Sunday morning, Pretty Lady's downstairs neighbor, a Japanese lady who is so charming and gregarious that Pretty Lady suspects she is not a human at all, but rather some species of higher spirit, perhaps a seraphim, knocked on the door.
"There is a used condom in the foyer," she reported.
Exclamations, hoopla, fetching of hazmat gloves, Clorox and garbage bags followed.
After cleanup and discussion, it was decided to call a building meeting. Our self-appointed Block President, Hector, was consulted; Hector confirmed that it is the habit of various junkies to set up housekeeping in any nook discovered behind an unlocked door. Recently they were evicted from the next-d00r-neighbor's basement, which is why they are now inhabiting our foyer.
(I must pause to sing a paean to Hector. Hector guards everyone's automobiles for free. Whenever Pretty Lady forgets to move hers, he generally rings her doorbell and warns her before she gets a parking ticket. Once, when she totally spaced and left it double-parked for nine hours, Hector bravely chased away all tow trucks, traffic cops and angry neighbors until she emerged from her trance at 9 PM. Once he appeared magically with a jumper-box when her battery died; he was morally responsible for the fact that when a carting company dropped a dumpster on her truck, they paid up in cash as soon as her mechanic made his estimate. If Hector is away for any reason, such as going to the hospital for an hour for physical therapy, and God forbid anyone gets a ticket or a bicycle is stolen, he apologizes, up, down and sideways for dereliction of duty. Hector is an uber-seraphim.)
When the ground-floor neighbors were contacted, much light was shed on the situation, in fact too much. "They wake us up every night at four AM, going in and out and in and out and screaming at each other. We clean up the needles every morning. We're going bananas. We're so glad you called."
All of us, at one moment or another, have remarked upon the man's wallet left in the foyer, and have shuffled it around indecisively. It may still be at the bottom of the magazine box, but none of us have checked lately.
Yesterday evening, Pretty Lady and her Japanese neighbor invited everyone up to the roof for a carouse. Much wine was consumed, and the party continued until everyone simultaneously remembered they had to be up at 5. Future social engagements were made, business contacts were exchanged, and it was decided that we would deliver a simultaneous ultimatum to the landlord about putting a light and a lock on the outer door, or else we will all stop paying rent.
Bless those junkies. They have precipitated a community.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Sunday morning, Pretty Lady's downstairs neighbor, a Japanese lady who is so charming and gregarious that Pretty Lady suspects she is not a human at all, but rather some species of higher spirit, perhaps a seraphim, knocked on the door.
Tragically, Pretty Lady was not able to leave town over Memorial Day weekend. She had to perform her stint as a volunteer security guard at the Pier Art Show.
During the latter part of the afternoon, she was stationed at the very end of the pier, ostensibly preventing tourists from climbing the barricades and falling into the bay. This was such a strenuous task that she had to fortify herself with a couple of Red Hook ESBs from the bar.
Her partner in this arduous job was a fascinating woman who kept us entertained with stories about how to finance the purchase of a multi-unit apartment building with no income (call a bank in California, say you want a 'cash-income mortgage' and send them postcards and reviews of your art exhibits, claiming you are selling for thousands); her ex-boyfriend who owned a fleet of yachts, but who left her suddenly because she would not marry him and move to New Jersey; her current husband, who becomes abusive when he goes off his meds, but who is basically a wonderful man. Pretty Lady felt a deep kinship with this woman.
That is, in fact, the Statue of Liberty.
How one must suffer for one's art.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Pretty Lady's favorite ex-boyfriend and his lovely wife have just published an extensive cover story about their adventures to date. I highly recommend that you go read the entire thing; the pictures alone are worth it, but the stories and the messages are better still.
While traveling, Pierre and I had frequently talked with strangers and it often made for dynamic debate but rarely did it turn to anger. Here, there is a tension and a defensiveness we haven't encountered elsewhere, nor had it been in the US before we left -- and the undertow of hostility startles us. It wasn't until I returned home to my own country that I heard the words "If you don't like it here, you can go live in another country", or "You'd better watch what you say" followed by "You live in the freest country on Earth!"
Every time Pretty Lady reads an update on their adventures, she is overwhelmed by two feelings; pride and joy in their achievements, and an overwhelming gratitude that she had the courage to leave darling Pierre before she found herself on a motorcycle in the middle of the Sahara. Temperamentally, she simply is not suited to this lifestyle, and no-one could be happier than she that Pierre found another lady (as much like Pretty Lady as possible, in all other respects) who was.
But you have to admit, he is awfully cute.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Enough with all the date-rape hysteria, already. Enough with the screaming, the outrage, the defensive indignation, and the hyperbole. Pretty Lady proposes a new solution. The legal phenomenon of 'no-fault divorce' is now prevalent; she suggests that this concept be extended to include 'no-fault rape.'
Stop your jumping up and down.
Pretty Lady was thinking, just this morning as she moodily vaccuumed, about the time she was vaguely violated by an acquaintance of hers. She has meditated for years upon the strange fact that she emerged from this experience virtually unscathed--physically, psychologically and emotionally. She has waited in vain for some suppressed outrage, misery or psychic scarring to erupt into her consciousness, and it never has done. After more than a decade, she must conclude that she was not, in fact, lastingly traumatized by the experience. An exasperated annoyance is the sum total of her negative associations with the man.
