you are still in bed, I am not making you get out of bed, I just need to know how to get the cat box clean," said moi, betraying the first hint of exasperation and distress.

Flaky Heiress appeared majestically in her peignoir, and took Pretty Lady firmly to task. "You need to MAKE me take care of my responsibilities," she declared, in a tone of injured maternality.

At that point, Pretty Lady came close to bursting into tears, but restrained herself, and allowed F.H. to finish with the cat box, in her preferred, arcane manner. There the matter rested, for a time.

The details of the further deterioration of Pretty Lady's friendship with the Flaky Heiress do not need to be entered into, on this occasion; the perceptive reader will perhaps be able to imagine them clearly enough. However, Pretty Lady feels an overwhelming need to spell out a Houseguest Bill of Rights, which she follows religiously in her own home, and which she tacitly expects of any Host who invites her to spend the night for any reason.

1. A Houseguest has the right to a place to sleep, pillow, clean bedsheets, and a clean bath towel, which are to be provided by the host at the appropriate moment, without the Guest having to inquire as to their availability or whereabouts, long after the moment of necessity has arrived.

2. A Houseguest has the right to sleep as long as he or she requires, within the bounds of practicality; if the Guest's sleeping location is required for commercial purposes at any time, the Guest must be informed of this fact well in advance.

3. A Houseguest has the right to wake up and quietly putter around whenever and for however long he or she desires, as long as the Houseguest does not expect the host to do the same.

4. A Houseguest has the right to procure his or her own standard-time and standard-issue meals, in the absence of formally planned events. If the Houseguest has peculiar dietary requirements, the Host must be informed well in advance; it is a huge bonus if the Houseguest provides his or her own spelt, wheatgrass and psyllium powder. The Host is not required to provide any particular meal content, but failure to inform Houseguest of the location of suitable grocery stores constitutes a breach of Hosthood. Thus, the reply "I never eat breakfast," when asked as to the local availability of such staples as eggs, milk, and bread, is an unacceptable response.

5. A Houseguest has the right to an interior environment free of at-large fecal material at all times. Pretty Lady scours the cat box daily, particularly when her mother comes to visit.

6. When a Host has a Large Party wherein second-tier guests are expected to camp in the field, for God's sake get one of your neighbors with a tractor to mow the field. Pretty Lady slept in a five-foot high, slug-infested grass field last summer, and she is never attending that Solstice Bonfire Celebration ever again.

In conclusion: A Houseguest's position is a peculiarly vulnerable one, and all would-be Hosts would do well to respect this. A Houseguest, no matter how self-sufficient, resourceful, and considerate, is by definition Not In Control of his or her situation, and relatively dependent upon the Host for life's basic necessities. It is perfectly fine for a Host to be free-wheeling; it is not okay for a Host to be utterly irresponsible. When a Host invites a Houseguest to visit, with the ulterior motive of unloading basic household-maintenance responsibilities onto somebody else, tension and exploded friendships will inevitably result.

Monday, April 03, 2006

I am a Superstar

Be forewarned: Nice Christian Families might wish to look the other way this evening and sing hymns instead. Or perhaps not. Pretty Lady believes in cultural integration.

Pretty Lady is Floored. She never would have dreamed it possible. She is Cool. She is Bad-Ass. A girl from the Edge, a girl with a blog called "Entropic Doom" is a fan of hers.

This girl has Lived, and lived to tell the tale. An excerpt:

And there must be something in that laughter, or in the streams of blood that are now trickling down my face from unseen scalp lacerations the way I wanted it in the first place, or something in Boston Pete's face as he tries to pull himself back into some semblance of manly rage, or in the way I'm tossing that pretty pink-and-white cupcake of a chair back and forth in a manner that will leave my unwitting biceps and those complicated-named stringy muscles in my forearms sore for a week, all the time eyeing that herd of gazelle-girls twitching on the sofa. There must be something in some of it, anyway, because before I can hurl the chair like I've been rehearsing, several things happen at once that I will not recognize for their acts of love and bravery until it's far too late to thank any of its heroes.

Spacey Stacey reaches over and slaps the "play" button on the cd player, sending Beck reeling with mellow madness back through the room's smoky air currents.

Stephanie grabs the bottle of hooch and turns to the bunny girls with a forced smile.

Bastard starts forward and grabs Boston Pete in a half-joking, half-assed high-school wrestling hold, making some asinine joke as he does so.

Loaf springs forward to grab me up in unyieldingly huge arms, scooping me off my feet and through the door before I can drop the chair; it jams in the doorframe and I let go of it, at the same time as I let my head droop onto the meaty shoulder of this, my friend since before I was even kissed.

Now, Pretty Lady has devoured the works of Cookie Mueller. She has a passing familiarity with Henry Miller and little Anäis Nin. She was dwelling with fondness upon reminiscences of Mary McCarthy, just the other evening. It is her firm opinion that Going to the Edge does not make a person a fine artist, not at all--this is a misconception that has led to the tragic destruction of more fine young souls than she cares to count. But when a person with sensitivity and talent hurls herself to the edge and draws back, sometimes poetry results. She has hope for this one.

Down time

Recently viewed: Walk the Line with Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix.

Verdict: Meh. Reese sang very well.

Issues: Joaquin Phoenix is simply too beautiful to be believeable as Johnny Cash. It does not matter how well he acts. He is still beautiful Joaquin, whose personal aspect tugs at the heartstrings in a manner unrelated to the arcane charm of skanky old Johnny. It was like viewing one of those stereoscopic paintings, the ones where you cross your eyes and the image becomes three-dimensional, except that when you try to cross them, the image does not gel. No wonder Reese appeared circumspect and confused. No woman of flesh and blood could have resisted Joaquin Phoenix for eighteen years, tortured and addicted, solely because his soulmate would not have him. I got a strong sensation of an Absent Subtext.

Also viewed:
Kissing Jessica Stein. I forget the names of the actresses.

Verdict: Surprisingly enjoyable. Without betraying myself into an indiscretion, I found that the pretext of two Girls Experimenting was remarkably realistically handled. The conclusion was not only believeable, but true-to-life in all sorts of ways.