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.

Only One of These Things Isn’t Like the Other

10 November 2009

A good friend of mine was bitching like a petulant child explaining his frustration with eHarmony.  Though I’ve had limited success with my dating website of choice, I suggested that he give it a whirl.  For reasons that aren’t really germane to this post, I wrote his dating profile for him, an exercise that I found fascinating for what I learned about our friendship, and as a literary challenge.

I was amazed at how quickly his profile was viewed and he began receiving messages.  It was a stark contrast to my initial experience – my views came at a trickle and I didn’t receive an unsolicited message from a woman for several weeks.  This differential seemed to underscore the site’s internal analysis of response rates based on demographics.

My friend and I have roughly the same stats when it comes to the searchable categories for the site. He’s a couple of years older, we both have advanced degrees, are roughly the same height, have the same build,  share a fondness for adult beverages, are mostly agnostic, lean pretty hard to the progressive political scale, and most people would say we are about equal in the looks department.  The one difference?  He’s about as white as they come and I am not.

The principle of Occam’s Razor would suggest that difference as the cause, but like most people of color, I wanted to eliminate every other possible cause before making that ugly leap.  Perhaps in the year or so that I’ve used the site, I have become more proficient at the style of writing preferred there.  Could it be that the pictures were simply more flattering of my friend?

I know that physical attractiveness is an unquantifiable issue but I think that it would be hard to argue that he is Lyle Lovett to my Denzel Washington or I am Flavor Flav to his Brad Pitt.

In a mildly unscientific effort to test this, I created the exact same profile in a different city.  I selected Chicago because it is a larger city (creating a seeming advantage for me because of a larger dating pool.)  To add to my perceived advantages, I bumped my height to the six feet, two inches the doctor’s promised my younger self I would be.  I’ve known my friend for years and I am certain that the pictures of him weren’t the best ones I’ve seen just the ones that I had available.  Neither account completed any of the questions so the “Match Percentage” for women to both profiles was zero.  Additionally, neither account viewed any profiles during the study period, so there were no pingback views or “You Looked at me so let me look at you” views.

The Results:

Profile Views in the first 24hours, 48hours, week:

Same Words His Pictures: 36, 63, 212

Same Words My Pictures: 10, 18, 63

Elapsed Time Before Receiving First Message:

Same Words His Pictures: 34 minutes

Same Words My Pictures: more than a week and counting

Number of Messages in the First 24hours, 48hours, week

Same Words His Pictures: 3, 5, 10

Same Words My Pictures: zero, zip, and zilch


Preferences are preferences and I am not drawing any line in the sand conclusions, but I am fatigued by the implication. I’m tired of telling this story because way too many people realize that a story is just a few synonyms away from a fable and then just a few more from a tall-tale. And so it leaves me standing here under the weight of a lived-certainty that nobody believes and bracing for the ridicule of my anger.


This post was only possible because of the editorial assistance of my friend and fellow blogger, franco.Beans.  If he isn’t in your blog reader, you need to fix that… like right now.

Blue Jean – I Just Met a Girl Named Blue Jean

28 October 2009

When I told one of my dear friends that I was going denim shopping, she let out a bit of a little-girl-squee, and then pouted for a minute when she learned I wasn’t taking her along for the ride.

“This is what I do” she declared, “You have no idea how important the right pair of jeans is.”

“I am not a denim person, don’t wear it often – maybe once a month, had maybe three pairs in 15 years,  and I won’t let it become a big deal,” I reasoned.  I declared my intentions to shop at a relatively normal department store before being convinced by this friend and a couple of others that I really needed to try Anonymous Fancy Denim Place.

A week or so later I wandered into AFDP and my bullshit sense immediately started tingling as an Extremely Attractive Red-Headed woman headed my way with a cheery “Good afternoon, sir.”

There are few times when the really beautiful people face discrimination for the genetic accident of good looks.   When I enter a restaurant or retail organization and everyone is preternaturally haawwt, I assume the collective to be less qualified for their jobs because the applicant pool was so restricted.

“Good afternoon” I replied to the woman who could boil water just by looking at the glass.   “I need to buy a pair of jeans” I stated to demonstrate my talent for declarations of the obvious.

“It would be my pleasure to help; would you like to have a seat so we can discuss what you’re looking for?” EARH asked while motioning towards two post-mod chairs with distressed leather finish.

