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

4 March 2011

Two years 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 that particular boozefest, I extrapolated the concept to propose that the date* 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 next Friday, 11 March, 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.

* yes, I realize that the initial proclamation decreed that ICD was 20 February. However, the trouble with trying to invent a holiday from whole cloth (unless you’re Hallmark) is that you have to remember it, and I forgot /wasn’t really blogging at all much in early February. The good news about inventing a holiday is that you can just change the date since it hasn’t exactly gone viral yet… and oh yeah, it was too close to Valentine’s Day anyway.

********

Funny thing about the photo montage at the top of the page: before York reprised their “When I eat a Peppermint Patty, I get the sensation…” commercials, they were mainly known to those who came of age in the 70s and early 80s. Back in the mid 90s I was dating a substantively younger woman – the first time I had such a large age gap in that direction. At one point during our courtship, I left a Peppermint Patty in her purse with a note that read “When I think of you, I get the sensation.” She didn’t get it. It was a missed reference too far and I stopped dating her.

and few people who have known me for more than a cup of coffee would be surprised to learn that Eva Cassidy has an emeritus place on my Crush List. The last frame is a picture of her before her last concert at Blues Alley.

p.s. please feel free to re-blog this, tweet about it, Facebook it or whatever other new media thingamabob you wish.  I really love this idea and would be thrilled if it spread.

     

 


Quibbling with Near Perfection – Changing Screen on the Green

10 September 2010


In many respects, it’s rather difficult to complain about DC Screen on the Green. Comcast and HBO returned it from the abyss last year, so a certain level of gratitude should be afforded. It’s a free movie night in the most majestic of settings. The US Capitol Police, and Park Police officers largely look the other way when we indulge in ostensibly banned beverages. And if you’ve ever been, you know that the experience is sublime in so many ways that defy description.

Having said all that, I am about to exercise my prerogative for two largely minor quibbles.

Whose idea was it to hold this shindig during the hottest part of the year in DC?Just about every year in recorded meteorological history (or at least as far back as I can recall) late July and early August are prone to obnoxious heat and oppressive humidity. I understand the initial reasoning (Congressional schedule, little kids not in school, etc.) but wouldn’t it be nice to extend it for four weeks after Labor Day?

And the movies were pretty ignorable this year. I get it, you don’t really go specifically for the movie. You go for the experience, the date night, the drinking with friends, doing the HBO dance with ten thousand other people, the general specialness of it all. But there is still a movie to be watched and Goldfinger (among the best Bond movies of that generation) grew even more dated with every sexist and misogynistic reference. The charm of Goodbye Girl faded about thirty minutes in, and Bonnie & Clyde simply did not stand the test of time. The brilliance of 12 Angry Men, however, cannot be understated, but that was just one movie.

So howzabout it HBO & Comcast? Whadya say next year we do a second half to the SotG season. And since you asked for my suggestions, the four movies I think would be perfect for movie night on The Mall are:

Bull Durham

The Princess Bride

The Thomas Crown Affair

All the President’s Men

If you were ruler of all things, what movies would you show, dear readers?


Things I Don’t Understand – A Very Abbreviated List

9 September 2010


I don’t understand the people who use their horn to vent non-specific frustration with traffic at the expense of their fellow urbanites.

I literally don’t understand people who willfully misuse the word “literally.”

I don’t understand the use of abbreviations for the already short names (see: Sophia to Soph, Kathy to Kath, Lisa to Lis, Jason to Jas, Connie to Conn, and those were just a few amongst the most glaring examples and solely from the two syllable names truncated to a single.)

I don’t understand the people who prefer drip coffee to french press.

I don’t understand the guy who just walked by my coffeeshop table; either he’s a late 30something who willfully wears skinny jeans or he’s an appropriately aged hipster who’s just done so much blow that he looks really old… or he’s auditioning costumes for the next holiday. Whatever it is, I don’t understand it.

