Sunday, March 29, 2009


It’s Earth Hour and I’m writing this by Candle Light. How appropriately romantic for a post titled “Inspiration.”

When I tell people I’m writing a novel, the conversation can go one of three ways. Some people just kind of go “oh wow” and then walk away, others tell me about their own projects. The third -- and my favorite possibility by far -- is when a really interesting conversation naturally grows out of my admission and the fact that I have, in reality, been wrestling with the damn thing for a good long while.

The most common question by far is about inspiration. People are always interested in where I get mine -- like my gogi berries or my raw cacao powder. The truth is that, unlike my food, which I am very careful about sourcing, I have no idea where ideas come from... Sometimes they find me, and others, I have to hunt them down.

D says the difference between writing a novel and writing a screenplay is like easing yourself into a hot bath versus taking a shower. I’ve been in this bath tub for so long now that my fingers and toes have become wrinkled like raisins, but I can’t say I don’t love every second.

And as for inspiration…

For days, I had been looking for New York moments. Not that I don't have many of them banked already, but memories get old they get stale after being retold hundreds of times. The context of this particular quest is that one of my characters, in order to avoid her own set of issues, makes up stories about the people she sees around her. Rather than dredge up things I saw five years ago, I decided I wanted to go looking for new tidbits, see what came my way. I had been wandering around in search of “them”, but hadn’t really found anything beyond the usual array of kooks, drunks and fashionistas that are no longer interesting to me. Then, the other night, walking towards the subway in Greenwich Village after a very special evening with a classmate and new friend, they all came to find me, to let me know that they weren’t going to let me down – the colorful persons that dot and decorate the City, the moments that make this place what it is.

Thankfully, my Blackberry was working that night, and I typed up what was going on around me in real time, as it unfolded with the kind of perfection that can only come when one is looking for it:

(Note: I have minimally edited the text, corrected typos, etc. but, for the rest, this is what happened, as it took place around me and in my head on the night between Friday March 20th and Saturday, March 21st)

NYC 1 a.m.
I make my way from University Place to the subway. It's the middle of the night by all accounts. The transsexual asks me what time it is and whether she'll make it to Brooklyn in time.
"I hope so" I tell her honestly. It's 1 a.m. And if you’re on the subway, you're either sadly ending your evening like me, or just beginning, like her, in her bright yellow tank top, slugging her Redbull as she hums to herself.

I’d walked the three blocks to the train in a trance. It had been a lovely evening the way only NY nights can be. My new friend was charming, great company, and our "night cap" had turned into revelations so personal that had she not been as wonderful as she is, I would have been embarrassed. But this is not the UK, and definitely not LA, and she had been as open as I could have asked for, as kind and giving as one would hope for from a new friend. (And I don't use that term lightly)

We called the elevator from the hallway of the flat - it was that kind of place, the kind of place where the ceilings are exposed brick and the lift opens up into the living room - and as we waited, she showed me where she does her morning exercises: looking uptown at the Manhattan skyline. I had to laugh. Only in NYC. This is the NYC of my dreams, the one I aspire to, the easy nonchalance afforded by artistic endeavors gone right. D talks about LA that way, about the horizon that stretches on ad infinitum from the bird's eye view of his convertible B-mer that I'd affectionately dubbed "Henry" in tribute to my husband's background. For me it's about the landscaped pent-terrace on the 27th floor of a 10th street apartment, it's about the Wednesday Farmer's Market at Union Square, the religiously raw, vegan beauty of a menu that nonetheless offers the best Mojitos in town.

As I walked towards the subway, the sleeve of my raincoat slid against parallel worlds.

"Walk the fuck in there" a seventeen-year-old tells his terrified girlfriend, "act as if you've been there before, like you know everyone."
"But they kicked me out already" she pleads, her mascara forming a clumpy scar along the bridge of her nose.

A few doors down, a skinny-looking bitch cuts a rich-looking birthday cake as other cadavers look on, including one happy shmuck who is clearly going to be the only one actually getting some.

Two teenagers sneak out for a fag, "dude, I copped this shit for like five Euros. I'd like kill your family for this thing." The sweatshirt he’s referring to is black, hooded and that’s all there is to it.

I wonder which doorman will be working when I get back to the flat, the Jamaican man who loves to tease D about his terrible taste in British football teams, or the shorter, quieter man who takes his job so seriously that he once knocked on my door at ten minutes to midnight to make sure he delivered a package.

