Category: Uncategorized

Wanna See my White Bits?

Yesterday in the midst of a wave of Harvey Weinstein-centric Twitter rants from various people, one of the quite reasonable men I follow tweeted in response to the male actor Terry Crews who had revealed his own harassment at the hands of a male Hollywood executive. The tweet essentially said – and I’m paraphrasing – “I now think I understand what women mean about harassment. A man said it, so he’s immediately believed, but a woman fears to say it because she knows she’s less likely to be taken seriously.” Nailed it. But why is this still the case in 2017?

Twenty years ago I was a cute little American twenty-seven year old who had moved, quite suddenly following a hasty divorce, to Wales, courtesy of my employers who knew the best thing for me was to help me get out; out of my judgmental as hell Southern city wherein my ex and his family were doing their best to pin the blame on me, almost entirely to throw people off the scent of the fact that my ex had taken to preferring both my clothes and my male friends. Wales was new and different and mysteriously dark and broody as a country; basically the same traits I’m attracted to in men. But it also contained something for which I was not prepared and which I now see today as a symptom of the plague in our society that allows, enables and cultivates men like Harvey Weinstein.

I had only been in the country maybe five months when I was invited to a supplier day hosted by supermarket giant Tesco. We were the new kids in town, as suppliers go, but I was making our mark and getting us recognized and I relished the opportunity to get out and meet people from within my own industry from whom I could learn. The day was designed as a competition of fun outdoor pursuits and we were broken into two teams. Fatefully, I was placed on the team of a man I’ll call Ward who was a Director of a large, prestigious PLC from the same product sector as the company for which I worked. I knew them by reputation and was immediately taken with his humor, outrageousness, and candor. He was based near London, he told me, but the bulk of their operations were in Wales and were headed by a man named Mark, and at the same time he was imparting this knowledge on me, he was looking me up and down and saying out loud, “Yes, Mark will like you very much.”

Fast-forward a few more months, I had forged a casual, but fun friendship with Ward and he would often call while driving or bored to see what I was up to or – more importantly – how business was going lest I should infringe on their territory. It was coming up to Christmas, and Christmas parties back then were new to me as they were a mostly UK phenomenon when it came to big, boozy work dos, but I was soon invited to more than a few and then, I found, was also expected to arrange one for my own office. We booked ours in a hotel near Cardiff that hosted joint parties in a large, nice ballroom and I put on the obligatory black dress, heels and my signature bright red lipstick and headed out for what I saw as a necessary indulgence for my team. As we entered the hotel that night, I noticed written on the marquee the name of the companies with whom we would be sharing the room, one of them being the one for which Ward worked, except the Welsh division. I knew his friend Mark of whom he spoke so frequently would be there, as he – unlike Ward – was a board level executive and in charge of the bulk of the operations in Wales.

The bar was long and like the party, communal, so at one point while going for a refill I asked someone from this other company where I could find this Mark. “He’s right there, the ponce in the purple tie,” the man responded and gestured. I went over to introduce myself and was immediately devoured by the intention of his look; this was not a sweet, fun little man who hid his flirtations behind his humor like Ward. This was a man who knew what he wanted and was only too happy to make those desires clear.  As it turned out, Ward had not told him anything about me at all, and again Mark made no effort to hide his displeasure that his friend Ward had not shared the news of this recent U.S. import. To say I was the sudden and intense focus of this man’s attention for the remainder of the evening would be a gross understatement. He was married, but he didn’t care; his wife was there, but she had might as well have been on another planet. He engaged me in small talk, asked how often I went to London (the next day for a meeting, I told him, actually), where I lived, if I had a boyfriend and generally dissected every part of my life that would give him the information he needed to determine whether or not I was ripe for the picking. Read More…

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Andreas in Paris

Quite an extensive excerpt from the next book.

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Andreas, Paris

August 2006

My son went home to school at the end of July because he was still wait-listed for our school of choice in Hong Kong. It was less than ideal, and I made the more than 15-hour journey monthly to see him, but I was divorced and by far the major bread winner in our family, so doing just that took priority, and especially when paid at the level I was. Having been born myself into the most supportive family on earth, I knew quite well that he was as loved and safe and coddled and adored in my parents’ care as any one child could ever be, and in fact probably better off there in any case, at least for now. 