Speaking of Halloween, let me get started on bashing this poor excuse for women to indulge their inner [choose whatever appropriate and dismissive word that won't get me in trouble.] I don’t understand why perfectly reasonable women use that evening to simultaneously exercise so little imagination (really, throw the word sexy before any common/proper noun and call it a costume?) and leave so little to the imagination.

I don’t understand why Josh choose Donna over Amy.

I don’t understand why television producers can’t at least put some water in those empty Starbucks cups that their characters routinely carry in a way that lets everyone know that this detail is unimportant.

I don’t understand the people who spend hours listening to political talk radio but don’t vote.

I don’t understand the gravitational pull of reality television, but I really don’t understand why the shows set in DC seem to represent the worst in class (yes, I’m looking at you Real Word, Top Chef, and Housewives.)

I don’t understand the people who pay a premium to drive a convertible yet leave their top up on gorgeous days like today.

I don’t understand the people who proclaim (to anyone within earshot) their disdain for DC yet never leave their tiny and provincial comfort zones, or go to museums.

I don’t understand the nearly universal human desire to pick at wounds both physical and emotional.

I don’t understand how I can think myself so good with words yet be such a poor communicator when it comes to certain people.

There are many things of which a wise man would wish to be ignorant” Mr. Emerson once wrote; I don’t understand why I am so bad at making those choices.


Coffeeshop Conversations with an Ex

6 September 2010



Dirty Do-Gooder: Why didn’t you ever shave your head when we were dating?

RR: I suppose I could ask you the same thing about the thigh-highs you were wearing the last time we ran into each other.

DDG: first that’s a bullshit equivalence, second you didn’t answer the question, and third, how the fuck did you know I was wearing thigh highs?

RR: shall I address your points in chronological order or by degree of magnitude that they annoyed you?

DDG: Ya know, every time I start to wonder why I dumped you, you drop one of those sentences with a whole bag full of words and I don’t have to wonder any more.

RR: I know you actually love that about me so you can protest all you want… and I ‘ll just move along to your questions. You’re right, it was a false equivalence, but it tickled me to say it. Regarding the underlying query, we dated in the winter and I only shave my head during the summers and even then infrequently…

DDG: and the thigh-highs?

RR: we stopped dating, I didn’t go blind or lose my powers of observation… There was a moment at the bar when you recrossed your legs. There was just a sliver of the top band of lace that showed before you adjusted your skirt.

DDG: for the record, I never knew you had a preference for thigh-highs… not that we dated long enough for me to learn those things.

RR: also for the record, I’m calling bullshit on that. You’re too smart not to know that every straight man likes thigh-highs… if only because so few women wear them these days. And I’m pretty sure you know that because you were waiting for your date that night we saw each other at the bar. Speaking of which how did it go?

DDG: put it this way: it’s a good thing that someone noticed the stockings, because there was no way in hell he was going to see them.

RR: so what did he do that was so bad?

DDG: first he was late without calling or texting. Second, he ordered a Long Island [Iced Tea] like he was some undergrad trying to get maximum bang for the buck. And third, he actually suggested we go to Lauriol Plaza for dinner after drinks. I really blame you for the snobbery of most of that – you’re like some highly contagious elitist infection.

RR: I’ll happily take that description, but only because I know you and know that you meant it with love. So, where did you meet this clown?

DDG: OK-Harmony-Match-JDate, who even knows anymore.

RR: I hate to say it, but you do know that the only constant in your string of lame dates is you, right?

DDG: You realize that you’re among the people counted in that string of lameness, right?

RR: Touche, even though I might argue that we had great dates just different priorities and objectives.

DDG: Yeah, but I’m still calling you lame.

RR: fine, but it seems that you can’t stay away from my lameness these days. What is this, the third time in a week or so that you keep appearing in places where I am? What are you, some kind of stalker?

DDG: I prefer the term “Enthusiastic Follower” thank you very much.

RR: the really funny thing for me is that for the last ten days I keep running into women I used to date all over the place. Including you, I’ve seen a half-dozen ex’s in that time frame.

