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Up in Smoke

A Rock Industry Insider Recalls the Malibu Wildfire that Consumed (Almost) Everything 

I miss the change of seasons in New Jersey. Transplanted here in Southern California, I must make do with Football Season, ’Tis the Season and the new TV Season. And then there is that other, more ominous, time of year: Fire Season. In a matter of minutes, it can turn you from a “have” into a “have-not”. For my friend Sue Sawyer (right), the November 1993 blaze that raged through the Malibu canyon where she lived swallowed more than just her home. It took a bite out of the joie de vivre she once had—the loss of which she is still coming to terms with today. In the early 1990’s, Virgin Records America was in its heyday, and Sawyer was its V.P. of Media Relations. Her clients included Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz, and The Clash. Over the years she received many gold records from artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Sade, and Cheap Trick that she hung on her living room wall. Her five platinum albums from Michael Jackson had an inscription from Michael that read Dear Sue, thanks for the hard work. These also were displayed in her home. A triptych photograph taken in the early 1980’s, showed Sue sitting on a sofa with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. Ozzy was promoting his first solo album, and a marketing meeting was set up at Epic Records. Ozzy walked in with a photographer, which was unusual; this should have been the tip-off for Sawyer that he had something up his sleeve (or in his pockets, to be exact). When everyone was seated, Ozzy produced a white dove from his coat, smiled sweetly at it—and bit its head off. He reached in his other pocket and pulled out another white dove and prepared to dine on that one, but the conference room erupted in protest, and the bird and everyone else in the room was saved from another unsavory spectacle. Although the photographs showed Sue’s expression going from Oh, what a pretty bird Ozzy has to utter revulsion, the triptych was exhibited on her walls to prove that, yes, this really did happen… I was there. The fire took everything. Sawyer’s “to die for” record collection? Vaporized. Her priceless collectibles? Incinerated. Early punk rock singles, including Elvis Costello when he was with Stiff Records? Up in smoke. A few charred 4×4’s, the bottom drum to her Weber grill, the blackened and ash filled carcass of her boyfriend’s vintage1967 metallic gold Thunderbird, the blob of melted coins from her piggybank, and the over-baked Halloween pumpkin that was sitting on the porch, was all that was left. There wasn’t even a place to hang the red UNSAFE FOR OCCUPANCY notification, so it was left under a rock. After the fire ran its course and Sawyer was allowed back on to the smoldering property, it was her incinerated books that she mourned the most. Everything that Graham Greene and Raymond Chandler wrote she collected. She had all of her childhood books, especially Winnie-The-Pooh, lovingly placed on bookshelves. “I would look at my books and it gave me a kind of a…hug,” she recalls. “I don’t have that now.” The literary collection was her treasure. Through the day-today roller coaster ride that was her job, those books provided a sense that everything was going to be all right.

It kept her grounded in a world of music icons and crazy, all-night industry parties. Sawyer has since acquired more books to fill new shelves, but the concertized connection to her younger, more carefree self was gone; as was the piano that she was more than proficient in playing. “When I was seven, I could play Rachmaninov in C sharp minor,” Sawyer says. She hasn’t owned a piano since she found the twisted remains of its soundboard nestled in the ash and soot of what was once her living room. “My house was completely gone.” The great Malibu fire of 1993 burned for three days. Sue Sawyer and 267 others lost their homes. Among her burnt-out neighbors were Sean Penn and Madonna, Ali MacGraw, Dwight Yokum, and Roy Orbison’s widow, Barbara. Three people perished in the fire, which was fueled by a combination of oil-rich and highly combustible chaparral, severe drought, and the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that roared through the canyon. In the first 10 minutes the fire spread from one acre to 200, and within an hour it had scorched over 1,000. It was about 20 minutes into the burn that Sawyer knew her house was in its path, and she had to get home to save her pets. Normally, there were a lot of meetings on Tuesday mornings, but she happened to be in her office with the television on. There was a breaking news bulletin about a fire sweeping toward the sea. “I knew this was no small deal by the way the newscasters talked about it,” she recalls. “And I knew my house was directly between the origin of the fire and the ocean.” The sick feeling that started to take hold of Sawyer was confirmed when a neighbor called. He told her he was evacuating and would take her Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, but she needed to come and grab her cats. Driving along Pacific Coast Highway toward he

