An Extremely Belated Lesson from Montgomery Brewster / Since I didn’t send Holiday Cards

31 December 2008

As I was g-chatting with my favorite Canuck last evening, we began to discuss our respective options for New Years Eve.  Neither of us was enthused about the options before us.  Considering options A through D it took a moment for me to realize that Option E – None Of The Above is always on the ballot even if not explicitly.

Considerably later in the evening/very early this morning, my insomnia hindered mind began to consider the metaphorical implications of voting for None of the Above.  Besides the obvious reference to the movie that inspired the title of this post, I started to view it as a philosophy for daily life.  For too long, I have consider mainly the opportunities afforded me or those I created as the only candidates on my mental, physical, emotional, intellectual ballots.

How would my life take shape if I checked the metaphysical None of the Above box?

How many dates would I have skipped?  How many parties might I have ignored?  Are there jobs I never would have worked, conversations I never would have had, mediocre blog posts never published?  Not that I would take anything back – regret is a wasted emotion – because I largely am a fan of the man that my experiences have shaped, but as simple as it seems, it was too rare that I considered not doing things.

I am going to a couple of parties this evening convinced of the likelihood of having a good time if not a toe curling midnight kiss, but I feel better in the  knowledge that I considered checking the box unseen and have a head start towards achieving at least one tacit resolution for the year.

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To all of those who spend some of your time reading my ramblings, missives, advice, and stories, I am humbled by and unspeakable grateful for your time, comments, and friendships (real, virtual, unspoken, or otherwise.)  I wish you all a New Years Eve filled with good cheer, good company, better booze, and an even better 365 days until we all do it again. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t send extra thank you’s to:

Lemmonex – somehow you became my blog rabbi, most frequent counselor and occasional drinking partner in the infancy of this place.  Thank you for your counsel and friendship.

Shannon – you were for a while the funniest woman I had never met; now that I am lucky enough to count you as a friend you make me laugh harder, and smile wider.

Katertot – I never would have thought that a silly contest idea would have yielded a relationship I value so much in such a short time but I do and I am grateful for it.

LiLu – whether it is over the interwebs, from adjacent bar stools, or g-chat, you have become so dear to me despite the cringes you induce on Thursdays.

Fearless – it’s not just that you keep my virtual company in our mutually insomniac moments, but that you make virtual feel so real.

Lisa – there has been no place on the interwebs that was the source for greater singular optimism for me than yours.  You have made me snarf coffee/wine on more than a few occasions when I have really needed it. 

The Blogger I will not Name but Must Mention– our conversations made me want to be a better writer and I will never take our letters lightly.

The Blogger I Would Love to Name But I Have a Feeling Wouldn’t Want the Attention – you deserve the urgency you seek (just a reminder) and thanks for speaking softly, being the grand dame you are, and not spreading it around that I am a cheap date.

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 As it is Wednesday, I took my turn as contributing editor at DC Blogs.  Go on – check out that which moved me more than most this past week.


Finally Sitting At My Own Table

29 December 2008

When I started this blog, I asked one friend for advice.  He told me the first thing I should do was buy the domain because “it has such caché and potential” he promised to help me get the whole thing working in exchange for booze (see I’m not the only one who work for liquid payment.)    

I followed instruction and purchased the domain.  Even though he completely flaked on me we were unable to coordinate our schedules I  finally got WordPress to make it work.  From this day forward, you can go to restaurantrefugee.com.  Feel free to change your links or readers, or not, they will still work*.  And yes this post is a blatant attempt to sprain my elbow while patting myself on the back for doing something surprisingly simple, but I never pretended to be the sharpest instrument in the drawer.

*Edited to Add: To further establish that minor technical achievements are meritorious for me, I am mistaken – you will need  to update your blog readers… I think.


What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

29 December 2008

Maybe it’s much too early in the game…

“I’ve been thinking about Frank Loesser all day.”

“Who is Frank Loesser” asked the woman with the perfectly painted lips and great watch who was to my left.

“Frank Loesser was a composer from the late 30s until he died in 1969.  He died young but he wrote prolifically during his life.  He was responsible for almost as many standards as Gershwin.  Luck be a Lady might be his most famous, but What are You Doing New Years Eve is the song that’s been moving through my mind all day.”

“How old is that man who inhabits your thirty something soul?”

The question makes me smile.  “How long have we known each other now?”

