Five Hearts beat as One

Some time back when in Ocala, Florida I told my brother-in-law that it had been years since I had been on a horse and how I enjoyed riding. Ironically at the time I was living in Las Vegas, home of the wild west and the cowboy. Since we lived in the isolated northwest, I’d see horses when driving, but riding there was out of the question. Sometimes I’d get out of the car and watch them from a distance, marveling at their trots. But there weren’t any stables and I didn’t know any horse owners with the exception of one student. However I didn’t feel comfortable verbalizing my burning desire.

As a teen I’d go with my friends to stables in Rosemead and we’d ride for an hour or two. I was fascinated by horses; powerful yet simultaneously gentle. There faster, bigger and stronger than we are, yet temperate enough to be a child’s friend. And they’re beautiful to look at. Best of all, I sensed that they understood what was going on with me; a silent communication that caused me to feel accepted and understood. I don’t know why I have this allure with horses, it’s a spiritual connection and when I’m on one, I feel I can do anything because they are magnificent animals, velvety and smooth and ever so gentle.

Ocala is a city where horses are bred, so my with brother-in-laws wide circle of friends and acquaintances, he arranged for me to ride. Making that event happen on my behalf was the best gift he ever gave me. It would be the last time I saw him since he passed on months later. But the memory of his generosity lives on.

Today I was reading how hippo-therapy ( from the Greek, “with the help of a horse,” ) includes equine assisted therapy, for the mentally and physically disabled, and veteran’s programs. Simply put, animals are an important and comforting presence for humans.

And I also found out that horses have five hearts, in a manner of speaking. The idea of four additional hearts refers to the action of a horses bare hooves expanding to accommodate blood when each hoof hits the ground and then contracts so that the blood is pushed back up their long legs as they move. It’s one of the many unusual anatomical phenomena of a horse that makes them so unique.

Love & Marriage

I’m one of those people who did not read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Last month, after seeing the film, I felt like I had missed out. However, it seemed like one of those pop culture experiences that appeals to just about everyone… but me. My taste is discriminating and these days when movie prices keep rising and plots get simpler and simpler, I pass on many films and opt for the pleasure and full-bodied experience of a read instead. It seems that one can either read the book or see the movie, but you can’t fully embrace both versions, because they’ll obscure one another. The advantage of my choice is that I enjoyed Fincher’s film on its own terms.

The book version of Gone Girl, I’ve heard, is a crime novel: an absorbing, ingenious thriller in which, halfway through, a big twist upends everything. The events in the book make sense; the voices, thoughts, and actions of Nick and Amy seem like they could belong to real people.

None of that is true of David Fincher’s Gone Girl.

Gillian Flynn may have written the screenplay, but the film is not convincing as a crime story. The movie crosses the thin line that divides genre fiction from postmodern fiction; and its violence is stylized. Gone Girl lets us bask in a traditional mystery, which feels like it’s building toward a solution, even while we enjoy the fun of toppling it over and watching the pieces fall where they may.

As in many postmodern narratives, the heroes and villains in the film aren’t people but stories. The film explores the positive and negative sides of each of whom must play both the victim and the aggressor.Laurence&Vivien The film is fascinating because it gets at what is unsettling about coupledom: our suspicion that, in some fundamental sense, it entails victimization. It raises the possibility that marriage and victimhood are inseparable, too. We understand that marriages that look respectable can hide a lot. At the same time, our concepts of masculinity and femininity—and of self, success, and freedom—grow less compatible with the compromises of coupled life.

The men’s and women’s magazines for which Nick and Amy worked tell us that our ideal selves are urban, single, attractive, with career freedom, without children, with plenty of time for friendships and the gym.

To be in a couple, is to be in a power relationship. And in power relationships, there are always winners and losers.

Gone Girl is especially good because it digs beneath concerns of freedom, exposing the irrational side of our fear of coupledom. And when you see your dark fantasies realized in the light of day, there’s something absurd about them. And there’s something shameful, too: it becomes obvious that they’re rooted, in narcissism. To be the victim of a manipulative madwoman, is to suffer, but it’s also to be special, a hero in your own way.

Gone Girl is a fantasy, and it takes place in a dream world, not reality. Leaving the theatre, you have to ask yourself how connected these ideas are in real life. And you can’t miss that it has resonated for a reason. It has found a confused, dark and troubling part of us, and expressed it.

