Goodnight, Goodbye, and Good Luck, Old Friend

23 February 2010

My affection for the recently shuttered Polly’s Bar & Grill is at least fifteen years old.  It was never a place for fine dining, or quaffing sublime wines.  If you asked for some frilly nonsensical cocktail, odds were six-to-five-and-pick-em’ that you would be unceremoniously given a PBR or asked to leave.

Nostalgia was easily found when my first visit was in the winter and sat by a wood burning fireplace with a good beer and one of the best chicken sandwiches I‘d ever had.  It was even more ingrained the first time I was considered a sufficiently good regular that I was entrusted/commanded to maintain said fireplace.

As I write this, I am trying to determine my favorite memory of the venerable English Basement joint on U Street.

· There was the insanely good jukebox – for a longtime among the best in the city.

· There were the handful of New Year’s Day brunches I attended with as many people still wearing the clothes form the prior evening as those wearing pajamas.

· There was one day I was obviously on a date with an author I had just met at a signing at a bookstore upstairs.  I, young and relatively broke at the time, had to cut things short because I could only afford to have a couple of drinks.  I asked for the tab when my date went to the ladies room.  The unobtrusively attentive and keenly aware bartender asked me where I was going to take her next.  When I replied “nowhere, I can’t afford to,” she gave me another round and told me to order whatever and worry about it later.

· There was the night a friend and I started with one table but by the end of the night, had pushed together five tables to accommodate the strangers, and friends who joined over the course of several hours.  There may have been a game of “I Never” played that evening.  There may have been a “I have never had sex today” question.  There may have been a couple for whom only one party to a drink.

There are too many memories of Polly’s, too many friendships formed or cemented in that bar.  There were too many lovely evenings, too many first date stories, and a couple of break-up stories too.  Polly’s opened when U street had become a place where people didn’t venture at night.  They gambled on a revitalizing and ultimately gentrifying neighborhood and for many years the return was as high for the owners as it was for the patrons who were the bedrock of the bar’s community that made it such a loveably quirky place.  I suspect that the people who loved it for all of those reasons lost touch with it because of all commercialized for commercialization’s sake that came to surround it.

Polly’s, I thank you for all of the good times.  I will miss you.

******

p.s. Thanks to U Street Girl for alerting me to this news, and to Prince of Petworth for alerting her.


Don’t Think I’m Fragile Just Because I Crush Easily

19 February 2010

As today is the day that International Crush Day is Celebrated, I have a few things to share…

I crush on the woman on the subway because she’s reading the Financial Times and for a geek like me, that’s kinda sexy.

I crush on Dianne Rehm because she can take the most divisive issue and find the civility amidst the cacophony.

I crush on Air Force Lt. Colonel Victor Fehrenbach because he spent 18 years serving our country, has a drawer full of medals, and still wants to serve despite the fact that the USAF is trying to discharge him because he happens to be gay.

I crush on Christina Hendricks because she looks like a real woman with real curves, and yes, also because I have some sort of genetic predisposition in favor of redheads.

I crush on Rachel Maddow because it’s impossible not to crush on a woman who is simultaneously the smartest and funniest person in just about any room… and when the room is a Meet the Press Studio, that’s saying something.

I crush on the woman at my coffee shop because she wears stilettos in the snow… yes, I know that is highly impractical, frequently an indication of high maintenance, but also not mutually exclusive to being kinda hot.

I crush on a whole host of bloggers, because they write things that leave me breathless either in that hand-over-mouth kinda way, or because I’ve used all my air on laughter, or because they turn a phrase that leaves me thinking “damn, I wish I wrote that.”

I crush on my butcher because she can talk about meat the way I can talk about wine which is to say for hours on end without conversation fatigue.

I crush on Katty Kay because wickedly smart with a British accent just sounds better.

I crush on Nia Long because of the movie Love Jones and that’s reason enough.

I crush on Adam Van Houten because he reported himself for an error on his scorecard that cost him an Ohio High School state golf championship and honor is very cool.

I crush on Eva Cassidy (yes, I am allowed to have posthumous crushes) because there’s never been another voice like hers, and I’ve never had more fun at Blues Alley then the times I saw her.