Andreas and I had arranged to meet in Paris the day before my birthday, and spend three nights together there. In the same room. For most women on their 36th, this might not have been a stretch, but for me, it was a knowing leap into an unknown abyss. It’s not just the pall that hangs over the entire event, e.g. the inevitability of sex, but also the immediate familiarity of showering, toilet habits, changing – like the express train to knowing far too much about someone you’d very possibly prefer to just adore from a distance.

We were staying at Le Meurice, my Paris habit that somewhat parallels my London one, though not to the same extent of frequency or familiarity, and when there I often arranged a special pedicure that is anathema elsewhere in the world. Andreas wasn’t due to arrive until that evening after work, so I did some light shopping, had the pedicure, took a long, hot bath and settled in for the wait. And wait. I do not remember exactly what time it was, except that it was about ten minutes after his flight was meant to have departed from Munich when he called. He had arrived at the Air France counter to be told that though his ticket had been purchased, an e-ticket had never been issued. As such, they had to call the ticketing center in France to manually issue it. From what he said – and from the near outraged tone of his voice – he truly lost his temper. They dawdled about for long enough that he had missed the last flight to Paris that evening. He had texted me when he arrived at the airport, so I knew he had arrived there in plenty of time and had wondered why I never heard back before the scheduled departure. Now I knew.

He toyed with the notion of renting a car and driving, but I told him that I would stay awake worrying as it would be the well into the wee hours of the morning before he would arrive. He retorted that he did not want me to wake up alone on my birthday. In the end, instead of going back into town, he checked into an airport hotel in Munich and took the first flight out the next morning.

By the time he arrived, I was understandably more anxious than I might otherwise have been, but when I opened the door to our opulent room, all I could see was a gigantic bouquet of flowers consuming my view. I giggled aloud and he moved them to one side so I could see his face, which was looking me up and down in an intentionally mischievous, almost mock-seductive manner. He kissed me on both cheeks and came inside. Never one to rest on his laurels, he immediately announced, after putting his bags in the dressing room, that he had berated the staff for not sending a bottle of champagne on my birthday, and that it was on its way up along with plastic cups, a satchel, and other goodies. It arrived far more quickly than I anticipated, leaving me with the notion that he had arranged this prior to his arrival, and within minutes we were making our way across the Rue de Rivoli, past the Tuileries and down towards the Seine.

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Lonely or Alone

And if the night runs over
And if the day won’t last
And if your way should falter
Along the stony pass it’s just a moment
This time will pass

~ U2, Stuck in a Moment

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Bono has been quoted as saying that he wrote the song Stuck in a Moment about an imaginary argument with his late friend Michael Hutchence, an argument in which Bono would have been trying to cajole him or “slap him around the head a bit,” to talk him out of committing suicide.  I wonder how many people know how it feels to wish they had said or done something – or even known – about someone close to them contemplating the most final of actions.

I have never spoken about the suicide of my friend earlier this year. I was standing at baggage claim at DC’s Reagan National Airport texting back and forth with my very best friend of more than forty years, talking nonsense, really, interspersed with tidbits about my godkids or when I would next be home to visit when out of the blue one of the texts popped up unceremoniously and like every other before it except that it said, “Oh my God, Wagner killed himself.” I didn’t skip a beat. I closed the text window and called my friend and said, “Why are you just now telling me this?” To which she replied, “I literally just found out the second I told you. I’m sorry. I’ll find out what I can and let you know. Are you coming home?”

No. I wasn’t going home.

In retrospect I suppose what I was experiencing was shock of some variant; I didn’t feel anything. I got into the Uber as I always did – almost every week in the same spot – and road in silence to The Jefferson, was handed the key, made my way up to the suite to which I’d been upgraded – my favorite, they know –  threw my things on the floor and went about my evening as though nothing had happened. Except that it had. I changed into my running clothes and left the hotel taking a right heading down toward the White House and the mall beyond. When I returned I retraced my footsteps back to my room, went directly into the bathroom, disrobed, stepped into the oversized shower and as soon as the water hit me, I came undone. I cried so convulsively I could not stand and instead ended up sitting on the floor of the shower for what seemed like an hour, but I had and have no concept of the time that passed. When the water began to run cold and the well of my tears had seemingly run dry, I stood, turned off the water, wrapped myself in a towel and then a robe, took my usual place on the large, stuffed-mattress bed, ordered my dinner and went back to work.

My emotional fallout from his death and from the utter wrongness of it by virtue of it having been choice remained in that shower, in that cube, washed down the drain with the sweat of my run and collective grunge of my travel as though it never happened.

