Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On the Death of Manners

You will all be thrilled to know that Pretty Lady has Submitted her Application, and thus may disentangle her brain from the sort of verbiage which torments her soul, and renders her unfit for human companionship.

(Actually, Pretty Lady's normal verbal self may render her unfit for most human companionship, but she appears to have attracted a quorum of masochistic freaks, and for this she is humbly grateful.)

Having decided to celebrate the pressing of the "Send" button with a shot of tequila, or two, or the rest of the bottle, Pretty Lady has now recklessly decided to be Indiscreet. She shall now offer her Deep Insight of the Week, hang the consequences. To wit: How to Fend Off --well, Pretty Lady can't be that indiscreet. She has the familial integrity of a friend to consider.

The fact is, Pretty Lady was a tad bit too well brought-up. She was trained to be Respectful to her Seniors; she was taught to be Trusting, Polite, and to Smile Gracefully at Inane Platitudes, particularly when these platitudes were declaimed from On High by a senior member of the Patriarchy.

This training has gotten her into endless amounts of trouble. For the scurrilous truth is, that not every Older Man is as morally upright and unblemished as Pretty Lady's Daddy, and Granddaddy, and on upwards into ever-expanding latitudes of Great Granddaddy-ness. Pretty Lady comes from a pretty exceptional family, it seems; sometimes, indeed, it seems as though Pretty Lady's forbears were a different species of animal from the seniors, biologically unrelated to Pretty Lady, who infest the modern landscape.

For Pretty Lady has had a way with her of attracting a certain sort of paternal attention from grey-haired Patriarchs, ever since she turned eighteen, and entered the Larger World with clear-eyed naïveté and optimism. These fellows--professors, shopkeepers, carpenters, parents of college friends--have approached her with Idealistic and Caring rhetoric. They evince concern for Pretty Lady, all alone in the Terrible World. They wish only to Protect her Innocence.

Then they pounce.

Pretty Lady, every single time, is shocked. She cannot believe that such an upright, upstanding, married older gentleman could stoop to such base maneuvers. She is certain there has been Some Mistake. She is certain that her signals have been grossly misinterpreted; she is sure the gentleman forgets himself. But after a time, she begins to notice a pattern, no matter how much she wishes to notice otherwise.

The pattern is this: when a gentleman begins to subject her earnest ears to a torrent of inane platitudes, such as 'such Deep Blue Eyes you have, my dear;' 'ah! you are a Fighter;' 'we are all, within us, the Same;' Pretty Lady begins to smell a rat.

For surely the gentleman is boring himself with such twaddle. He is certainly boring Pretty Lady. Trained, as she was, to smile and nod agreeably, Pretty Lady finds it increasingly difficult to maintain the appropriate standard of courtesy. Strangely, the boring gentleman in question seems inattentive to the increasingly strained and perfunctory nature of Pretty Lady's polite responses; indeed, on the occasions when she is goaded into a Sharp Retort, he seems positively encouraged. It comes to appear as though any possible response on Pretty Lady's part will be received with overflowing, over-the-top enthusiasm.

For indeed, the gentleman has worked himself into such a pitch of protective idealism as to be utterly deaf to the sense of any mere rational language, issuing from Pretty Lady's captivating lips. Such phrases as 'this situation is wholly inappropriate' seem to pass as so much wind in the eaves. Forceful language such as 'I'm not particularly comfortable with this, as I am sure you can imagine' may as well not have been communicated.

No, after decades of regrettable Life Experience, Pretty Lady has come to the conclusion that in such extreme conditions, only one bald word will penetrate the consciousness of such a self-forgetting, inappropriately besotted patriarch. That word is, NO.

Even when the utterance of this word appears to be horrifically Rude. Especially so. Once Pretty Lady has smelled such a rat as that, even such an innocent request as "Will you attend the symphony with me next week?" must be responded to with a resounding, unequivocal, unadorned NO. No explanations, no lectures, no thanks, no excuses. NO. No, no, no, no, no.

Pretty Lady is feeling pretty desperate, to consider passing this information along. Ordinarily, she is a staunch champion of Manners, as the only reliable method of Saving the World. But in this circumstance, the necessity of complete clarity transcends all other considerations. It is a terrible pity, but a measure of her deep certitude, that it has taken her twenty years to come to this conclusion.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Emotional Outburst

Pretty Lady must tell you that the vast majority of you Have No Clue. You Have No Clue about so many things, that she does not know where to start; thus she has not started at all, today, with the snow silently blanketing her windows. She has been involved with Other Projects.

But she promises to give you people the sound metaphysical thrashing that you deserve, just as soon as her thoughts crystallize out of the postmodern muck within which she is currently floundering.