A Doctrine of Exceptionalism I can Support

17 February 2010

One good thing about being snowbound (or really snow lazy) was that I had an opportunity to catch up on work, among other things.  Like I suspect many of you also did, I vacillated between productivity and television/movies/books.  One of the movies that I finally watched (and no, I am not necessarily proud of it) was the Sex and the City movie.  I have no problems admitting that I followed the show during its early seasons – I may have attended and even hosted a SATC party or four – but I felt no real inclination to watch the movie.  I’m going to blame HBO for showing it a bunch of times and my insomnia for choosing it over infomercials.

This has never been a space for movie reviews and I certainly won’t change that by discussing a 2+ year old movie of marginal cinematic consequence.  But after watching Carrie get left at the alter by Big, I just knew there was no way they were getting back together… and then I wanted to throw day old Domino’s pizza at the screen when they did reconnect and marry at the end of the movie.  “How could she put herself in this position?” I yelled at the screen, followed by the thought “this is the bullshit message that ends a once formidable cultural phenomenon?”

A day or so later the distaste was still lingering in my mind when I trekked to a bar to meet a friend.  The Only Slightly Sleazy Lobbyist and I were sitting on a mostly heated patio lamenting our NFL-Withdrawal while sucking on discount beers and La Flor Dominicana Cabinet Selection #1* for me and American Spirits for him.  A few minutes later a slightly inebriated woman ambled over to our perch at the bar.

“Excuse me, I just broke up with my boyfriend and would like a cigarette please” she said with just a hint of affect.

My reaction to such information has long been the optimistic “Congratulations.”

Over the course of her smoke, Katerina revealed that it was a mostly good thing and that they split because he lives two time zones away.  In an attempt to find the good news in a painful situation, I offered “That’s a good reason to split if for no other reason than the fact that he didn’t inspire you to want to move.”

Eventually Katerina thanked us for the smoke and the company and returned to her friends.  Before we left the bar, she returned twice more for a tobacco intermezzo and some of the breezy yet serious conversation that is most easily found with imperfect strangers.  On her final visit, Katerina broached the subject of the distance again.

“How do I know the difference between not wanting to move and not being inspired to move?” She asked.

“You don’t really know the difference until one exists.  In my little world, if someone really makes your socks roll up and down, you’ll want to do certain things… like move out west because that’s where he is.  Or he’d want to move here, or you two might find some hybrid between because you want home to be wherever they are.  You see, the veracity of anything we have planned for our lives is never truly known until it’s tested.  I used to think, and now think again, that I don’t want to have children.  Then one day I was knocked on my ass by a love I had never even known could exist.  That exceptional woman wanted children and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world for me to want them too.”

“I never knew that” OSSL interrupted but I was on too much of a roll to respond to his statement.

“We believe all of these things about our world and what we want and then suddenly an unordinary love comes along and shakes our sensibilities like a fucking snow globe.  Only in the face of that test are a lot of our really core ‘deal-breakers’ and ‘must haves’ really proven.  It doesn’t happen often and sometimes not even easily, but it’s that exception that you just know, that you feel in the deepest part of your soul.  Call it the Doctrine of Love’s Exceptionalism.”

In that instant, I realized two things 1) I had shifted from answering Katerina’s question and started speaking for some part of me, and 2) that I had to forgive Carrie for marrying Big.

*****

Ya know, just in case any of you ever need to know what kind of cigars your favorite restaurant refugee likes to smoke.


It’s That Time of Year Again – International Crush Day

16 February 2010

A year ago some blog friends were hosting a Happy Hour with the theme “It’s Just a Little Crush.” While a business trip kept me away from the boozefest, I extrapolated the concept to propose that 20 February be declared International Crush Day.

Among the things I wrote at the time:

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.

So it’s that time again.  I encourage all of you to spend some time this Friday (International Crush Day is the rare holiday that ought to be celebrated a day in advance when falling on a weekend) declaring your appreciation to someone you’ve been crushing on.  It doesn’t matter what kind of crush it is, or whether it is based on affection or admiration.  What matters is telling someone that you like the way they make you smile when they enter a room, bend a phrase, play a horn, or curl a lip when having the first sip of coffee.  Whatever it is that makes you tingle, tell someone – across the room, or across the country, embrace the notion.

********

p.s. please feel free to re-blog this, tweet about it, Facebook it or whatever other new media thingamabob you wish.


Winter Meme – My Answers to a Baker’s Dozen

10 February 2010

One might reasonably conclude that all of the snowed-in time might has provided me considerable time to write.  One would only be partially correct as replying to the Winter Meme I wrote last Friday is all I have been able to muster.

