Riding That Train… Germaphobe Jones Better Watch Her Speed

31 March 2010

February was a long, travel filled, slightly angst ridden month for me.  One particular late winter day had been longer than most – a wake before dawn to catch a flight back to DC, work all day and finally take a breath round 8pm kinda long day.  Boarding the Metro train early evening, I was disappointed in not getting a seat for my four stop ride.  At least the train wasn’t sardine crowded, I thought.   My hand was one of the three deliberately anonymous hands wrapped around a pole for stability.

At the second station a bespectacled brunette boarded at the same end of the train.  As we moved from stop to speed, this woman widened her stance in an effort to balance against the sometimes herky-jerky train movements.  The woman to my left shifted slightly to make even more room for the new woman to enter our little circle and reach the pole.  She gave a friendly smile as she did.  The solo stander held firm in her outsider position even if she was wobbly on her feet.

As we left the third station, the woman to my right leaned forward and said “You don’t have to Metro Surf; there’s room here for you.”

“Excuse me” the train surfer said… as she wobbled a bit more.

“You don’t need to stand on your own, there’s plenty of space here.”

The train surfer suddenly uncapped a rant about disease, and how she’d rather risk falling than “touch that germy thing especially this year with all of the different strains of influenza.”  The mini diatribe lasted about a minute.

Maybe it was the patently ridiculous notion that we are somehow more fragile than our forbearers, or the general hilarity of someone so insanely germaphobic that she seems like an SNL character, or maybe it was the selfishness in her willingness to risk the safety of the other people on the train as she was far more likely to fall into someone else than she was to catch anything that hand washing couldn’t prevent, but for whatever reason this inflamed my sensibilities.

I went against my usual find-away-to-confront-discomfort tendencies but my response wasn’t calculated… just the instinctual reaction of a fatigue addled brain.  As the train stopped, I gave her a good look, removed my hand from the pole and made a big showy lick of my palm.

As I exited the train, I glanced at my pole mates. They could barely contain their laughter…

…and then I went to buy some Listerine for a quick gargle*.

* no need to tell me that the mouthwash wasn’t going to do much, and no, I didn’t get sick.

By the by, I received an email update from Afraid of Unrequited.  She took some of my advice, some of LiLu’s advice, and stepped in a couple of the traps about which we both warned her.  Full details coming soon.


If I Ever Played Never-Have-I-Ever, I Have a New Thing to Which I Must Drink

25 March 2010

I’ve had near-death experiences and contrary to rumors*, life did not flash before my eyes.  I’ve never had that flash of an experience before… until last week that is.

Plans for my evening were simple – take a stack of work to my local, have a couple of pops, smoke a cigar, decompress.  Half way through a La Aroma de Cuba Corona, and a great basketball game (which necessitated ignoring work) a voice behind me announced my full name (including my middle name which is only known to a handful of people.)  The very big voice came from the very petite Michelle.

Michelle and I have known each other since high school – our respective best friends were an item and they constantly tried to push the two of us together.  We remained fairly close through college, grad school and ensuing years.  One day, having fully grown into our careers, personalities, and bodies we connected romantically.  Our maturity couldn’t change our poor timing.

I hugged Michelle with all of the affection reserved for someone who requires no exposition for your stories.  I hugged Michelle like a dear friend and former love for whom there is still a deeply rooted emotional connection.  I don’t know how long it had been since we last saw each other but we shared a hug that was tight enough to melt the years.  She then turned to introduce me to her date, Damian.  To his great credit, Damian was not unnerved by our exchange.

After brief introductions but before the ordering of drinks, Michelle turned to Damian and announced “You need some history here!”

In that instance, the entirety of our romantic lives flashed before me:

The first moment when the potential became possible,

The shared laugh at the expense of all of the people waiting to enter the shopping mall parking lot for a day of Holiday shopping, while we simply valet parked at the Ritz Carlton,

The explanation of a proper Gimlet – gin, fresh lime juice, simple sugar, and a dash of bitters,

The gentle first kiss in the back of a Town Car between dinner and a night cap,

The torrid kiss in the same back seat between the bar and my place,

The exhortation while I unzipped her dress “I’m only taking this off if I get to wear your shirt,”

The first time on my couch… and the floor, and in the kitchen, and finally the bed until an exhausted entanglement of bodies collapsed into a mass of limbs indistinguishable from the other,

The entirety of the six week long and sensual escape from the reality of her return to a doctoral program 500 miles away.