As we took our seats, it felt more like a date at some coolly elegant lounge – which is, I think as the designers and managers intended – when another genetically fortunate person came over to offer me “cocktail, cappuccino, bottled water?”

My bullshit sense was now in overdrive.

I liked the fact that EARH didn’t make suggestions but just asked questions – what kind of fit, what kind of color, how did I feel about the pockets, how do I wear jeans?

“As loose as is reasonable, normal jean color, standard five pockets, and infrequently but most often with a sport coat and a collared shirt or sweater” were my answers.  I added in the fact that I wear suits most days and really don’t like any trousers that fit more snugly than the ones in my suits.

After a bit more conversation, EARH declared that she was “ready to assemble a palette for me.”

I had a strong desire to explain that unless there was painting, or warehouse wooden flats were involved, she was misusing the word… but refrained mostly because pretense in response to precious is a vicious cycle.

After a few minutes, I was led into a fitting room and given instructions to don each pair and then come to the mirror for feedback.   On one of this fitting room’s three shelves sat five pairs of jeans.  The first pair was hipster tight to the extent that I saw no value in emerging from the dressing room to offer my feedback or get theirs.  The second and third pairs were still too fitted for my taste but closer to my thoughts so I go out to the mirrors to explain.

There were the expected “those look good on you” comments before I explained my discomfort.

“I don’t like the look or feeling of tight trousers on me, and both of these pairs we’re too tight for my taste” I tried to explain.

“All of those are either relaxed or loose fit, and they’re tighter than I expected” EARH said before fumbling a bit to recover from “tighter than expected” as unintended dig.

“Styles have gotten much slimmer over the last ten years, but my tastes haven’t.  I’m getting the sense that what some consider relaxed fit I think is skinny fit.”

I think we finally had a true understanding.  EARH grabs another pair from the rack and said “Try these next – I think this is what you want.”

She was right – a conservative dark blue, ample room through the leg, sat well on my waist and seat – I was happy… and then I asked about the price.

EARH smiled brightly and said “Those are on sale for three seventy-five.”  The number hung in the air for a minute.

“I am so sorry to have wasted your time.  I understand that for some people that is a completely reasonable number, but it’s just not for me.”  Because I felt a need to defend my financial priorities a bit more, I continued “The same people who would buy these jeans would look at me like I’m the crazy one for what I spend on cufflinks but it’s a question of what’s important to you… and I just can’t make a case for jeans being that important to me.”

EARH was earnest and undeterred “I have another pair with a similar cut that’s only three hundred.”

“I really apologize for having wasted your time, I guess that I didn’t understand what you all do here” I offered as I went to get dressed.

The opportunity cost of those jeans = (dinner at Central + drinks at Gibson) or (box of la flor dominicana cabinet selections #1 + a bottle of good bourbon) or 0.5(prescription drug cost for parental units for one month) or (too many other things that are more important to me)

EARH was professional and gracious to the end as she helped me with my jacket before giving me the valediction “If you change your mind, here’s my card and alterations are on me.”

All I could think was “At that price, you have to pay to have jeans altered?”

Let  me see if I can answer some question before they make it to the comments:

No, neither her mobile number, nor any personal message, was on the back of her card.

Yes, I did eventually find a pair of jeans that fit to my satisfaction, at Macy’ and for less than seventy bills.

my new jeans

Are You Faking or For Real – What’s the Deal Dapper

27 October 2009

One of my most frequently googled posts led to the post in which I make the argument that Sexy comes in all shapes and sizes.  It is a belief to which I have fervently cleaved and embodied throughout my adult life.  The corollary notion that I am primarily attracted by intellect and words in equal or even greater measure than one’s luck in the genetic lottery is also a long held concept.  Like many other personal ideals, it can fall short when tested.

As I write this from the patio of my regular coffeshop, a woman sitting a few feet to my left is testing it.  I see Dr. Bly here all the time.  We became fast friends about a year ago when we shared a table because all others were taken.  Over the course of all those months we’ve had countless coffee dates both planned and unplanned, and I have found her to be brilliant, wickedly funny, a scintillating conversationalist possessed with a healthy dose of snarkasm*, love for wine and baseball**, and a terrific flirt.  By any reasonable measure of people, she’s aces over aces.

Dr. Bly also happens to be, according to scientific definitions she helps write and her own admission, morbidly obese.