  1. If you had to move away from your current city, what two or three cities you’ve never visited would top your list of choices? Because we are eliminating every city I have visited, most of the world’s major cities are off limits.  Because I cannot fathom living in a non metropolitan area my top choices are: Toronto for the close proximity to NYC and, from what I can tell from television, a very cosmopolitan feel (the high quality health care doesn’t hurt,) Portland, OR for its easy access to wine regions of Oregon and California and what my buddy Jimmy contends is an incredibly livable city, Madrid because when one is considering a move, not listing at least one city with old world European charm would just be silly.
  2. What was the last thing that stayed in Vegas? I’ve never been a fan of strip clubs – something about the notion of men paying hundreds, thousands of dollars to be teased by women with whom their chances are roughly the same as John Grisham winning a Pulitzer Prize, seems a bit silly if not flat out pathetic.  However, on my last trip to Vegas, I got roped into going to a strip joint with my crew.  Upon returning from a trip to the restroom, a statuesque red head wearing an ankle length gown told me she had “instructions from my friends to take [me] in the backroom and give [me] a very special lap dance.”  For about two minutes, I forgot that she was just doing a job and didn’t really like me.  I felt like a fool for having the thought.  The last things that stayed in Vegas where a few hundred dollars in her garter and a piece of my dignity.
  3. You are about to be snowed-in for two days and can pick any non-spouse, non-romantic partner, non-one of your children to be with you.  With whom would you like to be snowed-in (real life friend, and/or person you’ve never met)? Among my real life friends, I would happily be snowed-in with my dear friend the Only Slightly Sleazy Lobbyist, there are a couple of people on my blog roll who also fit that description.  Among the people I’ve never met, Rachel Maddow, John Stewart, and Salma Hayek are the short list.
  4. What song should be kept in a case that reads “break glass in case of emergency or [insert your name here] is really depressed or being a raving lunatic? General emergency song is easy: Bobby Darrin’s 1962 live version of Mack the Knife; depressed or raving lunatic either John Coltrane & Duke Ellington’s sublime duet, Sentimental Mood, or the Tito Puente recording of Lush Life from the Concorde Years.
  5. What was the first book that changed your sensibilities? I am sure that there is a better answer than this, and if I racked my brain, I might be able to find it.  However, the first book that comes to mind and keeps coming to mind is Mad at Miles: Deals with the Devil and other Reasons to Riot by Pearl Cleage.
  6. When meeting someone of the gender to which you’re oriented (professionally, socially, casually, on a train, wherever,) what’s the first thing that you notice about them? Face, I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty face.  It also takes me about 3.2 seconds to notice a woman’s intellect
  7. If you won a $1,000 today – assuming that today is not the day of snowmageddon and you have all of the flexibility you could want – how would you spend it? As I write this there is another (and completely non-charming, non-funny) edition of snowmageddon falling, so today I would spend it on a team of dogs to get me far enough south such that I could fly to the Keys.  Any other day I would spend it on a new set of cufflinks, a couple of spectacular bottles of wine, and dinner.
  8. A great first date must involve ____________, and how does your answer change when in a relationship and it’s a date night? Great conversation is the easy part, I am sure that most people would say that.  I am going to assume that conversation is a given and say that a few really honest moments are essential.  Too many first dates are with people who are a cross between their own PR rep and their avatar, so give me a few really honest and unfiltered moments, and moments when I can be the same.  Regarding how my answer changes once in a relationship, it has been so long for me that I speculate and say that it would have to include an honest moment to discuss whatever might be recently problematic.  Not to suggest that something has to be problematic or that it must be discussed on date night, just that a great date night should have that kind of trust and openness that would allow for it to be discussed should we choose.
  9. Upon a final edit, I realized that this question was a duplicate of #5.  Given that I have about three minutes to publish before leaving, and all of the art and everything else is labeled with Baker’s Dozen meme, what question do you wish I would have asked? As this was my meme this doesn’t really apply.

10.  What was the worst job you’ve ever had, and how much money would you have to be paid to do that job again for a year? There was a job that almost killed me, and I cannot describe it for professional reasons.  The part of me that has too much faith in his own intellect would suggest that, armed with my current knowledge, I could easily last a year in that gig and would do it for a million dollars.  I also know that it is a moot point, and more importantly, I know that I would never take it because there are too many other things with far too much value.