The transsexual keeps staring back at me as if I know when she'll get there. I want to tell her I don't know, so I half smile and shrug. "This is the way to Brooklyn?" She asks, twiddling her hair like I often do. I nod. Brooklyn, that bastard that I swore off so many years ago, that I have nevertheless been unable to forget. Though the changes have been inevitable, Brooklyn is still recognizable, just a more mature version of what it used to be. Like me, setting up shop in London, Brooklyn is different and the same, a four-bedroom house, still near enough as filled as a two-bedroom apartment, the student turned adjunct, the adjunct turned professor. We recognize each other, respect that certain something that will remain in the past.

Down between the tracks, large rats are taking advantage of the lull in subway traffic to scurry from one side to the other. One is fine - normal - but by the time I count five, and then six, it's become a little worrisome. What if they decided to make their way up to the platform? These rodents are enormous, like ardvarks or bears. Would us humans even stand a chance? Another one scurries boldly along the damn electrified bit. It seems in a hurry - I wish the trains were a little more so: in that way we can all learns from each other.

The other day I ran into an ex-boyfriend - a typical specimen of those strange old days: very cute, attractive, with an interesting job. But what a creature. Back then, he said that because we were together it was OK for him to read my mail. Even before anything had happened between us, he didn't close the door when he peed (forget putting the seat down). I'd told him it wasn't going to work. He'd called me a whore. Sore fucking loser. And then he did it again just the other day, after I told him I was married. Ha!

The past has a funny, tearjerking way of pulling you through that eye of the fucking needle. But only if you want it to.
"That was ---" I pointed out an old restaurant to D last time he was here. Now it's a store.

A woman sitting a few people down gets up to cross the platform. She's wearing beaten-up Adidas sneakers, simple jeans and a red sweatshirt. Her hair is pulled back into a messy ponytail as if she just woke up. She hauls a seemingly heavy purse over her shoulder. It's as shiny as the rest of her is plain: silvery flecks machine-woven in with black shimmer. Though she's going nowhere, apparently her bag has plans.

1:17 a.m. My friend, the transsexual won't make her plans. I hopped into a different carriage just in case.

My coconut water is getting warm in my eco-friendly bag that I carry around with me everywhere. By this point it's easier to daydream about tomorrow already, but first tonight has to come to an end. The train conductor gets on the loudspeaker to announce that "makshduevd-pleez-buduevfknxtehjlk-thank you". None of us -and the carriage is full - get a word, but it was so garbled that we don't bother to ask one another.

A second conductor, one who apparently speaks English, hurls "Hey! Listen up!| He demands that we switch trains. It's now half past, but for all the people getting on, grumbling and swearing, it may as well be rush hour. This is New York after all, and everyone has somewhere they need to be NOW, well past midnight, including my fresh Thai Coconut water that’s supposed to last me well into next week.


There's no train to switch to and nobody seems to give a damn, except for the guy with the remarkably long goatee who's looking around for a female consort to share in the community grief.

New York, where you recognize the tourists because they are the only people looking up. Even at 1:30 a.m. I love it. Even when the bitch in the Manolos clips in front of me as if she's late for fashion week (in Brooklyn?!?!), even when I freeze my ass off because nobody said it would snow on the first day of Spring, even when the train conductor tells us all to get onto the next train that is going in a whole other direction, even with bad wine at $18 a glass, it's New York, and like a younger sibling who can get away with murder, I forgive, forget, move on, masochistically loving, lovingly adoring, accepting, because that's just how it is in NYC.

The wrong train arrives and I ask the conductor whether it will be stopping at my stop. My words are slurred, not because I'm drunk but I'm so tired and my contacts seem to want to abort their visionary mission all of a sudden. Behind me, a British man who looks like everyone I've ever met in London - good-guy, brown hair, glasses - asks the same question as I just did and gets the same answer: "hrghuh". I step in just as the doors are closing. No need to sit down. It's just one - oh, two stops (really? Where the fuck am I?). And then, finally, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn’s Arc de Triomphe (if only because we're both celebrating the triumph of my arrival) is lit blue. The two blocks from the subway stop to the apartment seem exceptionally long. It’s 2 a.m. There are about thirty of us walking in roughly the same direction – more people than I saw in the street when I left the neighborhood twelve hours ago. A woman is talking to her dog, explaining why it should hurry up and go. The dog is looking at the blue mailbox with much more interest than should be legal. There is no doorman waiting for me, they’ve all gone home.

Some part of this will end up in my novel in one form or another. This is the rough material, which I will then mold into new bits and pieces, stories, characters, events that take place for my protagonist, a wide-eyed young woman living in -- duh! -- New York City. It will remain fiction, or rather, reality will percolate through the filter that takes fact and turns it into fiction.

One day I will be asked whether the story is based on my life, whether any of the characters are me, whether anyone in the novel is based on a person I have known. The answers to all of the above will be yes and no, definitely and not at all, completely and no way.

