Mini Reviews: Recent Restaurant Recaps

30 September 2009

Yes, I know that I owe you all Part II to this story, but I’ve been a bit too lazy busy to finish writing it.  Until that happens, I am cleaning taking this post from the drafts and making it live.  Mini Restaurant Reviews and a couple of updates:

I have previously written that The Reef offers food that is “better than it has to be” given the fact that most people consider this a great place for consuming copious amounts of high quality beer.  That assumption changed with my two most recent visits.  The always dependable bison burger was grossly over cooked and generally lacking in juiciness.  The mac n’ cheese that accompanied the burger was simply bad on every level.  I know The Reef is committed to using high quality ingredients, but this cheese tasted like it could have come from a can.  Salt was conspicuously absent, as was an appropriate amount of cream.  Two bites seemed to be calories and cash wasted.

The muscles were even more problematic.  The first bowl arrived with five of eleven shellfish closed.  I sent it back, and they graciously prepared another – with a shocking four of eleven closed.  The fact that a bowl of muscles arrives with less than a dozen is problematic in and of itself, when better than a third are closed is a food safety issue and one that anyone who gets paid to serve food to the public should notice… especially the second time.  Still atop my list for beer, Sunday-Funday, and casual rooftop dining, but the Reef is off the food list.

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Speaking of dining in Adams Morgan, there are many factors which make that neighborhood’s culinary landscape difficult for restaurants to navigate, most notably is the general and normally accurate perception that good food is not easily found there and even when it is discovered, that it doesn’t rise to a level that compensates for the congestion, limited parking, and weekend party goers.  Evolve may not shatter that perception but they certainly challenge it.  I have dined there three times in recent months and each time found very satisfying and homey dishes.  The lamb burger was perfectly cooked, densely packed, and has a bun that sops and shines.  The French Fries are clearly dusted with some illicit and addictive substance because I couldn’t stop eating them and in what may be the highest compliment given to a French Fry – they’re really tasty even when cold.  Calamari comes with a crispy shell and tender interior with just the right amount of chewy.

Evolve may not be a place worthy of destination designation, but if you’re in the area, want a place to have a couple of drinks and nosh, it does that very well.

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Frank Ruta is a James Beard Award Winning Chef, Palena is a top five choice in the Washingtonian Best of List, and both may somehow still be underrated.  All of this makes me extremely conflicted when I dine there and order the Roast Chicken and the Truffled Cheeseburger, but that conflict didn’t stop me a couple of weeks ago.  Add the fry plate, and a delightfully cheeky rosé and it was a perfect late summer dinner.

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Some restaurants may find it a backhanded compliment to refer to them as a “light” version of another place, but when I refer to New Heights as Palena-Light I mean that in the most flattering sense of the phrase.  Chef Logan Cox is serving intricate and very precise food without pretense or affectation.  On my latest visit, I constructed a meal of three small plates and each was more delicious than the one it preceded.   House Smoked Salmon with a red onion chutney was silken in texture and a lovely foil for my glass of sparkling rosé.  The Fried Risotto Cake was creamy, cheesy, Arborio perfection.  I was a bit hesitant to order the Braised Pork Belly, Mussels & Octopus soup as that dish seemed more appropriate for cold weather dining, but the bartender gave me a knowing look when I mentioned this dish. I was not disappointed.  It was rich without being heavy.  The fat of the pork was nicely rendered, and the whole thing was balanced with a broth that had its share of smoke.  Finishing my meal with a five cheese board (for a preposterously low price of eleven dollars) that was served at the right temperature made me want to do my happy dance.

My one complaint: The option to order half glasses of wine would have been really nice.


That’s What Old Friends are for? – part I

28 September 2009

The rain kept me in the house on Saturday.  It was a blissfully unproductive day in which I mainlined college football – props to USF, Stanford, VaTech, and a few other squads that made the day especially interesting – and generally ignored all manner of adult responsibilities.

About the time that I finally accepted that this would be that rare Saturday evening when I would stay in the house, my phone rang with a blocked number.  As is my custom when receiving such calls, I let it go to voicemail. It rang again and was ignored again.  The third ring in three minutes made answering an annoying imperative.

“Good evening, this is Refugee” I said with a hint of annoyance.  I could barely hear the voice on the other end, the caller clearly at a party with loud music in the background.

