The Google Economic Index

25 February 2009

The Google Economic Index, GEI, is based on the theory that internet searches are a solid measure of the economy.  In the same way that Consumer Confidence is predictive of economic performance, I hypothesize that the number of hits, the degree of auto-completion, and the frequency of search for certain phrases can be indicative and predictive of economic health.  If you are interested in aiding or publishing my research, please email for complete methodology and formulas.

I give you the first ever GEI:

Search Term

Hits (in 1000)

GEI Wght

Auto Comp Factor

GEI Score

I Would Rather Spend Money On My Dog Than My Boyfriend





My 401k Sucks Monkey Nuts





I Can’t Afford To Drink





Will Work For Booze





Pawn My Engagement Ring





Sell My Boyfriend’s Stuff





I’m So Broke I’m Eating My Cat’s Food





The Unemployed Diet – I Lost 40lbs





Starbucks Vs. Street Working To Pay The Electric Bill





How To Steal Cable





Can I Hock My Louboutin’s





Recycling Condoms





How Much Money Does A Prostitute Actually Make*





Will Food Stamps Pay For Caviar





Will Work For Camel Lights





Wine In A Box Is The New Black





Is Mascara Tax Deductible





Can I Get Paid For My Snuggie Endorsement





What’s The Profit Margin On Cocaine





Bill Gates + Paternity Tests





How Long Can I Eat Ramen Before I Die





How Old Is Too Old To Borrow From My Parents And Still Be A Man





My Job Really Doesn’t Suck That Much





How To Be A Kept Man





Seriously I Can Get Paid To Blog Right





Can I Get Paid To Donate Blood





Google Economic Index Rating      



Index Ratings greater than 15,000 are an indication that we’re screwed.

Research Associate Makeup Text Julie contributed immeasurably to this research.

* number of hits and auto completion factor maybe higher than in your experiments because the words attorney and prostitute were used interchangeably.

This theory was inspired in part by The Soft Lounge Blog.



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

And here are a few links I also was digging but couldn’t use in the round-up for whatever reason:

DC Metrocentric reports that Nathan’s is hanging in there for the moment.  I hate that this drinking institution may close at the end of March, but if it does there must be a happy hour first.

Because I am all about helping a blogger out… Scarlet of Scarlet Letters gets medieval on one of her internet stalkers/ex as she gives him one last chance to wave a graceful electronic goodbye before the gloves are removed.  A cautionary tale if ever there was.

The Limits of Compassion, Exhausting Gratitude

24 February 2009

I didn’t see what caused the Marine to fall down on the Metro escalator, just that he fell and the two women near him weren’t strong enough or didn’t care enough to help him to his feet.  Before he grasped my hand Occam’s Razor was proven accurate once again – youngish man falls on escalator on a Saturday evening the most likely cause, too much booze, is almost always the cause – as I could smell the beer coming from his pores.  He had passed wobbly a while ago and was firmly in the barely walking category.  I curled my left arm under his right to hold him upright.

“What branch are you in” I asked trying to keep my new friend alert and awake.

“Marine Corps, sir, you serve?”

“Nope just recognize the haircut, Marine.  Thanks for your service.”

Not more than five hours earlier I was having cocktails with a friend when a cluster of service men and their dates entered the restaurant.  They were in full dress uniforms.  I remarked to my friend that I have a soft spot for those who wear uniforms because they run towards trouble when all logic tells you to run away.  I didn’t know that the universe was going to test the veracity of that statement so quickly.

The Marine had a couple of inches on me, but I probably had him by a few pounds so the fight to get him to the bottom of the escalator was about even.  Yet, keeping him prone took more effort than I anticipated.   He was the kind of drunk where people cleared a path for me to walk him down the platform.

“Our mission is to make sure you get home safely, Marine, so just keep talking to me and we’ll get you there.  Our train is six minutes out, stay with me.  Tell me where you live.”

This was the first moment I could see the wheels turning in his head.  His pupils were almost as big as his irises.  This is also the first moment I considered letting Metro PD deal with this 170lb mess on my hands but arrests are not good for top secret billets or careers.

“You wanna know where I live?”

“No, I don’t wanna know where you live but the cab driver will need to know.  Listen, do you have anyone that we can call?”

“I dunno where my phone is.”

I am shocked by the Marine’s clarity of voice despite a level of inebriation that one rarely sees.  The train is two minutes away from the platform and I start calculating the amount of time it will take me to get him to the edge so that I will have to spend the minimum amount of time keeping him upright. 

The Marine is the kind of drunk where people don’t just make a path but once I square him into an empty seat at the front of the car, the two women in the neighboring seats move.  Back to trying to get his address… “Marine, how far away from the Metro station do you live?”

“Far” is the one word answer.