DDG: how many of them did you have to hide from?

RR: I only actively avoided two… which is probably three less than I should have.

DDG: What’s that line from When Harry Met Sally? “You’re gonna have to move back to New Jersey because you’ve slept with everybody in New York.” Maybe you need to start packing, Mr. Refugee.


Sometimes You Get Lucky After the Date

12 August 2010

My date with the Conservative Nutter lasted just under two hours and while her company wasn’t unpleasant, I am certain that at least some of that time (ok, just about all of that time) was spent in obligation. I felt obliged to give it every effort, give her every chance, and to be fully present despite our obvious disconnects. I might have been overcompensating just a bit, but the compulsory portion of the night had run its course.

I walked CN to her car, dodged an awkward moment when she tried to kiss me, and headed for the subway. Out of courtesy, I didn’t make post date plans, so I spent the subway ride texting for a drinking partner… that and hoping the bottle of benadryl I swallowed earlier would outlast my allergy to suburbs and wingnuts.

It was that tween part of the night – happy hour crowd mostly onto other things, post dinner crowds yet to arrive – and I found myself at one of my favorite bars/restaurants. I occupied one of two empty seats at the smallish bar while drinking a Santero and finishing my newspaper.

About ten minutes after my arrival I heard “Is this seat taken” asked by a well dressed 30something woman over my right shoulder.

Just by you” I replied moving my briefcase to the back of my barstool.

Just after she settled into her seat, Jimmy, the bartender and a friend of mine, said “Jessica, whatcha drinking, and what the hell are you doing back so soon?” His tone was a touch louder than required – but that’s just Jimmy; there was no intent to harm or embarrass but Jessica turned a bit red nonetheless. I tried to focus on my paper, not wishing to deepen her blush by changing my body language or otherwise providing visual acknowledgment of the obvious fact that I overheard what should have been a more private question.

To Jessica’s immense credit, she channeled her blush into a subtle chide toward Jimmy and a conversation starter with me. “Dontcha just hate it when people ask you questions when the answer is obvious?” Jessica snarkasiticly querried with a slap to my right arm. She continued – in my direction but clearly intended for us both – “Jimmy knows full well that I left here ’bout an hour ago for a date and that if I’m back this quickly it must have sucked donkey balls.”

I’ve long found the well-timed and sparingly but properly used profanity to be particularly charming from a woman’s lips.

So I guess we’re gonna start with a shot before I pour you a glass of wine?” Jimmy asked with just the slightest hint of sheepishness.

Uh-huhhh” Jessica nodded as we all shared a half-laugh that didn’t fully indicate the levity of the moment.

Jimmy gave me a look, pointed a cocktail shaker in my direction, and asked “Refugee, you in on this?”

I almost have to be since my date, though not quite hitting the inauspicious benchmark of sucking donkey testicles, wasn’t much better than Jessica’s.”

Do you always use too many words like Cornell West, or is that just an affectation to impress a pretty girl?” Jessica asked in what was becoming clear was her favorite color of speech – a pale shade of snarkasm.

I thought you had a disdain for the obvious questions” I replied as we shared the first of many flirtatious smiles. I changed the subject and inquired “So what was so what was so bad about your date, did he not get your particular brand of humor?”

And why would you ask that?” Jessica responded in a thoughtfully suspicious tone that made me instantly think she was a barrister by academic training if not profession.

Well, I get the sense, more from the tonality of your dialogue than its actual substance, that yours is a particular type of humor that is contraindicated for those lacking in appreciation of sarcasm and snark or as I like to say snarkasm.”

Good god, you do love your 25-cent phrases, even when a nickle would do” Jessica replied as she cupped her hand to her forehead. “Are you a lawyer?”

No, I’m not a lawyer, but I was just wondering the same thing about you… your tendency to answer questions with queries and all.”

Jimmy interrupted our sparring by placing three shot glasses on the bar and pouring a brownish liquid into each.

