10 October 2009

Mind the Gap - Part One

This may take a while. I've thought about this blog entry for a week, and decided that I would just start writing it, and give you control over what you read and when.

I've been minding gaps lately, and found that my life is full of them. Not all bad, not all large, but full of gaps. My writing is a big one, as you might have noticed. But life happens in the gap, and whether or not the tales are told, stories happen in the gap. I urge you, Reader, to mind the gaps in the story ahead. I hope that you will see my learning in the gaps you find (and they are many, and perhaps more obvious to you than to me, alas).

Earlier this week I came home from my vacation. But as the Reader (if any such creature still exists for this blog) may remember, this was no common dream vacation. No sun-swept beaches for MY dream vacation. No grass huts over still waters (funny, I dreamed of sharks last night...).

You see, I've dreamed of castles since I was little. I used to draw them endlessly: turrets and battlements, drawbridges, high lonely towers with windows facing the stars. In high school, as I began to fear what my future had in store, I perched those castles in clouds on those ivory sheets of paper. Castles in clouds became my symbol, and I even made gifts of them--fantastic fortresses drawn from a blank page and sent gliding over to my friends and family, to anyone who saw that they were dreams, and who wanted one for their own.

So the decision to visit Dalhousie, ancestral home to my Scottish family, was no ordinary vacation for me. It was heavy with meaning--connection to family (with which I am sometimes clumsy and often awkward); the fulfillment of a lifetime goal (I don't have that many, really); a romantic getaway that I was embarking on alone (one of my greatest fears which, dear Reader, I embark on every morning when I get out of bed). But it was most of all the realization of a dream. Literally, I would--at 31--put a foundation under those castles I drew when I was little (and then not-so-little). I'd bring life to those visions in stone, and turret, and battlement, and crenelation, and rolling fields and forest. Only it wouldn't be a fantasy any more. It would become a memory.

No one understands this gap between dream and reality better than Diabolina who, along with Lawyer X, helped me pack. But more than help me pack, Diabolina grounded me that evening when I was afraid (though my fear presents itself in more subtle ways now: as distractedness, and irritability, and control). With great patience and a pretty overt metaphor, she patted this crow on the head, tossed things around a little in my nest, and helped me prepare me to take wing.

Fortunately, since I was travelling alone, I resolved to do it MY way, and if Sable Crow flies solo on a dream vacation, then he does so from the front of the plane.

With enough room for a foot stool.

And with champagne.

My journey took me through London, a city I've always liked but never loved. London is like L.A. in some ways--much bigger than I imagine or remember, and it can be difficult to navigate if you don't have a guide.

On arrival in London, I marvelled at the LA weather: low 70s, not a cloud in the sky, GORGEOUS.

I settled in for a weekend with good friends: a model, a tailor, a rockstar.

(Up next: London and then the castle!!)

08 August 2009

Morning Edition

Good thing: Going to bed early.
Bad thing: Because you don't feel well.
Good thing: Getting a good night's sleep.
Bad thing: Waking up at 5:45am on Saturday, fully refreshed, and wondering what the hell to do on a Saturday morning before 6am.
Good thing: Weekend Edition on NPR, at 6am on Saturday.

Woke to Paolo Nutini serenading me in the early morning hours. Can't believe he's Scottish. His physiognomy is as good as his music. Sigh.

Need to get me one when I'm there at the end of next month.

What, Sable? You're going on vacation? Why, yes Reader.

I'm going to learn how to hunt with falcons at my family's ancestral home. A week in a Scottish castle. I can't wait.

Here's a picture:

Been obsessed lately with what awaits in the coming months: Scotland (and a couple of long weekends in London on either end) and Halloween.

Yes, dear Reader, Halloween, now only 3 months away, is just around the corner. And my obsession: sewing my own costume. But this Crow is an over-achiever. Is it a toga I want to make? No.

No, Reader, I want to be a Medici banker. An Italian Renaissance hottie. Which means I need the Renaissance equivalent of an Armani suit. And my inspirations?

Why, the hotties of the Renaissance, of course.

Now, off to a 60,000 square foot fabric store downtown!

27 July 2009

Share Crow

From this morning's NPR, as I drove into work. Happy happy happy.
Sable Crow...

The Crow Paradox
by Robert Krulwich

July 27, 2009

Here's a surprise: Wild crows can recognize individual people. They can pick a person out of a crowd, follow them, and remember them — apparently for years. But people — even people who love crows — usually can't tell them apart. So what we have for you are two experiments that tell this story.

First, how do crows tell us apart? Watch this video.

