party

Girl Crush

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When I first created my blog, I had no idea what to expect. I’d been writing essays for months, sometimes sending them to my mom, or a friend or two, without ever any intention of sharing them publically. But when a girlfriend told me to publish one of them after reading it back in May, I decided I’d just go for it. Why not? I thought, who knows what might happen. Well, for one, Kara has happened.

I met Kara almost ten months ago at a New Year’s party. It was a fairly small gathering considering the occasion – no more than 25 people – at a beautiful house in the Hollywood Hills. The host had been very precise about attire, commitment, and start time, so I was surprised to see two empty seats at our table set for 8 when we sat down. As promised, the dinner started promptly at 9:30, with a hearty soup dish served first. The servers had just cleared our bowls when she and her friend arrived. I nearly choked on my champagne. She was achingly beautiful.

We didn’t speak at all during dinner. For one thing, the dimensions of the table and the acoustics of the room simply did not allow for it, unless we wanted to shout our conversation. The seating chart had also been strategically designed to ensure men would be talking with women, and women with men (it went boy girl boy girl). Thus, I spent most of the dinner speaking with the older guy to my left, and occasionally with the enviably dressed couple to my right, who kept disappearing presumably to do drugs. The only discussion involving her was when the older guy whispered to me “who brought the 18 year old?” I smiled politely, resisting the urge to blurt back “you mean the stunningly gorgeous chick I want to simultaneously strangle and know everything about?” It’s strange the effect beauty can have, attracting and repulsing, inspiring both admiration and envy.

After dinner ended, one of the tables was removed and a “dance floor” created. The area couldn’t have been more than 10 feet squared, but I’d start grinding in an airplane bathroom if they played the right song. The iPod deejay worked his magic, and soon enough I was tearing it up. A few glasses of champagne and months of pole dancing classes ensured some pretty, uh, sexy moves (“You were f***ing the furniture” one male friend later commented. Pretty hilarious, if not a bit embarrassing). Luckily, most of the men had migrated downstairs to the pool and hot tub, so my numbers were performed for the ladies. Midnight came and went, and shortly thereafter I left, never having spoken to the beautiful girl.

A couple of months later, I ran into her at another party. This time, we actually talked. She remembered me from New Year’s, and commented on my dancing – “My friends thought you were weird and annoying, but I thought you were awesome.” This thrilled me. Firstly, because within seconds of her opening her mouth I could tell she was different from 90% of the girls who attend parties in the Hills. Secondly, she appreciated my femininity and the freedom I’d been experiencing in expressing it. “What’s your name, I’ll find you on Facebook,” I probed. “Kara Degas.” And with that we became friends. At least according to social media.

Over the next few months, we saw each other at one more party and liked each other’s statuses two or three times. Once she private messaged me with a link to a KCRW podcast in response to an article I had posted about pollution. A couple of times I just stared at photos of her that popped up in my news feed and thought there’s no way this girl can be cool. She was just too flawless to be deep and interesting. I remember at USC having a friend who was impossibly beautiful, rich, smart, perfect. Myself being fragile and insecure, I cried to my mom about her one day, and she responded that her beauty probably works against her sometimes, with people not being able to see beyond her exterior. “Everyone has their cross to bear.” Right, I thought, poor perfect-looking people. What could they possibly understand about the real world?

Turns out everything. Kara reached out to me after my first blog post with a touching private message. Within a couple of entries, she was my biggest fan. I felt beyond flattered, as if the coolest girl in school had just made me part of her court. I suggested a drink, and a few days later she dropped by my house. I was nervous waiting for her to arrive, like a first date from Match.com. What was she going to be like? Would we get along? Would she like me? Well, she had enjoyed my essays enough to reach out, and those were pretty personal. I took a deep breath and opened the door.

We talked for 5 hours. It was one of those conversations where you have so much to say to each other that a single story never gets told. One idea branches into another and another, and soon you’re both spiraling and crisscrossing and jumping backwards and forwards. The more she revealed about her heart-breaking upbringing, her failed relationships, her obsession with reading and neuroscience, the more I was falling in love. It was the kind of spark I’d felt when I met my writing partner – an instant soul connection. I’d only experienced this a handful of times, all with women, and it had always floored me. How could intimacy be this easy?

A couple of months ago over dinner my dad started talking about male bonding. “It seems so much easier to connect with [his tennis and golf buddies], like being in a relationship with a guy would somehow make more sense.” My mom and I looked at each other knowingly. We’d had the same conversation before about women. My parents have been married for 30 years, closer to each other than anyone in the world, and yet, there was still something about that bond between same-sex friends that could not be replicated. I felt it with Martha, with Katelyn, with Ally, and now with Kara. It’s a special form of love, one that moves past the physical and sexual, beyond even the mental and emotional, to a sort of understanding of core being.

That first night I’d seen Kara on New Year’s I’d mistaken my attraction towards her as a girl crush. I had assumed the draw I felt towards her was a result of her beauty, the way it had been for so many of the men who had “known” her without ever knowing her. Now, months into our friendship after that intimate night at my house, I realize I was being pulled to her by something else, by this special chemistry between women. And if nothing else ever comes from my blog but this, well, it will all have been worth it.

