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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Redemption

I am in Seoul. It is March 12, the day I originally was to head to Tokyo. I await stabilization in Japan but as the hours go by it appears the news is only becoming worse. Yu-na’s family does not want her to go to Tokyo for the dinner on the 16th. Frankly, neither does mine.

On March 14th Sigmund cancels the dinner. He and Jenny fly on his plane back to Seoul. Jenny will spend the next several weeks working on a plan to help children displaced by the disaster over the long term. The mood is somber, but Sigmund suggests we keep the dinner schedule, but in Korea. We will dine at Pierre Gagnaire at the Lotte Hotel, Korea’s only Michelin starred chef named French restaurant. We’ll dine on the 16th, the day before I leave with my team for Hong Kong.

Meanwhile I’ve been meeting Yu-na daily.


Our first meeting is on the 12th at a small coffee shop in Seoul. Yu-na looks wonderful in casual blue jeans and a sweater with a tan jacket and a purse worn like a backpack. No watch and little makeup. Her hair is much longer and she wears it tied up in back. The weather is sunny but cold.

It is the first time I’ve seen her since I saw her receding backside at the JFK security checkpoint. I want to catch up. What has happened in the last nine months?

School is going well; her grades are good. Her parents are well. Her brother has landed and retained a good job.

The new event is that Yu-na has saved up and purchased a small pension (in the French sense, a rental property) in a developing waterfront resort island. It’s a small resort, new, not luxurious, aimed at the Korean lower-middle class family. It has a view of the sunset, is within driving range of Seoul with access via a new railway, and has a nice little community around it. The region is known for its delicious grapes and vines are planted extensively. The pension is one of the three nicest units in the neighborhood, with a small pool, a barbeque grill, and even a karaoke room. She plans to call it “Renaissance.” In June she will move to a small villa nearby to manage the pension. The villa is owned by a church and is half populated with local ministers.

She lights up as she talks about this project of hers, a small but important piece of her independence. She is looking forward to being in this little nowhere town, away from busy Seoul, commuting to her university three times a week by train. She talks wistfully about the sunsets, the vineyards, and view she will have from her study. Mostly she talks about having peace and quiet, as well as a small income.

On impulse I tell her I want to visit it. She is delighted.

The next day she drives me there. We listen to her music in the car. She says she always wanted to drive me some place. On the way she stops at what she claims to be the best spicy squid place in the region. It’s excellent.

We make it to the island and I see the pretty little pension. I see her empty apartment, small but comfortable. I see where she will sleep and where she will study, where she will eat and where she will cook. It is a charming cozy place. Empty vines dot the landscape. Rippling water fills the seascape with the setting sun. We arrive with perfect timing to see the sun set from the roof of her 5 floor villa and the rising huge moon.

And it’s there that I kiss her.


I am vaguely aware that others may not want to read the ravings of a person in love. So I will spare you the sappy syrupy prose I might otherwise secrete here. Suffice it to say that we reconnect and I am instantly in love again.

Is there some reserve in Yu-na’s eyes that wasn’t there before? Yes.

And does it bother me? Yes, terribly.

We talk about it, but the scars remain.

The days pass. We spend time walking among galleries in the art section of Seoul near the presidents house, talking about how a painting or photograph makes us feel. We compare notes. We drink tea. We walk hand in hand.

I spend one evening at a room salon with Park, Sigmund’s old mentor. This is the place Park had taken Sigmund long ago, the place where Sigmund met Jenny the very next night. He has brought his mistress of four years. I ask Yu-na if she is willing to accompany me to a room salon and she agrees. Eventually I have invited another co-worker and a business acquaintance, all my elders, and we close the place down.

Yu-na is an elegant and quiet girl. Sometimes too quiet for the others. At one point when the intellectual discussions have degenerated into drunken joking one of the other men asks her why she’s so quiet all of a sudden. I say to myself, but loud enough for the others to hear, “because she’s smart enough not to talk when there’s nothing to say,” which wins me a look of surprised gratitude from Yu-na but some slightly shocked silence from my elders before Park breaks the ice with another bon mot.

She had sang with me in a previous excursion to a karaoke last year, just the two of us in Japan. I ask why she doesn’t sing here. She tells me she sings only for me.

And that reserve in her eyes still haunts me.


On March 16 we have dinner with Jenny and Sigmund. As usual they are disgustingly perfect hosts. The staff at Pierre Gagnaire are impressed with four menu degustations plus wines and proffer excellent service. The prices are ruinous as befits Asia nabobs, fully 50% more than Per Se in Manhattan, for example.

After some light opening conversation we take to the meaty discussions, the situation in Japan. We opine on the events, the unfolding chaos, the nuclear issues, but mostly the action plans Jenny considers in light of her charitable mission.

