my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?


Constance: the Depression and the War

Has the oral tradition of passing on family history, talking about one's personal history of family stopped? Maybe it was the national trauma of the Depression that made it so difficult for families to share stories like this, I don't know. Maybe it's just mine that is this way.

This is the only time that the story I'm telling has ever been told. Within the context of my family, this story is so loaded with shame that I am the first to ever wrap words around it. But here it is, my story. My mother's, really.

The Depression was horrible everywhere. But it achieved a uniquely hellish quality in the Great Plains, the dustbowl that gave Steinbeck his Grapes of Wrath. From the very few stories passed on to me by my mother, I often thought that her family had lived that story of poverty, futility and desperation. And in later years, my mother would make bitter reference to her family as the Joads.

As is true with soldiers who experienced difficult things, my mother didn't like talking about it. There was no comfortable sharing of homey anecdotes about her family during those years. Just occasional terse descriptions of what it was like to have both parents gone, working far away, to be responsible at age 12 for three children younger than you, many times staying alone on a farm where the nearest neighbors -- my great-grandparents -- were more than a mile away.

I will never forget one of her stories, about how dark and silent the nights were on that farm. No electricity. No phone. And how much she hated the sound of the owls in the barn, how lonely that sound was.This was a time that germinated seeds of my mother's, Constance, intense dislike for her own mother, Edythe Eloise.

In the '30s, since my grandfather couldn't make his own land profitable, he had gone north to Nebraska as a laborer, trying to make what money he could in an attempt to save the family farm. He was gone six months at a time for more than five years.

In the late 30's, early 40's, the war began to stir the economy and my grandmother was able to find work, initially as a clerk, and then later as a factory worker (a Rosie the Riveter) near a Kansas military installation. Apparently the work was far enough away that she again needed to leave the farm and live near the work.

This whole period of family history is shrouded in silence.

I somewhat understand why my mother was left alone -- but she was so young. Maybe my grandmother thought she would be all right with the grandparents a mile away. But still.

It seemed my paternal great-grandmother, who had shouldered the child care responsibilities for some time, was now attempting to force my grandmother to accept more responsibility for her own children. But my grandmother didn't pick up that burden, my mother did.

I am so sad when I think about the fear, the abandonment my mother must have felt, and the heavy weight of that responsibility. It irrevocably marked her, freezing something deep inside her. Too much responsibility too soon and a desolate sense of being left behind by those who were supposed to have cared for her.

The only other anecdote I have from that time is an episode in which one of my uncles apparently jumped from the hayloft, piercing his foot through with a pitchfork he hadn't seen from where he jumped. Blood everywhere. My 10 year old aunt sent to fetch the great-grandparents. Mother binding his foot as well as she could. At age 12.

And then my grandmother became pregnant with her fifth child.

Apparently my grandparents' already weak marriage truly fell apart about the time of the birth of a son that could not have been my grandfather's. Although he would share their last name, this poor uncle clearly looked like none of his siblings and generally stood apart from the first four children.

Grandmother finally assumed a maternal role with this child, perhaps because no one else in the family would. I sense there was now outright disdain for her from my paternal great grandmother, the tiny, formidable woman who had never wanted her son involved with this woman to begin with. Great-grandmother would own the first four and help, if begrudgingly, but not this latest literally ill-gotten child.

The tangible evidence of my grandmother's "free spirit" was enough to cause a huge divide and a lot of strife in what could never have been called a happy family to begin with.

Grandfather came home, having managed to help save the family farm. I have vivid fantasies of what his discussions with my grandmother must have been like. He had known she was the proverbial wild hare ... but there must have been a sense of betrayal, similar to that felt by my mother, when he realized just how wild she'd been. And yet, he stayed a while longer. Out of inertia or out of love, I don't know.

The war started, there was again a market for what the farm could produce, and what passed for domestic calm descended over the badly broken family. The kids went to school -- and did well, astonishingly (my aunt became an industrial psychologist, one uncle a civil engineer, another uncle a college professor).

My mother was the only one to not continue on to college. She had graduated from high school at 16 and began a civil service job, oddly mirroring my grandmother's behavior in her desire to get as far away from her family as fast as she could.

And my grandmother still had some life to live. She wasn't done yet.

(to be continued)


Random Act of Kindness

Today the mail came and a box was left on the doorstep for me.

I opened it and, beautifully packaged, were TWENTY FIVE little bottles of the most wonderful fragrances -- judged so by those who know, my friends on the frag board who earlier this year had voted for the Top25 Fragrances of 2004.

I hadn't earned these wonderful fragrances. They were a gift from the sky.

Or, more accurately, a gift from Deb -- who had laboriously collected the bottles of fragrance, some of them really difficult to obtain (such as the perfumes that are only purchasable in Paris, apparently when the moon is full and Serge is in a benevolent mood).

Having located and obtained these fragrances, she then took pipette in hand and neatly decanted TWENTY FIVE fragrances into the smaller bottles, drop by precious drop.

Each were hand labeled and then carefully, carefully sorted and bubblewrapped, placed in beautiful boxes and mailed at no small expense.

Let me tell you a bit about Deb. She's a woman who loves, loves, loves her husband. (And I think he must be an awfully nice guy. For a Yankee fan.) She works at a job that occasionally drives her crazy. She has a beautiful daughter -- who, to me, looks a lot like her Dad -- and a wonderful son -- with a mischievous face -- who is the light of her life.

She -- with my assistance -- made a TERRIBLE cake that apparently no one but the little one would touch. And I'm still afraid that's because of all the alcohol in fermented fruit that took FOREVER to prepare. And she only teased me unmercifully for this failure for a little while.

She is a eBay master. Do not mess with her. She is famous for snagging her prey. She has an unequivocal sense of fairness and can't stand cheating. Even if it means eBay pricing.

And she's got a temper. And she doesn't mince words. And she likes days off. A lot. And talking to her kids. And watching baseball with her husband. Well, he watches and she's on the Internet.

And she took time out of a full life to send me this wonderful gift. Thank you, D.


Unexplored Career Option: Kept Woman, Concubine, Harem Member

Once again the power of perfume: I'm wearing Hermes' Ambre Narguile ... which is a deep, velvety apple-y tobacco-y ginger-y scent taking its name from the amber mouthpiece of an arabic narguile (hookah).

This fragrance, designed by Jean-Claude Ellena, is one of the four Hermessences (also including Rose Ikebana, Poivre Samarcande and Vetiver Tonka) wildly popular among denizens of a fragrance board I frequent.

