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Archive for May, 2011

In the morning O Lord, Thou wilt hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch” is the entirety of verse 3 of the Book of Psalms, said to be written by David.

David strikes me as an enthusiastic guy. I like his use of the word “eagerly.”  This verse tells me God likes us to get up every morning with an attitude of eager expectancy.  Not just random expectancy, but ordered expectancy.

Mornings are when our thoughts are freshest. Ordering our prayer to the One Upstairs is like composing one’s thoughts — a good thing to do in the morning, before the day’s business hits and our best, most creative ideas get relegated to the bottom of the To Do list, covered with a jumble of less important, more immediate tasks.

The best part of this verse is the end – David’s attitude of eagerly watching. Both concepts are exciting, dynamic. To be eager is to be young at heart, fresh, expecting good things to happen. To watch is to have an eye out for something good to happen. The reason I say “good” is that God delivers good things. Even if something He delivers doesn’t look so good right away, ultimately it’s good for us. This concept can be tough to embrace at times, which is why faith comes in handy.

Spend today eagerly watching for wonder to unfold in your life.  In other words, dear reader, stay playful.

What glass of wine would you sip while contemplating this quote?

This seems like a white wine kind of quote — light, breezy and full of expectation.  The 2008 Magnificent Wine Company’s “House Wine” White from Columbia Valley, Washington State comes to mind. A blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris mingle together in a honeysuckle and peach bouquet that fulfills its promise at first sip and beyond.  Around $12.99 a bottle, this white wine blend is fit for kings, shepherds, psalmists and optimists everywhere.

Photo of thermal pool at Margit Island, Budapest

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Clarence Brown’s 1944 MGM film National Velvet launched twelve-year old Elizabeth Taylor into stardom. But the character of her mother stole my heart in this film.  Anne Revere plays Mrs. Araminty Brown, the mother of Velvet Brown and a former champion swimmer who swam the English Channel back in a time when women didn’t do that sort of thing.

Not only does Mrs. Araminty Brown rule the roost in her household, but she has almost all of the great lines in the movie, most of them directed toward her husband.  “What’s the meaning of goodness if there isn’t a little badness to overcome?”  left me speechless with admiration.

In response to her husband deciding whether to send Velvet to Hollywood to pursue stardom after winning England’s Grand National Sweepstakes, she counsels “That’ll be a dispute for all time, Mr. Brown. Whether to do the right thing for the wrong reasons, or the wrong thing for the right reasons.”

Just listening to what comes out of Mrs. Araminty Brown’s mouth during this two-hour film is enough reason to watch it. Pearls of wisdom include her counsel to daughter Velvet of the recurring theme of seasons to all watershed events in a person’s life – perhaps no more than one great moment of glory, marriage, children, death.

This is a film that ennobles us. Watch it for your own edification, as a teaching tool for your children, and for the magnificent horse race toward the end. By the way, that’s daughter Ava riding a piebald horse in Budapest.  Stay playful.

What wine would you sip while contemplating this quote?

While contemplating horses, riding or racing, especially steeplechases, I would go with a nice, white wine tasting of apples.  Race horses are a glorious blend of high temperament with solid musculature.  The racing mindset is something not of this world. It comes to us from another place – ethereal and marvelously refined, similar to the 2010 Starborough Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough from New Zealand. With citrusy tones and a crisp hint of apple (enhanced perhaps by the green bottle), this Sauvignon Blanc is truly a find and at what a price: $10.99 a bottle.

Rozsa’s weekly book excerpt

From Running from Love (2011) by Rozsa Gaston

“You’re a woman of great influence, I see,” he whispered as he steered her to an empty bistro table nearby.

“That’s why you’re researching me for your book, n’est-ce pas?”

“Yes.” He plunged right in, following her cue. “Now tell me everything — the before, the now and the after.”

“I’m afraid I can’t venture a guess as to the after.” She looked at him quizzically. “Now is fairly confidential too. But we can go over some points of getting from before to right before now.”