“[garbled, garbled, garbled] what’s your 20” the voice commanded.

“I can’t hear you, who is this?”

“Moving outside, stand by” my mystery caller said and suddenly became less mysterious.  It almost had to be an old grad school friend, Dave, who else do I know that consistently speaks in clipped borderline militaristic commands.  Dave and I met on the first day of our MBA program – we argued about the practical implications of the financial principle of Opportunity Cost in Advanced corporate finance class.  Our argument continued after class, escalated to a bit of yelling and we became fast friends.  He was a 29 year old former Lieutenant Commander in Navy Special Forces but only threatened to kill me with his pinky finger a couple of times.

“You can hear me know, right” he asked without bothering to wait for an answer before continuing “I expected to see you at this dinner; where are you?” Dave was referencing the gala that concludes the week of partying under the color of politics otherwise known as Congressional Black Caucus week.  He and I routinely catch up on this night when he flies in from the left coast and I mosey down the street to see and be watch the scene with the Black glitterati of politics and entertainment.

“I couldn’t do it this year, my friend, something about them giving an award to that step-n-fetch-it clown Tyler Perry” I replied in a generally true but equally lame explanation.

“Fuck that, fuck him – you need to double time it down here because I need a wingman” Dave replied.  “Hold one” he said quickly.

I could hear him on his other phone but couldn’t decipher the words.  A minute later he returns to our call and states plainly “I’ve sent the car to your place; Tony is our driver and he has instructions to ring your bell every two minutes until you come downstairs in a tuxedo.” With barely a breath, he continued “and Tony is an old [Navy] Chief so he knows how to follow orders.”  The line goes quiet.

I know that every word of Dave’s entreaties is true.  Factoring the distance and traffic, I guesstimate that I have about 25minutes to shower and get dressed.   I swallow hard, strip off my pajamas and get in the shower.  Still affixing my cufflinks when I get the first ring, I indicate that I’ll be down in a minute.  I grab bowtie and cummerbund, pat my pockets for the wallet, cigars, handkerchiefs, business cards, Crackberry, lighter, and pen.  I emerge from my place not yet fully dressed and Tony is at the door of the limo.

“Good evening, Mr. Refugee, there’s champagne in the cooler, Coltrane on the stereo and a party waiting for you.”

To be continued…


Sunday Afternoon Soundtrack

25 September 2009

I received a most flattering email from the author of the Skrinkering Hearts blog.  My virtual friend and Good Hair connoisseur, Megabrooke, is looking for new music for the Fall and Winter.  I was assigned to make recommendations for a Sunday Afternoon Soundtrack that would move her a bit outside of her Indie comfort zone – ten songs or three albums. I went with music that I am guessing will be new to her if not the market place.  All of these songs are available as singles through Amazon, Kazaa, or one of the other music joints.  I included links to free versions though YouTube wherever possible.

  1. Tito Puente’s version of Lush Life is not the best version of the song – that can only be Coltrane & Hartman.  His version, however, is a most danceable and romantic rendition of the classic.
  2. Gil Scott Herron’s tribute to Billie Holiday and John Coltrane, Lady Day & John Coltrane, is perhaps overshadowed by the more famous and equally compelling The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.  But the homage is, to my way of thinking the best example of the spoken word/jazz hybrid movement.
  3. Not being from DC I doubt that you’ve had much exposure to my city’s homegrown musical genre, Go-Go.  The style was created by Chuck Brown who cobbled together the remains of discarded jazz and left over funk, infusing heavier percussions and horns and the music was born.  His rendition of the jazz standard Stormy Monday still rocks my world and makes me look for a dance floor.
  4. I know that I’ve mentioned my love of the movie The Thomas Crowne Affair and its soundtrack before.  If you missed the prior superlatives or I was insufficiently articulate to propel you to listen or purchase, I hope that repetition will tip the scales.  The first song on the album is Windmills of My Mind by Sting, a song which was never released on any other album and might be the sexiest song he has ever recorded…
  5. …the third song is Everything by Wasis Diop and words fail to explain the silken rhythms that will caress your ear.
  6. I fell in love with Cassandra Wilson’s music at a 1996 concert at the 9:30 Club.  She was awash in a faint blue light and played with a quintet that was equally compelling.  After listening to her version of Time After Time, you might fall in love with the richness of her voice too.
  7. Most jazz & hip-hop fusions tend to be dominated by one style or the other and create a generally shitty rendition of both.  Guru’s first Jazzmatazz album is an exception to that.  Listen to the track Trust Me and perhaps you will take the title’s advice about music.
  8. Prince & George Clinton did a duet.  Could it be called anything other than We Can Funk?  Does anything more need to be said?
  9. I once wrote in this space that it is one of the great mysteries of the world that Eva Cassidy dies at thirty-five but Sick (typo but I’m keeping it) Cheney lives.  Her version of Autumn Leaves is, in my mind, the definitive version of the classic.
  10. Montreal’s Jazz Festival is arguably the world’s best (sorry Nawlins, your festival is more blues these days) and George Benson’s recording of Take 5 at the festival is one of the most electrifying examples of jazz guitar ever recorded.