In the mean time, I slug away, hitting twenty thousand words, and then fifty, only to go back down to thirty, and so on. I believe it was Stephen King who said that the reason he sits at his desk at the exact same time every morning is so that if the muse decides to pay him a visit she’ll know where to find him.

I wish I had his discipline, but lacking that, I’m just grateful that when those golden moments present themselves, I’m hopefully awake enough, able to recognize them and get them down as fast as they happen.


The same goes for food. When an idea hits, it just does. It can come as a result of a conversation, from seeing a photograph or a painting, or in a dream. I no longer ask why some part of me needs to go buy fresh cranberries and mint; I just do it.

Inspiration is a the ornamental, beautiful part of intuition.

Below is a photograph of last week’s brainstorm: bean patties with blood orange salsa.

The recipe will follow as soon as it is share-worthy – because like with writing, it can sometimes take a few drafts...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dear Friends, Family and other beautiful souls I’ve encountered along the way –

As many of you know, earlier this year, I embarked on a career change. The study of Holistic Health Counselling is a lifelong pursuit, much like any other joys and passions in life. However, I am now ready to start seeing clients and so have decided to reach out to you all in the hopes of finding people who are interested in engaging my services.

What does a holistic health counsellor do?
Nourishment and health aren’t just about what you eat. A healthy person is a happy person, living a fulfilled life in their career, their relationships, their spiritual and physical practice. So while nutrition might be a starting point, it is by no means the only avenue tackled in the field of holistic nutrition. You can eat perfectly, but if you hate your job, chances are, you’re probably not the healthiest person around.

How is Holistic nutrition different from working with a dietician or a nutritionist?
Completely. Many people leave their dietician or nutritionist’s office more confused than they arrived. Though they get tons of advice, more often than not, people are unaware of what to do, and how to go about making the changes recommended. That is where I come in: by translating theory into practice with simple, easily implemented tips, I help make the transition to healthier choices empowering instead of terrifying.

Who do I work with?
I am focusing on individuals who, due to dietary, medical or personal reasons have had to remove certain foods from their diet and need help and support in figuring out how to successfully implement these changes. Life doesn’t have to end because you can no longer eat bread! As you know, I have been through this myself and am excited to share what I have learned -- we are so lucky in that these days, there are so many options available to us!

How does it work?
We start off with a free hour-long evaluation, after which I offer a six-month program for those interested in pursuing a deeper exploration into health, empowerment and wellbeing. Neither the initial consultation nor the program itself have to be done in person: I will be available over the phone as well as on Skype, so we don’t even need to be in the same country to conduct our sessions.

If you or anyone you know is interested in finding out more, please contact me at
To celebrate the start of this wonderful endeavour, I will be offering a 10% discount to anyone who signs up for my six-month program before April 1st – just put “get the ball rolling” in the subject of your email.

Thank you for your friendship and love during this time and throughout this process.

In gratitude,

PS I am also in the process of creating a website – coming soon to a virtual world near you! I’ll keep you posted. In the mean time, however, if you’re interested in finding out how I’m doing, keep checking
I’d love to hear from you!

Monday, March 2, 2009

8 a.m. March 2nd, 2009

Three days earlier....
The apartment looked like I’d turned my brain inside out and had emptied its full contents into an adorable one-bedroom in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. There were magazines and articles on food, health, healing and ethical business practices strewn everywhere. D was scheduled to arrive in an hour and I had no idea where to start.

His voice kept echoing in my head, something he’d said long ago, at the beginning of our relationship: “You don’t know what it’s like to be messy.”
Part of me wanted to leave the place exactly as it was, just to prove him wrong. But I couldn’t, I was physically unable to welcome him into such a mess.

I am working on my company launch, the novel – that old tortoise of a thing -- my counselling practice, and a sweet mystery product. Life is going fast, whizzing by quicker than a month did in my darkest depths of depression. Exciting opportunities keep tickling my feet; and the best ones smack me in the face around just about every corner (in a good way – I am constantly scribbling ideas and epiphanies down on random torn bits of paper, my hand, or fervently typing them into my blackberry).

And as I move forward, I find myself sated in a way that I haven’t been – possibly ever before. Whereas for years, I’ve been roaming around the kitchen aimlessly searching for something to satisfy my vague, indeterminate cravings, these days, a rich bowl of salad, topped with all kinds of goodies – nuts, beans, sprouts, herbs – will keep me going.

Of course some things are deeply ingrained – chocolate, for example, is neither about hunger, nor is it in any way removable from my daily routine. I crave chocolate at any time of the day -- it will pop into my head like a cartoon bubble…. fluffy dots leading to fluffy cloud, pop up picture of chocolate… But so what? These days, instead of admonishing myself for being weak, I allow myself the abandon of indulging in a square or two. Homemade, dark, raw, delicious, if I eat it after five or so, I’m up half the night. The power of goodness.