“So this is the plan, we are going to exit at Close to Your Stop station and get into a cab because it will be easier to find one from there than your station.  Since we have to cab no matter.  So what is your address?”

“You know I can kick your ass right?”

“No one is questioning that.”

“Why you want my address?  Why are you helping me?”

“Because you served our country, and making sure you get home safely is the least I can do to say thank you.”

“You don’t know what it’s like.”

I damn sure don’t know what combat is like.  “No, I don’t know, but that has nothing to do with our objective which is to get you home safely” I said in as soft yet forceful voice as I could.  The Marine started laughing, and moving towards me in a manner that would be threatening if he could stand on his own for more than two seconds.

“I know why you want to take me home, mutherfucker.”

“Marine, my only motivation is to make sure you make it to your house safely and don’t end up face down in the street on the way.  That’s all.  Our stop is almost here.  Are you ready to tell a cab driver where you live?”

“Faggot, I know what you want!  Dude, just tell me you’re not a fag, ok, are you a fag.”

“Fuck you, Marine.  I tried to help you and now I’m done”  I said as I left the train, left him behind.

Fucking homophobe, fuck him and his backwards thoughts I mumbled to the teeth of the escalator – hoping the sentiment would be mashed in the grates.  Hoping that my latent homophobia would be mashed along with it – I know that my anger was directed at his intolerance and stupidity first, but I also know that at least a small part of me was angered because he called me gay.  Either way, I surrendered to frustration.


“Excuse me, Station Manager, the northbound train that just left has a passenger that needs some help…”

I Can’t Think of an Appropriate Title

23 February 2009

There was a stretch in my life where I attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on a regular basis.  I am not an alcoholic and have never been but a very close friend is.  One night we left the restaurant/bar I was running and where he slung drinks and he told me that he was going to a meeting in the morning.  I went with him.  It just seemed the right thing to do, to support him in this struggle.  For the first month, I went with him every day – 30 in 30 AA members like to say.  I wouldn’t say the pledge, but honored it – what I heard [there,] saw [there,] stayed [there.] 

The stories were more heart wrenching than you think they would be from your television observations.  The weight of the new comer’s gaze in broken but still guarded faces was heavier than any emotional weight I lifted before.  As most addicts supplant one addiction for another, the coffee room was always thick with fresh plumes from too many cigarettes.  I was in that room one Saturday morning smoking a JFK cigar (H. Upmann Petite Corona, if you’re curious) and scratching at the crossword puzzle when Tonya walked-in and took the seat next to mine.  She had a bit of dervishness to her movement as she whirled her gym bag, purse, and book to a sudden stop on the floor.

“You’re new” she said with a hint of the derision we all reserve for the FNG.

“I’ve been coming here about month now” I replied without offense; I had grown accustomed to the friendly surliness that I learned was the standard method of greeting new AA members. 

“Sober for a month, huh.  I wish I could tell you it gets easier but at least you get used to it.  30 in 30 right?”

“30 in 30, sure, but I’ve been sober for about five hours now.  I’m not an alcoholic; I come here to support my good friend – he’s been sober for about a month.”

“You were drinking at 3am and now you’re at a meeting just to support your friend?  You sure that’s the only reason?”

“Not only was I drinking at 3am, I was still working until 5am to close the place, and yeah the only reason I am here on ninety minutes of sleep is because he is a dear friend and I know he would be here for me.  I’ve done my inventory – I’m fine with my drinking.”

“Hmmmh” was all she said.

My friend finally arrived at that moment just before the meeting was about to start.  I made brief introductions as we made our way across and down the hall to the meeting room.  The meeting was only memorable because my friend got his thirty day pin towards the end of the meeting.

My friend and I parted on the street outside, him making a path to the gym (another way he was dealing with his alcoholism) and I a path to a cab. 

“Don’t bother getting a cab” Tonya said from just behind my right shoulder.  “I’m going to let you buy me a cup of coffee because I want to talk to you for a minute.”

“Will my ‘sobriety’ be among the topics, because if it is, the least you can do is buy the coffee.”

“Fine, I’m buying the coffee then… my car is this way.”

I started walking like any man who is told he is going to have coffee with a very attractive woman does. 

“How long have you been sober?” I ask.

“At this point, about one year for every hour, you’ve been.”

“Not for nothing, I am glad that you invited me for coffee – mostly because I like a challenge and I think you’re cute – but I am not really interested in getting a lecture about my drinking.  I examined this before I started coming to meetings with my friend, and especially carefully since.  I am comfortable with my drinking.”

Tonya opened the passenger door to her car and gave me a look that said “I heard you, but we are going to talk about what I want to talk about.”  I got in her car anyway.

We had been underway for a couple of blocks when Tonya asked “You do understand that it is just about impossible to believe that anyone comes to an AA meeting without a reason.”

