Sunday, December 31, 2006

Shameless frivolity

It is rank vanity of the worst kind, but Pretty Lady has to say that she's pretty thrilled with her New Year's Eve outfit this year.

Now off to sushi and a Venezuelen party! HNY!

Brilliant Insight

Pretty Lady is, perhaps regrettably, back in The City, which welcomed her with such open arms yesterday that she barely got to sit down. First, the telephone rang at an achingly early hour (ten thirty!) and revealed to her that a Very Old Friend was just down the street, and would be just down the street for only three more hours before flying back to Texas. Naturally Pretty Lady jogged out to see her, and was treated to an incidental tour of the Vinylux Studio, an astonishing enterprise which creates Neat Stuff from Old Records, and which is the brain child of Pretty Lady's friend's boyfriend's brother-in-law.

Next, Pretty Lady did a whirlwind scrubbing of her home, complete with mops, in preparation for the evening's clientele, before racing off to an Open Houseparty in Queens, hosted by the parents of her friend from California, who regrettably was prevented from attending due to her husband's fractured rotator joint. Pretty Lady left plenty of time to cross town, but nevertheless was thwarted by a senseless traffic jam at the intersection of 495 and Woodhaven, and had to apologize profusely to her 5 PM client.

After work was over, at 8:30, the Japanese lady came upstairs with some tofu, some Japanese sweets, and her kitten, who is starting socialization lessons with the Alpha Cat. The initial encounter was tense but promising; no horrific territorial battles occurred. When kitten and neighbor departed at 10, Pretty Lady was practically ready for bed, despite her consuming immersion in "The Hallowed Hunt." Dear L.M. Bujold may only have one story in her, but she does tell it over and over remarkably well.

Nevertheless. During her nine-hour drives, to and from the Rural Homestead, Pretty Lady had time to do some thinking. Her thoughts Roamed Free, over Past, Present, and Future, as one's thoughts are wont to do when making long journeys round about the winter solstice. And since Pretty Lady's thoughts brought her a modicum of the peace which comes with understanding, she will share them with you now.

Those of you who know Pretty Lady, know that she is exceptionally Fond of Men. Nevertheless, she has not seen fit to marry any of them; many theories have been propounded as to Why This Is. Pretty Lady thinks she has figured it out.

You see, darlings, it may be apparent by now that Men are Different from Women, no matter what the politically correct propaganda may have to say to the contrary. These differences, in Pretty Lady's observations, extend deeper than the merely physiological. They are temperamental and intellectual as well. Pretty Lady is not saying, you note, that one gender is superior to another; but she firmly believes that they are different. One of the primary differences she has noticed (Radical Feminists, cover your ears) is that the Nurturance Instinct is not so highly developed in men, particularly younger ones, as it is in women.

Ah yes, you may shout, you may dance, you may rage, but if you will stop to make a few decades of Empirical Observations, as Pretty Lady has, you will see that it is true. There are certain core things that Women Know, and that those poor blundering gentlemen take decades to figure out.

One of those things that women know, in the deeps of their hearts and the marrow of their bones, is that Great Things Take Time. One does not get knocked up on Friday, give birth to a genius the following Wednesday, and take a seat in the concert hall to applaud the concerto, two weeks from Saturday next. Between the Conception and the Great Result, much is required. Much feeding, cuddling, empathizing, dusting-off of boo-boos, encouragement, discipline, stern talking-tos, and provision of education and supplies must take place, before one's child of the soul takes his place in the pantheon of stars. This is how it is. This is Basic Fact.

Furthermore, the Need for Nurturance does not cease when a human turns eighteen, much as societal myth conspires to make it so. Thus, even a childless female, if she is worth the price of her tutu, treats everyone around her with the empathic understanding of a Good Mommy. Even the gentlemen with whom she spends her time. The gentlemen thrive on this; indeed, they require it. If you do not believe Pretty Lady, think to yourself--which woman would I rather come home to? The one who, when my Great Empire crashes into flinders around me, says, "Oh, darling, I am so sorry. I believe in you. You are my hero. You will do better next time, I am sure of it," or the one who declares, "You loser bastard. What about that fur coat you promised me? I'm outta here."


This sort of thing, broadly, may be termed as Being Supportive. Support can take many forms; it can be moral, practical, emotional, spiritual, or intellectual. It can take the form of understanding silence and a well-cooked meal. It can manifest as a well-timed kick in the pants. It is not a gushy, unrealistic, Pollyanna sort of thing; many of Pretty Lady's friends can attest that her support can, at times, take the form of plainly speaking some Unpalatable Truths. Those of Pretty Lady's friends who are still her friends have sometimes even come to thank her for this.

Pretty Lady has come to notice, over the decades, that her Intimate Male Partners are not so good at this sort of thing. They mean well, but they seem to be missing a clue. When their own ambitious enterprises come to naught, due to immaturity, inexperience, poor judgment, lack of resources, bad timing, or bad luck, it never occurs to them to quit; they punch a wall or two and keep on trying, at least if they are worth the price of their flannel shirts. But when the same thing happens to Pretty Lady, for the same reasons, what do they tell her? What is the form of their loving support?

Largely, in Pretty Lady's experience, it has consisted of something like, "That's too bad. But look on the bright side; now that you know you're a failure, you'll have so much more time for taking care of ME!"

When Pretty Lady hears something like that, she tends to think something like, "How odd. The gentleman is encouraging me to quit. He must think I'm a quitter. I shall oblige him; I shall manifest his expectations to the best of my ability. I shall not quit my ambitious enterprises, because this would be impossible; they are a part of the imperious dictates of my immortal soul, and are thus not under his jurisdiction. So I shall simply quit this relationship."

Even if the gentlemen do not openly advocate wholesale capitulation at the first sign of difficulty, they are apt to underestimate and underprioritize the resources necessary to adequately nurture another person's labors. The same man who would never consider going without access to the basic tools of his own trade for an indefinite period of time, is perfectly capable of mapping out a mutual life-plan which omits all reference to Pretty Lady's studio space, while simultaneously declaring, "When you become a famous artist, you can support me!"

Now, Pretty Lady must hasten to add that not all young gentlemen are cast in this mold. She can think of at least one example, right off the top of her head, of a man who is not like this. He lives in Northern California, and Pretty Lady will not give you any more information than that, lest the poor man be even more besieged by wise and appreciative fans than he already is. Even saints need some privacy.

But by and large, in Pretty Lady's observation, a man does not learn the manner of being truly supportive until he has passed his fiftieth birthday, if he ever does at all. Since Pretty Lady maintained the idealistic delusion of a 'peer relationship,' involving mutual growth and support, when she was in her twenties and early thirties, this meant that she was in fact searching for something that virtually does not exist.

And, when she comes to think about it, this was probably for the best. Because, being the supportive, nurturing person that she is, Pretty Lady would undoubtedly have drained herself dry in the attempt to nurture herself, a life-partner, and their offspring simultaneously, and, exhausted by the attempt, would have concluded that she was, in fact, a total failure. Tragic and ugly things might then have occurred. Uglier and more tragic than the ones which already have.

So, my dear gentlemen all, young and old, let Pretty Lady drop a Word in your Ears. She is not asking you to change, darlings; she does not wish for all gentlemen to become pale imitations of ladies, all cooing and fussy in aprons and things. She merely wishes to say, forthrightly, that if you consistently encourage those around you to quit, for whatever reasons, you will find yourself ultimately surrounded by Quitters. And thus, when difficulties arise, they will. Think about it.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


A terrible thing has happened. Pretty Lady cannot go back to New York today. The spark plugs are mysteriously missing from her 4-wheeler. And there is ice on the driveway. Impassable! And there could be a blizzard any month now.