It all passed through my mind in a seemingly slow motion instant that cumulated with the question of “how much history was Michelle about to explain?”

Michelle turned to Damian and in a stunningly display of understatement said “Refugee and I have known each other forever, we practically grew up together,” then she instructed the bartender about how to make her a proper Gimlet.

* every time I write or hear the phrase “contray to rumors” it is in the voice of Morris Day and The Time singing it from the chorus to the song Gigolos Get Lonely Too.  Don’t Judge – we all made some *ahem* questionable musical choices in the 80s.


Front, Back, Side to Side… and Don’t Forget to Dodge the Divide

15 March 2010

Andi, Monica and I were a couple of hours into our salutatory conversation, yet it already had the patina of easy friendship – two old friends and the imperfect stranger having a drink in their neighborhood Chicago bar. The Katty Kay revelation and discussion of my blog were the impetus for our bonding – sharing secrets with people who don’t live in your town is an infectious habit.  I shared, Andi shared, Monica shared, and I shared some more.  We covered lost loves, drunken sexcapades, famous crushes, and a few things that I cannot recall.

When Monica asked about my plans for the rest of the weekend, it felt like a natural extension of the conversation rather than a veiled invitation.

I’ve got a lot of work to finish in reviewing this business plan” I said while patting the stack of papers to my left.  “So that should take me through most of the day tomorrow.  I was thinking about finding a place to Step tomorrow night, but a) most people go to the Step joints with a partner, and b) I might not be finished with my report by then so it might be a moot point anyway.”

“You’ve got to finish in time because you need to take us steppin’ with you” Andi exclaimed.  To bolster the point, she added “we never get to go any more… just can’t convince our friends to learn.”

I began to chuckle a bit before Andi gave me a playful punch in the shoulder and asked “What’s so funny; are you laughing because I just asked you out?”

“No, I’m laughing cuz I’m wondering how Irish and Italian girls from Evanston learned to step” I replied still laughing.  My continued snickering earned me another punch to the shoulder.

Monica jumped into the conversation to correct me; “I’m from Evanston, Andi’s from Highland Park.”

“There’s a difference?” I mocked while moving out of punching range.

“Yes, and we’re all going stepping tomorrow night or I’m gonna find your blog and leave a bunch of comments about how you refused to take two hot women dancing so you could hole up in a hotel room with a bunch of spreadsheets” Monica stated with a tone that was a mix of joke and threat.

The Lady had a point.

“OK, we’re going steppin’ tomorrow night” I replied in what was a not too difficult capitulation.  “There is one problem – despite the rumors on the bathroom walls, I don’t have an ego big enough to think that I can take two women dancing at the same time.”

Andi was quick to intone “Monica will bring her ex – he can step, and they need to have some post-break-up-sex anyway.”

The statement was a small conversation grenade.  Monica gave Andi a look that seemed to say “that’s true, but did you need to share that with the stranger at the bar?” I blushed at the candor but tried to ignore it… it was consistent with our theme of sharing after all.

“Since I’m the out-of-towner, I’ll leave it to you two to pick the place; and if you’ll grant me one more indulgence, can we meet at the bar of my hotel for a cocktail first so I can have as much time as possible to finish my work?” I offered as a solution.

The plan was accepted, digits were exchanged, and a friendship, the seeds of which were planted earlier in the evening, had its first bloom.

Saturday’s sun came and went quickly.  I spent most of the day in a coffeeshop’s corner trying to preemptively rid myself of work guilt.  Ninety percent complete would have to suffice because just after 8pm and a little over an hour to get back to my hotel, eat, shower, and get dressed was about the right amount of time.

Scrubbed, shined and with my steppin’ shoes on, I elevatored down to the hotel bar.  Having made friends with the bartender earlier in the week, I took him up on his offer to “let [him] know about anything [he] could do while I was staying there.” I was fairly certain that he was referencing call girls and blow (there are certain signs that industry pros will notice) but all I wanted was a table by the fireplace, which he kindly reserved for me.

I took the liberty of ordering a bottle of Prosecco (bubbles before all things – my wine mentor used to say.)  Monica’s ex was the first to arrive.  Derrick was my almost five inches taller mirror image, African-American, the frame of a former athlete whose lines had softened just a bit, short grown-up hair, clean shaven, and well tailored black three button suit with a dark shirt underneath. He walked straight towards me and introduced himself with “you must be Refugee, I’m Derrick.”