Now, our second experiment. On you. There are crow scholars who raise, study, and even live with a crow. But once that crow flies off and joins a group, these researchers say they can no longer tell their crow apart from the others.
So let's see how well you do:

Crows have this uncanny ability to tell one human from another. And they'll hold a grudge if you do them wrong. But can you tell one crow from another?
Interactive: Crows Can Do This, But Can You?

Listen to the Story
Morning Edition
[7 min 49 sec]
Add to Playlist

If you want to hear researchers describe what it's like to alienate a crow, and then be razzed and harassed by its family and neighbors wherever they go — tennis courts, ATM machines, parking lots — listen to our radio story. We'll also tell you how unbelievably long a crow can keep a grudge.

26 July 2009

Men that strove with Gods.

Spend enough time in Los Angeles, in my case 15 years this August, and you will see many things. If you are smart, or clever, or beautiful, or cunning, or cruel, this great city has much to offer. It is also, for that same reason, treacherous.

I went to an amazing pool party today. It was in a beautiful house overlooking the city, with a beautiful pool filled with beautiful men. So much to look upon and to behold and to desire. Driving down the hill, back to the quiet murmur of my apartment (the neighbors, the traffic on Sunset, the hum of summer air conditioners in the courtyard, the distant drone of a helicopter), I was thinking about a guy I met just before I left the party--one that stopped me short, as if I were stunned, and transfixed me with his eyes as he spoke. I am rarely speechless. I am rarely stunned. I was both with this one.

But this is not his story. This story is for you, Dear Reader. And long waited for. I began to think on that winding, canyon road about the uniqueness of this city. I thought of Elk Grove, where I spent my childhood, so far away from here--further in culture and spirit than in miles--and I tried to imagine how I might explain how I see this city after 15 years. (It's not fair to say I grew up in Elk Grove. I did not. I spent my childhood there. No, as you will see, I have grown up in Los Angeles.)

Summer in Los Angeles: So much beauty, and so much wealth, that it distorts the world around it. If you have never been to a pool party at a Hollywood home, populated with the most beautiful specimens you have ever seen, you might not catch the subtlety of what I'm describing.

Imagine for a moment a world where only models get noticed--for the standard of beauty is so high that only models stand out against the general backdrop of generally handsome people (Sable Crow?). Imagine for a moment a world where only the very wealthiest are seen--for there is so much wealth that making a good living (more than enough to care for a family, let alone a couple) pales in comparison to multimillion dollar homes and their attendant vacations, and lifestyles, and accountrements. Imagine for a moment a world where only the most famous names are remembered--for there are so many directors, actors, visionaries, celebrities, and heirs that the accomplishments of a simple life are outshined by names writ in lights on a screen, five feet long and luminous. And finally, imagine a world where all of these compete for attention, and where there is no convenient class structure to keep everyone in their place.

I have seen more of wealth and beauty and power than most will ever see in their lifetimes. I have seen more of greed and love and salvation and need than I can describe. I have driven in a shiny black convertible past homeless people suffling down sidewalks. I have helped to save lives. I have watched friends die--sometimes quick, and sometimes slow. I am 31. I have bummed cigarettes off famous people, not because I smoke, but because it's what you DO when they offer and smile. I have strolled the halls of mansions worth tens (once, one-hundred!) million dollars. I have shared dinner and a show with models so handsome that their beauty is like a sun, which casts the flattering light of a promise: you can have this, too.

To navigate such waters as these, around such deep and tempting pools, is a practise no less difficult than yoga--no less challenging. To be so close to wealth and beauty and power--to have it at your fingertips...so close...can be maddening. Few survive this town. I mean really survive. Most are drawn in like moths and scorched and sent back whence they came: to Idaho, or Israel, or El Paso or Elk Grove. Some perish into drugs or sex or greed.

If you close your eyes at one of these parties, at one of these houses, filled with hundreds of these people, you can almost feel the patterns of distortion around you: the charisma of that star, the seduction of that mansion, the gravity of that producer. It is a social topography that is invisible to most people: peaks, valleys, crags, and sometimes endless plains.

Perhaps you'll be surprised to hear that I've been very happy lately. Work is good, and safe, and rewarding. I am careful not to say that: both because I am fearful that it will end, and also because I am fearful of the jealousy and resentment of others. It's so much more acceptible in this town (in this age of ours?) to say that we are miserable. It's so much easier to say to someone, "I really hate my job; I can't stand my marriage; I resent my house," than to say, "I'm really happy, and content. How are you?" It can be a social affront. So I am careful, Dear Reader, after all these years of depression, not to come off as TOO happy now. Not TOO satisfied. Never that. Not here. Not in Los Angeles.