No, it is not Pretty Lady's intention to cast blame far and wide; she does not regard all men as potential violent criminals with the power to shatter her fragile self-regard with a single act of non-compliant intimacy. Neither does she pretend to despise those unfortunates whose experiences WERE genuinely scarring, requiring years of equally traumatic lawsuits and counselling to recover from. Her aim is, merely, to provide a little Inside Information as to the workings of the female mind, on behalf of all those beleaguered potential rapists out there.
Knowledge is power, in other words.
Now. Let it be known that in her late teens and early twenties, Pretty Lady was anything but a provocative dresser. (This is key; bear with me.) Having been psychologically warped by twelve years of classical ballet training, far more so than by any act of mere sexual violation, Pretty Lady was accustomed to regard her lithe, athletic and shapely figure as a monstrosity of inconvenient and unaesthetic bulges. Thus she habitually draped herself in tentlike, oversized garments, frequently obtained from the men's section of the Salvation Army. Likewise, she tended to scrape her long, shiny blonde hair into a tight braid, lest any untidy blowsiness mar the severity of her profile. Friends of that era say that they had no idea what sort of figure she had.
Even so, Pretty Lady did not noticeably lack for masculine attention, the masculine mind being an exceptionally imaginative one in some arenas. (She was once swarmed upon by a friend of her roommate, who confided that 'She looks like a classic librarian, except that if you took her glasses off and messed up her hair, you'd get Daryl Hannah.')
More than that, she tended to acquire packs of buddies. There were several years when she ran with the café crowd--a loosely associated tribe of useless intellectuals, alcoholics, avant-garde rock musicians, wastrels, and perpetual pretenders, who spent large portions of every day drinking too much coffee and smoking filterless Camels. Thus she had a large number of masculine acquaintances who argued Camus with her during the day, and picked esoteric fights with, or made aggrieved, drunken confessions to her, at night. (Once Christopher S. came up to her at a party and declared, "I can't impress you, Pretty Lady. Nothing I do impresses you." Pretty Lady was so naive at the time that it hadn't occurred to her that he'd been trying.)
The point she is making is that by the time Geoffrey W. called her up and invited her out to play pool, she'd known him in this context for quite some time. She'd never paid much attention to him, since he had neither much of a chin nor much of an intellect. But she had quite a good time dancing to his rock band at a co-op bash, and had to admit that he had a bit of talent. And at the time he made the call, he had grown aesthetically astute enough to grow a reddish beard, which balanced out his chinlessness.
Practically as soon as she'd settled onto a bar stool at Maggie's, Geoffrey W. let it be known why he'd called. "When I ran into you at the Chili Peppers, you had your hair down and these shorts on...". This ought to have been a Red Flag. It ought to have been a bigger Red Flag when he began whining about the fact that some provocatively dressed woman he'd met at a club in London refused to go home with him after ten minutes of conversation, "You should have SEEN how she was dressed," he grumbled, indignantly. Furthermore, at the pool table we ran into a young lady who seemed quite put out at seeing us together. "She thinks she's my girlfriend, but she's getting so damn possessive," he declared.
Yes, dear friends, Geoffrey W. was proving himself to be somewhat of an icky character.
Pretty Lady's problem was that she had too many male friends, and was far too accustomed to cutting them a lot of slack. She was Restraining Judgement; she was Being an Understanding Buddy. Plus, she'd been hanging out around Geoffrey in a non-dating context for such a long time that she wasn't inclined to make a 180-degree switch so quickly. Her interpretation of playing pool together was that she was getting to know her buddy better.
So when she pulled up in front of Geoffrey's house to drop him off (yes, she was driving), she was utterly unprepared for the speed with which he launched himself at her face. If he'd casually slipped an arm around her shoulders, she would have been ready with a polite, "Oh, Geoffrey, I'm so sorry, but it just isn't happening for me."
But Geoffrey moved like a killer cobra. One second she was bidding him goodbye with her hand on the gearshift, the next she was knawing on his teeth. A few moments after that she was performing some acts of technical virtuosity which Marian the Librarian never heard of.
She has no excuse for herself; of course a truly virtuous woman with ironclad self-esteem would have dealt Geoffrey an undercut to the jaw, and bitten down on his knacker as soon as it made its appearance. But as she explained at first, this story is not about blame. This is to give you gentlemen some insight as to what goes through a lady's mind in this sort of circumstance.
What went through Pretty Lady's mind was, "Maybe I sent the wrong signal without realizing it. Better give him what he wants, and get rid of him without a fuss."
You see, boys, women are Relational. We perceive all sorts of subtle cues in people's behavior which men are biologically blind to; we feel it is our duty to keep things running smoothly. When an untoward situation occurs, then, we are inclined to Blame Ourselves. If the boy misbehaves, we assume it is because we failed to steer him properly. Or at least Pretty Lady, deep in the throes of undiagnosed codependency, made this assumption.
Now, the end of this story is simply that Pretty Lady gave Geoffrey some of what he was after, in exasperation and contempt, and drove away, feeling that he was rather icky. She had no Great Revelation years later; she did not track him down and take him to court. Upon mulling it over, she decided that she needed to avoid fellows like Geoffrey, perhaps speaking up, or even walking out, a little sooner when they made icky comments.
But this is because Pretty Lady likes herself, she likes men, and believes that in most situations, miscommunications are mutual. Problems arise when two people enter into an interaction bringing radically different assumptions with them. The solution is improved communication, not wild, hysterical blame.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
It may interest you gentlemen to know that throughout much of the history of civilization, chastity has only been valued as a commodity in wives, who were then considered as chattels for the purposes of breeding legitimate heirs, and nothing else. These wives were rarely esteemed for their companionship; they were not loved or cherished as individuals, and they were chronically betrayed by their husbands, who often brought home putrid sexual diseases as wedding presents.
