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Friday, March 4, 2011

Stratospheric Diva

The night of our arrival, we received a text message from our friend Carmen (not her real name), who noticed my Facebook update and also happened to be in Solo for the weekend. She invited my spouse and I to join her and her friend, whom we’ll call Farah, for dinner the following evening. 

They were staying in the Aman-esque compound of a designer friend of theirs who makes high-end furniture and textiles. Farah asked if she should have one of her Architectural Digest photographers come out and see the place. It is a large, exquisite, modern villa; open and airy. There is warm, soothing terra cotta everywhere, and a stunning reflecting pond with a gazebo perched to the side, where you can imagine whiling away an afternoon reading or napping in perfect solitude. 

After the entrĂ©e course, we retired to this idyllic spot. A woman of few inhibitions, Farah pulled up her dress and began frolicking in the shallow, custom-built pond. She proposed making the pond into a pool, so people could have the option to swim. Farah considered asking contractors to come in and dig a concave swimming lane, preserving a shallow perimeter.  She asked what we thought the owner, whom we didn’t know, and who happened to be out of town at the time, might think.

Dessert was served in the living room, where Farah pointed to a chair that she had to have. It didn’t matter that the owner’s workshop happened to be making another one, for sale; she wanted the one in his house. That one. The other chair was different somehow. “Was $2,500 too much to offer?,” she asked us. 

A collector, she buys by the container load. She purchased some items in Bali that she planned to showcase at a Christmas charity cocktail party in Paris for a few hundred people.  In addition to the chair, she eyed some large copper pots for her place in Tuscany.

Farah talked of $300 lunches at a restaurant in Paris where not even an American Express black card could guarantee a reservation sooner than three weeks in advance. But more than a socialite, she organizes important benefits for the arts, such as the Christmas party she mentioned. She doesn’t do fundraisers unless she thinks she can raise $1 million, because, she explained, the effort to raise $100,000 or a million is about the same.

We were fascinated. Who was this diva?

The following morning, we traveled together to the Mayan-looking Candi Sukuh complex an hour away, and learned that Farah’s father was a diplomat.  She had spent very little time in the mid-size Asian country he represented.

Farah and her husband met in Paris over 20 years ago, when she was in her thirties. He was older; divorced, with grown kids. Centuries ago, his family started what has become a major luxury brand.

Though a Parisian for the past quarter century, Farah embraces her Asian roots. On the way back from our morning excursion, she asked the driver to take us somewhere we could get fresh coconut juice. The roadside stall also offered durian, which she enjoyed.

We parted company that afternoon, after dropping Farah off at the spa. She invited us to look her up when we are next in Paris. We’ll review some Dynasty episodes in advance, so we can be prepared.

(published in The Kayon, Spring 2011)

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