By some unspoken protocol we hit a limit of heavy topics and switch to lighter conversation. By the time we are hitting the dessert courses we are in safer territory. And that is when Jenny casually says into the air between Yu-na and myself, “I am glad to see you two seem to have repaired what was broken.”

“The repair isn’t without seams,” I say.

“Then you’ll have to build on top of it something more beautiful,” she replies and waves the issue away as we turn to sample each other’s desserts.

That night Yu-na and I make love. I tell her that I love her. I thank her for coming back.

I tell her I want to come back after Hong Kong and take her with me to Europe. She agrees.

The Real World Intrudes

At 2:46 PM on March 11 Japan suffered a 9.0 magnitude earthquake under the sea off Tohoku, about 130 kilometers from Sendai. This was the harshest earthquake to strike Japan in recorded history. The energy transmitted to the surface is thought to have exceeded half a billion atomic bombs of the type that hit Hiroshima. It is feared the death toll will hit 25,000. The eventual cost is estimated to be over $300 billion.

Sigmund says he will write more about this incredible tragedy later. He was in Tokyo with Jenny at the time.

Needless to say I did not go to Tokyo on March 12, as originally planned, to meet Sigmund, Jenny and Yu-na for dinner. Even though Tokyo business was not seriously affected until a few days later when authorities initiated scheduled rolling blackouts. When rumors of the nuclear reactor meltdown emerged my Japanese executives cancelled our meetings. My team and I were diverted to Seoul. I parked there while we waited for news on what would happen in Tokyo.

I will continue with my story about Yu-na. But I wanted to acknowledge the tremendous disaster in Japan in the backdrop of the narrative.

My Dinner with Sigmund and What Follows

I am in Seoul. I am getting ready to head to Beijing, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and other places. It is March 7, a Monday, and I am having dinner with Sigmund.

As is customary with Sigmund, we talk about a wide range of topics. We are unfettered by convention, social or intellectual. He mentions he will be in Tokyo with Jenny next week. He suggests we meet for dinner there. He will obtain a table for four at Arronia de Takazawa. He thinks it is one of the two or three best restaurants in the world.

I am left struggling to find a date. I ask him for suggestions. He says I should send a message to Yu-na. I tell him that is over and done. She has made it clear to me that there is no future with us together.

Sigmund leans forward. “Do you want it to be over and done?” he asks. I tell him, truthfully, that I do not. I confess to him the activities I only terminated a month ago. The emptiness of the Arrangements. The compromise of my own rules. I reiterate, I do not want it over and done.

“Tell her that. She will come back to you,” he smiles enigmatically and folds his arms like he’s some kind of fucking Yoda. I tell him, no, it won’t happen. I have to just get over it. Sigmund’s voice hardens. “No,” he tells me, poking me for emphasis, “You have to get over being a chicken shit. She said put her heart out for target practice for you last year. Now it’s your turn.”

He takes a pull on his drink, repeats his prognostication: “If you have the guts to ask, she will have the guts to try again.” He looks satisfied, like he knows I’ll do it, even as I shake my head no.

I am quiet.

I realize my feelings.

And that night, I send an email.


In Beijing I’ve had a grueling set of meetings. I’m also preparing to be in Tokyo starting March 12.

But suddenly all sense of tiredness evaporates. Yu-na agrees to join me for dinner with Sigmund and Jenny in Tokyo on March 16…

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Arrangements Gone Wild

By June I had gone through an intense love affair.

I threw myself into work as therapy. But I found myself looking toward finding another arrangement. Perhaps not the wisest coping strategy.

I threw a lot of caution to the winds in enlisting into Arrangements. I now see it as an illuminating self-destructive behavior. I had convinced myself in February 2010 not to stray from my Arrangement criteria. Yet I regressed and did exactly that.

In the six months between August 2010 and January 2011 I engaged no fewer than four Arrangements. I broke several of my Arrangement rules.

Those Arrangements do not include the two earlier Arrangements where I had still the one year economic contract to pay out. One of those I had to extend on a hardship basis. Her economic situation was dire. And she was in the middle of a school commitment.

I also went through a few reconnections with woman I had met earlier. Some were candidates for previous Arrangements. I reconsidered because I had broken some earlier Arrangement rules. I did so in a manner both unlike me and sometimes unbecoming.

I had never done anything like this before in my life.

Arrangements

Lana was a woman with a profile both taller and older than my typical preference. She had two children one year apart from teen pregnancies in a bad marriage. Her parents had passed away early. She had raised her kids to teens on her own, worked as a successful enterprise salesperson, had done some part-time modeling, and through she was in her late thirties she looked stunning, partly due to half-Asian genetics. Her previous business had tanked in the last economic crises. She was eager to start a new business and had the Project business plan all set. The Arrangement started well. She was a survivor, independent and headstrong. But her time commitments to raise her children, manage the business, remain in the southeast nowhere near my travels, and a number of other things made it impossible to actually meet more than a few times. So the Arrangement quickly terminated by mutual consent though I maintained my investment commitments to her business.