Ten Things I Would Have Tweeted This Week if I Twittered*

24 September 2009
  1. Red pumps with a black business suit = great; red pumps with black ball gown = hooker.
  2. Every man should have the experience of saying no to a woman who is unaccustomed to hearing the word.  It is an invigorating experience.
  3. The likelihood of a dude getting laid on Saturday night is inversely proportional to the degree of tooldom he displays to the bar staff.
  4. Every time I watch Top Chef it makes me want to drive to Zaytinya, find Mike I and repeatedly punch him in the face.
  5. I know that this is an inside joke, but LiLu did you invent this http://ninjaoffer.com/?
  6. Overheard at the bar: The only way she got into those pants was with a stick of butter and the grace of God.
  7. Get over to Little Miss Whiskey’s before it’s too cold to enjoy the best patio in the city.  Don’t expect Whiskey.
  8. You know you’re old when: you’re talking to a woman in a bar and realize that you once dated her mother.
  9. Why do fun size Snickers bars taste so much better than their full sized brethren?
  10. A woman sitting next to me on the train just quoted Pablo Neruda; I would have fallen if she wasn’t married.

* Any of you should feel free to correct the conjugation of those verbs.


King of the Vangaurd

23 September 2009

I suck at birthdays.

Even back in the day, before the ubiquity of cell phones and elimination of the need to keep numbers in one’s head, I still could barely remember birthdays.  Nephew, Sister, Mom, Dad – those are the only birthdays I have committed to memory.  One old friend who shares a birthday with my old man doesn’t count.

Among the Birthday’s I should remember but don’t:

  • My dear friend, the Only Slightly Sleazy Lobbyist
  • Every ex-girlfriend
  • My ex-wife whose birthday I should remember only by virtue of the fact that we were married, but nope
  • A good friend with whom I had dinner on her birthday… a couple of months ago… I think
  • The most significant ex-girlfriend for whom I threw and hosted three birthday parties
  • Everyone on my speed dial
  • The woman whose birthday I used as a voicemail code
  • My closest friend since the ninth grade
  • All of the people who sent me good wishes last week on mine

Yet for some reason, I never forget the 23rd of September.  I will spend this day listening to Giant Steps, Blue Train, A Love Supreme among others of My Favorite Things.

Happy Birthday, John William Coltrane.

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By the by, are there any musicians, writers, or artists who made such a significant impact in your life that you celebrate their birthday’s every year?

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P.S. There is a new dish over at my Recipe Blog - Avocado & Tomato Salad with Crispy Pancetta


Dating – the Triumph of Optimism Over Experience

22 September 2009

Our start wasn’t exactly rousing, but there was some energy in the room.  Allison, my blind date or as my friend, who tends to date zygotes because of the comparative ease called her “my latest reason to tell a story at the bar,” and I acquitted ourselves well by reaching the one hour mark of a blind date before we had approached the quintessential DC question –  “what do you do?” It was a place we found organically in conversation.  When she said cryptically “I work on The Hill,” wattage was lowered by her obfuscating tone and I should have moved to another topic.

Due to an exceedingly high degree of political dorkdom, I enquired further until learning that she is “senior staff for [redacted name of one of the most conservative Senators.]”

“Do you find yourself politically aligned with your boss?” I asked without judgment.