I stood and met his hand before Derrick said, by way of explanation, “Monica said that I should look for a guy who looks and dresses a lot like me; since you’re the only other brother in here, I was pretty sure I headed to the right table.”

We shared a slight laugh that was more shared knowledge than humor.

I poured a glass of Prosecco for Derrick, we toasted to “new friends” and took our seats.  Monica and Andi entered a few minutes later, turning every head in the room in the process.  They were both casually, but well, attired last night when we met; tonight however, they were dressed in cocktail attire.  They both shared Italian and Irish lineage but did so inversely – Monica took the shockingly pale skin from her Irish mother and dark curly hair from her Italian dad; Andi had the red hair and green eyes of her Irish father, but the lightly olive skin and strong features of her Italian mom.  They both were simply stunning in dresses that fell just above and just below the knee.

Derrick and I watched them cross the room towards us and both stood to greet our nominal, but questionably accurate, dates.  Cheek kisses were sent all around as was mutual admiration for how well all of us “cleaned-up.”

After we drained the bottle, again leaning on the bartender’s offer for assistance, I had the hotel’s town car waiting curbside – there was a fifty dollar handshake on my exit.

Twenty minutes later we walked into an uptown ballroom filled with late 30 to mid 50 something Black Chicago Society.  I’ve been, and frequently am, the only Black person in the room for many situations.  It’s never been by design just circumstance of social/professional circles; and I rarely take stock of that circumstance.  Yet there I was suddenly, instantly aware, and slightly discomfited by the fact that Derrick and I were the two “Black guys who brought the White girls.”

The socio-political implications of race are too fraught with peril but never more delicate than within the Black community.  The far too simplistic explanation of my feeling is: I know that I am not that stereotypical successful Black man who wears a Caucasian woman on his arm as an accessory or trapping of that success, and I know that our pairing that evening developed organically.  However, I sensed that too many people in that room, rightly or wrongly, assumed that we were that cliché because the evidence of their life and the media told them it was most likely the case.

Our foursome ordered drinks at the bar and chatted with just a touch of the awkwardness of 8th graders at their first junior high dance – who will be the first to ask whom for that dance?  Right about the midpoint of our collective and individual glasses, the song changed and it seemed like the logical moment to extend my hand to Andi.  Derrick followed suit.

Andi stepped better than me – she never answered that question about how she learned – like, I-need-to-really-pay-attention-to-not-screw-up, better.  When I had moment to glance over at Derrick and Monica, they were really good too.

We took a few turns on the dance floor before the ladies went to the restroom and Derrick and I adjourned to the bar.

Standing at the bar next to a couple of early 50s Black women, Derrick and I ordered a couple of Bourbons for me and Monica, and a couple of glasses of generic red wine for him and Andi.  The woman nearest me, a younger Nancy Wilson clone, leaned over to me and whispered, almost conspiratorially, “at least they know how to step.”


Revisiting a Post Requiem on a Woman Past

14 March 2010

The first installment of what may become a regular weekend feature in which I revisit some of my favorite work that new readers may have missed.  This particular bit of fiction had a real world inspiration but is pure flight of what passes for creative writing from me.

“Light me a cigarette and pour me a drink” AB said by way of salutation. She was dressed like a great 1960s cliché – slightly shimmering grey ¾ trench, black seam symmetry running up the back of her legs, and strappy black pumps.

She followed me into the kitchen closing the door behind her.  I pulled a bottle of wine from the rack and AB walked closer to me than needed to get glasses.  I poured wine and she gave me the classic glance-up-look-down-glance-up move.  If I had super powers of resistance, this was kryptonite in a gaze.

“May I take your coat” I offered by way of attempting to change the subject we weren’t discussing.

“I’ll keep it – not sure how long I’ll be staying.”

AB moved deliberately into the living room, striking heel toe against hardwood with precision.  I didn’t need the sound effects; the shoes had already garnered attention.  I watched her, just as she wanted me to do, cross the room, pivot, settle into my chair – the big man chair – in the corner, and cross her legs.  I followed AB to open the window and light her cigarette before sitting on the opposite couch –  wasted movement as I would need to rise to pour her more wine as she had finished the drams I had poured already.