Tara was another single mom, still in her twenties. Her interest was getting out of the debt trap being in Las Vegas and a set of dead-end service jobs and starting a photography business. Her talents was quite obvious given her ability to create strong photographs with relatively simple camera and studio equipment, Photoshop on an ancient Macintosh, and a lot of creativity. She had never had an arrangement and in fact had only recently freed herself from the deadbeat father of her children. She was very eager to follow my lead. But her fear of rejection from the windfall that I represented was worrisome. This was compounded by her bipolar condition. Though treated with medication I saw incipient instability. If the emotional attachment grew too strong I worried that there would be a messy breakdown. So ending it early, though itself a messy process, was the expedient and appropriate solution. Again I maintained my investment commitments to her business.

Bella was an attorney in her twenties highly connected to the tech world though mostly artistic. A fantastic writer her interest was in starting a business consultancy. She actually had started one in New York that specialized in labor negotiations but needed assistance in expanding it, in particular into the higher growth areas of technology sector. She had two previous affairs with older married men who had created a lot of opportunity for her. Bella perfectly understood the limited temporal nature of the Arrangement. But she felt strongly she wanted to be connected strongly to my principal business. She was more service oriented. She did not have strong entrepreneurial goals of her own. She wanted to serve my goals. She was a submissive, very much reminiscent of the female character in movie, The Secretary. I retained her as a consultant to one of my businesses and detached on the relationship side over several months. She remains a paid consultant that adds value to one of my businesses.

Sara was a mid-twenties Chinese graduate student in her final year at a top California school. Young, pretty, and intensely ambitious she had already started two energy companies and started working on major deals between US companies and her extensive Chinese connections. A true dynamo in personality and drive, and yet seemingly innocent, she was able to charm professors, politicians and executives into helping her extensively with contacts and references. Sara had great ideas and no sense of limitations. In other words a perfect entrepreneur. She had a charming oral fetish and a princess syndrome. I helped her with two major projects and fundraising. Though to be truthful she did it mostly on her own. As a natural consequence of these she relocated to China. She was kept so busy that the conversion of the relationship to more distant was natural.

One could ask why I chose these women. It was a combination of their needing or liking me and their physical attractiveness. In retrospect I may have rebounded from Yu-na by seeking acceptance and validation first and foremost. This theory is reinforced even more by my breaking a cardinal rule I had about Arrangements: exclusivity. In these cases I maintained the option of having more than one simultaneous Arrangement, and, in fact, even some dating on the side. In the past my Arrangements were entirely exclusive: while in an Arrangement I would not see any other woman. While I had one or more of the Arrangements noted above, I also was seeking alternatives. This is the main danger, I think, of eschewing exclusivity. Too much seeking of alternatives, leading to restlessness and focus outside of the relationship.

Arrangements Revisited

I had hooked up with five woman who were previous Arrangement candidates. These are women whom I had interviewed in the past. One was an actress in Los Angeles who had a few major movie minor role credits. Another was a model now turned business development person for Asia business. A third was an contracts attorney at a major California high technology law firm. The last two were Asian women whom I had met at high end room salons in Asia. One was taking a graduate degree in economics. The other planning to take an MBA in Australia and brushing up on her English.

These weren’t proud moments. I knew of their interest in me. I met them and wined and dined them. I slept with them for the first time. I had not slept with them in the past during their candidacy. So they were all one-night stands. Perhaps not literally one night, but whatever time I spent with them, that was the last time I spent with them. Sexual trysts that gained neither party very much.

I also almost hooked up with three other women I had met through the Arrangement process. One was a 20 year old blonde ex-model and student. She had a boyfriend that had proposed to her, but she was indecisive. Another was an MD-PhD student in her mid-twenties at a reputable east coast medical school. She was thinking of adding an MBA to her already overloaded diploma collection. A third was a 20 year old Asian architecture student. She shared elaborate and open-minded sexual fantasies over phone and email. I did not end up bedding these women. But I came uncomfortably close.

On the exciting side, the lack of inhibition about longer term engagement gave a lot liberty to try more daring things more quickly. I was often surprised how willing my partners were in these initial sexual encounters. To role play, for rough sex, public sex, threesomes, swinging, creative videos… whatever. Nothing truly new to me. But novel in happening so early. Often during our first or first few sexual trysts.

