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.


Second Chances with New Vintages – Part III

11 January 2010

This is Part III of a series of short fiction that may become a regular feature here.  Subsequent installments will post on Wednesday or the following Monday.  This will not make much sense without reading Part I and Part II first.

Cynthia never understood the appeal of roller coasters, couldn’t understand the enjoyment of building anxiety in the pit of your stomach, refused to find pleasure in the subsequent crashing fear.  At this moment, having been on this strange ride – talking in unfamiliar ways, saying uncharacteristic things, drinking champagne in a hotel bar on a school night, and speaking to a stranger in a language she never learned – for several hours, suddenly Cynthia made the connection to roller coasters.

She was shaken by the surrealism of it all, and now she found herself in the Ladies Room of the Fairway Hotel, having rushed from the bar without excusing herself.  She splashed some cold water on her face, and tried to steady her legs.  Uncertainty reigned in a disquieted mind as Cynthia alternated between staring at this mirror image which she only loosely recognized, and looking for proof that this was some sort of dream.  She was more than a bit afraid by it all… and kinda liked it.  Her enjoyment scared her even more.  It took almost ten minutes of water splashing and starring before she convinced herself that she should go back to the bar, that she needed to go back to the bar.

Cynthia dried her face, touched up her make up (another first for her,) swallowed as much air as her lungs could hold, and made her way back to her champagne and the stranger who was next to it.  She ignored the little extra sway in her hips.   The tall Frenchman at the bar did not as he eyed her from the moment  she stepped out of the bathroom door.

He stood as she took her seat and said “I hope I did not offend you to have you run off so suddenly?”

“No, no, it wasn’t you, I felt a little light-headed and needed to get some air” Cynthia replied.

“If you are lightheaded, perhaps I should not have ordered you a fresh glass of champagne.”

“That is very kind of you and I don’t think I’ll ever have my fill of champagne.”

“I am Nicolas Cousteau, and no I am not related to Jacques” the tall Frenchman said with a devilish grin.

“Cynthia, Cynthia Trueblood” she said while extending her hand to meet his.  She continued “Oh, this must go over big when you’re in the States.”

“Excuse me?”

“The French, the tall, the good looking, the smile, the accent – it must be very easy for you to meet women here.”

“Mademoiselle Trueblood, that may be the case for some, but I am gay” Nicolas replied to Cynthia’s surprise.

“Oh, I’m… forgive me, I just assumed… I didn’t mean… I just…” an obviously flustered Cynthia stammered.

“You just thought I was flirting with you?” Nicolas asked with a wink.

“Yes.”

“I was flirting with you, I am flirting with you.  I just thought it would be funny.  Not… how do you Americans say… ‘not that there is anything wrong with it’”

The two strangers shared a smile if not an outright laugh as Cynthia wasn’t sure she actually found Nicolas’ joke funny, though she was charmed by it.  They continued their conversation for more than an hour, and another glass of champagne when they were interrupted by one of the hotel’s managers.

“Excuse me, Mr. Cousteau, you’re suite is ready.  We apologize again for the delay.”

The manager placed a key envelope on the table and said “I’ve spoken with the bartender and told him that your champagne is compliments of the Fairway this evening.”

Nicolas thanked the manager before he redirected his attention to Cynthia and asked “Would you like to finish this champagne in my suite?”

“Aimer à n’est pas pertinent comme je ne serai pas. Le fait de vous voir n’a pas appris beaucoup de patience depuis que vous êtes d’abord arrivés au bar (Would I like to is not relevant as I will not be.  I see you have not learned much patience since you first got to the bar)” Cynthia replied firmly through her smile.

“I suppose not” Nicolas sheepishly said with the tone of a man who knew that he had moved too aggressively.  “Peut-être vous pourriez m’enseigner certains sur le dîner demain (Perhaps you could teach me some over dinner tomorrow?”)

Cynthia looked the tall Frenchman in the eye, took a final sip of champagne and said “Au revoir, Monsieur Cousteau.”  She gave him a kiss on the cheek – just long enough for him to feel the heat of her skin – and left the bar.

She felt his gaze as she walked away but did not turn around for confirmation.

Nicolas stopped watching when the doorman opened the oversized door for Cynthia.  When he finally turned his gaze back to the bar, Cynthia’s business card sat next to his glass.