“Ten years has a nice ring to it.  You ever talk to Eva?”

Oh but I thought I’d ask you just the same.

 “Ha, I think you know the answer to that – it’s not in either of our interest for us to talk.  And speaking of loves from way back when, when is Jason going to make you an honest woman?”

“We haven’t really talked about a date but you’ll get an invitation… I know that look.  Your about to be an arse, aren’t you?”

I’ve never been very good about keeping my cards close to the vest when I was around Lynette so I stare at my beer and pretend I didn’t hear her.

What are you doing New Years, New Years Eve?

“Refugee, just spit it out, whatever thought is running through that contorted brain of yours, you need to let it escape.”

“Lynette, we’ve talked about this before and I wish I’d never asked the question because my position is the same and you already knew that.”

“So what about that song has you in such a reflective mood?” she asked in a segue that is her wont and habit.

 “It’s not a Christmas carol, but this is the only time of the year it gets played.  Frank Loesser wrote the song with the intention of it being sung in the spring by a man so taken with a woman that he wants to ask her out for New Years Eve in the March.”

“That is really sweet and the song makes even more sense to me now.”

“Maybe it is just the calendar influencing my mind but I want that level of deliberate, that kind of want, that certainty” I say before taking a healthy swallow of air.  “There is this image in my mind of dancing with the one I brought and moving through wordless conversation while this song plays just before midnight.”

I wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight

“Refugee, fuck you and your beloved romance. In the real world, love is more negotiation than fair tale.  You’ve watched one too many Meg Ryan movies and you have some street scene fantasy about professing love on New Year’s.  Life doesn’t work that way.”

“Lynette, maybe three years of engagement without a date has sapped all your ability to hear the Christmas bells, or maybe I am the fool you say but I am happy to still believe in unicorns, tilting at windmills, and the like.  I still want to feel my toes curl from a kiss when it’s exactly twelve o’clock that night.”

When it’s exactly twelve o’clock that night

“Truce or maybe back to neutral corners?”

“My apologies, love, that thing in my review mirror is a line and I’m sorry I passed it.”

“How do you do it?  How are you such a romantic?”

“I don’t have much choice in the matter, Lynette.  Life might be easier or less painful if I wasn’t, and I don’t enjoy the hurt; but I wouldn’t want to live any other way.  I’ve felt what it’s like to know love on steroids and I want that feeling again and I am willing to risk to get it.  I want an urgent and emergent kind of love, and, no, I have no idea what makes a man profess that he wants to spend the rest of his life with a woman and yet be thoroughly incapable of setting a date for that life to begin.”

“I thought we agreed on neutral corners?”

“We did, sorry about that.”

Welcoming in the new year, New Years Eve

“So where is this mythical woman you want to dance with on New Year’s? You have any prospects?”

“So far she exists only in my mind, though I did make a promise to kiss a friend at midnight.  What about you and Jason, where will you greet the baby new year?”

“My parents are having their party of course, we’ll be there.”

“And how are Betty and George? They throw one helluva a party.”

“They’re great.  Dad finally retired this fall.”

“I’ve always really liked your old man, and the two of them are adorable together.  The way they still hold hands just makes me smile.”

Maybe I’m crazy to suppose, I’d ever be the one you chose

“You’re more than welcome to come, they always loved you.  I can’t promise you anyone to kiss besides my older sister though.”

“Her husband might have some objection to that.”

“I’ll distract him.”

“Won’t you have something else to do?”

“You’re not coming anyway.  I’ll tell Betty and George you said hello though.  Good luck with your kiss.”

Out of a thousand invitations

You’ll receive

Oh but in case I stand one little chance

Here comes the jackpot question in advance

What are you doing

New Years Eve

I don’t really know.


Opportunity in Disguise

28 December 2008

One of my first bosses in the restaurant business had a favorite phrase: there’s no such thing as a problem only opportunity.  If you went to him in the middle of a shift and said “We have a problem at table 24,” he would correct you with a smug “What do we have at table 24?” repeating it until you understood that he wanted you to rephrase the situation describing it as an opportunity.  While he was in fact as big of a tool as you most likely imagine him, he was correct in asserting that most problems present opportunities rather than calamities.  It reinforced the veracity of my inner optimist.