I felt a bit numb about these encounters. I enjoyed them. I enjoyed the women. But there was no lasting positive experience. Conversations weren’t lively or active. They weren’t competitive at all with work. And I started to feel like I was taking advantage of the emotional needs of these women. I started to suspect they were merely filler for the hole left by Yu-na. That the compromises in my Arrangement rules were my subconscious guarantee that these encounters would never be successful or fulfilling.

Part Two: The Arrangement

In a previous posting I wrote:

I feel the Arrangement empowers all parties. The Arrangement makes expectations clear. I will write more about it. About what it’s like to live through it. And about some of the woman who have shared Arrangements with me.

But before the stories, I want to start with some background. I want to suggest some history to my approach to arrangements. Why mentoring? Why the economic support? Why the contracts? Why the need for a project? Hopefully this part will illuminate the answers to some of these questions.

Case One: Mentoring

My first experience was an accident.

I consulted for a well-known company. It had a reputation for hiring brilliant young graduates. Most of them were male. Adele was one of the few, the proud, the female. She was bright and on a fast track. She had suitors all around. Young men, peers to her. Older managers easily disregarding company policy against inter-office relationships. Even the occasional “big fish” who liked to practice a little “catch and release” every new season. Nobody would have the guts to tell the big fish otherwise. But Adele was savvy. She flirted but stayed neutral.

Adele was known to almost never accept first dates from co-workers. She was even better known to never take a second date. We flirted without shame, but nothing serious. So I was surprised when she asked me out.

Knowing the second date percentages I calculated two conflicting strategies: get as much as I can on the first date assuming there would be no second date, or give as much as I can to maximize the chances for a second date. Being the kind of person who has never felt comfortable with the first strategy, I opted for door number two.

It did not take long to find out the rationale behind the date. Adele was looking for a mentor. She was ambitious and on a fast track, but underneath she was a bundle of insecurities. One would need a diamond drill to penetrate her outer surface, but underneath was marshmallow. I was a safe bet, an outsider, a consultant guaranteed to disappear soon. Even better, I was from out of town.

This was an unexpected but welcome development. I found the relationship very challenging and interesting. Adele was a bright young woman. She was a only a few years younger than I but far less experienced. This made up for any insecurities I may have felt due to her, shall we say, “complete hotness.” This experience more than any other helped build my self confidence in dating. There were always safe topics to discuss when I felt uncomfortable. It defuses a common relationship problem with men: ego and pride.

This introduced me to the concept of mentoring. I took to it avidly, perhaps too avidly. After some time I discovered how much bandwidth I could expend safely. I found I could mentor one to three persons at most. I mentored men and women at a variety of different ages. I mentored students and adults. I found I enjoyed mentoring kids and women most of all. Kids because of their vast potential that few adults could recognize. And because few people bothered to really talk to kids seriously. They are wickedly smart. And women for a different reason. Because there seemed to be an underlying perhaps evolutionary connection when mentoring a woman, particularly a younger and less experienced woman. The way in which they appreciated the mentoring was different from kids or adults (although sometimes with female students I would see the occasional crush, which I would never encourage or follow up upon.)

So hold this thought: mentoring.

Case Two: Contracted Economic support

The most cynical view of economic support is that it gives me the ability to walk away. This is reminiscent of the joke about why you pay a prostitute. Not to come to your room, but to leave. You pay for a guarantee of no long-term attachments and related complications.

But for me the contracted economic support removes any question as to motivations. A woman might be in a relationship because of economic support. If such support is given month to month it creates a pressure to maintain a relationship. It may erode purer motivations over time. So it’s best to remove that factor entirely by setting a support level that is independent of the relationship. Even if a woman breaks up with me, the support is maintained for the duration of the contract.

Renewing the contract forces some thought to be given about mutual motivations for continuing the relationship. I find this helpful.

I observed many acquaintances with lovers or mistresses. My analysis indicated that the lack of a contracted economic support often led to insecurities, misunderstandings, arguments, and unintended consequences in behavior. The result of this analysis suggested I should either not provide any economic support or that it should be contracted.

I found that in cases where the woman was in solid economic position there was indeed no need for economic support. Women in this set either had their own economic security or were provided for by a third party, for example by parents or divorce settlement. The latter case often were the most demanding of economic support, curiously. But the former case were some of the best balanced woman I had met. Unfortunately it also often came with a lack of scheduling flexibility. This made it difficult to pursue a relationship given my schedule.

This tended to drive options toward contracted economic support.

Case Four: Projects

There is a mathematical technique called proof by contradiction. The case for having a Project uses a similar technique. Arrangements without Projects have so far had a nearly 100% failure rate. I noted this in the update post back in February.

Projects also dovetail very nicely with contracted economic support. Support given toward a project can also help support a woman in a more constructive manner than handouts or gifts. Moreover a contract with a project can define concrete milestones and performance metrics. A relationship alone is difficult to parameterize in a similar manner. So making the contracted economic support based on a project is much simpler and effective. It also forces a greater separation between the relationship and support, a goal mentioned above.