She lacked the wound, yet Jude couldn’t help liking her. He’d guess she was a tiger.  No wonder she’d wound up the wife of someone on  the Forbes Top 400 Richest People in America list.

“Why don’t we start with before?” he suggested.

“Before I married Charlie, I worked as a sales associate at Lilly’s on the Avenue.” She referred to Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich’s main shopping street.

“You mean the pink and green store?” Lilly Pulitzer via Palm Beach was a signature clothing line beloved by denizens of communities such as Greenwich, Connecticut and Palm Beach, Florida.

“Yes. I look good in pink and green.”

He nodded silently, not doubting her. “But guys don’t shop at Lilly’s, do they?”

“You’re right. Most of its customers are women.”

“So how did you meet Charlie?”

“I was hired by Lilly’s corporate office to model their new spring/summer line at events around town.”

“Did you have modeling experience?”

“I told them I did and they bought it.”

“I’d buy it too.” The way she moved was easy, graceful. She was lithe and elastic; a poster child for the athletic, natural look Greenwich women favored.

“Right. I actually did do a little modeling in high school. Along with all the other girls in my class who participated in our annual prom preview shows.”

“Where’d you go to high school?”

“Maryland. College Park.”

Jude wondered if she knew Tom’s wife, Posey. Probably not.

“Private school?”

She gave him a look. “What do you think?”

“Public.”

“Correct.”  The champagne flute arrived and she took a sip, delicately holding the thin stem between slim, French-manicured fingers. Jude sensed she was 100% studied, a Ph.D. in the school of life.  But she was fresh and zingy too. A fun-loving woman lurked behind all that careful sophistication. It occurred to him that whatever her husband had  seen in her might have been something entirely different from whatever impression on him she had thought she was making.

“So you were modeling pink and green fashions at some local event when your future husband spotted you?”

“Actually I was wearing yellow and orange the first time we met. It was at the car show they run every summer down at Greenwich Harbor.”

“The Concours d’Elegance?”

“Right. I got paid by the sponsors to be a car model and by Lilly to wear their line.”

“I assume neither knew the other was paying you too,” Jude put in.

“Why should they?” Jordan replied briskly, her finely groomed eyebrows pointing into vees.

Impressive. The woman clearly possessed business instincts.

“What kind of car were you exhibiting when your future husband appeared?” he asked.

“It was one I’d never head of. A Delahaye. Convertible.”

“Huge?” He’d heard of  the French car manufacturer, known for making some of the most beautiful luxury vehicles in the world in the first half of the 20th century.

“A monster. You wouldn’t want to know how many miles to the gallon.”

Jude thought back to the trim, sleek Jaguar in the parking lot. That was his kind of car. What was his kind of woman?

From Running from Love (2011) by Rozsa Gaston

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Dahling – You’re not wondering who Jolie Gabor is, are you? She was a Hungarian woman (1894-1997) full of life, sparkle and ambition who came to the United States in 1945.  Not unimportantly, she was the mother of three glamorous daughters: Zsa Zsa, Magda and Eva (of Green Acres fame).

Jolie wrote an eponymous autobiography as told to Cindy Adams (Mason/Charter: 1975).  I simply couldn’t put down this book. Zsa Zsa’s mother was full of wisdom as well as wit, charm and joie de vivre.

First and last, she was a raging optimist.  An unapologetic materialist, she took  joy in surrounding herself with fine things. Aside from shameless name-dropping, bragging, and jockeying for position with her three daughters, Jolie’s book is filled with wisdom, insights and unabashed honesty that shines the light of day on many dark corners and doesn’t make them look so bad. Read this book and find out about yourself as you learn Jolie’s story. Yes, I said ‘yourself.’ It’s that kind of book.