Dancing with Your Own Devils in the Pale Moonlight

10 January 2010

For a man who gets paid to notice things in restaurants, I can be horrifically unobservant when I am really into something else – book, newspaper, conversation, or even my own thoughts.  Thiswas the case one recent evening when I was enjoying a cigar, a bourbon, and the editorial section of the New York Times at one of my usual haunts.  I didn’t notice the striking woman in the winter white pant suit until she was standing at my bar table.

“Hi there” she opened; “I need you to settle a bet for me” she continued without giving me opportunity to return her salutation.

“Good evening” I said while rising from my chair.  “How may I help you settle this bet; and would you care to have a seat while we resolve this?”

“Thank you, I would like to sit… and I’m Jessica”

“Jessica, I’m Refugee; it’s a pleasure to meet you.  Now what is the bet?”

“Well, my girlfriends and I” she said while pointing to two women sitting at the far end of the bar “saw your wedding ring…”

“Not  a wedding ring as I am wearing it on my right hand ring finger” I corrected.

“Exactly.  That’s the question.  We have it narrowed down to: you’re from some country where they wear wedding bands on that hand but I think your lack of an accent eliminates that, or you’re actually married but shift the ring to the other hand when you go to bars, or you’re gay and wear that ring to let other men know you’re available.”

I snickered a bit at the options before replying “There are a couple of flaws in your logic.  If I was the kind of married man who switched his ring in bars, why would I ever admit to it?  Also, I am not positive about this, but I am fairly sure that gay people, especially gay women wear rings on the thumb to indicate such – though that may just be an old wives tale.”

“OK, let’s check your left ring finger for tan lines then” Jessica said with a bit of a smile.

She inspected my hand and declared my hands tan-line free.  “You didn’t answer the question about being gay” Jessica noted.

“No, I didn’t… I am straight” I acknowledged and answered.

“So why the ring?” she pressed.

“It’s a long story, but the short version is that I bought it as a gift to myself and a reminder of the lessons I tried to learn when I took a yearlong sabbatical from women several years ago.”

Just as I finished, Jessica’s two girlfriends arrived at the table demanding to know the verdict on the bet.

“Well, none of us were right.  Apparently, Refugee here has another reason having to do with a ‘sabbatical from women’”

I stood and formerly introduced myself to Stephanie and Maria.  They sat down and we ordered another round of drinks.  Before the cocktails arrived, Maria asked “So tell us more about this sabbatical.”

I laughed to myself before answering “You know, I am normally much more of an open book type of guy, but that’s just a bit more than I am willing to discuss this evening.”

I hadn’t meant for that to be a conversational grenade, but the table was silent for an uncomfortable moment.  Stefanie broke the quiet with “Well then, Mr.-Normally-An-Open-Book-Refugee, what would you be doing if we hadn’t crashed your table?”

I drained the last of my bourbon as our server had just brought the next round and said “Literally just having a drink, smoking a cigar, reading and waiting for a phone call that I don’t expect to come… metaphorically, I’d be running towards the football and foolishly thinking that Lucy won’t snatch it away again… maybe starting another sabbatical.”


Second Chance with New Vintages – Part II

6 January 2010

This is Part II of a short fiction project on which I have been working.  I had planned to post continuing pieces on Mondays but… well I changed my mind.  For this to make complete sense, you should read Part I first.

Cynthia had all of her legs firmly underneath her but still couldn’t understand that voice she just heard from her own mouth, or process the mélange of unfamiliar emotions in her head.  She took the glass of champagne that Mini offered her, and took a seat on what appeared to her to be an antique chaise lounge – fitting since she was dress shopping in Second Chance Vintage shop.

“Freddie was born around the turn of the century – the prior turn of the century, I mean” Mini began by way of explaining the story of the former owner of the blue halter cocktail dress that Cynthia was wearing more comfortably with each passing second.

“She was one part socialite, heiress type, but two parts scholar, rabble rouser, philanthropist, and ingénue.  She graduated from Smith at 19, owned a Speakeasy during prohibition, was a patron saint to half the artists of a generation, and was also one hell of a dancer.”

Cynthia just sat slightly wide eyed while Mini continued with the story.

“There’s a rumor that Picasso painted a nude of her from memory… and then gave it to her as thanks for the memory.  She would dance all night at some Harlem juke joint, and then lead board meetings of the family trust in the morning.  Gentleman chased her and women wanted to keep their husbands away from her even as they wanted to be closer.”