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The Shedding

Do you have a $12,000 dollar sofa? I did. I don’t know why, but I did. I also used to have two Cartier watches, two Bulgaris and an extra little Hermes that I threw on for more casual occasions.

Actually, I do know why I had those things; because I hated my life. More specifically, I hated my job which consumed my life and made me into someone I never wanted to be. I have heard numerous times over the years people whom I would deem as hippies say things about how we are slaves to our possessions and that the only true freedom is owning nothing. Of course in their version, there was also usually some added on mini-diatribe about being watched by, and slaves to “the man.” Discount or derive whatever you wish from any part of that, but it took me until the age of forty-seven to figure out that what they really mean is that ridding yourself of possessions allows you to be owned by nothing; and no one.

It took me to forty-seven to figure out that the reason I worked so hard to make ever-increasing amounts of money is because I craved the freedom that can be bought with large sums of money, except that along the way, I would become so unhappy with the daily toil of my life that I would buy myself treats. Mini-motivators, congratulatory concessions, feel good pick me ups, to get me through the hellish day/week/month/meeting and back to my apartment/hotel room/flight. All the while, my expensive tastes in mood-elevating materialism consumed ever larger portions of the money I made driving the need to earn even more, acquire larger clients, take on new roles and do even more things that I despised, resented or which made me feel like a soul for rent. I could tell myself whatever I wanted to, but I wasn’t working to buy my ultimate freedom; I was working to pay off the monthly limitless Amex. I had been captured by capitalism in the most gilded of cages and extricating myself from its grasps would become a dance of mutually abusive agony.

I suppose I should be thankful that I figured it out at all, let alone while still at an age where I could stop, take stock and make the serious changes required to keep me from dying in regret of never having truly lived.

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Hindsight (The Store Owner Man)

I was not an attractive child. A learned man in our town once told my Mother that he was certain that I would one day grow into a great beauty. The features were there, he assured her, just masked behind the muscular – if not masculine – pudge, ginger hair, and oversized freckles. Of course, the man was not from our time; he merely lived there. He was an outsider – a Yankee, to be precise – and perhaps one of the only people there who was capable of seeing beyond.

I was not an attractive child, but I was a bright child, and in a small Southern town where all of the girls seemed to have been of landed money that somehow entitled them to be born with blonde hair, skinny, never-ending limbs and privilege, I needed something to which I could cling in order to ensure my escape. Both then and later.

I was a bright child, but not as perceptive in hindsight as I would have then proclaimed myself to be. I was loud and brash and preferred the company of adults to the exclusionary treatment at the hands of my peers. My days were never good, at best being ostracized at the hands of the popular and yet shunned by the ones they considered undesirables. At worst, I suffered endless abuse from classmates and teachers alike. I was in my own class; between, wherein only I dwelled. I was brash and I was loud to make it seem okay. To make me seem okay.

My parents were loving – if not obsessed – and yet not overly affectionate or effusive. I knew we were the center of their world, but somehow for me, that was not enough. When you are young and insecure, the love shown by working two jobs to provide you with the best is not as apparent as showing up for school plays or field days. And so their overwhelming devotion having been interpreted by me as a slight, I was attention and affection-starved.

Our daily routine was the same. I went to school. I hated it. I longed for 3:15. After school, I went to the sitter’s house, a not very nice woman named Yvonne who for some unknown or perhaps uninformed reason insisted that her name was actually pronounced WHY-VON in the most heinous of Southern tones. The white trash kind, at the most opposite end of the dialectical spectrum from anything resembling genteel. Whether or not she knew that they phonetics of her name amplified the perception of her as having an inborn inhospitable nature, I did not and do not know. She was a dreadful woman who made no secret of the fact that she looked after children for only the financial benefit derived from filling a market void rather than from any form of maternal or nurturing instinct that may have existed within her. If possible, she liked me even less than I did her. I was not attractive and I did not obey. I would lie on the floor of humid green shag looking out through the screened front door from the time we arrived until the time we departed, just waiting for my mother’s Cadillac to appear in the driveway with the same anticipation and impatience I otherwise reserved for the school clock.

Mom would occasionally come on time, but never early. On Fridays, she was always late.