It is this topography I describe that makes Los Angeles a hard place to find and keep love. For love, too, like money and beauty and power, is subject to the covetousness of others. It is buffeted by temptation and cruelty and betrayal. It is also difficult to spot: for rest assured that there is always some else coming through that door who may be a better partner (richer? more beautiful? more emotionally mature? a bigger dick? better able to understand me? more giving? less needy? Sure. All of these things. Just watch the door...)

It is hard soil, this City of Angels, for love to grow. I have been here since I was 16. The spirit of this city--for good or ill--is imbued into me. The ambition, the desire, the grace, the sorrow, the triumph, and the failure. I am a creature of these pools and decks and suntans and conversations and cocktails.

Dear Reader, I am reminded of an episode of Sex and the City, where Carrie calls a veterinary clinic abutting her apartment to compain about roosters, rescued from Bronx cock fights. When it's offered to put them in the basement, she hesitates. "Don't worry" the vet assures her, "they have very good lives."

Don't take my writings as an indication that hope is lost, or that love is forsaken. Neither of these is true. For if Los Angeles is anything, it is a city of dreams. It is a city where anything is possible: where a kid from Elk Grove can have, for just a moment, maybe for a lifetime?, a taste of a life belonging to his betters--and never know that they are any different than he. It is a city where the wildest dreams are fulfilled in an instant, just as the simplest of dreams may never see the light of dawn. For to be a city of broken dreams, you must first be a city of dreams. To even think these thoughts, to have the time to write them--as I do now, tanned and shirtless in my cool apartment--one must already be living a good life.

Dear Reader, this rooster--this crow you are coming to know--has a very good life.

And this beauty I met poolside? This was tattooed down the side of his body, from a few inches under his armpit down along his beautiful side and vanishing into his low-slung swimsuit. We are angels, all.

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known,-- cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all,--
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
to whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,--
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me,--
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads,-- you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Ulysses - Alfred Tennyson

26 June 2009

The Long June

You know it's time for a post when you unthinkingly check your own blog to see if you've said anything recently.

13 June 2009


Last Friday I had lunch with a very special friend. An octagenarian, he is famous all over the world and has written songs that you've sung many times. When I met him and his lovely wife a decade ago, I was a green shoot in the money management world, with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and the confidence that I was equal to anyone. When I first went to his home, it was to help him on his computer. Next to it sat a Grammy; I had never seen one in person before. It startled me, and was like seeing a unicorn in that it was the tangible presence of something that had, until then, been mere legend.

That feeling was a prelude of the years ahead, when legends would begin to walk through my life, or stay, and turn to me for advice on what to do with the fruits of a lifetime of work. This is the burden and joy of my life; that this crow helps to carry the collected accomplishments of many people. I do not often share in the direct blessings of great wealth, but I am adept at shouldering its responsibility.

But this lunch, in the dining room of a country club (the clink of ice cubes floating in crystal glasses, the soft murmur of carefully-restrained conversation, the hard heft of a silver fork), this conversation was to be different.

This time I asked for advice. I asked for the advice of a writer, a wizard of words who has spent six decades writing. I asked him to tell me his story. I asked him about destiny.

I've been thinking a lot lately about destiny.

"Do you think," I said, as my fried ravioli were set down in front of me, "that there are things in life that are somehow meant to be? That there are pieces of our destiny that are unavoidable."

This dear man's eyes twinkled. It was the kind of question that can only be asked by the young to the old. It was the kind of question that only matters to the young, and can only be answered by the old.

"I think that may be true," he said. He then shared his story, his history, and how he came to be a writer. Drafted into World War II, he auditioned to be a writer for the shows that were put on for troops. He got the assignment, was stationed with some of the best artists of his time (in the military!) and began his journey down a path that would ultimately lead him to his own destiny.

"Did you know that I'm a writer?" I asked.

His eyes sparkled again, "No," he said.

"I stopped a while ago because it scared me, but I know that it's only a matter of time before it finds me. There are days when I can feel the need to write."

"It will find you," he said. "You're a writer."

Today, dear Reader, is one of those days. A day when the stories wake me like impatient children, prodding and nudging. This morning, I awoke with a set of stories fully formed in my mind, complete with questions that could only--that must--be answered by writing them. I awoke with the sense of being choked from the inside, as if I was trying--but unable--to cough or wretch or gag. My eyes watered; I want only to sleep. Let me sleep.