Remember those ads in the US in the late eighties / early nineties – the ones with the hot pan and the egg: this is your brain (cut to whole egg), this is your brain on drugs (splat, and the egg becomes somebody’s soft-boiled breakfast, glistening with fat and spattering on the high heat of the knob/heroin)? That’s kind of how I feel, sans drugs. I feel whole and healthy and the forward momentum is filling, gratifying, exciting.

And now D’s here. The morning he arrived, I was so nervous, I must have tried on every piece of clothing I brought with me to New York. He’s come for four days. And suddenly I’m not writing 1000 words on the novel, nor have I studied. As if D’s presence should be enough for me while the rest of my life is mere filler. I’m ecstatic and repressed, enjoying his presence and missing my headspace, fulfilled and frustrated at the same time. Walking around Brooklyn with him is exciting and inspiring and yet I’m also very aware that the next draft of my article is due in class Wednesday night, that I have another school weekend coming up and homework due, that four days away from the novel equals five thousand words at least…

Last year, I had these same thoughts when, after 10 weeks apart, D came to Bangkok. Suddenly, it wasn’t just me and a far-off, disconnected voice on the other end of the line. There was someone else to take into account. Granted, D is probably the most easy-going person in the world: as long as I let him voice his old-lady-like worries, he’s up for almost anything – still…

I remember that I wasn’t as excited at our reunion as he seemed to be. For the first few hours, he stared at me in what can only be described as adoring disbelief while I
wanted to run away.

D arrived Thursday night to a moderately tidy flat. Still, there ain’t a spy-thriller to be found. This is Brooklyn. It’s my turf, my interests, the Grand Army Plaza farmer’s market on Saturday morning instead of hungover baked beans and rashers, the socialist food coop, not the socialites’ Fromagerie. And it’s the subway, not the tube that we take into The City, not Town.

I was pretty nervous. He’s loving it.

I pulled back. He pulled me close.

I made dinner. He devoured it.

And then it all fell back into place.

He decided to come to Brooklyn for four days, after we’d had the same fight for five days in a row. Not one long, ongoing argument. No, we had the same exact argument five days running. So D thought it might be a good idea to reconnect face to face.

There is something different about the person I decided to marry. It’s almost impossible to put into words. I mean, seriously, it’s not like he’s the only man I’ve ever dated, but with D, there is something that none of the others had. When I peel off our layers of baggage, family, career, fears, hurts, pain, issues, childhoods, etc, when it’s purely him in his rawest state and me in mine – naked as the day our souls came to be – we fit. Part of me wishes I could put it in more flowery terms, describe, embellish, but I don’t know how else to put it. It really is that simple.

So here he is, reading my Body + Soul magazine in the loo, drinking my dandelion shake in the morning and enjoying rice milk and agave in his rooibos tea. Tasting delicious life in Brooklyn together makes me think about when we met – going on five years ago now. I had left Brooklyn by then, and was living in a grotty studio in Midtown East, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. Once I’d moved away from Brooklyn, I had fallen out of love with The City, but at the time, I couldn’t afford the rents, so instead I was looking for an out. When I met D, the timing couldn’t have been better and since neither of us was in the market for a long-distance relationship, it made sense for me to stay on the West Coast with him. Anything seemed better than Midtown East.

Thinking about the last five years, as D and I wander past Fifth and Carroll in Park Slope, how every decision I made got me right here, right now. In five years, I wonder where I’ll be standing as I reflect on this same exact thought, and how logical it will all seem then. Fifth Avenue and Carroll Street was where my first apartment was when I arrived in New York City in 1999.
Last week, with D a million miles away, I kept having to remind myself that I did leave Prospect Heights, that I wrote a novel in France, that I moved to Los Angeles, that we bought a house in West Hampstead, that D actually exists as a real person, not just an imaginary creation. I shop at the same places I did when I lived here almost a decade ago. La Taqueria, with its submarine torpedoes for Burritos, is still there as are a bunch of the coffee shops like the insufferable Ozzie’s and the overpriced bean-grinding place on 7th Avenue. The level of unhelpful attitude at the Coop is unchanged, and the Saturday flea market at PS321 still doesn’t have anything I could ever imagine wanting. But I am different. My life has little in common with the one I lived back then. I give D’s hand a little squeeze as we make our way to Bergen Bagels for the greatest hangover cure in history – that’s one thing that’s as relevant in 2009 as it was in 1999.

(though yes, it’s true, I can no longer take advantage of it)