Let me count the ways

I’ve never been one to miss a place. When in Rome has been my motto. When I first moved to Las Vegas I thought I landed on another planet. It was too isolating for my taste and I missed the social life I had lead in Pasadena. In part because of work and because of my husband’s classical singing. As a journalist covering the Arts and in Public Relations, I enjoyed the combination of writing by day and being social at night. I had the opportunity to chat with people once their guard was down and evaluate things intuitively, which gave me writing material, if I chose to use it.

Some family members thought I’d love returning to LA. The relationships I had with people prior to leaving just aren’t there anymore. Out of sight, out of mind. I’m fine with that since I know energy shifts and changes. It’s a universal law. On my return, there were no sounding bugles, no welcome mat.

The last two years in Las Vegas were happy ones. As I expanded my base, I volunteered for the Obama campaign, formed a book club, made connections by volunteering at PBS, spoke at schools, and formed a circle of comrades at the doggie park, so that we could watch each others’ pets. And there was Madhu and Baba, my wonderful friends who held Satsang. I was their welcomed guest speaker. When you know that what you have to offer is wanted, it gives satisfaction and fulfillment. And fulfillment is often times what a writer/artist/creative doesn’t get for stretches (months, and even years) at a time.

I know by the number of people who read this blog, although they don’t comment, that live in Las Vegas, this post if for you. I can’t count on Facebook since most who use it don’t understand “reciprocity.”

DoWrite.ContemplatingThis is what makes Las Vegas a city worth appreciating.

Distances are relatively close. Driving is a breeze and the roads are smooth, not filled with pot holes. Traffic warning systems are everywhere and have digital meters that gauge in minutes various exits.

Beauty. There are no ugly unsightly cables or telephone poles from the last century with dragging cables infested with bird remains. Instead everything is underground to make you appreciate the swaying palm trees.

Weather. Sure there’s a long summer with quiet AC’s. In CA many homes don’t even have an A/C! There is a winter minus the snow. I loved wearing sweaters and coats.

Cleanliness. There is no graffiti, everything works, and is well-maintained. I recall seeing sidewalks hosed down and freeway walls scrubbed. I am amazed at how dirty  (in need of paint, dilapidated, and bug ridden) everything in CA is. It’s plain filthy!

Space, quiet, privacy. If you want a home office, say the word. It’s the way people live, with space. And noise; you won’t find it in a residential area. Let your creativity soar in your private girl/man cave!

Customer service. Once you are known you get all kinds of perks. I had an on-going discount at Barnes & Noble. I could ask for a discount at the register at Macy’s and presto, 20% off. In CA, I ask for this and am looked at with disgust. Bottom line; no one wants to give you anything—given the fact that I’ve been a card-holder for aeons of time, employees won’t go the extra mile.

You get invited to “free days,” some of these include, IHOP, Golden Spoon (frozen yogurt), Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone, Chipolte, Mimi’s, Ceci’s Pizza, Einstein Bagels, and the list goes on.

Quality fine dining from renowned chefs. You’ll have to fly to New York or Paris to get that anywhere else.

Beautiful parks with lots of family activities. Currently the only park I have been to is Lacey Park in San Marino where there is an admittance fee.

Gyms are plentiful in Las Vegas, with top of the line equipment and staff cleaning all day, every day. In So CA I went to my Gym’s pool and nearly curled over from nausea when I saw a sign that read; if you have diarrhea, don’t use the pool.  I stayed away and could swear the water now looks brown.

Homes present comfort. My kitchen was big and had a island, a must for buffets, wrapping presents, unloading groceries, cutting out a pattern, doing arts and crafts. Granite counter-tops, two linen closets, closet space, a private WC, a pantry, broom closet, a separate laundry room, guest bathroom are the norm for most homes.

Educational facilities. Schools are rich with with current books, manuals, computer equipment, etc. No ghetto chain link fences like I see now.

Small-town feeling. Once you get around and get to know people the isolation sheds, you see the same faces at events and you become someone special.

Aveda Institute. No one need have bad hair in Sin City. The School offers their wonderful natural products with quality service that includes a head massage, with $15.00 cuts and 20.00 dye jobs. In CA it’s 110.00 for both. 

Cable. Cox Communications was not cheap but I could call and renegotiate my price for current specials. In almost 10 years, I had Internet problems twice. In CA, I have connectivity problems twice a week. 

