things that should be harder – things that should be easier

29 September 2010

Things that Should Be More Difficult to Do

  • misplace the smartphone upon which we have become so dependent… in your own house
  • have your soul sucked out (through every pore) with reality television marathons
  • experience seemingly justifiable road rage
  • find a glass of exceedingly average and spectacularly overpriced wine in an otherwise decent place to drink it
  • making movies or television shows… if your name is Tyler Perry
  • getting acting gigs… if your name is David Caruso
  • writing books… if your name is Terry McMillian
  • make an argument about the sanctity of marriage in the age of Brittany Spears
  • getting parking tickets in DC
  • conflate being famous with being infamous
  • stop chasing dreams, believing in magic, hearing the bells
  • move through an entire day without appreciating art
  • allow the arbitrary, the random, or the capricious keep one away from something or someone we love
  • listen to our lesser demons instead of our better angels

Things that should be easier

  • defending DC from all of the haters
  • getting a great education without mortgaging the first two decades of adulthood & your soul to an evil-corporate-overlord
  • understanding the customs and morays of social media
  • finding good and relatively inexpensive Italian food in DC (yes, that is one giant, gaping hole in the DC culinary landscape… if any of you mention Pasta Mia, you’re no longer welcome to my Scotch)
  • finding good contemporary music
  • aging gracefully
  • reducing our carbon footprint
  • getting more disciplined as we get older
  • make a decent living as an artist
  • fully appreciating the Thomas Payne quote: That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly”

Hat Tip to Sarah and the Goon Squad for the idea for this post


Revisiting a Post Requiem on a Woman Past

14 March 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She pushed herself prone and away from me.

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


A Few Short & Open Letters from the Week

17 January 2010

To the older gentleman & your impossibly good looking wife who sat across from me at the coffeeshop, watching you help your wife with her coat was the sweetest gesture I had seen all day, and made me just a touch sad because so few young men know (or bother) to do such gracious things.

To the 20 something couple from Philly who asked me about restaurants (oddly enough without knowing that this is my area of expertise,) I hope you had a good time at Cashion’s and thank you for helping your fiancée with her coat – it restored a little faith.

To the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, and Dallas Cowboys, somehow you all conspired to convert a great football weekend with really intriguing match-ups into a complete snoozefest.   Have fun this off-season.

To the very good looking Ginger who sat next to me at the cigar bar, complained about the smell of my La Aroma de Cuba while chain smoking Camel Lights, I would have happily moved to another seat sooner had you asked me politely instead of rudely grumbling about it to the bartender.  Perhaps that tramp-stamp tattoo should have read “Chutzpah for Days” not “too sexy 4 U*”

To the car-service driver, Tony, when your passenger would rather fake a phone call instead of talking to you, that might be a good indication that you talk just a wee bit too much.

To the Ritz Carlton bartender, flirting with my date is a pretty sure way to get me to leave your bar, leave you a mediocre tip, and give a call to your F&B director… after I have calmed down enough to not spit nails into the phone.

To the woman who used to be a friend, when I told you that “you need to stop trying to fuck away your problems one random cock at a time” I really was trying to be helpful.  Contrary to your expressed belief, taking a different guy home every night is not “owning your sexuality” it is expressing your insecurity and rubbing salt in those emotional wounds.

To the baby who kept trying to give me his pacifier in the subway, I really appreciated your generosity but I was pretty certain that you were going to need it later, your smile was gift enough for me.

* I really wish I was making that up.


Bricks on the Path to Hell

12 January 2010

Before we begin, I just want to remind everyone that the Valentine’s Day Dinner Contest is still accepting nominations.  Please nominate your favorite do-gooders for the chance to win V-Day weekend dinner from a personal chef.

I love cigar shops, the camaraderie, conversations, arguments, and certainly the professional connections. I love it all.  They exist across all manner of societal lines, and my regular shop is no exception.  When I left a really big deal meeting  recently (I wish I could tell you about it but I cannot) the cigar shop was a logical choice for a celebratory repast of coffee cake and a smoke.