“You’re a liberal aren’t you?  This happens to me all the time in this city – I meet someone, things are kinda going well and then we have the inevitable political conversation.  Suddenly what was going OK goes to hell in a hand basket because he’s on the left and I’m on the right.”

There was more venom in her words and tone than I had expected, especially considering that I thought the evening was still salvageable.  I tried to deflect – “So you mentioned that you’re thinking about moving Uptown; what areas are you considering?”

That dodge worked for a minute or three before Allison coolly stated “So what’s your problem with my boss?”

“I am not going to pretend that politics aren’t important to me.  I’m not going to sit here and suggest that whomever my ideal partner might be she wouldn’t lean more towards the left, but I don’t think that we need to have this conversation. I’m suspecting that we have some differences and they’re substantive in both of our minds.  Why don’t we change the subject… or call it a night.”

As much as I am always eager for a principled and civil political debate (stop laughing, I know who you are,) I wasn’t looking for one this night.

“Since you’ve obviously decided this is going nowhere, why not tell me the problems you have with my boss?” Allison asked again.

There were a couple of more attempts to change the subject, and a couple more insistences from her, until I eventually sacrifice optimism and respond:

“I could get into the hypocrisy of his lip service to smaller government, or his opposition to gay rights a.k.a. civil rights, or his insane opposition to health care reform when his state is in possession of some of the worst health outcomes in the union, but really if you need any other reason than the fact that he believes that people with penis’ have business telling people with vaginas what to do with them, then you’re really correct – we have nothing to discuss.”


I Know / I Wish

19 September 2009

I know your boyfriend is an asshole and I haven’t even met him yet.  I wish I knew you well enough to say.

I know you don’t like me and that I wouldn’t trust you to make oxygen into carbon dioxide.  I wish that you would stop pretending.

I know that we’re back on friendly terms, can bend an elbow together even, but I’ll never be with you again.  I do wish that I could bottle that look from the first time I rejected you.

I know that you and your fiancé are happily ensconced in your life and you know that I love both you and her.  I do wish that you and I still had our great friendship.

I know that you mostly mean well when you keep offering me that gig.  I wish that I could take you seriously.

I know that you’re married and I am no threat to you, your husband, or your marriage.  I do wish I didn’t enjoy being around you quite so much.

I know that you’ve loved me since before I was born.  I wish you didn’t have such a fucked up way of showing it.

I know you’ve been sober for five years now and your sobriety is more important than our friendship.  I wish the two weren’t mutually exclusive.

I know that you’re a gentleman and a stand up guy.  I wish you hadn’t placed me in a position that asked me not to be too.

I know that I am a deeply flawed man.  I wish I spent more time trying to fix the fixable flaws and made less excuses to place flaws in the non-fixable column.


Gaining Time / Wasted Time

18 September 2009

There are much bigger cities than DC but with more than seven million people in the city and surrounding areas I still find it oddly charming when I randomly encounter a friend in public.  I had the pleasure of that random encounter last night when I met my friend Tracy on the subway.  We’re drinking partners more than friends but I really enjoy her company.

We hadn’t seen each other in a few months so we did the quick catch-up thing over the two stop ride we shared.  It was all too brief so I invited her to join me for a drink shortly before my stop.

“I can’t; I’d love to but I’m leaving in early in the morning for a family wedding in Ottawa” she said.

“You’re Canadian?” I asked, my surprise not hidden.

“How long have you known me, Refugee?  You didn’t know that I’m from Canada”

“Exactly my point- I’ve known you all these years and I’ve missed so many opportunities to make fun of you.”


The Fall Meme – My Answers

16 September 2009

This is my third attempt at crafting my own meme – eventually, I’ll get one really right and it will go viral… right? No?  Whatever, I’m going to keep trying until one does or I get bored.  So this is the official Dirty Dozen Fall Meme, I won’t tag anyone; however, should you choose to participate, I’d appreciate the courtesy of a link back.  Feel free to tag people if you wish.

