It only reads like a joke

25 June 2010

A guy walks into my regular cigar shop. The clerk/my friend asks him how things are going over at Merrill Lynch. The guy and his female colleague guffaw and protest “Merrill, huh!?!? Don’t associate us with those clowns, we’re at Morgan.”

I immediately turn to a couple of my friends and exclaim “That’s like a crocodile saying ‘we don’t fuck with those alligators’”

Alternate title: Bird complains about his cousin with the same feathers.

Alternate Alternate Title: something funny that’s too long to explain on Twitter


obligations and rights – kept and ignored, preserved and violated

22 June 2010

I am a fan of enumerated rights and clear obligations… for example:

I am obliged to attend friends’ 30th birthday parties… on roof decks… with stunning 360 degree views… and great company.

I am obliged to accept dates from long-lashed ingénues when asked.

The aforementioned ingénue has an absolute right to cancel at the last minute and by accidental extension make me look supremely over-dressed for that rooftop party that was to be my precursory activity.

I have an absolute right to contend (against all evidence and beliefs of friends) that it was the canceled date that made me over-dressed rather than my natural proclivity.

I have a right to choose extending my night by drinking with my favorite bartender and one of my favorite people.

I have an obligation not to accept the advances of the very tipsy girl who is overly flirtatious with me because her almost-last-call-sensor is ringing like a church bell, or she is expressing latent daddy-issues due to proximity to father’s day and a man more than fifteen years her senior.

I have a right to go onto the sidewalk and hail a cab without being ignored by drivers of empty cabs, or being unduly questioned about my destination before being granted admittance to said cab.

I have an obligation not to become testy when empty cabs keep passin’ me by in search of faster and presumably more lucrative fares of large groups.

Cab drivers have an obligation to know where they’re going and I have lesser obligation to calmly provide direction when they don’t.

All passengers have a right to certain conditions for that ride (heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, a silent ride if they choose.)

I am obliged to courteously request a cessation of music being played at ear splitting volumes.

I am obliged to courteously repeat said requests, and a right, guaranteed by law, to expect that said request be honored.

I have a right to indicate that payment will be withheld unless transportation occurs in a manner dictated by law, and a further right to have such disputes mediated by law enforcement officials should a satisfactory agreement not be reached.

Law enforcement officials have an obligation to mediate such disputes without histrionics.

Law enforcement officials have an unmitigated obligation to protect and serve the public while enforcing the laws they are sworn to uphold.

I have several constitutionally guaranteed rights not to be threatened with arrest simply for asking that law enforcement officials do their jobs.

I have additional rights not to have handcuffs produced and told “either get back in the cab or go to jail… right now” when I am breaking no laws.

I have a right not to have the fear of false arrest with an officer producing handcuffs before I have completed two sentences of explanation of the problem.

Police officers have obligation not to foment or underscore the negative stereotypes about themselves.

Knowledge of these rights and obligations does nothing to ease discomfit with the notion that either fear of arrest, or lack of time prevented me from getting a badge number. Nor will that knowledge quell the disquieting erosion of my frequent defense of police officers as a heroic and underpaid lot of civil servants who are too frequently and unfairly tarnished by the actions of a few bad operators… your tarnish just became slightly more fair.


Yup, It’s Been That Bad.

17 June 2010

Feel free to send an email if you require additional instructions.


Enough

17 June 2010

WARNING: I’ve had a craptacular couple of days and needed to vent about a couple of things.


Enough with you, Albert Haynesworth owner of the largest contract for a defensive player in the history of the NFL.  Having played a mere 12 games, much of which you sat on the sidelines sucking on oxygen because you were comically out of shape, and already pocketed $32 million, you decided to demand a trade?!?!? Are you fucking nuts?  I’ve long ago surrendered the notion that the modern (and highly paid) athlete owes the public at large anything, but when you bail on your teammates after all of this, you have earned a new station in the pantheon of sports pathetics… sure, you may not be in the OJ, Rae Carruth room, but you’re now keeping Tonya Harding company.

Enough with you Michaela Salahi, and your Bravo TV pimps too.  You, Mrs. Salahi give vapid a bad name.  You are a giant sack of [mostly purchased] hair, and your surface cannot be scratched lest it reveal more surface underneath.  Enough with you and your swarm of sycophants.  You are a liar, a fraud, and a common criminal in a designer dress that probably still has the tag tucked somewhere so it can be returned later.

