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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Trial By Fire, Cold as Ice

Originally I was going to post about my Fire and Ice tour, as promised. But that trip turned out to be more interesting than expected in a manner different than expected. I had thought that I would not be able to post about it, but discussions with Jenny have changed that.

On the mundane level the trip was for a little business. But what I was really looking forward to was driving a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S in the desert in Saudi Arabia at a factory-sponsored PR event, mostly for the benefit of some car enthusiast magazine journalists; then I would drive essentially the same car in Iceland in a separate event.

Fire and Ice.

Permit me a moment to describe this vehicle, which is something of an engineering experiment gone to excess. A monument to those B-movies of the 1950’s where you had oversized everythings: giant ants, giant squid, giant leeches, giant women, whatever (by the way, here’s an article for why giant creatures don’t make sense). Or perhaps the late-arriving bastard child of the wretched excess of the 1980’s that spawned investment bankers, Big Gulps, and SUVs (oh, and here’s an article about how the 80’s are coming back). It is, in short, a 520 horsepower, 530 foot pounds of torque sport utility vehicle. By comparison, the Ford Explorer, the most popular SUV in America, in its most popular configuration has 210 horsepower and 254 foot pounds of torque. Wretched excess personified.

And that’s the main reason I went on this trip. Jenny and I had driven it in Germany essentially on a track, but this promised to be more fun. But alas, my experience with the vehicle is not the part worth blogging.

No, the story worth blogging is about my first great temptation to stray. Here’s the story:

During the course of the trip I passed through London to perform some of the sacrificial finance rituals required to appease the real estate dieties. While there I met the granddaughter of a business acquaintance, I’ll call him “Duke.” Duke was the entrepreneurial founder of a company in the US that, through various mergers and acquisitions, was now a Fortune 500 company. He had a good start coming from a bona fide Social Register family. He had long since retired to an ex-plantation in the middle of nowhere, but his dabbling in investments had crossed paths with mine. I hadn’t remembered that Duke had a granddaughter, but a message had come out of the aether asking me to meet her and to introduce her to a mutual friend of ours. This mutual friend I’ll call “Clovis.” His family is in Burke’s Peerage and he works in the finance industry. Duke and Clovis go way back, Clovis having been the banker for several big transactions during Duke’s rise in fortunes, some great-to-the-n-th grand relatives in their families having been business partners, and, as I heard it, even some, um, genetic material exchange between families.

The plan was that I would pick up Duke’s granddaughter at her hotel, have lunch one-on-one to discuss the introduction, do the introduction at Clovis’offices, sit in on the meeting, take her to dinner at Clovis’ country estate, and then drop her off back at her hotel.

An uncomplicated social obligation. Simple.

Ah, but at lunch I found Amy to be exceedingly charming — dangerously charming, in fact. She was all of 24 years old, but already a cosmopolite in the best way. She had lived in three countries in Europe growing up and spoke four languages, three fluently. She had run away from the family at 14 during a troubled adolescence and put herself through engineering college in the United States at the age of 16. She loved hiking and reading, but was highly experienced at public events giving her the grace, manners and style befitting a scion of wealth. She had worked at a startup company in California, then started her own company with her own financing, and built a small real estate empire — all in five years. She had just come to London from a vacation in Honduras scuba diving and playing in shark cages.

Amy was a no-nonsense, confident, plain speaking, massively self-educated, extremely competitive woman, armed with a very wicked humor and sharp intellect. She also was the most ardent female believer in self-actualization and the value of economic rational actors I had ever met. A true student of Milton Freedman with a little bit of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche thrown in for good measure. She believed in rational economics, but beyond that it was all Darwinian rules — survival of the fittest, kill or be killed, eat or be eaten. A little scary.

And Amy was very beautiful. When I first saw her in the lobby I thought she was a model — she wore a fitted Dolce and Gabbana black silk pencil skirted suit with her locks flowing with just a touch of disarray over a pure white blouse. She wore hardly any makeup and no perfume, but she looked and smelled divine. She was the most physically attractive engineer and the most intellectually attractive socialite I had ever met. She had modelled and consulted to help pay for tuition in college. Amy had a dangerous combination: the mind of an old-timer geek in the body of a nubile young model.

Being with her was actually uncomfortable.

Of course Fate played a dirty trick as well. A very scandalous event occurred in a foreign country involving Clovis’ financial institution, and he had to get involved in damage control. I offered to cancel the introduction meeting, but Clovis insisted that he would still meet in the afternoon and fly out afterwards. He insisted that we keep the dinner since his estate was only opened that day for this occasion and it would otherwise go to waste. He made it awkward to say no. The damned social networks were acting more like fishing nets here — entrapping Clovis into meeting Amy and entrapping me into chaperoning her one on one.

Now here was a disaster waiting to happen. Amy was the ideal temptress from my commitments to Jenny — Amy was so much like myself at that age, young and brimming with potential, entrepreneurial, independent, self-actualized, and so on, and she was also extremely attractive.

But it gets worse.