Now I know why.

This rich scent and all it represents has compelled me to totally rethink this whole American Woman thing.

As the spicy, smoky 'fume wafts around me, I can imagine some real advantages to the harem concept.

A bunch of chicks, sitting around on pillows, buffing their toenails as they wait their turn to entertain the sheik. (All that's missing is Internet access.) The work hours are certainly nothing to complain about.

Let's see, your average harem has about 15 women, that's a 15 woman-to-sheik ratio ... let's figure the sheik probably only needs you for a couple hours at a time (in the evening, leaving your days free) -- and he could only be of benefit to three women a night, max. So you're probably only on duty -- hey! Once a week, if that! And that's not even factoring in ongoing harem rotation.

I love their outfits ... those flowing garment things are so flattering to a multitude of body types. And speaking of bodies, voluptuous is in as far as sheiks go. I mean, since we have nothing to do but eat halvah and sit around, there's going to be some poundage put on. Apparently female pulchritude (look it up) is a prized commodity. And don't forget the eye-makeup! That heavy eyeliner/smoky eyes/pale lips is a great look on me!

So: complete absence of body image issues, loafing and snacking encouraged, comfortable work attire, unlimited black eyeliner, the opportunity to smell good and be continually surrounded by lush fragrance PLUS reasonable work hours.

Talk about Being All You Can Be.


Reconsidering FM Iris Poudre

Yesterday I wore Frederic Malle's Iris Poudre as I accompanied Jim to the hospital where we spent four hours ... for a thirty-minute procedure.

Out of boredom, restlessness and occasional twinges of fear, I kept pulling my turtleneck up over my nose to get a better whiff.

(Probably not the most elegant look, and one more suited to a psychiatric rather than gastrointestinal unit.)

The fragrance comforted me. Musk and vanilla, sandalwood and vetiver (does iris really have a scent? Tonka bean is mentioned in the notes, but not iris).Maybe one should just assume the iris is there.

In any case, I don't care, I get softness, comfort from it. And that's what I needed yesterday.

Far from being the aloof classic I had earlier described, Iris Poudre became the perfect security scent that I wrapped around me to keep warm.

I'm going to go put some more on.


Back ... By Popular Demand ...

...the hardest working dog in show business: BUCKY! For fans who thrilled to his rat adventure, here's some Entertainment Tonight on the Buckster:

And that's what he's called, along with Colonel B., babyBucky, dogboy, dogbaby, babyboy and, of course, RATBOY!

But let's talk dog psychology. Jim and Bucky have a battle of wills going in which my role is spectator. In our pack, I've already given up on beta status, with Jim holding onto alpha with clenched fist, Bucky firmly in beta (but always onto movin' on up) and me slipping between gamma and delta, depending on who's in the room.

Jim remembers our dear departed terrier, Saintly Asta, who knew what you wanted before you knew, and did it, looking up fetchingly at you as she batted her long eyelashes. Those days are over.

Bucky is a bit more freewheeling.

Take the command, "Come." B. doesn't like the word command; he sees the human/dog interaction more in terms of ongoing negotiation.

In his mind, Come means: proceed toward the human issuing the verb, come closer, come closer, come closer, VEER OFF ABRUPTLY! And continue doing whatever you were doing before they attempted to interrupt you.

This type of thing has caused Jim to dust off his How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend manual by the monks of New Skete, famed for their German Shepherd training. And he reads it as other men might read porn, wistfully looking at pictures showing dogs who are willing to DownStay just because their master asked them to! Master! Asked! Them! To!

Then there's the twice daily joust, I mean walk to the park. Jim helps Buck into his harness, this contraption recommended by the Zen dog trainer we first consulted (that's another blog installment) that we call his uniform. At this point, he becomes Colonel B. With the donning of the uniform, he assumes an altogether martial air and he is now ready for patrol.

Patrol involves walking our north Seattle neighborhood to Greenwood Park. Many bushes require his minute attention on the way and there is much bristling and growling at any dogs behind fences (they could be chihuahuas, he doesn't care. If they have the temerity to be on his patrol route, they're a threat to national security and he isn't giving anybody a pass).

The harness, I mean uniform, has calmed down the lunging a bit. That was a major concern the first few weeks as, worst case, whenever J and B passed an elderly neighbor walking her Pomeranians, Bucky would go into full attack mode, snapping, barking and lunging at the furballs, who would shrink back behind their senior citizen, who would give Jim a filthy look as she deep-sighed and crossed the street to get away from the man-who-cannot-control-his-dog. Or at least, this is how J saw it. He's sensitive about that. But that's not happening so much now, as the bond has grown between Jim and Bucky.

And that bond is pretty amazing, given this dog's background.

We adopted Buck about seven months ago from an organization in California specializing in placing dogs rescued from Puerto Rico. Administered by a couple who'd been in the military, their site had also shown this majestic shepherd/lab mix -- Bucky -- whose military family had been transferred out of the country. Jim, who'd had a much loved shepherd as a kid, fell in love with the picture and the adoption was arranged, with Bucky traveling to Washington from California.

Only seven years old, Bucky had already experienced more than most dogs do in a lifetime.

When he was thought to be about a year old, the Marine captain who had owned him was hunting and found this beautiful dog in the North Carolina woods, shot through the chest.

The captain got him to a vet, he recovered and became that family's dog -- moving with them to their various posts -- until their transfer out of the country. And then he became ours.

We have no idea what his first year was like. No one does. We only know he has an unreasonable fear of things frying on the stove -- it is virtually the only thing that will make him cower.

We believe that he was very attached to the Marine captain, but didn't have much to do with the rest of that family -- he had been kept on an enclosed porch, so a semi-"outside dog" whose interaction with humans was mostly with that man.

He'd never been taught to walk on a leash, he'd never been taught any "come, stay, down" -- here we had this wonderfully intelligent, virtually untrained (except for housetraining, his record is spotless in that regard) dog in his middle years.

His most comfortable activity was riding in the car. Apparently he and the captain had done a lot of that -- and Buck was used to riding shotgun (a sore disappointment to him when he discovered I'd claimed the front seat and wasn't giving it up).

So it's been seven months of discovery -- and some of it has been wonderful. Jim must take credit for slowly, patiently regaining Bucky's trust in humans -- this is a dog who had been bounced around a lot and, resilient as he is, it took a toll.

Bucky is part of us now. He'll never be a lapdog but he's loving in his own way. And more loving every day -- as he realizes we're not going anywhere and neither is he.

