Monday, August 28, 2006

sunglasses at night...

Okay, let me confess, I am a sunglass junkie.

I cannot resist that new pair of sunglasses, that pair that, when resting perfectly on your nose and ears, renders you beyond cool. That pair that, when sauntering oh so casually down the boulevard, wraps you in a cloud of insouciance and hipness. That pair that boosts your confidence to levels unreachable with naked eyes. That pair that is, in a word, perfect.

Joy of joys, I have found that pair - the Prada shields, swirled just subtly on the side, fading from rich grey to pale smoke, lending the perfect air of mystery to every outing.

As to where? Well, certainly these glasses are available, ahem, "wherever fine glasses are sold," but I only buy my glasses, sun and otherwise, from one man - David at Opticali on Montana Avenue. He knows his stuff, his service is impeccable, and he's always playing good music - essential to any shopping experience worth having, don't you think?

If you're in need, or want, or just curious to see how these glasses will turn you from plain Jane to Agent 99, stop by Opticali - and tell David that G sent you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

bye bye chicken skin

I seem to have uncovered a big secret, which I didn't even know I was keeping... Amlactin moisturiser.

The secret I did know I was keeping was the yucky little bumps on my knees (and other places I am not revealing - ever). Amlactin, which you can buy online or in your local drugstore, works like a dream - bye bye bumps. By the way, it is my most awesome dermatologist who calls these bumps "chicken skin" - a technical term, I'm sure.

So for all you out there suffering from chicken skin - wherever you may have it - venture thee forth and buy yourself a bottle at once. Use once or twice a day, religiously!, and say farewell and sayonara to those pesky little bumps. And as an added bonus, you can also say adieu to those other obnoxious red bumps from bikini waxes - yes, the all-purpose Amlactin takes care of those too.

Fine print? Only that it is not the most delicately fragranced lotion, so use it where you need it, and use some lovely Kiehl's or Aveeno (I like their stress relief lotion, myself) everywhere else. Oh, and it is a bit sticky, so leave some time for it to sink in before you dress or get into bed.

Friday, August 18, 2006

It's not bad enough?

I'm not going to weigh in on who's right or wrong, or whose side I take, or what is just, justified, or justifiable, other than to say that, to me, terrorism must be considered the lowest, meanest, most reprehensible form of aggression and political 'voice.' And, as it is based on a level of unparalleled fanaticism and irrationality, it is also, as we have seen time and time again, the most difficult tactic to defeat. To paraphrase Tim Rutten from last week's Los Angeles Times: one side views death as a tragedy and the other — the terrorist organization — sees it as an opportunity. And how do you fight that?

There is nothing good about people being killed, buses bombed, homes and neighborhoods destroyed. Just to be clear, when I say "nothing good" I am talking specifically about the loss of life and devastation of lives. I am NOT, N-O-T, talking about the political, military or strategic gains that warfare may or may not accomplish. Not in this blog anyway.

Much of what I know about the horror of the current Middle East conflict I have learned from reading the paper and looking at the photos published along with the articles. So reading Rutten's article regarding doctored photos of Lebanon provided by war photographers to be published by Reuters and other news organizations was eye-opening and crushing. The reality and brutality of what is happening in the area is beyond words - photographs have an impact and resonance that communicate the horror in a way words never can.

But, and this is what slays me, what is actually happening is bad enough. Photographers staging photos to enhance their "dramatic effect" is a betrayal of the truth, and a further commentary, not that one is really needed, on the graphic saturation of the general public. I suppose that to compete with pictures of Shiloh, and Jennifer/Vince, and Suri (oh right, that one hasn't been taken yet) the pressure is on to create dramatic and compelling images. But, you just can't do that with war, with real life, because then it no longer is real life. It might be art, it might be fiction, but it is no longer photo-journalism.

There is supposed to be a responsibility honored by news purveyors (photographers, journalists, editors, publishers, et al.) to recognize their role to report and inform, and not to "create" the news. A responsiblity to uphold the unwritten contract between news organizations and their readers. Toward the end of his piece, Rutten points out that the American media is by and large ignoring this story, and that too is a betrayal of the trust placed in these outlets by us, their readers.

It is ironic that just yesterday, Jennifer Aniston finally made a statement exclusively to People Magazine regarding her non-engaged status, stating "When it starts to travel over into the 'Today' show and CNN and supposedly reliable and accurate news programs, then you just go, 'This is insane. People are getting fed a lot of bull.' The American people need to believe (the news). Please. Get it together!"