The combination of these factors, contracted economic support, projects and mentoring seems now so natural to me. My explanations here thus may not be effective. Please leave feedback so I may improve these explanations if they are unclear.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sam Falls in Love, Part 3: Sam the Fool

[Disclaimer here: this series of posts were written fall 2010 but never posted. I’m posting it now because there is a follow-up story. And I can’t post that without first posting this. Part one of this story is here. Part two is here.]

It is June in New York. It is warm but not too hot, generally lovely weather. Yu-na and I are seeing a few shows new and old and dining like royalty, but spending most of our time at MoMA and the Whitney, catching some jazz in the evenings, cruising a half-dozen of the smaller museums like the Dahesh and Frick, some photography galleries, and eating whimsically as we walk. These are halcyon days, when I am deeply in love, self-aware and happy with myself and the world.

I have this evening shared a particularly important moment; a deep and old hurt, a tragedy that I have shared with few others. We will part in the morning. I depart for Europe. She goes to Korea. That night we make love, all night, unwilling to sleep.

I fully intended to get to this point in my post and tell you about how I messed up. But it is fresh enough that I now find I don’t want to write about it. The pain is still fresh. So let me just say that I did something and said something BAD. Cruel. Hurtful. Using what intimacies I knew about her as a weapon. It was not a first argument, but it was the first and last hateful one.

She later said she understood why I might think what I said, but could not agree with the way I said it, the words I chose, and the timing of when I said it. “Your words in that moment killed my love for you.”

Maybe time will let me talk about it later. Right now I can’t. Even now I feel burning shame and regret. And my heart hurts.

Worse, I reacted badly to her reaction. I took her to the airport resentfully. I spoke harshly, from pride and wounded ego. After the long silence in the car I started to realize my mistake. At the airport I wanted to apologize, but too much damage had been done. She used a different mode of address in Korean in talking to me. She would not look back toward me as went through security, not even a stolen glance.

So she walked out of my life as abruptly as she had appeared. Leaving me only with my regrets.

Yu-na

The girl who gave me her love

And watched forlorn

As I threw the love away

The Aftermath

Of course I apologized. By email because she wouldn’t take my calls. I asked if it was irrevocably over. She told me that she could forgive me, but she could not love me like before. Life went on, and so should we.

I talked to Jenny. She was sympathetic. I asked her if she could broker a meeting so I could at least see Yu-na in person. She asked if she had my permission to discuss any detail of the relationship and I said yes, with Yu-na anything was ok. Jenny did. When I next met Jenny, it was the worst meeting I had ever had with her. She was cold. She said she had no time for fools. She told me she was disappointed I would treat a woman like Yu-na like that, no matter what reason.

Like Sigmund, work is therapy. I threw myself into work. I sent a few messages to Yu-na wishing her a good life, offering assistance if she needed it, and thanking her for her forgiveness. She was cordial, even warm. But it was not the same.

Sam Falls in Love, Part 2: First Date

[Disclaimer here: this series of posts were written fall 2010 but never posted. I’m posting it now because there is a follow-up story. And I can’t post that without first posting this. Part one of this story is here.]

The Date

I am nursing my drink when I receive a text message. Yu-na is just about to arrive. I text back: I am at the front table awaiting her. I go back to skimming emails. A few moments later she arrives.

For me it is an event. Wait, no. It is an Event. 

She looked like an anime character – an amazing figure, beautiful face, luminous eyes, long limbs, elegant hands and fingers and a well-turned ankle. One of the few times I can recall having my breath taken away upon first seeing a woman. She is wearing a simple dress, multicolored, demurely cut. She has a small cross pendant. Simple earrings. No watch, rings, or bracelets. Short jet hair with a hairpin. Natural short working nails. Slim, pink phone. Light makeup, mostly on her eyes.

I thanked the gods for the dress code at the club which put her in a dress.

I thanked Jenny for not setting my expectations high, to enhance the surprise.

I thanked the Fates for not letting Sigmund meet this woman first.

I stumbled through some greetings, tried to arise to pull out her chair but was beaten to it by the maitre d’. I had liked that maitre d’ before. Now he appeared to be a smarmy interfering sod.

I’ll cut to the chase. The meal was excellent. But the conversation was divine. To have discourse on topics both technical and philosophical, with a woman with such stunning looks, it was otherworldly.

Had I ever had a more interesting technical discussion? Absolutely.

Had I ever had a deeper or more challenging philosophical conversation? Sure.

Had I ever seen a more beautiful woman? Yes.

Had I ever had a combination of the above more scintillating? Never.