I'm sure there'll be more to say about him ... and it'll be surprising, and sometimes funny. I'll tell him you're interested.


Serge Lutens' Sa Majesté sub rosa

According to those who know, sub rosa comes from the Latin, literally "under the rose," from the ancient association of the rose with confidentiality, the origin of which traces to a famous story in which Cupid gave Harpocrates, the god of silence, a rose to bribe him not to betray the confidence of Venus. (But. If H. is the god of silence, why does he need to be bribed with roses -- or anything else -- to be silent? Hm? Those ancient Roman gods. They're a puzzle.)

If one can believe a recent Barneys promotional piece, Sa Majesté La Rose is a closely held -- a Rose sub rosa -- favorite of the master himself, Serge Lutens; one of his favorite conceptions. I hold him in high esteem ... but I loved this fragrance already. And I'm willing to talk about it.

Serge Lutens' Sa Majesté La Rose, created by Christopher Sheldrake, is another non-sweet rose, defying stereotype. Notes: white rose, chamomile, lychee, geranium, Moroccan rose, gaiac wood, clove, white honey, vanilla

Let me layer on the descriptive language: there is a poignancy (because it's just SO beautiful) to the initial scent, rich deep rose with the chamomile greenly evident to my nose.

I honestly don't know what lychee would smell like, but in my head it's a pale green spicy smell lingering just beneath the rose, a close accompaniment to the geranium, which I can identify as a fairly evident player.

The fragrance evolves to a richer and richer quality of rose over hours -- and this fragrance does last hours, overnight for me.

Drydown is piquant, with the clove finally, faintly making an appearance (tempered by honey/vanilla). I don't get woods, gaiac or otherwise, from this scent.

There is a femininity of substance about this fragrance. Nothing unisex about it. Just a very matter-of-fact femaleness. The perfect fragrance to wear to your next tryst.

Which neatly segues back to my sub rosa hook: sub rosa/secret/Sa Majesté/tryst. Didn't think I'd pull it off, did you? Heh.


God is Alive. Magic is Afoot.

God is afoot, magic is alive/Alive is afoot, magic never died
God never sickened
Many poor men lied/Many sick men lied
Magic never weakened
Magic never hid
Magic always ruled
God is afoot, God never died/God was ruler
Though his funeral lengthened/Though his mourners thickened
Magic never fled
Though his shrouds were hoisted/The naked God did live
Though his words were twisted/The naked magic thrived
Though his death was published/Round and round the world
The heart did not believe
Many hurt men wondered/Many struck men bled
Magic never faltered/Magic always lead
Many stones were rolled/But God would not lie down
Many wild men lied/Many fat men listened
Though they offered stones/Magic still was fed
Though they locked their coffers/God was always served
Magic is afoot, God is alive
Alive is afoot/Alive is in command
Many weak men hungered/Many strong men thrived
Though they boast of solitude/God was at their side
Nor the dreamer in his cell/Nor the captain on the hill
Magic is alive
Though his death was pardoned/Round and round the world
The heart would not believe
Though laws were carved in marble/They could not shelter men
Though altars built in parliaments/They could not order men
Police arrested magic and magic went with them/for magic loves the hungry
But magic would not tarry/It moves from arm to arm
It would not stay with them
Magic is afoot
It cannot come to harm/It rests in an empty palm
It spawns in an empty mind/But magic is no instrument
Magic is the end
Many men drove magic/But magic stayed behind
Many strong men lied
They only passed through magic/And out the other side
Many weak men lied
They came to God in secret/And though they left Him nourished
They would not tell who healed
Though mountains danced before them/They said that God was dead
Though his shrouds were hoisted/The naked God did live
This I mean to whisper to my mind/This I mean to laugh within my mind
This I mean my mind to serve
Til' service is but magic/Moving through the world
And mind itself is magic/Coursing through the flesh
And flesh itself is magic/Dancing on a clock
And time itself/The magic length of God

Leonard Cohen


Edythe Eloise: the Early Years

I haven't been to Kansas for years. But I remember the last time I was there, traveling to the cemetery to visit my grandmother, Edythe Eloise. As I knelt to leave the small pink azalea on the dusty grave in that flat, nearly grassless, godforsaken site, I looked around. She was buried next to three of her sisters, her mother and father -- that family nearly reunited.

You'd never be able to say that about the family she created.

My grandfather Orville is buried with his family about five miles away, in a plot within a tree-shaded glade. His grandfather and great grandfather have markers designating them as Union soldiers, veterans of the Civil War (one had run away to enlist when he was only 14). His grave is a pretty place, apparently chosen for him by my great grandmother, who seemed to have done a lot of the choosing in that family.

But my grandfather's mother didn't choose my grandmother. Oh, no.

My grandmother and grandfather were born on adjacent farms in Independence, Kansas, near Coffeyville and Cherryvale (that helped you get your bearings, didn't it?). And my grandmother apparently decided early on that Orville was going to be hers. Never mind that his mother had set her sights much higher than that angular, leggy farmgirl next door.

Sure enough, Edythe Eloise snagged Orville using that time-proven method: she got pregnant at age 17 with my mother, Constance. What a name for my mother, considering my grandmother's subsequent life story.

Now understand: my family doesn't talk. It hints. It alludes. It lays verbal breadcrumbs to be followed down a path. But nothing is ever outright admitted. That wouldn't be prudent.

I have done higher math and used dates in a Bible to figure out that my mother was conceived out of wedlock. That, and I frequently noticed that whenever my grandmother was mentioned in front of my mother, her lips would tighten and she would literally or figuratively leave the room. My mother didn't like her mother. At all. To the extent that she refused to attend her own mother's funeral.

Because Grandmother was a free spirit. And Mother was not.

With a few startling exceptions, my mother always insisted that a solid public image be upheld -- and, boy, if you'd known my grandmother, you'd understand why decorum was so important to my mother.

Apparently my grandmother littered the Great Plains with her conquests. Sexual conquests when she was young ... and then victims of her charm as she got older and smarter.

After giving birth to my mother and soon deciding that she wasn't going to waste the rest of her youth tending a baby on an isolated farm -- with the Depression also helping her conspire to need a job in town -- she became one of the earliest working mothers. Although it seems my great-grandmothers did most of the nurturance of my mother in her earliest years as Grandmother stayed in town all during the week.

Grandmother worked in a shop during the day, leaving her weeknights free for bathtub gin, cigarettes and meeting new acquaintances, more sophisticated and more fun than my grandfather-on-the-farm.