“I have a reason, one I consider extremely valid, you just aren’t buying it or just wanted to get me alone for disreputable reasons.  Not that I am opposed to the latter.”

Tonya and I shared coffee, stories, and many other things that day and over the next couple of years.  Despite our flirtation and mutual attraction, things never became romantic.  Her 9-5 life was as incompatible with my restaurant life as my drinking was with her alcoholism.  We rarely discussed it. 

New jobs for each of us accelerated our decline from regular to occasional to sporadic to “wow, I really should call her” friends.

She was one of my favorite crushes, and the last time I saw her she was drunk in a downtown cocktail bar.  She was on a date and was dressed impeccably but her eyes were vacant.  I said hello to her and her date but went back to my seat. 

I’d really like to buy her a cup of coffee sometime but she won’t ask me and hasn’t let me ask her.

Happy Crush Day

20 February 2009

What do I mean Happy Crush Day?  

Now that we have that settled I am writing an open letter to my crushes.

Reann Allen, congratulations on winning the George Mason University Homecoming Queen Crown and for giving it new and double entendred meaning.  I have a huge crush on you and all of the students who voted to make a Queen the Queen.

Rachel Maddow, I know you didn’t mean it when you took out the Restraining Order.  I know that you were just trying to show me some affection, and I still have a wicked crush on you.

Cassandra Wilson, whenever you want to sing to me just let me know.  My musical crush on you will never fade.

Pink – you are an odd Crush choice, but I have one on you nonetheless – mostly because you wrote a beautiful letter to our last president.  Perhaps you will be able to write another to our new Commander in Chief.

Speaking of President Obama…

Dear Mr. President, I totally have an intellectual crush on you.  In the perfectly acceptable way a heterosexual man would  express admiration for another heterosexual man and all.

To everyone who takes the occasional moment to read my slice of the interweb, I have crushes on all of you.  Well not you, Janice from California, but definitely the rest of you.

An Endorsement and a Proposal

19 February 2009

I endorse, embrace, and enthusiastically support the crush.

In the same way that some would argue that the single cell organism is the purest form of life, I argue that the crush is the purest form of affection.  It is perfect, wholly contained, and needs no augment.  It can exist in a personal vacuum absent acknowledgment or reciprocity.  The Crush can be romantic, professional, artistic, vocational, social, bloggerational, and can even exist within the confines of a healthy relationship.  The crush is perfect.

To have a Crush is to engage whimsy, to embrace possibility, and in the extreme case to wrap oneself in the courage of romance.

With my friend Lemmonex co-hosting a Blogger Crush Happy Hour this Friday, I have been thinking generally about the Crush and specifically about my crushes over the years.  My crushes are more frequently inspired by words and wit than physicality these days.  However, I am not blind; I readily acknowledge that my head is turned by a pretty face but intellect sustains my crush and interest more reliably than rosy lips which are times fool.

This Friday’s blogger boozefest has the explicit theme of inviting your blog crush for a drink.  I posit that we should extrapolate the concept beyond the DC venue, beyond the date too.  Let Friday be the day that you send at least one of your crushes a message that you dig the way they think, write, move, act, play a sax, manage a meeting or whatever else inspires that tingle.  Whether that Crush is across the country or in the cube next door acknowledge it – embrace the crush wherever you are.

Let February 20th be National Crush Day.

My Bisque Couldn’t Save This

18 February 2009

Getting paid to prepare dinner for six people in a stranger’s kitchen is not unlike conducting a symphony while trying to play all of the instruments yourself.  Though the closest I have ever come to conducting was sitting in the second cellist chair for a youth orchestra more years ago than I care to claim, I imagine the two feelings to be similar.  Timing is everything, but timing is meaningless without a plan.  I always have a plan – until the first violinist (or sauté pan) throws a hissy and the plan goes to shit.

Friday night was proceeding according to plan: arrive by 5pm, inventory kitchen supplies, unpack, lay out mise en place, have four burners, two cutting boards and a mixing bowl going by 5:15.  The woman who hired me is very gracious but is asking me a number of questions about the things I am doing – this is not in my plan.  As she is writing the checks, I make every effort to respond to her queries – “the water bottles are filled with fish stock I made last night, it is the base for the lobster bisque, flour and butter are heated over a low heat to form a rieux – it is a staple of Cajun cooking and will thicken and enrich the bisque, the pork shoulder was roasted for 12 hours in a low oven now I am bringing it back to temperature by steaming it over a seasoned beer bath” – and on it went.

When she left to get dressed I was extremely grateful as my internal metronome had slowed by a beat and a half – I was at least 15 minutes behind.  By the time her guests began arriving, the bisque was done but the shrimp and lobster still needed to be poached in butter.  The pork was stuffed in their puffed pastry cigars with mushrooms and mascarpone cheese and ready for the oven but I hadn’t made the sauce that goes with it or the spinach and apple salad.  I could hear the guests milling about the living room but only muffled conversations.