The fact is, Pretty Lady is putting her soul up for sale, and the process is a brutal one. It is making her Cranky. She is putting her brain through the funnel of Artspeak in the hopes of obtaining a Whopping Big Grant, and lest any of you decry this as Evil, she will send YOU her credit card statement and ask you how it is to be dealt with. The answer to that question should definitely produce enlightenment, as there is no way, in this physical world, that a logical answer will be forthcoming.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The curly boots are here!

Pretty Lady must confess that she is undoubtedly a Female person. As proof of this fact, she offers the information that she has labored since childhood under a nearly insatiable Boot Fetish.

The reason she does not have a Shoe Fetish, so much, is that she does not, sadly, have size-5 feet with dainty little toes and elegantly arched insteps. (So back off, you freak.) Were this the case, she would undoubtedly have a closet full of frivolous little cobbler's confections with four-inch heels, glass toes and ankle straps.

She still has a couple of those. But largely, for both practical and aesthetic reasons, Pretty Lady has been forced to specialize in more-solid items of footwear. It is her one over-the-top indulgence, as Chris discovered to his detriment last Christmas.

Also, last Christmas, Pretty Lady's most-beloved little sister confided that she had, in fact, ordered the Curly Boots. It was to have been a surprise, when they showed up at the doorstep on December 23rd.

Instead, they have shown up on February 23rd, and Pretty Lady is here to tell you that it was worth the wait. Not only are these boots Elegant and Elfin, but they are heavenly comfortable. It feels like Pretty Lady's much-abused feet are getting a massage, even when she's sitting down. She may never take them off again, except that she doesn't want to get them dirty, and that not all of her clothes, sadly, are green.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Grammar Patrol

Pretty Lady's dear friend Chris Rywalt asks what may, perhaps, be a rhetorical question:

How can someone use the words "teleological" and "reify," then follow those up with "historicity," and yet still use an apostrophe in the possessive its, and even worse, confuse "whose" and "who's"?

Can you explain this to me? Because I sure as hell don't get it's.
Ah, Chris. Tsk, tsk.

You are making the same error as did, apparently, that ridiculous IQ test that Pretty Lady took the other evening (which was obviously unreliable, because it said that Pretty Lady's IQ was only 138! The horror! Or perhaps Pretty Lady has fried one too many brain cells with all that tequila...hmm...a definite possibility, sadly) and mistaking vocabulary for intelligence. Indeed, Pretty Lady is quite certain that she got the vocabulary questions on the alleged IQ test correct, which further depresses her regarding her score.

But enough of this egoistic rumination.

You must understand, my dear Chris, that as Pretty Lady learned all too well in the course of obtaining a couple of thoroughly useless degrees, "intellectual" is by no means synonymous with "intelligent." In fact, toward the end of her 'education', Pretty Lady began to suspect that the two concepts bear no relationship to one another at all. To this day, whenever she attempts to engage a so-called intellectual in sensible conversation, she is stymied by the fact that possessing a gargantuan vocabulary by no means guarantees that a person can follow a simple train of logic. Pretty Lady forgets herself, and saunters off into wild, polysyllabic ruminations, only to be brought heavily down to earth when the other party to the conversation entirely misses her point, by virtue of failing to comprehend her rhetorical devices.

After much contemplation upon the issue, Pretty Lady ascribes this phenomenon to 1) insufficient abuse by junior high school teachers and 2) the Parrotic Obfuscation Technique. There is further evidence to suggest that the one may be a consequence of the other.

To wit: if a person was not forced, by a fascistic sixth grade teacher, at the sort of school where you get sent home for being creatively dressed, and expelled for smoking marijuana, to learn to diagram a compound/complex sentence down to the last prepositional phrase, that person's command of basic systems of logical thought is permanently impaired. Or rather, it has not ever been given the structure with which to develop properly, and thus grows like weeds in an abandoned lot, throwing off dense, impenetrable foliage in every direction.

You see, in the process of diagramming the kind of sentence which takes up the entire length and breadth of a regulation-size blackboard, one is forced to consider the logical relationships among every single word one uses. After an entire year of this sort of thing, a person is literally incapable of constructing a statement which does not make internal sense. The horror of attempting to figure out where to attach that last dangling participle is simply too painful to contemplate.

A person who has not undergone this type of radical brain espalier in childhood, however, will cheerfully spew forth sentence after alleged sentence which lacks either a subject, a verb, or an object, in the mistaken notion that he is communicating something. He is under the impression that nouns or verbs by themselves, in all their creatively modified glory, translate into a coherent understanding of the universe--no matter that notions of time, cause and effect are lacking therein. Which may, on a deeper level, be absolutely true; however, trapped as we are in the space-time continuum, we are forced to rely on these tedious constructs in order to get anything done.