We had the meeting with Clovis where she showed off her charm, grace, wit, style, and business acumen. I could tell that Clovis was smitten and wanted to hire her on the spot. He threw a half-dozen business cards of associates at her, scheduled a follow up meeting, and turned on the sell charm, which she masterfully managed. It was watching art in action. I confess a certain mesmerism. Hell, I wanted to hire her, too. Or something. In a room filled with captains of industry with more business acumen than most Fortune 100 companies, young Amy was in complete control. Shades of my adventure with Sanura, but this was reality.

I weakly attempted to salvage some protection by asking Clovis if there were an executive in his office who could substitute for his presence at dinner. Alas, there was not.

The ride out to dinner took a while. More time to chat. The meeting had excited Amy. She was very pleased, although she described it as “turned on.” It came out that she had tried her hand at being a mistress for about a year in Europe at the ripe age of 22, but decided it wasn’t for her. It was a mixed mistress-mentorship and she had learned a lot on both sides. Keep in mind that this had ended only about a year ago. Amy was experimental: she had her own interesting stories of sex and relationships — from a very different almost converse perspective to mine since sex was so easy for her and business was more difficult — but at the root of it, she had a similar journey to mine the last three years, but without the “happy ending.” She had discovered much about her sexuality (aggressively submissive) and her relationships with men in general and the world at large, and had developed her own personal philosophy about it all.

Great. All of this was looking grim and grimmer. I was finding the car ride a kind of velvet torture. I was quite sexually attracted to her. Thoughts of ownership and submission, mentoring and conquest, passion and intellect, all these mixed in my head and was turning my brain into an organic smoothie. It was 3 AM in Asia, not the ideal time to call for moral support. I text messaged some love notes to Jenny to shore up my defenses, but even so, I longed to know what Amy would be like to touch, to kiss, and how we would make love. It was irrational desire.

Dinner was outside on the west terrace. Of course this patio was about an acre in size and looked over nearly infinite gardens of the kind that only the English can maintain, and perched atop a world-class wine cellar about forty feet below. And at this fantastic dinner at this fantastic castle over a glass of 150 year old Port, Amy pulled the coup de grace on my will: she confessed that she was very attracted to me. More attracted, in fact, than any other man she had ever met, she said.

Nothing turns on a man more than a woman who is turned on by him.

And because Amy is so no-nonsense, she just went for my soft exposed jugular.

There are certain defining moments in any crisis when time stops and the world seems to rotate for your consideration. It can be when one of your chocks pops out on a cliff face and you start that slow sickening fall to infinity, or it can be when your wheels lost grip on a slick track and you start spinning without control, or when you finally know your startup has failed to make payroll. At that moment there is a kind of crystal clarity where you feel like you are connected to everything and can see all the factors lining up around you. Suddenly you know the condition of the rope and the placement of the protections that might save you; you know the nature of the road surface and the position of the objects around you; you know the state of your company and the mental state of its financial backers. This is probably when your life flashes before your eyes, although my flashes have always been more solutions-oriented.

Well, this was one of those moments.

A billion thoughts rushed through my head, experiences, factors, considerations, scenarios. And clearly Amy had a number of them running through her head as well, as she outlined — in slow motion — several acceptable ways in which we could establish a relationship, learn more about each other, and gradually manage the personal and social risks involved as she would submit herself to me totally.

I guess I can’t really express the temptation I felt. After all, I had only known the woman for a day, how much could I be tempted? But perhaps that shortness of the exposure made it even more animal and therefore difficult. And physically I was half a world away from Jenny, in a private castle, completely aroused. More time may have illuminated more flaws upon which I could build my defense, and more time to rationally consider what I was doing. But for a moment Amy seemed so... ideal.

But only for a moment.

And it passed.

The attraction and situation had built a stage of opportunity, but when my mind pulled aside the curtain, there was nothing there. No script, no actors. No third party, no history written, no future plan. Only a Greek chorus sharpening their knives of moral judgement.

And as difficult as it was for a person such as myself, I turned myself cold. I would pass this trial by fire by being as cold as ice. Rude, in fact. Not because it helped me to be rude, but because it made it easier for her to be offended and to mistreat me back. And that would in turn help me be colder. And, I am ashamed to say, I treated Amy about as badly as I have ever treated another human being.

The staff at the castle probably wondered what had happened, what was the argument. The driver burned with curiosity at the absolute silence in the car. Later, Clovis asked what I had done. And her grandfather had nothing good to say to me. And I know all of them wondered why on Earth a person with my reputation would reduce such a marvelous woman to tears.

The answer is simple.

It’s because I love Jenny... and our relationship.

3 Comments:

Blogger Sasha Franco said...

Ilove the fact that you sticked out to your convictions. But at the same time I wonder if it was fear that made you pass on this opportunity.

11/13/2006 2:48 AM  
Blogger Sigmund said...

Absolutely fear has something to do with my behavior. Fear is a great motivator. I will be posting on my new blog about how I deliberately create barriers (such as fear) to keep myself in line, and also a follow up on Amy...

11/19/2006 12:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

surprised and impressed at the outcome! bravo

7/22/2016 5:58 PM  

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