  1. It’s not fall in DC (or your city of origin) until _____________? It’s not fall until I can wear cashmere, the mosquitoes are gone, and I’ve switched to a Manhattan as my drink of choice.
  2. Kelly Preston’s character in the movie For Love of the Game expresses her need to escape NYC because “Summer’s almost over, and I feel like I missed it.”  What do you need to do in the waning days of summer for it to feel complete? I need to feel some sand between my toes, eat some crabs & drink beer, and have one more picnic.
  3. The person I know is wrong for me but about whom I frequently think after a break-up is _____________? For me it isn’t one particular woman who keeps coming into my head when I am in a romantic doldrums.  It is usually a revisiting of many failed relationships that I can’t quite understand why they failed.  This is particularly problematic for me if I encounter one of these women.
  4. The US Tennis Open, one of four Grand Slam events in that sport, is currently in the quarterfinal round.  If you could only attend one major sporting event what would it be? I needed to do some reductive thinking to answer this question.  After eliminating all contenders, the last event standing was March Madness – preferably the first two weekends.
  5. Assuming that you write an anonymous or partially anonymous blog, by what non-physically identifying characteristics might you be identified in a bar? If you notice a seemingly overdressed guy who is scribbling in a journal or pecking on a computer, that might be me.  If that guy is wearing antique cufflinks and smoking a cigar, then the odds get much better.
  6. Most blogs cover some sort of niche – personal, political, dating, culinary, etc.  What topic, if any, would you like to address on your blog but doesn’t fit into your niche? I am extremely passionate about politics and would love to write more about it.  I do know that I lack the discipline and patience to research and document all of the things necessary to write about that subject in a manner that would be satisfactory to me.
  7. If you could manipulate the time space continuum and give as many as three pieces of advice to a younger version of yourself, what advice would you give and to what age of you? To the eight year old Refugee, don’t try too hard to fit in with the kids at that school; they will never accept you and neither will their parents.  You will have more fun without them.  To the twenty year old Refugee, there really is no need to rush through undergrad.  To the twenty four year old Refugee, please take that job at AOL; you can deal with the commute and will retire in four years.
  8. Who among your friends do you really wish had a blog because their stories, or perspective on something ought to be shared? One of my favorite bartenders would be a terrific blogger.  She is insightful, funny as all hell, and works behind a bar on Georgetown Saturday Nights which I am know leaves her with plenty of stories.
  9. If you were to take an e-cation (vacation from the trappings of our electronic world,) and assuming that employment obligations would allow it, how long of a break could you take? What would you miss the most, the least? If the e-cation occurred at the same time as an actual vacation, I could last at least a month.  I would miss the late night emails from clients the least and I would probably miss my relationships to the blogs I read the most.
  10. On September 11th of this year, I will be attending a couple of parties and am somewhat conflicted by the fact that this ignoble anniversary shall pass with it being just another day in the eyes of many (and in some ways my own eyes as well.) Thoughts? I think I answered this question within the question, however, to expand a bit more… I did what I could to embrace the Day of Service concept by volunteering some time with one of my favorite charitable organizations.
  11. How high are your walls?  Who was the last person to scale them? What tools should would-be climbers have on their belt? My walls are tiered and have increasingly sharp barbed wire the higher one climbs.  They have gotten higher in the last year and that is not a source of pride for me.  The recommended tools for scaling them: patience, optimism, a well turned phrase, a love for rainy Sundays with Coltrane and Neruda, an appetite.
  12. The sexiest thing a wo/man can say to you (or has said to you) is _____________? This tastes amazing.

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Other Lovely Bloggers Participated:

Just A Titch

Hannah Just Breath

Dorothy’s Not Dead

Life of Planet Dan-E

Skrinkering Hearts

Elle Dubya

Was It for This

The Kristen Chronicles

Are You Really Interested

Is There a Doctor in the House

Seeking John Galt

I There a Dr. in the House

Bikram Yoga Chick


No Sand in the Eyes is the Start

15 September 2009

A couple of weeks ago Anonymiss wrote a post about the primary elements of a successful long term relationship. In the comments, I noted that Love and Respect are the universally recognized concepts.  The essential one that no one teaches you is the ability to fight fairly and well; she asked how one does that.

The best thing about my failed marriage is that the process of trying to save it helped teach me how to better be a partner.  Arguments and disagreements will always occur, and just like people relationships are better judged in crisis than smooth seas.  I won’t pretend that I always fight in this manner, but I do always try.  From the perspective of a divorced man who spent way too much cash and time trying to save a failing marriage, these are the best lessons I learned from that experience.