The women with whom these husbands betrayed their wives, if they had sufficient income and social standing, were known as 'courtesans,' or in Japan, as 'geishas.' These women had all the elegance of wit, education, sophistication and experience that their wives lacked, and their services cost a fortune. The commodity value of a courtesan was actively enhanced by the number and social standing of her previous lovers; any number of nobles would give half their estate for a chance at a tryst with a king's mistress.
The point that Pretty Lady is making is not only that temperamentally, she has much more in common with a courtesan than with an illiterate brood mare, but that reducing a woman's value to that of a commodity is not conducive to mutual affection and security any more than flagrant promiscuity. Also that sexual chastity is not inherently a desirable thing in a man's eye; also that wit and sophistication have their value in the sexual economy.
Also, that much of the petty snarking to which Pretty Lady is occasionally subject comes across as nothing more than plebian sour grapes.
Scooterhawk presses a button:
PL, the problem is not with men, but with you. I find it strange that a woman who, by her own admission, engaged in casual relationships now expects a man to earn what she once so freely gave away. Why should he? What makes you worth the effort when so many others are willing to give him what he wants for a drink and a smile?
This is the seminal problem I have with modern feminist. You demand that men respect something that you readily discard. If you want a man to leap tall buildings, swim oceans, climb mountains and slay dragons for the honor of beholding your virtue then I suggest you actually be virtuous first. Otherwise you’re just selling a cheap knockoff in a buyer’s market.
Scooterhawk, my dear, if I did not know what a lovely person you are, I might conceiveably be offended by this statement. But since I know you meant well, I will address your question in the spirit of exasperated concern in which I am almost sure it was intended.
Firstly, my dear, Scooter, although Pretty Lady may not speak for others, she herself has never engaged in 'casual relationships.' She has engaged in Failed Relationships, Tragic Mistakes, Learning Experiences, Passionate, Doomed Affairs, and Things Bordering upon the Modern Definition of 'Date Rape,' which she has never whined about and was certainly not permanently scarred by, but were definitely not premeditated or fully consensual acts of 'giving something away.'
Pretty Lady has a very good heart, and all of these mistakes were made in the best of faith, according to the shifting, ambiguous, and conflicting social standards in which she was immersed. It is a terrible thing to send a young girl into the world, uninformed about the basic propensities, methodologies and expectations of the men she encounters; Pretty Lady at the start was utterly unequipped to deal with them, and was forced to learn by trial and error.
Second, darling Scooter, if you are defining a 'relationship' by the mere act of sexual intercourse, of course a man has no earthly reason to court Pretty Lady, or any other female. Sexual intercourse, or at least a blow job, may be had at the corner of 14th and 4th avenues for fifty dollars, and it has always been this way. If you have to ask what makes Pretty Lady 'worth the effort,' you have either not been paying attention or you are an irremediable Lump.
There are, perhaps, many men who are in the market for a wife who is a clueless, blushing virgin with no experience in interpersonal relationships. It may surprise them to know that Pretty Lady has even less interest in these men than they have in her. The type of fellow who floats Pretty Lady's boat is someone who appreciates the sort of wisdom, insight and compassion which are only to be gained by courageously entering the world, trying things, falling down, laughing about it, and getting up again, a Sadder but Wiser Girl.
Thirdly, my most excellent Scooter, the viewpoint of Modern Feminism is that a woman's virtue is defined by infinitely more than an intact hymen. We are demanding that men respect, not merely a fragile piece of tissue nestled in our nether reasons, but our minds, our hearts, our souls, and every bit of our bodies, in whatever condition they may happen to be.
Now, any decent man respects these things anyway, and I am sure, Scooter, that you are a decent man. However the facts must be faced that a large, large number of men through the ages have been anything but decent, and to define a woman's value as dependent upon her treatment by these radically indecent fellows is simply unacceptable.
A man, Scooter, has always been able to make mistakes, to fail dramatically in his endeavors, and still be perceived by the world at large as a worthy man. A woman has rarely had that luxury. To achieve the wisdom of maturity, such failures are necessary. Pretty Lady believes that the excesses of modern feminism are simply the dramatic failures of persons struggling earnestly toward a chance at maturity.
Lastly, it appears to me that you have dared to suggest that Pretty Lady is not a virtuous woman. I refer you to the large number of friends and relatives who will attest that Pretty Lady is renowned far and wide for her kindness, her compassion, her nurturance, her patience, her understanding, her inner strength, her courage, her wit, her sense of humor, her discipline, and her sincerity in loving and seeking to know God. Also her homemade oatmeal cookies, marinara puttanesca, and spicy mung beans with ginger. And her skills at parallel parking a standard transmission automobile, backwards, on a hill.
Pretty Lady knows some women who were virgins at marriage; her large acquaintance even stretches to these. She knows, sadly, that some of these women are rigid, controlling, impatient, unloving, non-compassionate, bitter persons who make their husbands' lives a living hell. Pretty Lady loves these women anyway, because she knows that they are suffering for what they believe is a Good Cause, and that they are doing the best they can.
But Pretty Lady also believes that if a man could make a truly informed choice, he'd choose her. If she'd have him.
Monday, May 22, 2006
The Brat just chased the Rose-Eating Squirrel through the apartment, into Pretty Lady's studio, back into the living room, and into the bathroom, where the Rose-Eating Squirrel was veritably Cornered. Or would have been, if the Brat hadn't hung out with a stupid expression on his face while the evil Squirrel traipsed slowly out of the bathroom, through the living room, over the sofa, through the kitchen, and back out the window and up the ladder to the roof.