The sun is shining brightly at the moment, it is true, outlining the crystalline rime of frost dusting the edge of even the veriest needle-leaf of moss; Pretty Lady took a long walk to study this phenomenon in various environments. The miracle was occurring in the cemetary, by the river, in the woods, over the hill, and in the clearing under the power lines. Everywhere.

But a blizzard could hit at Any Moment. It is simply Not Safe to drive back to New York today. Pretty Lady's clients will just have to wait, assuming there are any.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pretty Lady Wastes Her Time

Sadly, it is true. Pretty Lady has spent an evening and a morning reading about a lunatic.

So that none of you will waste an equal amount of time, reading the entire biography of this deluded, quixotic individual, Pretty Lady has taken the trouble to pick out a few of the best bits.

In the Middle Ages the pilgrims went out as the disciples were sent out--without money, without food, without adequate clothing--and I know that tradition. I have no money. I do not accept any money on my pilgrimage. I belong to no organization. There is no organization backing me. I own only what I wear and carry. There is nothing to tie me down. I am as free as a bird soaring in the sky.

I walk until given shelter, fast until given food. I don't ask--it's given without asking.

Once I was hit by a disturbed teenage boy whom I had taken for a walk...He was a great big fellow and looked like a football player, and he was known to be violent at times. He had once beaten his mother so badly that she had to spend several weeks in the hospital. Everybody was afraid of him, so I offered to go with him.

As we got up to the first hilltop everything was going fine. Then a thunderstorm came along. ...Suddenly he went off the beam and came for me, hitting at me. I didn't run away although I guess I could have--he had a heavy pack on his back. But even while he was hitting me I could only feel the deepest compassion toward him. How terrible to be so psychologically sick that you would be able to hit a defenseless old woman! I bathed his hatred with love even while he hit me. As a result the hitting stopped.

He said, "You didn't hit back! Mother always hits back." The delayed reaction, because of his disturbance, had reached the good in him. Oh, it's there--no matter how deeply it is buried--and he experienced remorse and complete self-condemnation.

What are a few bruises on my body in comparison with the transformation of a human life? To make a long story short he was never violent again. He is a useful person in this world today.

On another occasion I was called upon to defend a frail eight year old girl against a large man who was about to beat her. The girl was terrified. It was my most difficult test. I was staying at a ranch and the family went into town. The little girl did not want to go with them, and they asked, since I was there, would I take care of the child? I was writing a letter by the window when I saw a car arrive. A man got out of the car. The girl saw him and ran and he followed, chasing her into a barn. I went immediately into the barn. The girl was cowering in terror in the corner. He was coming at her slowly and deliberately.

You know the power of thought. You're constantly creating through thought. And you attract to you whatever you fear. So I knew her danger because of her fear. (I fear nothing and expect good--so good comes!)

I put my body immediately between the man and the girl. I just stood and looked at this poor, psychologically sick man with loving compassion. He came close. He stopped! He looked at me for quite a while. He then turned and walked away and the girl was safe. There was not a word spoken.

Now, what was the alternative? Suppose I had been so foolish as to forget the law of love by hitting back and relying upon the jungle law of tooth and claw? Undoubtedly I would have been beaten--perhaps even to death and possibly the little girl as well! Never underestimate the power of God's love--it transforms! It reaches the spark of good in the other person and the person is disarmed.

During my travels a saloon-keeper called me into his tavern...As I rose to leave I noticed a man with a drink in his hand was also on his feet. When he caught my eye he smiled a little, and I smiled at him. "You smiled at me," he said in surprise. "I should think you wouldn't even speak to me but you smiled at me." I smiled again. "I'm not here to judge my fellow human beings," I told him. "I am here to love and serve." Suddenly he was kneeling at my feet and saying, "Everyone else judged me, so I defended myself. You didn't judge me, so now I judge myself. I'm a no-good worthless sinner! I've been squandering my money on liquor. I've been mistreating my family. I've been going from bad to worse!" I put my hand on his shoulder. "You are God's child," I said, "and you could act that way."

He looked with disgust at the drink in his hand, and then hurled it against the bar, shattering the glass. His eyes met mine. "I swear to you I'll never touch that stuff again," he exclaimed. "Never!" And there was a new light in his eyes as he walked through the door with steady steps.

I even know the happy ending to that story. About a year and a half later I heard from a woman in that town. She said as far as anyone knew the man kept his promise. He never touched liquor again. He now has a good job. He is getting along well with his family and has joined a church.

When you approach others in judgment they will be on the defensive. When you are able to approach them in a kindly, loving manner without judgment they will tend to judge themselves and be transformed.

I remember a time of the year when it got very cold at night. It went below freezing, but then it warmed up a little in the daytime, so the days were fairly pleasant. It was in the fall, and there were dry leaves on the ground. I was in the middle of the woods and there wasn't a town for miles around. It was sunset and it was a Sunday. Someone had read a thick Sunday newspaper and tossed it beside the road--like they shouldn't, but they do. I picked it up and walked off the road and found a thick evergreen tree. Underneath it was a little depression where some leaves had blown. I pushed a lot of leaves into that depression. Then I put some paper down and placed the rest of the paper over me. When I woke in the morning there was a thick white frost over everything, but the evergreen tree had kept it off of me, and I was snug and warm in my nest of leaves and paper. That's just a tip in case you get caught out some night.

Of course, I love everyone I meet. How could I fail to? Within everyone is the spark of God.

Let me tell you a story of a woman who had a personal problem. She lived constantly with pain. It was something in her back. I can still see her, arranging the pillows behind her back so it wouldn't hurt quite so much. She was quite bitter about this. I talked to her about the wonderful purpose of problems in our lives, and I tried to inspire her to think about God instead of her problems. I must have been successful to some degree, because one night after she had gone to bed she got to thinking about God.

"God regards me, this little grain of dust, as so important that he sends me just the right problems to grow on," she began thinking. And she turned to God and said, "Oh, dear God, thank you for this pain through which I may grow closer to thee." Then the pain was gone and it has never returned. Perhaps that's what it means when it says: 'In all things be thankful.' Maybe more often we should pray the prayer of thankfulness for our problems. Prayer is a concentration of positive thoughts.

Tremendous energy comes with anger. It's sometimes called the anger energy. Do not suppress it: that would hurt you inside. Do not express it: this would not only hurt you inside, it would cause ripples in your surroundings. What you do is transform it. You somehow use that tremendous energy constructively on a task that needs to be done, or in a beneficial form of exercise.


have been asked if a certain amount of fear is healthy. I don't think any amount of fear is healthy. Unless you're talking about the fact that if you have fear about a street, you'll look up and down before crossing the street. But you see, I believe we are required to do everything possible for ourselves and therefore when I walk out onto a street I always look up and down. But I don't think that's fear. That's just being sensible. I don't connect that in any way with fear. For instance, I know that if there are little pebbles scattered over a smooth rock, I'm liable to slip if I step on those little pebbles, so I'm careful not to. I'm not afraid, it's just the sensible thing to do.

I have a sense of definite protection. Twice I have felt the need to get out of cars I was riding in, and once I saw why. Now, I didn't get out of the car when I was coming down over the "grapevine" into Los Angeles with two high school students. They were seeing how fast they could get the old Chevy to go down hill. I was in the back seat and I felt perfectly all right.

