Email & Karma Malfunctions

25 November 2008

When LemonGloria wrote of a recent email sent to her new husband by one of his ex’s, I laughed heartily mostly from the uproariously funny manner in which that lady weaves the strings of life into the fabric of poignant humor.  I also laughed at the many speculative reasons one might send an ex with whom s/he has had limited to no contact a picture of you & your spawn after childbirth.  The largely acknowledged reasons had two theories – accidental inclusion or deliberate attempt to demonstrate what one had missed.  In concluded that the latter reason was most probable, I mocked this woman’s vanity, her pettiness, and her general being.

Then karma declared today as the day of retribution. 

I compiled my long email list of invitees to the first ever Bloggerational Ball I am hosting with LivitLuvit and Who Invented Roses.  It was several hours later when I got the email from an ex I accidentally included on the distribution list.  She is delighted to join us she wrote.  I would be more delighted by someone coating my boys in honey and tying me to a colony of red ants than to see her.

I slightly exaggerate.  The problem is I don’t know how much power she still wields over me, and I am not anxious to learn in the middle of a party I am hosting.  I am especially reticent to learn this fact with her dressed in evening wear – I am a sucker for a well dressed pretty face.

So blogosphere, help a man out – play Miss Manners and suggest a graceful manner in which I can uninvited her.


Bloggerational Ball

25 November 2008

Bloggerational Ball 2009

blogball 

At approximately 12pm Tuesday 20 January 2009, our long national nightmare* will end and at 9pm the Sunday before the first ever Bloggerational Ball begins**.

There is an easy argument that one of the central themes of the Obama campaign was access – access to healthcare, access to great education for all, access to a world where civil liberties are protected, access to a reasonable and progressive tax structure.  With that thought in mind (and several beers and glasses of wine in hand,) a couple of friends – Live It, Love It & Who Invented Roses  – and I hatched a plan for an Inaugural Celebration that is accessible to all and honors the impact that New Media had on this election with the name Bloggerational Ball. 

I should also mention that having been to a few Inaugural Balls in my time, they aren’t nearly as much fun as the after-parties/bars where all of your friends are.  The Bloggerational Ball skips that step and puts you in the room with all of your friends without the bother of idle chit chat with people you will never see again.

 

The Details:

Time: 18 January 2009, 9pm

Location: Bourbon in Adams Morgan

Attire: Black-Tie Optional***

Cost: $47 (paid via PayPal only)

Food: plenty of snack sized noshes to absorb the booze but have dinner first

Booze: discounted drinks all night, complimentary champagne toast, and my co-hosts and I have already started working on signature drinks for the evening (Never Been Blue a.k.a. The Virginia and A Grateful Canada are a couple examples.  Feel free to email suggestions but please nothing as cliché as an Obamamama – the best drink name suggestion gets a complimentary ticket)

Availability: space is currently limited to 120 tickets, however if there is greater demand it is possible that the party can grow to 240 but please don’t wait.

Who’s Coming – bloggers, commenters, friends, lurkers

How Do You Get a Ticket: send an email to bloggerationball@gmail.com, please list your name, who invited you, and the name of your blog if you have one, indicate how many tickets you will need.  You will get an email with PayPal instructions.  Once you have you have paid your money you will be confirmed for the event.

 

*that is the last time I will gloat about the election.

** Monday is a national holiday, MLK Day, so no worries about drinking on a school night

*** Not having a tuxedo is not an excuse – remember this is about access.

 


The Spirit of Christmas Frugal

23 November 2008

I came across a blog post by Missives from the Birdcage about stretching dollars in this exceedingly tight economic climate.  As the holiday season is upon us, it reminded me of the one Christmas when I did not shop in the usual Refugee method – recklessly.

The Christmas after I got married my wife and I decided that gift giving had lost touch with reality and we were going to be much more practical/frugal that year than last.  I had been making my own infused olive oils for cooking for sometime and we decided that if nicely packaged this would make a warm and very personal holiday gift for just about every one the list.

Garlic flavored olive oil was the easiest and fastest to make, but I had also been making: Basil, Jalapeño, Rosemary, and Truffle Oils*. We determined that there would be two tiers to the gift list – top tier recipients netted three bottles while those on the junior tier would get two.  I found some very nice glass bottles on line, made labels which read “Refugee & His Crazy Ex-Wife’s Infused Oils – Merry Christmas” Even with 55 people on the list that year, we averaged about $7 per person.

Infusing Instructions – this article does a better job than I would of explaining the process, and I am happy to provide any additional technical support via email.

What have you, the dozen loyal readers, done to cut costs in years past or are you planning to do this year?

 

*Only a few people were on the Truffle Oil distribution list or the cost would have been prohibitive.  


I Got Five on It Friday Volume V

21 November 2008

Five Favorite Things That Always Go Together

  1. Grits and Gravy
  2. Champagne and any day that ends with the letter “Y”
  3. Blue lights and basements
  4. Marvin and Tammy
  5. A group of really cool bloggers and booze… copious amounts of booze

 

Five Things every Gent Should Have in His Wardrobe

  1. A tuxedo that is pressed and ready to go at a moments notice
  2. At least one great blazer that works with jeans, tailored trousers, and everything in between the two
  3. At least one bespoke item – you will never look better
  4. A stack of cotton handkerchiefs pressed into daily service in your back pocket
  5. A cashmere sweater she can wear in the morning (be aware that she will look better in it than you ever have or will)

 

Five Favorite Quintessentially Cool and Cheap Dates

  1. Kennedy Center Millennium Stage
  2. Very tasty and mostly authentic Jamaican food from Negril followed by relatively cheap beer at the Quarry House
  3. Blueberry pancakes from Eastern Market (more for history than taste) and surfing for bargains at the flea market on Sundays
  4. Any new or closing exhibit at any museum
  5. Drum circle Sundays in Meridian Hill Park followed by Amsterdam Fallafel and a couple of beers at The Reef