“Did she ever marry” Cynthia asked despite suspecting not.

“The rumor was that she and a sax player in Duke Ellington’s orchestra fell in love; but that was a bridge to far for her father who was generally tolerant of Freddie’s habit of painting outside the lines.  Their courtship was a partially open secret in Harlem, and a closely held one in lower Manhattan.  When he died in a car accident, Freddie was devastated – devastated because she couldn’t attend the funeral, devastated because theirs was an unordinary kind of love – and though she was with other men… and a couple of women too, she never was with anyone else long term.”

“That’s so sad” Cynthia remarked while finishing the champagne in her glass.

Without asking, Mini began pouring another glass of champagne and one for herself this time too.  “I don’t think Freddie would have thought it sad.  She lived the life she wanted, the life she could live, and helped a generation of artists along the way.”

Cynthia paused for a moment before raising her glass.  “Then to Freddie” she said.

Mini and Cynthia toasted and then chatted for a good while on all manner of subjects.  After some time and a few glasses of champagne had elapsed, Cynthia took her feet and announced “Mini, it has been a delight to meet you and chat all this time, but I am afraid I have monopolized your evening.  I’d love to buy Freddie’s dress, and take my leave of you.”  Once again, Cynthia was struck by the phrasing which was so unusual for her.

Cynthia changed back into her Khakis and sweater.  She noted how silly the heels, worn only to try dresses, look with this outfit.  When she emerged from the changing lounge, Mini had her dress wrapped in plastic at the small desk she used as a counter.  Cynthia placed her credit card on the desk… still not knowing and mostly not caring how much she would be charged.  To her surprise and delight the dress was 20% under her budget.  She hugged Mini and promised to stay in touch as she walked out the door.

Twenty five minutes later, just before eight o’clock, Cynthia was sitting on her couch absently trying to read some work report.  She just couldn’t stop thinking about the dress still wrapped in the light grey plastic with Second Chance Vintage scripted on the front.  She pushed some formerly frozen food around the plate sitting on the coffee table… and thought about the dress.  She read the same paragraph three times… and thought about the dress.  She made a deal with herself: try the dress on one more time and then get back to work.

She undid the knot at the bottom carefully because she fully intended to place the dress back under the plastic.  Once she got the plastic over the shoulders of the hanger, Cynthia saw it.  There was a small satchel dangling from the metal part of the hanger; there was Mini’s card with a handwritten “just in case” on it.  The other side of the card read:

Dearest Cynthia,

I thought you should have these earrings as they look lovely with the dress and they were part of Freddie’s estate too.  Bring them back after your party, or just send me a check sometime.

Love,

Mini

Inside the satchel there were a set of gorgeous sapphire and diamond teardrop earrings.  “Surely they’re costume” Cynthia reasoned.

She kicked off her slippers, removed her sweater like it was woven with poison ivy, and wiggled the pants past her hips.

“This bra will not do” Cynthia said to her image in the mirror.  She rummaged through her panties drawer for one of her two strapless bras.  Neither of which got much use.  As she slid the dress over her head, she knew instantly that she had to see it with stockings too, and the heels… and earrings as well.

Cynthia stood in the mirror for a pregnant moment and thought “Just a little make-up maybe” before wondering “Where is this voice coming from?”  She didn’t spend much time on the notion before applying the very conservative shade of lipstick that is the only one she wore, and running a brush across her cheeks and eyelids.

Back in front of the full length mirror, Cynthia loved everything about this dress and the way she looked in it, and then she was overcome with an irresistible urge to have a glass of champagne.  There was none to be had in her one bedroom midtown condo.

“Let’s go to The Fairway Hotel” she told her slightly unfamiliar mirror image.

Cynthia paused for just a moment to contemplate this voice that sounds like her own but keeps saying these unfamiliar things.  The pause didn’t stop her from grabbing the smallest purse she owned, which still wasn’t quite small enough for Freddie’s dress, and shoving a few essentials in it before walking out the door.

A cab ride, a few turned heads in the lobby, and Cynthia was sitting at the terrifically elegant bar at the Fairway Hotel.  The bartender smiled and offered her a glass of water and a cocktail list.  She couldn’t read it without her glasses and it didn’t matter because she knew she wanted “a glass of Pierre Jouet, rosé if you have it, please.”