When we don’t find someone attractive but others think wee should, or we wish we did, the lack of interest can be rested on absence of the indefinable spark.  I can’t do that because intellectually we spark.\; the chemistry exists and it is mutual.  If the fates were to realign and place her into a size 2-20 body, I would cross six lanes of traffic to ask her to have drinks with me, but this day, like every other day our paths have crossed, I choke on the invitation before she leaves.

I am not certain that the superficial demons on my right shoulder have shouted down more enlightened angels on my left; but I don’t like what it says about me either way.



*the evolutionary cross between sarcasm and snark

* her love of baseball is substantively mitigated by the fact that she is a Red Sawx fan

Early Sunday Morning – And, No I Wasn’t Just Heading Home

26 October 2009

Early Sunday mornings are asynchronous to my night owl nature, but favors to friends are not.  So this Sunday morning I awoke with a start to help a friend attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

It’s been seven years since I ran my last marathon in an unsuccessful attempt at the same qualifying feat.  I am nowhere near marathon shape, but I am still fast enough to be a part of a five man relay group that will pace him for 6:30 miles. I had miles 15 through 20 of the “Peoples Marathon” aka the Marine Corps Marathon.

I had forgotten how the city looks at this hour, how she transforms herself from the teeming energy of optimistic nightlife to the comparative tranquility of Sunday morning realities in a few short hours.

Perhaps because I know that I won’t see this side of the city for a spell, I take particular note of her charms this morning.  I find joy in the parents pushing their young charges in strollers.  I smile at bleary eyed chefs arriving for the brunch shift, eager believers entering churches for a weekly dose of faith, and police officers who are probably on the fourth hour of their watch.

This time of morning the city has so many sights, and sounds with which I am unaccustomed.  Yes, I see them at other times, but they seem so unfamiliar at this unfamiliar hour.

I do chuckle a bit at the party boys and girls so obviously still wearing costumes of the night before.

As I cross one bridge over Rock Creek Park, I am convinced that this is the month when real estate with views proves the worth of their premiums since the tree line is awash in red and gold.

I mouth the words “nice ride” to a man I encounter at stop light. I make a mental wager that he was taking his very shiny, very expensive, very convertible mid-life crisis out for a spin.

I nod at a trio of Marines as they pass me on their morning run.

I stop for a moment and just soak in the stillness in time, the quiet of a normally disquiet city.

The city is the same that I have loved for so long but somehow different at this hour.  It’s not unlike a longtime love who suddenly does something different with her hair.  She is no more or less attractive than before the new Do, just different; and that variety keeps things fresh.

I think I need to rise early more often to see me my city this way.

An Argument in Favor of Newspapers… and an Answer to a Question in a Meme

22 October 2009

My friend, The Foggy Dew, and I have had a number of, ahem, spirited discussions about the future of journalism and the necessity of newspapers.  Perhaps the best argument I can make in favor of reading actual newspapers is that you occasionally read an article that caught your eye on paper but might never have caught your mouse on a computer screen.

This Sunday I came to the section of the Washington Post that I normally ignore – wedding/engagement/anniversary announcements (high society porn just isn’t my kinda thing, but I do think that Diamond & Golden Anniversaries are newsworthy.)  The Post has added a more expansive feature to this section, On Love, that tells the story of one couple each week.

By Marvin Joseph - The Washington Post

By Marvin Joseph - The Washington Post

Something about this picture made me read the accompanying story.

As I reached the end of the story, the woman sitting across from me on the Metro offered me a tissue.  I was grateful for that small act of kindness and civility and very grateful for a real newspaper in my hand.

Easier Than I Thought… I am, That Is

15 October 2009

It was an apple crisp night with stiletto rain falling – the kind of evening possessed with an inherent romance like a train ride to NYC, or farmer’s market Sundays.  I had watched the sky grow darker and the rain colder from the comfort of a heated and covered patio.  The surrealism of watching the elements but not being among them was augmented by the strange introspection I’d been feeling all day.  After finishing my newspapers, a couple of bourbons, and most of one of my favorite cigars, I decided I needed to change the scenery.

Within thirty yards, there was the Metro, a bus, and a cab each of which would have conveniently ferried me to my next destination; but I was in a mood to walk.

I am one of those people that some of you hate (for a host of reasons I am sure, but I reference just one) who carries a rather large umbrella.  Four blocks into my walk I hadn’t poked any eyes or other body parts.  Waiting at a stop light a woman comes to the right of my extended cover.  My mind flashed back to one of LiLu’s moments.  I raised my umbrella and tried to find my most non-threatening voice before saying “Happy to share.”