 

Five Items on the Thanksgiving Day Menu I am preparing for a client – yes, I am a chef for hire; no, this menu is not traditional by request of the client

  1. Day boat scallop ceviché with an arugula salad and a smoked bacon vinaigrette
  2. Roasted garlic and potato bisque with homemade lamb sausage
  3. Confit of Turducken (roulettes of turkey breast stuffed with chicken breast stuffed with duck thigh and confited in duck fat) with truffled French fries and spinach, mushroom and goat cheese purses
  4. Selection of cheese from Cowgirl Creamery with truffled honey, wild berry compote, almond slivers, and toast points
  5. Carrot Cake made by this fantastic lady

 

Five Favorite Baby Making Songs – not that I ever expect to use them for that purpose

  1. Angel – Marvin Gaye (I know you all don’t click the musical links but, seriously, click this one.  Listen to this song.)
  2. How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore – Joshua Redman’s insanely good cover of the iconic Prince Torch song
  3. Maxwell’s entire first album but most especially the 6th track, Til the Cops Come Knockin
  4. Lover’s Rock – Sade
  5. Windmills Of Your Mind – Sting singing on the Thomas Crowne Affair Soundtrack

 

Five favorite things that have happened since the election

  1. Watching the energy of a nation spill into the streets
  2. Seeing newspaper covers from all around the world displayed in front of the Newseum declaring Barack Obama the 44th President of the US
  3. Seeing all of the Impeach Barack websites proving the point that so many people, bloggers, columnists, and others made about the myopic blindness of those predisposed against an Obama presidency
  4. Having recaptured the respect of the world
  5. My suit jackets are lighter because I stopped carrying my pocket copy of the Constitution everywhere for protection

 

Five Favorite things about the James Bond Franchise – in honor of the new Bond flick, Quantum Solace

  1. Daniel Craig is the best James Bond since Sean Connery
  2. My favorite Bond Girl ever is M
  3. Though I dig BMW’s, so glad that Bond went back to driving Aston Martin’s in Casino Royale
  4. Speaking of Casino Royale… so glad the owners of the franchise finally decided to make a GOOD movie that just happened to have a chase scene and a fight or two
  5. Who doesn’t love saying Pussy Galore

 Five Bonus Thoughts

  1. Favorite thing I overheard in a bar recently:

Bar Patron #1: Now that the election’s over, admit it – you would have sex with Sarah Palin wouldn’t you.

Bar Patron #2: Of course I would, I like the dirty librarian thing.  Wouldn’t you?

Bar Patron #1: Yeah, but only anal

  1. I wish I didn’t care that the posts of which I am most proud have received some of the fewest comments.
  2. Did no one catch the acronym joke from the last I Got Five on it Friday or was it just not funny?
  3. Something you should know about reading my little slice of the interwebs: Italics = fiction writing
  4. I am a man of leisure unburdened with the hazards of working for a living
  5. By the by, this is my 100th post – yay me.

The List of Things That Suck – or What Beaujolais Nouveau Inspired

20 November 2008

 

I received an email from the lovely and Fearless One earlier today.  She wanted me to clarify my position on Beaujolais Nouveau.  We had the following exchange via g-chat:

me:  Beaujolais Nouveau is a joke the Frogs play on the rest of the world to get us drunk on wine that no self respecting wine drinker would touch any other time of the year

Fearless:  I give the marketing people full marks because people are still buying it

me:  people still buy Kenny G albums too

 

All of this got me thinking about the number of…

 

Things That Are Wildly Popular and Spectacularly Suck.

Beaujolais Nouveau

Kenny G

USA Today – it’s like People magazine writes a newspaper

People Magazine – doing more to rot our brains than Britney Spears

Britney Spears – ‘nuff said (yes I have admitted to bopping my head to the song Toxic)

$tarbucks – like that shocked anyone

Absolute Vodka – brilliant and artistic advertising, shitty vodka

Lauriol Plaza – the single most over rated restaurant on the planet and yet scores of people wait hours for the privilege of eating their craptastic tex-mex

Fox News – it’s only popular with some but too many people for my taste

David Caruso – perhaps the worst actor on Television

Potbelly Sandwiches – again, people wait in line for this?

Susan Sontag – Crash Davis was right

Khakis – you’re an adult now; please stop wearing Garanamals

Veuve Clicqout – the last time I drank this is a blind tasting I had them bring me a fresh glass because I was convinced I was tasting residual soap – nope that’s just Veuve.

Hennesy – can we all agree to stop taking beverage advice from hip-hop videos?

Reality TV – it’s a guilty pleasure for some because it just sucks so well

Customer Service from Comcast – you made it so easy for me to break-up with television

Drunken Pizza in Adams Morgan – I know anyone who lives in DC area has done it, but please just say no.

 

Feel free to add to this list via the comments.  For all of the people thinking that they will list this blog, it may suck spectacularly, but it ain’t wildly popular so don’t bother.


The Over-Blogged Coffee Rant

19 November 2008

The subject has been much addressed on each side and while I loathe writing about anything that has been over-blogged I feel compelled to vent about the coffee war.  I was drawn into this unspoken battle by a particularly wordy coffee request from a gentleman in line ahead of me today followed closely on the heels of another gent who provoked my ire a few days prior.

I detest Starbucks for the manner in which it has dumbed-down coffee and added scores of inane permutations to one of god & man’s most perfect creations – a cuppa joe.  I revile the over-roasted beans they use; and I have particular venom for their avaricious business practices that have made the independent coffeehouse largely a relic of days past.    Nor am I too thrilled with myself for succumbing to my baser urges and occasionally frequenting the unavoidable.