Enough with you Washington Post.  I’m tired of defending you against the displaced NewYawkers who constantly deride you as not being the NY Times.  I’m tired of attempting to uphold your honor as a world class newspaper when you devote dozens of column inches to the aforementioned Salahi.   Have you abandoned the journalist’s purpose – to paraphrase the great Walter Cronkite, the job of a newsman is not to tell people what they want to hear but what they need to hear – in favor of the notion that “every one else is doing it”?  Mrs. Salahi and her ilk are publicity whores of the proletariat, weeds in society’s garden, thus any journalistic water you give them (good or bad) only makes the weed grow stronger.

Enough with you CEOs / Titans of the World and your conservative defenders (do you buy them buy the hour or the event?)  When leaders of the Big Three automakers testified before Congress, I thought I would never hear a more culturally tone deaf group as they staunchly defended their fiefdoms while still extending hands into America’s pockets … and then the bankers came to town and were even more brazen in public masturbation about their rigged casino successes, average citizen be damned… but now there are new claimants to that ignoble throne; Oil Company execs, you’ve lined your pockets with untold riches while feeding your government lap dog and the public lies about the all too real dangers for catastrophic destruction, and somehow, someway sit before the public, shrug your shoulders and claim risk v. reward? If there is a Hell below, you’ve got a very special place reserved for you.


Top Chef Premier Parties

16 June 2010

So apparently DC restaurateurs aren’t very pop-culturally aware, have really crappy public relations teams (from experience, I’m betting yes on this one,) make piss-poor efforts at electronic marketing and updating of websites (again, from a position of expertise, I am putting my money on this one) or some combination of all of the aforementioned; because I could only find two places that are hosting parties for tonight’s premier of Top Chef DC.  I could teach a class on the wasted opportunity this represents for too many places.

Vitriolic soliloquy on the theory of money not earned being more significant than money lost aside, I have found the following places for people to watch with fellow fans, gourmands, and gadflies alike:

Good Stuff Eatery, Capital Hill, 9 – 11pm, TC Alums Carla Hall, Brian Voltaggio, Mike Isabella, and Good Stuff owner, Spike Mendelssohn are listed as attending. RR Prediction – it will be extremely crowded, you’ll be lucky to get a moment with any of the TC Alums, and drinking options are limited.

Oval Room – the restaurant boasts one of their own as a contestant, Sous Chef Tamesha Warren (editor’s note: Chef Warren is a delightful and lovely woman I have known for more than a minute and the cheftestant for whom I will be rooting.)  Viewing from 9 – 11pm, RR Prediction – more low key environment that will provide a decent opportunity to actually watch the show; caveat: Oval Room is not an inexpensive place to sip and sup for that amount of time.

Your Local – assuming you have a local, or even if you don’t this is a great time to sort of fake it and create a relationship with a bar.  Any place worth the time wants to make their regulars (and strangers too) happy, so call them early in the afternoon (but after lunch if they’re open during that time) and ask if they would be willing to show Top Chef.  If they have a television in a somewhat secluded area they should accommodate.  Please be mindful that if your Local is prone to loud music then they cannot and probably should not accommodate.  Choose a place that is capable of airing the show, ask for the manager, and always introduce yourself over the phone… it helps if you begin the conversation with “a few of my girlfriends and I were looking for a place to watch Top Chef this season…”  A few of my friends will also work but is less effective on the straight male managers.


Second Chances with New Vintages – Part IV

7 June 2010

At the beginning of the year, I started a fiction project, Second Chances with New Vintages.  I hoped that it would be a regular feature – Monday Fiction Series – unfortunately, I only wrote Part I, Part II, and Part III.  The project grew dormant because of my own lack of persistence.  Some recent conversations with a couple of friends gave me new inspiration to attempt to complete the project.  With great apology for anyone who was interested, and sincere hopes that the story can reach a reasonable close, I give you Part IV of Second Chances with New Vintages (if you have not read the first three installments, I will not begrudge you for skipping the following post as it will make little sense absent that context.)

Cynthia woke to her shrill alarm at 6am.  She rose to a ninety degree angle and tried to process the events of the last day.  Her head was spinning but couldn’t produce enough centrifugal force to sift fact from dreamy fiction.  Did she really go to a hotel bar on a school night?  Drink too much champagne? Have whole conversations in French despite never having learned the language?  Give her phone number to a strange man in a bar?

Cynthia scanned the room for clues that she wasn’t losing her mind.  There was nothing particularly comforting about her familiar surroundings interrupted by the Navy Blue cocktail dress hanging from the left door of her oak wardrobe.  A few minutes after waking and Cynthia still hadn’t noticed that she slept completely nude rather than in a faded t-shirt and old shorts from her last boyfriend.  When that realization hit, it was enough to make her run to the shower hoping the water would ctrl-alt-delete her head.