I left the kitchen to let the host know that once she gave me the sign the first course would be on the table in four minutes.  Two guests seemed to follow me back to the kitchen but stopped in the doorway.  I tended to the stove but could not ignore the terse tones of their conversation. 

“John, I’m sorry you’re not taking this seriously.”

“Jane, I’m sorry that you’re feeling pressure because we’re going to all these weddings and you want one.”

“This has nothing to do with that, and everything to do with you being lazy about our relationship.”

This is not in my plan. 

Thankfully, the host calls everyone to the table, but not before John punctuates his exchange with his girlfriend by saying “Jane, can we not have any more of your drama tonight?”

A moment later I present the amuse bouche.  “This is a gift from the kitchen; it is an Italian Clam Casino with crispy pancetta on a bed of rock salt.”

“This wasn’t on the menu, Refugee” says the host with happy surprise.

“No, the amuse bouche is just a restaurant tradition, a gift, something unexpected to help set the tone for the meal” I reply, delighted that I have achieved the desired effect.  The undesired effect was Jane mumbling “unexpected gift to set the tone, novel concept” in John’s direction.

Who knew we should have set an extra plate for Awkward?

Lobster and Shrimp Bisque is five minutes from the table where the chatter sounds polite, but heard through the door I can’t be certain.  Being greeted by silence upon emerging from the kitchen arms full of dishes is not uncommon, but this is an awkward silence.

“Butter poached Lobster and Shrimp Bisque” I announce to approving hmms and ahhs.  When I return with the final three bowls for the gentlemen at the table, the host inquires “Refugee, where did you get your bisque recipe?”

“Almost ten years ago, I wanted to date a friend who told me that lobster bisque was her favorite soup ever.  So I set out to make the best bisque ever – this recipe is the result of several weeks of kitchen tinkering to make a date worth lobster bisque.”

Jane found another opportunity to twist the knife in John’s ribs – “So nice when a man makes an effort to impress a woman.”

“Even better when the woman is worth impressing” John retorted.

“Fuck you, John.”

There is safety in the kitchen and I quickly retreat to it.  Several minutes pass before the host comes into the kitchen to return bowls but more to apologize.  “I’m sorry, Refugee; I am pretty sure that was the last outburst for the evening” she says. 

There is a planned cigarette course between the slow pork cigars and the beef tenderloin but Jane must be a fast smoker because she swung the double kitchen doors my way.

“Is there anymore wine?”

“The wine for the next course is still decanting, but you are more than welcome to some of the pinot noir I’m drinking.”

“Thank you” Jane replies as I fill her glass halfway.  “When did you start cooking?”

“Forgive me for being the blunt, Jane, but are you sure you want to talk to me at the moment?”

“Better you than my asshole boyfriend.”

I wanted to agree, but neither party has comported themselves well from my perspective.  “You’re with friends, celebrating Valentine’s Day, enjoying exquisite food and great wine; surely you can find a way to enjoy this evening even if you and John are not having the best of nights.”

“Are you always this reasonable?”

“I am sure that my ex-wife could provide an itemized accounting of me being unreasonable, and the next course is ready.”

The beef tenderloin and pastry mezzaluna courses proceeded without incident.  As I was prepping the cheese course Jane came back to the kitchen.  “I’d like you to cook for me sometime; please give me a call” she said tucking her business card into the breast pocket of my chef coat in a maybe flirtatious way (my hands were full.)

Some clients aren’t worth the money.


If You Get Into an Argument on Valentine’s Day…

14 February 2009

… and my Lobster Bisque can’t fix it, your relationship is really broken.  More on this story on Monday, I promise, but I have to get through the rest of the weekend of client dinners first.  

I Laughed, I Cried, It was Better than Cats

12 February 2009

Tracy and I had been dating for a couple of months and things were going well.  One night we settled on the couch to watch some romantic comedy – the name of which escapes me.  I do, however, recall that at the apex of the movie the Sally character said something to her Harry counterpart.  It was funny and poignant and Harry laughed and cried.

I looked at Tracy and pondered the on-screen relationship, the depth of a connection where a woman could say something that would make a man laugh and cry at the same time.  I wanted that kind of a connection I told her and asked “Tracy what could you say that would make me laugh and cry at the same time?”

She looked deeply, almost lustily at me and replied “Baby, you’ve got the biggest dick of all your friends.”


Yes, that was a joke I heard the other night.

A Close Hold

11 February 2009

“Hey Refugee, when are you going to give me the address to your secret blog people keep telling me about?”

I doubt Miss Manners has ever had to encounter a situation quite like this; but I am pretty confident that she would posit that any request to learn an explicit secret is rude.  I am not sure if I was more bothered by the question or my exceedingly lame “then it wouldn’t be a secret any more would it” response. Fortunately, the question was slurred in my direction from a more than casual (but not by much) acquaintance whose attention was quickly diverted back to his drink.