Coffee is simple, it has two pure expressions – a cup of French Press and the Espresso. Reasonable adulterations have been added through the years – the Café Americano, the Latte, the Cappuccino and the oh so glorious morning-saving, hangover-correcting Red Eye.  Those expressions come in sizes – normal universally understood sizes – raise your hand if you have a problem with small, medium, and large.

While I can understand and largely pardon the affected changing of sizes to create brand identity, I am done with all of the Half Caffe, two pump shot of bullshit, extra hot, skinny, no foam (as if that really has a place,) what-the-fuck-are-you-talking-aboutiato’s.  The people who order them and the horse that brought you – I’m done with you too.

New Rule – Restaurant Refugee Rule #67 (no you haven’t missed 1-66; I am just guessing there are at least 66 more important rules I would love for society to follow than this) If you can’t determine how to order a coffee concoction in fewer than 5 words, find another drink.  Cotton Candy flavored hot soda comes to mind.  

RRR #68 – if you don’t know what you want to order from the same menu you have seen approximately 9,835 times in the last year, you are not bright enough to exist on this island and I am now empowered by the spirit of Darwin to vote you off by unanimous consent of all those possessing more IQ points than years referenced in Lincoln’s greatest speech.


Mini Burgers are to Burgers as this Post is to Reviews

18 November 2008

I like mini-burgers better than burgers.  Two or three bites of well crafted and cooked burgers are the perfect size for me.  They communicate the flavors the kitchen combined and measure their skill in execution.  It is all I need.  I take the same approach to Restaurant Reviews – sure critics of great skill can write beautifully for 1000s of words about a worthy restaurant – however, I would rather read four or five succinct reviews in the same space. 

As I started this blog with a commitment to providing the more than occasional expert and unvarnished restaurant opinions, this is the first installment of my formal mini-reviews.  I have written very briefly about some of these places in the past, however reviews have a shelf life which had expired and I have expanded more than in the past.  Each Mini-Review provides specific recommendations on the best way to enjoy the meals and an estimate of the cost.  Every other week I will write a new installment of Mini Reviews and they will all have a theme – this weeks theme: Favorites

Favorite for a first date that won’t think I am a pretentious ass for going someplace nice on a first dateMendocino Grille Chef Barry Koslow might just be the most talented chef in DC that is not a bold face name.  It is high quality and inventive Modern American food with a solid nod to classical techniques but presented in a contemporary yet unpretentious manner.  Order anything from the sea as this is a particularly good area for the kitchen.  If it comes from pork, it is also very likely to make you happy.  The wine list is not to be ignored – there are no other restaurants at this level of dining that offer a better wine program both by the glass and bottle. With few exceptions, the prices are exceedingly fair, and the wines abundantly interesting.  Best Advice: 2 apps, split an app, two entrées, cheese plate, bottle or two of wine; not cheap but worth the $200+ it will cost you.

Favorite for a first date that need be dissuaded of the belief that I am a pretentious ass and therefore must be taken someplace with really good food but with more of an edge and not terribly priceyGranville Moore’s – if you haven’t taken a trip to the Atlas District to sample the best Moules and Frites in DC, stop what you’re doing.  Seriously, stop.  Right now.  In addition to excelling at the Belgian staples, the meats (great burger, steak and cheese, hanger steak, and daily specials) kick ass too.  They do not accept reservations; and get busy by 7pm during prime time.  Go early in the week – the Monday HH with $10 Moules is especially wallet friendly.  Bonus – charming but small patio in the back.  Granville’s has experienced some consistency issues (service-wise) in the last couple of months but they are still on this list by virtue of the fact that the food is so damn good.  By the by, this place can qualify as a great cheap date if you avoid the temptation to sample too many all of the craft ales.  Best Advice: Start with a bowl of Moules and a small Frite, split an Entrée, hang out and drink $75+ depending on the beer.

Favorite for good cheap date in a box – Negril Quarry House – Negril specializes in very tasty and mostly authentic Jamaican food.  The décor is more of a carry-out, but they have a number of tables.  Jerk chicken, Goat Roti, and the Ox Tail are their best dishes but be sure to get some of the densely light (I know impossible but true) Coco Bread.  Negril doesn’t have a liquor license so that is when you walk around the corner to the Quarry House.  QH has been around for so long and changed so little that it provides great comfort for anyone with an appreciation for old fashioned neighborhood bars.  One thing that has changed – for which I am very grateful – is the serious upgrade to the beer list.  In a addition to the standard dive bar offerings, the are craft beers from Rouge, Young’s, and other highly regarded breweries.  Added information bonus: it is excactly 13 steps down from the sidewalk to the bar.  Negril: $25; QH: depends on your crowd but beers range from $3 to $8.

Favorite for a second date or a really good steakthe bar at Capitol Grille – it is not often that I will recommend a chain restaurant for anything except using the bathroom during a parade, however, CapGrille does such a solid job with so much that they have been on my favorites for more years than I will admit.  Sunday – Wednesday the bar is most pleasant as it is largely free of many of the lobbyists, the excessively privileged, and the shallow as hair-root women who love them.  I hope you like to share as many of the portions can get Flintstonian.  Easy Instructions (sharing everything): Start with the smoked salmon, have the Kobe Carpaccio if it is available, always get the best Calamari in town (if you like the spice,) finish with the Kansas City Strip (not on the menu but they will make it for you if you ask and it is available,) desserts are optional for all but the most obsessive sweet freaks.  $150 or so depending on the wine.