There’s a Romeo y Juielta Cask Aged Lonsdale in my left hand and a Café Americano in my right.  I’m talking politics with Spoon, a nickname that I gave him because of his enjoyment in stirrin’ shit up, when a tall fella’ ambles over from the other side of the store.  He’s looking for a particular cigar but in a smaller size.  As is so common in cigar shops, this gentleman falls into our conversation or we fall into his.

“Yeah, I know you have the churchills but I need the robusto size… any longer and my wife starts yelling at me” the tall fella says to the tobacconist and in our general direction.

We are men which means our problem response is standard –fix it, buy it, or kill it.

Spoon offers one of his typical conversation grenades with “You just need to let her know who’s in charge!”  This is the kill it option.

“Maybe you should consider getting one of those propane heaters for your patio, that way you can smoke on the patio and maybe she won’t complain as much” suggests the tobacconist who happens to be a good friend as well as a shopkeeper.  That is the buy it option.

The tall fella laughs a bit at the first suggestion; it was the uncomfortable laugh of someone who hopes what was said was a joke.  The rest of us, who regularly smoke with Spoon, laugh too.  Our laughs are mostly directed at him because we know, despite the scrapes he gets on his knuckles while walking, that Spoon is a largely harmless anachronism of a different era.  We’ve also seen him with his wife and know that she most certainly doesn’t allow him to practice what he preaches.

Maybe because of academic training, or restaurant and sommelier experience, the inclination of the better part of me runs towards asking questions to better understand a problem.  (I am more than occasionally prone towards other responses, too.) “Where do you smoke?” I ask the tall fella.

“My wife lets me smoke in the basement… as long as the vents are open, the door is closed, and the smoke-eater is running.”

“Let’s you! She LET’S you smoke in the…” Spoon mocks before I interrupt and keep talking.

“Does she not like the smell of cigar smoke, or is it something else that triggers her anger?” I ask.

“Ya, know, she actually doesn’t mind the smoke – I wouldn’t say that she enjoys it; but it’s not a major problem for her.  It’s more like she doesn’t want me spending an hour in the basement a few nights a week after dinner.”

I take a pull from my cigar and say “Even with the understanding that free advice is normally worth exactly what you pay for it, I think your real issue is the disconnect while you’re down there.”

Tall fella nods a bit which I take as a signal to keep talking.

“You need to find a way to make your cigar time a communal time, to involve her.  Suppose that you two do the dishes after dinner and then you ask her to play some Scrabble with you, or backgammon, or chess, or maybe read together, or even read to her.  The point is to change it from something you do, to just a cigar that you smoke while you two do something together.”

The tall fella was effusive in his thanks; “That’s a really good idea, dude, I mean, that’s really good advice.”

“Yeah, Refugee, you should write a book or something” Spoon teases.

A couple of months have passed since that random exchange and when I ran into the tall fella at the cigar shop yesterday, I didn’t recognize him.  He saw me and crossed the shop to say hello.

“Hey, dude, I just wanna thank you for that advice you gave me a while back.  You were exactly right; her problem was more me being in the basement by myself.  Since then, we’ve played a bunch of board games, and read a coupe of books together and I get to smoke a cigar.  But it just goes to show that you need to be careful what you wish for, because I kinda learned I was going down there to escape her.”

“Sorry, my friend, I warned you it might only be worth what you paid for it.”


And the R-Cubies Go To…

29 December 2009

Shameless Solipsism and a Couple of Wet Kisses have arrived in the form of the first annual (probably never do this again, but whatever) Restaurant Refugee Rewards or R-Cubes for short.  They are a collection of some of the posts of the last twelve months that had particular meaning to me, or got me in trouble, or simply had subjects that lent themselves to making another joke.  There are also a few other people’s work receiving awards today – though not nearly as many people as should get them so there maybe another installment of this tomorrow.

And the R-Cubies go to…

The Carrie Prejean Award for Pretty but Vapid Restaurants goes to Bar Dupont.

The What Would Happen If Dr. Ruth Looked Like Ginger Award for Sexpert Advice in the blogosphere goes to City Girl Blogs.