Enfin, say a prayer for Zsa Zsa, who is a strong woman now battling for her life. She is her mother’s daughter in every way.  Jolie would join me in saying stay playful, dear reader. – with love from another Zsa Zsa

What wine would you sip while contemplating this quote?

I would have to say Champagne, given we are pondering the words of the mother of the Gabor sisters.  Since I am not a huge Champagne drinker (gives me a headache, too dry), I would choose a 1999 Perrier Jouet Fleur de Champagne Blanc de Blanc for all the wrong reasons.  After it’s gone, you will have a stunning vase for the next bouquet of flowers you receive or give to the lady of your household (Around $224 per bottle).  Moreover, Wine Spectator awards 90 points to this “rich and muscular” vintage; a fitting aperitif with which to contemplate Jolie Gabor, a woman both rich and muscular in her zest for life. 

All photos courtesy of Jolie Gabor as told to Cindy Adams (Mason/Charter: 1975).  A big thank you to another fabulous mother/daughter team, Baroness Ariana von Trautenegg and Ariane Csonka, who lent me this out-of-print book.

Rozsa’s weekly book excerpt

From Paris Adieu (2011) by Rozsa Gaston

I sang as if I was Kit Moresby trapped in a harem in the middle of the desert in Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky, one of my favorite novels.  My delivery was breathy, intimate. No one paid the slightest attention. The crowd dining, drinking and chatting before me had not yet recognized my genius.

Finally a sole pair of hands began to clap, followed by several others. I peered out, but was blinded by the bright stage lights trained on the elevated platform I was on.

Next I chose a French tune, “La Vie En Rose.” Edith Piaf had made it famous. I couldn’t sing like her, all four feet ten inches of nasal cockiness, so I sang it my own way. I hoped the audience would find my American accent exotic, much the same way I enjoyed hearing French or Brazilian singers cover an English pop tune back in New York.  Satisfied with my arrangement, more of a dance tune than Piaf’s version, I ended dramatically, cutting the drum machine off with my foot pedal at the final moment.  In New York this usually elicited a round of applause. Not here.

For a moment, there was only the background hum of diners talking. Then again a sole set of hands began to applaud. A few more joined in, all from the same direction. It was break time.

“Ava, you were great,”

Arnaud ’s voice floated alongside me. I hadn’t seen him come in.  My eyes adjusted to the darker lighting of the room as I turned in his direction.

He smiled, his eyes boring into mine.

“For sure, you’re the only one listening, but thanks,” I laughed, relieved to see him.  In the dim light his eyes looked grey, mystical. They seemed less crystalline, more limpid tonight. I wanted to swim in them.

He motioned me over.

I followed him to his table and sat, breathing in his faint male scent.

“I liked your version of Black Orpheus,” Arnaud  remarked again.

“You’re the only one,” I observed dryly, but pleased nevertheless.  At least he’d recognized the tune.

“Am I?,” he asked, lowering his voice.

“What do you mean?” There I was playing catch-up again in response to Arnaud’s lightning fast conversational turns.

“Am I the only one?” he whispered.

I tried to think of a response as light and teasing as a kitten’s cuff.

“It’s a secret,” I finally said.

“I like secrets.”

The next two sets flew by in a dream. At some point Henri turned up at the bar, giving me a thumbs up while sipping yet another miniscule cocktail. He hadn’t bothered to approach me even once to let me know how the sound mix was.

I was tired of him and tired of gigs in dive restaurants or even nice ones; tired of inattentive audiences and absent sound engineers. Maybe if I’d been a knockout performer, belting out hit after hit I wouldn’t feel this way.  But I wasn’t.

I was an Astrid Gilberto-type of performer, humming a whispery bossa nova tune in her kitchen, cooking for her man. Okay, that was going a bit far, but I could definitely see myself singing quietly while arranging flowers in a high-ceilinged apartment with ornate moldings shared with Arnaud  in a fashionable neighborhood.

