The Most Navel Gazing, Self Important Post I Have Ever Written

29 January 2010

While some of you may debate the accuracy of the title, I am certain that an entire post about the fact that I have finally succumbed to the gravitational force that is Twitter qualifies for the slightly hyperbolic statement.

My opposition was first rooted in the inanity and drivel that were the limited tweets that made it into my Twitter-free world.  That line of thought was muted when a friend boxed me into admitting that if I consider haiku the most difficult poetic form, it was illogical to not consider tweeting or micro-blogging the most difficult blogging form.

The more lasting opposition was born of just not finding a purpose to it.  Whenever the subject was broached I would simply state “I’ve yet to have someone make a convincing case on why I should.”  I would sit and listen and I was not swayed… until last night.

My friend, LiLu and I were talking and she was, yet again, trying to convince me to just make the step.  After a few minutes, she gave up trying to penetrate my too thick skull.  Forty minutes later the subject had changed multiple times, another round of drinks had been ordered, and she handed me her phone with the simple preface “This is what you’re missing with Twitter.”

brandyismagic: HAD’s having his first radiation treatment tonight.  Then I’m going to make him watch The Bachelor. I think he’d prefer more radiation.

For those of you not familiar with Brandy and her Hot Awesome Dude, she and her manfriend are dealing with his recent diagnosis of multiple myeloma.  They are the reason that a great number of bloggers loaned our corners of the internet to Brandy to tell their story and ask for positive thoughts.  They are the reason that even more bloggers gave their time and, ahem, singing to create the Love Harder video.  They are the reason that people all over the world have donated thousands of dollars to research a cure for this disease through the Love Harder Project.

Through all of this and against a backdrop of serious medical hardship, Brandy found a way to be funny, and poignant, and encouraging, and it made me a little misty.  And that’s what I was missing with Twitter.

While Lilu still needs to teach me the ways of Twitter, you can now follow me @restrntrefugee.


A Couple of Endorsements and a Few Not So Much

27 January 2010

Not Exactly an Endorsement – It was barely four years ago that Mel Gibson revealed himself to be an Anti-Semitic jackhole.  His lunatic rants were all over the entertainment news wires.  TMZ published his arrest report, Gibson went on the typical apology tour, about which I am calling bullshit (Booze will lower inhibitions and allow one to say things that are already in his/her heart, but it won’t plant the most vile of thoughts there.)

Now about 40 months later (less than half the amount of time it took for the Holocaust… you know just to add some perspective) this filth spewing, ignorant racist (I know: redundant,) Holocaust Denier has a big budget movie from a major studio.  The trailers are all over the television and the net and I can’t look at his repugnant mug without wanting to change the channel.

An Endorsement – The Wet Martini, also known by its proper name, Martini, is a beautiful drink when well made.  Sadly, we got sold on the notion that a dry martini has virtue as opposed to being what it is: a big glass of cold gin.  Go to a good bar and ask the bartender for a real martini (you’ll know it’s a good bar if the bartender smiles with delight at the prospect) with Hendricks, or Bluecoat American Dry and a dash of Fee Brothers’ Bitters.

Not Exactly an Endorsement – Television Commercials for Anti-Depressants are clearly designed by some people who’ve never dealt with clinical depression.  Attempting to make someone who suffers from this disease feel even worse in an effort to sell more of your drugs may not be equivalent to emotional blackmail but it’s not far behind it.

An Endorsement – Buying the Suit/Dress/Whatever and then find the event later.  Maybe you host a cocktail party yourself and invite your friends to drink in all of their semi-formal finery.  Maybe you gather your friends for a night of fancy drinking just cause, or maybe you just attend one of the hundreds of charity galas held in every metropolitan area every year.  Get the threads, the event will come or you can make your own.

Not Exactly an Endorsement – Professional Football Quarterbacks who consistently blame their teammates when things go wrong.  I’m not naming any names, cough, cough, Peyton Manning, but I am pretty sure that every time it happens butterflies lose their wings, puppies get stomach aches, and maybe a large woman gets ready to sing.


Visiting an Old Love – The Rest of the Story

26 January 2010

Easy banter and casual flirtation became the tangible, the inevitable on the night of my going away party.  It wasn’t my speech about why I am a horrible person to date, or YALIUD asking me why I never asked her on a date.  It became inevitable the moment the she and I caught eyes as the band started to play Besame Mucho.  It was the look of mutual agreement, of adult coconspirators acknowledging a carnal pact.