The Hallmark Award for Best Invention of a Holiday goes to National Crush Day

The Carl Lewis Sings the National Anthem Award for Shoulda Stuck to What you Know goes to All of my Attempts to Write Memes – Except this one which I thought was really good.

The James Lipton Award for Seemingly Simple but Terrifically Textured Questions goes to Megabrooke of Skrinkering Hearts who asked me “How Much is Too Much” in that interview meme that was going around at the beginning of the year.

The Infield Fly Rule Award for things you Should Know but Maybe Didn’t goes to Advice for Black Tie Galas and Capitol Hill Style’s Ball Tips and Tricks for Ladies that inspired it.

The Cowbell Award for Things I Need More of goes to Jimmy & Sophia.

The Urban Dictionary Award for Teaching me my Favorite New Phrase, Skin-Hungry, goes to I’m Gonna Break Your Heart.

The Oscar Wilde Award for Booze as Creative Lubricant goes to My Weekend as Three Rounds of Jeopardy.

The Max Roach Award for Consistently Leaving Comments Better than the Post that Inspired Them goes to my friend Brad.

The Joe Isuzu Award for Forcing Me to Be Creative with Truth goes to the Unnamed Woman Who Inspired This Post.

The Sarah Silverman Award for my Favorite New Funny and Irreverent Blogger goes to –The Fooler Initiative–.

The Don Imus Award for Unintentionally Causing Controversy goes to The Open Letter to a Few Women and the Subsequent Follow-Up.

The Snuggie Award for Ideas that Seemed Fun Conceptually but in Reality Not So Much… goes to Blog Reader Bingo.

The If Dr. Phil Wasn’t Such a Tool Award for Good Advice Given goes to A Guide to Fighting Fairly.

The Jennifer Tilly Award for Fiction Inspired by both Women and Poker goes to Playing Poker with an Old Foe.

The Donald & Ivanka Trump Award for Being Married to Each Other and Not Inflicting Themselves on Anyone Else goes to Sam & Toni.


Struggling with Instinct in the Pale Moon Light*

6 December 2009

“I love the new look” was the salutation from Juliet, a woman I’ve know for several years.  The greeting wasn’t strange in light of the fact that I had recently shaved the goatee I’d worn since grad school.

“Thank you; I have to admit that I’m still on the fence about the change” I replied.

“Trust me, you need to keep it off… I mean you looked great before but now there’s nothing hiding your lips.”

As soon as the words were out, I could see the holyshitdidIjustsaythat look fall across her face.  It was the wee small hour part of the night and she had been at the bar for a few beers more than me.

Alcohol is the lubricant that often pries difficult truth from the mind

Gentlemen don’t revel in a lady’s embarrassment, so I changed the subject with a “So how was your holiday?”

We continued with the worst kind of cocktail conversation for another few minutes but that look never left her face.  She went back to her friends and I went back to crafting the menu for a Cajun Holiday dinner I may or may not be preparing in a couple of days.

Minutes always seem to move faster the closer you get to Last Call and this night was no exception.  As I hate being in a bar when the lights get brighter and everyone get a little less attractive (myself included,) I started packing my things before that moment.  Just as I’m buckling the straps on my briefcase, Juliet came over and asked “Refugee, you mind walking me home?”

I’d done it at least a dozen times and I was happy to do it again that night.

On the sidewalk, Juliet slipped her arm inside mine like she always does.  It was one of the first really cold nights of the season and I enjoyed having proof of my exhalations.  Two blocks later, we’re in front of her building and said our usual valediction as we hugged.   She took a few steps toward her door and made an abrupt about face.

Juliet closed the distance between us so quickly that I didn’t realize she was going to kiss me until her lips were already on mine.

It was a lusty, hungry kiss, the kind you’d expect from a woman who deserves to be kissed, and often, and by somebody who knows how, but hasn’t been.