Favorite after a craptacular day and I need a culinary hugCashion’s Eat Place – I have written about Cashion’s too many times but there is a extremely strong reason.  This is a dining room that is comfortably elegant, a kitchen that is carefully and deliberately ambitious, and has service that is always gracious.  The late night menu (Friday & Saturday after midnight) is the best eating you can do anywhere in DC at that hour.  This place also works swimmingly well for a first restaurant date.  One of the highest compliments I can give this place is in noting some of the culinary royalty with whom I have frequently dined at the bar – my modesty and protecting that of others prevents me from naming names but if I did….    I will caution that like many restaurants the appetizers are often more interesting than the entrées.  My recommendation: 5 apps (2, share, 2), shared dessert, and a bottle of wine – $125 (especially cheap for a four course meal with wine.)



The Way It Should Happen – Part I Inverted

17 November 2008

The best part of a first date is right now – hours before.  Feeling the anticipation, pulling the clothes, selecting the shoes.  The worst part of a first date is knowing that this is the best part, yet we dress… for ourselves, for our date, for the place holding balm we may meet after the date.  We pretend that we aren’t jaded and shave our legs, wear panties from the sexy side of the drawer and try not to think of the comparison of carrying an umbrella as a guaranteed talisman against the rain falling.

In my time-limited optimism, I slide into the cashmere sweater dress that feels so good against my skin and lays so nicely on my hips. I pair it with the new Biala boots I probably shouldn’t have bought, but they’re so. damn. hot. I get as close to the “made-up without trying look” as I can and set a course for Cigar Masters intending to quench two thirsts with one drink.  I should have just enough time to finish Nigel Nicolson’s Portrait of a Marriage for book club tomorrow and have the requisite couple of glasses of wine before meeting any internet date.

As Gloucester meets Newbury Street I am paying a bit too much attention to my boots when I find myself forehead to chin with a human I recognize as male only from feeling him against me.

“I’m so sorry” says a low tenor/high baritone voice.  “I wasn’t paying attention – my apologies” he continued.

I straighten my dress, brush imaginary curls from my face, say “no worries” and go on my way. My glimpse was enough for me to determine that he was handsome, well dressed, and smells good – though I could describe neither his looks, clothes, or scent if you paid me.  I am angry for not having anything more clever to say, but he turned the corner too and I don’t chase boys.

Two blocks, half a stairwell, an ornate foyer, and six feet later I am comfortable in my favorite chair in Cigar Masters’ bay window.  I’ve just creased the spine of the book when an annoyingly thin and chipper waitress appears to take my order.

“A glass of cabernet, please”

“Absolutely – would you care for a light?”

For half a second I wonder if this hooker thinks there is such a thing as light wine and then I realize that she is referring to the cigarette in my left hand. “Thank you” I say hoping she didn’t register my brief condescension.

Only five pages later, a shadow darkens my personal space and that same contra-baritone voice says “Nice to bump into you without the contact this time.”

“Should I be worried that you’re stalking me” I ask only half joking.

“Just a happy coincidence; but I do have a question for you.”

I wave my hand as if to say ask away but he takes this gesture as an invitation to sit next to me.  Shit – please don’t be boring.

“This marks the fourth time in my life that I have asked this question, but I have to know – what are you wearing…perfume wise?”

“It’s a 1920 Chanel” I say not hiding my pride in its effect.

“I didn’t know there was a market for antique perfume.”

“My mom got me into it when I was in high school.”

“Needless to say, I noticed it.”

“Why do people do that? If something need not be said, why are you saying it?” I ask hoping that he has an actual answer.

“I suppose I could suggest it is a linguistic lever for the inarticulate or I that I simply sought to cement the obvious opinion that I was enamored by the experience.”

“Or you could acknowledge your affinity for alliteration as a linguistic lever for the over-thinker.”

I close my book and get comfortable having a conversation with the good looking brown-eyed man who from the smile on his face obviously likes a challenge.  While the grandfather clock in the corner chimes away the hours the only real challenge in our conversation is about the relative merits of my Patriots unmatched modern dynasty and his Steelers that were good back before I was born.  We find common ground in politics, literature, and every other subject.  He’s handsome but not the type I would have drawn on a blank page; and yet I can’t stop talking to him.  I am rapt in our conversation except for the moments when I stare at his lips wondering how soft they are.  Words are hot and this man twists his in the way I want to twist the sheets on his hotel bed – uninhibitedly but with seemingly great care.

Was that really six chimes from the clock? I have a date in 30 minutes what am I doing here? 20 minutes. 10 minutes. I have to go. Why hasn’t he told me his name or asked mine? Why do I really not care? I’m 10 minutes late, 20 minutes.

“Do you have dinner plans?” he asks. “The only place I know in the neighborhood is Sonsie’s but if you would venture into a cab with an imperfect stranger, a friend told me that The Butcher Shop is a great place…”

“I have a date” I finally admit and I don’t know why I feel like I am about to cheat on a partner. “I had a really nice time talking with you; but I have stayed twenty minutes longer than I should just trying to find a way to tell you.”

“Well you should go – it’s not polite to keep a gentleman waiting. Please allow me take care of the check; I wouldn’t want you to be any later.”

The Brown Eyed Boy without a name is smiling and standing but his disappointment is palpable even as he holds my coat open for me.

“That’s very kind of you, but not necessary. I really did have a nice time this afternoon” I try to assure him even as I slip both arms into my coat.

“It’s my pleasure and I just put my business card in your pocket, call me if you ever make it to DC – I’ll let you buy the drinks next time. Good luck with your date.”

Fuck is the only word that my mind wants to form until I make it to the street. I really don’t want to leave and can still smell his cigar as I make my way down Newbury. I know that this was nothing – he’s leaving in the morning.  I also know that his unavailability might be part of my attraction.  I know that this was a surreal maybe of flirtation separated by 400 miles but why is the Cute Brown Eyed Boy with great lips but without a name still in my fucking head?