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What Happens in Vegas, Ends Up on My Blog

Vegas shot

 

You can’t win over me, Bloody Mary, I will conquer you. I stared at the crimson, peppery concoction, willing myself to take another sip. It was only 10 pm on Labor Day Sunday, and I could hear the proverbial rooster crowing out to the inebriated masses with pounding EDM choruses. I reached for my cocktail, but faltered at the sight of my half-eaten chicken. This thing used to flap around and cluck, but now it’s dead as a doornail on a platter. My stomach churned and pulse quickened. I withdrew my hand and tried not to throw up at the table. No, I hadn’t been suddenly overcome by a bout of vegetarianism. Rather, I had experienced a Shakespearean omen in the form of a fowl. “I think I need to go back to the hotel,” I announced to the table, handing Ms. Mary and the poor bird off to my girlfriend. Five sets of pitying eyes turned on me, and I felt like Tony Parker facing the French Basketball World Cup team. What was happening to me, I thought. Had I (GASP) gotten too old for Vegas?

* * * * *

I first fell in love with the City of Sin as a second grader. My parents used to attend the Las Vegas Gift Show back in the 90s, and for several summers we got taken along, thanks to the free babysitting offered by the convention. My brother and I adored it. We thought it was like Disneyland on steroids – it had everything a kid could want: epic rides (New York, New York and the Stratosphere), ridiculous arcades (Treasure Island, Circus Circus), 3D extravaganzas (Luxor), the Knights of the Round Table (Excalibur).* The flashing lights, the clinging and clanging of slot machines, the huge maternal bosoms – it was a child’s paradise!

It wasn’t until nearly a decade later when I returned as a semi-adult that I finally understood what Vegas was really about: hangovers. I barely remember it like it was yesterday, my return to the Promised Land. I had met a guy at a club one night toward the end of October, 2004, and had preceded to go on a date with him. I drank enough at dinner that night to find him charming, and thus agreed to hang out with him on Halloween. “Don’t plan anything, I’ll pick you up from work at 4pm.” I nodded, my interest piqued. I’ve always like a man who takes charge.

True to his word, my suitor picked me up on the Sunset Strip in the afternoon on the 31st and promptly whisked me over to Aahs, where he bought me one of the only remaining costumes: a sexy ice cream parlor girl (I know.) We then headed south down the 405 and to my great surprise landed at LAX. Two hours later we were checking into the Bellagio, my mind reeling at how dramatically my vision had changed over the last 8 years. Had Vegas always been this… slutty? Maybe it was because it was Halloween, but I had a feeling my grade school self may have needed glasses.

The evening unfolded as one might expect: him dropping tons of money, me feeling out of orbit. I hardly knew him, and about half-way through dinner at Le Cirque I knew enough to know that I didn’t really want to know him at all. Tant pis. Dinner ended and we made our way to the Palms for my first foray into the Vegas nightclub scene. It was a bit of a disaster, with my horrible fake ID instantly confiscated and his need to impress resulting in a $2000 bottle of champagne at a table at Ghost Bar. The angel-winged waitress then made it rain on us by dropping the first bottle, and as she tearfully popped the second one and I inched away from my would-be Casanova, I realized something profound(ly obvious): Vegas is absurd. Money means nothing and everything. Ditto sex, and fashion, and class. It’s a land of contradictions, where one guy loses his life savings and the next flies home on a private jet, where one chick cheats on her husband and the next gets married (Britney, Carissa, I’m looking at you.) For me, there were moments of great pleasure and excitement, mixed with those of confusion and pain. I consumed over a thousand dollars worth of food and drink, only to regurgitate it back up several hours later. Absurd, indeed.

Since popping my Hangover cherry that Halloween, I have returned to Vegas dozens more times. Until this past year, when I took a much needed sabbatical, I averaged about 3 trips a year to Sin City, probably putting my total number of notches close to 30. I’ve done Vegas in so many ways I could write a book. I’ve done it privately with celebrities, missionary style with my parents, girls only with, well, my girls (my personal fave). I’ve even done it on a first date!** My relationship with Vegas is by far and away the kinkiest I’ve had with any city, and certainly produced the most excrutiating “morning afters.” But as many times as I’ve been, and as many times as I’ve said “never again,” I keep returning. Oh, the joys of love-hate relationships.

* * * * *

We paid the bill and I said good night to the group, wishing them well. I walked out to the valet, about to step into the taxi line, then remembered my flats in my purse (I’d learned a thing or two in my 30 trips). I swapped them for my gorgeous 8-inch torture devices, and headed out into the hot night air, determined to walk off my feeling of unease. I thought of the night I’d be missing at XS: the lights, the sounds, the dancing, the drinking, the hangover. Then I remembered the previous two nights at Light and Foxtail and Drai’s: the lights, the sounds, the dancing, the drinking, the hangovers…

No wonder the chicken at dinner had spoken to me! It wasn’t that I’d gotten too old for Vegas – the last two nights had proved otherwise –but rather, I’d gotten too old for three straight nights in Vegas. In fact, I’d never done three straight nights in Vegas. Or for that matter anywhere. Not even at the height of my party-girl days. I felt a revelation coming on about the ingenuity of the two-day weekend, and smiled. So what if I had lost to a Bloody Mary? It’s not like I’d actually had my head chopped off, like the poor chicken on my plate. No, I would live to cluck and flap on a dance floor some other day, just not tonight. And not only that, I’d be experiencing Sin City the next morning in a way I hadn’t since my childhood days: without a hangover.