When my Christmas Day Dinner client cancelled (with barely two days notice) the five course dinner* I had already started preparing, I looked for the silver lined opportunity.  I found it in the form of a reasonable flight to the Florida Keys.  It was a trip I needed after a year that has presented me with multiple, ahem, opportunities.  Unable to cajole any friends to embrace the logic of Ferris Bueller, I went solo to the airport on Christmas Eve with a suitcase filled with linen, sandals, and the one pair of flip flops I own.

I suffered the indignity of airport security and boarded the plane with knowledge that Hemmingway’s bar stool and a cold margarita was only a couple hours away.  After the first motionless hour, grumblings of discontent began to move through the cabin.  After a second hour on the tarmac, passenger complaints were as thick as the stale air inside the plane.  As we moved into the third hour, traveler mutiny was afoot.  Finally, the powers that were confirmed what we all had suspected – there would be no tropical breezes or margaritas for any of us this night.  Four and a half hours after arriving at the airport, I traveled only the distance to the gate and back to a cab.

Determined to find opportunity in this, I visited a few of my favorite bartenders who were working on this holiday eve.  Slow bars on days like this can occasionally produce headache inducing generosity.  Despite the low thud in my head, I awoke Christmas morning with thoughts of leaving on a jet plane, and holding court at a beachside bar.  Forty five minutes on the phone with my airline produced assurances of a seat on an early afternoon flight.  The ticketing agents looked at me like an alien as they apologized for the “miscommunication from the representative on the phone.”  There was no room on the plane for me.  Though if I wanted to fly to Newark, wait two hours, fly to Denver, wait three hours, and then fly to the Keys I could arrive sometime around 1am.  I declined.

There were no waves sing softly against a beach, no sarong clad women next to me, and there were no balmy breezes, but I did have my margarita and kept a lonely bartender company or maybe she kept mine.

                                            

* For the five curious food geeks out there, the menu was:

Cauliflower and Parsnip Bisque with Duck Sausage

Carpaccio of Wagyu Beef Tenderloin with Arugula Salad

Roasted Christmas Goose with Grape and Sweetbread Stuffing, and a Wild Mushroom Terrine

Mini Flourless Chocolate Cake with a Cognac Caramel Glaze

Selection of Cheese from Cowgirl Creamery with traditional accompaniments and warm truffled honey


The Refugee Christmas List

25 December 2008

Early Christmas evening I was standing on a midtown corner waiting for a taxi to ferry me to my unexpected holiday meal at the bar of one of the few restaurants open on this day. I was cranky with the airlines, the world, the forces of the universe, and anyone else on my mental hit-list who I deemed responsible for me not sipping margaritas from Hemingway’s bar stool in Key West, Florida (a story I will relate another time.) In my head, I was mapping the ventapeutic (therapeutic venting) blog post about my solo Christmas when a police cruiser jerked from a parking spot a few dozen yards behind me. The sirens wailed as the officer guided his car round a corner at very brisk clip – that is when I was jerked from my self-involved surliness to think about all of the people who work on this day.

Thank you to all of the soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines who stand a shift today and every other day.

Thank you to the police officers, fire department, ambulance technicians who run towards trouble whenever it occurs as it surely does even on holidays.

Thank you to the doctors, nurses and hospital staff who stand at the ready to repair injuries. Extra special thanks to the doctor who gave me four stitches with baby blue thread to match my Christmas suit after my older sister pushed me into I slipped and fell on the coffee table on my fourth Christmas.

Thank you to the bus drivers, metro operators, and taxi drivers who get those who choose not to drive from place to place and do so safely.

Thank you to the 7-11 clerks, wine and spirit shop operators, convenience & grocery store staff who tend to our last minute “forgets.”

Thank you to the baristas who keep us caffeinated when we need a break from our families, or a place to read the paper for those who don’t celebrate this day. Extra thanks to Carlos, my favorite barista who greeted me with a warm smile and a complimentary Americano after he asked me why I was still in town.

Thank you to the hotel staff who are away from their families so that they can meet the needs of those who traveled to see theirs.

Thank you to the managers, bartenders, servers, bus staff, dishwashers, cooks, and chefs who prepare our meals, serve our drinks, and clean after us on this day. Extra thanks to Cindy, the redheaded bartender, who poured me perfect half and half after perfect half and half, kept my company while I wrote this, and boosted my ego with her flirtation.

As I am sure I am forgetting some, I end this missive with a blanket thank you to all those who work on this day so that we don’t have to.