Still, she managed to get home on the weekends and during the next five years became pregnant with her next three children, a daughter and two sons who all, fortunately, looked a lot like Grandfather.

Then the trouble really started. (to be continued)



Our children inevitably do things that upset us.

When we have tried so hard to shape their behavior toward gentility, wiping up after their spills, reminding them not to just drop food on the floor and leave it, picking up when we find their stuff lying around the house ...

Occasionally they still can shock us. And today is one of those days.

Bucky, my beloved Groenendahl shepherd/Labrador retriever, is a stone killer.

We live in the north part of Seattle, a major urban area, in a working class neighborhood. Lawns are mowed, flowers are planted, vegetables are grown and SUVs are parked where they should be.

One does not expect to be confronted with dead vermin. Especially dead vermin presented to you -- as a gift -- in the mouth of the sweet dog you call your own.

And yet. This has happened.

I am flinging a duvet over the clothesline in one of my sporadic fits of airing-outness. Bucky has been antsy all morning walking back and forth in the ivied back garden and nosing the shed. Pacing. I had noticed as I walked out that he was particularly interested in one corner of the garden ...

Then. Mid-duvet-fling, out of the corner of my eye, I see him walking toward me. Jauntily. With something hanging out of his mouth.

"What is that?" He drops it at my feet.

A bundle of gray fur accessorized with red, and a grimacing smile, not a smile, rictus.

"JIM!!!! JIM!!! COME HERE!!! JIM!!! JIM!!!! "

Fortunately, the division of labor in our household stipulates males do the rat disposal. Since one male killed it, the other one gets to get rid of it.

Oh, God. And you can forget about ever kissing me again, Bucky.



What Fresh Hell Is This? The Sharp, Sweet Cynicism of Dorothy Parker

By the time you swear you're his
Shivering and sighing
And he vows his passion is Infinite, undying
Lady, make a note of this: One of you is lying.

"Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), American writer, whose poems and short stories are characterized by a bitingly humorous and sardonic style. Born in West End, New Jersey [to a Jewish father, J. Henry Rothschild, and a Scottish mother, Eliza (Marston) Rothschild], Parker was educated at the Blessed Sacrament Convent, in New York City. From 1916 to 1920 she was a drama and literary critic for the magazines Vogue and Vanity Fair in New York City, after which she became a free-lance writer. Parker was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of writers and artists that gathered regularly during the 1920s and 1930s at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. The group included such American writers as George S. Kaufman, Robert E. Sherwood, Marc Connelly, Heywood Broun, and Robert Benchley and was known for witty conversation and verbal sparring."*

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

*"Parker, Dorothy," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2005 © 1997-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


But A Rose is Not A Rose is Not A Rose

The common word on rose scents is that ... they're common. Ask many sophisticated fragrance lovers and they'll be quick to disclaim any affinity for the hackneyed, overdone, old lady perfume that is rose.

But a rose is not a rose is not a rose.

There is a subtle subset of unexpected rose fragrances designed (sometimes I think in defiance) by the most accomplished and least known perfumers in the world. Montale Rose Petals is one of them.

On my first sniff, Montale Rose Petals is a rich, deep rose with something green/herby underneath, maybe something of coriander or some other pungent/bitter spice. Very, very rich. Not sweet. A serious alternative rose in the school of Frederic Malle's Une Rose. With a somewhat unsettling drydown. Nicely unsettling.

But I wanted to give you more substance about Montale and about Rose Petals. I dutifully googled and dogpiled (multi-engine search) for anything new to report to you ... and I just come up with what I already know from the few people (apparently in the world) who have tried this line and this fragrance.

I can tell you that, as Robin of NowSmellThis told you, "Montale is a Paris-based perfumer with two lines: an oudh line based on the precious oudh (or agar) wood frequently used in Middle Eastern fragrances, and a regular perfume line," and that precious little else is known about this fragrance house. (But here's their website: ) (I have big hopes that Robin will use her demonstrated interview skills to scoop major media and tell us the real story on Montale.)

I can confirm that this beautiful rose is blended with teak and oudh (the teak and oudh notes per Elena at Montale, via MUAer Paschat).

And, extrapolating from that, I can tell you that Ed Shepp, on his scentblog, notes that teak seems to be a dark, dry wood with an almost moldy note. That would explain this fragrance's kinship to Une Rose, I think. There is a faint, not unpleasant, fermented quality to this in drydown, as is also found in Une Rose.

Rose Petals never makes you comfortable. It never accepts the defining homey quality of rose. Instead you're rewarded with the richest layer of deep red rose eventually joined by the dark quality of the teak and finally eclipsed by spicy green depth of oudh.

Tina -- who understands the love of unsettling rose scents, including Ormonde Jayne Ta'if -- shared this wonderful fragrance with me. Thank you.


Raised on Robbery

He was sitting in the lounge of the Empire Hotel
He was drinking for diversion
He was thinking for himself
A little money riding on the Maple Leafs
Along comes a lady in lacy sleeves

She says...
Let me sit down
You know, drinkin’ alone’s a shame
It’s a shame, it’s a crying shame
Look at those jokers
Glued to that damn hockey game

Hey honey-you’ve got lots of cash
Bring us round a bottle
And we’ll have some laughs
Gin’s what I’m drinking
I was raised on robbery

I’m a pretty good cook
I’m sitting on my groceries
Come up to my kitchen
I’ll show you my best recipe

I try and I try but I can’t save a cent
I’m up after midnight, cooking
Trying to make my rent
I’m rough but I’m pleasin’
I was raised on robbery

We had a little money once
They were pushing through a four-lane highway
Government gave us three thousand dollars
You should have seen it fly away

First he bought a ’57 Biscayne
He put it in the ditch
He drunk up all the rest
That son of a bitch
His blood’s bad whiskey
I was raised on robbery

You know you ain’t bad looking
I like the way you hold your drinks
Come home with me honey
I ain’t asking for no full length mink

Hey, where you going...
Don’t go yet...
Your glass ain’t empty and we just met
You’re mean when you're loaded ...

I was raised on robbery

Joni Mitchell



*Too Much Information is the door opened when you start to blog.

Why do you blog? What is your blog to you? Do you have a responsibility to anyone but yourself when you blog? Let me try to answer these questions.

I'm not shy. Fully armed with intellect and wit, I will shoulder my way into any crowd.

But take away that armor, leave me only with my raw emotion and deepest thoughts ... and you may find me cowering naked in the corner, praying that no one can hear what I'm saying.

Writing at its best is the individual with all armor removed, attempting to communicate experience shared by at least one other human being.