PBS. Shows and the International selection were outstanding. In So Cal, the selection is awful with local shows from the early 2000’s and one staid commercial.

Parking is free everywhere. Valet is available and is based on your generosity. Whenever it was too hot, I’d use it and was treated like a Queen. Hospitality is key. During my CA absence parking meters went from 6 to 8PM, got a parking ticket in WLA for 65.00. Good-bye birthday money.

The Arts. The Smith Center which I swooned over, offers free parking and is a world class performing arts center . They offer deals on ticket prices. LA use to do that. No longer.  Arts are for the privileged few in LA.

Pet Control. No loose dogs on the street. You cannot adopt a pet without a chip-it’s mandatory. You also will get a bag of food, a temporary leash and have to sign a form that states you will never let your pet go w/o food or water. LV breeds responsible pet owners. You also cannot allow your pet into a dog park until they’ve been fixed. In CA there is not this level of respect or awareness.

So the next time you complain about life in Las Vegas, dear reader, hold your tongue,  go through my list and be grateful.  Your comparison city may or may not have some of my features, but my point is this- you won’t appreciate it until it’s not there anymore and things are better than you think. 

Forever young

I’ve spent the last year around kids and have observed the differences between children and adults. It’s no secret kids are happier beings; and one of the advantages about being around them is we get to relive the child within us. Based on re-creating that essence, I compiled a list on what I feel that we as adults have lost.

Kids are really good at enjoying the moment. Adults are addicted to thinking about all the things we have to do tonight, tomorrow, next week. Where you are is where the fun is.

In the Moment
In the Moment

Kids are constantly mastering new skills. Adults need to make it a point to continuously be learning something, anything.

Kids take risks all day long. As we mature, we tend to stay in our safe place. Your day will be so much more exciting if you expand into the unknown.

What do you suppose is in there?
What do you suppose is in there?

Noise levels. While adults find loud noises obnoxious, a child will dance to the rhythm of the beat. Seek out the symphony in whatever beat you hear.

Smile more. I once heard that children smile 400 times a day and adults, only 15. Smiling is the catalyst to having fun.

Notice nature. Every child is in awe of ants, birds, and dandelions. At some point, we become creatures of the concrete jungle. Allow yourself to be enamored by Mother Nature.

Rain & Nature
Rain & Nature

Climb things. As soon as they discover their legs, kids start climbing everything. There is something about being above ground level that is somewhat thrilling. Climb a rock. Climb a tree. You’ll feel like the master of the universe.

Way up There
Way up There

Embrace and find humor in your your flaws. Being self-conscious is stifling. Children bring more attention to their Buddha belly than an adult ever would and it makes them giggle endlessly!

Use your imagination. A child can get lost in a make-believe world for hours. Imagine riding an elephant in Thailand. You’ll have so much fun pretending that you might want to make it a reality—which leads to more fun than you can imagine.

Be unpredictable. There is no knowing what a kid will do next. Step out of your ordinary routine and you’ll feel liberated.

Be Unpredictable!
Be Unpredictable!

Create. Paint, draw, build, dig, write. Kids clearly enjoy those activities. Fun is being in your creative element.

Break the rules. Fun doesn’t follow all the rules. Neither do kids.Kids don’t let a day evaporate without making it fun. What are you waiting for?

Allure

la-coupole-0La_Coupole_-_Parisla-coupole-1

Last time I ended my post with dining in Europe. Today I thought I’d share one of the places I love most in Paris. In fact in 2010, when we had a delay in Paris, I convinced my husband to leave the airport and head there for lunch. In Paris, there is both an art and a science to selecting your café of choice.

La Coupole is a world-renowned cavernous spot with Art Deco murals that practically defines the term brasserie. It’s one of those places that people go to for two reasons— one, is the food, and the other experiential.

La Coupole serves hot chocolate made from Valrhona chocolate. Even better, they serve it in a pitcher with some creme and sugar on the side.

The other thing that endears La Coupole to me is that they are one of the few places left that pass the “two pitcher test” when I order a Grande Crème. A Crème is kind of like a cappuccino— but French. Unlike other places, at La Coupole they give you two pitchers— one of coffee and one of steamed, slightly foamy milk— when you order either a small or large Crème.

A cup of coffee with foamy milk on top, is not the same thing at all.

And that means, for the same price you’re paying for a coffee at another restaurant you get about 3 cups of coffee. That’s a deal in a country that doesn’t refill your coffee cup.