r threatened home, she was struck by the surrealism of it all. “The ocean was glittery with the sun bouncing on the surface, and the sky was such a beautiful blue,” she remembers. “And then there was this huge plume of smoke going up into the sky.” There was a state-of-the art fire station with a helicopter pad just up the road from where she lived. Would her home be spared? She knows now that when an out-of-control fire is in the mood to burn, there’s not much you can do about it. She reached her home with minutes to spare. With two cats and one cat carrier, she ended up stuffing one in a pillow case and tossing both in the car. Then she bolted back into the house to save what she could. It was about 1:30 in the afternoon and the sky had darkened with soot. Ash was everywhere, inside the house as well as out,

and an orange glow was licking at the ridge line, edging ever closer. “I was rushing around sick to my stomach,” Sawyer says. “There was no rhyme or reason to what I was putting in the car. I grabbed a photo album, my skis, a computer, and bicycles.” “But not enough clothes,” she chuckles wryly. “Next time I’ll pack better.” There was only one way out of the canyon; if an ember had leapfrogged onto her escape route, there would have been no way out. She took one last look at her home and—still hopeful that this evacuation would turn out to be nothing more than a fire drill—thought, “This is going to be so much work putting everything back!” Sawyer retreated to her parents’ house in Simi Valley, where a friend phoned to tell her that the street Sue lived on was gone. Wow, she thought, I guess I’m homeless. The next morning, with the fire still gobbling up homes north of Los Angeles, Sawyer’s office phoned to ask if she would be coming in for the marketing meeting. Hey, that’s show biz! “I don’t have a toothbrush or any underwear,” she told the caller, “I think I’ll be a little late for work today.” A month later, Sawyer began her slow return from the weightlessness of the dispossessed. She was living in a rental home in Burbank and her friends and co-workers threw a surprise benefit party to help her pick up the pieces. “This outpouring of kindness was the best thing that happened after the fire,” she says. “These were not the wealthy people of the music business; these were the publicists and writers. The $50 checks that they gave meant so much to me. I still have the checks from the freelance writers. I didn’t cash them. They didn’t have a lot of money, and I still had a job. The irony was that those same people got hit by the [January 1994] earthquake a month later.” Sawyer has regained most of her zest. But part of that happy-go-lucky, young woman vanished that November morning. “I regret the loss of my books and my music,” she says. “And my love letters. I dated a lot of writers, so there were some incredible love letters. I regret that I didn’t really mourn what I had lost; I was changed by the loss, but I didn’t mourn it. I wish I had had some therapy, it would have helped.” From the ashes eventually there is growth. The élan that defined Sue Sawyer both personally and professionally was replaced with a “don’t sweat the little stuff” sensibility that has served her equally well. After a hiatus from the world of media marketing, she is working as an independent publicist for a boutique public relations firm in Los Angeles. And she bought another house, in Glendale, where she can hear her neighbors’ son practicing the piano. With a twinkle in her eye, she says that she would like to start playing again. EDGE

It’s a Gift

Wish List

Great Toys for Grown-Up Girls & Boys

You may be too old to fire off a letter to Santa, but that’s no reason for the kid in you to let the holidays pass without making a decent wish list. From old games to new electronics, there’s something out there to please even the most discerning inner child. May your season be joy filled…and toy filled!