Shall we drink to nights that don’t suck donkey gonads?” I offered. All agreed, we toasted, Jimmy & I tapped the bar with our shot glasses*, and all were upended.”

Perhaps sensing the problem-solving look on my face, Jimmy proudly declared “I call that Looziana Swamp Whater” in an exaggeration of the cajun accent he used to have and now mostly turns of and on whenever it suits him.

So-Co… Lime Vodka, splash of sour, wait, no… Lime Vodka, splash of OJ, splash of coke?” I stated as more of a question than it should have been.

Fuck you and the super-tasting palate you rode in, Refugee… I’ll get you one of these days” Jimmy replied with a melange of frustration and pride.

So you wanna tell me why your date was… can we say ‘licking the donkey nuts’ if not sucking them?” Jessica said by way of returning us to a prior unfinished point of conversation.

Well, Counselor, the short version is that I met my date through some online dating site. I wrote her a message, she replied and accepted my invitation to have a drink. However, in her acceptance, she gave me her email address and some internet stalking led me to her blog which seemed to indicate that she was a bit of conservative/libertarian nutter… like, is a birther and compares Glenn Beck to Edward R. Murrow kinda nutter. And for the record, of the two things, I am not sure which I consider the greater offense. But I met her for drinks because I had already extended the invitation, and I thought she was hot. Turns out, her pictures are old as hell – and the ensuing miles were city miles not highway miles, and 30 pounds out-of-date too. That’s the elevator version of the story, but I’m not saying another word until you answer one of my questions; why was your date so bad?”

Jessica took a deep breath, a mildly dramatic sigh, and did that look-down-look-up-look-down-pause-look-up maneuver, and finally said “You guessed that he didn’t get my humor and you’re slightly right… he spent most of the evening trying to impress me with his ‘Harh-varhd’ degrees and success. It was bullshit. He talked for 50 minutes and the only real question I got in, he didn’t get the question, and really flubbed the answer. It wasn’t just that he didn’t get me, it’s that it didn’t matter to him if he did. I could’ve been any woman sitting there… Ya know most people like to jack-off to something but this guy likes to do it to himself, so all I was doing was sitting there holding the mirror.”

I get that, mostly because of my general understand of and disdain for Harh-varhd Men, but also and more specifically, because that behavior doesn’t surprise me from any man… but what question did you ask?

He said something which prompted me to ask what he saw as the difference between foolish and romantic. He didn’t even understand the question.”

And that was the moment, either the question or the shared look afterward, but most likely the combination of the two. That was the moment when the potential became possible.

p.s. There is more to the story, but this post was getting a bit long. See ya tomorrow.


Red Flags, Red Dresses, & Recriminations

3 July 2010

For more years than I can recall, I have consistently made two jokes about my ex-wife:

The last time I saw my ex we weren’t able to speak… I was too busy crossing the street and she was too busy speeding up.
Before we got married I ignored every red flag even the really obvious ones. When I passed a bank, instead of the sign flashing the date and time it would say “Refugee, don’t do it.”

Like most jokes, there is some element of truth that under-girds both of those two jokes. The simplest distillation of the truth is that I married the wrong woman. The simple distillation of the reason why I married the wrong woman is that she was a rebound relationship that lasted too long (don’t scoff; that sentence took tons of cash in therapy to produce. I now use it frequently in an attempt to metaphorically amortize the cost over multiple usages.)

It is the rare day that she crosses my mind more than a decade since divorce did us part; but a confluence of coincidence brought her to mind today.

A newspaper advice column was the first with its discussion of compatibility. Then an obscure reference (two mental jumps, and a cerebral leap that only make sense in my mind) while watching Friday Night Lights on Hulu became the second. The final coincidence occurred while watching the ladies final at Wimbledon.

When my ex and I had bad times in our marriage, which is to say about a cup of coffee after vows were exchanged, the tennis court was the one place we always got along.