With this blog, I'm trying to find my way back to that vulnerability, so I can retrieve an authentic voice. And use that voice to reach other humans, establish linkage, share life experience.

More than twenty years ago, I made a pact with the devil. I entered the workworld with a brand new communications degree and I wanted to write ... but I needed to earn a living. And the only way for most people to earn a living as a writer is to write commercially.

But you don't realize how destructive that agreement is going to be.

I spent a career writing promotional or informational copy that had absolutely no emotional resonance. Sure, in persuasion writing, you're trying to influence (read: manipulate) -- but because modern audiences are so inured to advertising and its wicked stepsister, public relations, the impact of that writing is next to nil. And it's often being written for less than lustrous reasons: not just to sell, but to disguise, or divert or ... you take my point.

(In attempting to reach a contemporary audience today, writing goes by the wayside altogether; kids who have been raised on video and computers are much more influenced by strong visuals. They have to see it or they can't hear you anyway.)

So I learned to look for emotional buttons to push to attempt to sell product (in my case, public transportation and health care, with a short foray into food) -- all the while knowing this was most often a vain attempt. But managing to convince myself on some level that this was worth doing.

(Sure, it was worth doing. For the paycheck I received every two weeks. For the incredible health care benefits that accompanied the paycheck. For the perceived status of being a productive cog in the wheels of society. For my many trips to Nordstrom with a fully loaded credit card.)

But from this constant exercise of falseness, I developed a shell of falseness, my armor.

Fate intervened. As you may know, my body fell apart and my head cracked soon thereafter. I would love to tell you the scales fell from my eyes and I moved purposefully forward with a flaming sword in my hand.


What really happened was a deep depression from which I could not rouse myself. God's way of telling me to reassess.

My blog is a tool of that reassessment. I blog because it is incredibly inexpensive psychotherapy.

And, even as my shrink was once my witness, I prevail upon you to be my witness -- of progress toward authenticity.

Now you may not want this role. That's fine. You really don't get much compensation. Oh, the occasional perfume review might interest you. Or you might be drawn by weird posts that seem to be communicating something to someone but who knows what.

Or I may be writing something that makes you say, "That's me. I'm not alone. She's there, too."

That's what I hope for.

My responsibility is not to entertain, not to perform, not to react. It's to be as brave as I can be about cowering naked in the corner, with my humanity as visible as it can be.

And sometimes to post stuff that I think is absolutely hilarious.


Love Poem

In a corner of my garden grows a plant.
Once an overgrown profusion of green:
spade-shaped leaves, an ivy guarded by thorns.

I never walked too close, afraid
of tendrils capturing my ankle,
dragging me into itself –

then, never free, forever lost in that barbed lattice.

Strange plant.
On occasion, and only at night,
it burst into bloom.

Waxy, white petals,
surrounding a flower cup,
gleaming in the dark.

Each floral chalice
holding drops of fluid,
heavy with unbearably sweet, hot scent.

For a season, this plant tangled around my heart.
And then, within life’s pattern,
died back.

I work in my garden,
potting and pulling

spent flowers off vines.

Glancing at times
to the place where that plant once thrived.
But nothing grew there.

Until today.


(Playing) Hard to Get

Agent Provocateur: "... employed with the purpose of inciting an individual to commit acts that will make them liable to punishment"

Does one love more intensely when one's object of affection is elusive, difficult to obtain? In the case of Agent Provocateur, maybe.

Termed "an exotic floral chypre," (and I'm beginning to realize the word "chypre" shows up a lot in the scents I love), this earthy fragrance with the musky undertone has two of my most loved notes in it: rose and saffron (also found in holy grail Ormonde Jayne Ta'if).

Initially, the dry-scented saffron is dominant on me, with a faint undertone of sweetness (the rose, jasmine and magnolia). The coriander then comes in and takes over and I'm ok with that. I think it's the sharpness of the coriander -- playing against the floral sweetness -- that gives it mystery until the final musky drydown.

Official notes are: Moroccan rose oil, Indian saffron, Egyptian jasmin, and French magnolia oil, Russian coriander, Comorean ylang and gardenia, Haitian vetivert, amber, and animalistic musk.

Interestingly, Agent Provocateur is the house fragrance of (and with few exceptions, only available through) the London-based lingerie company from which it takes its name. Boasting "elements of boudoir glamour and punk fetishism ... their store and line features everything frilly and thrilly for today's more adventurous sex-kitten." Heh.

Agent Provocateur owner, Joe Corre (with wife Serena Rees) is the son of Vivienne Westwood, Godmother of Punk and designer of the fragrance, Boudoir. Dad is former Sex Pistols' manager Malcolm McLaren.

It all makes sense now, doesn't it?


"Good Night, Gracie"

"You're the only boy who ever made me cry,
and I decided that if you could make me cry,
I must really love you."
Gracie Allen accepting George Burns' proposal
(or was that a proposition?)
after a long period of reluctance, and dismissal of his overtures.

A Woman of Valor

For My Mother-In-Law:

I was present at your 50th birthday and remember the homage presented you at the Sorrento Hotel – by photo, skit, and heartfelt tribute …

And two decades later, it gives me pleasure to be present in some small way at this milestone, the 70th anniversary of your birth.

I commemorate it today by expressing gratitude for the gifts you gave me when I was privileged to be your daughter-in-law and afterward:

The gift of demonstrating what a daughter is and should be. You showed me who a daughter was through your steadfast loyalty – even through gritted teeth – to your irascible father. You taught me it didn’t matter whether a parent deserves it or not, fealty is owed.

You played a significant role in my reconciliation with my own mother before her death. And I think she looked to you – perhaps subconsciously – as an example of a parent who stood by their kid, no matter how difficult their kid made it.

In any case, you drew me closer to my mother and I am grateful to you.

As a wife, you are without parallel. I didn’t have the lasting power you did – but while I was the wife of your son – who, by the way, is an exceptional person due in no small part to your love and support – you were a constant example of steadfastness and honor within the matrimonial web.

Daughter, wife, mother – and you were my friend. I remember you babysitting me after spine surgery, when Jeff couldn’t take it any more, rubbing my feet and taking my mind off the pain.

I remember talking with you on the phone, really enjoying your sly sense of humor as you managed to insert barbs without anybody really feeling any pain. You could be wicked – but so subtle.

I remember you as the only person I knew who really liked the color orange. Couldn’t understand it then, it’s an acquired taste, but now whenever I see that color used well, I think of you.

I remember you as a person who used the words “shinola” and “crapola” particularly evocatively.