A person thus logistically handicapped who is hurled into the morass of Higher Education is then in desperate straits. Unable to follow a line of reasoning lucidly enough to test its validity, this person is equally incapable of mounting a cogent argument with which to challenge it. Thus, Obfuscation becomes his only viable means of self-defense. And words like 'teleological' and 'reify' work wonders in this arena. Not only are they casually used in even the most elementary philosophy class, but even the professors have only a vague notion of what they actually mean, if anything.

(teleological, from the Greek 'telos' meaning 'end or purpose,' and 'logos' meaning 'rationality'; an argument for the existence of God, based on the perceptions of design or order in nature: reify, from the Latin root 'res, reis' meaning 'thing'; to regard an abstraction as though it had concrete existence, literally to 'make a thing' of it)

Thus, my dear Chris, we get the monster that you have so unfortunately fetched up against, presumably in the art blogosphere. This is a person who drops teleologies and historicities until the cows come home, but is unable to distinguish between the concepts of possession and contraction, let alone their semiotic manifestations.

At this point, Pretty Lady suspects that this person's mind is a Lost Cause; the wiser and wearier may eventually come to a point where they recognize that they are drowning in their own mental manure, move to the country, and take up composting. These are the lucky ones.

But most of them will continue to spew, in increasingly dense and tautological verbiage, because they are walking an infinitely diminishing tightrope which has no end. They have become Specialists, and must defend their miniscule intellectual niches in the space-time continuum, no matter how ineffectually reified.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Idealism run amok

Pretty Lady has come to notice, over the decades, that whenever she comes across a piece of sensible, pragmatic advice on how to cope with Reality, sordid and non-ideal as it may be, she is equally certain to come across a pack of raving idealists, passionately decrying the notion.

The Divide is really evident in the bedroom, where mum wants to shut the factory down to care for the most recent offspring, but dad wants sex just as much as he always has, baby or no baby. For most of us, supply can't meet demand. Then, because there is more work to do, we start to keep score about the division of labour; we end up in an endless tit-for-tat argument about who is working harder. Many women feel like their husbands "just don't get it," - "it" being the increased volume of work and the extent to which her life has been upended. Men, on the other hand, think that their wives have turned into control-freak bottle-wielding shrews.
This situation about sums it up; Pretty Lady was all agog, to see what came next. Unfortunately, in the view of the Raging Idealists, the proposed solutions fell short:
So what does the megatheocorporatocratic wife-mother construct have to do with a marriage manual on how to keep your hubby happy even though your id is completely subsumed by the interests of your neurotic kids? I posit that the authors are capitalizing on the housewife’s culturally-inflicted creative void in two ways. One, by profiting materially from the sale of a meaningless book based on the bogus premise that women’s inadequacy is at the root of all marriage problems, and two, by suggesting as a cure that women direct creative use of their ‘executive abilities’ toward sucking more cock.
Oh, well.

What struck Pretty Lady, after she'd gotten over her disappointment, was the corporatocratic housewives' discussion of Hubbys and Sex:
The male perspective was really eye-opening for the three of us, particularly when they spoke about sex. We were amazed when men used words like "reassurance," "recognition," and "connection." We learned that sex is so much more to them than a physical act; it is also how they connect emotionally with their wives. They also talked about the "wheels coming off" and "the sky falling down" when they lost that connection. One guy called it "soul destroying" when he was rejected over and over again. This was news to three of us. Before this book, none of us really "got it." Yes, we knew sex was very important to men, but we never understood why.
Pretty Lady finds it no less than astonishing that men, who from her perspective are primarily responsible from separating 'sex' and 'intimacy' when outside a relationship, appear to equate the two once harnessed into one. Can anyone explain to her what this is about? And, while they're at it, how one can give a decent blow job in only five minutes? Expert though she may be on the subject, that one stumps her.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Casual Musing upon the Lighthearted Subject of Murder

This being a Saturday evening, and Pretty Lady having laboured a strenuous afternoon, and well along into the evening; and Pretty Lady having passed by the wine shop and picked up a little bottle of very reasonably priced vin Francaise, to go with the marinara marinating in the fridge; and this wine having made her moderately maudlin, she has decided to forthrightly essay the topic of Murder. Murder of Innocent little Unborn Babes, that is.

Upon the investigation of any Felony Crime, the question of Motive inevitably arises. Indeed, the vast majority of Plots and Dramas hinge upon this issue; without them, Agatha Christie and her ilk would devolve into so many jigsaw puzzles. Casual, suitable for a desultory fireside evening, but unlikely to envelop the reader in any compelling Need to Understand. There would be no Dramatic Denoument, else.

(Pretty Lady has the uneasy feeling that perhaps she is murdering her French references, but has decided to let that pass. She is working early tomorrow, as well.)