A few minutes later, a tall gentleman made his way to the bar mumbling in a mix of French and English.   “I cahhnnot behlieve zhat my room iz noht readie” the tall gentleman murmured loud enough for Cynthia to hear.

“Il y a des choses pires qu’est forcé à avoir une boisson, peut-être vous devriez trouver quelque patience (there are worse things than being forced to have a drink, perhaps you should find some patience)” Cynthia said.

“Your Franch is very good, whar did jou learn?” the tall gentleman asked.

Cynthia turned a particular shade of lobster red… she doesn’t know French.


Second Chance with New Vintages – Part I*

4 January 2010

Since the first humans capable of having feelings walked the earth, empaths have walked among them.   Cynthia never knew that she was one…

For most of her painfully shy 29 years, Cynthia lived in an introspective house of mirrors in her mind.  Maybe it was the mother who showed love through back-handed compliments, or the father who only showed emotion to a bottle of Ballentine scotch, but Cynthia always seemed to be looking into the mirrors that distorted her slender frame and middle class life.  She never developed many social skills.

The cum laude graduate from a small state school found happiness and professional success in balance sheets and accounting formulas.  Had Cynthia been more outgoing, friendlier with her colleagues, or in possession of the people skills necessary for management her accounting acumen might have moved her past the lowest associate level at her firm.  In her seven years at the office, one of the administrative assistants was her only “work” friend.

When Katie got engaged to her attorney boyfriend, the invitation to the engagement cocktail party felt more like a burden to Cynthia than an opportunity to celebrate.  It’s not that she wasn’t happy for Katie, or disliked her fiancée; rather, Cynthia disliked the social tumult of parties, the awkwardness she felt around strangers, and was terrified with the prospect of flirting with men.  There was also the matter of finding a dress on her condo-poor budget.

Her discomfort and credit phobia aside, she was going to attend because despite not having many, Cynthia was a good friend.  She went to a fancy department store in hopes of finding a dress, but the sales staff was off-putting in their over eagerness.  A trip to their rivals on the other side of the mall didn’t bear fruit because they were too busy with customers who looked like they already shopped there.

Despite her increasingly lowered spirits, Cynthia went into a swanky couture shop on the way to her car.  Once inside she was immediately comforted by a late 40s woman with a very soothing voice and incredible accessories.  The sales woman offered champagne and a gentle ear.  Cynthia took advice, tried on dresses but declined the champagne – she was a very light drinker.

After four dresses, Cynthia found a black A-line that flattered her shape and made her smile… until she looked at the price tag.  It was four times what she had planned to put on her credit card.  The sales woman seemed to be able to read Cynthia’s mind – not that she had much of a poker face – and struck a pitch perfect tone in saying “You know dear, you have one of those faces and frames that would look great in vintage.  I’m going to give a call to a friend of mine who runs a vintage shop around the corner.  Give her my card and tell her I sent you… I think that you find exactly what you need there.”

Cynthia thanked her for all of her courtesy and went back to her car.  It only took a few minutes for her to arrive at the parking lot of Second Chance Vintage; a time spent dwelling on the words “I think you’ll find exactly what you need.”  Why need; why not want she wondered.  There was not much time for that question because as soon as she opened the door and before she could even introduce herself, a 50-something woman who could have been the sales woman’s cousin or aunt gave a cheery “You must be Cynthia; I’m Mini… it’s short for Minerva but nobody calls me that.”

Something about these two women placed Cynthia at ease despite their slightly outsized introductions.

“So we had a long discussion – well not really long because it only took you a few minutes to get here – about you, and I am pretty sure that I have two dresses that would look lovely on you.  Would you like some champagne?”

Once again Cynthia declined the champagne but was really eager to try the dresses.  She went into the dressing lounge and saw the first dress, a Navy Blue Halter dress just below the knee.  She felt just a touch lightheaded as she stepped out to have Mini close the zipper.

Mini held a steadying hand as she brought the zipper to its close.

“You look stunning in that dress dear, are you sure you wouldn’t like a glass of champagne, that dress really deserves champagne” Mini encouraged.

For some reason and despite a strange feeling about her head, Cynthia suddenly heard herself saying “Looking in the mirror, it seems that a glass of champagne wouldn’t just be prudent, it’s downright required at the moment, thank you.”