CHRISTMAS PAST Ask anyone older than 30-something to name their all-time favorite game. The across-the-board answer: Monopoly, the ultimate Boardwalk Empire. The game we remember has undergone a serious makeover as the Monopoly Revolution ($35 at your local Target), which upgrades the staid old board with sound effects and credit cards instead of cash. Buying houses you can’t afford in real life is fun! History’s happiest accident—the Slinky— has returned to the family staircase in a 14- karat, gold-plated-brass 55th Anniversary Edition ($100 at According to legend, the discovery that the spring could “walk” was completely serendipitous. The rest is history, with more than 300 million sold and still counting. Another beloved blast from the past is the Rubiks Cube, now available in a glitzy high-tech Rubiks TouchCube version (on for about $70). Nostalgia is also available in book form. The Official Preppy Handbook, that iconic, tongue-in-cheek treatise on the WASP-y culture of the 1980s, finally has its longa waited sequel. One of the original authors has taken another satirical look at the “new old guard” in True Prep: It’s a Whole New World. Buy it in hardcover at your local brick-and-mortar bookseller, or go for the preppier Kindle or iPad editions.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT An unfortunate reality of being a self-indulgent grown-up is that fitness and exercise equipment often migrates onto our holiday wish lists. If you think walking (or even running) is for wimps—and can put off that new car purchase for another year—then you might want to trade in your treadmill for a Treadwall, a motorless rotating climbing wall that moves by body weight alone. The good news is you are never more than 1-2 feet off the floor. The bad news is that this will set you back about $10,000 (a KidWall version is less). Check it out at or call around to some climber-friendly gyms. If work intrudes on your workout, then consider equipping your home office with a Gaiam BalanceBall Chair (on for about $80). Chiropractically engineered, the chair continues working those core muscles even if you sit at your desk for hours. You’re basically buying the chair’s framework; the rest is BYOB (Bring Your Own Ball). It’s the same balance ball you use in your workout routines. Need to exercise on the road? You’ll have no more excuses away from home thanks to the Tumi Travel Fitness Trainer. It’s equipped with a pedometer, heart rate monitor, stopwatch, MP3 player and FM radio. Look for it at the Tumi store in the Short Hills Mall (or online at for about $165. Masochism comes in myriad forms, not all of which involve calorie burning workouts. Golf leaps to mind. Feeling the burn in this sport mostly happens between the ears. If greens are what get you blue, then consider the Laser Alignment Putting Trainer, which uses a laser beam to tell you when your putt is perfect— before you even touch the ball. Look for it online at for $329.95.

CHRISTMAS FUTURE If racing ahead of the pack gets you in the holiday spirit, then you’ll be happy to hear that the toys of tomorrow are here today. For instance, you can actually carry around a computer in a pen with the LiveScribe Echo Smartpen. It captures everything you hear, write or say and delivers it with just a tap of the pen ($170 for 4GB and $200 for 8 GB versions at; also at Target). Or treat yourself to a Gyration Air Mouse, which controls apps on your computer, TV or DVD player with a wave of your hand ($70 and up at or Gadget gals are turning cartwheels over the latest Flip Video Cams. Their fetching case artwork belies their impressive HD video capabilities, with up to two hours of record time ($150 to $230). Best to go direct to, where you can even upload your own photo for a personalized one-of-a-kind camera. If your final wish for 2010 (or final wish, period) is to careen down a snow-covered slope at 70 mph, then you’ll want to invest in an Airboard. Think of these Swiss-engineered inflatables as really Felixible Flyers. Popular for years in Europe, the Airboard has just begun appearing on American mountainsides. You may want to rent before you buy (they sell for $200 to $630 at, and probably review your insurance policy. If your thrill-seeking tends to be a bit less public, then the Spy Net Secret Mission Video Watch may be more your speed. It’s a 21st Century take on those old decoder rings buried at the bottom of cereal boxes. It can audio record for 3 hours, video record for 20 minutes, and take still photos with a snake cam that lets you see around corners ($50 at and also carried by Kmart).

Editor’s Note: Chris Gibbs is the brains behind EDGE’s “It’s A Gift” section. She’s been waiting all year to do this story!

Game On

 In Search of the Ultimate Sports Poster

Most experts agree that there are four cornerstones to a successful marriage. 1. Trust. 2. Honesty. 3. Unexpressed anger. 4. No sports junk on the walls. Many a man has tested rule #4 only to see that framed jersey or signed photo, without warning, donated to a local charity auction. Like a game of Jumanji, the priceless heirloom insidiously then works its way into another home, where it initiates marital chaos all over again. Bill Crouse is the exception that proves rule #4. One of the world’s leading authorities on Art Deco posters, his collection may be the best ever assembled. When Crouse purchases a sports poster, it’s invariably a jaw-dropper. In these pages we present a handful of sporting selections from the renowned Crouse Collection. You won’t find these masterpieces at your suburban gala or fundraiser. You will see them in museums and galleries in Europe and the U.S. (including right now at the Guggenheim’s Chaos and Classicism exhibit). If you want to buy them at auction, be prepared to spend somewhere in the mid-six figures!