So. Without hurling Wild Accusations, without even confessing to a crime--indeed, Pretty Lady has no crime with which to confess, unless it be a crime of Thought Only. For Pretty Lady has never, in fact, murdered any unborn babe. She has never had this opportunity. And at this point in her existence, she is genuinely uncertain as to whether to be thankful or regretful that such an opportunity has never come to pass.

Because Pretty Lady, at this point in her life, is categorically opposed to terminating a potential, personal pregnancy. This is Pretty Lady's personal view, and is not intended to be construed or extended as a moral judgment upon others.

But there has been a time in Pretty Lady's life when, in the wild throes of Abandonment and Despair, that the incoherent thought flooded through her brain: 'if I were pregnant now, I would definitely have an abortion.'

Pretty Lady cannot deny it. If sin originates within the mind, Pretty Lady is guilty. Guilt is clear; it is incontrovertible, it is punishable to the fullest extent of the law. Motive plays no part. It is mere self-indulgence, then, and possibly entertaining and educatory to her readers, that Pretty Lady feels compelled to explain the motive behind her crime of thought.

You see, when Pretty Lady bestows her heart, she may not bestow it wisely, but she does bestow it utterly. And the more time passes in relationship, after the fact of this bestowal, the more utterly does she absorb, attach and envelop herself within the Beloved. This is not a Flight of Fancy, either. With Pretty Lady, Intimacy encompasses the intellectual, the emotional, and the spiritual, as well as, and eventually, the merely physical.

So that when she gets to the point of saying to herself, "Perhaps I will bear this man's child," it is not a Casual Thing. It has taken her years to arrive there. And Pretty Lady, odd and quirky as she is, does not believe that she is unique among her gender. She rather suspects, in the deeps of her mind, that other ladies arrive at this place as well.

So that when she is there, when she is Intimate, when she is viewing the man before her and thinking this thing, which took her years to accomplish, and the man in question casually declares, "I'll be leaving town this evening; thanks for the hospitality," the meltdown in Pretty Lady's mind approaches the Apocalyptic. It is accompanied by the Rending of the Intellectual, the Emotional, the Spiritual and the Physical; it induces a temporary state of Utter Nihilism and Despair.

This is the point, after the van has departed, after the bathtub has drained, after the dishwasher has run, when the only sound is the sound of the sparrow chirping in the eaves, this is the moment when the Evil Crime is committed, in Pretty Lady's mind. If her Mate, her Beloved, her partner of heart and soul and mind, can so casually depart, leaving the tip on the table, then obviously this world is not fit for living. It is not fit for innocence. It is not fit for babies, however theoretical and potential and doomed.

For Pretty Lady believes that Crime is rarely committed by the individual. It comes about, rather, as a concatenation of circumstance; of a thousand thousand tiny wrongs which are never set right. It is perpetrated by daily, casual indifference, habitual indifference, indifference which is hardened into self-righteous egotism, indifference which is wilfully blind.

Pretty Lady is not defending anybody; she is not extending her own experience to that of the world at large. Motives vary with the individual and circumstance. We are all sinners.

However she asks, she merely asks, that any man who casts stones at Women who Murder Unborn Babes, that he ask himself--have I ever been casual? Have I been indifferent? Have I in any way contributed to the mountain of cruelty and irreverence that makes up the physical world?

Because if you can answer 'yes' to any of these questions, then you have your labours cut out for you. And those labours do not include the casting of stones.


Pretty Lady is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the sort of pseudo-lady who could be said to be Jumped Up on Testosterone. She is not Dyke-ish. She is only incidentally Bad-Ass. And she invests little to none of her precious energy, getting worked up about trivial, superficial issues such as Cars with Big Engines.

But it gives her a certain Wry Amusement when she turns into her block, and espies some Dude in a brand-new, four-door, extended-cab SUV, decorated with silver racing flames, attempting to pull into a large parking space, on the side of the road where the snowplows have piled up great obstructive mounds of slushy sleety snow, which have transformed over the days into dense, gray, slippery, treacherous ice. It provides her with a certain Quiet Glee, as she watches the Dude in the shiny SUV backing up again, and again, and again.

And it gives her a deep, glowy inner satisfaction when she pauses at the slushy, obstructed parking space two slots ahead of the Dude, puts her old, 210K workhorse of a transcontinental Pathfinder into 4-wheel mode, and pulls into the space with minimal distress, as, from her rear-view mirror, she watches the Dude give up in frustration, and speed off into the frigid darkness, in search of a less-challenging parking space.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Molly Ivins passed away more than two weeks ago, and nobody told Pretty Lady. Pretty Lady is Despondent.

But, on the bright side, perhaps she and Pretty Lady's aunt are having a sparkling Southern Ladies' conversation, overlooking the Pearly Gates. I am sure that they will get along famously.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Through snow, through sleet, through freezing rain

Pretty Lady nevertheless would not dream of missing her dear friend RA Friedman's opening in Philly this evening.