And as the originator of the real “feast of Gedalia.” And as the creator of the wildly ecumenical – yet ultimately Jewish – Passover and Chanukah celebrations of which I was a part. Including grinding the special mix for gefilte fish. And grating your knuckles into the latkes. And laboring over two kinds of meat – usually brisket and roast chicken – for the family dinner extravaganzas. And always serving yourself last.

And a dancer, in the manner of Martha Graham. And a writer of anthropologic tomes. And an aesthete with your own quirky take on art (which is why you still have that folk art animal I once gave you). And a chooser of gifts par excellence (which is why I still have the multifloral silk scarf you once gave me). And a politico (who I bet enjoyed Howard Dean while he lasted) who joined me in looking forward to Election 2004 – which was supposed to have been the end of an error.

There’s so much more to you than could ever meet the eye. And I’m so glad I have had the opportunity to be part of your life, and to have had you in mine.

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life…
She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms…
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy…
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come…
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth G-d, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her...

Proverbs 31:10


Love Poem

A reed in the wind
Pushed near to the ground
Who could imagine the tensile strength
Of your will.

Constantly tested
Yet you feel no pressure;
Elusive spirit
More grounded than most.

Fascinating submersion
Of ego…
Able to totally immerse
In the field.

And yet.
You are a man.
Of fragile nature, almost delicate
In your sensibility.

I am wary of that … sensitivity.
In you, who sees through sheer pretense.
You forgive much …
But believe this: I never assume your generosity.

The reed can become stiff, and unyielding.
I want never to experience that cold, cold wind
That would be life
Without you.


Manila, 1956

In the tropics, one gets used to lizards walking the walls and mosquito nets over the beds, to turning your pillow over and over to find a cool, dry place.

Wet heat, heat, heat.

My mother hated it. As young as I was, I knew she hated it.

But this life afforded her rare freedom -- there were two maids, one dedicated solely to caring for my brother and I. My father was always at the base. And, even with meeting her social obligations: the teas, the receptions, the cocktail parties -- which she also hated -- my mother, an Ava Gardner type, could spend most of her time at the club pool, reclining in her two-piece suit, eyes closed, iced tea at her side, working on that fifties-fashionable tan.

We lived in a low-slung house with bare tile floors, bamboo furniture and "native" artifacts (the obligatory mahogany sculptures of topless women were evident -- my dad's risque sense of humor, I guess). I remember loud pink and red floral print cushions on the rattan sofas. I remember the fish/rice aroma wafting through the house from the maids' quarters.

Each day, I went to the American school, which happened to be Catholic, and would come home in the afternoon, my white blouse and plaid jumper soaked in sweat. Lenore, one of our maids, would meet me at the bus and she would take my schoolbag and hold my hand as together we trudged up to the gate -- the house was behind a high wall -- which she would open with a key, and lock behind her.

And this is what I remember best and what I really want to talk about: the garden behind that gate.

Lushness and a scent that I can't seem to duplicate.

The back lawn was grassy with palm trees at yard's edge, by the wall. A shed in one dark corner with, of all things, a plaque of Jesus' Sacred Heart on its arched wood doorway. Many, many flowering shrubs grew around, up and over the wall -- I remember vivid color during the day, yellow and red flowers especially. But it was the whiteflower scent that was overpowering, especially in the evenings.

Sampaquita? Honeysuckle? Datura? Lilies? Gardenia? Jasmine? My sense is that they all were there -- and it's the amalgam scent I can't find recreated in a perfume. That, and the context in which I experienced it.

My mother's sultry ill temper was perfectly suited to this climate she hated. And I have a strong association with her, with that scent and female power. You could just feel it, smell it, emanating from her when she walked in the room. A perfumed danger, spoiling for a fight.

I loved that smell. I was always distant from her, but admiring. So much power in this beautiful, dangerous woman who was my mother. I loved that smell. I want to smell it again.



She was an elegant little dog. Not so little, medium maybe. Gray and black and white with a pink tongue and black eyes. And slightly crooked bottom teeth. and a white-tipped tail that would windmill when she ran down the sidewalk toward the house.

She liked to lie near the stove when I was cooking and just watch. If I dropped anything, bonus.

She liked to ride in the car and growl softly if she saw something she didn't approve of. Like skateboarders. She hated skateboarders

She liked being brushed and she liked milkbones and she liked to talk. If she felt we weren't paying attention, she would actually say "aroooooooh" and butt us in the knees.

She liked lying in the grass with her rawhide bone. She liked to be chased but not to chase. She liked jumping the steps. She liked going to get the mail.

Her coat was kind of silky and flowed out behind her when she ran, with her tail like a plume.

It’s only been ten months.


Fragrances for the Id

In the past year, I've been able to sample more than one hundred (count 'em) fragrances -- most high end, niche and/or boutique scents -- thanks to an online fragrance community of which I am a member.

Prior to that, I had spent a phase purchasing what I now sneer at as "department store" fragrances ... and had probably collected nearly one hundred of that genre.

So I've smelled me some perfumes in my life. And besides joking about the real-or-imagined effect of pheromones, I'd given scant thought to the role of perfume in seduction. Really.

Perfume was a dainty, feminine pursuit. You zipped up your skirt, put in your earrings, slipped on your heels and spritzed. Or at least I once did. When I was that kind of woman.

But now, from my current vantage point, I see fragrance's utility in a whole different light. And that light's turned down low, with a few scented candles burning.

Whoa, baby -- hand me the Boudoir! I mean Boudoir by Vivienne Westwood. Or Dominique Ropion's Une Fleur de Cassie ... or Robert Piguet's Fracas ... or Agent Provocateur ... any of those Fragrances for the Id.

Apparently I'm slow. I used to think sweat was the best scent in the bedroom. No, non, no way. Certain fragrances absolutely broadcast the female animal in us (in high definition) to our male counterparts. When you have an ultimate objective and must bring out all the artillery, these are the scents for you.

According to Roja Dove, arch perfumer for Guerlain, in the article "Scents of Desire" for UK Elle, these perfumes are noted for their complexity, their substantial basenote (deep, dark) quality; they can be of any perfume family but are notably found in the orientals and chypres, and most feature a tinge of corruption, that whiff of civet, amber, orris root, musk.

In addition, many of these scents are built around the "carnal flowers" of tuberose, jasmine for their indolic quality, or narcissus. To me, it is the animalic quality of the musk and the spoiled/sweet indoles of the floral in these perfumes that are most surprising and oddly attractive.