I enter a lightly crowded Sonsie’s and scan the bar for a guy who looks five years older and two inches shorter than his pictures.  A sweater clad man at the bar turns my way and smiles his best “I hope you’re not disappointed” smile.  I make my way to him and we exchange pleasantries.  He orders me a Grey Goose and Tonic without asking me – I mentioned my drink preference in my profile – which is too clever by half because I want another glass of wine.

Before my drink arrives I start fishing around my wallet for a twenty dollar bill.  Seeing this, my date says “Don’t worry about the drinks – I’ve got it.”

“No, I really need to pay for this round.  You may think I am a horrible person and you’re probably right but Dave…”

“Doug.”

“Right, Doug, I’m really sorry. I am sure that you are a lovely man, but I have to cut this short.  I met someone earlier and… and I just have to go.  I’m so sorry.”

Doug is either a prince in understanding silence or too shocked to speak.  Either way my conversation grenade provides just enough cover to slip my twenty on the bar, kiss Doug on the cheek and find the door.

I am walking as fast as new boots that haven’t finished the break-in period will allow.  I can practically see me heart beat as I get to the door of Cigar Masters.  And there he is my Unnamed Boy still sitting in the window where I left him fifteen minutes ago.

“Don’t say anything” I say as he stands to greet me. “I went to meet my date. We met on-line and I am sure he is lovely. Maybe I am going to hell for what I just did but I told him that I was sorry… I would have spent the entire night looking at him talk and wondering what would have happened if I had stayed here. I know you are leaving in the morning, but I really want to have dinner with you tonight.”

With not much else to say, the Unnamed Boy articulates a kiss and answers the question about his lips.


The Way It Should Happen – Part I

12 November 2008

Taps on your shoes are a good thing for a gentleman – they allow your heel and soles to last longer and they make a very satisfying sound against the street.  I was walking down Newbury Street in Boston one late fall afternoon and the taps clicked out a snare drum beat against the cobblestones – distracting me from the wind that keeps blowing down my scarf-less neck.  I am fumbling with my portable electronic nemesis as I round the corner on Gloucester Street to visit a cigar shop and I almost knock down a woman.

She smoothed her coat and brushed dishwater blonde locks from her face as I apologized for my clumsiness.  “No worries, have a good day” she replies.  I am not a perfume man and generally believe that only people close enough to whisper should smell it.  Perhaps it was my general disdain for perfume that delayed the scent from reaching my brain until after she had pointed her chocolate brown riding boots in the opposite direction.  It was enchanting but didn’t stop me from going to Gloucester Cigar Company and purchasing two Davidoff Millennium Blend Lonsdales – more extravagant than my usual Saturday afternoon cigar but what the hell the perspective client I am in town to meet became an actual client an hour earlier.

I clicked my way over to Cigar Masters, one of the last civilized places in Boston where adults can have adult beverages and enjoy a cigar.  Cigar Masters has the feel of a private library, high backed leather chairs with the old man quilt are everywhere.  One of those chairs was occupied by the woman on Gloucester Street; and she was occupied with a book I didn’t recognize.

“Nice to bump into you without the contact this time.”

“Should I be worried that you’re stalking me” she asked with a playful smile.

“Just a happy coincidence; but I do have a question for you.”

She extended her hand in a gesture that was either meant to invite me to take the chair adjacent to hers or to ask my question.  I choose both; hung my coat on the rack and sunk into the chair.

“This marks the fourth time in my life that I have asked this question, but I have to know – what are you wearing?”  After a half a beat, “Perfume wise” I clarify.

“It’s a 1940 Chanel” she says smiling broadly.

“I didn’t know there was a market for antique perfume.”

“My mom got me into it when I was in high school.”

“Needless to say, I noticed it.”

“Why do people do that?  If something need not be said, why are you saying it?” She asked with mostly mock irritation.

“I suppose I could suggest it is a linguistic lever for the inarticulate or I that I simply sought to cement the obvious opinion that I was enamored by the experience.”

“Or you could acknowledge your affinity for alliteration as a linguistic lever for the over-thinker.”

Sly smiles are shared between our two porcupine intellects.

“What do you write?” I ask to lean the conversation in a different direction.

“Why do you presume that I am a writer?”

“You care about words too much, not to write something.”

“Unprofessional prose and let’s leave it at that for now.”

The day travels quickly  from dusk to night as it seems inclined to do this time of year or it’s the conversation that has accelerated time. Our discussion is exceptional in equal measure for what it has included and what has been omitted.  Two hours have passed and we’ve covered authors, her beloved Pats, my superior Steelers, politics, restaurant trends, and wine.  Yet we have not traded names or occupations.

“Do you have dinner plans? The only place I know in the neighborhood is Sonsie’s but if you would venture into a cab with an imperfect stranger, a friend told me that The Butcher Shop is a great place…”

“I have a date” she interrupted.

My suit jacket just got looser as all of the air left my chest.  “I understand, it’s a Saturday night. We just met – of course you have plans.”

“I had a really nice time talking with you; but I have stayed twenty minutes longer than I should have just trying to find a way to tell you.”

“You should go – it’s not polite to keep a gentleman waiting.  I’ll take care of our checks.”

“That’s very kind of you, but not necessary. I really did have a nice time this afternoon” she says as I help her with her coat.

“It’s my pleasure and I just slipped my business card in your pocket, call me if you ever make it to DC – I’ll let you buy the drinks next time.  Good luck with your date.”

“Thank you” was all she said and I watch the woman whose name I don’t know walk out the door and turn left on Newbury.  “My day was better because our paths intersected and I leave town in the morning” I thought twice, though it didn’t convince me as much as I’d hoped.  I returned to my chair and fished the A section of the Washington Post from my briefcase.