So these are the questions: What if you had made different choices? What parts of you would be the same, and which would be different? How? Would you be happier? Would you be less happy? If our lives are slab of marble (textured and solid!), where are the stress lines of destiny--where is it possible to break away, if only for a while? What parts of a person are immutable? What about the destinies of others; they must surely be affected by our own, individual destinies? And how do you recognize your destiny when you have found it? By what sign is it known?

And if, by luck or work or tragedy, you have found your destiny, then what power do you have to step away from it, to choose another path? Is it even possible? Would you want to?

Dear Reader, what choices have you made that have led you to the life you live, to reading this blog right now, to doing whatever it is you will do next? Where does the backdrop of your life blend with you, and what parts of you are just backdrop?

I Am The Comrade

Whoever You are, Holding Me now in Hand

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

Whoever you are holding me now in hand,
Without one thing all will be useless,
I give you fair warning before you attempt me further,
I am not what you supposed, but far different.

Who is he that would become my follower?
Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?
The way is suspicious, the result uncertain, perhaps destructive,
You would have to give up all else, I alone would expect to be your sole and exclusive standard,
Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting,
The whole past theory of your life and all conformity to the lives around you would have to be abandon'd,
Therefore release me now before troubling yourself any further, let go your hand from my shoulders,
Put me down and depart on your way.

Or else by stealth in some wood for trial,
Or back of a rock in the open air,
(For in any roof'd room of a house I emerge not, nor in company,
And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead,)
But just possibly with you on a high hill, first watching lest any person for miles around approach unawares,
Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea orsome quiet island,
Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you,
With the comrade's long-dwelling kiss or the new husband's kiss,
For I am the new husband and I am the comrade.

Or if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart or rest upon your hip,
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;
For thus merely touching you is enough, is best,
And thus touching you would I silently sleep and be carried eternally.

But these leaves conning you con at peril,
For these leaves and me you will not understand,
They will elude you at first and still more afterward, I will certainly elude you.
Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, behold!
Already you see I have escaped from you.

For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written this book,
Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it,
Nor do those know me best who admire me and vauntingly praise me,
Nor will the candidates for my love (unless at most a very few) prove victorious,
Nor will my poems do good only, they will do just as much evil, perhaps more,
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times and not hit, that which I hinted at;
Therefore release me and depart on your way.

12 June 2009

10 June 2009

The Joy of Less

For those of you attuned to the irony of my last post, I offer this: a balm.

This is what I've been asserting for last year; that the economic downturn would provide us opporunities like the dinner I enjoyed last night.

Some fancy restaurant? A concert? A cocktail party? A black-tie benefit?

No. A dinner at home, with the most perfect breaded chicken I've ever made, and friends dropping by to eat. Food and laughter and hustle and bustle and bed. All this after I'd been sitting at my therapist, dreading an impending feeling of loneliness and sadness.

Pride is this weekend. Another year gone. I think sometimes about the kid that sat in his room at 16 and cried, terrified of the future. Then, I was aware of a comforting presence, a suggestion that perhaps all was not lost. Now, I send love and healing back to that past-self. I am my own Ghost of Prides Future.

What would I tell him, I demanded of my shrink. Brace yourself for a long haul?

But that's not fair to either of us. Not fair to either the past or the present me.

I would still tell him what I told him then, and what I tell myself now: Be patient. Match your wants with your needs. Let the rest be unexpected joy. Love the journey. Try to be open, and try not to judge others or yourself so harshly.

And learn to make a damn good breaded chicken.

07 June 2009

Leaving LA

I have recently been considering the idea of leaving this city of mine, and abandoning this once-Golden State. Afterall, its livelihood rests on the shoulders of affluent taxpayers like me, not the mealy-mouthed many-childrened who suck at the teat of state resources.

There is precedent for this: Atlas Shrugged comes to mind. For those of you who haven't got the time to read a 1200 page novel, I'll give you a brief synopsis: The wealthy and entrepreneurial go on strike, leaving the world behind and establishing an utopian society where they live in harmony and--ironically--mimick a commune. They don't pay taxes, they have no government (what utopian society does?), and they have a big, solid-gold dollar sign in the center of their community.

Here's a short film that encapsulates my feelings about Los Angeles, and California generally.

16 May 2009

The Return of the Crow

My Dear Reader,

Hello! I hope you've been well. I've been very busy beating myself up. It's funny how so much time goes by, and recently I've had some things going on around me that have reminded me of something very important: My life is passing each and every day, and it's up to me to embrace it now before more of it is gone.