"Art, After a Fashion"
Featuring the designs of Rose Sylvester
and the astonishing photography of RA Friedman
Conspiracy Showroom
910 North 2nd Street (Across the Street from Standard Tap)

Philadelphia, PA

Opening: Thursday, February 15th, 2007

6 to 9 PM


A write-up! It's a write-up!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Oh, good heavens

There are moments in Pretty Lady's life where she comes smack up against one of the more unfortunate aspects of Human Nature, and is Appalled. She seems to see Neurosis and Superstition in all its chaotic, solipsistic muddle, with a crystalline clarity that staggers her, and leaves her momentarily speechless.

She is speaking, of course, about the tendency of humans to believe that they can control the weather, by judicious choice of dishwashing detergent.

Friends, this is not a single, isolated instance of OCD. It is a Movement. Hordes of persons are writing in, even as we speak, to contribute their own serious notions regarding the issue of weather control by detergent selection.

To her, this is evidence that our educational system has completely, but completely, failed us. Schools no longer appear to be teaching basic mathematics. What part of 'one part per six point seven billion' do these people fail to understand? Do they honestly believe that their one-six point seven billionth non-contribution of phosphate or chlorination to the terrestrial environment will be the butterfly wing that tips the balance, that causes the glacier to retreat or the hurricane to subside? To say nothing of the fact that the phosphates and the chlorine were ALREADY THERE TO BEGIN WITH?

Furthermore her hero, her old buddy Cary, has failed her. Cary suggests that instead of focusing on weather control by detergent, Good Citizens everywhere ought to re-direct their energies toward weather control by Politics. That is, in extending their own neurosis forcibly worldwide.

Pretty Lady has made her opinions upon Global Warming very clear; she is convinced, by disinterested and retired scientific authority, that Global Warming is Not So. One has only to look at the graphs, so thoughtfully produced by the reigning Scientific Establishment. These graphs demonstrate an exponential rate of climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, occurring in the years after which, by their own account, there will no longer be any fossil fuels to burn.

(If anyone wishes to engage in a private discussion with an expert on the subject, please contact Pretty Lady personally and she will provide you with her Daddy's email address. Dear Daddy, being linearly-minded, has been too preoccupied with his researches to get a website up and running.)

No, to Pretty Lady's jaundiced eye, the whole international Global Warming flap smacks of Lies and Corruption. And where there are Lies, in Pretty Lady's experience, there is Evil.

The question then becomes, where is the Evil coming from? Whose agenda do these lies benefit?

This is an open question; wiser heads than Pretty Lady's may speculate upon it. What has distracted Pretty Lady's pretty head at the moment is that 'world population' figure she so casually referred to above. It triggered a sort of connection--many of those neurotic dishwashing persons testified to a sort of tangential concern about planetary overpopulation, she seems to recall.

Pretty Lady, shockingly, is not greatly concerned about this issue, either. For it strikes her that the best way to curb global overpopulation would be to kill everybody, and global populations seem to be moving right along with this task, judging by the news reports that penetrate her sanctum with distressing frequency.

No, what truly concerns Pretty Lady is a lack of Love in the world. For if one truly loves oneself, one will treat oneself well; one will not utilize toxic substances in one's home with determined regularity, or dump noxious fumes into one's air. If one truly loves others, one will stop and smile, wish them a good day, and listen to their personal concerns, before moving to either control or murder them. And if one loves one's planet, one will plant a garden.

Because it came to Pretty Lady's ears, through the radio the other day, that somebody has actually offered a large reward to the scientist that comes up with a mechanism for removing greenhouse gases from the air. And Pretty Lady has done so. Plants! Plants remove greenhouse gases from the air! Greenhouse gases are splendid for plants! That's why they're called 'greenhouse gases'! What an ingenious thing!

Pretty Lady can't wait to get started.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Pretty Lady's Ten Best Dates of All Time

Pretty Lady just received the unwelcome reminder, courtesy of a client of hers, that Valentine's Day is almost upon us. This particular client has been known to Get Fresh, and Pretty Lady was forced to cut him down pretty sharply. She has never been a big fan of this 'holiday,' corporate construction as it is; she once drew a comic entitled "The Evil of Valentine's Day" which was published in an obscure 'zine called 'theoryslut', back in the mid-nineties, and her opinions have not significantly altered since.

However. It occurred to her that this is an unproductive attitude. Valentine's Day is not inherently or exclusively evil; it is, like most things, what one makes of it. Pretty Lady was then going to make a large and glorious Valentine, which she intended to distribute impartially to everyone in the world, via the Internet. But this plan was dashed when the grocery store proved to sell only the most inferior sort of paper doilies.