I knew that this day would come.  This city’s too small, a few details too specific, and some confidences are held only as well as the possessor holds their liquor.  I know the people I have told about this place, and I know that I asked for their discretion.  I know a few of the people who have deduced because they made a show of telling me about their deductive thoughts.  I also know that I can’t un-ring the bell for people who have heard, traded in gossip, or even those who might have learned through my own indiscretion.  

Funny thing about the bifurcated world of anonymous blogging is that we are free to be as open, raw, vulnerable, profane, angry, or guarded as the bounds of our conscious will allow.  Even when that cloak of anonymity is pulled back to translate virtual relationships with other bloggers or readers into material bonds we still do so on our own terms.  We do so with the knowledge that we will be sharing this information with that subset who can read and touch.  When we disclose to pre-blogging friends or others who don’t know it is that same controlled release.

To you all in my blind spot, I ask that you not expand the circle, because I like the freedom of controlled release.  I like being able to write openly.

So next time our paths cross pretend like you never read the story about the time I _________________ because I didn’t tell you.



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

And here are a few links I also was digging but couldn’t use in the round-up for whatever reason:

Just about anyone who has talked to me for more than twenty minutes since this summer has heard me blame almost the entirety of our current economic crisis on the grotesque greed of the Masters of the Universe.  If I had the time to write an op-ed for the Washington Post and wrote as well as two leading professors from Harvard University, it would have been something like this.

I really think that Vix, The Over Educated Nympho, has the best idea about re-jiggering not just Valentine’s Day but the entire month of February for single people.   Happy I Am So Much Hotter Than That New Tool/Hooker S/He is Dating” Day.

The DC Universe finds time to dis Marion Barry, Old Rich People, and a suspect press conference question all in one post.


Answering My Own Meme

10 February 2009

The Facebook 25 Things Meme was so frustrating to me that I wrote my own – yeah, that was a humbling experience.

Most people have at least heard Rene Descartes’ elegant cornerstone of philosophy “Cogito Ergo Sum” which translates from Latin to “I think, therefore I am.”  One of my favorite magazines, Automobile which plays the role of New Yorker to Car & Driver’s US Weekly, uses a derivative phrase to encapsulate its existence – “Cogito Ergo Zoom, I think therefore I go fast.”  What would your derivative be? Cogito Ergo ____________

Cogito Ergo Soufflé – I think, therefore I cook and love food in all of its forms.  Yes, I am taking some liberties with the implication of Soufflé in this case but so did Automobile with Zoom.  To a large degree, my life revolves around food, its service, and the libations that ought accompany it; and I refuse to resist the gravitational pull.


I find 99.99% of all Employment Applications to be disrespectful of the tree that gave its life for the printing.  Canned questions with even more practiced answers yield no useful information that could not be gleaned from a resume.  If you were able to add one substantive question to every standard application what would it be?

If you won the lottery tomorrow, how would you fill your days?  Life is too short to work a job that doesn’t fulfill; and if a person’s answer is completely unrelated to the job for which they are applying that is a telling indicator.  I am not suggesting that an unrelated answer is wrong or has been a barrier to employment with me, rather, I want to understand that which moves a person and learn how this job is connected to that motivation or how it furthers their cause to reach that goal.


I think that the manner in which people treat restaurant service staff is among the truest measures of character.  What unconventional behavioral norm or standard do you use as a personal tape measure?

Though I sort of answered this in my question, I will give another answer.  I measure a person’s use of their Sundays.  I think that how one spends this karmicly holy day of rest is a true indicator of their priorities/philosophies etc.  No answers are inherently right or wrong, all are simply information that may or may not be useful to gain an understanding a person’s measure.


2009 hands you an unexpected, wrapped gift with a large bow. What is inside? You then have to gift this box anonymously to someone else. To whom do you give it and what is inside? 

Katertot gave an answer to this question better than I could ever pen, however, I would want a magic pen.  A pen that could write every thought in the manner I wish I could.  I would want a supply of cash that would enable me and those I love to pursue all of their passions ala question #2.


You recently witnessed a Mob hit.  After testifying, you entered the Witness Protection Program.  Where would you like to be sent?  Who would you miss the least?

I have had the good fortune to see a decently sized chunk of the world, and DC is still my favorite city.  If I had to leave her, I would opt for San Francisco, London, Chicago, and Toronto – not necessarily in that order.  What do those cities have in common? An insanely exciting culinary landscape, a very urban feel, and none would force me to learn another language.  Which would seem an apt moment to disclose that I wrap too much of my self-worth around my facility with language and I am too insecure about the amount of time it would take for me to learn a new language sufficiently to bend it as I want.