In light of that, I stopped with a friend today at an art fair in Beverly Hills. Now, this art fair is several blocks long, and I've been to it once or twice before. I used to work in the neighborhood, afterall, and my former building towers over the park where artisans of all kinds have set up tents filled with their work.

No biggie, I thought. We walk, we look for some paintings. I'm unlikely to buy anything...


Imagine my surprise then, Dear Reader, when I stumbled on a booth filled with BRONZE SCULPTURES OF CROWS. I'm not kidding. My good sweet friend, knowing me well, took one look at the gleam in my eyes, and said, "Um, I'm going to leave you alone."

Even another woman, who was talking to the artist, saw the look in my eyes and excused herself so I could talk to the artist myself.

Let me introduce you to Vicki! She's a former animator, who left the business a decade ago when it became clear to her that computers were the animation of the future, and not the paintings she had once known. And guess what!!!??? She LOVES crows, too!

I was like a kid in a candy store. I adored this!

Apparently, just a few minutes before, Michael Jackson had been looking at it, too. I guess crazies all think alike. F.

Vicki and this Sable Crow spent an hour chatting about why we love crows, how misunderstood they are, how misunderstood we are, and how much can be learned of humanity by understanding creatures that can fly.

She told me a lovely story of the night her parrot went missing. After a frantic search, they found him, and when he was back in her arms, he kept putting his head on her chest and saying, "Good boy, good boy." Astonishing. And let me remind you, dear Reader, that crows and ravens are smarter than parrots.

There were fountains, and free-standing sculptures, and table sized sculptures:

Vicki described the lost-wax process by which she creates her pieces, telling me of the foundries she uses and how much she loves her work. It was an extraordinary afternoon.

What's that? Did Sable Crow buy something? Patience, dear Reader! All will be revealed.

As I told Vicki, "I see this not as a single purchase, but as the beginning of a relationship." There is a long tradition of the relationship between artists and patrons. By the end of our conversation, we'd talked about a life-sized scarecrow that she dreamed of doing (filled with crows, of course!) and I'd told her of my hopes to buy a house soon, and promised to commission a fountain with two crows to grace my garden.

Now, as I sit back at my computer, returning to a writing that is so hard for me, I'm thinking about how much life is about the people we meet and connect with. The people whose stories we come to know. I'm glad you're interested in mine, dear Reader. Leave me a comment and share yours.

I heard a song this morning that I've listened to many times, but never HEARD. Sarah McLachlan covered Ordinary Miracle in her latest collecton album.

It's not that unusual, when everything is beautiful.
It's just another ordinary miracle, today.

I've been struggling so hard lately, dreaming so much (both metaphorically and literally) and have felt so distanced from my dreams. Last week, I had a board retreat for the Trevor Project, and we had a managment consultant come in and run it. (For investors in the Trevor Project, please know that while her services are very expensive, she donates them to us FOR FREE because she is so connected to our cause.) As I drove her to the airport, we talked about the way I'd been feeling lately, and she helped me to see that I have been suffering a kind of slow-motion shrinkage of my future.

Imagine, if you will, how I've always seen the road ahead of me. The road slopes steeply up, with rolling hills on each side. There are high forests ahead, and while the road curves and I cannot see where it leads, I have long been confident that the road was a good one, that my future was filled with increased possiblity, and that the journey would be worth the effort.

But for the last year or so, that road has changed dramatically. I seem to be chopping my way through thickets of brambles. There are thorns that cut my flesh. The road has seemed to slope down lately, and to have gotten narrower. In the story of the last year, the road has narrowed dramatically, and is sometimes hard to see.

So I have been living in a world of diminishing possibility for the first time in my life. For a person used to a parabolic, scary future, this narrowing of possibility is terrifying. That tomorrow will not be better than today--a fundamental belief of mine lately--is a terrible way to live.

For better or worse, I believe we make choices based on our perceptions of the world around us. Consider Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's video in the post below. Consider also her closing query: which side do you choose?

The revelation that I choose the path on which I walk--that I choose the way I perceive the world around me--is what I've been working on in my absence.

I chatted with Dr. Taylor the other day in my office. She reminded me to be careful about how I perceive the world. Our perceptions are powerful. She reminded me that, though the financial world (she didn't know about my romantic world) is in chaos and is filled with uncertainty, that I am safe, that I am loved, and that I am needed. She signed her book with a lovely reminder: "You are an angel in the world."

I promise that my silence has been no casual neglect, Reader. I do not abandon this digital garden of mine. Instead, I am struggling to see the world in the way I used to, to see my future as filled with possiblity--bigger than it is today.