One random afternoon I went to the racquet shop to get one of my racquets re-gripped. While I waited, I saw a crimson tennis dress that I thought my then wife would look great wearing. Without much forethought, I grabbed the dress and plunked down a credit card. I was so pleased with myself for having done something nice for my wife just because. It never occurred to me that she preferred to play in old gym shorts and ratty t-shirts. Later that evening I gave her the dress and she feigned appreciation for it.

The following night we met at the tennis courts near our house for a few after-work sets. She wore her usual shorts and old t-shirt. I made the critical mistake of asking her about the dress and if she liked it. An argument ensued in which she accused me of trying to change her (maybe a kernel of truth,) that I didn’t think she was good enough for me (patently false,) and that I was being selfish when I bought the dress (true but only in the way that a man who randomly buys lingerie for his partner is being selfish.)

That was the last time we ever played tennis together.

About a year later, I ran into my ex-wife on the tennis court. She was with her new boyfriend and wearing that crimson tennis dress. At that moment, I concluded that it wasn’t that she didn’t like the dress, she just didn’t want to wear it for me. The lesson was at least as valuable as all of the therapy to explain all of the others.


Insomnia Friday – Thoroughly Random Thoughts

2 July 2010

Insomnia’s been intermittently kicking my ass for the better part of the last 20 years. I cannot recall a stretch that has been as bad as the last few months.

…in other news, Netflix on Demand has been a friendly and faithful companion lately.

…in still other news, the movie TAPS somehow has endured the years quite well.

_______

My Week in Bars…

To the lovely barmaid with the pixie cut who kept me in good beer at Fat Heads in Pittsburgh, you’re the kind of restaurant professional who makes me wish that I still ran a restaurant just so I could hire you.

To the blowhards sitting next to me at The Uptown in Chicago, I appreciate the very strong feelings you so loudly expressed about illegal immigration. By the by, I wonder who picked the avocados for that five dollar guacamole you were eating?

_______

So here’s a question for you all…

Recently I found myself in the company of a woman whose professional acquaintance I had just formally made after several email exchanges. After the business portion of the evening, she invited me to join her and several others for cocktails. The preponderance of the others were men, and it was evident that most of them had a more substantive social relationship with her than I, and I also suspect that most of them were quietly interested in her. At a certain point in the evening, this woman began to be less than delicate in concealing her knickers given the length of her skirt. I presume that the booze was the primary factor.

How does one discreetly tell a woman that she is being less than discreet?

How does one discreetly tell a woman he does not know well that it might be time for her to go home… especially given that she is surrounded by closet suitors who have known her longer?

_______

Get well soon, Tracee Hamilton. You are my favorite WaPo sports columnist these days, and I will miss your voice.

_______

The One Question Meme: if you could create a version of Netflix that would enable you to have short term rentals of something on a revolving basis, what would it be?

_______

Something you should know about drinks…

If you’ve ever had a Bellini, chances are you’ve not had a good one. The Bellini is perhaps the simplest of all classic cocktails with only two ingredients, prosecco and white peach puree. It is also one of the most commonly mishandled where people substitute fresh peach puree with something from a can or even worse – fucking wretched Peach Schnapps. Invented by Giuseppi Cipriani in 1948 at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, the Bellini, when made with fresh and honest ingredients and poured into a proper champagne flute, immediately evokes elegance and sophistication.

  • 3 white peaches peeled and diced
  • 1 bottle of champagne
  • In a blender, puree the peaches. (If you’re like me and sensitive to pulp then run the peach puree through cheese cloth after blending.) Pour 1 ounce of pureed peach into a flute and top with 4 ounces of champagne.

I have also made variations on the Bellini with pears, green apples, and mangoes. The most import thing is to get good and in-season fruit.

______

This post is tacit acknowledgement that there is a small chance that I am going to participate in NaBloPoMo for July… I gotta do something to get myself above my non-writing / non-blogging rut.


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.


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.