So instead, Pretty Lady has decided to wax nostalgic, and present you with her personal recipes for her ten best dates ever, more or less. It is to be hoped that you will then be inspired to share such blissful occasions with your own personal sweetie, and Pretty Lady will sleep in peace, knowing that she has not heaped another whopping dose of negative karma upon this benighted holiday.

10. The Valencia junk-shop troll.

Ingredients: Valencia Street between 24th and 16th.

Start at 24th; peruse every antique, thrift, junk and used bookstore until 16th. Discuss which items of exotic furniture would be appropriate for the theoretical industrial loft warehouse you intend to occupy, in the uncertain future. Conclude with tapas at Picaro's.

9. The all-night avant-garde film dialogue.

Ingredients: Two-dollar balcony seats for pretentious film at Hogg Auditorium; skateboard; all-night coffee shop.

Make sure you get the front row balcony seats, so you can prop your feet on the ledge and watch the bats fly around. After the film, skate downtown and order a bottomless cup of decaf and cheese fries to share. Argue about esoteric philosophy until 3 AM.

8. The Manhattan Jazz Standard.

Ingredients: Round corner table by the piano at Small's; one bottle Booker's.

Be sure to consume the Booker's at a rate wherein the experience of the jazz is slowly, gracefully heightened, not brutally obliterated.

7. Manhattan: The Works.

Ingredients: Whoa, nelly.

Start with Ethiopian food at that place in the Village which is below sidewalk level. Get a carafe of honey wine to share. Move along to that bar in the Village which has couches facing the sidewalk; have a Manhattan or two. Take a cab to the Algonquin, and have a couple of apple martinis while hammering out the plot and cast of a screenplay entitled "Drunken Angel." Take a cab to Chelsea and visit an impossibly hip club, just so you can say you did. Leave after half an hour, because that last bit was really Too Much.

6. Tahoe ski weekend.

Ingredients: Two weekend lift passes to Heavenly Ski Area; reservations at the Lazy S; cooler full of goat cheese, caviar and Jim Beam.

Drive three hours, get onto the slopes even though there's not really enough light left in the day, return to motel, consume goat cheese, caviar and Jim Beam, swap massages. In the morning, enormous breakfast at Denny's, ski blue slopes until dark, go for cheese fondue. Repeat the next day; drive back to San Francisco and collapse. It is very important that this be undertaken without much premeditation.

5. The New York winter unemployment special.

Ingredients: two bicycles, motley and faintly ridiculous warm winter garments, one trans-East-River bridge (Brooklyn and W-burg most aesthetic.)

Awake at the crack of a bright winter noon. Don long johns, jeans, sweaters, boots, wool thrift-store jacket, scarf, hat and gloves. Mount bicycles and cross to the East Village. Park outside the Lotus Cafe and order coffee, orange juice, and bagel with cream cheese, olive paste, and roasted red bell peppers. Nab corner table between window and bookshelf; select reading material. After 1 1/2 hours, re-traverse bridge and go back to bed.

4. South of France food tour.

Ingredients: two round-trip tickets to Paris, one rental car, 1 pair running shoes, 1 swimsuit, family in the Midi-Pyrenee.

Fly to Paris, stay with Herve 4 nights. Consume Pastis, go out for Moroccan food, crash. Wake after 4 hours and repeat. After 4 days of this, rent car and drive toward random adorable village; find best restaurant and order local cuisine. Go running every morning, or swimming in local rivers, so as not to gain 100 lbs. Repeat every day for 1 week. Stay with family 1 week, spending vast majority of time á table under the tilul tree; drive to Montpellier to visit friends, then Nice, where Reg has his cottage, that bounder. Return via Paris after 3 weeks. Or not.

3. The Home Depot.

Ingredients: 1 trashed, vacant storefront; 1 van; Home Depot; sushi.

Get in van, drive to Home Depot. Purchase caulk, caulking gun, primer, paint, tinting colors, rollers, sandpaper, tools, light fixtures, hardware, houseplants, and planters. Return to vacant storefront, deposit purchases. Go out for sushi.

2. The post-tequila-binge hangover cure.

Ingredients: two tequila hangovers, 1 van, 2 mountain bicycles, mountains, 1 hole-in-the-wall stew joint, 1 video.

Drag selves blearily out of bed, pack bicycles into van, head to hole-in-the-wall and order beef stew, tortillas, hot salsa, Pepsi and lime. Consume. Drive van to 20K mountain biking trail, deserted except for hungover selves. Complete entire trail to Santa Rosa and back. (Alternatively, hike deserted Spanish ruins in rain.) Return to bed, play video, take naps.

1. The all-night music exchange.

Ingredients: 1 bottle Chivas, 1 pack cigarettes, 1 record collection.

Take turns playing favorite tracks while consuming Chivas and cigarettes. Talk about everything, everything, everything. In the morning, proceed to #2.