“Thank you, I’m tired of getting wet” she replied as she moved closer to me before continuing “Uhmm, that didn’t come out right.”

“I think were fine; I know what you intended” I countered as we both laughed a polite laugh.

Not wishing to be rude, I ditched the nub of a cigar still smoldering in my left hand.  We walked for a couple of blocks making the kind of awkward small talk that strangers thrown together by circumstance are prone to make.  At another stop light she faces me and says “I think I know you.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“Yeah, I think we’ve met before – you look really familiar.”

“I have to confess that I can be pretty bad with names and faces sometimes, so it’s quite possible – I’m Refugee; nice to meet you.”

“Now I know we’ve met because I had a feeling that was your name… oh, sorry, I’m Jade” she said with more animation than was required.

Given my history in these kinds of moments – I once introduced myself to a bartender I fired – I avoided the “how do we know each other” type of conversation while running though my mental rolodex trying to place our meeting.  We continued having conversation lite for another few blocks until landing in the general area of our destinations.

“Can I buy you a drink to thank you for keeping me dry?” Jade asked while pointing toward the entrance of a nearby watering hole.

Before I had a chance to answer the questions I should have resolved in my head before giving a reply, I heard myself say “It would be my pleasure”.

We had made our way to the back of the bar, got settled and ordered drinks before Jade excused herself to “freshen up.”

There was a beer waiting for her when she returned. I raised my glass to toast, but Jade interrupted with “I need to tell you how I know you.”

“OK, but shall we toast first so we can have a drink while you talk?”

“Cheers, then” Jade said.  “Let me be honest and tell you that I figured it out before I suggested that we have a drink.”

For some reason, I felt a sudden tension in my back like I was about to hear the worst of the scenarios I had conjured in my head.  “Go on” was all I could muster.

“That last couple of blocks I realized that I only kinda know you, and by kinda, I mean not really.  My friend who writes a blog knows you and she knows that I read your blog so she showed me your picture one day… I hope that’s not too weird.”

It was just a bit weird, but I kept my half-formulated thoughts to myself for the moment.  “It’s a touch off putting, but let’s not worry about it” I mostly truthfully declared.

Over the next hour and change, Jade and I had a rather pleasant conversation that only partly felt like an interview.  What follows are the more interesting interview questions and the ones that I think a few more people might want to know:

Why do you blog anonymously? When I started the blog the impetus might have been otherwise but I always suspected that I would write about restaurants.  There is an unwritten rule that restaurant professionals don’t criticize other restaurants publicly.  Given that I might get back into the business one day, and the nature of my current business I have to blog anonymously, though as evidenced by your friend with the picture, I haven’t always been so good at maintaining my anonymity.

That last post of yours was, uhmm, well you know what it was.  If you’ve got that kind of chemistry with her why aren’t you with her? That post was pure fiction – pretty sure I labeled it that way – and was just something I wrote to exercise some prose.  I’ve done it before… and, no, I won’t say if it was inspired by anyone or anything in particular.

Have you ever dated people you’ve met through your blog? A couple, and not sure if either was a good idea in retro(or current)spect. Though, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t do it again.  In a way, I think that meeting people whose thoughts you’ve read for a while is better than most of the random ways people meet.

Do you go out as often as it seems from reading your blog? Not sure how best to answer that question… sometimes yes, others no.  Part of what I do for a living requires me to be very social, and I certainly enjoy it.  At the same time, I enjoy staying home sometimes.  Fuck that sounded like I’m answering a question for a dating profile.

Are you ever going to finish that story about the night with the limo and the ball? I want to, I’ve tried to, I just hate the way the words are arranged on the page.  For some reason I just can’t seem to write about it in a way that makes me happy.  I know the point of it, the arc of it; I just can’t seem to tell it.

Are you going to write about meeting me tonight? Whaddayou think?

Playing Poker with Old Foes

9 October 2009

I was the last person to join the poker game and that suited me just fine.  It made me the wild card, the unknown variable.  Inexperienced players usually don’t adjust to changes well and these cats were no exception.  It took six hands for me to become the chip leader, a baker’s dozen before it was just the host and me at the table.