A few hours later we were a collapsed mass of tangled bodies and damp skin.  Spent but thirsty from drink and activity, I fetched two glasses of water from YALIUD’s kitchen.

“You know that I work as much as you do, right?” was the question YALIUD gently asked when I got back to the bed.

She was right, our schedules were different but the volume of hours was roughly the same.  We made a go of it for a couple of months.  Drinks after my shift, or dinner at the bar of the restaurant one or two nights a week, and most Sunday mornings – that was the routine.  And like most routines, it grew old fast.  We had lost the light, the breezy, the banter that made it so pleasurable in the first place.

When we first ended the unnamed thing that we were doing, we both had difficulty not using the other as a stress relieving crutch.  It made her career driven move to New York City easier.

We traded emails over the ensuing years, had drinks together if we were in the same city (unless one of us was dating someone else,) and somehow kept a very weak but very real tether to each other.

Last week, after the happiness and the hugs, after a cocktail or two, after the conversations about making partner and her buying her flat, after eyelashes were lowered slowly and legs crossed carefully, the question finally came.

“Refugee, why didn’t we try harder?  Why didn’t you try harder?”

“YALIUD, you know if we try to hold too tight we’ll find a way to choke it, not make it more secure.”

“Yeah, I know, but I like knowing that you’ve thought about the question too.”


Moths Have Candles – Apparently I Have Hot Attorneys… or How YALIUD and I met – the Full Story

24 January 2010

YALIUD and I met back in 2004.  Close to eleven and a few times a week, she would arrive at the bar of the restaurant I was running at the time.  Three years removed from law school, she was a mid-level and fast-tracked associate at a white shoe law firm.  Most nights she would have a single malt while perusing the menu (for no good reason as she only ordered a pair of the same four things) and scribbling on a yellow legal pad.  When her appetizer arrived, she would move to a glass of red wine – whatever we recommended – and continue scribbling.  By the time the entrée arrived, she was ready to nurse her second glass and put away her work.

We were a convenient anesthetic for her as we were only a block away from her condo and we had a habit of sending her a complimentary dessert, and always ensured that someone walked her home if she had enough for that to be prudent.  The nights of her visits fluctuated, but she was always there on Tuesdays – the night that I chose to keep my bartending skills sharp.  We would always do the three drink, 45 minutes of work, maybe one more dance.  After a few weeks of regular patronage, she asked me for “a last drink of the night.”

After a few moderately successful but far from spectacular attempts, we settled on the Long Kiss Goodnight as her valedictory drink.  It was the right balance of soft, and spice, and cream and subtle for her.  She and I had the casual flirtation that is a tool a bartender’s uses more frequently than any jigger or shaker, but nothing further.

YALIUD had been coming to the restaurant for several months when I invited her to my private “Going Away” party for my last night there.  I was headed to another, higher end, restaurant.  One of the my favorite bands was going to play, one of my favorite distributors donated plenty of booze for the open bar, one of my favorite bartenders from another bar was kind enough to “guest” that night so all of the staff could attend.

“Have you ever seen the movie Good Will Hunting” YALIUD asked me as soon as she arrived at the party and before I could even say hello.

“It’s one of my favorites… according to my definition of favorites which is movies I have seen at least seven times and would watch again tonight” I replied.

“Ferfuckssaake, do you have to use every question as an excuse to pontificate?” YALIUD stated testily.

I wanted to give some variation of the “have you met me” defense but I have learned enough to know that sarcasm’s most receptive audience is not an angry woman – even more so when you don’t know why she’s angry.  I went with “Sorry – bad habit” instead.

“You know that scene in the Will and Skylar first meet in the bar?”  YALIUD said in what was only partly a question.

“Yeah” was my very cautious reply, you know the kind of “yeah” that takes almost three syllables to articulate because you’re not sure where things are going and don’t think you’ll like the destination.

“As she’s leaving she walks over to Will and says ‘You’re an idiot’”

“Right.”

“Yeah, well, you’re an idiot.  Why have you never asked me out?”

Mission Control to Mouth, Mission Control to Mouth, come in Mouth.

Mouth here, go ahead Mission Control.

Mouth, you are instructed to proceed with extreme caution.  The very attractive, and slightly annoyed woman is a notoriously dangerous creature – move forward with great care and godspeed, Mouth…. Mission Control out.

“May I get you a drink while I think of the best way to explain my obvious stupidity?”