But one time I was with a man who was drinking whisky, and I offered to drive for him. I showed him my driver's license, but he wouldn't let me drive, so I asked him to let me off at the junction. Then I was picked up in a little truck, and we hadn't gone even five miles before we saw the other car. It had gone down into an arroyo and sideswiped a cottonwood tree. On the side where I had been the glass was broken and the roof was bashed in. So at once I saw why I felt the need to get out. The driver wasn't badly hurt. He was cut some but not really hurt.

This time I was driving somebody else's car over a road that was not finished yet. Coming down an incline, there was a traffic light at the end of the road where you had to turn either one way or the other. Cars were turning both ways, and turning up on to the road past me. I naturally put my foot on the brake when I saw the light was red, but I had no brakes! I grabbed for the emergency. I had no emergency. I thought if I could put the car into reverse it would stop, although this would tear it to pieces. I attempted to get it into reverse but it wouldn't go. Ahead of me I saw a station wagon with two little children looking out of the back window. I had to stop the car! I couldn't turn to the left--there was a rock wall there--and cars were coming up thick and fast. There was a rock wall to the right with a ditch, and my little finite mind said, "Take to the ditch, sideswipe the rock wall. It'll stop the car. It'll tear it up, but it will stop it." I was not able to do that. This was the only time in my life when a car was taken out of my control. The car turned to the left, went between two cars, and went up a little dirt road on an incline, which of course stopped the car. I didn't know the dirt road was there. I couldn't possibly see it.

You will note that Jesus says, "Why do you call me `Lord, Lord'and do not what I say?" He expresses this thought more than once. Therefore, it seems to me that a real Christian would be living by the laws of God that Jesus taught. Jesus also says, "Say not,`Lo here' or `Lo there', for behold, the Kingdom of God is within you." In so many illustrations he tells people what they are capable of. Real Christians would allow their lives to be governed by the Kingdom of God within -- by the God-centered nature -- which is sometimes called the indwelling Christ.

Many people profess Christianity. Very few live it -- almost none. And when you live it people may think you're crazy. It has been truthfully said that the world is equally shocked by one who repudiates Christianity and by one who practices it.

The Godly way is one of the few simple precepts that even a child can understand. Truth is simple--it's just not so simple to live it. Therefore, immature people tend to hide behind complicated interpretations in order to avoid living simple truth.

When you look at things emotionally, you will not see them clearly; when you perceive things spiritually, you will understand.

Although others may feel sorry for you, never feel sorry for yourself: it has a deadly effect on spiritual well-being. Recognize all problems, no matter how difficult, as opportunities for spiritual growth, and make the most of these opportunities.

There is no greater block to world peace, or inner peace than fear. It has led us to manufacture implements of mass destruction. What we fear we tend to develop an unreasonable hatred for - so we come to hate and fear. This not only injures us psychologically and aggravates world tensions, but through such negative concentration we tend to attract the things which we fear. If we fear nothing and radiate love, we can expect good things to come.

What people do not realize is that nonviolence can be applied in all situations, including World War II. I met four of the Danish people who used the way of nonviolence and love in World War II, and it was a wonderful story.

Now, when the Germans occupied France, the French would often kill the German soldier who was patrolling, and then the Germans would wipe out the whole block in retaliation. When the Germans marched into Denmark, the Danish people began a program of non-cooperation. You know, they say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach - many Danish people actually used that way. They would say to the German soldier who was patrolling, "As a representative of the Nazi Government, you have no right to be here anymore than we would have the right to be in your land, but you are also a young man far from home. Maybe you're homesick, and if you as a fellow human being would like to take off your gun belt and come in and share our evening meal with us, you are welcome." It usually didn't take more than one try. After that the German soldier would get to thinking, "Gee, these are nice people. What are we doing here?"

The basic cause of all our difficulties is immaturity. That's why I talk so much about peace within ourselves as a step toward peace in our world. If we were mature, war would not be possible and peace would be assured. In our immaturity we do not know the laws of the universe, and we think evil can be overcome by more evil.

Your lower self sees things from the viewpoint of your physical well-being only--your higher self considers your psychological or spiritual well-being. Your lower self sees you as the center of the universe--your higher self sees you as a cell in the body of humanity. When you are governed by your lower self you are selfish and materialistic, but insofar as you follow the promptings of your higher self you will see things realistically and find harmony within yourself and others.

The body, mind and emotions are instruments which can be used by either the self-centered nature or the God-centered nature. The self-centered nature uses these instruments, yet it is never fully able to control them, so there is a constant struggle. They can only be fully controlled by the God-centered nature.

When the God-centered nature takes over, you have found inner peace. Until that time comes, a partial control can be gained through discipline. It can be discipline imposed from without through early training which has become a part of the subconscious side of the self-centered nature. It can be discipline under taken voluntarily: self-discipline. Now, if you are doing things you know you shouldn't do and don't really want to do, you certainly lack discipline. I recommend spiritual growing--and in the meantime self-discipline.

God's laws can be known from within, but they can also be learned from without, as they have been spoken of by all great religious teachers. God's guidance can only be known from within.

We must remain open to God`s guidance. God never guides us to break divine law, and if such a negative guidance comes to us we can be sure it is not from God. It is up to us to keep our lives steadfastly in harmony with divine law, which is the same for all of us. Only insofar as we remain in harmony with divine law do good things come to us.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Pretty Lady is not sufficiently beforehand with the world, to give everyone a free book for Christmas. So she is giving you her tried-and-true core recipes for Christmas cookies instead. Enjoy!

Gingerbread People

(This is a large recipe; feel free to halve it. One cannot halve the egg, of course, but this never seems to make any difference in Pretty Lady's cookies.)

1 cup butter ('shortening', or Crisco, was what Pretty Lady's mother used to use, but Pretty Lady is of the firm and researched opinion that butter is, against all received wisdom, actually healthier.)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup molasses (if you use 'organic blackstrap' molasses, the cookies will be so dark as to be rather startlingly almost black, and will taste as if you perhaps forgot the sugar entirely. Fortunately Pretty Lady's family likes them this way.)
2 tbsp vinegar
5 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 to 3 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves

Thoroughly cream butter with sugar. Stir in egg, molasses, and vinegar; beat well. Sift together dry incredients; stir into molasses mixture. Chill about 3 hours. On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8" thick. Cut with gingerbread lady and gentleman cookie cutters. Place 1" apart on greased cookie sheet. Decorate with raisins for faces and buttons. Bake at 375 degrees, 5 to 6 minutes. Cool slightly; remove to rack and cool. Makes 5 dozen 4" cookies.

Apricot-Almond Balls

1 pound dried apricots
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
finely grated rind of 1 orange
1 cup minced, blanched almonds
sifted confectioners sugar and sweetened, grated coconut for dredging

Put apricots through food processor on 'chop.' Place in the top of double boiler, set over just boiling water, and mix in sugar, orange juice, and rind. Cook, stirring now and then, for 1/2 hour; mix in nuts and cook 5 minutes longer. Cool in pan until just slightly warm, then drop from a teaspoon into confectioners sugar and coconut and shape into 1" balls. When all balls have been shaped, roll again in confectioners sugar. Store airtight.

Bourbon Balls

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate bits
3 tbsp honey
1/2 cup bourbon ('or light cream' says the recipe. Hmph.)
2 1/2 cups crushed vanilla wafers (this is almost a whole box, with enough left over for snacking. Pulverize them in the food processor, preferably before you do the apricots.)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans are best)

Melt chocolate over hot water. Add honey and bourbon. Combine vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar and nuts. Add chocolate mixture (if cream is used, add 1/2 tsp vanilla. As if.) Let stand 30 minutes. Shape into 1" balls. Roll in powdered sugar. Let ripen in covered container at least 3 days. (This last almost never happens. Pretty Lady made hers yesterday.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Urgent Plea: Keep Marijuana Illegal

Pretty Lady has just discovered a fascinating fact: marijuana is now America's number one cash crop. Greater than wheat, corn, soybeans or hay!