Quick Restaurant Hits from Your Friendly Neighborhood Refugee

27 May 2010

Before we get into some bite sized restaurant nuggets, I would like to remind you all that I am celebrating the 2nd blogiversary tomorrow with an open question session and the window is still open to ask whatever.  Thank you to all of you who have sent email questions and left them in the comments already.  Feel free to ask more than one, the list is getting long but this is a joint celebration.

___________

Ardeo may not be on my list for anything else (inconsistency being the only constant will do that to a place in the same neighborhood as Palena) but their $25 (mimosas included) brunch might be one of the better values in the city.

Blacksalt is the reigning champion of seafood places in this area – at least in my mind – however, a recent lunch and dinner at Kinkead’s seem to indicate that they want to make an “everyone thought they were done” run at the title à la George Foreman.

The Palm (downtown location) feels about as dated as the first season of West Wing.  Their Prime Bites happy hour (really tasty noshes for $3.50 from 4:30 – 6:30 and after 9pm) however, lightens the mood but not so much the wallet.  The crowd is more interesting during the later portion of the evening… but that shocks no one.

Hudson has always had the feel of a place that is too hip by half for my tastes but they do make a damn fine Manhattan and I am still thinking about their bbq chicken pizza three days later.

I should have seen the problems coming when a recent first date countered with Brasserie Beck after my initial suggestion of Granville Moore’s. Both places have lost a step (more important for the former which is more expensive and doesn’t have the character of the latter) but she wanted Moules & Frites.  I’ve seen flashes of brilliance at Beck, but more commonly they yo-yo between visits and often on the same night.  My date was a bit pretentious, precious, and thought I should be way too grateful for the privilege, the woman was the same way… ba-dum-bum.

Mendocino Grille is still my favorite place to eat in the bastion of culinary mediocrity that is Georgetown, but am I the only one who really misses Barry Koslow’s hand at the stove?

Calling Matisse Café the best restaurant in Tenleytown may be similar to saying that they are the best team in the worst league in the city.  Saying that my last meal there makes me wish that I lived just a bit closer or they were in a more interesting part of the city, that’s a better compliment.

Note to Restaurateurs: I took a poll… even my deaf friends find your website music annoying.


Happy Blogiversary to Me – You’re Invited to the Virtual Party

26 May 2010

I missed my blogiversary – it passed last Friday – and I am not sure if it means anything that it just kinda slipped my mind.  I will leave that question to another time because I still wish to acknowledge the two years that I have been writing in this space.

This connection has been a real and important part of my life and I value all of the people who stop by to read, comment, cajole, support, question, challenge, or engage.  All of you form the foundation of an e-community that as just as valuable to me as those with whom I share brick and mortar community that had origins in this space.

Last year I asked everyone, readers, regulars, and lurkers alike to leave me a comment as an anniversary present.  Someone who shall remain nameless called that selfish and vainglorious, eh, I thought that it was harmless enough.  However, on this second blogiversary, we shall make the celebration a bit more reciprocal and inclusive.  From now until Friday*, I am collecting questions.  Leave them in the comments, send me an email** (restaurantrefugee at gmail dot com) and ask me anything you want to know about me, the blog, restaurants, wine, or any other area that might pique your curiosity.  The collection of questions and answers will be posted on Friday, the designated day of belated celebration.

Thanks for the last two years; it’s been a helluva lot cheaper than therapy.

___________

* You can send questions anytime you like, they just won’t be in the anniversary post unless I get them before it goes live on Friday.   As time permits, I will update the post to include questions received after Friday.

** All emails will be treated as confidential unless you indicate otherwise.


Reader Question: What to Think When a Night Goes Sideways

25 May 2010

I recently received an email from a reader who wondered if I had seen a New York Times blog post about a sticky situation at a restaurant.

Short version of the story: Chef/Owner of an upscale Italian place in NYC’s TriBeCa neighborhood twice dressed-down an employee.  In full view of an awkward dining room, the chef’s volume was so high and tirade so vituperative and long that one guest, the author of the blog post, eventually went into the open kitchen to tell the chef that the yelling was ruining his experience.  Shortly thereafter, the chef went to guest’s table to apologize and explain that the yelling was in service of “maintaining quality.”  The guest dismissed this excuse because it was still “ruining [his] dinner.”  The party of four is asked/told to leave the restaurant.