From Paris Adieu (2011) by Rozsa Gaston

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Russell Brand quipped “Nothing worth knowing can be taught. Nothing worth owning can be bought” on Piers Morgan Tonight on April 6, 2011.  The moment the phrase tripped off his tongue, I thought how extraordinary it was. It sounded like something Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) might have said, so I checked. Indeed, Wilde said “Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” But “Nothing worth owning can be bought” seems equally as profound and I was unable to trace to whom these words are attributable, so I give Russell Brand credit here and am ready to stand corrected. Please comment if you know the derivation of this phrase.

What glass of wine would you sip while contemplating this quote?

This is the sort of robust thought that requires red wine.  I would go with a 2007 Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. Robert Parker awards it 90 points and despite those who say nothing worth owning can be bought, at $12-$15 a bottle I’d say this is an exception.

Rozsa’s weekly excerpt

From Running from Love (2011) by Rozsa Gaston

“I’d like to ask you something.”

“Yes dear?” Helen Shaw had warmed up in direct correlation to Farrah becoming sharper with her. It reminded her of someone, now only yards away. She thought of how exhausting it might be to maintain a dynamic like that over years.

“Is what went wrong with Will and Alexandra the same thing as what went wrong with Will and myself?”

“I wonder why you think I’d know the answer to that.”

“Because you know your son better than I do.”

“Have you asked him?”

“He said it got stale.”

“Yes. I gathered that was the gist of it.”

“Mrs. Shaw — I’ve never been married, but you have …”

“Three times, dear.  I was nineteen when I married Will’s father.”

“Well — we both know how talented and artistic Will is.” She needed to tread delicately.  “Do you think maybe he would just get that stale sort of feeling after a while, no matter who he was married to?”

Helen Young Shaw coughed slightly as she put down her vodka martini.

“You ask good questions. Exactly the sort of questions you should be asking.”

“I’m counting on you to give me some answers.”

“Have you talked this over with your own mother?”

The lump rose in Farrah’s throat faster than the olive rising in Will’s mother’s martini glass as she stirred.

“She’s dead.”

“Oh my dear. I’m so sorry.” Mrs. Shaw’s hand shot out and patted Farrah’s.

“About eight years ago. I wonder if maybe Will might not be the sort of person who takes to domestic life.”

Mrs. Shaw looked at her keenly.

“Farrah – nobody can answer the questions you’re asking except yourself. Whatever I tell you might turn out wrong in your particular case. It all depends on the combination of you and him. You might have just what it takes to keep him engaged and intrigued.”

Wise words.  Farrah studied the marble wall over the head of the woman across from her before replying.

“I’m not sure I’d want to feel like I need to keep someone constantly intrigued if I was married to him.”  As the words spilled out of her mouth, she realized how much she had changed over the past three years. No way was she interested in being someone’s entertainment committee. Not even Will.

Mrs. Shaw sighed. “I know what you mean, dear.”

“I think I’d rather feel comforted or supported by a husband who wasn’t looking for constant stimulation.”

“Well, good luck with that.”  Will’s mother made a wry face then glanced around.

Farrah followed her gaze. Will was walking back toward them. He looked petulant, discriminating — all the points that had captivated her then. They weren’t humming to her now.

“You mean good luck with Will on that score, right?”  Only seconds remained to find out if his mother was speaking in generalities or specifics.

“I mean you’ve got your work cut out for you,” Mrs. Shaw murmured as her tall, handsome son put his hand on her shoulder.

“The Ming Dynasty Exhibit awaits,” he announced, his eyes restlessly scanning the crowd.

“Sit down, Will. I want to talk with you a moment,” his mother said.

He swung into his chair, running a hand through his leonine, greyish hair.

Farrah knew that gesture. It looked debonair, but it meant he was nervous.

Suddenly she realized she didn’t want to have to try so hard to make a relationship work.  Looking in Will’s direction, she watched as he gave her the faintest of smiles.

She didn’t return it.

From Running from Love (2011) by Rozsa Gaston

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