I watched a plume of blue-grey smoke curl into the air as I tried to remember anything from the Colbert King Op-Ed I had just finished when the Woman Without a Name walked into the room.

“Don’t say anything” she began.  “I went to meet my date.  We met on-line and I am sure he is lovely.  Maybe I am going to hell for what I just did but I just told him that I was sorry… I would have spent the entire night looking at him talk and wondering what would have happened if I had stayed here.  I know you are leaving in the morning, but I really want to have dinner with you tonight.”


The Real Reason My Friends Invite Me to Their Parties

11 November 2008

JW and I have known each other for the better part of a decade.  We have boozed together, cruised together, dined together, he’s been a guest at my Saturday Night Salons, and I happy to have him as a friend.  When I got the invitation to his house warming/BBQ, my Saturday plans were settled. 

An early afternoon client meeting ended sooner than anticipated leaving me with two hours to finish my newspapers, down a Café Americano or two, smoke a cigar and enjoy the lovely weather before heading to JW’s place.  Eventually I had the thought that I should be a good friend so I called to see if there was anything I could do to help prepare.

“Where are you now” was all JW said in response.

“I am at a coffee shop a few blocks East of your place.”

“OK, I am in the truck now.  I’ll pick you up and then I need to hit the grocery store.”

As it was only an hour or so before the time on the invitation, I assumed that we were shopping only for the odd sundries that one forgets or intentionally saves until the last minute.  I was wrong.  Really wrong.

Before I could clamp my seatbelt shut, JW accelerated from a stop at a speed that men only use when we are really late and foolishly think that the extra horsepower can rescue us from trouble.  “Here’s my shopping list; can you think of anything I forgot?”

I scribble a dozen or so more grocery items as JW says “I’m soooooo glad you called; I still need to finish cleaning and take a shower.”  This is when I start the timer in my head and sketch a plan.  What can I cook first so that early guests have something to eat while other dishes are prepped? What can I make irrespective of how well the kitchen is equipped?  What starch can I cobble together with minimal effort?

“JW, how many people are you expecting and what’s your budget for food?”

“Anywhere between 20 and 30, and I don’t know… nothing too crazy.  Can we keep it under a C-note?”

“Food only? Sure.  When we get to the store you have all of the paper, plastic, and cleaning supplies – I’ll handle proteins, starches, and the veggie burgers for the one woman vegetarian that always comes to a BBQ and gets annoyed when you don’t feed her.”

Forty minutes and $150 later, we are driving away from Harris-Teeter with 5 pounds of assorted sausage, two pork tenderloins, enough ground beef for a dozen burgers (80/20 blend is the only way to go,) assorted cheeses the makings for my “get you laid good guacamole,” and the requisite ingredients of a simple orzo and blue cheese salad.  The drive back to JW’s place only took about five minutes but in that time he received two phone calls from guests who were already at his door.

Pressure is an old friend of mine – I would always wait until crunch time to write papers in college – and we became instantly familiar all over again when I hit the door.  Fortunately for me when adrenaline flows and time is tight things slow down in my mind. Unpack groceries. Start the water for the orzo.  Cut the avocados, cilantro, jalapeños, and limes for the guac.  Find the cutest woman in the room and task her to be my sous chef.  Mash this, cut that, start the grill, I delegate.  Dress the tenderloins; can someone pour me a beer please?  Grill this, slice that, send out plate after plate.

When the eating was done, the cigar smoking begun, JW offers a toast “Thank you to all of you who have come here to celebrate my new place.  I love you all, I love having you in my home, and Refugee, thank you for handling all of the food and feeding us all so well, tonight – I swear I invited you because I love you like a brother but you cooking was a nice bonus.”

I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

And now I channel my inner Lemmonex and give you, the dozen loyal readers, the recipes of a few of the dishes I made.

Get You Laid Good Guacamole – serves a party of 20 for a couple of hours

  • 3 avocados
  • 3 jalapeños
  • 2 limes
  • 2 fingers of cilantro
  • 1/3 of a medium sized red onion
  • 1 tbsp of sour cream
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse Ground Sea Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Peel and cube the avocados – the smaller the better but not smaller than playing dice.  Finely dice the jalapeños – think the size of confetti – use only 80% of the diced peppers.  Dice the red onion into pieces about twice the size of the jalapeños.  The easiest way to deal with the cilantro is to bunch it as tightly as possible and then slice it.  Add all ingredients in a large bowl (larger than the size bowl in which you will serve) squeeze one lime over the mixture and muddle until smooth like extra chunky peanut butter.  You will probably want to add more lime juice maybe another half lime.  When it comes to recipes like this, really all recipes, know that you can always add more of any seasoning or accent but you can never take any away from the dish so start slowly and add more to taste.

Insanely Easy Orzo Salad that I Invented While Walking Through the Aisles of Harris Teeter – serves 15 or so as a side dish.

  • 12 ounces of Orzo
  • 8 ounces of cherry tomatoes
  • 5 ounces of crumbled blue cheese
  • Juice from ½ a lemon
  • 2-3 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse Ground Sea Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Cook the orzo al dente according to the manufacturers instructions (whatever amount of salt and butter is recommended on the package you should double it,) drain, shock with cold water, place in a mixing/serving bowl and let cool while you do something else.  Slice the tomatoes in halves (long ways if you want to use grape rather then cherry tomatoes) and add to the pasta.  Add all other ingredients and toss the salad (yes, I got a strange kick from telling my very pretty sous chef to “toss my salad”) until all ingredients are evenly dispersed.