The UK Elle article listed a hall of dark fragrance fame that included Mitsouko, Opium, Vol de Nuit and Narcisse Noir -- but mine are different, as would be yours.

It is that one expects -- and even begins -- with one scent and your body chemistry works magic, resulting in something altogether different, unique and arresting that I find most satisfying about these alter-ego, erm -id, fragrances.

Addendum: I do not now wear, nor have I ever worn, Yves St. Laurent Opium. But you have to admit old Tom Ford knows how to sell 'fume.


Happy Endings ...

Watching Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn, William Holden and Humphrey Bogart.

Me: Does this have a happy ending? I need to know if it has a happy ending.
Jim: Well, what do you think? It's in black-and-white.

I Don't Care If It Is

Background Music For A Car Commercial. I Like It.

Happiness runs in a circular motion
Thought is like a little boat upon the sea.
Everybody is a part of everything anyway,

You can have everything if you let yourself be.

Happiness runs, happiness runs.
Happiness runs, happiness runs.

Happiness runs in a circular motion
Thought is like a little boat upon the sea.
Everybody is a part of everything anyway,
You can have everything if you let yourself be.

Happiness runs, happiness runs.
Happiness runs, happiness runs.

Happiness runs in a circular motion

song by Donovan


A Royal Wedding. Again.

Embarrassing but true: in my thirties, I had a serious girlcrush on Diana, Princess of Wales. I had the bangs, I had the frilly collars, I had the pearl choker; I had the pale hose, dumb dresses and shoes with bows.

I lived out this admiration to such an extent that I got up at three in the morning on the day Diana married Charles and *ahem* arranged to have my husband-to-be propose to me as the royal couple took their ill-advised vows.

But wait. There's more.

Although I wasn't aware of it at the time, apparently Diana and I together-but-separately experienced the crushing disillusionment that often occurs after the long white dress and the pearl-studded veil have been drycleaned and put away.

Marriage is not what one expects.

And the excitement of fulfilling your mother's fondest wishes -- finally, and in great detail (except for that virginity thing) -- comes crashing down to earth when you realize you failed to read the small print on the wife contract before you signed it.

Marriage at its best, one imagines, is a union of souls -- a cleaving of selves -- rocketingly good sex.

Marriage in reality is deciding what to make for dinner, arguing over who cleaned the bathroom last (and this is an enlightened age. Our mothers didn't argue these points. They just did it or, if fortunate, hired someone to do it). And yelling (if that's your style. Or maybe just seething) about clothes that don't make it into the laundry basket. There is also quite a bit of struggle over dog hair and its disposition.

Marriage at its best is living with your best friend. Who rocks your sexual world.

Marriage in reality is a series of small and large compromises on every issue imaginable.

Diana as feminine archetype lived out the paradigmatic "what have I gotten myself into" that women find when they open the Pandora's Box of connubial bliss. Even to the point, some would say, of dying for refusing to toe the societal line.

I'm not one for conspiracy theories. I think what was evident and in bright light was bad enough.

Diana loved -- and desperately needed -- Charles for everything she thought he was (but wasn't). And she seriously acted out when she found out differently.

Charles loved Diana -- kind of -- for her role as the mother of his children, but he loved someone else for all the other stuff.

Not so much, as fairytales go. And, of course, my marriage-launched-at-the-last-royal-wedding wasn't so good either (although I came out of mine alive, with a dear friend, and I learned a great deal).

I would bet that Charles and Camilla -- unattractive as they may be on the face of things -- are not harboring many illusions. Yet, they have managed to remain what appears to be each other's best friends, in the face of daunting odds and 30 years of strife. For this I give them credit.

And I hope the sex is good.

Bucky! Bucky! Bucky! Bucky! Bucky! Bucky!


A friend talked about her anxiety: she has some numbness and weakness in her hand ... and someone with a mild case of multiple sclerosis had warned that MS presents with these symptoms.

She was understandably upset by that suggestion; she's going to see a physician. I'm thinking and hoping carpal tunnel or repetitive motion syndrome. Really hoping it's simple. Because I know what happens when it isn't.

More than ten years ago, I began losing my ability to raise my arms and to hold a pen to write; I tripped on steps, had continuous spasming of my arms and legs and constant burning between my shoulder blades.

Recalling this, I am amazed at how dispassionately I viewed it. I see now that I totally dissociated from what was happening with my body. Maybe it was the muscle relaxants I was taking, or maybe it was my mind's way of protecting itself from the implications of loss of control.

I began making the rounds -- first my internist, who sent me to an orthopod, who sent me to a neurologist ... and I saw multiples of each specialist, finally finding a dual team of neurosurgeon and orthopedic surgeon, men for whose skill I will forever be grateful.

Before I ended up with that duo, each specialist I saw ordered their own batteries of tests. The blood, the spinal fluid, the x-rays, CT scan and MRI ... until the neurosurgeon saw the MRI scan and, with a sharp intake of breath, advised me I should lie flat in bed until surgery could be scheduled.

An expanded version of what the MRI told him:

At the age of three, for still unknown reasons, I had contracted Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, a disease that would damage virtually every joint in my body. I emerged at age 16 in full remission *thank God * but with residual damage that would require three foot surgeries, extensive physical therapy for my hands and then, at the age of 39, fusion of my cervical vertebrae 2 - 5.

During the active period of my RA, spurs had developed on the neck (cervical) region of my spine and, with the wear and tear of age, those spurs were now impinging on my spinal cord, "stenosing" or crowding it, and weakness, numbness and spasming of my arms and legs were resulting.

After much discussion back and forth, the surgeons decided they would "go in from the back," with the neurosurgeon delicately moving the spurred spine away from the cord and the orthopedic surgeon filing away the bony spurs, then stabilizing the spine by installing a steel plate and six screws.

I had a lifetime of experience with our health care system and had developed a deep and abiding distrust of it and anyone in it (in spite of this, or additionally because of it, I had spent some of my career in hospital public relations and health insurance technical writing).

My then-husband, scared out of his wits, with the support of my attorney father-in-law, helped me enact extreme due diligence on the surgeons and the procedure I was about to undergo ... especially after I received the pro forma "there is a 2% chance of quadriplegia" warning.

I went through it. It was terribly painful. And it worked: I walk. I speak. I write.

It took me more than a year and a lot of physical therapy to recover, but I did. I'm an example of the best this country's medicine can offer. And I am still so grateful to have been the fortunate beneficiary of it.

What I want to tell my friend is this: you probably -- I'll say undoubtedly -- won't have to go through this.