The experience was like a deal that just gets better and better with every passing moment. One where every expectation is exceeded the very next minute.

Hours passed. We moved to another part of the club for a few drinks. She drank sparingly but conversation continued. We ranged from the future of robotics to the philosophical implications of the Many Worlds interpretation. We debated eastern and western philosophies on cognitive development. Educational systems. Objectivism and humanism. Current events and business climate. Improvements to Jenny’s business. My approach to business deals in Japan. The politics of the sex in media. The effect of globalization on poverty in first world countries versus developing economies. The styles of Chopin, Bach and Beethoven. The Beatles. The roots of K-Pop. Rococo art and its cultural reaction from Mannerism. I learned a lot and taught a lot.

All in all an evening well beyond expectations.

What Happened?

Later she told me that she had never accepted a dinner invitation like that before. She didn’t know why, but then she remembered the fortune teller. It was March 2010. Was that a reason?

I was only in Korea for a few days. I spent every possible moment with her, just talking. I was smitten in a manner that was unprecedented. I was addicted to her voice, her mannerisms, her way of thinking. Puppy love at my age? Ridiculous. At the time the why and wherefore were not important. I wouldn’t even try to figure out those things until after things went awry, too late, too late.

She told me that she loved me after our third date. I would find out later that she had developed a sophisticated set of conditions for men. She was a snap decision maker. She had decided on me quickly. She was tired of protecting her heart. She put it right up front with me, in the line of fire. I, of course, was very skeptical, a classic cynic.

In retrospect this was where my heart jumped into the fray. I didn’t know it, of course, being clueless in the matters of love. I merely felt Yu-na was an amazing woman. But still just another woman in my journey of experiences. Somebody to pursue. Somebody I wanted to continue to meet. But not somebody to believe was in love with me. That was too fast and too unrealistic. I left Korea telling her I didn’t believe her. Perhaps worse. What I said was: “I have difficulty believing you. What you say to me... you could say to any man. How would I know it is truthful?” Much later she told me she cried after she heard that. Nice guy, aren’t I? After she bravely put her heart squarely in the line of fire I took cowardly potshots at it.

But over the subsequent few months she completely won me over. Her complete openness and candor was impossible to resist.

By May after a few trips abroad and in the United States I finally acknowledged in my head what I already knew in my heart: I was head over heels in love.

Yet by late June I stood at JFK airport regarding the ruins of a relationship I had destroyed.

Sam Falls in Love, Part 1: Before the Beginning

[Disclaimer here: this series of posts were written fall 2010 but never posted. I’m posting it now because there is a follow-up story. And I can’t post that without first posting this.]

I apologize for the lengthy delay. My excuses: A set of business deals. Several around-the-world trips. An intense affair, a love affair, in fact. These kept me quite distracted.

The deals are largely concluded or now put into the hands of more responsible adults. Go for it, guys.

The three trips around the globe are over. Each involved at least six cities, at least three continents, compressed. Enough already.

And the affair is over. A joyous and painful learning experience. And the topic this entry serves to start.

I will start with a warning. The affair is a recent development. It is recently over. And the emotions are fresh, the endorphins still circulating, the wounds unscabbed-over. My feelings may change later. Let’s put it this way: this entry will be especially subjective.

How do I step into complicated situations like this? And where do I start explaining what happened?


Before the Beginning, Thread One

Yu-na Lee. Ah. How to start, how to start…

Well, let’s start with Jenny, Sigmund’s better half.

Jenny is quite a woman. Hell, she manages Sigmund! Sigmund hasn’t written much about her success. So I will. In some ways more remarkable than his. She hit a glass ceiling in Asian business. Typical for a woman in places like Korea or Japan. So she stepped out of the game entirely and took another tack, not easy in Asia. She used her savvy, personality and looks to earn money as a part-time room salon hostess while she retrained herself through school. Never went out with customers, never accepted extra money, but did network.

She launched her business. Today it serves hundreds of children shunned by Asian society, orphans. It is the most successful organization of its type and is thinking of going pan-Asia. Sigmund would agree: she does all this almost single-handedly, not much help from him.

A few years ago I had an Arrangement. I will write about her some other time. But I’ll say here that Jenny gave this woman the start she needed for her business success. I just connected the dots.

So when Jenny calls attention to somebody she says is a remarkable woman, I listen.

Jenny brought her up in a conversation I had with Sigmund last year (2009). Said she was an intern she had hired who needed experience in youth counseling for her graduate degree. She was going to intern until the fall. Said she was unusually charming, dynamic, smart, somewhat cynical. She said I should look her up some time. Sigmund had never met her, so he said nothing. But I filed the name away:

Yu-na Lee.


Before the Beginning, Thread Two

Spring 2010. I was coming off an international deal that looked like it was busted. It was frustrating. A lot of work sunk into it.