I started to speak but Juliet placed a gentle hand to my lips and said “I’m sorry; I’ve wanted to do that for a very long time and since I obviously told you that earlier, I figured I had nothing to lose.  Your lips are softer than I imagined and I wish I could date you, but I have height issues… and I know that their mine but…”

I cut her off with “I understand and you don’t need to say anything else” mostly because I didn’t want to hear any more.  I am not a bitter short guy – well I am bitter with the doctors who told me as a child that I would be at least six-two and I do want those extra five inches – but this does get tiresome.

*Sting, if you ever read this blog – yeah, I know it ain’t likely – I hope you’ll pardon my paraphrasing your brilliant lyrics.


The Family That Plays Together… Picks Up Strangers in Bars Together?

29 November 2009

To say that I’ve neglected my pool game of late would be akin to saying that I think Beaujolais Nouveau is mediocre wine.  With some random free time on my hands, I decided to give my game a few hours of work.

The first hour of practice was painful for my ego.  By the second hour, my game began to resemble what it normally is, but only if you’re squinting and looking through gauze.  It was time for a break so I made my way to the bar to trade my coffee for a beer.

Around the time of my second sip, a very well appointed sixtyish lady ambles next to me and says “You’re pronating on your follow through.”  Her voice had the unmistakable lilt of southern gentility.

“Thank you, I’m trying to shake a few months of dust off my game and I appreciate any advice” I reply.

“It’s most pronounced when you’re trying to get some English on the ball” she continues in a very accurate assessment of my stroke.

“Atlanta?” I half ask half guess.

“Born and raised, but we live in Savannah now” my impromptu instructor says with the word Savannah seeming to take a half second longer to pronounce than a Yankee would say it.  As I’ve long had a fondness for southern women, I start to develop an affinity for this very married woman who could be my mother.

Just as I am about to introduce myself a booming baritone voice exclaims “Is my bride talking your ear off, sir?  If you let her, she’d talk a hole in a deaf man’s ear.”

He has the same lovely southern drawl.

“Actually she was telling me to keep my arm straight on my follow through; I’m Refugee, by the by,” I say while extending my hand.

“So nice to meet you, Refugee; I’m Sonia and that big fella there is my husband, Les.  Now how did you know Atlanta?”

“I went to university down south and got pretty good at recognizing the various accents.”

“I don’t know what you mean with that accent stuff; it’s you northerners who talk funny” Les says with a wink.

As we’re all laughing, a younger version of Sonia approaches us and says “Daddy it’s your shot and are you two ever coming back with drinks?  Oh, forgive me, I didn’t realize yall were talking with someone.”

“Refugee, this is our daughter, Alexandra” Les says by way of introduction.

She is as tall as her six-three father (with the aid of the four inch heels on her riding boots) and has his steel blue eyes, but the rest of her is all Sonia down to the dimples and freckles.

“My pleasure” I say as we shake hands.

“Refugee, would you care to join us?  We’re five now and could use a more even number” Sonia asks before changing the question to a declaration with “You know that we won’t take no for an answer.”

I grab my sticks and join them.  I am introduced to Alexandra’s older brother, Les III, and his wife, Christina, who just moved to DC a month ago for jobs.

Over several games of team eight ball, it becomes apparent – rather quickly too – that I am the worst player at the table.  Les paid his way through the University of Georgia by hustling pool and it seems that skill on the table is a familial requirement.

Hours seemed to vanish into a haze of laughter, empty pint glasses, and fascinating conversations that ranged from esoteric billiard games, the best way to make a roux, the golf courses Les won’t play because of their exclusivity, and too many other things to mention.  Afternoon stretched to evening and the whole affair seemed charmed.

Eventually Sonia asks “Refugee, this is your city, where should we go eat?” seemingly taking charge as is a matriarch’s want.

“Keep in mind that we need a table for six” the younger Les adds.

“Yes, it’s not even question, you will be joining us right” the older Les insists.

By the end of the night, too much wine had been consumed, friendships formed, and email addresses exchanged.

Before I even get home, Sonia has sent me a thank you email even though Les insisted on getting the tabs for everything – including the bottle of dessert wine I attempted to surreptitiously buy after dinner.  It was a stunningly gracious act; that she ended her message with “and keep that arm straight” was stunningly funny.


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