And just imagine, what a crisis there would be in the American economy if marijuana were legal! The price would plummet! The last remaining reliable source of extreme profit for small-businessmen farmers would vanish, and thousands of people would starve! Not to mention the number of law-enforcement professionals who would be out of a job!

...the increase is also a function of government enforcement efforts, Gettman argued. "In response to the government spraying Mexican marijuana with paraquat in the 1970s, people began to grow in California and Hawaii. Then the government starting flying helicopters and airplanes around looking for marijuana from the sky, so cultivation spread out," he explained. "By 1982, it was in 32 states. Now, it's in all 50 states. Growers also moved to smaller plots and to maximize production with the use of fertilizers, better genetic stock, and the production of sinsemilla, and they moved inside. Everything the government has done to stop marijuana production has caused growers to respond, and now we are at a point where we have diffused cultivation and small-scale production all over the country," the analyst argued.
Friends, the situation is dire. It can only be a matter of time before someone in Big Government realizes the vast revenue potential in taxation of legal marijuana production, and puts the kibosh on this life-saving industry by legalizing it. Please, write your Congressperson immediately. Tell them that you know that although legalizing marijuana appears to be sane, profitable and practical, nevertheless to Vote Against It. Your country's very livelihood may be at stake.

Holding one's tongue

Figuratively speaking, of course.

Pretty Lady quite enjoyed this interview about chastity; she also commends Rebecca Traister for keeping comments like, "To hear her tell it, chastity cures everything that might ail a single woman and might as well clear up acne" to a relative minumum. One can see that dear Rebecca is at least attempting to be gracious and open-minded, much as the very notion of chastity flies in the face of...well, anyway, Pretty lady liked the article.

Instead of following the pop-culture prescription, to single-mindedly pursue a man who's going to make you happy, I am suggesting women should be singular and concentrate on being the best people they can be and displaying grace as individuals and as women. In doing that they will become more giving, more appreciative of everyone around them, so not only will they be better able to have meaningful friendships and relationships, but they will also be able to enjoy this time they have as singular women.
But the nature of sex is it's a physically sacrificing act: I give myself entirely to you. If you're giving your entire body to a person without giving yourself emotionally, you're creating a dichotomy. You're setting yourself up to compartmentalize all your relationships into transactions.
Now, Pretty Lady herself is not particularly a fan of Extremism, much as she has a warm place in her heart for Extremists of all stripes. And she does not believe that Radical Abstinence is a cure for acne or anything else.

But this transactional aspect to sex and relationships is something she has noticed, over and over, in our free and liberal culture, and she has a very large practical and ethical problem with it. As someone very close to her once said, "Many people simply do not believe that their friends love them for themselves. They only believe themselves loved for what they give."

This state of affairs is miserable and distressing, no matter what side of the transaction one happens to be on. Needy people wear themselves out, trying to Give enough to keep pace with their ever-deepening Needs. Generous people become first bewildered, and then exhausted, by the blank and desperate look in the eyes of persons to whom they generously Give, merely out of the overflowing grace in their hearts; eventually, these generous people become drained, and abandon their friends out of self-defense.

Now, friends, let Pretty Lady explain things very simply. Relationships are not transactions. That is business. When a stranger calls up Pretty Lady and wishes a service, Pretty Lady is happy to provide this service, for the standard fee. This is the nature of business. Business is not love.

Love is not only free, but self-increasing--the more you give away, the more you have. You do not buy love by bribing people with sex, presents, favors or compliments. You may express it with those things, but the love must come first, or there is no relationship, merely a parasitic manipulation of circumstances.

If it takes Radical Abstinence for this lovely lady to figure this out, then Pretty Lady says, rah, rah. And she says, to all those who believe this lovely lady is attempting to Impose her Morality--shut up and read it again. She's not imposing anything. She is, for perhaps the first time in her life, refraining from doing so, and Pretty Lady applauds her for it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Thank you

my darlings, for posting so thoughtfully and extensively upon Pretty Lady's Inner Peace question. Pretty Lady believes most sincerely that Inner Peace is THE most important question, because Inner Peace is the only way to Outer Peace; that is, it extends itself, it does not impose itself. Thus she is most grateful for your sincere responses.

Pretty Lady is On The Road Again, for this holiday season; the packages are not quite wrapped, the 4-wheeler is not quite loaded, but we are On Our Way regardless. Merry, merry, warm & bright; always remember that Pretty Lady loves you. Always and forever.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Snake oil

Hmph. Pretty Lady has never been so offended. Not only has she been called a troll, which would not have bothered her nearly so much if it had simply referred to one of those cute little ogre things which live under bridges, instead of 'a person who intentionally tries to cause disruption,' which, to anyone who knows Pretty Lady well, is the last thing she ever intends--no, not only that, but Pretty Lady was then accused of selling snake oil. Really.

Pretty Lady is exceptionally sensitive upon this issue, because if there is one thing she loathes above all others, it is proselytizing. It does not matter to Pretty Lady what one is proselytizing; it is the fact of forcing one's own Miracle Cure upon others, without reference to their specific circumstances, that gives Pretty Lady neck cramps. Well she remembers, during one long bus trip between León and Guanajuato, sitting next to her new 'friend' Emilia, who not only had previously subjected her to a four-hour 'meditation class' wherein the students were locked in, taught nonsense syllables, and not permitted to leave, but Emilia spent the whole of the trip pressuring Pretty Lady to repeat the nonsense syllables for hours on end, and checking to see if she was doing it. Pretty Lady spent the next few years determinedly avoiding Emilia, despite the fact that there was only one decent café in town, and Emilia was always in it.

No, by the time she ended up on another bus, sitting next to a Jehovah's Witness, Pretty Lady had had time to meditate upon Spiritual Boundaries. Once she realized that her seatmate was, indeed, a Jehovah's Witness, and that there were no other vacant seats upon the bus, Pretty Lady went into Assertiveness mode. "You will not evangelize me," she said, pleasantly. "I have my own spiritual beliefs and values, and I am quite content with them. So do not even try, please."

Then the two of them proceeded to have a most excellent conversation, wherein Pretty Lady found out all about her seatmate's career as a housecleaner, her picturesque relationships, her dramatic conversion, her deepening spiritual philosophy, her life as an evangelist, and her struggles with breast cancer. Pretty Lady came out of the experience with quite a warm fuzzy feeling toward Jehovah's Witnesses--or at least, one Jehovah's Witness in particular. The lady's theological interpretations did not particularly offend her; it seems to Pretty Lady that the only annoying thing about Jehovah's Witnesses is their evangelism.

Be this as it may, Pretty Lady keeps her own counsel regarding matters spiritual. She freely admits that she is a traveler in search of Inner Peace; the methods she employs to get there remain a private concern. Pretty Lady has been known to share these methods, when asked repeatedly and sincerely by a nice person, but she will never, never, never try to force them upon anyone. Not even For Their Own Good. Especially not that.

So, instead of discussing her own affairs, Pretty Lady has a sincere question for all of her dear readers. This question is: How do you find inner peace? Have you found it? Are you looking? Why or why not?

If you prefer to remain anonymous, this is lovely; you may also email Pretty Lady directly, if you are shy about commenting publically. But she very much hopes to hear from you.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pretty Lady, Expert Mechanic

Oh, the gentleman was such a flatterer.