The Blog of My Dreams

24 December 2008

my-blog-on-bacon

 

Thanks to Julie from Makeup Text, I now have a picture of how this blog looks in my dreams.

Wanna add a slice of bacon to your place or any other website? Click me.

 

Random Update:

I received the following email from the folks at Urban Dictionary:

Thanks for your definition of Multi-Jacking!

Editors reviewed your entry and have decided to publish it on urbandictionary.com.

It should appear on this page in the next few days:
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Multi-Jacking

Urban Dictionary

Multi-Jacking: Noun, The act of pleasuring oneself while doing something else.

 

Katertot, thanks for suggesting I submit it; even though it was something I overheard at a bar rather than created myself; I am still happy to take credit.

 

To all those who will not be reading tomorrow, I wish you an abundance of good cheer, good times with families (be they chosen or inherited,) good food, and better booze.


Contaminating Someone Else’s Corner of the Interwebs

23 December 2008

I was extremely flattered when Kris of Not Yet a Girl, Not Yet a Wino asked me to guest post at her place, flattered and convinced that Kris must have been drinking at work or something.  After she convinced me that she was serious, I struggled to find a topic / waited for inspiration.  Over the course of me distracting her via g-chat, Kris suggested that I give some advice to having good dates in restaurants.  Take a minute to read my advice (geared towards men) if you wish; but more importantly I would highly encourage you to spend some time perusing her blog if you are not already familiar.  Kris is a delightful writer who paints lyrical pictures and has the ability to inspire tears and cheers in equal measure and more often than most she can do both in the same post.


Second Chance, Different Place – Mark & Orlando’s Scores

22 December 2008

After Yet Another Attorney Date left me sitting at Vidalia to enjoy an over priced Manhattan and an outrageously priced wine list, I reminded myself that getting stood-up is a good thing.  I blogged about the experience, again reminding myself that it was ultimately a good outcome.  I thought the chances were rather slim that there was a reasonable explanation for her behavior but on the off chance those reasons existed I sent an email.

Perhaps you were sitting at another place named Vidalia thinking the same things I was thinking. Perhaps you too had a cocktail or a glass of wine and kept looking at the door. Perhaps you too kept checking the email on your phone to see if some last minute change occurred. Perhaps you too finished your cocktail, two sections of the newspaper, and concluded that thirty minutes was enough time. Perhaps you too settled your tab and walked outside pausing to look both ways for a hurried date rushing to the restaurant. Perhaps we just missed each other in a completely logical and understandable manner. Perhaps you wrote Wednesday but thought Thursday.
Perhaps you saved me a great deal of time.

YAAD replied almost immediately and apologetically.  She wrote that her mind recorded the date for Thursday though she wrote Wednesday.  Her tone was sincere and she asked if there were any way to persuade me to meet her that evening. 

I’ve been on the other side of this (I once went to the wrong Ritz Carlton) and didn’t have plans for the evening, thus I agreed.  We opted for drinks at Mark and Orlando’s.  YAAD and I talked animatedly.  She is a very good conversationalist, practices a type of law I consider fascinating, and is just lovely in general.

The chemistry was not instant but neither was it non existent.  Our conversation evolved as two friends’ might but with a low simmer flame burning underneath.  Around the middle of our night, the disclosure of YAAD’s previously unmentioned status as a vegan doused that low flame for me but not my enthusiasm for knowing her.  We continued talking for more than hour after that – it’s not that I don’t like vegans, I just can’t imagine dating one.

Our evening ended cordially and with the energy of two people who have platonic affections but certainly not the other kind. 

As much vitriol as I had for Vidalia and their wine list, I have praise for Mark & Orlando’s.  Some might suggest the two have no basis for comparison as M&O’s is by comparison considerably more casual, the difference is philosophical.  The cooking at M&O’s is not as complex as Vidalia’s but it is soulful, careful, and very satisfying.  The wine service is not as elegant, the lips of the glasses not quite as thin but the wines are sourced with great care and priced reasonably.  Where as Vidalia seeks to return $100 for every $25 invested in their wine program, M&O is comfortable with a $60 return on the same investment. 

I am grateful that YAAD and I eventually connected as I hope that she will be a friend, but also because it gave me a chance to reacquaint myself with a restaurant that had fallen too far from my radar screen.


Overheard at the Bar…or Why Everyone Needs an Inside Voice

19 December 2008

Twenty-something Bar Patron #1: Has your girlfriend ever walked in on you when you were rubbing one out?