This was everything I had learned in the brief history with AB distilled into a glass with all of the complexity of the wine we now sipped.  At once possessed with unassailable confidence and betrayed by doubt, a glint of guardedness in her eye but permissive in tone, she was easily read but as understood as a Cornell West dissertation.

Bluntness was a dangerous proposition here – it was equally likely to progress or end a conversation – but I risked it anyway.  “Why are you here, AB?”

“What do you mean?” she replied despite fully knowing the answer.

“I mean – we’ve danced this dance before.  Each time the music ends we swear it’s the last time; but here you are knocking on my door on a rainy Monday night.  What do you want?”

AB and I have had a couple of arguments and they both ended with her issuing a sensual olive branch.  She skipped the argument, the defensive posture and did the heal-toe walk to stand before me.  She bent slightly to uncross my legs and position herself between them.  She stood there for a minute – allowing the inches separating us to shrink by gravitational pull – before extending her arms down my shoulder blades.  I drew a breath deeper than most in preparation to say something – exactly what words I am unsure or have since placed them in an unreachable part of my memory – when she preempted me with a whispered command to “stop over-thinking.”

Searching for perspective and a slightly more safe space, I leaned back into the couch.  The third track on the Thomas Crowne Affair soundtrack,Sinnerman, had just started to play as AB loosened the belt knot on her grey ¾ trench.  Her coat opened enough to show me a vertical stripe of lacy black bra, matching panties, garter belt, and smooth skin.

I’d never felt a stronger physical attraction to her than this moment.  Her attire was sexy, but her method even sexier.  Following the not-thinking admonition, I let my hands reach for her at the spot where thighs met stockings.  She let me stay there for long enough to enjoy knowledge of the thigh-highs.  AB leaned me back into the couch and braced herself against my thighs as she kneeled down.

Never breaking eye contact, she unzipped my trousers and searched for a firm grip before releasing me.  We were locked in a staring contest though I am not sure why.  AB traced my cock between her left thumb and fore finger until she had its full attention while she used her right hand to keep me firmly pressed to the couch.  She placed her mouth close enough for me to feel the heat of her exhaling onto me, and with one final look took me into her mouth.  She used her whole body in the effort – heaving her bosom against my legs, left hand preceding her mouth in motion and right moving from my chest to my torso and back again.

Nina Simone is still singing – disapprovingly in my mind – in the background as I opened my eyes to find AB looking at me.  I didn’t know if she was enjoying her mouth or her power over me more.  I am not sure I cared.

I tensed inside of her and AB allowed the only words since “what do you mean” to escape her lips.  “Yes” she said lustily and repeated twice more for effect before she willed me to explode.  She drank thirstily until I was spent.

She pushed herself prone and away from me.

“Thanks for the wine” she said as she heel-toed towards the door, tying her coat as she went.


How to Lose a Client in 10 Sentences or Less

12 March 2010

The Players in the Room:

Steve – Big shot attorney who is also an investor in a couple of restaurants, the man who writes the big checks to make things happen, insisted on my participation in the deal as a consultant before he wrote one of those really big checks, doesn’t mind people who lose money doing the right things, but detests wasting it.

Damian – professional dilettante turned interior design consultant, happens to be the nephew of Steve’s wife, and has been largely tasked with identifying the space, thinks that he is capable of doing my job, and is technically my client too.

Chef – the relatively young, relatively bright culinary mind who knows enough to know that he is ready for his own place, but also knows enough to listen to people who know more than he in their areas of expertise.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Restaurant Refugee – professional restaurant consultant who’s spent more time in Chicago than DC the past several weeks, is also getting a little impatient with the process at the moment.

Angela – Commercial Real Estate Agent with a permanently painted smile, a mix of “I-want-this-deal” happiness and some flinty Chicago toughness which is betraying a bit of that happiness with the frustration of showing so many places to the same client group.

The Room: yet another empty commercial space that doesn’t really work as a restaurant for reasons that people who know the restaurant business from the inside can understand.

This is our third building of the day.  I didn’t quite judge it from the cover, but as we approached I was silently hoping that this wasn’t it.  After 30 dusty seconds inside, Damian exclaimed “I love the lines in this place; Refugee, doesn’t it have great bones?”