  1. The number one rule. Just like a street fight the best way to win is to avoid it.  Be sure that it’s worth it.  Ask yourself if you really need to be right about this, if the question is really one that is worth the risk?
  2. Start with the end and work backwards. If you could script the conversation/argument, what outcome would you write?  Is that outcome realistic?  With the desired result in mind, what has to happen to achieve it?
  3. Don’t paint conversational corners. The only thing finite in an argument are your feelings so avoid concrete declaratives about anything else.  Don’t declare motives to another person’s actions. Don’t end sentences with the word “period.”  Those types of statements almost force a person to become defensive.
  4. A good place to begin. If you start with the assumption that no matter the outcome the relationship will still be standing, it helps a great deal.  If you cannot begin with that assumption, then you need to have a clear idea of what you want from the argument.
  5. Limit arguments to the actual argument. If you’re discussing discussing “X,” intermingling or peppering the conversation with “Y” is inefficient at best and makes your partner feel like you piling-on at worst.  If through the course of conversation “Y” becomes an organic part of the discussion, then discuss it but do acknowledge the change in subject.
  6. You may not if… If you cannot articulate why you’re upset, you do not need to have the conversation until you can.
  7. You also may not if… If you cannot discuss things calmly without yelling, you don’t need to have the conversation until you can.
  8. Commit the following to memory: “I am really angry/pissed/seething at you right now, I’m going to a neutral corner until I calm down a bit.”  This phrase is especially helpful when combined with the assumption from number 4.
  9. No proxy statements. Bringing the opinions of others not present into the conversation is piling on and can unnecessarily damage the relationship of the third party with your partner.  I.E. saying “…and your brother John agrees with me too” has limited purpose and can cause severe harm to the sibling relationship.
  10. Tape delayed conversations. There is a reason that the saw of counting to ten before speaking has lasted this long.
  11. Schedule and Script. Let us suppose that you were sufficiently angry about something that you thought going to neutral corners for a day or two was a good idea.  Scheduling the argument with your partner gives her/him the opportunity to prepare as well.  Writing a list of your grievances is also a good thing – resisting the affections of those who would mock you for this would be a good thing too.
  12. One wrong may be insensitive; returning it in kind is intentional. Your partner saying or doing something that causes pain does not grant license to be hurtful in return.  Being deliberately or intentionally hurtful is the reddest of red flags.
  13. Benefit of the doubt. Almost every statement can be interpreted in at least one alternate way.  If you don’t trust your partner enough to give her/him the benefit of the most charitable interpretation, then you have a larger issue.  Consider that larger issue.
  14. Start, conduct, and finish with humility.  There is no weakness in forgiveness, no failure in apology.

Give Me Some Help with a Speech…

10 September 2009

One of my old high school football teammates and I crossed paths in the grocery store about a month ago.  It had been more than a decade since we had seen each other so we decided that shopping could wait but getting reacquainted over a couple of beer couldn’t.

The very short version of the rest of the story is that he is now the head coach at our alma mater, and asked me to give the pregame speech before this weekend’s game.  For reasons that would take way too long to explain, this is a huge deal for me.  What follows is the latest draft of my speech* – any thoughtful criticism would be appreciated.

There are only a few people in this room who had the great privilege of knowing Dr. Oliver Thomas.  He was the football coach, and head student counselor here for almost thirty years. Your coach and I played four years for him, won conference and city titles with him, never lost a game on this field with him.  In our time with Coach Thomas, we only lost three games, were nationally ranked three of those years, produced a handful of professional players, scores of collegiate players, and routinely smacked around your opponents today.

I would love to talk with you about any of those experiences, but if Dr. Thomas knew that I only had this time to address you, the newest members in the fraternity of young men who have worn these colors, and I spoke only of sport, he would be disappointed in me.

The legacy of this school is in the ninety years it has produced fine, and well balanced men.  You will play many games, and there will be many people in your lives, and some who just want to be in your lives.  Some of them will tell you that the scoreboard is what matters.  I agree with them, but we will use different standards of measurement. The scores that matter will reflect the men you will become, the effort you will leave behind and the measure of character in your performance.

This day matters. This game matters.  How you play matters, but only in the context of the man you become when this game is over, your high school career over, and you leave this hallowed institution as graduates.