Twenty-something Bar Patron #2: ummm, no.

TSBP1: Tracy went out with some of her friends for Girls Night last night.  She told me she was staying at her place, so I didn’t expect her.  About midnight she changed her mind, comes to my place and walks in on me while I’m multi-jacking…

TSBP2: Multi-jacking?

TSBP1: You know – jacking off while you’re doing something else.

TSBP2: What else can you do while jacking off?

TSBP1: Porn on the computer, MSNBC on the TV

TSBP2: Wouldn’t that make it poli-jacking?


Vidalia Restaurant’s Pricing Doesn’t Pass the Laugh Test

18 December 2008

I sent Yet Another Attorney Date an email suggesting four places for our first meeting.  She opted for the last place on the list, Vidalia.  I chose not read anything into the fact that she selected the most expensive place on the list and was eager to visit a place I had not been in almost a year.  I arrived a few minutes early and made myself comfortable at the far end of the bar. 

While the technically proficient but far from engaging bartender made drinks for a trio of post-work suits in the mildly stylish lounge, I looked over the by the glass wine offerings.  The prices were a shock to my sensibilities.  Instead I ordered a Makers Mark Manhattan Up and with a dash of the Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters I spied sitting unloved on a bottom shelf of the bar.  My date was late so I went back to the wine list to occupy my time and satisfy my curiosity.

The WBG list was extensive – at least ten varieties each of red and white, and a solid smattering of sparklers and rosés.  I knew at least 90% of them and I was astonished at the grotesque price gouging.

It is not often that I publicly call attention to the failings of a restaurant.  However, I have heaped praise on Vidalia in this space prior and now the record requires correcting.  I have solid recall of the wholesale prices of each wine I knew on the list and Vidalia displayed profound greed in their cost structure.  DC restaurant industry standard is for a glass of wine to sell for around the wholesale price of the bottle. Vidalia, however, prices a glass at close to the RETAIL cost of a bottle further the average price of a glass of wine there is north of $15.

Their list, by the glass and bottle, is still one of the best in the country if one doesn’t look at the prices, but their prices scream exorbitant to anyone who knows wine well.

I was bothered by their list but not inspired to vent until I had finished my Manhattan, decided that I was getting stood-up, and got my tab.  My Manhattan which would have cost me $9 at the Capitol Grille, $10 at Citronelle, $11 at the Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental Hotels, or $12 at Per Se was astoundingly $14 at Vidalia.  At that price, I expect a drink to give me a happy ending. 

Your pricing is simply a profane expression of greed and for that, Vidalia, you are off my list and my radar screen.  I get expensive, hell, I have a penchant for expensive, and I understand all of the costs associated with running a premier wine program, and a high-end restaurant because I have done it. Yet even I cannot imagine a justification for your prices or why your organization crossed the line into offensively expensive since my last visit. 

 

To my dear dozen readers, feel free to speculate about the fact that I was more angered by being over-charged than being stood-up.


If Hating This is Lame, I Don’t Wanna Be Hip

17 December 2008

I cancelled my Friday night date mostly because of my indifference towards her but the whiny client and his imagined emergency provided a good excuse that had the added convenience of being true. After mollifying the client, my evening was free. So when my very dear friend, the Only Slightly Sleazy Lobbyist (OSSL,) invited me to join him and a few of his friends at a downtown bar/nightclub, I agreed despite knowing better.

From prior visits I, I knew better than to give Café Lousy Mojito even small amounts of my cash or time but I boredom got the better of me. I arrived in the tween part of the evening – too late for happy hour, too early for the real club kids – hoping to find the sweet spot in the night. I gave my ID to the surly stereotype at the door – black leather jacket, three day stubble, bad attitude – and moved through the more crowded than expected night spot looking for OSSL and crew.

Like most Latin themed places downtown, CLM, had attractive but bad bartenders, too loud music which necessitated near yelling to communicate, and a dance floor populated in equal measure with really good salsa/merengue dancers and gringos just drunk enough to think they have rhythm. Having checked the main floor and the tiny upper level alcove without finding them, I descended the dark staircase to the basement bar and found OSSL easily. An outsize voice, always holding court near a bar, wildly punctuating his point with one hand, and a pint in the other – yeah that’s him.