But if you do, be glad you're in this country. Be glad you live in this time. And be grateful for your body, with all its failings and mishaps.

This life event changed me. My ideas about what was important had been significantly rearranged. I was more stoic, but less willing to play along with the pressure of the superficial.

And I understood the meaning of this quote: "As the Lord said to the mystic Julian of Norwich, when she was faced by the darkness of the Middle Ages: All will be well and all will be well ... and all manner of things will be well."


A Few Florals

Notes on a few floral fragrances:

Rich Hippie Wild Thing
Hey, I tried to be cynical about this one ... but I am overcome by desire. With notes of Indian jasmine, Albanian orris root (providing a faint violet scent) and Egyptian rose, Rich Hippie Wild Thing initially offers whiteflower sweetness -- a clean, pure sweetness -- that shades into its rose-but-more drydown. No one can accuse this scent of excess ... it truly is a case of less being more. A delicate, refined scent.

Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit

Initially, I experience an intense fruitiness in Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit, with the apricot note in ascendance for much of the first hour. This is replaced by the lush richness of yellow jasmine with a total combined effect of deep sweetness -- but not an overwhelming sense of rosiness, a disappointment to me. As drydown progresses, I can discern amber and sandalwood, with the musk notably absent to my nose and the chypre very subtle (hardly evident). Although this is a beautiful fragrance, it's a bit leaden ... not for me.

Annick Goutal Ce Soir Ou Jamais
According to various sites, Annick Goutal Ce Soir Ou Jamais was a scent ten years in the making and incorporates 160 essences, including Turkish rose, jasmine, ambrette (these are the three acknowledged by the Annick Goutal site), cassis, pear, peach and wild flowers. According to me, Ce Soir does bear a resemblance to the lovely Sa Majeste la Rose of Serge Lutens. I think they may share the ambrette, which affords the scent a warm muskiness. But I found this fragrance to soften into a much gentler rendition of rose, after the sharpness of its first few minutes. A sensual scent that I found myself relaxing into ... into its ultimately very gentle elegance. Lovely.


Remembrance of Scents Past

Fragrance can be a memory of who you were.

Calandre by Paco Rabanne certainly is that for me. Just now, as I oversprayed to try to catch all the notes as I write about the fragrance, I find me back in the self I once inhabited.

I love this fragrance and it has nothing to do with its notes. I love it for who and what it reminds me of. How much of that do I want to share with you? Not much.

I keep it close to me -- as Calandre stays close to your skin. From the initial contradictorily metallic floral right down to the powdery fade of drydown.

Notes of this floral aldehydic include greens and bergamot, rose, geranium, sandalwood and musk. Aldehydicphobes beware ... it is significant in the scent's signature metallic quality.

Calandre is a fairly seamless composition, with the green, floral and woods notes generating a cohesively soft sillage apparent only in close proximity.

Scent memory helps one relive the most beloved parts of one's life. Calandre is a door open to that time that was.


PLAY BALL! and Smell Good!

It's opening day for the Seattle Mariners ... and, in their honor, today's scent is Keiko Mecheri Osmanthus, with notes of golden osmanthus flower, white datura and tuberose. A delicate counterpoint to the eau de NascarDad who would be sitting beside me in the bleachers.

I am assured that KM Osmanthus' sillage would outlast the smell of beer spillage ... and permeate Safeco Field through the seventh inning and beyond.

Go Ms!


The Waking

"The Waking": a poem by Theodore Roethke

In Memoriam
John Paul II
1920 - 2005

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1908 and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1929. He taught at various colleges, ending his teaching career at the University of Washington in Seattle. His poem The Waking was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1954; Roethke died in 1963.


Spring in Seattle


"He's Just Not That Into You"

I'm not Gloria Steinem. I don't believe A Woman Without A Man Is Like A Fish Without A Bicycle. I like men. There are even a few I love.

I like the singlemindedness of men, their ability to focus on an objective -- usually a sports outcome or sex. I like the way hair grows in different places on their bodies. I like the way their gentleness comes out in unexpected ways and usually embarrasses them.

I like men. But Men Are Different Than Women.

Of the reams of advice I could give a young woman -- and by young, I mean any woman: it's to not rely on a man for -- oh, anything.

Not to say that men are unreliable or irresponsible. They will support and protect, even adore. But it must always be their decision and don't ever believe that you can force that decision.

This is where I gnash my teeth at women who complain at the shortcomings of the males in their lives. Who want to know "how can I get him to (fill in the blank)?"

You can't. If it isn't his idea, it isn't going to happen. Sorry, but it's true.

And women who believe that a man can be persuaded are fooling themselves. Oh, you can coerce cooperation of the moment ... but trust me, it won't last. Unless it *miraculously* becomes his decision.

Women, on the other hand, are persuadable. In fact, we LIKE being persuaded ... it's a form of courtship, of wooing. And I think that persuadability is hardwired, just like obdurate recalcitrance (look it up) is hardwired into males ...

but onto the title of today's entry: "He's Just Not That Into You." There's a recent popular book of that title making the rounds of the 18-24 (and even older) demographic. This book reinforces my "if it isn't his idea, it isn't going to happen" theory.

Basically it advises us (women) to stop rationalizing male behavior when they 1) don't call, 2) don't show up and 3) don't propose.

It's not because they're afraid, it's not because we've overwhelmed them with our intelligence and charm, it's not because they have 'issues with commitment,' it's not because we bear a striking resemblance to their mothers.

It's because They're Just Not That Into Us. For whatever reason, the call, appearance or marriage proposal is Not Their Idea and therefore isn't going to happen in any substantive fashion.

Sorry, but it's true. And it's a good idea to wrap your mind around this idea early. Embrace it!

Because there's a corollary for women: "I've Got My Own Ideas."

It took me a while to grasp the wildly appealing strength of this. The productively selfish concept of not structuring yourself around another human being (unless it's your child, which is a different issue altogether).

This means you don't spend hours seething in silent resentment because he won't "fill in the blank." Open your hands and let the sand of it sift through. And go do something that pleases you.

It is incredibly freeing to realize you cannot -- should not even attempt to -- shape another human being's behavior. I know this isn't revolutionary but whenever the light goes on for me, I get a little excited.

And the best part is when the call, the appearance, the proposal ... happens anyway. That fate has stepped in and decided "yup, this should happen" and everything unfolds the way you hoped and dreamed.

And the rainbow appears through the clouds with clear demarcation to the pot of gold just waiting for ... oh, and Happy April Fools Day to you!