The people I would miss the least is a more difficult question than I thought it was when I originally wrote it.  I wouldn’t miss the workaholic, self-important (mostly carpet bagging) waste of their parent’s fuck that are over represented in DC.  I wouldn’t miss all of the refuse-to-have-a-good-time ex-New Yorkers who love to hate DC.  I wouldn’t miss all of the people that don’t regard restaurant work as the noble and honorable profession that it is.


The Johari Window is a decades old personality test.  Four panes of a window are used to represent the self that is known to you and others, the self only known to you, the self that is known to others but not you, and the self that is unknown. Two part question: What are the rough percentage sizes of your window panes, and how has blogging changed your window?

johari_window5This is another question of which I thought highly when crafting but as I answer, recognize its difficulty.  I would guesstimate that the Arena is 70% of my world, the Blind Spot, Façade, and Unknown are 10%, 15% and 5% respectively.   I hypothesize that the reasons for my relatively small percentages of the latter three is mostly attributable to introspection, therapy, and hubris too.  The degree to which it has changed because of my blogging life is only relevant to the small number of friends I have made through this life as they surely know more about me than most but in a limited context.


Opposite ends of the Bell Curve: name something you do so poorly that you are an outlier to the left and something you do so well that you are an outlier to the right – assume a normal distribution; therefore the outliers represent the worst 2.5% and the best 2.5%

I think that I have an ability to interview people better than most others.  This is not to suggest that my style is one that would work for all people just that it’s highly effective in determining the characteristics of people who will work with my management style.  Among my most proud career accomplishments is the extremely small number of employees I have had to terminate (relative to the number I have hired.)

In addition to my difficulty with complex math, I am horrible speller.

Gimmie a couple truly Pet Peeves – nothing grand like intolerance or people who kick puppies; list something rather trivial that irks you way more than it should.

Among my more eccentric peeves: Gum chewing in public or dignified spaces, people who play their music at intolerable volumes on public transportation, talking too loudly on a cell phone, television commercials for things I consider unseemly, The Real Housewives of Anywhere.


The rules:

I still ain’t tagging a soul – this is a purely voluntary gig.  If you wish to respond in the comments, or on your own blog, that would be nice.  

Recent Restaurant Recaps Volume II

10 February 2009


My virtual acquaintance, Todd Kliman food editor at the Washingtonian, has oft mentioned that restaurant reviews primarily reflect a “snapshot” and that they have an expiration date.  Not that he needs further evidence to bolster the credibility of that position, but my recent meal at Oriental East provides it.  OE was once on Washingtonian’s Cheap Eats for twelve years running but Sunday night they were well below par. 

Known more for efficient rather than friendly service, this evening neither option seemed to be available.  Knowing how time seemingly accelerates when starving, it is worth noting that I received a text message as I sat down and then checked my phone again to learn that it had been 10 minutes before anyone bothered to stop by my table to give me tea and water.  It took another 5 minutes for someone to inquire about my order in the not very busy room. 

A “Chef’s Special” platter included egg drop soup that needed salt like I still needed the beer I ordered. The eggroll had a part of the wonton that was so hard that it literally hurt my tooth to chew; and the beef dish (sorry, I can’t recall the name) lacked any semblance of the heat that the two peppers printed on the menu promised.  Not eating all day will drive even someone who has a professional love for food to do strange things – like mixing in hot mustard to the brown sauce in vain attempt to give this dish some culinary gravitas. 

Since I never got my beer, my tab was only about $12 but I still felt foolish for paying for food this bad.  Owing to another maxim from you, I shall not cross this place from my list, because every place can have a bad night but still be a good restaurant.


In my personal Burger Rankings, Palena is still in the top spot, followed by Hell Burger, and Toledo Lounge (also on my list for best jukeboxes in town,) however my most recent experience at Morton’s downtown vaults them back into the discussion.  Cooked perfectly medium-rare and topped with blue cheese, sautéed onions and bacon, this burger was beefy salvation on a bitterly cold day.  Dan, the extremely capable and friendly lunchtime bartender, helped make the experience even better.  That I had forgettable lobster bisque didn’t significantly detract from the experience.  Soup, burger, and a couple of Bass Ale (Morton’s, please get some interesting beers in your bar) was about $40 pre-tip.


Since I left the restaurant industry and claimed refugee status, I have experienced a few restaurant weeks on the guest side of the table.  I have officially declared this experiment a failure.  The best places that participate provide hit or miss service depending on the luck of getting a server who embraces the concept rather than disdains it (mostly because, as any first year business student will tell you, the culture of an organization exists top down.)  Most places engage in some combination of the following: adding extra tables (hard to enjoy yourself when virtually sitting in the lap of your neighbors,) dumbing down their menus (hard to really appreciate the talent of a kitchen when they deliberately swing for the infield,) reducing portion size, or have excessive up-charges.  If a restaurant isn’t willing to view the increased food cost of Restaurant Week as the marketing expense and opportunity that it is, they should resist the strong armed tactics of the Restaurant Association and refuse to participate as I have by removing the list of RW recommendations from my blog.