I was introduced to the crew of five stylish, early to mid 30s gents, and one lady who is “I could boil water by looking at a glass” hot. I am certain that none of them remembered my name because it was too loud for them to have heard it and too dark for my face to have made an impression. I made a point of chatting with each person individually. I sipped a beer that took too long to get from a bartender who couldn’t be bothered to say thank you when I left her an industry sized tip.

I had one more beer because having just one is rude and milled about a bit more, yelled into other peoples ear chatted a bit more. After an hour (or what felt like it,) I grabbed my coat to leave and said my good bye’s. Just as I turned to face the stairs, the Boil Water Hot woman landed on the final step.

“You’re not being lame are you? You’re not leaving, right?” She mock-pouted.

“Yes, I am lame; yes I am leaving. This place just isn’t my scene, but it was very nice meeting you.”

“What’s wrong with Café Lousy Mojito?”

We had been standing at a distance that would have suggested we were intimates if we were on an afternoon sidewalk but simply meant that we were talking in a place like this. I stepped back, met her gaze, and in a normal tone of voice, replied “Nothing is wrong with this place. I just don’t like yelling, and don’t like dancing when there’s no room.”

She leaned back towards me and asked me to repeat myself.

“Exactly” I said returning to audible volume.

She smiled, I winked, we parted ways.

By the by, since it’s Wednesday that means I did the DC Blogs Round-Up.  Go over a take a peak at the posts in the DC Blogosphere that caught my eye.  By the By, this post from Sara who writes If I had to Pick Five would have been on that list but it aint exactly a DC Blog.

One more thing, since I am now a Contributing Editor at DC Blogs, I feel compelled to mention that the December DC Blogger Meet-Up is this evening at RFD at 7pm.  Bloggers, readers, lurkers are all invited – I can’t promise that I will be there (maybe that will induce more of you to attend) but I hope you will.


My First Dinner Party… Let’s Just Call It a Learning Experience

16 December 2008

More than twenty years ago during my freshmen year, my high school had a nationally ranked football team and our games were atop the social calendar for our insulated private school set.  I watched the last game of the year from the sidelines with about .001% chance of playing but just being there was a big deal to my freshman pride.  I may have even bragged about it to Karen from my church youth group.  Not because I liked Karen in a check box yes___ no____ kind of way, but because I hoped she would bring her best friend Sloan. 

Karen came; Sloan was in tow and they had seats next to my buddy Jamal who rapidly began crushing on Karen.  The game ended with a victory for our team and a predictably clean uniform for me.  It took me twenty minutes or so to find them afterwards and Sloan’s father had already arrived to collect the two girls from the dangerous grounds of a football game at an all boys high school.  No matter, the groundwork was set.

In the smooth and nuanced manner of 9th grade courtship, it only took another seven weeks for us to arrange a date.  Friday night dinner party at my place – fine, my folk’s place if you want to be snippy – was the plan Jamal and I hatched over lunch one day.  It was the perfect invitation for 14 year old girls who couldn’t “date” but were allowed to go to parties.  Invitations were sent, menu was planned and my mother had agreed to be mostly scarce that evening.

**********

When the snow started falling Thursday night, I was overjoyed at the prospect of having a snow day to do my shopping, set the table, and make bbq shrimp spring rolls, chicken teriyaki, and mini chocolate cupcakes.  School was cancelled as expected and I gleefully trudged through the snow to the grocery store – still oblivious to the obviously pending cancellation.  Jamal – equally oblivious/optimistic – trekked to my place on public transportation in time enough to help me make dinner.

First course was to hit the table at 7:30.  Karen who was spending the night at Sloan’s called at 7:15 to indicate that they were on their way.  As there were almost nine inches of snow on the ground, apparently optimism wasn’t limited to the bi-chromosomal.  At 7:25, I dropped the spring rolls in the fryer knowing that our dates were going to walk through the door at any second.  Adhering to my plan I started the stir-fry going in the wok at 7:35 at the same time Karen called again saying that they were leaving right now.  I made some minor cooking adjustments because Sloan lives less than two miles away surely they would be walking through the door any second.

While Sloan and her father negotiated about the wisdom of driving on partly cleared streets for the next hour, I kept trying to slow cook, and re-hydrate dishes that were rapidly drying out.  Eventually the charms of the daughter defeated the resolve of the father and Karen and Sloan finally made it to dinner over an hour late and with a strict 11:00 pick-up time. 