Cycles Brillant • A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968) Only a few copies of this 1925 poster—a gleaming example of Cassandre’s adherence to minimalism—are know to exist. Not many commercial artists would be brave enough to hand a client an ad concept for a bicycle that shows no details of the product. Even fewer could actually pull it off.

Campeonato Abierto de Basket-Ball • Caroselli (Dates Unknown) The image of the angled competitor was popular among Art Deco posterists. In this advertisement for a 1934 tournament, Caroselli used this technique—along with an airbrushed black “cocoon”—to capture the energy of a layup.

Monaco/19 Avril 1931 • Robert Falcucci (1900-1989) This rarest of Monaco GP posters—possibly the only example in private hands—shows a Mercedes SSK in hot pursuit of a red Bugatti. Falcucci’s use of white streaks running the length of the racer, concentric arcs of white behind to convey the rush of the wind, and the bright palette of red, yellow and blue give this streamlined design great panache. A multitalented painter, decorator and illustrator, Falcucci received his formal training in Paris and served as the historical painter for the French Army.

Beristain/Todo Para Deportes • Jacint Bofarull (1903-?) on prior page Although Bofarull earned a reputation as a politically outspoken artist, none of his political leanings are evident in this promotion for Beristain’s Barcelona department store and its line of sporting equipment and apparel. Despite the fact that pipe-smoking is no longer a part of sports, it would not be a stretch to call this 80-year-old poster “timeless.”

Coupe Davis • A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968) In Cassandre’s advertisement for the 1932 Davis Cup, he grabs viewers’ attention by placing them in the path of an oncoming shot at net. The use of geometry and dynamic perspective in this extraordinarily rare poster— as well as the ease with which the design’s elements are assembled—are superb examples of what made Cassandre the most important Art Deco figure in the history of advertising posters.

Mistrzostwo Swiata/Krynica 1931 • Stefan Osiecki (1902-1939) Jerzy Skolimowski (1907-1985) This promotion for the 1931 World Ice Hockey Championships in Poland can barely contain the action within the frame. The featureless depiction of the competitors captures the team-oriented nature of the sport, while the flags along the bottom clearly convey that 10 national teams will by vying for the title.

Sables d’Or les Pins • Lec (Dates Unknown) For the dedicated golfer, playing a well-designed course borders on a religious experience. In this breathtaking 1926 poster, the artist captures this feel using a stained-glass style.

III Olympic Winter Games • Witold Gordon (1885-1968) Gordon left no doubt in this iconic poster where the center of the sports universe would be in February of 1932: Lake Placid. These Winter Games—the first held in North America—were opened by New York Governor (and soon-to-be U.S. President) Franklin Roosevelt. Gordon also designed the grand murals at Radio City Music Hall and the 1939 World’s Fair.”

World’s Greatest Air Race • Percy Trompf (1902-1964) The 1934 England-to- Australia air race covered more than 11,000 miles and was won by Lieutenant Charles William Anderson Scott and Captain Tom Campbell Black. Their scarlet DH.88 Comet finished with a time of 71 hours. Art Deco posters typically pared down or simplified the human element. However, in this poster, Trompf chose to zero in on the pilot’s face to convey the focus, determination and uncompromising will of the participants. Trompf created thousands of posters for companies in his native Australia, and attracted clients in England and Canada, too.

1er Campeonato Mondial de Football • Guillermo Laborde (1886-1940) This poster for the inaugural World Cup is the Holy Grail collectible for soccer fans. Laborde conveys the action and athleticism of the sport with just a few linear elements. An acclaimed South American artist and sculptor, he agreed to judge the poster submissions for the 1930 World Cup. Later, Laborde resigned from the panel and submitted two of his own—which came in first and third.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Tim Gazinski for his assistance in selecting and describing these posters. William Crouse’s 2009 book Grand Prix Automobile de Monaco Posters was hailed as “unmatched in the field” by the International Poster Center.


Local Talent

Buying art means buying smart. So what’s the deal with your neighborhood gallery?