The appearance of Vicki, for me, is a part of that struggle. I perceived her today as a kind of milestone, a marker on my journey and a reminder that joyful surprises and wonderful people populate my future. Those crows perched on wheels and grinders and fountains were more living to me than their feather-and-bone brothers. They were for me a symbol of my own progress, and nothing less than a sign that I am--at this moment with you, dear Reader--in exactly the right place.

And as for what I bought:

Vicki calls it: "Conversation Piece"
I call it: "Writing"

23 April 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

So it's late, dear Reader, and I need to sleep. But before I do, I wanted to give you a little prep for our next discussion. This is Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist who had something extraordinary happen to her.

Her story is powerful to different people for different reasons. But as the astute Reader will recall, I am somewhat hard on myself. For me, Dr. Taylor's speech below is a path that leads from a world where my mind never ceases to chatter about how I've failed to a world where I can again feel connected, whole, and happy.

For someone who lives almost entirely now in my left brain, I think I may have needed a left brain understanding of the problem in order to find some ray of hope--some inkling of grace in the ash-strewn wasteland of my mental and emotional desolation.

Anyway, please watch, to contextualize my comments, and perhaps you'll be kind enough to share what you think...

16 April 2009

Out of the Mouth of Babes

"Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger."
Psalm 8:2

This beautiful little angel goes by the nom de guerre of Davey Wavey. He's pretty extraordinary, no? Young, charming, and preternaturally positive. He's also a good reminder for this old crow that not everything is gloom and doom. There are still handsome babies out there making sweet video posts in their briefs.

Thank God.

For those noble souls who are still reading after my long pause, thank you. You've earned the capital R on Reader. I just haven't felt very insightful, clever, or particularly gifted lately. I'm working on it.

14 April 2009

Star Trek

Not much to say lately. In a pretty dark place.

Like space.

Like the final frontier.

21 March 2009

19 March 2009

It's All About Control

Tonight's prelude begins HERE.

One of my favorite shows, other than Battlestar Galactica (which ends tomorrow!!), is Damages. It's got Glenn Close, lots of drama, and it's essentially the story of a whole lot of people with control issues.

Lawyers are particularly good at control issues. Not surprisingly, the lawyers in this show find that they are most often pitched in mortal combat with business people--the only other discipline in our economic and social system that fetishizes control.

I am not a lawyer.

I'll be honest, though: I'm crazy about control. As Janet says: "It's all about control."

She's right. Control, or our lack of it--MY lack of it--is the permeating theme of this portion of my life. My Saturn has returned, with a terrible vengeance. And he left my childhood in his wake. My adulthood--these last couple years, let's say--have been about understanding what I control.

The illusion of control is something that my friends (particularly Diabolina ) have needled me with for years. According to their "wisdom", we have no control over most of our lives. We cannot control the actions of others, or how politics shape up, or how the economy progresses. We cannot control other drivers on the road, nor can we control what people say, nor can we control time, nor aging, nor the movement of markets.

To this I say: "Whatever."

I have made a monument to control in my heart. I seek it, and where it does not come naturally, I force it. When something important happens that is ultimately beyond my control (see Prop 8), I am sent into a tailspin, as I realize that the illusion of my control is in fact an illusion.

In a bitter twist of irony, the few things I actually CAN control (my reactions, my thoughts, my actions, my words, and even to some degree my feelings) are not controlled at all. This is simple: I spend so much energy focusing on the things I can't control that I ignore the things I can.

It is a viscious cycle.

Others have struggled with control. They are usually villians.

Scrooge controlled money, and didn't control the holidays.

Sauron and that damn ring were all about control, to his ruin.

Maleficent wanted control over a kingdom, but more importantly over other people's babies.

Dracula could control people with his mind!

Stalin, like the rest of the totalitarian dictators, wanted to control everything--especially how he was perceived.

We love to loathe controlling villians. They're so easy to misunderstand and so easy to hate. But generally, they are also pretty clear in what they want. But BEING controlled by others taps into our innate fears of losing our individual power. Though my friends have it right--control is often an illusion--control can often be all too real.

I can control whether I trade a stock or not. I cannot control the outcome. But that doesn't mean that I'm off the hook; afterall, if I've screwed up the part I CAN control, then there is all kinds of opportunity for beating myself up when it blows up in my face. There's also all kinds of opportunity for misery in bemoaning the things I can't control.

That's how the tyranny of control works; it distorts the mind, and convinces an otherwise rational Crow that the following logical path is true: There are things I can control; if I can control one thing, then I should be able to control everything; I can't possibly control everything; I must be a failure. The feeling of failure (I know it well) leads to a desire to control more, and the cycle perpetuates.