A set of meetings were cancelled, so I had an extra day or two in North Asia. I decided to drop by Korea to cool my heels while I waited for the meetings to reschedule. So without a plan or warning I arrived in the early evening, hungry for food and conversation.

I texted friends. Anybody around?

Sigmund was in London. Jenny was in Tokyo. But Jenny called me back. Recommended a certain place to get some food. It was a private club with a young hotshot chef who had studied modernist cuisine in New York. A venue where Sigmund and Jenny know the owner. Their kitchen was always open for members and had good food and drink.

And Jenny said I should call Yu-na to join me.

I protested that last minute on a weekday night it would be unbecoming. Jenny said that Yu-na was a night owl and almost never went out at night, instead studying or reading. She said she would welcome the company.

I hesitated. I wasn’t really in the mood for a woman. Just some good conversation with a friend over wine and a good meal.

But Jenny was not to be denied. She would call Yu-na and make the arrangement herself.

What could I say?

So I went to the private club. I was greeted like royalty, or, more exactly, a friend of royalty. I was seated at a table for two, one of five or six tables. And I waited for my blind date wondering what the hell I was doing there.


Before the Beginning, Thread Three

Yu-na Lee was born and raised in Korea.  She had a lot of financial responsibility for her parents and an aunt. At least while her younger brother got on his feet. This kept Yu-na from dating and instead forced her into a variety of part-time jobs as waitress, tutor, hotel babysitter, kindergarten teacher and wedding fashions and hair model. She was popular in high school. But when she started modeling in college, the modeling scene made her insecure about her looks.

She had a technical engineering degree in robotics from the second-best technical engineering university in the country. She started a year early. Her senior thesis was in electromechanical feedback-based control systems. She was exceptionally well-read: she favored philosophy and western and eastern literature. She enjoyed music. Her iPod carried over 10,000 songs. She would often attend concerts and opera on her own. She made few friends, three she kept from high school, and still seldom dated. She later would say that she learned to love herself and be comfortable alone, reading a book and listening to music rather than going out on dates or drinking with peers.

After two years at a Korean multinational she found engineering was not for her. She took an analyst position at a major global consulting company. She was 23. At that company Yu-na had a very deep four year love affair with the senior executive in charge. It was her one big love.

But the affair blew up in a very nasty way. She claims it was largely her fault. She said she was “stupid”. She said she lacked courage to make a commitment.

And she was emotionally devastated. After a hiatus she decided to switch gears again, to go into youth counseling, taking a psychology masters degree. During this time she did not date, going four years without dating or sex, always remembering her lost lover, and believing she would never meet another man she would love.

In March 2009 Yu-na had gone to a very famous fortune teller with an aunt. Yes, a fortune teller. She was not a believer in fortune telling. But her aunt insisted. He was paid only to give a fortune to her aunt. But he also gave a fortune to Yu-na. He told her that he knew that she was barren of love for many years. He had surprisingly accurate insight about some past experiences. And then he said that she would find the greatest love of her life in March of 2010, with a stranger. She had just started an internship with a new up-and-coming charity. She was studying courses. She continued a series of part time jobs. How could she ever meet a stranger? She dismissed the fortune, but inside her heart, a spark of hope burned deep and bright.

She went back to her studies, the internship, the jobs. She forgot about the fortune. The year went by.

It was March 7, 2010. The president of the charity where she had interned last spring called her. She had told Yu-na of a man worth meeting, a good friend of hers. Not a date, but meeting a knowledgeable and interesting person. At a private club with excellent food. She guaranteed interesting conversation. And a favor for her, as she was in Japan.

Yu-na took a taxi to the private club.

And that’s where the story begins… in part two.

Friday, February 19, 2010

An Obligatory Update

I had to kick Sam in the posterior to create sufficient incentive for him to post. If he were to copy my bad habits, given all the bad habits that are in his unique possession, what other than perdition could be in his future? (Of course he will not credit me with even this small victory, as he claims what put him over the edge was a female blogger.)

But in return he challenged me to put in a status update, saying that recent happenings on my side may be “blogworthy.” It seems hardly fair, he having a fair amount of free time in a nearly-tropical climate allegedly performing charity-related work but really making good with an previous obligation. In contrast I am busy in northern Europe, chasing a deal with contacts that Sam helped set up. I originally considered that to be a friendly deed on his part, but after freezing myself for a few weeks in the –15 degree weather and nearly constant darkness, I am starting to wonder… and I should feel obligated to post on the blog?