And she's right, the American people do need to be able to believe the news, and the images in the news.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Relationship saver...

Have you ever heard this from your partner (mate, significant other, resident pest, spouse, roommate, life partner, afterlife partner)? "Are you turning out the light soon?" when you're in bed and you happen to be reading a life-changing book or heart-stopping thriller or the current "O"? And you basically want to reach over and swat him (or her, or them) with your pillow?

I mean really - generally speaking, can't they snore and drool their way through anything? Movies, speeches, classical music, business meetings? But leave a bedside lamp on for 30 seconds when they are ready to go to sleep and you'd think you'd hired a timpani band to play next to the bed. Nonetheless, in the interest of peace, I have made it a personal quest to try out every little book light out there - honestly. And, equally honestly, not only were most of them a total nuisance, they never shed enough light, and certainly not where you wanted it.

But despair not - heaven sprung a leak. One light is so good, so easy, and so "why didn't they think of that before?" that I even use it when I'm ALL BY MYSELF! The LightWedge is perfect - it's not heavy, it doesn't have cords, it takes normal batteries - I don't care what they tell you, C and D batteries are a pain. Who ever remembers to buy D batteries?

So, if smothering your bed-partner is out of the question for now, get yourself a LightWedge and call it a night.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Small Big City

I traveled last Thursday. Normally, that's not such a big deal statement. I mean really, so what?

Well, apparently, while I was pre-occupied that morning with preparing the house for sale and packing, the rest of the world was tuned in to breaking news of Britain uncovering a plot to blow up transatlantic flights with bombs compiled from ordinary carry-on items, including peroxide-based solution and cameras or music players. See what you miss when CNN isn't on in the background?

Arriving at the airport, I was asked to remove all liquids and gels, including lipgloss, contact lens solution and moisturiser, and place them in my checked luggage. No liquids would be allowed to be carried on the plane - significantly impacting Starbucks' business in the terminal I would imagine. Each flight was subject to a second bag inspection, conducted on the jetway at each gate. Not surprisingly, my flight left an hour late. No worries, I had 20 lbs of magazines with me, and I was soon happily ensconced, browsing away.

Until there was a disruption at the front of the plane - a passenger who wouldn't stay in her seat. At all. Would not sit down in her seat with her seat belt fastened. This went on most of the flight, rather entertaining once we had been reassured by the quite competent flight crew that she had been judged to be cuckoo, but not dangerous. Still - cuckoo in flight on this of all days? And then, just about 20 minutes before we should have been landing, the captain announced that we although we are about 40 minutes outside of New York, and although we have already been circling in the air on orders from the JFK tower, we will nonetheless continue to circle.

An hour of circling ensues until we finally touch down, only to sit on the tarmac for yet another hour. You could be dead, I remind myself. The airplane could have blown up, I say silently. We are all safe. I keep repeating this to myself as the clock heads around to 12:30am, 1:00am, 1:30am. And frankly, it does help. Late is better than dead, at least in this instance. My grandmother always said she'd rather be dead than late -- but I think she'd make an exception here.

The taxi line - you cannot imagine. Endless and growing. I am standing behind a couple - she is very pretty with the kind of curly blonde hair you pretty much want to kill her for having. You know the kind - curly but not kinky? wavy but not frizzy? blond and silky, not dry? Damn her! Anyway, there they were, laughing and apparently unfazed by the late arrival, behaving the way you wish you and your boyfriend would, instead of being cranky and grumpy and argumentative. So of course, you hate her more.

The next night I meet some very good friends for dinner at A Voce, on 26th and Madison. As I'm walking up Madison, I notice the very same couple I had been behind in the taxi line - sitting and having drinks one table away from my friends at Tabla. I notice the blonde head even before I notice my friends. What are the chances of that? As Rick famously said, "of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world - she walks into mine?" But there they were - making me realize that New York City isn't that big really, after all.

As for dinner - I thought A Voce was delicious. It is the chef from Cafe Boulud (76th and Madison) - but terribly Italian, but light and interesting at the same time. We all thought the gnocchi with the lamb ragu was outstanding, but I had a ricotta cheese spread of some sort with perfectly toasted bread that was out of this world. I could have eaten a gallon of it.

And then, oh boy, and then... we hightailed it down to 8th Street and Fifth Avenue, where, if you don't know, some of the best gelato in town is served. Otto - Mario Batali's 'pizzeria' - is everything you want it to be. I've been there for dinner at a table, delicious. And Friday, I walked in and my friend looked around the bar and asked "is this a singles bar?" only half-jokingly.