The Alpha Cat, meanwhile, observed these proceedings without the hint of an indication that perhaps he might consider involving himself.
Pretty Lady is veritably disgusted. She is considering stopping the flow of Canned Cat Food, until these creatures' natural instincts reassert themselves.
Pretty Lady's dear friend the Notorious Asian Artist has become very holy and is passing round the good news:
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Recently viewed: Something purporting to entitle itself 'Pride and Prejudice,' starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfal-de-ralyen-or-somesuch.
Verdict: Words fail me.
Rant: One does not make a Jane Austen novel into a Gothic melodrama. One does not do it. This was a travesty. From Keira Knightley's toothy, pointless giggling to Keira Knightley standing atop a cliff with her garments billowing behind her, this was a travesty.
On the bright side, Matthew Mac-whatchamacallit is approximately 110X hotter than Colin Firth.
But Pemberley is not, never has been, and never will be, Blenheim freakin' palace. Ditto Rosings. These are well-heeled gentlefolk, not freakin' royalty. Eliza Bennett does not look or giggle like Keira Knightley. Keira Knightley is blindingly pretty, and thus entirely wrong for Eliza Bennett. Mr. Collins is dumpier and much, much more foolish; Mr. Bingley cannot possibly be so callow; and what is UP with the TEETH? One who thinks that Englishpersons of any era, but particularly the eighteenth century, could possibly all be possessed of mouthfulls of gleaming, regular pearly whites has got hold of the wrong socialized medical system. During the last, interminably foolish scene with Eliza and Mr. Bennett, Pretty Lady was driven almost to distraction by the glare emanating from Mr. Bennett's mouth. It was positively indecent.
Pretty Lady is having palpitations. She will go make some chanomile tea, lie down, and try to forget.
And discretion, as well. Pretty Lady is mildly perplexed to report that the young gentleman mentioned in the previous post, far from being effectively Scraped Off, took the trouble to appear at her Open House yesterday afternoon. Not only that, but he stuck around like glue through a walk downtown, dinner with friends (one of whom was a veritable Basket Case), a desperate screening of 'The Philadelphia Story' in order to get the Basket Case to focus on something--anything--other than the fellow who'd stood her up (it didn't work. Only a shot of tequila caused a brief pause in the repetitive obsessing) and had to be sternly requested to leave at 11:20 PM. Pretty Lady honestly doesn't believe that this was due to her personal attractions; the gentleman is merely Young, Earnest, and Pathologically Friendly. Also he wants to fix her website. Also, being young, he reckons 'bedtime' with a different clock than do the aged Pretty Lady and her decrepit friend Jake.
At any rate, the aged Pretty Lady inevitably ended up playing confessor to the young gentleman's romantic woes. Or it seemed as though his woes were romantic; they may have been merely sexual. It seemed to Pretty Lady as though the gentleman himself was unsure, and this unsureness, she suspects, is at the root of the problem.
He phrased it thusly: "I have no trouble finding one-nighters. But in eight years, only one of them has come BACK. And I have quite a libido."
I am sure my astute readers will instantly divine the issues at hand, here, but Pretty Lady will go into it anyway.
First, she told the gentleman, "It seems like alcohol is a factor in this. When one is in a radically altered state of consciousness, communication is Not Effective. Then, when one wakes up in a different state of consciousness, no lasting connection has been attained."
He replied, "It sounds like you are pretty old-fashioned."
Pretty Lady hastened to disabuse him. "Pretty Lady has achieved her 'old-fashioned' outlook through extreme progressivism," she stated. "I have been down all the other lines, and I know where they end. If you want a lady to take you seriously, you have to court her. Nothing else works."
"I'm not into all that courting thing," he replied.
Mind you, this is coming from a gentleman who met Pretty Lady at a bar, took her card, examined her website thoroughly, found her email address (not a simple task; Pretty Lady takes care that this should be so), wrote to her, obtained directions to her apartment, took more than one train to reach it, and had to be ejected by force, six hours later. Laziness and lack of focus is not this fellow's problem.
No, Pretty Lady suspects that the real problem is that he doesn't know what he wants. This may be an exacerbated phenomenon in New York City, but the malaise, she fears, is well-nigh universal.
You see, New York City singles are inundated with floods of beautiful, fascinating, talented members of the opposite sex as soon as they cross their doorjambs--or at least, as soon as they arrive at the party, the bar, or the art opening. Their attention spans for relating to a single individual are roughly two minutes long. As they grow older they grow more desperate, and start posting profiles on Nerve.com, wherein they relate to other profiles with the same two-minute attention span they bestow at the parties. They will telephone a girl, or seven girls, on the basis of her photo alone, without actually reading to the end of the profile.
Fellows, Pretty Lady has news for you: the problem is not Out There. It's you.
In order to achieve any semblance of lasting happiness, one must take an honest look at oneself. One must note the state and habits of one's gonads, one's intellect, one's social tendencies, one's ambitions, one's financial affairs, and one's overall temperament, without any tweaking or wishful thinking. Then one must make certain that all these many forces pulling on one's soul are as much in alignment as possible.
Clever young gentlemen, and middle-aged gentlemen, and old gentlemen, continually think that they can get away with Relational Compartmentalization. They pick one girl on the basis of her appeal to their gonads, another for creative collaboration, another for intellectual discussion, another for mothering, and then get confused and upset when the whole schemata blows up in their faces. They settle for whoever is easy and available, and then freak out when the 'easy, available' woman turns out to be 1) flighty and fickle, or 2) psychotic and obsessive. They whine that women have it easy, they're shirking this 'courting' thing, and then flee for the hills when a woman actually tries it.
