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.

     

 


Buried Leads, Great Evenings, and Deal-Breakers

25 August 2010

I spent the better part of the day in bed – body spent, a little hungover, and generally exhausted. I was fairly certain that I would spend this Saturday quietly at home, despite a low murmur of restlessness rumbling in my brain. Then my very dear friend and best date sent me a text message inquiring about my availability for drinks that evening. Lately, Heartbreaker’s schedule has been as crazy as mine so a random night with both of us free was an opportunity not to be wasted.

We settled on early evening drinks at an off-the-beaten-path bar downtown. Joe, our friendly bartender, had already poured Heartbreaker a glass in celebration of ProseccO’clock when I arrived. By the time I had hugged and kissed my nominal date, Joe had stealthily poured me a pint of the beer I drank the first night I met him about a year ago. He’s always so good about getting my libations without prompting, and generally taking very good care that I haven’t had the spirit to tell him that I prefer another drink most nights.

Heartbreaker and I set about catching-up on the random goings-on of our lives. Work stuff, family stuff, and of course, dating stuff. Given that this was the evening after my date with the Conservative Nutter, that unfortunate two hours was discussed at length.

I suppose – just like I have done in this blog post – I buried the lead in recounting the events of the prior night. I took a while to mention that after leaving CN, I met an exceedingly charming woman at another bar later… and had a fatigue inducing night that quenched a number of desert induced thirsts… and that as much as we found delight with each other and in each other, sadly, Jessica and I aren’t suited to dating in the long term.

Heartbreaker was shocked… hell, last night Jessica and I were shocked too when we learned about some fundamental incompatibilities and deal-breakers on each side.

So what’s the problem?” Heartbreaker asked.

The short version: she’s a suburban girl… who wants kids, plural kids-kids” and I am so decidedly not. [ed. note: I acknowledge this exception, but that doesn’t change the rule]

Really” Heartbreaker questioned, “Is that really that big of a deal?”

Yeah, it really is. She works downtown, lives in the suburbs and kinda just tolerates the city. She likes that, is happy with that, and that is just incompatible with the life I want. It’s a deal-breaker.”

Heartbreaker accepted that status and we moved along to other subjects, and our favorite pizza joint. We always sit at the bar, preferably the side that overlooks the pizza making station and with a direct view of the wood-fired oven. At a certain point, I got a little lost in the movement of the flame and the choreography of the pizza chefs.

Why would anyone want to sit anywhere but these two seats?” I asked Heartbreaker. And that question led me back to the topic of deal-breakers.

I would never want to date a woman who would prefer those booths to these seats… I guess sometimes you don’t know what you’re some of your deal-breakers are until you cross them.


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.

Confidentially Forgotten

4 May 2010

I’ve done it dozens of times – spent 40+ hours planning a menu, writing specifications for said menu, sourcing and shopping, writing the tick-tock of event day, and then finally cooking for twelve hours.  For some strange reason, each time I do it I will forget more than a couple of things.  One recent weekend the “I Forgot/Didn’t Finish List” included the following:

  • I didn’t finish the tick-tock of the days events – a schedule of each activity that needs to be completed in each 15 minute segment for things to happen smoothly.  I blame the Happy Hour I happily attended because the lovely Paige was in town from Philly.
  • I forgot that even the best plans collapse under reality’s weight the first time something goes to hell.
  • I forgot that something always goes to hell inside of the first hour.
  • I forgot a couple of random kitchen tools and left one key ingredient on my kitchen floor because I didn’t get to print my final checklist.
  • And for the first hour after I picked up the woman who would be assisting me in the kitchen, I most certainly forgot to breathe.

Lexa and I have been friends for a while now but this was the first opportunity that we have had to work together.  I wasn’t presenting the calm, everything’s-under-control image that I would have liked.  I drove and shifted gears like a man in a hurry, mumbled about traffic, rainy weather, and general frustration, before Lexa dissolved my tension by saying “Refugee, you know I don’t like having to be the positive one!”

That comment was enough for me to get my swing back.  The rest of the trip to get the rented glassware involved some clown car like moments with all of the supplies and four racks of wine glasses crammed into a Jeep… and I might have been uncharacteristically directionally challenged too.

After finally arriving at the client’s home, there was another key moment that added copious amounts of levity to the afternoon.  After unloading two armfuls of supplies and sundries, I was returning to the Jeep and walked right into the glass screen door just like one of those birds in the Windex commercials.  Lexa may have laughed hysterically for a few moments.

We quickly settled into our rhythm and began cooking.  About an hour before service, The Pistol arrived to help with final prep and to be the primary server.

The menu was a Standing Degustation with 11 courses:

  1. Caprése Salad Skewers with 10 year Aged Balsamic Vinegar and Shallot infused Olive Oil
  2. Guacamole Mousse with Lardons of Black Forest Bacon
  3. King Salmon Tartar
  4. Blue Cheese and Jalapeño Beignets
  5. Mini Asiago Cheese and Mushroom Frittatas with Baby Spinach
  6. Gazpacho Soup Shots
  7. Chicken Confit Tacos with Hot Pepper Butter and Arugula
  8. Truffled French Fry Cones
  9. Petite Grilled Cheese with 4 Year Cave-Aged Cowgirl Creamery Cheddar, Prosciutto and Hot House Heirloom Tomatoes
  10. Pork Tenderloin Sliders with Roquefort Butter, and Fried Shallot Rings
  11. Mint Chocolate Mousse with Frozen Peppermint Patty Crumbles

Except that it was only ten courses because right at that moment in the night when several courses had gone out and with a few more to go, Lexa dropped the whole try of the mini grilled cheese onto the floor and open oven door.  This was my turn to repay the calming favor.  I moved over to Lexa, gave her a big hug, kissed her on the cheek and said “It’s not a big deal, seriously, not a big deal, we gotta move on.”

That was the only food-hiccup in a night that began with more than a couple of client induced hiccups.  None of them mattered, however, because the food was inspired, and great food erases a multitude of sins.

After we had fed all guests into submission and before we started cleaning, I grabbed a couple of beers and Lexa, The Pistol and I went outside for a quick break and that’s when I realized I’d forgotten a couple of other things too:

  • Cooking for twelve hours is physically exhausting… like, no other frame of reference exhausting
  • Cooking for twelve hours is exhausting but when the food is great, and you know the food is great, the client knows the food is great, and the guests are giving you insane compliments that they cannot possibly mean literally, it’s also kind of exhilarating too.
  • No beer I’ve ever had in my life could taste better than the one I have at the end of a night… unless I shared the experience with friends.

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


Goodnight, Goodbye, and Good Luck, Old Friend

23 February 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

******

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


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

16 February 2010

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

Among the things I wrote at the time:

I endorse, embrace, and enthusiastically support the crush.

In the same way that some would argue that the single cell organism is the purest form of life, I argue that the crush is the purest form of affection.  It is perfect, wholly contained, and needs no augment.  It can exist in a personal vacuum absent acknowledgment or reciprocity.  The Crush can be romantic, professional, artistic, vocational, social, bloggerational, and can even exist within the confines of a healthy relationship.  The crush is perfect.

To have a Crush is to engage whimsy, to embrace possibility, and in the extreme case to wrap oneself in the courage of romance.

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

********

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


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