Without the benefit of a microwave (I’m not that old, but my mother was that old-fashioned,) I dropped the spring rolls in oil enough times that when we finally ate them so much grease ran down our hands that we ruined an extra set of Mom’s good cloth napkins.  Not yet understanding the sodium content of teriyaki sauce and trying to prevent the chicken from drying, I kept re-saucing.  The second course tasted like a spoonful of salt with every bite.  The four of us – determined to have our adult moment – made our way through the first two courses while making conversation about anything other than the grease fountain or salt mountain I had just served.

**********

That night I learned my first lessons in culinary timing, a lesson about sauces, and the lesson of the magical powers of chocolate over women.  Thank god we made it to the cupcakes because after the sweets Jamal and I both made it to second base.


Holding My Tongue in the Face of Fire – the Update I Promised

15 December 2008

When my bar pal’s girlfriend sent me a solicitous message through an online dating site I tried to straddle the line between excessive involvement and laissez faire friendship.  I sent Jackson a friendly email inviting him to watch football on Sunday; and Samone received a dispassionate reply to her email indicating that she must have forgotten the moment her boyfriend introduced us and that I looked forward to seeing him for drinks later in the weekend.  I thought I had struck the best balance available but I still wasn’t necessarily eagerly anticipating our Sunday meeting.

It was just before halftime of the smash mouth game between my Pittsburgh Steelers and the carpet-bagging Baltimore Ravens when Jackson mentioned that Samone was going to join us later.  At that point, my beer must have been the most interesting thing in the room because I focused on it until words formed in my brain.

“Jackson, I need you to let me talk for a minute.”

“Sure.”

“This is one of those times when I really wish I didn’t have to say anything…”

“Is this about the message you sent to Samone’s old dating profile?  She told me about that and trust me it’s not a big deal.”

I was being handed another opportunity to keep my pie hole shuttered.  Determined to take it, I replied “Well, I’m glad you two talked and everything’s everything.”

“Dude, we’re all cool” were Jackson’s (and I hoped everyone’s) final words on the matter.

I suspected that Samone spun the story to have me initiating contact and I was determined not to care.  This is their relationship; Jackson is a drinking buddy not a friend and more importantly there is no graceful exit for me.  Still I had no desire to be party to certain fraud when his girlfriend arrived, but no plausible reason for leaving with my Steelers on TV.  I tried not to consider the eventual and hoped Samone wouldn’t arrive until after the game.

Jackson and I talked football in general and this game specifically as the two defenses yielded almost nothing to the opposing offenses.  Going into the fourth quarter my Steelers were down six points and Samone walked into the bar – not sure which bothered me more.  She greeted both of us warmly and sat to Jackson’s left and placed her arm round his shoulder.

Idle chatter was interspersed with random shouts of “Go,” “Hit that guy” and other football expletives.  The game was going down to the wire – along with my patience for this situation – but my Steelers and my patience were winning. The rookie Ravens quarterback who has played over is head the entire season had no more magic in his arm and the final play was intercepted.  When the cheers had quieted Samone punctuated the moment with “I’m so glad the three of us can sit here and enjoy an evening together in spite of the potential awkwardness of the message you sent me, Refugee.”

“Me too, if you two will excuse me for a moment, I’ve been waiting to go to the men’s room for the last 45 minutes.”

I returned after a few minutes to settle my tab and exit for more friendly environs.

“Samone, Jackson, I’d say that this has been a pleasure but I don’t want to compound the lies of this afternoon.  Jack, I just sent you an email wherein I forwarded the original message your girlfriend sent me.  You and I have never been great friends and I don’t imagine that this is going to improve things.  But you needed to know the truth about how this went down, and you should also know that even if Samone was my type – you know, faithful – I would never have tried to poach her away from you.  Good luck to you both.”

While my words still hung in the air, I said good bye to the bartender and most likely a bar pal with whom I won’t be drinking again.


I Had no Intention of Blogging Today… Until…

12 December 2008

I’ve known Jackson for a few years – we have thrown back a few drinks, had a couple of substantive late night conversations, and been together on both sides of a bar – though I do not consider our relationship particularly close.  I have met his girlfriend, Samone, once; it was a couple of weeks ago when Jack and I found ourselves at the same bar and involved in a group conversation with a few other regulars.  Samone brightened the bar’s door on the tail end of the evening after she had been bar hopping her way through a Girls Night.  I remember her – truly stunning women tend to make lasting impressions – but would never have expected her to remember me.  It was late, the bar was dark, and she had clearly enjoyed her evening.