 

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A Book, By Me

Maybe people thought I was making it up when I said in a couple of recent posts – the few I’ve written as of late – that I was busy finishing a book and was, for now, focussing my attention on that. Maybe I did not believe it myself. After all, I began writing A Jaded Lily more than ten years ago, but as I’ve said before, writing has always been put aside for the benefit of making a real living, so it had been long languishing when I finally decided to resurrect it and see if any part of it could be salvaged. There were only 163 completed pages, but I had more than 40 of notes of how I wanted it to play out and end, so rather than continuing with my blog or write a new book (which I actually started), I decided I may never be able to move on or stop wondering did I not first allow Lily to live, to see out her story on the page.

People who have read my blog will be surprised and may even be shocked. It’s fiction of the highest order, though underpinned by details of a few industries and locations I know exceptionally well. Though Lily is Chinese, she could be any girl or boy, anywhere in the world, as I state in the foreword. “She is a subject of her birth, a product of her environment and a victim of her desires, both material and physical.” It may be the physical with which some readers take issue as there is a substantial amount of sex, though not for gratuitous reasons; this is about the things we trade, compromise and sacrifice in life in pursuit of that one singular shiny object we feel holds the secret to our lasting happiness, success.

For those of you who have been so wonderful and supportive in reading my blog and yes – helping support my dream with your words of encouragement – there are a few selected excerpts available on the book’s website, AJadedLily.Com. (You can also link directly from there to the book on Amazon, both for Kindle and in paperback). The snapshots of the story provided may appear shallow or glossy, self-reflecting or even navel-gazing, but I wanted to be careful not to choose passages which gave away plot twists, were sexually explicit or – very frankly – could not benefit from some of the photographs I take during my travels.

It will most assuredly not be to everyone’s taste. But it’s mine, and it’s done. And for now, that’s all that matters to me.

 

My Greatest Affair, Part I: Honeymoon in Paris

For anyone expecting to read salacious details of my love life, you’ll need to check back once I have finally met my eternal demise, as any such details will not be forthcoming as long as I trod this earth, and for any myriad of reasons from not wanting to embarrass my son to not wanting long-since-left men to drag themselves from the recesses of my personal history and feel compelled to get in touch. No, the past is very much that and far from living with the regret or reflection — or what I refer to as the woulda/shoulda/coulda —  which I find especially common in women of southern progeny, I move only forward.  There are no men who have earned such a lofty moniker in any event, and even the ones who could potentially compete for it would never be able to hold a candle to the place which I only realized recently is actually title holder of my longest and greatest affair. I am currently in London – as I often am — and in my happiest of places; not just the city itself, but the hotel I have been blessed to call a second home for more than twenty years. It has been there for me and my family through thick and thin, good and bad, its protective staff and gilded halls carrying me through celebrations and devastations alike. Things go well in my life, I come here; things go badly in my life, I do the same. This is no fair-weathered love we have, and nor is it one that could ever be trumped or even threatened by any other place in the world.

The first time I stayed here was July 1996. My son was just over six months old and though very young, I was on a business trip for my first employer out of school, having already made enough of a name for myself — for better or worse — to be working directly for the co-founders of the company who allowed me perhaps more latitude than they should have, and in no other area was this as true as it was with travel. They were a married couple and though their company was considerable and successful, they could still be very hands on and involved when it came to the arrangements made — especially for their younger female charges — and would often give us their personal upgrades to first for our transatlantic flights and would similarly insist that if we were alone, we should stay in only the finest hotels in order to be as safe as possible. I, being a spoiled and unapologetic daddy’s girl, also still had a secondary card on my dad’s Platinum American Express card account. My parents worked very hard for everything they ever had in life, neither of them having graduated from college and both being born into poor southern families, and perhaps as a result of their hard graft as well as the guilt that was (and likely still is) poured onto parishioners every Sunday in many southern churches, never felt comfortable indulging in or enjoying the fruits of their labors. Dad used the platinum card for all things practical, from business related expenditures to paying for my wedding, but never once — in all the years he was a member — for anything frivolous or superfluous, and similarly never opened the Departures magazines that came with it or thumbed through the Platinum Card Hotel Guide which arrived annually. No, those were reserved for me and my lofty dreams as the kid who had seen one too many repeats of the I Love Lucy European episodes and just as much of The Love Boat. For as long as I could remember, I wanted to break free and explore, Departures along with the hotel guide serving as representatives of a life others lived and in which I longed to partake. But whereas this at least partially explains my initial taste of and for all things 5 star, the ongoing and severe repellant reaction to anything ‘less than’ was likely borne of and shaped by a singular, definitive event: the trauma of the Great Honeymoon Fiasco of ’92.

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