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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guest Blog: "Dating L.A." by Brian Leiken

L.A. is a goddess.

She is the daughter of Apollo and Lilith, forever chic, eternally young, phone glued to her ear as she veers down the freeway.

Like all gods, she goes by many names: Hollywood and Tinseltown. She is the American Idol.

Dating in L.A. is notoriously difficult. People who move here often go for years finding no one, then move away only to discover a "soul mate" and marry six months later.

It's a paradox. How can a city known for its youth and beauty, a city crammed full of party loving singles, a city like L.A., be so difficult for finding love?

The problem is the nature of L.A. herself.

She's elusive. Her whims are fickle. She wants everything but promises nothing. Many come to L.A. seeking her, yearning for her approval.

She is mesmerizing, Narcissus reborn; those who seek her unable to tear themselves away, hoping, praying, even begging for the briefest hint of her acknowledgement.

She's beautiful, the essence of desire; to have L.A. laughing on your arm is to have every aspiration fulfilled. Her silhouette covers the city in sequined glamour.

People who look in the mirror do not want to see themselves - they want to see her gazing back at them with longing.

She is terrifying, this goddess. Those lucky few who bask in her glory often get too close to her divine flames, burning up, enraptured by all that she offers.

Those who lose her interest are the wash outs; has-beens who frequently debase themselves on game shows and reality TV in acts of public self-flagellation, all in the vain hope of regaining her approval.

Within six months most who come to L.A. realize she doesn't exist, no more real then a mirage, no more attainable than a bowl of Cezanne's fruit. You can only gaze at her illusive beauty.

She is untouchable, but her captivating splendor remains alluring and tempting.

It is because of this goddess, this siren of desire, that dating is impossible in L.A.

No one wants to date who they are with - they want her. She is the collective consciousness of the modern world's dreams, a broadcast of mass marketed fantasy.

L.A. is lust and passion, wealth and romance, ecstasy and bliss. No mere mortal can match up to the promise of L.A; no one person can fulfill all the dreams and endless possibilities she evokes.

It is only after becoming numb in the land of collagen and silicon enhanced bodies that the realization dawns - not even L.A. can satiate all that she promises.

No matter how much you are with her, L.A. leaves you hungry and desperate for more. More fame, more success, more praise, more self-adoration.

L.A. doesn't bequeath dreams, L.A. bestows hallucination.

Natives born in her womb are impervious to fever induced charms. Birthed with immune systems incapable of substance, L.A. natives accept her artificiality with a zen like Buddhism that mystifies outsiders.

For the natives do not date; they "hook-up." For them, it is enough to have a look and the appearance of a relationship.

For true initiates of Hollywood, the image is the person, what you look like is who you are. They accept that when you are in a relationship, you aren't just a boyfriend or a girlfriend, you're an accessory.

In most places, it's what you bring to the table. In L.A. it's not what you bring, it's who you bring to the table.

In L.A. an image isn't skin deep because there is nothing beneath the skin. Dating in L.A. isn't about love or commitment. It's about creating an image, all in an attempt to be closer, to be closer to her.

It's why as a "broke" writer I did better dating than as an employed teacher - a writer has the potential of launching a career, catapulting an individual into her hands.

A teacher? A teacher might be able to add you to his PPO.

It's why people in L.A. can have one night stands, but are incapable of sustaining a relationship. In a relationship, your image might not be compatible with theirs.

People often say to me, "Leiken, you are too picky. You won't bend, you won't compromise. You expect too much. You don't put yourself out there won't change your look."

To date in L.A. you have to find your niche, you need to have a "look."

Because when you are dating in L.A. you are dating two women. The girl you are with, and L.A. One I can handle, the other can never be satisfied.

Copyright 2010 by Brian Leiken

Long hair photo by vassiliki koutsothanasi
Narcissism photo by lu tb
In the sun photo by Ulrika Bengtsson

LA Teacher

Brian Leiken is an L.A. inner-city, special ed teacher and author of Crossed Out, a book about and for his students. Oh yes, he's also my son:)

Crossed Out by Brian Leiken at

Also see my initial impressions of L.A. after moving from Washington, D.C.:
D.C. to L.A: A Monumental Change

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Erana in Wonderland

Sometimes my mind is in a hurry and races along like the White Rabbit eager to get to the next new idea.

The mind is a wonderful thing. It takes us anywhere, anytime and lets us frolic through ideas, memories, fantasies, reflections.

My mind loves to play. It can also overwork and sometimes refuses to shut up like the Mad Hatter.

When I daydream, my mind flits from thought to thought as if I were a busy bee pausing at each mind flower to sample its nectar.