Like those Chinese finger traps, control is difficult to escape if you don't know the secret.

And I'll be honest, dear Reader, I don't have the faintest idea how to get out of this finger trap. And in a world like today's, that is making this Crow VERY unhappy.

The journey to let go of control is probably amusing to the outsider. It culminated last night with my return to the practise of yoga. Those of you who do yoga will know that at the beginning of each class, you are often reminded to "set your intention". This is your guiding thought for the hour and a half you will spend sweating, and hurting, and breathing, and trying to stay "present". My intention was simple: I'm going to be nice to myself for the next hour and a half.

Believe it or not (I hardly do), but I succeeded! The problem was that the moment shivasana ended, I was right back to telling myself some pretty unkind things, and berating myself for not having adequately controlled the stock market, the housing market, my family relations, my reaction to events, my reaction to all the things I hadn't controlled, et al. Pretty dark. So, I did what most poeple do in that situation: I found the closest people to me, and picked a fight.

Not bright.

On reflection, I think that much of this comes back to Janet, and to her assertion that it's all about control.

And as I bring this little blog entry to a close, dear Reader, I assure you: I'm trying very hard to learn about control before it gets...well, before it gets control over me.

05 March 2009

Roadkill Crow

See this poor crow? That's your Sable Crow today.

My major holding? Down 67% year to date. The good news: just kidding, there isn't any. I've been adding to it on the way down, which will probably turn out to be a good idea, but for now feels foolish.

A little like getting run over by the market.

I even went back to my staple, gray and black, after a fabulous weekend being styled by the incomparable Diabolina. Check out her version here. And my version here.

Even my normally stoic friends today had the need to call: "We need to be supportive of each other!" said one. "I just want to stop hurting."

And yet, the financial hurt we feel is anxiety, it's not even the actual hurt of catastrophic loss. There are people losing their jobs, and their homes, by the hundred of thousands. It's mind boggling.

Humans are the only creatures who suffer. By suffer, I mean to anticipate a future of pain. Other animals can feel pain. But only humans can create the temporal contruct of anticipating pain over future periods. It makes us crazy animals. Our egos get invovled, and in some ways it's like a Chinese finger trap: the smarter you are and the more you're able to envision the future, the greater your capaciy for filling that future with pain. Esentially, the greater your capacity to suffer.

This is not a very good side effect of self-awareness.

The market in these times is entirely driven by emotion. On balance, the market is probably ALWAYS driven by emotion. Ben Graham, who was Warren Buffett's mentor and the father of value investing (buying something for less than it's worth and holding it nearly indefinitely, until that "value" is realized) said that in the short run (and I'm paraphrasing), the market is a voting machine. But in the long run, it's a weighing machine.

The stock exchange is a metaphor for life. It has an emotional landscape (which, I'll admit, is probably lost on the men who populate that world) and it manifests our greed, our joy, our desperation, and our fear. We are now in the latter two.

As for me, I had no idea the market would get this low. I figured 7500 on the Dow. I was wrong. I was also wrong about GE. And of course WFC.

Hell, so was Warren Buffett, so at least I'm in good company.

I don't feel very fashionable lately. But that's not because I haven't been; it's just that I don't feel it.

This is a rambling post with little coherence and even less wisdom. Sorry, my esteemed Reader. It's uncharacteristic, but what do you expect from roadkill?

I haven't even gotten into the emotional core of the day, which was reconciling with an unsettled past AND watching what I could of the Prop 8 arguments via a shaky internet feed at my office (between gulps for air as I watched the market). It was an altogether trying day, and I'm thrilled it's nearly over.

But before I go, I have to give you this. I'm OBSESSED with bluegrass music lately. Not sure what it is. Something about all that loss and harmonizing. This one is my favorite, and makes me think about my weekend in San Francisco over Valentine's Day. And the band's name is Old CROW Medicine Show! Perfect!

My fantasy is to buy a house this summer, in time to host a Bluegrass Halloween party in my backyard. Bales of hay, white lights strung overhead, a live bluegrass band, bobbing for apples; it's my fantasy life right now. Others have their beaches, or their dance clubs. I think about Halloween.

And on THAT happy note, I'm going to bed.

18 February 2009


So, Mr. Armani posted some guest blog entries on the NYTimes blog, The Moment. Check them out, they're molto bene.

First Genius Armani Post

Second Genius Armani Post

Third Genius Armani Post

Final (alas!)