That the Oval Room waives corkage on Saturday evenings makes a terrific culinary value even better, but I am begging people not to mimic the behavior of the table next to mine who came with two bottles of supermarket plonk in tow.  Being gauche at a discount is still gauche.


While DC’s cocktail attention has been deservedly focused on the excellent libations at PX Speakeasy and Gibson, Aroma lounge in Cleveland Park has long merited a place in that conversation – but only on the nights Karen is working.  One of the few bartenders in the city capable of making a Santero without instruction, she produces cocktails of great distinction (I am pecking this missive on my computer while enjoying one of them) and is a delight to have on the other side of the bar.


In closing, if I haven’t mentioned lately how much Todd Kliman has added to DC’s culinary landscape, I’m mentioning it now.  He and his team are working on the side of food angels, and consistently provide the best restaurant coverage in the region.


The Moment of Friendship

9 February 2009

Christian and Christina and I should not have met.  I don’t sit at that end of the bar; I don’t normally interrupt my newspaper time; and I was expecting someone to join me.  But my normal seats at Capitol Grille’s bar were taken, I had just finished the Sports section but not yet started the Metro, and my friend begged off our plan for a nightcap.

As they were settling their dinner tab, a near throw-away comment about the consistently excellent service at Cap Grille started a serendipitous conversation about their much smaller hometown, the glory that is the Pittsburgh Steelers 6th Superbowl, and the two of them not yet finding rhythm in DC.  It wasn’t a long conversation, but when they mentioned that they were having trouble finding their social way in DC because it felt too slick, too clever by half my sense of ambassadorship moved me to show them a slice of the DC they’ve been missing.

Three relative strangers agreed to catch a cab, to trust each other with potential, to embrace some inner good.

Conversation loped and ranged and soared.  It was food, DC, the law, music, painting, philosophy and that was just the first hour.  We shared laughs at the expense of the interns and junior Hill staffers queuing for Hawk & Dove while we sipped bourbon at the Tune Inn – a grand dame of a dive if ever there was.  Christian befriended the Vietnam Vet telling stories in the corner, Christina and I talked about the restaurants that supported her beer habit while she worked her way through undergrad, a masters and law school.    They told me about their labradoodle, Gus.

We were having a lovely, laugh and booze filled evening, and I was delighted to have made new friends.  There was, however, the crystallizing moment when I knew that this was not the ordinary making of acquaintance. 

Christina raised her glass in a toast.

“I am so glad that we all met tonight, and I really hope the three of us will be able to get together soon.”

“But not in a ‘Dear Penthouse Forum, I never thought this would happen to me’ kinda way, right?”  As soon as I said it I realized this was a risky joke for people I’d just met. 

Christina immediately allayed my concerns by laughing, loudly, and responding “You mean that’s not going to happen?”

How Hard Could It Be?

8 February 2009

I long resisted the meme for reasons I shall keep to myself (Abraham Lincoln’s quote, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt,” comes to mind.)  I did this one because it was different and another because it was literarily and emotionally convenient, but when the Washington Post succumbed to the spreading-faster-than-an-STD-in-a-whorehouse Facebook Meme, limits had to be drawn.  Surely I can write a better meme, my hubris cajoled me into thinking.  Then I spent far too long thinking about it and only crafted the following eight questions. 

  1. Most people have at least heard Rene Descartes’ elegant cornerstone of philosophy “Cogito Ergo Sum” which translates from Latin to “I think, therefore I am.”  One of my favorite magazines, Automobile which plays the role of New Yorker to Car & Driver’s US Weekly, uses a derivative phrase to encapsulate its existence – “Cogito Ergo Zoom, I think therefore I go fast.”  What would your derivative be? Cogito Ergo ____________
  2. I find 99.99% of all Employment Applications to be disrespectful of the tree that gave its life for the printing.  Canned questions with even more practiced answers yield no useful information that could not be gleaned from a resume.  If you were able to add one substantive question to every standard application what would it be?
  3. I think that manner in which people treat restaurant service staff is among the truest measures of character.  What unconventional behavioral norm or standard do you use as a personal tape measure?
  4. 2009 hands you an unexpected, wrapped gift with a large bow. What is inside? You then have to gift this box anonymously to someone else. To whom do you give it and what is inside?* 
  5. You recently witnessed a Mob hit.  After testifying, you entered the Witness Protection Program.  Where would you like to be sent?  Who would you miss the least?
  6. The Johari Window is a decades old personality test.  Four panes of a window are used to represent the self that is known to you and others, the self only known to you, the self that is known to others but not you, and the self that is unknown.  Two part question: What are the rough percentage sizes of your window panes, and how has blogging changed your window?
  7. johari_window2
  8. Opposite ends of the Bell Curve: name something you do so poorly that you are an outlier to the left and something you do so well that you are an outlier to the right – assume a normal distribution; therefore the outliers represent the worst 2.5% and the best 2.5%
  9. Gimmie a couple truly Pet Peeves – nothing grand like intolerance or people who kick puppies; list something rather trivial that irks you way more than it should.