Setting the shower to the hottest setting she could stand, Cynthia tried to reset.  She leaned her head back closed her eyes and tried to will her mind to be still.  If ever there was a morning to use the fancy body scrub that Katie gave her last Christmas, this day was it.  She took slight and atypical pleasure in the faint pain of the sea salt and almond oil rubbing against her skin.  It was the same sensation when she reached for the slightly scruffy towel from the rack.  After running a blow dryer through her hair, brushing her teeth, and staring in the mirror for longer than normal, Cynthia began to get back to her normal baseline.

Reaching into the top drawer of her bureau she spied the gleaming earrings sitting on top next to her smallest clutch and in front of the perfume she never wears.  The whole afternoon and evening flashed back through her memory.  Meeting Mini, learning about Freddie, the dress, the earrings, the cravings for champagne, the speaking French, they all formed a kaleidoscope saturated with vivid colors and blurred only by the intellectual anarchy that undermined her sanity.

“Keep it together, make it through this day” Cynthia half thought half murmured to herself.  She hurriedly dressed in her corporate uniform – khaki skirt, light blue polo shirt, and darker blue cardigan for her chilly office.  She placed the earrings back in the satchel Mimi slipped around the dress hanger and tossed them in her standard purse.  As she drove to the office, Cynthia tried to apply logic to the incongruity of the past 18 hours, to assign debits to the “real” and credits to the “strange.”  She had watched just enough Grey’s E.R. and House’s Anatomy to wonder if a brain tumor was causing her uncharacteristic behavior and altered voice.  Calling her doctor was the most practical action she reasoned.

True to her plan, Cynthia called her doctor and tried to explain her concerns without sounding crazy.  The response was typical HMO: There are many things that could cause what you experienced, a brain tumor was beyond the least likely scenario, and if the problem persists, schedule an appointment for next week.  It was far from reassuring but sufficient to let her push hew way through a work Friday morning.

At lunch, Cynthia grabbed her purse and drove to Second Chance Vintage to pay for the earrings (if they’re costume) and return them in the unlikely event that they were real.

Mini was sitting at her desk when Cynthia entered.  Without looking up, Mini said “so did you have fun with Freddie last night?”


Laws of Attraction, Theories of Relativity

2 June 2010

My dear friend, who writes I’m Gonna Break Your Heart, is tall with long dancer’s legs that make women and men alike swoon a bit.  That she almost always adorns those legs with very high heels means that she is solidly north of six feet tall.  The aforementioned facts are only relevant because it was her height and the moronic on-line dating messages her stature inspired from substantively shorter would-be suitors.  One message (and the accumulated impact of many like it) inspired a blog post about the type of men who feel compelled to contact her with some variation of the “you don’t know what you’re missing” theme.

Her post was built of frustration and fatigue, but it was the comments, which struck a more unforgiving tone, that got me thinking.

I agree that the men who are sending those messages are Napoleonic troglodytes with massive chips about their shoulders and serious insecurities.  However, no one addressed the issue of the origins of said shoulder chips or active insecurities.

Boys are reared in a Lord of the Flies type of world where whomever is strongest, most virile always has the conch.  For better or worse, height is frequently perceived as a component of that strength, height is part of virility, and in that context height has virtue.  That socialization doesn’t go away simply because we have reached adulthood.  Therefore a lot of men read “you must be this tall to ride this ride” as you must be this GOOD to ride, and they have read that/been told that for the better part of their lives.  It may not be conscious but it is certainly looming in the subconscious.

To further complicate matters, it seems that the definitions are limited to tall and short (at least as it pertains to dating) with tall being at least six feet.  Given that every man under that magical number of inches is well aware that the average height of adult males in the US is 5-9, it stings twice when men of average stature are told they’re too short (read not good enough.)  Do all of these factors lead to attempts at over-compensation? Of course.  Do the majority of those attempts have some sort of douchetastic ramifications? Probably, and that’s what shows up in my tall friend’s inbox every so often.

Quick aside: if you are a woman dating a man who tells you not to wear heels, you should generally be distrustful of people who ask you to sacrifice your comfort for the sake of theirs.

The final complication is added by the fact that too many women typically take no ownership of their role in this issue.  As men have been socialized since childhood to place virtue in size and strength, women have been socialized to place virtue in the physicality of size zeros.  Women have been socialized to be the “fairer” sex and a part of that is having a man who is taller and bigger.  I get it and I am not trying to demonize any woman who wants that, but it would be nice if we could at least call it what it is.