Doc Thomas never cut anybody – people cut themselves; he always said.  If you gave everything you had on the practice field, on game day, in the classroom and in the community you were forever welcome on his team.  In life, you won’t get cut from anything either if you keep giving your all and in all things.

20 years ago your coach and I played this team to a virtual stand still on this field.  We were ranked number one and they were number two.  The game proceeded as expected between two good teams – a seesaw for most of it, but we finally got up five points with five minutes to go.  They came down the field until they were on the one yard line with two minutes to go.  And we stood em’ up.  Four plays in a row, no quit.

Do you want to know the first thing that Doc Thomas said to me after the game?  He said “that was a helluva game, Refugee; let’s see that same effort on your physics test on Monday.”

Play this game in the same way you live your life – on the field, in school, and beyond all of this – all go, no quit, until whistle blows.

* names and some details changed for obvious reasons.


The Fall Meme

9 September 2009

The Fall Meme

This is my third attempt at crafting my own meme – eventually, I’ll get one really right and it will go viral… right? No?  Whatever, I’m going to keep trying until one does or I get bored.  So this is the official Dirty Dozen Fall Meme, I won’t tag anyone; however, should you choose to participate, I’d appreciate the courtesy of a link back.  Feel free to tag people if you wish.

  1. It’s not fall in DC (or your city of origin) until _____________?
  2. Kelly Preston’s character in the movie For Love of the Game expresses her need to escape NYC because “Summer’s almost over, and I feel like I missed it.”  What do you need to do in the waning days of summer for it to feel complete?
  3. The person I know is wrong for me but about whom I frequently think after a break-up is _____________?
  4. The US Tennis Open, one of four Grand Slam events in that sport, is currently in the quarterfinal round.  If you could only attend one major sporting event what would it be?
  5. Assuming that you write an anonymous or partially anonymous blog, by what non-physically identifying characteristics might you be identified in a bar?
  6. Most blogs cover some sort of niche – personal, political, dating, culinary, etc.  What topic, if any, would you like to address on your blog but doesn’t fit into your niche?
  7. If you could manipulate the time space continuum and give as many as three pieces of advice to a younger version of yourself, what advice would you give and to what age of you?
  8. Who among your friends do you really wish had a blog because their stories, or perspective on something ought to be shared?
  9. If you were to take an e-cation (vacation from the trappings of our electronic world,) and assuming that employment obligations would allow it, how long of a break could you take? What would you miss the most, the least?
  10. On September 11th of this year, I will be attending a couple of parties and am somewhat conflicted by the fact that this ignoble anniversary shall pass with it being just another day in the eyes of many (and in some ways my own eyes as well.) Thoughts?
  11. How high are your walls?  Who was the last person to scale them? What tools should would-be climbers have on their belt?
  12. The sexiest thing a wo/man can say to you (or has said to you) is _____________?

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By the by, there is a new post over at my Recipe Blog dedicated to the essentials for the kitchen.


Shocked by Metro Employees

8 September 2009

By the time I ascended to the Metro exit last Thursday night, I was angry with myself for having slept two stations past my stop and it being too late for a return trip.  In deciding to be fiscally prudent and save the cab fare, I had doubled the fare home.  It wasn’t until I was at the gate that I realized that my money clip (with my SmartTrip Card) was still on the train.

I resigned myself to having lost a couple hundred in cash, my drivers license, a credit card or two, and the several hours it would take to replace all of them, but first I had to exit the station.

“Excuse me, I left my wallet on the train, and it had my Smart Trip in there” I said to the attendant who was a few minutes from going home.  I fully expected him to direct me towards the emergency exit and my fate of losing cash and time.

black_money_clip_foil_stamp200“What car were you on” he asks.

“The last one; it’s closest to the exit at my normal stop.”

“OK, hang on a second” he says and makes a phone call.

I am shocked by his efforts but still have low expectations.

“We found it.  Let’s head downstairs; train should be here in a couple minutes.”

Five minutes later I have cash for the cab ride home, the same ugly picture on my license, and a renewed sense of the integrity and customer service of Metro employees.

One person went out of his way to help me, and two people looked at cash and decided to return it to its owner.  Doing the right thing when no one is watching takes true honor.

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It should be noted that my money clip does not have a monogram – I have no trouble remembering my own initials.