The rules:

I ain’t tagging a soul.  If you wish to respond in the comments, or on your own blog, that would be nice.  I will answer questions another day.

* This question was written in conjunction with mostly by Single Girl for a three way we had with Katertot for the interview meme (still waiting on your answers, lady.)

The Tick Tock of an Insomniac Night

5 February 2009

If you are prone to disdaining self-involved, literarily vomitous blog posts, you should stop reading now (I would if I saw that disclaimer.)     

22:04 Contemplate the relative benefits of the speed of a taxi home versus the exercise and potentially fatiguing merit of walking
22:09 Decide instead that another beer would be a better sleep aid
22:10 Continue pecking at laptop at the bar
23:04 Feel first yawn of the night – a reasonable time considering the average of 2.35 hours sleep per night – and make decision to leave bar
23:08 Yes, public transportation and the corresponding walk will be good for sleep habits and wallet
23:51 Arrive home, determine that walk home was more invigorating that tiring
00:02 Pour myself a bourbon nightcap before undressing
00:36 Convinced that sleep is coming, settle into softer clothes, and brush teeth
00:42 Take another sip of bourbon and realize that Crest Pro Fresh does not aid the taste of single barrel bourbon
00:55 First attempt at lying in the still bed in the lightless room with the dulcet tones of the ocean from the too expensive and non-functional sleep machine
01:23 Accept the temporary futility, rise from bed, go to desk
01:26 Crank up the internet machine
01:28 Attempt to write something for which payment is expected
01:48 Realize that insomnia and writers block are evil and generally conjoined twins
01:51 Attempt to write something for the blog you have not particularly loved lately
01:59 Consider the therapeutic benefit of more bourbon but decide against it
02:24 Accept the futility of attempting to write and start reading other people’s words
02:37 Realize that if I continue reading newspapers I will have a hole in my day tomorrow, fuck, later today; switch to blogs
02:46 Tire of music and decide that late night replay of The Liberal Trinity on MSNBC will be better
02:51 Wonder if advertisers really think that men are so stupid that we fall for these cheesy pre-Valentine’s commercials
03:37 Experience yawns that feel real this time, make second attempt at sleep, actually drift off
04:41 Wake for no good reason – like there would be a good reason to rise at this moment, besides a good reason
04:49 Resist the urge to rise, pretend that repositioning and being still will hasten sleep’s return
05:03 Curse the gods of sleep for mocking me and suspect that they’re laughing at me in the voice of Fran Drescher
05:12 Stay still because doctors have said that rising will not help.
  Drift off
06:25 Wake again, cranky and refusing to be mocked any longer, rise get day started






Taking My Own Bitter Pill

4 February 2009

I sent an email to an acquaintance recently that closed with a crude paraphrase from the book All I Ever Really Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten – “When you fuck up, saying you’re sorry is the first thing you need to do.

It kinda sucks when you fail your own code of conduct.

I tell myself that it’s not often the real me that gets me in trouble; but that twelve year old awkward boy who still inhabits at least part of my soul – yeah, he’s a real pill.  I am rarely harmed by the tweenager spirit that helps me find joy in the simple; but that boy who still hears echoes of rejection can scream with the voice of demons shouting down better angels.

It is that voice that urges me to seek, encourage and ultimately accept the affections of a woman even when I know I should not and creates the awkward where it need not exist.  It is that voice who aids one day slipping to three or four before returning a call.  It is that voice who argues the virtues of childish silence but misses the irony.

I’d love to lay all the blame at that little boy’s not yet grown into feet, to absolve my better self from blame; but I cannot.  The boy is part and parcel of the larger man who bares responsibility and must make the apology.

I fucked up, and an apology is the least I can do.




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

And here are a few links for blog posts I also was digging but couldn’t use in the round-up for whatever reason:

The DC Universe asks the question that should be on the mind of every Nats fan or DC taxpayer – WTF, Mayor Fenty?  WTF, Ted Lerner?

Ken and Belly teach me something about small humans – the ability to play in snow is not inherent.  Do not be fooled, I still want no spawn.

Slow Food has stopped eating Chesapeake Crabs, a choice I made a couple seasons ago.  And it sucks.  We need to get serious about protecting the bay.

And if you haven’t seen LiLu’s new look, what the hell is keeping you? 


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