In the typical suburban New Jersey home, you’re more likely to find a good guy named Art than good art. That’s fine if your goal is to own an undistinguished sofa-sized oil. But what if you want fine art—the kind that will brighten your life and fatten your bottom line? The answer may be as close as your local gallery. For those who believe you have to cross the Hudson to find investment-grade art, this idea may go against the grain. But the fact is that building a relationship with a gallery (or galleries) here in the Garden State can yield a far greater return—not just in terms of value and quality, but in so many other ways.   This applies to the seasoned collector as well as the novice. In fact, if you’re like so many New Jerseyans, the thought of opening your checkbook in a local art gallery is nothing short of terrifying. First things first. Let’s wrap our minds around the reasons New Jerseyans don’t buy art. Above all there is the intimidation factor. Most people are afraid they’ll be taken to the cleaners by an unscrupulous gallery owner. Second, they are nervous that their friends will make fun of a purchase that is different and modern, or simply out of character. Feeding this double-barreled paranoia is the fact that—particularly in the case of an abstract piece—one cannot specifically define the level of talent and technical skill involved in producing modern art. And on top of these very legitimate fears is the great, big elephant in the room: Why, when New York City is so close, would anyone buy art in New Jersey in the first place? Permit me to deal with this last objection first. Galleries here in New Jersey are indeed different than most galleries in the city. That is to say that they are friendly and approachable. If you think about it, it makes complete sense. Gallery owners are where they are, and do what they do, because they love and appreciate art. If they were in this business to make a killing, I hate to say it but they would be in Manhattan. What else does New Jersey have to offer art buyers that the city doesn’t? Well, there is a lot of first-rate talent that, for one reason or another, is only shown on this side of the Hudson. There is no comparison in terms of service. Try walking into a gallery on West Broadway or Madison Avenue and asking the owner to drive out to your place in Westfield for a consultation. That thud is the sound of his jaw hitting the floor. A gallery owner in or around your town, on the other hand, will likely welcome this opportunity. New Jersey art dealers are genuinely interested in the people who live around them, and cultivating relationships that extend beyond the buying and selling of art. They are part of the fabric of the community. Connecting with a local gallery also happens to be a superb way of adding texture to your social life. Once you’re “on the list” you’ll be invited to opening receptions whenever a new artist is featured. How often do you get to mix and mingle with new people who just happen to share a common interest? The majority of people attending gallery openings are like you—they want to know more about art and the people who buy it. (By the way, a free wine-and-cheese gathering is a wonderful springboard to dinner, a movie, or whatever else you’ve planned for an evening out.) Okay, so what about the financial side of the gallery relationship? Now more than ever, as we balance the merits of saving and spending, it is important to know what you get for your money when you purchase a work of art. Whether the price tag is several hundred or several thousand, dealers who live and work nearby are unlikely to “rip off” customers; they have reputations to uphold. If you happen to be one of the fortunate few who have five or six figures to invest in art, a good dealer will have solid connections to galleries that can point you in the right direction (and more importantly, steer you clear of the wrong direction). Either way, if your appreciation of art is tied to its potential appreciation, make that clear to the gallery owners you deal with.They will help you assess potential purchases (or emerging artists) with that goal in mind. Another advantage to buying in New Jersey—besides the good feeling that comes with supporting a local business— is that gallery owners here may be much more likely to work a deal that fits your finances. Their overhead is lower than in the city, which may translate into wiggle room when you whip out the checkbook. Finally, keep in mind as you shop or budget for fine art that you are buying something that could turn out to be a family treasure. Art is timeless. Art is priceless. Unlike a sofa or granite countertop, it does not depreciate the moment it walks through your front door. If you’ve chosen wisely, in fact, it could appreciate dramatically. And as it moves from your home to your children’s, and then to your children’s children’s and beyond, it serves as a link between the generations. In the meantime, this investment will enhance your quality of life every time you fix your gaze upon it. Indeed, as Pablo Picasso once observed, art “washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Amen to that. Some other art icons have also had a thing or two to say on the subject. Jackson Pollock famously noted that every good painter paints what he is. Rembrandt suggested practicing what you know to make clear what now you do not know. Believe it or not, Michelangelo often insisted, I can actually draw. Clarity and simplicity enabled these great painters to create magnificently complex works of art. When it comes to buying art in the Garden State, a little clarity and simplicity also goes a long way. EDGE 

Editor’s Note: Kathy Donnelly is an art collector and dealer. She owns Beauregard Fine Art Gallery ( in Rumson.

It’s A Gift

Tank Girl

Tank Girl

A (Saltwater) Fish Story Finding Nemo is not the problem. Keeping Nemo alive is. 