So a man is being told he is too short to be dateable (read not good enough,) even though he knows he is about average, and most women who make the claim don’t acknowledge that their explicitly stated preference has even the tiniest root in their own body issues.  That might get frustrating for a man.  I am not now, nor would I ever excuse less than gentlemanly behavior, just offering a theory of its origins.


Second Blogiversary – Welcome to the Virtual Party Part II

1 June 2010

In celebration of the 2 year blogiversary, I decided to open the phone lines for all questions… apparently I also decided to start writing like a talk-radio host.  I wish to thank everyone for their kind wishes and thoughtful questions.  The answers, which have been split into two posts for better readability (part I is here,) follow.

  1. From Carla of Whip My Assets: What is one question nobody asked that you wish somebody had? It’s really funny that you should ask me that question because I have long used that question as the last query when I am interviewing.  I think it is a terrific question to really get inside someone’s head.  I would have loved for someone to have asked “what happens when the immovable object meets the irresistible force?”
  2. From another reader without a blog: What food would you cook for a non foodie father for father’s day? The trick to cooking for non foodie people is to do something that combines classical flavors with techniques and ingredients that will keep you interested.  Braised Short Ribs with Truffled French Fries satisfies those needs to my way of thinking.
  3. From my favorite Bah-stan Blogg-ahr, Megabrooke of Skrinkering Hearts: Here’s kind of a silly one, because my head is a bit in the clouds this week.  What TV shows do you regularly tune in to? The only appointment television I watch, via the internet machine and generally the following day, is The Rachel Maddow Show, The Daily Show, Friday Night Lights, Weeds, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Southland.  I am also a big fan of, but won’t be terribly disappointed if I miss, the following: Modern Family, Burn Notice, and In Plain Sight.
  4. From a reader who has a blog but never leaves the link in her comments so I will omit it here in an abundance of caution: At what point in a dating relationship do you throw caution into the wind? I think that on some level the mere act of dating, in the face of all contrary evidence, is an exercise in optimism that throws caution to the wind just by inviting and accepting.  That was a more philosophical answer; the pragmatic version is probably “too often, too early, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way.”
  5. From a Florida blogger you should be reading, Planet Dan-E: Simple, but kind of dumb, question: What is it exactly that you do? Restaurant consultant? Private chef? Event planner? Some combination of the above? Yes.
  6. The lovely Rahree has a couple of questions: what’s your summer go-to home dinner, when you want something tasty but with little effort? And The meaning of life? Clue me in, please? If it’s just me, I am happy to slice a couple of the tomatoes I always keep in the house during the summer, pair them with some mozzarella and basil and call it a day… after drizzles of olive oil balsamic, and sprinkles of sea salt and fresh black pepper.  If I have guest(s), I am going to the grill with whatever proteins I have around.

All of the following questions are from email and shall be anonymous

  1. What was the weirdest thing you did in high school? It’s a jump ball.  I once didn’t wash the socks I wore for an entire football season because we were going undefeated and I didn’t want to change the karma/luck associated with them.  In my freshman year, all students had to take a typing class in which we would select various periodicals to use as text to type.  Everyone tried to get there early to grab a Sports Illustrated; I was happy with the New Yorker. On dress-down Fridays and during the warm weather months, I would frequently wear a pair of shockingly yellow linen trousers because my senior big brother often did.
  2. How many cigars do you smoke a day, a week? I usually smoke about a cigar a day, though sometimes I will go days without, and other times I have smoked several in day.  A week usually averages 8 give or take a couple.
  3. What do you suck at doing but wish that you could do well? I cannot carry a note with the help of a forklift.  I do pretty well at self-diagnosis, but I suck at self repairs.  I cannot for the life of me consistently make a good pot of rice.  I am a terrible shortstop.  Though I think I give good email, I am frequently terrible at the prompt reply.  Given that last sentence, I am not so good at discussing my faults without couching them in a more favorable context.
  4. What is your biggest pet peeve in restaurants? If you force me to narrow it down to one, it is bad management – all bad outcomes in the front of the house extend from bad management.
  5. Who would play you in a movie about your life? Larenz Tate, a younger Andre Brougher, Don Cheadle if I am really lucky.

Second Blogiversary – Welcome to the Virtual Party Part I

1 June 2010

In celebration of the 2 year blogiversary, I decided to open the phone lines for all questions… apparently I also decided to start writing like a talk-radio host.  I wish to thank everyone for their kind wishes and thoughtful questions.  The answers, which have been split into two posts for better readability, follow.