I learn at the feet of a master: designer, philanthropist, entreprenuer, visionary.

Not everybody likes him, but everybody wears him, or is influenced by his vision of the way the world should look. I adore.

Here's the new store on 5th Avenue. Delicious. One of these days, I'm going to post about architecture, and about my ongoing search for a house. Now THERE'S an epic story...

16 February 2009

A Pause

So, I have a friend--one of my best--who didn't talk to me once for six months. He later explained that he'd missed my birthday, and then was so afraid that I'd be angry that he didn't call me for a week because he was putting off dealing with the consequences, and didn't know what to say. The week became two, then six, and months became two, then six.

So I kinda know how he felt.

At first, I was in a crabby mood, and didn't want to write because it would have been snarky. Then life piles itself up, and before you know it, it's been a long time.

Those of you familiar with my blog will remember the first writer's block, which lasted a decade. Such is the stuff of our fears--it can attach itself to us so that we stop being able to see where it ends and we begin.

In the time since my last post, I've sunned myself on a Mexican beach, gotten rained on in San Francisco, and gone about living my life in LA. I've vented my anger at a childhood friend, and been reminded about the power of love and compassion.

The security guard at my building pulled me aside the other day with a shout as I hustled out of my office.

"Hey," he said. "I wanted to tell you something! Where you been?"

"That's what everyone's been wondering," I answered.

"Well, I was watching tv the other night, and there was this documentary on gay parents!" he said. "The old me would never have watched that kind of thing. I would've said 'This sucks' and gone on with watching some crap rerun. But I thought about what you'd said and found myself watching and, you know, gay people have a really hard time adopting kids!" He said this in the same tone you might tell someone about having discovered quantum physics, or cotton candy.

"I know," I laughed. "I've heard."

"And something else; I don't understand why these people can't adopt. I see some pretty shitty families out there." He leaned in conspiratorily: "I'll admit I didn't even want one, and suddenly BOOM! My girlfriend is pregnant. But I'm making the most of it. And then I see these people on tv having such a hard time. They spend like $60,000 for a kid if they want a white one and not a chinese girl! Normal adoptions cost like $20,000." Ethnic commentary aside, I was proud of him for remembering the numbers.

"But get this," he said. "My cousin came in while I was watching and was like, 'why are you watching this faggot stuff?' and I said to him, 'you're a dick' and he was like, 'that's fine, but I'm not watching this shit, it's gay' and do you know what I told him?"

"No," I admitted.

My friend the security guard raised his chin defiantly at me and replied: "I said: Do what you want, but you better hope you don't ever need help from no gay guy, because I'll tell him not to help you 'cause you're a bigot."

He nodded at me, as a way of reinforcing what he'd said. A kind of non-verbal, "so there."

I could have hugged him.

Then on the way to San Francisco this Saturday morning, I was talking to my Armenian cab driver about ethics, and other drivers, and anger, and otherwise loving people doing inexplicably mean things, and I--of course--brought up marriage equality. He was so excited about the topic, as if no one had ever been willing to discuss it; he was asking questions, struggling with his belief, asking for respectful dialogue. I won't bore you with the story, but let's just say that by the end of cab ride, he came around to shake my hand and introduce himself and thank me for speaking up.

It was 6:30 in the morning.

The lesson, dear Reader, is this: It takes only 30 seconds to incite fear, and to play to people's ignorance. But when dignity and compassion rule, those qualities can never be taken away. Yes, there are people in my life--MY LIFE!--who speak out at pulpits and tour buses against gay marriage. They play on fear and work to justify prejudice. And sometimes they win, even if just for a moment. They can get someone to act in fear, and anger, and revulsion.

But know this: When you speak from a place of love and you speak the truth, the consequences are irrevocable. It's no parlour trick to win votes; it's life-changing. A fire is lit in the hearts of those you reach, and they are never, NEVER the same. And they become advocates for compassion, and love, and fairness. They are not afraid. And the fire of love and respect spreads. THAT is power, my friend.

I've been bad about taking pictures, and I haven't talked at all about the economy or fashion lately. I'll say that the economy has been consuming altogether too much of my emotional energy, and I've chosen to limit its effect on my mood. So I'll speak on it when I can, or if you have specific questions. Ask anything, and I've got an opinion. As for fashion, I'm engaging Diabolina to do some consulting for me; even a die-hard fashion expert like me needs fine tuning sometimes and help to see my blind spots. I'll post the results, with pictures.

Her initial comments: "I'd like to see you in more colors."

God, this is going to be tough...

04 January 2009