For lunch they serve the most exquisite seafood platters set high on a silver tray laying on a bed of crushed ice. It’s a feast for the eyes.

And the waiters present with such style, not to mention they are wearing a white tux jacket and black patent leather oxfords as they glide across the slick floor.

For dessert, they have a caramelized apple tart and offer profiteroles also made with Valrhona chocolate.

All of which leads us to the experience. It turns out that La Coupole is a pick-up joint for men and women of a certain age.

The last time I was there while waiting for my husband to return from the WC (which is down-stairs) I was watching men walk by, then walk back, then walk by again. I also noticed that the women of a certain age in the café were all sitting alone, well-dressed with high heels, with dark colored hair and red lipstick— were avoiding looking out the window…until the men did.

Then I noticed that some of the men would come in and sit down at the tables with these women. Being single for as long as I was, it didn’t take long for me to get it— the reason the men were walking back and forth was to see what was on offer among the women— and the women were there for the same reason.

Evidently, there is some kind of ocular code that occurs when the men are walking by and the women don’t look…then look…but do so in a very specific way that remains a mystery to me— but is clearly the key to when the men join them. It’s a pick-up parade and so very discreet.

So there you have it. The decision-making criteria you, too, can use as you choose your Paris cafe at the crossroads of Montparnasse.

Just be discreet. It is Paris, after all.

http://www.lacoupole-paris.com/en/the-legend-of-la-coupole.html

La Foule

The hubby and I went out to dinner the other night and at the Bar of the Restaurant I watched how men were trying to meet women. Nothing tugs at the heart strings like good old-fashioned nostalgia. It got me thinking about my own tales as a single. DarkShadows

In Studio City, I was in a diner eating lunch with a girl-friend and felt I was being watched but engrossed in the conversation my eyes didn’t dance around the room. Out of nowhere a messenger handed me a bouquet of flowers. I asked who they were from. He told me the floral shop was a couple of doors down and a man had given him strict orders not to divulge his identity. He suggested that I read the card. The hand-written note was flattering, and it included a local phone number, without a name. I hopped in my car and went home.

Many conflicting messages ran through my head —why didn’t the mystery man take the initiative? Was he afraid to approach me? Was he insecure and feared that I would reject him? Was he asking me to be the Alpha? Although I was intrigued and love a good puzzle, when it comes to men and women relationships I value honesty and a straight-forward approach.

As the day wore on, what began as a fun spontaneous gesture began to take a negative effect on his masculinity, at least in my mind. I began to feel uncomfortable, as if a game had been played so I dropped it. It didn’t feel right to keep the flowers, but I love them as a symbol of nature and beauty and couldn’t throw them out, so I placed them in a corner of the house were I wouldn’t be looking at them all the time.

As far as I was concerned, that was it. We had both been true to our convictions.

On another occasion, I was traveling in Paris, it was October and I was chilly waiting for the light to turn green.

Now, it’s important to know that there are rules for being a pedestrian in France. Once you look someone and catch their eye, it’s like a social call and you exchange greetings.

I didn’t say anything but saw a nice looking man, dressed in a sport coat, shirt and tie that make up a professional business look (it was Paris, after all) –smiled, greeted me and then made a comment about the weather. I smiled, greeted him, agreed about the weather and then the light changed. Walking there would be comfort, at last.

Now the streets are long and in the time we crossed the street, the man tried to make a move on me. He proceeded to tell me what he envisioned as our interaction, (X rated) and gave me all the details; what, where, how, when and why. While he talked he also was gesticulating in that oh-so French way.

For my part, I found it absolutely fascinating and laughed at his candor and script. Who’d have thought that I was supposed to be on the lookout for pick-ups by Parisian men waiting for the street light to change? But then, why not? They’re men and they’re French – which makes them, by default, charming.

But, even when I said I wouldn’t accept the offer, the French gentleman ended his monologue by kissing my hand.

It was lovely.

One of the things about Parisian men is that they truly love women. All women. Simply because you are a woman.

Of course there are rules. (They’re French –so there are always rules.) The most important being that you take the time to make yourself look good. Not necessarily for them or because you’re on the prowl. You’re supposed to look good for purely aesthetic reasons. Because it’s the right thing to do.

And when you make the effort, they really appreciate it. And men are more than happy to make sure you feel even better.

Even as a tourist, I’ve figured that out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgn8gZHJZzA