When I opened my email this morning I had a message from Samone, via an on-line dating site.

“I can’t even remember now how I stumbled upon your profile, but I do remember it had something to do with your photo. I admit, I was drawn in by your sexy look, but I liked what you had to say, too. If you’re so inclined, take a peek at my profile (it’s pretty exhaustive) and maybe drop me a line? Maybe we could get a drink sometime?  I think we would have a god time if we went out.”

I was almost certain it was her from the photograph and details in the profile, but I needed to be certain.  Detective Refugee emerged.

I joined Facebook so I could “friend” Jackson and check his relationship status.  Facebook confirmed that Jackson and Samone are still engaged in an exclusive relationship if only in his mind.  One of the pictures in Samone’s on-line dating profile is the same picture that is visible on Facebook.  I’d confirmed all the relevant details but still had no clue how to proceed.

I poured myself a cup of coffee, smoked a cigarette on the patio and thought how I would want an acquaintance to handle this were I in Jackson’s shoes.  I wrote two emails: the first to him inviting him to have a drink with me later this weekend; the second to her.

Samone,

Thanks for taking the time to write me; your words were kind and flattering.  We have met before – a couple of weeks ago Jackson introduced us at the bar.  He and I are getting together for a drink and to watch the game on Sunday.  I hope that you two will have a conversation regarding our email exchange before then.  I wish you the best of luck in the future.

Regards,

Refugee

 

I don’t know if I have done the right thing but I took a deep breath and pressed send to both emails.  I hope that beer with Jackson will not force my hand in this matter.  I would rather not have to tell another man that his girlfriend is actively looking for extracurricular activities while he’s looking for her Christmas present.  What would you have done?  What would you have wanted to happen if you were in either person’s shoes?


Crash Davis* Got Me Thinking About What I Believe, This is My List

10 December 2008

I believe in tilting at windmills.

I believe in turning the ships around, and unicorns, and love stories too.

I believe in wearing heart break like a badge of honor because there is no other way to love then vulnerably.

I believe in the theory of Compassionate Conservatism but have only seen it practiced by those who aren’t conservatives.

I believe that NPR makes the world a better place.

I believe in standing when a woman leaves a table, opening doors, pulling chairs and carrying the heavy stuff not because a woman is incapable but as a show of affection and acknowledgement that I can do very little to help her find the other 28 cents.

I believe that the moment I start to not do those things is the moment that the bloom has fallen from the rose.

Speaking of roses, I believe in giving more interesting flowers… because it’s Tuesday, not because I have screwed-up.

I believe that people who talk on their cell phones on Mass Transit should have a subway car unto themselves.

I believe that words are terribly important and that I have wasted too many in my life.

I believe that toasts should be short enough to be remembered, and that clinking glasses is unnecessary when there are more than four people.

I believe in dive bars that still serve decent beer, make a mean burger, and don’t take credit cards.

I believe that restaurants are like houses of worship to food and that the bar is the altar upon which I sacrifice my sobriety.

I believe that if you force me to make a choice, slow is better then fast and words hotter then pictures.

Speaking of pictures, I believe that black and white ones always trump color.

I believe that people who abuse the English language ought to demand a refund.

I believe that real life trumps sports; but I also believe that the first weekend of the NCAA Basketball tournament should be a National Holiday.

I believe that there ought to be a constitutional amendment requiring a Div. I-A football playoff and banning the use of aluminum bats in baseball.

I believe that fall is the most magical of seasons; but the 4th of July is my favorite holiday.

I believe that intelligent conversation is the best of aphrodisiacs, and the sexiest thing about a woman is her mind.

I believe that I can save the world one plate and one cocktail at a time.

I believe that Duke Ellington got it right – there are only two kinds of music: good and bad.

I believe that because Chuck Brown is on the far end of the good kind, he deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I believe in reading my Sunday papers on Sunday not Saturday.

And I believe that I should be reading them in bed next to a woman who is the haystack needle, lightning in a bottle, and the winning lottery ticket rolled into a wickedly interesting package.

And I believe that she would sigh and utter a breathy “Oh my” when I finish this soliloquy.

 

* for the few people who might not get the reference

By the by, I took my first spin as a contributing editor for DC Blogs yesterday.  Look here for the Round-Up if you are curious about the local blogs that caught my eye yesterday.


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