  1. Amalgam of three questions from anonymous email: How much of the bullshit that you write about yourself is true / to what degree do you think people believe the idealized version of yourself that you portray? As there is no virtue in responding to rudeness in kind, I will keep my initial thoughts to myself.  In answer to your questions, there may be some minor elements of stories that I alter/augment/omit, but only for the purpose of literary cohesion / continuity.  I have never omitted a substantive element of a story or made adjustment for the purposes of self-aggrandizement.  The degree to which other people assign truth… I will not pretend to give voice to that which exists in the minds of other people.  As a general note, what Jon Stewart said.
  2. From Christina of Musings, Graces, and Fate: Here is my question, what food did you not like when you were younger but can’t get enough of now? Tomatoes.  I was always an adventurous eater as a child but for some reason tomatoes were anathema to me.  Now, just give me an heirloom tomato and some sea salt and I am a happy kid.
  3. From Foilwoman: as someone who played the cello as a youth, did you practice because your mother made you practice or because you wanted to practice?  And if it was the former, how did your mother achieve that? I started playing the cello because I knew it was different and I believed it to be more difficult than most instruments.  It was an effort to stand apart from the crowd and with the clarity of hindsight, I can state that the effort was inspired, at least in part, by some insecurity from being the only black male in the school.  I needed no inspiration to practice because I had an internal desire to prove something.
  4. From an anonymous email: can you recommend a good vegetarian restaurant (needn’t be purely vegetarian — so long as there are some interesting vegetarian dishes — most place have a dish or two as an afterthought. CityZen, Palena, and Restaurant Eve, Passage to India, all do an excellent job with vegetarian dishes and treat non-meat eaters with high regard.  On the more casual side, I am a big fan of Regent Thai, and Hollywood East/
  5. From the blogger most likely to make me blush, City Girl asks: What inspires you to write? To cook? I wish that I had a better answer, but the inelegant truth is that I have no idea what would happen to me if I stopped cooking or writing.  I write to help me stay sane and almost exclusively for me.  I cook to express art, love for friends, and because I believe on some level that it is what I was born to do.
  6. From an anonymous email: Why did you leave me in a gentleman’s club last week? First, the strip joint was your idea.  Second, I didn’t leave you alone; the Only Slightly Sleazy Lobbyist was there with you. Third, I got a phone call from a woman who wanted to remove her clothes for me without the explicit exchange of cash… oh and I I’d been drinking just long enough to think that was a good idea.
  7. From an anonymous email: What was the first moment the light bulb went on? I love questions that are pointed yet sufficiently ambiguous that how the respondent chooses to answer tells one at least as much as the answer itself.  My advanced writing instructor (junior year of high school) once gave me an F on an essay.  It was lazily and sloppily written but probably didn’t deserve a failing grade, so I went to ask him about it. Dr. M laced into me with a lightly profanity laced tirade about his fatigue with my unfulfilled potential. He told me that “writers don’t have a choice, they just are, and you’re a Writer. Writers get an F on that dribble you scribbled the night before it was due, other people might get a C. I decided that I need to treat you like a Writer.” It got a lot brighter in my head right then.
  8. From C of Hilarity in Shoes: It’s spring and I’m going to the farmers market on Sunday.  What should I cook with my haul that is seasonal and delicious? The beauty of this time of year is that the fruits and vegetables straddle the line between spring and summer.  I am a big fan of stinging nettle risotto with sweet corn and crispy shallots… and yes, I will work on writing that recipe down for you.
  9. From the irascible LiLu: Why on earth haven’t you started a dictionary for all the words we’ve invented over the years? I wish that I could say that I’ve been waiting on you so we could collaborate on the effort, but alas, the true reason is #Fail.
  10. From the eponymous and generally awesome Lemon Gloria: Could you recommend a couple bottles of red wine in the $10-20 price range? I generally try to avoid making specific recommendations as that would limit me to the world of wines that are most commonly available.  Since my personal preferences are for boutique wines which by definition have small productions, that is particularly limiting.  That being said, I am a big fan of Sipino Pinot Noir, Andrew Murray Tour Les Jour Syrah, Alto Moncaya Veraton Garnacha (a little more than $20 but often on sale,) and even though this is a sparkling rosé, I am going to include the La Torderra Prosecco Rosato because it is one of my favorite summertime quaffs.
  11. From a reader without a blog: What does one have to do to have a drink with you? Generally speaking it’s pretty easy – just ask.  Additionally, there is always the option of attending one of the Blogger Happy Hours.

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