Really, all Pretty Lady did was shake her head, at the nice young gentleman whose car was creating its own weather system in front of her apartment, and say, commiseratingly, "That's not good. You need to get that checked out."

The poor fellow explained that he'd just bought the vehicle in question, on a payment plan, in fact, and suspected that he'd been had.

Pretty Lady commiserated some more, gave him the name and address of her mechanic, and commented, "You're burning a great deal of oil. It looks, unfortunately, like you might need a ring job."

And the gentleman, to Pretty Lady's everlasting surprise, said, "You sure know a lot about cars."

It is a sad fact that Pretty Lady knows more about cars than she ever wished. She knows a great number of things that can go wrong with cars; their symptoms, their temporary palliatives, and the cost of their ultimate resolution. She knows that when one's carburator is on the decline, a frequent and terrifying indicator of such is that the car stalls whenever one hits the brake. She is an expert twiddler of shaky electrical circuits, and drooping rear-view mirrors. She knows the sound and the feel of a clutch which is just about to give way. She is intimately familiar with the exigencies of a power-steering hose failure, as well as the word for 'hose' in Spanish. What she could tell you about fuel injectors, brake discs, tire rotation, front-end suspensions, head gaskets and oil changes could fill a novella. She has driven a vehicle with duct tape and plastic in place of a driver's-side window, and watched more than one small crack travel across the entire length of the windshield, over a period of a year or more.

She has hair-raising stories to tell you about how she came by all of this useful knowledge, as well.

For Pretty Lady has never put much stock in owning Flashy Cars. For her, a car is something to get you from one end of the continent to the other. One uses it until it will not run any longer; or at least until it starts generating its own weather system. Which is why she feels so sorry for that poor gentleman in front of her apartment. By the time Pretty Lady's old Honda started doing that, it had been paid off for at least a decade.

Pretty Lady tells you all this, confidentially, then, so that you will understand just how strange it was that she had a meltdown in the BMW showroom, waiting for dear Pierre to get his motorcycle back from its check-up.

(BMW motorcycles, by the way, are Where It's At. They are nothing at all like those dreadful blustering Harleys. You turn the ignition, and the hum of the motor is barely perceptible; certainly less than that of a vibrator on 'low.' This does not prevent this glorious machine from accelerating from zero to 120 in less than the time it takes for Pretty Lady to realize that she is travelling 120 miles per hour without even a seatbelt between her and the flashing asphalt, and be devoutly grateful that her boyfriend-before-last taught her how to do Zen meditation. Breathe in, breathe out. In, out. One is one with the night and the machine and the flashing asphalt. In, out. No fear. Ohm.)

So while Pierre was off conferring with the mechanic, Pretty Lady wandered idly around the showroom. She disinterestedly explored and interacted with various BMWs. She noted the features of the minivan, the lines of the sedan, the amusing squishedness of the sport model. They seemed friendly; they seemed suburban and accessible. Pretty Lady was not conscious of any particular feelings of covetousness, mania, or urgent need to change her entire lifestyle. Not at all.

She simply went home and had a Crisis of Confidence.

Sobbing, on the phone to her sister sometime later, she stated, "I never thought about Success in terms of flashy cars, or anything. I just thought I'd work really hard, and be brilliant at something, and someday I'd be able to afford one, as a sort of afterthought. I pictured myself casually saying, 'here, take the Jag' and tossing the keys to my gorgeous husband. I feel like a complete failure."

Her sister listened, with empathy and without judgment, and then replied, "You know, BMW hires psychologists and designers to create precisely this reaction in people who go to their showrooms."


Just because Pretty Lady is Counterculture, then, just because she has a Disdain for Capitalist Acquisitiveness, just because she avoids TV and shopping malls, does not mean she is not susceptible to crass commercial manipulation tactics. Quite the contrary, in fact; her avoidance of much of the media of commerce means that she is a wide-open target; her innocent psyche has not toughened itself with chronic exposure. It is no wonder that she melted down at the slightest touch of a perfidious Beamer. She cannot blame herself. And thus she relaxed.

You see, being able to name the disease can do a great deal toward curing it. This is why we must understand Context; this is why sociocultural analysis can be such a wondrous thing. This is why Pretty Lady is such a fan of those people who combine acerbic wit with insightful commentary, and call a spade a spade.

However, Pretty Lady cannot ultimately blame the automobile industry, either. She cannot blame the psychologists, or the designers, or her dear lovely boyfriend Pierre for dragging her into hostile territory, and undermining her confidence. Those people at BMW have their livings to earn, and they do a splendid job at what they do. Pretty Lady applauds them, at the same time as she warily skirts their showrooms in passing.

To go and burn down the showroom because it presented a threat to her fragile psyche, or even to idly suggest that such a thing was a good idea, then, would be a complete misuse of the knowledge she had so painstakingly acquired. It would somehow imply that Pretty Lady was incapable of perspective, and responsibility, and adaptability. It would imply that no-one, but no-one, on the planet was as significant as herself.

Friday, December 15, 2006

And now...

Pretty Lady brings you the windows at Bergdorf Goodman's, at the corner of 59th street and 5th Avenue, next to the Plaza Hotel, which is now being converted into (sniff) condominiums.

First: the Angel. This dress was made entirely out of feathers. Photographing the detail proved to be wholly impossible.

The Polar Bear Window. Lamps are made of glass icicles.

The Gingerbread window. Cabinet in background appears to be actual antique inlaid mother-of-pearl.
Note the lace dress on the lady.

The Jungle window. Animals were made of mosaic tile; lighting, antique grapes chandelier.
Jungle Lady's dress seems to be entirely made of jewels; headdress is feathers, jacket green fur, rather like Puff Daddy's pale blue one.

Dramatic choice of color palette, no?

Ringleader window. Circus horses are antique papier-mache.

Pretty Lady has given up trying to decide what is happening in these next windows. They are full of metal sculptures of animals, built by local Brooklyn artists, antique toys, and ladies wearing extraordinary outfits.

Detail shots:

Et voilá. Pretty Lady hopes she has not bored her readers, with this senseless display of capitalistic excess. She herself sees no point to this sort of thing, except that it is utterly fascinating--just like life, if it comes to that.


Pretty Lady's car passed inspection! With flying colors! She does NOT need a new catalytic converter!

So, in celebration of NOT needing to drop a chunk of money on a necessary item which she can't afford, here are some photos of the giant Christmas tree in Bryant Park.

Note the cascading strings of gorgeous crystal things.

The Bergdorf's photos have proven to be an extreme disappointment, taken as they were during daylight, and thus bearing reflections of various boring Tall Buildings and Passersby. So Pretty Lady is going to do a reshoot in the dark. Tally-ho!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On joy

Darlings, Pretty Lady is merely Dashing Through this afternoon, as she has a date to go photograph the windows at Bergdorf's, as a special Christmas present to all of you dear readers. Everyone should see the windows at Bergdorf's. They are Capitalistic Excess combined with Populistic Access; both over the top, and free. Pretty Lady visited them earlier in the week, but alas, her camera had no batteries. She has rectified the battery issue, and is headed forth again, before attending some Late Night Holiday Theatre at Union Square.

If Pretty Lady has not written on Joy before, perhaps this is because she was unwilling to be so personal and vulnerable, candid as she generally is. But now 'tis the season, and Pretty Lady is in an exuberant mood, and willing to risk being both cliche'd, and arrested. Hopefully not for the same things.