11.  If you were guaranteed honest responses to any three questions, to whom would you direct questions, and what would you ask? Casting Agent for CSI Miami: Does David Caruso have pictures of you naked with a goat?  Vice President of Customer Service for Comcast, or Verizon, or Sprint, or Direct TV, et. Al: How in the name of bacon and all things holy do you still have a job?  John McCain: do you feel guilty about the choice you made back in summer 08, do you feel guilty about the ramifications of it?

12.  As you’ve gotten older, to which list have you added more items: list of romantic deal-breakers, or list of romantic must-haves? What was the latest item added to either list? Each list has seen additions and subtractions over the years.  The deal breakers list has net additions and the must-have list is probably net subtractions.  The last deal-breaking addition was the “ability to be purposefully hurtful.”  I expect that everyone can be hurtful at some point in a relationship, however, I cannot trust those who have the capacity to do so deliberately.

13.  What is your most frequently occurring day dream? Moving to some place like Savannah, GA or Providence, RI and opening a B&B… assuming that the second “B” stands for brunch because I will not be rising that early.


Winter Meme – A Baker’s Dozen on a Lazy Friday

5 February 2010

Most of the questions in this meme were derived from a series of old letters written between me and one of my favorite people (you know who you are.)  I wish truckloads of happiness for you, my friend.

I am off to go do some snow-watching/drinking by a fireplace.  Have a good weekend all, everybody please be safe, Go Saints! And click me to see the funniest Who-Dat video ever.

  1. If you had to move away from your current city, what two or three cities you’ve never visited would top your list of choices?
  2. What was the last thing that stayed in Vegas?
  3. You are about to be snowed-in for two days and can pick any non-spouse, non-romantic partner, non-one of your children to be with you.  With whom would you like to be snowed-in (real life friend, and/or person you’ve never met)?
  4. What song should be kept in case that reads “break glass in case of emergency or [insert your name here] is really depressed or being a raving lunatic?
  5. What was the first book that changed your sensibilities?
  6. When meeting someone of the gender to which you’re oriented (professionally, socially, casually, on a train, wherever,) what’s the first thing that you notice about them?
  7. If you won a $1,000 today – assuming that today is not the day of snowmageddon and you have all of the flexibility you could want – how would you spend it?
  8. A great first date must involve ____________, and how does your answer change when in a relationship and it’s a date night?
  9. Upon a final edit, I realized that this question was a duplicate of #5.  Given that I have about three minutes to publish before leaving, and all of the art and everything else is labeled with Baker’s Dozen meme, what question do you wish I would have asked?
  10. What was the worst job you’ve ever had, and how much money would you have to be paid to do that job again for a year?
  11. If you were guaranteed honest responses to any three questions, to whom would you direct questions, and what would you ask?
  12. As you’ve gotten older, to which list have you added more items: list of romantic deal-breakers, or list of romantic must-haves? What was the latest item added to either list?
  13. What is your most frequently occurring day dream?

And the Winners Are? Valentine’s Day Contest

2 February 2010

When I announced the Valentines Day Chef Contest, my ambition was to donate a bit of time and provide a memorable experience for someone who deserves it.  Hopefully it would be one of the things that my friend Brad calls The 100 Ways.

Thank you to everyone who sent me an email or left a comment to nominate someone – there were more than 40 of them nominating more than 60 recipients.  Reading them touched me in ways that made me want to do even more.  So instead of using Random.org to select one name to receive one dinner for two, I used the site to draw two names to each receive dinner for four.

While the increase in the dinners and diners necessitates some changes in scheduling, I will work that out with the winners. Who are:

Winner #1 nominated by I’m Gonna Break Your Heart: I’d like to nominate my friends S&B. S is a special ed teacher at a DC Charter school. B works for a non-profit that connects homeless people to city services. In short, B spends his days walking the streets of DC, rain or cold or heat, seeking out homeless and making connections with them. They are the most compassionate couple I know.

Winner #2 nominated by Mese: Let me tell you a little bit about Nicole
She is a fighter- after years in foster care she decided to work in the child welfare field to make sure other children don’t have to struggle with no support from a loving, permanent family.

She is tried and true- when given the opportunity, Nicole has ditched vacation and forgone sleep to write, speak, teach, lead- anything to help spread the word on the reasons no child should go to bed in fear or without a home.

She is committed- friends and family have been welcomed into Nicole’s home as a refuge from hardship without anything expected in return, despite her no-profit salary.

I’ll be contacting the winners via the people who nominated them and I look forward to updating all of you with stories of the dinners and hopefully a recipe or two.

Thanks again to everyone who reads, comments, and generally make this place worth populating with my scribbles.


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