I went behind the bar and grabbed the hidden bottle of scotch, Glen Garioch 21 year old, that I reserved for really great or really craptastic nights.   I poured two fingers into a heavy bottom rocks glass and returned to YALIUD.

“The explanation for my idiocy is more complicated than you might think” I said while placing the rich and complex single malt in her hand.  “You asked, so you’re going to get the full answer.  You are a stunning woman with a rapier wit and intelligence that you wear so gracefully.  Only a moron wouldn’t find you incredibly attractive.  But I’m in the restaurant business, which means that I generally avoid dating my guests because it’s most often bad for business.  Of course, I have made exceptions and I would be lying if I said I never thought about dating you.  The real problem is that despite the light flexibility of the aforementioned rule, there is no flexibility about staff asking out a guest.  I have fired people for doing that, so certainly couldn’t do it myself.”

YALIUD’s look made it clear that she understood my point, but I sensed a need to preempt the next question, now that I am leaving…

“And as much as I’d love to take you to dinner sometime, now that I am going to another restaurant, you should know what it’s like to date someone who runs a restaurant:

  • I will break plans with you at the last minute a minimum of three times before we actually have dinner
  • Most frequently we would only see each other after midnight
  • We would never get together on a Friday or Saturday night because I will always work those nights
  • When we do, finally, go to dinner, I will be interrupted by phone calls at least twice and leave you sitting at the table while I attempt to resolve the crisis du jour over the phone
  • I will never get to meet any of your friends unless you bring them to the restaurant, and even then I will have severely limited amounts of time to spend with you
  • Our social life will exist, by necessity, based on my schedule and there won’t be much that I can do to change that
  • I will be constantly distracted and preoccupied with thoughts of the restaurant.

“You still want to go on a date with me?”

“Wow, that was like a bad romantic comedy all condensed into forty seconds there” YALIUD replied snarkastically.  “You’re right, I probably don’t want to date you any more… taking you home is a different story though.”


Having a Long Kiss Goodnight to/in NYC

21 January 2010

Dinner at Le Bernadin was as exquisite as you would expect (and yes, I just name dropped a four star restaurant, because what the hell, it was sublime.)  It was the first time I dined by myself at a restaurant of this caliber since I was making a strategic effort to drink some of the best bottles in my wine cellar.  This put me in a mildly reflective mood, so the cab driver had to alert me when we arrived at my hotel.

I walked into the hotel bar where I was meeting Yet Another Lawyer I Used to Date for a quick drink and maybe a trip uptown to her favorite latin-jazz joint.  It was just before 10pm, and true to her exceedingly busy form, YALIUD had already sent one message about being almost unstuck from the office.

My hotel was of the classical variety thus the bar was blissfully absent the tragically hip elements that are too popular these days.  Barely half a minute after choosing a seat at the not quite crowded bar, the bartender slides a cloth napkin in front of me and asks for my drink order.

“Good evening, perhaps you would indulge me; I’d like equal parts cognac, frangelico, and bailey’s shaken heavily and served straight up, please.”

A few moments later, as the bartender sat the drink before me, she said “OK, I’ll bite, does this thing have a name?”

“There’s enough left in that shaker for you to pour yourself a dram; why don’t you taste it first” I implored.  The bartender gave me a look that instantly indicated that drinking was against company policy, so I continued “I understand if it’s against the rules, but how can you learn a new drink without tasting it?  It would seem a waste to do otherwise.”

I have never claimed to be a good influence on anyone.

She gave furtive glances to each corner of the room before pouring the remnants into a small rocks glass and taking a sip.  Her smile of delight was balanced by a slightly furrowed brow that I interpreted as consternation.

“I’m Wendy, and you need to tell me about this drink” she said while extending her hand.

“Hi Wendy, I’m Refugee.  That drink is a Long Kiss Goodnight…”

“Oh my god, that name makes perfect sense” Wendy interrupted.  “Where did you have it or learn it?”

“Actually, I invented it for a woman who used to come to my restaurant on the one night of the week I was bartending.  Just before she’d leave she always said ‘Refugee, make me my last drink of the night.’  It took about four weeks but this is what we settled on as her last drink of the night.”

“Hang on a second, I’ll be right back” Wendy said before tending to a group of suits in the middle of the bar.  Three Amstel Lights later Wendy was back and as many bartenders are wont to do, she continued the conversation right where she left it without segue.  “So, you used to be in the business, and invented this drink made with three standard ingredients that had never been put together before?”