Champagne in the afternoon was out of character for Cynthia, but so was the phrasing.  This was a different Cynthia.  As Cynthia removed her spectacles, Mini handed her a glass of champagne and said “Now let me tell you about the woman who once owned that dress…”

________________

* This is the first part of a series of short fiction that may become my regular Monday posts.


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.


Dearest Santa – My Open List

20 December 2009

Dearest Santa,

I begin by explaining my belief in you – it has never wavered.  Sure, there was that one time in fourth grade when I may have pretended to be a non-believer, but that was just a front.  I only let people conclude such heinous things because snotty-nosed Johnny, who I am certain received lumps of coal that year and many that followed, was leading a chorus in which he and his evil cronies accused all believers of being “big fat little sissy babies.” Setting aside his horrific and illogical sentence structure, I assure you, Santa, that I only denied you once and only because even then I deemed arguing with the ill equipped to be a fool’s errand.

Like many bloggers this season, I am making my requests electronically because snail mail to the North Pole would burn hella fossil fuels, and publically because… well because I had to write something.  I am going to skip the obviously impossible requests (world peace, and end to suffering, a return to reason in political discourse, good service at CVS, etc.) because so many folks more worthy than I have made those requests and they seem not to be within your purview.  I will also forego the trappings of materiality (though if I were to find a 1961 Zenith Constellation Chronometer under my pretend tree, I wouldn’t be even a little upset,) because if I have learned nothing these past few years, I have learned that I have everything I really need.

With those caveats and qualifiers, my dear Santa, I give you my Christmas Wish list for 2009:

  1. I would like more uncomplicated relationships, or at least fewer relationships that offer conspicuous complexity.
  2. I would love it if you packaged some emotional availability and put that in my stocking.
  3. That ego deflation valve for my head would make a lovely bauble.  If you accompanied it with some supplemental humility packs it would really pop.
  4. A self-righteous-o-meter complete with the internal warning whistle that sounds before I get on Tilt would be splendid.
  5. While I appreciate all of the virtual friendships you’ve given me in the last year, I would love it if you made a few more of them more tangible.
  6. Santa, I love the delete-all-history function on that phone you gave me last year.  I am wondering if I could have the corresponding functionality for my brain too.
  7. I know that I have asked for a bunch of relationship stuff, but if you’d indulge me one more, I really wouldn’t mind if you helped me redevelop my relationship with Her.  No not that woman, Santa (she’s the reason I asked for number 6;) I’m referencing God, who I am convinced is a woman until I hear definitively contrary information.
  8. More cowbell
  9. A third ear – something stealthy, who wants to be that guy with an extra ear on his forehead – so I can listen a little bit more.

Well, Santa, that’s my list for this year.  I know that most of the things I have listed are within my control.  I suppose that is an implied acknowledgement that you, Santa, live in the heart of every boy and girl, no matter how old we get.

Sincerely, gratefully, yours,

Restaurant Refugee


RR-20: The Initial List

11 November 2009

There is a new feature here that may be helpful only to you locals, but I am happy to present the RR-20.

It is a list of 20 places where I happily will spend cash at any moment.  They aren’t necessarily what I consider the best restaurants in DC and the surrounding area (though at least ten would make that list;) but they are the ones that I implicitly trust with my evenings, afternoons, and well… money.    I trust them to always be exactly what I expect them to be which is a terrific hamburger, sublime fine dining, very good sushi or anything in between.

There is certainly a bias towards places in the city (leaving the city requires more trust than going around the corner) and places that can accommodate my preferences for dining at the bar.

I am still working on a more expansive version of this list with brief reviews/summaries of what to expect at each, but I’ve wanted to incorporate this list as a component of the blog for a long time.  It will be a moveable feast with frequent additions, subtractions, and may grow by another 10 names, but this is the initial RR20.


I’ve Got This Dream by the Tail

2 November 2009

It’s rare that I can recall my dreams, even more rare that I understand the seemingly wackier ones.  But this morning I woke with a clear image of a tiger in my life – an actual tiger had become my pet.

He was a sweet boy – I named him Gus – and he would fetch things (sticks and rubber balls, not small animals,) and was very affectionate.  I was, of course, terrified of Gus because he was a fully grown tiger, no matter how good it felt when he would nuzzle my face, I knew the power of the teeth behind the fur.