Kick 5 Guys Ass Burgers

  • 4 pounds of 80/20 ground sirloin – getting the extra lean 90/10 or 95/5 mixture will make your diet feel better but makes for a lousy burger
  • ½ cup diced red onions
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp Tabasco
  • 2 tbsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Ground Sea Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
  • The rest of the diced jalapeños from the guacamole
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • 1 cup of crumbled stilton cheese

Understand that mixing all of these ingredients with your bare hands is interactive food porn – if you don’t love this, you probably just don’t like to cook.  Mix them until satisfied and form into ¾ to 1 inch thick discs about six inches in diameter.  Just before placing the patties on a cherry hot grill brush them with vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil because the burn point is too low.)  Here is your doneness measurement: 

  • feel your cheek – that is what extremely rare feels like
  • feel your palm just besides your thumb – that is medium rare
  • feel the ball of your foot – that is medium
  • feel yourself wasting money and know that you should have ordered chicken – that is any burger cooked over medium

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin aka Yes, I am a Firm Believer in Overkill

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • Several sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • Coarse Ground Sea Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste
  • 4 cloves of garlic – pressed
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 4 strips of thick cut bacon

In a small bowl, mix mustard, lime juice, soy sauce, rosemary leaves, and 1 tsp of pepper, muddle until blended into a paste.  Cut any remaining ligaments away from the tenderloin and sprinkle salt on the meat with a gentle hand (there is plenty of salt in the paste.)  Coat the meat with the paste and then wrap the bacon strips around the tenderloin.  Brush the exterior with vegetable oil and place on a medium hot grill.  When the bacon is fully cooked, the underlying meat will be a perfect medium.


Inauguration Stories – No Champagne Tonight

10 November 2008

I am a died in the wool democrat; but I have always considered myself one of the reasonable partisans – those willing to listen to opposing positions with an open mind.  However, in early 2001 for George W. Bush’s election, I was compelled to leave town.  I was unwilling to be in the same vicinity of cowboy hatted Texans celebrating the inauguration of someone who decidedly ignores information about the world.  I was unwilling to stomach a coronation of the dumbbing down of our society.

When we lost again in 2004, I had no such option.  I was running a little restaurant/night spot in Adams Morgan.  Unable to avoid work on Election Day, I spent the evening obsessing over my Electoral Map at a nearby bar.  As I tried in vain to find a way for George Bush to be defeated though he won every battle ground state, I engaged in twelve ounce arm curls that made me feel better but had little effect on the results or anyone else around me.

Angry about our president, inauguration day finally comes to pass, and I have my pre-shift meeting with my staff.  Cranky and irritable, I instruct my door guy that under no circumstances are people in black-tie attire welcome this evening.  That position lasted about two hours before –  being the reasonable Democrat that I am – I capitulate and tell my door guy that he should admit anyone that wishes to patronize our place.

My bi-partisanship is wasted for most of the evening, until a trio of black-tied inaugural celebrants darkens the door.  They entered and I resisted the urge to deny them entry.  I resisted the urge to charge them more for their drinks.  We were gracious hosts until the moment when they asked for our “finest champagne.”

Lines must be drawn.

 

“Fresh out” I replied.


Where have all of the Paul Newman’s Gone?

6 November 2008

I’ve never met Paul Newman, nor do I know the woman whose blog post got me thinking about this, but I agree with her assessment that the late Mr. Newman was an all-caps M-A-N.  After his recent passing, there were numerous tributes to Paul Newman, actor, philanthropist, activist, dedicated husband of 50 years, World War II veteran, and all around bad-ass who somehow remained endearingly humble despite his accomplishments and movie-star good looks.

Paul Newmans don’t walk among us very often; and I strongly suspect that Kris isn’t unrealistically looking for one, however, it begs the twin questions “what is a real man” and “where have they all gone?” 

My working definition of an all-caps MAN started with Pearl Cleage’s poem Good Brother Blues. When I read it in the early 90s, it gave me a vocabulary for manhood that my mostly absentee father neglected to provide.  I continued to shape my aspirations for MANhood through literature and life and now in my late 30s I am largely comfortable with it even as I know I fail to hurdle its lofty bar most days.  Personal definitions of MAN vs. man are not wholly relevant, as they are… well personal.  Kris’s definition* overlaps with mine in the belief that a MAN understands and practices uncommon courtship courtesies, but where are they?**

Countless advice column clichés would tell us that they may be found in grocery store aisles, church pews, Metro seats, coffee shop couches, volunteer Saturdays, or any number of places frequented by urbanites.    Certainly they can be found in those places, but how often are they passed by because they are not something enough – not tall enough, not extroverted enough to start a conversation, not outwardly sexy enough, for a dishearteningly large swath of the population – white enough***,  not whatever enough?  Encouraging everyone to be more open-minded and proactive is easy advice but does little to aid in the solution of identifying MEN and their locations. MEN walk amongst men and carry no identifying badge; however, the monograms of man are easily spotted if you’re paying attention.  Allow them to be your swift guide to the next frog.

 

 

* The last sentence of her post, “where are the men you don’t need an epidural to date?” is one of the best things I have read in the blogosphere in a long time.

** I choose to speak of “they” rather than “we” in an acknowledgement that by my own standards, most days I fail in this regard.

*** The standard canard of only being attracted to white men/women is as easily debunked a straw-man argument as the people who expressed general “discomfort” with Barack Obama


Not the Day for Me to Post

5 November 2008

I had written something and set it to auto-post at 9am Wednesday. A few moments after I finished watching Obama’s speech, I decided that this is not a moment for my words about anything. This is our collective moment.

For those dozen or so people who tune-in for a daily dose of puffery from me, see ya tomorrow.

p.s. to all of the people who choose to post thoughts, rants, praise, pictures, a string of unconnected letters, or anything else, this post is not meant as a slight to you or your blogs. This is just what I thought right for me and my little slice of the interweb.