The fact is, Pretty Lady once took an illegal drug. This was not the source of Joy, but it gives her an inkling into the process of achieving it, as well as an interesting hook with which to frame an Illustrative Narrative, less the cliches come too fast and thick, and Pretty Lady's friends look elsewhere for scintillating entertainment.

The occasion upon which Pretty Lady ingested this illicit substance was once upon a New Years' Eve, long long ago, during some dark ages when Pretty Lady was having a bad, bad time. She will not elaborate upon the circumstances; with time and distance, just about every dire circumstance appears banal and uninteresting. Suffice it to say that Pretty Lady had spent the daylight hours of this long ago New Years' Eve, huddled in her basement apartment in a fetal position, with the demons of Panic and Desperation howling round her brain.

But, late in the evening, she roused herself to depart the basement, at the behest of her then-whatchamacallit, an elflike person who, with all his flaws, was the sort of person to stick around during demonic infestations. He was not particularly talented at beating them off, having more a tendency to engage in a commiserating, wallowing, Blaming sort of way, but he was comfort enough. The two of them ended up at some random party with random people, as was their wont. At this party, which she cannot now remember, her whatchamacallit handed her a little white pill, which she took, despite her 'what the hell' outlook, with some misgiving.

Forty-five minutes later, everything was Fine.

Pretty Lady spent the next several hours going places and doing things; it didn't much matter what. When people would ask her what she wanted to do, she explained very earnestly that it didn't matter. "I could be perfectly happy, standing on a street corner in the dark and in the rain," she said. "Please yourself. I am Taken Care Of."

Her whatchamacallit was fairly Fine, too, in his own way; it was evident, however, that his way did not particularly resonate with Pretty Lady's. Their customary roles appeared to be reversed. The whatchamacallit ended up on the dance floor, doing interpretive movement and eyeing the herd, while Pretty Lady stood in a corner and was Fine. At one point, they were in a bar, and the paintings on the walls, as far as Pretty Lady were concerned, were Great Art. She experienced a powerful curiosity to return in daylight and find out what they really looked like; she will never know.

It does not matter, anyway.

Still later, Pretty Lady's whatchamacallit went home and tied himself up, in an exceptionally elaborate way. Pretty Lady watched him, disinterestedly. Her disinterestedness cut her whatchamacallit to the quick; they had a row, and Pretty Lady walked home. It was dawn, and the distance was six miles or so, over various tall hills.

Pretty Lady was Fine. She saw her life spread out before her, and it was grand. She saw the ups, the downs, the struggles and the triumphs; she saw how it all fit together in a perfect spiralling jigsaw puzzle. She knew she would go forth, and do things, and some of them would fail. But through it all, she would be Fine.

This sense of Fineness never really left her. She did not take another little white pill again; why hold onto the receiver, when the message has been delivered?

But, regarding Joy--Pretty Lady cannot directly communicate to you darlings, her sense that things are Fine. Frequently she loses touch with this sensation, in its full intensity, for years at a time. Her perceptions become clouded with a sense of grimness, of failure, of confusion and striving and disappointment.

However she can tell you this, for certain. The Joy is what's underneath. The Stuff, all of it--the Happenings, the Loss, the Misery, the Dwelling, the Exigency, the Need, the Struggle, the Things, the Stories--is all on top. It's the crusty glop in the way, the rust on the surface, the excess to be sanded off by a diligent hand. The good, the bad and the ugly--those are all chimeras in the path of Joy.

And when they are gone, only Joy remains. Really truly. I promise.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Whee! Woo-hoo!

Pretty Lady has won a contest! Her first contest ever!

And guess why she won?

Why? Because there simply is no way to say "No" to Pretty Lady. (Besides, I have a secret plan to warm up her bedroom for the new year, hah!)
Well, that's not the only reason.
Your arguments were, as always, consummately persuasive. Even the most recalcitrant judge was required to surrender in the face of your gripping tale of moral struggle and triumph.
So here, with all bashful blushings, Pretty Lady re-prints her winning essay. Oh, she's so proud, she could just eat a tulip.
I would like a print of your gorgeous painting, darling, because I am an absolute gourmand when it comes to original artwork. I have even been tempted toward mild dishonesty when it comes to this obsession, much as it pains me to admit; I have happened upon seemingly discarded canvases by painters I admired, and picked them up, and fondled them, and looked up and down the hallway and round the studio, and considered deeply, and then, in unflinching moral rectitude, put them back, where they were probably consigned to the dumpster anyhow.

But perhaps this moment of covetousness, inspired by a genuine appreciation for the aesthetic object in question, imparted a transcendent valuation to it which, willy-nilly, completed its incarnational purpose in this reality. So my sin absolves itself.

What would I do with it? Hang it in my kitchen, of course. What a foolish question.

And, now that Pretty Lady thinks about it, perhaps the bedroom is a more appropriate place, after all. That erotic watercolor from her Soho days is getting awfully lonesome.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pretty Little Isms

In order to forestall any potential controversy which may arise from Pretty Lady's idle musings, let it be stated up-front that Pretty Lady is exceedingly racist. She is also elitist, classist, sexist, and homophobic. This said, she is not particularly prejudiced in favor of White Male Patriarchs, either; she is disposed to regard most complete strangers with a hefty dose of jingoistic suspicion. Pretty Lady, in fact, is a veritable monolithic amalgamation of stereotyping, pigeonholing, bigotry, and ignorance. She admits these facts freely and without shame.

Horribly, it is also true that Pretty Lady rather likes herself. She rather likes other people, too. The other people she likes tend to be a colorful lot. They Run The Gamut, in fact. Pretty Lady likes extremists, moderates, left-wingers, right-wingers, gay people, straight people, confused people, religious people, atheists, agnostics, liberals, conservatives, black people, white people, brown people, men, women, children, bigots, racists, sinners and saints. As a partial and highly incomplete list.

The people she doesn't like--if she may get confessional about it--fall into two rough categories. The first, of course, is Evil People, whom are not the topic under discussion today--the Alpha cat had a nasty attack of diarrhea this morning, and it reminded Pretty Lady all too clearly of her look down a festering sewer of...well, let us leave that alone.

The second category was inspired by a lengthy and poetic diatribe by La Belle Dame. Althought Pretty Lady did not understand many of the references, not being one to embroil herself in endless, circular bouts of name-calling (owning up to all the Names herself), she extracted a nugget of wisdom which perfectly expressed her ongoing feelings upon a certain issue.

What I can't stand is incuriosity.

Because if you're not even interested in the Other Person, then how can you possibly expect to be genuinely empathetic? You can't. Instead, you end up playing "let's pretend."
Ah! Pretty Lady was astounded. There it is! So clearly articulated! So simple! The source of the vast majority of her Extreme Discomfort around certain individuals.

Now, darlings, let it be known that if you are reading this, Pretty Lady is not speaking to you. Indeed, she feels profoundly fortunate to know so many deep, fascinating, wondrously Engaged persons. Not for Pretty Lady's friends, the endless, solipsistic spinnings, the hurling of ill-considered epithets, the knee-jerk defensiveness, the unexamined inner conviction that it's All About Them. No, Pretty Lady's elite group of associates will have none of that. They go in for ruminative fireside chats, perspicacious observations, whimsical asides, and a rather conspicuous lack of interest in deciding Who is Racist, Sexist, Elitist, Homophobic, or a Bad Person.