Viva Las Vegas!

 

*It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that for a time, these were my favorite casinos. Oh, the refined tastes of grade schoolers.

** Surprisingly, we didn’t actually do it. He was British and a gentleman and I don’t do one night stands with dudes. Just cities.

How to Get Mixy: Guidelines from the South of France

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What does it mean to be “mixy?” This is a question that I’ve been asked many times over the past several months- by friends, acquaintances, strangers, myself. When I decided to book the Mix of France this summer, a 5-night affair promising lots and lots of mixiness, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. A gathering of hand-crafted cocktail enthusiasts? An ethnically diverse blend of sunbathers? My go to response was “it’ll be Adult Spring Break.” The Cancun college tradition, only classier. Way classier. But this doesn’t even begin to encapsulate mixy. Because mixy is a state of being. It’s like the definition of cool, but cooler. It’s…mixy.

Hosting a 30th birthday party in Cannes with 77 friends, one hotel, and hundreds of bottles of rosé, Grey Goose and Moët et Chandon is mixy. This is how the incomparable Mike Basch chose to blow out his 20s, and it is only appropriate that he is the one who has spearheaded the Mixy Movement. According to him, “mix” is gathering together hip friends from different social circles around the world and allowing them to blend. The hotel serves as a sort of Petri dish where chemical reactions can occur, molecules combining and recombining, a science experiment in social anthropology. While this definition is not incorrect, it’s far too limiting, like defining love as people caring for one another. It needs further explanation. So what is mixy?

Mixy is pre-gaming for the Mix in another country. It’s dancing in Barcelona until 3am then hopping a flight the next morning with a raging hangover. It’s shooting a film in Paris, visiting friends in London, throwing an epic going away party with a hundred friends, staying out all night in New York, then jetsetting to Nice. It’s taking a helicopter into Cannes, sharing a luxury taxi with new friends, working through that hangover together. It’s also booking a last minute flight, deciding on Sunday that Friday you’ll be partying in the South of France. It’s doing whatever it takes to make sure you are part of the Mix.

Mixy is drinking a bottle of rosé at lunch the first day, and two bottles on the beach. It’s consuming more rosé in five days then most non-French will drink in their lives. It’s rosé at breakfast, it’s magnums of rosé at Nikki Beach, it’s rosé at dinner. It’s seeing the world through rosé colored glasses. You should try it sometime, it’s beautiful.

Mixy is partying for five days straight. And five nights. It’s dancing at baoli until 4am, then waking up to take a boat to St. Tropez. It’s 16 hours of dancing, from Nikki Beach to the tables of Brasserie des Arts to VIP. It’s boats of sushi, and more magnums of rosé, and perfectly cooked seabass and filet. It’s a woman in the bathroom line at dinner saying “I wish I were at your table, you guys look like you’re having the most amazing time.” And of course, we are. (Note: spraying 50 bottles of Piper into the air for two minutes might seem mixy, but it’s not. Wasted alcohol = not mixy.)

Mixy is representing countries from all over the world. It’s speaking several languages, and talking in sexy accents. It’s being British and saying whatever the hell you please, because god dammit if it doesn’t still sound charming. It’s being well-traveled and well-versed in other cultures. It’s cosmopolitan.

Mixy is working hard and playing hard. It’s booking a movie on vacation (not me, another wonderful actress), it’s managing a company from a beach chair, it’s waking up early for the market, then drinking rosé. It’s networking with other people in your industry, and those not in your industry. It’s learning about derivatives, then doing a Superman on a stop sign just before dawn (okay, no one learned about derivatives, but a few people work in them.) It’s spending the money you earned, because after all, we only live once. WOLO.

Mixy is running on the Croisette, jumping rope like a maniac, powering through an ab workout. Getting sick is not mixy, but it’s inevitable for all but the most seasoned alcoholics. It’s pushing your body to the limit, then going further in the name of Mix. Sleep when you die, be healthy when you’re home. Anyways, the wine has no sulfites (or maybe it does, but placebo effect), the food is fresh and preservative free, and the sun gives you Vitamin D: all very mixy.

Most importantly, mixy is getting to know some of the coolest people you’ve ever met. It’s guys and girls, singles and couples, old friends and new. It’s a summer fling you’ll think about for years (and pray to someday revisit), it’s the girl in London you’ll stay with next fall, it’s the couple in Germany who invites you to the “secret Oktoberfest” in April. It’s a party in room 352, or 260, or 431. Heck, it’s a party in every room of the Carlton, that’s how mixy the Mix is. And it continues in Istanbul, Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Vienna, New York, Los Angeles, all over the world. Because in the end, Mike is right: mixy is about the people. We brought the mix because we were the Mix.

The question now is: are you ready to get mixy??