Bonus: Go to grocery store. Buy ingredients. Go home and cook them, while drinking good wine and talking about everything, everything, everything. This can be repeated indefinitely, anyplace in the world.

Rant interrupted

Pretty Lady was just about to go on a rant about the pandemic immaturity of modern relationships, and persons who are unable to negotiate reasonable boundaries without maintaining complete and total control; she was also going to go into a tirade about 'activity partners' being a different thing entirely from 'life partners.'

But she was so foolishly pleased to note that her letter made it into "Editor's Choice" at Salon, that she will calm down, and write about her Ten Best Dates instead.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Breaking Scandal

At a party yesterday evening (happy birthday, S. and E!), Pretty Lady was shocked to discover that a former client of hers has succumbed to a Life of Crime. There appears to be little doubt; the lady has Disappeared, after accepting cash advances upon the alleged sublet of her New York apartment, from two or three different individuals. Her downstairs neighbors interviewed the hapless would-be subletters themselves.

Pretty Lady can only imagine the panic and desperation that led to such an extreme action. The lady in question is a rather well-known journalist; her career is undoubtedly toast, even should she have the chutzpah to go the Jayson Blair route, and publish a memoir of her criminal escapade. Moreover, as soon as she telephones her editor, this editor will be morally compelled to Turn Her In.

She is undoubtedly in South America by now; by Pretty Lady's calculations, the maximum cash she could have obtained under the sublet pretext is roughly $20K. This sum will last her four to five years in South America, if carefully husbanded in the proper economy. What will she do then? Being unable to earn a dime under her professional name, or to take advantage of the career contacts she spent so many years accruing?

Obviously, she will have to assume an Alternate Identity. Pretty Lady, being an aficionado of Thomas Perry novels, has some notions of how this is to be done. She must obtain a false passport, or other form of identification, and construct an identity around it. She must obtain credit cards in this name. She must alter her hairstyle, and other signature elements of her personal appearance. She must find a new career, one that is not remotely connected with journalism. Perhaps she could go into healthcare, or ecology, and work with blind children in the rainforests.

It is a terrible pity that the lady did not get in touch with Pretty Lady before disappearing. She could have provided herself with some useful contacts, South of the Border, and some grounding words of caution. Such as, do you really think this is a good idea? Really?

But, sadly, Pretty Lady suspects that the root of the problem was simple bashfulness, as well as a dearth of familial support network. It is a terrible thing, to be a bashful journalist. It makes one's row exceptionally difficult to hoe. It causes one to hole up in one's unpaid-for New York apartment, growing increasingly desperate in one's isolation, as one's bank account drops inexorably into the red.

Pretty Lady's heart bleeds, of course, for the persons who are now out several thousand dollars, and have no place to live. But her heart bleeds equally for her erstwhile client. Oh, what a tragic world we live in.

P.S.: When subletting an apartment in New York City, make sure to get a working key and a written contract BEFORE handing over the cash. Duh.

P.P.S.: The apartment is still vacant.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

True Class

Yet another lovely lady of Pretty Lady's acquaintance has just informed her circle that she is struggling, quite gracefully, with cancer. In Pretty Lady's view, she epitomizes the manifestation of 'seriously incredible lady who just happens to have a teensy-weensy trivial sort of illness, temporarily' rather than that loathesome term, 'cancer patient.'

In fact, Pretty Lady doesn't believe in cancer. She doesn't believe in heart disease, or diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, either. Oh, she knows that these things sometimes appear to happen, in the bodies attendant upon the immortal souls of people she knows. But fundamentally, she just doesn't give 'disease' much credence. She sees it as a tiresome sort of lesson plan, like practicing scales.

However, something in dear Kate's blog caught her attention:

we talked of a lot of one point i said i was sorry that he had to have his girlfriend lose her breasts.
he said,you wouldnt get rid of a coupe de ville because you lost the hubcaps.
Pretty Lady is deeply thrilled that darling Kate has a True Gentleman by her side, during this tedious ordeal. It gives her hope that True Gentlemen are not extinct; that class, honor, love, loyalty and the ability to see beyond the surface of things are yet triumphant, despite the prevalence of utilitarian narcissism that infects our world in general, and New York City in particular.

Pretty Lady is not even going to link to the Salon article that gave rise to these dark thoughts. Or, well, maybe she might. It is good for a groaning sort of laugh, anyway:
Eric Schaeffer, a 45-year-old binge-eating, downward-dogging, recovering drug-addict hypochondriac with an online dating habit, a taste for happy-ending massages and golden showers -- and a hankerin' for a wife who wants to bear him three children starting in about five to six years.