Boys, face the facts. A Real Woman has to be Won, and you don't really want anything else.
But what of my young friend, who appears to know every lady in New York, and can't decide which one to pursue?
Well, obviously, my dear boy, you don't know them, or yourself, well enough. You are too busy having shallow varieties of Fun to explore the depths of anyone's character, even your own. If you took the time and trouble to do this, you would immediately find that the pool of available candidates would shrink dramatically. You would begin to notice whose company you enjoy and why, and who appears to reciprocate this enjoyment. You might then begin to Hone In.
Then, supposing you DO lure an object of this honing into your apartment, and thence your bedroom? Look around. Is this a place that someone you respect would likely be comfortable returning to?
(Pretty Lady just looked around the room, taking note of the empty paint cans, the oily rags, the filthy tarps, brushes, palettes, tools, and winced. But she is, after all, a lady. Few men appear to be deeply disturbed by this.)
And the obvious question, after all these one-nighters, is, how's your technique? Pretty Lady refers you to Dan Savage for that. There are only so many subtleties she cares to explain.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Yawn. Pretty Lady was out a bit late last night. She went to a reading of Sex Radicals. She is not trying to be provocative by telling you this; truthfully, Sex Radicals have always rather bored Pretty Lady, and it has only gotten worse with maturity. But one of the Sex Radicals was a good friend of a good friend of Pretty Lady's, and an excellent writer as well. Her presentation, indeed, was far superior to the others. (Note to others: Spanking, unadorned, is only interesting in a literary context for a minute or so, three at the outside. Beyond this one must elaborate upon circumstance, if one wishes to hold the attention of one's audience.)
But that is all by the way. What Pretty Lady really intended to discuss were the circumstances of the cozy group hanging out afterward, in the Quiet Bar with Couches. (Bless Quiet Bars with Couches. Why in the world have not the vast majority of other bars followed suit with this simple, wondrous concept? Pretty Lady generally avoids bars, because she so often cannot sit comfortably, see her friends clearly, or hear them speak. This may be an attraction if one's friends are ugly and boring, but Pretty Lady does not hang out with those people.)
So many digressions. At any rate. In the Quiet Bar, Pretty Lady was able to make the acquaintance of a very nice young gentleman, who impressed her at first blush by paying absolutely equal attention to herself and to the morbidly obese, ambiguously gendered, socially awkward individual sitting next to her. In Pretty Lady's book, this gets an automatic fifty points for Civility 101. The three of us were soon involved in an animated discussion which ranged from the Miss Lower East Side Pageant to photographic technique to web design to the fascism of liberalism to the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, when we reached the war in Iraq, there it stuck.
It is not that the gentleman did not have interesting insights upon the war in Iraq. It is not that he lacked information, or that he had not thought things through. It is not that his opinions offended Pretty Lady. It is that after the first twenty minutes of hearing his opinions, Pretty Lady had ceased attempting to get a word in edgewise. Pretty Lady greatly dislikes the feeling of Being a Bore, and when a person has interrupted and overridden her comments more than three times in the course of ten minutes, she naturally comes to the conclusion that she is boring them. Such a feeling eventually produces discomfort, and the inchoate desire to Get Away.
So she tactfully waited until the gentleman took a bathroom break, bid farewell to her friends and departed. She regretted not exploring further conversation with her friend's friend, but since what little of the discussion she could glean seemed to center around Random Sex, she doesn't think she missed much.
(The thing that bothers Pretty Lady about Sex Radicals is that their Sex Radicalism is so evidently, obviously, pleadingly about Something Else, which they have grown their Sex Radicalism to defend, like a burl round a wasp nest. Thus the whole discussion is evidently, obviously, pleadingly Not Real, and this drives Pretty Lady bananas. But since this is likely to upset every one of Pretty Lady's readers, on all sides of the socio-political fence, please forget she said it.)
What she intended to say (ahem) is that Conversation is an Interactive Art. It is not a monologue. Monologues are for stage presentations, television, and blogging. What with the plethora of wireless, free Blogspot accounts, and Open Mikes in the city, there is no excuse for monologuing at any other time. The joy of conversation is wrapped up in the fact that nobody should know where it is going; good conversation explores uncharted territory, including, as it does, the input and influence of diverse minds and experiences.
This is why the basic Rules of Civility are so stringent about things such as interruption, the asking of intelligent questions, and the inadvisability of selectively ignoring people based upon such irrelevancies as personal appearance. They are set up, hopefully, to provide maximum conversational joy for all included. It is a terrible pity that these rules no longer seem to be taught in society at large.
Pretty Lady blames television. After growing up on a diet of inane, one-way blather, once young people are launched into the adult world, they naturally assume that THEY are TV. Thus they blather blithely away, occasionally aware that they are losing their audience, but unable to conceive of how to regain it except by blathering ever more frenetically.
Thus, Pretty Lady has some simple advice for young persons who wonder, sadly, why Pretty Ladies keep disappearing on them as soon as they head for the bathroom. The secret is this: Learn to ask questions. You may start with a question that seems impossibly inane, such as "what do you do?" and follow from there; do not worry about being boring. People simply love to discuss themselves, as you yourself already know. Once the question is asked, you must then listen to the answer. The proof that you have been listening is that you are now able to ask a more-relevant, and hopefully intelligent, question.