It was a deep-breath-before-responding moment and I took one.  “It does have lovely lines,” I began; “for a ground floor condo space or high-end retail shop, but pros can tell you that there are unmanageable choke-points there, there, there, and there.”  I knew that my tone was about half a degree sharper than I consciously intended – can’t speak for my subconscious.

Damian turned his attention from the windows to me and asked “are you inferring that I’m somehow not a professional?”

I wasn’t sure if this was a line in the sand moment, but I thought it best that we have the conversation internally.  “Angela, would you mind giving us the room so we can walk around and talk about it freely,” I mostly declared.  She and I have had a few off-line conversations about this so she knew the situation.

“Damian, I am just suggesting that there are problems with the space that people who’ve spent a lot of time in restaurants can see but you might be missing.”

“You know, Refugee, I think that’s the second time you inferred that I don’t know what I am doing… and I’m a little tired of you being so fucking smug, you do know that you work for me right?!?!”

Steve may have wanted to enter this fray to mediate, but I had reached my limit and spoke a little too quickly.  The look on Chef’s face indicated that he wanted no part of this.

“Damian, I am not inferring, I am implying; and since it seems that the implication is too opaque, let me be fully clear – your suggestions and ideas indicate that you are thoroughly, completely, and unquestionably out of your depth.  You look at this room and see all of these lovely angles and attractive lines.  I look at it and see all of these load bearing columns which mean that you couldn’t possibly construct a kitchen large enough to accommodate a dining room of this size.  I see impossible corners and walls that can’t be moved.  Damian, you’re tired of me being smug, huh? I find that pretty damn laughable because for the last few weeks, I’ve been going out of my way to include you in conversations, to twist my mind into pretzel-like contortions to find something, anything, nice to say about your ideas and opinions.  All of that was made even more difficult because I generally think your contributions have been about as valuable as a warm bucket of spit.”

There was a stunned silence in the room as I took a breath and… well, I guess I reloaded.

“Other than some sort of random genetic good fortune, I have no idea why you’re here, because you looked at this room and thought it could be a restaurant.  I looked at this room, just like any pro would look at this room, and thought it a waste of time… and I look at you and see a feckless automatron who’s wasted enough of my time and other people’s money.”

More stunned silence, but this was a moment when reloading would have been cruel, so I just left.  Half a block away, I lit a cigar for the calming effect.  That and I was pretty sure that unleashing a verbal barrage on my largest client’s nephew qualifies as a “smoke a cigar moment.”  I walked around the city for a bit, finishing my cigar, contemplating the shithole I had just dug, wondering if I wanted a rope.

When I got back to my hotel room (one more cigar, and a couple of cocktails later) there was a bucket of champagne on the credenza.  The note read:

Refugee, if you could say all of that to a client, I suppose I can have a difficult conversation with my wife.  That was a lot of fun to watch.  See ya next week.

-Steve

p.s. the feckless automatron won’t be joining us.


Dating Advice from Me and LiLu

8 March 2010

My Dear Restaurant Refugee,

I am that cliché, long time reader but first time commenter (or emailer is more accurate) and I was wondering if you’d give me your opinion on something.

I work with a guy that seems to be a lot like you – smart, good looking, well dressed, and pretty comfortable around women.  I wanted to use International Crush Day to tell him that I’ve been crushing on him for a while, but he was out sick that day.  I’ve kind of lost my nerve since then.  What’s the best way to approach him?  Our office goes out sometimes for happy hour and such but I would never make a move in front of other people.  I’m pretty sure that he’s single and straight but don’t know what to do next.  Help me.

Afraid of Unrequited

p.s. I also wrote to Carolyn Hax, but I am pretty sure I have a better shot at getting a response from you.  If she responds too, I am probably going to ditch your advice in favor of hers.

Dear Afraid of Unrequited,

First, I thank you for reading and taking the time to write me this email and for your very kind words (ed. note: I did ask AU’s permission before using this as a blog post.) I am always flattered and humbled by the notion that people would ask my advice on anything.  As always, it should be noted that free advice is frequently worth exactly what you pay for it.

You don’t indicate how directly you work with this gentleman and that matters a great deal.  You also don’t indicate how big your organization is.  I am going to assume that this chap is neither your direct boss nor one of your reports – sexual harassment is never sexy.  If he is either, you need to put the crush down and back away… quickly.  The same thing applies if you two work in a really small organization or small office of a larger organization.