We took a short break so she could say proper valedictions to her dispatched friends and the game resumed with an understanding that a new one had begun.  Playing “heads-up” poker by definition differs from a full table, but our history complicates things.  Did I have an advantage because I could trace the arch of her hips from faded memories?  Did she have an advantage because she knew to kiss the exact spot where my neck meets torso that will buckle a knee?  I didn’t know.  I  did know that I had the bigger stack of chips but that she was dealing from a loaded deck.

Six hands were a virtual draw with us shuffling chips around the table but neither of us gaining tactical advantage.  In the seventh hand, I was slow playing a set of Cowboys and she was waiting for a straight draw after the flop.  As she contemplated her bet, I felt the heat of her with the crossing of her legs and leaning one against mine.

“Do you really think I’m going to show you a tell just because you’re resting your foot against my calve like it belongs there” I asked.

“You just did…” she said while pushing her cards to the middle of the table.  I told myself that it was a lucky guess but I knew she was right.

Suddenly aware of my breathing or vulnerability – it was a jump ball – I broke one of my poker rules and poured another bourbon.  When I returned to my seat I laid down a jack-ten off suit behind a pre-flop raise and her hand rested on my knee as if to say “I knew you would fold – and I’m only partially talking about the game.”

With the cards in my hands and the first shuffle underway, a hand returned to my knee and moved slowly up my thigh.  I wouldn’t make eye contact choosing to instead focus on the suddenly more complicated task of shuffling.  Another hand fell atop mine – I should have folded but I made a big bet.  I stood and rounded the corner of the table and kissed her.  It was instantly familiar: my left hand starting on her cheek and moving to her neck and hair; her right hand starting behind my thigh and moving to the small of my back.

I pulled Jordan from her chair to meet me.  With her facing away from me, she pressed her body to mine while my lips had a conversation with her neck.  There was urgency in her touch and mine. My fingers found the hem of her skirt, the soft of her skin.  Curving around her thigh until the temperature increased, I caught sight of her face in the mirror on the opposite wall.  Watching her closed eyes, slightly parted lips, I suddenly felt like I was spying on her moment.

Refocusing on Jordan, I undid the top button that had been begging for freedom all night.  Fingering the lace of the bra that I’m certain matches the panties, I appreciated the effort – liberating another button, then another until her blouse hangs open and my right hand roams unabated by fabric.

Jordan turned to face me and we kissed with the fervor of teenagers bumping against curfew.  Leaning against the dinning-turned poker table-turned erotic prop, Jordan wrapped a leg round mine until I lifted her onto the table.  Both of her legs are crossed behind me now and my hands wander up her back.  I consider undoing the clasp of her bra but stop myself for reasons I don’t know.

Urgency became insistence as Jordan unlatches my belt, trousers and zipper in rapid succession.  I raised her skirt past her thighs and over her hips, feeling a hint of a tremor on her skin.  Lace moved to the side, and Jordan took a deep and audible breath with me inside her and her nails in my back.

We moved quickly but deliberately in a slightly un-syncopated beat.  Taking off my shirt suddenly became an imperative for Jordan.  “I always hated this shirt” she moaned into my ear just before leaning back and ripping it open sending buttons across the room and me just a bit hotter for her.

Before long Jordan has reclined on the table in a sexy, spent mass.  I start to speak but am preempted by her “Shhhhh, not yet.”

We sat silently for a few minutes until she rose to extinguish the lights.  There was one playing card stuck against the salty sweetness of back.  It was the Ace of diamonds.

Emotional Fluffers and Hypocrisy

4 October 2009

WARNING: Navel Gazing Ahead

“…How does any of that change the fact that I feel like you contact me at your convenience, flirt with me at your leisure, and seemingly want me mostly as an emotional fluffer to remind you of your allure when your not feeling so alluring?”

That was the operative portion of an email I sent to a former-lover/maybe-friend in response to some suggestive messages she sent me late one recent night.  It wasn’t until I reread the email a few times (a self-congratulatory and vain habit I have when I feel like an email struck the perfect note) that I realized that I had been doing the same thing to various women and in varying degrees for much of my adult life.

This barely revelatory revelation shocked me despite its obviousness – I think that we have all done this at some point, right?  The hypocrisy of my outrage was the real problem for me.  There have been too many convenient women in my past, too many women that were fun enough, smart enough, attractive enough, but far from right, and I kept them around far longer than I ever should have.

This largely anonymous admission does little more than assuage my guilt about my past, but acknowledgement of one’s faults is the first step towards ownership of them. Right?


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