DISTANCE WITH ELEGANCE

Years ago I had an issue with a close friend who had done something to hurt my feelings. When I confronted her about it I began, as I always do in situations like these, by telling her how much I loved her and appreciated her friendship then went into the details of the incident. It was the first time we'd ever had such a discussion and she was clearly stymied. She said "Sophia, I'm not used to having conversations like this with my friends." 

Wow, I thought, you're a grownass woman and you're not used to frank and open discussions with your friends about how you interact and how you might upset one another? I can't think of a meaningful relationship I have in which that hasn't occurred. I told my incredibly wise friend Alex Hayden about the communication, that I was disappointed by my friend's response but not enough to forego the friendship altogether. Her response to me was these three words: distance with elegance.

That simple phrase has been so helpful to me in the years since. I take my friendships very seriously and invest no small amount of time and energy therein. However, sometimes there are people whom I like and care about, but not enough to do the work that it requires to foster a deep friendship. They remain in my life, but not in my house, literally and figuratively. I see and speak with them from time to time and it's lovely when I do, but I maintain distance. With elegance.

COOKING IS LOVE

Me making my favorite dish in the world: kalbi jjim, Korean short rib stew, for New Year's Eve. And Ridhi making Indian butter chicken.

Me making my favorite dish in the world: kalbi jjim, Korean short rib stew, for New Year's Eve. And Ridhi making Indian butter chicken.

I marvel at people who eat takeout every day. Not just because it's so costly, but also because it means they're missing out on what I consider to be the most fundamental ingredient of a homecooked meal: love.

When I cook, it's how I show my love. When my kids were younger they used to say "Mommy, you should open a restaurant. You're such a good cook!"  What they were responding to was less about my culinary skills and more about the fact that their mother prepared it for them. To this day my daughter's favorite meals are a very simple slow rcasted grape tomato cappelini with feta and bacon, egg and kimchi fried rice. And my son loves any fried rice I cook. Watching them enjoy their food gives me such joy.

I also love to cook for my friends and lovers. My favorite way to entertain is hosting dinner parties; it's so much more intimate than sitting at a large table at a restaurant. First, I can control the choice and volume of the music, which has gotten out of control in NY. Second, we can stay for as long as we want and move to the living room to play Taboo and charades. Third, I share my love through my food. 

Over the holidays my brilliant friend Ridhi Tariyal, who is of Indian descent, stayed with the family and I. She came across the country just to meet my mother and it was very important to her that she cook Indian food for us. She made us butter chicken. It was rich and flavorful and delicious. It was better than any Indian food I've had in a restaurant because she made it: she asked what we liked or didn't, went shopping at the market then hunted down the spices, marinated the chicken and spent hours prepping.

Jacques Pepin said "Cooking is truly an act of love." Oui, monsieur, c'est vrai.

SHARPEN YOUR BLADE EVERY DAY

Clockwise from the top left: ma bu/horse stance; crouching tiger, hidden dragon; quad stretch; getting ready to kick; getting ready to pounce; tan lung quan/mantis style; gong bu/bow stance/ xie bu/resting stance; pu bu/flat stance; ca bu/crossed stance

Clockwise from the top left: ma bu/horse stance; crouching tiger, hidden dragon; quad stretch; getting ready to kick; getting ready to pounce; tan lung quan/mantis style; gong bu/bow stance/ xie bu/resting stance; pu bu/flat stance; ca bu/crossed stance

Among the greatest lessons my ex taught me were me Shaolin kung fu, Ch'an Buddhism, and the value of lifelong fitness. In Shaolin we say "sharpen your blade every day" and I apply that to every aspect of my existence.  We must never stop working to improve ourselves. Kung fu taught me to strive, reach, and stretch far beyond my comfort zone physically, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.

My friends know that going to the gym is not a choice, but a lifestyle for me; it is as fully integrated into my routine as eating, drinking, and sleeping. Six days a week I workout for 2 hours. My grind includes biking to & from the gym, kung fu, weights, stretching, abs. I didn't start working out until I was 30 and I'll train for the rest of my life. At 51 I'm stronger, faster, and more powerful than ever. Living and loving life to the fullest.

I hope this inspires someone to go harder today.

LOVING

I saw LOVING this weekend. It's really good. Yes, you sit there and can't believe that this it was not long ago that people of different races couldn't marry, but you also must look at what is the enduring legacy of white supremacy in this country. 

As profound was the message of the power of love was the subtle yet pervasive sense of police brutality. And that savagery isn't just in beatings, but in the wielding of a violently long flashlight, the hollering of "boy" across a courtyard, the screeches of tires in the middle of the day, the silent arrival of cars in the dead of night, the constant reminder that you can be thrown in jail at any time.

I also found myself struggling with Mildred's seemingly intractable insistence that her children be raised in the country until I realized that I would have the exact same response if someone told me I had to move my kids to a farm. And I understood how important it is for me to raise my kids in the city. Not just any city, but New York motherfucking City. Nowhere else has this remarkable diversity of ethnicity, language, religion, and culture.

Manohla Dargis' review for the NYT here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/04/movies/loving-review-joel-edgerton-ruth-negga.html?referrer=google_kp&_r=0

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

I saw MANCHESTER BY THE SEA and it's one of the best movies I've seen this year. It's a very small story in a small town, but the emotions are huge to the point of being overwhelming. It's a story of grief, guilt, and loss, all played beautifully by the actors. Casey Affleck is fantastic; his performance is so restrained. There are many times when another actor would go all out, but he has the discipline and talent to get the message across with less. And though Michelle Williams has a smaller role, her character's pain is almost palpable. 

What I didn't expect was for it to be so funny. There are times when the movie feels like a buddy movie, in the most classic sense. The writing is terrific. 

I left thinking that excessive drinking can really fuck up your life and, more importantly, that it's critical that we live and love to the fullest of our capacities and be present for every delicious little moment. My ex told me there's a saying in Chinese that translates into: "tonight you go to sleep, tomorrow you don't know if you can put your shoes on."  

A.O. Scott's insightful review: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/18/movies/manchester-by-the-sea-review-kenneth-lonergan-casey-affleck.html?_r=0