Your fear and hesitation is rooted in an aversion to rejection.  Everyone has it, men have just gotten more accustomed to dealing with it than women because of societal mores that have men deluded into believing that we almost always make the first move*.  The larger and more realistic question is what are you afraid of?  If you invite someone for drinks and they say no, what’s the big deal?  They have done their worst and said no, but what does that no really mean?

If the worst case scenario is a poor reaction followed by gossiping to coworkers, is that a guy that you would want to date?  From what you wrote, that seems an unlikely outcome, but if it did occur I would consider it a dodged bullet.

Some might consider a public and messy break-up that creates an untenable work environment the worst case.  I consider that situation the cautionary consideration to other questions: should I have sex with him, should I get serious with him, as those are two questions that can not occur without a first date.

My advice:

  • As with any dating issue, consider the potential risks and rewards.  The risk here is relatively low, so just ask him already.
  • Choose an activity of mutual interest (gallery opening, new bar, billiards, whatever) and issue the invitation.  More than a week in advance can lead to heightened expectations, over-thinking and the like; two days or less can seriously reduce the likelihood of his availability.  Four days feels juuuusst right.
  • If he says no, don’t over-analyze** his answer.  Do pay attention to what he does.  You’ve made it clear that you’d like to socialize with him outside of the office.  Even if he is among the breed of men who needs to be bashed about the head with a flirtatious club before he understands that someone is interested, you extended an invitation.  If he wishes to see you in a non-working context but cannot on this date, he will reciprocate the offer.  Whether or not he reciprocates your affections, is another question.
  • Do not allow or initiate any physical contact (kissing counts) until you have an all-caps NEED for it, until you cannot imagine the earth rotating even one more degree without it.  It is throwing your cap over the wall in an office environment and you better NEED it before you go flinging it.
  • Don’t create an evidence trail.  Email might be an easier way to ask but resist that urge.  If you do make plans / start dating / get serious / whatever, do not send flirty emails via the office network.  This applies to office cell phones, voicemail too.  You must erect an emotional firewall between your professional interaction and your personal.

However you choose to proceed, please let us know what happens.

Best of luck to you,

-rr

* 96.34% of the times a man “makes the first move” it’s a reaction to something subtle and deliberate that a woman has done to give us permission to make the nominally inaccurate but perceived first move.

** notice a pattern developing here?

For a woman’s perspective on this question, I turned to my dear friend, LiLu for her thoughts…

Dear Afraid of Unrequited:

I must admit, my first response is NO, BACK AWAY FROM THE COWORKER, DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200.

This reaction may or may not come from personal experience. *cough*

That said, it sounds like you want to go through with this, one way or another. So, (sigh), let’s figure out the best way to do it.

Eons ago, back when I occasionally exercised my own feminine wiles, my Plan of Action probably would have looked a little something like this.

Let’s call it…

The “SCORE” System, a la LiLu.

Step 1: “S” is for Stalk.

Stalk the hell out of him. Facebook, Twitter, Google- do what you have to to find out that he is IN FACT straight ‘n single. (A little research never hurt the cause, neither.) There is nothing worse than batting your eyelashes at the Christmas party only to have his less-than-approving girlfriend- or boyfriend, for that matter- take his arm and proceed to kill you dead with eye lasers.

Trust me. They burn.

Step 2: “C” is for Corner.

Corner him at an office happy hour. Get some alone time! Wait until he goes up to the bar, and “remember” that your own drink is empty, too. (After you down it. Duh.) Finagle the seating so you’re both on the end of the table, affording you some privacy. Last ditch move: arrange for some friends to be at a bar next door, and casually suggest he come with you for “one more” when the office group breaks up. Do what it takes, my friend. Get Creative. (Oh, look! Another “C”!)

Step 3: “O” is for Obvious.

Look. Dudes are dumb. I’ve said it, Refugee’s said it… while we have to consider the possibility that this may be a case of He’sJustNotThatIntoYou-itis, because the workplace is involved, there’s no way to know for sure. He could be reluctant to date a coworker; he could be your average dude who is completely effing clueless that you’re interested. So, once you’ve cornered him, make your affections obvious… while leaving him a “Get Out of Jail Free” card all the while. That way, you can both pretend it never happened.

You know, after those first five or so awkward meetings at the copier.

Step 4: “R” is for Read.