A Path to Seeing Colors

4 September 2009

Relationship red flags can be as heavy as feather against the skin, or as subtle as a sledgehammer to the head.  The ones I ignored on the way to the altar were so glaring that when I drove past the bank in Dupont Circle, instead of the time and temperature the sign would flash “Refugee, Don’t Do It!”

Given that history, I normally have a more sensitive flagometer than most.  Being an hour late for a first date should have sent it into the “back the fuck away zone.”  Displaying the fallacy of “as comfortable at a black tie affair as a dive bar” should have been another.  But I sat through it anyway.

The School Administrator and I had plans to meet at the hip new wine bar that proved to be too hip to make me a drink for 15 minutes.  I decided that going next door to a very solid dive bar and updating SA via text message was the better way to salvage an evening.  Forty-five minutes later my date’s disagreement with my assessment was palpable.

“We don’t have to stay here; I just didn’t want to stew in my own juices next door” I said after the perfunctory “hellos” and “you look greats.”

A short cab ride later we faced each other from the opposite deep backed chairs at the Ritz Carlton.  It was yet another moment of failed logic.

We were two manhattans and two spectacularly overrated glasses of champagne into the evening when my cerebral clouds parted.  SA was neither Vicky Vale to whom to show any bat caves, a unicorn to chase, nor a windmill at which to tilt.

“SA, I think I should call it a night.”

“It’s so early; are you sure? I don’t see a second date after a first that’s so… er, short.”

“I think we’ll both be ok with that.  Let’s just call it the gift of obviousness.”


An Open Letter to People Who Took Issue with an Open Letter

2 September 2009

I had intended to post something else today.  A post with a bunch of mini restaurant reviews was scheduled to appear two minutes after I received another thoughtful comment taking issue with my last post.  This is an amalgamation of emails exchanged with a few readers who took particular umbrage with what they perceived as the smallness of calling women names in this space.

I hate to give one of those political apologies which are generally devoid of meaning as it is apology without acknowledgement… but I apologize for any offense I might have caused, it was not my intent.  I respectfully disagree, however, with much of the characterizations levied in both public and private.

With regard to the pettiness of the post and the outsized nature of my indignation, I gave considerable thought to that interpretation.  My initial reaction was to agree with the supposition; however, after some more mental marinating, I have grown to think that position is largely the result of interpretation through personal experiences.  Through the prism of women who have surely been the recipient of unwanted attention, my indignation might seem to have been an overreaction, but how was it really?

As some acknowledged in comments, my blog is a space for me to bitch about any number of topics.  How much did I really bitch though?  I wrote that accusing a man of wanting to “check out [your] ass” in a voluble tone was conduct not befitting a lady and I contend that it is not.

I described a woman as Plain Jane which can be read as a pejorative, but I solely intended as a descriptor.  Had it been a man that had been rude to me I am sure I would have written something about his corporate khaki and polo uniform.  I further wrote that her response made me doubt the existence of a man that would marry her – that would have been a bridge too far if stated to her in reply, and admittedly may have been in this context as well, but I still don’t think it an egregious thought to express anonymously (both author and subject) in this space.

The past her prime platinum blonde line was inspired at least as much by my affinity for alliteration as it was an effort to describe a woman who was far too old to wear a skirt that short, a top cut that low, and generally looking like a 50 year old club kid wannabe.  For the record, I would have described a man dressed in equally age inappropriate attire in similar ways.

As I noted and some graciously acknowledged, empathy is tough for men here. But the converse applies as well.  I don’t think there is any value in comparing the difficulty of having one’s motivations constantly questioned versus receiving unwanted and or crude sexual attention.  But it is worth considering how it might have felt for me on that day, on the many days that this has occurred.  How many women can empathize with the frustration associated with the accumulated indignities from the tactic and implicit questioning of one’s integrity in that manner?

“Get over it” was the suggestion from more than one reader, and I should be flattered that readers consider this place somehow above such pettiness.  I don’t think it was anything extraordinary that I ranted about a slightly shitty day, as I have ranted about far less.

Many of you may still disagree with me on the merits of that post.  In fact, I know some of you still do.  I will concede that the post could have been more artfully written to have avoided that reasoned perception but I hope that this missive finds us all on more common than divergent ground.

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P.S. New Recipe on My Recipe Blog – Braised Short Ribs with Truffled French Fries


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