I have to point out that it was my belief – not challenged by Mr. Spayed – that the ratio of posts between us would asymptotically reach 10:1. A brief examination of the blog dating to the start of our partnership reveals his three posts to my one. Assuming we both post, as Sam requests, it will stand at four to two. In my opinion, this is not progress. I believe I will have to renegotiate terms. Perhaps Mr. Spayed lacks incentives which may be best achieved by linking his performance in this partnership to my performance in other partnerships. For example, I could index his returns from (Jenny, Peau and my) marriage fund to his posting ratios. Hmm…

In the past year Jenny has managed her school to some level of prominence. Asia did not suffer as deep an economic hardship as experienced in the United States. The briefer downturn enabled her to upgrade management and expand in footprint. As a consequence she is able to serve a greater number of children in need. She even considered a business arrangement with one of Sam’s ex-Arrangement partners, but that did not work out logistically. Jenny has learned a lot of about management, in particular of a non-profit. As I write this she is in Malaysia visiting one of her closest friends, so she is also enjoying some tropical heat.

I continue to believe that having our own activities and the short and planned separations full of focused work do make the reunions, well, more passionate and accrue to the strength of our relationship. Sometimes it burns brighter or less bright, but it always feels deeper and more secure.

Other activities since last October included a wicked multicity birthday party for a friend, a few wrenching management changes in companies I have, a series of huge opera-worthy dramas in the mistress lives of friends, and a big asset sale followed by a bigger charitable donation.

Jenny and my sexual training sessions officially completed last year. Now we focus on recitation. We are currently trying a scheduled approach and, so far, it is working. It might sound boring to have a schedule for sex, but with such a rich menu of options and such a variable set of resources available depending upon which location, well… it works. Trust me. Add this to the list of powers that that preserve monogamy and combat the natural tendencies to seek variety in partners – there just will never be a partner as good as Jenny. It isn’t just words I have to tell myself, it’s reality.

Of course this begs many other questions about longevity – how long can the sex stay great before age-related issues get in the way? And then does monogamy end? I have a theory about the importance of matching that to age-based interest in sexual activity, but that’s a topic for another day. Another topic for the future, perhaps, is an interesting story about the threesome experiences Jenny and I had. The short form is that it created complications because we seriously blew the fuse of this poor young woman and she became somewhat addicted. Ending it was difficult. We have decided the tripod stabilization theory is not for us; that Peau is enough of a stabilizing influence. So maybe two topics to consider for the future…

Assuming that Mr. Spayed can find twenty or thirty other topics to post in the meantime. And, no, Sam, it doesn’t count to make lots of one paragraph posts. Shame on you for even thinking that. The readers deserve more.

An Absence Explained

I’m almost as bad as Sigmund with these sudden absences. As they say, “my bad.”

What happened?

It was the Arrangement. I modified it. And it bit me. But I get ahead of myself. First I must catch you up, dear reader. So rather than going through the first three arrangements, let me start with the most recent one. The Internet one.

In late October of 2008 I embarked upon my fourth Arrangement. I mostly used Seeking Arrangement, an Internet site. I spent three months vetting hundreds of candidates down to four. I put a lot of miles on my jet. By February 2009 I tried to pick one. What happened at that point was a departure from my plans.

As I noted below, an Arrangement consists of an entrepreneur, a business plan, and an investment. It results in a contract with a term, goals, a consulting contract and scheduling commitments. That worked in my first three Arrangements. Not so this time.

This time I found out that none of the four could produce a business plan. Their personalities were entrepreneurial. That was not the problem. And they met the other criteria I had for charm, wit, looks, elegance, and so on. But their ability to focus and produce something, even a plan, was too limited. The limitations were from a lack of ability, or a lack of experience, or a lack of focus.

Of course the purpose of mentoring is to help a lack of ability, experience or focus. But I needed some baseline capability to build upon. I was not finding it.

So I modified the arrangement. I felt two of the candidates only lacked experience. So I decided to support them while they brought themselves to the point of producing a plan. I put them through school. I allowed them to have the time to develop their interests and skills to the point where a plan could be produced. So I dropped the business plan component out of the Arrangement. During the first year their focus was to be purely on studies. There would be no romantic meetings or sex. The stated goal was for one of them to move to a real Arrangement in 12 to 18 months.

Unfortunately, upon reviewing progress after six months very little was happening. So I suggested that we drop the implicit transition to an Arrangement and just complete two years support for their education. The two women were not happy with this and independently petitioned “for another chance.” This escalated to a point during the Thanksgiving holiday, shortly after my last post. Various personal dramas and other events made the situation untenable. I would not back out of the financial commitment, but I wanted out of the rest.

Modifying the Arrangement was a bad idea. Without the stability of a project, the non-traditional commitments and uncertainties brought out the worst in the participants in terms of insecurities.

My other Arrangements were so much more enjoyable that there is no comparison.

I’ll write about why.

And how I am trying things differently this time. How I will try the Asian approach. In America.