Pretty Lady also recommends that every individual entering into a social context equip themselves with a monitor for the Sound of their Own Voice. This monitor should be set with an alarm that goes off every five minutes, preferably three. No matter how witty, fascinating, deep or hilarious your statements may be, after three minutes of them this alarm should trigger the statement, "but enough of this. What have YOU to say, my dear?"
Pretty Lady knows that this process may appear painful and frustrating at first. But she guarantees that it will ultimately result in an old age full of friendships which are rewarding in hitherto inconceivable ways. The alternative is too hideous to contemplate.
If any of Pretty Lady's horticulturally inclined friends have any advice about how to keep renegade, fire-escape-climbing squirrels from eating (sniff) every single blossom upon the rosebush, now is the time to speak. Pretty Lady's cats are spoiled malingerers, she fears.
She does not own a gun; otherwise you would find her perched by the window with the safety off, even as we speak.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Pretty Lady just walked ten city blocks in bare feet. Those Dansko clogs were not as broken in as she thought they were.
Some friendly Italian men in a shiny car offered her a ride; sweet as they were, some instinct prompted her to decline. In Pretty Lady's younger days, she used to accept rides from Italian men in shiny black cars, and it took all her winning ways to get back out again, mostly unmolested. Sad, but such are the boys.
However, she did finally get to try the lovely French restaurant on Fifth Avenue and Sixth street. It was all she'd hoped, and she has a New Friend, too. Happy day.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Pretty Lady just can't seem to stick to the Topic at Hand. Morgan's round-table gay marriage debate is utterly enthralling, except that the issue doesn't concern Pretty Lady in the slightest. Her opinions on gay marriage were decided on the day she discovered that gay people were, in fact, people. QED.
No, Pretty Lady had to go careening off on a tangent, central to her personal concerns, on the Nature of Commitment. She is passionately, vehemently strident in her opinion that you cannot Park a Person. Nay, this is not an opinion at all--it is Fact. It is a Fact, however, that narcissistic klunkheads persist in denying, to the tragedy of all.
Now, let me explain. Pretty Lady is all for Biblical Law. She considers the Ten Commandments to be basic, obvious practical advice. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment; the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
(Father Worrell, bless his soul, used to intone this phrase with the emphasis on "HANG all the Law and the Prophets," which gave Pretty Lady a vivid mental picture of the Law and the Prophets twisting by the neck on a scaffold, which might not be such a bad idea. But never mind.)
At any rate, though, Pretty Lady has found, through a life of spiritual practice and study, that these Commandments are merely the beginning. If any one of you has ever listened to a child learn to play the violin via the Suzuki method, you may understand what she means.
The Suzuki method is based upon the rote instillation of principles. One shows the student how to perform a C major scale, and the student saws out C major until her fingers and your eardrums are raw. Then you move on to G. Via the Suzuki method, six-year-olds have become modest violin prodigies.
However, even the most prodigious six-year-old, learning via the Suzuki method, has yet to become a musician. This Suzuki-trained violinist is still the aesthetic equivalent of a monkey playing a wind-up organ. Artistry upon the violin is based upon far more than scales, note-reading, and technique. It is only when these techniques have become second nature that the violinist becomes capable of truly making her instrument sing, with a deeply personal yet universal interpretation of the notes played upon it.
It is Pretty Lady's observation that the Ten Commandments, in terms of spiritual practice, are the C major scale. They are a required starting point in the practice of Divine Love. You are not loving someone, generally, while you are murdering them. Ditto envy, theft, casual sexual betrayal of one's spouse or partner, etc. The Ten Commandments are just good manners.
However, if one limits oneself to the literal, plodding adherence to the Ten Commandments, while steadfastly ignoring signs of subtle distress, or not-so-subtle nervous breakdowns, on the part of one's nearest and dearest, this is the spiritual equivalent of playing a rusty tape of a C major scale loudly enough to drown out the symphony next door. You are then missing the Whole Damn Point.
You see, commitments between individuals are not merely a dry contract between static entities. Human beings, by their very nature, grow, learn, and change. If one marries a person expecting them not to do so, one is a jerk and an asshole and a fool. A person who gets married, expecting that the spouse will continue to cook and clean and bear children, or work and bring home money like a robot, no matter whether or not you listen, consider their needs, support their growth as a person, or communicate with them in a meaningful manner, this marriage is doomed to misery and stagnation. Persons who stay in a marriage of this nature may be adhering to the letter of God's commandments, but the spirit is utterly absent.
No, friends, a true 'commitment' is not a fetter; it is a tool. It is an agreement that at best, gives two persons an incentive to discover more about the nature of love, with the mutual assurance that the partner will not decamp as soon as a prettier bottom marches by. To continue the musical analogy--it is the understanding that if G major proves to be difficult on the violin, the student will not throw it down and take up drums instead.
You cannot, generally, avoid your issues by switching partners. Since the root of most personal problems is in the self, trading partners, or taking extra ones, is usually an avoidance tactic. At best, one is simply stalling for another few years, until one fetches up against precisely the same problem that ended the former relationship.
But then there are those occasions when it becomes obvious that 1) your spouse has Parked you; he does not share, he does not communicate, he stares at a glowing screen all day while you tear at your face with your fingernails and throw breakables against the wall; or 2) you selected a partner in your youth, with more of an eye toward pulchritude and malleability than intellect or character, and, ten years out, find that her endless repetition of bland platitudes makes you want to push her face mercilessly into a banana cream pie; or 3) the two of you simply have no interests, goals, or conversational topics in common any more. You have come to the end of the marital line.
What do the Ten Commandments have to say about that?