The author of the blog post, Ron Lieber, went on to discuss the way he wished that he had handled the situation, the chef’s response when contacted for comment – no further apology was forthcoming – and asked about who was right, and how the readers would have behaved in either party’s shoes.

I’d really like to be unequivocally on Mr. Lieber’s side, but neither man has any claim to moral high ground.   The author stood up to a bully but only because that bully’s behavior had an impact on the author’s ability to enjoy a meal.  Yes, Mr. Lieber does belatedly acknowledge that the affair “conjured up the particular type of nausea that results from watching people yank their misbehaving kids around on the subway” but he does so almost as an aside to the repeated references to the fact that he “was paying to eat there” and that the abusive behavior was “ruining [his] dinner.”  Chef Forgione, for his part, was primarily angry because he felt disrespected in the presence of his employees.

When the essence of the debate pits “Please stop being emotionally abusive to your staff, it’s fucking with the taste of my fois gras” against “How dare you challenge my ability to emotionally abuse someone who depends upon me for his livelihood?” both parties share blame in the erosion of moral framework of restaurants in particular and society in general.

If we, as a society, cannot agree that this is emotional abuse and therefore categorically wrong* then my faith in our world is fundamentally misplaced.  When will we cease giving a pass to certain people because of their talent in culinary arts, or coaching football, or producing prodigious amounts of money?

Emotional terrorism is a poor excuse for leadership, ignoring it is to condone it, and celebrating it is nothing short of profane.  Abusive chefs aren’t charming, their tirades and assaults are not reasonable prices to be paid for their “genius,” and applauding or rewarding that behavior with more fame, more restaurants simply makes us all complicit in the whole sordid mess.

* potentially a reasonable case might be made for the intellectual and emotional manipulation in the armed services but I do not believe that it consistently rises to the point of abusive.


In Which I Maybe Should Have Gotten Punched for Saying the Wrong Thing

19 May 2010


If you get four wine people together and ask them one question, you’re likely to get at least seven different answers.  That’s half the fun of wine discussions – the nuance, the context, the arguments – I love it all.  The gratis wine and food certainly don’t hurt either.  Thus when I get invited to speak on panels or judge competitions, it takes very little to convince me to attend.

That is unless a particular pretend-journalist is also an invitee.  Teddy and I have known each other since we were both low level restaurant managers meeting after shifts to bitch about our tyrannical owners.  I got Teddy into my wine tasting group – his talent was experiential rather than academic but he had a natural facility with descriptions.

Eventually he parlayed that ability into starting his own website. His small but loyal following grew when he got a mention from a mid-major publication.  It was a “for fun project” that Teddy decided to make a for profit escape from restaurant life… he never really loved restaurants.  A few sponsors came and then he made the decision to get in bed with a consortium of wineries.

He began taking monies from questionable sources and giving great press to those sources… and making a living and a name for himself in the process.

It was a souring experience for me, Teddy knew it, and it functionally ended our acquaintanceship.  We would still see each other when he would occasional post at the late night places.  I may not have been the most cordial to him.

A couple of years ago we found ourselves on the same panel discussion about something obscure that might only matter to 0.2 people who read this.  It didn’t take long before the other people on the dais were just kind of watching us ping-pong increasingly personal points of disagreement.  At one point, I might have accused him of “possessing analysis that has all of the depth of a hair-root.”

Teddy may have retorted something along the lines of “At least people know who I am and what I stand for unlike you and your shaky credibility and flighty career moves.”

I am fairly certain that I responded with “Yes, Teddy, we all know exactly what you are; the only debate is about the price.”

Surprisingly, there were no punches thrown.  Not surprisingly, we have never appeared together since.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 231 other followers