Because Pretty Lady's elite, wise friends know, from wry experience, that all of us are a bit like that. It is part of our fallen nature. We have resigned ourselves to being the incomplete and imperfect souls that we are, and, in awakened curiosity and humility, we go forth to remedy a small portion of our ignorance.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ongoing rebellion

Yes, Pretty Lady must confess that it is true. Despite the fact that within the last week, she has been inundated to the point of immersion with depressive rants, anti-capitalistic screeds, atheistic diatribes, protestations of disaffected anomie, and People Buying Tickets to China, her mood remains somewhat festive. In fact, she and her Japanese neighbor seem to be forming an inchoate Celebratory Cabal. Friday evening, the two of us constructed the above-pictured sample of confectionary excess; irregularities in icicle formation may be attributed, in equal parts, to lack of experience with pastry bags, and overconsumption of eggnog and Dewar's.

As if this were not shocking enough, on Saturday afternoon the two of us went Christmas shopping. Indeed. We even enjoyed it; the combination of two sets of eyes, attuned each to her own aesthetic and temperamental frequencies, meant that many extraordinary things were discovered that might have been Passed By, had we been trolling the streets alone. Pretty Lady now knows where one buys exotic beer, in singles or in quantity, wholesale. She possesses the actual contact information for a lady who special-orders and custom-imports handmade decorative wood-and-leather boxes from West Africa. Thanks to her friend, she is now intimately familiar with the inside of a shop where one buys Nifty Things for Boys, all specially gift-wrapped with shiny high-security packaging.

And of course, there was Pretty Lady's Waterloo, the Sample Sale.

Parents of daughters aged one to seventeen, Pretty Lady has some very serious advice for you. This advice is: Allow your daughter to choose her own clothing, now and then. Do not restrict her too severely to the bounds of perceived Good Taste, no matter how much you may wish to muffle the little darling in serge, acrylic and tweed, for her own good, and the Good of Society. If she wants to dress like a kitty cat, or a fairy princess, or Scarlett O'Hara, let her. She is not interviewing for a job at the Republican National Headquarters just yet. There is time. Do not panic.

If you do not do this, if you rigidly and continuously thrust your budding princess into stiff, sexless cutouts from The Preppie Handbook, if you swath her eternally in oversized Catholic school prison garb, if you squelch every yearning toward sartorial frivolity on your little girl's part, for whatever noble sociopolitical reason, be warned that you are creating a monster. Not a bland and well-adjusted future medical student. A monster.

Because a daughter thus molded and suppressed will then never get it out of her system. While shopping most nobly for Improving Literature, and Pragmatic Gadgets, and Warm Winter Woolens that Go With Everything, she will not be able to focus. Every nerve in her blighted seven-year-old id will be calling out for that blue velvet and purple silk Cinderella dress at the end of the rack. She will not be able to help trying it on. Just to see. She will be genuinely disturbed when it fits as if tailored specifically to her measurements; she will be confused and befuddled when every person in the room, even those with no vested interest in selling dresses, makes awed and approving noises. She will thrust it precipitately back on the rack and flee the shop.

But her seven-year-old id, unsatiated in youth, forever keening and hollow, will not shut up. Three hours later, ground down by its insistent prodding, she will return to the sample sale and charge the dress. Thus insuring that her entire future will be mortaged to an impulse that, if only propitiated early enough in life, might have subsided into mere casual flirtation.

Parents, do not sabotage your child's future in this cruel way. Allow your daughter the indulgence of velour and the occasional sequin, even if it clashes with her spectacles. Bite your tongue when she exuberantly dons the red top with the purple skirt and the aquamarine slippers. Let her imagination run free, at a time in life when indulging it is a matter of pennies, not pounds.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Itinerant musicians from Wales

Darlings, Pretty Lady has not meant to neglect you; indeed, it seems that you have been keeping yourselves very well entertained. What is it about the mere Mention of Money that brings on the Serious Discussions? Pretty Lady is thrilled to see that however fiery the debate becomes, every one of her friends maintains the highest standards of courtesy, except possibly Pretty Lady herself. A certain teasing, loving flippancy often gets the best of her.

Pretty Lady's living room has, this week, been host to the lovely and talented Rebecca Sullivan, of the internationally renowned folk duo Ember, and her dear friend Paul. Pretty Lady was very sad that Emily could not make it this time, but sends her warmest wishes. It is always a thrill, having itinerant musicians camp out in one's living room; Pretty Lady recommends this practice for anyone interested in experiencing Life as it is Meant To Be Lived.

Due to the fact of Jet Lag, not a great deal of Partying Down was done, in Pretty Lady's living room. Instead, after the de rigueur burritos, and forced march around the neighborhood, in order to maximize sunlight exposure, we settled down to an early-evening DJ session. Pretty Lady subjected dear Rebecca to about fourteen of her favorite tracks, from obscure artists discovered in her travels, while Paul most generously ripped and burned a smorgasboard of Celtic favorites, plus an extended disc of the music of Hildegarde of Bingen.

Rebecca, meanwhile, absorbed Pretty Lady's chaotic musical bombardment with the concentration and speed of a true professional. It was a delight, watching and listening as she apprehended every lyric, every chord, every influence, and ended up by singing along with the chorus. Ember will be cutting their fourth CD this March, and Rebecca confesses to a worrying bout with Songwriter's Block.

Pretty Lady is here to say that Rebecca has nothing to fear. Creativity may have its Ebb and its Flow, but a disciplined and active mind will always have its new enterprises and revelatory insights.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

No panic

Pretty Lady has some good news for herself. She does NOT have to go through all of her bank statements for the last six months and find out where that pesky twelve hundred dollars went, which mysteriously did not show up on her balance when she went to the bank last week. She thought she was doing amazingly well, since returning from vacation; the sum upon her check register always looked so cozy and encouraging, when she went to pay the bills.

And indeed, Pretty Lady has been a highly responsible bill-payer. She did not forget to pay her October rent. She merely omitted to make a note of it.

But Pretty Lady is thrilled to report that, even with this minor oversight, the rent check she wrote today will not bounce; even without factoring in the little amount of padding that she hides from herself in the check register (rather along the lines of setting all of one's clocks fifteen minute fast) she had a whopping $5.84 left over in her bank account, after Phil's cut. And her best client has decided to Spare No Expense over the next few months, and has paid her in advance. The check should clear in a day or two.

So Pretty Lady is not desperately encouraging anyone to hit her rent button this month. She is Free, Independent and Proud. Indeed, God is looking out for her implicitly; it is only when she catches a momentary glimpse behind the scenes, that she sees how ingeniously He must be scrambling.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Beware of Rudolph

Pretty Lady did not live in NYC during the Giuliani years. Thus, when the Angry Atheist went off on one of his frequent diatribes about fascism and harassment and police officers, she listened politely but skeptically. After all, she had read The Tipping Point.

But Pretty Lady has been a Cintra Wilson fan since the days of "Cintra Wilson Feels Your Pain," and she is much more inclined to trust dear Cintra's psychological perspicacity than that of the A.A. And Cintra's informed dismemberment of Rudy's temperamental irregularities is comprehensive and chilling.

Giuliani, having destroyed what might have been the best management team in NYPD history, had to start from scratch. Bratton's successors continued using the tactics of the men Rudy had canned, but twisted and distorted them. Giuliani and Safir, in trying to one-up the strategic balance of the Bratton team's approach to law enforcement, opted to jack up the "enforcement" and not pay so much attention to the "law."

Safir's NYPD beefed up the Street Crime Unit, a corps of hyper-macho officers once described by the Village Voice's Nat Hentoff as "a rogue police operation whose members make Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry look like Mahatma Gandhi." They were given leeway to enact "stop-and-frisks" of ordinary citizens -- supposedly to discourage them from carrying guns. While Safir's office implemented easier arrestee processing methods, New York's nonwhite citizens became increasingly alarmed by a police force they perceived as hostile, overzealous and racist. Go figure: members of the Street Crime Unit, Hentoff reported, delighted in wearing T-shirts emblazoned with such intimidating slogans as "We Own the Night!" and the Hemingway quote, "There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and like it never care for anything else."