How many finny lives are upon my head? As a writer and editor of reference books, magazine articles and web pages on the care and feeding of all manner of aquatic life, how many kids did I help to take that final, fatal step after Disney had entranced them with Finding Nemo? How many gazillion brave little Clownfish lives were sacrificed in the service of a silly fad…and what was my part in it? It breaks my heart. Even more distressing is the fact that I may be in the minority. The pet industry, with which I have been entangled, like fishing line around the foot, professionally as an aquatics editor the past 20 years (and personally as a hobbyist for over fifty), does not profit from our successes. It’s a paradox, and perhaps it carries a larger message to our critical selves:

Photo by Matt Wittenrich, courtesy of Jeff Turner Reef Aquaria Design

The industry that supplies the livestock and equipment for people who would like to enjoy a small slice of the coral reef in their homes and offices profits from the woes and disappointments of the average beginning aquarium fish hobbyist—particularly in the marine fish and invertebrate hobby. Does the average Joe (or Joanne) starting a saltwater tank stand a fighting chance? The short answer is Yes. The long answer is that keeping a successful marine aquarium is equal parts difficult and satisfying. I am here to tell you that it can be done…as long as you’re willing to keep your eyes and wallet open, and understand how this hobby actually works. I offer the following nuggets of wisdom to help the budding “tank girl” (or boy) build a foundation for success. • Captive-bred specimens are recommended for beginners in marine aquarium keeping, regardless of the species desired. Captive-bred animals are hardier, acclimated to aquarium living, and are virtually disease-free. Also, if your pet shop is selling captive-bred stock, you can generally assume that they actually give a hoot about the environment. • More expensive fish are generally in better shape than bargains. At the grocery store, wild-caught fish are more expensive and worth it. That’s because you are eating them. But in a good pet store, it’s the captive-bred fish that are more expensive. It’s counter-intuitive, I know, but please buy the expensive fish. In the end, the dead fish is the most expensive one of all. • The biology of the coral reef is as complicated as it is achingly beautiful. The ability to duplicate the ocean’s floor is a skill that comes with dedication, experience, and a whole lot of reading and working with other like-minded people. An honest pet industry professional will find some way to convey this point to you. A hard-nosed one won’t. That’s because the pet industry counts on the great turnover in hobbyists. All those glass boxes at garage sales represent money down the drain for overwhelmed or under-informed owners…and countless tiny lives flushed away. • Patience, patience and more patience. Don’t become a statistic. Start slow and keep it simple. Is it too much to ask that people not buy their first saltwater aquarium along with the fishes, live rock, and invertebrates all on their first visit to a pet shop? I experiment constantly, and found the very best aquarium I ever kept was limited to live rocks for a whole year before I put any fish in. I always tell my friends to “grow something” in the water first. No matter how many products are available to help start aquariums quickly, the aquarist’s best friend starting out is time. • Patronize the local brick & mortar pet shop and—I’ll say it again—beware of bargains. Even though it may not be able to compete with Internet prices, your local pet shop was likely opened as a labor of love and expertise; these folks are looking to make a living, not a fortune. Pet shop insiders will be the most generous of people with their time, experience, and good advice. However, be aware of the fishmonger who repeats whatever it is you just said, who agrees with a wayward premise. (Yeah! I always feed live guppies to all my cichlids.) If the advice smells like a bucket of week-old dead fish, this is what you’ll probably have next week if you buy from this guy. I only thank my lucky stars that Clownfish are now being commercially farmed at facilities like the ORA hatchery complex in Ft. Pierce, Florida and need not be collected from the wild. Had Nemo been an equally adorable Banggai Cardinalfish, collection pressures on the small wild populations would definitely have put this species at serious risk, even though it too is able to be bred in captivity; just not enough to supply the demand for fish that a movie like Nemo would generate. Although some of us in the industry wrestle with our consciences, in the end we believe that every person who begins a saltwater aquarium—regardless of the outcome— gains new respect and appreciation for our delicate planet. I can’t think of any other exercise that shows us in such acute detail just how difficult it can be to keep a small being living under our care. Perhaps if more people dedicated themselves to maintaining flourishing saltwater tanks, the Gulf of Mexico would still support a shrimping industry, global warming would be addressed in a more proactive way, and we would realize that the line between the coral reefs of Fiji and the Arthur Kill can be an astoundingly fine one. EDGE 


 Editor’s Note: Mary Ellen Sweeney is the ultimate Tank Girl—a lifelong hobbyist and a razor-sharp writer and editor for aquatics magazine, books and web sites. 28



It’s A Gift

Feng Shui for Lovers

Don’t be misled by the racy cover slugs on your favorite supermarket magazines.
Solving tricky “bedroom problems” is not the exclusive domain of sex columnists.
For countless millions of troubled couples, the answer isn’t the art of love, but the art of placement.