Later in my dream I am speaking on the phone with a woman.  I was lamenting how I cannot recall who gave me the tiger, but I have to get rid of dear, sweet, Gus.  The woman on the line said that she gave me the tiger.  Of course she gave me the tiger, I thought, it’s just like her: rare, beautiful, powerful, loving, and capable of ripping my heart out with her bare hands.

____________________

By the by, I didn’t go to the costume party; I didn’t dress as Top Chef, but I did have the most interesting Halloween since third grade when I – the only black guy in a school filled with shiny white people* – went as a Klansman.  Recall how awkward I thought it was to have bickering clients at a Valentine’s Dinner?  Yeah my Saturday night clients made the V-Day couple look like Ward and June Cleaver.  That story will be told later this week.

* Phrase shamelessly lifted from my favorite Mommy Blogger, Lemon Gloria, who probably would bristle at the notion of being called a mommy blogger


That’s What Old Friends are for? – part I

28 September 2009

The rain kept me in the house on Saturday.  It was a blissfully unproductive day in which I mainlined college football – props to USF, Stanford, VaTech, and a few other squads that made the day especially interesting – and generally ignored all manner of adult responsibilities.

About the time that I finally accepted that this would be that rare Saturday evening when I would stay in the house, my phone rang with a blocked number.  As is my custom when receiving such calls, I let it go to voicemail. It rang again and was ignored again.  The third ring in three minutes made answering an annoying imperative.

“Good evening, this is Refugee” I said with a hint of annoyance.  I could barely hear the voice on the other end, the caller clearly at a party with loud music in the background.

“[garbled, garbled, garbled] what’s your 20” the voice commanded.

“I can’t hear you, who is this?”

“Moving outside, stand by” my mystery caller said and suddenly became less mysterious.  It almost had to be an old grad school friend, Dave, who else do I know that consistently speaks in clipped borderline militaristic commands.  Dave and I met on the first day of our MBA program – we argued about the practical implications of the financial principle of Opportunity Cost in Advanced corporate finance class.  Our argument continued after class, escalated to a bit of yelling and we became fast friends.  He was a 29 year old former Lieutenant Commander in Navy Special Forces but only threatened to kill me with his pinky finger a couple of times.

“You can hear me know, right” he asked without bothering to wait for an answer before continuing “I expected to see you at this dinner; where are you?” Dave was referencing the gala that concludes the week of partying under the color of politics otherwise known as Congressional Black Caucus week.  He and I routinely catch up on this night when he flies in from the left coast and I mosey down the street to see and be watch the scene with the Black glitterati of politics and entertainment.

“I couldn’t do it this year, my friend, something about them giving an award to that step-n-fetch-it clown Tyler Perry” I replied in a generally true but equally lame explanation.

“Fuck that, fuck him – you need to double time it down here because I need a wingman” Dave replied.  “Hold one” he said quickly.

I could hear him on his other phone but couldn’t decipher the words.  A minute later he returns to our call and states plainly “I’ve sent the car to your place; Tony is our driver and he has instructions to ring your bell every two minutes until you come downstairs in a tuxedo.” With barely a breath, he continued “and Tony is an old [Navy] Chief so he knows how to follow orders.”  The line goes quiet.

I know that every word of Dave’s entreaties is true.  Factoring the distance and traffic, I guesstimate that I have about 25minutes to shower and get dressed.   I swallow hard, strip off my pajamas and get in the shower.  Still affixing my cufflinks when I get the first ring, I indicate that I’ll be down in a minute.  I grab bowtie and cummerbund, pat my pockets for the wallet, cigars, handkerchiefs, business cards, Crackberry, lighter, and pen.  I emerge from my place not yet fully dressed and Tony is at the door of the limo.

“Good evening, Mr. Refugee, there’s champagne in the cooler, Coltrane on the stereo and a party waiting for you.”

To be continued…


No Sand in the Eyes is the Start

15 September 2009

A couple of weeks ago Anonymiss wrote a post about the primary elements of a successful long term relationship. In the comments, I noted that Love and Respect are the universally recognized concepts.  The essential one that no one teaches you is the ability to fight fairly and well; she asked how one does that.