But to my point, which is not picking up singles, but, not surprisingly, FOOD (are you beginning to sense a theme here?) - specifically, the olive oil gelato served at Otto. I could write a poem, an ode, an entire essay on this stuff. First, admittedly, it sounds disgusting. Agreed. But you couldn't be more wrong. Everything you love about ice cream? The richness, the creaminess, the salty sweetness? It is simply more so in this concoction. Second, it is the most addictive ice cream you will ever have, and I've been around the ice cream block. Though I still have Blue Bell ice cream from Texas on my list - but that's another story. Here it is in a nutshell: if you have only one night in New York - you have to make it to Otto for the gelato, and you have to try the olive oil gelato. That's it - end of subject.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Basta Pasta

Santa Monica, CA

okay, so I'm out to dinner the other night with a really cool guy, a screenwriter, and of course, we start talking about movies. All about movies, which, of course, I love (see and the envelope went to...? if you're in doubt). I could talk about movies for hours, for days, weeks, months...

We started the evening at Sushi Roku on Ocean, sitting at the bar; I'm not sure where or how the conversation began, or even which movie we were discussing, anyway, soon enough the bartender joined in, and he know his stuff - being from New York, he also had an opinion or two, go figure. More importantly, he made a stiff drink. What more could you ask for? Get this -- his name is Pasta. Honestly, I asked, and that's what he told me. Pasta. Don't believe me? Go sit at the bar an see for yourself...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Run, don't walk

So I have started to read “Eat, Pray, Love,” and you must run, not walk, to find it and start it and devour it. It is about a year this woman, the author, spent in Italy, India and Indonesia. Then again, perhaps it is so much a book I wished I'd written, about a year I wish to live, about revelations I am having and hope to have, that it seems to me to be the best, most perfect book, but perhaps it won't seem that way to you. And you'll wonder what the hell I am thinking, that I think this book should replace the bible in every hotel room. But I do.

Do you find that some books are narrated by someone you wished were your friend, who could be your friend? I remember reading “Good in Bed,” by Jennifer Weiner, and thinking by the fourth page (in case the first three pages were just some fluke) that this woman, this writer, this storyteller, should be in my book group. I KNEW her, her way with words, her tone, her inflection, her diction. I knew her sense of humor (damn her, funnier than I ever am). I remember reading this book slower and slower, because she was so much fun to hang out with; at the same time I was reading it faster and faster – she was such great company, I couldn't help myself. I remember saying "S#$%!" on the last page - because it was a perfect last page and because the story was over and because I missed her already. Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love” should also be in my book group. And going out for drinks with us. And on the other end of the phone when I’m having a meltdown.

“Eat, Pray, Love” feels like a 300 page letter to the principal explaining that G will not be in school today because she has to go follow her heart, listen to her spirit, pray to God. In fact, it is not clear when or if G will be coming back to school, as this trip is much more important and instrumental to her well-being, as well as perhaps to her growth, but growth is besides the point of happiness.

I am not so much reading this book as swimming in it, breathing it, sweating it out my pores. It makes me see my trip to Bali as if I were just putting my toe in the water -- is the temperature okay? Can I actually swim? Can I make it out to that little island that looks so far away? I knew I needed a break, and yet, at the same time, I had all these rules and regulations in my head: I can take a 'short' break. When I get back I'll 'buckle down.' A breather is okay, but then I'd better get serious. A vacation is okay - but not a major detour in my 'life path.' For crying out loud, who knows what my life path is? I sure don't. And frankly, I'm sort of tired of pretending I do.

This book, and Liz, the writer, is a giant 'get out of jail free' pass - she's a writer (hey, I'm a writer), she doesn't want what she's 'supposed' to want (I don't know what I want, but I'm learning to recognize what I don't). Most of all, it seems to me, Liz decided to take a journey, not to get somewhere, but to GO somewhere. (What a concept. Truly.) She took the luxury of attempting to talk to herself, and listen to herself, and ended up having the most wonderful conversations.

That's how the book reads to me - a record of the conversation she had with herself during this year she spent with I, in countries beginning with I (an irony pointed out, I must confess, by her early on in the book). And it makes me realize how long it has been, if ever, that I have had such a conversation with myself, let alone an ongoing dialogue with the one who should be my biggest fan and best friend.

And I haven't even gotten to her months in Bali yet; we're still in Rome, eating and learning to speak Italian. Which, all in all, is a fine old way to spend four months.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

the Santa Monica lifestyle - ain't it grand?