In two years, the Street Crime Unit officially reported 40,000 stop-and-frisk confrontations, but only 9,500 of those searched were arrested. In a radio interview, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was alarmed enough by these stats to tell WNYC's Brian Lehrer: "I've spoken to many officers who say they do not fill out the required forms for every stop-and-frisk. They may fill out one in five or one in 10. We may have several hundred thousands of these police actions without arrests."

Given the excesses of our current administration with regards to erosion of basic civil liberties, hubris, fibbing, and general authoritarian expansionism, it does not seem to Pretty Lady that this country needs to err upon the side of 'more of the same.' The Angry Atheist may have been paranoid, but he was not imperceptive or unintelligent. Pretty Lady is rarely political, but she is convinced. Whatever your affiliations, opinions, views of any kind--do not vote for Rudy.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Concept coined

Pretty Lady tries not to be too tediously frequent in pointing out the brilliance of her dear friend Cary; she feels that generally, her friends are literate and perspicacious enough to enjoy his words without additional commentary. However, there was one particular passage recently which she feels is destined for psychological canonization, and she cannot help repeating it.

For a man who has abused you to complain of the pain it causes him when you leave him only suggests that it is in his abuse of you itself that he finds pleasure and comfort. That is a chilling thought. But it is unavoidable: If the object of his abuse causes him pain when it disappears, then it must be in the abuse itself that he finds pleasure.
One of the consolation prizes of Pretty Lady's checkered romantic past has been that it has given her unlimited opportunity to contemplate the kaleidescopic nature of what Love is Not. On the face of it, lack of love ought to be an easily discernable characteristic to spot, commonplace as it is.

But surprisingly, this notion that Love is a Feeling, which Excuses All, seems to be a nearly universal misconception. Friends, Pretty Lady is sorry to burst your bubble. That Overwhelming Compulsion, that Passion, that drive which causes you to call Pretty Lady at 1 AM and blither like a drunken idiot, that mandate which impels you to stride into antique jewelry stores and look over the merchandise as though there were actually a possibility that you could afford a piece of it, that vague and indeterminate Thing which brings you to crouch in her bushes at midnight--that's not Love. That is Fantasy, Narcissism, and ad hoc abuse.

That force, if it had acted, which caused you to stop and think when you accosted that strange blonde lady in the plaza, might have been Love. It might have been so, had you considered something other than the exigency of your own fear, coupled with the yearnings of your gonads, and considered, "is it in the best interests of the woman I Love, to pursue thus blatantly every other random woman who happens to slightly resemble her, in a physical way? It makes ME feel marginally safer, in its flighty assurance that my own life as a whole is less likely to lack, entirely, the presence of blonde women, however inferior to Her. But is this behavior in service to Love? Really truly?

Pretty Lady has heard earnest protestations of Love from men who were in the process, simultaneously, of subjecting her to excrutiatingly painful bouts of unnecessary sleep deprivation. She has heard them from fellows who were self-righteously touting their right to engage in perverted sexual acts with other women at every opportunity. She has endured an "I love you" from a man who was finalizing the process of destroying her hard-earned livelihood, flushing her capital investment, and casting her nearly penniless into the night, without even rudimentary practical or emotional support. She has heard it from alleged 'friends,' for whom 'friendship' appeared to consist of passive-aggressive control, manipulation, parasitism, and subtle emotional sabotage.

Let it be known that when Pretty Lady says "I love you," she does not mean any of these things. What she means is, "I wish and will the best of all possible worlds to converge within your life, forever and ever amen. I consciously monitor my own behavior in order to promote this; or at the very least, to refrain from performing acts which will obviate this occurence in your life. More I cannot say or do--for you, my darling, are the captain of your own destiny. To interfere with your sovereignty over your own life would be an insult, a vote of n0-confidence and a blot upon your obvious perfection."

When she thinks about it, then, it seems to Pretty Lady that Love is less a feeling, than a force of apprehension. It may not Do; it may merely Be.

(Pretty Lady doesn't know what got into her this evening. Perhaps she has been working too hard. Thankfully, next month's rent is covered; so please to put up with a modicum of exhausted pomposity.)


All of you darlings who have expressed consuming curiosity as to Pretty Lady's religious belief system may put your minds at rest. According to the Belief-O-Matic Belief Calculator, Pretty Lady is 100% Hindu.

This could not have come as more of a surprise to Pretty Lady herself, who is now at a loss as to what to do with all these boxes of Christmas decorations. Even more tragically, this is the first year that the Christmas cactus has blossomed right on cue, due to the new strategy of placing it in the far corner of the sunny window, where seasonal variations in light are maximal.

Oh, hang the Belief-O-Matic. Pretty Lady cannot re-structure her entire system of seasonal rituals, habits and celebrations on the basis of a trivial thing like allegiance to a formalized code of religious beliefs. What would become of her cookie-cutter collection, her mulling spices, and that splendid Danny Wright CD, with the trumpets and the choirboys, which never fails to bring a sentimental tear to her eye, at its resonant rendition of 'A Gaelic Blessing?'

It is All One, anyway. Pretty Lady will forge on ahead with the fruitcake, the twinkle lights, the raffia and the homemade bath salts, just for the fun of it.

Truthfully, she has never understood what all the traditional carping about various winter solstice holiday celebrations, or lack therof, is all about. Darlings. Lighten up, already. The reason we light lots of candles in December, and bake extravagantly fattening things, and sing songs, and shower one other with frivolous and indulgent tokens of affection, is principally that it is cold and dark outside. One can either do something to creatively counteract these bleak and clammy environmental circumstances, or one can aggressively Wallow in them, spreading gloom, despair and depression all around.

Pretty Lady is happy to report that her new friends are not of the Wallowing variety. Indeed, what with the fact that Pretty Lady volunteered to help with Christmas party preparation, yesterday, and was thusly regaled with paté, truffle honey, wine and cheese starting in the early afternoon, long before the groaning smorgasboard of Swedish and Filipino holiday delicacies even approached its peak, she will have to add a couple of extra Yoga classes to her schedule, in order to maintain her usual fitness of form.

So it seems the Hindu contingent will be, after all, placated.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Top 17 Country Songs

Is it any wonder that Pretty Lady left Texas, but still enjoys her visits?

17. I Hate Every Bone In Her Body But Mine

16. It's Hard To Kiss the Lips At Night That Chewed My Ass Out All Day

15. If I Can't Be Number One In Your Life, Then Number Two On You

14. If The Phone Don't Ring,You'll Know It's Me

13. How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?

12. I Liked You Better Before I Got To Know You So Well

11. I Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim's Getting Better

10. I Wouldn't Take Her To A Dogfight 'Cause I'm Afraid She'd Win

9. I'll Marry You Tomorrow, But Let's Honeymoon Tonight

8. I'm So Miserable Without You It's Like You're Still Here

7. If I Had Shot You When I First Wanted To, I'd Be Out Of Prison Now

6. My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend, and I Sure Do Miss Him

5. She Got The Ring and I Got the Finger

4. You're The Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly

3. Her Teeth Was Stained But Her Heart Were Pure

2. She's Looking Better After Every Beer

And the Number One Country Song ---

1. I Ain't Never Gone To Bed With an Ugly Woman, But I've Sure Woke Up With
A Few