The best thing about my failed marriage is that the process of trying to save it helped teach me how to better be a partner.  Arguments and disagreements will always occur, and just like people relationships are better judged in crisis than smooth seas.  I won’t pretend that I always fight in this manner, but I do always try.  From the perspective of a divorced man who spent way too much cash and time trying to save a failing marriage, these are the best lessons I learned from that experience.

  1. The number one rule. Just like a street fight the best way to win is to avoid it.  Be sure that it’s worth it.  Ask yourself if you really need to be right about this, if the question is really one that is worth the risk?
  2. Start with the end and work backwards. If you could script the conversation/argument, what outcome would you write?  Is that outcome realistic?  With the desired result in mind, what has to happen to achieve it?
  3. Don’t paint conversational corners. The only thing finite in an argument are your feelings so avoid concrete declaratives about anything else.  Don’t declare motives to another person’s actions. Don’t end sentences with the word “period.”  Those types of statements almost force a person to become defensive.
  4. A good place to begin. If you start with the assumption that no matter the outcome the relationship will still be standing, it helps a great deal.  If you cannot begin with that assumption, then you need to have a clear idea of what you want from the argument.
  5. Limit arguments to the actual argument. If you’re discussing discussing “X,” intermingling or peppering the conversation with “Y” is inefficient at best and makes your partner feel like you piling-on at worst.  If through the course of conversation “Y” becomes an organic part of the discussion, then discuss it but do acknowledge the change in subject.
  6. You may not if… If you cannot articulate why you’re upset, you do not need to have the conversation until you can.
  7. You also may not if… If you cannot discuss things calmly without yelling, you don’t need to have the conversation until you can.
  8. Commit the following to memory: “I am really angry/pissed/seething at you right now, I’m going to a neutral corner until I calm down a bit.”  This phrase is especially helpful when combined with the assumption from number 4.
  9. No proxy statements. Bringing the opinions of others not present into the conversation is piling on and can unnecessarily damage the relationship of the third party with your partner.  I.E. saying “…and your brother John agrees with me too” has limited purpose and can cause severe harm to the sibling relationship.
  10. Tape delayed conversations. There is a reason that the saw of counting to ten before speaking has lasted this long.
  11. Schedule and Script. Let us suppose that you were sufficiently angry about something that you thought going to neutral corners for a day or two was a good idea.  Scheduling the argument with your partner gives her/him the opportunity to prepare as well.  Writing a list of your grievances is also a good thing – resisting the affections of those who would mock you for this would be a good thing too.
  12. One wrong may be insensitive; returning it in kind is intentional. Your partner saying or doing something that causes pain does not grant license to be hurtful in return.  Being deliberately or intentionally hurtful is the reddest of red flags.
  13. Benefit of the doubt. Almost every statement can be interpreted in at least one alternate way.  If you don’t trust your partner enough to give her/him the benefit of the most charitable interpretation, then you have a larger issue.  Consider that larger issue.
  14. Start, conduct, and finish with humility.  There is no weakness in forgiveness, no failure in apology.

A Brand New Baby Blog

16 August 2009

I am a sufficiently good cook that people pay me, happily and handsomely, to make food for them in their homes, but I suck at writing down recipes.  Often my clients will ask me for a recipe and I will give them some bullshit excuse explanation about giving away trade secrets and a wink.  The fact of the matter is that most of them exist only in my head and I am often too lazy busy to write them down.

To give me some direction in an effort to change my shiftless-ass habits a place to structure this effort, I started a new blog.  Recipes from the Restaurant Refugee is designed to force me to record dishes so I will have a compilation of things I have created when my booze addled brain can no longer recall them.  Having them handy for clients is a nice bonus too.

Currently there are very few pictures of my food as I neither posses a digital camera (have I ever hidden my happily Luddite nature?) nor the time when I am cooking to stop and take pictures*.  I will do my best to remedy that in the future.

I will be migrating recipes listed on this blog to the new place, and my goal is to post at least three original recipes per week.

Thanks for visiting.

Eat well, drink well, be well, my friends.

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* In early September, I plan on having a “Media Dinner” with the express purposes of having a great time with friends and taking pictures of some of my cuisine.  If you are a good photographer, interested in trading a good meal for photos, and most importantly interesting (I care more about the quality of the dinner party than the photographs but only a bit more,) or you know someone who is, send me an email – restaurantrefugee(@)gmail.com.


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