Well, principally, they say to Love thy Neighbor as Thyself. Love, in these circumstances, could be a lot of things. It could include things like couples counselling, antidepressants, separate dwellings, night classes, or a screaming tantrum. If there are children involved, it definitely includes a great many more considerations. As a last resort, it might even include divorce. But only after all other options have been sincerely exhausted.
What Love does not include, in Pretty Lady's opinion, is locking a miserable person in a cage and throwing away the key; then telling them that this is God's Will, that they are going to Heaven as a reward for their misery, and turning back toward the flickering screen.
Rlh, in his inimitable way, gets to the nub of things:
I think I know her better because she tells a lot about herself.. or her personna, I think she is pretty honest. I don't know why anyone would want to reveal that much about themselves to idiots such as myself... Pretty Lady seems to be very complicated. I don't think I could figure her out. I am still trying to figure out her religeous beliefs. She is all over the place on that.You see, dear, it is along the same lines as keeping an extremely candid journal, in a close-to-illegible scrawl. The more one expresses the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, the more inscrutable one becomes to others.
Pretty Lady decided many years ago that the cliché, "Honesty is the Best Policy" is Right On, no matter how much she hates clichés in general. After the usual tortured adolescence, complete with shameful skulking, attempted emotional manipulations, affected casualness, dissembling, and ultimately humiliating confessional breakdowns, Pretty Lady scrapped the whole procedure. For about the last decade, more or less, Pretty Lady has made a habit of telling it like it is. This does not reduce the complications in her life, but it at least assures that the complications are about things that actually exist.
This means, for example, that when Pretty Lady was having a doomed, passionate affair with one of the most notorious reprobates in town, the whole town knew about it. Of course, this was always the case when anyone in town had an illicit affair, but since Pretty Lady made a habit of candidly discussing her personal life with anybody who would sit still for long enough, the net result was that she was on the receiving end of considerably less malicious gossip.
Think about it. Pretty Lady enters the café one morning and is confronted by a Jealous, Catty Female, who says, "Did you know that Hector's German girlfriend is staying with him for a month?"
Pretty Lady replies, "Yes, indeed I do, and my heart is broken, broken, broken."
What can a Jealous, Catty Female say, then, in response to that? Not terribly much. Conversation then moves along to the subject of tequila and going out dancing.
Contrast this scenario with one wherein a female, perhaps this selfsame catty and jealous one, is having an illicit affair with Hector that no-one is supposed to know about. In response to the above probing question, she must reply, "Hmm. How interesting," and cast about desperately for a change of subject, concealing her personal misery under an aura of studied casualness.
In general, Pretty Lady adopts this attitude of Complete Disclosure largely because she feels she has nothing much to be ashamed of. She feels this way, truthfully, because God created her. Isn't that amazing? That God should have gone to the trouble? And God being God, she believes most fervently that he could not have done such a terrible job on her that she needs to be running around constantly, trying to improve upon His labors.
When one considers this for long enough, one eventually comes to the unavoidable conclusion that if God created Pretty Lady, He must have created everybody else, too. Which means that everybody else is an equally amazing phenomenon, placed upon earth to be cherished and admired. Pretty Lady then feels that her primary task is in understanding just what it is about each of these, God's creations, that makes them worthy of such admiration.
Sometimes this is a difficult task, there is no denying it. But that's what makes it such fun. Pretty Lady has always loved a challenge; no doubt God is responsible for this aspect of her character as well.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Darlings, Pretty Lady cannot say how much she's missed you. Alas, not only 'tis the season for literary readings, art openings, and discount tickets to hear Ute Lemper, but Pretty Lady is working under deadline. She can only catch a moment now and then to say hello.
However, after that last abysmal post on the State of the Art World, she feels she must balance the scales. This weekend, on her way back from a literary reading, she passed a certain Fence she knows about; one of the best-kept secrets of the art world, in general. It is a Fence in a constant state of Flux. Pretty Lady passes by every couple of months, to take note of the changes.
This, my dears, to the uninitiated, is Good Graffiti. As opposed to those atrocious, spray-painted 'tags,' which are the ghetto equivalent of a canine urinating upon a fire hydrant.
The figure to the right is a creation of a lady who goes by the name of Swoon. It is made, you will note, of paper. The lady draws the figures at home, cuts them out in lace-like detail with exacto knives, and surreptitiously, under cover of darkness, glues them to Fences round the city, like this one.
Of course, paper cutouts do not last long on outdoor walls in New York City. When one passes repeatedly by a piece by Swoon, over weeks or months, one will note various stages of decay; the paper peels, is rained on, gets spray-painted by punks, is torn away by the Department of Transportation and eventually eradicated.
This, a kind reader informs me, is her self-portrait.
You say--this lady must be a lunatic. Why would she do such a thing? Nobody is paying her for this; nobody knows her real name. Within a few months at most, this labor-intensive artwork will have vanished without a trace. This lady ought to get a Real Job, writing novels, or bearing children, or doing Power Point presentations.
Pretty Lady hates to break it to you, my loves, but we are all going to die. In a best-case scenario, we are souls imprisoned in corpses, to be freed upon enlightenment. In a worst-case scenario, we shall simply die, and that is that.
Great Art, in Pretty Lady's opinion, acknowleges this fact, without harping upon it. In this case, death is built into the piece. The pristine paper figure is placed in the world, which ages it and turns it to dust. Producing Great Art, such as this, strikes Pretty Lady as one of the few worthwhile ways to pass one's brief moments upon this globe. Provided, of course, that the moments of production are enjoyable, since nothing else whatsoever is guaranteed.