As my mind wanders, it discovers, it lingers, and it bolts. Some thoughts enter and leave right away. “Hmm, that’s interesting.” “Don’t go there…you know what happens there.” Others are obsessive and won’t let go. “Why did he do that? When will I ever learn?”

My mind takes me places where I laugh, cry, and get mad.

I have states of mind that can spiral me into fear, dread, and anger or joy and contentment. My mind conjures up faces, conversations, replays and even re-records events as they happened and as I wish they had happened. “Why didn’t I say.”

My mind acts like a child: “Go ahead, try it. Have fun!” Like an adult: “Are you crazy? Do you know what will happen if you do that?”Like the Queen of Hearts, my mind becomes tyrannical as it imagines “off with my head.”

Sometimes I over think, analyze to the nth degree, and put myself in a riddle like the Cheshire Cat. Sometimes I misconstrue, think it’s one thing when it’s not that at all.

Mind tricks and mind games can be misleading and create doubt and distrust. I have to catch myself from going into dark alleys and trying to avoid trouble I’m creating.

I’ve tried mind control. “Stop thinking about it.” Sometimes it works. Other times the mind has a will of its own and refuses to be corralled. It mostly wants to be untethered and act on its own accord.

It’s interesting and often delightful to let it wander, play with ideas as if they were friends, and explore new thoughts.

When I let my mind be free, I often discover creative ways of seeing things. It helps me problem solve and reframe situations and issues.

I am mind “full,” too much at times, and even capricious. When I let it rest, it takes time out for awhile during meditation, a sort of spa for the mind to get refreshed and start anew.

During meditation, I need to protect my mind from reality, the lists, tasks, chores of everyday life. We both need a break.

The rewards for taking a mind break often lead me to inspiration and creative breakthroughs. Today I took a mind break.

Illustration by Peter Sheaf Hersey Newell
Alice in Wonderland by DGBurns
Wonderland by A-D Passion

Copyright © Erana Leiken, 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Guest Villa Vita blog: Ciao for Now, Il Borgo

Sharing the Beauty of Travel in Italy and Beyond

by Gina Ruggiero, Villa Vita Blog

I am sitting on the plane en route back to the U.S. after another absolutely wonderful stay in Tuscany thinking to myself “how can I be so lucky”?

I believe a large part of my good fortune can be accredited to learning about Il Borgo Villa di Bossi Pucci. Since I first entered through the grand gates last year, I (and everyone I bring here) have been treated with such good care.

The apartments are simple and elegantly furnished with full living rooms and breakfast kitchens. Each building is restored to reveal its original typical Tuscan architecture.

The views from the terraces in the 2 bedroom villas are stunning. I must admit I spent a great deal of time here admiring it all during my stay.

The fog rolling down into the valley in the morning, the late afternoon cloud burst and thunderstorms, and the sunset (after 9 PM in June) turning the valley to a gold and green paradise is as much a part of the holiday as is the trips to all the charming hill towns and restaurants.

The owner of the estate is a former CEO of Hilton International and American Express which helps to explain the top notch service and quality accommodations. Daily management of the property is under the capable hands of Alessandro Guerrieri. He, his wife Julia and their two sons all live on the estate.

On a quiet afternoon in the summer, you can catch a glimpse of the boys playing soccer in one of the many grassy fields surrounding the estate.

On special occasions, the large central courtyard plays host to classical concerts with local musicians and other such venues.

The pool boasts the same fantastic views as the 2 bedroom villas with Poppiano Castle to the left and Montespertoli in the direct distance just past the vineyards and olive groves.

Walking paths and quiet country roads lead in all directions from here taking you further into a Tuscan dream.

The landscaping is abound with rosemary and roses, terra cotta pots brimming with blossoms and of course, olive trees and cypress.

There is a little ancient chapel on property tucked away in a small wooded area just past the pool. It was very common for larger estates to all have their own chapel centuries ago.

Just below the pool, a grassy pathway leads to the small town of Montagnana. Here there is the general store, (alimentari) a wonderful pizzeria, un ristorante, café, hair salon, gas station, post office, and real estate office.

I could not resist taking a look at the few homes and apartments for sale, after all, this is a slice of paradise. Many of the apartments in Il Borgo are for sale as well if you are like me and would like this to be a more permanent holiday.

In the meantime, staying at Il Borgo and participating in the Lessons of Tuscany program is the next best way to experience all the splendors of Tuscany.

Join us in September for a creative writing workshop, "Postcards from Italy," taught by Erana Leiken, and capture Tuscany with your pen and your heart.

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