I laughed a bit at the question because I understood the incredulity that inspired it before answering “Yeah, it sounds a little strange, but it was more than a few years ago, and I did some research before declaring it a creation.  There are more than a few other recipes with the really different ingredients with the same name, but this is the only one with this combination.”

“Well, it’s really good, and the flavors are really clean… and this one’s on me.  Thank you for teaching me something new” Wendy said at the same time that YALIUD finally arrived.

After the hug, the kisses on the cheek, YALIUD just looked at the bar and then to Wendy and said with a huge smile “Did he teach you MY drink?”


Love Harder

20 January 2010

A month ago I, along with a host of other blogs, loaned our space to share the story of Brandy and her “Hot Awesome Dude” who was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  We did so because she and he are virtual friends for many of use and real friends for some.  Wed did so because our hearts ached for people who don’t deserve this (I know, who does?)  We did so because we felt pretty helpless and this was one small thing that we could do.

And we still felt pretty fucking helpless. LiLu then had the brilliant, elegantly simple idea for something we could do.  I was just fortunate to have an invitation to participate.

The quandaryWe feel terrible. Just horrible. And oh so helpless… if only there was something we could DO for them.

The answer: Ummmm. Did you forget that WE ARE THE INTERNET?!?!!??! And also, Yes We Can!!!

The result: Brandy and your Hot Awesome Dude… this one’s for you. Love, The Internet.

Our Plea

We are raising money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Fund in his name.  For the price of a cinnamon dolce latte, half-caf, hold the whip, you can be part of an effort to cure a disease that affects approximately 750,000 people worldwide.

Every dollar brings us a dollar closer to a cure.  And every donation brings a sliver of hope to a girl who needs all the hope she can get.

Love Harder,
Restaurant Refugee

What You Can Do

  • Give. Be part of a worldwide effort to cure a disease that affects approximately 750,000 people worldwide.  Every dollar helps.
  • Pass it on. Forward this story to five people.  Share this blog post.  Become our fan on Facebook.
  • Love harder. Life is short, love is unbending, and no one knows what could happen next. Tell someone you love them today.

Where Your Money Goes

  • The American Institute of Philanthropy recently named The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation one of the best organizations to give to in terms of their accountability and use of resources.
  • By working closely with researchers, clinicians and partners in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, the MMRF has helped bring multiple myeloma patients four new treatments that are extending lives around the globe.
  • The MMRF has advanced twenty Phase I and Phase II clinical trials. They need your support to advance these clinical research programs and accelerate the development of better, more effective treatments.
  • The MMRF’s Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative recently became the first to sequence the multiple myeloma whole genome in its entirety.
  • A whopping 98% of your donation to the MMRF will be used immediately to support high-priority multiple myeloma research.
  • With diminishing funding for early stage drug development and the next myeloma treatments not expected to be approved until 2011, the MMRF desperately needs your help.

DONATE: http://www.loveharder.org
CONTACT: theloveharderfund@gmail.com
FACEBOOK: http://facebook.loveharder.org
MORE INFO: http://www.themmrf.org


Visiting an Old Love – See You in a Few Days

18 January 2010


It starts with the Acela train that lets me arrive moments before departure, allows me to use the phone and internet for the whole ride, has adult sized chairs and actual legroom, and then deposits me in midtown without so much as a wrinkle in my shirt.

There are so many things I love about visiting New York City, though I don’t think there is much I would enjoy about living here.  For the next few days, however, I am going to walk her streets, dine in her restaurants, drink in her bars, and, yes, take a meeting or three.

I’m going to hit the BlueNote, the Vanguard and the Algonquin for a little hot & cool swing.

I’ll roll through Circa Tabac, a place that was speakeasy cool years before that trend got annoying, for a cigar and a proper cocktail.

The aforementioned cigar will be purchased from the Davidoff store which, as the best cigar shop in the country, is like Mecca for cigar smokers.

There will be dinners at four stars, pizza at corner joints, very serious sushi, some uptown soulfood, and probably the most amazing dumplings I’ve ever tasted.

In truth, I am not sure I will get to all of the things I want to do as this is still a work trip, but I am looking forward to trying.  I’ve rarely been grateful for my insomnia, but this is one of those times.

************

By the by, I know that I owe you another installment of the Second Chances with New Vintages Series, I am working on it.

On another note, there is still time to nominate someone for the Valentine’s Contest


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