My roommate and I bought the most adorable cruisers from Nicole at Chubby's Cruisers - mine is the color of vanilla custard and has a wicker basket up front. Really, a wicker basket. It's ridiculously cute. I have to wear a white flowy dress and a sun hat when biking or I might end up being pulled over for not being as cute as my bike.

And so off we went last week, biking down the strand by the beach, weaving down to the Santa Monica pier, past Shutters and Casa del Mar, passing runners and rollerbladers, being passed quite speedily by helmeted bikers on sleek fast contraptions (my bike is cute, but it in no way belongs to the same genus as those 32 speed, aerodynamically engineered machines), and generally having a splendid time. We made our way down to the very end of the strand, finally stopping at the edge of Marina del Rey, looking across the water at the beginning of Playa del Rey, before turning around to head back to Santa Monica.

And yesterday morning, it was on the bikes and off to the gym. How amazing is that? I didn't have to get in my car, and go 6 levels underground to park - instead I hopped on my cruiser, sped off down Montana Avenue and cabled my vanilla custard beauty outside the gym for an hour or so. It was quite the feeling to walk out the doors of the gym - onto the sidewalk, mind you - rather than get into the elevator to descend into the bowels of the building after working out. Back on the bike, up 2nd Street, the wind against my face - really, could there be anything better?

And today, or maybe tomorrow, my big life plan is to cruise on down to the ice cream store and park my wicker basket out front while I mow down an enormous ice cream cone. Because how guilty can you feel, when you biked your own self to and from the store? Not very.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Never too much down time

Two weeks in Bali. Really, two weeks in Bali. Need I say more? This is a blog, so the answer to that is yes, probably I do.

The beach in Bali is gorgeous and breezy, but it is the interior of the country, riverside, that has stayed with me. It is extraordinary, lush and green and verdant - it feels as though you have been shrunk and are leaving within blades of the most beautiful grass. I never knew there were that many shades of green - sunlit grass green, deep emerald green, mossy wet green, pale jade green, translucent birch green, greens without words. The river rushing outside my room provided the perfect background noise – you know, the kind you see in travel ads, but then never actually see for yourself when you get there? Bali is the ultimate example of a destination that exceeds your expectations - surpasses the ads - makes your dreams come true. I defy anyone to go there with fantasies or dreams of their ultimate resort experience and not come away completely fulfilled.

I spent days in silence, sitting with a book, thinking about NOTHING. Which, after all, is not as easy as it sounds, even in Bali. When you try to think about nothing, to empty your mind, it is easy for the first 3, maybe 2 seconds. And then, WHOOM, thoughts come rushing to fill that void from every direction. Did I really need to buy those shoes? Should I have bought that dress? Does the skirt I wore last night make me look fat? I shouldn’t eat any pasta tonight. Boy the pizza at PJ’s was good yesterday. And all of a sudden, nothing is everything, and you might as well be home on the couch.

Suffice it to say, other than reading (I wanted to read one book a day, and I did) – I exercised my mind with nothing. I truly focused on not thinking about any of the worries and anxieties I had left behind and that were no doubt waiting for my return.

Getting to Bali is a commitment – there’s no question. But unlike many commitments, this one lives up to its side of the bargain, I promise you. I flew from Los Angeles, changing planes in Tokyo, and spending a brief night at an airport hotel in Hong Kong, before the last leg of the trip deposited me on the southern tip of Bali, to be greeted by a smiling woman in a green suit, who ushered me through all the processes and paperwork necessary to let me into the country. And then I was in a car, on my way to the Ayung Gorge.

From the slender bridge leading to mahogany stairs down to reception, from the pools of reeds waving subtly to and fro, from the 20 foot high ceilings, from the moment I arrived, the Ayung Gorge enveloped me in a sense of silence and peace unlike anywhere else I have traveled. Not thirty minutes after arriving, I was ensconced on my private patio, with a gingerade by my side, reading my first book. Later on, I meandered up to the restaurant, where I met Denny, the world’s best hotel chef, bar none, who was serving up a gorgeous spread called Rijsttafel, or “rice table” – a remnant of the days the Dutch ruled of Indonesia. Dish after dish arrived at our table, infused with spices and flavors and all served over Balinese rice, which is grown throughout the country, but only enough for local consumption – it is not exported.

Five days by the river, soaking up the greens and the water and the sun and the peace. Five days by the river, catered to by the most gracious and serene staff. Five days by the river, reading a book a day. Five days by the river, and then it was time to go to the beach.

But more about the beach later this week. This is long enough, dontcha think?