Look closely. There's a cat in the corner.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Pretty Lady has been invited to participate in a piece of Performance Art:
MENSTRUATING VENUS in L.A. & NYCReply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 2006-05-04, 1:38PM
EUROPEAN ARTIST is looking for 200 (two hundred) daring female volunteers
for his women ART-PERFORMANCE coming September.
The performance will be supported by several American's female ACTIVISTS and CELEBRITIES.
"CELEBRATING VENUS" will take place in the eminent galleries in NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES.
Email us for the further information: email@example.com
Approximately one quarter of the total depth of
the space, looking from the entrance, is an elliptical
white stage podium, 3-4 feet high. The size of the
stage is esthetically balanced with the total space of
the gallery. It is a construction of either wooden or
metal prefabricated elements, covered in a thin white
fabric. The atmosphere as such, will represent almost
A white curtain or lightweight screen will be
positioned between the stage and the audience.
Equally distributed on the stage will be white
(or uncolored) wooden meditation Zen benches. A square
of thin white absorbent fabric is affixed to each
bench. The performers will sit on the benches with
their legs drawn back underneath. They have their arms
resting on their laps with the palm of the left hand
placed in the palm of the right, similar to the common
The performers will wear long white flowing
tunics with long sleeves. They do not have any
underwear and will not be adorned with any decoration
or personal jewelry. Their hair will be slicked back
into a twist fastened by a wooden clasp. The make-up
used will be extremely discrete and almost
unnoticeable. Every participant will be wearing
virtual-reality goggles. During the performance and
afterwards the goggles project moving scenes and
pictures according to the spirit of the happening.
The performers would enter on the stage prior to
the audience. Due to the gallery’s configuration, the
audience will be allowed to enter only after the stage
has been finally set, so as to prevent any encounter
between the audience and the performers, as this would
interfere with the desired atmosphere. The audience
would enter and remain standing throughout the
performance in the area between the curtain/screen and
the gallery’s entrance.
The performance is multi-layered and therefore
requires exceptional harmony on the part of each
participant. It will be necessary for the performers
to rehearse two or three times in advance of the
The sound of a gong would signify the
commencement of the performance. At the outset, one
would hear a Tibetan prayer bell. The performers then
begin with so called meditation humming. It is a deep
monotone sound similar to the humming of a bumblebee.
They actually perform an ancient Tibetan monks
meditation. In the authentic tradition the monks
perform this meditation before the dawn. After the
performance they would return to sleep.
During the first 10 minutes the meditation
humming would be carried out behind the curtain.
Thereafter the curtain opens. The humming will last
the further 20 minutes.
After 30 minutes the music transforms into a soft
ambiential sound. The humming stops and the performers
very slowly separate their hands from one another,
turn the palms upwards and move the arms in a wide
motion from the body forward in a semicircular
fashion, symbolizing conferring their own energy to
the universe. This activity lasts seven and half
Thereafter, the music changes again, the palms
are then turned downwards, with the arms moving in the
opposite direction, signifying the capturing of
universal energy and directing it towards the abdomen.
Likewise, this part of the performance is of seven and
half minute’s duration.
The performers slowly remove the goggles from
their heads, lay them down on the benches, and rest
their hands in the starting position. This part of the
performance lasts 15 minutes.
The sound of the gong signifies the end of the
performance. The performers, in the earlier performed
sequence of order, exit from the stage via steps into
the changing rooms.
Their robes are stained with menstruation blood. The
white squares of fabric attached to the benches bear
the traces of their recent presence. The stage,
benches, the fabric and goggles, collectively create a
conceptual exhibiting installation, open for
subsequent viewing by the audience.
The performers later meet up with the audience
and media and share with them their unique experience.
Needless to say, Pretty Lady will be declining this invitation. Hmph.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Pretty Lady swears she had no idea that the gentleman she smiled at, while parking her bike in front of the elementary school where the literary reading was to be held, was a Famous Rock Star. She thought he was just another literary geek like herself, wondering if this was the correct elementary school. He seemed friendly, and had such a lovely British accent.
Imagine her surprise, then, when she found out he was John Wesley Harding, aka Mr. Wesley Stace, author of the excellent book 'Misfortune.' Pretty Lady is not particularly familiar with his music, but the name rang a bell. She went to the reading on impulse, after determining that she must get out of the house, and receiving a convenient e-mail newsletter that advertised a reading just down the street.
The reading was excellent, and featured a short story by Rick Moody as well. Mr. Moody's story was most amusing, but as it turned upon a hyperintensive apprehending of the sordid minutiae of American culture, which aesthetic causes Pretty Lady to close her eyes and shudder slightly, she did not buy any of his books.
She was forced, however, to purchase Mr. Stace's book, as his rendition of one of its chapters had her in helpless stitches, and she quite liked his style. Plus, it gave her an excuse to ask for his autograph. His dear wife just had a baby, and she wished to congratulate him. Since he lives in the neighborhood, she thought it expedient to give him her business card as well. She hopes this was not too forward of her, but he was threatening to send his wife to the D'Mai spa, and Pretty Lady has it on client authority that the massages there are dreadful.
Monday, May 01, 2006
The boys in Pretty Lady's life have been busy. Danny has sent some daisies he made himself:
And Jake has humbly requested that I bestow a plug for Teabag NYC, an artists' organization that provides a friendly and encouraging venue for filmmakers, poets, comedians, musicians and unidentifiable performance artists to strut their stuff. Which I am happy to do, as his film screening and discussion last week was most enjoyable.