Winner of the Worst Date Blog Contest Announced – and She Says: DC Dating Doesn’t Suck

4 November 2008

 

Not sure how I found Aileen from Infinite Connections, so I will simply send a virtual thank you card to the entire blogosphere in hopes that the right person reads it.  Infinite Connections is a compelling collection of stories, opinions, rants, and tales of woe.  As comfortable with politics, sociological discussions and dating, Aileen has often provoked thoughts, frequently inspired laughter and the occasional misty-eyed moment, but has always been a worthwhile and entertaining read.  It is my distinct pleasure to acknowledge her entry as the grand prize winner in the Worst Date Blog Contest – a $100 gift certificate to Cashion’s Eat Place, one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, a bottle of wine from my cellar, and the following guest post.

Before I surrender this space to Aileen, I would encourage all of you to visit the Cashion’s website and the restaurant too.  They generously donated the gift certificate even though I was fully prepared and expected to purchase it.  That gracious spirit is indicative of the warm experience I have had every time I have walked through Cashion’s door.   In a time when “gambling” with a new restaurant is less appealing than visiting old standard bearers, Cashion’s consistently delivers. 

Congratulations, Aileen.

                                                                                                              

DC Dating Doesn’t Suck

 

Seriously.  It doesn’t.

I may seem a bit hypocritical, as the recent winner of Refugee’s “Worst Date Contest”, but I refuse to give in to all the negative hype about this town.

I’ve lived in a lot of places: Syracuse, Geneseo, New York, Daytona Beach, Orlando, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, and now Washington, DC.

DC has been by far the best place for dating.

OK, maybe it’s because I’m older and wiser.  I no longer date the crew chief for the Hooter’s racing team (that was in Orlando).  Or the Deli Department manager (Syracuse).  Or the car wash attendant (Daytona). 

(Now before you blast me for making fun of certain occupations, it’s all in fun.  Truly I’m not a job snob.)

The men I’ve dated in DC don’t just have better jobs- they have purpose.  Ambition.  Passion.  So I need to take this moment to dispel some of the Dating Myths about this town.

Myth #1: There are no quality, single  men here.

Sure there are- I see them every day.  And I hear the single men complain about their options as much as we do.  We just have to figure out a way to bring us all together.

Myth #2:  Single women far outnumber single men.

I’ve heard all sorts of ratios on this one.  I’ve heard 2:1, 5:1, even 10:1.  It may be a fact, who knows?  But it doesn’t matter because those single men are looking for us, and they can’t find us as we sit around with our girlfriends bitching about how there aren’t any men.  I know you’ve heard the saying “it only takes one”.

Myth #3:  All the DC men on Match.com are married or losers.

This may be partly true.  Some of the men on there are married.  Or a bit odd.  But most of them just don’t know how to best present themselves in a profile.  The guy that posts his bathing suit picture?  He just knows what he likes to see and assumes we want to see the same.  The one whose picture looks like a mugshot?  Most guys have trouble picking out a nice outfit, do you really expect them to pick out a flattering picture?  There’s a good chance there are some diamonds in the rough out there.  I, in fact, have had some luck with them.

Myth #4:  DC men are career obsessed.

Actually, I’ve heard this about us women too.  And what comes to my mind is:  For anyone over thirty who is not married and does not have a family of their own, what are they supposed to be obsessed with?  Where are they supposed to put their energy?  To a casual observer, I may appear to be a “career woman”, but I’ve always considered my career success as something I’ve done in my spare time.  (I was once told I had an MBA resume and a Liberal Arts heart…I liked that description.)  Maybe some of these men put their passion into their jobs because that’s what they have right now.

Myth #5:  DC men have no sense of fashion and aren’t that attractive.

Compared to whom?  New Yorkers?  Maybe.  Californians… are in better shape, generally.  But ladies- this applies to us as well.  Last year I went on an organized trip to Costa Rica with 50 people- half were from the DC area, the other half were from California.  The stereotypical differences were hysterical.  The DC’ers had better jobs, more money, and carried on more intelligent conversations.  The Californians were better looking, looked great in their bathing suits, and in general, more fun-loving. 

Myth #6:  There’s nothing to do on a date in DC.

Alright, I admit.  I’ve never heard this one.  But I wanted the chance to brag for a bit on how much there is to do here with a date.  I’ve had amazing dates here.  Camping. Hiking. Drives in the Shenandoah. Comedy clubs. Museums. Theater. Festivals. The list is endless.

So I’d like to raise my glass and toast all the amazing men I’ve dated here in DC:  DW, DH, SH, ME, FH, TM, SK.

Of course, it didn’t work out with any of them.

But it certainly isn’t DC’s fault.


Obama’s Grandmother Dies – R.I.P. Madelyn Dunham

3 November 2008

It is not generally my style to write about something that roughly 2.6 million bloggers will be addressing.  The passing of Barack Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, however, needs to be an exception.  Her extraordinary career – rising from the secretarial pool to become the first woman executive at Bank of Hawaii – is clearly eclipsed in magnitude with the job she did in being a primary care giver to a future presidential candidate.

I, along with millions of people around the globe, issue heart felt condolences to the Obama and Dunham families.  Words rarely heal the pain at moments like these, but they can soothe.  I hope that you all find even the small solace that the kind expressions of condolence can offer.

Surely the population of heaven has at least one more citizen this evening.

 

 

 

p.s. to all of you extremist, insanely partisan nut job bloggers who have expressed gleeful, snarky, and mean spirited thoughts about this apolitical moment, I hope that you are eventually cured of your hate.  And if not, I pray that hell exists and you have special corner to yourselves.


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