AHong Kong-based movie director sought to smooth his turbulent marriage by trading in his traditional king-sized bed for one with rounded corners. All in the spirit of taking the edge off the relationship. In California, parents of four daughters in their twenties painted each of their bedrooms peach, a color the Chinese associate with romance and flirtation. To ensure future wedding bells. Having trouble in your marriage? Still looking for that special someone with whom to share your life? Do you sleep like a baby—a colicky one? Are you restless when you should be resting, waking up in the morning jumpy and nervous? Do you suffer from constant headaches or stomach cramps? Before contacting your local couples counselor, sleep specialist or gastroenterologist, consider this: your bedroom might be suffering from bad feng shui.

Feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of placement, addresses the environment to achieve peace, harmony and tranquility. In a bedroom, a delicate balance must be struck between serenity and suggestiveness. Calming aspects are desirable and contribute to sweet, langorous slumber, but in a marriage or relationship, desire and intimacy also need to be stoked. We spend one-third of our lives in our bedroom, where we rest, relax and recharge our energies. No wonder that, to the modern feng shui expert, the bedroom is one of the most important areas of your home. Indeed, for thousands of years, the Chinese have believed that where you sleep will influence how you sleep—that the structure and layout of your bedroom can affect your well being. When arranging a bedroom, certain ancient Chinese principles should be employed: the flow of ch’i (which translates as “energy”), the balance of yin and yang, and the wholeness of tao (which translates as the “way of nature”). Common and uncommon sense also are invaluable. In a bedroom, to the Chinese, position is an important consideration—of the bed location, that is. Ideally the bed should be cater-corner to the room’s entrance, with a view of the door so that you can comfortably see anyone entering and not be surprised. This position is called the commanding position; it gives you a sense of control over your environment. A poorly placed bed may disrupt your sleep at night and make you edgy and unbalanced during the day. Given that the ideal bed-to-door relationship is not always possible, the best cure is to hang a mirror in a way that  reflects the door toward you as you lie in bed. In some cases, a bed lies between two opposing windows, so a draft blows continually, disturbing sleep. This can be cured by hanging wind chimes, a crystal, or light between the windows, thus symbolically disbursing the draft.

“Whether you’re looking for a little luck or just hoping

to get lucky, a little feng shui can go a long way.”

Avoid locating your bed under a load-bearing beam. If it runs down the center, it will be divisive to a married couple. One couple in Manhattan rarely slept together an entire night. The wife always got up in the middle of the night and slept in the guest bedroom. Her midnight rambling ended after they moved the bed out from underneath the beam.

Similarly, avoid having a beam running over your stomach or you may experience cramps and intestinal problems. A newer aspect to modern feng shui deals with all the senses—including lighting and tactile elements—in creating a romantic environment. While a good, bright light is fine for reading in bed, a softer light or pleasantly scented candle will enhance the romantic mood. Deep, slow music is also conducive to intimacy. In addition, silky, velvety fabrics create comfort and help fan the flames of love. Carpets that feel good under foot are preferable to hard sisals or cold wood floors.

Color also is important in a bedroom. While you should always select the colors you love, it’s worth noting that pink is best for romance. Light green and pale blue are also good, as they symbolize hope and development. And peach may be the way to go if you’re still in search of that special someone. Finally, it’s worth mentioning the importance of purging your bedroom of any keepsakes or reminders of failed relationships. Keep it positive. Flowers and happy images are far more effective at creating an atmosphere conducive to a happy connection. Indeed, whether you’re looking for a little luck or just hoping to get lucky, a little feng shui can go a long way.


Editor’s Note: Sarah Rossbach is the author of Feng Shui: The Art of Chinese Placement, which was described by The New York Times as the “bible of the practice.”