Read his response. For the love, try to be objective. Do keep in mind that you are trying to save yourself from having to suffer through eight hours of utter humiliation EVERY. DAMN. DAY. Look for encouragement, watch for disinterest. Pay attention to whether he asks about and listens toyou, or whether he talks about work or {insert other purely platonic subject here} the whole time. Huge, red flag signs of interest are the following:

  • Any on-purpose touching. At all. This clearly crosses a boundary between coworkers. You win. (Well, halfway. He at least wants to get in your pants.)
  • Insisting on paying for your drinks. This is an easy way for him to show interest/make your interaction more date-y, especially without alerting other coworkers.
  • Inviting you to a future anything. See phrases like: “This was fun, we should do it again.” “Have you ever been to XYZ Bar? We should go sometime.” “Want to go to a Pants Party next Friday?”

Just kidding on that last one. Don’t answer that.

Step 5: “E” is for Execute.

Now, depending on how Step 4 goes, you might be “executing” your future forever Entanglement as lovers… or making an entirely mortifying tail-between-the-legs Escape.

I warned you.

Good luck!

~LiLu

ood luck!

~LiLu


Missing My Mentor, Drinking to My Mentor

7 March 2010
I’ve never done any research on this, but I suspect that anyone who bothers to keep a journal could lose an entire afternoon reading through a randomly found old one.
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Earlier today I was perusing an old OpenTable database looking for the aliases a prominent food critic to pass them to a friend who is about to open a restaurant.  All of the notes that we recorded about our guests read like the well worn pages of a journal chronicling a particularly lovely, enthralling, and more than occasionally difficult part of my life.
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My jaw landed on the table when I reached the note about one of my wine mentors who happened to be a regular.  The grief I felt the day I learned of his death two years ago came rushing back.  Then I began to think of his incredible generosity  – with his time, knowledge, experience, and, yes, his wine too.
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TJ would call me the mornings of his reservations and in an almost conspiratorial tone, he would tell me about some spectacular bottle with an impossible to find combination of vintage and winery.  He would drop it off before the opera and give me precise instructions on its opening – “OK, Refugee, crack it about 3; at 5, give it a taste and decant it if you think it’s ready; you’re gonna wanna taste it again ’round 8 and maybe double-decant it then but probably no later than 9:30 or so.”
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He would arrive about 10:30 adorned with a smile as big as a Pagliacci grin… but real.  “Did ya like that wine, Refugee” he would ask despite knowing that it was nothing short of sublime; and we would talk wine in the bar for a few minutes before taking him to a table.  I always learned more during his 90 minute meal than I did in any 90 minutes of my sommelier courses and that was only from the random two minute bursts of conversation peppered with wine talk.
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One night he walked into the restaurant – solo and without reservation as he often did during the week – and placed a winicorn* bottle on the bar.
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“Refugee, it’s been a really shitty day, you know what we do on really great or really crappy days right” he asked with his usual ebullience  – it was classic MT; he loved life so much that even bad days were reason to be happy.
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I replied with the philosophy learned from him, “Exceptional wines are for days that are exceptionally good or exceptionally shitty.”
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“Damn right! Get a coupla glasses and have a drink with an old man.”
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We were about halfway through our glasses when TJ rhetorically asked “Do you know why I come here, why we do this?”
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Knowing him well enough to know that he would answer his own question, I just took another sip to fill the beat before he continued.
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“There’s enough crappy sommeliers ‘round here with enough hoity-toity pretentious bullshit to fill every Tastevin** in the world.  You’re not like that, your staff’s isn’t like that, and I figure if I can help a young somm be better, and have some fun in the process, well… well, that just makes the wine world a better place.”
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With that, he drained the rest of his glass and said “I gotta run, a few more bartenders*** to say hello to tonight; share the rest with your guys at the end of the night.”
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The night TJ died I went to one of my favorite restaurants with one of the best bottles in my cellar.  I had a glass with my friend, the manager; I told him about MT.  I asked him to share the rest of the bottle with his staff.
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I am pretty sure that someone bartender will be hearing a few TJ stories this evening… and drinking really well later.
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* refers to some impossible to find bottle, usually very small production and about as much cash as a mortgage payment.
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** refers to the ceremonial cup awarded to people who have been admitted to the International Court of Sommeliers
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*** in TJ vernacular, “every time a great bartender becomes a manager a little piece of [his] soul dies.”  There is no higher compliment that he gave to managers than to call him/her a bartender.

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