...One woman wrote in asserting that her first date with Schaeffer was at a gym, and that he asked her to "fuck him in the 2nd floor bathroom." Other women testified to his obsessive need for personal compliments about his appearance, his habit of demanding oral sex and an AIDS test on first dates, and the fact that he is "the guy all my friends bring up when people start talking about online dating psychos."
Pretty Lady can attest that this appalling specimen IS representative of the sorts of creatures one is likely to encounter, when essaying the online dating scene in New York. She has not, herself, encountered Eric Schaeffer, being thankfully too mature to appear upon his radar, but certain aspects of his character have a certain eerie familiarity about them. The narcissism, the mutually contradictory requirements, the shallowness, the self-absorption, the flealike attention span, the cluelessness, the stupidity, did she mention the narcissism? The narcissism.

Despite her avowedly terrible taste in men, Pretty Lady's taste has never sunk to these depths. Whenever she encountered an Eric Shaeffer-like entity on the end of her line, she cut the connection, usually within fifteen seconds of the initial contact. But, depressingly, there are an awful lot of them out there. Pretty Lady has sworn off online dating, these four years or more.

This is why she is so pleased for Kate. It restores her faith in the order of the universe, that a lady who needs and deserves an increasingly rare gentleman in her life, is not lacking one.

Smart friends

Pretty Lady just loves it when friends of hers succumb to her enthusiasms and start blogs of their own. She gets to show off how smart they are, and what good taste she has in friends.

Many parents, understandably, try to protect their children from failing, from stumbling, from risking embarrassment or discomfort. They want to teach their children how to do things right the first time, to help them succeed -- just as I did. And with school curricula crammed full of ever-increasing content, teachers rarely have the time to allow their students multiple attempts at trying a new skill, before the test or assessment that passes final judgment. Students get one shot at it, with people watching, and their fate is sealed: they are good at making pancakes, or bad at making pancakes. Good cooks or bad cooks. A-students or D-students. With no motivation to try again, to change their strategy, or improve their skills. But it doesn't have to be that way.

One of the most interesting, and counter-intuitive findings that has emerged in several different program evaluations that I have done... is that students enjoy learning more, and end up producing better-quality work, when they are given the opportunity to fail, and learn from that failure, before the official test or assessment.

Fortunately, this is an opportunity that we can provide for ourselves:

Fail early.
Learn from the attempt.
And try a new strategy.

Pretty Lady has long been a student of this process. Whenever she succeeds at something on the first attempt, it veritably bores her; she immediately moves along to her next dramatic failure. Oh, the conflagrations that have attended Pretty Lady's path to success! Or rather, her path along a varied and interesting life, one that she shall not have regretted, once the time has come to assess it.

Politics as usual

Or not as usual. Pretty Lady, in general, abhors politics, as her dear friends well know. But really. She just had to make a teensy-weensy little comment.

From Salon:

Edwards said, "I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word."
Pretty Lady's comment: Of course it was.

Really, people. Let it never be said that Pretty Lady does not Know People. She likes people, of course; she befriends a great number of them. She pays attention to her friends and acquaintances, closely, over periods of years, even decades. She asks them questions; she listens to the answers. Moreover, she pays attention to what is not said, and the unspoken implications of things that are said.

And it is her firm conclusion that these girls fully intended to malign people's faith. It is her position, moreover, that there is a large contingent of persons who consider themselves 'liberal, tolerant and open-minded,' whose tolerance stops short if the toleree is white, religious, and has an income above the poverty line.

Although Pretty Lady's income is, in fact, not above the poverty line, she has experienced the brunt end of this brand of liberal intolerance, upon more occasions than she can count. Well she knows and understands the Awkward Silences, the rolling of eyes, the rapid changing of the subject when Matters Spiritual arise. Well she recalls the acerbic comments, the desperate finagling, the Gaping Blind Spots in people's consciousness.

This sort of thing goes far beyond a mere lack of interest in religion, spirituality and the like. It goes beyond secular humanism; it goes beyond unhealed Wounds from Childhood. It goes beyond politics, beyond unconsidered, knee-jerk reactions. It is full-blown, active, wilful denial.

For if it were simply a matter of a difference of opinion, why would the subject be so utterly taboo to discuss? Why would a disinterested, attentive demeanor be so impossible to project? Why would questions never be asked? Why, instead, has Pretty Lady been subjected to decades of interruptions, angry outbursts, irrational rants, patronizing misunderstandings, and wilful re-casting of her most diffident comments, regarding the spiritual matters which are her center of narrative gravity?

Pretty Lady's theory is that her friends rather like her; they like her enough to wish not to actively malign her faith to her face. With faceless strangers, they feel no such constraint. There is simply no other explanation for it.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Thank you

darlings, for your care and concern. Pretty Lady is okay. She has just returned from the Memorial Service, and has not been near a computer for a week. She promises to write soon.