Archive | Ruby Intuition

Rest in Pleasure, Eve Babitz: 1943-2021

Just found out essayist Eve Babitz died yesterday. Her singular, obstinate sensuality formed me like no other. I’m beyond bereft.

To people in the know, Eve Babitz was the West Coast It Girl of the 1960s and ’70s. Born in May 1943, she marshaled Taurus’ practical magic from the start: Igor Stravinsky was her godfather and Greta Garbo, Bertrand Russell, and Charlie Chaplin, her family friends. A self-proclaimed “groupie-adventuress,” she designed album covers for Linda Ronstadt, the Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield, befriended everyone from Frank Zappa to Salvador Dali, and counted Steve Martin, Jim Morrison, Harrison Ford, and Annie Lebowitz among her many lovers. She was the nude girl in that famous photograph of Marcel DuChamp playing chess, and an extra in Godfather II because, well–why not? But it was as a writer that she shined brightest.

Babitz was living proof that muses could be the sharpest tacks in the room. Her writing was so lush and lean that she made us believe lush and lean were not mutually exclusive. Only Eve could inspire you to buy seven caftans and all the ingredients of a tequila sunrise after reading 10 pages of her book. The cocaine and caviar were optional.

I first discovered Babitz at age 9. Prowling a yard sale, I found a dog-eared copy of her Slow Days Fast Company, and devoured it without grasping a quarter of the references. (Poppers? Ménage à trois? It all sounded delicious.) Her well-read, half-bred, doggedly unwed perceptions imprinted on me, though. Like me, she had a gorgeous shiksa mother and a brainy Jewish dad and like me she rejected “niceness” on the grounds that it precluded too much pleasure and too many good points.

She was my kind of Eve.

Babitz’s languid self-enchantment and self-reckoning taught me to value my own delight. It’s not that she didn’t value beauty–she worshipped it–but she had no patience for arranging herself to satisfy another’s gaze. In recent years, she’d become more of a recluse but her stubborn magic continued to find self-proclaimed goddaughters like myself. Girls who didn’t want to be chicks so much as broads, girls who wanted to befriend the people they bedded, not wed them. Her words will forever evoke a paradise found, and her faith in authentic pleasure will endure as a treasure map to our own.

Please yourself today in the name of Lady Eve.

In Shadow, Insieme

I started this day obsessing over a missing fur muffler. Then I decided the remedy for such heedless materialism was a Stephen Sondheim deep-dive. I was mainlining everything by the recently deceased lyricist/composer when I learned one former suitor had just lost everything in a fire, another had died suddenly of a heart attack. With both people, my ego needs often eclipsed my compassion. Praying for their peace, I shook my head over the big deal I’d just been making over a scarf—not to mention the raw, unmatched longing derailing both relationships. Had this intuitive learned nothing? I flashed on how being unwanted by his mother had lent that same longing to all of SS’s productions, including Marriage Story, which in its own way is also a Sondheim production—at least in this (and one other) scene.

In the rest of Noah Baumbach’s thinly disguised account of his divorce, Adam Driver channels the writer/director’s fussy, righteous narcissism. But in this rendition of “Being Alive,” the actor channels Sondheim instead—namely, the redemption he personally experienced through Sondheim’s work, through theater in general. A former Marine who found outlet for his many variations of manhood at Juilliard, Driver captures that desperate desire to transform pain and isolation into something—anything!—so there’s meaning in despair. It’s a performance that embraces each of us in our imperfections. A performance that reaches across time and space.

At heart, “compassion” simply means “suffering with.” On this first night of Hannukah, the Jewish commemoration of light in the darkness, know that you are loved, you are whole, you are held. Above all, you are not alone.

Thanksgiving Falls on Every Day of My Calendar

I got up early, watched the sunrise with coffee and permakitten, drove over to Queens in Minerva, my trusty blue hatchback, and took a long hike through Forest Park, listening to the birds and squirrels and wind and leaves, meditating by the pond as the whippoorwills and a potbellied homo sapien practiced their scales. On the way home I stopped off at Trader Joe’s to fetch things I’ll want to eat on the Thursday formerly known to me as Thanksgiving, and joked with cashiers whom I’ve come to know and adore. It was a simple morning, but so meaningful and joyful because it was entirely on my terms.

Only very very recently could a woman could live by herself, drive a car she bought herself with money kept in a bank account with only her name on it. Even more miraculous: I finance my existence with work I feel called to do that once upon a time would’ve got me burned at the stake.

Given our country’s history of genocide and colonization–and given my complicated personal relationship to the Thanksgiving holiday–I’ve come to treat the last Thursday of November as a quiet and solitary day of reflection. I go for a long city walk, I say hi to the river, I slow-roast local vegetables, I pay my respects to this land that has seen so much harm since Europeans’ arrival. And then I watch really raggedy, emotionally complicated films like Lumet’s The Morning After, in which Jane Fonda plays a drunken former actress framed for murder on Thanksgiving Weekend.

It’s been a year since I injured my back so badly I was immobilized; two years since I was so broke I was afraid I would lose my home. Now, through the support of friends, healers, and my own adjustments, I can stand on my two feet again. I’m profoundly grateful I can freely move through this world’s extraordinary-ordinariness on my own terms. There is always so much beauty and love to be honored

Every day of the week, I’m so grateful to be grateful.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy